Sunday, October 24, 2010

Storyline: Tamar

In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom... Amnon became frustrated on account of his sister... So (he) lay down and pretended to be ill.  When the King came to see him, Amnon said...”I would like my sister Tamar to I might eat from her hand.  Tamar brought the bread she prepared to him, and he grabbed her.  “Don’t my brother!  Don’t force me.  Such a thing should not be done in Israel.  What about me?  Where could I get rid of my disgrace?  And what about you?  You’d be like one of the wicked fools...”  But he refused to listen...and since he was stronger, he raped her.  Then Amnon hated her more than he had loved her.  “Get up and get out!”  He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of here and bolt the door after her.”  Tamar put ashes on her head, tore the ornamental robe she was wearing, and went away weeping.  Her brother Absalom said, “Be quiet now, my sister...don’t take this thing to heart.”  And Tamar lived in her brother’s house, a desolate woman.
2 Samuel 13:1-20

Lust.  Frustration.  Deceit.  Rape.  Hatred.  Rejection.  Shame.  Hiddenness.  Despair.  This is Tamar’s story in nine words.  I don’t think anything in Tamar’s life ever sounded as loud as the bolt being slid into place on the door that closed her off from what she felt might be her only redemption.  In my mind, I imagine the noise reverberated in her mind again and again until the day she died.  When the bolt echoed shut, the action against her became enshrouded in silence. 

Sadly enough, Tamar’s story is more real than anyone knows.  Statistics show that somewhere in America a woman is raped every two minutes  (  The FBI estimates that only 38% are reported to the police.  Most women live out their lives in silence, even though, just like Tamar, over 70% of these women know their assailants.  Silence is the power of shame.  Shame is nothing more than the feeling of being “uncovered.”  It is the feeling of one who suffers a repulse...we can bring it on ourselves, or it can come from pain and abuse, as in the life of Tamar.  Chances are that there is something in your life that brings you shame.

Look at the symptoms of shame.
·         We are handcuffed to our past.
·          We are crippled emotionally.
·         We are trapped in bondage of self-deception – and become preoccupied with “who” we think we are...
·         We will always settle for less than we deserve.
·         We eventually fall into a performance trap.
·         We are stripped of joy.
·         We will never learn to receive love.
·         We are easily manipulated.
·         We often get involved in destructive tendencies

Don’t you imagine that our enemy, the devil, enjoys having us right where he wants us?  It places us in a position for him to abuse over and over and over again.  Our own shame becomes the very thing that will sabotage us from John 10:10 – LIFE, and LIFE MORE THAN ABUNDANT!

So, what’s the answer?  Don’t live in silence – Absalom’s advice was the worst you can receive.  Find someone who you can talk to, no matter what has caused you to hide in isolation.  Remember that Jesus came to take away our shame – read Psalm 25:3, 34:5; Romans 9:33, and 10:11.  Let God restore you to the joy of His salvation.  Remember God was in your past.  Your past does not control your future.  As we lay ourselves on the altar as living sacrifices, the Lord will transform our lives, heal our wounds (he is particularly close to the brokenhearted), and bring us out of hiding.  The Lord promises to repair our pasts, building on them so that we might be a reflection of his glory.  Afterall. it is with the compassion we are shown, that we are able to offer compassion to others (Ps. 34:18; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Isaiah 53, and Isaiah 61).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Storyline: Jochebed

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
Hebrews 11:23

Dear Jochebed,

I admire your courage.  I admire it – because your faith led to great bravery in the face of difficulty.  What a troublesome era this was!  I simply can’t imagine hearing on the news one night that a new edict had been signed by the government and would go into practice immediately.  What if my President decided that the best way to slowly, but surely, annihilate all Christians was to kill off every baby boy born to believers?  What if he enlisted the help of all non-believers, and not just his government officials?  It’s difficult to imagine my non-church-going neighbors walking into my home at will, picking up my sleeping baby boy from his cradle, and pitching him in the closest river.  I simply can’t envision living with that kind of fear, especially when my newborn was, in fact, a son.  Yet that is what you lived with day after day for months.

What did you see in Moses that led you to believe he was different?  Every mother believes her child is perfect.  Yet, you and your husband both recognized something worthy of admiration in him; something that was striking.  You saw something that led you to believe God had a bigger purpose in store for this man-child, and so you hid him – a word meaning that you took extra careful precaution to safely protect him, as one would an exquisite treasure.  When he became too active, what gave you the courage to let him go?  How were you able to hold that little one loosely, and entrust him back to his Heavenly Father? 

Your story speaks to me of a woman who seemed to understand that her God is more than just a creator, but a deliverer.  Your story makes me believe that you truly knew and trusted the stories that had been passed down from generation to generation among your people.  There are too many similarities to think otherwise.  You believed, didn’t you, that God had a purpose for his people, and that he would not let them be destroyed?  You believed that he would raise up a redeemer to take his people out of Egypt and return them to the land which he promised your forefathers.  Did you believe that if God had saved the nation once before by putting a righteous man in an ark, that maybe he could use yet another ark, to protect the child you thought he’d selected for such a time as this?  When you looked at your newborn son, did God whisper, “Treasure this boy, for he is my appointed servant,” into your heart?  One day I hope to hear your story!

Regardless of what you knew and trusted, there was something about little Moses that gave you faith, that led to courage – not necessarily an absence of fear, but an ability to hold him loosely, and let him go.  So you took him to the very place no one would look, the river.  You didn’t defy Pharaoh; technically, you put him in the place of death.  Guarded by his sister, you waited to see what God would do; and God came through.  In some ways the very thing you died to was returned.  I pray I will learn from you.  I pray I will trust that God is always true to his character.  I pray that I will let my faith be revealed in my courage.  I pray that I will learn to hold all things loosely, especially those things that are the closest and dearest to me. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Storyline: Deborah, Jael or Someone Else?

Read Judges 4 & 5.

Sandwiched in the book of Judges (please read chapter 4) is a drama that would rival any Hollywood production.  I hope you never see God’s word as boring, because this story is far from it.  It’s filled with intrigue, mystery, war, deceit, murder, and “the good guys” come out on top!  In many ways it is a truly gory picture (not that this is good).  On top of all this, the protagonists in this movie are women – two of them.  Let’s look at the cast of characters and you try to discern who you are in this drama.

Israel – God’s children were back in a cycle of defeat to a Canaanite king because they were doing “evil in God’s sight”.  After 20 years of bondage, they were crying out to God for help.

Deborah – God provided a judge for the people, who also happened to be a prophetess.  Deborah was a strong leader, who uncompromisingly spoke the truth of God’s message to the people.  She didn’t waiver, or hold back.

Barak – God intended to bring the Israelites victory through this man.  However, he was a wimpy warrior.  Barak wouldn’t go to battle against the Canaanites unless Deborah came to war with him.  Deborah assured him Israel would still receive the victory, but a woman would get the credit.

Enter Jael – When the Canaanite hero, Sisera, realized that his amazing army was defeated by the smaller, inadequate Israeli army, he took off on foot.  Sisera thought he would find refuge in Jael’s tent.  Jael happened to be the wife of a man who was the descendent of Moses’ in-laws, and this family was “at peace” with the Canaanite king.  Jael was not stupid.  If Sisera was on foot, undoubtedly she knew the Canaanite’s had lost the battle.  She probably figured when all was said and done, her family better come out on the right side.  So she invited Sisera into her tent and gave him a nice warm cup of milk that had been set aside to curd – a very nurturing act, which spoke to the general of safety and hospitality.  After tucking him in under a rug and wishing him a nice rest, Jael proceeded to hammer his head with a tent peg to the floor and give the Israelites complete victory.  For her act of deception, Deborah wrote a song that blessed Jael among the women (5:24).  I took note that there’s a lot of controversy over her actions in the commentaries I read.

So, back to the question I asked:  Who do you compare with in this drama?  Deborah?  Do you speak God’s message truthfully and boldly in spite of the nature of it – or whether others will be offended by it?  Can’t say I do…I wish I did, but nope – not always.  That is a high calling.  How about, Jael?  Can’t say I associate with a deceitful murderess, either.  Then why this devotional thought about two women to whom it’s difficult to relate?  Because, there is a woman I find some correlation with – the woman, who is considered to be the bride of the Lord.  The woman who cycles in and out of defeat.  How often I find myself trapped by my own choices.  But for the grace of God…

The moral of this story is not that God nods his approval on deceit, or murder.  The moral is that God’s will is assured.  What he promises will be accomplished and he can, and will, use anything at anytime in order to bring his promises to fulfillment (think of the story of Joseph).  What I really want you to hear is this –

God is intimately involved in your life.  He has a plan and a purpose for you.  Nothing gets in the way of it – not wimps, nor warriors.  He will not let you remain in defeat when you cry out to him.  He will always provide a Deborah, and, yes, even a Jael, if he must.  For, quite often, you and I are Israel.

Call on me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things you do not know.
Jeremiah 33:3

Monday, October 4, 2010

Storyline: Sarah

The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you…”

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children.  But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children.  Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her…”
Genesis 12:1-2; 16:1-2

If there’s a woman in the Scriptures I suppose I relate to the most, it would be Sarah.  I know that she did some pretty thoughtless things that are still affecting our world today; however, the bottom line is that I often react the same way she did.  Women are pretty much the same across time and cultures.  So, here are the basic reasons why I see some comparison:

1)   On the downside, I often try to play God of my own life, just as she did, and manipulate circumstances to get what I want.  Just like Sarah, I find that when I do, the repercussions are often detrimental.  God always knows best!  While it’s within his power to stop me, sometimes, he simply sits back and watches as I mess up, in order that I can learn and come out conforming more to the image of his Son.

2)      On the upside, just like Sarah, my life has been a bit transient.  It seems like God has interrupted our lives at some of the most comfortable moments, and moved us on to something new – a different house, a different city, a different state, a different country, and always, a different ministry…  Often, as with Abraham and Sarah, God doesn’t even give us the complete details.  However scary and painful this might be, especially for a woman who automatically develops a root system in order to thrive, I’ve learned that God always knows best!  He’s never failed to bring me into a “good land” and a place of abundance.

Here’s the bottom line of what I have learned from a manipulator like Sarah –
·         God is Sovereign.  He’s never off of his throne.  He is always in control.

·         God has my best interests at heart.  Where he leads will always be for my good.

·         It is always best for me to keep my hands to myself, and stop trying to “fix” my life according to my agenda.  I need to stop playing God, and start praying…  As I prayerfully seek him, he never fails to answer (Jeremiah 33:3).

Oh Lord, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you!
(2 Chron. 20.12)