An Unlikely Messenger

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.”
Malachi 3:1

The Lord speaks to us in the oddest of ways, doesn’t He?

A few years back, a friend of mine and her husband longed to have a child, but had gradually lost faith after years of unsuccessful attempts. Unbeknownst to my friend, a family member wanted to help and consulted a medium to find out if they would ever conceive.

My friend does not believe in communication with the spirits of the dead, so she was surprised to hear God speaking through the medium’s response – “It is a matter of faith. If they believe it will happen, then it will.”

The medium served as an unlikely messenger, showing how the Lord can use anyone to accomplish His will. Take, for instance, Jael. She, too, was an unlikely messenger, but God used her to accomplish His will and in quite the dramatic fashion.

In Judges 4, we find the Israelites asking God to free them from the oppression of Jabin king of Canaan. The Lord told Barak, the leader of the Israelite army, that victory would come at the hands of Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army. As the Israelites began to overtake him and his numerous chariots, Sisera fled on foot.

He came to the tent of Jael, who was the husband of a man who’s family was in good standing with Jabin king of Canaan.

Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Come, my lord, come right in. Don’t be afraid.” So he entered her tent, and she covered him with a blanket. (Judges 4:18)

It seems Sisera found a haven in Jael’s tent, escaping an ill fate. He is confident Jael will protect him.  He asked her for a drink. After giving him milk, she covered him. In need of a safeguard as fatigue consumed him, he asked her to stand at the doorway of the tent.

He told her. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’” (v. 20)

Jael was not an Israelite, but had faith in their God. Although she was loyal to Jabin, her allegiance to the Lord was far superior. She would not compromise her religious obligations by lying for this man. So, rather than protect Sisera, Jael did the exact opposite.

She picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. (v. 21)

Jael did not plot to kill Sisera. She did not seek him out nor make plans to harm him. It’s likely she was legitimately trying to help him when he approached her tent. But God used her to accomplish His will and it was the Lord who prompted Jael to take Sisera’s life.

Matthew Henry comments, “It was a divine power that enabled her to do it, and inspired her with a more than manly courage. What if her hand should shake, and she should miss her blow? What if he should awake when she was attempting it? Or suppose some of his own attendants should follow him, and surprise her in the face, how dearly would she and all hers be made to pay for it? Yet, obtaining help of God, she did it effectually.”

Just then Barak came by in pursuit of Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. “Come,” she said, “I will show you the man you’re looking for.” So he went in with her, and there lay Sisera with the tent peg through his temple—dead. On that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan before the Israelites. And the hand of the Israelites pressed harder and harder against Jabin king of Canaan until they destroyed him. (v. 22-24)

The Lord’s faithfulness is evident in this account, for in Judges 4:6-7, the prophet Deborah told Barak this: “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

Despite our best efforts to predict just how the Lord’s plan will play out, He often surprises us, using the most unlikely messengers along the way. We must never take for granted the people God places in our lives, for they, too, have purpose. Even when we least expect it, God makes His intentions known, just like He spoke to my friend through the medium.

The Lord’s message can be heard through the words we speak. As Malachi 3:1 reminds us, He will send His messenger – we must be aware and ready to receive His guidance. We must also be prepared to be used.

How might the Lord be calling you to be an unlikely messenger?

Leaving a Legacy

I sat on the soft couch of the spacious church lobby, mesmerized by her honest transparency. She explained how her breast cancer diagnosed three years prior reared it’s ugly head again and she would undergo radiation.

This was our first meeting – Parents in Prayer for the preschool our children attended – and I was in awe of her openness to share her life with women she didn’t know. And she seemed so calm about it all. She had experienced the presence of God in her life through these trials and clung tightly to the hope He provided.

I wish I had that, I thought. It seemed like she could endure anything. Rough times had not shaken her solid faith, rather they made it stronger.

Three years have past since that first meeting and the journey of life has had it’s ups and downs for both of us. Thankfully, the Lord has brought me to a place where I can look back and say, I have that now, too.

Recently, she and I met for lunch and I had the opportunity to share my story with her. I explained how a past lived in shame and depression had finally been brought to redemption. Fear had been replaced by courage, insecurity by confidence. I didn’t hide from difficult conversations, but rather approached them with openness and honesty.

It felt great to share with her that day and I’ll never forget her response, “I could tell something was different. It’s like you’re shinier now.”

She had a special way with words, her joyful enthusiasm apparent. Her positive outlook on life was supplied by her faith and ushered in peace as the cancer progressed. She had a fearless tenacity to fight the good fight until the Lord called her home.

Nearly six years after initial diagnosis, her cancer is no longer responding to treatment. Tears filled my eyes as I read her last Facebook post,

“There is a sweet, sacred New Way I have known Jesus by going thru this. As Levi Lusko once said….it’s a horrible privilege. Just recently, as I have learned the cancer is taking over the liver, I have come to a place of surrender that this, in all the ways it might seem wrong, is what the Lord has asked of me. And in this surrendering of laying down my life, He has given me a peace that truly surpasses all understanding. I’m tired and I can’t wait to get my new body!”

Her peace truly is one surpassing all understanding. She has come to trust in the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. Her faith personifies this quote from Timothy Keller – God will allow evil only to the degree that it brings about the very opposite of what it intends.

At her core, she has come to understand the truth of God’s word: She is one of the Lord’s Saints and her death is precious in His sight (Psalm 116:15). The day is coming when God will wipe away every tear from her eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There will be no more pain (Revelation 21:4). She knows she has fought the good fight, she has finished the race, she has kept the faith. Now, there is a crown of righteousness waiting for her, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to her. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Never fear dying, beloved. Dying is the last, but the least matter that a Christian has to be anxious about. —Charles Spurgeon.

My friend is not afraid. She knows that the place she is going will be without suffering, without pain, without cancerous sin. She will finally be free of a broken mortal body. Her soul will do what she was created to do – glorify God.

My friend is an amazing example of the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31:

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her

A spirit of faithful confidence has enabled her to live with strength and dignity, Jesus being the most important thing in life. As Colossians 1:10-14 describes, she has lived a life worthy of the Lord, one that has pleased Him in every way, bearing fruit in good works, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with power, glorious might, endurance and patience, always joyfully giving thanks. She will inherit the Kingdom of Light as she leaves this dominion of darkness, having full redemption and forgiveness of sins.

I am so thankful to have known Britton Neese, even if for a short time. She has left an impact of faith on my heart and life; one I hope to leave in a similar way. The memory of her courageous strength, fearless faith, and joyful tenacity will stay with me forever.

“Britton – well done, good and faithful servant.”