Places, everyone!

Do you know your place or position? I hope you know your position at your job (it won’t be your job for long if you don’t). Maybe you have a place at the family dinner table. I bet there’s a place at the grocery store you like to park. Do you have a favourite position to sleep in?

Through much of our lives, we know our place and, most of the time, we’re prepared—if not willing—to take that position. So why is it so difficult for us to take our place in the kingdom of God? Sure, we’ve got a place once we accept Jesus as our Lord, but there is much more to it than that.

Way back in Judges, a woman—yes, a woman!—was judge over Israel. Through Deborah’s wisdom in hearing from God, Israel was able to defeat Sisera and his Canaanite army. Through her joy in victory, she sang a song.

When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

Judges 5:2 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse could read something like this:

When leaders take their place and lead,
when the people willingly submit—
praise the Lord!

Deborah’s song goes on to describe the battle, then she closes.

So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.

Judges 5:31 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse may read something like this:

No one can deny you, O Lord!
The Church will rise and endure
when those who love you take their proper place.

The only time things went well for Israel was when they had a leader who first submitted to God and led from a place of humility and a people who submitted themselves to their godly leader. Every other time in their history, Israel fell into slavery and war.

We may not be in a physical battle, but we are certainly in a spiritual war. Like Israel, the Church is never more victorious than when we take our proper places. Some are called to lead, but we are all called to follow.

To whom then should we be submitting?

God. No matter who we are, where we’re from, or what our place is, we must always submit to God over anything or anyone else.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (NIV)

Each other. If we can’t even love each other as members of the same body, how will we ever win anyone else over with love? The greatest part of loving someone is submitting to them.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

Human authority. As much as it may pain us to do so, we are all under human law and authority. So long as we are not asked to go against the Word of God, we are expected to submit.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV)

And how is all of this supposed to help us to be victorious?

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

Nearly every argument the world has against the Church can be silenced if only we would live as we’ve been called to. If we take our places as children of God, submitting to Him, each other, and those in authority over us. It is only when we take our positions that we can truly wage our spiritual war and win.

Read: Judges 3-5, Luke 7:31-50

More instructions

If some scary looking guy suddenly appeared in front of me and told me I was going to have a son, I can’t say I’d believe him. That is, if I’d even stuck around long enough to hear what he had to say. But that’s exactly what Manoah and his wife did.

In those days [when Israel did evil in the Lord’s sight] a man name Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son.”

Judges 13:2-3 (NLT)

The woman runs to tell her husband about the unexpected visitor. Instead of being livid like I imagine most men would respond now, he prayed and asked that the Lord send the man back to them so that they could receive further instruction.

What amazes me most about this account is that Israel is currently in one of their we’re-going-to-worship-any-god-but-the-one-true-God phases. The chapter starts off saying that the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. So here we have a couple that have more than likely been raised worshipping pagan gods. They haven’t been taught to honour and respect the law. Yet, when an angel comes to them (they assume he’s just a prophet), their response isn’t to question the word from the Lord, but to pray and ask for further instructions. And what does God do? He sends the angel back with more instructions!

What we should take away from the actions of this couple is that it’s okay to ask for clarification. If you believe that you’ve had a word from God, but aren’t 100% on the facts, ask! God is totally okay with us asking questions. In fact, I believe He wants us to ask questions. He didn’t drop us all on the earth with limited knowledge and understanding just to watch us squirm. He created us to have a relationship with him. If one of your friends tells you something that is unclear to you, do you walk away from the conversation in confusion? No, you ask your friend to make things a little more clear so that you can fully understand what they’re saying.

Oh, that the Church would be humble enough to ask! If you’re unsure, if you’re confused, if you don’t feel like you have enough information to act, simply ask for more instructions. I have yet to read an account in the Bible where God refuses to answer the heart that is truly seeking Him.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 12-14, Luke 9:37-62

Burn it

Israel is a bit of a broken record. Over and over and over again they turn from God, cry out to God, turn from God, cry out to God. It starts to get a little tiresome as we read through the Old Testament, don’t you think?

For those few obedient people, God gives some interesting instructions. But they aren’t only to test the loyalty and faith of the few. There is purpose behind these requests.

That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. Then build and altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”

Judges 6:25-26 (NLT)

God could have just told Gideon to build an altar and sacrifice the bull. Surely that would have been sufficient. But the sacrifice wasn’t the only thing God wanted Gideon to accomplish.

By tearing down the altar to Baal and building one to God, a challenge was issued. In the next few verses, we see the people of the tribe incensed over the fact that their altar had been torn down. They were out for blood until Gideon’s father, Joash told the people to let Baal worry about his own altar. Isn’t the god powerful enough to take care of his own place of worship?

By burning the Asherah pole (Asherah was thought to be and was worshipped as the Canaanite creator-god, El’s, wife or consort), Gideon ensured that, once delivered from the Midianites, his people would not easily be able to return to their pagan worship.

Turning from sin wasn’t good enough. We know that after reading so many accounts of Israel’s inability to remain faithful to the one God who had delivered them from slavery. The same principle applies to us. Turning from sin often isn’t enough. After all, it was tempting enough in the first place to draw us in. By simply turning away from it, how can we be sure that we won’t be tempted by it again in the future?

The best thing we can do is take a page out of Gideon’s book. Don’t just turn from sin, tear it down. Burn it. Do whatever we have to in order to rid ourselves not only of the sin, but the temptation to return to it.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 6-7, Luke 8:1-21

Rush

I love football. I mean, I really love football. In the off-season, I’ll watch games and highlight reels on YouTube just to get a fix.

In football, the term rush is used in a couple of different cases. The first is a means to advance the ball. The running back will get the ball after the snap and attempt to rush past the defence in order to gain yards. The second is a means to take out the offensive player with the ball (the quarterback, kicker or punter) – a defensive player will rush the ball carrier.

What does this have to do with the Bible? If you spend any time with me at all, it won’t be long before you get a football analogy.

The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him.

Judges 13:25, 14:6; 15:14 (ESV)

If you’re looking at rushing as an offensive or defensive action, either way, these verses speak loudly. Samson was rushed by the Holy Spirit. This is the only case in the Bible I’ve found so far where the reference to the Spirit coming upon someone was so strong. In other verses, the Spirit came upon someone or clothed someone. But never rushed.

Then the Spirit of the Lord entered Samson and gave him great power.

Judges 15:14 (NCV)

In football, the rush is almost always followed by a hard hit. There is a responsibility and a consequence to the rush. After Samson fell to Delilah, the Spirit never came upon him in the same way again. Though he knew the awesome power of God, Samson still failed.

What was so different about Samson that the power of God came upon him in a different manner than all the rest of the men and women who came before? What would it feel like to be rushed by the Spirit? Do we want to be rushed by the Spirit?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 15-17; Luke 10:1-24

When your words come true

Do you believe God’s Word? I mean really believe God’s word? When you pray, do you hope for an answer or do you know the answer is coming? When you read of all God has promised you, do you say, “I’ll just wait and see.” or do you go about your life as though you know you have what He said you have?

In the days of Israel’s constant rebellion, an angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of a man named Manoah. The woman was barren and had no children. The angel came and promised her a son. When the woman told her husband of what had happened, he asked God for confirmation. God sent the angel again.

When the angel told Manoah of the coming child, his response was not of the we’ll-wait-and-see-what-happens variety. His response was:

“Now, when your words come true…”

Judges 13:12 (ESV)

It amazes me, reading through the Old Testament, how many people simply believed God. And this was coming from a nation who constantly turned away from Him! They didn’t have Bibles on their bookshelves. They hadn’t yet received the power of the Holy Spirit. They had intermittent times where judges would rule them, but when those judges died, they went back to their pagan ways.

“When your words come true” should be the close to our believing prayers. When we pray according to God’s Word, there should be no ifs involved, but when.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 12-14; Luke 9:37-62

Rule

We like democracy. At least we say we like democracy. Let the people decide who should rule over them. That makes everyone happy… Or not.

Israel over and over again not only wanted but required someone to rule over them. Near the end of Gideon’s life, Israel asked that Gideon rule the people and then his sons following.

Now, if you were offered the leadership of an entire land, what would your response be? Would you want the fame that goes with the position? Or would you shy away from the weight of responsibility?

Gideon said to them “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you, the Lord will rule over you.”

Judges 8:23 (ESV)

Gideon had it right. While we must submit to the governments over us, when it comes to our own lives, there is only One who should rule over us.

Can we learn from the multitude of mistakes Israel made? When a great leader rose up, they followed God. When that leader passed, immediately, they returned to the gods of the land. In an endless circle, Israel turned from God.

If your pastor left, would you still follow God? If your favourite TV preacher went off the air, would you still follow God? If your spouse left the church, would you still follow God? Do you need a constant reminder of who rules in your life or is your relationship with God strong enough to withstand the rise and fall of those around you?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 8-9, Luke 8:22-56

Clothed

We often only associate the Holy Spirit with the Book of Acts.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:2

But what about all those people that came before the first church? Was the Holy Spirit just not there?

The Spirit of the Lord was upon him…

Judges 3:10a

But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon…

Judges 6:34a

There are many more verses that come before Acts 2:2 that talk about the Spirit coming upon people. Why then, do we assume that the Holy Spirit is only a New Testament “thing”?  Not only did the Spirit appear in Acts, but the Spirit rested on and clothed people long before the first church was established.

If the Spirit was present through the Old Testament and the New Testament why do churches stifle a move of the Spirit? We’ll preach about Gideon, but spur the presence of the Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but if the Holy Spirit clothing a single man can help an army of 300 men defeat an entire nation, I’ll take some of that!

Daily Bible reading: Judges 6-7; Luke 8:1-21