Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’

What Am I Doing, and Why Am I Doing It?

I had some prayer time with God today while I went for a walk, and I was confessing some things to God, among them an addiction (I have tried not to call it that, but it is what it is) to gambling. I used to love going to the casino and playing/watching poker, largely because I was decent at it, and so didn’t lose the money that most do at a casino. God put a question on my heart today in trying to help me realize some various points He needed to hammer home. The question is this: “If you had $100 to do whatever you wanted with, no repercussions, what would you spend it on?” I wrestled with this. Would I go gambling? Would I spend it on my wife or daughter?

Ultimately I came to the realization that I wouldn’t gamble, which helped me draw the conclusion that God has helped me overcome that addiction. But what was worse was that God made it clear that in trying to choose between a small handful of things, I neglected to ask, “What would You have me do with that?” See, while I might have overcome my addiction, what I have yet to overcome is the selfish attitude that the casino touts as glorious and the word deifies as success. Not once until God made it clear to me did I think that maybe buying food for the homeless or donating it to missions might be a better use of that money than on myself. I didn’t think about what would bring Him the most glory.

Why does God ask us to do these things? It’s a question that I had to ask myself when an atheist recently asked me to put myself into Abraham’s shoes when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Though I tried to make myself appear humble by quoting Isaiah 55:9, it made me stop and ask myself what the purpose of going through these things is. I came to a couple of conclusions:

1) God’s ways are not our ways. In the Abraham/Isaac situation, we tend to base the morality of the situation on the action being performed. God’s morality is based on how we treat the request. Our way goes on the physical nature of the act; God’s way goes on the heart’s intent behind the act.

2) God would not ask anything of us that He’s not willing to do Himself. God asks for our sacrifice because He has sacrificed. God asks for us to set ourselves apart because He has set Himself apart. God asks us to go and pursue men because He has pursued us. God asks us to be obedient because He is always obedient to His own nature, since He is clear that He will never change.

I cannot possibly hope to understand everything God does in this world, and why He does it. I only know that He asks something of me, and I do it because there is no reason not to. God has demonstrated why He asks, what He is looking for. When I study, when I listen, He is clear. Perhaps there is so much moral ambiguity because we spend all of our time deciding what we think is right instead of listening for why His way is right.

My verse for this week I think sort of fits in this jumbled mess of a post, because it is about letting self go and understanding that God’s ways are not my ways, but His power is greater than any way I can possibly fathom to get it done:

    “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” — 1 Peter 4:11

Hall of Faith – Jephthah???

Most people who either actively read their Bible or attend church on a regular basis have probably heard a reference to the “Hall of Faith.” For those who may not know, this points to Hebrews 11, where the author of Hebrews calls out by name some of the Old Testament believers who exemplified great faith, and in some cases specifically where this faith showed its nature.

I recall recently talking about Samson and how he continually let Delilah and the Philistines attempt to take him down, and how he never learned. A friend made a comment in the vein of, “Yeah, and yet he’s mentioned in the Hall of Faith. Strange, isn’t it?” So I went back to the Hall of Faith chapter to see what exactly it was that earned Samson a place of recognition among the greats. Unfortunately, he is just listed in a series of names, so there is no exact specification for his inclusion, but it was the name after his that got me thinking. Jephthah?!

For starters, WIFE and I just finished the book of Judges in our attempt to read through the entire Bible in a year. After actually reading through the whole book, it’s evident to me that Judges is a book filled with chaos. People attacking people and not listening to people and breaking promises and making promises they don’t really intend to keep. Indeed, the common phrase running through many of the verses of Judges is, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Which brings me to Jephthah. We find this man in the midst of all of the chaos of Judges, yet like Samson he is included in the Hall of Faith. Why? A little background on Jephthah might help.

Jephthah was born the son of a prostitute (which isn’t terrible; after all, Rahab –called out by the author of Hebrews as a prostitute– is also mentioned in the Hall of Faith), and his brothers basically ostracized him from the family, saying he was not one of the real brothers. After the people of Gilead (Jephthah’s father) were attacked by the Ammonites, they called on Jephthah (referred to first as “a mighty warrior”) to lead them.

After scorning them for their treatment of him and making sure he would be their leader if he helped, he sent a message to the leader of the Ammonites, asking why they were attacking and after a couple of back-and-forths, is basically ignored by the Ammonite king. So Jephthah leads his men and defeats the Ammonites.

Here’s where it gets interesting, and may be the reason for his name in the Hall of Faith. Jephthah made a vow to God that if God would grant him the victory, He would sacrifice (as a burnt offering; Judges 11:31) the first thing that came out of his house when he returned in triumph. As luck would have it, the first thing out of the house was his only daughter. Jephthah, as any father would be, is distraught and tears his clothes. However, here’s the test of the man–he informs his daughter of the vow, she understands and agrees and after two months to spend with her friends, he goes through with the sacrifice!!!

Wow. As a new father, I know that if I made such a vow, I would probably say, “Um, OK Lord, what else can I give you instead, because You’re not getting my daughter.” Even Abraham, when told to sacrifice Isaac, didn’t actually have to go through with it. How strong a man of faith was Jephthah, not only in trusting the Lord to deliver the Ammonites into his hand but following through on a vow that cost him the life of his only daughter.

I’m sure Jephthah is rejoicing with his daughter in heaven now, but it is such faith that people today should strive to achieve. That no matter what happens, what we promise to the Lord is sacred, and we need to treat it as such, because He knows better than we do why He gives us the things he does, be it possessions, wealth, suffering or anything else.

Jephthah might not have been the smartest cookie in the jar, but he without a doubt was one of the most faithful and God-honoring, so I not only support but now understand why his name is mentioned in Hebrews. No doubt the recipients of the original letter of Hebrews did also. Hopefully modern-day recipients will observe and take note.