Judges 4-5

Throughout the Bible we see many accounts of God using unexpected people for His purposes and glory. This passage of Scripture is no different. When the prophetess Deborah speaks to Barak about God calling him to go to battle against the Canaanites in the north, he responds with fear. She reminds Him that God is with him and will go before him, but Barak says he will not go out unless Deborah accompanies him on the mission. She agrees to go but speaks some hard truths: “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” (Judges 4:9) God’s will would be accomplished but Barak would be missing out on a blessing as He would be using someone else to subdue the opposing commander, Sisera.

The story continues as Barak and Deborah go out with the army, Sisera’s men were killed, and Sisera ran for his life. The woman named Jael, who was not even an Israelite, bravely offered to help Sisera hide in her tent where she then proceeded to kill him and call for Barak. The Israelites were given the victory and the threat of the opposition was put to rest with Sisera’s death. God was glorified and His purposes fulfilled, but as Deborah had said, Barak was not the one used to take down the mighty warrior. God chose to use a willing and unexpected leader to bring about this victory for His people. I pray that we will be open to serve when God calls. Whether He has called us to do something we deem simple and small or something that strikes fear in our hearts, let’s be ready to serve knowing that He is with us.

Joshua 7-8

At first glance, this passage is one of sorrow and pain. Joshua chapter seven provides us with the first account of blatant disobedience in the Promised Land. This act of disobedience impacted not only the transgressor, Achan, but also his family and nation. God’s righteous anger burned against the people as He watched sinful behavior once again rear its head. God’s covenant with His people consisted of not only blessings but also curses. This chapter highlights the tragic solution of the sin problem that Achan had. Ultimately, he and his family lost their lives because of his covetous attitude and choices. I’m sure at the time, Achan probably justified his disobedience much the same way we do. “Well, no one is perfect.” “I’m not hurting anyone else.” “It’s just this one time.” Those thoughts that help us justify our disobedient behavior may really make us feel better. However, as Achan learned, our God is holy and just. What makes this passage so dark is that we can all relate to Achan in his moment of weakness. He has been fully blessed by God but chooses to reach for more. We know that we can never be good enough to deserve God’s love or attention. We know that we possess a sin nature that separates us from a perfect God. Those facts in and of themselves are excruciating. However, that’s not all we know! Fast forward to Romans and we can also know that God’s wrath is satisfied when sin is properly dealt with. For Achan, that meant death. For us, that means Jesus!

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Romans 3:22b-25

Once Achan’s sin was dealt with and a punishment was paid, God’s favor was restored to His people, and chapter eight shows the blessings that the people received. The people were once more enjoying the presence of God and living His ways. At the end of this chapter as they returned from a successful battle, Joshua and the people gathered to praise God and read the covenant together. They were reminded of who God is, of his righteous anger, and of his gracious blessings. May we spend time daily rehearsing the gospel. . .the new covenant made through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. May we not attempt to justify our sin but rather repent and turn away from it, knowing that God desires to dwell with us and He is enough! May we spread this good news of God’s unbroken plan and live in way that will bring glory to His name.

Exodus 34

And He said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.”

Exodus 34:10

Imagine the thoughts that must have been racing through Moses’ mind as he sat in awe and wonder while God proclaimed His intentions to renew His covenant with His people. God had just reminded Moses of His great attributes of abounding love, faithfulness, and justice. He had reminded Moses of His mercy and grace which led Moses to bow in worship as he acknowledged the stubbornness and sins of the people. Moses knew that the people of Israel were strong willed and prone to failure, but he still sought favor with the Lord as their mediator. If I were Moses, I don’t know that I’d be as apt to pursue favor for the people who continually caused me so much grief. However, Moses strove to live for the glory of God knowing that God’s covenant and blessing would set them apart as it showcased His greatness.

Instead of pushing the people away and washing His hands of their messes, God desired to form a covenant with them. This blessing wasn’t meant as a reward for the people or something for them to take personal pride in. This covenant and the things God would do through His people was meant to glorify His name. He had things in store that were greater than Moses could ever have imagined in that moment on the mountain. These things would unfold throughout the years to come as part of God’s plan. Yes, the people had moments of doubt where they wondered if God would actually hold true to his promises and covenant, but they needn’t worry, because God is faithful.

Just as God was faithful in His covenant with the Israelites, He is faithful in the new covenant through Jesus. Just as the old covenant was to bring glory to God’s name so is the new covenant that we share in as believers. We can take no pride in our salvation and most of the time are just as obnoxious as the Israelites in our complaints and questioning of God’s plan. However, God is merciful, loving, and just in the provision He made for our sinful hearts. May we have eyes to see the great and glorious things that He is doing all around us. May we strive to live for His glory. I pray that we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and that we live in peace knowing that we are made in the image of God with the purpose of serving and glorifying His name.

Exodus 12

I find historical studies fascinating and beautiful to explore. Examining the way events of the past have unfolded and how those events subsequently shaped the present reality is something that brings me joy. Whether it’s looking back on my own personal history, the history of the church, or the history of our nation, there are always lessons to be gleaned. This passage of Scripture is one of those texts that showcase God’s power and sovereignty. It paints a beautiful picture of God’s redemptive plan for a people plagued with a sin problem that they are powerless to solve. It speaks toward a spotless Lamb who is provided as the ultimate sacrifice. Though there were many pages of history that seemed at the time to be contradictory to God’s plan, His plan has remained unbroken.

God called the Israelites who were brought out of Egypt to observe the Passover Feast with the generations to come as they remembered how God provided them with protection from the tenth plague and rescued them from slavery. Though God’s people showed a penchant for straying from His ways and faced difficulty over the course of their history, they were to continue remembering and celebrating what God had done. God was faithful to His people even when they weren’t faithful in following His guidance. God was faithful even when events were unfolding in ways that showed the sinful nature of His people. God had a plan for His people so long ago and His plan remains today.

We may not be living in a hostile country as slaves to the government or required to make a hasty escape across the wilderness. We may not be called to live through plagues or find sacrificial lambs. However, we do live in a world broken by sin and in need of redemption. Thankfully God’s plan is intact. He has graciously provided Jesus as the sacrificial lamb to pay the penalty for our sin. If we have chosen to follow Him, He has redeemed us and adopted us into His family. He has blessed us and called us His own, that we may go out and make disciples and glorify His name. Let’s look back on the pages of history not with calloused hearts, but with eyes that see God’s handiwork. Let’s look around and rejoice in the redemption that we see. And finally, let’s look ahead. Look ahead and know that God’s plan is still unbroken, Jesus will be returning, and we are called to proclaim His greatness.

Genesis 44-46

If you are like me, you can look back over your life and point out some specific times of difficulty. Those times where you struggled to maintain an attitude that glorified God in the midst of a major life struggle. Or the times when you cried out to God pleading for answers and comfort when things didn’t seem to make sense. Thinking back on those times, maybe you can even feel your skin prickle or your heart beat a little faster. Joseph had an abundance of those times in his life. The suffering was great and the reasons for it seemed senseless. However, it was not senseless and God had a greater plan. Within this passage we have a window into the culmination of decades of struggle and pain as Joseph is reunited with his family. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be in the shoes of Joseph having suffered so much injustice and sorrow at the hands of his family only to have them unknowingly come to seek his help. Would I make myself known or stay hidden? Would I give them the help they desperately needed or turn them away in bitterness? Joseph chooses forgiveness. He chooses to reach out in love and showcase God’s greater plan, explaining to them that God has used the suffering for good.

Joseph’s brothers were naturally terrified and speechless at the sight of Joseph as he revealed himself to them. It must have been a dramatic scene as Joseph was wailing so loudly that those out of the room could hear him. He was overcome with emotion as he tried his best to calm his brothers and show them how God had protected him and provided opportunities for redemption. Through his difficult circumstances people would be saved. Though his suffering lives would be changed. He could have easily lashed out in anger at his brothers but he did the opposite. He says in Genesis 45:5, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” He showed them grace, mercy, and love as he led them to reconciliation.

I pray as we face suffering and difficulty in this life that we remain faithful to our Lord. I pray that we understand His ability to redeem our suffering for His glory. Let us look at those times in our lives as opportunities to grow close to Him and extend grace to those around us. In this broken world where nothing seems to make sense and the suffering seems senseless, let us remember that God’s plan is greater and His purposes are are powerful.

Genesis 33

Grace and mercy abound in this passage of Scripture in a way that brings peace and joy. Jacob’s fear was immense as he had deceived his brother and fled for his life as Esau could very well have killed him. Coming to meet Esau, Jacob was so fearful that he methodically arranged his family in a way to protect those most important to him should Esau attack. Jacob approached his brother with caution and humility as he bowed to the ground knowing that his brother had a right to be furious over Jacob’s deceptive actions. He even came prepared with gifts of retribution to offer Esau as a way to bless his brother and restore what he could of the blessing he had stolen. It doesn’t matter how many times in my life that I read of Jacob’s journey to meet Esau, my stomach still turns in stress every time. Though I’ve never been in a situation of seeking out my brother whom at one point desired my demise, I have had to humbly seek forgiveness in the aftermath of my poor choices and shortcomings. That feeling of knowing the outcome I deserve, knowing that I in no way should be granted forgiveness or spared from harsh words or broken relationships. . . that is the feeling that swirls in my stomach as I empathize with Jacob in these verses.

Thankfully these dreadful and heavy feeling only last for a short while as we then see Esau’s reaction to his brother in verse 4, “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.” Esau RAN to meet his brother! His brother who treated him so poorly! His brother whom he wanted to kill! His brother who had been living as a deceiver his entire life! Esau ran to his brother and embraced him. The power in that interaction is enough to clear away those feelings of fear. The brothers wept as they were reunited and spoke of the blessings that they’d both received. Even in the midst of so much sin and brokenness, God was faithful to His promises and graciously blessed both of the brothers.

This picture of grace and mercy that Jacob received from Esau in this encounter of redemption clearly mirrors the grace and mercy of my own redemption. Esau graciously provides Jacob with a loving reception and forgiveness. Jacob in no way deserved this precious gift and he knew this very well. Esau mercifully spared Jacob from the wrath and punishment that he was expecting. Jacob did deserve an angry and vile reunion after the way he had treated Esau and he also knew this very well. The beauty in this account isn’t that Esau made a great choice by forgiving his brother or that Jacob chose to seek Esau’s forgiveness. The true beauty in this account lies within the hearts of the two men. Their hearts were not changed by their own accord, and the choices they made were not simply good choices. This account showcases in brilliant clarity the handiwork of God. He is the one who softened the brothers’ hearts, blessed them with families, and provided the opportunity for redemption. He is the one whose redemptive power is still at work today. I pray that we continue to feel the pain of our brokenness and sin, knowing the nature of our sinful hearts. I pray that though we feel that brokenness and understand what we deserve, that we won’t ruminate in these feelings, but rather rejoice in the redemption and peace that God has provided! He truly does desire to provide us with grace and mercy, to redeem our sinful hearts for His glory, and to dwell with us as we praise Him! So go then, praise His name, and live in joy for the blessing He has provided through His plan for our sin problem!

Genesis 17:15-18:21

I remember being a kid and people making promises to me of things we were going to do or treats we were planning to have. Most of the time these promises held true. But I remember being amazed or thinking, “Surely this is too good to be true!” Sometimes these promised plans were contingent on me holding up my end of a bargain or deal I had made. If I acted in obedience and was faithful to do as I’d said, my dad would be sure that the plans moved along. Of course, I was always quick to follow through because I knew it would be worth it and trusted that his promises would hold true. Abraham and Sarah were in a situation of amazement and disbelief in God’s promise within this passage. They’d already been given the promise of many descendants, got antsy, tried to make it happen outside of God’s plan, had their plan backfire, and had waited another 13 years. They just didn’t understand how this promise could come true. It seemed too good to be true.

When God reiterated His promise to Abraham and assured him that Sarah would bear a son, Abraham responded in disbelief and pleaded for Ishmael to be blessed. It seemed too good to be true that in their old age, they’d be given a son. God patiently responds and explains more of the promise to Abraham who then acts in faithful obedience. As Sarah is in the tent later on, she overhears the Lord telling Abraham that in a year’s time she will have a son. She too reacts in disbelief and laughs at the thought that something so humanly impossible would actually occur. When the Lord heard this, He gives this powerful reply, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Nothing is too hard for the Lord. Yes, the fulfillment of this promise seemed impossible and would be indeed if left up to human devices, but nothing is impossible for our God. His plan was not broken by Abram and Sarai’s choices to find another way, it was not broken by Abraham’s disbelief, and it was not broken by Sarah’s scoffing laughter. God had a plan that was playing out in His time, the appointed time. God is sovereign and all powerful as we are again reminded in Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

Wherever you are in your walk today, take comfort knowing that God’s plan is best. God is all powerful and all knowing. In our world of uncertainty, find peace in the knowledge that God is faithful. Continue to live in faithful obedience to our Creator and King, knowing that He is in control and His will will be accomplished.

Genesis 8

At this point in the account of the flood, we see things begin to turn from the judgement of sin to the blessing that awaits Noah and his family as they encounter the post-flood world. This chapter begins powerfully in verse 1 as we read that “God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” I can’t begin to imagine what it would have been like to be living on the ark during the violent flood that encompassed the entirety of the world. It may have even seemed that the judgement would never end. However, God’s plan for redemption had not changed. He had lovingly provided salvation from the flood for Noah and his family and now it was time to move ahead into the world that had undergone a cleansing of sinful hearts. This moment when God releases Noah’s family from the ark mirrors that moment at creation as God calls Noah, his family, and the animals out and gives the command to be fruitful and multiply. Though the text doesn’t give us details about the emotions and thoughts Noah had at this moment, verse 20 does tell of the actions Noah took in response to God’s blessing: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” God was pleased with Noah’s faithfulness and acts of gratitude and praise. He noted that though man’s sin problem was not solved with the flood, He would not again bring judgment in the form of destruction of all living things.

The world was starting fresh, and God’s plan was unfolding. The stage was being set for His ultimate provision for our sin problem: Jesus. Fast forward . . . we now have the opportunity to respond to His gracious gift of salvation. Are we living in faith, believing in the promises that God has made? Are we praising Him for the salvation He has given that we in no way deserve? These are questions to be pondered as we live in a time of unrest, continual criticism, and fierce anger. Let’s take the time to go to God with a humble heart of thanksgiving for His great plan of redemption–the plan that could not be broken by the sin of human hearts.

Job 38-40:2

Have you ever walked into a room or building that you frequent and notice something that seems new or that you have failed to observe in your previous visits? Or been asked about a physical characteristic of someone that you know and just can’t remember whether they have blue eyes or green, brown hair or black, etc.? I have been in this situation more than you can imagine and I admit that my observation skills are not great. So often I see things, but I don’t observe them. As frustrating as this can be, I think the positive side is that I often marvel at things I’ve yet to notice that are in front of me every day. It provides opportunities to rethink what I thought I knew about that particular place or person. As I read this passage where God is challenging Job and asking if he truly understands the establishment of creation and the Creator’s purposes, I’m once again struck with that sense of awe at things that I have seen but not observed, looked at and not understood. The details that God included in the vast variety of creation are simply amazing. Then to think that there is no one other than God who possesses the power to create in this magnificent way, who has the wisdom and knowledge to govern creation the way He does. Then to think that He has a purpose for His creation, even the things that we don’t take the time to observe.

The visual created with the Lord’s words to Job brings a sense of responsibility. This clear picture of God’s power, creativity, purpose, wisdom, and knowledge drive me to acknowledge His greatness. I want to not only see His creation, I want to observe it! I want to spend time with my almighty Creator and grow in understanding of His purposes in the creation of the heavens and earth. I challenge you to go back and slowly read through this powerful passage of God’s words to Job and take the time to observe the details of creation that we daily take for granted. Take time to meditate on God’s words and power. Take time in prayer seeking a deeper understanding of His purpose. Then strive to live for His glory and His alone. When you see His creation in your daily life, take time to observe His handiwork and praise Him for it. Let us not walk through life only seeing and not observing the greatness of God, for He is worthy of all our attention and praise.

Psalm 119:145-160

“When it rains, it pours!” A common colloquialism that we often hear when people face one struggle after another in their lives. Sometimes these struggles are simply inconveniences, and other times they are serious life altering situations. Whatever the cause for our struggles, our feelings of frustration can be overwhelming. Continual struggle leads some to seek the Lord’s comfort, others to strike out in anger at those around them, and still others to cry out to God questioning the reasons for their oppression.

This section of Psalm 119 reveals the psalmist’s prayerful reaction to the continual struggles he is enduring. His prayer is heavily focused on his pleas for the Lord’s deliverance. However, he is not simply begging to be set free from the struggles he faces, but rather as he is crying out to God for mercy and salvation, he is also putting his full trust in the promises of God. He says in verse 148, “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” He knows that God is faithful and his love endures. He knows that in the moments of struggle and hardship, his heart will benefit not from living in self-pity but from meditating on the Word of God. Later in verse 151 he says, “Yet you are near, Lord, and all your commands are true.” He is taking comfort in the understanding that though the wicked and lawless are near, God will stay close.

In the world we live in today, some days (maybe more than we’d like to admit) we begin our day with the thought of “What next?” We may have allowed ourselves to get to the point of expecting the worst or just waiting for things to get harder. The struggles of daily life overwhelming our hearts and minds. Let’s stop. Let’s take the time to refocus and follow the example the psalmist sets and intentionally meditate on the Word. In addition to pleading for deliverance, let’s take the time to remember that even in the midst of hard times, the Lord is near. Let’s praise Him for that and glorify Him with our thoughts, words, and actions even in the midst of our own struggles. Let’s react prayerfully as we trust in God’s faithfulness.