“This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'” 2 Chronicles 20:15b
Have you ever experienced hopelessness? Have you ever felt your situation can’t or won’t change? I’ve felt that way about losing weight. I think some thin people think it’s easy just to say no to overeating or to go exercise. But people who have struggled with obesity know that it’s a great challenge to overcome an addiction to food or to get the energy to try and work out. Habits are formed year after year, and cycles and routines are hard to change. Many people try to diet, only to fail and gain all the weight back. And often times those failed attempts lead to hopelessness and deep discouragement. The will to even try goes out the window. Why bother, we wonder?
I’ve been there. And I confess that I still struggle with over-indulging. But, I now have a new-found hope in Christ. While that may sound cliche or cheesy, it’s true. Recently in my Bible reading, I’ve found many instances where God wins a huge victory for His people against incredible odds. Over and over again, He reminds His people that the battle is His to win. He reminds us not to be afraid or discouraged! Even against the greatest odds, He can still win because He’s God. I highlighted this above verse from Chronicles in green (the color I use for the topic of weight loss in my Bible).
Then this past week, in my women’s Bible study, we looked at the character Deborah in Judges 4-5. Over and over again, this study reminded us ladies that the battle belongs to the Lord. At the time of Deborah, the Israelites were in a desperate situation. They had disobeyed the Great I AM and worshiped other gods, so the Lord allowed them to be sold to and oppressed by the king of Canaan (Judges 4:1-2). As we see in Judges 5, the streets were so dangerous that people didn’t travel on them (verse 6), and the cruel oppression lasted 20 years (Judges 4:3). Finally, God’s people cried out to Him.
The king of Canaan had 900 iron chariots and hundreds of thousands of armed soldiers. But, we see that in Israel “not a shield or spear was seen in 40,000 people” (Judges 5:8). The study said this would be like 900 tanks with armed forces marching up against a small force without a single gun – yikes! But, God can work in impossible odds if we cry out to Him. Jeremiah 29:12 reminds us that God listens when we call on Him, and come and pray to Him.
God told Deborah to tell Barak to take 10,000 men to a certain location on Mount Tabor and that He would deliver them from their enemies. The leader agreed but asked Deborah to come along. Not only did she have faith and speak what God had told her, she acted in obedience to that faith by going along into war. I personally might have been terrified to go along with the plan, but she took action to match her beliefs.
And, most importantly in this story, God saved the day! When the Israelites went to Mount Tabor, the vast army from Canaan went to meet them and in doing so went into a valley. From there, we learn that God sent a terrible rain storm (Judges 5:4) and the iron chariots couldn’t move in the mud. The warriors fled, leaving behind their weapons, which the Israelites took and overcame the army! The glory didn’t belong to Deborah or to Barak but to the Lord, who acted on behalf of His people and rescued them amidst their desperate situation.
Can you relate at all to this story? I sure could! I even thought about the fact that it was the Israelites’ sin that got them into that awful situation in the first place. They had just been saved by a previous judge and gone right back into the sins they had committed before – worshiping idols and man-made gods. It was God’s discipline that allowed them to be in a situation of oppression. But, God didn’t leave them there to rot! When they turned to Him, He rescued them.
Twenty years is a long time to experience oppression. I’ve battled weight that long! Some of you may have been battling even longer. The speaker this morning said that for some of those fighting Israelites, oppression was a way of life (the only life they had known or could remember). Their hearts, minds and eyes only saw their dire situation and they had no hope for victory. But, when they cried out to God, He delivered them in ways that ONLY He could, for His glory alone.
If you’re in a hopeless situation, pray! Even if your own sin lead you to the situation, humble yourself, repent and turn to the Lord. Perhaps in His great love and mercy, He will rescue you, too. This story reveals to us God’s character (and I believe His character is unchanging). If His heart was this big for a people who screwed up royally (and continued to do so later on!), His heart is big for you, too. Worship Him alone today, cry out to Him, believe His answer and act according to what He tells you. Then watch as He alone wins the battle, saves the day, rescues you, and receives the glory due His Name!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the Bible. Thank You for the truth found in these stories. Thank You for revealing Your unchanging character to us. God, we confess that it is our own sin that has lead many of us into this situation. It was my own overeating and laziness that got me to the weight I am. But, God, I beg You to have mercy on us. We want to worship You alone and have You satisfy our deepest desires. Help free us! We turn to You and cry out for help. Please save us! When our situation seems downright impossible, we believe just as Your Word says ‘NOTHING is impossible’ for You! Act, Lord God. Speak – tell us what to do and help us walk it out in faith. May we be used for Your glory! And when victory comes, may we continue to praise You rather than go back to the sin that snared us in the beginning. May we serve and honor You in all we say and do. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!
We sang this song in Bible study this morning, and it was a good reminder to me – enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMZ8D6nTKhg