Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trust Me

Then the lords of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not dried out, and she bound him with them. While men were lying in wait in an inner chamber, she said to him, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" But he snapped the bowstrings, as a strand of fiber snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strengths was not known. Judges 16: 8-9 NRSV

I am trying to get my head around how untrustworthy everyone in this story is and how they all know it.

Delilah tries to trick Samson - she asks him what would make him lose his strength. Her main goal is to have him captured so that she gets rich.

Samson, even though he is in love with her, does not tell her what makes him strong. This was smart. But why does he lie? Obviously, his is not enough to be honest even if it was just to say: "I'm not going to tell you."

Then Samson obviously falls asleep during one of his visits and Delilah ties him up. Then she cries out that his enemy is upon him. As the Philistines are only hiding in the next room, it is obviously that neither Delilah nor the Philistine lords trust what Samson has told her. They are testing him. They want to see if Samson has truly lost his strength.

Now Samson reveals that he has lied but it is obvious now that Delilah has lied. Samson now knows for sure that he cannot trust her. Does he know she is going to betray him or does he think she just wants to know his secret?

How trustworthy are the people in your life? In your church? At work? Would you share your secrets with any of them? In other words, how trustworthy are they? How trustworthy are you?

God, you know our deepest secrets, our strengths and our weaknesses. You want to hear those from our lips. May we share them now......In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: When have you betrayed someone's trust?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Get Rich Quick(ly)

After this he fell in love with a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. The lords of the Philistines came to her and said to her, "Coax him, and find out what makes his strength so great, and how we may overpower him, so that we may bind him in order to subdue him; and we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver." Judges 16: 4-5 NRSV

How much money would you accept to betray someone?

My mind immediately goes to the gospels and Judas Iscariot. I often hear others try to explain how he misunderstood Jesus' mission or that he thought what he did would force Jesus into military action. But I cannot get away from the thought of betrayal in exchange for money.

30 pieces of silver in Judas' time was a lot of money.

But in the time of the judges, 1100 pieces of silver per leader must have been an incredible fortune! I would imagine this would make Delilah a millionaire many times over as well have the reputation among her people for finding Samson's weakness.

Delilah's willingness to cooperate does not mean she was greedy. It reminds us that she was not one of God's people. Delilah's priorities and morals were different. She was the enemy of God's people and of Samson. The Bible doesn't say she was a prostitute, but there is no mention of either a family or of marriage so it does indicate that she not someone to take home to Momma.

In her mind, this was not going to be an act of betrayal but an act to save her people and get rich, too.

God, save us from betraying you for we all have our price and none of us are exempt. Only through your protection and mercy will we be saved. In Christ's holy name we pray. Amen.

Question of the day: What does it feel like to be betrayed by someone you love?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lying in Wait

Once Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute and went in to her. The Gazites were told, "Samson has come here." So they circled around and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They kept quiet all night, thinking, "Let us wait until the light of the morning; then we will kill him." But Samson lay only until midnight. Then at midnight he rose up, took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron. Judges 16: 1-3 NRSV

By this time in the story, all of the Philistines are out for Samson. Too bad they remind me of a bunch of silly characters from a comedy; they wait for Samson thinking they will get the best of him but he gets the best of them. Even though the Bible doesn't say this, I believe taking away the two posts and the doors of the city gate probably meant the gate fell on them, crushing them to death.

Certainly, Samson doesn't go sneaking around. He is pretty open about where he goes - and I don't think he could have snuck away carrying some gate posts and doors either. However, I wonder if the Philistines don't have some spies or way of communicating Samson's whereabouts and activities. Was that woman a plant to entice Samson or did that just happen? I am not sure if the Philistines are capable of that much intrigue.

Like the Philistines, I probably think all my activities in my church and community are well thought out and special. But I wonder how silly my actions and plans are to God. And maybe others as well! How often have I hidden in the city gates until morning, hoping to catch the prey when I am defeated by a much stronger and sly foe? Just because I think my plans are brilliant and righteous doesn't mean the enemy knows what I am about and can easily defeat me.

God, sometimes what we plan and do must seem pretty silly to you. We just ask that you deliver us from evil. In Christ's name. Amen.

Question of the day: Do you have any plans that need to be prayed about today?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Good Question Despite Ending in a Preposition

By then he was very thirsty, and he called on the Lord, saying, "You have granted this great victory by the hand of your servant. Am I now to die of thirst, and fall in the hands of the uncircumcised?" So God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came from it. When he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore it was named En-hakkore which is at Lehi to this day. And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years. Judges 15: 18-20 NRSV

Samson is a very manipulative person. He always wants what he wants and knows how to get it. He seems to have very little feeling for others. He has a weakness for Philistine women but not a whole lot of discernment of their character. He is a hero for the Israelites but not the type of hero they want. He does judge Israel for twenty years, but it isn't clear that he has truly rid them of the tyrant Philistines.  He does not even seem to have a good relationship with God.

At least he understands where his true victory comes from: from God.

Most of us consider ourselves good people. We are at least trying to be the people whom God calls us to be. But are we that aware of God's hand in all the blessings we receive? Do we understand God as the true victor in our lives? Do we tend to congratulate ourselves when it has been God's doing all along? How many of us go around saying: "God you have granted this victory at the hand of your servant?"

Despite his many flaws, Samson has a better grasp of God's power than we do.

God, you have a hand in all the blessings and victories in our lives. We pray that we may see your hand at work in our lives. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What did you accomplish yesterday that you can see God's hand in?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Hero

Okay, in my anxiety over missing on the devotional on Thursday, I mistakenly used Friday's scripture! So this may feel like a step back:

So Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took some torches; and he turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. When he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves. Then the Philistines asked, "Who has done this?"And they said, "Samson, son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken Samson's wife and given her to his companion." So the Philistines came up, and burned her and her father. Samson said to them, "If this is what you do, I swear I will not stop until I have taken revenge on you." He struck them down hip and thigh with great slaughter; and he went down and stayed in the cleft of the rock of Etam. Judges 15:4-8 NRSV

Samson keeps digging himself into a hole with his actions.

First, he sets an impossible goal for the kinsmen of his fiance.

Next, he reveals to his new wife the clue of his impossible goal - and puts himself into debt because of his missed placed trust in her.

Then he goes and murders 30 Philistines to get the clothes he was hoping to gain for himself.

Then his wife is given to his companion and when Samson finds out, he sets fire to the Philistine fields - using foxes???- at the time of harvest (a true economic blow).

Because of this, his wife and in-laws are killed. So Samson slaughters those who have murdered them.

Then he has to go and hide - and we already know what is going to happen next!

I really don't think this is any way to save God's people from the Philistines.

I want Samson to be the hero, not the revenge-led narcissist that he appears to be in these scriptures.

Or maybe I just want to be the hero with the purest of intentions and God's agenda as my goal.

What about you?

God, you are the true hero. Only your motives are pure and righteous. Help us to listen and follow you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Who is your hero?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Supernatural Spirit

 They said to him, "We have come down to bind you so that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines." Samson answered them, "Swear to me that you yourselves will not attack me." They said to him, "No, we will only bind you and give you into their hands; we will not kill you." So they bound him with new ropes, and brought him up from the rock. When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him; and the spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that has caught fire and his bonds melted off his hands. Judges 15: 12-15 NRSV

As we begin this morning, I have two apologies: the first is for being so late again today - Wednesdays are usually my day to compose and set these up so that they post overnight but this didn't happen yesterday. The second is for any misspelled words: I changed my compose settings and can't seem to find the spell check - although it is underlining my mis-spelled words it isn't giving me any options and I am the worst speller!

Today what really speaks to me in this passage is the spirit of the Lord that rushes onto Samson. The Hebrew would be ruah which is also translated wind or breath. Somehow I can almost see this breath/wind blowing over Samson, melting his bonds. What supernatural happening! I have an almost graphic novel kind of imagery here with Samson's long hair flowing, and his bulging muscles all tied up with ropes. Then the next frame shows the wind of God rushing on him. This is followed by the ropes falling off as he begins to stand up to defend himself against the mass of Philistines that are upon him.

I can't tell you how many times in my own life that I have been tied up and thrown in the midst of my enemies, fervently wishing for God's wind to blow through and melt my bonds. "If only God would get me out of the this situation so I didn't have to face the consequences of my own actions!"

Wouldn't it be great if we could call on God's supernatural power every time we got into a difficult (if not life-threatening) situation?

But God is not a super-power genie in the sky. God is our source of Spirit and power but for God's kingdom, not as our own tool to get out of situations that we have gotten ourselves into. In fact, God's Spirit is the guiding power to keep us out of making stupid choices and actions. God's Spirit sustains us rather than saves us when we are in dangerous situations.

Thank you, God, for your life-giving, guiding and sustaining Spirit! Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't Blame Me

After a while, at the time of the wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife, bringing along a kid. He said, "I want to go into my wife's room." But her father would not allow him to go in. Her father said, "I was sure that you had rejected her; so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister prettier than she? Why not take her instead?" Samson said to them,"This time, when I do mischief to the Philistines, I will be without blame." Judges 15: 1- 3 NRSV

At the beginning of Judges, the saving of the people came about through a warrior or leader whose purpose was to help the people and save them from their enemies. Now we will see the defeat of the enemies through a man whose motivation is not for his people but simply because he doesn't get his way. I wanted to say for revenge, but I am not sure that even fits here. Samson himself says he is going to cause mischief. It doesn't even seem like the violence he does is seen as violent or warlike. For Samson, it is just a huge joke.

Samson's main motivation in life is his libido.

Maybe his lack of drink has caused his focus to be on his passion for women. Somehow I have always understood Nazarenes to be more spiritual, prayerful and pure.

What happened to create someone like Samson? I really want to blame his upbringing. Maybe the angel should have told the parents a bit more about what Samson would do when he grew up. Yet, maybe that was the whole purpose - God knew what kind of person Samson would become and how that kind of person would help God's people.

Am I acting on the purest of motivations? Do I do things in the name of Jesus but with a personal agenda? Am I blind to selfish actions I take when I see myself as doing the righteous thing? What is my own main motivation in my life?

God, you have created us and called your creation good. Yet, we are motivated by our own desires rather than yours. Please forgive us and turn us to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: How do you know if your motivations are of God?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Plowing With His Heifer

The men of the town said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down, "What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?" And he said to them, "If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle." Then the spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he went down to Ashkelon. He killed thirty men of the town, took their spoil, and gave the festal garments to those who had explained the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father's house. And Samson's wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man. Judges 14: 18-20 NRSV

I have this mental picture of Samson showing up with thirty garments all covered in dried blood. I can almost picture what his face looked like - stormy and red with cold eyes.

Samson is used to manipulating his family to get what he wants. Now he meets his match in the women of his enemy. But Samson has the last laugh: he ends up murdering their own people and getting rid of a woman who betrayed him. I am not sure his best man was overwhelmed or overjoyed with such a gift.

What we have to remember is that God has a special purpose for Samson, even when he seems like the most self-centered and self-absorbed character. God wants to save God's people from the enemy, the Philistines. And Samson is God's means of saving them.

Despite your own misgivings, God has a special purpose for you, too.

God, reveal your purpose for our lives to us this day. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What is God revealing to you?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, September 21, 2009

You Do Not Really Love Me

On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, "Coax your husband to explain the riddle to us, or we will burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?" So Samson's wife wept before him, saying, "You hate me; you do not really love me. You have asked a riddle of my people, but you have not explained it to me. " He said to her, "Look, I have not told my father or my mother. Why should I tell you?" She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted; and because she nagged him, on the seventh day he told her. Then she explained the riddle to her people. Judges 14:15-17 NRSV

The secret of a good marriage: honest communication.

What if Samson's wife had just told him that her people were threatening to burn her and her father's house? Wouldn't Samson had done something then? Instead, she says the worst six manipulative words for any two persons in a relationship: you do not really love me. Then she cries for the rest of her week-long wedding celebration.

It is quite obvious that she does not love Samson. She just wants to make sure she and her family are not killed. She is willing to betray Samson's trust and confidence.

And she won't be the last woman in his life to do so.

God, we pray that we can be open and honest when we talk to you. Thank you for listening. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What are the limits of honesty in communicating with someone you love?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Road Kill; Sweet!

The spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart barehanded as one might tear apart a kid. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. Then he went down and talked to the woman, and she pleased Samson. After a while he returned to marry her, and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion and honey. He scraped it out into his hands, and went on , eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion. Judges 14:6-8 NRSV

I can honestly say that the spirit has never led me to tear apart any living creature. Nor have I ever seen honey in the body of an animal on the side of the road (not that I'm looking too closely). And I don't think I would eat it in any case.

So, we have a story of an impossible feat followed by a supernatural occurrence - perhaps both can be considered supernatural. And both things are actually kind of gross when you think about it: blood, guts and a whole hive of stingers. Not telling his parents about the lion is one thing. Not telling his parents where the honey they are eating came from is quite another. Mom: "Son, did you wash your hands?" Samson: "Well, not exactly..."

This is a big set up to what happened next but there is more to the story. I think what we are to see is that Samson is open to the Spirit, he is incredibly strong, and he keeps important details of his life from the ones he loves.

These elements will be important for the rest of his story.

God, we praise you and give you the glory! In Jesus' Holy name. Amen.

Question of the day: What important details of your life are you keeping from the ones who love you?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Flawed Protagonist

Once Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw a Philistine woman. Then he came up, and told his father and mother, "I saw a Philistine woman at Timnah; now get her for me as my wife." But his father and mother said to him, "Is there not a woman among your kin, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from uncircumcised Philistines? But Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, because she pleases me." Judges 14:1-3 NRSV

This is bad on so many levels.

Samson has a weakness for Philistine women which will lead to his own downfall.

Samson has been spoiled by his parents. He may not drink or shave but he knows how to manipulate them into getting want he wants: " get her for me as my wife!"

Samson may have also used his strength to get his way as well. There is an unspoken threat in verse 3. It almost reads: "Get her for me, because she pleases me or I will break your neck!"

Samson has not truly accepted his heritage and his faith. He should know that it is against God's will to marry outside of his people. His parents try to point this out to him. However, he only sees what he wants, not the consequences of his actions (and there will be many in this tale). He may be circumcised in the flesh but his heart has not been effected.

In literary terms, Samson would be considered a flawed protagonist.

But aren't we all?

God, we are all flawed. We are often self-centered, manipulative, spoiled and lacking in mature faith. Forgive us we pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What flaws do you have in common with Samson?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, September 18, 2009

Half Full or Half Empty?

When the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord acscended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground. The angel of the Lord did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. The Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God." But his wife said to him, "If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these." Judges 13: 20-23 NRSV

That woman is pretty smart, isn't she? Her husband thinks that now they have seen the angel of the Lord they will die. But she says that their offering, their conversation and the promises made meant that they would not die. Certainly they have seen something supernatural but that just reinforces the life of the son to be born.

Makes me wonder about when I think the very worst of a situation. I have a real pessimistic streak and have a really hard time overcoming my own negativity. Sometimes it takes someone else (who remains nameless!) to jolt me out of my bleak outlook and help me to see the wonderful possibilities that God has presented in the midst of all the challenges of life.

God, you are always entering into our lives in supernatural, illogical ways. Help us to see your actions in a positive light. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Even if you say the glass is half full, do you really believe it?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Too Wonderful

Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, "Allow us to detain you, and prepare a kid for you." The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, "If you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you want to prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord." (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.) Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?" But the angel of the Lord said to him, "Why do you ask my name? It is too wonderful." Judges 13:15-18 NRSV

I must confess that I have an absolute obsession with angels. But not the sweet cherubs on Valentine's. I am really fascinated by the angels of the Bible and whenever a scripture has an angel in it, I am very attentive to what it says about the angel.

I think that the purpose of angels is to point back to God - deliver God's message, carry out God's instructions and be God's instruments of life and/or death.

This angel won't give Manoah his name.

So not only do we not know Manoah's wife's name ("the woman") but we don't know the angel's name either.

According to the angel, his name is "too wonderful."

That is kind of like God to Moses when Moses asks for God's name. Knowing a person's name can be a way of holding power over the other person. God tells Moses that God's name is "I Am Who I Am" (YHWH). This angel of the Lord tells Manoah doesn't give out his name either. Perhaps his name too wonderful to say or to think about. Or maybe too wonderful for a mere human to know.

Yesterday, I asked God if God knew our names.

The answer is yes!

Isn't that just too wonderful?

Thank you, God, for knowing our names. In Jesus name. Amen.

Question of the day: What do you think about angels?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, "The man who came to me the other day has appeared to me." Manoah got up and followed his wife , and came to the man and said to him, "Are you the man who spoke to this woman?" And he said, "I am." Then Manoah said, "Now when your words come true, what is to e the boy's rule of life; what is he to do?" The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, "Let the woman give heed to all that I said to her. She may not eat of anything that comes form the vine. She is not to drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. She is to observe everything that I commanded her." Judges 13:10-14 NRSV

This devotional today was going to be about how God gives us things for us to do and we are always questioning God but never getting a straight answer, just more of the same instructions. However, what really strikes me is the fact that the woman is never given a name. She is identified as Manoah's wife. She has been visited by an angel. God has special instructions for he and will bless her. But we never have a name for her. In addition, Manoah and the angel speak of her in the third person even though she is standing right there!

I think if the Gospels had been written in the same style as the Old Testament, we would have learned about Joseph's fiance and the mother of John the Baptist - without any names. In fact, more often than not in the Old Testament, we know the names of the "bad" women more than the names of the good ones. This woman will only be known as the mother of Samson. But who doesn't know Delilah's name?

God, do you know my name?

Question of the day: What person in your life has remained nameless?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Set Apart

Then the woman came and told her husband, "A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like that of an angel of God, most awe-inspiring; I did not ask him where he came from and he did not tell me his name; but he said to me, 'You shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.' " Judges 13:6-7 NRSV

Manoah and his wife, from the tribe of Dan, have no children. An angel comes to the barren woman and announces she is going to have a baby boy but he is going to be especially consecrated to God, so she is to watch her diet as well as the boy's. And they should never cut his hair.

Obviously, angelic appearances and announcements to barren women are common throughout the bible. The birth of any child is a miracle, but the birth of a child to someone who was considered barren is an awesome miracle. If an angel comes to let you know you are going to have a baby, then it is quite apparent that God's hand is in the conception and life of the child.

This child is going to continue to be special because he will be a nazirite, set apart from others for God. His diet must be pure and he cannot consume alcohol. In fact he cannot eat anything from the grapevine (see Numbers 6 for more details about the nazirites)! In addition, a nazirite must never have their head shaved. The real significance about this nazirite is that, instead of choosing to live this life, God sets up this life for him.

Obviously, we are to pay attention to this child - he is going to be special!

God, thank you for the miracle of birth and for children everywhere! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What sets you apart as a child of God?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, September 14, 2009

Memorable Details

After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. He had thirty sons. He gave his thirty daughters in marriage outside his clan and brought in thirty young women from outside for his sons. He judged Israel seven years. Then Ibzan died, and was buried at Bethlehem. Judge 12: 8-10 NRSV

After Jephthah, there is a series of three different judges that we are only told a few details about.

The detail for Ibzan is on his children. At first, it sounded like he was marrying them to non-Israelites which could have been possible. But at the same time, if he even just married all his sons and daughters outside his clan, that raises several questions:

What happened to the inheritance if outside clans are brought in through marriage?

What was wrong with his own clan?

Why marry all of them outside his clan?

Why the detail about both his sons AND his daughters?

Is the fact that he was from Bethlehem (later the birth place of King David as well as Jesus) also significant?

And the most intriguing question: Why was the detail about his children and birthplace the most significant thing about Ibzan?

I think the answer to that question is that he really didn't do anything historically or spiritually significant during his time as a judge. This sounds like a funeral sermon in which the deceased really is not remembered for their Christian action or witness, so only a few details about their family life are lifted up. All I know is that I don't want to be one of those!

God, direct our steps so that what we do in your name is the most memorable detail about our lives. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What will people remember about you?

Copyright Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim; and the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, "You are fugitives from Ephraim, you Gileadites - in the heart of Ephraim and Manasseh." Then the Gileadites took the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. Whenever one of the fugitives from Ephraim said, "Let me go over," the men of Gilead would say to him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" When he said, "No," they said to him, then say Shibboleth;" and he said "Sibboleth," for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites fell at one time. Judges 12: 4-6 NRSV

Now we have Israelite vs. Israelite.

Ephraimites were mad because they were not included in the fighting, but unlike Gideon, Jephthah doesn't try to butter them up. Instead, he tries to kill them all. And he knows an important trait of the Ephraimites: their frenulum under their tongues prevented them from speaking correctly, so they were easily identified. This is also known as ankyloglossia or tongue-tie.

My grandmother was like the Ephraimites. She couldn't say "pizza." She said "pissa." As with all those with ankyloglossia, the tip of her tongue could not reach further than her lower teeth. Nowadays doctors tend to snip the frenulum if an infant has this trait.

But the saddest thing is not the use of this impediment as a means of identification and murder; it is that the land of God is now a battleground for tribe against tribe. Even the judges haven fallen.

God, you know our impediments and our weaknesses. But you don't use those against us but to glorify you. May we do the same. Amen.

Question of the day: Which one of your weaknesses quickly identifies you?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Like Father, Like Daughter

She said to him, "My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth; now that the Lord has given you vengeance against your enemies, the Ammonites." And she said to her father; "Let this thing be done for me: Grant me two months, so that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my companions and I. " Judges 11: 36-37 NRSV

I am not sure who is the more foolish: father or daughter. Perhaps it is like father, like daughter.

Hello? Your dad is going to kill you and all you can think about is mourning your unmarried state? Run for the hills, yes, and keep going!!

Did she think her father would find a loophole in two months? Was she not upset that she was going to die? Was her virginity that much more important to her than her life?

Perhaps the overwhelming thought at that time was that if you don't have kids, you don't have immortality - maybe that was what she was really mourning.

She certainly didn't have a good parental role model - and neither did her father, it seems.

Thank God for all the good parental models we have in our lives - whether they are related by blood or not. Pray that we will all be good parental models to the children in our families and our churches. Amen.

Question of the day: What is one way you can show children in your family or church that God loves them?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, September 11, 2009

Not Someone Else's Mistake

Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble for me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord and I cannot take back my vow." Judges 11: 34-35 NRSV

Have you ever had an acquaintance that always blamed others for the bad things that happened in their life? In other words, it never was because of something they did - it was always the fault of someone else. If they tripped and fell, it was because the other person looked at them in such a way; or if they were late it was because you told them to take their time; or if they made a mistake on their report it was because the co-worker didn't explain it thoroughly. You know the type of person I am talking about. And if you have a child between the ages of 3 and 10, you may have heard this type of reasoning in your household.

Jephthah is such a person.

He is the one who made the vow yet he blames his daughter for being the first one to come out and celebrating his victory over the Ammonites! It isn't her fault that she came out of the house first. She is happy for him, singing and dancing over his victory! Yet, he tries to put the responsibility on her rather than on himself for doing such a foolish thing.

I think if he was seriously upset about this, he would find a way out - some way to make restitution to God. Instead, he tries to put all the responsibility on her rather than on himself.

Makes me wonder what his leadership is going to be like over the Israelites.

God, help us not to blame others for our own mistakes. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Is there something you said recently that you wish you could take back? Can you make restitution for it instead?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Still Making Excuses

Then the spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh. He passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a bow to the Lord, and said, "If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return victorious from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, to be offered up to me as a burnt offering." Judges 11:29-31 NRSV

Why would anyone who is already a great warrior promise that he will sacrifice a person if God gives him the victory? Is he not Jewish? Does he not know The Law? Maybe spending time with the outlaws of Tob made him forget. Or, perhaps his mother who was a prostitute was not an Israelite. Maybe the whole childhood thing really messed with his head in more ways than one.

Or maybe those are all just excuses.

Jephthah is a great warrior. He is fully capable on his own.

The people who once rejected him have asked that he take on the Ammonites. They are so assured that he can do it that they promise him a leadership role.

Now God has filled him with the Spirit. He now has God's power.

So, why does he need to make a bargain with God? Shouldn't it be evident to him that he will have the victory?

Don't we do the same thing, though?

We are fully capable. Others have shown that they trust our abilities. God has given us the Spirit. Yet, we seem to lack the trust, the confidence that things are going to work out okay. Instead, we use our childhoods, our sad stories, and our weaknesses as excuses to find reasons not go ahead and do what we are asked to do.

The victory is ours.

Yet, how many times do we make a vow that is only going to get us into trouble?

God, you entrust us and trust us. Thank you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question for the day: What's your excuse?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Trusting God

"So now the Lord, the God of Israel, has conquered the Amorites for the benefit of his people Israel. Do you intend to take their place? Should you not posses what your god Chemosh gives you to possess? And should we not be the ones to possess everything that the Lord our God has conquered for our benefit? Now are you any better than King Balak son of Zippor of Moab? Did he ever enter into conflict with Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the towns that are along the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time? It is not I who have sinned against you, but you are the one who doe me wrong by making war on me. Let the Lord, who is judge, decide today for the Israelites or for the Ammonites." But the king of the Ammonites did not heed the message that Jephthah sent him. Judges 11: 23-28 NRSV

At first it sounds like the warrior Jephthah is trying to negotiate with the Ammonites. He is trying to get them to see that their claims are foolish - the land has been given by the Lord God, they have not done anything about it for three hundred years, is the current king just trying to pick a fight? - but I think he is actually taunting the Ammonites. He seems to be saying: who are you that you think you can win this fight? Are you a god? Are you as great as your King Balak? Are you trying to be judge when it is God who is the ultimate judge?

If the king of the Ammonites had heeded Jephthah's message, would it have meant peace for the people? Or would Jephthah have fought anyway?

I don't have an answer. I do know that Jephthah certainly seems to be putting a lot of trust in God's power and judgment through the use of wise logic. But he won't be able to fully trust without some rash decisions.

God, you ask us to trust you and to make wise decisions through our words and actions. May we show more courage than Jephthah. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: How well do you trust God?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why come to me now?

And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. They said to Jephthah, "Come and be our commander, so that we may fight with the Ammonites." But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, "Are you not the very ones who rejected me and drove me out of my father's house? So why do you come to me now when you are in trouble?" Judges 11:5-7 NRSV

Have you ever been asked to do something that seems so unexpected and out of your comfort zone that you cannot believe anyone even thought of asking you? Do you find various people suggesting the same task or activity that you should try? Maybe these same people have denied other things about you that you think are great.

Maybe these folks recognize something in you that you cannot even see for yourself.

The people of Gilead didn't like Jephthah's illegitimacy. However, they also recognized his strengths as a warrior and a leader. They knew what they needed and they could see their needs being met in Jephthah.

Jephthah himself is a bit wary of what they are asking of him and what they are promising him. He does not see what he is capable of and this will eventually create a very sorrowful situation in his life (and for an example of that, read Thursday's and Friday's devotionals).

The wonderful part of being in a Christian community is that others can help us to see what we are truly capable of and guide us in avoiding life's pitfalls.

God, thank you for the community of Christ that nurtures, recognized and guides us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Are you fully a part of a Christian community?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, September 7, 2009

What will we do with our gifts?

Now Jephthah the Gileadite, the son of a prostitute, was a mighty warrior. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. Gilead's wife also bore him sons; and when the wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah away, saying to him, "You shall not inherit anything in our father's house; for you are the son of another woman." Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Outlaws collected around Jephthah and went raiding with him. Judges 11: 1-3 NRSV

Jephthah is a very tragic character. His life story seems to echo what is going on with the people of Israel. They only halfway act like the children of God. They have often run away from God. They have gathered some pretty rough and disreputable friends around them. And they have used these friendships to engage in lawless behavior. Yet, they have been given gifts that can be used as God's instrument of salvation.

God has given us all gifts - specifically Spiritual Gifts. But what do we do with these gifts we have been given? Do we use them for God's glory? Or do we even use them at all?

Often we try to simply run away as far as we can from God and hang out with those who tend to lead us to do things God does not what us to do.

God, you have given all of us Christians Spiritual Gifts. Help us to know what they are and to use them for your Glory. In Jesus' precious name we pray. Amen.

Question of the day: What are your Spiritual Gifts? If you don't know them, how can you find out?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, September 6, 2009

God As Parent

And the Lord said to the Israelites, "Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites oppressed you; and you cried to me and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet you have abandoned me and worshiped other gods, therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress." And the Israelites said to the Lord, "We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you; but deliver us this day." So they put away the foreign gods from among them and worshiped the Lord; and he could no longer bear to see Israel suffer. Judges 10: 11-16 NRSV

God is such a parent.

The child has gotten into trouble again and again; and each time the parent has gotten up in the middle of the night and gone down to the party, or the friend's lake house, or the police station or the high school.

Then the parent has had enough.

"Let your so-called friends save you as you put so much time and energy doing what they say rather than what your parent says!"

But the child apologizes, throws out the cigarettes, gets a decent hair cut, comes in before curfew, does their chores and more around the house and greatly improves their grades.

"I'll do whatever you ask, but please get these bullies off my back!"

Out of love and compassion, the parent does as the child has sincerely asked with great repentance.

God is such a parent: a loving, merciful and compassionate parent.

Thanks be to God!


Question of the day: For what do you need to ask repentance?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Few Years of Peace

After Abimelech, Tola son of Puah son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, who lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim, rose to deliver Israel. He judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died, and was buried at Shamir. After him came Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. He had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys; and they had thirty towns, which are in the land of Gilead, and are called Havvoth-jair to this day. Jair died and was buried in Kamon.

War, treachery, sin, and evil have been the passwords through much of the last chapter of Judges. Thank goodness we get a break with a few years of peace.

We don't know much about Tola or Jair. But we do know they brought peace to the people of Israel. And they needed it.

This weekend is Labor Day weekend. Traditionally, this is the weekend (sometimes a week) of rest and relaxation for my family and a few close friends. We go to the beach and do nothing but relax. It is nice to have this time of peace. We need it.

You may find this weekend is a time of peace for you. Or there may be another time of the year that is your time of rest and relaxation. I pray that if you don't have a time, that you will find it.

We all need a bit of peace from time to time in our busy lives.

God, thank you for times of peace, rest and relaxation. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: When is your time of peace?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lesson to be Learned

Abimelech came to the tower, and fought against it, and came near to the entrance of the tower to bun it with fire. but a certain woman threw and upper millstone on Abimelech's head, and crushed his skull. Immediately he called to the young man you carried his armor and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, so people will not say about me, 'A woman killed him.' " So the young man thrust him through , and he died. When the Israelites saw that Abimelech was dead, they all went home. Judges 9: 52-55 NRSV

What can we learn from this passage?

Don't get too close to the tower, even if you are going to set it on fire?

Practice weightlifting because those millstones are pretty heavy? (What was it doing at the top of a tower, anyway?)

Have a contingency plan in case some woman tries to kill you - wouldn't want your manhood to be questioned after your death?

Don't try to rule through treachery - it can come back to haunt you?

Your relatives cannot be trusted?

How about this:
God will make the wickedness of the people fall back on their own heads. [See Judges 9:57]

Now go: don't hang around the bottom of towers, do get strong, don't be treacherous, do have a contingency plan and, at the very least, don't be wicked.

God, you want us to avoid wickedness of all kinds and shapes. We know that it can turn on us. We want to turn to you, instead. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: In what areas of your life do you need to turn to God?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Was a curse needed?

"... but you have risen up against my father's house this day, and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his slave woman, king over the lords of Shechem, because he is your kinsman- if, I say, you have acted in good faith and honor with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you; but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the lords of Shechem and from Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the lords of Shechem and from Beth-millo and devour Abimelech." Judges 9: 18-20 NRSV

Things pretty much are going downhill in the book of Judges.

Gideon had seventy-two sons, including Abimelech who was the son of his slave woman, and Jotham, his youngest son. After Gideon's death, Abimelech kills all his brothers but Jotham and sets himself up as king. Jotham has fled and is now pronouncing a curse on his brother before he disappears into a neighboring country.

The curse basically states that if Abimelech was doing all this in a good cause or with God's instructions/blessings, then everything will be fine. However, if he has murdered in treachery, then he and his cohorts will end up destroying one another.

It is probably no surprise that the curse is fulfilled later in the chapter. I wonder if a curse was even needed. Often individuals and groups that plot and plan with evil intentions end up at each other's throats, becoming the downfall of one another. The sad part is that they end up taking many innocent people with them. Certainly the death toll in chapter 9 is very high.

However, the main problem is not Abimelech or his relatives in Shechem. The main problem is that, with Gideon's death, the people of Israel have been backsliding into Baal worship once more.

Putting anything or anyone before God can lead us on a slippery slope where curses are the least of our problems.

God, help us not to put anyone or anything before You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What are you putting before God?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Putting People on a Pedestal

Then the Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also; for you have delivered us out of the hand of Midian." Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you." Judges 8: 22-23 NRSV

Sometimes I think God was too specific when we were told not to have any kind of idol to worship. This is because time and again we don't worship statues but people.

God didn't want many troops to win over the Midians because God realized the people would begin to feel superior and think it was because of their own might that they defeated their enemies. That is why he decreased the number of soldiers. Despite this precaution, the people still don't give God the glory. Instead, they see Gideon as their savior.

Now they want Gideon to rule over them, not just be their judge and general. Gideon tries to get them to see that it is God who is to be ruler. However, it is interesting that he doesn't try to get them to see that God is their savior. In fact, right after this he gets greedy and wants payment in the form of golden earrings that he fashions into a golden box which later becomes something people worship.

God is just not given the glory. This in turn leads to the down fall of Gideon, his family and the people of Israel.

I think that God is constantly acting in our lives, making impossible things happen and continually doing things to save us. However, we don't see it. Just like the people coming to Gideon to ask him to rule over them, we tend to see other people as the hero. We put people on a pedestal rather than give Glory to God.

God, we give you the glory and the praise! You save us time and again and we forget to glorify you. Thank you for your saving grace that is active and alive today. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question for the day: Where have you given people credit rather than God?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Needing More Proof

When Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by the ascent of Heres, he caught a young man, one of the people of Succoth, and questioned him; and he listed for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven people. Then he came to the people of Succoth, and said, "Here are Zebah and Zalmunna, about whom you taunted me, saying, 'Do you already have in your possession the hands of Zebah and Zalmunnah, that we should give bread to your troops who are exhausted?' " So he took the elders of the city and he took thorns of the wilderness and briers and with them he trampled the people of Succoth. He also broke down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city. Judges 8:13-17 NRSV

I am really tempted to take a moment and discuss the interesting names found in the Bible (Zalmunna?) but we will instead face head-on the violence and revenge in this passage.

I believe the most important thing here is that Gideon is a man of his word as well as God's judge and deliverer. So, the people of Succoth and Penuel who refused to give help to Gideon's troops were actually in defiance of God. Not only did they refuse to give help, but they ignored what Gideon had already done with only 300 men and declared that unless the entire enemy (Zebah and Zalmunnah being the leaders of the "remnant" of 15,000 out of 120,000 Midianites!) was overthrown, they were not going to give these men aid.

This does have echoes of Gideon's own demands of God (give me a sign, let's try this fleece thing once more). The people of Succoth and Penuel are essentially saying that they need a total victory before they will give aid. Okay, so you've gotten rid of 105,000 men and some of their captains but we won't believe you are worth helping until you have destroyed everyone, they seem to be saying.

But Gideon (and probably God, too) will have none of that. "Just you wait," Gideon says, "I'm going to return with these guys as trophies and then I am going to kill you with thorns and briers - a ridiculous, impossible, humiliating and ultimately painful way to die. Oh yeah, and I'll tear down your big tower, too."

Never underestimate the final result of God's intentions.

God, Gideon brings to light some of our own weak and strong traits. Help us to follow you and not wait on the final outcome, knowing yours is the final victory. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: When have you refused to help because you needed further "proof?"

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims