Sunday, December 27, 2009

About being delivered - Psalm 116

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this Psalms exposition series, click here}

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Psalm 116

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy. [The psalmist said he loved God. The reason being the Lord heard his voice and his cry for mercy.]
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live. [Because He hears, the psalmist said that he would call on God as long as he lived.]
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;

I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. [The psalmist explained his condition at the time of his cry - his life was threatened, and he was in distress, suffering, in pain, in trouble and was very sad.]
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
"O LORD, save me!"
[He asked God to save him]
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
[He declared that: God was gracious {granting unmerited favor} and righteous {full of justice}, He was full of compassion {deep awareness of suffering and strong desire to alleviate the same}.]
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
[That: God protects the simple-hearted {one who is free from deceit, sincere, even artless!}. The psalmist recounted that when he was in his great need, the Lord saved him.]
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
[The psalmist was telling himself, his soul, to be at rest once more. He was saying,”O my soul, the Lord has been good to us; He saved before, and he would save again.”]
8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
[The psalmist declared that the Lord had delivered him from death, from sorrow and from falling over so that he might walk before the Lord.]
10 I believed; therefore I said,
"I am greatly afflicted."
[The psalmist said again, then, he was greatly afflicted. But he also said he believed God.]
11 And in my dismay I said,
"All men are liars."
[He was greatly perturbed because he had been deceived. {A wider interpretation is possible. On the other extreme, the psalmist might be exclaiming that all men were wicked, as Satan was the father of lies, and all men inclined to Satan were liars. Satan is nothing but wickedness, and all inclined to Satan are wicked. From the description of his predicament in verse 3, possibly it was not a simple scenario of him being lied to.}]
12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
[“The Lord has delivered me, how can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” said the psalmist. By this verse, my interpretation is that once again the Lord had delivered the psalmist from his distress and affliction.]
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
[The psalmist said he could not just do nothing; rather he must thank God, honor Him, and give Him all the glory.]
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
[The psalmist said he would fulfill his vows to the Lord, before men.]
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
[The psalmist was stating that the lives of God’s saints were precious in God’s eyes. We all know subsequently, God sacrificed His one and only begotten Son, Jesus to redeem us from death – the eternal suffering in Lake of Fire in Hell. ]
16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.
[Recognizing God’s deliverance, very humbly the psalmist, instead of using the word “saint” on himself, said truly he was only a servant of God that God would deliver him. In fact, he was saying he was merely a servant by virtue of being the son of God’s lowly servant, yet God saved him.]
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.
[As a repeat of verse 13, the psalmist said he would make a thank offering to the Lord.]
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
[As a repeat of verse 14, he would fulfill his vows to the Lord before men,]
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.
[in the house of God.]

Psalms in the Bible, to me, in the early days, was the section of the Bible to be skipped because they were somewhat cryptic. Later, some of them became passages that I used to speak to my soul. I would speak them repeatedly to myself, to lift my soul. Now I find myself, dwelling into them. Interpretations of Psalms, of course, are more subjective because wordings in psalms are expressions of meditations of the heart. Often, while something was said, much did not come out in words, from the psalmist. Nevertheless, in these days, I feel adequate enough to comment on psalms when felt led.

I believe Psalm 116 was the result of meditations of the heart of the psalmist after experiencing God’s deliverance of him of a great affliction. What was the affliction, was not every clear, but from the psalm we can tell that it was serious, troubling, causing sorrow, and life threatening.

A couple of points to take note or learn:

1. God hears
The psalmist said God heard him. In fact, this is one of the more important things that the psalmist wanted to put across – God hears us, and our cry for mercy. The psalmist said he loved God because God turned his ears to him, and for that he would talk to God as long as he lived.

Some of us may say, “So what? So what God hears, a sound recorder can put pick up sounds of all sorts. What good is a sound recorder to me when I needed help?” Have you ever remarked to someone standing opposite you that he/she did not hear you, when you had clearly spoken to him/her? In such an instance, you were saying that the person did not catch what you meant? The psalmist was saying God is not like that. Of course, God can hear, and when he hears, he can catch what you are trying to say; if He wants to be doubly sure, he will check out what you say (remember what the Lord said to Abraham in Genesis 19 concerning Sodom and Gomorrah? He told Abraham He was going to check out what people were saying {about what was going on in the twin cities}).

The thing is that God hears, and hears with understanding, his understanding. We have to be happy with that and love him for that. The trouble with many of us is that we want God to hear us with our understanding, not his understanding.

2. Love Him for hearing you
Do we love our fathers only when all our requests are answered to our liking? Of course, not. Don’t do that to God, either. Love Him for hearing you out, whether He answered all your prayers or not is a different matter. Although in this case, deliverance came to the psalmist, but the psalmist made it very clear, at the outset, that he loved God because God turned his ears to him.

3. We have a helpline, use it
Do cry out to God in our affliction. Pour out to him our grievances. He is not like men, that He cannot take all our out-pouring.

4. Our God is both righteous and compassionate
Many people only want God to be compassionate. They want God’s compassion for them in their situations. But we cannot just expect God to have compassion on us and takes side with us, anyhow. The psalmist knew well, that was why he declared that God was both righteous and compassionate. In fact, to God righteousness comes first. Be righteous, and our prayers for God’s compassion will less likely to fall through.

5. Be simple-hearted
The psalmist also declared the God protects the simple-hearted. What is simple-hearted? To be simple-hearted means to be free of deceit, sincere, and even artless! To deceive is wicked, and God does not favor wicked people. I will go as much as to say that if we remain stubbornly wicked, we may lose God’s hands of protection for us.

6. He who comes to me must know who I am
By this I mean we have to know about Him, and try to get to know Him. Imagine one coming before God and asking God to help him without knowing anything about Him and got his prayer answered. It is truly rare, though not impossible. God is not our genie that at our beck and call, He will have to do anything we ask of Him. I believe consistency in getting prayers answered necessitates knowing much about God and knowing Him. The psalmist said, “I believed (God); therefore I said,…” How could belief have come without knowledge? Starting today, do both, get to know more about Him, and get to know Him.

7. Keep our spirit up
Not completely apparent from the reading of the psalm, but gleaned from the psalmist words of “I believed; therefore I said,….”. In facing our affliction, we got to keep our spirit up. We can only keep our spirit up when we have at least some faith, and faith comes from the knowledge of God. And it always helps if we recount the past goodness of God in our lives. This is apparent from the psalmist’s verses 6 - 9.

8. Know that we who have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus are precious in the sight of God; but be humble
I am not saying pre-believers or non-believers are not previous to God, but I am saying those who have accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior (i.e. saints) are spiritual children of God. Also, the Apostle Paul said in Phil 3:20, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are precious in God’s eyes; do not think poorly of ourselves, but do not be proud either, for the Lord opposes the proud.

9. Please ascribe to Him the glory due His name
When we have experienced God’s deliverance, give Him thanks, ascribe to Him the glory due His name, and testify of His work for us. Praise Him, serve Him even. These are what the psalmist was trying to do.

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If you wish, you may read my article on Psalm 42, which speaks of what to do when one is discouraged.

Anthony Chia - The thing is that God hears, and hears with understanding, his understanding. We have to be happy with that and love him for that. The trouble with many of us is that we want God to hear us with our understanding, not his understanding.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Judges series - Judges 6

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Judges 6


1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help. [For those who followed my writings from Judges 1 to 5, they would have realized that the conditions of the Israelites got from bad to worse over the years. They kept falling into the trap of worshipping the local gods, and doing evils as a result. They cried to the Lord. The Lord had mercy on them and gave them judges. A judge would deliver them from the oppression of the enemy to bring them back to the ways of the Lord. But the moment a judge passed on, the Israelites would go back to the old ways of worshipping the local gods, angering the Lord, over and over again.

Through years of oppressions and diminished covering and blessings from the Lord, the living conditions of the people got worse. Just compare the situations when Deborah came onto the scene and what was recorded here – from fear of harassment when travelling on main roads to minimal village life, to now, having to hide themselves in mountain clefts and caves, unable to maintain their crops or herds. After Deborah, the Israelites again did evil, and the Lord gave them over to the Midianites. For seven years, the Midianites who grew more and more powerful just kept on incurring into the Israelites’ grounds making it impossible for the Israelites to do anything to maintain livelihood. The Israelites became very impoverished and they cried out to the Lord for help.]

7 When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, 'I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.' But you have not listened to me." [The Lord sent to the Israelite, a prophet who reminded them the history of the people - from the deliverance from Egypt, by the hands of God, to the breaking of the covenant God had with their forefathers, and the repeated calls not to worship the local gods. Yet the Israelites did not listen.]
11 The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." [When Israelites did not listen to the words of the prophet sent by God (v8), God Himself came by the angel of the Lord. He appeared to Gideon, the son of Joash while Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress! Imagine threshing wheat in a winepress. Why in a winepress? To fool the Midianites so that the wheat would not be confiscated by them! That was how bad the Israelites were oppressed by the Midianites. Gideon was told that the Lord was with him. God called him a mighty warrior.]
13 "But sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian." 14 The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" [If you follow the history from the time of death of Joshua to death of Deborah, you would have imagined that it would not be surprising for people to say that God had snared them. But I believe Gideon was genuinely wondering what was happening and wanted to hear from the Lord. I believe God knew his heart condition, and was not displeased. We must not in any way insinuate that there is wickedness in God. For such an insinuation, Moses was banned from entering the Promised Land (You can read about it in a separate article – Why Moses did not enter the Promised Land?). Instead of being angry, God told him that He was now sending him to save Israel out of the Midian’s hand.]
15 "But Lord ," Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." 16 The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together." [Gideon and Moses had one thing in common – both were humble (even though Moses did make that mistake of insinuation towards the end of his life). When Moses was called, Moses’ words to the Lord were similar. We need to be humble, if we were to be used positively by the Lord. (The Pharaoh of Egypt, who was proud, was used by the Lord, but negatively.) How nice, God assured Gideon – I will be with you, and we shall strike down all the Midianites together. Remember, God also called Gideon a mighty warrior (v12).]
17 Gideon replied, "If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you." And the LORD said, "I will wait until you return." 19 Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. [“If now I have found favor in your eyes”; these were also the words of Abraham (Gen 18:3) and Moses (Ex 33:12, 34:9) when they asked of the Lord. All three persons showed great humility in their petitions to the Lord. See what Gideon asked as a sign. He literally said, “Please do not go away, I want to give you my offering.” There are two interesting points to look at, here.

One, I want you to consider this with me, that Gideon was very into the faith heritage, despite being a mighty warrior. He knew of the Lord’s visit to Abraham at the great trees of Mamre (Gen 18 – The Three Visitor/men. I have an article on this. You can read it here.). There is much parallel here in the things that Gideon did. I believe he knew so well about that encounter that Abraham had with the Lord that he knew what he should ask as a sign – God did not refuse a similar request by Abraham, so Gideon thought God would also not refuse him. Although we should not be presumptuous, what is illustrated here is about knowing about God, which I believe God would be pleased to know we take the trouble to do that, before we even get to know him more closely. Notice also that Gideon knew what kind of bread to prepare – unleavened bread.

Two, do you know how precious they were, a young goat and flour in those times? What was Gideon doing when the Lord appeared? Thrashing wheat in a winepress – to avoid detection and confiscation. Many great men of God in the Bible knew it was proper and right for them to sacrifice to God – they would not even dare to think of making an offering to God that did not cause them a sacrifice. Today we just gave God loose change as an offering, and we wonder why God does not seem to honor our offering. Lord, I am guilty, please forgive me.]
20 The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth." And Gideon did so. 21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!" 23 But the LORD said to him, "Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die." 24 So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. [God honored Gideon, He did not go away, and He consumed Gideon’s offering. The exchange of words between Gideon and the Lord is very interesting. Again I believe it pointed towards the fact that Gideon must have been one who was very into the faith heritage, he probably knew about Moses’ meetings with God and that God said to Moses that anybody who sees God face-to-face would die. This accumulation of knowledge of God was despite Gideon’s father was also, and already into Baal worship (you will read of his father’s Baal altar in the next verse). Gideon exclaimed he had seen God, face-to-face; he was probably somewhat terrified! God quickly assured him that he was not going to die. So, what did he do? He built an altar to the Lord there and called it, “The Lord is Peace”. (By the way, this is one instance that God came as the angel of the Lord; i.e. the angel here is not an angel but the Lord Himself {in some other places, angel of the Lord may just be referring to an angel}).

Talking about signs from the Lord, 2 things come to my mind. Firstly, is it right to ask for signs from the Lord? Secondly, is peace a good sign? These probably require in-deep studies into the Word of God. For now, I just want to say there are ample examples of God giving people signs, and of people asking God for signs, and of cases where God answered people’s requests for signs. The significance of peace as a sign cannot be quickly brushed off. Just because God is peace, is enough reason for us not to be too quick to dismiss “peace” or “the lack of peace” as a poor sign.]
25 That same night the LORD said to him, "Take the second bull from your father's herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering." [The Lord commissioned Gideon straightaway. Gideon’s first task was to tear down the altars of the two main gods of the local – Baal and Ashtoreth, and in their places raise up the proper altar of the Lord, and to make a burnt offering on the altar of the Lord. Notice the Lord demanded a good offering – the second bull from the herd, the one which was seven years old. There were not much commentaries on this, and a search of the internet about bulls did not yield much either. This is what I believe is the essence of what was asked – in those difficult times, herds were few anyway, if there was one, probably not many bulls were kept, bulls I believe were reserved for breeding, herdsmen did not keep many bulls (from cows, you can get milk {regularly} and meat). In this case, probably there were 2 bulls in Gideon’s father’s herd, one, an old bull, first bull, another, a second bull, a bull earmarked to replace the old bull, should the old bull became “too old”. The second bull was in its prime, seven years old. A bull could live for about 30 years. If indeed it was so, the Lord actually asked for the best, and was an “expensive” sacrifice.]
27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime. [I think here Gideon was not afraid of his family or the men of the town, per se. Rather it was his fear that he would be stopped by them, making it impossible to complete the task God had assigned him to do. He knew if he did it in the daytime when it would be visible for all, he would be stopped. Obviously, he knew after night it would be day, and all would be seen. Of course, the father’s prized bull would be gone, and perhaps he would have to face “the music” from his father. Yet, Gideon obeyed the Lord, did everything asked of him.]
28 In the morning when the men of the town got up, there was Baal's altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar! 29 They asked each other, "Who did this?"
When they carefully investigated, they were told, "Gideon son of Joash did it."
[There you see, in the morning everything was seen and became known. Look, Gideon deployed 10 servants. It was really not easy to keep a secret with 10 servants involved, surely Gideon expected it.]
30 The men of the town demanded of Joash, "Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal's altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it." 31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, "Are you going to plead Baal's cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar." 32 So that day they called Gideon "Jerub-Baal," saying, "Let Baal contend with him," because he broke down Baal's altar. [Often times, without saying it, but in our hearts, we doubt whether God knows what he is doing by asking the thing(s) he asked. But He really knows what he is doing. In this case, obviously what Gideon did was expected to come to light; but surprise, surprise, Gideon father was given the wisdom to defend Gideon, although we would have thought that he would be really mad with Gideon because firstly, Gideon killed his prized bull, and secondly, Gideon tore down his Baal altar and Asherah poles. I believe these were not small altars, Gideon needed 10 servants to handle this project for the Lord.]
33 Now all the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples joined forces and crossed over the Jordan and camped in the Valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali, so that they too went up to meet them. [After desecration of the pagan altars and the consecration of the Lord’s altar, Gideon was now ready to go to war for the Israelites. As in the cases of other judges, God appointed Gideon; He put his Spirit upon him (v34). With that somehow, there would be people who would listen to the judge’s call for action. In this case, Gideon summoned the Israelite tribes of Manasseh, of which he was part, Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali to go to war against the enemies’ joint forces at Valley of Jezreel.]
36 Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised- 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. [Don’t you feel Gideon was asking too much! Not one sign but two signs, and God granted both the signs! Talking about favor with God; this Gideon sure had it, just like Abraham or Moses did. So far, what did we learn about the character of Gideon? He was humble, he probably was very into the faith heritage, tried to know about God as much as possible before he even encountered God, was not stingy with God, obeyed God, trusted God, and inquired of the Lord before he went to war.]

Points to note:

To be me, Gideon was a major judge, perhaps there were much that the Lord wanted to say through the story of Gideon. The account of Gideon was more elaborate and detailed.

Through the passage of time, and repeated failures of the Israelites to make a permanent comeback to the Lord, the low points of the Israelites just got lower and lower over time. By the time of Gideon, Israelites were very impoverished, lived in mountain clefts and caves and unable to maintain their crops or herds; the Midianites kept incurring into their grounds making it impossible for the Israelites to maintain livelihood. When the Israelites cried out to the Lord, He sent a prophet to tell them about their disobedience. Yet the Israelites did not listen. It was after this that God appeared to Gideon.

From the way the story developed, I find it quite amazing the way God had dealt with Gideon – the favor He gave to Gideon, and His tolerance of Gideon’s antics. As such, it is good we try to learn the good points of Gideon that pleased God:

1. A sincere heart of wanting to understand the ways of God. It is not possible for us to comprehend all the ways of God (God’s ways are higher than ours, and we are not exactly that wise {in fact, foolish}, relative to God), but the Bible does not teach abandonment of our desire to know the ways of God, our wisdom, or our discernment or judgment. I believe the Word exhorts us to seek and hold onto the knowledge of God, the ways of God, wisdom or discernment. There are however, 2 important “don’ts” here. Firstly, the Word is very clear about being proud is being an enemy to God. God said in His Word that He opposes the proud. Notice that He did not say I will leave the proud alone, or I will not protect or bless him, but He said He opposes the proud. So despite whatever knowledge or understanding or wisdom that we have, we cannot boast of ourselves in them. The other, which is less obvious to many people, is that one cannot insinuate that God was/is wicked to his people in anyway. God looks at the heart of men. Men {apart from their spirits} may not know about them, but the very meditations of our heart, God knows {through the Holy Spirit}. I believe when Gideon asked the questions in verse 13, there was no bad insinuation in his heart.

2. Humility is a likeable trait to God. The opposite of being proud is being humble, not neutral. I leave my quote for you to ponder, “We need to be humble, if we were to be used positively by the Lord.” (The Pharaoh of Egypt, who was proud, was used by the Lord, but negatively.). Gideon was really humble (v 14-17).

3. Learn about our faith heritage. By this I do not mean just knowing the Word of God, as in, ok, I need to know what I must do and what I must not do, full-stop. I believe it pleases God if we try to know the “full works”. I know it takes time and can only be achieved (actually, can never be fully achieved) over time. But we need to be actively learning the full works. It is important that this learning include the past and present dealings of God with man. It used to I did not quite bother with the long-past dealings of God with man. Not anymore. If we truly believe God is the same yesterday, today and forever, how can the past dealings of God be not relevant? There is much to learn in those dealings. There are 2 mistakes that we can make. First, is to ignore the Old Testament dealings of God with man, thinking that they are no longer relevant to us. Second, is to ignore God’s dealings with man outside the Bible. We should not ignore the dealings of God with man post-completion of Bible writing. A lot of Christians missed God’s blessing because they ignored what happened post-Bible completion. What was/is happening around the world with regard to God’s dealings with man is relevant to us.

Suppose, we say, you are going to work personally with Billy Graham for a year, travel with him, minister with him in rallies, churches, gatherings, doing meetings with him, visiting places, etc. What would you do? I am sure I would include finding out as much as I can about him, who he is, what he had done in the past, what he had done more recently, what had been his practices, habits, likes and dislikes, even his idiosyncrasies (he is the great evangelist, right?, you shelve your own idiosyncrasies, you go by his), the dos and the don’ts. But you do not know Billy Graham, how can you find out about these things? They were revealed through his past dealings. If 5 years ago, he liked to skip meals before ministering in a meeting but more recently he had always taken a hearty breakfast before ministering; and now the two of you are going for a meeting, what do you do? You let him have his breakfast, in other words, you cater to him. How many of us, do not bother to “cater to God”.

If I tell you that you have been chosen to receive the US President in your home when he comes to Singapore for a major event, what will you do? You may reply, why bother with such question, it will not happen. Yes, it probably will not happen, the US President probably will not ever visit you at your home; you can choose to deal with it when you do get notified. But God can visit you anytime. If the visitor is the US President, you will want to honor him. What about God? Gideon was prepared for God’s visit. He knew how to receive God because he studied God’s dealings with his forefathers, including with God-favored people like Abraham and Moses. Do you know how to receive God when He visits you?

4. Give pleasing offerings. Don’t be stingy with God. Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice. But it does not mean there is no need to sacrifice. If you truly love God, you embrace both. There are other motivations for both obedience and sacrifice but I believe the correct motivation that pleases God is the love for God. Obedience can be motivated by fear of punishment but that is not what God is after. Jesus said if you love me, obey my commandments; he who obeys my commandments loves Me (John 14:15 & 21). What does the “famous” John 3:16 says? Yes, God so loved the world that He gave {sacrificed} His one and own begotten Son …… Pleasing sacrifice is not based on some code of honor of some secret society, or fear of embarrassment or grows out of a desire to stroke one’s ego, or so that we can leave a name for all posterity. Pleasing sacrifice flows from love. Sacrifice to God, therefore, to be pleasing to God, is one that flows from love for God.

By sacrifice, it does not necessarily mean money, although we are guilty of always trying to translate everything in terms of dollars and cents. Sacrifice can include money, things in kinds, praise and worship, time, bearing of the cross, long-suffering {patiently enduring, patiently waiting}, and the giving up of our rights, interests, aspirations, goals, even loved ones, and our very life.

One who loves God, obeys God, and sacrifices to God. Initially when God spoke to Gideon, God did not ask for sacrifice, but Gideon wanted to make a sacrifice to God. What was the motivation behind the sacrifice? It is not obedience because God did not ask for it. It is not as a mere sign to show that the one who spoke was God because Gideon could have asked for any other sign. I suggest to you that it was Gideon’s love for God that motivated him to ask God to wait so that he could make a sacrifice to God. Gideon knew that was how his forefathers who loved God would have done when God visited - Noah made a burnt offering when God visited him after The Flood. Abraham also made offering when God visited him on the way to Sodom and Gomorrah. Gideon made a good offering (and not a “cheap” offering) to God, do not forget, livestock and food were scare during those times.

As I have said, things are not necessarily measured in terms of money. Praise and worship, when done properly can be a good offering; otherwise it can also be a “cheap” offering.

5. Obey God. When we look at the burnt offering asked of, by the Lord, and Gideon’s doing as instructed, we find both obedience and sacrifice, the manifestations of love (of Gideon for God), at work. That seven year old bull was a prized possession (sacrifice). At the same time, the doing of offering could bring a lot of problems for Gideon, could even cost him his life (obedience).

6. Trust God and be courageous. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Obviously what Gideon did concerning the desecration of Baal altar and Asherah pole was expected to come to light. Gideon trusted God to take care of things, and it was courageous of him to go ahead to do as instructed by the Lord. To be courageous is not necessarily to be without fear. To be courageous is to do the right thing despite fear.

7. Inquire of the Lord before going to war. God and Satan are at war. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have chosen side; we are sided with God. We are at war (The Apostle Paul said in 2 Tim 2:3, endure with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus). For whatever role that we have been assigned for the season, we are to be battle-ready (there are many battles in a gigantic war that stretched over time). We are also not to be a “stray soldier”, going to a battle without checking with our Commander, the Lord.

It appeared that a sign was not an uncommon way to ask for confirmation from the Lord in the olden days. I believe God still give signs to people as confirmation. The first sign Gideon asked, was for the Lord to stay and wait for him to prepare an offering for Him. And God did that. The second set of signs was that concerning the fleece. Here, Gideon asked for a double confirmation, and God granted it! Maybe it does mean for a very major thing, we can ask for a double confirmation.

Anthony Chia – Lord, I say I love you, so I should want to obey you, and make sacrifice for your sake. My disobedience and lack of sacrifice for you are telling on my love for you. Please forgive me.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

About wickedness, sin, and righteousness, and the consequences, in a nutshell – Psalm 1

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this Psalms exposition series, click here}

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
[To me, being blessed is being divinely favored (being divinely favored, peace and fullness of joy are ours, too). If we want to be divinely favored, the psalmist said that we are not to think or act wickedly – stay away from wicked counsel; we are also not to sin – do not engage/indulge in the ways of the sinners; and we are not to let any unbelief and pride to get better of us – mockers act out their unbelief and pride in scoffing/scorning (expressing insolent doubt openly or emphatically/act with contempt/disdain).]
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
[Instead, we are to delight in (to take pleasure, to enjoy) the law (Word, laws, precepts, commandments, and instructions) of the Lord, and on this, we are to meditate day and night (spend as much time as you can).]
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
[The psalmist said that if we rid ourselves of wickedness, sin, and unbelief and pride; and delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night, we will be like a tree planted by streams (not one stream but many streams) of water, which yield its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – a pretty fantastic tree, I would say. The psalmist added that the man who is like this tree, will prosper in whatever he does.]
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
[The wicked, on the other hand, would not be like the tree described in verse 3; instead they will like chaff (the husks of grains) that the wind blows away (winnowing described). So badly is the picture of wicked people that the psalmist used not even a tree to describe it, only as husks that eventually will be discarded.]
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
[The psalmist was saying that because of the marked difference between a righteous man (tree) and the wicked (chaff) or sinful man, the wicked will not stand a chance in God’s judgment to come; and the sinners, cannot be together with the righteous in God’s coming gathering.]
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
[The psalmist declared that the Lord watches over the righteous. The wicked on the other hand, without the covering (of blessings and protection) of the Lord, will perish.]

Points to be learnt:

Although Psalm 1 is a short psalm, it contains the important keys to a right Christian life. It is so fundamental that many of us just took it for granted after a while, and went on to search for more fanciful keys instead of meditating on it to draw out the little nuggets in them.

1. Do not be stubbornly wicked
I believe there are 2 categories of people we must diligently ensure we do not get classified into, the proud people (scoffers, taken to the extreme) and the wicked people. The Word of God says that God opposes the proud. I surely do not want to stand in opposition to God. Next, if righteous people are at one end of a stick, wicked people are at the other end. Although it is right to say all sins are sin, biblical recordings appeared to have shown wickedness is of the form of sin that God would literally punish directly (not through “handing over”/”giving over”) when it gotten really bad. The events of The Flood and The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah come to mind. In both these events, wickedness was the reason, and direct punishments were meted out by God. I believe it got to do with the holiness of God, the very nature of God.

The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time (Genesis 6:5 – pertaining to The Flood).

Now the men of Sodom {and Gomorrah} were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD (Genesis 13:13 – pertaining to The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah).

From the psalm above, we can see that wicked people are likened to chaff. Chaff are discarded by wind, be blown away or by fire, be burnt – not much of a mercy, isn’t it? The way I understand verses 4-6 is consistent with the notion that wickedness can get punished presently (in current living) {v4, 6}, or get punished when Judgment comes {5}. Implicitly, from these verses, we can also see, perhaps, generally, punishments for other manners of sin may be allowed to be deferred until Judgment, until the gathering of the righteous by the Lord. So, in this respect, the many so-called “bad things” that happened to people may very well be cases of God’s “giving over” or “handing over” of people to workings of the fallen world/sins, God did not cause them. The holiness nature of God does not permit God to be wicked in any way (if He brought destruction, it was because His holiness demanded it), and God is long-suffering, giving people opportunities and time to repent.

I believe stubbornly wicked people will face trouble getting God to hear them or act for them. One reason, I believe is that for wicked people, there are many prayers/petitions against them, reaching to God. God does not ignore the cries of his people. That was what happened for Sodom and Gomorrah; the cries were so much and great that God told Abraham that He, God, was going to see for Himself, before deciding to destroy the twin cities by direct pouring down of burning sulphur from heaven.

2 things I want to say in case it is not clear: One, please do not think that we cannot be classified as wicked just because we are Christians. There are wicked Christians in the world (Of course, we like to say they are part of the back-slidden Christians, nonetheless they are Christians). The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:13 called the sexually immoral Corinthians believer, a wicked man. Two, I am not saying that there cannot be mercy and grace still shown for such a person, a wicked man. The Lord is sovereign, said His Word, He will show mercy to whosoever He wants. An example is of course, the Apostle Paul. Don’t you think Paul or previously known as Saul, before his conversion, was wicked. He wrongly accused the believers, hunted them down; voted for their punishments, even death by stoning (Paul voted for the stoning of Stephen). The Lord Himself said that Paul was persecuting Him! Yet, the Lord granted mercy to him; gave him the chance to repent, used him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, and let him be an apostle.

But, remember always, when it comes to interpretation of the Word, we must consider whether something was recorded for “norm” prescription or it was an isolated event. I prefer to live by the norm and not by the isolated. A broad analogy would be like the Word saying that there is big gate and a small door, the small one being the door to the kingdom of God, the big gate being the gate to Hell. We are to go for the small door but there are those, who instead of accepting the small door, want to try (even, try their luck, I would say) to find some crack somewhere in the wall of the kingdom of God to squeeze through. My warning to these people is that God has a prescribed doorway for us to enter, if you want to be like cockroaches to come through the cracks, do not blame God when He decides to let one cockroach through and not another. In other words, just because Paul got through does not mean that you too can be wicked and then able to get through at the end.

2. But be righteous
But you might say, why do I still want to be bothered with righteousness, I am not wicked and so, will not have God up against me, and that God is long-suffering, tending to defer the punishments for sinners until Judgment comes; and I do not mind taking my chances with the workings of the fallen world/sins? But I say, you better think twice if you do not want to be bothered with righteousness:

a) Look at verse 5 again; you may not get through the final judgment to get to the kingdom of God, are you prepared to accept that? If you are a Christian, and you cannot be bothered with the ending or end-result, I say you are still foolish.

b) Morbid, you may say, still I will say: you do not know the day and the hour you will die. Even though you have had your salvation or are born again, are you sure if you knowingly and stubbornly remain in sins, you will get pass the small door, when you die unrepentantly? Controversial, but worth pondering over!

c) Verse 3 said that for people who practice righteousness, whatever they do prospers. Verse 6 said God watches over them. They are like a strong and fruitful tree, evergreen and do not wither. These verses, 3 & 6 obviously are referring to present living on earth. Won’t you like that? Here is a God’s prescribed way to a blessed earthly life: avoid all wickedness, sins and unbelief and pride; go deep into God’s Word, delight in it, meditate on it day and night - a “clean and narrow way”, so to speak; and at the end of day, you get to enter the kingdom of God, as well. You want to ignore that?

3. And a key to righteousness is in delighting in his Word, and meditating on it day and night
The Word is the spiritual food for the Christians. If we do not feed on it, we cannot grow healthily in our Christian life. Physically, if we do not delight in food, and we do not take our regular meals, what will happen to us? Physically, we will not grow strongly and healthily. It is the same for spiritual growth and health, we have to delight in the spiritual food, the Word, principally, and take our regular meals. And when we grow healthily spiritually, we grow in righteousness.

Very briefly, this is how we feed spiritually (for a fuller discussion on Spiritual food and spiritual feeding, read my separate article – Spiritual food):

We hear the Word of God (or read them). Faith comes from the hearing (or reading). With faith, we act out the Word. With action based on faith, we begin to experience the Word in action, and this experience is what feeds us properly. With a feeding we grow a little, and we go back for more of the same – hearing the Word, and going into action based on faith. Experiencing the Word in action is experiencing God in action. From experience, we know food is good. A newly born, after a meal of milk becomes satisfied, and learns to understand food is good, and will develop a delight in food. It is the same with the spiritual man and spiritual food; we are to understand that spiritual food is good for us, and begin to delight in it. The more you delight in it, take pleasure in it, enjoy it, the more you will feed on it; day and night, you will meditate on it – you think about it, ponder about it, try to gain understanding of it, and you think about its applications, etc. In other words, day and night, you chew on it.

The Apostle James said it very clearly that the faith you get from hearing (or reading) the Word, if it is not applied in action, is dead (James 2:17 - … faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead).

And James also explained through the example of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son, Isaac, that righteousness comes from putting faith into action.

You see that his {Abraham’s} faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith {unapplied faith} alone (James 2:22-24).

So when we feed correctly, we grow healthily spiritually; and what do we grow in? Righteousness. Yes, when we grow healthily spiritually, we grow in righteousness.

It should be clear that the righteousness I am referring to, is the active righteousness that we are supposed to grow in. The Bible talked about 2 concepts of righteousness – imputed righteousness that comes from Jesus, and active righteousness that the follower of Jesus has to grow in and to live out. Both kinds of righteousness are based on faith.

If we do not want to grow in and live out that active righteousness, I believe we cannot be like the tree of verse 3 – a tree planted by the streams of water, yielding fruit in its seasons, and has leaves that never wither, and be prosperous in whatever we do.

Also, the practice of active righteousness leads to holiness (Rom 6:19). And that is important, because without holiness we cannot see God (Heb 12:14).
What is your choice?

Anthony Chia – Lord, my choice is to be like the tree of verse 3. Help me to accomplish that by your grace.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Judges series - Judges 5

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

Judges 5

[The Song of Deborah – The entire chapter 5 is a long song, called ode by some. An ode is a poem typically of elaborate or irregular metrical form, and expressive of exalted/enthusiastic emotion, and it is intended to be sung. I would not “sweat” over it too much, although I have spent quite a bit of time to put in the commentaries. I think it suffice that we understand that we should be quick to give thanksgiving unto God for exploits God done on our behalf, and keep an account of the occasions. Probably, nobody would write odes except a select few, but testimonies are good replacements.]

1 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:
2 "When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the LORD!
[In this thanksgiving song, believed to be composed by Deborah, it started with offering praise to God for readying the hearts of the Tribal {tribes of Israel} princes and the people of God to offer themselves.]
3 "Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I will sing to the LORD, I will sing;
I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel.
4 "O LORD, when you went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
the earth shook, the heavens poured,
the clouds poured down water.
5 The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai,
before the LORD, the God of Israel.
[Deborah began to magnify the Lord. “All kings, all rulers (of the Canaanite land), I will sing to the Lord, I will make music to Him, the God of Israel. To the God who when He went from Seir, marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured, the mountains quaked. These things must have been witnessed in the past, and through these narrations, Deborah was exalting the name of God]
6 "In the days of Shamgar {the judge before Deborah} son of Anath,
in the days of Jael {wife of Heber}, the roads were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
7 Village life in Israel ceased,
ceased until I, Deborah, arose,
arose a mother in Israel.
8 When they chose new gods,
war came to the city gates,
and not a shield or spear was seen
among forty thousand in Israel.
[Around those times, under oppression of Canaanites, roads or highways were not used by the Israelites, fearing harassment from enemies, travelers had no choices but to take the by-ways; village life ceased, until Deborah arose like a mother (defending and tending to the welfare of the children) in Israel. People turned to deities, but it did not help, enemies still warred against the Israelites, and the latter was afraid or NOT willing to fight.]
9 My heart is with Israel's princes,
with the willing volunteers among the people.
Praise the LORD!
10 "You who ride on white donkeys,
sitting on your saddle blankets,
and you who walk along the road,
consider 11 the voice of the singers at the watering places.
They recite the righteous acts of the LORD,
the righteous acts of his warriors in Israel.
"Then the people of the LORD
went down to the city gates.
12 'Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
Wake up, wake up, break out in song!
Arise, O Barak!
Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam.'
[Deborah said her heart was with the tribal princes and all those who volunteered to go to war. Deborah paid tribute to those who volunteered. She cited that these rode on white donkeys and walked along the road, passed by the watering places, encouraged and cheered on by the crowd, and eventually got sent off, out of the city gates.]
13 "Then the men who were left
came down to the nobles;
the people of the LORD
came to me with the mighty.
14 Some came from Ephraim, whose roots were in Amalek;
Benjamin was with the people who followed you.
From Makir captains came down,
from Zebulun those who bear a commander's staff.
15 The princes of Issachar were with Deborah;
yes, Issachar was with Barak,
rushing after him into the valley.
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
16 Why did you stay among the campfires
to hear the whistling for the flocks?
In the districts of Reuben
there was much searching of heart.
17 Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan.
And Dan, why did he linger by the ships?
Asher remained on the coast
and stayed in his coves.
18 The people of Zebulun risked their very lives;
so did Naphtali on the heights of the field.
[It seemed that Deborah was here recording the account that all of Israel was made aware of this battle but not all the tribes were willing to go to war on the account of Deborah’s words. Ephraim tribe was mentioned here, so were Manasseh (Makir – the son of Manasseh) Benjamin, Zebulun, Issachar, Reuben, Gilead (Gilead of itself is not a tribe of Israel, but Gad, Reuben and particularly Manasseh inherited Gilead, as a place{Num 32}), Dan, Asher and Naphtali. It seemed that only the Naphtali and the Zebulun tribes were the ones who went to war, risking their very lives. Maybe of significance was also that Deborah was also pointing to the insufficiency of much searching of the heart without leading to positive actions for the Lord – noticed she repeated the searching of hearts by the Reubenites but made no mention of them going out to war.

{{Inserted: 16 June 2010}} The alternative rendering for Gilead in verse 17 is this: Gilead was the son of Makir who was the son of Manasseh (Num 26:29). In verse 14, Makir or Makirite clan joined in, but not the younger Gilead or Gileadite clan (verse 17). Each Israelite Tribe could have several clans. In the case of the Manasseh Tribe, Makirite and Gileadite clans were just 2 of the clans.]
19 "Kings came, they fought;
the kings of Canaan fought
at Taanach by the waters of Megiddo,
but they carried off no silver, no plunder.
[It looked like some other Canaanite kings also came to fight, but they were without victory]
20 From the heavens the stars fought,
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
21 The river Kishon swept them away,
the age-old river, the river Kishon.
March on, my soul; be strong!
22 Then thundered the horses' hoofs—
galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.
[A poetic account of the battle at river Kishon]
23 'Curse Meroz,' said the angel of the LORD.
'Curse its people bitterly,
because they did not come to help the LORD,
to help the LORD against the mighty.'
[According to Bible Scholars, Meroz was a village. Deborah mentioned it that the angel of the Lord cursed its people because they refused to come to help the Lord in the battle.]
24 "Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
25 He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
26 Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman's hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27 At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell-dead.
[In her ode, Deborah gave an account of how Sisera was killed, by Jael, wife of Heber, the Kenite, a tent-dwelling woman who gave the commander milk when he asked for water, only to kill the commander later in his sleep by driving a tent peg into his forehead.]
28 "Through the window peered Sisera's mother;
behind the lattice she cried out,
'Why is his chariot so long in coming?
Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?'
29 The wisest of her ladies answer her;
indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
30 'Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
a girl or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
all this as plunder?'
[The commander (Sisera)’s mother, Deborah was picturing, would be waiting in vain for his son to come back. Deborah was putting herself in the shoes of a mother {figuratively, the mother here could also be referring to the one who oversaw Jabin’s people, much like herself (v7), was a mother to the Israelites}, longing to see the victorious return of her son with great spoils of war, but that would never to come anymore – Sisera was dead]
31 "So may all your enemies perish, O LORD!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength."
Then the land had peace forty years.
[Deborah concluded her song/ode with the wish that all the enemies perish, and the people who love the Lord will shine like the morning sun.]

Points to note:

1. “We should be quick to give thanksgiving unto God for exploits God done on our behalf, and keep an account of the occasions. Probably, nobody would write odes except a select few, but testimonies are good replacements.”

2. Although this song is not about intercession, it is interesting to note that at the opening, Deborah gave thanks to the Lord for the people coming forth to go to battle. One gives thanks to another when the latter contributed to whatever that the former is giving thanks for. So what was implied here is that the Lord does work to ready the hearts of people for a cause. Though not all the people responded to the call, but enough were ready by the Lord. As ministers of God, we must {because at the least, we cannot do everything ourselves}, and as even ordinary Christians, we can {even if you cannot take part} intercede for God to ready more people for any God-worthy {for lack of a better word} causes.

3. I repeat here another line from the above commentary that we may want to ponder about: Maybe of significance was also that Deborah was also pointing to the insufficiency of much searching of the heart without leading to positive actions for the Lord – noticed she repeated the searching of hearts by the Reubenites but made no mention of them going out to war.

4. It is very interesting to find recorded in this Song of Deborah a curse of God on the village of Meroz. Firstly, we Christians, just have to accept that there was sovereign corporate predestination of the Israelites as the chosen people of God. As such, men who were enemies of the Israelites as a people, were enemies of God. In other words, the implication was that if one was not for God’s people, one was not for God. Secondly, if you are not for God, then you are against God. In both the Luke and Matthew’s gospels, this is clearly spelt out - He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters (Mat 12:30 & Luk 11:23). We are unclear if originally Meroz village was an enemy of the Israelites. But since it was not mentioned we can assumed that it was not, but when the time came for side to be taken, apparently, sitting on the fence was not an acceptable choice as far as God was concerned (I believe it is still the case, today), Meroz was cursed for not coming over to God’s side, to take arms and fight God’s enemy. Are there any Meroz among your loved ones? Intercede that they come over to God’s side. Some Bible scholars believed that there was no more remembrance of Meroz because of this bitter curse of God.

5. Four long verses were devoted to Jael’s killing of the Commander of Jabin. This honor was supposed to be for Barak. We read that in Judges 4; but since Barak hesitated, perhaps not trusting fully the prophesy of Deborah, the honor went to Jael, a tent-dwelling woman. This story tells us that if we are not willing to act according to what God wants, God can choose another to do the task He has in mind, giving the honor away to another, in the process.

Anthony Chia – No odes, perhaps, Lord, but I will keep account, give you thanksgiving, and testify of your goodness, even as you bless me and deliver me.

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