Pegged By a Woman

Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him.  Now Heber the Kenite had separated himself from the Kenites, from the sons of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh. (Judges 4:10-11 NASB)

Now Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.  Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my master, turn aside to me! Do not be afraid.” And he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug.  He said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a bottle of milk and gave him a drink; then she covered him.  He said to her, “Stand in the doorway of the tent, and it shall be if anyone comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there anyone here?’ that you shall say, ‘No.'”  But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died. (Judges 4:17-21 NASB)

The account of Deborah and Barak would not be complete without Jael.  You simply cannot get the point without her.  We get so focused on the fact that Deborah led the Sons of Israel as a woman, that we forget that the enemy of God’s people was defeated by a woman from another people.  Not only did God keep the victory from Barak, but also from the Sons of Israel.

Also, much is made about the fact that Deborah prophesies that Barak won’t be given the victory because he asked a woman to go with him.  I think that has more to do with literary irony from the writer than some sort of indictment from God on women involved in leadership.  Deborah remains the judge, and there seems to be no problem on God’s side with her in that role.

The irony for me derives from the layered issue.  This Kenite, Heber, separates from his brethren in the south and is near Kadesh.  He is at “peace” with Jabin, the enemy of the people of Israel.  Yet his wife seems to be the enemy of Jabin and Sisera.  She pretends to be friendly, like her husband, but then secretly assassinates the general.

So, a battle ensues with the chariots being less effective than foot soldiers.  The general escapes on foot, and is killed by a woman while he sleeps.  Just when he thought he was safe, among friends, he wasn’t.  The battle followed him to the tents of his ally.  In all of this, where was Heber, anyway?

I think God’s sense of humor peeks through here.  Sure, the grisly nature of Jael’s actions is kind of gross.  But a woman driving a tent peg through a guy’s head into the ground?  When you consider he’s the chief warrior for the king of Canaan, it has to be the most embarrassing way to go.  What do you put on that tombstone?

I suppose the point for this is that God uses whoever He likes, and uses them in ways that show off His work.  A seasoned warrior killed in his sleep by a woman with a hammer and nail?  Yeah, that would be God.  Nine hundred chariots out run by foot soldiers?  Yeah, that would be God.  How does anyone else get credit?  They don’t.  They get points for participation.

So, what are we after?  Recognition?  Credit?  Kudos?  What?  God doesn’t give points for anything other than participation.  If we’re not okay with that, then there are s a few layers of problems with our relationship with God.  God has to be the Main Character, the Hero, the One in charge.  Who else can save?  Through whom, other than God, can human creatures be saved from eternal death?  If only Jesus saves, then isn’t it in everyone’s best interest that He get all the attention?

I like getting credit, for people to like me, think well of me, be impressed, and so on.  I need to get passed that.  People won’t be saved through any achievement of mine.  My best day won’t get one more person into eternal life.  Only Jesus accomplishes that.  So, let my Master use Jael, Deborah, Barak, foot soldiers, and tent pegs.  That should gain Him so notoriety, and that is the point, because that’s what brings people to Him.

So, what’s your view of God through the fence today?

Bad News From God

Now the angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?  Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’”  When the angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.  So they named that place Bochim; and there they sacrificed to the Lord. (Judges 2:1 — 5 NASB

Every time I encounter the Angel of Yahweh in Scripture, I believe this is God Himself. Here, though, God goes for a strenuous walk. He goes up from Gilgal to Bochim, which, depending on where you believe Bochim to be, is all up hill. Regardless of how far or in which direction, God begins His walk with His people.  Gilgal is still the place they started their conqpuest of Canaan.

Did you also notice His affirmation that He will never break His covenant? Remember that this how He starts out His harsh words to them. It’s not because they are so good, but because of their father’s righteousness.  Their part of the covenant was to drive out the Canaanites, and they made friends with them instead. At the most, they forced these Canaanites into forced labor. 

Then God declares that, if they will not drive them out now, then He will not help them drive them out later. The covenant doesn’t take a break, there will be no coming back to it later. The people of God, the Sons of Israel, the Children of Abraham, were becoming just like everyone else. They began to lose their distinctiveness. 

This is, more or less, how this sort of thing went in those days. The Babylonians and Assyrians, both were the product of assimilated invaders. Canaan had mixtures of Hittites, Amorites, Egyptians, and several other people groups mixed into the culture. And every time another conquering people showed up, the gods were renamed, old myths retold, and then everything found a new equilibrium. 

The God responsible for bringing these Children of Abraham back to the land of Canaan wasn’t interested in how things had always gone in the past. This counter-culture Deity sought something different. With Him, there would be no pantheon, the stories were all about Him, and He advocated a genocidal approach to the conquest of Canaan. That was not how the cultures around the Tribes of Israel played with others. This God was down right rude.

Who wants to be rude? Why can’t we all just get along? Isn’t compromise the pathway to peace among all peoples? Seriously, you have to kill everyone? When it got tough, when the enemies broke out the iron chariots, when the city walls seemed high and thick, compromise began to look attractive. And, to be honest, it still does. Our culture tells us to put down the swords and Spears, and just compromise. That way, everyone wins. And isn’t that the point?

Anyway, that’s my view of the ball game through the fence today. What’s your view like?

So You Want To See Jesus…

“He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?  Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’  And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’  ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.  But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.” (Luke 19:22-27 NASB)

Why is it that we seem to forget the Bible, the whole Bible, prophets and all?  Why we do we find it so easy to create this cardboard version of Jesus who is so two dimensional? Why do we forget that He came to fulfill the law not abolish it?  Why is it so easy to forget that He came to divide not unify humanity?  The truth of Scripture is that Jesus is God, not a god, not some new god, and certainly not “God Transformed”.  He is God!

God, the One putting up with Israel’s wayward ways for 400 years while He sends prophets, is the One wiping them out with the pagan empire of Assyria.  And then, a hundred years later, Judah goes down by the pagan Babylonians.  Flash forward 400 more years, and Jesus becomes the same One pronouncing woes of judgement on Galilean cities and Jerusalem itself.  It’s as if the judgement of old was returning again, this time at His say so.

And then we have this parable.  Luke seems to intertwine a parable of a king, possibly using the ascension of Herod’s son Archaleus, with the parable of slaves use of money.  The point of the slaves with money is being enterprising with the resources God provides us until He returns.  The point of the king ascending a throne is opposing him does not go unpunished.

If Jesus is the king and master of the servants, then this picture of Jesus ought to make us uneasy.  Then we are to be responsible with what has been entrusted to us while He is away, making more of what was given.  Being industrious is rewarded, not doing anything with it is punished.  We have to agree to be ruled, to submit to the reign of Jesus over us.  That means agree to who He is not who we imagine Him to be.

And this isn’t meant to take away the love Jesus has for us.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus any more before His throne than it can now, or could before He ministered in person.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  But that doesn’t then change the personality of God into something other than what we read elsewhere in Scripture.  It’s both.  And that’s probably where we fail most often to our greatest detriment.

God did not have a personality break between the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.  He didn’t switch from wrath and anger to mercy and love.  He has always been all of that and more.  There has always been vast oceans of grace in the Hebrew Scriptures.  There has always been wrath in the Christian Scriptures.  So our challenge is read both and let God define for Himself who He is and how He will relate to us.  It’s tough, and it should be frightening to us.  But then again, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom after all.

So, what do you see through your knothole this morning?  I hope I didn’t bring you down, but I do hope I sobered you up!  You may need sobering after last night…but that’s fodder for another post.

Fear Not! Fear This! Fear Not!

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.  (Luke 12:4-7 ESV)

One of the criticisms of Scripture that tend to make me smile at the simpletons bringing it is that Scripture is internally inconsistent.  I want to just smile and pat them on the head, and say, “Yes, it does seem that way at times” and move on.  But the crowd really seems to like the Emperor’s New Clothes, and I’m not that impressed by naked emperors.  These same intellectuals leveling the charge of internal inconsistency will be seemingly inconsistent in their lives all the time, but explain it away as “clarifying” not contradicting themselves.  The irony is that this is exactly what Jesus is doing, or seems to be doing.

In the context of Jesus’ explanation of the hypocrisy of the former dinner guests (Pharisees), He arrives at a possible motivating factor, fear of others.  Jesus points out how fearing anyone but God fails to accommodate Who God really is.  People can cause death, just as God can.  But only God can condemn to hell afterwards.  The unsaid implication is that He can also permit entry into heaven.  Faithfulness to Him should outweigh any fear of mere humanity.

On the one hand, the Pharisees “feared” how they looked to others, and were more concerned about their reputations than the people among whom they had the reputation.  On the other hand, they weren’t afraid of being killed by these people.  Jesus’ disciples would soon face that fear. So, this is probably more for the disciples than about the Pharisees.

Jesus has an interesting organization though.  First it’s “don’t begin to fear people”, then “fear the One who can kill and then condemn to hell”, then “stop fearing” because they are “special” to God.  The last two seem contradictory, but they really compliment each other.  Fear God for His authority as Judge, but stop fearing Him because, as Judge, He is especially fond of you.  Think that through.  It’s designed to provide the “guideposts” between which we live out our relationship with our Creator and Master.

In our culture we fear people, what they might think of us and what they might do to us.  We need to stop that (or don’t even start).  We need to fear God, what He thinks of us and what He might do to us.  But we also need to stop fearing Him for how He sees us.  Yes, He’s the Judge.  Yes, He has the authority to cast us into hell after taking our lives.  But He “carries us through”.  The word normally translated “more valuable”, “worth more”, or “of more value” is based on a word made up of the verb “to carry” and the preposition “through”.  From this was derived the meaning for value where the value isn’t monetary or “precious” due to some inherent quality or even “superior value”.  Our value stems from the fact that God sees something in us He that really catches His eye.

My daughter is a “collector”.  Unfortunately, she’s not terribly discriminating and can come back from the beach with her pockets full to overflowing with rocks, shells, driftwood, dead molluscs, and so on.  She sees something that catches her eye and it goes into her pockets.  In a sense, we have “caught God’s eye” and have wound up in His pocket.  And in the safety of God’s pocket, He “carries us through”.  Can you think of a more secure place to be than in the pocket of God?  So what do we have to fear?  Yes, we’re being carried by the Judge who could cast us into hell, but He’s carrying us in His pockets.  How likely is it that He’s carrying us around only to cast us into hell?

What do you learn from Jesus about fear from this?

Jesus and Prayer…Why?

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.    And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: (Luke 6:12,13 NASB)

It seems that Jesus had quite a crowd of devoted followers around Him by this time in His ministry.  There was a great crowd of them when He descends to the plain.  But in Acts we are told that there were enough followers who were with Jesus from His baptism that they needed a selection process.  Paul says there were over 100 in the upper room where Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection.  I think it’s an error to think there were only twelve guys on the road with Jesus.

Continue reading Jesus and Prayer…Why?

But Before Being Dismissed…

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:25, 26 NASB)

Simeon is an anomaly in this account.  He’s somewhat like John the Baptist, somewhat like Zachariah John’s father, and somewhat like a respectable old man.  He does stuff by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which means, in his day, he’s really weird and unpredictable.  On the other hand, he loves his people, and he loves his God.  He’s probably one of the most upbeat people in the temple any time he’s there; and that’s with the people suffering under Roman rule and the religious leaders being ridiculously unrighteous.

Continue reading But Before Being Dismissed…