I was raised in a Christian home and always went to church and Sunday School as I was growing up. I knew the old hymns by heart and loved singing them. I also knew many passages of Scripture by heart. But it wasn’t until I was grown with children of my own that the Lord opened my eyes to see the grace and glory of the gospel and opened my heart to believe and surrender to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
It was then that I began to have an hunger for the Word. I just couldn’t get enough. I set my alarm to get up early every morning before my husband and children so I could curl up in a corner by the fireplace and read my Bible. Very soon I began going to Bible study, and I loved learning all I could. For three years I attended Bible study at my church and learned a great deal about the New Testament. I had a curiosity about the Old Testament too, but no one seemed to be interested in teaching that. It wasn’t until I moved with my family to Hawaii, and began attending Bible Study Fellowship, that I finally had a taste of studying the Old Testament. And that opened a whole new world of understanding for me.
I knew and had responded to the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had humbled Himself to come to earth in a perishable human body and had willingly given His life on the cross for our sins. The New Testament taught me that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and so, to atone for our sins, Christ had to die. And He was the only one who could do that because He was the only sinless human being. But where did all this come from? Why did God make these demands?
As I began studying the Old Testament at BSF, I began to get answers to all my questions. I learned how sin had entered the world and how it corrupted the hearts and lives of people. I learned how God had chosen Abraham and his descendants to be His people and to become a nation through whom the whole world would be blessed. I learned how much God hated sin - about His holiness and how men and women, as sinners, cannot stand in His presence.
I learned how the people of Israel were called to make animal sacrifices, offering the blood of an animal as a substitute for their own sin and to expiate their sin, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11). I learned how, on the night the Hebrew people were delivered from slavery in Egypt, God had commanded that each family sacrifice a spotless lamb and put the blood on their doorposts. It was the blood of that spotless lamb that saved their firstborn from death and set them free.
It was through all this that I came to understand why Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). And as I studied the Old Testament, I found there is so much more to help me understand and love God. The Old Testament is a picture of what God was to do for the world in the future. The Old Testament and the prophets all looked ahead to Jesus and what He would do. As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12). Many Old Testament prophecies even look ahead into our future and beyond.
A favorite part of the Old Testament are the Minor Prophets. They are not called “minor” because they are less important, but because they are shorter than the long prophetic books like Ezekiel, and Isaiah. For me, shorter makes them easier to grasp, understand, and apply to my life. I have learned many important truths from the Minor Prophets that have helped me know how to live for God and live a happy and productive life.
So in the upcoming weeks, I want to share with you some wonderful truths I have learned from the Minor Prophets. In each of the upcoming posts, I will share from one of the Minor Prophets, beginning with Hosea and working through to Malachi. I hope you will stick with me and take a peek into the lives of those prophets and the timeless truths they had to share. May God give you a hunger for His Word and a heart’s desire to understand it well.
I’ll be looking forward to seeing you in two weeks.
With love, because God first loved us,
Over the past weeks and months, we have been taking a look at the heroes of faith in Hebrews Chapter 11, and hopefully you have been inspired and encouraged by the men and women honored there. All of those listed in Hebrews 11 are there for one reason: their faith. Their lives were examples of faith that always chooses God, walks with God, trusts Him, obeys Him, overcomes fear, goes forward, keeps on believing, looks to the future, and never gives up. They are men and women who were saved by faith and experienced victory in their lives by faith.
It can be a little daunting to read through that Hall of Fame of the faithful, study the lives of those great Old Testament heroes, and then turn and take a look in the mirror at ourselves. Would our lives ever qualify us to be added to the list of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab? There were many more too, and some are listed in Hebrews 11:32: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. These were men who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to fight. And then, if we read and consider the whole Old Testament, many more names come to mind. One in particular comes to my mind, and that is Deborah. Deborah has been my hero since I was a young girl and first heard about her story. If it had not been for Deborah and her faith, the Israelites might have been decimated by the Canaanite armies.
Deborah was a prophetess from the tribe of Ephraim. She sat under a palm tree in her yard, and the people of Israel came to her for judgment. One day, perhaps as she sat under her palm tree, the Lord instructed her to call Barak, a military leader from the tribe of Naphtali, and give him the command to take 10,000 men and confront Sisera and the Canaanite army at Mount Tabor. God’s promise to Barak (through Deborah) was “I will draw out to you Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and many troops to the river Kishon; and I will give him into your hand.” Barak agreed to go, but he had one condition. Deborah had to go with him. Graciously and with courage, Deborah agreed.
So Deborah, Barak, and the ten thousand men went up to Mount Tabor. When Sisera was informed, he gathered nine hundred iron chariots and all of his mighty armies and headed for the confrontation. On the Lord’s chosen day, the day He would lead the way and give victory, He gave Deborah the order to attack, and she relayed it to Barak. So Barak got up, summoned his men, and they went forward to fight. You can read the story of the miraculous battle and how God gave victory that day in Judges Chapter 5. Every single one of Sisera’s army was annihilated. And only Sisera escaped - on foot.
As he fled, Sisera came to the tent of Heber who was a Kenite, part a band of desert nomads descended from Moses’ father-in-law. Jael, Heber’s wife was home alone that day, and she came out of her tent and offered Sisera a cup of milk and a place to rest. He went in and received her hospitality. Then Jael took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. (Hebrews 4:21). Later in the day, Barak came by in search of Sisera, and Jael showed him the dead body.
So the mighty Canaanite army was defeated that day, through faith. The faith actually began with Deborah who had the courage to summon Barak, a military commander, and give him an order in the name of the Lord. The faith that finished the day was the brave act of an itinerant desert woman, Jael. Barak received the recognition in the Book of Hebrews, for after all, he had the faith to follow and obey a woman, God’s prophetess, Deborah.
Deborah will always be the hero in my mind. She was a prophetess and a judge, but she was also a simple housewife who sat under a palm tree and dispensed wisdom to those who came to her. I grew up having the vision in my mind of myself sitting under a palm tree and sharing God’s Word with all who would come. It makes me smile to think that in a way I am doing that now, but in a very 21st century way. I live in Hawaii and palm trees grow around my home and I am blessed to sit here at my laptop, which I can take outside under the palms if I like, and share God’s Word with people by writing and by providing Bible study lessons with people all over the world through the ministry of Disciplers.
As far as I’m concerned, everything God does is a miracle. The fact that faith could even dwell in my heart, or in any of our hearts, is a miracle. And everything God accomplishes through any of our lives is a miracle of faith. If you haven’t read Hebrews Chapter 11, the Hall of Fame of the faithful, I would encourage you to do so. And dig deeper into God’s Word to find out more about those faithful people. Then be encouraged and find the courage to step out in faith wherever God is calling you. Don’t be afraid to dream big, no matter how young or old you are. We are all miracles of faith.
P.S. I would also encourage you to read the story of Deborah, Barak, and Jael in Judges 4. And then, go on and read Chapter 5, the song of victory that Deborah and Barak sang together. I know you will be blessed!
If you’re familiar at all with the Bible, you probably know the story of the battle of Jericho. There was even a song written about it back in 1940 and made popular twenty years later by none other than Elvis Presley. In the September 2nd blog, I wrote about the faith of Joshua and the Israelites obeying God and seeing His mighty power in leveling the walls of that great city. But now let’s look at the battle from the other side - from the side of the people of Jericho, and one person in particular: Rahab. The account of Israel’s marching seven times around the city, then blowing the rams horns and shouting, and experiencing victory by the miracle of God, is exciting, encouraging, and inspiring. But the story of Rahab is marvelous and indeed miraculous. It is the story of one woman, living in the midst of a sinful city, and living a life of sin. But the beauty and power of the story lies in her faith - her simple, unassuming, courageous, active, obedient, patient, saving faith in God. So lets get to know Rahab.
Rahab lived as a prostitute in a house that was built into the massive wall that surrounded the great pagan city of Jericho. The people of that city had been hearing about the Israelites ever since they left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, leaving the Egyptian army drowned in their wake. They had heard how the Israelites had overcome and destroyed the great armies of Og, king of Bashan and Sihon, king of the Amorites. And when they learned the Israelites were camped just across the Jordan River, fear filled their hearts. Rahab was afraid too, but unlike the rest of that sinful city, Rahab decided to align herself with the God of Israel rather than cling to the immoral and pagan ways of the city she called home.
So when Joshua sent two men to spy out the city, Rahab invited them into her home and provided them with shelter and protection. She also gave them vital information to take back to Joshua, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you…..and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9, 11).
When the king of Jericho heard there were Israelite spies in the city, he sent men to search for them. They were directed to Rahab’s house, but she did not give them up. Instead, she hid them and sent the king’s men off on a wild goose chase in search of them. When night fell and the city gates were closed, Rahab helped the spies escape by letting them down by a rope through her window on the city wall. She also gave them instructions on where to go to avoid the king’s men.
But before they left, Rahab asked the spies to spare her life and the lives of those in her family when they came back to take the city of Jericho. The spies agreed and gave her a red cord to tie in her window. The cord would identify Rahab’s house and the Israelites would not harm her. Rahab was to gather all of her family into her home and all who were inside would be saved on the day of destruction. She agreed. And then she waited.
She waited through the days it took for the spies to return to Joshua.
She waited through the days it took for the Israelites to prepare and then cross the Jordan River.
She waited through the days when Joshua circumcised all the men of Israel who had not been circumcised during the march in the wilderness.
She waited, looking out through her window at the encampment of Israel spread across the plains around Jericho.
She waited six more days as the people of Israel marched once daily around Jericho in silence.
She waited and her faith endured.
Then, after completing their march around Jericho on the seventh day, the priests blew the trumpets, and the people shouted, and the walls of the city fell down flat. There was nothing left except one house on the wall with a red cord hanging in the window. It was Rahab’s house, a house of faith. God judged the sinners but He spared those who believed in Him.
The red cord in the window was a symbol of Rahab’s faith. Do you remember, on the night God led the people of Israel out of Egypt? They had painted the blood of a lamb on their doorposts to avert the angel of death and to spare their firstborn. That blood was the sign of their faith, the sign that they believed God would do what He had promised. In the same way, Rahab’s red cord proclaimed her faith in God. That red blood and the red cord also look ahead to the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the only thing that cleanses and saves us. God’s grand plan of redemption, like a scarlet cord runs through the entire Bible.
The story of Rahab in the book of Joshua ends with these words: However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Joshua 6:25). But that is not the end of her story. Rahab became a part of the people of Israel, marrying Salmon, from the tribe of Judah (perhaps one of the spies). She gave birth to a son, Boaz, who married Ruth the Moabitess who gave birth to Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of king David: the line of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1). And that is the marvelous part of this story. It was not only Rahab’s life that was saved through faith - her soul was saved too. She became, not just a part of the nation of Israel, but a part of the family of God - by faith. Rahab's was a simple faith in God, tested by helping the spies, waiting patiently for God’s timing, and obeying the simple command to hang the red cord in her window. Through faith Rahab's life testifies to that scarlet cord of redemption
Rahab's exemplary faith in God is recorded in His Word and she is cited among the heroes of faith in the Book of Hebrews. By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace (Hebrews 11:21).
May God bless you with faith like Rahab’s
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.