For the Diggers: Lessons from Jabesh-Gilead

The town of Jabesh-Gilead was in the half tribe of Manasseh that settled on the east of Jordan. Jabesh was the name of the town and Gilead was the region, that region being partially in Manasseh and partially in Gad. Jabesh-Gilead was in the land belonging to Manasseh. (You will remember Manasseh was one of the sons of Joseph, along with Ephraim.) We remember that one of the stipulations for their being allowed to settle on the east side of the river, before the conquering, was that they would go across the Jordan and help their brethren fight for the promised land, driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. We read about this agreement in Joshua 1: 14,15:

Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.

It seems that the two-and-a-half tribes kept that commitment to go in and fight for the whole of Israel as they conquered Canaan. But it was during a later civil war that erupted between Israel and a remarkably immoral tribe of  Benjamin, over an abused concubine, that the men of Jabesh-Gilead went AWOL and failed to defend the honor of the nation against Benjamin. Because they failed to show up in this important and God-sanctioned war, the men and married women of the city of Jabesh were killed in the very last chapter of the book of Judges. A curse had been pronounced on Benjamin, because of their immorality and violence, that no man of Israel would give his daughter in marriage to the Benjamites. So, because of this failure to come to war against the Benjamites, the remaining unmarried women of Jabesh-Gilead were given as wives to the Benjamites who had survived the war.  (After all, this was not technically a violation of the curse, since these virgins had no fathers to give them in marriage. Their fathers had been killed in the punishment on Jabesh-Gilead.) These marriages were performed in order to preserve the tribe of Benjamin, threatened by extinction because the few men who remained had no wives.  Thus began the rebuilding of the tribe of Benjamin (of which Saul, coincidentally, was a son).

Fast forward to I Samuel 11. Though some years had passed, it appears to me that there were some of the men of Judges 21, who may have  been living still by the time of the events of I Samuel 11. (Some commentators put these events in close proximity time-wise. Others believe they may have been some 300 years apart.) The young boys who were left in Jabesh-Gilead had perhaps had time to reach adulthood or even be grandfathers, but the city would have likely been yet vulnerable to attack since its utter destruction had occurred in the not-too-distant past (although the exact date of the civil war is not certain). 

At this point (I Samuel 11), Saul was on the brink of becoming the brand new king of Israel and his first major challenge was when the Ammonites, under King Nahash, attacked the city of Jabesh-Gilead. The vulnerable city attempted to make a league of service to the Ammonites, but the men of Nahash the Ammonite required that the men of Jabesh-Gilead have their right eyes plucked out before coming into their service. The men of Jabesh-Gilead asked for one week, during which they appealed to Israel for help, in order to preserve their eyes and perhaps maintain their liberty. It was Saul, who organized an army and rescued Jabesh from the Ammonites. Lots of questions can emerge from this scenario. 

  1. Was Saul’s mother or grandmother one of those women who came from Jabesh-Gilead in forced marriage to a remaining Benjamite? Was this one reason he was quick to go to the rescue of that city? Did he have relatives who were young boys at the time of the initial destruction? 
  2. Was Saul lacking in character as the first king of Israel because of the fact that the male leaders of his tribe were almost all killed as a result of their immorality? Was this, perhaps, part of God’s purposeful lesson in giving the nation a human king rather than allowing the intended divine system to remain in place? 
  3. Lastly, we see that the bodies of Saul and his sons following their deaths in battle against the Philistines were left on the wall of Bethshan (I Samuel 31:11-13). Who was it that went to get the body of the former king of Israel and bury him? It was the “valiant men of Jabesh-Gilead.” They brought Saul and his sons to Jabesh and buried them under a tree. David later thanked the people of Jabesh for this act of piety (2 Samuel 2:4-6). Why, out of all of Israel, who had served under this the first king of Israel, was it that the men of Jabesh went to get the body?  Was it possibly because the king’s matriarchal ancestor was from Jabesh-Gilead? This is impossible to ascertain, since we cannot be sure of the exact chronology of the events in Judges 21 or the exact identity of Saul’s mother, but it is interesting to ponder. 

What we can know is that, for whatever reason, Saul was quick to defend the people of Jabesh-Gilead even before he became king of Israel. He was not of the judgment that, because of their prior failures to stand with Israel, that Israel should fail to stand for them. 

Finally, it is interesting to note that the attacking people in 2 Samuel 11 was the people of Ammon. The Ammonites, of course, were the Semitic people born of Benammi, who was one of the sons born to Lot after his incestuous relationship with his daughters shortly following his delivery from Sodom. The Ammonites, though related to Israel through Lot, were a constant thorn in the side of God’s people. 

In all of these interwoven accounts, one thing is very clear. Sin has a very progressively negative effect as time goes by. A “vacation” from the battle for Jabesh turned into the massive destruction of the adults of the entire city. (How much destruction do we encounter/cause when we take a break from fighting the spiritual battles of our own environments?) 

A single act of immorality turned into the humbling of an entire tribe of Benjamites. (How often do we fail to see huge consequences of “a little action” that violates the moral code of God? Is this not the 2017 Fox News story we see being replayed over and over this very week?)

An entire nation of wicked people grew from a single incestuous decision/act on the parts of some desperate women. (Do parents today make decisions that may turn into national tragedies? You do not have to look very far into monarchies and other governments of the modern world to see what happens when parents become separated from Biblical moorings.) 

The rejection of God as king never had a chance of being what was best for Israel. (Spiritually, we rob ourselves of our very best happiness in this life and eternal fulfillment when we reject Him as King in our lives.)

The regrowth of Benjamin without the fathers/leaders of that tribe resulted in moral poverty. (Once again, this is the plight of our nation today. It is the catalyst for moral bankruptcy or, at least, one recurring arc of a cycle of moral depravity.)

Saul and his sons were poor and desperate at the time of their deaths. There was no national mourning for the king, no proper burial and no pomp and circumstance. (When we die without His favor, our desperation is inevitable and limitless in both its depth and its eternality.)

Sister to Sister: The Destruction of the Family Next Door

Well, I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been a part of the agony, after the fact, but, thankfully I’ve never been privy to the dialog itself…until a recent hotel stay in another state. Glenn and I were staying next door to a couple whose marriage was forever changed. The conversation I didn’t want to be overhearing was excruciating for me, just lying there in the darkness in the middle of the night. But I can only imagine the depth of pain in the room next door. I could only guess the wording of the woman’s side of the conversation, for she spoke in hushed tones that resembled the sounds you might hear around a hospital bed as the life of your loved one ebbs away. And, in fact, it was the life of the marriage itself that was likely passing in the hotel room next door.

Husband (in a very deep and determined bass voice): No! You know better than that. We’ll see how it really was.Wife responds in hushed tones.

Husband: You know that’s a lie. It was your boyfriend. We’ll see. It’s all coming out now.

Wife again responds.

Husband: We’ll see.

Wife responds.

Husband: Well, we’ll just see, won’t we? I don’t believe that for a minute. You said you couldn’t even walk to the second floor, so how do you expect me to believe that story? How, Donna?

Wife responds.

Husband: Well, I guess we’ll know soon. We’ll see.

At this point, my heating system came on and muffled the noises coming from the next room. Thankful for the respite from the awful crash of a falling marriage next door, for the warmth, not just of the heating system, but of the contented and godly Christian man who lay sleeping peacefully beside me, the few quiet moments of the night were welcomed intervals of relief. But then the system would kick off and, again, the agony on the other side of the wall was apparent.

Husband (By now his voice was not as deep and there was weeping between his words.): Oh  Donna! Just tell me why? Why? Why were you willing to throw it all away like this? Why?

Wife responds.

Husband: But can you tell me why? What is it? What was wrong? Did I somehow do something to cause this? Why…a thousand times, Why?

Wife responds.

Husband: (speaking quietly, but gravely): No. I’m not going anywhere. This is my home. These are my kids.

Wife responds.

Husband: No! I tell you I am not leaving. I am not going anywhere. I did not make this mess.

Wife responds.

Husband: But I AM thinking of Lizzie. I’m thinking of Josh and I’m thinking of  Jessie. They are mine, too. I’m not leaving. But if you could just tell me why. Why? Why, Donna?!

I guess the heat came on again, because the next morning when I was awakened by Glenn’s alarm to summons us to hurry and get up and ready to go finish up a marriage seminar in this particular town, I, too, was still wondering why? Why do people throw it all away? It made me want to linger there in that bed with his arms around me for a few more minutes. It made me want to spend a few more minutes in thankfulness to God that day; for Glenn, for the Word that blesses us with sanctification in our marriage, for our children and for our happiness. It really just made me want to never, ever see a night like the people in the room next door had just endured.

But it also made me understand the exception of Matthew 19: 9…you know, the “except it be for fornication” part. God understands the pain of marital unfaithfulness. God knows the full extent of the damage done by Donna. He understands the depth of that cry: “Why?!” (Read the book of Hosea and understand with me the hurt of spiritual adultery against the One who has chosen us.)

I pray the alarm will go off in Donna’s room, too. Perhaps she will hear the wake-up call, before it’s too late. Perhaps her three children will never have to know the sorrow that comes in the wake of divorce. Glenn and I checked out of the hotel shortly thereafter. We left, at the hotel desk, a complimentary copy of our book about God-centered marriage with our contact info, for the couple next door. But I left determined to teach a little more passionately that day, to love a little more deeply and to thank God a little more frequently for the amazing blessings of marriage with Him at the center.

Sister to Sister: Free Download for Debt-free Living in 2017

Debt text on paper

Sin’s put us all in deep debt–the kind that brings death (Romans 6:23). But His gift is eternal life in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8). It’s likely that every reader of BYH knows this basic fact of redemption. It’s the theme of the Bible. But it’s very unlikely that every reader is enjoying debt-free living in Jesus. The devil is crafty and he makes sin alluring. For the woman who has lived in his clutches for a significant part of her life, he makes getting out of debt seem like a very lofty and labor intensive effort. Are you someone who’s been intending to “do better” about sin for a long time now? Perhaps it’s disrespect of your husband. Maybe it is pornography.  Perhaps it is laziness when it comes to Bible study. Maybe your prayer life is almost non-existent. Maybe you have a temper problem. Perhaps you are living in an extramarital adulterous relationship. Maybe you are having sex with a boyfriend. Maybe your pet sin is immodest dress or unclean language. Maybe you’ve become a lot less serious about being present for worship every time the saints assemble. Is it that you’re there, in worship, but never mentally engaged? Are you abusive, physically or verbally, to your spouse? Are you failing to restrain your children? Are you lazy about parenting, allowing your children to participate in activities that compromise their spirituality? Are you too connected to sin via television, music and the internet? Are you entertained by worldliness? Maybe it is that alcohol is ultimately destroying something that is precious to you.

Whatever it is that’s intentional, continual sin is keeping you in debt. It’s what killed your 2016. It’s what kept you from real and sustainable happiness in 2016. My husband is on the phone right this moment with a couple whose marriage is in very real jeopardy. 2016 has been a very bad year for this couple. There has been little happiness. There has been a lot of betrayal and distrust. The marriage has come very close to self-destructing. I have already counseled this morning with a woman whose marriage is going to continue, barring any changes, in perpetual unhappiness because of selfishness on the parts of both partners. I’ve also spoken with a woman this morning whose life is forever altered because of a man who made a conscious decision to walk away from God and join forces with the devil….And it’s only 8:30 a.m!  The devil wants your unhappiness to just re-emerge over and over again. He want to take next year, too…and the next, and the next…until you find yourself bound to him for eternity. He is keeping you in debt.

Somewhere nestled in the middle of the incomplete list of sins above is a foundational sin that’s making happiness elusive for many of us. It’s a failure to fill our lives with His Word. It’s laziness with regard to Bible study. Over and over, in counseling and life-repair situations, I am painfully reminded that when people get out of the Word, problems quickly and powerfully pursue. Contentment is sucked into the vacuum of ignorance to the Will of God. You cannot be happy if you are not in the Word. Failing to study is the sin that keeps on sinning.

Here’s the download. You don’t have to have this download to be happy. (There are lots of methods, teachers, workbooks, commentaries, websites and study guides to help you get into THE book. Digging Deep is certainly a personal favorite.) But you DO have to be in the Word to be happy. I wish I could convince all of the women who come to me with broken lives that this is the basic bedrock upon which all other healing steps are taken. I can, without reservation, recommend this beginning to you:

http://www.maclandroadchurchofchrist.org/bible-basics-bull…/.

Do you really want to continue along with the status-quo of your life? Do you want 2017 to be just like 2016? If you have lived this year as a faithful Christian, of course you do! But if you are not happy, stop self destructing. Make a firm choice to get into the Word in your schedule and in your decision-making in 2017. Help yourself to happiness.

 

Recipe for the day:

I tried this pot roast with my family this week and it could have been a winner in the contest! It was a winner at my house. And easy. I love easy. It was from Lynne, but she did not give her last name. Who are you, Lynne? My family loves you!

3 pound chuck or other flat roast (no need to brown)
McCormick Savory Pot Roast packet
Au Jus packet …also McCormick brand
12 oz Coke ( I used Coke Zero)
Place roast in crock Pot. Mix packets with 1 cup warm water. Pour over roast. Pour Coke over this. Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Before serving stir gravy from bottom edges of Crock Pot.

 

Sister to Sister: What Happened Under the Tree? (Part 1)

tree_fjsyakid_lThe devil first did it in the Garden of Eden.  Eve knew the fruit was forbidden. She knew that God had promised certain death if she picked and ate.  But somehow the devil got Eve all mixed up about good and evil. Maybe what she thought was bad might actually turn out to be okay–even good.  All this time she thought she would die if she ate the fruit. “But I’m getting smarter now,” Eve thought. “ I can listen to this other point of view from this talking serpent. His message gives me hope. I like the sound of wisdom and especially the ability to discern between right and wrong. Maybe what I thought was the absolute truth was not absolutely true after all.”  

You know the rest of the story. Eve took a big bite of this subjective thinking and plunged the world headlong into sorrow, disease and death.  The ironic thing is that the devil used the ability to discern between good and evil as the bait. He promised her this wisdom to know right from wrong. Did you ever stop to think that this ability to distinguish with certainty right from wrong had been given by God in the very beginning?  When God gave Eve the commandment to refrain from eating the fruit of that particular tree, He graciously gave her absolute truth. He presented the choices to her. He told her which choices were good and which choice was bad. He even prescribed the consequence of the wrong choice.  When God revealed his wishes to her, she had all she needed to know about right and wrong. She had, in those early  garden days, wisdom on loan from God. That’s still how we get real wisdom today…from revelation. “The fear of the Lord is (still) the beginning of wisdom” (Psalms 111:10).

But Eve chose experimentation rather than revelation. She, like an infant with a will to disobey, decided to try the Father and see if he was as good as His word. Experimentation is the basic exercise in proving science. My kids did it in school. You know, first you develop a hypothesis. That’s just a big word for “your  best guess at what will happen if…” Then you come up with a test or a series of tests to prove whether or not your guess was right. After enough testing to reasonably show consistency in the results you have proved or disproved your hypothesis. This process is known as the scientific method and all of the real facts in the science textbooks have been proven this way.  Sometimes kids still use this method to prove the principles of buoyancy or the laws of thermodynamics. It’s a good scientific exercise.

But what if you heard that the scientists at NASA were spending one million of your tax dollars this month to prove the law of gravity?  “Why that would be an awful waste of tax money!” you’d say.  “That law has been indisputable for centuries. The law of gravity is no longer in need of being proven.  We already know the consequences of jumping from a ten story building. Let’s use that money on some other research.”

And so it is with God’s laws of good and evil. When God revealed His laws to us in scripture, they were not hypotheses. Since they came from the omniscient One, they were just as sure the moment they were written as if they’d been proven ten million times over. We don’t have to read and then test. Men’s hypotheses need testing. God’s laws are inherently right because He is God. But in the year 2016, we have the written infallible Word of God and several thousand years of testing to prove God was right in the first place. And yet we’re still standing under the tree, if you will, taking that big bite of subjectivism and deciding our ways might work out better than His ways. We’re still hypothesizing on our own, questioning His predicted outcomes, and finally (and, all too often, too late) learning that He knew the facts all along. The scientific method need not be applied to God’s spiritual laws. He is the supreme Scientist. He designed every law of nature. He set in motion every principle upon which our universe operates. His rationale, His wisdom, His instruction is far above our human processes of reasoning. When God instructs, we are not about proving. We are about moving.

(The article above was largely taken from a portion of a chapter I wrote for the Fort Worth Lectureship Book at the Brown Trail School of Preaching and the Brown Trail Church of Christ, 2006)

Sister to Sister: Battlefield Heroes–Teen Boys Protecting Purity

12494653_651034511389_5979043142628718031_nFinding quality programs that help our kids to stay sexually pure through the teen years is not as easy as finding activities that encourage impurity these days. Finding a seminar that encourages both sexual purity and purity of heart is an even more formidable challenge. To locate a venue that offers both of these things in a doctrinal context that you’d feel good about is almost unheard of. And to find one that’s for boys…well, if you have teen boys,  that’s something you don’t want to miss. Finding all of this at no cost, with free food and lodging to boot…well…go ahead and make it a road trip or even a plane trip.

It happens once every four years at West Huntsville and THIS IS THE YEAR! The devil wants to overexpose your boys to sex in all the wrong contexts and under-prepare them for his assault on the family as we’ve known it thoughout our American history. We can and must do battle with him to enable our boys to courageously defend virtue and honor in all of their relationships.

So go ahead. Make the small investment to be sure your husbands and sons make this happen. Send your congregation’s boys, with a mentor, on the church van. Bring a big group to spend the night in a godly home and then attend the sessions. Finding resources right now are so much better than finding you have regrets later. Help your boys to happiness. I hope you can help those boys get their driver’s licenses. Maybe you can enable them to score so high on the ACT that they get great college scholarships. Maybe you can purchase all the right equipment and make sure your son gets the training to excel in his sport of choice. Maybe it’s an elite education or an internship that you can provide. I hope you can maximize talents and minimize obstacles. But remember: None of these can prepare your son in the most important way. The most important preparation is wrought in his heart. I hope you can put in some extremely valuable hours toward the protection of your son’s most valuable commodity. Here’s what you need:

Battlefield HEROES

–Protecting Purity–

A Seminar for Young Men

6th-12th Grade

Saturday, 30 April 2016

0830 – 1430

Guest Speaker: Jeremy Hall

Minister, Millview church of Christ

Agenda:

• 2 Lessons by Jeremy Hall

• 3 Breakout Sessions

Q & A session with Jeremy Hall for all attendees

Submit your questions today!

Light Breakfast and Registration begins at 8:30 am in the lobby

Lunch will be served

Click Here to Register

Sister to Sister: Seriously?…Another Root Canal?!

imagesLast night as I traveled home from Bible study, a young friend sent me the question, “What if a person was baptized at a point in life when she really did not believe in God? Does that render her baptism invalid?…Now that she believes, does she need to be baptized again?”

This morning as I write, I’m headed to the endodontist’s office for a root canal. I wouldn’t hate it quite as much as I do except that I already HAD this root canal done a year-and-a-half ago. I mean I already did the dread, the drill, the cap, the pain, and the recuperation during the holidays of 2013. I spent New Year’s Eve in the chair. I remember. “Everything’s fixed now,” the dentist said. “You shouldn’t have any more problems.”

But I did. In fact the pain never totally went away. I kept telling myself “That ache you’re feeling back there is just residual.”…”Everybody probably feels pain for a while, right?”…”It’s probably just because you grind your teeth, Cindy Colley…You need to wear that retainer more faithfully.… That’s it. After all, you had a reputable dentist do a root canal and you have the cap back there (and the receipt for a big dental bill) to prove it.”

Oh but nothing doing. “It hardly ever happens,” my dentist explained, when I finally told him about the pain, “But every now and then, for some reason, that area below the tooth just gets reinfected and we have to drill back through the cap and get that infection out. I need to do an X-ray to see what’s going on in there.”

I knew that tooth wasn’t reinfected. Truth be told, that old infection never went away.

“Are you telling me I have to have ANOTHER root canal?” I stared at him, open-mouthed, as I heard his post Xray synopsis.

“Yes, that’s basically it….Only, this time, we have to drill through the cap to do it. I’ll have to send you to a specialist. Let me see if I can find one that takes your Blue Cross….And let me give you an antibiotic to help the swelling go down, so it will be easier to deaden your mouth.”

“That’s okay, I said…I’m already on antibiotics for bronchitis.”

So today, I’m headed to that specialist.

You see, everything looked good back there in the back of my mouth. Any dentist would have looked back there and said, “Oh, you’ve got a cap back there. Looks good.” It’s that Xray machine, though, that sees all the way through the flesh and bones…it’s that machine and that machine only that can reveal what’s going on way down deep. And, in my case, that wasn’t good. The infection that remained rendered the first root canal invalid. Today, I have to do it again. ARRRG!

That’s the way it is with our spiritual conditions. So a person goes under the water and rises again to the sound of Christians singing “Oh Happy Day.” She gets hugs all around from the members of the church. Her name is in the bulletin as the newest Christian. Perhaps she even attends all the time. But only God knows if the infection (sin) has been removed from her life. He knows whether or not her baptism washed her sins away. He has the Xray machine.

If a person is baptized to please someone else, as surely was the case in the scenario that my young friend related, the infection of sin is still there. If a person goes under the water in an emotional moment  that’s void of true commitment, perhaps because friends are doing it or, as one person I know did, in a desperate attempt to save a failing marriage, the infection is still there. Those who are looking on may find comfort in knowing the procedure has been done, but the “cap” on that baptism is just hiding the infection. It will keep hurting. Try as she may, this girl is not going to get rid of the ache of sin. She may tell herself over and over that it’s okay. But if the ONE, the Spirit, who sees all the way through, does not bear witness with her Spirit that she is a child of God (Romans 8:16), then the infection of sin is still there. It will never stop hurting, eroding, destroying, until the sin is removed.

Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins(Acts 2:38). It’s a simple procedure by which infected people become clear and clean. But it is possible to go through all the motions without removing the sin. May I always put all of my life under the Xray machine of His Word. He knows.

And, of course, the answer to my young friend’s question is, “Your friend’s original baptism had nothing to do with the removal of sins or forgiveness. It was merely a submersion; a dunking with no spiritual significance (except perhaps it was a blasphemous ritual). How could one’s baptism accomplish forgiveness in the heart of the living God in whom she did not even believe?  If she now believes and is penitent, let’s get back to the water. Let’s clear up the infection.”