1 Kings 13:4-5 When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the LORD.
I am so curious what this looked like! He stretches out his hand with great authority and it shrivels up. That must have been a sight. And I wonder what the look on his face was. It must have been priceless to see him totally freak out. A couple weeks ago I was working on my computer when it froze up, followed by the awesome blue screen of death. My face must have been something to see. I was in shock, horror, disbelief, and freaked out that I may have just lost everything. (Fortunately, I didn’t) But my little meltdown doesn’t even come close to the shock, horror, and disbelief King Jeroboam must have felt when he saw his hand.
Here’s the thing: his hand was his power. When he stretched it out and commanded someone to be arrested, it happened. But the the Lord took away his power. He removed his authority. Which tells me that regardless of how important the king thought he was, no matter how powerful he was in his own eyes… God was really the one in charge. It’s so true, isn’t it? God is in charge.
However, sometimes we think that we are. We stretch out our wimpy arms and make bold powerless declarations. But God is the only one with absolute power. So it would be in our best interest to line our lives up with His commands, His heart, and His authority. If we do so, we will never be embarrassed by a weak display of perceived power. Instead, every move we make under His authority will be powerful and effective.
Luke 4:31-32 Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.
Have you ever been taught by someone who didn’t know their material all that well? Have you ever heard a singer who doesn’t really know that they are good? That voice comes out all weak and timid. It’s in there somewhere, they just don’t have the confidence to belt it out. Or have you ever met a Christian that doesn’t understand his complete spiritual authority in Christ, so he is timid about his faith. Maybe that’s you.
What struck these people in Capernaum about Jesus wasn’t his well constructed message; it was the authority in which he taught that message. You see, while the content is important, so is the delivery. And the best delivery comes from a place of confidence. Jesus was confident in who he was and what he was preaching. He knew his purpose and his destiny. So he preached boldly with authority. He didn’t make apologies or say “um” 73 times during his message. He simply spoke out the truth.
We can do the same, you know. Jesus left us that same authority, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to tiptoe around the enemy, we can stand strong in the authority given us by Christ. Just show him your badge and keep moving forward. We can boldly be who He has created us to be. We can live out a new creation life with confidence. That is what will send the message to our world. Jesus made no apologies, he simply walked in authority. His message hit their ears, but it was his authority that caught their hearts. Give it a try today. Try standing in the authority you have in Christ and see what happens.
I Samuel 26:21-24 21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.” 22 “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”
In today’s reading, we have yet another instance where David had the chance to kill King Saul but didn’t. Last time, he cut off the hem of his robe while he sat on the throne… not the royal one, the porcelain one. Today, we read that Saul was sleeping when David snuck into camp and took his spear and water jug. He then travels a safe distance and calls out to Saul’s camp, “Why are you trying to kill me?” Again, Saul realizes his sinful ways and apologizes to David – again. This time, however, Saul tells David to come back and refers to him as “son.” He promises not to try to harm David again.
David’s response? “I’m not that stupid.” Good for David, you know. It would be so easy to get caught up in the approval of the king or for restoration to take place. But David was wise. He tells Saul to send one of his young men to come get the stuff. There is no way he is going to walk back into that camp with everyone awake. I applaud this wisdom, this discernment. We need this kind of wisdom in our lives, don’t we? We need to know who to trust. We need to know who is reliable. This kind of wisdom, the kind David had, comes from God.
Wisdom led David to honor the king and at the same time, not trust his motives. Because even though God had promised David the throne, he did his part to stay alive while he was waiting. He wasn’t recklessly counting on God to bail him out. He exercised wisdom. I pray that I have this kind of wisdom in my life. I pray that it will guide my decisions, my actions, and my thoughts. I pray that it will define my relationships and my leadership. Lord, give me your wisdom today!
Judges 21:23-25 23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the girls were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them. 24 At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance. 25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
In the last chapter of Judges, the Israelites come to the conclusion that they have made the mistake of almost wiping out one of the tribes of Israel. I guess you would call this “killer’s remorse.” They are stuck now trying to figure out how to repopulate the tribe of Benjamin. The problem is: they swore to God that they would not give their daughters in marriage to this tribe who did these evil things. Now what?
Apparently the best solution was to think and act like a bunch of neanderthals. Seriously, these guys make the Geico cavemen look like geniuses. Their first bright idea is to figure out who didn’t show up for the mandatory assembly and kill all the people in that town except for the virgin women. Then they forced those 400 women to marry the Benjamite men. Oh, but there weren’t enough women to go around. Now what?
I’ll tell you now what – more stupidity. It went something like this: “Alright guys, hide in those them fields over there. When you see some dancing girls, snatch one up and take ‘er for yer wife. Just smile at her real big with ‘yer toothless grin and she’ll surely fall in love. Trust us, it will work.” Isn’t this a bit meat-headed? Is this the best they could come up with? Neanderthals, I tell you.
Which leads to the “aha” statement of the entire book of Judges. It is a statement that has been repeated many times over and is so appropriate to follow this last story. The statement: In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. Which reminds me why leadership is so important. When everyone does as they see fit, we end up with all kinds of crazy stories like the ones found in Judges. We find ourselves doing bone-headed things like these guys. I, for one, am thankful for Godly leadership. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit to lead me and convict me. Many people think that ultimate freedom is complete unrestraint and independence. However, the ultimate freedom comes when one is safely being led. It comes with the right authority. When we are safely being led, we are free to be. And I am thankful for this leadership in my life. Because the last thing I want to do is act like a neanderthal.
Judges 19:29-30 29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!”
I did NOT want to write about this chapter today, mainly because I was disturbed. Here you have the story of a Levite and his concubine (kind of like a wife, but considered purely property). She runs away, he goes after her, and they journey back home. On the way home, the men of a village want to have sex with the man – okay gross. Instead, they take his concubine and completely rape and abuse her to death. I can’t even fathom this whole scenario. It is disgusting and vile and every other wicked word you can come up with.
So when the Levite gets home, he cuts his dead concubine up into 12 pieces and mails them to all the tribes in Israel. I have received a lot of packages in the mail, but imagine receiving a leg or an arm. That’s just plain wrong! So why did he do it? What drove him to this extreme thing? The first verse of the chapter gives us a clue. It said that Israel had no king; they had no leadership. And without leadership, lawlessness prevails. That’s partly what led to the horrific thing done to this concubine. But it’s also what led the man to this odd mass mailing. He had no leader to appeal to for justice. He had no judge, no supreme court. So he appealed to the entire nation and I guess he thought this was the best way to get their attention. He didn’t have email, twitter, or the local news to get the word out. He had to rely solely on himself.
Which makes me grateful for leadership. It makes me grateful for order. Without leadership in our lives, we are forced to figure out on our own what is right. Without leadership, we don’t have anyone to hold us accountable for our actions, and the depravity of the human condition will emerge in a leaderless society. So we need to be led, whether we like it or not. That’s why I value leadership so much. There are times where I think it would be easier to be out there on my own not having to answer to anyone, but I recognize the danger in that kind of thinking. So I surround myself with accountability and leadership over my life. And it starts with God. We must first let Him lead and from there allow Godly leadership into our lives. Because once we venture out on our own, we will eventually find ourselves in danger with no one to cry out to.
Judges 8:22-23 22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.”
Today’s passage gets to the very heart of why Gideon was successful. In this chapter we see a different Gideon – we see a confident Gideon. He destroys anyone in his path with such great confidence that it is terrifying. The scared wimpy Gideon of the past is gone and the mighty warrior of God has arrived at the scene. And the best part about it is that he realizes why he is different. He recognizes the change in identity and purpose. The difference is the changing power of God in his life.
So when the Israelites come to him and ask him to rule over them, he simply responds to them with the truth. He says that he will not rule over them, but the Lord will rule over them. The thing is: Gideon did rule over them. He was the big boss; he ruled the nation. But Gideon pointed toward God with his leadership. He told them that God was the real boss. God was the CEO, the CFO, and the COO. He was the real one in charge.
It’s the most effective way to lead really, God through us. With God, all of your shortcomings become a non-issue. With God, all of your wisdom is trumped by all of His. So when we lead our homes, our kids, our friends, or our companies, we should remember Gideon. We should remember that it is the Lord who is truly leading. Let’s just make sure that when we say that, we are really letting Him lead. Doing so will produce the greatest success anyone’s ever known.
Judges 5:31 “So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! But may they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.”
Finding Nemo – a classic movie for kids of all ages. It’s the story of a dad on a journey to find his son. He comes across many obstacles and dangerous situations. And at times, he wants to give up. But his friend Dory somehow keeps him motivated to go on. There is this one moment in particular when he is discouraged and she begins to sing: “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” She knows that sometimes you just have to keep going. Giving up isn’t an option when the end result will be so rewarding. Such is the case in life. Sometimes you have to keep on swimming; you have to keep on moving.
In Judges 5:31, we come to the end of the song of Deborah. She has just led the people in victory and helped return them to the Lord’s ways. She makes this statement at the end, may all your enemies perish, O Lord. The good news is this: all of His enemies have perished. They have all been defeated. We are just a few days away from celebrating Good Friday and Easter. But we cannot make them into holidays on a calendar. They are greatly significant.
The cross and the empty grave are the very places that Jesus defeated the enemy. They are the place where He robbed Satan’s power. We must be mindful of that fact and live our lives as though Jesus actually won! He had the victory 2000 years ago and He still has the victory today. And you know what, He will have the victory tomorrow. So what do we do with that? Do we live defeated lives like He’s still dead or do we live like He is alive? Do we live like He has the victory?
You see, we have Jesus Christ alive in us. He sent us His Spirit to empower us to really live. And it is our job, church, to uphold the victory of the cross and empty tomb. We must stand firm in what Jesus has done. So whether we feel like we can do it or not isn’t all that important. What is important is that He did it. And we must continue standing in His strength and His authority. We must keep swimming, for the reward is just up ahead.