Category Archives: The Bible

Women in the Bible: The Mother of Jabez

Though an entire book was written about his prayer, we actually know little about Jabez. The Bible only mentions him in two obscure verses, buried among a lengthy genealogy. We know even less about the mother of Jabez, not even her name.Mother of Jabez

We do know his birth is difficult, and the name she gives him reflects the physical pain his arrival caused her. This is all we know about her.

However, we can infer more of her traits from the character of her son. Jabez is an honorable man, more honorable than others. We also know he has a deep connection with God, for when Jabez prays a bold prayer, God answers it.

We can implicitly connect these qualities with his mother, the woman who raised him. Surely Jabez’s mother is a godly woman, who taught her son how to live an honorable life, follow God, and to pray with effectiveness. What more could a mother give to her son?

What can we do to raise godly, honorable, faithful children?

[1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

Will God Ever Tell Us Not to Pray?

Even If We Don’t Understand Why God Tells Us to Do Something We Should Do It Anyway

A time not to pray.After giving Jeremiah a stinging message to tell the people, God gives a personal message to his prophet. He says, “You are not to pray for these people.” He says don’t plead for them or make a petition to me about them. “For I won’t listen to your prayer.”

How strange. Doesn’t God want us to pray? Why would he tell Jeremiah not to pray?

God has his reasons. He has a plan. This plan may not make sense to us. In fact, it may seem foolish. But we also believe he will work things out for the good of his people who love him (Romans 8:28).

God Said to Pray and Then Not to Pray

One time I visited a church with a friend. They were between pastors and struggling, yet a core group worked hard to help this church grow and move into their future. Since the church was in a different city, there wasn’t much I could do to help or join in their work.

However, I could pray. In fact, God prompted me to commit to pray for them every day. And I did that. Well, at least most every day.

Yet after praying for this tiny church for several months, one day, while in mid prayer, God told me to stop. He said, “I don’t want you to pray for them anymore.” This shocked me. God told me my season for praying for them was over. Click To Tweet

This small congregation had a committed group of people dedicated to following Jesus. They desired to make a difference in the community. And even though they didn’t have a pastor to lead them, they moved forward on their own. They seem to be making a difference. Yet God told me my season for praying for them was over. Though he didn’t tell me he wouldn’t answer my prayers if I continued, he made it clear I would displease him if I persisted.

I stopped praying for that church that day. I don’t know why God had me stop, but I do know it was part of his greater plan.

Maybe one day I’ll have greater insight into what his plan was when he told me not to pray—or maybe I’ll never know. Either way I trust God in the outcome even if it doesn’t make sense to me now.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Jeremiah 7-8, and today’s post is on Jeremiah 7:16.]

Women in the Bible: Deborah

Deborah’s story is in the book of Judges. Though they call her a judge, she is primarily a prophetess, a person who hears from God. She is notable as the only female judge listed in the book of Judges.Deborah

Deborah receives a message from God for Barak. Through her, God commands Barak to raise an army and attack their enemy. God even promises Barak he will prevail, but Barak balks, saying he will do it only if Deborah goes with him. She consents, although confirming that because of his reluctance, the honor of killing the enemy’s leader, Sisera, will go to a woman.

While we may infer this woman is Deborah, it is actually another woman, Jael. Even so, Deborah receives more credit than Barak for the overall victory.

Although Deborah lives in a male-dominated society, when a man doesn’t do what he is supposed to, she steps in to ensure action is taken. We commend her for her faith and her bravery. She is a strong example to all, both men and women.

[The story of Judge Deborah is in Judges 4 and 5.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

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Disobedience Can Have Long-Term Consequences

When God tells us to do something he has a reason and we should obey

God Tells His People to Drive Out the People in the Promised LandAfter Joshua leads the people of Israel into the Promised Land and takes control of it, he divides the territory among the tribes. Though they have conquered enough of the area to occupy it, remnants of other people, such as the Canaanites, still live there. (It’s often called the land of Canaan.) It’s up to each tribe to fully take control of their assigned region and drive out the people that live there.

We can debate who has the right to live there. Is it the Israelites who God promised could live in this land? Or is it the people who live there when the Israelites arrive? Of course, if we go back a few centuries, we see that God first gave this land to Abraham. This means Israel is merely reclaiming what God gave them through Abraham long ago. Who has a rightful claim to this land?

Drive Out the People Occupying the Promised Land

However, the discussion of rightful leadership isn’t the point in this post. The point is, what will the people of Israel do once they repossess the land? God tells them they are to drive out the people living there.

This is another item we could debate. Why can’t they peacefully coexist? Why can’t they get along? It seems fair, but God knows that these other nations will negatively influence his people, causing them to disobey him and turn from him.

Though we don’t want to make an isolationism theology based on this passage, we do see how important it is to guard ourselves against ungodly influence. For the territory given to Ephraim and Manasseh, the Bible says that they didn’t dislodge the people who lived in Gezer.  We must guard ourselves against ungodly influences. Click To Tweet

As a result the Canaanites continued to live there. They caused great problems for God’s people in the coming years and centuries. We see their reoccurring threat throughout the book of Judges, and they’re still around during the days of Ezekiel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

The disobedience of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh to purge their area of ungodly influences cause problems for their descendants for centuries.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Joshua 16-18, and today’s post is on Joshua 16:10.]

Women in the Bible: Rahab

Rahab is a prostitute who two spies stay with when they scope out Jericho. We don’t know if they seek her for her services or merely want to get out of public view.Rahab

When the king of Jericho commands Rahab to turn the men over to him, she commits treason. She hides the men and lies to the king that they already left, but she doesn’t know where they went.

Rahab knows God favors Israel and will give the city to them. So in exchange for her protecting the spies, she asks for the safety of her family when they raze the city. In her list of who’s included as family, she mentions parents and siblings, but not a husband or any children. After securing their promise of protection, she helps the spies escape.

Later, Joshua confirms Rahab and her family will be spared, while the rest of the city will be destroyed. She then lives with the Israelites.

In the New Testament, Matthew reveals Rahab is one of Jesus’ direct ancestors and the great-great grandmother of King David. She is honored as only one of four women mentioned in Jesus’ family tree. Further, the book of Hebrews affirms Rahab as a person of faith, one of only two women included in its impressive list. Finally, James confirms Rahab is righteous because of her actions in hiding and protecting the two spies.

While our reaction may be to judge Rahab for her profession, God sees her differently, as a righteous woman of faith, rewarding her accordingly.

[The story of Rahab is in Joshua 2 and Joshua 6; she is affirmed three times in the New Testament.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

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When God Calls Do We Answer? When He Speaks Do We Listen?

Punishment May Await Us If We Fail to Listen to God

Listen to God When He Speaks: Our Actions Have ConsequencesIsaiah wraps up his lengthy prophecy talking about judgment. He prophesies that God has destined the people for death. That they will be slaughtered.

Why would a loving God want to kill his people? Through the mouth of Isaiah, God explains why. He says that when he calls his people, they don’t answer. It would be like you and me passing each other on a path. You say, “Hi,” but I ignore you. That would be rude. It would disrespect you. And that’s exactly what God’s people do to him. They’re rude and disrespectful.

And to make sure we don’t miss his point, God rephrases it. He adds that when he speaks, his people don’t listen, either. That would be like you telling me, “Wait! Don’t step into the road.” But I ignore you, walk into traffic, and blam! A car hits me. So it is with God’s people. He tries to warn them, but they don’t listen.

Our Actions Have Consequences

Instead of answering, instead of listening, they do the exact things that God says are evil. They intentionally do what displeases him. That’s premeditated disobedience. They may figure they’re free to ignore what God says because they don’t think it matters or because they assume there will be no consequences. At least they haven’t seen any consequences for a long time.

But God’s patience is at its breaking point. He says, “Enough is enough; your time is up. You ignored me and disrespected me long enough. You’re about to enter the punishment phase,” all because they didn’t listen to God.

We may have a similar view of God, perhaps not directly but indirectly. We may choose to ignore God because we think it doesn’t matter, that we’ll still get into heaven. We may assume there will be no consequences because we haven’t seen any yet. However, just because God loves us and will forgive us doesn’t mean our wrong actions won’t have negative outcomes. When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen. Click To Tweet

When God calls, we better answer. When God speaks, we better listen.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 65-66, and today’s post is on Isaiah 65:12.]

Women in the Bible: Ruth

Ruth is a widow and foreigner who remains faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth leaves her family to follow Naomi to Israel. The reason for her loyalty to her mother-in-law is a mystery, since Naomi is a bitter woman at this time. However, Ruth also expresses a devotion to God.Learn about Ruth in the Bible

When they return, Ruth goes out to glean grain, at great physical risk, so she and Naomi will have some food. Ruth finds favor with Boaz, who knows of her fine reputation.

Naomi sets about to find another husband for Ruth, targeting Boaz and developing a strategy to bring that about. The result is capturing Boaz’s attention. He sets out to make Ruth his wife, deftly dealing with another possible suitor.

Boaz and Ruth marry. She has her first child, Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse, the father of David. That makes Ruth, the great grandmother of King David and a direct ancestor of Jesus.

Let’s review: Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law and God rewards her. She marries again, is saved from poverty, and has a son. As a result, she’s later honored by Matthew who includes her in the family tree of Jesus, one of only four women mentioned.

[Read about Ruth in the book of the Bible bearing her name.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

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Ask God to Go with Us

God Promises to Go Before His People and Be Their Rear Guard

Ask God to Go with UsIn Isaiah’s lengthy prophecy, he tells God’s people in Jerusalem that they need to leave. However, they don’t need to leave in haste. This is because God will go before them and he will take up the rear. That means, God will pave the way and he has their back. That’s so comforting. However, this promise is to God’s people in Jerusalem. Does it apply to us today?

Yes and no.

Since Isaiah specifically gives this prophecy and its promise to the people in Jerusalem, we would take it out of context to apply it to us today. We would be wrong to read this passage and automatically conclude that God will always go before us and watch our back. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t do this. For God to travel with us, going before us on our path to pave the way and guarding us from a rear attack, we need to ask God to do this.

Instead of Claiming a Comforting Verse, Ask God for It

Since God promised to do this for his people in Jerusalem, this idea of him going before and bringing up the rear isn’t unprecedented. If he took care of them then, he’ll likely take care of us today. But we can’t claim this verse as our own. It doesn’t apply to us. Instead we must pray it. We must ask God to go before us to prepare the path for our journey. And we must ask God to follow behind us, to protect us from surprise attacks that might catch us off guard. Just because we see a comforting verse in the Bible doesn’t mean it automatically applies to us today. Click To Tweet

We should keep this principle in mind as we read the Bible. Just because we see a comforting verse doesn’t mean it automatically applies to us today. We’d be in error to claim it as our own when it belongs to someone else. However, we can certainly seek God’s provision and ask him to apply it to us today. After all, if he did it for his people once, there’s a good chance he’ll do it for us again.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 51-52, and today’s post is on Isaiah 52:12.]

Women in the Bible: Eve

Eve (along with her husband, Adam), is a well-known biblical figure. I’m surprised she’s only mentioned by name four times in the Bible, twice in Genesis and twice in the New Testament.Discover more about Eve in the Bible

I’ve never understood why Eve bears the heaviest criticism for disobeying God. Adam is likewise culpable, and he could have—and should have—put a stop to eating the forbidden fruit. More contemptible is the serpent, who resorted to lies to trip up Eve.

Because of their actions, all three—Adam, Eve, and the serpent—suffer consequences, which they will pass on to future generations.

Looking specifically at Eve, she receives three punishments: pain in childbirth, a desire for her husband, and him ruling over her. The middle phrase doesn’t make much sense, but the NLT renders it differently: “you will desire to control your husband.”

So before Adam and his wife messed up, things must have been the opposite: childbirth was easy, women did not seek to control their husbands, and men did not rule over their wives.

Going forward, women would desire to control their husbands, and husbands would rule their wives. However, in the beginning there was neither controlling nor ruling; there must have been equality, with God intending spouses to live as equals.

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

Can We Cause God To Change His Mind?

Hezekiah and Moses Plead with God for a Different Outcome

Can We Cause God To Change His Mind?In Isaiah we read about King Hezekiah. The king is sick, and Isaiah comes to him with a dire message from God. Through Isaiah, God tells Hezekiah to put his affairs in order because his illness is fatal. Death looms.

Though few of us would welcome death, knowing when our end would occur might bring about a certain appreciation. This would give us an opportunity to say our goodbyes and get our estate organized for our heirs.

Hezekiah Prays and Cries to God

But Hezekiah doesn’t give God a heartfelt, or even a respectful, “Thanks for the heads up.” Instead the king cries bitter tears and reminds God—as if God needed reminding—of his lifetime of faithfulness, devotion, and good living.

Guess what happens next?

God hears Hezekiah’s prayers and sees his tears. God changes his mind. Instead of sticking to the plan that the king’s end is near, God pledges to give him another fifteen years of life (Isaiah 38:1-5).

Moses Also Seeks God’s Favor

However, long before the reign of King Hezekiah, Moses and God have another interesting exchange. When God’s chosen people decide to worship a golden calf instead of him, God has enough. He says he’ll destroy his people and start over with Moses to make a new nation.

If this happened to me, I’d bow my head in false humility and say something like, “As you wish.” But not Moses. Instead he tries to talk God out of it. Moses fights for the nation of Israel even though they don’t deserve it. God listens to Moses’s reasoning and he relents from destroying his people as he had planned (Exodus 32:9-14). God wants to do good things for us, and sometimes all we need to do is ask. Click To Tweet

God wants to do good things for us, and sometimes all we need to do is ask.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 37-38, and today’s post is on Isaiah 38:1-5.]