When the going gets tough, the weak fall asleep

When the going gets tough, the weak fall asleep

So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. – 1 Thessalonians 5:6 

Luke 22:39-40, 45-46

39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.

40 When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow,

46 and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

We judge ourselves by our intentions. And others by their actions (Stephen Covey).

Direction, not intention determines your destination (Andy Stanley).

Even with the best of intentions and highest aspirations, we way too often fail those we care about the most. Sometimes temptations overtake us when we are weak, worn out, and can least resist them. The Lord Jesus Christ knowing this, warned His disciples to pray that they should not enter into temptation.   

So what was the temptation? The temptation was not to fall into a deep dark sin or moral lapse. The temptation was to fall asleep. You would think that under the circumstances regarding Christ’s prediction of imminent betrayal and death, the disciples would be on the alert. They should have been running on adrenaline. But instead, it was just another night for them. Everything happened before they knew it. They failed, they fell into temptation and succumbed to sleep. This temptation is “not from indifference, but rather from sorrowful exhaustion” (MacDonald).

What did Jesus do? He gave them another chance. He woke them and repeated His warning not to enter into temptation. And what did the disciples do? They repeated the same mistake and surrendered to sleep. In doing so, they failed to be there for the Lord Jesus Christ on this most dreadful of nights. Succumbing to physical sleep prevented them from “being there” for their Lord. For all practical purposes, they fell asleep on their watch, even as the enemies of Jesus approached.

As bad as it was, it got even worse. All of the disciples abandoned the Lord Jesus and fled as He predicted they would (Matthew 26:56). Such personal failures do not take the Father by surprise nor alter His plans. Although we are responsible for our decisions, our decisions are part of a larger plan, determined and written of in advance. 

REFLECT & PRAY
 

Temptation and failure are all too common for us each of us.

Father encourage me to not give up and keep watching and praying. I am well aware that my spirit is willing, but my physical body is weak.

INSIGHT

When faced with very difficult choices, rather than follow what we know the Father wants us to do, all too often we come up with our own plan. The Lord Jesus Christ wrestled with this dilemma. Wrestling with fear and doubt is not a sin, it is normal. But when all the words are said, all the arguments are raised, and the wrestling is over, what we do next reveals our character and steadfastness.  Jesus is the perfect example of resisting temptation and choosing to follow the Father’s plan even though it would lead to horrific anguish, torment, and death.

Luke 22:41-44

 41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,

 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

In His agony, fervent prayers, and final choices the Lord Jesus Christ modeled perfect submission. He provided a pattern we too can follow. For the Lord Jesus, it was a simple matter of priorities. Who gets the final say? Who has the final word? Without further hesitation, the Lord Jesus decided. His words ring out for all eternity, “Not My will, but Yours be done.”

We can follow Him. We can successfully resist even the greatest temptations and struggles.

Hebrews 12:1-4

 1 Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

What was it that enabled the Lord Jesus to endure the cross? During His time on earth, He did not exercise His divine powers for His personal interests or needs.

It was the Lord’s faith that enabled Him to endure. Rather than being dragged down in the now, He focused on “the joy that was set before Him.”

By submitting to the Father’s will, the Lord Jesus Christ reconciled the world to the Father. He successfully made atonement for sin through His death, and resurrection. He made eternal salvation available for all that would accept it. One day He will have the great joy of ushering all believers into the eternal glory of the Father’s kingdom (Jude 24-25). 

Mission accomplished! Job well done!

Left for dead

Left for dead

They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. – Act 14:19                                                                                                                                                                             

2 Corinthians 11:23-27

 23 I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.

 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.

 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.

 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.

 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm

Harry Ironside was laid aside for dead when he was born on October 14, 1876 in Toronto, Canada. His mother was in a bad state and needed of all the attention she could get if she were to pull through. But God had big plans for the “dead” baby. A nurse detected a feeble pulse in him. She popped him into a bath of hot water and he quickly exercised the vocal cords which would declare Christ to perhaps a million listeners over the course of his life.

By the time he was four, he had memorized his first scripture verse. That did not set his mind at rest with God. He became a great student of the Bible, reading it through fourteen times by the time he was fourteen years old. At fourteen years of age, he asked the Lord for salvation. He became associated with the Plymouth Brethren. Despite only an eighth-grade education, Harry Ironside became one of the world’s best-known and best-beloved Bible teachers, traveling the globe to give messages. Never ordained, he nonetheless pastored Moody Memorial Church in Chicago for eighteen years (christianity.com).

What could be more tragic than being born dead? I would guess to be born alive, but to wish you were dead. Many of us have had thoughts like that because of the traumas, disappointments, rejections, or abuse that we have suffered.

Job was a man like that. He suffered greatly in most all areas of his life. He lost much of his family, his wealth, and eventually his health. Finally, when he thought he could take no more, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth (Job 3:1). Job continued to live on in his gloom, frustration, and anger. He found himself questioning everything. He never expected to find any answers. One of his friends, Elihu, encouraged him to end the pity party. Elihu redirects Job’s thoughts away from his suffering. He exhorted him to focus instead on the majesty and greatness of the Father (Job 36,37).

Job 37:14-24

 14 “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.

 22 God is clothed with awesome majesty.

 23 The Almighty– we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.

 24 Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”

Elihu’s point is that Job is self-absorbed and clueless. He really has no hint as to what is going on, why it is happening, and what the end result will be. It should be obvious even to the most casual observer, that mere man cannot begin to comprehend the Father’s ways. We are left with only two options; we can continue to be wise in our own eyes or we can become truly wise.

Job was startled and totally surprised when the Father, the King of the universe shows up and turns the tables. He begins to query him, asking him questions that demonstrated how limited Job’s knowledge and understanding were (Job 38,39). There is nothing abnormal about questioning God, people do it all the time. But are you really prepared for the answer?

Job 40:1-5

 1 Then the LORD said to Job,

 2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”

 3 Then Job replied to the LORD,

 4 “I am nothing– how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand.

 5 I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”

In the end, prudent people realize that there is not much chance of winning an argument with the almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal Father. Job eventually figures this out for himself.

Job 42:1-6

 1 Then Job replied to the LORD:

 2 “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.

 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I– and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.

 5 I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.  6 I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

REFLECT & PRAY
 

The Father has a purpose and a plan for all that He does. He does not always explain the whys of our lives. Often, they are only understood in retrospect

Father, there have been so many times that I have questioned you. I wish I could take it all back.

INSIGHT

The apostle Paul endured much suffering as he served the Father. But from the beginning he had something, that Job lacked, an eternal perspective. He understood that being true to the faith and living it out, came with a price. Paul had received a high calling and responsibility from the Father. With the high calling, came a high price.

2 Timothy 3:10-14

 10 Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance.

 11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra– but the Lord rescued me from all of it.

 12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

 14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.

There was never question in Paul’s mind about his purpose. He wanted to do the Father’s will at all costs and finish the work that the Father had for him. Paul never asked others to suffer for him, but he was always willing to suffer for others. In his case, he suffered for doing the right thing. Seeking to be faithful and godly is not a ticket to escape from suffering and persecution. Rather, it is a front row seat to it.

This is one of those promises of God that we’d really rather do without. God tells us this, not  to discourage us, but to prepare us for the inevitable so that we can shine for Him when the time comes (Stanley).

Delusions of greatness and denial

Delusions of greatness and denial

Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. – Luke 22:24

Luke 22:21-34

 21 “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table.

 22 “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

 23 And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.

 25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’

 26 “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.

 27 “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;

 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”

 34 And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”

It was 1963, a time when heavyweight champions go to battle. A rather loud and confident pugilist was on the scene. He was not the tallest boxer, nor was he as bulky as most other boxers of his time, his punches were not the strongest, but he was still the best fighter of his time. His agility was impressive, but what was most impressive was his confidence in himself.

Ali proclaimed to anyone who would hear:

I am The Greatest. I said that even before I knew I was” (Muhammad Ali).

Here are excerpts from his 1963 poem, “I am The Greatest.”

This brash, young boxer is something to see. And the heavyweight championship is his destiny.

This kid fights great. He’s got speed and endurance. But if you sign to fight him, increase your insurance.

This kid’s got a left. This kid’s got a right. If he hits you once, you’re asleep for the night.

And as you lie on the floor while the ref counts 10, you pray that you won’t have to fight me again.

For I am the man this poem is about, the next champ of the world, there isn’t a doubt.

He is the greatest. When I say two, there’s never a third. Betting against me is completely absurd.

I am the greatest.

“I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning and throw thunder in jail. You know I’m bad. Just last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.”

To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

It was the spring of 33 AD, the week when the Savior went to die on the tree. It is the night of the last supper. The disciples are shortsighted. They miss the big idea and focus on irrelevant matters. They are driven by self-absorption and pride.

Imagine the scene. The Lord Jesus Christ has just finished explaining the meaning of Passover as it represents His coming sacrifice and death for sins. In no uncertain terms Jesus said that He is about to die. He tells the disciples that one of them will betray Him.

Rather than take this to heart and concentrate on this seemingly incredulous prediction, the self-centered disciples focus on their own potential importance and future opportunities. They want to know which of them is the greatest of them all, numero uno. Who will have the greatest prominence in the coming kingdom? 

“It is a terrible indictment of the human heart that immediately after the Lord’s Supper, the disciples should argue among themselves as to which of them was the greatest!” (MacDonald)

Barclay is even more direct, “It is one of the most poignantly tragic things in the gospel story that the disciples could quarrel about precedence in the very shadow of the cross.”

As the story reveals what is in the hearts of the disciples, what does it say about our own?

But it becomes a teachable moment. Christ explains that the greatest is not the one who is served, but rather is the one who serves (Luke 22:27-30). True greatness comes through service.

What an odd, unexpected twist. The Father’s kingdom is nothing like the kingdoms of men. Those who are truly great in the Father’s kingdom are not the powerful. The greatest are not those who are in control, benefit from the labor of others, and ostentatiously display their position. Rather, the greatest are those who serve. The kingdom of God turns everything on its head. “It is a law of life that service leads to greatness; and the higher a man rises the greater the servant he must be” (Barclay).

Jesus is exhibit A. He who was the greatest, was indeed the servant of all.

Mat 20:25-28

25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.

26 “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.

27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;

28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served,

REFLECT & PRAY
 

In the Father’s kingdom, delusions of greatness are displaced by proven character.

Father, if failure were a disqualification, who could ever serve You? Though we fall, we are not utterly cast down because You hold us up and never let go (Psalms 37:24).

INSIGHT

Teachable moment two: Betrayal and failure lurk in everyone’s heart, even the most self-assured. Luke 22:31-38          

True greatness surfaces when extreme trials are faced and overcome. Jesus had great expectations for Peter. But the road to greatness was marked by tragic failure, crushing disappointment, and utter shame. Peter’s self-confidence regarding his commitment, character, and follow-through was to be totally shattered.

Peter was sure of himself yet when the chips were down, he utterly failed. He was faithless, frightened, and failed. He was unwilling to die for his friend, whom he loved, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus had predicted that this would be so.

Luke 22:31-32

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;

32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

The Greek term translated sift is siniazo. It means literally to sift, shake in a sieve. It came to mean, to agitate and press someone to the verge of collapse. Peter collapsed under the pressure. But his story does not end there, it really only begins.

The Lord Jesus Christ had prayed for Peter and the ultimate outcome was certain. He had fallen. It was a tragic embarrassment. He was dishonored and humiliated. But Peter pulled himself together. Peter’s failure was reversed. The dross of his untested soul was refined. His tarnished self-image was purged. Unwavering character emerged

He came through the fiery test approved and ready for service. He emerged faithful and stronger than ever. The crushed and mortified Peter was only now prepared and ready to strengthen others.

Psalms 37:24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.

What are you willing to pay?

What are you willing to pay?

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your lives! – 2 Corinthians 12:15

2 Timothy 4:5-8

 5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

 6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.

 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

 8 And now the prize awaits me– the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

When Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck walked off the field for the final time as a player in August 2019, it was to the sound of boos from fans. Luck, at age 29, decided to retire. He gave up millions in future earnings. The endless barrage of injuries stripped away his joy for the game and prompted him to walk away. His body had been “ravaged by injuries,” during his six seasons in the NFL. He felt trapped in a cycle of pain. He wanted to just stop hurting and enjoy life. Fans criticized Luck for quitting, because football stars are seen as “warriors and gladiators.” As such, they are expected to willingly sacrifice everything to play an extremely violent game.

The mentality of the current generation of players has radically shifted. Many now walk away at a relatively young age. Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots tight end, also quit in 2019. He was 30 years old.

It is not lost on this generation of players that concussions and other injuries have left previous players with dementia or crippling pain or both. Some of them are no longer willing to pay such a price.

As Paul shared the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and people accepted it and believed, they became children of God. But in addition to becoming the Father’s children, they became Paul’s spiritual children as well. He was their father in the faith.

The apostle Paul became the spiritual father of untold numbers of believers in the first century A.D.

2 Corinthians 12:15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your lives!

As a spiritual father, how much was he willing to sacrifice for his children in the faith? For the Corinthians, he was willing to exhaust all of his resources to contribute to their spiritual well-being. He was willing to give his very life for them. Like most all parents, he wanted the best possible lives for his kids. Their relationship with the Father was Paul’s utmost concern.

The Greek of the New Testament opens up nuances that are undetected in English. Unseen shades of meaning and significance are often revealed. In 2 Cor 12:15, Paul uses a subtle yet sublime play on words. Two different words are used that are translated spend or spent. The first is dapanao which means to spend freely, even squander. In our culture, we might call this “pocket change.” This money is used freely and somewhat indiscriminately for personal desires or wishes.

The second word is ekdapanao. It means to exhaust oneself, give oneself completely, be spent, drained of energy, having one’s own energy exhausted. Paul was not using pocket change, Paul was expending all that he had, even his very life. No price was too great for Paul, he was all in.

REFLECT & PRAY
 

What’s in your wallet? What are you willing to pay? What are you willing to spend?

Father, I find myself to be so typical, having to make the same choices over and over again. Encourage me to learn to make a choice once and for all from which I never vary.

INSIGHT

When Paul met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, everything changed. On that day there were two deaths. Paul died to his former manner of life. He gave up everything that was valuable to him in exchange for the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.

But he also died to himself and his personal ambitions and goals. He was no longer living for Paul. He was living for Christ, for the Father.

Galatians 2:20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Paul was no longer seeking his own comfort or advancement. He was seeking the advancement of the Father’s kingdom. For Paul, living was indistinguishable from serving Christ.

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

Paul knows that his death is near. After a life of self-sacrifice, only one final sacrifice remains, the sacrifice of death. He sees himself as once again, yet finally laying down his life to accomplish the Father’s purpose.

Paul uses Old Testament sacrificial language regarding a drink offering to portray his fast approaching death. A drink offering was all about repurposing the use of wine. Wine was intended for personal enjoyment and to lift one’s spirits. When it is offered to the Father, it is not used for personal pleasure, but rather it becomes a personal sacrifice. Perfectly good wine, rather than being consumed was dedicated to the Father and simply poured out.

Each of the Father’s children choose for themselves. Regarding sacrifice and dedication, Paul’s choice was a bit more extreme. We are continually faced with choices. We endeavor to make good choices rather than bad. We make repetitive, recurrent choices. Our lives are marked by a persistent query, “will I or won’t I.”

Paul chose only once. Once and for all, he turned over his life to the Father and became His servant. The Father’s will, was Paul’s will. There was no disconnect, no separation.

The Greek reveals a delightful subtlety. Paul is not pouring himself out. Rather, the Greek verb translated poured out, spendo, is in the passive voice. The Father is the one performing the action, Paul is the one receiving the action. Paul is being poured out by the Father.

Was Paul’s life wasted? Absolutely not. Paul’s life was invested.

When Paul first met the Lord Jesus Christ, he made the greatest of all investments a person can make with their life. He was all in. He released control and began “pouring out” his life. And Paul’s life was poured it out until the very end.

Each child of God is empowered to make investments. With an eye on eternity, we are able to make wise investments. What is in your investment portfolio? Is it earning eternal dividends?

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,

The writer of short stories H. L. Gee tells of a tramp who came begging to a good woman’s door. She went to get something to give him and found that she had no change in the house. She went to him and said: ‘I have not a penny of small change. I need a loaf of bread. Here is a pound. Go and buy the loaf and bring me back the change and I will give you something.’

The man carried out the commission and returned and she gave him a small coin. He took it with tears in his eyes. ‘It’s not the money,’ he said, ‘it’s the way you trusted me. No one ever trusted me like that before, and I can’t thank you enough.’

It is easy to say that the woman took a risk that only a soft-hearted fool would take; but she had given that man more than money: she had given him something of herself by giving her trust. (Barclay)

Your Father trusts you.

Prosopagnosia

Prosopagnosia

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. – Exodus 33:11  

Deuteronomy 34:10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,

Isaiah 43:1-7

 1 Thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!

 2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.

 3 “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . .

 4 “Since you are precious in My sight, you are honored, and I love you . . .

Prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, is more than just “being bad with faces.” It is the inability to recognize familiar faces, including one’s own face (self-recognition), and learning to recognize new ones. It is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to distinguish faces. It may affect up to 2.5% of the population. There are two types of prosopagnosia: acquired (often resulting from brain damage) and congenital.

The term prosopagnosia was first used in 1947 by Joachim Bodamer, a neurologist. The word is derived from Greek prosopon, face and agnosia, non-knowledge. In 1996, Bill Choisser popularized the term “face blindness” for this condition.

No therapy has provided lasting real-world improvements.

Facial recognition software began to be developed in the 1960s. However, the Father created facial recognition firmware as a part of the human brain. For most of us it works just fine. How awful would it be not to be able to remember and recognize the faces of those you love and care about, your family and close friends. It would be equally tragic, not to remember and recognize those who love you. For those with face blindness, it is like living in a perpetual, horrid facial Groundhog Day without end.

Can the Father ever forget us? Never! What He said of Israel, is true for each of His children.

Isaiah 43:1 Thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!

Isaiah 49:15-16 

 15 Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!

 16 See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. 


REFLECT & PRAY
 

Only Moses was face-to-face and mouth-to-mouth with the Father.

Father, I long to experience as much intimacy and open communication with You as You will allow.INSIGHT

The Father is transcendent, great, high, exalted, and lifted Up. Yet the Father chose to make a creature with whom He could have close, real spiritual intimacy.

In the history of the human race, there has been only one person who had a face-to-face relationship with the Father, Moses.

Exodus 33:11 The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.

Moses was exceptional. He was a specially chosen mediator with whom the transcendent God would speak. Moses was selected to hear and receive the Law of God, which became the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. The means of communication was extraordinary.

Numbers 12:8 I speak to him mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles!

What does this mean? “God communicated with Moses ‘mouth to mouth.’ This figurative language is intended to convey the preeminence and uniqueness of Moses as a prophetic figure who experiences a special mode of revelation. The experience is personal and direct, not mediated through visions or dreams, and the message is always plain and straightforward, free of cryptic utterances” (Sarna).

Carefully considering of what it means to be in a face-to-face relationship with the Father, and mouth-to-mouth communication, is a journey from the obvious to the sublime.

The Father created man to be in relationship with Him.  Each of the Father’s children. Know Him, and the Father knows them. But the degree of knowing varies greatly. It progresses from simple recognition to deep intimacy. Face-to-face knowledge connotes recognition and proximity. But mouth-to-mouth implies direct revelation. Moses was fully aware and conscious. There were no visions nor dreams. The message was clear and direct.

Can you imagine what this was like? With a bit of imagination, I can. I can see the Father querying Moses, “Question, have you ever wondered how the world began, where the stars came from, and how man and all the animals came to be?” The Father went on, “Let me tell you how I did it.” And Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 3 passed from the mind of God to the mind of Moses. Moses went on to write it down.

Remember only the Father was there at creation, He spoke, and it was so. Lots of people speculate, postulate, even pontificate regarding how everything began. But they can only guess. That’s right, guess! One theory is replaced another down through the decades. Only the Father actually knows. Modern man extrapolates using very limited scientific knowledge. The Father created both science and human thought.

In the ancient world, Kings and nobles had many servants but only a few trusted ones (Eliezer, Joseph, Nehemiah, Daniel). In a royal house only the most trusted servant would have regular access to the monarch. They were referred to as, “the king’s personal advisers,” literally “those who see the face of the king” (2 Kings 25:19). Moses was in that position with the Father. He was a trusted friend and servant of the living God. He had frequent, if not regular access to Him. Oxymoronically speaking, run-of-the-mill Old Testament prophets, received their revelations through visions and dreams, angelic messengers, and occasional visitations from the Father. The Father’s communication with Moses considerably beyond that.

Yada, yada, yada

Yada, yada, yada

Jeremiah 12:3 You know me, O LORD; You see me; and You examine my heart’s attitude toward You.

Psalms 139:1-7

 1 O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.

 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

 3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.

 4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.

 5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.

 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

 7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!

On April 24, 1997, the popular TV sitcom “Seinfeld” aired an episode called “The Yada Yada.” In that episode, George Costanza complains about his girlfriend’s shortening her stories and leaving out critical facts, substituting the phrase “Yada, Yada, Yada.”

“Yada, Yada, Yada” was introduced into popular American culture and remains to this day. It has become a cliché. It has been used as a disparaging remark of something which is boring or tedious. It is somewhat of a modern-day equivalent of saying “blah, blah, blah’” or sarcastically rolling your eyes. It is an interjection indicating something is predictable or repetitive, or simply common knowledge. When something can be skipped over, “Yada, Yada, Yada,” is interjected in its place.

There has been much discussion regarding its origin. I do not think it is that difficult to get to the bottom of it. The term, yada, is the transliteration of a Hebrew verb that means “to know.” When something is common knowledge, “Yada, Yada, Yada,” is interjected, meaning “You know.” “You know?”

David’s close and loving relationship for the Father permeates Psalm 139. This beautiful Psalm recounts the Father’s total knowledge of all things and all people. 

Psalm 139 is a love letter from David to the Father. It overflows with adoration, love, loyalty, and awe. This is Theology 101 regarding God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence expressed as a love song, a poem, rather than some cold, abstract theological treatise.

Psalms 139:1-3

 1 O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.

The Hebrew word translated examined is chaqar and connotes a deliberate search, thorough exploration to learn people’s sentiments and expose their weaknesses. The Hebrew word translated know is yada. It means to know, observe, realize, to care, to understand, and to express concern.

The Father does not merely know about us, He knows us.

 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.

The Hebrew word translated know in this verse is bin. It denotes to understand, perceive, comprehend, consider; care for, and bring insight.

 3 You scrutinize me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.

The Hebrew word translated scrutinize is zarah originally meant to winnow or scatter, disperse. It came to mean to have a clear knowledge of a person.

The Father actively and personally surrounds, discerns, searches, knows our minds and hearts better than we know ourselves. The Father knows everything and everyone all the time and always has. He never learns new things because He continually knows everything.

The Father knows each of us deeply and completely. He has pierced all of our defensive fortifications. It is as though, He gets inside our minds and hearts and knows our thoughts, our emotions, our needs, our dreams, our aspirations, and our fears.

And David loves the intimacy and immediacy of being known. He craves it, he pleads for it. Yet at the same time, such intimate and expansive knowledge overwhelms his mind and confounds him.

“God’s infinite knowledge boggles the mind. Our human brains strain under the weight of the idea. It is too exalted for us to comprehend. But when we come to the frontier of our capacity to understand and can go no farther, we can still bow in worship at the immensity of the knowledge of God!” (MacDonald).

One can easily be frightened and troubled by the Father’s omniscience. Yet the recognition that is omniscience is coupled with lovingkindness alleviates all concerns.

REFLECT & PRAY

The omniscience of God is awe-inspiring and overwhelming. But it is also comforting and assuring. It is a short hop from being afraid that we cannot get away from Him, to being afraid that we could.

Father, thank You that you know me intimately at the deepest level. None of my personal faults are repugnant to You and Your response to them is even greater love.

INSIGHT

Psalms 139:6-7

 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

 7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!

In David’s day, the pagans worshiped gods that were local and limited, the sea, the sky, the harvest, the underworld. So it is with polytheists. But not with the Father. He had no such limitations. The Father’s presence is everywhere. He all-seeing and perceives all things in all places.

Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

David does not wish to hide and evade the Father, rather he embraces Him. David acknowledges that his ability to comprehend the Father’s omniscience is beyond his grasp. He realizes that the Father’s knowledge and guidance are his protection. The Father keeps him safe.

The Father is truly amazing and wonderful. David knows he can never fully get his arms around it. He is not equal to it. Rather, then hurting his brain trying, David shifts from frustrated efforts to comprehend, to adoration and worship. David reveres and glorifies the Father for who He is, what He does, and what He has done for him.

Romans 11:33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

Yada!

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Ordinary people

Ordinary people

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this? – Esther 4:14

Esther 3:1-6

 1 Some time later King Ahasuerus promoted Haman over all the other nobles, making him the most powerful official in the empire.

 2 All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.

 3 Then the palace officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?”

 4 They spoke to him day after day, but still he refused to comply with the order. So they spoke to Haman about this to see if he would tolerate Mordecai’s conduct, since Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.

 5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage.

 6 He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire.

Anti-Semitism is defined as hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group. The term anti-Semitism was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr to designate the anti-Jewish campaigns under way in central Europe at that time. Although the term is now widely used, it is a misnomer. It implies a discrimination against all Semites. Arabs are also Semites, and yet they are not the targets of anti-Semitism (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Capt. Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish French artillery officer. In 1894, he was falsely accused of espionage and treason, stripped of his rank and sent to Devils Island. The case became known as the Dreyfus affair. It was one of the most controversial and polarizing political dramas in modern French history. The reverberations from which were felt throughout Europe. After a global campaign to prove both his innocence and rampant anti-Semitism. Dreyfus was ultimately exonerated, freed, and restored to his rank in the French military.

The book of Esther was written about 450 BC. The events in the book take place in Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire during the reign of King Xerxes, who was known as Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. The Jewish people of the southern kingdom of Judah were conquered by Babylon and taken into captivity. Babylon was in turn conquered by Persia. The Persians were very flexible and allowed many conquered foreigners to return to their own lands. Many of the Jews had returned to Judah, but many stayed behind.

Esther and her cousin Mordecai were among those who remained in the Persian kingdom. They grew comfortable and felt safe. Of all things Esther became a contestant in a beauty pageant and won. She was crowned Miss Persia. She became the wife to Ahasuerus and the queen of Persia. At first, she must have been way outside of her comfort zone. But eventually she felt safer than ever and fitted right in. The fact that she was Jewish seems to have little impact on King Ahasuerus because she was so beautiful. Just like Natalie Portman, Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), or Madeleine Stowe in our day.

In one sense, the book of Esther is unique. It is the only book in the Bible that does not mention the name of God. Although the Father is not mentioned, His presence, faithfulness, and providence permeate the story. The Father was always working behind the scenes and setting the stage for what was going to happen. The Father had a unique and special task for Esther to carry out. Had she not been elevated to the position of Queen she could not have accomplished it.

For Mordecai and Esther, it was “the good old days.” But they were not to last. A great darkness was in the land, but they had no idea.

An evil man named Haman was secretly plotting to destroy all of the Jews in Persia. Haman managed to shrewdly weave a web of seemingly insurmountable circumstances to entrap, capture, and annihilate all the chosen people.

The Father uses average people and everyday events to accomplish His eternal purpose. Totally placing their lives in the Father’s hands, trusting Him for the outcome Esther and Mordecai, two ordinary people with extraordinary faith, risk everything to save the Father’s Chosen People and themselves. As the story unfolds, the Father is hidden but not hiding. He is the unseen, behind-the-scenes artist of the tapestry of events coming together. He is accomplishing His eternal plan. The Father is fulfilling His redemptive promises for His chosen people. “Providence is God’s attention concentrated everywhere. His care is microscopic as well as telescopic” (Strong). “Kings may issue their unalterable decrees, but God overrules and accomplishes His purposes” (Wiersbe).

REFLECT & PRAY

God is everywhere present and actively at work. The challenge for us is to discover Him and respond in faith.

Father encourage me to stand up and complete the tasks You have graciously assigned to me with integrity and endurance.

INSIGHT

The Father allows the evil villain to arise, knowing his end from the beginning. The Father sees what people cannot see. There will be no surprises, except of course for Haman. At the same time, His invisible powerful Hand of Providence is at work in a faithful man and a faithful woman. Against overwhelming odds, way outside of their normal comfort zones, Mordecai and Esther rise to the occasion. When everything was at stake, they chose to stand up and trust God with the outcome. This was their moment in history.

Mordecai becomes aware of the plot but must get word to Esther. He could not go to her, but he could make her aware that there was a tremendous problem that was greatly grieving him.

Esther 4:1 When Mordecai learned about all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail.

Esther’s servants came and told her what was going on. She sent one of her attendants to find out what was troubling Mordecai and caused him to go into mourning. He returns to Esther with the shocking truth and Mordecai’s even more shocking request.

Mordecai wants her to approach the king uninvited, at risk of her life. If the king did not hold out his golden scepter, she would be doomed and forfeit her life (Esther 4:11). Mordecai solemnly warns her, if she did nothing she would not be spared, because she too was a Jew. But the Father was faithful and had her back.

Esther 4:13-14

 13 Mordecai sent this message to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed.

 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

Wouldn’t be great to have someone who would encourage you like that? Undoubtedly fear raced through her heart, there was so much at risk. Remember it was the good old days, life was good, everything seemed normal in the palace. But she stepped outside her comfort zone.

What did she not do? Esther did not tweet or go on Facebook and rant. Remember, if Satan cannot get us to do the wrong thing, he will try get us to do the right thing in the wrong way. What did she do, she called a prayer meeting!

Esther 4:16 Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.

Wow! Not only was she in the right place at the right time, she had the right heart attitude and immediately responded in faith. If only we could all be just like that.

Haman’s evil law was in place. A bounty was offered for every Jew that would be exterminated. His twisted and perverted plan to eliminate all the Jewish people was ready. The trap was about to be sprung. The Jews were about to be destroyed. The stakes could not have been higher. Haman had already built special gallows to hang Mordecai, the focal point and source of his hatred for anything Jewish.

Would the Father prevail? Would the people of God be spared?

Esther boldly but politely went before King Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus lifted his scepter and welcomed her. Esther believed that the Father had her back and had developed a plan of her own. She invited the king and Haman to a banquet. Haman, totally clueless, thought he was going to be honored. Haman had no idea that Esther was Jewish, and that Mordecai was her cousin.

Esther exposed Haman’s evil plan and destructive goals. The king became outraged and commanded Haman be hung immediately, on the very gallows prepared for Mordecai. What a shocking reversal! The Jewish people of the land were spared. Sadly, hatred of the Jews did not end with Haman. It is with us to this day. Mordecai was promoted to become one of the king’s servants.

The Father’s unseen and unknown eternal plan was carried out. Yet in real time, the Father heard the earnest prayers of the people and answered. They had prayed God’s will into existence. His will was being done on earth as it is in heaven. Who knew? The Father knew!

The Father is at work, He is at work all the time. He invites you to participate in His plan. The choice is yours. Maybe you also have come into His kingdom for such a time as this.

A different spirit

A different spirit

My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully. – Numbers 14:24

Numbers 14:6-11

 6 Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua and Caleb, tore their clothing.

 7 They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land!

 8 And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.

 9 Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

 10 But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb.

So Near and Yet So

I so often dream we might make a team But so wild a scheme I must banish

For each time I start to open my heart you vanish

My dear, I’ve a feeling you are so near and yet so far

You appear like a radiant star first so near, then again so far

Although the Father had performed remarkable miracles in the land of Egypt and at the Red Sea, the people were incongruously skeptical and untrusting. The Father faithfully led them to the promised land. They were on its outskirts, right at the border. But they were still faithless and clueless.

So the Father ordered Moses to choose twelve men, one from each of the twelve tribes, to enter and spy out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:2). All twelve of the spies went together. They all saw exactly the same things. But their observations and reactions could not have been more different. Their responses were swayed by their hearts

Ten of the spies saw things through the eyes of fear and doubt. Two of the spies saw things through the eyes of faith and trust, Caleb and Joshua.

When the twelve spies returned to the camp, they gave reports on what they saw. What were the quality of the land and the condition of the people living in it? The mission of the spies covered over 220 miles from the Negeb on the South to just north of Damascus (Numbers 1:1-16). They accomplished their mission and recounted their reflections.

But two different kinds of reports are given. One is an evil report. It focused on all of the obstacles. There were large, fortified cities and Giants (Nephilim). They concluded their report saying, “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are! The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:31-33). What they saw with their eyes was filtered through their fearful, doubting hearts.

The other report was a good report. What Joshua and Caleb saw with their eyes was filtered through their faithful, trusting hearts.

Numbers 14:7-9

 7 They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land!

 8 And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.

 9 Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”

But what did the people do? They believed the evil report!

Numbers 14:1-3

 1 The whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night.

 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained.

 3 “Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?”

Numbers 14:10 The whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb.

We are tempted to say their response seems incredulous. But not so much when we realize that we might have done exactly the same thing.

The children of Israel were about to become toast, burnt, and crispy toast.

REFLECT & PRAY

The courage and faith of Joshua and Caleb were exemplary. What set them apart? It is quite simple. They took the Father at His Word. They believed all that the Father said and put their full confidence in Him. God assumes full responsibility for our needs when we obey Him wholeheartedly (Stanley).

Father I pray that I may have a different spirit, a spirit of faith, trust, and confidence in You.

INSIGHT

In the midst of all of this, how did the Father feel? He felt totally disrespected and unappreciated. His patience with their disobedience was about maxed out. He had just about enough and was ready to strike. What did the Father do next? If He were in the White House today, He would have picked up the Red Phone, and placed a person-to-person call to the Kremlin. The Father returned to the camp in His glorious splendor, takes Moses aside and says, “we need to talk!”

Numbers 14:11-12

 11 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?

 12 I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”

Moses intervened on behalf of the Jewish people and the Father’s anger abated. Moses words are well worth pondering and reflecting upon (Numbers 14:13-19).

The Father relented, and switched from Plan I, immediate death, to Plan S, slow death. Rather than striking the people immediately, the Father condemned them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years and die in it. They would never again see the promised land and certainly not enter into it.

The following is R-rated and not meant for young readers. Yet it is in the Torah, right in the middle of it in the book of Numbers.

Numbers 14:29-34

 29 You will all drop dead in this wilderness! Because you complained against me, every one of you who is twenty years old or older . . . Will die.

 30 You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb and Joshua.

 34 “‘Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years – a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.’

Ah, a teachable moment! The lesson is simple. It is far better to have the Father as your friend than as your enemy.

So how does the story end? Not too well for the children of Israel who were over 20 years of age. They all died in the wilderness. Only their children were allowed to enter the promised land. But Joshua became the commander-in-chief of the Army of Israel and successfully led them in battle, for the conquest of the promised land.

What about Caleb? What made him special? The Father singles Caleb out with great affection and admiration. He had a spirit of faith. He followed the Lord with his whole heart. Nothing was held back (Numbers 14:24). When we possess a spirit of faith, the Father enables us to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Time passed and it is now 45 years later. Caleb is 85 years old, undaunted in spirit and body ready to take on all challenges and all challengers.

Joshua 14:6-12

 6 Caleb said to Joshua, “Remember what the LORD said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me when we were at Kadesh-barnea.

 7 I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the LORD, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan. I returned and brought word back to him as it was in my heart.

 8 For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the LORD my God.

 9 So that day Moses solemnly promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the LORD my God.’

 10 “Now, as you can see, the LORD has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise– even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old.

 11 I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then.

 12 So give me the hill country that the LORD promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the LORD is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the LORD said.”

Because of his wholehearted faith and trust, Caleb knew that the Father had his back

And so He did.

One of descendants of Anak made a really big splash about 400 years later during King David’s time, his name was Goliath (Joshua 11:22). But that is a story for another day.

When we align ourselves with God and His will, the Lord takes the battle out of our hands and places it in His. Big enemies become small when God leads the charge (Stanley).

To whom it may concern, a “random” arrow

To whom it may concern, a “random” arrow

Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the LORD says.” – 2 Chron18:4

2 Chron 18:33-34

 33 An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horses and get me out of here!” Ahab groaned to the driver of the chariot. “I’m badly wounded!”

 34 The battle raged all that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans. In the evening, just as the sun was setting, he died.

Stray bullets hit unintended targets. Being struck by a stray bullet is considered a freak accidents or an act of God. It is considered very unlikely. As such, it cannot be predicted, controlled or prevented. The probability of an accidental death from a firearm discharge in your lifetime is about 1 in 8527, in any given year is about 1 in 670,204 [www.iii.org].

To put this in perspective:

                                            One-year odds       Lifetime odds

Accidental poisoning                           5,027                  64

Opioids both legal and illegal)              7,569                  96

All motor vehicle accidents                   8,096                  103

Assault by firearm                             22,399                  285

Fall from stairs and steps                    130,654                1662

Drowning in swimming pool                 450,511                5732

Firearms discharge (accidental)            670,204                8527

What about bullets fired straight up into the air?

What goes up must come down, right? What goes up: A bullet fired from a Kalashnikov rifle leaves the muzzle traveling faster than 1,500 miles per hour. What comes down: If that bullet is shot straight into the air it would be traveling at about 150 miles per hour as it falls to the ground because air resistance for slows it down. It would hit the ground, or your head, with the same amount of energy as if you were struck by a brick falling from about 4 feet above you [source: Matthews].

And what about stray arrows?

The Word of God contains stories that you just can’t make up. So goes the story of Ahab, king of Israel and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. This story takes place during the time of the divided kingdom after the reign of Solomon. The northern 10 tribes are called Israel and the two southern tribes are called Judah.

Jehoshaphat was a good king, but he made the mistake of entering into an alliance with Ahab, the evil, plotting, tricky and deceptive king of Israel. This was a bad idea on many levels, and Jehoshaphat almost paid for his mistake with his life.

Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to join him in an attack on a mutual enemy. Jehoshaphat agreed, but only on one condition. He wanted to know what the Father had to say about it. Now that was a great idea. The hitch was that Ahab really did not want to hear from the Father at all. He’d rather consult with false prophets and sycophants who would tell him what he wanted to hear. The truth often stung, and Ahab wanted to avoid it at all costs.

2 Chron 18:2-4

 2 Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him . . .

 3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.”

 4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find Out what the LORD says.”

But Ahab was not on extremely good terms with the Father’s true prophets. So he summoned 400 of his own prophets, guys who he had in his pocket, who would give him the answer that he wanted.

2 Chron 18:5

 5 So the king of Israel [Ahab] summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?” They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

Although Jehoshaphat had lapses in good judgment that got them into the present situation, he was not so easily fooled by every outright lie and subterfuge. False prophets just would not do, and he insisted to hear from one of the Father’s true prophets instead. In a good sense, knowing what the truth sounds like, spoils you and turns you off from lies. Those who are used to handling the truth, the Word of God have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14).

2 Chron 18:6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the LORD here? We should ask him the same question.”

Ahab was not very pleased with this because he hated the Father’s prophets. Whenever he consulted them, they always gave him bad news. Go figure!

2 Chron 18:7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the LORD for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

Jehoshaphat scolded Ahab for talking in such a negative and insulting way about one of the Father’s prophets. So begrudgingly, Ahab sent one of his officials to find Micaiah and bring him in to present the Father’s guidance and direction.

But in the process, Ahab’s guy tried to put in the fix, and get Micaiah to produce the same results as the false prophets. Micaiah stood tall and would have nothing to do with it. That’s one of the things about the Father’s prophets, they tend to be harder than flint and will not back down from telling the truth.

2 Chron 18:8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah.”

2 Chron 18:12-13

 13 Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, “Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

 13 But Micaiah replied, “As surely as the LORD lives, I will say only what my God says.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Just the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (John 17:17).

Father encourage me to stand tall for the truth and not succumb to peer pressure or the influence of governmental authorities, even when the odds are 400 to 1. The Father’s Truth alone is Truth.

INSIGHT

Real servants of the Father, only say what He tells them to say. They don’t add, they don’t take away, and they do not alter His words. It is always wise to measure what is heard in our modern age by this plumb line. By this time, Micaiah was well aware what was going on, having gotten inside information from the Father Himself. He resorts to sarcasm.

 2 Chron 18:14, 15

 14 When Micaiah arrived before the king, Ahab asked him, “Micaiah, should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?” Micaiah replied sarcastically, “Yes, go up and be victorious, for you will have victory over them!”

 15 But the king replied sharply, “How many times must I demand that you speak only the truth to me when you speak for the LORD?”

Well Ahab was not stupid either, well not that stupid. And he knew that Micaiah was not telling what the that the Father had revealed to him. He calls Micaiah out. So Micaiah, comes clean and tells the rest of the story.

2 Chron 18:6 Then Micaiah told him, “In a vision I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘Their master has been killed. Send them home in peace.’

Well of course this was not comforting or pleasing for Ahab. Why? Well, there was the rather obvious fact that Micaiah was predicting Ahab’s death. But even that were not the case, wicked people, with dark, evil hearts, do not really want to hear the truth, not to mention listen to it or act on it. When he asked for the truth, it was simply another ploy, he really did not want to hear it.

Ahab had Micaiah arrested and put on bread and water. Ahab underscores his hatred of Micaiah in his whining complaint to Jehoshaphat.

 2 Chron 18:17 “Didn’t I tell you?” the king of Israel exclaimed to Jehoshaphat. “He never prophesies anything but trouble for me.”

 2 Chron 18:18,25-27

 18 Then Micaiah continued, “Listen to what the LORD says! I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left.”

 25 “Arrest him!” the king of Israel ordered.

 26 Give them this order from the king “Put this man in prison and feed him nothing but bread and water until I return safely from the battle!”

 27 But Micaiah replied, “If you return safely, it will mean that the LORD has not spoken through me!” Then he added to those standing around, “Everyone mark my words!”

The original “mark my words,” entered the English language through the Miles Coverdale’s 1535 translation of the Bible, “Take hede, and heare my voyce, pondre and merck my wordes wel. …. [sic.]” (Isaiah 28:23).

In the 20th century, this was updated and popularized by Clint Eastwood, A.K.A. Dirty Harry, “But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”

This is followed by yet more intrigues, deceptions, subterfuge, disguises and camouflage. Ahab did everything short of painting a target on Jehoshaphat’s back.

2 Chron 18:29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “As we go into battle, I will disguise myself so no one will recognize me, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.

Well, a random act of God seemingly got in the final word, that is shot, “stray arrow.”

2 Chron 18:30 Meanwhile, the king of Aram had issued these orders to his chariot commanders: “Attack only the king of Israel! Don’t bother with anyone else.”

2 Chron 18:31,32

 31 So when the Aramean chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat in his royal robes, they went after him. “There is the king of Israel!” they shouted. But Jehoshaphat called out, and the LORD saved him. God helped him by turning the attackers away from him.

 32 As soon as the chariot commanders realized he was not the king of Israel, they stopped chasing him.

In the midst of all this confusion, the Father remembered Jehoshaphat and helped him by turning away his attackers. But at the same time the Father saw to it that evil King Ahab was himself “randomly shot by an arrow.”

2 Chron 18:33,34

 33 An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horses and get me out of here!” Ahab groaned to the driver of the chariot. “I’m badly wounded!”

 34 The battle raged all that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans. In the evening, just as the sun was setting, he died.

How could King Jehoshaphat not discern what Ahab was doing to him? If Ahab had put a target on Jehoshaphat’s back, he would not have made it easier for the enemy to kill him! But God is sovereign in all things and protected Jehoshaphat, while at the same time allowing a random arrow to hit an opening in Ahab’s armor and kill him. Ahab was disguised and yet was killed, while Jehoshaphat was in his royal robes and never touched (Wiersbe).

Psalms 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people.

A force to contend with

A force to contend with

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 21:25 

Judges 2:18-19

 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the LORD took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering.

 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them. They went after other gods, serving and worshiping them. And they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

Life is filled with daunting situations. We face challenges big and small. What do we do? Some freeze and shrink back in uncertainty. Others plow ahead and take a chance. While others may rise to the occasion and perform heroic acts. Most folks who perform one-time acts of bravery (like rushing into a burning building or rescuing someone from the path of an oncoming train) are not significantly different from everyone else.

However, others live lives of lifelong heroism. Consider firemen and other first-time responders. Professional nurses who regularly comfort the sick and dying tend to be lifelong heroes. Such nurses share personality traits or qualities that set them apart from non-heroes. They possess a strong moral code (personal values), are empathic and nurturing. They live by their values and are willing to take personal risks to protect and maintain those values. The prophet Deborah was such a person. Deborah was a force to contend with.

The book of Judges was written 1045-1000 BC. It covers the period between the Exodus, 1445 BC and the time of Solomon (1 Kings 6:1).  It is the tragic story of ancient Israel’s cycle of disobedience, rebellion and idolatry. Over and over again the people went from short periods of righteous living to failure and sin. When things became unbearable, they would repent and callout to the Father for help. The Father remained true to His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Father would send a leader, a judge to save His people from their oppressors. All would be well for a short time, and then the cycle would repeat. This lasted for a span of about 400 years.

The cycle began with the death of Joshua and the other leaders of the conquest. The Israelites turned their backs on the Father and entered into idolatry. They had no loyalty to the Father and took Him for granted. They openly rebelled, evoking His displeasure and inviting His discipline (Judges 2:8-16). The Israelites never learned.

Sadly, each of us can probably identify with this behavior and see ourselves doing similar things. It is eerily familiar to the apostle Paul’s experiences in Romans 7.

Romans 7:21-24 

 21 I have discovered this principle of life– that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.

 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?

Against this horrid background, the Father raised up a force to contend with, Deborah, the fourth judge of Israel. She is revealed as a housewife and mom, not a soldier. She was neither an Amazon warrior nor a WWF female superstar. Rather than being mighty in stature, I envision her as a tiny, petite woman perhaps only 5′ 2″ or so. Her strength came from within, her character and integrity. She was powerful, resourceful, and resilient. She was taken seriously and had great personal power and influence. Deborah was steadfast and devoted to the Father and His Word. She inspired Israel’s forces to confident victory. She encouraged them to faith and righteous living.

In addition to her natural strengths, Deborah was a prophet. She heard from the Father directly (Amos 3:7). The Father would give her the battle strategy to defeat the enemies of Israel. She would in turn pass it on to Barak, leader of Israel’s forces. When Barak carried out her instructions, victory was won.  

The Father has two criteria for service: availability and willingness. Only one person measured up to the task at hand, Deborah. No man was willing or able to do the job. In fact, Barak would not go out to war against the enemy without Deborah’s leadership.

Ancient armies were not a coed endeavor. The leaders and strong warriors were typically all-male. The fact that Israel’s all male army would not go to war without Deborah’s leading them, was a slap in their faces. There was no honor in it for the men. Deborah sought no honor for herself. She was only doing the task that she had been assigned by the Father.

Judges 4:8-9 

 8 Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.”

 9 “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.”

It had to be very humiliating to the male warriors of Israel in their male-dominated society. But the choice got down to following a woman into battle and having victory. Or going it alone and facing certain defeat. Ultimately however, the honor and glory belong to the Father. It was His battle plan and His intervention On Israel’s behalf that brought about the victory.

“When God wants to glorify Himself through His people, He always has a perfect plan for us to follow. God chose the leader of His army, the place for the battle, and the plan for His army to follow. God also guaranteed the victory.” (Wiersbe)!

REFLECT & PRAY

Prov 21:31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

Father encourage my heart to have the spirit of Deborah.

INSIGHT

Is it possible to have the spirit of Deborah today? Can we be full of faith and courage, and be energized by our zeal for God?

Mark 10:27  “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

In Deborah’s day, there were real physical enemies to contend with, large opposing forces, not to mention 900 iron chariots. But today most of us are not a war and our enemies are internal: fear of failure, a sense of inferiority, concerns over what others think, poor self-image, and often even stubborn unwillingness

While each of us have our individual callings and gifts, any of us can have the spirit of Deborah. Any of us can hear from the Father, take Him at His Word, trust, commit, and take action. Frequently we do not see ourselves as the Father sees us. The Father wants to free us from our internal nemeses!

The spirit of Deborah, a spirit of faith and trust is available to us all. As the Father exposes what needs to be done in our lives we do not have to draw back from these internal enemies. His spirit is at work in us.

Phi 2:13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

It is past time to stop doubting our faith and believing our doubts. Rather doubt your doubts and believe your faith.

By the way the name Deborah means bumblebee.

For many years, in spite of the obvious visible evidence to the contrary, it was thought that short and stubby bumblebees should not be able to fly at all. For such a creature to fly was seemingly a violation the law of aerodynamics. But bumblebees not knowing aerodynamics, having never attended science or physics classes, flew anyway. In the 1930s, French entomologist August Magnan concluded the insect’s flight is actually impossible, a notion that has stuck in popular consciousness since then.

However, the enigma was solved in 2005 by Dr. Michael Dickinson, a professor of biology and insect flight expert at the University of Washington. He used high-speed photography to capture the wing movement of flying bees. It turns out that bumblebees do not flap their wings up and down. This is a common misconception. Rather, they flap their wings back and forth. This is been dubbed a “bug flap.” Such movements provide sufficient lift to allow the bumblebees to fly. Who would’ve guessed? Perhaps instead of going to class, they were outside watching hummingbirds, or even helicopters.