Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shepastor: "From Why to What..."

Judges 1:12-15, NIV
12 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher."

13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.

14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him [1] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?"

15 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

“Moving from Why to What?”

This brief, intriguing passage of scripture is packed with meaning. Caleb is now old – probably too old to fight himself to secure the land for his heirs, so he puts out the message that whoever can stand and fight the battle for him and win the land – he will give that man his daughter for a prize.

Caleb’s nephew – Othniel rises to the challenge – wins the land and also the hand of Caleb’s daughter – Achsah. As a dowry gift, Caleb gives Othniel and Achsah the land of Negev. Now, one might say Achsah should have been thankful and happy that her father gave them some land. Land was and still is a precious thing.

But Achsah was not satisfied with this land. Some commentators have suggested that Achsah was selfish, unappreciative, pushy etc., because she tried to get her husband to go and ask her father for more. But when, evidently (the text does not say) Othniel didn’t go and ask, Achsah took it upon her self and said, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water."

As I mentioned earlier, some commentators took Achsah’s request as an example of greed, selfishness and pride. But I see something different in Achsah’s request. Her request, in my opinion raises some very serious questions.

First off, I wanted to understand what was wrong with the land of Negev? Biblical scholars suggest that Negev was an arid land. In other words, it was a land that was lacking in water. It was difficult, near impossible for things to grow there. It was dry, lifeless, and barren. Negev was like a desert land.

In light of that definition of Negev – a dry, lifeless, barren, fruitless land – I wondered why in the world would Caleb give his daughter and her husband a barren land for a wedding gift? I thought it strange that Caleb would give his daughter Achsah – who’s name literally means, “ankle bracelet or bangle” something beautiful, precious and worthy of being “shown off,” was given such horrible gift – a barren land! I thought it strange that this daughter – who a man was willing to put his life on the line in battle for – was given, as a wedding present – a barren, dry, desert land. So when we consider what Negev was actually like, her request for a land with some springs makes perfect sense.

And as I thought about what Achsah was given and her request, I thought about the dry land and parched places of our lives. Let me see if I can’t make this a little bit clearer…

The other day I heard a man on a radio broadcast share that he’d experienced a major tragedy in his life…the untimely death of his young son. A son that had all of the potential in the world…a son that was preparing to do great things in life…a son that hadn’t done anything to deserve this tragic end to his earthly life. The man was understandably devastated. He wrestled day and night trying to understand why. Why did this happen? How could this happen? What good could ever come from this unfathomable loss?

He went on to say that he sunk down very, very low, depressed…despondent…angry…confused…in a deep pit. Then one day, he met another father who’d also experienced tragic loss. The man shared that as long as he tried to figure out “why” he just continued to spiral downward. But when he changed his questioning from “why?” to “what?” He began to hear and see life differently. “Since this is my circumstance, since I am in this situation, since this thing has happened, What God? What next? What would you have me to do? What is to come from this? What do you want to do with me? What can this do for someone else?”

The tragic loss of a loved one is always difficult and daunting emotionally. But there are other losses as well that can baffle, shackle and oppress the soul. For some, life begins “at a loss.” Some grow up wondering, “why was I given this set of circumstances? What did I do to deserve this?”

This passage of scripture can assist us in not only processing the “dry lands” given to us, but how to respond and move forward.

There are some things in this life we are given that we don’t have any control over – we were given life, we were given our parents, we were given our gender, our race, our genetic predispositions, our bodies. Some were born into rich families, some into poor. Some were born into healthy households – some were born to crack addicts. Some were born to loving, caring, supportive parents, some were born to cruel, neglecting and discouraging parents.

We were given some things that we have no control over. They were just given. Those things that are good – we praise and thank God for. And while the scripture says that we are to give thanks in all things at all times, and yes, we should - there are seasons in our lives where we are not poised to give thanks – but to ask the question – “why Lord, have you given me this dry and barren land?”

It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give thanks, for Scripture says that “In everything, give thanks for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you.” But it does mean that there are times in our lives where thanksgiving is not our initial response. I am very thankful that we have a God, we have a Christ who is compassionate, willing and able to understand our human frailty. I am thankful that we have a God and we have a Christ who is willing and able to transition us from question, doubt, pain and fear to praise and thanks giving. But it is a journey.

How do we move from “Why?” to “What?”
How do we process – how can we be thankful? How can we embrace the sovereignty of God? I think the request of Achsah is instructive and can give us some help –

Achsah said, “Since you’ve given me this desert land – give me some springs also.” We don’t know why God has given us the circumstances of our lives – we don’t know why things have happened the way they have happened – things that we had no say or control over – but we can say, “Lord, I don’t know why you chose to let these things be a part of my life, but since you have – give me some springs in my dry land.” The operative word is, “since.”

In other words, you’ve asked somebody else to try and fix the situation for you. Maybe they like Othniel for what ever reason have not assisted you in getting some springs for your barren, dry land. But you, like Achsah can go to God and ask for some springs for yourself!

You can say, “Lord, I don’t know why I was born with bad health – but since I was – Lord show me how to live. You can say, “Lord, I don’t know why my family was so dysfunctional, why my mother was addicted to drugs – but Lord – give me the strength to live a healthy productive life.” Lord, I don’t know why I was born with a mental disorder – but Lord, help me to have good doctors who can guide me to the right types of medications that can keep my biochemistry in balance.”

Lord, I don’t know why my job was eliminated after I worked so hard, so diligently, but Lord supply all of my needs according to your riches in glory.

Whatever your dry land is today – like Achsah, you can say, “Lord, give me some springs for my desert!” Help me to move from “Why?” to “What?”

Look at what the Lord did for her… Caleb not only gave Achsah what she asked for, “a spring” but he gave her upper springs and lower springs. God will give you that which you need to refresh your soul and your spirit on the high mountain, and down in the low valley.

Just as Achsah’s name means “bracelet or bangle” something to show off in other words – God wants to show you off! God wants to lift you up. You are a precious prize. God wants to use you as a mighty testimony. Your trials, your struggles, your difficulties, your disappointments – all that you’ve been through – God is going to use it to lift you up higher and to glorify his name.

You will be used by God to let others know that no matter what difficulties occur in this life – if you hold to God’s unchanging hand – God who is sovereign will take your sorrow and turn it into joy. He will take your pain and turn it into peace. He will take your failure and turn it into faith. He will take your sadness and turn it into a surprise – He will water your dry and barren land.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring. Today we may be up and tomorrow we may be down – but God has promised to be with us every step of the way. He will take our bitter experiences and make them sweet. He will give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. God will take care of you.

Don’t give up. Don’t allow the devil to tell you that God does not love you. You are precious in his sight – ask him today – ask him right now to show you how to change your perspective. Ask him to show you how, since this thing has happened in your life – ask God to show you how to make it through and God will show up – God will water your dry land – God will provide springs in the desert.

Psalm 50:23 declares, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God."
(NIV). Sometimes, thanksgiving is a sacrifice. Sometimes changing our perspective is a sacrifice. It means that we don’t necessarily want to do it, aren’t sure, how to do it, don’t have the mind or the energy to do it. But because we love God, and we have chosen to lift Him up as the wise and sovereign God, we sacrifice our finite thoughts and choose to praise God – trusting and believing that He loves us, understands us, and is for us, not against us.

The scripture declares that when we sacrifice thank offerings to God – God is honored and he prepares the way so that He will show us his salvation. In other words, our faith, our trust, our belief that in the midst of it all, God is still good, God still sits high and looks low, God’s promises are still real, God is still a way maker, and as the saints of old would say, “a heart fixer and a mind regulator,” God is still sovereign, - God will take our pain, He will take our tears, He will take our disappointments, our struggles, and all of that which would cause us to give up and die – God will take all of those things back to the potter’s house, and He will refashion, reshape, reconfigure, reorganize, remold our broken, wounded, disheveled lives and fashion them into beautiful vessels, making us no longer victims, but victors!

We can look to our Savior Jesus Christ as the epitome of “what?” It was not fair that he had to leave his Father’s side, humble himself and become like a man – it was not fair that he was mocked and scorned and beaten all night long.

It was not fair that he had to be buried in a borrowed tomb when all he had to do was to call on ten thousand angels to come and deliver him from cruel mocking soldiers and a shameful death on the cross.

But because God is sovereign – Jesus went through all of that so that you and I could be saved. Because God is sovereign – Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the father pleading our case. Because God is sovereign, one day he is coming back again and every eye shall see it – every knee shall bow – every tongue shall confess –that He is Lord, Jesus is Lord – Jesus is Lord.

As you face your “why’s,” ask the Lord to help you to transition to “what?”

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Until Next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,
Pastor Chris

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