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Perseverance vs Fruitlessness

Tue, Aug 6, 2013

Featured, Living Life

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-winter-tree-landscape-image28728805In Judges 19 & 20, there’s a story of how the Israelites went to war against one of their own tribes – the Benjamites.  As to why that happened, it’s really a rather macabre tale, filled with sex and violence.  In a nutshell, the Israelites had wanted the people of Benjamin to deliver to them a group of men who were responsible for raping and killing a woman, but the Benjamites refused to hand them over.  So the Israelites went to God to ask about fighting against their brothers.

“The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God.  They said, ‘Who of us shall go first to fight against the Benjamites?’  The LORD replied, ‘Judah first.’” (Jdg 20:18, NIV)

At this point, Israel had 400,000 men against Benjamin’s 26,700.  They go to war but, against the odds, the Israelites lose (22,000 of their men dying in the process).  They then go back to God, feeling what I imagine to be somewhat stunned, and probably wondering if they were doing the right thing in the first place.

God tells them to fight again.  So they do, and this time 18,000 more of their men die.  Distraught, they go back to God a third time, and this time God tells them that he would deliver the Benjamites to them.  And so it was on their third attempt that they finally succeeded.

Before I read this story I had the notion that if God told me to do something and I did it, I would be successful.  If I wasn’t, then I had obviously heard God wrongly – after all, “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit…” (Lk 6:44, NIV)  But perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to judge something just because there’s no immediate fruit.  Sometimes all that’s needed is a bit of perseverance in the face of apparent failure.

Even Jesus didn’t have instant success with his disciples: after spending over 3 years with them, all day, every day, Jesus still confronted the cross with a bunch of men who betrayed him, denied him, abandoned him and doubted him, and couldn’t pray to save their lives.  In the end it all worked out, and his disciples changed the world, but there didn’t seem to be much fruit right up until then.  And if it took Jesus more than 3 years – well, I suppose we might sometimes need a bit of time too.

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9, NIV)

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    A Question of Law

    Fri, Apr 12, 2013

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