Category Archives: Old Testament Personalities

What Prayer Does

This morning, I read Psalm 13.  Written by David, it reflected a painfully trying time in his life.  Some scholars believe that he wrote while fleeing from Saul. Others put it at the time of his flight from Absalom.  No matter when he wrote, his words probably convey the way many believers have reacted to their circumstance.

“How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day?” (Psalm 13:2 HCSB)

It seems that David was imagining every conceivable worse outcome to his situation. He felt that God had forgotten him and that God was hiding from him.  His prayer request was simple in such circumstances.  “Consider me and answer me, Lord.”

That does not sound life much of a prayer.  One can’t even get half a blog out that. No one, except those most extravagant with words, could write a book about it.  It doesn’t seem like a power prayer, or something that will result in mountains being cast into the sea.  But, it moved David’s heart, and that was what mattered, because when you ask God to think about you and believe that he does, all the reasons you have to fear and to worry seem smaller.

No longer feeling abandoned, David trusted in God to deliver him.  He heart rejoiced because he had hope of deliverance. David sang because God had been generous to him.

What changed between verse one and the end of the short Psalm?  Nothing changed in David’s outward circumstances.  The only change came in his perspective.  He saw God for who God was. Prayer does that.

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When Under Pressure

This year I have been reading the Bible chronologically.  This is the first time that I have done that. It has proven especially enlightening as I have read the Psalms closer to the historical context in which they were written.  In my journal one morning, I wrote, “The Psalms were written in real life situations.  They were not arbitrary poetic thoughts.  They flowed from trials and triumphs, despair and deliverance, doubt and hope.”

David wrote Psalm 141 during a time of intense pressure.  Those who want to do him harm and evil surround him.  For context, you can read 1 Samuel 21-24.  It is interesting that though David wanted justice and deliverance, this Psalm is more about his concern for his own conduct during that time.  He is trusting God with justice, and he is depending on God to help him to do the right thing.

“Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.” (v.3) He was concerned about His words.  He wanted God to control His speech.

“Do not let my heart turn to any evil thing or perform wicked acts with men who commit sin. Do not let me feast on their delicacies.” (v. 4) David’ concern was that his heart might turn to evil and that he might resort to evil.  From 1 Samuel, we know that several rough, disgruntled people who joined with him during these trials. On different occasions, they encouraged him to avenge himself on King Saul. He prayed to be able to stay righteous in wicked company.

“Let the righteous one strike me— it is an act of faithful love; let him rebuke me— it is oil for my head; let me not refuse it. Even now my prayer is against the evil acts of the wicked.” (v. 5) David prayed for accountability. He valued those who would correct him when necessary. One of the glaring differences between Saul and David was how they handled correction. When Samuel corrected Saul, he clung to power and went mad. When Nathan corrected David, he repented and endured the Lord’s discipline. Correction is an act of love, and it should be given and received as such.

What I learn from David’s life is that when the pressure is on, I need to lean on God even more than before.  It is too easy to crack under the pressure and try to excuse it. It is when the pressure is on that I need to be most disciplined in my words and actions and seek out even more accountability to others.

And about that son of hers…

Samson was both a man’s man and the stereotypical dumb male.  He had the strength of Captain America, the libido of Captain Kirk and the brain of Captain Caveman.  Dedicated to God since before birth, he seemed determined to work against God’s will.  He was not content with good Jewish girls.  No, he chased after Philistine women, much to the pain of his parents.  And he did not show common sense.  Delilah could tie him up, put his hair in loom, and do just about anything, and it seemed to never occur to him that she might be out to get him.  In the end, he broke every part of the Nazarite vow, lost his strength and got his eyes put out.

Yet, God used him.  He took all that rebellion, worked it into His plan and accomplished what had been his purpose in setting Samson apart.  He liberated the people of Israel from the Philistines.  The life and death of Samson shows God’s sovereignty despite the best efforts of humans to work against Him.

The story of Samson is found in The Book of Judges, chapters 13-16.

And for your viewing and listening pleasure:

(My writing has been sparse lately. With work and other projects, I will probably be very hit and miss, but when I have the time, I will try to write something.)

Mother of Samson

Recently, I read through the book of Judges, which a very interesting book of the Bible, depicting when everyone does what is right in their own eyes.  One of the common criticisms of the Bible is its depiction of women.  According to some views, the Bible depicts women in two extremes, Jezebel or the Virgin Mary.  There is not room for the “real woman.” Jezebel and Mary were both real, and there are many other depictions of real women facing life’s challenges as well.

I found one such depiction in the story of Samson.    The story of Samson begins in Judges 13.  Samson’s mother was not named.  She was Manoah’s wife.  They lived in a time when the people of Israel had sinned again and God had handed them over to be ruled by the Philistines.  They had no children.  Scripture says that she was barren.  An angel appears to her, not to her husband, and tells her that she will have a child who will be a Nazirite.

And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”
(Judges 13:3-5 ESV)

She tells her husband, Manoah, who asked the “man of the Lord” come back and explain what they are to do again.  Apparently, he has to hear it for himself.  The angel does so, but once again, he appeared to the wife, not the husband.  She went to get him and when he returned, he asked the angel once again, what they are to do?  The angel basically tells Manoah the same thing he said before, but twice, he emphasizes ‘let her.’  The bearing of the child is the wife’s mission, not Manoah’s, and he is to support her in it.  The rest of the story is interesting, and it is where the wife stands our strongly as a woman of faith, and a faith based logically on whom God has revealed Himself to be.

Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.

The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him.
(Judges 13:15-24 ESV)

Notice Manoah’s reaction compared to her reaction.  He was the one who overreacted.  She was the one who spoke with the calm assurance of faith.  It was because her faith was strong that God could use her for the task.  Being Samson’s mother would be no small task.

Sometimes being the husband means being man enough to admit at any given moment that my faith or understanding of God’s will is weak, and that I need to listen to my wife.  It also means that I should be supportive of her as she seeks to fulfill God’s purposes for her life, just as she is supportive of me in my endeavors.  I don’t see this view as opposed to complementarianism, which I think is the most Biblical understanding of the roles of men and women in the Bible.  I see it as a realistic application of what the Bible demonstrates about those roles in different situations.

Failures in Leadership Part 2

In my earlier post I wrote about Moses at Meribah and how he failed to follow God’s instruction.  As a result, God forbade him to lead the people to the Promised Land.  However, that was not the end of the matter for Moses.  The issue arises again in the book of Deuteronomy, and Moses only compounds his error.

In 1:37, Moses said, “Even with me the Lord was angry on your account, and said, ‘You shall not go in there.’” (ESV) In 3:23-28, Moses asked God to allow him to enter the Promised Land.  God response was basically, “Don’t bring this up again.  Joshua will lead them.”  Why?  Moses said in verse 26, “But the Lord was angry with me because of you….” (ESV)  Moses says the same thing in 4:21.

God had told Moses that he could not enter the Promised Land because of his disobedience and failure to trust God to reveal His holiness.  However, on three occasions, Moses did not take personal responsibility. Instead, he pointed at the people and said, “God was mad at me because of you.”

Any leader can understand Moses frustration with the people. And just about any leader has done the same thing. However, any leader fails when he starts to blame his own personal shortcomings on the people that he leads.  Moses compounded his first sin by failing to take personal responsibility for it.  The best thing a leader can do when he sins or just makes a mistake is to own it and confess it, before the people he leads if necessary. As husbands, as parents, as teachers and church leaders, we will make mistakes and even sin.  The best thing is not to follow making mistakes with making excuses.  Own it. Confess it. Learn from it.

Failures in Leadership

We often look to Moses as the model of leadership in the Old Testament.  In fact, he was a great leader.  He led a people who had grown up in a polytheistic system and led them to belief in the one, true God.   He took them through perils and dealt with complaints and uprisings.  There is no doubt that he was a great man and a great leader.

Yet, in the end, he did not see the goal fulfilled.  He did not personally lead his people into the Promised Land.  God would not allow him to do so.  The story of why is in the following passage of Scripture:

Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him.
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

(Numbers 20:2-12 ESV)

God’s order was to speak to the rock.  Tell it to give water.  Moses was not in the mood to speak to rocks.  He was angry.  After all the people had seen, they still demanded more.  They accused him of being a failure as a leader, and he had enough of it.  So, instead of speaking to the rock, he spoke to the people.  He called them rebels and struck the rock with his staff instead of following God’s directions.  It cost him the opportunity to see the Promised Land.  Why was God so ‘mean’ about what was such a small, understandable thing?

One idea is that the people were starting to become more impressed with Moses’s  staff than they were with God.  After all, Moses had parted a sea with it.  Now, God wanted to correct the misconception.  He wanted the rock to give water at the power of His word without any evidence of Moses’s strength being behind it.  Moses made a mess of it.  He got mad and showed his anger.  God had wanted to show Himself holy but Moses did not trust Him to do it.  Instead of God’s word, Moses used his staff and his own strength.  Interestingly, God gave water anyway.  He displayed his compassion and love for the people Moses had called rebels.  However, from Moses he took the privilege of seeing his task through to the end.

When we are in positions of spiritual leadership, whether that be in a church, small group or as a parent, we must have as our goal to display God’s holiness.  When it becomes all about us and how we feel, we are not likely to do that.  We will use our own strength and we may impress those around us with our ‘staff’–our intelligence, our plan and our hard work.  Interestingly, God may give us success anyway though not for our sakes.  It will be because He cares and loves those around us who need His touch.  But we will have missed something, a great opportunity to see the holiness of God on display in our lives, our ministries and our families.  So, let’s take care to let God be God and not stand His way.

Moses made another mistake related to this one.  That will be for another post.