It was about to get real. The Israelites were going to be attacked, and they had to feel a bit exposed. From our last reading, it would seem that God has left them to fend for themselves. But, the “leaders of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever attacks the Ammonites first will become ruler over all the people of Gilead.” Were they sensing God’s intervention was yet to come, or were they simply looking for the best option for success?
They knew they needed a strong leader. Who would it be? Sometimes our best candidates are those who we have overlooked. Certainly, the individual the leaders chose to recruit was even one who had been shown no favor in the past. How fitting that God would use even the son of a prostitute to rescue his people. He was a mighty warrior after all and well-equipped for the mission.
One of my favorite verses comes up in today’s reading. In recent days we’ve talked about boasting and struggles. While most of us don’t want to boast about the things that have caused us harm, sadness, misfortune, or weakness, Paul is giving us the nod to go ahead. It is especially powerful when we can see God working amidst our pain.
Have you ever cried out to God to take away a limitation, a struggle, a sickness, or some other challenge? Paul did, too. And here’s the promise from verse 9, “Each time he [God] said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” God is speaking that into our hearts today as well.
When I read this text, two things stand out to me. I think
of a Christian band called Jars of Clay, and I recognize the lyrics of song “Trading My
Sorrows” by Darrell Evans are taken from this text. I love when I find lyrics
in Scripture. But what I want to focus on today is how fragile we all are, even
if we don’t realize it.
Have you ever dropped a clay pot? What happens? It shatters
and dirt goes everywhere, not to mention the plant you are trying to grow. At
least the clay pots I’ve encountered are fragile–just like we are. In this
passage, Paul is being real with his friends in Corinth. Paul hasn’t had an
easy go of it. He has endured exactly what he describes. Paul has seen it all,
being pressed, perplexed, hunted down, and knocked down. Just like us.
I have always loved this passage. It empowers women, yet we can feel treasured all at the same time. I remember the first time I read it. I wasn’t feeling particularly glamorous or smart. My energy was low, and I doubted every move I made. I was recovering from a broken marriage, and the scars of abuse were still raging red. I felt as if God’s message here was for just for me. It was encouraging. It was a healing moment. Could I ever be that woman?
I hope you haven’t gone through something horrific like that, and whether you are a woman or man, these verses should speak to you. There is such beauty in the images that come to mind. The style of writing and depth of meaning seem totally out of character with what we have been reading in the rest of the book of Proverbs. Yet this is wisdom, pure gold. That much is the same. How are you relating to yourself or to the women in your life?
Have you ever failed at something you were good at? I think
of gymnasts who train and train and train some more. Then at a meet, with
medals on the line something goes wrong and their move just doesn’t happen they
way they’ve always executed it. I had an experience just this week during an interview
for a podcast appearance. I froze. The words weren’t there. I know my material,
but you’d never know it. I was crushed.
So, you can imagine the counsel today spoke to me in a big
way. Verse 10 says, “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too
small.” I need to be strong and not let this set back get in my way.
You have probably had similar situations. You just want to curl up and hide.
But failure will happen. We will stumble. The Christian life is not a road
without bumps. Great men and women do not quit. They overcome.