How Gideon failed at success

Gideon and the angel

The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon / James Tissot

Everyone wants to succeed at what they try. The alternative is failure.

Successful people know failure. They have learned from it, worked out problems, and tried again until they succeed. That’s the way the world works.

Unfortunately, the world also has pitfalls that can ultimately destroy the successful if they’re not vigilant. The Bible has many examples. Let’s look at Gideon.

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The folly of Solomon

Idolatry of Solomon / by Frans Francken II (1622)

Was Solomon wise? Huck Finn and Jim had a conversation on that very question, and Jim didn’t find any wisdom in him at all. The Bible says, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:28-30, NIV).

But it also says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness”’ (1 Corinthians 3:19).… Read the rest

What else do we know about Judas?

Judas

Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper, painting by Carl Bloch, late 19th century

Surely everyone knows that Judas, one of the Twelve, accepted 30 pieces of silver from the temple treasury to betray Jesus. He attended the Last Supper with the rest, left early, and led a large armed group to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested. After Jesus was sentenced to death, Judas threw the money back at the priests and committed suicide.

For centuries, many in the church have regarded Judas simply as the most despicable traitor in history. Even today, some writers seem to assume that he was a hypocrite who intended to betray Jesus from the start,

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Praying the Lord’s Prayer with Daniel

Wait a minute! Daniel was in the Old Testament and Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament? What does Daniel have to do with that?

In many churches, maybe most churches, the congregation recites every Sunday. Everyone has it memorized from the familiar King James translation. It is one of the few parts of today’s services where the language hasn’t been updated. It takes less than a minute. How many people actually pray it? Daniel did, as recorded in Daniel 9.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew

Lord's Prayer, chant notation

The Lord's Prayer, in Gregorian chant notation

Jesus gave the church a model prayer, not merely to be words to memorize.… Read the rest

Joshua’s courage–and fear

Joshua and Israelites

Joshua and the Israelite People / Karolingischer Buchmaler, ca. 840

“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”–Joshua 1:9, NRSV

Moses was dead. Joshua was scared. How do I know that? Because the Book of Joshua begins with God giving him a pep talk. Three times during that pep talk, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. When he got up from there and went out among the people, they told him to be strong and courageous.

So, was it wrong for Joshua to be scared? No.… Read the rest

Becoming Abraham


Map of Abram's journey

We know Abraham as the father of many nations. Arabs and Jews both claim him as their ancestor. His life story forms the very foundation of the basic Christian concept of justification by faith. He did not start out that way. We first meet him as a name at the tail end of one of the tiresome genealogies that make parts of the Bible so dry: “After Terah had lived 70 years he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran” (Genesis 11:26). How did this Abram grow to become the Abraham so many people revere?

God called Abram and he answered.… Read the rest

Samson: a wasted life of failure. Or was it?

What do you know about Samson?  Is he a Bible character you particularly admire or respect?

samson

Samson / N.C. Mallory

His story, told in four chapters in Judges, is full of foolish choices. He had a special weakness for Philistine women. His last Philistine girl friend, Delilah, kept bugging him to tell her the secret of his strength. Twice he lied to her, and twice she sent Philistine men to capture him. What kept him from turning his back on her instead of finally telling her the truth? And he had such a great start in life!

Samson’s call

The angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother, a barren woman.… Read the rest

Achan’s sin and the judgment and grace of God

Stoning of Achan

The stoning of Achan, Mid-fifteenth-century Flemish miniature

Achan appears in  the seventh chapter of Joshua. All the spoils of Jericho were supposed to be devoted to the Lord.

All of its gold and silver should have been taken to the treasury in the tabernacle and everything else destroyed by fire.

Achan helped himself to some gold, silver, and a beautiful robe and buried them in his tent.

God’s anger became apparent when the Israelite army suffered a humiliating defeat. He told Joshua to cast lots to find who sinned to cause it.

The lot fell to Achan. He confessed his deed.… Read the rest

Our pride and God’s patience: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream

People don’t like to wait for answers to prayer. But what about when God warns of something bad that will happen some time in the future? In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream that involved a large tree being chopped down. Daniel interpreted it and said the king would be driven from human society for seven years and then be restored. He also said that Nebuchadnezzar could avoid his fate by repentance from his sin. The king forgot all about it. God did not.

28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.

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Daniel’s vision of a blessed future

The book of Daniel contains some of the most obscure visions in Scripture. Weird looking beasts represent empires in Daniel’s future, but mostly our past. We can identify many rulers by name and understand references to what each of them did. The evil doings of Syrian King Antiochus IV appear at greater length, except there always seem to some details that don’t fit. They point to a coming Antichrist. I have recently touched on one of the visions in Thoughts on Bible prophecy: reading the future in Scripture. Daniel’s final vision relates the ultimate destruction of Antichrist and promises bodily resurrection for everyone afterward.… Read the rest