Torah reading: Exodus 13:17 – 17:16
Haftorah reading: Judges 4:4 – 5:31
Torah reading: Exodus 13:17 – 17:16
Haftorah reading: Judges 4:4 – 5:31
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or tremble at them for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. 31:6
A timely message indeed to a world that seemingly has much to fear. Societal unrest, terrorism, monster storms like the one bearing down this very day on the southeastern part of the United States, conflict among nations – all of these and more can cause ‘men’s hearts to faint’ as the Scripture says elsewhere.
Yet the word to us this week is ‘Be strong and courageous…’ What is courage?
Courage is grace under pressure.
Karl Barth wrote that Courage is fear that has said its prayers.
Someone else has said that Courage is doing what you are afraid to do; that there is no courage unless there is something to be afraid of.
There are many examples of courage exercised in the Bible: Moses before the Pharaoh,
David as he faced down Goliath, Abigail as she saved the entire household of Nabal
and Esther when she went before the king to save the Jews, to name just a few.
Courage always starts on the inside, in our inner man. We learn His instructions and commit to living by them, regardless of others’ opinions, knowing He has promised to be with us and never leave us. He goes with us into every difficult situation in life. Is He is for us – and He is – who can be against us?
Courage takes a stand and makes things right. If we submit to peer pressure and follow the crowd, we lower ourselves to their level. By standing firmly on our convictions, we invite them to a higher standard. Even if 20 million people believe in an irrational idea, it’s still irrational! Numbers do not give credibility to the idea. Only the truth and righteousness found in God’s word gives credibility to any idea. Simply swimming with the tide leaves you nowhere. If you believe in something that’s good, honest and bright — stand up for it 100%. We are to be God’s change agents in this world.
Courage is contagious, have you noticed? It’s something like a wildfire. Once it starts to spread, there isn’t much you can do to stop it. One act of courage and change an entire nation. Again, think of Esther whose one act of courage saved the Jewish people from extinction.
Courage is the product of a person following God. Courage will take you beyond your self-imposed limitations. Courage is knowing that when I walk with God and obey Him, the very worst that could happen cannot really hurt me. Courage stretches you beyond where you are now. It takes you to a higher level in life and enables you to serve God to the best of your ability and reach the potential He planted in you when He created you.
Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It is bravery, fearlessness, boldness, audacity and daring, empowered by the grace of God.
Joshua certainly needed courage to assume the leadership of the children of Israel upon the death of Moses. Imagine what that must have been like. Moses has been in charge for forty years; Moses has seen God on the mountain top; Moses heard their problems and found solutions and so much more. Imagine how you would feel being called to follow a leader like Moses! Is it any wonder that Moses said to Joshua more than once, ‘Be strong and courageous. The Lord will be with you as He was with me.’
In Tune with Torah this week = is there a person, a situation, a problem that you are reluctant to face, to deal with though you know you need to? The word of the Lord to us this week is ‘Be strong and very courageous for the Lord your God is with you.’
Genesis 23:1 – 25:18
This week’s Torah portion focuses on the story of how Rebekah became Isaac’s wife. Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, went to the area where Abraham’s relatives lived and in a series of remarkable events obviously directed by the God of Israel, he is made to know that Rebekah will be the perfect match for his master Abraham’s son. After negotiating with her family, Eliezer brings Rebekah back with him. After hearing how God had directed his father’s servant in finding Rebekah, Isaac receives her. The Torah describes that moment for us:
Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah, his mother, and he married Rebekah. She was his wife, and he loved her. Then Isaac was comforted after the death of his mother. (Genesis 24:67)
Let’s think about this for a minute. Rebekah has grown up in her parents’ home and to this point we can only assume she’s had a ‘normal’ life. Without the benefit of knowing any later events, think of Rebekah getting up that morning, completely unaware that her entire life’s course would change that very day. She had no foreknowledge that Abraham’s servant was en route to their home. Remember – no phones, no fax machines, no internet!
She went about her ‘normal’ day, like any other day. When it was time to draw water at the well, she made her way there as she had so many times before. Seeing a stranger with an entourage of camels and servants, she understood they were travelers. Her upbringing had taught her to be kind to strangers and she did what came naturally. She offered Eliezer a drink of water and declared she would draw water for the camels as well – all ten of them!
Friends, this was no small task! It’s a known fact that a thirsty camel can drink up to 25 gallons of water or more at one time. These camels had been traveling for several day, laden with goods and gifts. Other servants accompanied Eliezer as well.
Let’s suppose that the camels only drank 10 gallons of water (most likely a gross underestimate). That means that this young girl with a bucket, drew out well over 100 gallons of water from the village well in order to provide hospitality to this caravan of strangers. And all this was BEFORE she knew anything about the reason for their presence!
Eliezer had prayed and asked God for a very specific sign – that the young woman whom God had chosen for Isaac would offer him water and to the camels as well. Rebekah didn’t know that. She did what she’d been taught to do – and her entire life and destiny was sealed by that selfless, exhausting act.
I wonder sometimes whether in the course of hauling more and more water, she wondered if the camels would ever be satisfied. Did she stop and wipe the sweat from her brow as she prepared to lower the bucket again? It was, after all, the Middle East where all this was happening. It was a tiresome, difficult task which Rebekah did willingly and kindly. In so doing, she embraced unknowingly the destiny for which she was born.
We sometimes think that the great moments of our lives are defined by a heroic or unusual event. The truth is that most of the time we have no idea until much later the power of an act of kindness and/or faithfulness. Our responsibility is simply to choose to do right, to be gracious to stranger and friend alike and only later it may be revealed that the most mundane service we provided was in fact the moment when our destiny became attainable.
In Tune with Torah this week = never underestimate the power of an act of kindness and hospitality towards others. Do what is right because it’s the right thing to do and leave the results to God.