My mom’s name is Deborah, and I’m thankful for her. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
I am referring to the relationship between Deborah and Barak in the book of Judges (chapters 4 and 5). Deborah was a prophetess, meaning she spoke God’s word to His people. She was a wise woman, settling disputes under a palm tree. Barak was a military leader who faced the ruthless and technologically-superior Canaanites in order to deliver the Israelites from their oppression. This victory was an act of God’s grace for His people (Israel), and Deborah and Barak were major players.
In Judges 4:6-7, Deborah summoned Barak and said, “Hasn’t the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded you: ‘Go, deploy the troops on Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men from the Naphtalites and Zebulunites? Then I will lure Sisera commander of Jabin’s army, his chariots, and his infantry at the Wadi Kishon to fight against you, and I will hand him over to you.’”
When I was reading that recently, I noticed something–God had already told Barak what he was to do and had already promised victory. Deborah was admonishing Barak to be faithful to what God had already said.
My point: be thankful for the “Deborahs” in your life who admonish you to be obedient to Scripture.
God has spoken and we have that record in the 66 books the Bible. It can be painful to hear someone say, “Didn’t God say…,” pointing out sin in our lives, but we need to be humble as we’re admonished toward obedience to God’s Word.
Be thankful for the Deborahs in your life.
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By Ryan Strother — 6 months ago
I recently read Amy Baker’s book Picture Perfect: When Life Doesn’t Line Up and think you should too if you deal with perfectionism like she describes: “What I accomplished took on a life of its own, and I was in danger of seeing what I got done, rather than Jesus, as the source of my perfection” (pg.2).
She lists some trademark characteristics of perfectionism:
- you want to be the best in everything you do;
- you have very high expectations for yourself and others;
- you are very upset with yourself if you make a mistake;
- you feel guilty for relaxing;
- you feel like you are never doing enough;
- you are very particular about the details of tasks;
- when you perform well, you analyze your performance for the weak spots and quickly gloss over things done right;
- you want something done right or not done at all;
- you are perceived by others as a role model;
- you feel others are never satisfied by your performance;
- you compare yourself to others;
- you do not attempt things you know you cannot complete with excellence;
- you are frightened by the thought of failure;
- you procrastinate;
- your relationships are often strained or difficult;
- you feel like you will never be perfect; and
- you rarely experience joy (ppg.8-9).
This list is exhausting! Just reading through these tendencies made me feel overwhelmed and I can see how a perfectionist will often feel paralyzed in any kind of fruitful work. I agree with Baker that there are positive and negative traits in this list. The struggle seems to come when a person easily crosses that line of not properly having her eyes on Jesus as the perfecter of her faith but relies on herself to bring about perfection—a never-ending quest!
When life doesn’t go just the way a perfectionist plans, then frustration, anger, and unhappiness can set in. Baker hits a high note when she reveals that perfectionism is distorted because a person would not quickly become angry or frustrated in situation because these are not “perfect” responses (12). The tension lies in the fact that God created people to reflect His image, but sin has created tension in this pursuit of reflecting the image of a perfect God. Not only that, but sin has led to a man-centered definition of perfectionism that focuses on performances and outcomes that glorify man and not God.
Do you struggle with perfectionism? Stop looking to yourself as God and trust in the only One who can give you righteousness that is worthy to stand before the Lord.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, ESV)Post Views: 430
By Ryan Strother — 1 month ago
When the cat is away, the mice will play. This cliche is seen in the last chapters of Judges, and we tend to live according to it when we do not think there is an authority in our lives.
A great example of this is at the end of the book of Judges (ch.17-21). It begins with Micah and his mother in “The hill country of Ephraim”—not a new location in Judges:
- It is the place of Joshua’s burial (2:9);
- Ehud sounded his trumpet there (3:27);
- Deborah held court there (4:5); and
- Gideon sent messengers there to call up the men of Ephraim to go against the Midianites (7:24).
Look how different it is by the end of Judges though! The phrase “there was no king in Israel” occurs three times in chapters 17-21 (17:6; 18:1; 21:25). When there is no king, people will do what is right in their own eyes. In other words, they will become their own kings or submit themselves to all kinds of other kings.
We see a natural desire for worship in Micah and his mother, and we share this natural desire.
The short story—Micah had stolen 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother but returned it to her. Her response: “. . . I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. . .” (Judges 17:3, ESV)
Do you see anything in her response that doesn’t make sense? This shows how far off the Israelites had come in their thinking and beliefs–Micah’s mother would dedicate the silver to the Lord IN ORDER FOR it to be made into a carved image and a metal image. The 2nd commandment directly forbids this: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:4, ESV)
But Micah wasn’t done there:
- v.5- he sets up a shrine, which is essentially is “the house of God.” This is an abomination because there was only one house of God at that time and it was in Shiloh, which is even noted in Judges 18:31.
- v.5- he sets up his son as a private priest. First, priests are to be public, not just for one person. Second, is his son even qualified?
- v.7-13. Maybe Micah did realize the qualification part of this, even though he didn’t care, because he finds a Levite and asks him to be his priest.
Levites were the priestly class of Israelites, so Micah got that right. But God was not Micah’s authority, and his confusion is revealed in Judges 17:13: “Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.’”
Not only did Micah’s mother dedicate the silver to the Lord to be used to make idols, but Micah presumed upon God’s blessing of his ungodly decision to create a place of worship outside of Shiloh with carved images and idols.
They naturally desired a god: something to rule over them, look up to, and try to please. People today share the same natural desire to worship by setting up their own places of worship and idols (whether physically or mentally).
Why would people do this? Let me offer two reasons:
- All people are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), meaning at least that people have a soul and are able to have a personal relationship with God. In other words, every person is created to glorify and worship God, and when they don’t worship God, that longing to worship is still there. Instead of worshipping who they were created to worship, though, people will create all kinds of idols and other pursuits to fill that void that can only be satisfied in God.
- The law of God is written on people’s hearts. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14–15, ESV). Because people are made in the image of God, we naturally have the law of God written on our hearts. There is a general sense of right from wrong in every person, though sin can so horribly cauterize the ability to discern the difference. As John Piper said, people “. . . have enough knowledge of the moral law of God in their hearts by virtue of being created in God’s image so that their consciences are conflicted: sometimes approving, sometimes disapproving.” So, people are naturally pursuing morality, and that will lead to some kind of religion in their life.
Are you naturally desiring the One True God, or is your natural desire to worship misdirected?Post Views: 165
By Ryan Strother — 3 months ago
This is the craziest request I’ve seen by a young man asking a potential father-in-law to marry his daughter.
Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist missionary from America, married Ann Hasseltine on February 5, 1812. They boarded a boat two weeks later and headed to Burma, where they had a rich marriage and a fruitful ministry.
Before he married Ann, she told him he had to get permission from her father. And so he wrote him a letter:
“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair.” (Quoted in Courtney Anderson, To The Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson [Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1987], 83.)
If you have ever read about George Mueller, you will be familiar with the amazing accounts of how God provided bread and milk for the children in the orphanage where he ministered.
How could Mueller and Judson’s father-in-law lead with faith? Because they had confidence in God’s character; they could stay on track because of God’s track record.
I’m encouraging you to lead with faith, and I think we do that by being powered by God’s work in the past and persuaded by His promises for the future. I’ll explain the first part of this today through Jephthah’s example in the book of Judges, and then I’ll explain the second part next week as we seek how to lead with faith.
In Judges 11, Jephthah was brought in to lead Israel in battle against the Ammonites. Jephthah showed that he knew and was guided by God’s work in the past. He didn’t run recklessly into a fight. Though he was a “mighty warrior” he attempted diplomacy first.
He sent messengers to communicate with the king of the Ammonites, asking him why he was attacking Israel. When the king gave an answer, Jephthah gave a rebuttal. He gave historical facts (v.14-22), declared that it was the Lord’s work (v.23-24), questioned the timing of the fight (v.25-26), and reminded the King that his problem is actually with the Lord, not with Jephthah (v.27-28).
This was leading with faith that was powered by God’s work in the past.
Leadership can be scary ground. You might not know what to expect. You’re not sure which decisions to make or how it will affect people. But as a Christian, we have to be empowered by God’s work in the past. We find comfort in knowing the character of God and how He will lead us.
Jephthah had to find some comfort in knowing how God has worked in the Israelites in the past. He was confident that the king of the Ammonites was really battling against the Lord. That’s a battle Jephthah would stand in because he knew he wasn’t alone.
When you consider your leadership, always remember God’s character and what he has done in the past because that is going to remind you how He will continue to work.Post Views: 219