Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “Old Testament”

WHY WHACKED OUT STORIES IN THE BIBLE ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE

For those of you who think the Bible is out of date, irrelevant, and boring think again. The Old Testament is chock full of crazy stories, that not only make you scratch your head and say, “Seriously?” but they’re ripe with application for life today.

Check this out…

Many of you have heard this story before, but maybe not in this light. So hold on and read this whole thing…

There was this super old guy named Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham). He was married to this super old chick named Sarai (whose name was later changed to Sarah). Not something we do much of today, but God—who changed their names—can pretty much do what He wants, right?

So these old folks have no kids. And they’re way past childbearing age. Like waaayy past. Abraham is around 85 years old, and Sarah is around 75. Sarah—feeling every bit of her old age—gets a bright idea to give her maid Hagar to Abraham to sleep with so that in some whacked out way they’ll have a family.

Seriously?

Yep.

Believe it or not, this works. Hagar gets pregnant by 85-year-old Abraham. And guess who’s feeling left out of the picture now? You got it…Sarah! Ya’ think? Totally! Dumb on her, but apparently that was normal back then.

Hagar, now prego with Abraham’s baby, begins to look down on Sarah. According to Sarah, Hagar was disrespectful to her and treated her like she was nothing. So get this…Sarah blames Abraham for the whole thing.

Wait, seriously? Wasn’t this debacle Sarah’s idea in the first place?

Yep.

In her frustration and lashing out at Abraham, Sarah says, “May the Lord decide who is right—you or me!” Now she’s bringing God into this mess, hoping He’ll side with her, not Abraham.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. And here’s where I get to the point of my blog. Abraham responds to Sarah by saying, “You decide. Your maid is your business.”

(As a side note, Sarah was probably angry at Abraham, Hagar, and God. She was the one who was barren. She made the choice to take matters in her own hands and create what she thought to be an amicable solution. But when it backfired, her anger probably ran deeply to those three in closest proximity—Abraham, Hagar the maid, and God. They became the targets of her misfortune.)

After Abraham lets God off the hook and tells Sarah to make a decision about the matter, the very next line in the Bible is, “Sarah was abusive to Hagar and Hagar ran away” (Genesis 16:6, MSG).

You see, Sarah didn’t just react or even overreact. No, she chose. She chose how she treated her maid Hagar. She chose to be abusive. She chose to mistreat her, humiliate her, and treat her cruelly. Granted, Hagar got a little uppity with Sarah and didn’t treat her well. So, I guess you could say Hagar deserved it.

But did she?

Sarah chose. Sarah decided. Sarah opted to take her frustration, anger, humiliation, brokenness, failure, feelings of inadequacy, bitterness, and hurt out on Hagar the maid. She became the target. The target that Sarah chose.

Do you get where I’m going? Sarah had the power to choose how she dealt with this situation when Abraham told her to decide. She could have chosen forgiveness. She could have chosen to build a bridge between herself and Hagar and not a wall. She could have chosen to be the better bigger person in the matter. She could have chosen integrity and honor and respect. She could have chosen to reach out and nurture and guide and love. But instead she chose the opposite.

It’s hard when people treat your poorly. It’s hard when life doesn’t seem fair. It’s hard to keep our frustrations in check. But we do have the power. It’s the power of choice. To choose to respond, not to react. It’s the power to choose love over hatred. To choose bridges, not walls. To choose grace over judgment. To choose mercy over malice.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated, angry, or hurt—and you’re looking to retaliate on those you love—why don’t you consider this whacked out story from an old book called the Bible? Because, you see, it actually makes sense.

At the end of the day, when the blame game ends, you have the power of choice. You control how you respond. Will you allow your emotions to override the right thing to do?

In the words of Abraham, “You decide.”

(***Spoiler Alert***) Abraham and Sarah actually do end up having a kid together…when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. If that’s not whacked out, I don’t know what is.

MARCH ON!

Sometimes I catch myself talking to myself. When I screw something up I might whisper to myself, “Get it together, Beth!” Or when I’m about to say something I know I shouldn’t I might whisper under my breath, “Just bite your tongue, Beth.” Sometimes when I’m excited about something I just clap to myself as if to say, “Let’s go!” or “Well done!”

I know…I’m a little outside of your definition of normal. But it’s all good!

Do you ever do this? Do you ever scold yourself? Do you ever give yourself a pep-talk?

It’s sort of like being our own advisor or coach or policeman. And I guess I reckon if nobody else is whispering in my ear at the moment when I might need to hear something, why not do it myself? Again…I know…not normal.

I was reading through the account of Deborah in the Old Testament this week. I’ve read the passage before but I really studied it this time. It’s found in Judges 4-5 in case you’re interested in reading it.

Deborah was a prophet who “was leading Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4). She’s known as one of the judges, but the word “leading” in the Hebrew means to rule, govern, judge. So, from my perspective as I read the passage on Deborah, it appears as though she was a true and godly leader of Israel. She had spiritual oversight at the time and people listened to her counsel. She was a strong woman and these kind of women always intrigue me.

Anyway…back to where I was heading…

After Deborah and her military leader Barak obtained victory over Sisera, they sang a song which is recorded in Judges 5. It’s an interesting “song” if you can even call it that. Most parts of it are really hard to understand. But then I came to verse 21 where Deborah says “March on, my soul; be strong!” Now this, I understood.

March On (Deborah)

And I wondered if Deborah was just a little bit like me. I wondered if Deborah was giving herself a two second pep-talk. I wondered if Deborah was for a moment being her own advisor or coach, whispering to herself in her ear.

Maybe in the midst of their battle against Sisera and his chariots and troops—maybe in the midst of her advising Barak all along the way—she spoke these words to herself: “March on, my soul; be strong!”

I love the phrase. I love the positive encouragement it exudes. “March on, my soul; be strong!”

In the midst of my battles, “march on.”
In the midst of my struggles, “be strong.”

When things seem impossible, when the way isn’t clear, when frustration mounts, when irritation sets in, when the tasks seem daunting, when God seems silent, when friends don’t understand, when mountains are too high and valleys too low…“March on, my soul; be strong!”

My encouragement to you today–whatever you’re facing–is to “March on…and be strong!”

ARE YOU IMPRESSED?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Would it be something external—your hair color, eye color, height, weight, shape of your nose or ears, or size of your feet? Or would it be something internal—have more courage, less fear, more intelligent, more patient, less serious all the time, or maybe a more positive outlook?

Let me ask you another question: In social situations, are you the “impresser” or the “impressed”? In other words, do you frequently go around trying to impress the people you’re with? Or by the time you leave, do you walk away more impressed by those you interacted with?

If you’re the “impresser,” what qualities or characteristics about yourself are you trying to impress others with—your physique, impressive travel history, intellect, success at work, thoughtfulness, listing the number of famous people you’ve met, etc.?

And if you’re the “impressed,” what was it that captivated you most about these people—their good looks, fancy car, leadership ability, attention to what you were saying, sensitivity toward others, wisdom, expensive clothes?

There’s a story in the Old Testament in which God told Samuel to go “evaluate” the sons of Jesse in order to select the next king. The first son he saw was Eliab. Samuel must have been impressed with how he looked or how he carried himself, because he thought, “Surely, this is the Lord’s anointed.” Interestingly enough, however, God’s immediate response to Samuel was, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What was God impressed with—the externals or the internals?

The Apostle Peter reaffirms what we already know to be the answer to this question: “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:3-4, NLT).

Allow me to ask you a couple more questions. How much time and effort (and money) do you spend on your “externals”—your hair and makeup, landscaping your yard, shopping for the perfect outfit or shoes, working out, etc.? And how much time and effort (and money) do you spend on your “internals”—praying, reading God’s Word, listening intently to those in need, sacrificing your time for others, etc.?

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” 2 Chronicles 16:9. God is searching for folks who are fully devoted to Him. Not only that, He’s standing by, ready to strengthen and fully support them.

If God is “impressed” with a gentle and quiet spirit, and in looking at the heart, He is searching for people who are fully devoted to Him, then I have a long way to go. No, that’s not very impressive, but then again the fact that the God of the Universe loves me, chose me, called me, redeemed me, and created me for a purpose is very impressive indeed!

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