He Reads Truth (Judges): Deborah Judges Israel

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I have the privilege of contributing to He Reads Truth, a website of whose purpose is “To help men become who we were made to be, by doing what we were made to do, by the power and provision that God has given us to do it, for the glory of Jesus Christ.” They do this by providing scripture reading plans accompanied by reflections that can be accessed for free online or purchased as print books. For those of you looking to engage scripture in a fresh way, these studies/plans will refresh your soul and engage your mind.

What follows is one of the pieces I wrote for the Judges reading plan. You can find the full plan HERE.

 

Day 4: Deborah Judges Israel
Judges 4–5, Job 19:25–27, Psalm 68:7–10

There’s about a foot of distance between our head and our heart. And there’s only about four to six feet between our heads and our feet. But it takes so long for obedience to go that distance! Too often I understand God’s commands and priorities in my head, but I fail to feel their importance. I may know what God has spoken, but I’m slow to put it into practice.  

Sometimes this is a problem with the way I think about leadership too. I can wrongly think that the person who is the most articulate--the one who seems to hear God’s voice most clearly--is a great leader. But true leadership doesn’t just hear and speak. It puts words and faith into action (James 2:14-26). Barak didn’t have any issues with understanding God’s command to deploy Israel’s troops. He and Deborah both heard God speak (ch. 4, v. 6). But what held Barak back from true leadership was his lack of courage. He wasn’t brave enough to act.

I have sympathy for Barak. It’s hard to step out in faith when circumstances are stacked against us. From a merely human perspective, Barak’s mission was doomed to failure. God told Barak to deploy his troops on Mount Tabor, but the mount was exposed, bordered only by the Kishon river basin, which was dried up most of the year. If he’d deployed his army there, Sisera’s chariots could easily surround them and cut off their escape. This was a suicide mission. No wonder Barak found God’s command so hard to obey!

But in spite of the odds, Deborah and Jael boldly trusted God. Their courageous leadership succeeded where Barak’s petered out (ch. 4, v. 9).

Deborah boldly summoned Barak. She reminded him about God’s promise of victory. And, when he continued to cower, she bravely went into battle with him (ch. 4, vv. 6-10). God honored her faith and fought for the Israelites. From chapter five, we learn that the Lord poured down rain, causing flash floods that trapped the enemy chariots (ch. 5, v. 4). As a result, God threw Sisera and all his charioteers into a panic before Barak’s assault (ch. 4, v. 15-16).

Then, as the enemy Sisera fled on foot, Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, offered him a place to rest. Inviting the general into her tent was a risk. Sisera had hoped to carry off Israelite women after the battle--“a girl or two for each warrior”  (ch. 5, v. 30). He could easily have taken advantage of Jael sexually before he fell asleep. But God honored Jael’s courage (and quick thinking!) by delivering Sisera’s life into her hands (ch. 4, vv. 17-22; ch. 5, vv. 24-27).

Where can we find courage like Deborah’s and Jael’s? Where do we find the kind of obedient faith that is willing to go to risky, vulnerable places in obedience to God’s call?  This kind of leadership only comes from looking to the invulnerable God who made himself vulnerable for us. God’s own courageous mission teaches us courageous leadership. The Father loved the world and sent the Son. The Father and Son send the Spirit. The Spirit forms us as his church and calls us to courageously participate in his mission to the world. Even when we languish in courage, God promises to sends his Holy Spirit like abundant rain. He revives us, so that we can leave behind what hinders, step out, and boldly obey his Word (Psalm 68:9).

He Reads Truth (Hymns): "Be Still, My Soul"

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I have the privilege of contributing to He Reads Truth, a website of whose purpose is “To help men become who we were made to be, by doing what we were made to do, by the power and provision that God has given us to do it, for the glory of Jesus Christ.” They do this by providing scripture reading plans accompanied by reflections that can be accessed for free online or purchased as print books. For those of you looking to engage scripture in a fresh way, these studies/plans will refresh your soul and engage your mind.

What follows is the piece I wrote for the "Hymns" reading plan. You can find the full plan HERE.

 

Day 4: "Be Still, My Soul"
Psalm 62, Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 8:22-25, James 5:7-8

Several years ago, my wife wanted to get backyard chickens, and I fought it. I thought the idea was crazy. We live in the city—in the suburbs. Chickens? Really? But she wore me down. And it’s been one of the best parenting decision we’ve ever made. Our kids love them. They’ve named them. And through feeding, collecting eggs, and scooping chicken poop, my daughters have learned all kinds of things about daily responsibility.

But one of the most significant moments came on the day a dog jumped our back fence and killed two of our hens. My daughters’ hearts were broken. I disposed of the bodies, and that night we had a chicken funeral. We went around the dinner table, each sharing our favorite memories of Rebekah and Matilda. We’re not the most sentimental family, but we still grieved. I can remember sitting on the bed that evening with my youngest while she cried. She needed her dad to help her find rest.

A mentor of mine once told me, “Life is full of unfinished symphonies.” It’s true. In this fallen world, things are always falling apart. We face cancer, lost jobs, and disability. Hopes and dreams are deferred. Loved ones die. But even when we feel life’s brokenness more than we’ve ever felt it before, God is still with us. We can patiently bear our cross of grief and pain, because He is on our side.

Jesus calls us to come to him with our griefs and fears. He wants to bear them. Let Him quiet your soul today. When I feel anxious, grieved, and oppressed, my tendency is either to run to my friends or to make myself busy in order to take my mind off the griefs and worries. This isn’t wrong, but Psalm 62 reminds me of my need to first bring my griefs to my Father, just as my little girl brought hers to me. We find true rest in God alone; our hope comes from Him (Psalm 62:1, 5). People and things will always let us down, but God remains faithful (Psalm 62:9-12).

This can be hard to trust when we experience loss and injustice (Sometimes we just want to be mad at the neighbors’ dog!) We can’t always trace out what God is doing, but we know that he orders and provides. Rest and hope are found in remembering his power and providence over all of life’s storms (Luke 8:22-25). One day, he’ll show us the end of the symphony he’s writing for us. He’ll correct the prevailing forms of injustice we experience in this world. And, for his people, Jesus will repay--from his own fullness--all that He has previously taken away (Isaiah 62:3).