Judges: Faith Defeats Fear

I loved the story of Gideon in Judges. I found it very interesting to see how God chose someone who was full of insecurity and who was weak to deliver Israel from a nation that was as numerous as locusts.

A little background: Israel had been oppressed by the land of Midian for seven years because they had blatantly done the evil that God had warned them not to do over and over again. The Midianites and the Amalekites would come and take all of their food, destroy the land, and impoverish the nation of Israel.

Chapter 6:11-16: God’s Strength is Bigger than Human Weakness

Gideon knew how to live in fear, how to live looking over his shoulder to see who was coming at him next. When God came to commission him, he was beating out wheat in a winepress (not where you usually do this) because he had to figure out ways feed himself and his family under the oppression of Midian (6:11).

In verse 14, he is commanded by God to deliver Israel from Midian’s hand. And his response? It was an excuse to not go, it was reasoning why he was a terrible fit for this job. “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (6:15). Gideon was a unique person for God to raise up as a deliverer. By his own admission, he was from the weakest clan in his tribe and was also the least in his own family. He doesn’t seem to be the guy who you’d imagine as being a mighty military leader of the people. However, I haven’t yet come across a story in the Bible where someone’s lack of qualifications was too much for God to overcome and I don’t expect to find that.

There is a large contrast between Gideon’s view of himself and God’s view of him. Gideon believed he was weak, yet God saw him as a mighty warrior (6:11). God’s response to Gideon’s insecurities is really beautiful. In verse 16 He says, But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them.” God doesn’t correct Gideon’s assessment of his weakness, likely because he really was weak and wouldn’t have been anyone else’s first choice. Yet someone’s lack of qualifications is never too much for God to overcome.

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Deuteronomy: The Heart of God’s Law

(not really a deep post, just a little reflection)

Something I really enjoyed about the book of Deuteronomy was seeing God’s law in a completely different light. For a long time, I didn’t understand it’s point and because of that found it difficult to read any part of the law. I found some of it so strange that it either confused me or made me frustrated. It seemed like God was crazy, made no sense, and was mean.

Because of that, I compartmentalized the Bible into Old and New Testaments as two separate books with two separate gods. At the time with only a face-value understanding of the scripture, I was not able to reconcile the God of love and life that I saw in the NT from the God of wrath and death that I saw through the law in the OT.

However, through these past few months, my mind has really changed specifically towards the law, and I’m at a place where I can appreciate it as a result of understanding the heart behind it. The law is actually a really beautiful thing and let me tell you why.

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Numbers: The Privilege to Know and Serve God

   I really enjoyed the book of Numbers. I didn’t mind reading the parts of it that were census or law, and was able to learn a lot even through those parts which is huge growth for me. Numbers showed me that even through all the times that God could have destroyed Israel and been perfectly justified in doing so, He still showed His faithfulness to the covenant He had made with their ancestors (although that’s not to say that there was never punishment for their disobedience and mistrust of Him). However, there was one story in particular that spoke to me, and it was from chapters 16 about the rebellion of Korah.

The Kohathite Rebellion

     The Kohathite clan was one part of the larger tribe of the Levites. Korah was one of the Kohathites, descended from Kohath (his grandfather) through his father Izhar. The Kohathites had been entrusted with service the tent of meeting and the holiest things of the tabernacle. God even made sure that there were boundaries put in place so that the Kohathites would not be destroyed by the power of God while doing their priestly duty because they were very important. 

     Ignorance vs. Insolence

It is important to understand Korah’s role because it shows the heart behind his rebellion against God in the 16th chapter of Numbers. In Numbers 16:3 he confronts Moses and Aaron saying that they have lifted themselves up above the congregation needlessly because Israel was already holy. This was an interesting statement from a priest because he would have known the reason why there had to be constant sacrifices and why his fellow Levites had to constantly deal with blood every day. It was precisely because the congregation wasn’t holy that there had to be atonement through sacrifices for their sins.

To me, Korah’s statement indicates two possibilities. The first is it shows he was an ignorant priest who didn’t understand the necessity of the sacrificial system. The second possibility is Korah knew fully well that the congregation was not holy and yet used that as an excuse to get the real issue he had, which was with his own position in the priesthood.

I believe Moses’ reaction provides insight that the intent behind Korah’s rebellion was not ignorance, but instead pure insolence not only to Moses’ authority but to God as well. After providing a resolution to the dispute, Moses’ asks a rhetorical question addressing the heart of Korah’s issue. He asks Korah,

Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel?…He has allowed you to approach him, and all your brother Levites with you;  yet you seek the priesthood as well! Therefore you and all your company have gathered together against the Lord. (Numbers 16:9-11)

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Exodus: The Freedom to Know God

The application of the truths in Exodus didn’t hit me until after we finished it. It was the week we were going through Leviticus during our morning worship on Fridays. The song that we were singing was “No Longer Slaves”. Ever since I heard this song last year, I have always loved it. However hearing it this time was different. We had just read about God’s deliverance of the Israelites from cruel slavery and my heart was in a very different position listening to the words. It enabled me to see parallels between God’s deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of slavery and God’s deliverance of my own life from the bondage of my sin.  

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Genesis 3: The Kindness of God

     It only took reading three chapters of the Bible to bring me to tears.

And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

     Now, this didn’t hit me right away. It was our third reading of Genesis and I had read past verse 3. It was a few verses down when a light bulb flipped on in my mind. I went back to re-read the verse without knowing why and tears immediately began to flow down my face. It took me a while to understand why I was so overwhelmed by this one verse.

Let me explain and give some context to this verse to show why it was so impactful.

     From the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they knew they had done wrong. They saw their nakedness and were so ashamed that they hid from the presence of the Lord, the same God who walked with them in the garden. The first words from God after the fall form a question: “Where are you?” God knew where they were. He didn’t ask because He didn’t know the answer. He knows everything, but He still asked because He wanted to hear it from them.

     Of course, because God is just and cannot tolerate sin, He has to punish them for their disobedience. God is perfectly holy, and so the punishment made sense. It had to happen, but what changed my perspective was seeing the first thing God did after He told them their punishment.

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Philemon: Small Book, Big Message

     On our first day of class where we learned the Inductive Bible study method, we practiced on the book Philemon. I’m pretty sure that I had never read it before. When our school leader said the name Philemon, my first thought was, “Is that really a book of the Bible?” I had no clue it was even in there!

     When I flipped to it and glanced over the single page, I wondered why it was even included. It seemed just like a random letter that didn’t have any relevance other than to Philemon himself, the one who the letter was written to. How could one page of a personal letter possibly have an important message to convey?

     By the time we finished the book, I was absolutely blown away by how much there was in this single page, just 25 verses in one chapter. I was shocked at how much substance there was, when I had read it only 2 hours before and quickly decided from the shallow read that there was nothing important in this book.

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Salvation at a Buddhist Temple

    During our last week in the capital city, we visited our third major temple for ministry. It a massive Buddhist temple on the outskirts of the city. Another team from Hawaii had joined us and now instead of 13 people trying to navigate the buses in this hectic city, there were over 20 of us.
    I thank God for our translators who worked at the guesthouse, or else we would never have been able to get anywhere or talk to all the people we did! It was a long trip as we hopped from bus to bus until we finally arrived. The temple itself is very beautiful, but there were eyes painted on the top that were very haunting.
    Because of our massive group, we split up into pairs to evangelize and pray for people more effectively. During that week the leaders from our school had flown out to check on all of the teams and make sure everything was going alright. I was paired up with one of the school leaders and knew instantly that it was going to be a wild time of ministry.

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The Villages, Part Three: Salvation

     Our final day of official outreach was the day we went to the last of the villages. I was sick and almost didn’t go. At the last minute, I chose to push through, leaning on God’s strength because I couldn’t do it on my own. I am so grateful that I did because it was an incredible experience.

     The plan was the same as the other villages: distribute Bibles, share the gospel, and invite everyone to the Jesus film and another gospel presentation later in the evening. We split up into two separate groups and got started.

     This village was the easiest to distribute in because there were many instances when the heads of multiple different households were all hanging out at one person’s home. We were able to check off many houses at the same time because of this. On average the village had a higher level of education than the other ones. People would immediately sit down and start reading the Bible.

One of the homes where we were able to distribute to multiple households

     At one of the houses where we were able to give Bibles to multiple households, as the first woman sat down to read, other women started to follow her lead until nearly all of them dived straight into the Word. It was a lovely sight to see people hungry to learn more about this God they had only heard about a few minutes prior.

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The Villages, Part Two: Healing

    After our time in the first village, it was time to leave for the second. We chose a path that took 8 hours. It was one of the most physically taxing experiences I have ever had. We stopped when we reached out to the top to take a break, have a snowball fight, take lots of pictures with a 360 degree view of Himalayas all around us.     

This was our view the entire time we were in the Himalayas
Our break when we finally got to the top of the mountain!
The scenic river we walked along and drank from as we went from village to village.

     It was about an hour before dusk and we arrived at the second village. No house would take us in, so we had to zig-zag across this mountain to the tippy top to see if the last house in the village would take us in. If not, we were going to be out of luck.

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The Villages, Part One: Chaos

     The first village we distributed Bibles in was the farthest from the guesthouse. We passed the villages we would later be living in on our way back to the guesthouse. We walked with a river on one side and rice terraces on the other. The houses had colorful roofs, and kids would run out to take a look at us, the strange looking foreigners. There were herds of cattle, goats, and even a few horses.

     Before we stepped foot inside the village we began collecting a group of kids who followed us everywhere we went. We spent a while trying to find a family who was able to host us for a few nights, and all the while these kids were right beside us. The timid ones watched us from a distance, the less shy ones giggled when we smiled at them, and the brave ones held our hands and spoke in circles of broken English. They laughed at our feeble attempts to speak their native tongue, and we laughed at ourselves as well.

these two cuties belonged to the people who opened their home up to us.

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