Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 19 Apr 18:
1. Judges 5:4 — “Yes, the clouds dropped water.” God uses things only He can control to determine circumstances and to accomplish His purposes. Rain storms are not normally viewed as miraculous events, but when God uses them to bog down chariots at just the right time, God’s people see His power in action.
2. Judges 5:4, 21 — “…yes, the clouds dropped water….. The torrent Kishon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent Kishon.” Sisera had 900 iron chariots while the Israelites had largely disarmed themselves. For 20 years Sisera oppressed the Israelites as God allowed because the nation had turned away from God. Under impossible circumstances, God called His people to join Him in what He was going to do. This required faith to believe God would do the impossible. Some believed and went to battle and some did not. Those who did not live by faith missed an encounter with God, and now their rebuke is recorded in God’s word for eternity. The faithful experienced the power of God in their lives and are forever praised in God’s word. God revealed Himself to his people by doing only what He can do: He “lured” Sisera’s chariots to the Kishon River and the brought heavy rains causing the river to flood. Iron chariots don’t provide much mobility in water and mud. God then orchestrated the meeting of Sisera and Jael. God brings the victory; we just need to be willing to show up and obey. God will always ask us to do the impossible because He intends to show the world His power, not ours. If we refuse to step into the impossible, we cannot experience God and be used by Him. What is God telling you to do that is impossible? Are you ready to obey?
3. Judges 5:9 — “My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the Lord.” Some people offer themselves willingly to serve the Lord, others don’t. God knows the difference and favors the willing and faithful servant.
4. Judges 5:15-18 — “In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart. Why did you stay among the campfires to hear the whistling of the flocks? In the districts or Reuben there was much searching of heart. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves. The people of Zebulun risked their very lives; so did Naphtali on the heights of the field.” Deborah the prophetess was called at a time when God’s people lacked leadership and, as a result, evil reigned. Deborah had to cajole Barak to stand up against God’s enemies. Among the tribes, only Zebulun and Naphtali and some other stragglers (10,000 foot-mobile men in total) had the courage to fight Sisera’s 900,000 iron chariots. The vast majority of “God’s people” were more impressed with the seemingly impossible odds than God’s message to them – “Has not the Lord gone ahead of you (Judges 6:14)?” For the majority, at the moment of decision, when it really mattered, “there was much searching of heart.” Today there is a major spiritual war underway, and the Church lacks leadership. Will you be among the faithful willing to stand up and be counted, or will you remain “in the rear with the gear?” Don’t be mistaken, if you are not getting shot at, you are not in the fight. As a Christian, you don’t want to end up on the wrong side of eternal history for not serving when you had the chance.
5. Judges 5:23 — “Curse Meroz, says the angel of the Lord, curse its inhabitants thoroughly, because they did not come to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” Again, don’t be that person, stuck with a story like this for eternity. Your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is today.
6. Judges 6:11 — “Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.” Gideon was in a winepress because He was hiding. He needed courage only God could enable. “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” (Judges 6:12) God saw the Gideon that Gideon himself could not see. The angel of the Lord could see beyond current realities to future realities and addressed Gideon as the man he would be rather than who he was currently. Similarly, we must see people not just as they are but as who they could become in faith in Jesus Christ. Treat people like they are the person they could be and watch what happens.
7. Judges 6:14 — “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” Once again, God calls us to do what is impossible for us of our own strength so that the world can see the power of God operating through His people, bringing glory to Him and not to the people. Today, the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, a man of social insignificance who is hiding out from the Midianites in a winepress (a hole), and the angel addresses Him as “mighty man of valor (Judges 6:11).” The irony of this address is as clear to the reader as it is to Gideon, and the angel’s charge to Gideon to “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian” is from all observations downright absurd. The Midianites were heavily armed, highly trained, ruthless, camel-riding marauders who fought for a living and who significantly outnumbered the Israelites (“both they and their camels could not be counted”). The Israelites had succumbed to subjugation – “Was shield or spear to be seen among forty thousand in Israel (Judges 5:8)?” Like Gideon the rest of the Israelites had gone to hiding in dens and caves in the mountains. Gideon was not only weak, he was lacking in faith. Even after the angel of the Lord appeared to him, Gideon asked for a series of “signs” that might prove his calling. Apart from God, there was no mighty warrior in Gideon, and he was powerless before the Midianites, but God was not asking Gideon to do what Gideon could do, God was commanding Gideon to OBEY in faith because God could work through him to accomplish His purpose with His power for His glory. This command to Gideon caused a crisis of belief. It doesn’t take faith to do what we know we can do with our own abilities. It always takes faith to do what God is asking us to do because God always asks us to do the impossible – “And without faith it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).” What made Gideon a “mighty man of valor,” and what was the “might of yours” to which the angel referred? God’s answer to Gideon is the same answer God gives us: “The Lord is with you…. do not I send you?” (Judges 6:12-14) The question is, What will we do when God’s call to us to do the impossible causes a crisis of belief for us? Will we have the faith to step into the Red Sea, fiery furnace, or the lion’s den to put our lives on the line for the Lord? Or will we be like the districts of Reuben, Gilead, Dan, and Asher who refused to stand and be counted for the fight (see Judges 5:15-18). What will be recorded of you in the Book of Life?” We need only take ownership of the might God has given us.
– Henry T. Blackaby offers the following: “In Gideon’s mind, victory over the Midianites was an impossibility, and he was absolutely right! The Midianites, along with their allies, overwhelmed the feeble Hebrews. Yet the moment God told Gideon to fight them, victory was no longer an impossibility! When Jesus commanded His small group of followers to make disciples of all nations, was that possible (Matt. 28:19)? Certainly, if Jesus said it was! When Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies, was He being realistic? Of course, because He was the One who would achieve reconciliation through them (2 Cor. 5:19–20). Do you treat commands like these as implausible? Do you modify God’s word to find an interpretation that seems reasonable to you? Don’t discount what is possible with God (Phil. 4:13). When God gives an assignment, it is no longer an impossibility, but rather it is an absolute certainty. When God gives you a seemingly impossible task, the only thing preventing it from coming to pass is your disobedience. When God speaks, it can scare you to death! He will lead you to do things that are absolutely impossible in your own strength. But God will grant you victory, step by step, as you obey Him. How do you respond to assignments that seem impossible? Do you write them off as unattainable? Or do you immediately adjust your life to God’s revelation, watching with anticipation to see how He will accomplish His purposes through your obedience? God wants to do the impossible through your life. All He requires is your obedience.”
8. Judges 6:15, 16 — “‘Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.’” God chooses you in your weakness intentionally that He can reveal His strength through you. He will always ask you to do what is impossible for you without total reliance on Him.
9. Judges 6:34, 35 — “But the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them.” God can give you the support you need.
10. Proverbs 19:2 — “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” God expects you to think before you act.
11. Proverbs 19:9 — “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” All lies are destructive.
12. Proverbs 19:10 — “It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes.” You have to earn the right through character development to achieve success and to lead. There are no shortcuts to character development.
13. Proverbs 19:19 — “A man of great wrath will pay the penalty.” Anger hurts the angry more than anyone else.
14. Romans 7:6 — “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” The more you live by the Spirit, the less your earthly desires need to be controlled by the Law. The Law is not required where the Spirit reigns. There are three levels of motivation — the lowest is fear (pride is the other side of that coin); the second lowest form of motivation is duty (doing something because you know you are supposed to). The Law threatens the fearful with punishment and gives rules to the dutiful to control behavior, but in the end, the Law will never be enough to constrain the heart. The highest form of motivation is love, doing something because you really want to, despite the personal cost. When the heart is controlled by love, no law is required. The Law is not abolished, it still exists, but it is no longer a concern because it comes naturally. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) Jesus called us to fulfill the law out of love rather than fear or duty. When you are lacking in love, you must still fulfill the law of love, though your motivation of fear or duty are impure. However, you must use the mirror of the law to see that in yourself, to search your heart, and to pursue love. And remember, we are not just seeking to be good people, we are seeking to be one with Jesus in love. God searches the heart, seeing beyond words and deeds to motivations.
15. Romans 7:7 — “For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” The Law is a guide, a curb, and a mirror. It shows you the way to go, keeps you on the road, and as a mirror, the Law reveals your sinful desires.
16. Romans 7:14, 15 — “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. There is no self-control in the flesh.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 April: Today, practice trusting in God’s strength rather than yours. Be willing to do what God says, even if it seems impossible, simply because God commanded it — this is faith and hope. Today, search your heart for the motivations behind your actions. Seek to do what God has commanded you simply out of love, not out of fear, a hope for reward, or out of a self-righteous sense of honor and duty.