A Dancing Fool

2 Samuel 6:12-16 12 It was reported to King David: "The LORD has blessed Obed-edom's family and all that belongs to him because of the ark of God." So David went and had the ark of God brought up from Obed-edom's house to the city of David with rejoicing.  13 When those carrying the ark of the LORD advanced six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf.  14 David was dancing with all his might before the LORD wearing a linen ephod.  15 He and the whole house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of the ram's horn.  16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the city of David, Saul's daughter Michal looked down from the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, and she despised him in her heart. 

 

            Don’t be a spiritual critic. God did not place you in the church to criticize and tear down the spiritual lives of others. He wants you to join in their worship of His name and not stand in superiority over them. II Samuel 6 warns us of the consequences of becoming the spiritual critic. The person who picks at the times people stumble over their prayers or the way that they express their joy in Christ does not help the church. You only serve to dampen the praise of the entire church.

David is overflowing with excitement at this moment in his life, because he has the privilege of bringing the Ark of the Covenant into his newly built capitol city. For the first time the Ark of God will dwell in Jerusalem, and this is a day for celebration. David goes all out in his praise and his sacrifices.

            David worships God through sacrifices offered, rejoicing, shouting, dancing, and a fellowship meal. In the midst of this time of worship David gets in trouble with his wife Michal over two parts of his worship. She criticizes his attire and his dancing.

 

Worship with Childlike Joy

             David was twirling with all his might before the Lord. This is what I would not call the dignified actions of a king, and his wife who grew up as the daughter of Israel’s first king can’t stand this childish behavior. Michal is right that we should be respectful and humble before God. Yet she goes too far in her displeasure.

 We can’t lose our childlike joy in His presence. We are to run to our heavenly father as a 2-year-old child runs to his parents after they have been gone for the day. Don’t allow a desire by others to be rigid and traditional to stop you from expressing your joy in your heavenly Father. We are to both fear our God and rejoice in our God. Don’t sacrifice one for the other.

 

Worship with a Servant’s Humility

Michal also attacked David over his clothes. We read that he wore an ephod. If you don’t know what an ephod is – don’t feel bad. Ephod is actually a Hebrew word that we do not possess a good equivalent for in English of Greek. The ephod was the attire of the priests and the Levites. The High Priest was given a majestic and illustrative ephod as described in the Law, and the rest of the Levities wore an ephod that was a standard linen garment complete with undergarments.

David was criticized by his wife for wearing the modest attire of a servant as opposed to the regal clothes of a king. When the Bible speaks of modesty attire for worship, the main goal is not to force women into long dresses and big hats. Modest attire is clothing that does not draw attention to oneself. It is to dress in a way that puts the focus on God and not you.

            David was the king, and his wife wanted his clothing to draw attention to that fact. David did not want this day to be about him, so he dressed as a common servant in the Tabernacle. Don’t dress to impress with your Sunday best at worship. Worship with a servant’s heart and wear clothes that will draw the focus to God above all else.

Your Source of Strength

I Samuel 30:1-8 David and his men arrived in Ziklag on the third day. The Amalekites had raided the Negev and attacked and burned down Ziklag.  2 They also had kidnapped the women and everyone in it from the youngest to the oldest. They had killed no one but had carried them off as they went on their way.  3 When David and his men arrived at the town, they found it burned down. Their wives, sons, and daughters had been kidnapped.  4 David and the troops with him wept loudly until they had no strength left to weep.  5 David's two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had also been kidnapped.  6 David was in a difficult position because the troops talked about stoning him, for they were all very bitter over the loss of their sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. 7 David said to Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelech, "Bring me the ephod."a So Abiathar brought it to him,  8 and David asked the LORD: "Should I pursue these raiders? Will I overtake them?" The LORD replied to him, "Pursue them, for you will certainly overtake them and rescue the people."

            Where do we go during these days of exhaustion? Where can you can be built up when your fatigue overwhelms your mind and body?  In I Samuel 30 we find David in one of the most draining situations in all of the Bible. In the previous chapter, David was forced to lead his men on a 75-mile march from the town of Aphek to his current home in Ziklag.

            David and his troops, weary from 75 miles on foot with all their supplies strapped to their backs, come home to discover: “The Amalekites had … attacked and burned down Ziklag.  2 They also had kidnapped the women and everyone in it from the youngest to the oldest. They had killed no one but had carried them off as they went on their way.” 

            They arrive home to rest and enjoy their families, but they discover a burnt-out shell of a town. David and his men are at the breaking point. They weep until they are unable to weep anymore. Remember this is not a knitting club watching “The Notebook,” but these are hardened soldiers who are emotionally wrecked. Their core has been ripped out, and in their pain, we find two responses.

            David’s own troops immediately turn their eyes upon him. They ready themselves to stone David over this loss. Make no mistake, for David this threat is real. They respond to their grief and exhaustion by lashing out.

            In one of the most touching and stirring moments in the Bible David finds His strength in the Lord at the end of vs. 6: But David found strength in the LORD his God.

 

            Find your strength in God’s Presence

            David found his strength in his moment of weakness by going to the Lord in prayer. Thanks to the book of Psalms, you can easily follow his example of pleading with God for hope and endurance. In Psalm 25, David comes to God for hope in distress. In Psalm 26, David trusts in God for vindication in his instability. In Psalm 27, David makes God his stronghold when war breaks out around him. In Psalm 28, David remembers that God is his rock when his life falls apart.

            Throughout the Psalms you are given wonderful example prayers to help you find strength in your God when this world has taken away all your supports. Don’t flail about and scream as if you don’t know where to turn for help in a time of need. Come to God in prayer and find your strength in God’s presence.

 

            Find your strength in God’s Wisdom

            After leaning on God in prayer, David immediately turns toward God for wisdom by consulting a priest who will be his intercessor before God in vs. 7-8. I believe this action is meant to be contrasted with King Saul’s trial of exhaustion in I Samuel 28. In weakness Saul runs to a local medium for wisdom instead of the Word of the LORD.         

Don’t run to the next self-help book or lean on the advice of friends and family who don’t know the Lord when you are spent and wiped out in this world. Go to the Word of God. Find a mature brother or sister and Christ to consult with, and lean on God’s wisdom instead of this world’s.

Sin and Prayer

I Samuel 15:9-11  Saul and the troops spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, cattle, and fatlings, as well as the young rams and the best of everything else. They were not willing to destroy them, but they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things.  10 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel:  11 “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned away from following Me and has not carried out My instructions.” So Samuel became angry and cried out to the LORD all night.

 

There is one thing in which we are all good at from the earliest age – disobedience. Our parents tell us to eat our peas, and we shove them across the table in disgust. We are told to be in bed by a specific time, and we always stretch it out for another 10 or 15 minutes. We get a car, notice the speed limit is 55, and we drive 78.

There is a lot of disobedience in this world. As adults, we just get better at covering up our disobedience. Israel’s first king, Saul, believed that he did a wonderful job covering up his disobedience in I Samuel 15. God had given Saul a simple yet difficult to fulfill command. Saul was ordered to completely wipe the Amalekite people from the face of the earth in punishment for their sins against Israel in the wilderness.

Saul obeyed to a point. He defeated the Amalekites in battle, but he saved the king and the best of the flocks. Saul assumed his disobedience could be overlooked since he set aside the flocks as gifts for the LORD, but the LORD desires gift of obedience over gifts of sacrifice.

How should you respond to the sins in your church, your family, your community, and your nation? How should you act once sin has entered into your church, no matter how reasonable that sin may appear? The LORD along with his prophet Samuel show us the way in I Samuel 15:9-11.

 

Respond to Sin with Regret

When sin creeps into the people of God, you should come before God with a spirit of regret. The same regret expressed by the LORD in vs. 11 show flow from your soul. Regret is not an intellectual response to sin, but regret is an emotional response. You regret the sins of yourself and others once you allow yourself to feel the painful consequences of disobedience.

When someone sins, open your heart to the disappointment of our Heavenly Father as His people turn from His Word. Feel the grief of those who will be weighed down by the sin of another. Don’t be callous to sin and its consequences, but allow yourself to feel the emotions you have been given by God.  The church will never be able to walk away from our besetting sins until we first allow ourselves to feel the brunt of the consequences of sin in our hearts.

Respond to Sin with Anger

At the end of vs. 11 Samuel show us another response to the sins of our community: “So Samuel became angry and cried out to the LORD all night.” The Hebrew word for anger has the idea of burning, being hot with anger. I think we can all remember a few times when we have been hot with anger.

How often do we burn with anger because someone has sinned against our holy, loving, and gracious God? We should be angry for God’s sake when His people sin against Him and flaunt or try to explain away their disobedience.

All grace should be extended to the repentant, but those who refuse to repent and are smug in sin, those should feel the burning, righteous anger of God toward their pride and selfishness.

How should you express this anger? You should not turn red with rage and blow up in the face of the sinner. Your anger should be poured out to God in prayer instead of spread through gossip and on blogs online. It is right to be angry over sin, but we should give that anger to the one who claims vengeance on iniquity.

Buyer's Remorse

1 Samuel 12:16-25  16 “Now, therefore, present yourselves and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes.  17 Isn’t the wheat harvest today? I will call on the LORD and He will send thunder and rain, so that you will know and see what a great evil you committed in the LORD’s sight by requesting a king for yourselves.”  18 Samuel called on the LORD, and on that day the LORD sent thunder and rain. As a result, all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.  19 They pleaded with Samuel, “Pray to the LORD your God for your servants, so we won’t die! For we have added to all our sins the evil of requesting a king for ourselves.”  20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart.  21 Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or deliver you; they are worthless.  22 The LORD will not abandon His people, because of His great name and because He has determined to make you His own people.  23 “As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you. I will teach you the good and right way.  24 Above all, fear the LORD and worship Him faithfully with all your heart, considering the great things He has done for you.  25 However, if you continue to do what is evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

 

We’ve all suffered through some type of buyer’s remorse. We bought a car that turned out to be a lemon. We sunk our entire saving’s account into a house that turned into a money pit. Buyer’s remorse is one of the more painful stings, because we are normally stuck with a daily reminder of that foolish purchase.  The prayers of I Samuel 12 are for those who realize they made a huge mistake.

The people of Israel pleaded for a king, but they discovered the power they left behind in their God through a miracle of rain and thunder from the prophet Samuel. We are too often like the Israelites, and we assume that welcoming a little sin or adjusting our lives to be more in line with the world around us will bring nothing but good things in the future. They didn’t understand that a little lie can turn into a great deception. A little lust can destroy a marriage relationship. A little greed can turn into a mound of debt.

When you discover the sting of sin and experience remorse over the path you have taken, don’t shrink back in fear. Instead be a person of faith who comes before God in prayer.

 

First, draw near to God in worship. Samuel didn’t start by laying a guilt trip on the people. Instead He started off by saying, “Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart.”

The antidote to the pull of sin is the worship of the King. Come before God in prayer and in song and even in corporate worship. Praise God for the benefits of salvation, the blessings He has given to you, and the beauty of His creation. When you fall into sin respond by praising God for who is and what He has done. Worship God with all your heart.

 

Second, walk away from sin in repentance. Samuel spoke next on the importance of not turning away to the worthless and then being faithful to the good and right way. This is the language of repentance. Repentance is turning away from the deadly path of sin and onto the path of righteousness.

Repentance is more than confession of sin. It is confessing your sin first but then continuing to walk in the right direction away from sin and toward God. Paul gave us 2 illustrative examples of repentance in Eph. 4. Those who steal repent by giving graciously to those in need. Those who use humor to tear people down and puff up self should speak in away so they build up every person they see.

When you have buyer’s remorse over your sin – respond by praying in worship. Exalt God for who is and then run away from sin and toward His glory that you proclaimed in your worship.

The Prayer of the Rejected

1 Samuel 8:1-10

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over Israel.  2 His firstborn son’s name was Joel and his second was Abijah. They were judges in Beer-sheba.  3 However, his sons did not walk in his ways– they turned toward dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.  4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel at Ramah.  5 They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not follow your example. Therefore, appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.”  6 When they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” Samuel considered their demand sinful, so he prayed to the LORD.  7 But the LORD told him, “Listen to the people and everything they say to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king.  8 They are doing the same thing to you that they have done to Me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning Me and worshiping other gods.  9 Listen to them, but you must solemnly warn them and tell them about the rights of the king who will rule over them.”  10 Samuel told all the LORD’s words to the people who were asking him for a king.

 

Rejection is tough. I can still remember the feeling of being cut from the local Little League baseball team in 5th grade. No one wants to be seen as a failure, a disappointment, a loser. In I Samuel 8 we are given the opportunity to look at how one man of God, a giant of the faith, dealt with bitter failure. I think the prophet Samuel may have experience the worst kind of rejection. He was rejected because of the failures of his children.

 

God understands rejection

Samuel should not have been surprised that the Israelites wanted to move on from his leadership. They wanted to be like their neighbors, and Samuel did a poor job at raising his own sons to be godly leaders who would walk in his footsteps. Yet we all know that even when we can see the rejection of others coming. Even when we understand why they picked another over us, it still hurts to be rejected.

No one understands the pain of rejection more than God. He reminds Samuel that the Israelites have been regularly turning their backs on their Redeemer for generations. The people who walked the Red Sea railed against Him in the wilderness, and it continues in the Promised Land.

You don’t need to be alone in rejection, because God understands your pain and your feelings of sorrow. He has loved His people only to watch them choose the pleasures of sin over fellowship with Him. Find your comfort in the One who walked this road first.

God aligns with the rejected

One of the most encouraging statements in the Bible is found in God’s words to Samuel in vs. 7: “They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king.” God was not abandoning His prophet in this day of failure. He was standing beside Him. All of Israel may walk away from Samuel, but His God will not leave Him behind.

We are taught throughout Scripture that God takes pleasure in choosing the weak, the vulnerable, and despised by this world. He shows mercy to those who deserve none and have been trampled by the world. Remember in your poverty and loneliness that God takes pleasure in you, and He will stand by those who have been cast aside by the world.

The Power of the Intercessor

1 Samuel 7:1-12   So the men of Kiriath-jearim came for the ark of the LORD and took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill.a They consecrated his son Eleazar to take care of it.  2 Time went by until 20 years had passed since the ark had been taken to Kiriath-jearim. Then the whole house of Israel began to seek the LORD.  3 Samuel told them, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart,a get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you,b dedicate yourselves to1 the LORD, and worship only Him. Then He will rescue you from the hand of the Philistines.”  4 So the Israelites removed the Baals and the Ashtorethsa and only worshiped the LORD.  5 Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD on your behalf.”a6 When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the LORD’s presence. They fasted that day, and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel began to lead the Israelites at Mizpah as their judge.  7 When the Philistines heard that the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, their rulers marched up toward Israel. When the Israelites heard about it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.  8 The Israelites said to Samuel, “Don’t stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, so that He will save us from the hand of the Philistines.”  9 Then Samuel took a young lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on behalf of Israel, and the LORD answered him.  10 Samuel was offering the burnt offering as the Philistines drew near to fight against Israel. The LORD thundered loudlya against the Philistines that day and threw them into such confusion that they fled before Israel.b11 Then the men of Israel charged out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines striking them down all the way to a place below Beth-car.  12 Afterwards, Samuel took a stone and set it uprighta between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,1 explaining, “The LORD has helped us to this point.”

It’s no fun to be the one in the position of weakness. We can’t always say for certain why God would allow us to be vulnerable and weak before others. Weakness can help us to depend on God for strength. Weakness can teach us our own limitations in life. There are godly purposes in daily weakness. Don’t waste your time of feebleness by lashing out at others or crawling away in fear. Use these days to come before God for strength and power.

 

Find Power in Repentance

After decades of playing it fast and loose with the false religions of the Canaanites, the Israelites finally returned to the Lord in a spirit of repentance in I Samuel 7. They discovered the bankruptcy of this world’s gods and cast themselves before the mercy of our Savior.

In order to find true strength in life, God may need to remove the props that have been holding up a life apart from Him. The Israelites tried god after god and failed in successive generations. Finally, they come running back to God in repentance to discover the strength of their LORD was more than sufficient.

Find Power in the Prayers of Others

When the Israelites gathered together to pray before God and repent of their sins, God did not instantly make their lives easy. He didn’t put fear into the hearts of their adversaries and cause all the crops to grow 10-fold. Instead God immediately sent them into another moment of weakness and fear. The gathering together of the Israelites became the catalyst for another attack by the neighboring Philistines.

God may bring ever increasing hardship into your life, so you learn in ever greater ways the importance of trusting in Him. During these times of frailty, don’t try to walk alone. Find a warrior in prayer to take your situation before God in prayer and serve as your advocate.

The Israelites made the wise decision to call on Samuel to plead with the LORD on their behalf. They were so passionate that they told Samuel not to stop crying out to the Lord. The Hebrew text informs us that they told Samuel not to be silent. They didn’t want a moment to pass where prayers were not coming from Samuel’s lips.

In your difficult days, don’t ask others to pray on your behalf and move on to the next topic of conversation. Plead with your brothers and sisters to pray over you again and again. To pray as they brush their teeth, sit down for a meal, or get in their car to go to work. Give them cues to come before God on your account again and again, so you can find strength in the hands of the Almighty.

The Prayer of a Listener

1 Samuel 3:10-14

10 The LORD came, stood there, and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel responded, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”  11 The LORD said to Samuel, “I am about to do something in Israel that everyone who hears about it will shudder.  12 On that day I will carry out against Eli everything I said about his family, from beginning to end.  13 I told him that I am going to judge his family forever because of the iniquity he knows about: his sons are defiling the sanctuary, and he has not stopped them.  14 Therefore, I have sworn to Eli’s family: The iniquity of Eli’s family will never be wiped out by either sacrifice or offering.”

 

It is one thing to hear someone talk and it is another to listen. My children have taught me the importance of listening and not just hearing. Many times, I speak until I am red in the face, but they respond as if I was speaking in Greek. They can hear the words coming out of my mouth, but they aren’t listening.

Christians all too often treat God the same way. We come before God to hear His Word. We listen to a sermon. We read the Bible. Yet His Word goes in one ear and out the other. Many of us are regular hearers of the Word, but it is rare for us to listen and respond to the same Word. God calls on us to listen in the pattern of Samuel who both heard and followed the Word of the LORD.

Call Out for God’s Voice

In Samuel chapter 3, the priest Eli provides Samuel with priceless advice for the person who give the opportunity to hear the voice of the Lord. Eli told Samuel to come before God with the words, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.’ The word speak in the Hebrew text is an imperative. Samuel was to call out for God’s voice to be heard. Don’t passively sit and wait for God to speak to you. Call out to Him every time before you open your Bible, so He will speak directly to you, because you are listening to His message for you today.

Listen to Every Word

There was nothing childish or comforting in God’s message to Samuel. God did not come to this young boy in storybook form with a palatable message about forgiveness and love. God came with a message of judgment that would make Samuel tremble in fright. The household that Samuel was raised in was going to be under the judgment of God.

We need to prepare ourselves in a moment of prayer before we read the Word, so we can be ready to hear the uncomfortable truths in the Bible. You may have hidden sins God desires to uncover. There may be words of judgment for people close to you, and God wants you to use those words as warning to change a hardened heart.

Before you read the Word take a few seconds to ask God to speak to you. Tell Lord that you are His servant, and you ready to respond to His message no matter how comforting or difficult it is to take in at this time. We need more men and women in the church today who will not limit God’s Word to the passages on strength and comfort but also to the words of repentance and chastisement. Tell the Lord to speak and not hold back, because you are listening.

The Prayer of a Giver

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hannah prayed: My heart rejoices in the LORD; my horn is lifted up by the LORD. My mouth boasts over my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.  2 There is no one holy like the LORD. There is no one besides You! And there is no rock like our God. 3 Do not boast so proudly, or let arrogant words come out of your mouth, for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and actions are weighed by Him.  4 The bows of the warriors are broken, but the feeble are clothed with strength.  5 Those who are full hire themselves out for food, but those who are starving hunger no more. The barren woman gives birth to seven, but the woman with many sons pines away.  6 The LORD brings death and gives life; He sends some to Sheol, and He raises others up.  7 The LORD brings poverty and gives wealth; He humbles and He exalts.  8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the garbage pile. He seats them with noblemen and gives them a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; He has set the world on them.  9 He guards the steps of His faithful ones, but the wicked are silenced in darkness, for a man does not prevail by his own strength.  10 Those who oppose the LORD will be shattered; He will thunder in the heavens against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give power to His king; He will lift up the horn of His anointed.

 

Sacrificial giving is tough. Few things in this world are more difficult than volunteering to step away from the protection and support of what we have earned or been given in order to serve God and give to others. How can we give cheerfully when it rips out our hearts to take away the safety net of our own family?

Through Hannah’s prayer of praise in I Samuel 2, we are able to see what empowered her to give the greatest sacrifice of all. She offered her own son to serve in the temple of Shiloh. Her strength to give her son in service was found in her own understanding and knowledge of God. Those who give sacrificially are those who focus on God and His acts for His people in their prayers.

Praise Him for His greatness

Hannah does not begin her prayer by rejoicing over what God has done for her or her people. She begins by exalting God for who He is in vs. 1-2. Your strength to give must be founded on the strength of your God to become a truly sacrificial giver. Those who see the holiness and dependability of God are willing to expose themselves to potential harm by giving. Their God is the rock who will never let them fall.

Praise Him for His works

The bulk of Hannah’s prayer (vs. 3-9) is focused on what God does for His people and has done for her. Specifically, she praises God for His sovereignty over man. The rich can’t get comfortable in his riches. The poor can’t despair in his poverty. We can’t assume things will remain as they are because in His sovereignty God can change anything in a moment. Joseph could go from a prisoner in Egypt to second in command of the country in a day. Job can lose all of life’s comforts in an hour. Therefore, it is foolish to desperately horde what we have been given. It is far better to give back to God and trust that He will secure His children in the end.

Praise Him for His plans

Finally, Hannah looked forward to God’s future plans for His people in vs. 10. She looks forward to the anointing of Israel’s king as she lives in a land desperate for godly leadership. Her nation would lack a king until late in her son’s life. Yet she anticipated that day when God would provide powerful leadership for His people. Today God’s children are to continue to look forward to His future plans when the Prince of Peace returns to this earth in glory and power.

Increasing Hope

1 Samuel 1:10-18   10 Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the LORD and wept with many tears.  11 Making a vow, she pleaded, “LORD of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.”  12 While she was praying in the LORD’s presence, Eli watched her lips.  13 Hannah was speaking to herself, and although her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk14 and scolded her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!”  15 “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD.  16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”  17 Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.”  18 “May your servant find favor with you,” she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer appeared downcast.

 

Children bring us such joy – be they our children, grandchildren, or any other children God chooses to bring into our lives. Children bring us joy because they are walking, talking expressions of our hope in tomorrow. We hope that our children will thrive where we struggled. We hope that our children will walk in holiness in the places where we were stuck in our selfishness. A father who was a star athlete in college hopes to one day see his own child race to victory on the field.

Hope is so important to the Christian life. We reject the momentary pleasures of sin for a season as we hope for greater treasures in eternity with Christ. We reach out to the lost in anticipation of the salvation of their souls. We give to those in our church (even those who are prickly and crass) because we hope in spending eternity with them as the bride of Christ.

Since hope is so important, the moment your hope begins to falter you should rush to the Lord in prayer. In I Samuel 1 we come across a woman whose soul was in tattered, but her hope was restored through her prayer to God and the words of encouragement by a priest of the LORD. When grief overtakes your spirit, bring your grief before the LORD in prayer and ask others to pray over your needs.

Lay Out Your Grief and Sorrow Before Your God

Hannah’s prayer is simply shocking. She is so lost in her shame of her inability to carry a child that she is willing to give up anything to become a mother. She is even willing to give up her child as a full-time servant of God. That is pure desperation.

Desperation that comes out in her words and her emotions. She is so troubled that Eli the High Priest thinks that she has come to the Tabernacle drunk. Could she have been sweating, stumbling around in her pain? Did her mumbled words look like someone who couldn’t even get a word out in their intoxication? Hannah’s grief brought her to the point where she didn’t care how she appeared before others. She lost hope in herself and in her standing and threw herself upon the Lord.

In your loss pour everything out before the Lord. Don’t hold back your feelings, your despair, or your longings. God wants you when you pray. He doesn’t want a cleaned up superficial version of you who acts like everything is fine when it is not. Come to God in your emptiness, so He can fill you with His mercy.

Call on Another to Carry Your Grief

For me this is the real key to increasing your hope in prayer. Don’t pray alone. Call out to others to pray. Hannah didn’t even intend to bring Eli the priest into her prayers. It was just by chance and Eli’s observations that he was brought into her despair, but I think Eli’s short blessing in vs. 17 meant more to Hannah than Eli could have ever know.

Allow others to come into your loss and your pain, so they can uplift you in pray and encourage you with God’s grace. Our God is the God of hope, the God of healing, and forgiveness. No relationship is too far gone for Him to repair. No body too broken for Him to repair. No financial burden too large for Him to overcome, so bring others into your prayer to pray God’s goodness and mercy into your life. You never know – their words may be the exact words you need to hear that day.

Praying in Desperation

Judges 20:1-48

Judges 20:18 They set out, went to Bethel, and inquired of God. The Israelites asked, “Who is to go first to fight for us against the Benjaminites?” And the LORD answered, “Judah will be first…” 23 They went up, wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of Him: “Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites?” And the LORD answered: “Fight against them…” 26-28 The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.  27 Then the Israelites inquired of the LORD. In those days, the ark of the covenant of God was there,  28 and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, was serving before it. The Israelites asked: “Should we again fight against our brothers the Benjaminites or should we stop?” The LORD answered: “Fight, because I will hand them over to you tomorrow.”

 

God desires you to become desperate in your search for Him. He wants you to long for Him as you long for a drink of water on a hot summer day or shelter during a severe storm. Our problem is that we are not naturally desperate for God. Most of us like a nice sprinkling of God and spirituality in our lives. We want just enough of the Creator to be confident in Him but not enough to alter our lives.

In Judges 20, the LORD draws His people to a place of desperation. They come to Him secure in their own strength and ability, and the LORD is forced to humble and shake them so they can call on Him as a child longing for a parent’s comfort when the lightning flashes without warning and the thunder shakes the walls. This story arrives on the scene early in the time period of the Judges before the births of Gideon or Samson. The people of Israel had just settled in the Promised Land as a conquering army. They subdued their adversaries and eliminated king after king. If I was in that first or second generation of settlers I would have been riding high in our victories.

In their self-assurance, they allowed sin to creep into community. They allowed pride to spread among God’s people. A heinous sexual and violent sin occurs at the beginning of Judges 20 by the hands of the Benjaminites. The rest of Israel was so shocked that they formed a massive 400,000 man army to seek justice against the tribe of Benjamin. The Benjaminite leaders refused to submit to the judgment of the nation and responded with war.

 

Three times of prayer in verses 18-28 show the importance of seeking God with a desperate heart.

The first prayer in vs. 18 is short sweet and right to the point. They needed justice, so who should go and get it. Nothing but business from the people of Israel. No sorrow over the situation. No heart of desperate need for God.

The Second prayer in vs. 23 is longer. Well the prayer is basically the same, but before the prayer there is a time of weeping. The children of Israel weep as they had been defeated in their first battle with Benjamin. They weep but the LORD sends them out a second time for what will be a second failure.

The third prayer passage is the longest. After losing two battles to Benjamin, they now weep and fast before the Lord. Fasting along with sitting before the LORD pictures a prolonged period of prayer. They offer burnt sacrifices which according to the Law accompany repentance of sin. They offer fellowship offerings which show their longing to be at peace with God.

 

Finally, the LORD has brought them to the place they need to be. The place of desperation. The place where we do more than say, “Lord I am sorry I made a cruel comment to my spouse. Please forgive me for my gossip this past Sunday. Cleanse me from the lust in my heart.” In desperation, our confession becomes more than words that were spoken but they become a heartfelt repentance of our past with a passion to walk in godliness tomorrow.

We live in an age when our churches are for more likely to be influenced by the world as opposed to seeing our churches change the world for the glory of God. We must repent of our willingness to follow idolatrous practices and bow before the whims of the godless. People are desperate for political rights, environmental protections, and economic success. It is time for the church to get desperate for holiness. Our desperation for righteousness is seen in the content of our prayers.

A Window into the Soul

Judges 16:28-30  28 He called out to the LORD: “Lord God, please remember me. Strengthen me, God, just once more. With one act of vengeance, let me pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.”  29 Samson took hold of the two middle pillars supporting the temple and leaned against them, one on his right hand and the other on his left.  30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” He pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the leaders and all the people in it. And the dead he killed at his death were more than those he had killed in his life.

 

What do you want to be known for? What will others say about you at your funeral? Will you be known for a life of sacrificial prayer on behalf of others? Will be you spoken of as a witness for Jesus Christ in your workplace and among your neighbors? What will your legacy be?

I think our legacies can be found in our prayer lives. Those who pray for comfort and ease and personal success will be known for living in ease and worldly goals achieved. Those who prayed to see neighbors saved, new Christians discipled, and churches strengthen will be known as pillars in the Kingdom of God.

We see how our prayers can shape our legacies in the prayers of Samson. The Holy Spirit chose to present the church with two prayers of this controversial judge. Samson utters a swift selfish prayer for water in Judges 15, and he utters a swift selfish prayer for vengeance in Judges 16. If you wanted to describe Samson to someone who is new to the faith – you could sum up his life and ministry with the words: selfishness and vengeance.

 

Your Prayers Reveal Your Faith

Samson was thirty and prayed for water. Samson was mocked by enemies and prayed for vengeance. The amazing part of the story of Samson is God answer to Samson’s prayers. He provided!  Samson may have been a fool before everyone else. He destroyed his testimony and ended his life a blind slave. He was still a man of faith.

Coming before God regularly in prayer reveals your faith in Him. It may not be perfect. You may ask for the wrong things and only pray over the wrong issues, but it is important because prayer reveals your dependence on God. Better to be a sinner who falls on his knees in prayer than a priest who doesn’t need to come before God in prayer.

 

Your Prayers Reveal Your Heart

Think for a moment now about David. You could make an argument that David wasn’t a whole lot better than Samson at times. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband Uriah to cover the sin. That is one of only many lapses in judgment by David.

Today David is not known as a murder but as the man after God’s own heart. Where do we see David’s heart in the narrative of his life? We see David’s heart in his prayers. We read of his gratitude before God in II Sam 7. We read of his trust in God in Psalm 23. We read of his repentance in Psalm 51.

Samson’s prayer life on the other hand was limited to selfish longings and a thirst for vengeance. Today we know Samson by his selfish lust and vengeful violence before anything else. What does the content of your prayers reveal about your soul? Does it show a lack of faith by your unwillingness to come before God in prayer? Does it show a man or woman after God’s own heart as you draw near to Him in worship and repentance? You are making your eternal legacy today through your prayers offered to the Father.

The Prayer of the Selfish

Judges 15:18-20   He became very thirsty and called out to the LORD: “You have accomplished this great victory through Your servant. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”  So God split a hollow place in the ground at Lehi, and water came out of it. After Samson drank, his strength returned, and he revived. That is why he named it En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. And he judged Israel 20 years in the days of the Philistines.

 

We’ve all done it before. We’ve all done it hundreds, thousands of times. We have each made prayers that could be describe by one word: selfish. We are born as lovers of self, and so it is natural for us to come before God and offer prayers focused on our needs and our desires with no thought given to the glory of God or the good of His people or the salvation of the lost. It might not be easy to admit, but it is easy to get trapped in a habit of only praying for self.

How does God respond to the prayers of the selfish? Does He turn His back on people who failed to begin without a word of praise? Does God look for a holy pattern in every prayer. Thankfully, God never made a prayer checklist in the Bible. People prayed exclusively to praise God and exclusively to confess sins. Some asked for personal needs while others prayed for their country. God doesn’t reject a prayer focused on self alone, but He may choose withhold blessings in response to personal disobedience.

Samson is one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible. He was crude, proud, controlled by his lusts, and disobedient to his parents. Yet Samson was chosen by God to judge Israel, and his prayers were answered with miracles. Samson’s prayer in Judges 15:18-20 sums up Samson’s spiritual life and impact with Israel in one brief account. Samson was used by God in spite of his selfishness to make a minimal impact on the lives of God’s people.

 

God hears the prayer of the selfish

Following a great military victory brought about by Samson’s muscles and a piece of animal bone, Samson finds himself in desperate need. He needs water or he might die of thirst in the wilderness. Samson in his moment of crisis calls out in prayer. His prayer reveals the heart of man looking out only for self.

Samson has the boldness to take the servant title of Moses and saw his hands as the source of power in God’s victory. This is like a star basketball player boasting after hitting the game winning basket by saying, “Our team won a great victory through my amazing basket.” Everyone would see that the player was exalting himself and not the team. God saw Samson’s selfish heart, but He still blessed the man with water.

Your prayers may be selfish, but you can trust that God hears every prayer from His children. Those spoken in a rash of greed or those offered for the blessing of a stranger. Trust that God hears you no matter what your motives may be, and He is never far from His own.

God withholds blessing from the selfish

While God hears every prayer from His children, He does withhold blessings from those who ask in selfishness. Samson was able to do great things for God, but he was never given true peace in his lifetime. Other judges watched over years of peace following their military victories (Judges 8:28). Samson never saw that peace. We only read that he judged Israel 20 years. He did not judge in peace. He judged during a time when the Philistines remained in power.

Understand that a life of selfishness stops you from receiving and experiencing blessings from God. Now those blessings should primarily be seen as eternal rewards laid up in heaven today, but you miss them when you live for your own glory instead of the Father’s. Don’t let your prayer life be defined by selfishness like Samson. Instead come before God seeking His will to be done instead of your own.

The Prayer of the Ignorant

Judges 13:8-9   8 Manoah prayed to the LORD and said, “Please Lord, let the man of God you sent come again to us and teach us what we should do for the boy who will be born.”  9 God listened to Manoah, and the Angel of God came again to the woman. She was sitting in the field, and her husband Manoah was not with her.

 

I love to read, and I read a lot. I track the books on read on an app called Good Reads. In 2016 I read 56 books. That was the most books I have ever made it through in a single year. I love to read the Bible as well. I read the Bible again and again in different translations of the Word, so I can see it from fresh perspectives. I am a reader.

Most people are not readers. The number of nonreaders in America has tripled since 1978. Statisticians say that 1/3 of Americans will never read one book after finishing high school. Thanks to reading in bite sizes on blogs and Facebook posts, people are finding it more and more difficult to read a book from beginning to end.

I believe this is having a profound effect on the American Church. We are becoming increasing ignorant of the basics of the Christian faith, the history of God’s people, and how to walk in faith in a fallen world. Thankfully you don’t need to be ignorant of the Scriptures and God’s revealed will to His people. You can break the trends of the day and dive into Scripture. You can read the stories you heard as a kid in Sunday School and discover their depth and breadth as an adult. We live in a society where we have countless free copies of the Word and even free audio Bibles and commentaries and studies online.

To those who come to church discouraged at times due to your lack of knowledge. To those who may be ignorant of the message of God. I want to encourage you to trust in God and to begin a journey of growth into the knowledge and wisdom of God. Be encouraged by the prayer of Manoah of God’s desire to use the ignorant in His plans for His people. God wants to take you where you are and give you the wisdom and grace to impact this world for eternal glory.

 

No Shame in Ignorance

Manoah was given some pretty miraculous news in Judges 13. His barren was going to have a baby. This wasn’t to be just any baby, but this was a child who would be used by God to govern His people. For this reason, Manoah needed to raise this baby as a Nazarite, but Manoah had a problem. He didn’t know how to raise a Nazarite.

Although many would see Manoah as an ignorant country boy who has never read the Mosaic Laws and couldn’t follow God’s basic statues relating to Nazarites, God saw him in a different light. God saw Manoah as a man who was ideally located to be a thorn in the side of God’s enemies. Manoah was faithful to God and desired to serve Him year after year in the raising for his son. While others might highlight Manoah’s lack of knowledge, God saw the substance of His faith.

Find Wisdom in Prayer

Don’t assume to become an expert in God’s Word in a week, a month, or even a year of reading. It will take years to grow deep in the Truth of God’s Word. You also cannot grow in wisdom alone. Manoah was wise enough to admit his ignorance. He called to God to send the grace and mercy of His angelic messenger again.

When you dive into the Word, partner your reading with times of prayer. Ask God to give you wisdom to understand the difficult points of Scripture. Ask God to help you live out what is before you today in the Word. Ask others to come alongside you in your instruction. Prayer can help you grow in wisdom and knowledge. Don’t be ashamed of your ignorance today, because God takes pleasure in taking those who are lacking and giving them His fullness.

A Sober Warning

Judges 11:30-36   30 Jephthah made this vow to the LORD: “If You will hand over the Ammonites to me,  31 whatever comes out of the doors of my house to greet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites will belong to the LORD, and I will offer it as a burnt offering.”  32 Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD handed them over to him.  33 He defeated 20 of their cities with a great slaughter from Aroer all the way to the entrance of Minnith and to Abel-keramim. So the Ammonites were subdued before the Israelites.  34 When Jephthah went to his home in Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with tambourines and dancing! She was his only child; he had no other son or daughter besides her.  35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “No! Not my daughter! You have devastated me! You have brought great misery on me. I have given my word to the LORD and cannot take it back.  36 Then she said to him, “My father, you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me as you have said, for the LORD brought vengeance on your enemies, the Ammonites.”

 

One of the greatest dangers in the Christian life is the danger to compare. Comparing your spiritual life to others will most likely result in false pride or needless depression. We compare ourselves to those who are struggling or new to the faith, and it makes us look wonderful when we could be anything but. We compare ourselves to spiritual mature believers who spend hours in prayer each day, and we feel unworthy and pathetic next to them.

Comparisons are destructive because they make us into something we are not. They turn us into petty critics who know nothing of grace and mercy. In comparison to other prayers in the Bible Jephthah’s vow may be the worst, but may we not be people who are puffed in pride because of his foolishness May we be humble to avoid walking in the same mistakes.

 

The Importance of Vows

We don’t pay enough attention to the place that the Bible gives to the making of vows. There are entire sections of the Mosaic Law dedicated to vows. (Lev 27, Num 6, and Num 30). Jesus attacked those who abused vows on multiple occasions in his own ministry (Matthew 5 and 23). James 5 is a warning against rash, proud vows. There is more teaching on the taking and fulfilling of vows than we typically consider. Vows given to God in prayer are sacred and we are required to fulfill every vow taken.

The reality of the importance of vows is illustrated in the sober warning found in Judges 11. Jephthah made a foolish vow before his battle with the Ammonites. He vowed to offer whatever first exited his home at his return from battle as a burnt offering to God. After his return from defeating numerous Ammonite cities, Jephthah’s daughter runs out the door to greet her father.

In shock and horror Jephthah says, “I have given my word to the LORD and cannot take it back.” After a period of mourning with her friends, Jephthah’s daughter is offered in sacrifice to the LORD in fulfillment of his vow. Vows are never taken lightly in the Scriptures. If you vow to never drink a drop of alcohol, God expects you to remain alcohol-free for the rest of your life. If you vow to remain faithful to your spouse, God expects you to stay in your marriage in the good and bad. If you make a vow don’t underestimate the importance of your promise.

The Danger of Vows

            Vows are not only important, but they are also dangerous. We see the danger in shocking clarity as Jephthah’s daughter loses her life to a foolish vow. Vows can take away blessings that God would have otherwise wanted to keep in your life. Vows can harm your testimony when you make a promise that is impossible for you to fulfill and back out on your word. Please count the potential costs of your vows before every promise. Think through both the consequences of breaking your word and fulfilling your word. Don’t lose sight of what can be lost through a rash vow made in prayer.

A Bad Example

Judges 6:36-40  36 Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel by my hand, as You said,  37 I will put a fleece of wool here on the threshing floor. If dew is only on the fleece, and all the ground is dry, I will know that You will deliver Israel by my strength, as You said.”  38 And that is what happened. When he got up early in the morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung dew out of it, filling a bowl with water.  39 Gideon then said to God, “Don’t be angry with me; let me speak one more time. Please allow me to make one more test with the fleece. Let it remain dry, and the dew be all over the ground.”  40 That night God did as Gideon requested: only the fleece was dry, and dew was all over the ground.

 

This world is filled with bad examples. A woman named Tamera from Louisiana was so frustrated at the slow speed of her boyfriend’s driving that she claimed she could walk faster than he drove. To prove her point, she opened the door to place her foot on the road. Her boyfriend was driving 55 miles per hour, so she was instantly ripped from the car as soon as she stuck her foot out. A lesson not to step out of the car while going down the highway.

Take Iraqi terrorist as another bad example: Khay Rahnajet failed to put enough posted on his letter bomb. His package came back marked “return to sender,” and he opened it only to be killed by his own bomb. A lesson to always put enough postage on all your packages.

So far in our study in prayer we have focused on good examples to follow. We have discussed men and women who poured out their hearts before God as well as those who called on God to follow through on His own promises. Gideon provides an example that should not be copied.

 

The doubting of Gideon

In Judges 6 God called on Gideon to lead his people to victory against the Midianites (14-16). Gideon responds with immediate faith as he rips down the local altar to Baal, but his faith stumbles at the end of the chapter. Seeing the Israelites form into an army at his summons, suddenly things get real for Gideon. He shrinks in fear before God’s clear command to take out the Midianites.

Gideon puts God to the test by placing a fleece of wool on the ground and asking God to make the fleece wet with dew while the surrounding grass remains dry. God answered Gideon’s request, but instead of stepping forward in faith, the judge doubts again and asks God to repeat the miracle. He now wants to fleece to remain dry while the ground becomes wet. God responds to the second test of Gideon.

This incident with the fleece should have never happened. Gideon knew God’s Word to him. He already saw God provide an army in vs. 33-35 yet he doubts and wavers. When you know God’s will for you, do not put him to the test. Step forward in obedience when He has clearly spelled out His Word for you. We are not to pray for miracles to back up God’s plain teachings.

The grace of God

The takeaway from Judges 6 is not to test God before we obey His Word with regard to clear teaching. We obey because it is God’s Word and we need no other argument. Another lesson in this prayer teaches us about the character of our God. He is a God of grace and mercy. God responded to the doubting of Gideon in spite of Gideon’s disobedience to the Law (Deut 6:16 forbids God’s people to put Him to the test), and God’s explicit command to him through the angel of the LORD.

Trust in God to hear your prayer even if you stumble over every word, you can never think of the right thing to say, or you feel lacking in comparison to the prayers you hear offered by others. God will respond to the call of His people even if they pray with faith like Daniel or doubting like Gideon. He is a good, good Father.

Prayer and the Sinner

Judges 3:9 and 15  9 The Israelites cried out to the LORD. So the LORD raised up Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s youngest brother as a deliverer to save the Israelites….  15 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and He raised up Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed Benjaminite, as a deliverer for them. The Israelites sent him to Eglon king of Moab with tribute money. Judges 4:3-4   3 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, because Jabin had 900 iron chariots, and he harshly oppressed them 20 years.  4 Deborah, a woman who was a prophet and the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.

 

Six years. From the age of 12 until the age of 18 when I was finished with high school, I never cried. A tear never fell from my eyes during my junior high and high school years, and I was very proud of that accomplishments. Six years without crying, so at the age of 18, in spite of my childish looks and skinny frame, I considered myself to be a man.

Six years without tears did not make me a man. Those years made me proud and self-sufficient. Those years gave me a feeling of superiority over others who couldn’t hold back the tears. Years without tears does not make one strong, it makes one hardened and proud. The Scriptures call us to be people who mourn and respond to the times of grief in this world. Sinners who find grace in the hour of need are those who mourn in sin and call out to God in prayer when afflicted.

God responds to the sinner who mourns

If there was ever a time when God should have washed His hands of our helpless race it was during the age of the Judges. For hundreds of years the Israelites were rescued from their persecutors by God’s strong right hand, only to abandon God in the days of peace and return to sin. Generation after generation, the people cried to God and God delivered. God delivered, and the following generation was so grateful for the LORD’s salvation that they worshipped Baal. God should have left our entire helpless race for good in those days.

But He didn’t. Every time His sinful people cried out in their sin and affliction, God answered and provided. The LORD hears the cries of His people. He responds to His people as they mourn. When you fall into sin, don’t despair. Don’t wallow in guilt in fear. Instead mourn and cry over your iniquity. Call out to God for forgiveness. As God was faithful to respond to His people who cried, He will be faithful to respond to your tears of confession as well. Blessed are those who mourn.

God responds to the sinner who returns  

The Israelites not only made it a pattern to cry out to God, they also made it a pattern to return to God. It’s easy to miss in the midst of all the sin and failure in Judges, but the book of Judges is also a book of repentance. Many generations turned away from their sin and turned toward the LORD. Gideon’s generation followed the LORD during Gideon’s leadership and only returned to Baal after his death. Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, and Barak all led the people into periods of rest.

Prayer for the sinner should be more than an emotional outburst from the pain of sin. Prayer should be the start of turning away from the sin and the selfishness and toward holiness and mercy. This is the moment when you can commit to walk away from the way of the world and into the Way of the LORD. Will you be perfect in your repentance? Probably not in this life. You may fall back into the same old sins again next Tuesday or in 2019.

Don’t forget that each day of resting in Christ is a victory. Each day of walking away from sin is a triumph through the grace of the Spirit. The cries of the people of Israel would have meant nothing without the actions of repentance. When you find yourself stuck in the same sin again like the Israelites in the days of the Judges, don’t despair or throw in the towel. Cry out and ask for forgiveness. Pray and ask for a heart of repentance. Don’t worry about tomorrow, walk right this day.

Prayer in Failure

Judges 2:1-5  The Angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, “I brought you out of Egypt and led you into the land I had promised to your fathers. I also said: I will never break My covenant with you.  2 You are not to make a covenant with the people who are living in this land, and you are to tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed Me. What is this you have done?  3 Therefore, I now say: I will not drive out these people before you. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a trap to you.”  4 When the Angel of the LORD had spoken these words to all the Israelites, the people wept loudly.  5 So they named that place Bochim and offered sacrifices there to the LORD.

 

Most of us don’t take well to failure. Thomas Edison claimed to have failed over 1,000 times in his attempts to invent the light bulb. Teams began working on a polio vaccine in 1935. Many of the earlier vaccines produced results worse or as bad as polio itself. It wasn’t until 1953 that Jonas Salk introduced the first safe polio vaccine. (By the time he was ready for human trials they were considered to be so risky that Salk first vaccinated himself, his wife, and his children). The average person won’t push through one thousand failures and two decades of failed progress.

Failure knocks many Christians down to their knees, and they never recovery. This world is filled with men and women who believed on Jesus Christ for salvation, but they never worship Him or serve Him or testify to His love, because a past failure ruined today’s witness. Don’t allow your failures to ruin your walk with God. During times of failure listen to God and pray over your disappointments.

 

Listen to Know Your Short-comings

When you are going through a period of failure, you must listen to the Word of God. Many of us ignore God during those hard times in the valleys. We don’t pick up the Bible and listen as the Spirit speaks in a still small voice. We trust in our own wisdom and knowledge for deliverance. We wallow in our despair and assume tomorrow will be no different from today.

The Israelites were going through a hard time of failure during the end of Joshua’s days. They failed to find peace and victory in tribe after tribe in Judges chapter 1. The Angel of the LORD came to them after a period of regular failure. They could have very easily rejected the message from the Angel of the LORD, but in this moment they heard and responded. Don’t cut God out during a time of doubt and discouragement. Instead let God and allow His Word to wash into your spirit. Even when it is the last thing in the world you want to do, open the Word of God, allow your heavenly Father to speak over you in your hopelessness.

Respond with Tears of Confession

It’s all too easy for a lifelong Christian to walk away from the Word of God unaffected. After all, you have heard this before. You have read the Bible half a dozen times and your favorite passages hundreds of times. You know this. I am even talking about how we get through failure with a time of Bible reading and prayer. You can’t get more predictable than that.

So it is easy to think we know it all. We live it all, and we have nothing to confess and nowhere to grow. We always have somewhere to grow. None of us fully reflect the image of Jesus Christ. No one can live in a way that they don’t need to come before God in tears seeking forgiveness.

Failure is a great opportunity for the Christian to search deep and examine how he has been living. This is your chance to look inward for selfish motives. This is your day to look at your thought life, your witness in the world, and your testimony at work. Do you need to confess sins that the no one knows but you? Do you need to repent of anger, biting insults, or comments that tear down others?

Failure is an opportunity for growth, change, and progress to help you walk in righteousness in the future. Joshua’s generation saw that truth and cried out before the LORD. The following generations failed to crawl out of the mire of sin and were stuck for generations in their iniquity. May you take advantage of failure to grow closer to your Christ today.

Prayer in Confusion

Joshua 7:7-11 7 “Oh, Lord God,” Joshua said, “why did You ever bring these people across the Jordan to hand us over to the Amorites for our destruction? If only we had been content to remain on the other side of the Jordan!  8 What can I say, Lord, now that Israel has turned its back and run from its enemies?  9 When the Canaanites and all who live in the land hear about this, they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. Then what will You do about Your great name?”  10 The LORD then said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why are you on the ground?  11 Israel has sinned…

 

I have a terrible sense of direction. I never know which way is north or south. If not for my wife, I would get lost on a weekly basis even going to places I have been to a dozen times before. Sometimes I think GPS was made just with Shawn Willson in mind. When I initially arrived in New Orleans I thought my sense of direction was going to a killer. For the first few weeks it was as I kept going the wrong way on trip after trip. Everything changed when I started allowing the Mississippi to be my guide.

I may not always get from point A to point B on the fastest possible route, but when I keep the Mississippi in mind I can always get in right direction by driving away from the river, toward the river, up the river, or down the river. I don’t really panic anymore when I am going somewhere for the first time. I don’t even use Google on every trip, because the Mississippi can help guide me.

Prayer, communication with God, can act as our guide to help us through the confusing times of our lives. We might not always make it to our destination as fast as we want. We might need to drive past the same landmark twice, but prayer can help the most misdirected of God’s children get back on the narrow road toward glory.

 

Share Your Confusion with the Father

Joshua followed the will of the Lord by leading His people into the Promised Land. Everything started off without a hitch. The Jordan River parted before the Ark. The walls of Jericho fell flat at the sound of their voices. The Lord promised victory, and He delivered at every step. Until Ai.

At Ai everything fell apart in defeat and Joshua looked the fool before the entire land of Canaan. What was Joshua to do in this moment when it appeared that God was not living up to His end of the deal. Joshua obeyed, but God did not bless. Thankfully Joshua shows us how to respond to times of confusion when we obey God, but things turn out far from our expectations.

Bring your confusion before God in prayer. Ask Him the hard questions. Pepper the throne with accusations and call on Him to live according to His own Word. Joshua brought each doubt and question before the Lord while assuming that God was going to glorify His great name. Don’t wallow in your own thoughts or groan to others, but share your thoughts and groanings with God during your time of prayer, so God can use your prayers to draw you back to Him.

Step Up and Walk in His Revealed Will

Once you have prayed your complaints, go to God’s Word and listen to His Word. He doesn’t want you to stay in failure and confusion. He wants you to step forward in righteousness and obedience. Joshua was told to stand up and deal with Israel’s sin. When you are confused it is a time for you to reevaluate your life, confess any hidden sins, and step forward in God’s way.

When you are in confusion over the state of your marriage, stand up and follow Paul’s wisdom in Ephesians 6. When you are in confusion over the bitterness and division in your church, stand up and love those who are embittered. When you are in confusion over the sickness and weakness in your body, stand up and pray for Christ’s strength to overshadow your weakness, so you can testify of God’s grace to others struggling with the same pain.

While you may not know why God brought division, defeat, heartache, or sickness into your life you can still be obedient to God’s revealed will during a time of defeat. Don’t allow the valleys in life to stop you from standing up and walking toward the mountaintops. God can teach you so much during a failure to help you to handle the times of blessing, so bring your confusion before and walk forward in obedience.

Prayer in Comfort

Deuteronomy 6:10-13  10 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give you– a land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build,  11 houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant– and when you eat and are satisfied,  12 be careful not to forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.  13 Fear the LORD your God, worship Him, and take your oaths in His name.

Looking back over human history, it is easy to see how comfortable the average American lives today. Those in poverty in America enjoy more benefits and pleasures than the wealthiest aristocrats of the 16th and 17th century. Our homes are heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. We travel from shop to shop in automobiles that we take for granted but are truly one of the great wonders in human history. 80% of Americans will even fly in the sky to travel from one city to another at least once in their lifetime.

We are living the good life with advanced medicines and technology today. When we look at the sad reality that many people are driven to prayer in hardship and poverty, it is also easy to see that people don’t pray to God as often in America today as we did in generations past. God actually warns the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6 that earthly comforts can hinder our relationship with Him. Understanding that earthly comforts distract us from prayer, how should that change the way we do pray when we come before God?

 

Pray for Fear

When you find your bills met, your body in good health, and your family safe and sound, ask the Lord to help you to fear His Name. Don’t allow momentary success to cloud the reality of who God is in comparison to who you are. God is the thrice-holy Lord of the universe. He is the Creator and Sustainer. Our bodies were formed out of the dust and are filled with water. Our knowledge is limited and wisdom short-sighted.

You are fool to live without the proper respected for God in light of who you are and who He is. Don’t forget as you talk on your cell phone and schedule your next vacation that God is the One in control of your next breath. Fear and respect the One who holds this whole world in His hands.

 

Pray for Opportunities to Serve

The people who are humble before God are those who live out their humility in service. The Israelites were told to fear the LORD and worship Him in vs. 13. The Hebrew word for worship also means to serve. Those who truly worship the LORD live in the pattern of Jesus Christ who came not to be served but to serve. When we offer ourselves in service to others in need it highlights our frailty and magnifies the compassion of our God. Don’t sit back in selfishness during times of prosperity but ask God for opportunities to use your prosperity to help those in need.

Don’t Limit God to Times of Prayer

The people who are humble before God are those who bring God into every aspect of their lives. In America we have become experts at compartmentalization. We keep work in the work hours. We keep family time in the family hours. Our relationship with God is boxed into the hours of 9am-11am on Sunday and 15 minutes of Bible reading each morning. God doesn’t want to be limited to designated times of fellowship.

The LORD desires to be with you at work times and family times. He wants to be in your daydreams and in your Facebook posts. Don’t walk through life without a mind toward eternity, but think constantly on Him. Bring God into your promises and covenants. Don’t leave Him out of your commitments or the mundane things of life or you may wind up thinking you can do it all without Him once you can meet your own needs with the income He has provided.