Monthly Archives: March 2014

Waiting Yet Another Day

“The Lord said, ‘Go! Tomorrow I will give you victory over them.'” Judges 20:28b

This morning as I finished reading the book of Judges, a portion of a story stuck out to me that hadn’t the previous times I’ve read the same passage. To give you a brief background (found in Judges 19-20), the tribes of Israel had been summoned by a fellow Israelite whose concubine had been raped and murdered in the town of Gibeah in the land of Benjamin. The Israelites agreed that the men who had committed this evil should be punished, but the tribe of Benjamin wouldn’t give them up. So, the other tribes of Israel went to war with Benjamin.

“Before the battle, the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, ‘Which tribe should lead the attack against the people of Benjamin?’ The Lord answered, ‘Judah is to go first'” (Judges 20:18). So, the Israelites had consulted with God about what they were to do. And yet, when they went into battle, Benjamin’s warriors killed 22,000 of them in the field the first day (Judges 20:21).

What!?!? Weren’t the Israelites trying to do the right thing by getting rid of the evil among them? Hadn’t they consulted with God about their decisions? Why did they experience defeat when taking the first step?

The Israelites went up to Bethel again and wept in the presence of the Lord until evening; they asked God, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?” and the Lord said, “Go and fight against them” (Judges 20:23). So, they went again to fight but the men of Benjamin killed another 18,000 Israelites who were experienced with a sword (Judges 20:25).

WHAT!?!?! Again!?!?! The Israelites were obeying God’s orders. They were doing the right thing. Why, why did they experience defeat another day? It stuck out to me so much that I’ve thought about it all morning. And I think I’ve *possibly* found a couple answers (if you’ll stick with me).

Judges 20:26 tells us “Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord and fasted until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord.” And the Israelites went up seeking direction from the Lord. This time when they asked the same question of God – should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again or should we stop – the Lord answered, “Go! Tomorrow I will give you victory over them” (Judges 20:28).

Moving down a few verses, the first part of Judges 20:35 tells us “So the Lord helped Israel defeat Benjamin…”

So, why did the Israelites have to wait for their answer or help from God? Why was it on the third day that they finally experienced the victory? Obviously I can’t even pretend to know what God thinks or feels, but I can read the Bible and make some observations.

The first thing that jumped out to me was that after the second time of experiencing defeat, the Israelites went up to Bethel (where the Ark of the Covenant of God was) and they wept and fasted and brought offerings. Their hearts were turning toward God because of their circumstances. Throughout the book of Judges, we see how the Israelites kept forgetting God and instead worshiping idols. Reading these stories made me feel sad and almost sick. Yet, God continued to rescue them and have a heart for them. Perhaps it was for their own good that He waited to answer so that they would return to Him with their whole heart – with tears and with fasting and with offerings. Perhaps this was the very moment that He could speak to their hearts again! Wasn’t it worth experiencing a little discouragement for returning to where they should have been all along?

Next, I think if the Israelites would have had success on their first venture out, they may have taken the credit for the victory (as my previous blog post mentioned from Judges 7:2). After all, there were 12 tribes in Israel. Even if the Levites didn’t participate (which this didn’t say that, so it could have been all 11 tribes), that would leave ten tribes going against one. It could have looked like an easy battle to win. But, in reading that they were continuing to get beat, we see their absolute NEED for God. Could it be that God was revealing that fact to them? When we pray and have to wait, do we realize our absolute reliance on God and that it’s ONLY through Him that we can achieve victory?

Finally, as I was sitting here writing this, the thought came to me that they won the battle on the third day. Does “third day” mean anything to you? We as Christians should think of the third day as Jesus’ resurrection – the day that the battle is won once and for all. Satan was defeated forever and Jesus provided the key to our salvation. Could this story parallel the New Testament victory on the third day? Maybe…and I’m willing to concede that that may not have been God’s plan. Truly, His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

I do believe that God had a plan in waiting to give the Israelites the victory. You see, He knew in advance the end of the story. While they wept, He knew that rejoicing was right around the corner. While they fasted, He knew the full plan and the outcome.

My sweet friend, have you been praying for something? Have you longed for it in your heart? Do you believe that it’s “right,” something that God has confirmed to you? And yet, maybe you have yet to see the end result? Instead, you see defeat and discouragement… have you wondered WHY!?!?!

Well, if so, take heart! I would guess that your story isn’t over yet. Keep pressing into God – weep, fast, seek God, make your sacrifices… and when you hear God saying, “Go! Tomorrow I will give you the victory…” then obey what He says and rejoice in what only God can do! For it’s God who answers our prayers and helps us achieve the victory.

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You once again that You are in control. God, we realize that we don’t know the end of the story. But, we believe that You do. We know that You have a plan and a purpose. May we continue to praise You as we wait. We come before You and ask for Your direction. God, is what we have in mind Your plan and for Your purpose? Please tell us a clear YES or NO – stay or GO! And then we humbly ask that You would lead us into victory. Not victory for our glory, but for Yours! Thank You for Your help. Lord, we confess there have been times that we have forgotten You and looked to other idols in our lives. Please forgive our sin, Lord God! Blood of Jesus, please cover our transgressions! Thank You for Your victory on that third day. May we never forget but live intentionally to remember You in all we say and do. May our love for You make us desire to do and say the right things for Your honor and glory. We want to be children of Your light, born to worship You and live for Your purposes on earth. Finally God, with all thanksgiving and praise, we humbly ask You for the victory TODAY. For those who have continued to feel defeated, may today be the day that we hear from You that victory is ours. We praise You as we wait to hear Your words for our lives. In Jesus’ Name we pray, AMEN!

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The Battle and the Victory Belong to God

“‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.'” John 9:3

This morning before my long run, I was reading in Judges and was reminded once again of God’s almighty power. Why is it in our busy day-to-day life that we fail to remember that God is in charge and has already won the battle?

From my reading: God called Gideon to lead the Israelites – this man was from the weakest clan in all the tribe of Manasseh and he was the least in his entire family (Judges 6:7). [So, it wasn’t because of Gideon’s “greatness” that God chose to use him.]

At this time in history, the Israelites had continued to sin against God by forgetting Him and worshiping other gods. So, the Lord had allowed their enemies to oppress them. But, when they cried out for help, He continued to be faithful and rescue them. [If your situation is because of your own sin, take heart that there is still a God who cares and will rescue us when we cry to Him!]

Judges 6:33 tells us “Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel.” To put it in layman’s terms, the Israelites were in deep doo-doo! Realistically, looking at the problem without God’s perspective, the Israelites didn’t stand a chance.

Let me stop here and say that this is how I felt when I thought about losing weight. I had someone tell me in tears the other day that it’s just so hard to lose weight. I got teary, too, because I KNOW!!!! When you reach a certain weight, it comes from years and years of habits that are hard to brake. It feels impossible to say no to eating (who can survive without food?), and who has the time or the energy to work out? Even if we try to work out or skip one dessert, sometimes the scale will go up instead of down for various reasons – and the discouragement is more than we can bear. Trust me, I’ve been there! I was so obese and so used to being the fat girl that I looked at the battle without God’s eyes and had raised the white flag of defeat. I didn’t think change was even possible for that’s WHO I WAS. Or at least, who I thought I was. But, we have to see the battle from God’s perspective. Seriously. We have to see God as the Creator of our bodies and as the One who could snap His fingers and change us or simply speak the word and it would be so!

“The Lord said to [Gideon], ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man'” Judges 6:17. God can make the battle manageable! If He is with us, that’s all we need!

And this next part is where I have to stop and smile. Is there ever part of a story that you absolutely love? Well, this was my “God is so cool!” moment! In Judges 7:2: “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves with their own strength.” Ah, God even knows our weakness and pride!

If we were able to save ourselves, how would God receive the glory? Some folks have told me that my weight loss is from my better eating or from my exercising or running. And while God *may* have used them as tools in my life, I really don’t attribute my success to either one. Honestly, I am still learning how to eat. I still struggle many times (too many times, honestly)! And I enjoy exercise, but it hasn’t “saved” me.  If I could have saved myself, it wouldn’t be God’s victory. I was on my way to being morbidly obese, and God had mercy on me in my struggle. If you have ever struggled with weight – or really, in any area – you know what I mean. If you could fix yourself and save yourself, you wouldn’t need God. And you wouldn’t really have the problem, right? So, don’t become discouraged! For the battle – and the victory – belongs to God!

This is where the first verse comes into play. Perhaps for you, your struggle isn’t from your own sin. Perhaps you have an illness or something else that you struggle with, and you’ve struggled since birth or as long as you can remember. Why? Well, could it be, my dear friend, that God is looking to show off His works in Your life? Could it be so that His glory might be displayed through you? Could this very battle ground be for God’s honor and He chose you, even if you feel like you’re the “least” of your family or town, like Gideon?

Going back to the story from Judges (just in case you’re unfamiliar with the ending), Gideon sent home those soldiers who were afraid and those who lapped water and with only 300 men, God told Gideon to get up in the middle of the night “for I have given you victory over them!” Judges 7:11. Gideon obeyed (and this is where *we* come in – we MUST obey what God is telling us!) and “the Lord caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords,” thus giving Israel the victory (Judges 7:22).

Do you believe that God can heal you? In your heart, do you know that He can? Your first step is believing. Your next step is obeying. I was encouraged this week in our women’s Bible study that the man blind from birth (from the first verse above – John 9:3) was told to wash his eyes without being told that he was going to see afterward. But, he obeyed and his eyes were opened! He had been healed by Jesus!

What is something you feel God is calling you to do? What action can you take today? I encourage you to take some quiet reflection time. And then obey! Remember, you might be in the battle, but the victory belongs to God!

Dear Heavenly Father, we come to You with thankful hearts. We rejoice over the stories You give us in Your Word. Thank You for calling Gideon, for giving Him signs that You were with Him, for guiding him in rescuing Your people. Thank You that You continue to have plans for us today. Thank You even for our weaknesses – for Your glory and Your strength are emphasized where we are powerless and weak. Lord, for those reading this who are struggling with their weight, I want to humbly ask You to turn the playing field. Just like the warriors starting fighting each other as the Israelites watched, please take this burden from each one. Teach us what You want us to do, and help us to obey. Will You take the battle into Your hands and prove that You alone are victorious in this area? Will You help us share our struggles with others, not just to encourage them, but also to glorify and honor You with our lives? Thank You that sometimes You use the most difficult parts of our lives to display Your power and Your work. And, Lord, there’s no place I’d rather be than where You are at work! God, we love You. And we want to take time to confess that we have been sinful. God, we have at times treated food as an idol to be worshiped. Even when we knew we should say no, we’ve indulged the craving. Please forgive us. And please help us to develop a healthy relationship with our bodies, our fuel, and our lives. But, may they not be what we glorify in the end. For, at the proper time our bodies will become dust once again. What we ask is that when they do, the work that You’ve done – the refinement in our lives – will prove to be the most special part of who we are and where You’ve been. We praise You, Lord, for being in charge and for being the One and Only God. We turn these blessings of Yours back into praise for Your Name. Thank You! In the powerful and precious Name of Jesus we pray, AMEN!

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