Infighting

Day 89

Prayer for the day

Father, you who raised Christ from the dead, raise us from our waking death, that in us, the world might see your life.

Scripture for the day

Judges 11-12, Luke 6:1-26

You only hurt the ones you love.

I’ve heard that phrase many times. It’s a lie, of course. We hurt people all the time, some of whom we hardly know. Yet at its core, the saying bears a hard truth to us: we people are not the kindest to one another, particularly when we know one another well.

When we’re close, the buttons we can push are much more painful. The ways to hurt are mor plentiful. We can be cruel to those we love, to those with whom we are close.

Jephthah is a tragic character because he experiences the pain from people close to him and he inflicts it. He is attacked by his own people, Israelites, from another tribe, people from whom he requested help and who denied it. He tried to do the right thing by them, he says, but they disregard him and try to kill him. Jephthah also makes a foolish vow which he then has to fulfill by literally killing the thing closest to him: his only child.

We can suffer a lot at the hands of those who should care most.

Luke paints a similar picture of Jesus in today’s reading. Jesus, one of the Israelites, a Jewish man and lover of God, is rejected by those who should be closest: the religious leaders. Not only that, but in his sayings at the end of the reading today, Jesus says that it is a blessing to be hurt for his sake. He says it’s how people have always treated the mouthpieces of God.

Often those closest to us are those who know us best, who have the hardest time receiving any truth from us. Often it’s the same with us.

What would happen if we looked at those closest to us as gifts and Holy Spirit vessels rather than pain receptacles? Would things change? What if we sought to bless those close to us?

Compassion

Day 88

Prayer for the day

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Scripture for the day

Judges 9-10, Luke 5:17-39

“He could bear Israel’s misery no longer.”

As a father, it’s hard to watch my children in pain. Even when that pain comes from discipline. It causes me pain, and a great desire to alleviate that pain in whatever way I can.

God seems to have a similar fatherly feeling toward his people. Even when God punishes his children for what they’ve done, when they cry out to him, he responds with pity and compassion. The Israelites were constantly disappointing God and God was so regularly forced to discipline his children, yet it hurt God to see his children being disciplined. Even when God knew why he was doing what he was doing, and the outcome.

Jesus has similar compassion on people who are hurting. We see the paralyzed man who, while not in pain, is certainly hurting. His entire life has been interrupted, made incredibly difficult. Jesus sees him, and instead of healing him right away, Jesus heals the deeper pain in the man’s life, the pain of sin. When that pain is dealt with, Jesus heals the man’s paralyzed body as well.

God loves his children, and in both of these cases, God cannot bear to see his children hurting, separated from the purpose and desire he has for them. God intervenes in beautiful ways to bring his children to himself.

follow…

Day 87

Prayer for the day

Know this: The LORD himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Scripture for the day

Judges 7-8, Luke 5:1-16

Humans. Many of us think of ourselves as individuals, as islands, as autonomous, self-governing agents, in charge of our lives and in control.

Yet most of us, if we are given an example, will follow. Even the great leaders among us also follow. We follow trends, we follow examples, we follow leaders, and we follow each other.

We look to others for guidance, for an example to follow, we look to one another in order to feel that we have connection, that we have direction. We follow charismatics, we follow determined, we follow type A and type B. We follow.

The people of Israel call to Gideon, seeking to follow him. They want him to lead.

The disciples are called to follow Jesus, and they do. They leave everything to follow.

But leadership is not the be all and the end all we’ve made it out to be.

Gideon refuses to be the king the people want, even though he is their leader. He refuses the glory, refuses the decision making. Why does he give it up? And why does Jesus take this kind of leadership upon himself?

There’s one easy, Sunday school answer, and thankfully, this time it’s the right one: God. Gideon understands that that his leadership is the direct result of God. God leads Gideon, and Gideon does what God says. Jesus is the same way. He even says that he doesn’t do anything except what the Father tells him.

Both Gideon and Jesus are leaders because God calls them to be. They lead well because they follow well.

We would do well to learn to follow long before we learn to lead.

Stay on Target

Day 86

Prayer for the day

Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.

Scripture for the day

Judges 4-6, Luke 4:31-44

Distraction. It seems to be the stuff of life. We’re surrounded by distraction every single day. From the radio to the television to our cell phones and billboards, we’re inundated with things designed to keep us entertained and off-track.

Even Jesus faced distraction. Here he was, Jesus, the very Son of God, sent by the Father for a very specific mission, and yet he faced distraction daily. It was incredible. His message spread like wildfire, yet he was constantly begged to either stay places or leave places, surrounded by crowds wanting healing, wanting a word, wanting a message, wanting his time, wanting his everything.

Jesus knew his place, knew God’s design for him, and God’s desire for him. And he stuck with it, regardless of the distractions.

The Israelites ran into some distractions as well. They had God surrounding them, God fighting for them, God supplying their every need, but the gods and nations around them were a distraction to them. They turned to the right and the left and saw the nations around them as happy, as fulfilled, as exciting and new.

In their time of distraction, God constantly sent reminders. Prophets, judges, leaders, and all they did was disregard God’s desire and design for them.

Yet God drew them back. He had given them a mission, and God was routinely faithful in bringing them back to mission, in keeping them on target, no matter how hard or how far away they strayed. He used people like Gideon to ensure that Israel would not forget what they were to do. He used Deborah, he used Barak, and ultimately, he himself came to remind people that we’d lost our way, that we’d forgotten our mission. And he brought us back.

Rejected

Day 85

Prayer for the day

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Scripture for the day

Judges 1-3, Luke 4:1-30

How quickly we forget.

Enormous things happen, great things happen, and we easily forget.

It’s extraordinary. The people of Israel have been moving through the land of Canaan, they have been conquering, they have been traveling and fighting and succeeding as the Lord favours them.

And as soon as they get settled, things start to go bad. Actually, things don’t go bad. The Israelites go bad. They forget their God and they move in with other gods. The language of scripture with regard to the Israelites is strong. It’s harsh. They are guilty not of simply looking, but of prostituting themselves. They commit adultery not sexually, but spiritually, and they reject their God.

Yet even in the midst of their adultery, God does not abandon them.

Jesus experiences similar rejection. He stands in front of the people with whom he was raised. He stands up, reads the scriptures, and tells them that the scriptures are fulfilled in their hearing. He essentially explains that the Spirit of God is upon him, that the new era is here, that God is doing something huge. And that it’s happening in him.

And they reject him. His own friends and family reject him.

Yet Jesus does not reject his people. He continues his mission. God does not abandon or reject his people. He continues his mission. The rejection God experiences that would cause us to all run for the hills, breaks God’s heart, yet he does not abandon his people.

God’s faithfulness in the face of adultery is extraordinary.

Can we turn back to our God? Can we refuse to reject our God anymore? Can we be faithful in the face of his faithfulness?

Our Father, Abraham

Day 84

Prayer for the day

Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger.

Scripture for the day

Joshua 22-24, Luke 3

John the Baptist must have been quite the sight. He was standing in the water, probably fairly unkempt, covered in his skins, eating his locusts and honey. I imagine John with wild eyes. I imagine him with matted hair and thick, wiry beard, screaming his rebukes to the people around him.

John shouted all sorts of things. He talked about the fruit that leads to repentance. He talked about the Pharisees and their wickedness. He talked about the path to God and the one to come after him. And he talked about dads.

The Pharisees, actually any of the Hebrews, were very concerned with genealogy. They cared about who their fathers were. They cared about where they came from, because many of them saw that God had been good to their fathers, and that goodness was inherited. They believed that with Abraham as their father, they were “in like Flynn.”

They were wrong, according to John. Their ancestry was important, sure, but far less important than they thought. What was important was their fruit, their connection to their God, the way they connected and followed and obeyed.

The people of Israel were encouraged to do the same thing by Joshua. In fact, he told them their story to remind them that they couldn’t rely on their history to save them. They needed to understand that their lineage, while important, was not the be all and end all. Only their following of God was important. They needed to understand that God wasn’t impressed with who they were…God desired of them that they follow him.

God loves us not for who we are, but for who He is. God desires of us not our ancestry, but our love. Our following. Our devotion.

May we follow.

Promises

Day 83

Prayer for the day

Bless the LORD, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word. Bless the LORD, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will. Bless the LORD, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion…

Scripture for the day

Joshua 19-21, Luke 2:25-52

“Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

I’ve made a lot of promises in my life. I’ve made promises to my family, my wife, my children, my church, my friends, and my God. And I’ve kept a few of them. Some of them I’m even slightly proud of keeping. But the comparison of kept to unkept is embarrassing.

I assume the rest of humanity has a similar ratio going on.

But not God. God, according to the scripture in Joshua today, kept and keeps his promises. God’s promises to the Israelites were kept perfectly, 100%. God made promises and stuck to his word despite thousands of people breaking their words. Despite a nation going its own way. Despite a people who were supposed to belong to him belonging other gods, running after other people, seeking other national identity.

Yet this God remains faithful. Over and over again.

Even into the Second Testament story. Simeon has heard the promise of God and has been waiting. Even without proof of God’s faithfulness, Simeon has been waiting. He has been patient. He has listened to the Spirit of God and waited for the faithfulness of God to be enacted in front of him.

And God is faithful. God’s faithfulness continues to Simeon.

And God’s faithfulness to God’s promises is not something that stops. God’s faithfulness to us is something that is connected to the very nature of who God is. God is God, and is therefore faithful.

Our response needs to be the response of Simeon to the faithfulness of God: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.”

Our response needs to be acknowledgement and gratitude for God’s faithfulness. We get to participate in God’s faithfulness. And we get to be thankful to God for it!