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May 7, Day #128 – Taking God at His Word

In Judges 4, we see that “the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan” (verses 1-2). In the book of Judges, we will see this as a pattern that occurs over and over again. After twenty years of Jabin’s oppression, the Israelites “cried to the LORD for help” (verse 4). We wonder why they waited so long before they cried out to the Lord for His help. Here, we see an important principle by which God operates: When men fail or refuse to accept or assume their rightful positions of leadership, God will raise up and bless a woman to carry out His assignment. “Deborah, a prophetess, was leading Israel at that time” (verse 4), and she summoned Barak to take an army of ten thousand men to put down Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army. However, Barak is hesitant, questions Deborah’s leadership, and refuses to go to war without Deborah, who subsequently tells him that the Lord will give the honor for this operation “to a woman” (verse 9). Deborah trusted the LORD and His command (i.e., she simply took Him at His Word) to give Sisera into her hand. Barak’s timidity is evident – again, Deborah has to challenge him a second time to rise to the task (verse 14). In the end, the Lord delivers Sisera and the honor of His blessings on the nation of Israel to the woman, Jael – whose faith and courage (i.e., trust in the Lord) is similar to Deborah’s. Jael’s action of using a tent peg to pin Sisera to the ground resulted in victory and 40 years of peace (cf., Judges 5:31) - twice as long as the period of Jabin's oppression. In chapter 5, we see the Song of Deborah, which is a poetic history of what life was like in Israel at that time and an account of the events of chapter 4. We notice in Deborah’s song that “her heart was with Israel’s princes” Judges (5:9). The “princes in Israel [were expected] to take the lead,” and when they did, “the LORD was praised” (Judges 2:5). But “in the days of Shamgar … the roads were abandoned … village life ceased … and war came to the city gates” (verses 6-8). Conditions in Israel had deteriorated because of Israel's evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the people eventually turned to Deborah (verse 12), and God used her. She extolls Jael as the “most blessed of women” (verse 24). When men don’t act like men, God raises up and honors faithful, capable women to do the job.

Psalm 57:1-6 begins with David’s cry for mercy - “Have mercy on me, my God.” Because I personally find myself constantly in need of God’s mercy and grace, I am thankful that the Bible teaches that we may freely ask God for them. God extends mercy to us by withholding from us the punishment that we actually deserve. He extends grace to us by blessing us with what we do not deserve. David could ask for and expect to receive God’s benefits because he trusted God fully, literally, and implicitly - “for in You I take refuge” (Ps 57:1). David compares his enemies to “lions and ravenous beasts – men whose teeth are spears and arrows – whose tongues are sharp swords” (verse 4). Nevertheless, David “exalts God above the heavens” and calls for “His glory to be over all the earth” (verse 5). This is God’s eternal purpose.

Both divine mercy and special grace flow eternally from God’s unfailing love for us, and we see them extended in John 4 and 5. In John 4, we see Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar, and their conversation related to water. Uncharacteristically and cross-culturally, Jesus asked her for a drink – not a very common way to begin an evangelistic outreach. But Jesus shows us that people can be reached by the most unusual methods. The woman was deeply intrigued by His request and the directions it led. As they talked, Jesus brought the woman to the point where she now asked Him for a drink of the living water that He offers to all of us. In the end, her initial faith in Christ led “many of the Samaritans in her town to believe in Him because of her testimony” (John 4:39). Again, we see how God raises up and blesses a woman to achieve His purposes. Then, in verses 43-54, we see that Jesus heals “the son of a royal official at Cana” (verse 50). In chapter 5, we see the man at the pool in Jerusalem healed on the Sabbath. This section is followed by Christ’s testimony about Himself. We recognize that neither of those individuals who were healed actually deserved to be healed (i.e., because of their sin, they deserved judgment), but each received mercy and grace - judgment withheld and the blessing of healing applied. This is exactly what God does for all of us; the key verse is John 4:50 — “The man took Jesus at His word.”

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