“You, indeed, have made my days short in length, and my life span as nothing in Your sight. Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor.” Psalm 39:5 (HCSB)

Have you ever felt nameless among the giants of faith around you – a vapor? You look at women of God who are doing great things for the Lord and every time you turn around you’re hearing their names mentioned for doing this or that in ministry. Their lights seem to shine brighter than all others – than yours. When they experience adversity, you watch them overcome insurmountable obstacles. The favor of the Lord is truly on their lives. It’s as if you can hear God loudly calling their names.

I can’t help but wonder if there were those during David’s time who felt the same way. I think about those unnamed mighty men of valor who fought alongside David or those family members who were never mentioned but impacted his life in ways he himself didn’t even realize. But God knew them and He called their names.

David had three nephews who were spoken of – Joab, Abishai and Asahel (1 Chronicles 2:19-23; 1 Chronicles 3:26-27). They were warriors fighting at his side. These three nephews were the sons of Zeruiah, David’s sister. That’s the only description we find of Zeruiah in Scripture. We can, however, surmise that she raised three courageous sons who became brave and loyal soldiers. We don’t know if she spent many nights praying for them while they were at war, uncertain of how much danger they were in or if she would ever see them again. We don’t know if she had an influence on David’s life growing up. We just don’t know. But God knew her and He called her name.

We then see a random name mentioned right in the middle of a long list of Judah’s relatives – Jabez. We know that he “was more honorable than his brothers” (1 Chronicles 4:9,10). We also know that he called out to God and God answered his prayer. We are not quite sure who Jabez was and where or if he fits in with this extensive list of relatives. But God knew him and He called his name.

It’s very tempting to skip over the genealogies cited in 1 Chronicles 1-6. By the time you reach the third cousin’s nephew who has the same name as his great uncle, you have forgotten who you were reading about in the first place! I agree the genealogies can be very tedious reading. But don’t miss the beauty in the mention of these names. Each name is a person and each person is so very important to God’s story; every bit as important as the names you’re familiar with. They were fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers of people whom God used to do great (and sometimes seemingly small) things to accomplish His Grand Purpose. God knew each one of them – all their hurts, pains, gifts, talents, and purpose – and He called their names.

Even David sometimes felt nameless among the crowd – like a vapor. But God called David’s name and chose him from the sheepfold (Psalms 78:70-71). He has called your name, too, and written it in the Book of Life to spend eternity with Him. He has also called your name so that your life can inspire and make an eternal impact on others – maybe several; maybe just one special person. You are significant. Know it. Believe it. Yes, you, too, my sister in Christ, can say “He knows me and has called my name!”

By Abigail George


God's PresenceYet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strengthof my heart, my portion forever. But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do. Psalm 73:23-26, 28 (HCSB)

As Asaph begins this psalm, he reminds himself that God is good to Israel. That was his logical side. At the time, Israel was living in captivity in Babylon, that magnificent and powerful ancient world power. As he looks around at the prosperity and power in this adopted godless nation, his heart begins to fail him. He asks the question that has plagued believers for centuries, “Why do the wicked seem to do so well?” It seems like the most prosperous, healthiest, wealthiest people are the most godless. They don’t figure God into their lives. They live carefree lives with no worries about sickness or trouble. Asaph’s heart begins to lead him astray, and he begins to envy the arrogance of the wicked as they oppress other people. Just as he begins to lose his perspective, Asaph enters the sanctuary of the Lord and his perspective changes. He understands that the wicked are not better off. These prosperous wicked people think they can live without God, but it is only an illusion of prosperity and well-being, not permanent. Their chosen path is easy to find, easy to travel, but Jesus says it leads to destruction. In fact, He says the way to the abundant life is narrow and only a few find it. Asaph understands that to live God’s way is to live differently from the world. He doesn’t need the world’s prosperity when he has the best—God’s presence.

Jesus tells a story of two builders. One builds on sand. His beautiful house goes up quickly, but when trouble comes and the storms of life beat against that house, it quickly collapses, totally destroyed. In contrast, the godly man builds his house on solid rock. No matter what storms come, the house stands firm because it is anchored in Jesus Christ. In faith, Asaph says, “Yes, I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory.”

Which way is more secure, relying on the world’s promises or on God’s truth? Of course, relying on God is much more secure. On whom are you relying today? Does the seeming prosperity of the wicked keep your eyes off Jesus? Come away and spend time with Him and gain His perspective. When the world seems to careen out of control, Jesus is the only safe refuge. You can say with Asaph that even when “my flesh and my heart fail…God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever….God’s presence is my good.” Will you join Asaph in this praise today?

By Carol McLaren

For extra reading: Matthew 7:24-26


New yearThe boy Samuel served the Lord in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread. 1 Samuel 3:1
The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word. 1 Samuel 3:21 (HCSB)

During the days of the judges, hearing from the Lord was rare. There were not many visions. Moses and Joshua had clearly communicated that God would bless the people if they continued to walk in obedience. However, if they disobeyed they would no longer enjoy the benefits and blessings of God and His covenant promises. The people lived in disobedience and God was largely silent. Things begin to change as God’s word comes to Israel through a godly priest named Samuel. God appears to Samuel, talking with him and revealing Himself through His word. The name of God in these verses is the covenant name, Yahweh.

What a contrast we see here between the chaos and anarchy of the era of the judges and the beginning of the monarchy period! Remember the cycle: disobedience, oppression, followed by their rescue by a God-appointed judge, followed by revival and peace, before complacency set in and the cycle repeated itself. That same cycle repeated over and over again. However, with the godly priest Samuel, God is “welcomed” back into the lives of the Israelites. I keep remembering the verses in Exodus 19:4-6 where God reminds the Israelites of what He did to Egypt with the plagues and how He “carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me.” God promises they they can be a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, but only if they keep His covenant and obey him fully.

Now with Samuel, Israel begins to see hope. As Samuel ministers before the Lord in Shiloh, the covenant God, Yahweh, continues to appear to him, talking to him, revealing Himself and His truth. Samuel had to be yielded and listen. God revealed Himself through his word.

Where do you stand as this new year begins? Will you sit quietly and listen to the Lord? Will you patiently wait to hear from the Lord? Join me in this prayer: “Lord, as I meet with you each day, may I wait patiently, not running ahead just hoping you will catch up with my agenda.”

In the days of the judges the phrase “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” keeps ringing in our ears. We do not want the chaos of the judges in this New Year. May we wait patiently to hear from the Lord by the Holy Spirit through His Word, the Bible.

By Carol McLaren

(For further reading: Exodus 19:1-21)


“The Israelites cried out to the Lord…” Judges 3:9, 15, 4:3, 6:6 (HCSB)

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?” Judges 1:1 (HCSB) What a wonderful way to launch a new era for the children of Israel! They inquired of the Lord. He answered their plea and directed the men of Judah to lead them in battle. The legacy of victory had continued from the time of Joshua, or so it would seem. In that very first chapter of Judges, we begin to see the tide change. There is a series of failures that signified this era. It was one marked by cycles of disobedience, compromising tolerance, religious and moral mayhem, and the worship of other gods (Judges 1:21, 27, 29-34). They were constantly doing “evil in the Lord’s sight” and “everyone did whatever he wanted.” Judges 2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1,13:1, 17:6, 21:25.

Israel’s defeat by their enemies would be God’s means of discipline. He would hear their response of desperate cries and raise up deliverers (Judges) to save them. God would pour His Spirit on them enabling them to lead His people and win many battles. There were repeated cycles of rebellion, discipline, repentance, obedience and deliverance. In the midst of moral chaos and constant bouts of defiance, God remained the same. He was faithful to His Covenant and to His people. He continued to reach out to His own, urging them to return to him and experience the joy of obedience.

Obedience and repentance can turn the tides of negative consequences. When God disciplines His children, it is always an act of grace. He could choose to give us what we deserve, but in His discipline, He grants us an opportunity to get it right and to return to proper fellowship with Him. We deserve death and to be cut off from His Presence, but He chooses to respond to our cries of desperation and rescue us from our self-destructive demise.

How far can we stray away from the presence and guidance of the Lord? How much can we assimilate into the culture we live in? How much can our values resemble those of the world? How much of our rebellion against God would it take for Him to turn a deaf ear to our cries of help? During the time of the judges, His children were pretty far gone. The last verse in the book of Judges says: “…everyone did whatever he wanted.” (21:25b HCSB). In the first verse of the book of Ruth it says, “During the time of the judges…” It is during this same period of repeated rebellion that the beautiful love story of redemption unfolds. The people get a glimpse of God’s ultimate plan.

God loves us too much to leave us to our own devices. Cry out to Him! He will never forsake us! What an awesome and faithful God! Let us walk continually in obedience to Him.

“The Israelites cried out to the Lord, and He raised up…” Judges 3:9, 15

By Abigail George


The Lord gave them rest on every side according to all He had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the Lord handed over all their enemies to them.”  Joshua 21:45 (HCSB)

The book of Joshua serves as a victorious finale to the events recorded in the Pentateuch, in particular, those incredible encounters the Israelites had with Yahweh on their journey through the wilderness. It is a beautifully detailed picture of God continuing to fulfill His promises to His people. It records the memorable entry into the Promised Land so reminiscent of the great escape from the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. Many battles were fought and won. Cities were conquered. Nations were annihilated. The land had to be cleansed, for the Holy Presence of God entered the Land and His chosen people would dwell there. On numerous occasions Joshua and the people were encouraged by the Lord to be “strong and courageous.” (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9, 18; 10:25, 23:6) Through it all, it was God who fought for them and gained the victory.

The conquered land was divided among the people. The scripture says, “So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there.” (Josh. 21:43 HCSB) Not only did God fulfill His promise to give the land, but He fulfilled His promise of rest. (Exodus 33:14) He gave them rest all around. They could settle and be secure knowing their enemies were no longer threats. As a matter of fact, God had given the enemies to them. The Lord was on their side. He promised that if they would obey Him, they would continue in His rest.

On your journey with the Lord you may face battles, difficult areas of your life to conquer, and strongholds to overcome. Remember that the Lord is fighting for you just as He did for the Israelites. God has promised to take you through the journey to the destination He has for you. Not only will He get you to that place, but he will also give you rest there. The enemy has no chance against you because the Lord is on your side. Continue to trust in Him. Walk in obedience and rest in Him. The rest the Israelites anticipated was in a specific locality—a land just beyond the Jordan River. Praise the Lord that Jesus Christ is our ultimate place of rest. It is in Him we can rest from the enemy and live securely. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Mt. 11:28 (HCSB)

You can rest now, for God has fulfilled His promise. Will you rest in Christ?

“None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.” Joshua 21:45 (HCSB)

By Abigail George

Passages for Further Study: Deut. 12:10; 25:19; Hebrews 4


“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.  Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9, NLT

We see God commanding Joshua to be strong and courageous in three areas:

  • Being a leader
  • Studying, meditating and obeying God’s commands
  • Knowing God was with him

When I looked up the words “strong” and “courageous” they had similar meanings. I also noticed two common words in both definitions: “to harden.”  (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/chazaq.html).

We usually think of those words in the context of a person hardening his heart against God. But, in this context it seems that it would mean Joshua needed to harden his heart against fear.

God told Joshua he was going to be the next leader of the people. It takes a strength and courage to be a leader who is not going to doubt that he is the leader or fear the people he leads. We saw with Moses that he doubted his leadership skills and it was more than he could bear when the people rebelled. He had to harden his heart against their complaining and (unjust) criticism of his leadership. Now it’s Joshua who was going to have to be hardened against their complaining and become a leader who is able to lay aside the fear of man for the fear of God.

It takes strength and courage to spend the time to study and meditate on God’s instructions and obey them. Joshua had to be humble enough to study God’s Word, trust the instructions of God, and obey His commands if he was going to be successful and lead the people into the Promised Land.

It takes strength and courage to realize God is going to lead you away from the usual and take you where you have never been. In Deuteronomy 2:1-3, we see the Israelites circling around Mt. Seir. They were not making any progress just walking in circles around the mountain. I wonder if it was comforting looking at the familiar scenery. The path around the mountain must have looked like a well-worn rug with all those people trudging on it. They may have become so familiar with their route they knew what to expect at each bend, then God told them, “You have circled this mountain enough already!” Something new and different was coming. It was time to move on and this was going to be something big. Joshua was going to have to harden his heart against the fear of the unknown and follow God wherever he went.

What do you fear? Be strong and courageous!

By Karen Aker

 


“The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, designate cities to serve as cities of refuge for you, so that a person who kills someone unintentionally may flee there. You will have the cities as a refuge from the avenger, so that the one who kills someone will not die until he stands trial before the assembly.” Number 35:9-16 (HCSB)

Six cities were to be established sanctuaries for those who had accidently killed someone. The deceased next of kin was called the Avenger of Blood and had the right to kill the manslayer, but not before a trial. The accused was safe as long as he stayed within the gates of the city until the death of the High Priest. The death of the High Priest made atonement for the accused and the manslayer was free to leave. However if the manslayer was found through trial and witnesses that he had premeditated or had hatred in his heart towards the deceased, he was to be handed over to the Avenger. God in his foresight also insured against the corruption of justice in the taking of ransoms for the manslayer. God made this provision so there would not be innocent bloodshed in the land He was to dwell with the Israelites. (Number 35:6-34)

What a beautiful picture of the justice and mercy of God. God showed His justice in not allowing the guilty to go unpunished or allowing innocent blood to be shed by the Avenger of Blood. It is a divine provision with future implications. The idea of a place of refuge permeates through scripture, but this specific topic spans over the next three books. These were some of the instructions of the cities of refuge.

• The cities were to be easily accessible to all the tribes. (Num.35: 14)

• The roads were to clear and easily traveled to the cities. (Duet. 17:6-7)

• The cities were available for anyone who was accused not just the Israelites. (Num. 35:15)

I needed the reminder this week that Christ is our refuge. Because of His atonement for our sin we have access to the Father. He desires to be for us what those cities were for the people in Israel: a safe place. The road is clear, the gate is open and He is easily accessible. Run to Him!

“Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in You. I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings until danger passes.” Psalm 57:1 (HCSB)

By Karen Aker


“How long [must I endure] this evil community that keeps complaining about Me? I have heard the Israelites’ complaints that they make against Me.” Numbers 14:27

If you’ve ever taken a road trip with small children, you’ve probably heard the question, “Are We There Yet?” The excitement builds as you tell them about all the wonderful and exciting adventures that await them at your final destination. The first “Are We There Yet?” is filled with exuberance as children anticipate a speedy arrival. You are happy because they are happy. Everybody’s happy. The second “Are we there yet?” has far less vigor and joy as the destination seems farther away. Before you know it, there is whining and complaining. A few fights break out among the children. They begin to wonder if you know where you are going, and they want to go back home. The bathroom breaks become more frequent. You pass out threats and wish everyone would go to sleep so there can be peace and quiet. And the answer still remains, “No, we aren’t there yet.”

So it was for forty years as the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. They whined and complained saying, “This is too hard, I’m hungry, and I’m thirsty! Manna again?” They rebelled against Moses and Aaron. Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses. The Levites rebelled against Moses. The community conspired to go back to Egypt after the negative report from the ten spies. They constantly, and ultimately, rebelled against God. Moses spent much of his time interceding on their behalf as the judgment of God was imminent. God repeatedly showed His faithfulness to His Covenant and to His People, but the question still remained, “Are We There Yet.”  Many died in the wilderness. As a matter of fact, everyone included in the first census (Num. 1-3), except Joshua and Caleb, failed to enter the Promised Land.

This journey with God may often seem like a journey through the wilderness. God makes it clear that He will take you to that place of promise. That is where you fulfill His purpose. You will be blessed, and your life will be a blessing to others. That place of promise can be a marriage and family committed to God, a life on mission with God, a business that operates by God’s standard, a place of influence at work, or simply a place of maturity in your walk with Christ. How often do we find ourselves complaining and whining about this or that? We begin to say, “It’s too hard. It’s taking too long.” We may even discover in our journey that complaining and rebellion go hand in hand. God will always be faithful to do what He says He will do. The question is, “Will He accomplish it through you?” or “Will your faithfulness die out before you experience His promise?” Trust God in the wilderness, and believe Him all the way to your promised land.

Is your life marked by the question, “Are We There Yet?”

Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice:8 “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. (Ps. 95:6-9)

By Abigail George

 Passages for Further Study: Numbers 11-26


“You shall dwell in booths for seven days … that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:42–43).

The children of Israel spent 40 years wandering the wilderness after their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Every day along this journey was a true demonstration of God’s provision and faithfulness to His covenant with His people. Of all the feasts that were part of the old covenant worship, the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) was the most joyful. This celebration was the last of the fall festivals and it was primarily for the purpose of remembering their wilderness journey from Egypt to Canaan, when God made them live in booths. These booths were small, temporary shelters with thatched roofs. During the time of the feast, each family was supposed to build a booth and live in it for a week. This was a reminder that God was their sole source of provision. This would be a time of great rejoicing.

As I think about what this celebration must have meant to them as they reflected upon their journey with the Lord, I am reminded of our Thanksgiving celebration this week. This should be a time for us as believers to reflect upon God’s provision during our “wilderness journeys”. We may not have any physical booths to build, but we do have places and things that help us to remember where we came from.

I may not be able to go back and stay in that tiny apartment my husband and I lived in when we first got married where all we could afford to eat was chicken with red beans and rice. But, I can drive by that apartment with praise on my lips as I remember that it was God who provided for us in amazing ways. I may not be able to recreate that empty spare bedroom where I spent many lonely days & nights in extreme depression, with my Bible in my hand, a wavering faith and my face on the floor before the God of all comfort. I can, however, stop by and sit in that once empty space to rejoice and remember that is was there where God provided peace, comfort, tenacious love, and encouragement to his desperate daughter.

On the other side of your wilderness journey, will you take time to remember? You may have to mentally build a few booths and dwell a while as a reminder of God’s faithful deliverance and provision in your life. Sometimes we get so accustomed to the “good” life that we forget to give thanks to the one who is the sustainer of it all.

For those who are still in the wilderness, I want to encourage you. He is carrying you through. That temporary booth you currently dwell in is part of God’s provision in your journey. He is your provider and keeper through the wilderness to the promise land. Begin your celebration now and rest in him.

“Rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You are to celebrate it as a festival to the Lord seven days each year. This is a permanent statute for you throughout your generations;” Leviticus 23:40b-41a

By Abigail George

Passages for further Study Leviticus 23:33-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-17; Numbers 29:12-39


“Pharaoh’s officials asked him, ‘How long must this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, so that they may worship Yahweh their God. Don’t you realize yet that Egypt is devastated?’” Exodus 10:7 (HCSB)

Is it possible Pharaoh could not see the bare vegetation or the heaps of decaying frogs across the land? Could he have somehow forgotten that he scratched at his boils? Had he ignored the flies and gnats that covered his food? Perhaps he lost his sense of smell and was unaffected by the stench of death heavy in the air?

Perhaps that is what his officials were wondering when they asked, “Do you not yet realize that Egypt is devastated?”

Moses had just made his request of Pharaoh, “Humble yourself… (and) let My people go…” (Ex.10:3) Pharaoh’s denial left his officials desperate enough to confront the king with the obvious.

I wonder if sin has ever blinded you to the devastation caused in your family or other relationships. Has sin ever become such a snare that it permeated your being so you could not worship? Have you ever refused to humble yourself and let go of your sin?

Thank you, Lord, for the grace and mercy You lavish on us. Give us wisdom to see our sin and turn to You.

Isn’t it time for you to let it go?

By Karen Aker