The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, November 29, 2013

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!”

Did you know that . . . .?


The Supreme Court in 1963 banned prayers in public schools. The following prayer by kindergarten children was declared illegal:


“We thank you for the flowers so sweet;

We thank you for the food we eat;

We thank you for the birds that sing;

We thank you God for everything.”


George Washington’s final remarks to the nation in 1796 were, “Of all the habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would men claim the tributes of patriotism who would work to destroy these great pillars of human happiness.” [1]


I wonder just how much thanksgiving to God will take place this Thanksgiving. There’s so much we should be thankful to God for. In Psalm 136 the Psalmist records many of the reasons we should be thankful to the LORD.

Psalm 136 is what is called an antiphonal psalm; it was sung with back and forth responses between the worship leader and the congregation. When it was sung in the congregation there would be a responsive back and forth between the worship leader and the congregation. It is a Psalm of thanks to God for his goodness and enduring mercy.

Psalm 136

1     Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

For His mercy endures forever.

2     Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!

For His mercy endures forever.

3     Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!

For His mercy endures forever:

The phrase “Oh, give thanks” (Hebrew yawdaw) ix grammatically in the imperative; this is a must not a maybe; this is essential and necessary. The phrase itself means literally to hold out the hand to – in submission and thankfulness, to revere, to worship, to confess, or praise, give thanksgiving. It means to give a praising thankful testimony. It’s an exhortation repeated three times for emphasis in these opening verses of the psalm.

We’re exhorted to give thanks “to the LORD” (Hebrew Yehovaw ) which translates the Tetragrammaton, the holiest name of God. Elsewhere it is translated “I Am” (Ex. 3:14) and it means the Self-Existent Eternal One; the One Who is all He ever needs to be to do Whatever He purposes to do. We are to give thanks to our High and Holy God.

The word “for” here and throughout the psalm substantiates or gives us a valid reason to do what it says. One commentator states of “for” – “but taking the psalm as a whole, we may better understand the first word not as ‘for’, but as the emphatic ‘truly, indeed’.”[2]  

Why give thanks to God? The rest of this psalm provides a litany of reasons to give thanks “to the LORD”:

1.      “for He is good!” – “Good” (Hebrew tobe ) is a word that means good in the widest sense; beautiful, best, better, gracious, kind, loving, pleasant, prosperous. Every good gift comes from God (James 1:17). For that we should give Him thanks.


2.      “For His mercy endures forever” – This phrase is repeated in every verse of this Psalm’ 26 times! What do you think the people singing this psalm would be impressed with? That God’s mercy endures forever. Why this emphasis? Because Satan wants us to think we have sinned beyond God’s mercy. That’s a lie! God’s mercy endures forever and He will forgive the one who repents and confesses their sin to Him asking forgiveness.


“Mercy” (Hebrew chesed ) is one of the richest words in the OT. “Mercy” means in the fullest sense of the words: Kindness, faithfulness, devotion, beauty, merciful, goodness; steadfast love; grace.


Chesed emphasizes the relationship God has with His people; with us. God voluntarily and in great grace and generosity obligated Himself to His people in love. His beauty is enveloped in His kindness, goodness, grace and love.


And this mercy “endures forever” (Hebrew olawm ) or goes to the vanishing point; beyond what we can conceive; eternity; always; everlasting; eternal. Thank the LORD His mercy never ends!


3.      “to the God of gods” – The LORD is unique; holy. There is none like Him (Is. 46:9). For that we should thank Him.


4.      “to the Lord of lords!” – The LORD is the Master over all other leaders whether they be kings, judges, religious leaders, presidents, senators, congressmen, or any other person that falls under the heading of “lord.” God is Sovereign and LORD of all (Josh 3:13; Is. 66:20; Zech. 6:5; Acts 10:36). For that we should bow and give the LORD thanks.

Instead of repeating “Oh, give thanks to the LORD” the Psalmist simply continues each verse “T Him” from this point until the final verse. What else should we give thanks to the LORD for?

4     To Him who alone does great wonders,

For His mercy endures forever;

5.      We should give thanks to the LORD because He is able, willing and does perform great “wonders” (Hebrew pawlaw ) or distinctive acts that instill wonder. For that we give Him thanks.

5     To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,

For His mercy endures forever;

6.      God is omniscient or all knowing. His “wisdom” (Hebrew tawboon ) or intellect is higher than all other intelligence (cf. Is. 55:8-10). He knows everything about us and just what we need in ever circumstance. For that we give Him thanks.

6     To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,

For His mercy endures forever;

7     To Him who made great lights,

For His mercy endures forever—

7.      He is our Creator and for that we should thank Him.

8     The sun to rule by day,

For His mercy endures forever;

9     The moon and stars to rule by night,

For His mercy endures forever.

8.      The LORD has created in an orderly way (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33, 40). He is not one who is haphazard, capricious, or chaotic. That is a comfort to us and for that we give Him thanks.

10     To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn,

For His mercy endures forever;

11     And brought out Israel from among them,

For His mercy endures forever;

12     With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm,

For His mercy endures forever;

13     To Him who divided the Red Sea in two,

For His mercy endures forever;

14     And made Israel pass through the midst of it,

For His mercy endures forever;

15     But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,

For His mercy endures forever;

9.      God is able and does deliver us from the greatest most powerful worldly enemies. He is our Deliverer and Advocate (e.g. 1 John 2:1-2). If God is for us it doesn’t matter who is against us (Rom. 8:31-32). Thank You LORD for that!

16     To Him who led His people through the wilderness,

For His mercy endures forever;

10.  God is our Sustainer. Just as He sustained His people in their wilderness wanderings, He sustains us throughout our life. For that we thank Him.

17     To Him who struck down great kings,

For His mercy endures forever;

18     And slew famous kings,

For His mercy endures forever—

19     Sihon king of the Amorites,

For His mercy endures forever;

20     And Og king of Bashan,

For His mercy endures forever—

11.  God is able to defeat the biggest giants in our life; like Sihon and Og who were very possibly over 12 feet tall! No giant is too big for God to defeat. For that we thank Him.


Thanksgiving might not be celebrated in the United States today, were it not for a patient, persistent woman named Sarah Hale.


It is well-known that the first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 to give thanks for their winter in the New World.


In 1789, President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation to commemorate the first Pilgrim celebration. But Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States discontinued it, calling Thanksgiving, “a kingly practice.”


After this, Thanksgiving was observed by some individual states, and on whatever date suited their fancy.

Then in 1828, Mrs. Hale, the editor of the magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book and author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” began campaigning for the restoration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.


She wrote letters and sought appointments with national leaders from the President down. Time after time she was politely rebuffed, sometimes being told it was “impossible” and “impractical,” and sometimes being dismissed with a this-is-none-of-your-business scolding.


Finally in 1863 President Lincoln listened seriously to her plea that North and South “lay aside enmities and strife on (Thanksgiving) Day.” He proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November to be the official “National Thanksgiving Day.” This day was finally ratified by the U. S. Congress in 1941. [3]


Even when there are giant discouraging obstacles, God is able to help us overcome.


21     And gave their land as a heritage,

For His mercy endures forever;

22     A heritage to Israel His servant,

For His mercy endures forever.

12.  God fulfills His promises. He is faithful. We can depend on Him. For that we thank Him.

23     Who remembered us in our lowly state,

For His mercy endures forever;

24     And rescued us from our enemies,

For His mercy endures forever;

13.  God is thinking about us; looking for ways to bless us (e.g. Luke 11:13). He rescues us when needed. He never forgets us. He loves us so much He can’t get His mind off of us (ef. Psalm 139:17-18). Thank You LORD for always thinking of me.

25     Who gives food to all flesh,

For His mercy endures forever.

14.  God feeds us; He meets our practical needs. Every need we have is met in and through Jesus (Phil. 4:19). For that we thank Him.

It was on Thanksgiving several years ago that Helen Hayes cooked her first turkey. Before serving it she announced to her husband, Charles MacArthur, and their son James: “Now I know this is the first turkey I’ve ever cooked. If it isn’t right, I don’t want anybody to say a word. We’ll just get up from the table without comment, and go down to the hotel for dinner.” Then she retired to the kitchen. When she entered the dining room, bearing the turkey, she found her husband and son seated at the table—wearing their hats and coats. [4]


Be thankful for the food God puts on your table, (or in a restaurant if need be).


26     Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!

For His mercy endures forever.

Yes, for all of this we should be thankful.

About the year 125 A.D. a Greek by the name of Aristeides was writing to one of his friends about the new religion, Christianity. He was trying to explain the reasons for its extraordinary success. Here is a sentence from one of his letters: “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.” [5]


Being thankful to God is a testimony to a unthankful world.

Are you thankful to the LORD? Are you thankful for those around you? I came across a poem of thanks that I’d like to conclude with:

I Thank God For You



Good friend of mine.

Seldom is friendship such as thine;

How very much I wish to be

As helpful as you’ve been to me—



Of many prayer guests, one thou art

On whom I ask God to impart

Rich blessings from His storeroom rare,

And grant to you His gracious care.



When I recall, from time to time,

How you inspired this heart of mine:

I find myself inclined to pray.

God bless my friend this very day—



So often, at the throne of Grace,

There comes a picture of your face:

And then, instinctively, I pray

That God may Guide you all the way—



Someday, I hope with you to stand

Before the throne, at God’s right hand;

And to say to you—at journey’s end:

"Praise God, you’ve been to me a friend—


—Joseph Clark[6]


Have you pondered all that God has done, is doing and has promised to do for you? I hope so. The LORD deserves our thanks. Will you say, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!”

Hold that thought.

Think of the worst thing that has ever been done to you. Think of your bitterness and resentment,

your hurt and pain, the deep scars all of it. Now think of the worst thing you have ever done, the darkest, most despicable, and deeply sinful shameful thing you’ve ever done. Now remember, God’s mercy endures forever to the repentant offender and the repentant bitter victim. And key to unlock the floodgates of God’s mercy from heaven is Jesus. Jesus is the One through whom God’ mercy is poured out. The blood of Jesus can wash away and all sin for the repentant confessing sinner. The water of God’s word can cleanse us from impurities and the blood of Jesus washes us from all our sin. God’s mercy endures forever and it endures through Jesus Christ.


Now again I ask, “Will you be able to say with the psalmist, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!”

[1]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979
[2]Eaton, John: The Psalms : A Historical and Spiritual Commentary With an Introduction and New Translation. London; New York : T&T Clark, 2003, S. 452
[3]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979
[4]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979
[5]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979
[6]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is This a Time for Thanks?

“OH, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! . . . .Let the redeemed of the LORD say so” – Psalm 107:1, 2       

Our nation continues its economic slump teetering on recession if not depression. We are losing more and more of our freedoms. Holy institutions like marriage are being desecrated at the altar. Our government is legislating immorality. In the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan has led to thousands of deaths. There has been unprecedented loss. The Middle East remains a powder keg ready to explode. So I ask you, is this a time for thanks?


Governor William Bradford made a decree on December 13th 1621 that a day of feasting and prayer was to be set aside to thank God not only for His material provisions, but for blessing them with religious freedom to worship Him as the Spirit led them. And he did this in a time of famine and great trial.


In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln officially set aside the last Thursday of November as, “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” And he did this during a time of bloody civil war.


In 1941 Congress established the fourth Thursday of November as a legal holiday to be called Thanksgiving Day. And this was done in a time of world war.


An argument can be made that it is especially during times of hardship and trial that we ought to give thanks to the LORD. If Christians are not going to stand firm and thank the LORD in tough times, then who will? Psalm 107 opens with the words, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, . . .” We ought to give thanks to the LORD! I like what J. Vernon McGee says here about this Psalm:


We need more “say so” Christians. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. Don’t go around complaining and criticizing. If you are a Christian, tell others how good God is. He is good, but He doesn’t have a good name in the world today. God’s reputation is bad—a reputation is what people think about you. God does not have many friends in court among the multitudes of people in the world—no champion, or defender, and few to testify on His behalf. There are few to take the witness stand and say a good word in His behalf. If you doubt that, look around. Consider the pagan and heathen religions. Their conception of God is terrifying. He is pictured as a god that will destroy, not save; a god that is difficult to approach, and takes no personal interest in his creatures, nor does he love them. The average person today lives in a land with a veneer of civilization, a modicum of education, with a little Christian culture smeared on like face cream. To him God is not a Person to be cultivated; He is kept at arm’s length. He is not considered a good neighbor, and He is very hard to please. Most people think of God as sort of a policeman, waiting around the corner to catch them in some wrongdoing. A little girl accidentally gave the average conception of God when she recited a Scripture verse and got it a bit confused. She said, “If God be for you, you are up against Him.” That is the thinking of many people. If anyone is going to say that God is good, it will have to be His redeemed ones. God is good. That is not an axiom; it is a proposition that is subject to proof. It is not a cliché, nor a slogan; it is not propaganda. It is true. [1]



Why should we give thanks to the LORD?  “. . . For He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1). God is GOOD! God is MERCIFUL!  The word “good” means good in the broadest sense. Goodness is associated with beauty, grace, pleasure, joy, kindness, prosperity, sweetness, and wealth and God is a dispenser of such things. “Mercy” refers to lovingkindness, faithfulness or steadfast love. It is a beautiful word, one of the richest in scripture. God’s mercy is eternal. It is because of God’s goodness and mercy that we exist, are offered a way of salvation from our sin and invited to enter an eternally blessed relationship with the God of the universe. Our salvation and every good thing in existence come from God’s goodness and mercy. God is described in a wonderful way here, a way that should move us to bow before Him in thanks.


Who especially should thank the LORD? The psalmist goes on to exhort, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so . . .” (107:2). Have you been redeemed from your sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ? If so, THANK THE LORD! Remember that the price of your redemption was the precious blood of Christ, the Son of God (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Can you thank the LORD for that? I hope so.  Your difficulties may have been what was needed to save your eternal soul! This Thanksgiving, despite all the difficulties or opposition the enemy can muster the redeemed need to proclaim their thanks to the LORD. Thanking God is not optional; it is the only reasonable thing for the redeemed to do.


Psalm 107 gives us five reasons to thank the LORD. Four times the psalmist pleads, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8,15, 21, 31). We will briefly touch on each one, but you are encouraged to make this Psalm a source of study for this Thanksgiving season.


First, thank God for His redemptive deliverance from the enemy (107:2-7). The Psalmist recalls how God delivered His people from Egypt and through their wilderness wanderings. God heard the cries of His people and acted on their behalf. God will hear our cries and act on our behalf, even today. Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. How many have turned to the Lord in the storm to find eternal life? Many and that eternal salvation is worth more than any temporal loss. None of our plight today has caught the LORD off guard. God is in control. He has a plan. He makes a way to live victoriously in life now (Rom. 8:37-39). He defeated Satan on the cross (Col. 2:14-15). He is there for you; the good and merciful God of the universe is there for you. Trust Him. Pray to Him. He will answer. For that we should thank the LORD.


Second, thank God for satisfying the longing soul and filling the hungry soul with goodness (107:8-14). Even when people experience darkness, bondage, and affliction as consequences to rebellion against God and His word, even when we despise His counsel, God doesn’t forsake us. He disciplines us and humbles us until we return and cry out to Him so He can save us. He does this because He loves us (Heb. 12:3-15). God will break our chains, even self inflicted ones, if we will only repent and cry out to Him. For that we should thank the LORD.


Third, thank God for His healing word (107:15-20). Again the psalmist speaks of those who, “because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted.” The blame for our affliction is so often clear. We may deny our sin in self-deception (1 John 1:8). We may deny our sin and in effect call God a liar (1 John 1:10). The bottom line is that when we repent and cry out to God, He forgives us and sends His word to heal us and deliver us from our destructions. But even if we are suffering because of no fault of our own, we still find solace and peace in His word (Phil. 4:6-7). “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). For that we should thank the LORD.


Fourth, thank God for His protection in a fallen world (107:21-30). These verses speak of the awesome rolling waves of the sea. God preserves those who travel them. Did you ever think about the immensity of the world and universe? Yet God bends down to help us. We blame God for natural disasters and there consequences. But there may be an enemy at work in such situations too (cf. Job 1 and 2). We shouldn’t argue with the God of the universe who in His sovereign determination allows things we don’t understand. He alone can make those decisions from an omniscient and omnipotent position.  It is wiser and more blessed to trust our good merciful God and thank Him, no matter what.


Fifth, thank God for His ultimate justice (107:31-43). God is able to dry up a river or make water flow. He is able to discipline sinful authorities and preserve the poor and weak. He is able to bless and “multiply greatly.” He is able to make the righteous rejoice in the end and shut the mouths of those indulging iniquity. God is in control. The solutions to our problems are not  elections as much as it is God’s empowering and using the elect. The answer is not politics or government. The answer is not in military might, science, technology, or education. The answer is the LORD! “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.” “The Lovingkindness of the LORD,” that is what we ought to thank God for, His lovingkindness.


Is this a time to give thanks? Yes! Look around you, all is not lost. God is in control. He has a plan and will carry it out. Indeed, if you are paying attention, you can see the prophetic word of God being fulfilled quite nicely. Jesus is coming back! Soon and very soon we will see our Savior and King of kings, our good and merciful God. For that we should be most thankful. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD . . . .” This is a time for thanks!



[1]McGee, J. V. (1997, c1981). Thru the Bible commentary. Based on the Thru the Bible radio program. (electronic ed.) (2:830-831). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where Are All the Miracles?

“. . . And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about . . .” – Judges 6:13

Where are all the miracles? We look at the Bible and see miracles. Where are the miracles today? Miracles are happening today. Miracles can happen today. God is no different now than He was in Biblical times. God is immutable; unchanging. Miracles attest to the reality of God (e.g. Acts 2:22). But it seems the miracles that are happening today are happening in faraway places in underdeveloped parts of the world. Is there a connection? Has our science and technology, our modernity, gotten in the way of miracles? Perhaps, but I think there may be a more rudimentary explanation.

In the Old Testament a man named Gideon asked the same question. When the Angel of the Lord called on him to deliver God’s people Gideon said, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13). In other words, “Where are all the miracles?”

It’s interesting that the LORD doesn’t respond to Gideon’s question. Instead it states, “Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14). The LORD put His finger on a pressure point of Gideon. The truth of the matter was that Gideon had nothing in himself that could be associate with “might.” Gideon was quick to react, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15). Gideon was weak. God knew it. But God works through weakness. “And the LORD said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16).

God was going to teach Gideon a major life truth. All we need is God. All Gideon had was God. And all Gideon needed was God. You may not be in agreement with all that Martin Luther the Reformer did, but some words he uttered captures the sense of the Lord’s conversation with Gideon. Luther, when under persecution, said, “One with God is a majority.” That’s the truth!

But where are the miracles? Well God would deliver His people from the Midianites. He would use only 300 men led by Gideon to defeat an army described “as the sand of the seashore in multitude” (Judges 7:12). That was certainly a miracle. But Gideon’s initial response to the Angel of the LORD indicates this was a time when miracles had stopped. And today we look around us and miracles aren’t that common. Have you ever seen a miracle? Some have, but most today would probably say they have not. Why is that?

We see many miracles in scripture. But we have to understand that the Bible does not contain every detail of history. For instance the Book of Acts contains many accounts of miracles, but we need to remember that those miracles occurred over a period of about 30 years of history in the early church. In light of that duration we get a better perspective on the occurrence of miracles.

A “miracle” is defined as an extraordinary unusual event manifesting Divine intervention in human affairs. Something that is extraordinary and unusual is by definition not common. But sometimes it doesn’t seem like there are any miracles happening around us. Still we ask, “Where are the miracles?”

If we go back to Gideon and look at the context in which he asked why there weren’t any miracles happening, we see it stated, “Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years” (Judges 6:1). Maybe there were no miracles happening then and maybe there are few miracles today because of the sin of God’s people. Maybe it was a way of God to get the attention of His people. Much of the world and our own nation is steeped in sin. There is a globalization of immorality. And the church is not immune to it! There is sin everywhere.

The Midianites were so oppressive of God’s people that they moved into caves for protection. Today too many Christians are isolating themselves from the world for protection. Isolation is not the answer. Jesus called His followers to be salt and light; to purify in order to preserve the world and to shine light into the sinful darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). You can’t do that by isolating yourself from the world.

The Midianites were destroying “the produce of the earth,” the crops of the people. God’s people were “greatly impoverished” by the Midianites (Judges 6:2-6). Today the Midianites take the form of deficit spending, war costs, public school indoctrination and a host of other parasitic vermin that is sapping not only our secular resources but the resources of our spiritual heritage.

Finally the people called out to God. Finally they had enough. Finally they came to the end of themselves. Finally they realized they could only turn to God. When will we get to that point? When we do finally God will answer. What did God say? What will He say?

It states, “the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; 9 and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’ ” (Judges 6:8-10). God points His people to the Exodus, a time of incredible miraculous manifestations. He also recalls how God had cleared out the Promised Land for them. But then He adds, “But you have not obeyed My voice.”

Miracles, even the Exodus and conquest of the Promised Land, didn’t lead God’s people to obey God. Jesus recounted the story of a rich man in hell who upon seeing the consequence of his life of luxury begs Abraham to get word to his five brothers so they won’t have to follow his eternal destiny. Abraham’s response was, “if they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded through one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The reason we don’t see miracles today is because our motive for wanting them is wrong. We think if God would just perform a miracle it would so impress people that they would fall on their knees and repent. But scriptural history tells us different. God’s own people saw Egypt, the mightiest empire of their time defeated by the miracles of God. They saw the Red Sea parted and then closed up on the Egyptian army. They saw water from the rock. They ate manna from heaven and quail dinners provided by God. God parted the Jordan River. He brought the walls of Jericho down. He made the sun stop in the sky. He defeated enemy after enemy for His people. He did countless other miracles. And still they disobeyed Him!

In the Gospels we see Jesus turn water to wine, the blind made to see, the lame to walk, lepers healed and our Savior rise from the grave. We see the disciples follow in the steps of their Master healing and delivering people from demons. We see numerous miracles and still so many stray.

Why no miracles? There are no miracles because, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). The hypocritical Pharisees sought a sign from Jesus and Jesus didn’t grant their request. In fact Jesus said it was an evil and adulterous generation that seeks a sign (Matthew 12:38-39). Herod was eager to see Jesus so that he might see Jesus do a miracle (Luke 23:8). Simon the sorcerer was rebuked by Peter for wanting to purchase the ability to perform miracles (Acts 8:14-25). Miracles sought with wrong motives are not granted.

But not everyone asks amiss. Who is to say our motives aren’t pure when we see a suffering child or adult and ask God for a miraculous intervention? But go deeper. What is so bad about going to be with the Lord? To live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). When our loved ones are hurting and we are begging the Lord for help, our emotions are so upset it’s hard to wade through and know our motives. If a miracle is to occur it must be according to God’s will and for His glory. That is the criteria we must bow to.

Why no miracles? Gideon’s weakness and lack of faith was evidently representative of the lack of faith amongst God’s people at that time. The Gospels indicate that the lack of faith hinders the manifestation of the miraculous (Mark 6:1-6)

If we follow the pattern of Gideon, he asked for a confirming sign to authenticate it was indeed the Angel of the LORD he was talking to (6:17), he prayed for the Angel of the LORD to wait for him to bring an offering to him (6:18), and we see that it was in the sacrificial offering that the Angel of the LORD confirmed who He was through a sign of igniting the sacrifice into a fire (6:19-21). Then Gideon encountered peace in the presence of the Lord (6:22-24). Gideon named the place YHWH Shalom, or The-LORD-Is-Peace.

After this Gideon was sent on a mission to overturn and destroy a pagan altar of Baal (6:25-35). This was to build Gideon’s trust in God. God mercifully further confirmed to Gideon that He would deliver Israel through him (6:36-40). And then God miraculously delivered His people from the Midianites with only three hundred men (Judges 7).

So what is the pattern? First confirm that it is the LORD that is talking to you about the miracle you seek. Second, through prayer and worship wait for the LORD to confirm His will. Third, let God’s peace guide you (cf. also Col. 3:15). Then let God direct you to strengthen your faith in preparation for the miracle He will do. Then follow the leading of the LORD and be ready for Him to do a miracle.









Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jael, a Hammer and a Nail

 – Judges 4-5

Judges 4-5

4     When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. 3 And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel.

Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of God. Notice, they did evil “in the sight of God.” Evil is not determined by other people, it is determined by God. Humans will always rationalize and minimize their own personal sin or the sin of those they favor. But God is perfectly holy and impartial and He as Creator sets the standard of what is evil.

Jabin led a confederation of Canaanites and his headquarters was in Hazor which is 15 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

“Chariots of iron” were the tanks of the day. Chariots could run over and crush people. They had sharp cutting blades on the spindle of the wheels to cut people and cavalry horses. They were a formidable weapon especially for those who were farmers like the people of Israel. This was a seemingly invincible army.

4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5

The name “Deborah” means bee.

The wax with which beehives are constructed is the most heat-resistant wax known to man and can withstand temperatures up to 140 degrees. However, at 141 degrees, the wax begins to melt. So when the hive nears the 141 degree mark, the bees begin to cluster around their hive and fan it by fluttering their wings 190 times per second, or 11,400 times per minute. No wonder bees are called industrious! They are also very discerning, with antennae containing between 2,000 and 3,000 plates through which they identify the proper flower from which to draw their nectar. Finally, bees are known for the sweetness of the honey they produce.[1]

Like the bee Deborah was industrious, she was discerning in that she could sense the temperature around her, and she may have produced sweetness but she all packed a powerful sting.

 And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6 Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; 7 and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”

8 And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!”

9 So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him.

It isn’t common to find prominent female leaders amongst God’s people in the Bible. Here we see Deborah as judge in part because apparently there were no men willing to step up to the plate and lead God’s people. Deborah’s position of authority is a statement on the decline of God’s people. It is an indictment of the lack of male leaders in this time.

Deborah was a prophetess. She was the judge and leader of God’s people at the time. The people went to her for direction. When the oppression of king Jabin of Canaan arose, she sent for Barak from the tribe of Naphtali to lead the military response for God’s people. Barak said he would only go if Deborah went with him. This shows a lack of courage in Barak. Because of Barak’s lack of courage and faith God spoke through Deborah and told him he would receive no glory in the victory. Instead God would deliver Sisera, Jabin’s commander into the hand of a woman.

11 Now Heber the Kenite, of the children of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, had separated himself from the Kenites and pitched his tent near the terebinth tree at Zaanaim, which is beside Kedesh.

The Kenites lived in the land with God’s people but were not Israelites. They were descendants of Moses’ father in Law (Num. 10:29). Interestingly, “Heber” means crossed-over. Heber literally crossed over in that separated himself from his tribe which was aligned with Jabin and sided with God’s people.

12 And they reported to Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor. 13 So Sisera gathered together all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people who were with him, from Harosheth Hagoyim to the River Kishon.

14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand men following him.

Mount Tabor is a mountain situated in the middle of the Valley of Jezreel, also known s, the Valley of Megiddo or Armageddon.

15 And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army with the edge of the sword before Barak; and Sisera alighted from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth Hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.

The LORD moved on Barak giving him courage and faith to go out against Sisera and his 900 chariots. And God gave a great victory.

17 However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. 18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear.” And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket.

Here is a brave and courageous woman of faith. She wasn’t afraid of Sisera. She invited him into her tent.

19 Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. 20 And he said to her, “Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there any man here?’ you shall say, ‘No.’ ”

Sisera, like the “old man” of our sinful nature, tries to order us around like he did Jael. Give me some water. Stand watch and lie for me. Sisera is like the flesh that seeks to order us around. What did Jael do? She gave Sisera a jug of milk, which evidently put him to sleep and rendered him vulnerable. We too need to disregard what the old man flesh commands and feed him the milk of God’s word (1 Peter 2:2). It isn’t new born Christians alone who should feed on the milk of God’s word. It is all Christians who "as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word.” Feed your flesh the word and your flesh will fall asleep and be in the perfect position to render it dead.

21 Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

Jael made her point to Sisera. And an effective point it was. And note, she simply used what was in her hand and God used that to defeat the enemy. God’s word is like a hammer that can smash the flesh to death (Jer. 23:29).

22 And then, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man whom you seek.” And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple.

23 So on that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan in the presence of the children of Israel. 24 And the hand of the children of Israel grew stronger and stronger against Jabin king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.

If Sisera is a type of the flesh, Jabin is a type of the devil. Both try to oppress and control. God is able to subdue both with His word. Jon Courson comments, “Consequently, once we apply the hammer of the Word and the nail of the Cross to our old sin nature in any given area of our life, like Jabin, Satan capitulates in that area as well.”[2]

Just as God had said through Deborah, Barak would not get the glory. But God would defeat Sisera at the hand of a woman. God’s word always comes true.

5     Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying:

2     “When leaders lead in Israel,

     When the people willingly offer themselves,

     Bless the Lord!

God produces godly leaders. Therefore God should be praised when there are godly leaders.

3     “Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes!

     I, even I, will sing to the Lord;

     I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.

4     Lord, when You went out from Seir,

     When You marched from the field of Edom,

     The earth trembled and the heavens poured,

     The clouds also poured water;

5     The mountains gushed before the Lord,

     This Sinai, before the Lord God of Israel.

God is the one who goes forth with the army of His people.

6     “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,

     In the days of Jael,

     The highways were deserted,

     And the travelers walked along the byways.

There was great fear in the land so that people avoided the highways. You know you’re in a

terrible state of affairs when you’re afraid to go outside.

7     Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel,

     Until I, Deborah, arose,

     Arose a mother in Israel.

God used Deborah as a poet, prophetess and judge and yet the thing she takes greatest pride in is

that she was “a mother in Israel.” There’s no higher calling than being a mother.


8     They chose new gods;

     Then there was war in the gates;

     Not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.

Here we learn that God’s people didn’t have a shield or a spear to go up against the 900 iron

chariots of Jabin’s army. But why didn’t they have a shield or spear? Because “they chose new gods.” God’s people lost their protection as they left God for other gods. That is part of God’s discipline when we leave Him. He lowers and removes our defenses and allows the enemy to come in against us.


9     My heart is with the rulers of Israel

     Who offered themselves willingly with the people.

     Bless the Lord!

God is able to do great things when people offer themselves to Him and His will.

From before the turn of the century into the days of the Great Depression, a colorful evangelist named Billy Sunday preached with an intensity unrivaled to this day. A professional baseball player before his conversion, Sunday caroused continually, partied frequently, and experienced the effects of sin most definitely. No doubt that is why he said, “I am against sin. I will kick it as long as I’ve got a foot. I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist. I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head. I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old and fistless and footless and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes to perdition.”[3]


10     “Speak, you who ride on white donkeys,

     Who sit in judges’ attire,

     And who walk along the road.

11     Far from the noise of the archers, among the watering places,

     There they shall recount the righteous acts of the Lord,

     The righteous acts for His villagers in Israel;

     Then the people of the Lord shall go down to the gates.

12     “Awake, awake, Deborah!

     Awake, awake, sing a song!

     Arise, Barak, and lead your captives away,

     O son of Abinoam!

There is a time when God calls us to action. “Awake, awake, Deborah!” Are you awake and

ready and available to be used by God?


13     “Then the survivors came down, the people against the nobles;

     The Lord came down for me against the mighty.

14     From Ephraim were those whose roots were in Amalek.

     After you, Benjamin, with your peoples,

     From Machir rulers came down,

     And from Zebulun those who bear the recruiter’s staff.

15     And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah;

     As Issachar, so was Barak

     Sent into the valley under his command;

     Among the divisions of Reuben

     There were great resolves of heart.

     And stayed by his inlets.

16     Why did you sit among the sheepfolds,

     To hear the pipings for the flocks?

     The divisions of Reuben have great searchings of heart.

The Reubenites didn’t join this battle because of their “great searchings of heart.” The idea is that Reuben heard the order to awake and go forward but because of  their pondering the situation missed their opportunity to join in the battle and ultimate victory. There is such a thing as the paralysis of analysis. We can think so much about something that we missed the opportunity to act.   Watch out for that.


17     Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan,

     And why did Dan remain on ships?

     Asher continued at the seashore,

     And stayed by his inlets.

Gilead didn’t help out because they didn’t see this as their fight. They were on the other side of the Jordan. Their attitude was, “It’s not my territory.” It’s like us saying, “That’s not my area of expertise, I’m not getting involved.” Or, “That’s not my territory, I’m not getting involved.” And we miss joining in the battle and victory of the LORD.

Dan was out sailing and missed the battle all together! Recreation was more important than fighting in the Lord’s battles. O how the church is filled with Danites today! Soccer, football, baseball, dance lessons and martial arts, all important in their place but should never be all important before the things of God. Too many Christians are fishing for recreation instead of fishing for the souls of men.

Asher was resting on the beach and missed the battle and the victory! Some people miss out on the victories of God because they are laying on the beach, their heads in the clouds. “Look, I think I see the face of Jesus in that cloud!” they say. And all the while they miss out on the battles and victories of the Lord.

18     Zebulun is a people who jeopardized their lives to the point of death,

     Naphtali also, on the heights of the battlefield.

Thank goodness for those like Zebulun and Naphtali who are willing to give of themselves even

unto death. Those are people God can use. John Wesley once said:


Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen; they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.


19     “The kings came and fought,

     Then the kings of Canaan fought

     In Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo;

     They took no spoils of silver.

20     They fought from the heavens;

     The stars from their courses fought against Sisera.

21     The torrent of Kishon swept them away,

     That ancient torrent, the torrent of Kishon.

     O my soul, march on in strength!

Apparently God brought rain that cause the field of battle to be muddy and then bog down the

chariots. Notice, the victory was from God not men.


22     Then the horses’ hooves pounded,

     The galloping, galloping of his steeds.

23     ‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord,

     ‘Curse its inhabitants bitterly,

     Because they did not come to the help of the Lord,

     To the help of the Lord against the mighty.’

Those who do not come out to answer God’s call were cursed by God. The cures is missing out on God’s victories. Why is attending church so low on the list of our priorities? Why do devotions and serving the Lord so frequently take a back seat to other things? What will you have to show for your life when you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ?


24     “Most blessed among women is Jael,

     The wife of Heber the Kenite;

     Blessed is she among women in tents.

25     He asked for water, she gave milk;

     She brought out cream in a lordly bowl.

26     She stretched her hand to the tent peg,

     Her right hand to the workmen’s hammer;

     She pounded Sisera, she pierced his head,

     She split and struck through his temple.

27     At her feet he sank, he fell, he lay still;

     At her feet he sank, he fell;

     Where he sank, there he fell dead.

28     “The mother of Sisera looked through the window,

     And cried out through the lattice,

     ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?

     Why tarries the clatter of his chariots?’

29     Her wisest ladies answered her,

     Yes, she answered herself,

30     ‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoil:

     To every man a girl or two;

     For Sisera, plunder of dyed garments,

     Plunder of garments embroidered and dyed,

     Two pieces of dyed embroidery for the neck of the looter?’

31     “Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord!

     But let those who love Him be like the sun

     When it comes out in full strength.”

So the land had rest for forty years.

God is able to work through the weak. He is able to do great things. All He asks is for us to be available and to step out in faith when He calls. How many times have we missed great victories and blessings because we didn’t answer God’s call or obey His word? Too many times God is calling, “Awake, awake!” Will you answer His call and share in His victory?

Are you struggling with the flesh? Is there a Sisera ordering you around in life? Do what Jael did. Take the hammer of God’s word and nail the flesh.


[1]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 736
[2]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 738
[3]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 736