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.

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.

A Congregation of Hope

Acts 9:40
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.

Reflection: A Congregation of Hope
By Jon Polk

Tabitha was a big deal in Joppa. A disciple and prominent member of the Joppa congregation, she was known for her generosity and considerable service to others, especially the widows in their midst. Apparently, her reputation carried outside the church to the larger Greek community as well, where she was known by her Greek name, Dorcas.

Tabitha’s great significance to the church is revealed after her untimely illness and death. Upon hearing that the miracle-working Peter was in nearby Lydda, not one but two witnesses were dispatched to urgently summon him. When Peter arrived on the scene, the group of weeping widows—who were not the usual professional mourners common of the day, but rather dear friends of Tabitha—showed him that the very clothes they were wearing were made by Tabitha, who distributed them to the poor and needy.

For the congregation in Joppa, Tabitha’s death was more than the loss of a close friend, it presented a serious impact on their ministry outreach to the poor. Without attempting to deal with the situation on their own, they reached out in tremendous faith for the power of God, represented by the healer, Peter.

In The Sacred Journey, author Frederick Buechner writes:

“When it comes to putting broken lives back together—when it comes, in religious terms, to the saving of souls—the human best tends to be at odds with the holy best. To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do—to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst—is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still.”

The congregation at Joppa recognized they had a God-sized need that required a God-sized solution. This congregation believed in a resurrection hope, in a God that could exceed all expectations. They came together to mourn and weep, but also to hope and pray, and eventually, to celebrate. They were vulnerable enough to accept that the situation was desperate beyond their control.

Life presents us with our share of challenges from daily nuisances to more significant needs for physical healing or spiritual resurrection. May we have the faith of the Joppa congregation and be willing to place our hope daily in our great God, the giver of life.

Prayer: The Greeting
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give glory; because of your love and because of your faithfulness. — Psalm 109.26

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

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

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Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

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Read more from Jon Polk: Generosity that Outlives Tragedy
Many people are eager to donate towards an immediate one-time need, but are resistant to living an on-going lifestyle of generosity.

Read more about Good News to the Poor
When Mary sang about filling the hungry with good things, poverty and many other personal tragedies were considered markers of spiritual failure.