Tuesday, June 29, 2010


The story of Deborah describes the unlikely victory of the Israelites, led by an extraordinary woman who was a prophetess, a judge and a deliverer for her people. Though she lived in the time of “Judges”, some thirteen centuries before Christ, there are few women in history who have ever attained the public dignity and supreme authority as Deborah.
The scriptures tell us that she was the wife of a man named Lapidoth. Therefore, she must have been a homemaker and perhaps a mother. The rabbis say she was a keeper of the tabernacle lamps. If so, these were wonderful and humble tasks for a woman who was to become so great a strength in Israel.
In Deborah’s time, the children of Israel began to worship pagan deities so God allowed them to fall into the hands of Jabin, the king of Canaan, who oppressed them sorely for twenty years. Because the men of Israel had faltered in leadership, Deborah arose as a counselor, judge and prophetess for her people. She sat under a sacred tree in the hill country of Ephraim where she gave ruling on particular matters. People came to her when they needed a dispute settled, or when they needed advice about their future actions. She listened, considered the problem then gave her guidance.
Deborah was distressed over the plight of her people. She spoke out about the deteriorating state of the country around Ephraim. Law and order had broken down, and it was no longer safe to travel on the highways. As she spoke and listened to the people, she must have sensed their common enthusiasm for immediate action against their enemy.
With courage and faith in God she called for Israel’s most capable military leader Barak. Together they made a plan to move against their enemy. At first, Barak must have made the case that their tribesmen were hill people, who fought mostly on foot. Their enemies had nine hundred thundering, iron chariots to clear their way. There technology, fighting skills and numbers were far superior to the Israelite forces! Deborah however, let Barak know that she was not afraid to do as the Lord commanded. She told him“Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtale and of the children of Zebulun?”.
Deborah further told him, “I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him unto thine hand." Deborah's strategy was to get the enemy to fight in a muddy place where their chariots would be disabled. She knew that if they came, God would disarm Sisera's army and be Israel's shield.

Barak, sensing the spiritual insight that Deborah possessed and urgent need for her spiritual presence and counsel said, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.”
She then prophesized, “I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.
After Barak had assembled his men on a flat place atop Mount Tabor and Sisera had formed his army and chariots on the plain near the Kishon River, Deborah alerted Barak: “Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee?”
Barak and his ten thousand warriors descended from Mount Tabor, and the Lord strengthened them. They fought so fiercely that Sisera was forced to flee for his life on foot, his chariots were destroyed, and all of his men were slain.
When the battle was over, Barak went in search of Sisera and discovered that he was already dead. He lay on the ground inside the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. Sisera had sought safety inside Jael’s tent, but, as Deborah had prophesied, he had been delivered “into the hand of a woman.” Jael had killed him while he was asleep for the good of all Israel.
Because of Deborah’s valor and her ability to inspire confidence in Barak to do his duty as God had commanded, “the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.”

Why this story is important?
~God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
~Women can have the gift of prophesy.
~ God does gift women for spiritual leadership. At the same time, Barak as a military leader indicates that not every leadership role is appropriate for women.
Deborah’s story is largely about success against all odds. Though everything about the time and culture were against Deborah, she put her faith, courage and trust in God. She stayed worthy in a time of great sin so that the Lord could communicate with her and act through her. She prayed and listened to him when the priesthood leaders of her time would not. She gave her life to his service, believed in his promises and he used her to bring about his will.
Deborah’s courage and humility are models for us. She kept her eyes focused on God and not the circumstances around her. She gave God the glory for the victory and she thanked Him specifically for what He did for her and her country. She reminds us that we all have the potential to do great things for God if we will only listen, trust and obey.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Hannah was a wonderful woman of faith and is among my favorite women in the Old Testament. Hannah was married to a devout Israelite man named Elkanah who also h
ad another wife, named Peninnah. Elkanah and Peninnah had several children together, but Hannah remained childless.
The Old Testament mentions the word mother, or one of its derivatives, 232 times, which is 50 percent more than all of the other standard works combined. This shows the significance of mothers in the Old Testament. To be childless in this society must have been devastating for Hannah. She knew the importance of being a mother and all of her thoughts must have been about becoming a mother and holding her baby in her arms
Each year Elkanah took his family to worship and offer sacrifice at the tabernacle in Shiloh. There he gave Penninah and her children a portion but he gave Hannah a double portion because of his love for her. He may have done this too because she did not have any children. This must have made Peninnah very jealous because she began to taunt Hannah about being childless.
One day Hannah became so heartbroken that she wouldn’t even eat and her husband could not comfort her. She then went up to the tabernacle, and prayed with great weeping. In her prayer she asked God for a son and in return she vowed to give that son back to God for the service of the Shiloh priests. She promised he would remain a Nazarite all the days of his life.
Eli the High Priest came upon her and saw her praying. Hannah was silently moving her lips and sobbing so deeply that he thought she was drunk and questioned her. When she explained that she was not drunk but was pouring her heart out to the Lord, he told her to “Go in Peace and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou has asked of him.”
As promised, she conceived and bore a son. She called his name Samuel saying, Because “I have asked him of Jehovah”. Now it would have been easy for Hannah to rationalize her promise, To thank God and keep her treasured child. But she did not go back on her word. She raised Samuel until he was weaned and brought him to the tabernacle. She presented her precious son to Eli the priest so that he could grow up and worship the Lord there.
The amazing thing to me about Hannah is that she was not bitter at all. She was truly grateful to the Lord for her son and seems triumphant in returning Samuel back to him. In her song, she looks beyond the gift and praises the giver.
"My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.
No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God." (I Samuel 2:1-2)
Because of her great faith Hannah continued to be blessed by the Lord. After this, she had several more sons and daughters. She was also able to visit her son in the tabernacle each year and to see Samuel become an instrument of the Lord. Samuel became a great prophet and judge in the land. Because Hannah asked of the Lord, all of Israel was blessed.

In reading this story, there are many similarities between Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Hannah. I can’t help but think that Hannah was an inspiration to Mary.

~First of all, both women raised their sons knowing that they were to be given to the Lord. Unlike other Hebrew sons, they would not grow up and have normal lives, marry, have children and be there for their aging parents. They were raised for a greater, more holy purpose. Their children’s lives were dedicated to the Lord and solely for doing his will.
~Hannah refers to herself three times as a “handmaid” of the Lord, signifying that she is a servant of the Lord too. When Mary is told by the angel of God that she is going to be the mother of Jesus, she also refers to herself as his “handmaiden”. Both of these women show their humility and willingness to undergo whatever the Lord asked of them, no matter what the consequences.
~Both of their reactions were similar. They each praised God, no matter what trials or opposition they faced.
~The birth of each of their firstborn sons were miracles.
Hannah praises the Lord and refers to “his anointed”. This was another name for the Messiah. Can you imagine Mary’s comfort in knowing that Hannah was looking forward to the birth of her child, the Messiah to come? Her testimony, her faith and trust in Jesus Christ must have given Mary great strength. I love Hannah for this!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Naomi and Ruth

The story of Naomi and Ruth is a tale of faith, love, loyalty and redemption. The story begins when there was a great famine in the land of Israel. A man from Bethlehem named Elimelech took his wife Naomi and his two sons Mahlon and Chilion to live in Moab. This country was just across the river Jordan but the people there were considered pagans and did not worship the one true God. The distance was only about 30 to 40 miles but as far as most Israelites were concerned, it was as far away as heaven and hell. However, the family went anyway and the son’s each married women of Moab. The two women were name Orprah and Ruth. After a time, Elimelech and both of her sons died. This left the three woman widowed and without protection. According to the laws at that time, women were not allowed to own property. So the women had no way of making a living. Since Naomi hand no kin in the land of Moab, she decided that the only thing for her to do was to go back to Bethlehem. She then encouraged both of her daughters-in-laws to go back to their families too. Neither one of the women wanted to leave Naomi. Eventually Orprah relented and returned to her kin, Ruth however would not go. She told her mother-in-law “ Intreat me not to leave thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God.”
Ruth Loved and cared so much for Naomi that she was willing to leave her homeland forever. She was also willing to travel with her to a strange land where people might not accept her. Naomi’s example of living the gospel must have been very strong, because Ruth was also willing to turn from her religion and join the faith of her mother-in-law.
When Naomi returned to Bethlehem people came out to meet her and said “is this not Naomi?”. She told them not to call her Naomi anymore but to call her Mara, which means bitter because she said “the Almighty hath dealt bitterly with me.”
Naomi had lost everything and was severally depressed but soon she turned her hope and ambitions to the one person in her life that had not been taken away from her. Her loving, faithful and obedient daughter-in-law Ruth.
Naomi told Ruth to go out to her kinsman’s field and to collect the grain that was left behind by the workers. For this was a law at that time that provided for the poor. Those in need were allowed to glean the fields after the reapers. Ruth did this faithfully and was able to provide quite well for herself and Naomi. Soon people began to ask about her and take notice of the loving service she gave to Naomi. One day Boaz, the kinsman who owned the field noticed Ruth too. He rewarded Ruth with special privileges and sent home extra food to her mother-in-law.
Now there was a law of Moses that provided for the welfare of widows in their society (Deuteronomy 25: 5-10). If a husband died, then it was the obligation of the nearest kinsman or blood relative to marry the widow and redeem the departed mans heritage. The firstborn of that marriage would then be raised to carry on dead man’s name.
Naomi understood this law and after learning of Boaz’s attention to Ruth, began to make a plan. In fact, the matchmaker told Ruth “I will not rest for thee, for that it may be well with thee” (Ruth 3:1).
Naomi then instructed Ruth to get dressed up and to go into Boaz’s tent after he had eaten and went to bed. She told her to uncover his feet and lie down next to him, and then wait for him to tell her what to do. In this day and age, this seems like a very scandalous and strange thing to do but in their culture, this was acceptable. Ruth was taking advantage of the law and was purposing marriage to Boaz.
About Midnight Boaz woke up and was startled to find a woman lying next to him. He asked who she was; she replied “I am Ruth, thy handmaiden”. She was laying next to his feet in submission to him, showing that she was willing to serve him and to be an obedient wife. Normally, a man in this society proposed marriage by spreading his skirt, or robe, around his intended. So she asked him to spread his skirt over her and said “for thou are a near kinsman.”
In Ezekiel 16:8, the Lord says: “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.”
Boaz accepted her as his own. Boaz then told her that he had heard of her story and all that she had done. He knew of her kindness to Naomi and of her character, he called her a virtuous woman and promised to seek her hand in marriage.
The next day, he went out to see Ruth's closest male relative. This man said that he could not marry Ruth and granted Boaz the right to marry her instead. I wonder if this kinsman was concerned that Ruth was from Moab. She was not an Israelite and there were religious and societal complications with a marriage like this.
Fortunately, this did not concern Boaz. He saw into the heart of Ruth and was only concerned with who she was and what she had become. They soon married and were blessed with a baby. Naomi became the grandmother and nursemaid to this child and was restored with great happiness. They named the child Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David, who was a descendant of Jesus Christ.
The true meaning of the gospel comes out in this story. Boaz represents the Savior and Ruth represents us. Once we accept the gospel and turn away from our old life, the Lord will bring us in to his own. Ruth’s story shows us that participation in the kingdom of God is not decided by bloodlines but by our obedience to God’s will. Her humility and submission to Boaz demonstrates how we must also come to the Lord and ask for his blessings and entrance into his kingdom. It is only through the Lords good grace and works that makes this possible.
Boaz was Ruth’s kinsman. The Hebrew word for “kinsman” is “goel.” The Hebrew word for “Redeemer” is also “goel.” In Biblical times, these words were interchangeable. If a man was a kinsman, it was his duty to be a redeemer for his families’ inheritance. Boaz played a role very similar to the one that Jesus played for all mankind. Thus Boaz is a type of Christ’s love and redemptive power.
“Where you go, I will go…” With these words, Ruth sealed her fate. By seeking out the Savior with faith like Ruth, we too can secure our place with our Lord in Heaven.

Why do you think Ruth went with Naomi?
What do you think Ruth gave up to go with her?
Would you ask a man to marry you?
What qualities do you like best about Ruth


Behold thy handmaiden, Lord. Ready now am I,
To live thy word, to teach thy word, To praise thy name on high.
Behold my hands, O Lord, Consecrated to thee,
To serve thy daughters, to serve thy sons,
To comfort each one tenderly.
Behold mine eyes, O Lord, Windows to my soul,
To see thy light, to love thy light, To know and shape my role.

Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; Be it unto me according to thy word.
As Mary spoke, so speak I. Heavenly Father, I will try
To do thy will, Thy laws fulfill,
In service to magnify thee, In humility to seek thee,
Always to speak of thee,
And thine, As mine.

Behold thy handmaiden.
Behold my heart, O Lord, Waiting here before thee,
To feel thy love, to share thy love; Ever thy child I will be.

What does it mean to you
to be a Handmaiden of the Lord?