Details, Doubt, and Destiny

Scripture Focus: Judges 6.11-13
​​11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 

13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Details, Doubt, and Destiny
By Nigel Robinson

This opening setting of this chapter seems much like our situation across the world as followers of Christ. Those who say they love God act contrary to his words, those who do not love God profit from God’s people without visible consequence, and God seems nowhere to be found. God will answer if we humble ourselves, stop rebelling against him, and ask him for help. Have you reached the point where life hurts badly enough you are willing to let God help? God loves us so much he will let life beat us down so we choose to look up to him!

Living in a world like this is difficult. This is where we meet Gideon. His life has been ravaged to the point that he is literally hiding in a pit so his enemies cannot see him in an attempt to provide food for himself and his family. The task of threshing is harder than normal as he has no level surface, wind, or oxen to aid him. When life is tough, will God find you surrendering to your problems or doing what you can to handle them? Gideon’s creativity here provides an example of how we can respond to difficulties. God wants to find our hands working because we believe God will come through for us and we have not given up on him. 

God talked to Gideon, but Gideon wasn’t quite ready to trust God. Gideon’s current circumstances brought on doubt. We face doubt because our experiences reveal life’s fragility and our limitations. However, God is not fragile nor limited. Questioning God is not wrong, but we must choose to act in accordance with what his answer reveals about us. Gideon questioned if what God said was true. But when God proved it was, Gideon responded in obedience. When was the last time you questioned what God told you? When he answered, did you act in accordance with what he said? We will never arrive at the destiny God has for us unless we believe him over our life experiences.

God uses the details of our lives to erase the doubt in our lives so we can arrive at his destiny for our lives. Gideon’s obedience allowed God to use his ordinary resources to achieve extraordinary results. What doubt is God addressing through the details of your life? Follow the details because God’s destiny is waiting.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are my hope, O Lord God, my confidence since I was young. — Psalm 71.5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 6 (Listen – 6:15)
Acts 10 (Listen – 5:49)

Today’s Readings
Judges 7 (Listen – 4:39) Acts 11 (Listen – 3:52)
Judges 8 (Listen – 5:08) Acts 12 (Listen – 3:49)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021

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Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe.

The Willing and the Waiting

Scripture Focus: Judges 5.1-2, 9
1 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song: 
2 “When the princes in Israel take the lead, 
when the people willingly offer themselves— 
praise the Lord!

9 My heart is with Israel’s princes, 
with the willing volunteers among the people. 
Praise the Lord! 

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: The Willing and the Waiting
By Carolyn Westendorf

There is wisdom in waiting. We wait for our food in restaurants. We wait to be married to the love of our life. We wait and watch our children grow up. But waiting is not always the right decision.

Deborah’s song begins with a verse praising the willingness of God’s people to offer themselves to His purpose (Judges 5:2). Deborah led her people like a mother (vv. 7). Barak commanded the soldiers and freed captives (vv. 12). Tribes like Zebulun and Naphtali risked their lives (vv. 18). Issachar was faithful to the call to arms, rushing at the heels of the enemy (vv. 15). Jael killed the enemy in her tent and was blessed (vv. 24-27). These people were called noble (vv. 13). They willingly offered themselves for the Lord’s purpose.

In contrast, verse 16 wonders why the tribe of Reuben remains among their sheep when there is a call to arms to help their brothers. They are described as having “great searchings of heart” (vv. 15, 16). The way Reuben is pictured implies they know what should be done. They search their hearts to convince themselves to go.  However, they never come to a resolute decision. They linger in the familiar, finding comfort. They hesitate, letting time pass and their inaction decide what part they will play.

The people of Reuben were not just unwilling to leave their sheep. They were unwilling to offer themselves for the liberation of their brothers and for the cause of the Lord.

There is wisdom in waiting. But when waiting turns into hesitancy, hesitation becomes the choice to not act.

What if Reuben stopped searching their hearts, and instead searched the heart of God? Perhaps they would have joined with their brothers and be remembered with honor. What if we searched the heart of God instead of tempting our hearts with hesitation? By drawing closer to God’s heart, our desire could be drawn to action for His purpose, not to inaction for our comfort.

Deborah’s song praises those willing to act. It is these volunteers who resemble the Lord, the first willing deliverer (vv. 4-5). It is these people who are willing to make sacrifices, think of others as more important than themselves, and offer their lives for God’s purposes. 

The sacrifice of the willing becomes their legacy. The waiting of the hesitant becomes their undoing.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You, O Lord, shall give strength to your people; the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace. — Psalm 29.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 5 (Listen – 4:36)
Acts 9 (Listen – 6:05)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

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Read more about Invisible Status
Jesus gives strength to those we mock for being weak.
Jesus elevates the lowly from the valleys to the peaks.

No Asterisks

Scripture Focus: Judges 4.4-6
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor.

*I love the NIV in general, however, one of its disagreements with other translations is to render the same Hebrew word translated as “judge” everywhere else, as “lead” in Deborah’s case from Judges 4.4.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. However, one of our students had to drop the program and I (John) am filling in for her today. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: No Asterisks
By John Tillman

Deborah’s judgeship doesn’t deserve an asterisk. 

Some claim Deborah’s judgeship is a punishment for Israel, not a blessing. They claim God only used Deborah because Barak (and every other male Israelite) was too “weak” to stand up. This interpretation insults Deborah, Barak, and all Israel, based on assumptions that are extrabiblical and unsupported by the text,

Deborah summons Barak and he comes. She commands him into battle and he goes. She goes with him to battle and they conquer. Then, they jointly lead the nation in a prophetic song of worship. “Princes” of Israel volunteer to serve under her leadership and are praised. She initiates a generation of peace and prosperity.

The biblical writers make no apologies or explanations for Deborah. There is no scriptural asterisk indicating Deborah’s judgeship is the last resort of a desperate God who couldn’t find a man to do the job.

God did not “settle” for Deborah. He chose her. 

Deborah’s story is also not one of feminist triumphalism or superiority. We might like to imagine Deborah riding into battle as Éowyn did in the conclusion of The Lord of the Rings, slaying the Witch King, shouting “I am no man!” However, God did not defeat Sisera on a technicality and Deborah’s prophecy is not fulfilled by her killing the villain. That honor goes to another woman, of lower status, Jael. Jael’s hand drove the spike but it was Deborah’s raised fist that began the battle. 

God planned to use women to crush evil from the beginning. God promised Eve her seed would crush the head of the serpent. So it is not a fluke that women would be involved in crushing the heads of evil men. These women are simply reflecting the birth pangs of the reality of God’s promise.

Deborah’s leadership is not a fluke or a technicality. God no more “settled” for her than he “settled” for the sinfulness of Samson, or the rashness of Jepthah, or the doubts and low standing of Gideon. 

So what does this mean?

We may doubt our place in God’s work. We also may have our place in God’s work doubted by others. However, our gender, our race, our background, or our nationality do not disqualify us from fulfilling God’s purposes. God didn’t settle for you. He called and chose you.

For the humble whom God raises up to lead, all asterisks are removed. 

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” — Mark 9.35

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 4(Listen– 3:57)
Acts 8(Listen – 5:10)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
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Read more about Ladies First—Resurrection Appearances
“Firsts” are important in the scriptures. So we cannot imagine that it is a coincidence or a mistake that Jesus appears first to the women.

Judging Our Community

Scripture Focus: Judges 3.9-10, 15
9 But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.

15 Again the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Judging Our Community
By Allison Tinsley

Have you ever been part of a group or team? Were you successful and popular? Or were you in a group of outcasts who stuck together as each other’s only source of support? Did you feel proud and at home in your group?

The story of Israel is consistently communal. The Israelites were God’s chosen people. This identity held them to different, higher standards than the rest of the world. They were to live faithfully and obediently to God in relationship with Him. If they failed to do so, they had to fear His wrath and punishment. In Judges, we routinely see the communal, systemic failure of the Israelites. Verse 7 of chapter 3 tells us that they did “evil” in God’s sight. They married ungodly people and worshipped false gods, allowing themselves to be negatively influenced by the world. They “forgot” the One true God (verse 8), seeking temporary pleasures.

Israel’s sin came back to haunt them when they were taken into captivity by other groups. This was where the judges came in. God raised up faithful individuals to work against the sinful actions of the Israelites and those who oppress them. These judges were charged with protecting Israel and leading them back to a relationship with God. Othniel fought against their oppressors (verses 10-11). After the Israelites once again found themselves in captivity, Ehud slew an oppressive king (in a humorously gruesome way) to deliver them to freedom. Deborah prophesied and settled disputes within her community. Gideon tore down false idols in the community. Thus, when the community failed, God raised up individuals as protectors, preservers, and leaders who worked to restore the Israelites back to God.

How is your community? Have you seen pain in your community? Have you detected a wrong direction?

God’s calling, both communally and individually, is the same. We are to live in obedience and faithfulness to God, like the judges God raised up, striving to lead others in this pursuit as well. We are to be faithful to one another as God’s people, but we must also swim against the tide when the community fails. We must hold our community responsible for its sin and require that it make changes when necessary. Above all, we must remember that our ultimate purpose transcends both ourselves and our community; our purpose is a right relationship with God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My mouth shall recount your mighty acts and saving deeds all day long; though I cannot know the number of them. — Psalm 71.15

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 3 (Listen – 4:30)
Acts 7 (Listen – 8:49)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

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Read more about The Necessity of The Spirit
Israel suffered and Othniel could not save them. Until God’s Spirit came on him.

Our Forgetfulness, God’s Faithfulness

Scripture Focus: Judges 2.11-14
11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Our Forgetfulness, God’s Faithfulness
By Savannah Green

Forgetfulness leads to apathy.

After Joshua’s passing, Israel began worshipping other gods. The next generation did not know God, or remember the promises he made to his people. The Israelites had forgotten their covenant with God.

Just one generation before, God’s people had been faithful and obedient to him. Yet within a short time, Israel abandoned God. 

Their forgetfulness led to apathy.

Israel became unconcerned with serving and worshipping God. Instead, they served the Baals and Ashtaroth. Even more, their sin was not hidden; it was done before God’s eyes.

This is a testament to us as well. We are often quick to forget the faithfulness of God. We forget his promises. We forget his steadfast love for us.

Our forgetfulness leads to apathy.

When we lose the habit of recalling God’s faithfulness, we become apathetic in our relationship with him. Obedience to him becomes less of a priority, and the promise of salvation moves from the forefront of our minds. False idols shift our focus and receive our worship.

Inevitably, in our humanity, we will become forgetful of God and his promises. When apathy begins to trickle into our souls, may we call to mind our dependence on God. We resist forgetfulness and apathy by remembering God’s faithfulness.

Our Forgetfulness, God’s Faithfulness

Apathy
Found in people
Found in Israel
Found in me

God brought them to the land
Promised to their fathers
“I will never break my covenant.”
Swore the Father of fathers

But God’s people did what was evil
They abandoned the Lord
And forgot the promise sworn
God’s anger kindled against Israel

How familiar this sounds
How similar it reads
To my daily wandering
From the crowned-with-thorns King

A promise of a covenant
A promise of land
Like the promise of salvation
I mindlessly neglect

May Israel’s unfaithfulness
Remind me to not forget
God’s steadfast faithfulness
Covers my debt

Israel’s apathy
Reflects my apathy
And my need
Of the true King

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
As a doe longs for running streams, so I yearn for you, my God.
I thirst for God, the living God; when shall I go to see the face of God?
I have no food but tears, day and night; and all day long I am taunted, “Where is your God?”
This I remember, as I pour out my heart, how I used to pass under the roof of the Most High
Used to go to the house of God, among the cries of joy and praise, the sound of the feast. 
Why be so downcast, why all these sighs? Hope in God: I will praise him still, my Savior, my God. — Psalm 42.1-6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 2(Listen – 3:19)
Acts 6(Listen – 2:35)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021|It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Remember Jesus Christ
Remembering in Scripture is often a calling to focus on God’s commands or to recall God’s intervention in history.

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