FIRST ASSIGNMENT

Samuel laid back in bed. The torch was still burning in the tabernacle. That was his assignment each night…keep God’s light burning.

“Samuel.”

He sat up and ran to Eli’s chamber. “What is it?”

Eli rolled over to face the youngster. “What do you want, Samuel?”

“You called for me. I want to know what you need.”

Eli sighed. “I didn’t say anything. I’m trying to sleep. Go back to bed.”

Samuel returned to his position in the tabernacle.

“Samuel.”

He ran back to Eli. “Here I am. What do you need me for?”

The old man shook awake. “Samuel, what’s got into you tonight. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep here? Go back to bed.”

Samuel muttered as he walked back to the tabernacle. “I know I heard him call my name. There isn’t anyone else here. It had to be him.”

He laid back down.

“Samuel.”

He ran back to Eli. “I know I heard you call for me. Who else could it be?”

Eli looked up. “I’m sorry, Lord.”

He reached out a hand and waited for Samuel to grasp it. “The next time you hear your name called say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'”

Samuel swallowed as he released Eli’s hand and returned to his chamber.

“Samuel.”

When Samuel opened his eyes a man was standing near him. “Speak, your servant is listening.”

“I’m about to do something that will capture everyone’s attention. The sins of Eli’s family will not be tolerated much longer. I warned him about not restraining his sons. Their sins cannot be covered by sacrifices forever.”

Samuel sat on his hands to keep them from shaking.

************

The legend of Samuel carries on to this day. This was a huge step in the process of making this man who would be used in mighty ways to help the nation of Israel to become the greatest nation in the world.

The first step in that process came before he was even conceived. His parents were godly people.

Samuel’s dad took his family to the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God, annually. That’s extremely significant when you remember this was during the period of the Judges…a time when everyone did what was right in his own eyes. God was feared by dad.

Samuel’s mom dedicated her firstborn son to God at the tabernacle on one of those sojourns. The infertility of Hannah, combined with her reverence toward God, made her say a vow that she carried out to the letter. God was honored by mom.

Samuel had an incredibly godly legacy to build on.

When Eli was given the responsibility of rearing this kid it was a second chance to get that right. He failed miserably with his two sons who were supposed to carry on the role of priest for God’s people. The elderly man took this opportunity seriously and did it well.

With that as the backdrop God steps into young Samuel’s life directly.

God had been so distance from Eli for so long even he didn’t recognize God’s presence when it came.

Where are you in this process?

Are you fearing God?

When I ask that question what first came to mind. Did you see yourself cowering in a corner of a room waiting to be struck by lightning? Most people do.

God does have that much power, but He has just as much love for you, too.

For those of us reared in a family where both parents were present we need to remember how we thought about our dads after we did something we knew was wrong. We knew punishment was imminent. Dad was the last person we wanted to cross paths with, but we knew he loved us, too.

Our earthly fathers are to be a representation of our heavenly Father. Too bad there are too few good examples of that today.

Have you made a dedication to God?

Don’t think children are the only thing that can possibly be dedicated to God. Your life can be dedicated, too.

When I suggest that don’t think you have to go to Africa to be a missionary to carry this out. Dedicating your future may mean taking a stand in your current workplace. It could be being more active at church or another organization. It could simply mean studying the Bible more to hear from God better.

Making God number one in your life is dedication to Him.

Are you passing on God’s principles to the next generation?

If you have children definitely start there. If your children are grown teach your grandchildren about fearing and loving God.

If neither of those opportunities is open to you find a young person to mentor. This generation of young adults is floundering now. Too few of them have a solid foundation to build on. They’ve been fed so many lies in school they don’t know what to believe.

When you step in to teach them about God and His truths as found in the Bible take it slow, but be deliberate.

You only need to change the course of one life to have an impact on several people in the future. If you skip this opportunity to make an impact the next generation will continue to wander in the wilderness and miss God’s kingdom altogether.

Eli taught Samuel as much as he could. God’s second chance wasn’t wasted.

By the time God did speak to Samuel the Creator of the universe was a real part of the young man’s mindset.

God can use anybody. He always does.

You can help prepare someone for that transformation today.

That pebble you drop on the surface of the ocean won’t make much of an impact now, but the ripples will go on for quite some time.

Help God steer those ripples by doing your part to focus a young person toward being used by God in mighty ways.

It’s not too late for you to make a difference.

God’s plan is to use you, too.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

A DEDICATION REQUEST

Elkanah sat at the table after serving everybody. He looked at his favorite wife. “Hannah, why aren’t you eating? I’ve given you twice as much as anyone else. Don’t let the food go to waste.”

Peninnah snickered. “I don’t know why you throw the food to a dog like that. She’s only eating for one. She always is.”

A tear rolled down Hannah’s cheek.

Elkanah rubbed her shoulder. “My love, I should be worth ten sons to you.”

Hannah sat in silence until everyone left the table to get ready to go to the tabernacle. She sulked out to speak to God on her own.

She sank to her knees when she reached the front wall of the dwelling place of God. “Oh, God, why? Why? What have I done wrong? What must I change? I’ll do anything for children…anything. I am Your servant, Lord. If you give me a son I will bring him here to You. He will be set apart for Your use. A razor will not touch his head.”

“Woman, why are you so drunk this early in the day? Have you no shame?”

Hannah sat up straight. She looked to her right and found the priest Eli looking at her. “No, my lord. I’m not drunk. I swear. My heart is shattered. I’m pouring my pain out to God. That’s all. Please believe me.”

Eli let out a huge breath. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion. May God grant your request.”

Hannah stood then bowed to Eli. “Thank you. Thank you.”

She returned home and ate her food while everyone else went to the tabernacle.

************

So begins the book of 1 Samuel. A woman praying to God about the pain in her heart.

Most of our prayers are basic. Hopefully we remember to be grateful for what we have. We ask for something we want to have and/or ask for something for someone else.

Occasionally we’re at the point Hannah found herself in, or worse. The pain is so deep. Our emotions are so raw. We’re at a loss about what we should ask God for.

We’re told Hannah prayed silently while her mouth went through the motions of talking. That’s why Eli thought she was drunk.

Hannah was so focused on getting her pain out to God everything around her was gone.

She didn’t know Eli was watching her. If she did she didn’t care.

All that mattered was getting the pain out by bringing it to God so God could help her deal with it.

God still hears those types of prayers.

Now He helps us when we can’t find the words to express how distraught we are.

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

God’s Holy Spirit indwells every born-again believer in Christ so we have an advocate while we pray to God.

Two things are important to notice in those verses.

First and foremost the Holy Spirit prays according to God’s will. That means the pain may continue for a while. It may last the rest of your life. Prepare for that possibility.

Many people are so conditioned into thinking if there’s something wrong in our life God will fix it to bless us.

I have some hard news for you. God is not in the blessing just to bless business. He wants to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. That usually requires a lot of suffering.

This world we live in is broken. So are the people we share this planet with. One person’s pleasure sometimes comes at the expense of another person’s pain. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is.

We’ll never know full peace and blessing until we’re in heaven with God.

While we’re here we’ll have pain. Fortunately, God understands this.

The second part of those verses to remember is our intercessor occasionally runs out of words for our pain, too.

Yeah, even the Holy Spirit can’t tell God what we want to say because our pain is so intense.

Read verse 26 again. The Holy Spirit groans for us when the hurt is too excruciating.

There is no promise of relief from this pain, only understanding.

I don’t find a formula prayer to pray for freedom, either.

We must trust God is up to something and He knows what He’s doing with us.

Butterflies must struggle out of their chrysalis in order to survive. If you cut it open for them they’ll die.

The effort of breaking free strengthens the heart. After they breathe air that heart must pump blood into the fragile wings. Only after the vessels are spread out are the wings ready to set that bug to flight and freedom from the gravitational pull that kept it earthbound.

Your struggles are making you stronger, too. I don’t know what, or who, God is turning you into, but He does.

There are others going through similar circumstances.

After you come through this mess a stronger person you can help them see how it’s done.

They’re looking for hope. Your story will give them that hope.

When they learn someone else groaned those same utterances they’ll listen to you.

The verse that follows those verses tells us all things are working together for good, not that all things are good when they happen.

Hardship, pain, suffering and struggle are a part of living life.

That’s why God’s Spirit groans for us and with us.

God also promises to wipe every tear away in heaven.

Peace and blessings will overflow then.

Until that time take things one step at a time if that’s all you can manage.

Pour out your heart to God.

He’s listening and waiting to hear your groans.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

TELL ME MORE

A woman walked to the rock she chose for daily quiet time.

Suddenly a man appeared. His face was almost glowing. “You are about to conceive and give birth to a son even though you have been barren. Make sure you don’t drink anything from the vine or eat anything unclean. Never use a razor on his head. He shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb. He will begin to deliver My people from the Philistines.”

The woman ran home. She found Manoah and got his attention. “I met a man today. He must have been sent from God because his face was like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Manoah sat in a chair. “What’s his name? Where is he from?”

“I…I don’t know. I didn’t ask and he didn’t say. He told me to stay away from alcohol and unclean things because I’m going to give birth to a son who will be used by God to deliver us from the Philistines.”

Manoah fell to his knees. “Dear LORD, please send that man back to tell us more about our son.”

******

A few days later the woman was on her stone again when the man appeared. She ran to tell her husband. She found him repairing a tool. “He’s back!”

Manoah stared at her. “Who?”

“The man from God.”

Manoah crossed the room. “Take me to him.”

She led him to the field. The man was still near the rock.

Manoah was panting as he leaned on the rock. “Are you the man who talked to my wife a few days ago?”

“Yes.”

Manoah stared into the man’s eyes. “What are we to teach our son? What will he do with his life?”

“Don’t let your wife drink wine or even eat grapes. Don’t allow her to eat anything unclean.”

Manoah swallowed. “Please let us prepare you a meal. I have a young goat.”

“I will not eat a meal, but you can offer it as a sacrifice on this rock.”

Manoah stood, then stopped. “What is your name so we can honor you when our son is born?”

The man shook his head. “My name is too wonderful for you to know.”

Manoah and his wife walked back to the house. “Grind some barley while I get some wood and the goat.”

They returned to the rock where the man was still waiting. The wood was arranged on the rock. The goat’s throat was slit before it was placed on the wood. The flour was thrown on the fire.

Manoah stood next to his wife to see the expression of the man. The heat from the flame shook the man’s appearance. He rose with the smoke into the sky as he disappeared.

Manoah fell to his knees. “We have seen God. We’re about to die.”

His wife knelt next to him. “If we were going to die He wouldn’t have accepted our offering. Besides, we have a son to make now.”

Manoah smiled as he led his wife back home.

************

Manoah is so like me. God tells him he’s going to be used for a purpose and the man wants to know the details.

Did you catch that?

Manoah asked God to come back after the news is delivered that they were going to have news to deliver about a son. This guy wants to know what they’re supposed to teach this kid and what his occupation is going to be.

God is as God always is. He doesn’t deviate from what He said earlier. “Don’t let your wife drink any alcohol or eat anything unclean because this boy is special.”

Wayne Stiles has a great quote from his book, Waiting on God. “We want God’s plan so we can trust the plan. God hides the plan so we will trust Him.”

If we knew most of the details about our future we’d do our best to change them.

God is shaping us into the instrument He needs by what we endure. Pain is often included in the process. We want to avoid pain at all cost.

Let God be God. Don’t try to tell Him what to do and when to do it. You’re just setting yourself up for frustration when you do that.

Manoah was so out of touch with his spiritual life with God that he had no clue he was talking to God, in the form of Jesus (yeah, it’s complicated), until God disappeared with the smoke.

Are you on speaking terms with God? That’s what prayer is.

Do you recognize God when He shows up? He’s everywhere you know.

Is God your heavenly Father? Jesus died to make that a reality.

Our spiritual life is much different from what Manoah and his wife experienced because of what Jesus did on the cross. Take Jesus’s gift of eternal life now so God is real in your life.

I wondered why God didn’t tell Manoah His name here. Then I realized the man was probably planning on naming the boy after this guy he was talking to.

If that would have happened we wouldn’t be telling the stories of Samson, but I Am.

The book of Judges records a pathetic period of Israel’s history. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

I hope that quote caught your attention. That’s not from today’s newspaper or internet news service feed, but it could be.

We have enemies attacking us now just like Israel did back then. God used judges to rescue them then.

We have the Judge coming to rescue us soon.

Jesus’s second coming isn’t spoken about as much as it should be.

When He does come there will be no doubt who He is. His judgement will be final.

The enemy will be bound and Jesus will sit on His throne.

Those of us who accept Jesus’s death as the death we deserved will be with Him as He reigns.

If you’re reading this it isn’t too late for you.

Become God’s child today.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

TESTING GOD

Gideon tapped the heads of wheat against the rim of the winepress. The pile inside looked like enough for about two ephahs.

He glanced over his shoulder. I hope the Midianites don’t find me here. They shouldn’t since grape harvest won’t occur for a few more months.

A minute later he looked around. He caught himself against the winepress when he found a man sitting under the terebinth tree.

The man smiled. “Greetings mighty warrior. The LORD is with you.”

Gideon stood and approached the man. “If the LORD is with us why are the Midianites destroying our crops?”

“I’m sending you to defeat them.”

Gideon looked around. “Who, me? I’m a nobody from one of the weakest tribes. What can I do?”

“Don’t worry. I will fight for you.”

“Wait here while I prepare You an offering.”

“I’ll wait.”

Gideon selected a choice goat for the most tender meat. While a flank roasted he baked some bread without yeast. He diced the meat into a basket and poured the broth into a pot. He carried the meal to his guest.

The man pointed to a rock next to him. “Put the food here.”

Gideon set the meat and bread on the rock and poured the broth over it.

The man touched the food with the end of his staff. Fire came from nowhere and consumed the food. The man disappeared.

Gideon fell to his knees. “I have seen God face to face.”

He heard the man’s voice. “Don’t worry. You will live. I want you to destroy your father’s altar to Baal. Take the wooden image next to it and sacrifice the second bull from the herd.”

Gideon waited until the men in town went to sleep. He selected ten servants to carry out God’s request.

********

Soon the Jezreel Valley was filled with the armies of Midian and Amalek.

Gideon felt a surge of courage fill him. He blew a trumpet and sent messengers out to assemble an army.

He paced in his tent while the men assembled over the next two days. A prayer exited his lips. “God, if You are going to use me to defeat this vast army then show me a sign. I’ll set a fleece out tonight. Put dew on the fleece, but not the grass.”

God did that to the extent of a bowl of water being wrung out of the fleece the following morning.

Gideon swallowed and sent up another prayer. “Tonight put dew on the ground, but not on this fleece.”

Gideon’s feet were drenched after he walked through the grass to reach the dry fleece.

He was confident when he saw how many men assembled for him.

God spoke to Gideon. “There are too many men now. They’ll claim victory from themselves when they win. Tell everyone who is afraid to return home.

About two-thirds of the men returned home.

Gideon heard God’s voice again. “There’s still too many. Take them to the river. I’ll sort them out there.”

He separated those who drank water from their hands from the majority who drank from the river.

“The three hundred are the ones who will win with Me.”

Gideon swallowed.

“If you need reassurance go to the camp with Purah.  “

Gideon crept to the edge of the Midianite camp and listened to a conversation two men were having.

“I dreamed a barley loaf rolled down the hill and knocked over one of our tents.”

“That could only be the God of Gideon defeating us.”

Gideon felt a surge of confidence as he bowed his head before they returned to camp.

 He gathered all his men around. “God has given us the victory. I want each of you to take a torch. Cover your torch with a pot in your left hand. Carry a trumpet in your right hand. On my mark smash your pot, blow your trumpet and yell, ‘The sword of the LORD and of Gideon.'”

When they had circled the Midianite camp the plan was carried out successfully.

************

I love how God used this cowardly man to carry out a great victory. But, then again, that’s God’s favorite way to operate.

Gideon admitted his weakness. God saw that as his greatest strength. I find great solace in that.

I find it interesting how God spoke (prayed) to Gideon five different ways in this narrative.

  1. Face to face under the terebinth tree. God showed Himself to His servant to begin this ordeal of choosing a leader to save His people.
  2. With only His voice. Once Gideon knew God’s voice there was no need for physical proximity.
  3. Through nature. The fleece test was requested by the weak man to gain assurance of victory.
  4. Through testing. As God whittled the army down from 32,000 to 300 Gideon’s resolve would be tested.
  5. Through the dream of an enemy soldier. God reached out to give His warrior one last assurance by sending him to the enemy camp to hear of a dream one of them had.

Some people wish God still spoke to us like He did in the Old Testament times. I don’t.

We have a much more efficient means of hearing from God.

  1. We have the Bible. God wrote the Bible, His Word, to us through several writers with the same message; God is powerful and wants a family relationship with us we can’t obtain on our own efforts.
  2. We have prayer. Our prayers are always heard as God’s children. Our heavenly Abba longs for our attention.
  3. We have the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit was given to a select few in the Old Testament. After Jesus ascended to heaven God made His Spirit available to all of His children. And He won’t take it from us.
  4. We have a Savior. The Messiah was a future promise to them. Jesus is our sacrificial atonement to bring us to God now.

God may not call you to lead a great victory like Gideon.

Each small win you obtain over the enemy is great in God’s eyes.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

WE’RE DOOMED

Joshua waited for his spies to return from Ai. “So, what do you think? Can we take it?”

One of the men nodded. “Ai isn’t anywhere near as big as Jericho. We’ll only need two or three thousand men to wipe them out.”

Joshua nodded once. “Good. That’s what I was thinking, too. Choose three thousand of our best and get it done.”

********

A couple of hours later the men came running back to camp.

Joshua stood and waited for them to catch their breath. “What happened?’

The man in charge looked at Joshua. “I don’t know. We thought they were going to stay in their walls. When they came rushing out at us we panicked, I guess. As near as we can tell thirty six men died back there.”

Joshua tore his robe open. “No…we’re doomed.”

He walked into the tabernacle and fell before the ark. No words came so he just let the tears flow.

As the sun neared the horizon he poured out a prayer. “Why, Lord? Why did we cross the Jordan at all? We could have settled over there. There was plenty of land for us. Now the people here will band together and destroy us completely. What will You do for Your great name then, Lord?”

God’s voice was clear and loud. “What are you doing on your face, Joshua? The reason you failed is because I’m not fighting for you now. Someone took some stuff from Jericho. Everyone knew that was off limits. Assemble the tribes. I’ll let you know which tribe they’re in. Bring that tribe by household, then family, and then man by man. The man who took the accursed things must be burned with the items along with everything he has. Then I will restore My power to your efforts.”

Joshua did as commanded to discover Achan had a robe, gold and silver from Jericho hidden in his tent. Achan’s entire family was burned and covered in stones to erase any possibility of a recurring event.

Ai was then soundly defeated. Further conquests began with council with God to ensure victory.

****************

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here. I’m sure glad I live on this side of the cross of Jesus. God’s grace is much better to live with than His justice.

Joshua didn’t have that luxury. He lived with a simple formula to live by: obey God and receive His blessings, disobey God and receive His wrath.

Achan thought one person taking some of Jericho’s spoils wouldn’t effect anybody. After they conquer the land he’d be able to enjoy this stuff and probably help his family move ahead quickly because of the wealth they’d start out with.

He forgot one extremely important thing about God. You can’t hide anything from Him. God sees every hidden item and knows every secret you have.

Now I have to ask: are you trying to hide anything from God?

Notice I said “trying” to hide. People can be fooled. They only see things with their eyes.

God is omnipresent. He’s everywhere. You can’t hide anything…and I mean anything, from Him.

Those emotions you’re holding back, God knows all about them. He’s waiting for you to tell Him about them. Find a secluded place if you need to and let it out in prayer. I don’t mean a simple, quiet prayer you say before a meal.

I’m talking about a scream at God as if He was standing right in front of you type of prayer. He’s your loving heavenly Father. He can take it. He’ll still love you with His unconditional love only a true father can give.

This may mean sending everybody away so you have the house to yourself or going for a long drive alone. Whatever it takes…do it so you can move away from it now.

You may have to dig deep into a closet and throw some items away that are keeping you stuck to a past event, relationship or habit.

The best way to move forward is to remove everything that entangles you and keeps you from moving ahead.

You can’t take any items with you when you die. Don’t let them kill you now.

Achan took only a few items. Those things cost 36 fighting men and his entire household their lives.

I don’t expect you to be perfect, neither does God. I’m just using this moment to get you do look deep inside to discover what’s holding you back.

You do want to live your life more like Jesus. Don’t you?

He didn’t have any closets. He didn’t even have a house or apartment to hide anything in because He never had anything to hide.

Time talking to God was such a priority to Him He missed out on sleep to gain as many minutes with His heavenly Father as He could.

He wrote the Bible so spending time reading it wasn’t necessary for Him. We need to spend as much quality time in the Bible as we can fit in.

Prayer is our chance to talk with God. Reading the Bible is God’s main means of communicating with us.

I don’t mean a quick scan by reading the entire book in a year. I’ve done that in the past and found it lacking in really hearing God speak to me. It was good at developing the discipline of setting aside daily time to concentrate on something related to my relationship with God, but that was the most I got out of it.

Read a section until something catches your attention. Then re-read it while asking questions that come to your mind. Savor it like you enjoy a good meal.

A spiritual meal is exactly what you’re getting.

God is feeding your soul while drawing you closer to Him.

One of the lessons Joshua learned about Ai was in contacting God before the battle.

If he had than he would have discovered the transgression sooner.

Victory only came after the sin was dealt with.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS

Thirty one days after Moses walked to the mountains Joshua entered the Tent of Meeting and knelt down.

God’s voice was clear. “Moses is dead. Prepare everybody to cross the river and take possession of the land I’m giving them. As I was with Moses I will be with you. Nobody will defeat you. Be strong and courageous as you lead these people. It’s important that you follow My laws so you will live long in the land. Be strong and very courageous.”

Joshua left the tent and approached the elders. “Have everybody prepare to cross the Jordan in three days.”

********

It’s been suggested to me that whenever I take on a new endeavor in my life I should read the first nine verses of Joshua 1 for thirty days straight. I’ve found that advice tremendously helpful because of the encouragement God repeats to His new leader here.

I condensed God’s prayer communication here because I found something very intriguing as I studied this passage during my time in it.

Verses five through nine are written as a Hebrew poem to help people memorize it.

Thanks to having a seminary professor as a Sunday School teacher I learned a bit about ancient Hebrew poetry found in the Bible. It isn’t written in rhyme like modern poems, that wouldn’t translate well into other languages.

Hebrew poetry uses repetitive ideas spaced in an interesting sequence to make their point. It uses eight “lines” of a poem. Each line may be a few words or a couple of sentences.

The first concept is repeated at the eighth line, also; the second at the seventh, the third at the sixth, and the fourth at the fifth. It looks something like this: A B C D D C B A.

I’ll show you how this plays out in Joshua 1:5-9 as best I can.

  1. A. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.
  2. B. Be strong and courageous,
  3. C. because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.
  4. D. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.
  5. D. Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
  6. C. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
  7. B. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
  8. A. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.

I don’t think I could write a doctoral thesis on this, but it is interesting to discover it in my studies. These kind of things show up when you concentrate on one section of scripture over breakfast for an extended period of time.

It’s quite in intensive Bible study method.

If you want a way to pass down an important lesson to future generations a poem is a great way to do it, especially when most of them are illiterate and stories are the primary means of doing such.

Repetition in the Bible is always something to pay close attention to. “Be strong and courageous” is the main repeated phrase God gave to Joshua.

This crossroads of leadership change came with extreme circumstances. God used Moses in mighty ways to lead the people out of slavery from the most powerful nation at that time. That’s a big shadow you’re standing in as you lead these same people into the land God had promised to their forefathers.

For over four hundred years the Hebrews were taking orders as to what they had to do each day. God had led them the past forty years to get them here. This fledgling nation was on the cusp of settling into homes and the right to decide for themselves what to do with their lives.

I would want as much encouragement as I could receive at that time, too.

It’s also important to note the huge condition that falls in the center of that Hebrew poem.

Obedience to the laws God gave Moses would be the key to successful living in this land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Moving the inhabitants out was one thing. Keeping invaders out would prove much more difficult, especially when the invaders came from the gods left behind by the inhabitants.

God gave Moses very specific guidelines for His people to follow. Moses meticulously recorded these rules so they could be obeyed by every generation.

There’s even an interesting geographical feature in this promised land that was supposed to be used to amplify the importance of following these laws. Two mountains stand divided by a narrow valley. Mount Gerizim is flourishing with trees. Mount Ebal is barren rock.

Representatives from half of the tribes were to stand on Gerizim and declare the blessings from God for obeying the law. The other half of the tribes were to stand on Ebal to declare the curses from disobedience.

This ritual as described in Deuteronomy 27-28 was only carried out once by Joshua after their victory at Ai.

The ultimate failure to obey God’s laws showed us the need for a savior to rescue us from ourselves. We’re incapable of  reaching God by our actions, especially when His standard is perfection.

Jesus was the only person who fully obeyed God’s laws. The reason He could is because He didn’t have a human father.

No sperm was used for his conception. God’s Holy Spirit entered Mary’s egg to become Jesus, fully God and fully man.

When we couldn’t reach God He reached down to us and died in our place.

To enter the ultimate promised land accept Jesus’s death as your own.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

COLLOSSAL FAILURE

“We did what God told us to do. Why didn’t Pharaoh let us go worship God?”

Moses shrugged. “Hopefully the leaders of the people will have some answers for us after their meeting here.”

The door to the palace opened. The Hebrew contingency approached Moses and Aaron.

“You said you were going to lead us out of here and back to the land God promised to Abraham. All you’ve done is make our lives worse. Why don’t you just go back to the desert you came from?”

“First they stop bringing us straw. Then they tell us we have to find our own. Now they demand we keep making the same amount of bricks whether we can find any straw or not.”

“The beatings aren’t worth this false hope you gave us. Just leave us alone.”

Moses watched the men leave.

Aaron grabbed Moses’ sleeve. “What are we going to do now?”

Moses shook his head. “This wasn’t my idea. I need to talk to God to see where we went wrong.”

Moses walked off for solitude. Aaron followed the Hebrews back to Goshen.

When he felt alone Moses dropped to his knees. “Why have You sent me here? Things have only gotten worse. You haven’t delivered Your people at all.”

The voice from God shook Moses’s bones and made the hairs on his arms stand up. “Now you will see how I’ll deal with Pharaoh. Not only will he let My people go, but he will drive them out of his land when I’m done with him. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew Me only as God Almighty. You will know Me as YHWY and will become My people. I will be your God as I fulfill My promise to bring you to the land I gave to Abraham.”

********

I’m so glad God included this in Moses’s experience to lead God’s people out of Egypt. He thought all he’d have to do is go in, tell Pharaoh to let God’s nation worship Him and that would be all there was to it.

Don’t we all think like that?

We hear God’s voice, or read a scripture verse that feeds a longing to do something for God. Then we set out to do it knowing God has prepared us for this. Only to be stymied and stopped before we even begin.

How many times have you read this story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt and missed this event?

Failures are not final. Set backs are not set in stone.

Moses kept at it. So must we.

It took ten massive miracles displaying God’s power over all the Egyptian gods before Pharaoh relented to Moses’s request.

Several months passed before Moses saw success.

Don’t be surprised when you see the same seeming failure.

God is building your perseverance, strength and resolve.

When a chick breaks its way out of an egg the struggle builds muscles that bird will need to survive.

Moses would have to intervene for God’s people several times in the next forty years. His sticking to the task now helped him see the bigger picture in the wilderness.

An easy early success leads to a prideful attitude. You’ll start to think you can do this in your own efforts and power.

The more you must trust God to come through for you the more successful you’ll be in the long haul.

Embrace failure as your crutch to lean on God for success.

God introduced another intriguing bit of nuance to His relationship with Moses and His people during this conversation. It occurred with a name change.

Names carry significance in the Bible, especially God’s names.

Adam knew God as God. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew God as God Almighty, the God above all other gods.

Many translations of the Bible print this new name for God as LORD with all capital letters.

The Hebrew language didn’t use vowels so this new name came out as YHWH and was pronounced Yahweh. Some folks preferred to say the Y and W with hard tones so they prefer the name Jehovah.

The way this name is pronounced or spelled isn’t as important as the meaning of this new name.

God was now coming down to intercede and intervene for His people. No longer would He come to speak to a single individual on God’s timetable.

Beginning with this prayer Moses approached God with an issue and God replied to the item at hand.

Moses would later speak to God on a mountain, then in the Tent of Meeting while in the wilderness.

God would lead His people with a cloud and give them guidelines to live by.

But, first He had to display His power to the Egyptians to prove His dominance and dominion.

God Almighty was becoming more approachable and real.

Now that we live on the other side of the cross where the final transaction was accomplished with the phrase, “It is finished.” We are adopted into God’s spiritual family and we call Him “Abba.”

It’s a very intimate name that’s the first century equivalent to Daddy today.

God is still very much dominant, preeminent and powerful. There is no other higher than Him.

But, with the adoption papers signed with the blood of Jesus He’s not only approachable He’s as intimate as a father.

The Creator of the universe who spoke everything into existence desires our attention.

He gave us the Bible to not only see the relationship change throughout the centuries, but to give us guidelines to live by and to speak to us today.

Prayer is our means of expressing our emotions and desires to Him.

Jesus gave us an example of how to live this out when He would go off by Himself to pray.

I’ll never forget seeing my mom reading her Bible in the middle of the kitchen while us seven kids ran through the house playing on winter days.

Take your relationship with God seriously enough to make a difference.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

A Voice From a Fire

“Come along fellas. We need to eat the top of the mountain and work down. Most of you know that.” Moses looked back. The sheep were following him up the trail.

They settled into a high meadow with good grass. The sheep were soon content as they chewed their meal.

A crackling sound caught his attention. Moses squinted up the slope and saw a bush on fire.

He tilted his head. “I’ve seen bushes burn here before, but, where’s the smoke? That can’t be right.”

He walked toward the bush to get a better look.

“Moses. Moses.”

He stopped and looked around. “Yes, I’m here.”

The fire spoke again. “Remove your sandals. The ground you’re standing on is holy ground.”

Moses quickly slid his feet out of his footwear.

“I am the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Moses raised his cloak up to cover his face. How dare he look at God and expect to live.

“I’ve seen the mistreatment of My people in Egypt. I’ve come to deliver them out of their bondage and return them to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You will be My leader for this task.”

Moses stifled a chuckle. “Why me?”

“I will be with you to guide you.”

“When I come to them who shall I say sent me? What is Your name?”

“I AM who I AM. Tell them I AM has sent you, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It’s time to bring them back to the promised land. Go to the elders of Israel. Tell them to go to Pharaoh and ask for three days to come and worship me. He will not let you go until he sees My power at the cost of his first born. Then you shall ask of your neighbors and they will give you gold, silver and all of their valuables to get rid of you.”

Moses turned to glimpse a bit of the fire. “But, what if the elders don’t believe me. Is there some proof that You spoke to me?”

“What is that in your hand?”

“It’s my walking stick. I use it to guide the sheep sometimes.”

“Drop it on the ground.”

When he did it immediately became a snake. He jumped back.

“Pick it up by the tail.”

Moses approached the snake and grabbed its tail fully expecting it to turn and bite him. Instead it became his staff again. He carefully inspected the top of it. No tongue or eyes were visible.

“If that’s not enough then put your hand in your tunic.

When he did a numbness covered his hand. When he pulled it out it was white like the sheep.

“Now put it back.”

As the hand went into his clothing the numbness left. He pulled it out and made a fist before he straightened his fingers.

“If those aren’t enough you are to dip some water from the Nile and pour it on the ground. When you do it will become blood on the land.”

Moses’s head dropped forward. “But, I’ve never been good with the Hebrew language. I struggle with finding the right words. Please, send someone else.”

“Who made man’s mouth and gave him a language? Your brother, Aaron is on his way here now. Tell him what we talked about. He can speak to the people. You can speak to Pharaoh. I will guide both of you as to what to say.”

When the crackling stopped Moses looked at the bush. Nothing on it looked the least bit charred. Moses made plans to return the sheep to his father-in-law and return to Egypt.

Aaron met him halfway down the mountain.

********

This ranks up there with one of the most bizarre ways God ever got anyone’s attention.

Ever since then some folks have been looking for their own bush to find God in.

The problem with that approach is they’re looking at the wrong part of this whole ordeal.

God didn’t speak from the bush. God spoke from the fire.

The light from heaven came down to announce the rescue of His people and return them to the land promised to their ancestors.

Moses was chosen to lead this exodus. He tried once before in his own strength.

God now gave the go ahead to Moses with the promise of God’s power to carry it off.

With God timing is everything. Move too soon and you’ll fail. Wait on God and you’ll succeed.

The preparations were well made. Moses knew Egyptian. Aaron knew Hebrew. Together God had a team to carry this massive undertaking off.

Too many people have misapplied this passage to teach Moses was full of excuses of why he wasn’t the man for the job.

There was only one time Moses suggested that and that was after he realized God was right. Then he also realized nobody could lead a couple million people out of the most powerful nation at that time without an all out war.

No, Moses had plenty of time to think this all out since he fled Egypt to save his own life.

My question to you is: are you ready to do your part to lead people to the promised land?

Jesus called us to be a light in the darkness.

The promised land is eternity with God in heaven after we die.

We don’t need a magic stick, a changing hand or water that turns into blood.

We need our testimony of how God changed our own life into something new.

One person at a time is all we’re called on to deliver from bondage.

Jesus’s blood is the detergent that will clean the filthiest life into wool-like white.

The Holy Spirit is the one who ultimately speaks to a person’s heart to see the need of a savior.

It’s our job to give the Spirit something to work with.

Start with your immediate family, then co-workers.

God is calling you to build his kingdom.

Don’t keep making excuses.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

A Final Assurance

Jacob looked at all the carts, sacks of grain and animals before he stared at his sons. Simeon’s face was too sad for a proper reunion. “What is the meaning of all this stuff?”

Benjamin walked up to his dad and grasped Jacob’s shoulders. “Joseph sent them. He wants us to bring you to him.”

Jacob squinted at his youngest son. “What are you talking about? Joseph is dead. I saw his coat myself.”

Judah cleared his throat. “But, there’s a reason you never saw his body.”

Jacob glanced at each pale face of his ten eldest sons. Benjamin guided his father to a bench.

Reuben came over and knelt on one knee. “The man we’ve been dealing with in Egypt is Joseph.”

Jacob pushed back a wave of grief as he stared at his eldest son. “But, you said he was killed by wild animals. How can you know this is Joseph?”

Levi spoke up. “He sat us by birth order for a meal. Nobody in Egypt would know that but Joseph.”

Jacob shook his head. “How would you know Joseph would be in Egypt?”

Reuben placed a hand on Jacob’s thigh. “We sold him to some traders going that way. As far as we knew he was dead by now. But, God has been with him.”

Tears steamed down Jacob’s cheeks as he grabbed Reuben’s hand. “My Joseph is still alive. I shall see him before I die. How soon can we go?”

****

 When the caravan came to the place Jacob grew up he stopped them to reminisce. Beersheba was empty now. The echoes were all in Israels’s head.

He looked at Reuben. “Bring the strongest bulls here to the altar.’

He stared at Levi. “Bring the best rams. Hurry!”

He grabbed Simeon’s arm. “The best of the goats must be given to God. Find the strongest ones.”

The ground was soon soaked in blood. The sky filled with smoke.

A feast was enjoyed by all that evening.

Laughter and voices filled Jacob’s tent as he laid down for the night. A prayer to God preceded slumber. “We’re leaving the land You promised us. We must, for food and…I must see Joseph again.”

A tear rolled into his beard.

God appeared to Jacob in a dream. “I am the God of your fathers. I will make you into a great nation in Egypt. It’s My plan for you to go there. I will bring you back here again. Joseph will be with you at the end.”

********

The story of God’s chosen people takes an interesting turn here. The boy who was sold into slavery has risen to the throne of the most powerful nation at the time. To survive the famine the family must go to a foreign land to live.

What would become of the promise of the land?

Would the family stay together?

Is there some way we can stay and live?

These must have been some of the questions floating around Isreal/Jacob’s head. God waited until he was stilled in sleep to speak to him.

God assured the old man he was in His will here. Egypt had a place in this family’s saga.

As I look at the big picture here I see some interesting things regarding prayer.

  1. God spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob several times to guide them. Abraham went to Egypt once then returned to the land. Isaac was stopped by God from going to Egypt. Jacob was forced to Egypt by the worst famine ever imagined.
  2. God never spoke to Joseph directly, nor any of his brothers. Joseph’s boyhood dreams were as close to a divine communication any of them ever received. Yet, God was definitely in every step of each of their lives.
  3. It would be over four centuries until God would reach out to anyone from this family in direct communication. I’m sure several people must have thought God forgot about them during their time of slavery, until the burning bush.

Wherever you are in this spectrum believe God is working in your life, too.

If you’re receiving assurances and open doors then proceed with abandon for God’s kingdom.

If you’re living off past promises then keep plugging along until you see those promises fulfilled.

If you’re surrounded by heart ache and hardships keep taking one step at a time. Your burning bush may come without notice, too.

Living on this side of the cross means God is working differently than He was back then. We can have a relationship they only dreamed of. The indwelling Holy Spirit is alive and active today.

There may still be times of “silence” from God, but He’s still involved.

We have the promises of scripture to spur us on. Let’s use them that way.

God may bless for a season like there’s no tomorrow. Move full steam ahead my friend.

For several generations Jacob’s descendants looked forward to returning to the land promised to Abraham. We, too, are looking forward to a promised land.

Actually, a kingdom awaits us.

Jesus promised His followers that He would build homes for us in that kingdom.

There’s an address book with the names of its occupants.

Our goal is to find as many of those residents as we can.

As soon as the last name is uncovered Jesus will come back and judge those who refuse to believe Him.

If your name is in that book you will reign with Jesus in that kingdom.

Those are the promises we are given, not promises of a great life here and now.

Suffering and heart ache will be normal for us here.

Peace and tranquility will be ours for eternity there.

Build your relationship with God strong now. In other words delight yourself in Him.

Then He will give you the desires of your heart, not your heart’s desires. There’s a difference.

Jacob’s sacrifices showed God where the old man’s heart was.

What sacrifices are you making for your heavenly Father?

Show Him your love. He’ll spur you on, too.

I’ll see you later.   Wade

Time To Go Home

“What have you two done? Everybody’s going to gang up on us and destroy us in no time.” Jacob fell back in his chair.

Levi stepped forward. “We are not going to let any man treat our baby sister like a piece of trash to be used for his pleasure.”

Simeon grabbed Levi’s shoulder. “The men of Shechem had to pay for their indecent act. If we let them get away with it everyone else will do the same to us. They had it coming to them.”

Levi shrugged his shoulders. “Besides, what’s done is done. We’ll deal with the consequences when they come.”

When Jacob thought about what must have happened, first to his daughter, then to the men of Shechem, he fell forward with his face in his hands as tears filled his palms.

Simeon and Levi walked away.

****

As Jacob paced in his tent that night God spoke to him. “Return to Bethel and build an altar to Me. Remember your vow when you fled from Esau.”

He gathered everyone around for a family meeting the following morning. “We must move south now. The God who met me at Bethel told me to return there and build an altar to Him. Purify yourselves and change your clothes. Bring all the foreign gods to me now.”

Jacob was shocked at the size of the pile when he hid all the gold under a tree. His own wives had as much as the women from Shechem did.

****

Jacob dismounted his camel and limped up the hill to the pillar he erected over twenty years earlier. He stared at the sky where he dreamed the ladder filled with angels was that night.

When he finished stacking stones for the altar Joseph brought a rock over and tossed it on the pile. Jacob smiled as he patted his son’s head. He poured oil on the altar before they made camp at the base of the hill.

That night, Deborah, the woman who helped raise Jacob, died in her sleep. Jacob mourned the passing of that generation’s impact.

God appeared to Jacob in his tent. “I am God Almighty. You shall no longer be called Jacob. Israel is now your name. A mighty nation shall come from you. As I gave this land to Abraham and Isaac I now give it to you and your descendants.”

****

While Israel’s family traveled farther south to live in Hebron Rachel went into labor. They stopped to await the arrival of the newest family member. When Benjamin took his first breath Rachel took her last one.

********

Sometimes God has to do terrible things to get someone’s attention to get them to change.

Jacob, the schemer, told his brother they would come to him at a slower pace. When he detoured and bought land from the folks near Shechem a tragic turn of events cost his only daughter her virginity and the men of the village their lives.

The deaths of the woman who helped rear him and his first love would drive the point of passing the point of no return home to this strong-willed man.

God even faced him and reiterated the name change to Israel to get His point across yet again.

The building of an altar by that pillar from the dream of angels and God would help solidify the whole ordeal.

Unfortunately, this would be far from the last of Jacob’s trials from God.

How has God attempted to get your attention to make changes?

It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re living out of God’s will when these changes occur. It simply means God is molding you to use you in a great way.

Count yourself blessed when God chips away at you to use you in a special way.

Very few individuals are close enough to God for such service.

People who have lost loved ones to death know grief in a way others can only guess at.

When a spouse leaves you after promising to stay till only death separates you a recognition of how God feels when someone walks away from Him ensues.

The betrayal of a close friend helps you see how deeply Jesus loves even those who betrayed Him.

Don’t despise these unfair treatments. Embrace them as gifts from your heavenly Father to nurture you into His special instrument of love to those who hurt deeply.

When God told Jacob to return to his pillar the first thing Jacob did was forbid all false gods to travel with him any further.

Take a close look at what’s keeping you from a more intimate relationship with God.

Are there toxic friendships destroying your relationship with your spouse or God?

Is your loyalty to a sports team distracting you from worshiping God on Sunday morning?

Do compromises at work whittle away at your moral standards?

Call your false gods what they are and bury them. Then walk away into a fresh future.

There were some practical reasons for the tragedy at Shechem.

The women Jacob’s sons took from there would become the wives of the twelve sons to propagate the great nation during their 400 years in Egypt.

The land purchased became the pasture Joseph searched for his brothers at only to be told they went farther north. That began another molding of a great leader in Israel’s history.

A fear of these men’s God took hold in Canaan after these teenagers wiped out an entire village. Their god must have been better than the god of Canaan.

God is molding you into a special instrument, my friend.

You have unique talents and experiences to be used in remarkable ways.

You may not lead a nation, but you may impact someone who will.

Everything that happens to you occurs for a reason.

That reason may not become known to you in this life.

Trust your heavenly Father to know what’s best for you.

He has a plan that involves you to further His kingdom.

Embrace your trials to become more like Jesus.

I’ll see you later.   Wade