Day 130

God Turns Your Weakness into Strength

Wisdom Psalm 59:1-8
New Testament John 6:25-59
Old Testament Judges 10:1-11:40

Introduction

The great Christian leader, John Stott, was speaking on one occasion at a university mission in Sydney, Australia. On the last night of the mission, as a result of an infection, he had virtually lost his voice.

Nevertheless, he was persuaded to speak. Waiting in the side room beforehand, he whispered a request that the words of the ‘thorn in the flesh’ verses from 2 Corinthians 12 be read to him. The conversation between Jesus and the apostle Paul came alive.

Stott (Paul): ‘I beg you to take it away from me.’
Jesus: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
Stott (Paul): ‘I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me… for when I am weak, then I am strong.’

When the time came to speak he croaked the gospel through the microphone in a monotone, utterly unable to modulate his voice or exert his personality in any way. But all the time he was crying to the Lord to perfect Christ’s power through his weakness.

He went back to Australia many times after that, and on every occasion somebody came up to him and said, ‘Do you remember that final service in the University Great Hall, when you had lost your voice? I came to Christ that night.’

As someone who is very aware of my own weaknesses, I find it encouraging that when I feel weak, I am not alone. As you put your faith in God he turns your weakness into strength.

Wisdom

Psalm 59:1-8

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
  be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
2 Deliver me from evildoers
  and save me from those who are after my blood.

3 See how they lie in wait for me!
  Fierce men conspire against me
  for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
4 I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
  Arise to help me; look on my plight!
5 You, Lord God Almighty,
  you who are the God of Israel,
 rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
  show no mercy to wicked traitors.

6 They return at evening,
  snarling like dogs,
  and prowl about the city.
7 See what they spew from their mouths —
  the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
  and they think, “Who can hear us?”
8 But you laugh at them, Lord;
  you scoff at all those nations.

Commentary

Faith and opposition

God is your strength in times of difficulty. Belief in God is not the recipe for an easy life. In fact, the reverse is the case. You are likely to face all kinds of opposition.

David’s life was under threat. Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him. He finds himself surrounded by ‘enemies... mutineers... dirty tricks... hit men... desperadoes... they’re after me, determined to get me’ (vv.1–4, MSG).

Yet, in the midst of this, David prays, ‘Rescue me...’ (vv.1–2, MSG) and has total confidence that the Lord can and will deliver him (v.8). Later in the psalm, twice David calls on God: ‘O my Strength’ (vv.9,17).

He is able to say, ‘I did nothing to deserve this, God, crossed no one, wronged no one’ (v.4, MSG). David was not perfect (see, for example, 2 Samuel 11). However, sometimes you may face difficulties not because you are doing something wrong but because you are doing something right.

Cry out to God for help in times of personal difficulties. ‘Arise to help me; look on my plight’ (Psalm 59:4b). You can also cry out to God for help at times of international crisis. The very next sentence is a prayer for the nation (v.5a). At whatever level the opposition appears, ask the Lord for his deliverance, help and intervention.

Prayer

O my Strength, help me to trust you in times of difficulty and opposition. Deliver us from those who oppose your plans.

New Testament

John 6:25-59

Jesus the Bread of Life

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Commentary

Faith and emptiness

Jesus taught about the centrality of faith. When asked, ‘“What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent”’ (vv.28–29).

We are called, primarily, ‘believers’, not ‘achievers’. The way we achieve is by first believing.

Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life’ (v.35). When we are physically hungry we crave food. But as well as physical needs you have spiritual needs and a spiritual hunger. The bread Jesus is talking about is the Word made flesh, present with them as a friend. Jesus is offering us a personal, intimate, heart-to-heart relationship with him. It is the gift of his total person to each one of us.

Faith in Jesus fills the emptiness you experience and satisfies your spiritual hunger for purpose, permanence and pardon.

  1. Purpose
    Physical bread is not enough. Material things alone do not satisfy. Money, homes, cars, success and even human relationships do not satisfy our desire for ultimate purpose in life.

    The bread that does satisfy is the ‘bread of life’. This is not a commodity that Jesus supplies. He is the gift and the giver. The words, ‘I’ or ‘me’ appear thirty-five times in this discussion. ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’ (v.35).

    It is easy, even once you have put your faith in Jesus, to get caught up either in material things or the trappings of religion. But it is actually only a relationship with Jesus that satisfies our spiritual hunger.

    The expressions, ‘Believe in me’ (v.29), ‘Come to me’ (v.35), ‘Look to the Son’ (v.40), ‘Eat my flesh and drink my blood’ (v.53 onwards) describe living in an intimately close relationship with Jesus.

  2. Permanence
    We are all going to die. Death is the great unmentionable reality. Jesus says this life is not the end: ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever... I will raise them up on the last day’ (vv.51,54).

    Jesus promises to raise you up at the last day and that you will live for ever. You can have absolute assurance that your relationship with Jesus will outlast death.

    There is both a present and a future dimension to this eternal life. They said, ‘From now on give us this bread’ (v.34). Jesus says it can be received immediately (v.35 onwards). Yet he also made clear that it will last for ever (vv.50–51).

  3. Pardon
    Forgiveness is actually our greatest need. The atheist philosopher, Marghanita Laski, said, ‘What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness. I have no one to forgive me.’ We all want to know that we are pardoned for all that we have done wrong.

    Jesus said, ‘This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world’ (v.51). His blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins. Every time you receive communion, you are reminded that Jesus gave his life so that you could be forgiven.

    How do you receive this bread? Jesus says, ‘I tell you the truth, whoever believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life’ (vv.47–48). While there is no separate account of Jesus’ institution of Holy Communion in John’s Gospel, here we see Jesus’ teaching on communion set in the context of faith.

    Among other things, communion is a visible sign that helps us receive Christ by faith (vv.53–58). It reveals and nourishes the friendship Jesus wants to have with you. It is a gift of his love and a sign of his desire to dwell in you all the time.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that through faith in you I have found a lasting purpose in my life, forgiveness for my sins and the promise of eternal life. Help me today to walk in a close, intimate relationship with you.

Old Testament

Judges 10:1-11:40

Tola

10After the time of Abimelek, a man of Issachar named Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel. He lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 He led Israel twenty-three years; then he died, and was buried in Shamir.

Jair

3 He was followed by Jair of Gilead, who led Israel twenty-two years. 4 He had thirty sons, who rode thirty donkeys. They controlled thirty towns in Gilead, which to this day are called Havvoth Jair. 5 When Jair died, he was buried in Kamon.

Jephthah

6 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him, 7 he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, 8 who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites. 9 The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim; Israel was in great distress. 10 Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.”

11 The Lord replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble! ”

15 But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” 16 Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.

17 When the Ammonites were called to arms and camped in Gilead, the Israelites assembled and camped at Mizpah. 18 The leaders of the people of Gilead said to each other, “Whoever will take the lead in attacking the Ammonites will be head over all who live in Gilead.”

11Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.” 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.

4 Some time later, when the Ammonites were fighting against Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 “Come,” they said, “be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites.”

7 Jephthah said to them, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?”

8 The elders of Gilead said to him, “Nevertheless, we are turning to you now; come with us to fight the Ammonites, and you will be head over all of us who live in Gilead.”

9 Jephthah answered, “Suppose you take me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me—will I really be your head?”

10 The elders of Gilead replied, “The Lord is our witness; we will certainly do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and commander over them. And he repeated all his words before the Lord in Mizpah.

12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonite king with the question: “What do you have against me that you have attacked my country?”

13 The king of the Ammonites answered Jephthah’s messengers, “When Israel came up out of Egypt, they took away my land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, all the way to the Jordan. Now give it back peaceably.”

14 Jephthah sent back messengers to the Ammonite king, 15 saying:

“This is what Jephthah says: Israel did not take the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites. 16 But when they came up out of Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and on to Kadesh. 17 Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Give us permission to go through your country,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.

18 “Next they traveled through the wilderness, skirted the lands of Edom and Moab, passed along the eastern side of the country of Moab, and camped on the other side of the Arnon. They did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was its border.

19 “Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, and said to him, ‘Let us pass through your country to our own place.’ 20 Sihon, however, did not trust Israel to pass through his territory. He mustered all his troops and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel.

21 “Then the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and his whole army into Israel’s hands, and they defeated them. Israel took over all the land of the Amorites who lived in that country, 22 capturing all of it from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the desert to the Jordan.

23 “Now since the Lord, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? 24 Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess. 25 Are you any better than Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever quarrel with Israel or fight with them? 26 For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon. Why didn’t you retake them during that time? 27 I have not wronged you, but you are doing me wrong by waging war against me. Let the Lord, the Judge, decide the dispute this day between the Israelites and the Ammonites. ”

28 The king of Ammon, however, paid no attention to the message Jephthah sent him.

29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering. ”

32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break. ”

36 “My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

38 “You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.

From this comes the Israelite tradition 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Commentary

Faith and fallibility

As we read through the ongoing saga of the people of God sinning, crying out to the Lord and being rescued by Judges, we come across one of the most disturbing stories in the entire Bible.

Jephthah is described as a ‘mighty warrior’ (11:1). His mother was a prostitute (v.1). His half-brothers drove him away (v.2). He gathered a group of adventurers around him (v.3). He became a remarkable leader. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him (v.29), and he was used by God to secure victory over the Ammonites – ‘the Lord gave them into his hands’ (v.32).

However, there is an incident in his life that is almost unbearable to read. He made a vow to God that if God gave him victory, he would sacrifice whatever came out of the door of his house to meet him upon his return. It was his daughter, his only child. And, it appears, that is what he did (vv.29–40).

It is important to note that God never asked him to make this vow. Nor did he ask him to carry out the sacrifice. Indeed, it went against all the teaching of the Old Testament, which forbade child sacrifice. Jephthah never actually seeks God’s will in this situation. It seems to be his own pride that drives him to put his reputation above the life of his daughter. This shows the fallibility of even great people of faith.

In spite of his weakness, he is listed in the book of Hebrews as one of the heroes of faith whose weakness was turned into strength (Hebrews 11:32–34).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the way you use people of faith and turn our weakness into strength. Help me today to live a life of faith, trusting and believing in Jesus, who is ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:35).

Pippa adds

John 6:42

‘Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’

It doesn't matter what our backgrounds are, or other people's expectations of us, or even our perceptions of ourselves. What matters is how God sees us. And EVERYBODY is far more beautiful, loved and precious than we could ever know.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 59:1,4,9

Deliver me… O God; |be my fortress... Arise to help me… O my Strength.
reader

App

Download the Bible in One Year app for iOS or Android devices and read along each day.

reader

Email

Sign up now to receive Bible in One Year in your inbox each morning. You’ll get one email each day.

Sign up now
reader

Website

Start reading today’s devotion right here on the BiOY website.

Read now
reader

Book

The Bible in One Year Commentary is available as a book.

References

John Stott adapted from, Michael P. Knowles (Ed), The Folly of Preaching (Eerdmans, 2007), pp. 137–138.

Marghanita Laski, quoted in John Stott, The Comtemporary Christian, (InterVarsity Press, 1995) p.48

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Bible in One Year

  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS

Change Language

Bible in One Year is available in the following languages:

This website stores data such as cookies to enable necessary site functionality and analytics. Find out more