"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
October 25, 2017
I have a lot of favorite stories in the Bible, but one of my favorites is found in 2 Kings chapter 7. In the previous chapter we read that the king of Aram sent his entire army and besieged Samaria. As a result there was a great famine in the city.
There were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates. They asked each other, "Why do we sit here until we die? There is famine in the city so if we go there, we will die; and if we stay here, we die, also. Come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway." So at dusk they got up and went to the camp of their enemy. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army. The army said to one another, "Look! The king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!" So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.
The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold, and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also. Then they said to each other, "What we're doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this to the royal palace; which is what they did.
The king thought perhaps it was a trap, so he sent out some men to follow the enemy to find out what had happened. They followed the army as far as the Jordan, and they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. They came back and reported their findings to the king. Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans.
I would like to share another story with you found in Judges chapters 6 through 8 about a man named Gideon.
An angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon and said, "Mighty hero, the Lord is with you! Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!"
Gideon's response was, "Lord, how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!" But the Lord said to him, "I will be with you. You will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man." The Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power.
Gideon put a call out summoning warriors to come and fight. A total of 32,000 men showed up. They were sorely outnumbered, for the enemy had over 120,000 in their army. But God spoke something very peculiar to Gideon. "You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast that they saved themselves by their own strength." So through a series of events, the army was whittled down to 300 men, and God promised to deliver Israel and give them the victory.
Gideon divided the 300 men into three groups and gave each man a rams' horn and a clay jar with a torch in it. He told the men, "Keep your eyes on me. When I come to the edge of the camp, do just as I do. As soon as I and those with me blow the rams' horns, blow your horns, too, all around the enemies camp, and shout, 'For the Lord and for Gideon!'"
Just after midnight, after the changing of the guard, Gideon and his 100 men reached the edge of the camp. Suddenly, they blew the rams' horns and broke their clay jars. Then the other groups followed and did the same. They held the blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands and all shouted, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon."
All the Midianite army panicked, and were shouting as they ran to escape. When the 300 Israelites blew their rams' horns, the Lord caused the warriors in the enemy camp to fight against each other with their swords. Those who were not killed ran away. Gideon called reinforcements to come and help them chase those who had fled. God gave them the victory that day, just as He had promised.
In both of these stories, God uses ordinary men in extraordinary ways! But here's the key: He never make them fight alone! God used their obedience, then went before them, as well as alongside them in order bring about a great victory. He did so in ways that people could not attribute it to themselves and their own efforts, but so that they would acknowledge that it was God who fought for them and overcame the enemy.
In the first story, the great prophet, Elisha, was inside the city walls. Had God used him to go into the enemy camp, it would have seemed more believable, because God used Elisha in many miraculous ways. But instead, He chose four leprous men. They had nothing to lose by leaving the gates of the city and going to the place where the Arameans were camped. But God used their act of faith, and put to flight this huge army that was encamped around Samaria.
There is no way that four men would have made enough noise that an entire army would have heard them coming. I doubt that anyone would have even noticed them or paid any attention. In fact, even if they had been seen, once the Arameans saw that they were lepers, they probably would have kept their distance and not wanted to have anything to do with these four men.
But God sent His armies to march before these men; for what the enemy heard was the sound of chariots and horses and a great army coming towards them. They immediately ran for their lives, leaving everything behind them in the camp. What little they did take, was abandoned in the road as they ran. I believe that God sent His army, that sounded like chariots and horses and men marching, in pursuit of the enemy army until they were back into their own territory.
In the second story, God chose someone who was very obscure and unheard of to be a judge in Israel and fight against the Midianites. He picked someone who was from the weakest clan in the entire tribe of Manasseh, who was the least in his family; an unlikely person to be chosen to be a judge. Then when Gideon raised up an army, God told him there were too many warriors because He wanted to bring about a victory that would show Israel that it wasn't won by their own strength, but by Him.
Gideon didn't arm his men with swords and shields and armor, but with rams' horns and a jar and torch. That seems absolutely crazy! It seems crazy that God would send 300 men to fight 120,000. But He used those few men and what was in their hands to bring about a great victory. He honored Gideon's obedience.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about King David's mightiest warriors. 2 Samuel 23:9-10 says that one time David and Eleazar stood together against the Philistines when the entire Israelite army had fled. Eleazar killed Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the Lord gave him a great victory that day. The rest of the army didn't return until it was time to collect the plunder.
When we read these true accounts in the Bible, as well as others, of how God fights with and for His people, it should give us great encouragement. If God called and used those ordinary, diseased, untitled, unknown people, then He can definitely use each of us.
When we become a christian, we are immediately enlisted in the Army of God. We are issued our weapons of warfare and given our armor. God knows that we will encounter attacks and have fiery darts shot at us and will wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness and will suffer hardships and be tempted. We're not fighting flesh and blood enemies, although it may seem like it at times, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. That is why God gave us armor to put on; to protect us so that we are not harmed. (Ephesians 6:12-17)
2 Corinthians 10:3-4 tells us, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."
God gives us all the armor and weaponry needed to fight those things, but we have to be willing to use them. If we refuse to put on our armor and pick up our weapons and fight, then God can't fight alongside us and help us overcome the enemy. Yes, He could overcome the enemy without our help, but He has chosen to equip us with what we need and then fight with us.
Psalm 114:1 says, "Praise be to the Lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle."
I could go out and buy a gun and think, "Okay, I am safe now because I now own a gun and can protect myself." But if I never put bullets in the gun or never learn how to shoot it, then it has no power to protect. If someone breaks into my home and threatens me, they're not going to be intimidated if I tell them that I am the owner of a brand new gun. Even if I show them the gun all nicely tucked away in its case, they're not going to be impressed. Likely, they'd steal if from me. The gun would only be a source of protection if I learned how to use it properly, became skilled at shooting, and put bullets in it.
It's the same with the spiritual weapons of warfare given to us by our Father. When Satan comes to try to kill, steal, and destroy us he will not be affected or impressed or intimidated if we tell him that we have weapons at our disposal and show them to him all tucked away nice and tidy. They will only be effective when we learn how to properly use them and become skilled; which only comes from practice. God will train us for war and give us battle skills. He wants us to live victoriously and put the enemy to flight! And He will do it supernaturally and completely when we walk in obedience and faith. The enemy should fear us, instead of us fearing our enemy!
The warriors traveling with Gideon probably practiced and trained every time they made camp. I'm sure they talked about different battle strategies, how to parry an attack, and how best to stand. They probably tried on whatever armor they had, and practiced swinging a sword or other weapon. They might not have felt very prepared, especially with such a small army. But when they arrived, all their planning and strategizing was pointless.
God had a different plan for them to follow. If they had followed their training, and ran at the enemy at daybreak, they surely would have lost.
We do need to plan and prepare. We should finish school, and train for a job or career. We should save for retirement. But we must also listen for God to let us know when to drop it all, and go a different direction.
Bacon Cheddar Ranch Pinwheels
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup Ranch Dressing
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
6 pieces bacon, cooked and chopped
1 tablespoon minced chives
6 small or 3 large flour tortillas
In a small mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and ranch dressing; mix until smooth. Stir in cheddar cheese, bacon, and chives. Spread in a generous layer over entire surface of tortillas. Roll tortillas tightly and slice into 1-inch pieces. Makes approximately 24 bite-sized pieces.
This thought has been on my mind lately: Pray for others in the same way that you would want them to pray for you. Often we will say or post on Facebook that we are praying for those who are sick, having surgery, waiting for a prognosis, who has suffered loss, who has had a death in their family, etc. But sometimes it's easy to become busy and forget, although we have good intentions. If we were in a situation where we needed the prayer of others, we wouldn't want them to forget about us. When I've seen post or been asked to pray for someone or something, I've been making myself stop right then and there and say a prayer for them; that way I won't forget. Later, I may pray more in depth, but at least when I say that I will pray, then I have kept my word. So I encourage you to consider my first sentence: Pray for others in the same way that you would want you to pray for you.
Parents: It you only reinforce your words when you are angry, then they [your children] will always wait until you are angry to obey you. Consistency is a gift we can give to our children. When we follow through with what we say, we won't need anger to communicate our seriousness. - Bill Johnson
We love you!
Loretta & Jon