Persuasion

Judges 19:1-10

1In those days Israel had no king. Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, 3her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

5On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” 6So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” 7And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.

9Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.”10But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

Stranger

Last Sunday, a stranger came during Sunday school but left afterward. Everyone was busy. How should we minister to strangers who drop by? Ideally, ushers wait at the gate during services. Without instruction, no obedience, no proper decision. Such situation helps realize our need for wisdom and instruction.

The Scripture is very essential to gain wisdom even during awkward times when we are not sure how to decide, and don’t know what to do or say. It says in Psalm 119:105, 129-130, 105Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. 129Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. 130The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.

Many can’t appreciate God’s commands. He is God of order not confusion. He gave instruction to avoid confusion and arrange things in orderly manner.  It is best for us to have specific order to follow. Without instruction, it’s like driving in the wilderness finding a way but nowhere to go. No direction. When there’s no path, no road to follow, there’s indecisiveness and lot of confusion.

The stranger last Sunday may have left the building puzzled and confused. What ministry is relevant to strangers? How can we be intentional and relevant?

How can we be more intentional in personal or church ministry approach?

When the unfaithful wife of the Levite left him, it is possible that she was trying to be relevant. She was not sure what to do. Her husband didn’t decide for her. She became unfaithful and left him. When the Levite tried to persuade her to return, his father-in-law persuaded him to stay and detained him.

1. Detain

1In those days Israel had no king. Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, 3her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

5On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” 6So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” 7And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.

No king, no rule. There’s confusion. Anyone did anything. The woman may have assumed that it’s proper for her to leave her husband without repercussion, no punishment from authorities. She was sure that her Levite husband would not punish her. Truly, the Levite persuaded her to return after she left him.

The term ‘persuade’ means to ‘detain,’ ‘restrain’ or ‘delay.’ It’s kind like imprisonment for short period of time minus the cell and bars. The Levite wanted to go but was persuaded to stay, and out of respect, courtesy or debt of gratitude, he was decided to stay. It is some sort of courtesy to accommodate others.

The Levite accommodated his father-in-law as courtesy, maybe, to win his favor, side with him and hope to persuade the woman to return. His father-in-law successfully persuaded him to stay a little longer. Did he desire companionship or wanted to please the Levite for the unfaithfulness of his wife?

Such over generous hospitality can make one feel awkward. Is it great to please everyone? Trying to please everyone is indecisiveness. We have to be intentional of our ministry individually and as a church. To spread ourselves too thin or to expose ourselves in every ministry available is not very productive.

It is better to master one ministry than to be “jack of all trades.” Most, if not all “jack of all trades” persons are not compensated greatly. God gives spiritual gifts for specific ministries, not for jack of all trades ministries. He rewards the obedient believer. Trying hard to be relevant in the ministry has no reward.

If we are intentional on God’s will, we don’t need to accommodate every person just to please them. God’s servants would rather please the Lord than to please others, not even their selves. Let’s learn from Abraham’s servant.

Abraham’s Servant

Abraham sent his servant to get a wife for his son Isaac. The servant told Rebekah’s family about his purpose, and Rebekah agreed to be Isaac’s wife.

It narrates in Genesis 24:55-56, 54Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank and spent the night there. When they got up the next morning, he said, “Send me on my way to my master.” 55But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.” 56But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the Lord has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.”

Lingering a little bit longer for few days, the servant and his companions deserve such vacation. Rebekah’s family generously treated and persuaded them to stay a little longer but Abraham’s servant got no instruction to have vacation. He sensed like he was detained when told to remain for 10 days or so. He was focused on pleasing his master Abraham not others, not even his self.

Most of the time, we fall short in our obedience to the Lord because we are overly concerned of others’ opinion. We have to please the Lord to be productive in the ministry. We need to determine when it’s time to say ‘no’ or ‘yes.’

2. Determine

9Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

The Levite’s indecisiveness was very apparent. He should have decided early in the morning that they have to get going. He may have enjoyed eating and drinking with his father-in-law. Indecisiveness was not helpful, and he did not anticipate the travel time needed to reach their destination. He decided late.

Not everyone is gifted with wisdom to estimate time needed to accomplish something. When we are intentional on pleasing God, His Spirit gives us wisdom to timely accomplish what He wants us to do. Such focus displays faith. Faith is intentional to please the Lord instead of others or even us.

Manoah

When an angel of the Lord told the parents of Samson that a Nazirite son will be born to them, Manoah, Samson’s father persuaded the angel to stay.

In Judges 13:15-16, 15Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.” 16The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.)

This is another instance when persuasion is interpreted as detention. The angel of the Lord declared that Manoah may detain him but he won’t eat anything offered to him, why? It’s not a question if angels eat human food or not. It’s more about the angel’s intention to obey. When God commands His angels, they obey according to instruction, no more no less, no compromise. They just please Him.

Such uncompromised obedience is what servants of God have to do to win His approval. Apostle Paul exemplifies in Galatians 1:10, 10Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

And in Hebrews 11:6, 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

We can sense earnestness and devotedness in seeking God when we have determination and intention to please the Lord every moment of our life.

May God enables us to have determination and intention to please Him.

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