Reading: Judges 13 — 15
Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”
Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Judges 15:18-19 NIV
Samson was a one-man army. Often, he is depicted as big and muscular, but if that were the case, why would people have asked him, “What is the source of your strength?” It would have been obvious. No, his strength was not natural — it was a “superhuman” strength given to him as the Spirit of God enabled him.
In the story in Judges 15, Samson had been doing the Lord's work. (Who would have thought that singlehandedly taking on a foreign army armed with nothing but the jawbone of a donkey constituted doing the Lord's work?!!)
Now Samson wasn't exactly the most noble of heroes, but God had chosen him even before he was conceived to be the means of rescuing his people from the Philistines. And it seems Samson's lack of maturity didn't put God off.
But doing the Lord's work — even when done in his strength — can be tiring, even exhausting. How did Samson respond in his moment of exhaustion? He cried out to God. And how did God respond? He opened up a spring of refreshment, and “When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived.”
Walking in obedience to God can be hard work, even though I be led by the Spirit. If I'm following Jesus, I should expect at times to feel tired, overwhelmed, maybe even exhausted. Even Jesus experienced the weariness of ministry.
But God knows what I am capable of. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.“ (Psalm 103:13-14).
Just as God chose Samson before he was even born to rescue his people, and gave him the strength required for the task, God has work for me to do — as an individual, and together with his people. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). And when God calls, he also equips.
So in those moments when the cost of following Jesus weighs heavily, relief is to be found not in complaining, or in giving up, but in crying out to God. He is my source of refreshment. He is the one who “makes me lie down in green pastures; [who] leads me beside quiet waters, [who] restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a). It is to him I must turn.
But I am not just blessed by God for my own benefit. I am “blessed to be a blessing”. God may call me to be a spring of refreshment for others — for those who are working hard for the Lord, in his strength, but are simply in need of rest and replenishment. What a privilege it would be to be the answer to someone else's prayer for help.
Thank you Lord that in you, I can find both strength and refreshment. Help me not to rely on my own feeble efforts, but to draw my strength from you. In my moments of weariness and exhaustion, I will turn to you. And may I also be a conduit for you, to provide blessing and refreshment to others.
See also, But Those Who Hope in the Lord…
Reading: Leviticus 17-25
But you might ask, ‘What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?’ Be assured that I will send my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years.
When you plant your fields in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the large crop of the sixth year. In fact, you will still be eating from that large crop when the new crop is harvested in the ninth year. Leviticus 25:20-22 (NLT)
Under the Law God gave to Moses, every seventh year was to be a “Sabbath Year”, a chance for the ground to have a rest, and the people too. They were to plant no crops, and were to leave their vines unpruned. And to make sure his people could enjoy and make the most of this year of relative ease, God promised that he would give them a bumper crop the year before.
There was a condition: “Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety.” Leviticus 17:18-19
God is good. He knows what I need. He knows my physical needs, my emotional needs, and my spiritual needs, and he makes provision for all these things. My part is simply to trust him.
Though I don't live under the Law of Moses but rather by faith in Jesus, the principle of the sabbath is just as applicable now as it always was. To set time aside to honour God and focus my thoughts on him whilst resting and being refreshed – this is a wonderful way to experience fully the goodness of God and his purposes for my life. How can I not have time for this?
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:3-5).
And Jesus tells me, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33).
Lord God, the more I contemplate your purposes for the sabbath, the more I see your love and concern, and the goodness you have for me as I trust you. I don't want to miss out on any of that goodness by doing things my own way, and trusting in my own efforts instead of your grace. You know me completely, and so I look to you for all that I need, that you would bless me and care for me.
I love the way that the Holy Spirit is able to speak to me from the Word of God, even from books like Leviticus! If you are needing some tips and ideas to help you read and enjoy the Bible yourself, you might like to check out the following pages on this blog: The Bible: Where Do I Start? and What is SOAP?
To all who have read or visited “Sneaking Off With God” in 2012, thank you so much for your support and readership during the start-up months of this blog. It's so encouraging to know that someone is there! I hope that you've found something to stimulate you and inspire you in your walk with or towards God.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year and God's richest blessings for 2013. May He inspire you and captivate you. May He refresh you and renew you, and bring forth in you much good fruit in the year ahead.
And may you ever pursue that close and intimate relationship with God that is for us the ultimate treasure.
PS Here's my verse of the year:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Reading: Jeremiah 16 – 17
Tags: confidence, fruitfulness, trust, faith, security, peace, resilience
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-9 (NIV)
We all need to have confidence in something. To have confidence is to be able to stand firm, to have roots and be anchored to something. Confidence brings security. Without confidence, we are like tumble weed, with no idea of where the wind might blow us next. That's not a nice feeling.
But confidence has to be placed in something. In Jeremiah 17, God describes the plight of someone whose confidence is rooted in something or someone other than him:
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.” Jeremiah 17:5-6 (NIV)
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” What a contrast. In God there is to be found hope. In him there is security and inner peace. In him we can flourish, resilient and fruitful even when the circumstances of life are difficult, because our fruitfulness doesn't depend on our circumstances but on God's faithfulness.
Trees don't normally uproot themselves and walk off to another place, but that's exactly what I feel like doing. I hate the idea of relying on my own strength and falling short of all God has for me. Living my whole life within my own feeble limitations would be abysmal, yet I still find myself far too attached to that safe and familiar ground. It's time to shake the dust off those roots and move!
Lord, rip me out and plant me next to a stream! I don't want to pray prayers that are so safe I could answer them myself. I want to pray in faith beyond what is naturally possible. I want to step out and do things that will only work if you come through. I want to bless others even as I face challenges of my own, because you are the source of my fruitfulness, not me. I want to see what you are doing and follow you.
Lord, may my confidence ever be found not in me, or my job, or in anything else, but only in you, and your wonderful promises to me through Jesus.
Reading: Exodus 23-24
“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed. Exodus 23:12 (NIV)
God is concerned with our well-being, and so he commanded the Israelites to have rest and refreshment. This was to be for everyone, even animals, and even the ground. In addition to a weekly rest, three times a year there were festivals which had the dual role of focusing the people on God and giving them a holiday. The sabbaths and the festivals therefore provided for physical, mental and spiritual refreshment.
Refresh; to breathe; passively, to be breathed upon, i.e. (figuratively) refreshed (as if by a current of air)
Refreshment should be a natural part of my life, a cycle, like a clock consisting of many cogs, some small, some large, and a very few larger still. As time ticks by, each cog goes through its cycle, pausing for a second to rest between each movement, or for a minute, or maybe for an hour. This is the way God plans for me to work and rest. Every part of me needs to be regularly refreshed – the physical, the mental and the spiritual. For true refreshment, all three need my disciplined attention.
Thank you Lord for the opportunity to rest. Thank you for the refreshment that comes from your Word, and the opportunity to pause and enjoy spending time with you. Here I am Lord, to unwind, to worship and to drink from your spring of living water. To breathe, and be breathed upon.