Saturday, July 24, 2010

And Then...

I have recently got back from holidays where the Lord supplied sweet rest and refreshing!  He also provided several challenges to me.  Challenges to spur me on to more faith, more obedience.  There is so much at stake!  Allow me to share one of them from 1 Chronicles.

I've been reading through the Bible in a year reading plan.  By the time I reached 1 Chronicles 5:18, I had read through nearly 5 1/2 chapters of genealogies.  In fact, the only exception are those amazing few verses on Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4.  So when there was another little digression at the end of chapter 5, it caught my attention.

The story is about the tribes of Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh.  We are told that they had 44,760 soldiers trained to fight in battle.  Then it says, "Whenever these soldiers went to war against their enemies, they prayed to God and trusted Him to help.  That's why the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh defeated the Hagrites and their allies.  These Israelite tribes captured fifty thousand camels, two hundred fifty thousand sheep, two thousand donkeys, and one hundred thousand people.  Many of the Hagrites died in battle because God was fighting this battle against them."

Several things seemed to jump off the page!  First, "Whenever" they went to war they prayed AND trusted God to help.  How many times am I faced with a battle and I try to go to war against the enemy without praying?  Way more times than I want to admit.  Oh, that my first response would be to fall to my knees in prayer!  Why is it that it's often when I realize that I'm losing that I stop to pray?  Oh, Lord, thank You for Your sweet forgiveness and abundant grace!  Then notice the "and".  Not only did they pray but they then entrusted themselves and their circumstances to the One Who is always trustworthy.  Our lives would be radically transformed if we applied these two simple truths!  Verse 24 even lists some soldiers from East Manasseh by name and tells us that they were well-known leaders and brave soldiers.  I want to be well-known as a good leader and a brave soldier in the Lord's army.

I love the fact that "many" of the enemies died in battle.  Before you think I'm sadistic, remember that what is taught as a physical truth in the Old Testament is most often applied as a spiritual truth for the New Testament believer.  There are many "enemies" that attack me.  Unbelief.  Insecurity. Fear.  Worry.  Am I naming any of the same enemies that attack you?  If we not only prayed but also then trusted the Lord to train us as warriors and fight for us, many of these enemies would die - never to be seen again!

It delights me that these armies were able to take much plunder from the kingdoms they conquered.  Fifty thousand camels... two hundred thousand sheep... two thousand donkeys... In the midst of each battle that the Lord calls me to fight alongside Him, I want to reach deep into the enemy's camp and take out plunder!

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there.  Verses 25-26 contain a dismal "end note" on these tribes.  It's like there's an unwritten "and then...".  The Word says, "The people of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh were unfaithful to the God their ancestors had worshiped, and they started worshiping the gods of the nations that God had forced out of Canaan.  So God sent King Tiglath Pileser of Assyria to attack these Israelite tribes.  The king led them away as prisoners to Assyria, and from then on, he forced them to live in Halah, Habor, Hara, and near the Gozan River."

What happened to turn the descendants of these mighty warriors away from God and towards worthless idols?  How could generations have seen the mighty miracles of the Lord in response to their prayers only to have the generations that followed after them walk away from such an Awesome God?  While reading later in 1 Chronicles 12:37, I saw that their numbers even grew.  The soldiers numbered "120,000 from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and East Manasseh, who were armed with all kinds of weapons."  So what happened?  I can only guess, but I believe it's an educated guess...

After Moses had delivered the Ten Commandments to the people, he gave them what Jesus termed the most important commandment followed by these instructions.  "Listen, Israel!  The LORD our God is the only true God!  So love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.  Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again.  Talk about them all the time, whether you're at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning.  Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them.  Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)  I wonder if over the generations, people were no longer intentional about teaching their children with every opportunity.  I wonder if they lost their fervent love for the LORD and gradually the stories they had to share became 2nd and 3rd generation stories rather than testifying to what the LORD was doing and teaching in their lives. 

I am so grateful for parents and grandparents that intentionally shared with me the miraculous and praiseworthy works of our LORD!  They increase my faith.  I share those stories with my children and because they know the people involved, it boosts their faith as well.  But praise God that they have also increased the desire in me for a fervent love of the LORD and with that, He has given me countless praiseworthy tales of my own to testify to!

1 John 1:1-3 (NIV) says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."  Friends, if we do not have recent, personal stories of God's faithfulness to share with our children and grandchildren, it is because we have missed out - not by God's fault but by our own.  Return to Jesus as your first love.  Throw away your idols.  They are lifeless.  They cannot satisfy.  And then, as you look to Jesus as your One and Only, asking Him for help and trusting Him with your situations, get ready to see the unmistakable Hand of God!  He'll be fighting alongside of you through the battles of life.  And as those praiseworthy tales begin to mount, testify!  Testify!  The world is literally dying to see that the LORD makes a difference.  Tell them!  Show them!  Teach your children to do the same.  And then, when our history is recorded, I believe our "and then..." will be an entirely different story! 

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