Monday, February 25, 2019

Ehud - It Will Kill

Judges 3:16-17  Now Ehud made for himself a sword a cubit long, which had two edges, and he bound it on his right thigh under his robe.17 And he brought the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man.

Have you ever watched the show "Forged in Fire"?  It's a reality competition show where competitors make knives and they see who makes the best one.  There are many rules: The time frame in which to complete the task, the metal they have to use, the type of knife they must create - and then when it's all said and done, the expert judges test the knives to see how well they are built.  If you have seen the show, what insight into the level of expertise required - and skill - to make even a simple knife.

The Bible shares with us the parameters of the knife that Ehud had made.  It was a cubit long - which is 18 inches, and it was sharp on both sides. It's interesting that these details are given to us.  I think letting us know that Ehud made this knife himself shows us that he is a skilled bladesmith.  We are also told in the previous verse (see earlier blog) that Ehud is left-handed.  This explains why his knife was bound on his right thigh, thus making it easier for him to reach it.  Another detail given to us in these short versus is the girth of the king.  "Very Fat Man".  My mind quickly goes to Jabba the hut.  A picture of greed and laziness, self-serving and slothenly.  

Now  I don't believe that Eglon was always this way.  It tells us in the earlier versus that he went down with his soldiers to capture the Israelites.  That says 'soldier' and someone in good health to me. I think this is another nod to what can happen over 18 years when one gets complacent and only seeks to serve oneself.

It's very interesting the detail that God gives to us in His word (just two verses at that) and how all this will play out in the life of Ehud.....

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ehud - Means Combat

Judges 3:1-15 12 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and because they did this evil the Lord gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. 14The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.
15Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.

 What's in a name?  My name means "Gift of God".  I don't know if my sweet mom knew that's what it meant since I was named after my grandmother, but it ended up having a nice meaning.  I was able to buy all the "Name Meaning Plaques" and hold my head up high!
The story of Ehud - brief though it may be - begins in a time of turmoil - good thing we knew he was ready based on the meaning of his name.

Eglon, king of Moab was given power over the Israelites because they were doing evil.  I like that it mentions "in the eyes of the Lord" - because I believe that many people think that if it's not 'illegal' then it's okay.  But, if God says it's not okay - regardless of what the law or the government says - then it's not okay. Period.  This king ruled over the Israelites for 18 years. 

Why 18 years?  Because that's how long it took for the Israelites to cry out to God. 

Many times I might be in the middle of a tough situation or a tough decision and I'm trying to weigh pros and cons, trying to foresee what the future may be and decide based on that, and then all of a sudden it will hit me: Have I prayed about this??  It took the Israelites 18 years to take the issue of a terrible ruler to God.

When we are intentional about giving our problems, our worries, our fears over to God all the time - it doesn't leave room for the enemy to get a stronghold.

So begins the story of Ehud.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Naaman - This is it!

2 Kings 5:9-15
So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” 11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. 15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.

This is Naaman's conversion.  What does 'conversion' mean? Well according to Google, it is defined as "the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another."  For Naaman, this was two-fold.

When Naaman hears that Elisha has sent someone out to give him instructions of what to do - he was not happy.  Perhaps he was expecting some big fanfare and a miraculous show - and it was not going to happen. Naaman was upset that he had traveled all that way and was told to wash in their river.  He had rivers where he lived - he could've done that there.  Instead of just listening and doing what he was told to do - he left angrily.

We are so like Naaman. We want answers to questions, but we want them in our own way, in our own manner, and how we expect them to be answered.  God doesn't work like that. And when we get angry and stomp off, we miss the miracles that God is trying to do in our lives. 

Luckily for Naaman, he had people around him to whom he would listen. They spoke common sense to his angry heart - 'we've traveled all this way. You are dying. It's a swim in the river. Why don't you just try it.'  This is why it is so important to surround yourself with Godly people who will redirect your thinking when we get in our own way.

Then the miracle happened, his leprosy went away and he was changed: Not only physically, but spiritually as well.  Naaman announced "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel".

How exciting to see that when we listen and obey, miracles can happen.  

Monday, January 28, 2019

Naaman - Why Bother?

2 Kings 5:8
When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 

There have been so many debates on the abortion issue in light of what is happening in New York.  I should probably stay off of the social media platforms because I can't possibly understand the mindset of people who think killing a child is acceptable.  I did happen upon one news article and mistakenly read the comments.  The main 'commenter' dug her feet into the ground with the position of "it's none of our business what a woman does with her body". 

The reason I avoid reading the comments normally is that people who post, don't want to hear anyone else's opinion.  Nothing anyone says in reply to her comment is going to get her to change her mind.  Unfortunately, those with Christian beliefs can't help themselves to spewing hurtful comments because she does not think the way a Christian should think.  This should not come as a surprise.  Why would we expect anyone who is not a Christian to think beyond what would benefit them?  What would be the reason?  Some may say just to be a good person, but if there is no immediate reward, if there is no consequence - what reason does someone who does not have a relationship with Jesus have for caring about anyone else?

On the other hand, as a Christian, we should deeply care about what is happening to someone else.

In this passage of 2 Kings, Elisha has gotten word that the king of Israel is upset about the letter he had received regarding Naaman.  Now Elisha didn't have to do anything.  There was nothing in it for him.  There would not have been a negative consequence if he had pretended not to know of the Kings' turmoil.  But that is not the man Elisha was and it's not the type of person God calls us to be.  Elisha reaches out to the king of Israel and says "Send him to me, I'll take care of it for you". 

When we see someone in need, it's very easy to look away and go about our daily lives.  But these are the opportunities that God will give us to bring glory to Him.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Naaman - Say What Now?

2 Kings 5:6-7
The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

How many times have we misinterpreted an email or a text? Mistook the tone of humor for ridicule or truth for sarcasm?  This is what has happened between the King of Aram and the King of Israel.

Remembering that raiders from Aram have already taken people captive from Israel, it is understandable for the king of Israel to be apprehensive in communication with the king of Aram. Not only is the king of Israel caught off guard by the arrival of Naaman, but he assumes that the king of Aram plans to attack if he does not heal Naaman of leprosy, of which there was no cure.

Have you ever felt the pressure of a task to which you have no idea how to complete?  Do you ever feel like God has called you to do something that you feel inadequate to undertake?  I think this is a common thing - but there is one thing we need to realize: God doesn't need us to complete these tasks. He's offering the opportunity to be a part of something that He is doing.  We can give our seemingly unbearable tasks to Him.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Naaman - Out of the mouths of babes

2 Kings 5:2-5
Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing.

 I followed the Elizabeth Smart story, as many of us did, in horror. At the time of her abduction, all of my four children were under the age of 10.  This hit home for me.  Who could possibly take a child away from her loving family?  What would become of the child? How could she move on with her life after this?

In the time of Naaman, there was an Israelite girl who lived in Naaman's home as a servant to his wife.  She was there because she was taken from her home when Aram raiders had conquered her land. I'm not sure what the girls home life was like before she was captured.  She is not mentioned anywhere else except in this passage.  But in general, I can imagine what my disposition might be towards the people who took me.  Not this girl.

This young girl tells Naaman's wife that she knows a guy who can cure his leprosy. That he is in Samaria.  Now Samaria is about a six hour drive from Aram.  I'm not sure what the time frame is on camel or horse, but I can imagine it's a fairly long journey - especially for one who's suffering from leprosy.  Here's the thing - not only does Naaman take the advice of this young girl to go on this long journey, he presents it to his boss, the king, so he can get some time off - and the king agrees to it!

God can use us at any age to be a blessing to someone else, no matter what our circumstances.  Elizabeth Smart has miraculously been able to deal with her abduction and moved on to be an inspiration to others.  Remember Whose you are and where you belong. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Naaman - Who Are You Again?

2 Kings 5:1
1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

When reading a book, most of the time it's very easy to remember the main characters.  Those are the ones that define the plot, the ones we follow along on the journey, the ones that stay in our mind when we've finished.  You will remember Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy - but do you recall Rumblebuffin and the lesson we learned from him?  Maybe, maybe not. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is not the only book where this is the case.
I think the same is true for the Bible. We remember the people who have whole books written about them, Ruth, Esther, Job - but if someone is even mentioned in the Bible, there is a lesson to be learned there.  So, for the next few months, let's look at the people that are mentioned but may not get the recognition they should.

The first is Naaman.  Naaman was a commander in the army.  The Bible says he was a great man and highly regarded by the king.  We are even told why he was highly regarded: "because through him the Lord had given victory to King Aram". He was labeled as a 'valiant solder'.  

In today's world, a man with those credentials we would expect to see in a military uniform with medals and ribbons attached to it. There is one crucial physical attribute attached to Naaman's description: "but he had leprosy".

In Naaman's time, this was a death sentence.  I did a little research on leprosy and a person can have the bacteria that causes leprosy in their system for 3-5 years before symptoms appear. So by the time Naaman knew he had leprosy, it was showing over his skin. Now the Bible doesn't say - Naaman was a great military leader and then he found out he had leprosy.  It says he was a valiant soldier - but he had leprosy.

How many times do we give an excuse to not complete a task?  I'm guilty of it.  Maybe my back was too sore one day or I was just too tired.  Naaman had LEPROSY and yet when the Lord called him out to war to claim victory for King Aram - Naaman went.  I think the first thing we can take away from Naaman in just the first mention of him is that when God is truly calling you to do His work, nothing should stand in your way.