September 17

Our Plans and God’s, Part 2

Judges 20:14-28 “the children of Israel arose and went up to the house of God to inquire of God. They said, “Which of us shall go up first to battle against the children of Benjamin?” The LORD said, “Judah first!”

Then the children of Benjamin [defeated them].…Then the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying, “Shall I again draw near for battle against the children of my brother Benjamin?” And the LORD said, “Go up against him.” And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah on the second day, and cut down to the ground eighteen thousand more of the children of Israel….

Then all the children of Israel… went up and came to the house of God and wept. They sat there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. So the children of Israel inquired of the LORD…saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of my brother Benjamin, or shall I cease?” And the LORD said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand.”

Yesterday, we noted the progression of pressing into the Lord that the children of Israel did, as God used these dire circumstances to draw them closer to Himself. Yet there is a question that touches all our hearts that arises from this story: If God directs, does that mean victory every time?

Clearly, the answer is no, at least not in terms of victory as we would define it. It’s true that Israel should have asked the Lord if they should go into battle in the first place; asking how to conduct the battle was second best at most. God in His grace met them where they were, and gave direction. Yet they were defeated, not just once, but twice—and each time after asking the Lord for direction. It was only following the third and most sincere seeking of His face that He not only gave direction, but promised the victory they were looking for.

There are two lessons here. One is that obedience is victory, and that in following the Lord’s directives, Israel was victorious each time it obeyed. Military victory eventually came, but spiritual victory came the moment Israel listened and obeyed. We can and should consider our obedience as a victory, as in God’s eyes, it is!

The second is more sobering. Just because the Lord directs us to do something doesn’t guarantee that we will be “successful.” Did the Lord tell you to run for mayor, and you lost? Did he tell you to go for a job, and you didn’t get it? Did you follow Matthew 18:15-17 in great humility, only to be rebuffed? How many years did the great English abolitionist William Wilberforce present bills to abolish the slave trade, and how long did he work against slavery itself?

Sometimes it seems as if there are many “tries” involved, and we err if we assume that we “missed the Lord” if things don’t work out as planned. Sometimes He’s working to draw us closer (see yesterday’s devotional), and sometimes He’s working perseverance into us. Sometimes our very tries are witnesses to other people. Sometimes we are just walking in obedience, and it’s up to Him entirely how He chooses to use that obedience. The point isn’t our version of success; the point is obedience and trust that He knows what He’s doing.

Prayer: Father, help me to hear and obey, and then trust You for the results. I want to be satisfied in obeying, not just in getting what I hope for. Help me to focus on that, and to trust the rest to You.

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