God’s sense of humor
Esther 6: Haman fled to his house, thoroughly mortified.
If you like a good story with both drama and comedy, you have to enjoy the Book of Esther. Xerxes, upon reading the journal of his kingdom through a sleepless night discovers Mordecai’s heroic deed and realizes that Mordecai was never properly rewarded. The next morning as he’s still thinking about this Haman shows up so Xerxes asks for his advice concerning a proper reward for such a great man. Haman immediately assumes that this “national hero” he’s being asked about is himself, so he describes an honor that he would thoroughly enjoy: a chance to dress up like the king and be treated as the king. To his horror, Xerxes orders him to do it. However, instead of it being Haman who’s honored, it will be the man Haman hates the most: Mordecai. As I imagine this story being told by Jewish people to one another, I can almost hear the laughter at this unexpected turn of events. The picture of Haman leading the horse and the praise of Mordecai brings a smile to the face even when we’ve read the story many times. No big devotional thought here; just a reminder of God’s great sense of humor.
Take Away: The Lord delights in turning the tables on situations.
Yuck, yuck, yuck!
1 Samuel 6: Five gold tumors and five gold rats
Not only is the Ark causing problems for the Philistine idol Dagon some bad things are happening in their cities and in the very personal lives of their citizens as well. First, and reminiscent of the plagues of Egypt many years earlier, there’s a rat infestation in the land. These nasty rodents are showing up everywhere and getting into everything. Second, there’s an outbreak of (ahem) hemorrhoids among the population. Knowing what happened to poor old Dagon, and having heard the story of the plagues of Egypt, the leaders of the cities of the Philistines want to let the Chest of God go even as Pharaoh let the Israelites go. Their priests come up with a plan that includes sending a peace offering along with the Ark. What an offering it is: golden replicas of the rats and (get this) the (politely called) “tumors.” Can’t you imagine the look on the faces of the people of Beth Shemesh when they open the bag containing those replicas! It all sounds weird to us, but from the Philistine’s point of view it’s a desperate effort to make peace with the God of Israel. I think people today still do some strange things in an attempt to get on the good side of God. However, it’s unnecessary. God has already built that bridge and all we have to do is “cross it.” (Get it? “Cross” it). No golden rats or tumors are necessary.
Take Away: It doesn’t take golden rats to make peace with God.
Judges 7: You have too large an army with you.
The Lord has such a sense of humor. Gideon’s been rounding up the troops to take on the mighty Midian army and he’s done a pretty good job of it. Now they’re on their way into battle, but first, God has some trimming to do. First, those who are afraid are invited to leave. Two thirds of the army decides this is a good time to go home. Then, as they get a drink of water, the few who show “battle sense” are kept while everyone else goes home. Gideon was reluctant enough to take on this fight. He must be beside himself as the Lord keeps whittling down his army. He’s now left with just 300 fighters. Of course, God has a purpose in all this. Even as we see the Lord’s disqualification of almost all of Gideon’s army, we see that the Lord is quite intentional here. If Gideon’s large force wins a victory they’ll take all the credit for it. The Lord wants not only to bring deliverance to Israel, but to restore them to himself as well. I believe proper preparation for things I attempt is wise and reasonable, but I also know that the ultimate Source in my life is, not my plans and resources, but my Lord. Sometimes, he has to whittle down my approach so, when it all works out, I’ll know who it is that gets the credit. And, as he does it, I think he’s smiling to himself.
Take Away: The Lord loves turning the tables and doing the impossible.
Before you take that leap
Proverbs 25: Don’t jump to conclusions — there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw.
This proverb reminds me of a story a good friend told me about himself. This pastor was visiting a lady, not one of his church members, who was at an advanced age. She asked him if he would take her to the store and the pharmacy to pick up a few things. He agreed. This lady had consumed a can of beer as part of her daily routine all her life. Apparently, along with needing some other items, she had run out of her supply of beer, so that was one of the items on her short shopping list. When she got back into the car, before he knew it, she popped the top on a can, remarking, “Whew, I need this!” He took her to the pharmacy down the street, and, once again, before he knew it, she thrust the open can into his hand, saying, “Hold this while I pick up my prescription.” He was sitting there in the car, holding an open can of beer when it seemed the Lord laughingly spoke to him, “Walter, I don’t want you to ever judge anyone by mere appearances again.” Had anyone who knew him walked by the car at that moment, word would have spread like wildfire that the Nazarene pastor was not only drinking — but was drinking and driving!
Take Away: As Jesus said, “judge not.”