Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ruth 1-God cares for widows

Irena Sendler, a non-Jewish social worker, led the rescue of 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, during the Holocaust in World War II.  Irena and her network assisted in hiding these children and then placing them into the homes of Polish families or concealing them in convents and orphanages. She made lists of the children's real names, put the lists in jars, and then buried them in a garden. Later she would dig up the jars and locate the children to tell them of their real identity. October 1943 Irena was arrested. During her time in prison she had her legs and feet fractured, unwilling to give information on the team she was sentenced to be shot. The Polish underground bribed a guard to release her, and she went into hiding.
 For many years Irena-white-haired, gentle and courageous - was living a modest existence in her Warsaw apartment. Her achievement went largely unnoticed for many years. Then the story was uncovered by four students who wrote a play Life in a Jar about the heroic actions of Irena Sendler. Winners in 2000 of a Kansas state history competition, their presentation, popularized by National Public Radio, C-SPAN and CBS, have brought Irena Sendler’s story to a wider public. This unsung heroine passed away on Monday May 12th, 2008. However her story is memorialized through a website, Hallmark movie and a book.
My usual resources were pretty harsh on Naomi. Elimelech and Naomi  condemned for running away during the famine to in a Moab, instead of waiting on the LORD. Naomi is accused of trying to hide the fact that her sons married Moabite women by trying to discourage her daughter-in laws from returning with her to Bethlehem. In her bitterness, they claim, she blaming God for everything. Since chapter one is the focus of the lecture I felt compelled to explore Naomi circumstances as a widow at that point in history.
Last week we listed all the women with angelic birth announcement and also the barren women in the bible.  Tonight I will focus on Naomi in Ruth 1.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
Let us pray.  Lord tonight help us learn through this study of RUTH that true fulfillment can be found only in God. Although we may seek completion through family and position, we find it only through knowing the One who created us. Our hope is in Christ alone! Now Father, Guard the door of my mouth, and let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you. Oh LORD my strength and my redeemer. In Jesus name I pray. Amen
Ladies you may want to open your Bibles to the Chapter 1 of Ruth
Day five of our lesson compares the attitude of Naomi to that of Job in chapter 1. (The book of Job has 42 chapters. In chapter 1, his troubles were just beginning.) While Job is praised, Naomi is pictured as bitter. The biggest distinction in this comparison is Naomi is a female in a culture where a woman’s place in society is secured through marriage and motherhood. As a man, Job did not lose his land or his stature in the community, but Naomi did. Plus Naomi was a widow in a foreign country when her tragedy struck. Not a safe place to be with no male family. Naomi was far from Bethlehem and her God.
Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
Carolyn James informs us that the Hebrew word for widow almanah shows her low rank in the ancient patriarchal culture. Alem mean “unable to speak”, the widow or “the silent one,” had no voice, no legal rights and no recourse against injustice. This fact is verified by Jesus accusation that the religious leaders of his day of “devouring widows houses” in Mark 12 and Luke 20.
Another reference can be found in Proverbs 15:25 The LORD tears down the proud man’s house but he keeps the widow’s boundaries intact.
 Ruth 1:3 Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi is indeed a bereaved woman finding herself widowed and ten years later no sons to provide for her.  In a pagan country, many dangers could threaten her. She may be bitter but Naomi does have the faith to return home to her people and her God.
Deuteronomy 10:18 assures us God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow,
Possibly she felt like a prodigal returning to Bethlehem after seeking refuge in Moab and living there, ten years long enough for Naomi’s sons to marry forbidden foreign women.  Add to the shame she returned accompanied by a “strange woman,” Ruth, her daughter-in-law.
Ruth 1:19-21 When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”  20 “Don’t call me Naomi” (which means pleasant or sweet) she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
Most of us can sympathize with her sorrow, her deep despair, her sense of hopelessness. Yes and even bitterness. How many of us have had the devastation of losing a spouse? Widowed or divorced we share a similar sense of loss.
·       Loss of male companionship, protection, and emotional support of a spouse
·       Change in finances and possibly the loss of your own home
·       Change of  your status in the community
o   Half a couple, uncomfortable with being the odd number in the group
o   Single women may be seen as threat-I take special care to avoid even the appearance of evil when around married men.
o   The loss of your husband’s influence in the community or church
Friends and neighbors are watching your response to the tough times in your life. Don’t give up hope. Turn to your Heavenly Father who is there waiting with arms opened wide to receive you. He will be your kinsmen redeemer.
 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
 A dear lady I know went through radiation several years ago. She never complained or reacted to her plight with bitterness. In fact, she was an encouragement to me when I was down. Through her multiple weeks of treatment, she witnessed to other patients, offering them hope and a smile. She continues to serve the LORD through her mercy and compassion to others.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
 Proverbs 31:20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
Naomi's husband and two sons die in the first few verses of Ruth. Now Naomi and Ruth are the main characters in the story. Though Naomi returned home bitter, she didn’t stay bitter. We will see how she nurtures and encourages Ruth, and even orchestrates the relationship between Ruth and Boaz to provide a husband for Ruth and a kinsman redeemer to preserve the lineage of her husband, Elimelech.
There are 103 references to widows in the NIV bible. Deuteronomy provides specific laws for the protection of widows and orphans.  God’s prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zachariah, and Malachi warn against forsaking the plight of the widows and fatherless.
Jesus honored the widows mite in Luke 21: 3 “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.
Jesus shows compassion to a widow Luke 7 a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” …“Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Biblical scholar Bonnie Bowman Thuston notes “When Jesus raises this man from the dead, he is in fact, giving life back to two persons in the community; the man and his mother.”
He has proven through his scriptures that women and widows have a have a prominent place in the Bible. Consider the widows who provided food and shelter to the prophets Elisha Kings 1 and Elijah in Kings 2.
God used women many times in the Old Testament to save Israel. We saw the role of Rahab by giving refuge to Joshua’s spies. Deborah was one of 15 judges, not a bad ratio. Judges 5:24  “Most blessed of women be Jael… for her bravery in the killing commander of the Canaanite army.
Our LORD not only cares for women but he cherishes us as his children.  From Genesis when God created Eve as a helper for Adam to Revelation where the church is called the Bride of Christ, God has blessed the union of men and women. God uses women in a unique way for the furtherance of His kingdom.
Remember at the foot of the cross, John 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” Charging John with her care.
The women came to the cross when the other disciples hid. Women were also the first ones at the tomb.  Mark 16:9 He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, She received the honor of telling the disciples she had seen Jesus; He was alive!
Nothing that happens to us can disqualify us from God’s purpose for our lives. My divorce, devastating as it was at the time, equipped me as a school teacher to comfort and empathize with single mothers the difficulty of raising children alone over issues with discipline, homework, and lack of funds. Even now in my position as TD, God has proven my unmarried status affords me time I need for to serve Him fully.  
God has a very special place for women in His Kingdom, even me.
Whenever the Bible highlights a widow or barren women you can expect something extraordinary to occur. Ruth was brought into the kingdom through the influence and godly life of her mother-in-law. Even as she urges Orpah and Ruth to return to their mother’s home, Naomi is showing unselfishness and true love. Yet as Ruth clings to her, Naomi relents. Walking back to Bethlehem alone would have been a lonely and arduous journey. Ruth exemplifies a special love for her mother-in-law by leaving her home and family to care for Naomi in verses 16 & 17. 
16And Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. 17Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me."
Ruth and Esther were honored to have books named after them. Ruth, faithful and devoted, even though she is of foreign birth will be in the lineage of the Messiah.  Esther was placed in the palace of a king to save her people from extinction.
In Acts 9: 32-39  Peter visit the saints in Lydda to find Tabitha (Dorcas) who was always doing good and helping the poor became sick and died, All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made. 40 Peter sent them out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning to the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man (or woman) who falls and has no one to help him up!
Titus 2:3-5 Paul instructs the older women to teach what is good. train the younger women to love their husbands and children,
1 Timothy 5:10 Give a list qualities of faithful widows  SHE is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
We have a sainted widow in my church. One of my greatest opportunities is to study every week with my friend and mentor, Miss Nellie. This is one time during my busy week where I can sit and enjoy the pleasure of her wisdom and her seemingly endless knowledge of the history of Cramerton. After losing most of the vision in her eyes, she can no long read and has little interest in television. It is my joy to read and discuss our Sunday lesson with her. Sometime I just sit and listen and chuckle to her anecdotes. She explains historical terminology to me, like counterpane and hoe cake. Nellie told me her uncle would be working out in the field, he would carefully clean off the hoe he was using and cook hoecakes right there over an open fire. She will burst out laughing, reminiscing about some the mischief the neighborhood lads had done. She is dearly loved by her family, neighbors, and church family. Though she rarely makes into the church building, Miss Nellie is a prayer warrior and, with the assistance of her loving daughters, she has a card ministry. She loves to phone encouragement to those the homebound and sick.
God has a special place for women in His Kingdom. He is our hope.
I want to challenge you retired ladies to consider mentoring some younger women and younger woman to find some way to minister to the homebound and widows. There are many ways that God can use you.
Will you allow God to use you in His Kingdom?     
Let us prayer.
Lord thank you for the blessing of women who by sharing their lives with us double our joy and halve our sorrows. But let us know true fulfillment comes only through YOU.  In Christ our hearts find a home and hope and peace. Amen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Samson Judges 13-16

Ladies it has been such a long time since I have had the privilege of teaching the lecture. I am so glad to be back. Did you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving? Praise the LORD.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that there are many gifts of the Spirit. Do you know your gift? If you don’t, why not ask a close friend? They are the ones that can see the manifestation of the Spirit in your life. God doesn’t give us all the same gift. My daughter was given a beautiful singing voice.  I used to stand beside my daughter in our choir and just pretend that beautiful voice, capable of hitting the highest note, was coming from my throat. But God in His marvelous wisdom knew I would be prideful and take credit for my performance. Teaching is one of my talents and I have to constantly remind myself that it is a gift from God, to direct positive remarks to give Him the glory, the One who gave me my teaching abilities. To give Him the honor and praise and adoration! He puts the hunger in me to dig deep and search the scriptures, and he also gives me the days and hours that I need to prepare.
What we do with our gifts is our gift to God! How are you using your gifts? One of my pet phrases is, “use it or lose it!” In the twilight of our lives we need to continue to feed our minds and souls, exercise our vocal chords and keep our fingers nimble. If you have the gift of music or poetry etc., please let us know. We enjoy hearing from our CBS members during Openings. Didn’t Felicia do a great job earlier! Ladies we need to use our gifts, sing his praises, and share how God has blessed us.

Tonight we will talk about Samson, the last of our judges in this book. We will take a few minutes to analyze how well he used his gifts.
The more I studied the more my opinion of Samson has diminished. There are more chapters in the book of Judges devoted to Samson than any other man. God is using the failings of Samson to teach us some important life lessons. Hopefully we will gain wisdom and insight realizing the importance of God’s direction in our Christian walk, when make decisions.
A.B. Simpson expressed it well when he wrote Samson was:  ‘A marvellous example of what God might have done with a thoroughly separated man,
and yet what self-indulgence and sin can do to hinder the glorious promise and the gracious purpose of God.’

 It's not how you start life, but how you finish that counts for God.

   PRAYER  Ladies if you want, open your bible to Judges 13.
While studying about Samson I chose three points for my lecture tonight from Warren Wiersbe’s book, Be Available.      

·        The Child with the Unbelievable Gift
·        The Champion with Undefeatable Power
·        The Man with the Unreliable Character

The Child with the Unbelievable Gift
Judges 13:1 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. This will be their longest captivity.
Ladies are you even surprised! This time God’s children did not even cry out for deliverance, but He decided it was time for another miracle.
WW  “When God wants to do something really great in His world, He doesn’t send an army, but an angel,” to deliver a gift for His special use to fulfill God’s own purpose.  In verse 2 we learn Manoah‘s wife was barren and had borne no children.

   vv. 3-7 The Angel of the LORD came to the woman and said” Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son;” ( Angel ascended to heaven in a fire.)
Sound familiar doesn’t it. How wonderful to have an angelic birth announcement.
      Sarah - Isaac after 90~ Genesis 17:17
      Rachel - Joseph~ Genesis 30:27   (after Leah had 7 children)
      Hannah - Samuel~1 Samuel 1:20  Eli the priest
      Elizabeth-John the Baptist~ Luke 1 Zachariah and Elizabeth “well along in years”
      Shunammite woman  1 Kings 4  Elisha  “She has no son and her husband is old”
There are several instances in the bible of barren women giving birth in later years: Sarai, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, and the Shunammite woman who cared for Elisha. Two of these, Sara and Elizabeth received a heavenly visitor as well. These sons were definitely “worth the wait.” We tend to develop great expectation for things we have long awaited.  Manoah and his wife were faithful, devoted Christians. Manoah urgently prayed for wisdom and knowledge to raise this special child.

Judges 13:7   Samson was dedicated to be “a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.”  There are only three mentions made in Scripture of those who were Nazirites for life, Samson Judg. 13:4-5, Samuel, 1 Sam. 1:11;and John the Baptist Luke 1:15. Some sources believe Jesus was a Nazirite.
A Nazirite was one who had taken a special vow before the Lord. The purpose of the vow was to provide a way in which a non-priestly person could dedicate his life to God. The Nazirite vow was voluntary and usually temporary, 30-100 days. But in Samson’s case it was ordained by God to last for his whole life. He was chosen by God before he was born and uniquely gifted for the work he was to do.
JV McGee says of Samson:  “Never was a man born with more glorious opportunities than this man.”

 Let me tells you about a boy who used his blessings as an opportunity to help others. A child prodigy nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize at age 12.
Gregory Smith born in PA in1990 could read by age two and had enrolled in university at 10. By16, Smith was studying for four doctorate degress. His “genius” is only one aspect of this story. Smith has used his media attention to advocate children’s rights around the world. He founded an organization that promotes peace and understanding among the world’s young people. Meeting with leaders of different countries and speaking in front of the UN, he has been nominated 4 times for a Nobel Peace Prize. His humanitarian efforts are benefiting orphans and young people around the world. Smith hopes to create safe havens, protected shelters for children living in war zones and is working to create an international symbol to mark these and provide protection during conflict.
Greg Smith realizes that he cannot accomplish much alone. “I try to reach out to other people and encourage them to take part. One drop doesn’t make an ocean, but with enough drops, you can begin to make a change.”Smith has said.  
Quite a different attitude from the one Samson chose.
It's not how you start in life, but how you finish that matters.
Gregory Smith not only started out well but has continued to excel in his 21 years.

The Champion with Undefeatable Power
The blessing of God rested on Samson from his birth. In Mahaneh Dan young Samson no doubt liked to watch the men get ready for battle. The Spirit of God began to stir in Samson in his teen years when a Jewish boy becomes a “son of the law” and demonstrates his special gifts. That the Spirit stirred him at this military staging area indicates that his life’s work would be the deliverance of his people from the hands of the hated Philistine.
We cannot deny that Samson was a powerful man, a mighty warrior of great strength, but always remember his strength was not his hair.

Supernaturally empowered by the Spirit of the LORD, let’s take a look at some of his extraordinary FEATS of STRENGTH
Judges 14:5-6  Ripped apart a young lion  Could this have been the LORD warning him to get out of the vineyard. 1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
  • 14:19 Killed 30 men of Ashkelon for their garments                               
  • 15:4 Caught and tied 300 foxes tail to tail & put a torch on each pair           
  • 15:8 In vengeance, slaughter a great number of Philistines
  • 15:14 Easily broke 2 new cords that bound him
  • 15:15 Killed 1,000 men with the new jawbone of an ass 
  • 16:3 carried the gates of the city posts and all for several miles to                              Hebron 
  • 16:30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
In all of these demonstrations of strength, Samson acted alone in the Spirit of the LORD.  It has been said “God plus 1 is a majority.”
 For 20 years Samson played the champion, but he failed to act as a leader. He never gathered an army or organized the people to fight the Philistines. The only time there was a united military effort was when the 3,000 men of Judah came to Samson to bind him and deliver him over to the enemy. Notice the phrase “the Philistines are rulers over us” Judges 15 v.11
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson: 4 times in the NIV, but we never heard him call out to the LORD for wisdom or authorization to act. Samson was more interested in serving himself than serving God. The only reason Samson fought against the Philistines, was when he felt personally wronged or out-smarted.  But fear not, God is still orchestrating the “downfall“  of the Philistines
One of the times Samson did cry out to the LORD is in Judges 15:18. He was weakened from battle and proclaimed he would die of thirst. God produced water from a rock and his strength was revived. Judges 15: 20And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
Samson had a good start in life, but it’s how he finished that matters.
The Man with the Unreliable Character
Winston Churchill once described the actions of the Russian “It is a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma.” Warren Weirsbe says this quote could be applied to Samson. He was unpredictable and undependable. James 1:8 “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways”
Judges 13:3-5 should have given us a clue (Samson) shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines. JVMcGee   He was a beginner, not a finisher.
 Paul wrote to the Galatians in 5:7   “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?”
Numbers 6 for a more detailed information in the Nazirite vow.
Numbers 6 3 abstain from wine and beer.  not drink vinegar made from wine or from beer. not drink any grape juice or eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 He is not to eat anything produced by the grapevine, from seeds to skin, during his vow.
Judges 14: 1 Samson went down to Timnath,(why we ask is he in the camp of the enemy) then he saw a Philistine woman.   Lust of the eyes
 V2.  get her for me to wife.  Selfish motive-lust of the flesh
V3  his father and his mother wisely try to dissuade Samson from choosing a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines. (Unclean)
Samson said, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
 Judges 17:6  but every man did that which was right in his own eyes
 His parents I am sure were disappointed at the wife their only son had chosen. But God is working even in this.
Samson again is strolling through the vineyards of Timnath   Judges 14:8 …he turned aside to see the honey in the carcass of the lion.  9And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother
Numbers 6:6 Nazirites must not go near a dead body.
The problem began when Samson turned aside. How often have we be tempted by turning aside from what is right and pure and godly! Ladies we must keep our eyes on the LORD.
Samson must think himself quite clever creating a riddle of his little moment of turning aside in the vineyard. It was not very respectful to make light of his sin. Samson compounded his sin by deceiving his parents.
Numbers 6: 5 no razor may be used on his head..
Samson still had his long hair, an outward symbol of a Nazirite; but his heart was not totally focused on God’s purpose for his life. Samson certainly was not bringing glory to God.
Bible stories for Children mention Samson and Delilah, but this week we learned Samson had several ungodly alliances. He had a recurrent weakness.
 Superman’s weakness was kryptonite.  Samson’s weakness was Philistine women.
Proverbs 6:27-28Can a man take fire in his bosom And his clothes not be burned?
                            Or can a man walk on hot coals And his feet not be scorched?

Judges 16:19 Delilah Having put him to sleep on her lap, called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. 20 But he did not know that the LORD had left him

Ladies this is the saddest thing of the entire story. Samson did not know that the LORD had left him.
How often do we try to do things in our own strength without God’s guidance or blessing. This is surely a lesson for Christian Living.
Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:14-15).
 Judges 14:4  says The LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; “ Samson’s last day turned out to be his BEST
There are some SIMILARITIES in lives of Samson and of Jesus Christ - births were foretold about an angel and were dedicated to God from the womb. Both men moved in the power of the Holy Spirit. They were rejected by their people and bound and tortured at the hands of their enemies.
  Many CONTRASTS between Samson’s life and  Jesus
·        Samson live  a life of sin;
·        Jesus life was sinless
·        Sampson at the time at his death prayed, Judges 16:28
I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes
·        Jesus prayed, “ Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”
·         In death Samson's arms were outstretched in wrath.
·        In death Jesus arms were outstretched in love
·         Sampson died.
·        Jesus Christ lives

Friends, many times as Christian we can be distracted by the bus-i-ness of the world and make bad choices in emotional circumstances. The secular world tries to convince us that what the Bible says is outdated or untrue.  A popular phrase in the 60’s  “If it feels good, do it” is still dictating the lives of people today. Sometimes we can’t do what we feel-because it contradicts God WORD and His will for our lives.

Isaiah 55:9 (KJV) 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

It’s not how you begin, but how you finish that makes the difference.
May we be able to say as Paul:  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim. 4:7)
God is still looking for people He can use for His glory.  Will you choose to be available for his call?
If you have problems in your walk with the Lord, I invite you right now to confess to Him, receive His forgiveness and be made ready to be used by Him in His time. 
Any member of the Servants Team or your Core Leader would be happy to talk to you after the lecture.
Let us Pray

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Judges 9-12; November 17, 2011

Ladies, tonight we are talking about rejection. Everyone can suffer from rejections; adults as well as children. Most of us are familiar with rejection of some form. Have you known the betrayed of a good friend? Have you been rejected by someone who promised to never leave you,  been excluded from the activities with “party crowd” at work or in your neighborhood, passed over for a particular job at work or church, denied an invitation to a family celebration, you can fill in the blank: these are all forms of rejection. Rejection hurts deep at a level that attacks our very self-worth and significance. I remember in my childhood inviting a friend to our church picnic, then she ran off with my best friend leaving me all alone.
It is hard to be a newcomer fitting into an existing circle of friends. If you see someone “new” or someone sitting alone out here or in your core, reach out to them. My hope is that no lady ever drops out of CBS because she did not feel welcome. That is the goal of CBS to make everyone feel comfortable, confident and cared for.   
But remember the rejection from "man" or woman is never an indicator that we are rejected by God. God can use even those who have been the most rejected as we saw in this lesson. He has a place for you and a divine purpose for your life.  
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Opening Prayer
Tonight we will talk about Abimelech and Jephthah; both dealt with rejection from their families. But they handled it in two entirely different ways. Abimelech allowed his feelings of rejection to power his revenge. Jephthah was rejected by his brothers as well, but he went off to build a life for himself and became a mighty warrior and a follower of the Lord.
Let’s open God’s Word to Judges 9.
·       Abimelech gains a throne through treachery (9:1-57).

As we learned last week in chapter 8 of Judges the Israelites wanted Gideon to rule over them but he refused saying “the LORD will rule over you.”  30 He had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives. 31 His concubine, who lived in Shechem, also bore him a son, whom he named Abimelech.
Why so many wives and so many children? I had questions about these leaders of Shechem that crowned him king. Also, where were the other tribes when the 69 sons were beheaded one at a time? Surely Abimelech couldn’t hire that many men with 70 Shekels.
Different commentaries offered some insight. A concubine could be a lawful but secondary wife. Her children were not entitled to an inheritance from the father. This concubine, named Druma, (according to Josephus) seems not to have been taken into Gideon’s house, but lived at Shechem, where Gideon travelled as the judge to settle matters. The name Abimelech means, my father is king, or my father hath reigned. The name was probably given by his mother, a name which might encourage him as he grew older to seek a position by his father's right.
Remember Joshua 21:20-21 tells us the Levites were allotted towns from the tribe of Ephraim: they were given Shechem. (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) The people of Shechem were chiefly Israelites but included Canaanite citizens that had been allowed to stay.
Abimelech decided King sounded pretty good to him. He gathered support in Shechem from his mother’s people. Sounds kind of like a political election with promises and working out deals to benefit the home folk.
After Gideon’s 40 years of peace, Abimelech begins his reign with financing from the temple of Baal. He hired men who were "worthless and reckless."  Men, who were completely void of conscience, had no regret of doing wrong.  69 half-brothers slaughtered; laid one after another upon the same stone, like an execution; or perhaps serving as an altar on which they were sacrificed to Baal.
Ladies if you will turn to page 94 in your book there is a chart that lists all of the Judges, the oppressors of the Israelites, and duration of each. Notice that Abimelech is listed not as a Judge but as an oppressor. Also, see there were two judges before Jephthah and three after him, all unremarkable and will not be mentioned tonight.

Judges 9:6 Then all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered crown Abimelech king.
 Giving him the title of king indicates the strong Canaanite influence. Canaanite chiefs were called kings, but Israel had no king. Abimelech directly disobeyed the will of his father, Gideon. 8:23 “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.”
Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.
Matthew Henry “ This bold and daring move was done without asking counsel of God, without which no king was to be set over Israel, and by a single city, without the knowledge, advice, and consent of the body of the people of Israel: by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem; the place where Joshua placed there as a testimony between God and the people, and here, in the same place where Joshua convened the people of Israel, and made his last speech to them.” What a desecration of this important landmark!
v.7  The only surviving brother, the youngest, Jotham climbs Mt. Gerizim (Mount of Blessing) and shouted, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.” Jotham’s parable-compared his brothers to important trees too busy serving to seek the throne. Abimelech is compared to the thornbush. What kind of shade can a thornbush produce? Jotham then delivers a prophetic curse. Judges 9:20 …let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech. Before the men of Shechem could make the 20 minute climb to where Jotham stood, he ran and hid.
22 After Abimelech had governed Israel three years, 23 God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem.
When Abimelech stormed the tower at Thebez to set it on fire 53 a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. Ladies, here is a nameless woman who was used of the LORD to take down a heartless tyrant. God can use whomever he chooses to fulfill his purpose.
looks more Greek, but you can see the woman holding a millstone.
56 Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers. 57 God also made the men of Shechem pay for all their wickedness. The curse of Jotham son of Jerub-Baal came on them.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap
*God permitted the devil, the great mischief maker to set friction between these two. He is an evil spirit and God not only keeps him on a short lease, but sometimes uses Satan to serve His own purpose.  God used Abimelech to defeat the Baal worshiping Shechemites.
God can and will use each and every one of us for His own purpose, regardless of the rejection we have suffered, regardless of our background.

·       God raises up Jephthah as Israel’s judge (11:1 - 12:7).

Enter Jephthah, another rejected son, driven by his brother out of his home. V. 1 His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. But instead of revenge and murder, Jephthah left home, became a mighty warrior and God used him in a mighty way to rescue His people. He was so successful that the elders of Gilead came to find him in the land of Tob. Instead of sulking and turning his back on his hometown, he agrees to fight the Ammonites.  Jephthah recognizes that the LORD will be in every victory.

Jephthah tries to reason with the Ammonite king, reminding him of their earlier rejection of the Israelites as Moses leads them through the desert. 23 the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven the enemy out before his people Israel. 24 You take what your god Chemosh gives you.
27-Let the LORD, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites.”  28 The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him. Ladies this is another means of rejection-to be ignored. But God is still in control.
29 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. When God poured out His Spirit on this man,  Jephthah then went to fight and God gave him the victory. Ammon was totally subdued.
Indeed, God can use even the most rejected people for His purposes!

Jephthah’s experience is not unlike that of Winston Churchill. The British leader had been out of favor politically between the World Wars. Churchill's political career began when he became prime minister and head of the Ministry of Defense early in World War II, Churchill wrote  "I felt as if I was walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour,"
Jephthah served 6 years, fewer than any other judge.  He refused to harbor a grudge from his rejection. Jephthah is remembered for his great faithfulness to God (Hebrews 11) and his willingness to be used to deliver his people from the Ammonites (1 Samuel 12:11)
Proverbs 21:2-3 All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.  To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Just a few comments on the foolish vow Jephthah made to the LORD.

30  “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
What did he think was going to come out of that door? The problem is he didn’t think. From triumph to brokenness, Jephthah’s only child, a daughter came out of the door. Honorable and obedient, she submits to her father.
35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”
Jephthah certainly was despondent either way you translate this scripture. He would have no legacy, no grandchildren.
37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”
Eight commentaries and various resources feel that the vow was fulfilled by her service to the LORD, to remain a virgin and never marry.
First- Child sacrifice was paganistic and would never be permitted in the temple; masculine form of the word “whatever”. Psalms 106:35-38, Isaiah 57:5 JV McGee, Warren Weirsbe, Clark’s, Barnes, Gill’s, Reis, Wesley, Matthew Henry 
Second We read in Leviticus 27 a person can be redeemed from a hasty vow. Sacrifices are from the male of the flocks
39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.  Third- She is lamenting her virginity, a vow never to marry.  
From this comes the Israelite custom 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Lastly, God was able to use Jephthah even after his blunder, because Jephthah had the courage to go on. He was not condemned for his vow. Jephthah is mentioned favorably in
1 Samuel and Hebrews 11.

SLIDE 12  Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Conclusion –These two sons knew rejection, they just handled it differently. Jesus knows what it means to be rejected. Of the 76 times the word rejected was used in the NIV bible almost all referred to the rejection of incarnate Christ or to Israel’s rejections of God’s laws and commands.
Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  
1 Samuel 8 6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
It is some measure of comfort to know our Savior understands rejection. He knows what it feels like. The one rejection that Jesus suffered is greater than any we will ever face. As he hung on the cross, God turned his back on His Son, because Christ became sin. Jesus suffered that rejection from His Father in order to redeem us. 
My dear friend, there is no need for you to be rejected by God. Jesus paid it all. Do not leave tonight without knowing Him as Redeemer.

Ladies tonight will you choose to dedicate your life to the work God has planned for you? He will accept you just as you are.
Look around this room tonight, 20 or so ladies are not here. By tonight every member should have phone numbers from most of the ladies in your core. If they have missed 2 times in a row, give them a call and say you missed them.  You may never know what rejection another lady in this room has suffered. Let’s make a conscious effort to reach out to someone that you are not acquainted with (in your core or out here in the large group.) Give them a smile, make them feel welcome.
Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34
Let us pray.

THANK YOU TONI for doing the last two lectures.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Judges 1-3 Obedience to God is the Key

Children have plenty of excuses for breaking the rules of the home or not doing homework.
  • ·        I forgot my science book at school.
  • ·        The teacher didn’t explain how to do this.
  • ·        I didn’t hear you say to be home by 6:00.
  • ·        You didn’t say I couldn’t juggle 2 liter bottles in the living room.
  • ·        Everybody else gets to stay out until midnight.
  • ·        Oh, were you taking that cake to CBS?
The Israelites probably had their list of excuses for breaking the covenant with God.
We forgot the laws of Moses.
We didn’t know we had to kill everybody.
These pagans will make great servants.
Just being Good Neighbors
Only looking
The book of Judges takes its name from the history of the 14 men and one woman who delivered Israel from servitude. God did not choose a national leader to take Joshua’s place in the way had with Moses. The Hebrew word “to judge” carries the idea of ruling, liberating, and delivering. The phrase, “In those days there was no king in Israel,” appears four times in the book. The judges were to acknowledge God as their supreme ruler and invisible King in what was called a theocracy. The period of Judges lasted 350 years until Samuel, the last judge, anointed Saul, Israel's first king.

Ladies you may turn in your Bibles to Judges 1
Obedience to God is the key.
Rich Israel relaxes (1:1 - 2:5).
• Rejection of God causes Israel’s ruin (2:6 - 3:8).
• Israel repents and God rescues her repeatedly (3:9-31).

·        Rich Israel relaxes (1:1 - 2:5).
1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?”  2 The LORD answered, “Judah is to go; I have given the land into their hands.”
The first battle 4-Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek.  It was there that they fought against Adoni-Bezek and cut off his thumbs and big toes as he did to his enemies. Since he could no longer hold a sword or balance himself to lead in battle, he could no longer qualified as king. “Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.”

God keep his promised to fight for Israel as long as she was faithful. Verse 19 tells us the LORD was with the men of Judah and again in v.22 The house of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the LORD was with them.

However, verses 27-36 give a list of the remaining tribes and their failures to conquer the land God had given them. The Israelites had relaxed their standards and did not finish what they started.


Winston Churchill’s quote during World War II would have been a good one for Israel to remember. “We shall neither fail nor falter; we shall not weaken or tire...give us the tools and we will finish the job.”

“The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. I want to run all the way with the flame of my torch still lit for Him.” Joseph Stowell


Israel dropped her torch before she reached the finish line. Her people failed to realize that Obedience to God is the key to their success.

Rejection of God causes Israel’s ruin (2:6 - 3:8).

1 The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.”

 Another incidence of Christophany-foreshadow of Christ. Wesley’s commentary 2:1 The angel - Christ the angel of the covenant, often called the angel of the Lord, to whom the conduct of Israel out of Egypt into Canaan, is frequently ascribed. He alone could speak the following words in his own name and person; whereas created angels and prophets universally usher in their message with, Thus saith the Lord, or some equivalent expression.

Bokim means weepers. The people wept not because of their convictions of sin but because of the consequences of their actions. It is a sad and temporary repentance that never leads to salvation. Doesn’t that happen to our children and even ourselves. Obedience to God is the key.

J V McGee suggests that Chapter 2 outlines the entire book and God’s philosophy of human history. The words for “judge,” “judgment,” and “judged” are used 22 times. The word “evil” occurs 14 times. The people did evil and God raised up judges (vv. 11, 16). The people did evil because they did not obey God (vv. 2, 17). They did not obey because they did not believe God (v. 20).

 The cycle of history that they followed is given in verses 11 through 16.
Israel disobeyed God by not completely destroying all the wicked and corrupt nations from the land. They did evil, forsook God and worshipped other gods. True to His promise in Joshua 23, God did not fight for them but sold them into slavery and servitude at the hands of the surrounding nations. They cried out to the LORD and repented. Seven times they did this and seven times the Lord God in His mercy and grace raised up judges to deliver them.
Verse 19 says But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

2:10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

Can we lay the blame totally on this new generation? Who is at fault for this generation who did not know the LORD or His commandments?  In Deuteronomy 31 The priests were commanded to read aloud to the nation the book of the law every sabbatical year.
12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
Not only the priests and elders, but the parents too had failed to pass on the faith.
What are some things our children may have never seen that we cherish from the past? Eight track tapes, manual typewriters, roller skates with a key,  vinyl records, push mowers, and hand crank ice cream churns. I can remember taking turns sitting and turning.  When I became a teacher, I became a collector (maybe some would say a pack rat.) I still have a small vinyl record that I had as a child that played at 78 rpm. Today with MP3s and iPods, my children throw out anything that is not new. I call them the “disposable generation.” While my daughter may not share my love of the old and collectible, she does share my love of the LORD. She sings His praises and makes sure my grandsons are in church to learn God’s Word. We are commanded in Joel 1:3 (NIV1984)
3 Tell it to your children,
   and let your children tell it to their children,
   and their children to the next generation.
Obedience to God is the key. Are you being obedient to the LORD and telling your children the mercy and love of the LORD and all the blessing He has bestowed upon you?
Israel repents and God rescues her repeatedly (3:9-31).
Caleb’s legacy of faithfulness lives on in Judges.  In chapter 1 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, conquered the city of Debir and Caleb gave his daughter Ax-suh to him in marriage. The key to Othniel’s success was his obedience to God. Caleb’s daughter also had boldness enough to ask her father for springs of water in addition to the south land.
7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Kushan Rishathaim king of Aram v. 9 After eight years of bondage, the people cried out and God raised up for them a deliverer Othniel, Caleb’s nephew and son-in-law. 10 The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel’s judge and the LORD gave king of Aram into his hands. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel died.
As Sindy would say these Israelites remind me of shampoo. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
v.15-28 Ehud was chosen from the tribe of Benjamin to deliver the Israelites. Some commentaries claim he was not only left-handed but perhaps handicapped. He used this to his advantage as he bravely sought a private audience with Eglon the king of Moab. Ehud probably was not searched for weapons on the right thigh. His ploy, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” Gave him the time he needed. Verse 29-30 tells the rest of the story. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not a man escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.
 31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.
 God can use any person or method to fulfill his plan.
Each day a lamb walked with his mother to the pasture. As he watched the pigs wallow in the mud it seemed like fun.  On an really hot day the lamb asked his mother if he could jump the fence and wallow in the cool mud. She replied, "No, Sheep don't wallow." This didn't satisfy the lamb. As soon as his mother was out of sight, he ran to the pig pen and jumped the fence. He was soon feeling the cool mud on his feet, legs, and stomach, as he wallowed deeper and deeper in the mud. After a while, he decided he had better go find his mother, but he couldn't move. He was stuck from the weight of the mud which had gotten into his wool. His pleasure had now become his prison. He cried out and was rescued by the kindly shepherd. When cleaned and returned to the fold, the mother rebuked him, "Remember, sheep don't wallow."
Sin is like that. It looks so nice, and we think we can escape whenever we wish, but it just isn't so. Our pleasures soon become our prisons. We must remember, "Christians don't wallow."
I have heard  my pastor repeat, “Sin will take you further than you ever wanted to go.., Sin will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay..., and sin will cost you more than you can ever pay”
 The last verse in this book states: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” While most Israelites wallowed in wickedness, God continued to delivered His people and preserved a remnant. (LaHaye study bible)
The message is clear: Obedience to God is the key. If that’s the message, then what’s the application? There’s a message here for individuals and nations. As a believer, you have an obligation to God and your nation. You have an obligation to let other people know that obedience to God is the key.

Hebrew 12:10-11 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Closing Sentence: Will you choose to obey God? Will you share the message with others?