HARD LESSONS

Samuel walked across the courtyard to rest under a Tamarisk tree. He stopped when he heard God’s voice.

“About this time tomorrow Israel’s first king will come to you. He’s from Benjamin. Anoint him so he will save My people from the Philistines. This is what My people want.”

The next day Samuel sat in the gate of the city watching folks coming and going. The tall man sauntering up the hill caught his attention. God’s voice was clear.

“This is the man I told you about. Anoint him as king before you send him away.”

Saul approached. He bent down to speak to Samuel. “Can you tell me where the seer’s house is? I must inquire of him.”

Samuel smiled. “I’m the seer. Wait for me in the high place. You shall eat with me today. Tomorrow I will send you home. Don’t worry about your father’s donkeys. They found their way back. I am privileged to meet with you today.”

Saul stood up. “Why? I’m from the little tribe of Benjamin. My family history isn’t impressive.”.

********

A few years later Samuel again heard God’s voice. “I regret making Saul the king. He has failed to carry out my commands.”

Samuel fell to his knees. “I warned the people about such things happening. They wouldn’t listen to me at all. How can we keep from losing Your favor, Lord? What must we do to correct this iniquity?”

The questions and beseeching continued through the night with no response from God.

In the morning Samuel set out to confront Saul.

********

A while later God again spoke to Samuel. “How long will you grieve over Saul’s failures? Fill your horn with oil and travel to Bethlehem. I have selected a son of Jesse to rule My people.”

Samuel looked up. “But, how shall I go without Saul finding out? If he knows what I’m there for he’ll kill me.”

“Take a heifer to sacrifice. Invite everyone to come, especially Jesse. I’ll tell you which son I choose.”

********

Samuel led the heifer to Bethlehem. When he came to the gate the elders approached him. “Do you come peaceably?”

Samuel nodded. “Yes. I have come to sacrifice here.”

“Very well. We are pleased you have come.”

Samuel scanned the group. “Which of you is Jesse?”

A man stepped forward. “I am Jesse.”

“Bring your sons to the feast. I must see your sons.”

As the crowd gathered Jesse brought his sons to the prophet.

Samuel smiled as the eldest son came to him. His thoughts took over. This one will be a good king. I can see the leadership oozing out of him

God’s voice broke through. “No. Don’t look at his outside appearance. I know his heart. He isn’t the one for this role. I will tell you which one has the best heart.”

After the seventh son walked past Samuel scanned the crowd behind him. He looked at Jesse. “Is this all of your sons? God has not spoken to me about either of them.”

Jesse pointed to a distant hillside. “There’s still David. He’s watching the flock over there.”

Samuel folded his arms. “Bring him here. We will not sit until he comes.”

Jesse grabbed the arm of one of the servants. “Go. Send David here at once.”

Everyone watched the servant run across the valley. He talked to David. David came running to them. The sheep tried to keep up with him. The servant threw his arms in the air.

When David came into town the crowd separated in front of him. He fell to his knees to catch his breath. “What do you need me for?”

The sight of a gray-haired man dressed in linen appeared after the brothers stepped back.

Samuel smiled when he heard God’s voice. “Anoint him. He is My choice.”

Samuel removed the stop from the horn in his hand.

David was still breathing hard as the oil saturated his scalp and fine beard. He cupped his hands together to catch the liquid. It flowed over his fingers onto the ground.

************

The selection of a king is a mighty undertaking. Especially when you’re responsible for finding the best man for the job to lead God’s people.

I’m pretty sure Samuel felt like a failure when Saul committed one blunder after another once he gained the throne.

He shouldn’t have. I say that because he was simply following God’s leading in choosing Saul as Israel’s first king.

Samuel had a unique line of communication open to God that nobody else had at that time.

We now have that available to us as believers in Jesus Christ. It’s called prayer.

Samuel’s prayer life was different from ours because God dealt with people differently then.

In the history of mankind God had never chosen a race of people to be His chosen nation.

God chose to speak to Samuel to carry out His plans.

Today God works through people of every nation because of the all-encompassing work accomplished by Jesus on the cross and beyond the grave.

God recorded the methods He used in the past to help us shape the future.

By seeing the big picture of each life lived out in the Bible we know how each person succeeded and failed.

Now that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer God can guide us in the decisions we make.

Our relationship with God is developed by reading the Bible to learn more about God. Our prayers open our hearts to talk to God about our hurts, pains and problems. As our dependence grows so will our influence and impact.

Your eternity with God doesn’t begin when you reach heaven after you die.

God wants to build you into a better person who loves and lives like His Son, Jesus.

Saul’s failures would continue. They would help shape David into Israel’s mightiest king.

Your failures will continue, too.

Will you let them defeat you?

Or will you let them build you into a person God can use?

I’ll see you later.   Wade

GIVE US A KING

Samuel watched a group of gray-haired men walking up the hill. “What do you need help with today?”

One of the men stepped forward. “Your sons are not like you. They judge loosely.”

Samuel tilted his head. “What do you mean by that comment?”

Another man pushed the first man aside. “I had a case come to them about a property dispute I had with my neighbor. They met with him in a tight group before the judgement. I know I heard coins and laughter. I lost half a field that day.”

The first man placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. “I had a similar thing happen to me. They must not lead us after you die. The nation will crumble under men like that.”

Samuel sat back and stroked his beard. “And just what do you suggest be done about the situation? The Lord has not directed me to anything else.”

Three men pushed past the first two. “We want a king.”

“Israel should be like the nations around us.”

“A king will be able to lead us into battle. The Lord is too unpredictable. How do we know what He wants from us? A king is what we need. I tell you!”

Samuel shook his head as he stood. “No. No! This thing is not good. The Lord has been our defense. Only He can win wars and defeat enemies. A king will bring too much pain to everybody.”

The first man stood in front of Samuel. “If you don’t find us a king we’ll get one ourselves.”

Samuel fell back in his chair. “I shall pray and seek the Lord’s guidance on this matter.”

********

Samuel walked into the temple and fell before the ark of the covenant. “Lord, what is happening? How did I fail to pass Your importance on to my sons? A king is not good. He will be as corrupt as anybody. All we need is You, Lord.”

God’s voice was clear. ” Listen to the people. It’s not you they’re rejecting, but Me. They’ve been doing it since they left Egypt. I will tell you who to make the king, but you must warn them about what a king will do.”

********

Samuel walked back out to the men. “A king will bring you much hardship. He’ll take your sons to fight his battles, even if they don’t want to fight. Some of your daughters will serve him as well. They may become his concubines. Your flocks, crops and fields will be confiscated, too. When you cry out to the Lord then He will turn away from you.”

The first man stepped forward. “Give us a king like everybody else.”

Samuel swallowed. “Very well, go home. God will lead me to the man of His choosing.”

************

This was a massive turning point in the young nation of Israel’s history. They began with a promise to Abraham. The Egyptian captivity isolated them to grow into a distinct race of people over a 400 year time period.

Dependence on an invisible god was their distinction alone.

There’s a story of a little girl who was afraid of a storm blowing outside as she went to bed. Her parents did their best to calm her fears by spending time with her in her room.

Since the girl had recently accepted Jesus as her savior they told her that Jesus would be with her during the storm. She nodded so they went to their room to get some much needed sleep.

A few minutes later the girl yelled down the hallway. “But, I need somebody with skin on.”

We’re so much like that little girl. We know God is powerful and kind and loving, but sometimes we need a human touch. A physical hug does more to calm us than a promise in a book.

I’m not down playing our need to depend on God in our lives. We need that more than anything.

But, God made us physical beings in a physical world for a reason.

He wants us to reach out to hurting souls desperate for a touch of love.

He uses us to rescue those trapped in addictions and/or bad situations.

He guides us to guide young lives in need of direction for their lives.

Israel’s best king was called “a man after God’s own heart.” Too bad very few leaders try to be that style of leader.

The young nation of Israel struggled under the direction of this God who spoke to only a few select people. They wanted a king to lead them. A man who would tell them what to do. Somebody with skin on is who they wanted to give their allegiance to.

Most people are followers. They want somebody to tell them how to vote, where to work, what to do and so on. As long as they bring in enough money to pay their bills they’re content to sit back and be entertained.

A king seemed like the best solution to the dilemma. God recognized the rejection of Him they were actually doing. He planned for this moment before they ever left Egypt.

In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 God told Moses how these kings should rule. Yeah, before the people ever reached the promised land God knew they would demand a king.

He knows our hearts.

He is well acquainted with our stubbornness.

Our decisions don’t surprise Him.

Where have you rejected God’s rule in your life? I hope it’s not all of it.

What demands have you given God about how to run things? Remember who is in charge.

How have you tried to twist things to fit in your agenda? Release those reins today.

Not all leaders are bad. Some are actually benevolent.

Sometimes we need to take action to rectify a situation.

God needs us to step in to change things occasionally.

So, how do we know how and when God needs us?

That’s why God wrote the Bible for us.

It’s our guidebook to live by.

Let’s use it that way.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

FIRST ASSIGNMENT

Samuel laid back in bed. The torch was still burning in the tabernacle. That was his assignment each night…keep God’s light burning.

“Samuel.”

He sat up and ran to Eli’s chamber. “What is it?”

Eli rolled over to face the youngster. “What do you want, Samuel?”

“You called for me. I want to know what you need.”

Eli sighed. “I didn’t say anything. I’m trying to sleep. Go back to bed.”

Samuel returned to his position in the tabernacle.

“Samuel.”

He ran back to Eli. “Here I am. What do you need me for?”

The old man shook awake. “Samuel, what’s got into you tonight. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep here? Go back to bed.”

Samuel muttered as he walked back to the tabernacle. “I know I heard him call my name. There isn’t anyone else here. It had to be him.”

He laid back down.

“Samuel.”

He ran back to Eli. “I know I heard you call for me. Who else could it be?”

Eli looked up. “I’m sorry, Lord.”

He reached out a hand and waited for Samuel to grasp it. “The next time you hear your name called say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'”

Samuel swallowed as he released Eli’s hand and returned to his chamber.

“Samuel.”

When Samuel opened his eyes a man was standing near him. “Speak, your servant is listening.”

“I’m about to do something that will capture everyone’s attention. The sins of Eli’s family will not be tolerated much longer. I warned him about not restraining his sons. Their sins cannot be covered by sacrifices forever.”

Samuel sat on his hands to keep them from shaking.

************

The legend of Samuel carries on to this day. This was a huge step in the process of making this man who would be used in mighty ways to help the nation of Israel to become the greatest nation in the world.

The first step in that process came before he was even conceived. His parents were godly people.

Samuel’s dad took his family to the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God, annually. That’s extremely significant when you remember this was during the period of the Judges…a time when everyone did what was right in his own eyes. God was feared by dad.

Samuel’s mom dedicated her firstborn son to God at the tabernacle on one of those sojourns. The infertility of Hannah, combined with her reverence toward God, made her say a vow that she carried out to the letter. God was honored by mom.

Samuel had an incredibly godly legacy to build on.

When Eli was given the responsibility of rearing this kid it was a second chance to get that right. He failed miserably with his two sons who were supposed to carry on the role of priest for God’s people. The elderly man took this opportunity seriously and did it well.

With that as the backdrop God steps into young Samuel’s life directly.

God had been so distance from Eli for so long even he didn’t recognize God’s presence when it came.

Where are you in this process?

Are you fearing God?

When I ask that question what first came to mind. Did you see yourself cowering in a corner of a room waiting to be struck by lightning? Most people do.

God does have that much power, but He has just as much love for you, too.

For those of us reared in a family where both parents were present we need to remember how we thought about our dads after we did something we knew was wrong. We knew punishment was imminent. Dad was the last person we wanted to cross paths with, but we knew he loved us, too.

Our earthly fathers are to be a representation of our heavenly Father. Too bad there are too few good examples of that today.

Have you made a dedication to God?

Don’t think children are the only thing that can possibly be dedicated to God. Your life can be dedicated, too.

When I suggest that don’t think you have to go to Africa to be a missionary to carry this out. Dedicating your future may mean taking a stand in your current workplace. It could be being more active at church or another organization. It could simply mean studying the Bible more to hear from God better.

Making God number one in your life is dedication to Him.

Are you passing on God’s principles to the next generation?

If you have children definitely start there. If your children are grown teach your grandchildren about fearing and loving God.

If neither of those opportunities is open to you find a young person to mentor. This generation of young adults is floundering now. Too few of them have a solid foundation to build on. They’ve been fed so many lies in school they don’t know what to believe.

When you step in to teach them about God and His truths as found in the Bible take it slow, but be deliberate.

You only need to change the course of one life to have an impact on several people in the future. If you skip this opportunity to make an impact the next generation will continue to wander in the wilderness and miss God’s kingdom altogether.

Eli taught Samuel as much as he could. God’s second chance wasn’t wasted.

By the time God did speak to Samuel the Creator of the universe was a real part of the young man’s mindset.

God can use anybody. He always does.

You can help prepare someone for that transformation today.

That pebble you drop on the surface of the ocean won’t make much of an impact now, but the ripples will go on for quite some time.

Help God steer those ripples by doing your part to focus a young person toward being used by God in mighty ways.

It’s not too late for you to make a difference.

God’s plan is to use you, too.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

I just prayed for 150 men…one book at a time

I first met Marcia on a Sunday morning. She approached me before our adult fellowship time and introduced herself. She said she noticed me a week or two before that sitting by myself. She said I looked defeated.

This was a few years ago…after my wife left me and before I lost my secure job that held me constantly sleep deprived. Defeated was becoming my constant companion.

Marcia and I have become great friends since that encounter. Life, on the other hand, has continued to beat me down, but not out. I keep hoping the pendulum of fate hits the low part of its swing soon. I could use some things to begin working toward the “Blessings of God” side.

Being a prayer warrior, as most 70+ year old women of faith are, I knew Marcia would love my book of 100 prayers.

She took the book home and devoured the last chapter on the 23rd Psalm. She told me my writing ranks right up there with Chuck Swindoll. I didn’t say it does…she did.

One of Marcia’s sons helps lead three day retreats called Tres Dias. She gave him her copy of my book to see if they’d like to use it as a gift book for the attendees. She couldn’t wait to get her original copy back from him so she bought a second book that she could continue to work through.

They decided my book would fit with their work so the retreat coming up next month in north Texas will have 100 Prayers of a Writer in the gift bag all the men receive.

Marcia is making sure I have no excuse for not attending that retreat. I told you she’s a great friend.

I knew the bare minimum I had to do is sign every copy of my book. Knowing how much Marcia, and her prayer warrior friends, are praying for this retreat I decided to take it one step further.

I set the six boxes of books out on my floor before I opened them.

I pulled one book out of the first box and set it on top of a stack of two boxes in front of me.

While on my knees I set my left hand on the book and prayed for the man getting that book.

I don’t know the names of anybody going to this retreat. I haven’t even met Marcia’s son, yet. I let the Holy Spirit guide me through each prayer.

Some of these men are dealing with serious addiction issues. Others are facing hard decisions…health issues…family strife…career choices…secrets.

There are some good apples in the bunch who need to deepen their relationship with God at this point in their lives. A few are about to be used mightily by God soon.

I’ve heard of others doing such praying before, but this was my first experience with it.

I hope it’s not my last.

About a third of the way through my running time came due. I took the break from this spiritual warfare to recharge my prayer battery.

What began after church ended after supper that evening.

I know some men will be blessed by the words God used me to write in those books.

This man is blessed by praying for every man attending that retreat.

Please join me in praying for God’s kingdom to be built by what will transpire that weekend.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

A DEDICATION REQUEST

Elkanah sat at the table after serving everybody. He looked at his favorite wife. “Hannah, why aren’t you eating? I’ve given you twice as much as anyone else. Don’t let the food go to waste.”

Peninnah snickered. “I don’t know why you throw the food to a dog like that. She’s only eating for one. She always is.”

A tear rolled down Hannah’s cheek.

Elkanah rubbed her shoulder. “My love, I should be worth ten sons to you.”

Hannah sat in silence until everyone left the table to get ready to go to the tabernacle. She sulked out to speak to God on her own.

She sank to her knees when she reached the front wall of the dwelling place of God. “Oh, God, why? Why? What have I done wrong? What must I change? I’ll do anything for children…anything. I am Your servant, Lord. If you give me a son I will bring him here to You. He will be set apart for Your use. A razor will not touch his head.”

“Woman, why are you so drunk this early in the day? Have you no shame?”

Hannah sat up straight. She looked to her right and found the priest Eli looking at her. “No, my lord. I’m not drunk. I swear. My heart is shattered. I’m pouring my pain out to God. That’s all. Please believe me.”

Eli let out a huge breath. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion. May God grant your request.”

Hannah stood then bowed to Eli. “Thank you. Thank you.”

She returned home and ate her food while everyone else went to the tabernacle.

************

So begins the book of 1 Samuel. A woman praying to God about the pain in her heart.

Most of our prayers are basic. Hopefully we remember to be grateful for what we have. We ask for something we want to have and/or ask for something for someone else.

Occasionally we’re at the point Hannah found herself in, or worse. The pain is so deep. Our emotions are so raw. We’re at a loss about what we should ask God for.

We’re told Hannah prayed silently while her mouth went through the motions of talking. That’s why Eli thought she was drunk.

Hannah was so focused on getting her pain out to God everything around her was gone.

She didn’t know Eli was watching her. If she did she didn’t care.

All that mattered was getting the pain out by bringing it to God so God could help her deal with it.

God still hears those types of prayers.

Now He helps us when we can’t find the words to express how distraught we are.

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

God’s Holy Spirit indwells every born-again believer in Christ so we have an advocate while we pray to God.

Two things are important to notice in those verses.

First and foremost the Holy Spirit prays according to God’s will. That means the pain may continue for a while. It may last the rest of your life. Prepare for that possibility.

Many people are so conditioned into thinking if there’s something wrong in our life God will fix it to bless us.

I have some hard news for you. God is not in the blessing just to bless business. He wants to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. That usually requires a lot of suffering.

This world we live in is broken. So are the people we share this planet with. One person’s pleasure sometimes comes at the expense of another person’s pain. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is.

We’ll never know full peace and blessing until we’re in heaven with God.

While we’re here we’ll have pain. Fortunately, God understands this.

The second part of those verses to remember is our intercessor occasionally runs out of words for our pain, too.

Yeah, even the Holy Spirit can’t tell God what we want to say because our pain is so intense.

Read verse 26 again. The Holy Spirit groans for us when the hurt is too excruciating.

There is no promise of relief from this pain, only understanding.

I don’t find a formula prayer to pray for freedom, either.

We must trust God is up to something and He knows what He’s doing with us.

Butterflies must struggle out of their chrysalis in order to survive. If you cut it open for them they’ll die.

The effort of breaking free strengthens the heart. After they breathe air that heart must pump blood into the fragile wings. Only after the vessels are spread out are the wings ready to set that bug to flight and freedom from the gravitational pull that kept it earthbound.

Your struggles are making you stronger, too. I don’t know what, or who, God is turning you into, but He does.

There are others going through similar circumstances.

After you come through this mess a stronger person you can help them see how it’s done.

They’re looking for hope. Your story will give them that hope.

When they learn someone else groaned those same utterances they’ll listen to you.

The verse that follows those verses tells us all things are working together for good, not that all things are good when they happen.

Hardship, pain, suffering and struggle are a part of living life.

That’s why God’s Spirit groans for us and with us.

God also promises to wipe every tear away in heaven.

Peace and blessings will overflow then.

Until that time take things one step at a time if that’s all you can manage.

Pour out your heart to God.

He’s listening and waiting to hear your groans.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

TELL ME MORE

A woman walked to the rock she chose for daily quiet time.

Suddenly a man appeared. His face was almost glowing. “You are about to conceive and give birth to a son even though you have been barren. Make sure you don’t drink anything from the vine or eat anything unclean. Never use a razor on his head. He shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb. He will begin to deliver My people from the Philistines.”

The woman ran home. She found Manoah and got his attention. “I met a man today. He must have been sent from God because his face was like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Manoah sat in a chair. “What’s his name? Where is he from?”

“I…I don’t know. I didn’t ask and he didn’t say. He told me to stay away from alcohol and unclean things because I’m going to give birth to a son who will be used by God to deliver us from the Philistines.”

Manoah fell to his knees. “Dear LORD, please send that man back to tell us more about our son.”

******

A few days later the woman was on her stone again when the man appeared. She ran to tell her husband. She found him repairing a tool. “He’s back!”

Manoah stared at her. “Who?”

“The man from God.”

Manoah crossed the room. “Take me to him.”

She led him to the field. The man was still near the rock.

Manoah was panting as he leaned on the rock. “Are you the man who talked to my wife a few days ago?”

“Yes.”

Manoah stared into the man’s eyes. “What are we to teach our son? What will he do with his life?”

“Don’t let your wife drink wine or even eat grapes. Don’t allow her to eat anything unclean.”

Manoah swallowed. “Please let us prepare you a meal. I have a young goat.”

“I will not eat a meal, but you can offer it as a sacrifice on this rock.”

Manoah stood, then stopped. “What is your name so we can honor you when our son is born?”

The man shook his head. “My name is too wonderful for you to know.”

Manoah and his wife walked back to the house. “Grind some barley while I get some wood and the goat.”

They returned to the rock where the man was still waiting. The wood was arranged on the rock. The goat’s throat was slit before it was placed on the wood. The flour was thrown on the fire.

Manoah stood next to his wife to see the expression of the man. The heat from the flame shook the man’s appearance. He rose with the smoke into the sky as he disappeared.

Manoah fell to his knees. “We have seen God. We’re about to die.”

His wife knelt next to him. “If we were going to die He wouldn’t have accepted our offering. Besides, we have a son to make now.”

Manoah smiled as he led his wife back home.

************

Manoah is so like me. God tells him he’s going to be used for a purpose and the man wants to know the details.

Did you catch that?

Manoah asked God to come back after the news is delivered that they were going to have news to deliver about a son. This guy wants to know what they’re supposed to teach this kid and what his occupation is going to be.

God is as God always is. He doesn’t deviate from what He said earlier. “Don’t let your wife drink any alcohol or eat anything unclean because this boy is special.”

Wayne Stiles has a great quote from his book, Waiting on God. “We want God’s plan so we can trust the plan. God hides the plan so we will trust Him.”

If we knew most of the details about our future we’d do our best to change them.

God is shaping us into the instrument He needs by what we endure. Pain is often included in the process. We want to avoid pain at all cost.

Let God be God. Don’t try to tell Him what to do and when to do it. You’re just setting yourself up for frustration when you do that.

Manoah was so out of touch with his spiritual life with God that he had no clue he was talking to God, in the form of Jesus (yeah, it’s complicated), until God disappeared with the smoke.

Are you on speaking terms with God? That’s what prayer is.

Do you recognize God when He shows up? He’s everywhere you know.

Is God your heavenly Father? Jesus died to make that a reality.

Our spiritual life is much different from what Manoah and his wife experienced because of what Jesus did on the cross. Take Jesus’s gift of eternal life now so God is real in your life.

I wondered why God didn’t tell Manoah His name here. Then I realized the man was probably planning on naming the boy after this guy he was talking to.

If that would have happened we wouldn’t be telling the stories of Samson, but I Am.

The book of Judges records a pathetic period of Israel’s history. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

I hope that quote caught your attention. That’s not from today’s newspaper or internet news service feed, but it could be.

We have enemies attacking us now just like Israel did back then. God used judges to rescue them then.

We have the Judge coming to rescue us soon.

Jesus’s second coming isn’t spoken about as much as it should be.

When He does come there will be no doubt who He is. His judgement will be final.

The enemy will be bound and Jesus will sit on His throne.

Those of us who accept Jesus’s death as the death we deserved will be with Him as He reigns.

If you’re reading this it isn’t too late for you.

Become God’s child today.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

TESTING GOD

Gideon tapped the heads of wheat against the rim of the winepress. The pile inside looked like enough for about two ephahs.

He glanced over his shoulder. I hope the Midianites don’t find me here. They shouldn’t since grape harvest won’t occur for a few more months.

A minute later he looked around. He caught himself against the winepress when he found a man sitting under the terebinth tree.

The man smiled. “Greetings mighty warrior. The LORD is with you.”

Gideon stood and approached the man. “If the LORD is with us why are the Midianites destroying our crops?”

“I’m sending you to defeat them.”

Gideon looked around. “Who, me? I’m a nobody from one of the weakest tribes. What can I do?”

“Don’t worry. I will fight for you.”

“Wait here while I prepare You an offering.”

“I’ll wait.”

Gideon selected a choice goat for the most tender meat. While a flank roasted he baked some bread without yeast. He diced the meat into a basket and poured the broth into a pot. He carried the meal to his guest.

The man pointed to a rock next to him. “Put the food here.”

Gideon set the meat and bread on the rock and poured the broth over it.

The man touched the food with the end of his staff. Fire came from nowhere and consumed the food. The man disappeared.

Gideon fell to his knees. “I have seen God face to face.”

He heard the man’s voice. “Don’t worry. You will live. I want you to destroy your father’s altar to Baal. Take the wooden image next to it and sacrifice the second bull from the herd.”

Gideon waited until the men in town went to sleep. He selected ten servants to carry out God’s request.

********

Soon the Jezreel Valley was filled with the armies of Midian and Amalek.

Gideon felt a surge of courage fill him. He blew a trumpet and sent messengers out to assemble an army.

He paced in his tent while the men assembled over the next two days. A prayer exited his lips. “God, if You are going to use me to defeat this vast army then show me a sign. I’ll set a fleece out tonight. Put dew on the fleece, but not the grass.”

God did that to the extent of a bowl of water being wrung out of the fleece the following morning.

Gideon swallowed and sent up another prayer. “Tonight put dew on the ground, but not on this fleece.”

Gideon’s feet were drenched after he walked through the grass to reach the dry fleece.

He was confident when he saw how many men assembled for him.

God spoke to Gideon. “There are too many men now. They’ll claim victory from themselves when they win. Tell everyone who is afraid to return home.

About two-thirds of the men returned home.

Gideon heard God’s voice again. “There’s still too many. Take them to the river. I’ll sort them out there.”

He separated those who drank water from their hands from the majority who drank from the river.

“The three hundred are the ones who will win with Me.”

Gideon swallowed.

“If you need reassurance go to the camp with Purah.  “

Gideon crept to the edge of the Midianite camp and listened to a conversation two men were having.

“I dreamed a barley loaf rolled down the hill and knocked over one of our tents.”

“That could only be the God of Gideon defeating us.”

Gideon felt a surge of confidence as he bowed his head before they returned to camp.

 He gathered all his men around. “God has given us the victory. I want each of you to take a torch. Cover your torch with a pot in your left hand. Carry a trumpet in your right hand. On my mark smash your pot, blow your trumpet and yell, ‘The sword of the LORD and of Gideon.'”

When they had circled the Midianite camp the plan was carried out successfully.

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I love how God used this cowardly man to carry out a great victory. But, then again, that’s God’s favorite way to operate.

Gideon admitted his weakness. God saw that as his greatest strength. I find great solace in that.

I find it interesting how God spoke (prayed) to Gideon five different ways in this narrative.

  1. Face to face under the terebinth tree. God showed Himself to His servant to begin this ordeal of choosing a leader to save His people.
  2. With only His voice. Once Gideon knew God’s voice there was no need for physical proximity.
  3. Through nature. The fleece test was requested by the weak man to gain assurance of victory.
  4. Through testing. As God whittled the army down from 32,000 to 300 Gideon’s resolve would be tested.
  5. Through the dream of an enemy soldier. God reached out to give His warrior one last assurance by sending him to the enemy camp to hear of a dream one of them had.

Some people wish God still spoke to us like He did in the Old Testament times. I don’t.

We have a much more efficient means of hearing from God.

  1. We have the Bible. God wrote the Bible, His Word, to us through several writers with the same message; God is powerful and wants a family relationship with us we can’t obtain on our own efforts.
  2. We have prayer. Our prayers are always heard as God’s children. Our heavenly Abba longs for our attention.
  3. We have the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit was given to a select few in the Old Testament. After Jesus ascended to heaven God made His Spirit available to all of His children. And He won’t take it from us.
  4. We have a Savior. The Messiah was a future promise to them. Jesus is our sacrificial atonement to bring us to God now.

God may not call you to lead a great victory like Gideon.

Each small win you obtain over the enemy is great in God’s eyes.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

WE’RE DOOMED

Joshua waited for his spies to return from Ai. “So, what do you think? Can we take it?”

One of the men nodded. “Ai isn’t anywhere near as big as Jericho. We’ll only need two or three thousand men to wipe them out.”

Joshua nodded once. “Good. That’s what I was thinking, too. Choose three thousand of our best and get it done.”

********

A couple of hours later the men came running back to camp.

Joshua stood and waited for them to catch their breath. “What happened?’

The man in charge looked at Joshua. “I don’t know. We thought they were going to stay in their walls. When they came rushing out at us we panicked, I guess. As near as we can tell thirty six men died back there.”

Joshua tore his robe open. “No…we’re doomed.”

He walked into the tabernacle and fell before the ark. No words came so he just let the tears flow.

As the sun neared the horizon he poured out a prayer. “Why, Lord? Why did we cross the Jordan at all? We could have settled over there. There was plenty of land for us. Now the people here will band together and destroy us completely. What will You do for Your great name then, Lord?”

God’s voice was clear and loud. “What are you doing on your face, Joshua? The reason you failed is because I’m not fighting for you now. Someone took some stuff from Jericho. Everyone knew that was off limits. Assemble the tribes. I’ll let you know which tribe they’re in. Bring that tribe by household, then family, and then man by man. The man who took the accursed things must be burned with the items along with everything he has. Then I will restore My power to your efforts.”

Joshua did as commanded to discover Achan had a robe, gold and silver from Jericho hidden in his tent. Achan’s entire family was burned and covered in stones to erase any possibility of a recurring event.

Ai was then soundly defeated. Further conquests began with council with God to ensure victory.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here. I’m sure glad I live on this side of the cross of Jesus. God’s grace is much better to live with than His justice.

Joshua didn’t have that luxury. He lived with a simple formula to live by: obey God and receive His blessings, disobey God and receive His wrath.

Achan thought one person taking some of Jericho’s spoils wouldn’t effect anybody. After they conquer the land he’d be able to enjoy this stuff and probably help his family move ahead quickly because of the wealth they’d start out with.

He forgot one extremely important thing about God. You can’t hide anything from Him. God sees every hidden item and knows every secret you have.

Now I have to ask: are you trying to hide anything from God?

Notice I said “trying” to hide. People can be fooled. They only see things with their eyes.

God is omnipresent. He’s everywhere. You can’t hide anything…and I mean anything, from Him.

Those emotions you’re holding back, God knows all about them. He’s waiting for you to tell Him about them. Find a secluded place if you need to and let it out in prayer. I don’t mean a simple, quiet prayer you say before a meal.

I’m talking about a scream at God as if He was standing right in front of you type of prayer. He’s your loving heavenly Father. He can take it. He’ll still love you with His unconditional love only a true father can give.

This may mean sending everybody away so you have the house to yourself or going for a long drive alone. Whatever it takes…do it so you can move away from it now.

You may have to dig deep into a closet and throw some items away that are keeping you stuck to a past event, relationship or habit.

The best way to move forward is to remove everything that entangles you and keeps you from moving ahead.

You can’t take any items with you when you die. Don’t let them kill you now.

Achan took only a few items. Those things cost 36 fighting men and his entire household their lives.

I don’t expect you to be perfect, neither does God. I’m just using this moment to get you do look deep inside to discover what’s holding you back.

You do want to live your life more like Jesus. Don’t you?

He didn’t have any closets. He didn’t even have a house or apartment to hide anything in because He never had anything to hide.

Time talking to God was such a priority to Him He missed out on sleep to gain as many minutes with His heavenly Father as He could.

He wrote the Bible so spending time reading it wasn’t necessary for Him. We need to spend as much quality time in the Bible as we can fit in.

Prayer is our chance to talk with God. Reading the Bible is God’s main means of communicating with us.

I don’t mean a quick scan by reading the entire book in a year. I’ve done that in the past and found it lacking in really hearing God speak to me. It was good at developing the discipline of setting aside daily time to concentrate on something related to my relationship with God, but that was the most I got out of it.

Read a section until something catches your attention. Then re-read it while asking questions that come to your mind. Savor it like you enjoy a good meal.

A spiritual meal is exactly what you’re getting.

God is feeding your soul while drawing you closer to Him.

One of the lessons Joshua learned about Ai was in contacting God before the battle.

If he had than he would have discovered the transgression sooner.

Victory only came after the sin was dealt with.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS

Thirty one days after Moses walked to the mountains Joshua entered the Tent of Meeting and knelt down.

God’s voice was clear. “Moses is dead. Prepare everybody to cross the river and take possession of the land I’m giving them. As I was with Moses I will be with you. Nobody will defeat you. Be strong and courageous as you lead these people. It’s important that you follow My laws so you will live long in the land. Be strong and very courageous.”

Joshua left the tent and approached the elders. “Have everybody prepare to cross the Jordan in three days.”

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It’s been suggested to me that whenever I take on a new endeavor in my life I should read the first nine verses of Joshua 1 for thirty days straight. I’ve found that advice tremendously helpful because of the encouragement God repeats to His new leader here.

I condensed God’s prayer communication here because I found something very intriguing as I studied this passage during my time in it.

Verses five through nine are written as a Hebrew poem to help people memorize it.

Thanks to having a seminary professor as a Sunday School teacher I learned a bit about ancient Hebrew poetry found in the Bible. It isn’t written in rhyme like modern poems, that wouldn’t translate well into other languages.

Hebrew poetry uses repetitive ideas spaced in an interesting sequence to make their point. It uses eight “lines” of a poem. Each line may be a few words or a couple of sentences.

The first concept is repeated at the eighth line, also; the second at the seventh, the third at the sixth, and the fourth at the fifth. It looks something like this: A B C D D C B A.

I’ll show you how this plays out in Joshua 1:5-9 as best I can.

  1. A. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.
  2. B. Be strong and courageous,
  3. C. because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.
  4. D. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
  5. D. Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
  6. C. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
  7. B. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
  8. A. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.

I don’t think I could write a doctoral thesis on this, but it is interesting to discover it in my studies. These kind of things show up when you concentrate on one section of scripture over breakfast for an extended period of time.

It’s quite in intensive Bible study method.

If you want a way to pass down an important lesson to future generations a poem is a great way to do it, especially when most of them are illiterate and stories are the primary means of doing such.

Repetition in the Bible is always something to pay close attention to. “Be strong and courageous” is the main repeated phrase God gave to Joshua.

This crossroads of leadership change came with extreme circumstances. God used Moses in mighty ways to lead the people out of slavery from the most powerful nation at that time. That’s a big shadow you’re standing in as you lead these same people into the land God had promised to their forefathers.

For over four hundred years the Hebrews were taking orders as to what they had to do each day. God had led them the past forty years to get them here. This fledgling nation was on the cusp of settling into homes and the right to decide for themselves what to do with their lives.

I would want as much encouragement as I could receive at that time, too.

It’s also important to note the huge condition that falls in the center of that Hebrew poem.

Obedience to the laws God gave Moses would be the key to successful living in this land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moving the inhabitants out was one thing. Keeping invaders out would prove much more difficult, especially when the invaders came from the gods left behind by the inhabitants.

God gave Moses very specific guidelines for His people to follow. Moses meticulously recorded these rules so they could be obeyed by every generation.

There’s even an interesting geographical feature in this promised land that was supposed to be used to amplify the importance of following these laws. Two mountains stand divided by a narrow valley. Mount Gerizim is flourishing with trees. Mount Ebal is barren rock.

Representatives from half of the tribes were to stand on Gerizim and declare the blessings from God for obeying the law. The other half of the tribes were to stand on Ebal to declare the curses from disobedience.

This ritual as described in Deuteronomy 27-28 was only carried out once by Joshua after their victory at Ai.

The ultimate failure to obey God’s laws showed us the need for a savior to rescue us from ourselves. We’re incapable of  reaching God by our actions, especially when His standard is perfection.

Jesus was the only person who fully obeyed God’s laws. The reason He could is because He didn’t have a human father.

No sperm was used for his conception. God’s Holy Spirit entered Mary’s egg to become Jesus, fully God and fully man.

When we couldn’t reach God He reached down to us and died in our place.

To enter the ultimate promised land accept Jesus’s death as your own.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

COLLOSSAL FAILURE

“We did what God told us to do. Why didn’t Pharaoh let us go worship God?”

Moses shrugged. “Hopefully the leaders of the people will have some answers for us after their meeting here.”

The door to the palace opened. The Hebrew contingency approached Moses and Aaron.

“You said you were going to lead us out of here and back to the land God promised to Abraham. All you’ve done is make our lives worse. Why don’t you just go back to the desert you came from?”

“First they stop bringing us straw. Then they tell us we have to find our own. Now they demand we keep making the same amount of bricks whether we can find any straw or not.”

“The beatings aren’t worth this false hope you gave us. Just leave us alone.”

Moses watched the men leave.

Aaron grabbed Moses’ sleeve. “What are we going to do now?”

Moses shook his head. “This wasn’t my idea. I need to talk to God to see where we went wrong.”

Moses walked off for solitude. Aaron followed the Hebrews back to Goshen.

When he felt alone Moses dropped to his knees. “Why have You sent me here? Things have only gotten worse. You haven’t delivered Your people at all.”

The voice from God shook Moses’s bones and made the hairs on his arms stand up. “Now you will see how I’ll deal with Pharaoh. Not only will he let My people go, but he will drive them out of his land when I’m done with him. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew Me only as God Almighty. You will know Me as YHWY and will become My people. I will be your God as I fulfill My promise to bring you to the land I gave to Abraham.”

********

I’m so glad God included this in Moses’s experience to lead God’s people out of Egypt. He thought all he’d have to do is go in, tell Pharaoh to let God’s nation worship Him and that would be all there was to it.

Don’t we all think like that?

We hear God’s voice, or read a scripture verse that feeds a longing to do something for God. Then we set out to do it knowing God has prepared us for this. Only to be stymied and stopped before we even begin.

How many times have you read this story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt and missed this event?

Failures are not final. Set backs are not set in stone.

Moses kept at it. So must we.

It took ten massive miracles displaying God’s power over all the Egyptian gods before Pharaoh relented to Moses’s request.

Several months passed before Moses saw success.

Don’t be surprised when you see the same seeming failure.

God is building your perseverance, strength and resolve.

When a chick breaks its way out of an egg the struggle builds muscles that bird will need to survive.

Moses would have to intervene for God’s people several times in the next forty years. His sticking to the task now helped him see the bigger picture in the wilderness.

An easy early success leads to a prideful attitude. You’ll start to think you can do this in your own efforts and power.

The more you must trust God to come through for you the more successful you’ll be in the long haul.

Embrace failure as your crutch to lean on God for success.

God introduced another intriguing bit of nuance to His relationship with Moses and His people during this conversation. It occurred with a name change.

Names carry significance in the Bible, especially God’s names.

Adam knew God as God. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew God as God Almighty, the God above all other gods.

Many translations of the Bible print this new name for God as LORD with all capital letters.

The Hebrew language didn’t use vowels so this new name came out as YHWH and was pronounced Yahweh. Some folks preferred to say the Y and W with hard tones so they prefer the name Jehovah.

The way this name is pronounced or spelled isn’t as important as the meaning of this new name.

God was now coming down to intercede and intervene for His people. No longer would He come to speak to a single individual on God’s timetable.

Beginning with this prayer Moses approached God with an issue and God replied to the item at hand.

Moses would later speak to God on a mountain, then in the Tent of Meeting while in the wilderness.

God would lead His people with a cloud and give them guidelines to live by.

But, first He had to display His power to the Egyptians to prove His dominance and dominion.

God Almighty was becoming more approachable and real.

Now that we live on the other side of the cross where the final transaction was accomplished with the phrase, “It is finished.” We are adopted into God’s spiritual family and we call Him “Abba.”

It’s a very intimate name that’s the first century equivalent to Daddy today.

God is still very much dominant, preeminent and powerful. There is no other higher than Him.

But, with the adoption papers signed with the blood of Jesus He’s not only approachable He’s as intimate as a father.

The Creator of the universe who spoke everything into existence desires our attention.

He gave us the Bible to not only see the relationship change throughout the centuries, but to give us guidelines to live by and to speak to us today.

Prayer is our means of expressing our emotions and desires to Him.

Jesus gave us an example of how to live this out when He would go off by Himself to pray.

I’ll never forget seeing my mom reading her Bible in the middle of the kitchen while us seven kids ran through the house playing on winter days.

Take your relationship with God seriously enough to make a difference.

I’ll see you later.   Wade