Saturday, October 31, 2009

Following God's Will

Then they said, "Is there anyone from the tribes of Israel who did not come up to the Lord at Mizpah?" It turned out that no one from Jabesh-gilead had come to the camp, to the assembly.  For when the roll was called among the people, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. Judges 21: 8-9 NRSV

Just who is in control here? I don't see a judge, certainly not a king and none of the tribes have shown particular leadership. However, they are in the midst of offering sacrifices to God. In other words, they are asking these questions during worship. I think they are attempting to seek guidance from God. God should be the one in control. But is God truly giving them guidance?

I ask God for guidance on a daily basis. I always want to know what God wills for me each and every day. Of course, that doesn't mean that God either tells me or gives me nudges every day. Nor does this guarantee that I am listening. And I certainly fail on a regular basis to do what God asks. I probably am also asking advice for the wrong things to begin with but I am attempting to follow God.

God want us to follow and God gives us all kinds of clues for where we should be going. We have scripture, nudges or feelings, fellow Christians, the world around us, our brains and our past experiences to give us focus on God's will. But the most important thing for us to ask on a consistent basis is who is really in charge in our lives.

God, what is your will for me? Amen.

Question of the day: Who is really in charge of your life right now?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, October 30, 2009


But the Israelites had compassion for Benjamin their kin.... Judges 21: 6a NRSV

I wonder if our compassion can either come too late or be misplaced.

For example, when the US sends in troops to a foreign country, have you ever considered why it takes us so long to consider the plight of the average human being who lives there?

Or perhaps you have wondered why do we glue ourselves to the television when one already famous child is supposedly stuck in a weather balloon while we ignore the thousands in a different part of the world that are dying in a natural disaster?

One major culprit is our media. Compassion is not a motivator of our media. We see this on the nightly news. However beloved your favorite newscastor is, you can see how schooled their faces are when they report tragedy. They can go from reporting awful tragedy to lighthearted events with very little change in their facial expressions.

Maybe high levels of exposure to tragedy numbs them from experiencing deep compassion.

What then can it do to us? If you are constantly bombarded with bad news in your community or family, will you lose your capacity to feel compassion or mercy on your fellow human beings? Can we lose our ability to feel compassion for one another in the church if they are continually hurting?

I think one thing that saves us is the Holy Spirit. It is through the power of the Spirit that we can hear and see the tragedy while at the same time be filled with the capacity for deep compassion.

Thank you, God, for your power given to us through the Holy Spirit. May we never lose the ability to feel compassion with the help of the Spirit. In Jesus' Holy name we pray. Amen.

Question of the day: What is tugging on your heart right now? In other words, where are you feeling compassion?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Looking in the Mirror

Now the Israelites had sworn at Mizpah, "No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin." And the people came to Bethel, and sat there until evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. They said, "O Lord, the God of Israel, why has it come to pass that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?" Judges 21:1-3 NRSV

Okay, I am just trying to figure this out.

1) The Israelites all but exterminated the tribe of Benjamin.
2) There are only 600 men left from the entire tribe.
3) The Israelites have not just sworn but really cursed anyone who would give their daughter to a man of Benjamin.
4) The Israelites are wondering how will the tribe continue if these men are not to take either Israelites or non-Israelites as wives.
5) The Israelites are truly sorrowful about the possibility of one of the twelve tribes becoming extinct.
6) The Israelites appeal directly to God.

How many times in my own life have I cut off all possible solutions to a problem myself, then wanted God to come and bail me out? How many times have I thought I was doing God's will when I was just making things worse? How many times have I felt remorse about the outcome of my actions rather than my actions themselves?

Ugh. How many times do I have to see myself in the book of Judges?

God, your Word often makes all of us see ourselves in a less than positive light. Help us to use this insight to follow you more closely from now on. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: How would you answer the questions I have asked myself?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cleaning House

So all who fell that day of Benjamin were twenty-five thousand arms-bearing men, all of them courageous fighters. But six hundred turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and remained at the rock of Rimmon for four months. Meanwhile, the Israelites turned back against the Benjaminites, and put them to the sword - the city, the people, the animals, and all that remained. Also the remaining towns they set on fire. Judges 20: 46-48 NRSV

Wow. Pretty harsh. Not only did 24,400 warriors die in battle, but now everyone and everything of the tribe of Benjamin is destroyed. Did you catch that? Every single person that was of this tribe was killed. Every animal was killed. All of their belongings were burned. This is total destruction; this is cleaning house mafia style.

Sure, they did some very bad stuff. They were so off the mark when it came to being God's followers that they were acting as non-believers. But did they have to be eliminated? Including the women and children? What did the animals do? Obviously, the thought is that sin this bad must be totally eradicated as well as give everyone else an example not to follow. Who would now want to disobey God when that could get you and your entire tribe wiped off the face of the earth?

Have you ever led a life of such depravity that the only solution seemed for God to wipe you off the face of the earth? The amazing thing is that God, despite being jealous, does not punish us in this way. Instead, God does something remarkable: God has given up God's son in our stead so that God's son dies for our sins. God wants to forgive us if we only can admit our faults and accept Jesus into our lives. Sure, that is going to clean house but only in a good way.

The hope in this passage of Judges is that 600 men are left. They are hiding in the wilderness. That reminds us that there is hope with God.

God, thank you for your forgiveness and the gift of Jesus who died for our sins. Forgive us for the sins we continue to make. Help us to clean our own house. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of they day: What sins or sin do you need to admit before God today?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Note from Amelia: Sorry I was unable to complete last week's devotionals! Hopefully, you will be able to pick up here from where we left off on Thursday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

God's Will or Mine?

The main body of the Israelites drew back it battle line to Baal-tamar, while those Israelites who were in ambush rushed out of their place west of Geba. There came against Gibeah ten thousand picked men out of all Israel, and the battle was fierce. But the Benjaminites did not realize that disaster was close upon them. The Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel; and the Israelites destroyed twenty-five thousand one hundred men of Benjamin that day, all of them armed. Judges 20: 33-35 NRSV

Okay, the Lord defeated the Benjaminites.

With the help of some subterfuge and trickery.

This is not a "clean" battle or one straightforward campaign. This is like a football team that keeps doing the same play again and again so that their opponent expects the same thing to happen. When it doesn't, they are caught unawares and are defeated.

Does this mean God expects me to use some less than straightforward methods to carry out God's will? Is subterfuge an expected spiritual tool? Does God depend on trickery?

I began typing here that I am not comfortable with that but on further thought, I think I do tend to do some of this on an embarrassingly regular basis. Maybe I use more subterfuge that I realize.

The biggest question for me is not concerning the methods but rather for what purpose: am I doing this to carry out God's will or my own?

What is your will for me, God? Please show me! Thanks!

Question of the day: Do you use trickery to get certain outcomes in your life?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Third Time is the Charm

And the Israelites inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, "Shall we go out once more to battle against our kinfolk the Benjaminites, or shall we desist?" The Lord answered, "Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand." Judges 20: 27-28 NRSV

Before every battle, the Israelites have been inquiring of God which tribe is to go into battle the next day. God answers them and they do as God commands. However, they have been overwhelmingly defeated both times. I think at this point, they are ready to give up. They have wept, they have fasted and they have sought God's guidance. Yet, God has not yet granted them victory.

This makes me think of so many persons who have prayed and prayed over a loved one, seeking guidance and direction, but not having their prayers answered. At what point do you give up? Or do you? If you feel like you have done as God has asked and listened hard in obedience, how do you respond to unanswered prayer? In fact, how do you respond to life's overwhelming obstacles that you are forced to face again and again? This is more than just a question of unanswered prayer or lack of guidance. This is total defeat.

God waits until the Israelites are truly ready to give up before granting victory. Perhaps God wants to make it clear that it is God's doing, not their doing. Perhaps God wants complete dependence on God rather dependence on the odds for victory. Perhaps God is the God of the impossible, the last-minute save and the unbelievable victory.

God, we pour out our hearts to you with so many requests. You don't seem to answer all of them and often it seems like you don't even hear our supplications. Yet, we come again to your throne trusting and waiting for your power and your glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What prayer of yours has yet to be answered?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When Enough is Enough

On that day the Benjamites mustered twenty-six thousand armed men from their towns, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah. Of all this force, there were seven hundred picked men who were left-handed; everyone could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. And the Israelites, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand armed men, all of them warriors. Judges 20:15-17 NRSV

Here is the final battle, the culmination of the book of Judges. The people of God verses the people of God. Warriors, special sling-shot fighters, all of them armed and called to fight. One may wonder at this point if they even remember what they are fighting about. But they are sure ready.

But is all this really necessary against this one town?

Have you ever gotten in an argument with someone - a co-worker, a spouse or a friend - until it began to escalate beyond the point of the original disagreement? Maybe you stopped speaking, got divorced or moved on in life. You still feel bitter when you think about it but can you recall what started it all? Does it seem like such a big deal today?

God, we often do and say things that are totally unnecessary and unwarrented. Please help us to curb our lips and our responses. Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Crimescene

The tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin saying, "What crime is this that has been committed among you? Now then, hand over those scoundrels in Gibeah, so that we may put them to death, and purge the evil from Israel." But the Benjamites would not listen to their kinsfolk, the Israelites. Judges 20: 12-13 NRSV

What crime has been committed, indeed.

Levite taking a concubine? Check.

Levite running around the countryside, partying rather than serving God? Check.

Lack of good traveling sense? Check.

Lack of hospitality for the stranger who also happened to be your religious leader? Check.

Sexual perversions in a mob setting? Check.

Abuse of a slave/concubine without recompense? Check.

Lack of responsibility for one's own actions? Check.

Getting brother to fight against brother? Check.

Ignoring the advice as well as the Biblical instructions on perverse Israelites? Check.

Thinking I am so much better than all those sorry slobs in the book of Judges? Ouch!

God, we tend to read the Bible with a superiority complex at times. Forgive us. And forgive all of our crimes against you. In Jesus' holy name we pray. Amen.

Question of the day: Have you committed any crimes against God lately?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wanna Be Startin' Something

Then he commanded the men whom he sent saying, "Thus shall you say to all the Israelites, 'Has such a thing ever happened since the day that the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until this day? Consider it, take counsel, and speak out.' " Judges 19: 30 NRSV

Michael Jackson's song, Wanna Be Startin' Something is playing while I write this.

There is no king in Israel. There doesn't seem to be any judges in Israel at this time, either. So the people must take things in their own hands.

The time is ripe for this Levite to use a hot-button topic to get the armies of the tribes to carry out his revenge.

I cannot tell you how many times in various churches I have seen church members use certain hot topics to create chaos, havoc and, eventually, whatever they want to happen or not happen. Maybe they didn't cut up a person into twelve pieces but they did use whatever would get folks riled up in order to get their own way. Many times the pastor was the focus of their attention but not in every case.

The result often included scaring off those who were truly committed to doing God's will over their own, hurting lots of innocent people and destroying the delicate balance of love and trust needed in a community of Christ.

Have you ever seen this happen in your church? What was your reaction? Looking back, was there something you could have done differently to change the outcome?

God, you want to start something but so often many of us wanna start somethin'. Help us to follow you rather than our own desires. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Have you ever started something in your church out of your own motives?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Always Someone Else's Fault

In the morning her master got up, opened the doors of the house, and when he went out to go on his way, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. "Get up," he said to her, "we are going." But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey; and the man set out for his home. When he had entered his house, he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. Judges 19: 27-29 NRSV

I have spoken previously during our time in the book of Judges about people not taking responsibility for their actions, including blaming others and causing even more problems for themselves and others. Here is another example.

This man chose to give his concubine to the men of Gibeah. His choice. Not hers. She is just a thing to him.

This man apparently didn't care what happened to her. There is no grief, no attempt to heal, no compassion shown to her at all. She is just a thing to him.

This man takes her home and chops her up into twelve pieces (was she already dead or not?). He is angry. He wants revenge. She is just a thing to him.

For the Levite, the concubine is not a human being but a thing, a belonging. He never focuses on his own faults, but highlights what others have done. Even though what was done was really bad, he is as much at fault. He chose to leave the father's home late, he chose not to stay in Jebus, and he chose to give his concubine to the angry mob.

But it wasn't about what he did. It is all about what the men of Gibeah did.

God, you call each one of us to be responsible for our own actions and reactions. Help us, Lord, help us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What have you refused to take responsibility for?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, October 16, 2009

Warning: You may find the following scripture to be upsetting. Please use your best judgment if you want to continue reading.

While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, "Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him." And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing. " But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. As morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man's house where her master was, until it was light. Judges 19: 22-26 NRSV

Where do you jump into a scripture such as this?

Obviously, the old man was trying to prevent something like this from happening by welcoming the Levite and his companions into his home. What is going on when the so-called people of God are not only wanting to do perverted acts in a group setting but to a stranger who is also a Levite? That doesn't even begin to touch on the fact that the old man is willing for the women (second class citizens) to be abused instead. Or that the Levite chooses to give them his concubine to save his own skin.

Ugh. The whole situation is just one perverted happening after another. The message is that things are far more desperate and God-forsaken than we previously believed.

I pray that your life is not in that same place at this time.

God, I personally know of several people who are just in such a bad situation as told in this scripture. I pray for true liberation and hope for them from you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What will you do with the emotions this scripture brings up in you?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Are You Really Safe?

The old man said, "Peace be to you. I will care for all your wants; only do not spend the night in the square." So he brought him into his house, and fed the donkeys; they washed their feet, and ate and drank. Judges 19:20-21 NRSV

We all want to feel safe.

That is why we live in gated communities, send our kids to private schools, get the security guard to walk us to our cars at work, put pepper spray on our key ring and a loaded pistol in our glove compartment. We take karate and self-defense classes. We shred anything with our address, don't open email from strange senders, and put child protection parameters on our internet access. We do background checks on employees, babysitters, and sometimes potential dates. Our passwords must be at least eight characters long and contain both letters and numbers (case-sensitive, of course). We hand over our bags at the airport, stripping ourselves of all unnecessary outerwear, and submit to metal detectors and searches. We don't carry our pocket knives into the courthouse and our kids better not bring any unusual utensils for lunch. In fact, their backpacks are clear and their lockers are searched regularly. We wear plastic gloves to serve food, provide medical care and take up the offering.

We want to be safe.

But safety is relative. There is always one more thing to guard against, to protect ourselves from or to keep from getting hurt. There is no end to the things we can do to try to keep ourselves safe.

Certainly, invite them in and offer hospitality, old man. But don't think you can really keep these visitors safe.

God, do you really want us to be safe? Or would you rather us be safe in your arms and with your spiritual protection? Maybe you want us to take more risks for your sake. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What is one thing you have done today that could be considered a risk?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


When they were near Jebus, the day was far spent, and the servant said to his master, "Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites, and spend the night in it." But his master said to him, "We will not turn aside into a city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel; but we will continue on to Gibeah." Then he said to his servant, "Come let us try to reach one of these places, and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah." So thye passed on and went their way; and the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin. They turned aside there, to go and spend the night at Gibeah. He went in and sat down in the open square of the city, but no one took them in to spend the night. Judges 19: 11-15 NRSV

There have been times in my life when I have been more welcomed, shown the best radical hospitality and had good wholesome fun with people who are far from being Christian. However, it is often my own snobbery (and perhaps fear of evangelism) that often leads me among other Christians. And what do I find? I find myself more often ignored, friendless, put down and made to feel like the lowest pond scum among those that I call brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here this Levite (again, what is he doing with a concubine and traveling all over like this? Oh, yeah, there is no king in Israel) refuses to go into the city of Jebus which is later Jerusalem. He says he isn't going to stay with people who are not racially and ethnically like him. Notice there isn't any real mention of religion in his snobbish statement.

Now this Levite, his servant and his concubine are needing overnight hospitality but he chooses to find a place with his "own" people. What he discovers is that there is no hospitality among those from whom he should most expect it. And what follows after this shows that he has made the wrong decision.

The Levite's snobbery will cost him as well as the people of Israel.

God, why is it that our natural inclination is to be a part of groups just like us? And why do you continue to ask us to broaden our boundaries? In Jesus' name. Amen.

Questions of the day: Have you ever felt extremely welcomed and at home from people very different from you? What did you learn from this experience?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Fortify yourself!"

On the fifth day he got up early in the morning to leave; and the girl's father said, "Fortify yourself." So they lingered until the day declined, and the two of them ate and drank. Judges 19: 8 NRSV

Okay, this partying has been going on for five days now. Do these men not have jobs? Responsibilities? Chores? Anything but sit around all day, eating and drinking?

Oh, wait! I forgot! There is no king in Israel - no one is doing as they are supposed to do. The man has a concubine, not a wife. The concubine has enough courage and opportunity to go back to her father's house (a woman alone and unmarried?). The father is unconcerned about what has made his daughter angry and treats her sugar daddy as a favorite drinking buddy. No one is working or being responsible. The man is easily swayed into remaining at his concubine's father's home (is this messed up or what?).

In the next few verses, the man is going to leave at the end of the day which will cause even further problems.

But who cares? Let's eat and drink for tomorrow we may get a king and actually have to do some work!

God, there are some things in life that are so tempting that we put aside our responsibilities to you, to our families, to our church, and to ourselves in order to indulge. You have created joy, celebrations and times for Sabbath. We repeatedly abuse many of these while using several excellent excuses. Forgive us. May your power be the true fortification in all our lives. In Jesus' name. Amen

Question of the day: With what are you fortifying yourself?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, October 12, 2009

No King = Chaos

In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite, residing in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But his concubine became angry with him, and she went away from him to her father's house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. Then her husband set out after her, to speak tenderly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. When he reached her father's house, the girl's father saw him and came with joy to meet him. Judges 19: 1- 3 NRSV

Okay, by now you are probably getting clued into the fact that there was no king in Israel means some really lawless, dispicable and slanderous behavior is going on among the people of Israel.

Remember Micah? He was from the hill country of Ephraim.
Remember the Levite? He was from Bethlehem in Judah.
Remember marriage? Obviously it went out with the law.

And what is this about the father of the concubine coming out to meet him with joy? Or is there a significance to calling the man a husband? And isn't Bethlehem in Judah supposed to be a place where really great people come from - like Boaz, David and Jesus?

Pure chaos reigns in Israel. And this is only the beginning of a gruesome tale. Obviously, there is only one solution: a king.

God, thank you for being King of my heart and my life. May all my allegiance be to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Are you in need of a judge or a king in your own spiritual life?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Who is this going to hurt?

They named the city Dan, after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was formally Laish. Then the Danites set up the idol for themselves. Jonathon son of Gershom, son of Moses and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the time the land went into captivity. So they maintained as their own Micah's idol that he had made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh. Judges 18: 29-31 NRSV

Sometimes we think the evil or sinful things we do only effect ourselves. Mistakes we make or poor decisions, only have consequences for us alone (so we say). "Who is this going to hurt?" "Why should I deny myself when it has nothing to do with anyone else?""I'm just doing this this one time."

Yet, Micah's actions have effected not just his household but the tribe of Dan as well as the people of Laish, not to mention God. He stole the silver, his mother made the idol as an act of forgiveness, Micah chose to set it up and got his son to be his priest. When the Levite came along, Micah included him in the sinful activity. The Levite told the five spies that God was going to bless their military campaign. The Danites then took the idol and the priest and proceeded to slaughter the unsuspecting people of Laish. Now the Danites and the priest are setting up a blasphemous house of God which will have consequences for future generations.

Stealing silver has become blasphemous tribal worship.

God disappears from the picture at each decision or action.

One small sin can have tremendous consequences.

God, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: For what are you asking God for forgiveness?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Six Hundred Men, Standing By the Gate

While the six hundred men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate, the five men who had gone to spy out the land proceeded to enter and take the idol of cast metal, the ephod, and the teraphim. The priest was standing by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war. When the men went into Micah's house and took the idol of cast metal, the ephod, and the teraphim, the priest said to them, "What are you doing?" They said to him, "Keep quiet! Put your hand over your mouth, and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one person , or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?"Judges 18: 16-19 NRSV

The question the Danites give to the Levite is really a trick question: there is no right answer! What kind of Levitical priest uses an idol? Why was he a household priest in the beginning? Does he have any choice but to go with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war? This is not the correct treatment of priests, tribes or God.

We, as well as the priest, can find ourselves in life situations in which there seems to be no good way out. Perhaps we, like the priest, have made some poor choices. Perhaps we, like the priest, have to make decisions under pressure or threat. How, then, do we disentangle ourselves?

Often we cannot do it without God's help. When we find ourselves in such a deep, dark hole, it may be only up to God to get us out.

But first we have to admit to God where we are and place ourselves in God's hands, giving God ultimate control.

God, there may be at least one person reading this prayer today who needs to know that you are there and all they have to do is relinquish total control to You. In Jesus' saving grace we pray. Amen.

Question of the day: Have you let go yet?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, October 9, 2009

Those Were the Days

In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking for itself a territory to live in; for until then no territory among the tribes of Israel had been allotted to them. So the Danites sent five valiant men from the whole number of their clan, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it; and they said to them, "Go, explore the land." When they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they stayed there. While they were at Micah's house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they went over and asked him, "Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?" Judges 18:1-3 NRSV

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you either didn't belong or shouldn't have been in? Did you just want to disappear into the woodwork? Did you hope and pray no one recognized you? Were you recognized after all?

This is what happens to the young Levite. The Danites hear him speak and immediately realize that he is in the wrong place. They then want to know why he is there, how he got there and what he is doing.

How would you have reacted if you had been the Danites? Should they have even said anything? What made them corner the Levite? Why would this have been a big deal for them?

Are you somewhere - either physcially or spiritually where you have no business being right at this very moment? Will you be found out? Will someone confront you? What will you say to them?

God, you often ask us: who brought you here? what are you doing in this place? what is your business here? You know where we should be at all times. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: How will you answer God?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, October 8, 2009

What is wrong with this picture?

Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah of the clan of Judah. He was a Levite residing there. This man left the town of Bethlehem in Judah, to live wherever he could find a place. He came to the house of Micah in the hill country of Ephraim to carry on his work....Then Micah said to him, "Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a set of clothes, and your living." The Levite agreed to stay with the man; and the young man became to him like one of his sons. Judges 17: 7-8, 10-11 NRSV

At this point you are probably wondering what this story has to do with anything. I think of it as a story in which you must pick out all the things that are wrong in it.

What is wrong with this picture:

Levites are not from the tribe of Judah - Genesis 49: 5-12
Levites are given specific towns to live in - Numbers 35:2
Levites can move around but only to the places where the Lord chooses (not where they want to live) - Deuteronomy 18: 6-8
Levites are to be taken care of through offerings to God and first fruits - Deuteronomy 12:19, 14:27 & 17:2ff
Levites are to serve God, not household idols - Numbers 8:19
Levites are for the community and can live there but not for one family - Deuteronomy 12:12

Can you find anything else wrong with this story?

Can you find anything wrong with your own life, especially something contrary to scripture?

God, we try to follow you but we keep doing wrong things. Give us eyes to see and soften our hearts. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Question of the day: Would someone else be able to pick out the wrong things in your life before you could?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'll Do It My Way

So when he returned the money to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into an idol of cast metal; and it was in the house of Micah. This man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and teraphim, and installed one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes. Judges 17: 4-6 NRSV

If you don't have a king, then you don't have anyone to enforce the laws.

Before this book, reading Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, you get the feeling that God is supposed to be their true king. That God has given The Law. How does God enforce that law? By promising all sorts of good things for God's people if they follow those commandments and all sorts of bad things if they don't.

We have clearly seen what bad things can happen if The Law is not followed. We are beginning another story of such things. A son secretly steals silver from his mother who then curses the one who stole it. Then, when he returns the money and admits his guilt, she blesses him and gives him part of the silver so that he can make an idol of it! He takes that idol and sets up his own household god, complete with priest.

They are doing things that seem right in their own eyes but not in God's eyes. I am quick to point out all the faults of Micah and his mother, but how many times have I done things my own way rather than God's way? How often do I do things that seem right in my own eyes? What household gods are holding sway in my own life?

God, you have given us The Way. But we keep doing it our way. Forgive us, we pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What are you doing right now that seems right in your own eyes but on closer examination is not right in God's eyes?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

One Act of Revenge

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, "Lord God, remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes." And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on one and his left hand on the other. Then Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines." He strained with all his might; and the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed during his life. Judges 16: 28-30 NRSV

Okay, so Samson kills more Philistines here at the end of his life. But it was all for the wrong reason! Instead of saying, God let me have my strength back just this once so I can defeat the Philistines for the good of the people of Israel, he asks for revenge on his two eyes!

Self-centered until the end.

But God does grant his request. What's up with that?

That seems to be the main theme throughout the book of Judges: God's power and might have been shown through the actions of some very unusual and (at times) troubling people. God is not limited to the good, just and "normal" folks.

Thanks be to God!

Question of the day: Have you ever asked God for help for the "wrong" reasons? And was your prayer answered?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Grand Performance

And when their hearts were merry, they said, "Call Samson, and let him entertain us." So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. They made him stand between the pillars; and Samson said to the attendant who held him by the hand, "Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests so that I may lean against them." Now the house was full of men and women; all the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about three thousand men and women, who looked on while Samson performed. Judges 16: 25-17 NRSV

What kind of performance was Samson doing?

Juggling? Not without his eyes!

Weightlifting? No, he had lost his strength.

Dancing? Carving? Singing?

There is just one "talent" that Samson has had during this whole time and it involves women. Is that the kind of performance? It could be that the followers of the god Dagon included that sort of thing in their worship. This was, after all, a celebration to thank Dagon for getting Samson into their hands.

We don't know those kind of details.

We do know that it was extremely humiliating for Samson. And that was the point. All his life, Samson has been spoiled, lauded and in charge. Now he is enslaved, blind and completely humiliated. He has been brought low.

Yet, even in his humiliation, he is to be God's instrument against the Philistines.

God, sometimes we are brought low. Sometimes we are humiliated. Yet, you see something in us and still have wonderful plans for us. Thank you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: What has been the most humiliating moment in your life?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Can You See?

So the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes. They brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles; and he ground at the mill in the prison. But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. Judges 16: 21-22 NRSV

In scripture, physical blindness is often associated with Spiritual blindness - think of Paul on the road to Damascus. Now that the Spirit has left Samson, he is blinded. The once strong and fully capable hero is now a blind, helpless prisoner. But in his weakness, there is hope: his hair begins to grow again. Perhaps this means his life in the Lord is beginning to grow again as well.

Think of a time in your life when you have not been able to "see." Perhaps you were surprised when something happened or someone acted/reacted differently than you expected. Maybe this was before you accepted Christ in your own life. I have often heard folks explain after bad things happened to them through other people that there were "blindsided" (or is it blindsighted?). When this happens, we often feel helpless and somewhat abandoned.

I know that when I am not "right" with God, I can be physically and mentally surprised and often disappointed. The good part of that is when it happens, I know I need to get my life turned around toward God and repair my relationship with the Lord. When I do, my sight returns. God does indeed give sight to the blind.

God, thank you for giving us true sight. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Question of the day: Can you see right now?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Lord Left Him

She let him fall asleep on her lap; and she called a man, and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. He began to weaken, and his strength left him. Then she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" When he awoke from his sleep, he thought, "I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free." But he did not know that the Lord had left him. Judges 16: 19-20 NRSV

He did not know that the Lord had left him.

Do you even believe the Lord is with you now?

What does that feel like for you?

Is there anything in your life that you must keep to have the Lord with you?

Is there anything in your life that would have to be removed for the Lord to leave you?

What would you do if the Lord left you?

Would you know if the Lord had left you?

What would that feel like?

How in your life do you depend upon the Lord?

God, may we depend upon you and your Spirit at all times. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Statement of the day: God is with you!

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, October 2, 2009

Nothing But the Truth

When Delilah realized he had told her his whole secret, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, "This time come up, for he has told his whole secret to me." Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands. Judges 16: 18 NRSV

I have been reading a book lately about truth in the business world and how truth is so important, not just in business but in our personal lives as well. It makes me think of times when I have fudged a bit on the truth in dealing with people in the church and how people in the church have not been truthful with me. Many times, I am naive but there are those times when I know without a doubt that the person is telling me the truth.

Delilah knows that Samson has finally told her the truth. I don't know how she knows - maybe it is the way he says it or what he says (or both) - but she knows this is his secret.

Of course, Samson telling Delilah the truth is not the best example for being a truthful person. Of course, she hasn't been truthful, either. I guess extending truth to those who are truthful in return is the best example.

Does this mean we should be truthful at all times, and hope others are, too?

Seems to me I remember someone saying that the Truth will set you free. That same someone happens to be The Truth.

God, you have shared The Truth with us. May we share it with the world. Amen.

Question of the day: When have you felt you could not tell the truth to someone you loved?

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Constant Nagging

Then she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me three times now and have not told me what makes your strength so great." Finally, after she had nagged him with her words day after day, and pestered him, he grew tired to death. Judges 16:15-16 NRSV

Seven fresh bowstrings?


New ropes that have not been used?


Weave seven locks of his head with a web and make it tight with the pin?

No, but close.

Constant nagging?

That might do me in, too.

Makes me think of Jesus' story of the widow who keeps hounding the judge for justice. If we nag God enough about something, will God then answer our prayer? And how many of us nag God enough for God to be sick and tired of our persistance? I am thinking that many of us don't keep it up long enough.

God, we give up too easily. You listen to all we say with great patience. If only we had the strength to keep on with our most heart-felt requests! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Question of the day: What do you need to keep on asking God for?