Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's OK to Be Me

Last night, when I looked at my plan to see what I'd be reading, I was a little overwhelmed with the thought of 6 chapters in Judges. And when I began reading, I realized this passage was not just a list of who "begat" who...

In the first chapter, I had to consult my favorite commentary -- my dad. I'd never heard of the practice described there. 

"While at Bezek they encountered King Adoni-bezek and fought against him, and the Canaanites and Perizzites were defeated. Adoni-bezek escaped, but the Israelites soon captured him and cut off his thumbs and big toes.  Adoni-bezek said, “I once had seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off, eating scraps from under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” 
(Judges 1:5-7)

Cutting off big toes and thumbs of captured kings? I knew there had to be some sort of reason. My dad told me it was to debilitate him. These captured kings would no longer be able to grasp things or walk properly. It was another method of belittling him in the midst of his defeat. 

Judges also sees to have a pattern - God delivers the Isrealites in a miraculous way. That generation dies or grows old. Then the people forget what God has done and start doing their own thing. Then, once again, they find themselves in bondage, needing help from the Deliverer. 

The strangeness (or gore) continued...God sent a judge to take care of another wicked ruler in a bit of a disgusting way. 

"The dagger went so deep that the handle disappeared beneath the king’s fat. 
So Ehud did not pull out the dagger, and the king’s bowels emptied."
(Judges 3:22)

At this point, I was beginning to wonder if I would begin to dread my reading on Tuesday for the duration of the book of Judges. But then I stumbled across one of my favorite Bible stories of all time. 

In college, I took a course entitled "Biblical Perspective on Women." In the 16 week semester, a class of 15 girls studied women of the Bible - it was such an encouraging class. I was able to rejoice with them in the midst of their triumph. Cry with them in the moments of defeat.  I was able to identify with so many of the women, seeing that they often struggle with the same issues I deal with.

For some reason, I had in my head that a "good Christian lady" would always possess and meek and quiet spirit. Those of you who know my personally can understand my inward turmoil. In all those personality tests, I scored equally as high in Melancholy and Choleric. Meaning, I am a perfectionist that likes to be in charge, keeping things in perfect order. 

Imagine my surprise the morning the story of Deborah was presented in class. I had heard this story over and over while I traveled on the signing team - it was presented to the kids each week with a chalk drawing.  After asking my talented friend Amanda if she had a picture of her chalk drawing from way back when, she quickly sketched this for me during her kid's naptime. (Check out more of Amanda's artwork here, on her blog) It's exactly how I feel this story should be illustrated - such determination on Deborah's face as she went with Sisera into battle.

But before this class, I never had thought about how these women of the Bible related to me. 
The basic gist of the story is that Deborah was a prophetess appointed by God. One day, she called for Barak to deliver a special message from the Lord. 
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.”
  Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.”
  “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor
in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” 
So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.
(Judges 4:6-9)
Sure enough the enemy showed up with 900 iron chariots. 
Image from here. This is where the battle took place at Mt Tabor.
 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Get ready! 
This is the day the Lord will give you victory over Sisera, 
for the Lord is marching ahead of you.” So Barak led his 10,000
warriors down the slopes of Mount Tabor into battle. When Barak attacked, the
Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and warriors into a panic. 
Sisera leaped down from his chariot and escaped on foot.  
Then Barak chased the chariots and the enemy army all the way 
to Harosheth-haggoyim, killing all of Sisera’s warriors. 
Not a single one was left alive.  
(Judges 4:14-16)
The Lord had used Deborah as a leader - the Lord had used her to go with Barak to defeat Sisera's army. Sure enough, a woman was the one credited with defeating Sisera. Sisera ran to a tent of a woman named Jael, asking for a drink. He laid down for a quick nap. Little did he know, that would be his last nap - While he slept Jael drove a tent peg through his temple. 
On this day, God used two strong women to accomplish His purpose. Now, I am not saying that I want to be the woman that drives a tent peg through someone's head, but I am glad to know that God has a place for those women who have leadership qualities. I'm not sure why I doubted God - if He equipped me with these personality tendencies, then He must have a reason and plan to use them! I had listened to the lie of Satan too long, telling me that I would have to completely change who I am in order to be used by God. 
Last night, as I finished reading the first six chapters of Judges, I was encouraged. What a great day in class that was when the story of Deborah was presented - It's ok to be me. In fact, I think God prefers that I be the woman He created me to be!

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