Rest

My family and I are currently on vacation visiting my husbands family in Florida.  Before I left, many people encouraged me to rest.  It has been a tough few months for our family both physically (sickness & medical bills) and spiritually (overwhelmed & questioning).  We definitely needed some time to connect again as a family and a period of rest.  My initial thought to the encouragement I received to rest was, How do I get rest with a toddler and a 5 month old little boy?  There is nothing restful about being a mom because you can’t take vacation from that job. I failed to realize that this type of rest is not really what I needed.  I needed to recognize the rest found in Christ.

Hebrews 3 and 4 speak of a Sabbath Rest that is available to God’s people.  In chapter 3 vs. 19-4 vs. 1 it says, “So we see that they (generation of Israel that died in the Wilderness Wondering) were unable to enter because of unbelief.  Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”  The writer of Hebrews continues by drawing a parallel to God finishing his work of creation and then resting on the 7th day to our Sabbath rest.  Vs. 6 of chapter 4 restates the conclusion of vs. 2-5 that the good news advances this point by suggesting that today, a Christian has the possibility of entering even now in a partial way into the end-time “rest” and blessing that the Exodus generation missed.  God’s rest centered upon recognizing that this work in creation was now completed; Christians enter into his rest through recognizing that Christ’s work of redeeming them from sin has also been completed.  The promise of entering now into this rest means ceasing from the spiritual strivings that reflect uncertainty about one’s final destiny.  In light of this idea, we should “strive to enter that rest” (4:11).  The writer of Hebrews is not emphasizing good works, but the emphasis is put on on Jesus’ sacrifice and anything believers can do to please God comes from his working in them.  The opposite of perseverance is disobedience, the sin of the faithless Exodus generation.  Oh how I am like that generation that struggles with unbelief!  I continue to doubt that God loves me and feel that he is punishing me instead.  When times get difficult, I question God’s love and sacrifice.  My thoughts are filled with doubt of His plan being the best for me and that he will take care of me and my family.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (4:14,16)

“Lord, forgive me for constantly doubting your love and sacrifice.  I struggle with seeing and believing that your will is what is best for me.  I repent of thinking my way is the best and my anger when you don’t follow my plan.  Help me to draw near to your throne of grace.  Give me mercy and grace during this time.  Lord, help me release my guilt over failing and my shame.  Help me to rest in the fact that your sacrifice on the cross is sufficient for all my sin.  Help me not to once again try more, but to rest in your work on the cross. Thank you for taking care of me and drawing me to you.  Lord I believe in you, help me with my unbelief.”

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Jael: Judges 4 & 5

This summer at my church we are going through the Bad Girls of the Bible.  I was asked to pick one and prepare an hour study on her.  I decided on Jael and began to study and prepare.  This PowerPoint was what came out of it:

Jael: Judges 4 & 5

Here is a little of what was said:

The book of Judges is where we find the story of Jael.  Judges is a book that follows a cycle of events that first gets introduced in Chapter 2.  Here is the Cycle of Judges:
1. Israel does evil
2. Israel is given/sold into the hands of oppressors.
3. Israel cries out to God
4. God raises up a deliverer
5. Oppressor is subdued
6. The Land has “rest”
aka:  Apostacy, Servitude, Supplication, Salvation
It is important to understand this cycle in light of our story.

BACKGROUND TO STORY OF JAEL:
Judges Chapter 4 is a story which women take the lead in Israel’s defeat of God’s Enemies.  It begins with a man named Jabin, the King of Canaan in power and ends with his extinction.
Chapter 4: 1-10
vs. 1 People Did what was Evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud
vs. 2 Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin
vs. 3 The people cried out to the Lord
vs. 4 God raises up Deborah
vs. 5-24 Jabin is subdued/destroyed
Chapter 5- Celebration of Rest for 40 years.

It is important to see where we fall in the cycle in our story.
We are going to focus on Chapter 4:5 – Chapter 5.  Israel is under the reign of Jabin King of Canaan.  Sisera is his commander.  God raises up Deborah as the Judge.  She is called a prophetess and a judge.  Deborah commands a man, Barak, who is the general for Israel’s army.  Barak acts like a coward even though he is a military leader.  Barak received a command by God, but was scared to obey.  Barak asks Deborah to go with him.  Then in vs. 9 Deborah makes a prophecy:  “I will surely go with you.  Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”  This is the first taste of Jael.  Although she is not mentioned by name she is going to be the fulfillment of Deborah’s prophecy.

We are then introduced to another character, Heber.  Heber is Jael’s husband.  Heber and Jabin are peaceful.  We are then drawn back into the fight.  Barak & Deborah lead Israel to fight against Sisera. Barak has the Lord on his side and wins in the battles. (vs. 12-16)  Sisera flees to the tent of Jael b/c he thought it was a safe place. (vs. 17)

Now the story gets good!   Jael comes out and greets Sisera and invites him in. (vs. 18)  Jael treats him like a mother.  She covers him with a rug- probably some sort of skin.  Sisera asks for water, but Jael gives him milk in a very expensive cup. (Chapter 5 shows that)  Sisera tries to gain control by giving her a command to stay at the enterance of the tent and tell anyone who asks that no one is here.  How ironic that he says No one because he turns out to be a nobody.  (vs. 20)  While Sisera sleeps in her tent, Jael takes a tent peg and hammer and pounds it into his temple.  She must have been super strong!  This action took resourcefulness (tent peg and hammer) and courage (a powerful General) to slay Sisera.  Sisera Dies.

Barak comes chasing after Sisera.  Once again Jael goes out and greets a man.  She takes him in to see Sisera.  Barak probably thinks that she has tied him up, but no, he is dead by the hand of a women.  Vs. 23 &24  “So on that day God subdued Jabin the King of Canaan before the people of Israel.”  This act of killing Sisera was the big defeat.

Judges 5: 23-27 also speaks of this event.  I absolutely love this poetry.  In Hebrew poetry we have contrasts.  This is what we see set up in vs.. 23 and 24-28.  Deborah contrats Meroz with Jael.  Meroz represents those Israelites who have taken their stand on the side of the Canaanites; Jael represents those non-Israelites who have taken their stand on the side of Israel.  Meroz is cursed because they did not fight for God and Jael is blessed for her courageous act to bring down mighty Sisera.  What a great picture of the Gospel.  We would think that Israel would get the blessing, but instead we see Jael, a non-Israelite, receiving the blessing.  Just as it is in our lives.  Blessing  should have been given to Christ and we should have been cursed, but instead Christ became cursed for us and we get the blessing of Christ’s righteousness!  This point challenged my heart so much.

Jael Had many reasons not to get involved.  She was unrelated related to the warring parties, she had her tent-dwelling duties, and acts of war were considered a man’s job.  Despite these facts, Jael fought on the side of the Lord! She risked  everything to execute the enemy of God and to aid God’s people.  She is similar to Ehud (Judges 3:12-30)  (FYI: Lack of plot complication in the Ehud story & Jael’s indicate that God is in control over events in the story.)  She is similar to Rahab (Joshua 2).  Jael risked her life contrasted to the Israelite tribes who stayed at home to play safe.  Sisera was an evil man.  Judges 5:28-31 give the picture of Sisera’s Mother.  He was an evil man who treated women crudely, but was killed by a woman.  Jael did not stay uncommitted & simply a good hostess.  She could have.  Instead she chose to fight for the Lord against the mighty.  The Lord expects his people to participate in the advancement of his kingdom.

Deuteronomy 7:9-10 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.  But those who hat him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.”

“Often God uses the weaker things of this world to confound the wise.  Certainly in using Deborah to raise up Barak and in using Jael to bring down mighty Sisera.  God wants to use us, we need to be willing.  We may not feel adequate to the task.  We may feel that because of our past, God cannot use us.  We may feel un-gifted in what he is calling us to do.  When we do not trust God in these contexts, we lose out on the opportunity for God to work through us. ”

Am I step out of my comfortable service and further God’s Kingdom?  What are some areas we can help advance the kingdom of God?  Will we be like Jael and fight for God?  Jael was used by God to accomplish His WILL.
Christianity is not a spectator sport; it requires involvement. 

Praise the Lord he has given us the blessing of Christ Jesus when we deserve curses.  That kind of love should drive us to involvement in what He has called us to do.

I’m Amazed

 

I recently found this song & the lyrics in a book I am reading.  It encouraged by heart.  I hope it encourages yours.

 

I’m Amazed

I have felt so much darkness, I’ve lived in such despair

As I’ve struggled with my weaknesses and the burdens that I bear.

But then I hear a whisper.  Something says Your name.

I lift my eyes and see the cross that takes away my shame!

 

And I’m amazed that You love me!

I’m amazed that you care!

I’m amazed at Your compassion!

There’s nothing that compares to the mercy You’ve shown me!

I’ve never known such grace!

And I want to just say, “Thank You! and tell You, “I’m amazed!”

I’ve had questions inside me.  I’ve struggled with such doubt.

Could this really be the answer?  Is this what life’s about?

but then I look to Jesus–God’s embodied love,

The unearned gift for all mankind, a pardon from above!

 

Could it be that you could really love me?

Do You really value me so much?

And can it be that I could even finally rest from striving

And let You heal me with Your gentle tough?!

By Dan Adler

Here is a recording on youtube.