Monday, August 31, 2015

Samson's Strengthening Witness

15Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.
17So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
18When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.c And his strength left him.
20Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”
He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.
21Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison.  (Judges 16:15-21)

Thoughts: Samson was strong.  His strength was a gift of God- but Samson gave up that gift by disobeying God.  He allowed himself to be infatuated with women who did not believe because they were beautiful- valuing physical strength and beauty over the soul.  He told the secret of his strength and that knowledge cost him his freedom.  When Samson disobeyed, the Lord left him (vs. 20).  Samson is a very sad story.  He ended up with his eyes put out.  He killed many Philistines.  But he could have really rescued his people if he had used his gifts wisely.  Samson is a warning to listen to God and not value our own beauty or strength above pleasing God.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to calue you and your way.  Keep me strong in every way- but especially strong in faith.  

Samson- Peter Paul Rubens

Gideon's Shaky Witness

12When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
13“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Thoughts: If you have ever been nervous about standing up for your faith then maybe you can sympathize with Gideon.  The Midianites were nomads who raided and destroyed the crops of Israel.  The angel appeared to Gideon and told him that God would deliver through him.  He was very hesitant.  He couldn't figure out the problem with evil and used that as an excuse not to fight evil at first.  Then he couldn't figure out why him- he was not influential or powerful.  But the lesson of Gideon is that God can use anyone to make a difference for Him.  Gideon then put out a fleece as a test twice to confirm his vision.  Then Gideon destroyed the altars to other gods and blew the trumpet to assemble Israel.  God shrunk the army to only a few hundred to show what He could do with the weak and helpless.  The Midianites defeated themselves in the end by God's help.  If we feel inadequate we should not give up in our witness for God.  

Prayer: Lord, if I am weak, be Thou strong.  Use even me to make a difference for you.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Joshua's Witness

14“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord15But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! (Joshua 24:14-16)

Thoughts: In the beginning God tried to give Joshua courage telling him to be strong and courageous by focusing on the Word of God (Joshua 1:8).  At the end of his life Joshua recounted to the people of Israel that God had been with them and had helped them conquer the land against the odds.  Joshua pointed out that God had done this for them- and not the gods of the peoples.  

Prayer: Lord, when you have led me and saved me, help me to give you credit and glory.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Moses Deutero witness

The book of Deuteronomy (literally "Second Law") is a reiterating of the Law of God before the people entered into the promised land.

4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.a 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Thoughts: Moses wanted all the nation to know that they need to love God, and to teach that love to their children.  The faith was to be passed on.  In some ways that is the key witness of Moses.  He not only brought the Law, but he taught us to pass that teaching on because God is the God of all generations.  He is not just God of the past or of creation- He is God now.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to hear your great Word and to respond in love to you with my heart, soul, and strength. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Moses the Friend of God

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. (Ex. 33:11) 

16On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountainb trembled violently. 19As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.c
20The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up  (Ex. 19:16-20)

Thoughts: Moses was the friend of God.  This was a title given to Abraham and a title Jesus gave to his disciples (Jn. 15:15). God is knowable and lovable.  He is not an impersonal force or an uncaring maker.  This is the good news.  God cares for us- caring about our behavior.  When we mess up He offers a way to start over. 
One of the way God cares for us is in revealing to us His will.  The Ten Commandments have stood the test of time as a great way to live.  These Ten are not just negative prohibitions but they have implied positives.  So not committing adultery means being loyal and faithful to your spouse and your body.  So not stealing implies the positive of being content but also being generous.  So not lying also means preserving the truth.  So not coveting means being content with what you have.  So honoring parents does not simply mean not disobeying them.  So keeping the Sabbath means doing deeds of love, mercy, worship and rest.  Moses was the one used by God to convey these ways of living to His people.  It is a blessing that God cares about what we do.  Moses was the ultimate witness to the Law- and to God's care for us through telling us the ideal way to live. 

Prayer: Lord, give me ears to hear your care through your Law.  Help me to be your friend as Moses was- listening to your voice.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Witness of Moses

2God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord3I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty,a but by my name the Lordb I did not make myself fully known to them. 4I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. 5Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
6“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’ ”
9Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.
10Then the Lord said to Moses, 11“Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.”
12But Moses said to the Lord, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lipsc ?” (Exodus 6)

Thoughts: Moses witnessed to Pharaoh that there is a true God- the God of Israel.  Pharaoh did not know or acknowledge God, so the plagues came to soften his heart.  But Moses also witnessed to the people of Israel who seemed to have little faith.  Though Moses felt he did not have the gifts of speaking (6:12), yet Moses words were very important. 

Prayer: Lord, use me to speak to believers and non-believers about you.  May my faltering words be used of you to make a difference and set the captives free.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Aaron father of priests

Then the LORD said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. (Exodus 7:1)

12When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Exodus 17:12,13)

1“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. (Exodus 28:1)

8The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. 9Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff.
10The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” (Numbers 17:8-10)

Thoughts: Aaron is the brother of Moses but is also called the prophet of Moses.  He became the head of the priests and priests only came from his line.  Aaron was not without his faults.  When Moses left to go up on Mt. Sinai the people were put under his care.  But when Moses came back they were worshiping the golden calf.  Aaron offered excuses and asked for forgiveness.  Two of his sons offered unauthorized fire- they did not worship in the prescribed way- and were killed.  Later Aaron (spurred on by and with Miriam) contested Moses' leadership.  Perhaps these things led Korah and his sons to say that they had just as much right to be priests.  In a clear contest the earth opened up and swallowed them.  Later Aaron's staff blossomed overnight in a contest in the Tent of Meeting to prove his family was the chosen one.  Aaron held up Moses' arms for victory.  But Aaron also lifted up the people to God and spoke of God to the people.  He sacrificed for them and blessed them too (Aaronic blessing is Numbers 6:22ff).  Aaron's witness was steady but sometimes quieter than it should have been (like at the golden calf incident).
    Aaron was a willing servant.  When he messed up- which he did in major ways- he was quick to repent and ask forgiveness.  He had a love for his people that led him to serve them tirelessly for god.  We can learn from his devotion and his willingness to ask for forgiveness.  

Prayer: Lord, forgive!  Lord have mercy!  Lord keep me faithful in my work for you.  

Friday, August 21, 2015

Miriam's Faith and Doubt

4I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. (Micah 6:4)

19When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemene went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. 21Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:19-21)

1Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.2“Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lordheard this.
3(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
4At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. 7But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. 8With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
9The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
10When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprousa —it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
13So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!” (Numbers 12)

Thoughts: Miriam was an interesting character.  She followed Moses when he was a baby in a basket to assure his safety.  She was bold enough to speak to the Princess of Egypt so that Moses would be nursed by his own mother.  She was a poet and wrote one of the most ancient songs we have in existence (Exodus 15:21) in celebration of what God had done for His people.  But later she spoke against Moses' marriage to a Cushite- a non-Israelite who was black in skin.  Because of her usurpation of authority her skin was turned white through leprosy for seven days.  Miriam repented but died not long after this event.  Miriam was, like every witness, flawed.  Like Peter, she was a great example- singing praise to God.  She risked everything for her brother's safety, but much later she and her brother Aaron questioned Moses' authority out of jealousy and a desire for their own power. God leaves no room for pride against Moses' humility.
         Miriam is both an example and a warning.  She is an example of risk for faith and rejoicing in faith.  But she is a wanring to not let pride destroy the work we do for God.

Prayer: Lord, help me to learn from great examples and be warned of pride.  May your grace rest upon me.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Moses Mother's Witness

1Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, 2and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basketa for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
5Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
7Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
8“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. (Exodus 2) 

Thoughts: Moses' mother, in tradition, is name Jochebed.  We know very little about her except that she dared to spare her son and sought to nurture him at risk to her own life.  She hid Moses, then made a basket for his escape.  She ended up nursing her own child and doubtless had a special relationship with him growing up. Technically, Moses' mother was un-named. She only sought to bless her child, and risked everything for his existence.  Today, women should want to protect their children and also to protect their children's souls.  

Prayer: Lord, guard my children.   Let me risk my all for them, yet let them also be faithful in my love for you.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Joseph's Persevering Wisdom and Trust

19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21)

Thoughts: Joseph was a man of great patience and perseverance.  He went through many a trial.  But he also had a good combination of wisdom and trust.  He was wise enough to trust in God, and also wise enough to use the gifts God gave him.
     Joseph persevered and kept his faith though he was thrown by his own brothers into a hole, threatened with death, and sold into slavery.  It would be easy to give up the faith when you are in another place with no support.  God raised him up and Joseph used his wisdom to be a leader in Potiphar's house. Yet he was falsely accused.  Again, he could have blamed God.  Instead Joseph kept his faith in God Even in prison, Joseph's leadership skills came to the fore and he interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh's servants.  God raised Joseph up three times- the last time as head over all of Egypt- the mightiest country in the world at that time.
      Joseph had three prevailing characteristics that we need to be aware his perseverance, his wisdom, and his trust in God.  IN the midst of the difficulties of life- the sickness, the death, the sins- we should not give up our help and trust in God but persevere using the wisdom God gives us.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to persevere with trust and wisdom as we face the horrors of life.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tamar's Perseverance

24About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”
Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
25As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”
26Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.
27When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez.a 30Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah. (Gen. 38)

Thoughts: We should not get all hung up on ancient cultural practices here.  Instead, we should look at the attitudes and souls involved.  Judah comes across as the one who is in charge- you sleep with her- you wait until this one grows up.  Yet Judah had a sinful side- wanting to go into a temple prostitute.  Prostitution is not approved here.  The prostitution involved meant a part of the worship of the fertility god Baal or his consort Ashtoreth.  Judah was prostrating himself down before these other gods when he went into the prostitute.  Tamar kept waiting on Judah to do the right thing.  He both avoided doing the right thing (giving Tamar to his son) and practiced doing the wrong thing (going to a prostitute).  Yet Tamar's righteousness saved her and helped her.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to wait on you to come through in the end  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jacob's Dream

10Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13There above itc stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.d 15I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28)

9Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’ ” 

Thoughts: Jacob had two dreams.  One when he left (Bethel) and when he came back.  The first dream was a dream of promise that defined God to Jacob and helped define who Jacob is and would be.  God came to Jacob to introduce Himself as the same God of yesterday but also the God of the future who would promise him and his descendants a future and a hope.  Jacob realized that God didn't just live in heaven, nor is He stuck on earth.  "Bethel" means "house of God."  (Genesis 32)
    When Jacob came back and was about to confront his armed brother, Esau, whom he deceived twice, he gave thanks to God.  Jacob was not proud, but humbled.  He was not the deceiver (the name Jacob means "crooked" or "deceiver") that he used to  be.  In fact in another dream Jacob would wrestle with God and have his name changed to "Prince of God" (Israel).
     In the end, Jacob believed the promise of God and gave thanks to Him for his prosperity.  

Prayer: Lord change me from a deceiver to a prince.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Fear of Isaac

22He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth,e saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
23From there he went up to Beersheba. 24That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
25Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. (Genesis 26)

Thoughts: Isaac's faith shown in keeping the faith of his father.  But it also shown in his willingness to not fight over those who wronged him.  He was pushed out of the city.  He was pushed away from green pastures.  He kept digging wells and others would claim the water- and water was scarce.
     God came to Isaac and promised to be with him- Immanuel.  In response Isaac called on God- trusting and praying to Him.  There he lived, and there he dug a well and found water.  Where God is, we can live.  Isaac learned to trust in God.  We can too. 

Prayer: Give me a simple, but growing faith.  Help me to trust in you, the One in whom my fathers trusted.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


14May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
15Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.
17The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”
18“Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
19After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels.  (Genesis 24)

Thoughts: Abraham was a strong character. Jacob was a strong character.  But we know little about Isaac's faith except he kept it and passed it on (more tomorrow).  However, Rebekah proved her faith and probably was the strongest person of the two.  Rebekah was a virgin- this was stated to point out her devotion to purity.  Rebekah was a true servant going the extra mile for a stranger who could not guarantee any help for her (as far as she knew).  In the end, Rebekah was willing to leave her home to go hundreds of miles in trust in God.  Later Rebekah would help Jacob be blessed, believing God had chosen the blessing for him.  She had real insight and relied on God for the future too. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to serve others and to therefore serve you.  Help me to always be seeking your blessing.