Devotions

Ehud

Lesson Six | Devotion #2: Ehud
Noble Baird | Community Center Director

When I was in college, I took a class on narrative preaching. My professor, Dr. Koessler, divided all of the judges in the Old Testament amongst us for sermons we would preach at the end of the semester. As he began to assign the judges, I was given a judge by the name of Ehud. Who in the world names their son Ehud? If you are reading this and your child’s name is Ehud, I apologize, but this was honestly the first thought that crossed my mind when I was assigned this judge! However, as I began to dive into this action-packed story, I was quickly amazed how he was a man who truly lived up to his name.

In Judges 3:12-30, the story unfolds as the people of Israel have again strayed away from God and come under the oppression of Eglon, the king of Moab. For 18 years, the people served Eglon. As always, the people cried out to God asking for deliverance. It is at this point which we are introduced to Ehud. A Benjaminite by birth, the smallest of the 12 tribes of Israel, and he was a lefty! It was demanded of Eglon that a tribute be brought to him once a year by a representative of the people; the representative chosen was Ehud. When he was chosen, it was not a glamorous duty to be given, but a demeaning one. However, Ehud devised a plan to end his people’s oppression and assassinate the king. As his plan came to fruition, Ehud proclaims in Judges 3:28, “Follow after me, for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” It is with this triumphant cry that the people of Israel regained their freedom and killed over 10,000 Moabites.

For 18 years, the Israelites lived as servants to an evil king. They decided that they could live life on their own and forgot the true King. However, God provided them a redeemer who saved and united the people back to Himself. Ehud means “united.” It was from this man, from the smallest of the tribes, which God used to unite His people and bring them back to Him. As you continue this week, do not forget the importance of unity. Not only is it important for us as believers to be united together, but as followers of Christ, we must always remain united with Him. For without Christ, there is no unity in our lives.

Gideon

Lesson Six | Devotion #1: Gideon
Philip Piasecki | Worship Leader

The story of Gideon and his 300 chosen men is incredible. God chose Gideon to lead the men of Israel against the Midianites, and God promised Gideon that they would be victorious. Gideon and his army started at 32,000 men, but God told Gideon that there were too many men, because when they defeated the Midianites, they would become boastful. So, God had Gideon let all who were afraid of battle leave, this brought the army down to 10,000. God told Gideon that this was still too many men, He wanted them to know without a doubt that their victory was fully because of the Lord. God tells Gideon to have the army go to the river to drink and to send home whoever laps the water from the river to drink in the same way a dog would drink. This brings the number of men to 300, and it is this group that defeats the Midianites. This is obviously a condensed version. I would encourage you to go ahead and read the entire story in Judges chapter 7. The thing is, this incredible event almost never took place due to Gideon’s lack of faith. Look at what happens first in Judges chapter 6.

Judges 6:36-40 says, “Then Gideon said to God, ‘If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.’ And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, ‘Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.’ And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.”

God had told Gideon that by his hand He was going to save Israel, and Gideon doubted. Even though the Lord verbally spoke to him, he still requested another sign from God. Then after Gideon gets confirmation on the first fleece, he decides to test God one more time and ask for another sign. God yet again answers Gideon’s request and confirms what He has already told him. When I was reading this story, my first thought was, “Gideon! You are an idiot! God already spoke to you and told you these things, why would you need two more signs?” Then the Holy Spirit shined a light on my life and convicted me. I am guilty of doing the same thing. God has given us His Word. The Bible is the living breathing Word of God, and yet we so often look for confirmation from God in other areas. There have been so many times in my life when I know what Scripture says, yet I still ask God to give me some other confirmation before acting. Luckily for Gideon, despite his indecision, he did not miss out on the incredible plan God had for him. Imagine if his lack of faith and indecision had caused God just to move on and choose someone else? Gideon would have missed out on an opportunity to be used by God incredibly. When we know God is calling us to do something, we need to hear His voice and act. We hear God by spending time in prayer with Him and spending time reading His Word. If the Scriptures tell us to do something, we can know without a doubt we are supposed to do it. We do not need to wait around for a booming voice from Heaven; we can act in biblical faith that we are doing the right thing. I cannot help but think that believers constantly miss out on God using them for His Kingdom because they lack faith and do not trust God’s Word. God wants to use us to change the world just like He used Gideon. We need to be ready and willing to trust Him and to act upon it.

Ruth

Lesson Five | Devotion #6: Ruth
Chris Cain

There Is Hope

I would like to introduce Ruth to you. Ruth is a true “World Changer” and an incredible “Proverbs 31 Woman.” Gasp! What? How can Ruth be a “Proverbs 31 Woman?” She did not spend all day making linens and clothing for her husband and home. She was widowed and homeless. Ruth did not go and purchase a field; she was a foreigner who worked and toiled in other people’s fields all day snatching up the leftovers. She did not even have any kids standing up and praising her, for she had no kids. This is Ruth, hopeless Ruth, the cursed Moabite woman.

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever.” Deuteronomy 23:3

Here we see that if you were a Moabite that you could not enter into the congregation of God. Sounds pretty hopeless.  On top of that, Ruth lost her father-in-law, her brother-in-law, and her husband.  Now what? Her mother-in-law, Naomi who is deeply bitter and saddened, encourages Ruth to return to her own family and her gods, but Ruth chooses to go with her mother-in-law Naomi.

“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’”  Ruth 1:16,17

This would have been a pretty big deal in that culture for Ruth to follow Naomi.  That is some serious commitment to her mother-in-law.  But also, Ruth desired to follow after Naomi’s God, the God of Israel.  The story continues, and this is the part for which you have probably been waiting.  It is a love story, the beautiful romance! Ruth meets a wealthy landowner named Boaz who has allowed her to glean the leftover grain from his fields. She found favor in the eyes of Boaz because of what he had heard of her actions and character.

“And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” Ruth 3:11 NIV

She is a woman of noble character.  She is a ‘Proverbs 31 Woman.’ She earned that title even though she was childless, homeless, and husbandless.  No matter what our storms and circumstances are, we can choose to demonstrate noble character.  As we read on, Boaz and Ruth do marry, which means that Naomi gains a son.  Boaz and Ruth go on to have a son. This son is in the direct lineage of Jesus.

There is hope! And oh, by the way, if you are wondering about that curse, Isaiah 56:6-7 says, “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” 

We see that Ruth chose to join herself to the God of Israel.  There was a turning to God. If you have had some troubles in this life, if you have lost a loved one, or have been living your life in such a manner that you feel there is no hope, you need to know this truth. There is hope, hope for all.  Hope is the great world changer!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13.

Balaam

Lesson Five | Devotion #5: Balaam
Chuck Lindsey | Reach Pastor

Diviner, Deceiver, Destroyer.

Everything could have been different for Balaam. He is regarded as one of the six Gentile (non-Israelite) “prophets” in the Old Testament scriptures. He is regarded as such because he speaks to God, God speaks to him, and he tells others what God said. This is the ministry of a prophet. However, while many regard him as a prophet, God never does. That is right; God never refers to Balaam as a prophet. Instead, Balaam is called a magician, a soothsayer, and a diviner. God says all of these are an abomination to Him.

What we need to learn in the story of Balaam is simple. Ready? He could have been a prophet of God. He could have. He was gifted and probably called by God for His purposes. God’s summary of him is that he is nothing more than a “soothsayer,” not a “prophet of the Most High God.” Balaam’s story is one of tragic waste. Without question, Balaam, like Samson, wasted what God gave to him.

In truth, he traded it. Like so many in our world today (especially in the area of entertainment), Balaam used his gifting for himself and traded everything for wealth. The Bible says that he “loved” money. Money is what drove him. Money is why he did what he did. The New Testament warns us of the danger of loving money. 1 Tim 6:10 (NKJV) says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” He is the proverbial example of someone trying to “gain the whole world while losing his soul.”

What is incredible to me about Balaam’s story is that the Lord still uses him. Though he is a disaster spiritually, called a soothsayer, a diviner and even called a “madman” (2 Peter 2:15-16), incredibly God still uses him to bless the people He loves! But hear this, God uses him in spite of him. What do I mean? God used Balaam’s gifting and calling to bless the people of Israel, even though God was not happy with Balaam. God says that Balaam’s “way is perverse before Me” (Numbers 22:32 NKJV).

There is an important lesson here. God using a person does not mean that God automatically approves of everything going on in their lives. I have seen many gifted and called people, who are wrapped up in sin in their own lives, make the mistake of thinking that because God used them to reach someone or help someone that He is approving of or ignoring the sin in their own lives. This is not the truth! If this describes you, let Balaam’s story set you straight!

Though God used Balaam to bless the people of Israel, Balaam’s life comes to a horrific end. Joshua 13:22 (NKJV) says, “The children of Israel also killed with the sword Balaam the son of Beor, the soothsayer, among those who were killed by them.” He was put to death, but not before his sinfulness could infect others. You see, the book of Revelation tells us that Balaam figured out a way to make his money. He taught the wicked king, Balak, how to defeat the Hebrew people. He showed that king how to entice the Hebrew people into idol worship and sexual immorality, which led to the judgment of God against them.

Balaam now lives in infamy within the scriptures, as an abominable diviner, who, for money, used what he had been given to stumble others. His example is a warning to us, to never assume that God’s blessing is God’s approval. May we with David say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV).

Achan

Lesson Five | Devotion #4: Achan
John Carter | Director of Finance & HR

Sin, it affects more than just you!

If you read the title, you might be prone to skip this read. Please do not, the story of Achan is one to hear and to heed because it is one that brings many warnings. It is a story of what not to do! The story of Achan is found in the book of Joshua chapter 7.  To give the context, Joshua has to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, and they face a mighty city, the city of Jericho. This is the first enemy they face in the land of Canaan.  In Joshua 6:17-18, God gives a command that everything in Jericho is devoted to the Lord for destruction.

“And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction… But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.” 

Achan heard these words; there is no doubt that the instructions given to the people would have been very clear. As the story unfolds, we see that Achan did not heed the instruction of God. He took a coat, some silver, and gold, and put it under his tent. The next battle the Israelites fight is a small city named Ai, but unfortunately, they were not victorious as this plays out in Joshua chapter 7.

“But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel… the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.”

The decision to take what belonged to God caused the death of 36 men, and it destroyed the morale of a nation that was moving forward to a long-awaited promise.  Can you imagine being the guy that caused the death of 36 other men because you were covetous? As you read through the chapter, Achan is soon discovered, and his sin is made known to the nation. In verses 24-26, Achan receives the punishment for disobedience to God.

“And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, ‘Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.’ And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.”

Wow, sin has a heavy consequence to bear. It hardly ever just affects one person. In this case, there were 36 innocent men who died because of the sin of Achan. Not only did Achan’s decision bring harm to the nation of Israel, but it also brought serious consequences to his family. They suffered greatly for his actions. Personally, I find it easy to deflect at this point. I might find myself thinking, “Well that stinks for his family,” or “I sure am glad I did not live in those times.” The cold hard truth is the application of this story holds true to me and our current era.

This is not a fun story to read, nor is it fun to apply to our own lives. I believe this story is recorded in the Bible so we can learn from one man’s mistakes, and hopefully, we will not repeat them. Sin has a wide reaching consequence, and it can destroy our family if we do not pay attention to the instruction of God.

“And if you too rebel against the LORD today then tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the LORD’s land where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us. Only do not rebel against the LORD or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God. Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.”

The passage recorded in Joshua chapter 22 is a serious reminder that we need to check our heart for rebellion against God, we need to make sure we are not making other things in our life priority over God.  Take some time today and examine your life and heart, humble yourself to an almighty God. Make it right by crying out to Jesus and recognize that it is His act on the cross that allows us to be cleansed of our sins. If you think it will only hurt you, let this story be a helpful reminder that sin hurts others, most of the time the people you care about the most. I am sure if Achan would have realized that his sin would cause the death of his whole family he would have thought twice about it.



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