Judges 1:1-18 (Part 3) – Keep Plowing the Field In Front of You!

Posted: July 24, 2017 in Book of Judges
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Judges 1:1-18 (Part 3 of 3)
Judah and Simeon Conquer the Land

Last night, I was having a discussion with a friend who is a ministry leader in our church. He has calling to his ministry and honestly wants to do the right thing by it. However, right at the moment, he is feeling boxed in about how he is to lead the ministry after having a meeting with our discipleship associate pastor. One of the things that we discussed was about seems to have become my mantra of late. That mantra that has been laid on my heart constantly for the last few months is “to keep plowing the field in front of you!” Sometimes, we may get bitter or upset over the turn of events in our lives when we feel like we have done everything that God has asked of us but you seem to come up empty or you seem not to get what God has promised you.

As I have discussed here many times before about my desire to be in full-time ministry. I have done what God has led me to do – to go to seminary to get my Master of Christian Ministry (MCM) degree and am even now working on my Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) degree. My assumption was that right after graduation there would be my church or another church waiting on me after I stepped down from the stage with my MCM degree in hand ready to offer me a job or that he would make it immediately clear as to what I was supposed to do. However, here we are three years later, and I have only come close to being in full-time service to the Lord once. I thought I had a job in Wooster, OH at a church there in the bag. I had made it through three job interviews, one of which was on-site over a weekend. However, it did not turn out that way because they felt that I did not see the job “as my destination job!” Ever since then, and as I have begun working on my doctorate, that mantra that the Holy Spirit has drilled into my head is “to keep plowing the field in front of you!” In other words, God does not want me to worry about what may be happening around me (in the present) or in front of me (in the future). He just wants me to be faithful at what I am doing now.

What I am doing now is serving Him at my church as the director of finance and as a teacher in our discipleship stake of ministry. The Lord has taken away the bitterness that I have been feeling because of that idea being pounded into my head. It is an assurance that if I will trust the Lord even in the circumstances that don’t seem to exactly what I thought the calling would look like that it will be rewarded. I am having to learn to truly trust the Lord that He has a purpose for it all. I am having to trust that God is using what I am doing right now as rounding me out to prepare me for what He has in store for me after I finish plowing this field. I can easily think that God has abandoned the call He has placed on my life but the trust thing is the thing that I think that I am learning. God has a purpose for everything. He has no randomness and capriciousness in Him. He would not have made me feel as though I am called to full-time ministry and then say He was just kidding. Be faithful and plow the field and front of you and I will see if you really do trust your Father in heaven to know what is best for you and what you need right now and what you will need to be prepared after you finish plowing this field.

Another aspect of this too is this is one thing I wished I had shared last night with my friend and fellow ministry leader. Sometimes, God holds off on opening the gates to a ministry calling because there is some character flaw or something lacking in our leadership that we must deal with. Leaders should be held to a higher standard than the flock of believers that they lead. Is there something that is characteristic of a leader in the church that sets an example for the flock that I am not doing that I should be. Is there some character flaw that I need to identify and work on because in full-time ministry whatever our character flaws are, they will be magnified and exposed? I know that I need to work on my prayer life for example. I am weak in taking specific time to pray. I may be faithful here daily in writing my blog as my way of meditating upon Scripture, as we are supposed to do as Christ followers, but I know my prayer life, that time of intimacy with God with no distractions, is something I am lacking in. I need to ask my friend that same question. Which of the spiritual disciplines are you weak in? Another is examining what of my habits and behaviors could be create a stumbling block for others in their walk with the Lord. Maybe it is during this time of crisis in my friend’s ministry that He must take time to examine his spiritual weaknesses and potential stumbling block habits and behaviors.

While we are being faithful even the face of crisis circumstances or where circumstances are not playing out the way we want them to, we must remain faithful to the Lord and what He has called us to. It is during these times of crisis or times when nothing seems to be happening the way we envisioned that we must trust the Lord and keep plowing the field. We must learn faithfulness in adversity. We must learn faithfulness when there are no obvious results or payback. Maybe the Lord is testing me and my friend to see if we will remain faithful in a crisis (for my friend) and when you are waiting for something to happen (me). We must sometimes keep plowing the field when everything seems to be swirling around us and we don’t understand what is happening. We must keep plowing the field when nothing is happening or nothing is happening as fast as we want or in the way we want.

This passage made me think of “keep plowing the field in front of you” this morning as go through this passage one more time before we move on to the next one. What struck me this morning was the reference to Caleb in vv. 12-15 of this passage. Let’s read through this passage together now, Judges 1:1-18, with a special eye out for the verses 12-15:

1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”

2 The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.”

3 The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.

4 When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.

9 After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).

12 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah 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 Aksah to him in marriage.

14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him[a] 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.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

16 The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms[b] with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.

17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed[c] the city. Therefore it was called Hormah.[d] 18 Judah also took[e] Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.

In this passage, we see that the event with Caleb and his daughter Acsah and son-in-law Othniel is repeated once again from the book of Joshua (Joshua 15:16-19). Caleb was one of the original men sent out to scout out the Promised Land and with Joshua, encouraged the people to conquer it. For Caleb’s faithfulness all of those years, he was given the land of his choice.

In this passage, we know that Caleb was rewarded and given some choice lands that he shared with his daughter and son-in-law. What we don’t see is that Caleb was faithful to the Lord even when things didn’t seem to go his way. He felt like the Israelites could conquer the land but the whole nation decided that he was wrong and decided to follow the majority opinion that the land was not conquerable. The Israelites then spent forty years wandering in the barren wilderness of the Sinai peninsula. It would have been very easy for Caleb to become bitter while wandering in the desert even though he was one of the two who said the conquest could be done. He could have lost his way. He could have become bitter. He could have relinquished his leadership role and said “screw it! I am done!” But He didn’t. He apparently remained faithful to what the Lord had placed in front of him even when it was not turning out the way he had envisioned. This is not directly stated in Scripture, but he must have been faithful and trusting of the Lord through the wilderness wanderings because as soon as it’s time to dole out the Promised Land to the tribes, Caleb get rewarded for his faithfulness.

Just think of Joseph, one of Abraham’s sons, when in Egypt, he had made somewhat of a place for himself in the new land in which he found himself. He had worked his way up into being the head servant at Potiphar’s house. He had seemingly gained balance in his life and recovered, in a way, from being sold into slavery by his brothers. So he finds some equilibrium. Things get to be going OK. Then, bam, he gets accused of crime he did not commit. He’s thrown into prison. And…he remains there for 12 years. I am sure that Joseph had his bad days with it but in general Joseph trusted in the Lord that there was a purpose in him being there. He served faithfully there. He became so trusted by his jailors that he was placed as the head of the prisoners, the head trustee, kind of like the president of the workers union. It was while he was there that because of who some of the past prisoners had been that Joseph was brought before the Pharoah to interpret his troublesome dreams. From there, Joseph goes on to become the second most powerful man in Egypt. Without Joseph the Egyptian empire would have crumbled and His own family would have starved. If his family had starved, there would be no earthly lineage for Jesus. Joseph did not know that it would be through his people that Jesus Christ would come but he simply was a faithful servant of the Lord. He plowed the field in front of him even when it just did not seem right to him. He just plowed. He trusted that God had some purpose in the current events of his life and he kept plowing.

To my friend, I say keep plowing brother. Just keep trusting the Lord. Just keep doing what is in front of you. It may not be the way you like it or the way you envisioned it to be, but keep plowing. These are the times that God tests our faithfulness and our obedience to Him. When we trust Him and keep plowing, he will reward it down the line. Like He did with Caleb and Joseph.

Amen and Amen.

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