Seek God's guidance in choosing new leaders


By Rev. Albert Cox


Oct. 1

Seeking Deliverance

Purpose: To understand the cycle of disobedience, despair and deliverance in the book of Judges, to become sensitive to this cycle in the church and in the world today and to practice repentance by asking God for help.


Bible Lesson: Judges 2:16-23


Key Verse: “Then the Lord raised up judges to save them out of the hands of these raiders” – Judges 2:16


In the book of Judges, you find a cycle that becomes the pattern for the life of Israel in the rest of the Old Testament. First, Israel was unfaithful to God and his covenant; second was suffering because of their unfaithfulness; third was deliverance by God because of his faithfulness and mercy, and finally, was a relapse back into unfaithfulness and sin.


This is somewhat of a contrast to Israel under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. Chapter 2, Verse 7 says, “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.”


After that was a generation that did not know Moses or Joshua and did not know the Lord or what he had done for Israel. Israel no longer had leadership of the caliber of Moses and Joshua, and the central authority for the people seemed to disappear. With this behind them, they began to worship other “gods” and to do evil in the sight of God.


This is so much like what we see in our day. Things have not changed that much. God raises up great leaders in his church and people are brought closer to the Lord as with Joshua. We see the church grow and prosper in the Lord. Then when that leader moves on or dies, many of the people revert to former days and fall away from the commitment to God and his church. They no longer live in that covenant relationship with God.


The other aspect we see with Israel is that the leaders, even ones appointed by God, did not lead with the character, conviction and courage of Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David and other great leaders. We see the same thing today. We have leaders in the church and the political arena whom we respect and admire, and we wish they could be around for a lifetime. But they aren’t, and the ones who follow them many times do not live up to the standard we have seen before. We become discouraged rather than asking God for an extra portion of grace for us to “stand in the gap.”


May we all be willing to live such consistent Christian lives, faithfully in a covenant relationship with our God, that there will not be any falling away, no matter who the leaders are.


Oct. 8

Leadership Counts

Purpose: To analyze the story of how Deborah helped Barak defeat Sisera’s army, to reflect on their leadership qualities and to commit ourselves to support those who lead in our church.


Bible Lesson: Judges 4:4-10, 12-16


Key Verse: “Barak told her ‘If you go with me, I will go, but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.’ ‘Very well, I will go with you.” – Judges 4:8-9


In our lesson today, we find another of those times when God has to rescue his people from the enemy because Israel had turned away from God. This time, he raised up a woman named Deborah to lead the Israelites out of trouble and to victory.


As Deborah was holding court between Ramah and Bethel, the Israelites came to her to settle their disputes. It was at this time that she sent for Barak and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel commands you to go fight against Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army and God will give him into your hands.”


Barak gave an interesting reply. “If you go with me, I will go, but if not, I won’t go.”


Why would he reply in such a manner? Being a military leader as he was, why not go and be the hero? One suggestion is that he saw her as representing God’s power and authority and he respected her as God’s representative. It is interesting that Deborah quickly agreed.


Let’s look at the qualities in Deborah that qualified her as a leader for God’s people. As we do, let us look at what makes for good leadership among God’s people of today. First, she was a woman who was in close communion with God. Her strength and uncompromising words to Barak came through this closeness to God. Second, she was full of wisdom and the people respected her wisdom and were willing to let her settle their disputes. Third, her communication with God made her confident of his will in that time and place. Finally, her closeness to God gave her courage and she was not afraid to go into battle with Barak.


This kind of spiritual character calls forth the best efforts in others. This is how she was able to encourage Barak and assure him that God was in control of the battle. The same is absolutely true and needed for leaders in God’s church today.



Prayer Makes a Difference

Purpose: To explore how Samuel interceded by asking God to save the Israelites from the Philistines, to consider the effects of praying for others and to make a commitment to pray daily for others.


Bible Lesson: 1 Samuel 7:3-13


Key Verse: “Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf and the Lord answered him.” – 1 Samuel 7:9


For the third time we see that Israel had turned from the true and living God to serve and worship the “gods” of Canaan. This time a new enemy had emerged — the Philistines.


They were first mentioned in Genesis 10:14 as descendants of Casluhites, who were descendants of Ham. When they appeared in Canaan is not quite certain, but it is thought to be about the time the Israelites came or shortly after. We do know that they were a “thorn in the side” of Israel and were the major rivals for the Lord.


Now with that background, Israel was in trouble again as the Philistines came against them in battle. So Israel once again cried out to God, saying to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that He may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” Samuel took a suckling lamb, offered it to the Lord and prayed, and the Lord answered him.


Several things can be learned from this lesson. First, God is a God of mercy who answers the cries of his people. He is a God who answers prayers.


As human beings who stand before God, we are to recognize our inability to cope with life and attain salvation. We confess our weakness and our needs. God responds to the cries of our human needs, failures, and our hope for salvation rests in the divine answer to our human cries. God offers new possibilities for life even in dark circumstances.


The second thing is that intercessory prayer, even though a mystery, actually does work. It is something we should all be about. In fact, Samuel considered it a “sin against God” not to pray for others. Samuel prayed for Israel and God heard his prayer and delivered Israel.


The third thing we learn is that for God to answer the prayer of the intercessor, those being prayed for must repent and put away the strange “gods” from their midst.


When all of this ran its course, Samuel put up a monument, calling it Ebenezer, or “a stone of help.” The final message here is that the God we serve can always be trusted.


Oct. 22

A Promise You Can Trust

Purpose: To examine God’s covenant with David, to reflect on how this covenant impacts our lives as Christians and to thank God for keeping promises.


Bible Lesson: 2 Samuel 7:8-17


Key Verse: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me, and your throne will be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:16


As we look at 2 Samuel, several decades have passed since last week’s lesson. The era of the judges has passed and because of the insistence of the people, God has given Israel a king. Samuel has anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. Later, God was not pleased with Saul.


In the lesson, we see David settled in as king of Israel. “The Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him.” What a wonderful contrast from the book of Judges where the Philistines were a constant threat to Israel.


It is interesting how even the best of religious leaders with the best of intentions try to think God’s thoughts for him and make their plans seem to be God’s plans. David looked around at his palace and the peace God had given him from his enemies and said, “Here I am living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”


Now this sounds well and good, and the prophet Nathan thought it was a great idea and said, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”


This sounds so much like the Lord’s church of today. We hear so many pronouncements from church leaders and so many plans to build the kingdom, but in the end we find they are not God’s pronouncements or his plans.


After David announced his plans and Nathan put his stamp of approval on them, God spoke and gave the true pronouncement and gave his plans for the building of the temple and a place for the ark of the covenant.


God presents his plans in the context of his covenant with Abraham and his promises to Israel. God said, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring – and I will establish his kingdom and he is the one who will build a house for my name.”


And what a powerful promise God gave to David. “Your house and kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” And God has kept those promises. He is the same God and heavenly father who gives and keeps promises with his people today. Great is thy faithfulness!


God is faithful to hear and answer our prayers, but then it is so important for us to use these answers God gives to his glory and honor and the building of his kingdom.


Oct. 29

God Answers Prayer

Purpose: To learn about Solomon’s prayer for wisdom, to identify characteristics of biblical wisdom and discern where they are embodied in people today, to pray for a “hearing heart.”


Bible Lesson: 1 Kings 3:1-14


Key Verse: “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” – 1 Kings 3:12


It is absolutely amazing how many times God reveals himself to us while we are praying or worshiping him. It is also sad how much wisdom and knowledge we miss from God when we fail to pray and worship.


It was during the time when Solomon offered sacrifices to God that God revealed himself to Solomon. That night, after Solomon had offered a thousand burnt offerings, God spoke to Solomon and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” What an amazing thing God said to Solomon.


Now, the response from Solomon showed his humility and his desire to be the kind of king who is described in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. A king that would revere God and obey the law and speaks to God several times that he is God’s servant. He is portrayed as a loyal vessel living in covenant relationship with the Lord. His prayer expresses the desire for God to give him wisdom to rule his people with understanding and to provide for their welfare.


God, being the faithful God that he is, granted Solomon’s desire and prayer and even more than he asked. Verse 10 says, “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this” (wisdom).


God says to Solomon that since he had asked for wisdom to rule the people and not for himself, he would not only give him that but much more. God said, “I will give you a discerning heart so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. I will give you both riches and honor.” Solomon did not ask for this. “Finally, if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”


The next several chapters of 1 Kings show how Solomon exercised the wisdom which God gave him. It is so unfortunate that Solomon did not maintain the ideals he expressed to 1 Kings 3. He did not continue to use the gift of wisdom God had given him to rule God’s people.

Cox is a retired clergy member of the South Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.