Again, it’s been a while – one of my goals going in to 2012 involves improving my discipline, and one of the areas of that is getting back into my writing more heavily.
Reading Judges chapter 4, I didn’t even get into the bulk of the story before God started speaking to me. I just want to draw in on the first three verses.
After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried out to the LORD for help. ~ Judges 4:1-3
I remember noting something several times going through the Pentateuch books – God’s patience. It frustrated me during that period just how many times I’d read that the Israelites would again start grumbling, and again start saying that they wanted to go back to Egypt, and again God would have to do something to show that he still loved them and that they were still on the right track. Now, even after they’ve reached the promised land, the cycle’s not much different. Here we have Israel again doing evil in the eyes of God.
So what happens? They are sold into the hands of Jabin, and under the oppression of Sisera for twenty years until they cry out to God for help.
Now in typical sermon fashion, there’s three things I want to draw out of this passage.
1. The Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD.
You know what amazes me? How often I end up kicking myself, because once again I’ve screwed up. Sometimes it’s a daily event, other times I’m either too blind or too proud to recognize that I’ve done something wrong in the between times. The thing is, though, it happens to us over and over and over again. We can’t be perfect, and we should know that.
It’s a lesson I still can’t get to sink into my heart, that I can’t earn God’s love.
I was listening to one of my best friends share something just recently, where they talked about trying to earn their own biological father’s love, and how God spoke to them and said they didn’t need to try and earn his love, that he already gave it to them unconditionally.
And he does it to you too. God’s not sitting up in heaven keeping a tally of whether we deserve his love or not, because nothing we can do is ever going to earn that love from him – we’re always going to make mistakes, we’re always going to do things wrong. All we can do is then accept God’s love, his grace and forgiveness, and put into practice the lessons that he’s teaching us when we do go wrong.
Which brings me to my second point:
2. God sold them into the hands of Jabin and they were oppressed for 20 years.
You know what I’ve learned throughout my life? That sometimes when I make a mistake, or take a wrong turn, or do something wrong – I have to backpedal.
Here’s what, for some people, might be a reality check. God’s grace is immediate – when we’re on the wrong path and we turn back to him, he’s right there with open arms, telling us to come to him.
However that doesn’t mean that we’re immediately back on the right path. Usually it takes time to remedy the mistakes we’ve made, or it takes time to get back onto the right path, because we have to backtrack (or sometimes just bush-bash) our way from where we’ve found ourselves, back to where we actually should be.
3. They cried out to God.
This, in a way, kind of relates back to the last point as well.
It took them twenty years to cry out to God.
How often, when things are going wrong for us, do we try and just deal with it? I know that I’m really good at this. In my past, I relied over and over on my own strength to battle through some of the hardest times of my life, and for years, I believed that through my own abilities, I was able to survive. I didn’t flourish, but I survived. The thing is, that if I’d cried out to God – and even today, if I’d cry out to God in the first instance, he’s going to come running straight away. Like I said, he’s standing there, arms open, waiting for me to come to him.
We don’t have to wait twenty years to call on God! We don’t have to wait until we’ve exhausted all the other options that we think are around us. Call on him today, not in a week’s time!
As I go in to 2012, this is the first challenge that God’s been putting on my life. To let go of my reliance on myself and trust in him. To not call on him after I’ve exhausted all my other options, but to go to him first and let him take care of things.
This is a really difficult challenge, and on a personal note, I’d appreciate all of your prayers as 2012 goes ahead. I’ve been straight with God, and I’ll be straight with you – I’m terrified to let go of that self-reliance.
As you step into 2012, how are you with self-reliance? Are you ready to let go of dealing with things yourself? Or will you be taking the page from the Israelites, and waiting twenty years before crying out?
You know, Deuteronomy is actually a really great book to familiarise yourself with as a Christian in the modern world. The analogies between the lessons being given to the Israelites throughout this book, and our walks today are so in synch that you could almost think that Moses was speaking directly to us.
Here we have some further reminding to the Israelites not to let the LORD stray from their thoughts; to remember him in everything that they do.
There’s a difference in the reasoning behind this one, though, compared to the earlier chapter of reminders to keep their eyes on God and not forget him. The promise is repeated, that they will live and increase, enter and possess the Promised Land; but as we travel through it this time it is about humbling themselves.
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. ~ Deuteronomy 8:2
See, in chapter 6, it was all about loving God and about remembering his laws, his decrees, his commands. It was about making sure that they lived the life that God had called them to. This time, though, even though the message sounds the same on the surface – don’t forget God and you’ll “live long and prosper” there’s a difference to the part that’s required by the Israelites. It’s about humility and remembering their place in the scheme of things.
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD yoru God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. ~ Deuteronomy 8:17-18
The same goes for us, too. We’re egocentric beings. As humans it’s actually natural to our physical bodies to claim the credit for our achievements. Our culture is one of achievements, in almost every situation that we look into.
I love cricket, in my opinion it’s the greatest game in the world, and we should see more of it. That’s just me, but in cricket, we look at achievements. Names that will forever be in the annals of cricket history include Bradman, Ponting, Tendulkar, McGrath, Warne, Muralitharan and so many more. Why? Because of their achievements. We look at great musicians and rate them by their achievements.
Achievements are great, of course. We only achieve if we’re driven by a goal, and if we’re motivated. Achieving something is a success. However what is important is remembering where the talent comes from.
In our lives there are going to be successes, in our walk with God there are going to be many successes because He walks with us, and gives us the strength and authority to do all things. What we need to remember in those moments of success, though, is where the glory should be going. It’s very easy to forget God and say, like Moses warns agains, something like, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” What we need to remember is that it is not in our strength, and it is definitely not for our glory.
Otherwise, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God. ~ Deuteronomy 7:14
I am in such a fired-up state of mind right now. There’s a passion, a desire, a desparation to see something change in this world.
I’ve been getting the feeling that something big is coming for a while now; and it just keeps getting stronger. It’s time, time for a Faith generation to rise up and take a stand, to take back the world for God – for goodness, for love, for truth, for honour, for all of the fruits of the spirit.
Our generation cries out, is screaming out for something, but they don’t know what. The world has gotten really dark, and really really frightening, and it’s time to start shining the light back into the world, and bringing comfort, peace and truth to the people.
And I don’t care what people might say against it, I don’t care what people might say against me.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23
Say what you want, bring it on, because no matter what can be brought against me, there are two things I will hold on to. First, that bringing the above list of things to other people cannot be bad, it cannot be damaging, it cannot be harmful, because they are good.
Secondly: the one who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world ~ 1 John 4:4.
Anyway, though… Wow…
Here’s Moses’ moment of, “Well, that sucked.”
He and Aaron go and face Pharaoh, telling him to let them take the people on a three day journey into the desert to spend time with God. What’s Pharaoh’s reaction? No!
Not only no, but he ups the workrate. He figures that if the Israelites have time to complain and think about worshipping their God, then they mustn’t be working hard enough! Make them do more! Take away the straw!
It’s quite funny, when, in verse 17 Pharaoh’s going, “Lazy, that’s what you are – lazy!” All I can think of is him shrieking it at them, like some kind of cartoon evil dictator ruler who’s totally and utterly insane, but because he’s king, no one can actually tell him he’s insane.
Or – Mick Malthouse!
Sorry, for those who aren’t Australian, or don’t follow AFL – just let it go.
The first thing, therefore, that I see in this chapter is the taking away of the straw. At the end of the last chapter, the Israelites were probably getting a bit excited. Moses and Aaron had come and spoken to them, told them what was going on, and the Israelites were bowing down and worshipping.
Isn’t it such a reality, that sometimes, just when we think that things might be taking a turn for the better – the world comes along and takes away our straw. One more thing goes wrong, and we’ve got to make the same amount of bricks, but now we have to find our own straw too.
Secondly, is Moses’ problem. He, too, has proceeded into this scenario in faith that God’s going to keep everything under control and let the Israelites go free. Instead, Pharaoh just shrugs him off without even a second thought – and because Pharaoh takes out his anger on the Israelites, the Israelites also turn against Moses – again!
So Moses goes right back to God, and asks him why.
Not every lesson that God has to teach us is always warm and wonderful. The biggest thing that I take from this particular chapter? Is that things can always get worse. Strangely, these days I’m encouraged by that thought. If things can always get worse, then I’m not at the bottom, and if I’m not at the bottom, then it’s not as far to get back to the top?
I know, I complained about pain last night, but I still hurt.
Tigers lost again today. Not happy. I saw bits and pieces of the first quarter and really thought that they were in with a good shot to pull off a win over Melbourne. So much for that idea.
I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, but perhaps what I’ve been thinking about most is actually about pulling back from my thinking. I’m human (duh), there’s no way on Earth I’m going to be able to figure out the answers to a lot of the questions I have. I had it pointed out to me this weekend that even though my mind is perhaps one of the greatest gifts I’ve been blessed with, it’s also served as a boulder in my path, one that has brought about a huge struggle to be able to reconcile my intellectual side with my spiritual side.
There are some things, though, that no matter which way I’ve looked at them over the years, I can’t deny them.
So I’m letting go of the struggles. I can’t come up with answers by myself, and really, I don’t need to. Am I giving up my mind? Not at all, certainly not, no. What I’m saying is that I’m accepting the facts that I can’t deny, and moving forward from there, with someone so much more intelligent and powerful than me doing the teaching.
But anyway, on to Genesis 12:
The call of Abram, and then Abram in Egypt. Two little tales that give us an introduction into who Abram was.
First of all, we see God calling Abram to continue the journey that his father started. Terah’s original journey was meant to be to Canaan, but he stopped, settled in Haran and died there. We aren’t told that Terah was told to go, he just chose to – but with Abram, God actually had a plan for him to go that way.
It’s a big step, though – being asked to leave your country, your people, your father’s household. Would you up and leave everything you know, based on a promise to be made into a great nation? I’d be wondering how that benefits me – a nation doesn’t come in one generation, so this seems to be something that’s going to come down the track!
But he did it. Abram left, and set out for the land of Canaan – although, rather than leaving his father’s household, it seems like he actually decided to take the household with him. His wife, his nephew, all their possessions and all the people they had acquired in Haran. It must have been a big caravan on this journey.
Obedience, again, like Noah.
Abram left, as the Lord had told him. ~ Genesis 12:4
Then he comes to Egypt, due to a famine in the land. Egypt must have had times where they really regretted being such a fertile land, every famine seems to bring the whole continent down to their shores for food!
Abram worries that because Sarai’s so beautiful, the Egyptians will kill him and take her, so instead, they decide to pretend to be brother and sister. Not really the smartest move on Abram’s part, and not really showing a lot of confidence, either. What’s interesting, though, is that while Sarai’s playing the role of Abram’s sister – and now Pharaoh’s wife – Abram gets some fairly good perks. He gets sheep, cattle, donkeys, servants and camels – and at the end of the chapter, yes, he’s sent on his way, but he’s sent on his way with everything he had.
So you could read this story as Abram being fairly manipulative of the situation, but as I read through it again, it’s like the whole thing was just laid out neatly. Abram must have been fairly confident on the whole theory of being killed because of Sarai, and one thing that’s conspicuously absent from anything in this passage, is that Abram did the wrong thing at any point. It’s pointed out that Pharaoh and his household gets inflicted with serious disease, but nothing against Abram. To the contrary, he manages to walk out of there with his wife, and a whole heap of sheep, cattle, donkeys, servants and camels!
God provides in some rather unusual ways, sometimes, but that, to me, is what the essence of this story is. God providing for Abram.
“So, ~J, you slacked off again last night. Where was the blog?”
Yeah, well, I’m going to use the same excuse as last week, I was sick – as in, hospitalised sick, and they don’t provide you with wireless internet at the hospital for me to be able to play on the internet from there. Someone remind me to get a Wireless Internet stick – just something prepaid to take with me when I’m on holiday, or stuck in hospital, or other out of the ordinary circumstances.
It must have been a week for old illnesses. I suffered an asthma attack this week.
Now, I haven’t had any real issues with asthma in years. I last had a proper asthma attack when I was about thirteen or fourteen, and by the time I was about 21, I was no longer even taking medication. I figured I’d grown out of it.
Apparently not. I had a bout of what felt like a flu bug earlier this week, but it didn’t hang around long, only 24 hours, then the next day I was just a bit short of breath, coughing a little, like there was still some congestion in there. 24 hours later, I’m breathing heavily and going, “You know what, this is really reminiscent of the early onset of an asthma attack.” So I took an early lunch at work on Thursday morning, saying I was going to use my lunch break to go to the ED, get some treatment and come back again.
It didn’t quite work that way. I didn’t respond to the medication, and they admitted me overnight. Now I have to go back, get analysed a bit more in a couple of weeks, and build an “Asthma Action Plan” – I feel like I’m a kid again, but while I dealt with asthma my entire childhood and pretty much adolescence, it’s been so long that I have forgotten enough that I’m not really confident to just trust my experience. So it’s probably for the best.
I was talking to an awesome friend last night, who pointed out she’d been studying Psalm 23 – still my all time favourite Psalm, ever since Mrs Rogers had the class memorise it when I was in Grade 2. I only recall about three or four of us actually managing to do so. In particular, we went to the verse that says He makes me lie down beside still waters, and thought about the lesson there. Sometimes, we just get made to lie down. Funnily enough, I don’t think we went further than that last night, but I just got struck by the next line: He restores my soul. Perhaps there’s a little bit more to that lesson that we didn’t go into last night.
Anyway, though, there’s plenty of time for Psalm 23 in around a year or so. Genesis 9:
We really get shown that this is a new beginning, which again comes back to the mention I made earlier about God’s covenant with Noah. God tells Noah and his children, and the animals, to go and cover the Earth, be fruitful, increase in number, all those kinds of things. He reiterates – perhaps even stronger than he did to Adam and Eve, that man has dominion over the Earth. The language here is that “fear and dread” of humanity will fall upon the animals and birds and fish. It’s almost like we didn’t eat meat prior to this – in verse 3, God says “Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”
I find that interesting.
We come to the Covenant, the first Covenant between God and humanity, never to destroy the Earth via a flood again, and we’ll see a rainbow every time it rains to remind us of that. We also, though, if we go back a couple of verses, really see God laying down law: He demands an accounting of every animal and from every man.
It’s almost like God’s saying: “Right, fresh start, but before we start again, ground rules: You’re responsible, you have your own choice, your own freedom, but what you do with that freedom, you’re the one accountable for it.”
It really feels like there is, at this point, a new level of responsibility placed on human kind.
Then Noah plants a vineyard. Hey, he’s lived 600 years, saved the human race and all the animals, it’s time to retire to the wine country, plant a vineyard, live out his years in luxury. He gets drunk and one son – Ham (conveniently also called Canaan) makes a bit of a joke of it. His other two sons, Shem and Japheth, restore their father’s modesty. In turn Ham (now called, in the text, Canaan) is cursed to be the slave of the other two. Why does this concept sound a little familiar?
What I really take out of this chapter, though, is that responsibility message. We are accountable.
I actually don’t really have anything to report from today. I slept better last night than I have in a while, and got up easier than I have the past couple of weeks. Over the weekend I let go of a few things that were taking up time and energy I don’t really have. I’m still not feeling completely recovered from the draining I’ve been through over that time, but hey, give it time and I’ll be back to normal.
I’ve had some really positive feedback from this blog so far, which is really encouraging. It’s nice to know that people are reading it, and even moreso, that people are actually taking something from it. So thanks to everyone who has made comments over the past week. I’m enjoying writing it so far.
I wonder who the Nephilim were. In a few minutes reading about them I found a few different theories, one of which was that they are the children of humans and angels. It’s interesting, it’s similar to the Titans, or demigods, or other mythical heroes – and that’s what they’re called: “The heroes of old, men of renown.”
I think of heroes of old, men of renown, and perhaps it’s my addiction to history, but my mind automatically goes to people like William Wallace, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Boudica, people like that. I think of the good aspects of medieval knighthood, knights in shining armour, heroes, chivalry, honour, all those kinds of things.
I wonder if that’s what the mythical status of these nephilim were, the heroes of old, men of renown. They were the people still referred to in poems and stories, generations after they’d died.
But it wasn’t all good.
Verse 6 says that “the Lord was grieved that he had made man on the Earth,” grieved.
Grief is something associated with loss, usually. We mourn, or grieve the loss of something we love. It talks here about God not getting angry, but grieving.
I’m a writer, and I’ve done a lot of ‘roleplaying’ online. What that definition is, is basically collaborative writing. A setting is established, everyone takes one character, and we join together to write the story. I’ve opened up my own worlds and settings to this before. I’ve got maps, political entities, cultures, races, all sorts of things developed on the one fantasy world. It’s an amazing experience, but it’s also something that’s very close to my heart. I once opened up this world to let other people play their own characters in the setting, and it didn’t go well. I ended up deleting the access, and once again returning just to wanting to write novels set in this world.
Imagine: You put all that effort into creating something, something you find so beautiful, so close to your heart, something you’ve put so much of yourself into – and then someone comes along and destroys it. Imagine painting a masterpiece, then someone comes along and pours brown paint all over the whole thing. You’d want to just throw it away and start again, wouldn’t you?
I don’t think I’ve ever really realised the word ‘grieved’ was in this passage before. God wasn’t mad, he was upset, he was hurt.
So we have Noah, the righteous man. We have an ark. We have a covenant.
This is like the first covenant, even before the old covenant. God establishes his covenant with Noah.
I’ve often thought of the bible as almost giving a tale of God learning and growing as well. We see him first take this step – wipe out everything and start again. Then later, we see him establish a relationship just with one group of people, then finally the door is opened wide to everyone. There’s this interesting progression throughout the bible.
Is it wrong to think of God as learning? To think that God could grow?
Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22)
Today’s been a good day.
1. I have a snowboard! Of course, now all I need is snow, but for some reason Tasmania tends to realise that winter’s really here somewhere around August, so I’m not fretting too much. I just want to learn the basics – you know, steering, stopping – and next winter I’m hoping to do a trip to Mt Buller or Perisher, and if I’m really lucky, even a trip to New Zealand. We’ll see how that pans out, anyway!
2. Had a great cruise today, and was once again reminded that I live in the most beautiful place on Earth. We took a drive down through New Norfolk, originally scheduled for Mt Field national park, but ended up deciding to keep going and went all the way to Strathgordon, and wow… I wish I’d taken my camera. It was just amazing. Not to mention one of the best driving roads I’ve been on.
Oh, and a nice little gravel patch led to some great fun drifting, too.
3. It was my cousin’s engagement party tonight, had a great time. Reunited with an old friend I haven’t seen in over two years and sang a couple of karaoke duets just like the old days. It was fun, I had a ball.
But on topic. I was going to do two chapters today, but it’s late, so I’m just sticking with one. At some point though I’m hoping to catch up to Steve and balance the chapters out.
Reading Genesis is easy, Exodus will probably be okay too. It’s going to be the Leviticus/Numbers bit that will be the struggle, but I’ve got what – about three months to worry about that.
Almost everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel, they offered sacrifices, Abel’s was accepted (or at least “looked on with favour”) while Cain’s wasn’t. Cain spat the dummy, killed his brother and then God exiled him – Eastwards.
Strange thing about East, it’s also the compass direction that is detailed in the previous chapter. Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden, leaving a cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth on the East side. I’ve never noticed that before, I’m sure someone has though. I wonder what the significance of that is?
Anyway, moving on, Cain is exiled and sent to live in the Land of Nod. My bible’s footnote says that Nod means ‘wandering’, so it would imply that he lived a Nomadic life, at least until he built the city of Enoch, then a few more generations are born, and then this interesting little sidenote.
Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. Genesis 4:20-22
This entire story, the tale of Cain, seems to be irrelevant. Given that in two chapters’ time, the entire population of the world is about to be destroyed, why tell the story? Where’s Enoch? Who are the people who live in tents and raise livestock, supposedly descended from Jabal? Or the musicians descended from Jubal? Or the iron and bronze-workers who were descended from Tubal-Cain?
My initial thought is more along the lines of those people being the “inventors” so to speak, of those things. Jabal made a life out of nomadic heritage; Jubal maybe was the man who invented man-made music? Tubal-Cain was the first blacksmith?
Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that even though Cain was punished and exiled, that wasn’t the end of it. There was still a lot of good things that came from his lineage. In spite of being remembered in history as the first murderer, his descendants gave us – well, nomads – but also music and iron.
Perhaps there’s two lessons to be taken from this chapter:
1. Cain was worried about being killed, but God said that anyone who killed him would suffer vengeance seven times over. Perhaps we should take the lesson that really, we’re better off not doling out our own judgment on other people. Just let their lives take care of their own.
2. Even though Cain’s part in the bible is to be the world’s first murderer, his descendants did great things. It doesn’t matter what’s in our past or in our heritage, we can still do great things no matter where we come from.
God: takes care of things.