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David and Bathsheba’s child had died and David had responded by ending his fast and going “to the Tabernacle” (2 Samuel 12:20b, NLT) and worshiping. “His advisers were amazed. ‘We don’t understand you,’ they told him. ‘While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again’” (2 Samuel 12:21).

“David replied, ‘I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).

“I will go to him one day.” This is one of the most powerful statements David ever made. He understood that death was not the end of life but the beginning of everlasting life.

In his suffering, Job pondered this: “Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death” (Job 14:14). And what did Job conclude?

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:25b-27).

And so should we be “overwhelmed at the thought!” Knowing this life isn’t all there is should make a tremendous difference in how we live and how we respond to pain, suffering, and loss. How did Paul explain the difference? He said that believers don’t “grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13b).

Why could Paul say that? Because he knew “that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

David knew he would see his son again. David knew that he had been forgiven. And we need to see just how clearly God showed us His forgiveness of David. Scripture had identified David’s infant son as “the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David” (2 Samuel 12:15). David may have married Bathsheba, but God was fully aware that this child had been conceived while Bathsheba was the wife of another man. But after the death of this baby, the Bible says that “David comforted his wife Bathsheba.” God’s forgiveness. No longer was Bathsheba called “Uriah’s wife.” She was David’s.

God never extends partial forgiveness. Neither should we.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


I want to cover a couple other points before we move on with our look at the life of David. First, I’d said to think of the devil as a big dog on a short leash – God limits what he can do. If you think things are bad in this world now, imagine what it’ll be like after Christ removes His Bride, the Church, and the limitations are taken off Satan’s power. That thought alone should have us frantic to warn others before it’s too late.

To give only the merest hint of what that time will be like, take a look at this short excerpt from Revelation: “Terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world” (Revelation 8:13b, NLT). Nonstop terror for those “who belong to this world” – which is precisely why these people will be left behind. After all, what did Jesus say when He was questioned before Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36, NIV). And here’s a good place to remind you of my new book, The Book of Revelation Unlocked. It really is a very understandable guide through the Book of Revelation.

Anyway, as the old hymn says, this world is not our home. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t feel comfortable or fit in here. We’re not called to fit in; we’re called to stand out. To be different. In our former neighborhood, Larry and I were the couple never invited to the neighbors’ parties. While we all got along just fine, they still knew we wouldn’t care for their party plans. We were different.

Secondly, I’d said the devil was busy because he knew his time was limited. Jesus Himself spoke of a time when Satan would be cast “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:41b).

Here’s the point I want to drive home: hell was never planned for people. It was, as Jesus plainly said, “prepared for the devil and his demons.” While the fate of Satan and his demons is sealed, people have a choice. And while no one sets out to choose hell, the fact is, rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior is doing precisely that.

“For God so loved the world,” Jesus said in John 3:16a (NIV). That’s me, you and every person who has or ever will draw breath. So the next time you hear someone talk about God “sending” people to hell, gently correct them. Tell them, “No, God doesn’t send any person to hell. They choose it.” Then back up your statement with the very words of Christ from Matthew 25:41.

All that said, let’s move back to David. Take a moment to reflect on what we’ve looked at about his life. What stands out? If we’re honest, it’s his affair with Bathsheba and the terrible consequences that resulted.

But what about God? He forgave it and forgot it. He didn’t bring it up again. It was over. And he wants us to treat people like He does. When a person sincerely repents, forgive him and don’t bring up the past.

Let’s say Cassie takes a dollar from Mom’s purse. Mom catches her; Cassie admits what she’s done and tearfully tells her mom how very sorry she is. Cassie isn’t just mouthing words; she’s devastated that she’s broken her mother’s trust.

What does Mom do? Accuse Cassie of taking something every time anything goes missing? Tell all her friends that Cassie’s a thief? No! Mom forgives her daughter – even though there are consequences for what she’s done – and they start anew with a clean slate.

David didn’t deserve the clean slate God gave him, but He gave it anyway. Not a one of us deserved the clean slate we were given when we repented and turned to Jesus Christ, but He gave it anyway.

God forgives and forgets. He doesn’t air our dirty laundry to anyone. He doesn’t hold it against us. He lets it go. Do for others what Christ has done for you.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


David prayed and fasted, pleading for the Lord to intervene in his infant son’s illness. But “on the seventh day the child died” (2 Samuel 12:18a, NLT). The king’s response? “David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:20a).

David accepted what God had allowed. He didn’t blame God. He didn’t turn his back on God. But I’ve talked to many people who have. They’ve given up on God after the death of a child or after some other horrible tragedy.

Realistically, though, when anyone turns from Christ, to whom does he turn? Jesus watched many followers walk away during His earthly ministry; so many, in fact, that “Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, ‘Are you also going to leave?’” (John 6:67). To which Simon Peter responded, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (John 6:68a).

There are only two forces at work in this world: good and evil. We follow one or the other. There’s no fence to straddle. There’s no gray area. Too many people sitting in church on Sunday are doing simply that: sitting in church. They aren’t worshiping God. And they sure aren’t living to honor Him once they walk out those doors. Thinking a church service equals serving God, they live and die never knowing the Truth.

Each and every person on this planet serves either good or evil. As Jesus worded it, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24a and Luke 16:13a).

When you turn from God, you turn from good. When you turn from good, you turn to evil. There’s simply no other option. Which is why David’s response to his child’s death is such a great lesson in how we should respond to tragedy. I believe David knew that if he didn’t worship God immediately, the longer he waited, the harder it would get.

Kind of like missing church one Sunday. And then another and then another. The longer you wait to go back, the harder it is to get there. And the longer you remain angry at God – or at anyone, for that matter – the more Satan digs his claws in and keeps you bitter and miserable.

As I said a couple of days ago, God created a perfect world, but gave His ultimate creation, mankind, free will to choose right or wrong – and they chose wrong. Sin corrupted God’s perfection, bringing into the world all the evils we see from sickness to murder. While it’s never God’s perfect will for a person to be sick, hurt, or wronged, in God’s permissive will, He allows “Satan, the ruler of this world,” (Jesus speaking, John 12:31b) to have a certain measure of power until Christ returns to rule and reign with His people.

But God does not initiate evil. After all, “God is love” (1 John 4:8b and 16b). He doesn’t HAVE love. He IS love. Love Incarnate. And “He is the Rock; His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong” (Deuteronomy 32:4a). And He’s worthy of all our devotion.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife” (2 Samuel 12:15, NLT). Here’s where we take another look at the perfect and permissive wills of God.

It is never God’s perfect will for a person to be sick, hurt, or wronged. But in God’s permissive will, He allows “Satan, the ruler of this world,” (Jesus speaking, John 12:31b) to have a certain measure of power.

As I’ve said before, think of the devil as a big dog on a short leash. God limits what he can do, but Satan is constantly pulling on the leash, trying to do as much damage and destroy as many lives as he possibly can before it’s time for him to be cast “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:41b). Which is why he’s feverishly working to stop anyone who’ll listen to him from turning to Jesus and having the opportunity to enjoy the perfect world God will restore for all believers.

So in God’s permissive will, Satan has power in this world. And until Jesus returns and takes us out of this imperfect world where the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b), we’re going to see innocent children and faithful believers suffer.

Look again at our starting passage. How does the Bible identify Bathsheba? As “Uriah’s wife.” David may have killed her husband and taken her as his own, but God still considered her “Uriah’s wife.”

Realizing the gravity of the situation, “David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground” (2 Samuel 12:16). What’s described here is a very serious fast. David hoped that his fasting would move God to intervene on the child’s behalf – and let me say that prayer and fasting still move God to intervene today.

However, no prayer, no fast, and no other behavior, including absolute devotion to His service, can guarantee healing or any other desired answer from God. What we have to accept is that God is God and He can and will do what He chooses. Only, as the old hymn says, in the “by and by” will we understand His workings.

“The elders of (David’s) household pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused. Then on the seventh day the child died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘he is dead’” (2 Samuel 12:17-18a, 19).

David realized he had done all he knew to do to plead with God to intervene on the child’s behalf. Still, God had allowed the child to die.

David’s reaction to the child’s death speaks volumes about this man’s integrity. It explains why, even after all David had done, that God considered him “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14b).

“Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:20a).

Yes, David sinned; but he also repented. And he maintained an absolute faith in the sovereignty of his Creator. We, like David, must learn to trust God implicitly. May our faith grow to the point that we can say with Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15a, NIV).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Confronted by the prophet Nathan, David has repented. But the consequences of his sin are already set in motion. Nathan tells David: “The Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the Lord by doing this, your child will die” (2 Samuel 12:13c-14).

Before we dig into the Second Samuel passage, take a look at John 9:1-2: “As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. ‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked Him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

How did Jesus answer? “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins” (John 9:3a). Although Jesus used this man’s condition to reveal God’s power, the fact was that the man was born blind because he was born blind, period. We live in a sin-filled fallen world and sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people, as well as vice versa. As Jesus Himself said, “He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45b).

We need to realize that there are both direct and indirect results of sin. Had David not brought a married woman (who really had no choice in the matter) to his bedroom, the child would not have been conceived. But the child was completely innocent. Which still makes it difficult to grasp what we read in Second Samuel 12:15: “After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife.” We must realize, though, that this was pre-Jesus, pre-grace.

Here’s where it gets really deep, folks. Besides direct and indirect results of sin, there are also the perfect and permissive wills of God.

In a perfect world, no one would ever be sick. No one would ever suffer any harm or wrong. Had Adam and Eve never disobeyed God, sin would never have entered the world. But they did. And as hard as it is to understand, God knew it would happen and prepared to redeem us even before “the foundations of the earth” (Isaiah 40:21b, ESV). As Jesus put it, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58b, HCSB). Jesus, the Suffering Servant and Savior, has always been God’s plan.

The perfect world was damaged by sin and we’ll never see this world perfect until we see “the new heaven and new earth” (2 Peter 3:13b). Can a person walk in the perfect will of God while living in an imperfect world? No, not entirely; but the closer we walk with Jesus, the less we allow sin to control our lives. As the apostle John so beautifully worded it, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin” (1 John 2:1a, NLT).

But people do sin, don’t they? Which is why John went on to say, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous” (1 John 2:1b).

Living your life focused on Jesus truly keeps you from a multitude of sins. We’ll get back to David and look at God’s permissive will tomorrow.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


God sent the prophet Nathan to tell David about a rich man who took the only “lamb” owned by a poor man. The infuriated king immediately declared, “As surely as the Lord lives, any man who would do such a thing deserves to die!” (2 Samuel 12:5b, NLT). To which Nathan responded, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7a).

And how did David respond to Nathan’s pronouncement? “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13b).

David sincerely and immediately repented. And Nathan tells him: “The Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the Lord by doing this, your child will die” (2 Samuel 12:13c-14).

Is this child’s death literally punishment from God? I can’t honestly answer that question. What I do know is that the law’s penalty for murder was death. But apparently the few servants who knew about David’s one-night stand with Bathsheba didn’t tell anyone else, and Nathan the prophet knew only because God Himself had revealed it.

What I can say with certainty is that I’m very thankful I didn’t live in Old Testament times! Numbers 14:18b declares: “He does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations.”

Which was precisely what the Lord had told David through Nathan: “Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you” (2 Samuel 12:11a). If you know what happened with David’s kids Absalom, Amnon, and Tamar, there’s enough grief right there to see what David’s sin cost him. It also shows the terrible price paid by innocent members of his family who were affected by the events set in motion the evening David walked out on that rooftop.

Jesus’ death was the ultimate price paid for our sins, bringing us grace and mercy beyond anything the Old Testament more than hints of. But the truth of Numbers 14:18 still holds. While God doesn’t punish a child for his parents’ sin, his life is directly affected by his parents’ choices. An alcoholic parent’s lifestyle affects the child’s life in every way, whether it be through mental, verbal, or physical abuse; poverty; or social stigma. Likewise for children of drug addicts, adulterers, etc.

Sin is like that “snowball rolling downhill” that Merle Haggard sang of years ago. If a sinful thought pops into your mind, rebuke it before you speak it, let alone act on it. Be deliberate in your daily service for Jesus.

“Casualness leads to casualties.” (Jim Rohn)

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


David instructed his military commander Joab to put Bathsheba’s husband Uriah into the danger zone so that he’d be killed. Joab obeyed, and “Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers” (II Samuel 11:17b, NLT). “When the period of mourning was over, David sent for (Bathsheba) and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives” (II Samuel 11:27a).

Then the time came for the baby to be born and Bathsheba “gave birth to a son” (II Samuel 11:27b). But the Lord knew everything that David had done in bringing Bathsheba into the palace before and after their marriage, and Second Samuel 11:27c tells us that “the thing David had done displeased the Lord” (II Samuel 11:27c).

“So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: ‘There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest” (II Samuel 12:1-4).

David listened intently to Nathan’s words and couldn’t believe anyone could behave so callously. His response? He “was furious. ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ he vowed, ‘any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity” (II Samuel 12:5-6).

And then the man of God, Nathan, had the courage to speak the truth to the most powerful man in the nation: “Nathan said to David, ‘You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife” (II Samuel 12:7, 9).

David foolishly thought he’d covered his tracks. But not only were his evil deeds known, God was about to pronounce the consequences David’s wrong choices had set into motion: “‘From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised Me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.’ This is what the Lord says: ‘Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel” (II Samuel 12:10-11a, 12).

One weak moment; one evening of being where he shouldn’t have been; and David’s life was forever changed. Yes, God forgives, but nothing erases the earthly consequences set in motion by our sins.

Life has plenty of unavoidable heartache. Why add needless pain by disobeying the One who loved you enough to die for you?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


David, having slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of the soldiers in David’s army, got Uriah drunk and did everything else he could think of to get Uriah to go home to his wife. David hoped this would present the opportunity for Uriah to think himself the father of the baby Bathsheba was carrying. But honorable Uriah wouldn’t go.

So David commits premeditated murder. No, he didn’t swing the club or fire the arrow, but he might as well have. He even gave trustworthy Uriah the responsibility of carrying his own death order to his superior officer Joab. And Joab obeyed the king, placing Uriah where his death was assured; and, in the process, causing the death of some of the other men in Israel’s army.

Hoping to hide his own sin, David committed the horrific sin of murder. Hoping the death of Uriah would get the job done, David signed the death warrant for all the soldiers who were sent to the front alongside Uriah.

And then what? Joab sends word that the deed is done. David responds by sending this return message: “‘Tell Joab not to be discouraged,’ David said. ‘The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow!’” (2 Samuel 11:25a, NLT).

Can we say cold, callous, nonchalant? In other words, no biggie, Joab; a dead soldier’s a dead soldier.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how Bathsheba responded to David’s advances; but we do know that women were hardly more than property back then. We do, however, know how she reacted to news of her husband’s death: “She mourned for him” (2 Samuel 11:26b).

What does David do? He decides to treat Bathsheba with a little respect, so “when the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives” (2 Samuel 11:27a). Can you even begin to imagine! Bathsheba became the wife of the man who murdered her husband, although I doubt that she suspected David of being responsible.

So time rocks on; no one’s the wiser for what David has done; and Bathsheba “bore him a son” (2 Samuel 11:27b).

Had David literally gotten away with murder? Not hardly. This passage goes on to say that “the thing David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27c).

Sin for a season. A one-night stand. And consequences beyond David’s wildest imagination. More tomorrow.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


If David, the one whom the Lord declared as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14b, NLT) could mess up, anybody can. And God will forgive? Absolutely. First John 1:9 plainly teaches: “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

But even though we know that God forgives and even forgets, we need also know that His forgiveness in no way stops the earthly actions, reactions, and consequences set in motion by our sin. David certainly learned that lesson the hard way.

Having slept with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of the soldiers in David’s army, David tries to give Uriah some off-time to go home and visit his wife, hoping this will present the opportunity for Uriah to think himself the father of the baby Bathsheba was carrying. But honorable Uriah refuses; he has too much concern and respect for his comrades left behind on the battlefield. He tells David, “As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (2 Samuel 11:11b).

About time David just tells the truth and gets it over with, huh? But that’s simply not gonna happen. No, instead, David tells Uriah, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back” (2 Samuel 11:12b).

“So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home” (2 Samuel 11:12c-13).

Showing respect for the king who had pulled him from the battlefield and shown him special treatment, Uriah continues to stick close to the king. And this is when David allows evil to completely control his decision:

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, ‘Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die’” (2 Samuel 11:14-15).

The “man after (God’s) own heart” committed premeditated murder. And how much crueler could he have been than to send the death warrant by the very man to be executed! Trustworthy Uriah took the sealed letter directly to his leader Joab. Joab, probably thinking there was some traitorous or other serious reason for David’s order, obeys.

“So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died” (2 Samuel 11:16-17).

David was where he shouldn’t have been. He saw what he shouldn’t have seen. He acted upon his lust. He tried to cover his sin; and in doing so, he went farther into sin, even to the point of killing an innocent man.

But note that Uriah wasn’t alone when he died: “Some of the men in David’s army fell.” Joab, obeying David’s direct order, watched his men helplessly slaughtered as he placed them “where he knew the strongest defenders were.”

The consequences of sin are always much higher than any price you ever thought you’d pay. Nothing is worth it. David is about to find that out big-time. Stay with me.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates 


Faithful, trustworthy, honorable David has set aside every principle on which he’s lived his life. David, the one whom the Lord declared as “a man after His own heart” (I Samuel 13:14b, NLT), ignores the Holy Spirit and takes another man’s wife to his bedroom.

We’ve looked at this before, but let me just remind you here that the Holy Spirit didn’t indwell men until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. He did, however, rest on those whom God chose for special purposes. Saul ignored God’s leading to the point that Scripture tells us: “the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul” (I Samuel 16:14a). But when the prophet Samuel anointed David to succeed Saul as king, “The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on” (I Samuel 16:13b).

So where was the Holy Spirit when David committed his sin with Bathsheba? Right there with him. Where’s the Holy Spirit when a believer today has an adulterous affair? Looks at pornography? Lies? Does drugs? Right there. Every degrading step into sin a believer takes, he’s accompanied by the One who promises us: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, NIV).

David not only took another man’s wife to his bed, but he took the wife of someone he knew. A fellow soldier. A faithful, honorable, trustworthy comrade.

David had his way with Bathsheba and sent her packing. But what had happened? “The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant’” (II Samuel 11:5), NLT).

David, having already begun his downward spiral into deeper and deeper sin, makes an attempt to hide what’s happened: “David sent this word to Joab: ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent him to David. Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’ So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him” (II Samuel 11:6, 8).

David hoped Uriah would spend the night with his wife, thus presenting the opportunity for Uriah to think himself the father of the baby Bathsheba was carrying. But what did the honorable Uriah do?

“Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house” (II Samuel 11:9).

David had to have been beside himself with stress at this point: “When David was told, ‘Uriah did not go home,’ he asked him, ‘Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?’” (II Samuel 11:10).

To which Uriah simply replied: “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (II Samuel 11:11).

Time for David to make another decision. ‘Fess up or dig the hole deeper. Again, David chooses option two. Sin for a season. The price is astronomical.

More on David tomorrow.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Faithful. Trustworthy. Honorable. That was David. The Bible is a wonderful book, first and foremost because it’s the divine Word of God. It’s also a wonderful book because of its absolute honesty in showing us the lives of its people. David, the one whom the Lord declared as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14b, NLT), wasn’t perfect.

We read this part of David’s story in Second Samuel 11: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. But David remained in Jerusalem” (verse 1a, 1c).

Folks, this one verse says a mouthful: “at the time when kings go off to war.” What was it time for David to do? Go away with the rest of his army. What did David do instead? “Remained in Jerusalem.”

How many lives have been torn apart because someone was where they shouldn’t have been? And the sad truth is that even when God forgives you, nothing that poor decision sets into motion can be undone. It’s a whole lot less messy to avoid the sin than to try to clean up the disaster it created. David sure learned that the hard way.

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2).

Evening was the time for bathing. And aside from the palace, there was likely no home tall enough to give a person a view of this woman’s rooftop bath. So let’s look at the facts: (1) David knew baths were taken in the evening; and (2) he knew he was up high enough to see anything that was happening on the other rooftops.

But maybe he just wasn’t thinking. David’s intent in going out onto his own rooftop might have been absolutely innocent. Probably bored and restless and wondering how his army was faring, David couldn’t sleep. And because all of his close friends were members of his armed forces, he didn’t have any of his usual guys to talk to or hang out with. What’s the old saying? “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Lot of truth in that one.

Sin is never idle. Sin is active. It’s progressive. David, having taken the first step, now has an option: turn his head and go back inside the palace or keep looking. David opts for door number two.

Which leads to step number three: “David sent someone to find out about her” (2 Samuel 11:3a). And he learns: “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (2 Samuel 3b). She was the wife of one of David’s own soldiers.

David had a whole harem to choose from. David knew what he was contemplating was wrong. David had already taken three steps in the wrong direction. And now he takes the fourth one: “David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her” (2 Samuel 11:4a).

He looks. He lusts. And even after learning she’s a married woman, he acts on his lust. And that, my friends, is the beginning of a downward spiral that David can’t even begin to imagine. More on David tomorrow.

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay” (author unknown).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Customarily, a conquering king would wipe out the family of the conquered ruler. This may sound brutal, but making sure there were no surviving family members helped insure no one would retaliate. However, in David’s case, he didn’t take Saul’s life, even though he had multiple opportunities to do so; nor did he take the lives of any of Saul’s other family members.

After the potty break episode in the cave where David snipped off a piece of Saul’s robe, Saul became more certain than ever that his time as Israel’s leader was running out. He told David: “And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. Now swear to me by the Lord that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!” (1 Samuel 24:20-21, NLT).

As unusual as it was to grant such a request, “David promised this to Saul with an oath” (1 Samuel 24:22a).

So after David was settled in as king over Judah and Israel, “‘He summoned a man named Ziba, who had been one of Saul’s servants. The king then asked him, ‘Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.’ Ziba replied, ‘Yes, one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He is crippled in both feet’” (2 Samuel 9:2a, 3).

If we look back a few chapters, we learn the story of this cripple: “Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who was crippled as a child. He was five years old when the report came from Jezreel that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled. But as she hurried away, she dropped him, and he became crippled” (2 Samuel 4:4).

When David asked Ziba where Mephibosheth could be found, Ziba, a long-time servant of Saul’s family, told him. This alone shows how much David’s word could be trusted. Ziba believed that David truly meant no harm to Mephibosheth.

“So David sent for him … ‘Don’t be afraid!’ David said. ‘I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!’” (2 Samuel 9:5a, 7).

“And from that time on, Mephibosheth ate regularly at David’s table, like one of the king’s own sons” (2 Samuel 9:11b).

Faithful. Trustworthy. Honorable. David honored the Lord by keeping the promises he made to others.

A believer’s word should be one hundred percent reliable. See that yours is.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Finally, David is ruling over both Judah and Israel. He’d “settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all the surrounding enemies” (2 Samuel 7:1, NLT). What was David’s next step? He “summoned Nathan the prophet. ‘Look,’ David said, ‘I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!’” (2 Samuel 7:2).

Nathan, although a prophet of God, was still human. He, like David, thought building a more permanent dwelling place for the Ark was a great idea; so Nathan spoke without consulting God – something we all need to be very careful not to do. Nathan told David, “Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you” (2 Samuel 7:3).

“But that same night the Lord said to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth!’” (2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 8b-9).

“‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that He will make a house for you – a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house – a temple – for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever’” (2 Samuel 7:11b-14a, 16).

“So Nathan went back to David and told him everything the Lord had said in this vision” (2 Samuel 7:17).

David couldn’t have begun to comprehend the great work that God intended to do through his family line. Through the house of David would come the Messiah, the Savior of the World! Even though David may not have seen the whole picture at that time, he realized that God had given him an overwhelming promise and blessing, and for that he was wholeheartedly grateful and in awe.

So what did he do? He “went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, ‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, Sovereign Lord, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you. And now, O Lord God, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family. For you are God, O Sovereign Lord. Your words are truth, and you have promised these good things to your servant” (2 Samuel 7:18-19a, 22a, 25a, 28).

As we look back over this past year, may we realize the many ways God has worked in our lives: sustaining us, blessing us, and comforting us. And may we cry out with David, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”

We serve a great God. Let’s serve Him even more as this year draws to an end and a new one lies ahead of us.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Scripture tells us that “David was thirty years old when he began to reign” (2 Samuel 5:4a, NLT), that is, over Judah, “and he reigned forty years in all. He had reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months, and from Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years” (2 Samuel 5:4b-5).

At the time David became king over both Israel and Judah, “the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land” (2 Samuel 5:6b) were living in Jerusalem. “The Jebusites taunted David, saying, ‘You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!’ For the Jebusites thought they were safe” (2 Samuel 5:6c). Operative word there being “thought.”

Thinking their city was impenetrable, the Jebusites laughed at the very idea of David and his army even making an attempt to attack it. However, the very next verse sums up the outcome succinctly: “But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David” (2 Samuel 5:7). Jerusalem became the City of David, who was successful “because the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies was with him” (2 Samuel 5:10b).

Reading about David clearly shows us that even a person walking closely with the Lord can have a heap of problems throughout his lifetime. Just when you think things were going to smooth out a bit for David, he experiences another bump in the road.

David and his troops went “to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:2a) to Jerusalem. When the Ark arrived in the city there was “great celebration. After the men who were carrying the Ark of the Lord had gone six steps, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns” (2 Samuel 6:12b-15).

The Ark symbolized God’s presence and blessing, and David and the rest of the people were overjoyed to have the Ark in Jerusalem – except for Saul’s daughter Michal, who was one of David’s wives: “As the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him” (2 Samuel 6:16).

“When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, ‘How distinguished the king of Israel looked today …!’ David retorted to Michal, ‘I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this …!’” (2 Samuel 20a, 21-22a).

Like so many, Michal was all about appearances. It didn’t look very regal for David to be “leaping and dancing” in public. But as David told Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord.” He wasn’t worried about what other people thought of his behavior; he was totally focused on praising God.

If only we’d show half the enthusiasm in worshiping the Lord that we’re willing to show cheering on our favorite football team! We can scream and jump up and down like maniacs and care less who’s watching. But slide into a church pew and what happens? We put on our “holy” faces and attitudes. I’m not saying there aren’t times when we should be quiet and reverent, but every now and then I believe the Lord loves to see His people celebrating Him with absolute abandon.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


A bit of a recap: Saul was dead. David had ordered the execution of the man who falsely claimed to have ended his life – see First Samuel 31 and Second Samuel 1. And now “the men of Judah came to David and anointed him king over the people of Judah” (2 Samuel 2:4a, NLT). Although called by God and anointed years before to rule over all Israel, David was still waiting on God’s appointed time.

Meanwhile, “Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had already gone to Mahanaim with Saul’s son Ishbosheth. There he proclaimed Ishbosheth king over … all the rest of Israel” (2 Samuel 2:8-9).

But then there’s conflict between Judah and Israel, which eventually results in the death of Abner, the leader of Ishbosheth’s (Israel’s) army – see Second Samuel 3:30. This totally shakes up Ishbosheth so that “he lost all courage, and all Israel became paralyzed with fear” (2 Samuel 4:1b).

With Abner dead and Ishbosheth not exactly calming the fears of the nation, “two brothers, Baanah and Recab, who were captains of Ishbosheth’s raiding parties” (2 Samuel 4:2a), “went to Ishbosheth’s house … and found Ishbosheth sleeping on his bed. They struck and killed him and cut off his head. Then, taking his head with them, they fled across the Jordan Valley through the night. When they arrived at Hebron, they presented Ishbosheth’s head to David. ‘Look!’ they exclaimed to the king. ‘Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you. Today the Lord has given my lord the king revenge on Saul and his entire family!’” (2 Samuel 4:5b, 7b-8).

Apparently these men hadn’t heard how David handled the guy who came in claiming to have finished off Saul. Note, as usual, how these two credit “the Lord” for their success in killing Ishbosheth.

But how does David react? “David said to Recab and Baanah, ‘The Lord, who saves me from all my enemies, is my witness. Someone once told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ thinking he was bringing me good news. But I seized him and killed him at Ziklag. That’s the reward I gave him for his news! How much more should I reward evil men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Shouldn’t I hold you responsible for his blood and rid the earth of you?’ So David ordered his young men to kill them” (2 Samuel 4:9-12a).

No wonder the prophet Samuel told Saul concerning David (who was to replace him as king) that “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14b). Over and over David was tested with opportunities to speed up God’s timetable for him to become king of Israel; and over and over David showed his determination to wait on the Lord’s timing.

Bible scholars differ about how old David was when Samuel anointed him as God’s choice to replace Saul, but I think it’s safe to say he was around 15 years old. Second Samuel 5:4a tells us that “David was thirty years old when he began to reign,” so it looks like he had about 15 years of waiting before he was anointed king of Judah. Then David “reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months” (2 Samuel 5:5a) before finally becoming king over Israel – a total wait time of as much as 22 years.

David knew firsthand the importance of patience, which is why he could write: “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


How was David such a success not only when it came to the battlefield, but in his daily life, as he waited for God to fulfill His plan to make him king over Israel? First and foremost, God was on his side. First Samuel 16:13b tells us that, as soon as Samuel anointed him, “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David” and stayed on him “from that day on” (NLT).

So “David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him” (I Samuel 18:14). Nowadays every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but I don’t see every Christian having enormous success in everything they tackle, do you? What’s the difference? David not only had the Holy Spirit with him, but he also listened and followed Him.

The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Triune Godhead. He, like God the Father and Jesus the Son, is a gentleman. He’ll never force a person to listen. He’ll never force a person to obey. All He’ll do is lead – it’s up to the believer to choose to follow. David did, and it made all the difference in how he handled both adversity and “golden opportunities.”

So here we have David ruling over Judah and Israel has Saul’s son Ishbosheth as their leader. One day Judah’s and Israel’s armies had a confrontation and things got totally out of hand. Joab, one of the leaders for David’s (Judah’s) army, had a brother named Asahel who took off in pursuit of Abner, the leader of Ishbosheth’s (Israel’s) army. Abner warned him to back off, but Asahel refused, leaving Abner no choice but to kill Joab’s brother Asahel – see Second Samuel 2.

When Joab found his brother dead, he and his troops lit out after Abner. Abner called out: “Must we always be killing each other? Don’t you realize that bitterness is the only result? When will you call off your men from chasing their Israelite brothers?” (II Samuel 2:26b). And this incident and the fighting that followed were “the beginning of a long war between those who were loyal to Saul and those loyal to David” (II Samuel 3:1a).

David still had a lot more waiting to do, but “As time passed David became stronger and stronger, while Saul’s dynasty became weaker and weaker” (II Samuel 3:1b).

God is in the life-changing business. Don’t give up on the plan He has placed on your heart. Trust His guidance and trust His timing. And serve Him faithfully right where you are as you wait for a new door to open.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“David and his men tore their clothes in sorrow when they heard the news. They mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord’s army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day” (II Samuel 1:11-12, NLT). The Holy Spirit may have long since departed from Saul, who may have been David’s worst enemy, but he was still God’s chosen leader until God’s timing brought his life to an end.

Just as David respected Saul because of the position of authority the Lord had allowed him to have, he also showed respect in mourning Saul’s death as the leader of his nation. David’s behavior reflected genuine integrity through a life obedient to God. Christians who lambast those whom God has allowed to be in authority today could take a huge lesson from what we’ve seen in David. ‘Nuf said.

So now that Saul was dead, what does David do? He “asked the Lord, ‘Should I move back to one of the towns of Judah?’ ‘Yes,’ the Lord replied. Then David asked, ‘Which town should I go to?’ ‘To Hebron,’ the Lord answered” (II Samuel 2:1). “So David and his wives and his men and their families all moved to Judah, and they settled in the villages near Hebron. Then the men of Judah came to David and anointed him king over the people of Judah” (II Samuel 2:2b-4).

At last, David was king. But he was king over Judah, not Israel. And the Lord had had the prophet Samuel anoint him as the replacement for Saul over Israel – see First Samuel 16. What now? He sent Israel a message: “Now that Saul is dead, I ask you to be my strong and loyal subjects like the people of Judah, who have anointed me as their new king” (II Samuel 2:7).

And all the people whooped and hollered and welcomed David as king, didn’t they? Nope. “Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had already gone to Mahanaim with Saul’s son Ishbosheth. There he proclaimed Ishbosheth king over Gilead, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, the land of the Ashurites, and all the rest of Israel” (II Samuel 2:8-9).

David was supposed to be king over Israel! Yet there he was, rejected by Israel and accepted only by li’l ol’ Judah. What was up with that? Timing, folks. God’s timing. David got his feet wet ruling over Judah, which undoubtedly gave him a great deal of preparatory experience for the day when he’d also rule over Israel.

“David made Hebron his capital, and he ruled as king of Judah for seven and a half years” (II Samuel 2:11). David waited patiently on God’s timing. And as he waited, he matured and grew in wisdom. He was the right man for the job, but only when God said it was time for him to take over.

As we can see from David’s life, following God’s plan sometimes takes a heap of patience. But being in God’s will is always worth the waiting.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we concluded with a statement about the priceless value of integrity. Integrity was something sadly lacking for one person we didn’t get to in the account of Saul’s death. Before we do, though, let’s review how Saul died: “Now the Philistines attacked Israel, and the men of Israel fled before them. Many were slaughtered on the slopes of Mount Gilboa. The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed three of his sons – Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malkishua. The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him severely. Saul groaned to his armor bearer, ‘Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me’” (I Samuel 31:1-4a, NLT).

“But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell on his own sword and died beside the king. So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and his troops all died together that same day” (I Samuel 31:4b-6).

David, busy on his own battlefield, had no idea what had happened. So when a young man from Saul’s camp came to David and told him, David questioned him carefully: “‘Where have you come from?’ David asked. ‘I escaped from the Israelite camp,’ the man replied. ‘What happened?’ David demanded. ‘Tell me how the battle went.’ The man replied, ‘Our entire army fled from the battle. Many of the men are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.’ ‘How do you know Saul and Jonathan are dead?’ David demanded of the young man” (II Samuel 1:3-6).

Here’s where this guy made the worst and final mistake of his life: “The man answered, ‘I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear with the enemy chariots and charioteers closing in on him. When he turned and saw me, he cried out for me to come to him. ‘How can I help?’ I asked him. He responded, ‘Who are you?’ ‘I am an Amalekite,’ I told him. Then he begged me, ‘Come over here and put me out of my misery, for I am in terrible pain and want to die.’ So I killed him,’ the Amalekite told David, ‘for I knew he couldn’t live. Then I took his crown and his armband, and I have brought them here to you, my lord’” (II Samuel 1:7-10).

David responded with the million-dollar question: “Why were you not afraid to kill the Lord’s anointed one?” (II Samuel 1:11).

Having survived the battle – if, indeed, he was ever even in it – this fellow came upon the dead king and took “his crown and armband,” bringing them to David in the hope that he could score points with the one next in line on the power pyramid. What was his reward?

“David said to one of his men, ‘Kill him!’ So the man thrust his sword into the Amalekite and killed him. ‘You have condemned yourself,’ David said, ‘for you yourself confessed that you killed the Lord’s anointed one’” (II Samuel 1:15-16).

It was all a lie. It was done to impress. But the young man’s scheme went very, very wrong. Integrity, folks. There’s no substitute. The price for dishonesty can be overwhelming.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


David may have been as young as 15 when the Lord instructed Samuel to anoint him as the new king. He spent the next 15 years both serving Saul and running from him. But Saul’s time was about to be up: “Now the Philistines attacked Israel, and the men of Israel fled before them. Many were slaughtered on the slopes of Mount Gilboa. The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed three of his sons – Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malkishua. The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him severely. Saul groaned to his armor bearer, ‘Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me’” (I Samuel 31:1-4a, NLT).

“But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell on his own sword and died beside the king. So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and his troops all died together that same day” (I Samuel 31:4b-6).

David, off fighting his own battle, had no idea what had happened. “David returned from his victory over the Amalekites and spent two days in Ziklag. On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s army camp. He had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head to show that he was in mourning. He fell to the ground before David in deep respect. ‘Where have you come from?’ David asked. ‘I escaped from the Israelite camp,’ the man replied. ‘What happened?’ David demanded. ‘Tell me how the battle went.’ The man replied, “Our entire army fled from the battle. Many of the men are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead” (II Samuel 1:1b-4).

Fifteen long years of trying to stay alive while a madman sought his life. Surely David and his men were a happy bunch when they heard this news! But no, this is how they reacted: “David and his men tore their clothes in sorrow when they heard the news. They mourned and wept and fasted all day for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord’s army and the nation of Israel, because they had died by the sword that day” (II Samuel 1:11-12).

David was a man of honor. He trusted God to place in authority whomever He chose. He trusted God to remove that person from authority whenever He was ready to do so. David saw his opportunities to kill Saul for what they were: tests.

David guarded his integrity. So should you. Your integrity is priceless. And there is no real integrity outside of a life committed to Jesus.

“If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference.” (R. Buckminster Fuller)

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


You’d think by now Saul would have given up on trying to take out David, but no, he was still at it. Saul and his “black ops” team had hit the trail as soon as they learned David and his men’s new location: “Saul camped along the road beside the hill of Hakilah, near Jeshimon, where David was hiding. When David learned that Saul had come after him into the wilderness, he sent out spies to verify the report of Saul’s arrival” (I Samuel 26:3-4, NLT).

“David slipped over to Saul’s camp one night to look around. Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of his army, were sleeping inside a ring formed by the slumbering warriors. ‘Who will volunteer to go in there with me?’ David asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother” (I Samuel 26:5-6a).

“‘I’ll go with you,’ Abishai replied. So David and Abishai went right into Saul’s camp and found him asleep, with his spear stuck in the ground beside his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying asleep around him” (I Samuel 26:6b-7).

Here’s where David was once again put to the test. Maybe even with the best of intentions, he received some very bad advice: “‘God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!’ Abishai whispered to David. ‘Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!’” (I Samuel 26:8).

But how did David respond? “‘No!’ David said. ‘Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the Lord’s anointed one? Surely the Lord will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. The Lord forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! But take his spear and that jug of water beside his head, and then let’s get out of here!’” (I Samuel 26:9-11).

Again, David had the perfect setup for taking Saul’s life. Again, he got well-meaning advice from a sincere friend. Again, the advice was dead wrong. And again, David was wise enough to recognize his situation as a test and leave Saul for God to deal with.

“So David took the spear and jug of water that were near Saul’s head. Then he and Abishai got away without anyone seeing them or even waking up, because the Lord had put Saul’s men into a deep sleep. David climbed the hill opposite the camp until he was at a safe distance. Then he shouted down to the soldiers and to Abner son of Ner, ‘Wake up, Abner!’ ‘Who is it?’ Abner demanded” (I Samuel 26:12-14).

Then David called out: “‘Look around! Where are the king’s spear and the jug of water that were beside his head?’ Here is your spear, O king,’ David replied. ‘Let one of your young men come over and get it. The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one’” (I Samuel 26:16b, 22-23).

How’d David and Abishai get through an entire circle of sleeping soldiers to reach Saul and Abner? “The Lord had put Saul’s men into a deep sleep.” This wasn’t a “golden opportunity” to kill Saul; it was a test of David’s character.

Use extreme caution and plenty of prayer before latching onto anything that looks like a “golden opportunity.”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Here’s David, Saul’s son-in-law, being hunted down by Saul and his men. David, instead of taking the “opportunity” laid before him, sees it for what it is: a test to see if he will harm God’s appointed leader before the Lord’s own timing for David to replace him.

Saul, grateful that David didn’t kill him when he had the chance, “… began to cry. And he said to David, ‘You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the Lord put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule” (I Samuel 24:16b-20, NLT).

Saul was momentarily grateful, but it wasn’t long before he was once again seeking to take David’s life. Even before the incident in the cave, Saul had made a sort of “black ops” attempt on David: “Saul sent troops to watch David’s house. They were told to kill David when he came out the next morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him … So she helped him climb out through a window, and he fled and escaped” (I Samuel 19:11a, 12).

“So David escaped and went to Ramah to see Samuel, and he told him all that Saul had done to him. Then Samuel took David with him to live at Naioth. When the report reached Saul that David was at Naioth in Ramah, he sent troops to capture him. But when they arrived and saw Samuel leading a group of prophets who were prophesying, the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s men, and they also began to prophesy. When Saul heard what had happened, he sent other troops, but they, too, prophesied! The same thing happened a third time. Finally, Saul himself went … But on the way to Naioth in Ramah the Spirit of God came even upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy” (I Samuel 19:18-22a, 23a).

Remember, prior to Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit didn’t indwell believers. He had been with Saul as God’s chosen leader, but First Samuel 16:14a tells us that “The Spirit of the Lord had left Saul.” Samuel had told him: “Since you have rejected the Lord’s command, He has rejected you as king of Israel” (I Samuel 15:26b).

And who had God chosen to replace Saul? David. And nothing – not Saul, his army, or anything else – was going to stop God’s plan from being fulfilled.

When Saul’s men and even Saul “began to prophesy,” what were they proclaiming? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I firmly believe that Saul and his men were proclaiming the very same thing that Samuel and the other true prophets were proclaiming: the sovereignty of God and his choice of David as king.

Many may turn their backs on God, but His plans will succeed through those willing to obey Him. The Bible reminds us that believers and unbelievers will one day confess the truth. Saul, unwilling and disobedient, did just that.

“Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear” (Isaiah 45:23b, NIV).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Who says the Bible is boring? David, hiding in a cave with his men, is astounded when Saul chooses that very spot for a private potty break. Saul, the man who is determined to hunt David to the death, is alone and at David’s mercy.

But that’s just it: David had mercy. He did “cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe” (I Samuel 24:4b); but he immediately realized he’d let his men wrongfully influence him, so he repented of his deed and “restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul” (I Samuel 24:7).

So what happened next? “After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him” (I Samuel 24:8). Why was David shouting? Because he wasn’t stupid – he didn’t call out until Saul was a good distance away.

“Then he shouted to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king – he is the Lord’s anointed one.’ Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me” (I Samuel 24:9-10).

David “bowed low” in honor of the man who was trying to kill him? No, he bowed to the one whom God had allowed to be in authority. Folks, there’s a huge lesson here. Whether we agree or disagree with our country’s, state’s, county’s, city’s – and, dare I say, church’s – leaders, we should have as much sense as David and realize that they wouldn’t be in those positions had God Almighty not allowed them to be. We are to respect the position, even if we have no reason whatsoever to respect the person; and we are to respect the person because the Lord has granted him or her that position.

Likewise, Exodus 20:12a gives us the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and mother.” Whether your parents are completely deserving or undeserving of your respect, you’re to give it because God says to.

David showed proper honor to King Saul even though he knew that he’d been chosen to replace Saul at God’s appointed time. And he closed his words to Saul on this occasion with a statement we can all learn from when it comes to dealing with our adversaries:

“May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you. As that old proverb says, ‘From evil people come evil deeds.’ So you can be sure I will never harm you. May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my Advocate, and He will rescue me from your power!” (I Samuel 24:12-13, 15).

Let “the Lord judge between” you and your enemies. Let the Lord mete out the punishment. But you make a commitment to “never harm” anyone through your thoughts, words, or actions.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re still looking at the adversity David faced in spite of doing nothing to cause any of it. Having already survived multiple attempts by Saul to kill him, David was having to watch his back around the king, who was also his father-in-law. When Saul’s son Jonathan told David that Saul was up to his old tricks again, David cried out in exasperation, “‘What have I done?’ he exclaimed. ‘What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?’” (I Samuel 20:1b, NLT).

Things got so bad that David and the men who had remained faithful to him were hiding in a cave. And this is where David finally got his opportunity to get even. Here’s what went down: “Saul … was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men … Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave!” (I Samuel 24:1b-2a, 3b).

“‘Now’s your opportunity!’ David’s men whispered to him. ‘Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’ So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe” (I Samuel 24:4).

David had the chance of a lifetime right in front of him. And he had encouragers among his men who were telling him that God had to have orchestrated this turn of events. So with his supporters urging him on, David snipped off a piece of the king’s robe.

Bet that made him feel powerful, don’t you? No, instead, “David’s conscience began bothering him … ‘The Lord knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,’ he said to his men. So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul” (I Samuel 24:5b, 6a, 7).

The very man whom the Bible says “remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life” (I Samuel 18:29b) was protected from harm by David. And David knew that, were the situation reversed, Saul wouldn’t have hesitated to kill him.

Why was David so merciful? Because he listened to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and had better sense than to take matters into his own hands. And so should you.

Our Creator reminds us in Deuteronomy 32:35: “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.”

“In due time.” In God’s time. Not ours. Be careful not to mistake a test for an opportunity. David passed. Will you?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates 


Yesterday I’d said that David, the shepherd boy who’d killed the giant the whole Israelite army had run from, had defended both his Lord and his people. I then asked the question: what did he get for his trouble? The answer? A new enemy. Jealous King Saul tried on more than one occasion to kill him.

But what was David supposed to have gotten? Looking back at First Samuel 17, we see that David heard Goliath taunting the Israelite army. The soldiers said to him, “The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife” (I Samuel 17:25b, NLT).

Did David get what Saul had promised? Fast forward to First Samuel 18:13 and we see that “Saul … appointed him commander over 1,000 men, and David faithfully led his troops into battle.” He made David a military leader, hoping that he’d be killed in battle. Remember, Saul’s jealousy was still a major problem. A problem that led Saul to go back on his word.

Instead of handing over the promised daughter as David’s wife, Saul waited to see if one of the Israelite army’s enemies would take care of David for him. But as we’ve already read, “David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him” (I Samuel 18:14).

So Saul formulated a new plan: “‘I am ready to give you my older daughter, Merab, as your wife. But first you must prove yourself to be a real warrior by fighting the Lord’s battles.’ For Saul thought, ‘I’ll send him out against the Philistines and let them kill him rather than doing it myself’” (I Samuel 18:17).

If you continue reading First Samuel 18, you’ll learn that David turned down Saul’s offer of his eldest daughter Merab, humbly stating in verse 18, “Who am I, and what is my family in Israel that I should be the king’s son-in-law?” So Merab was given in marriage to another man. “In the meantime, Saul’s daughter Michal had fallen in love with David” (I Samuel 18:20a).

David apparently liked the idea of marrying Michal, but he insisted that he couldn’t accept a royal bride without paying a worthy price. So Saul demands: “‘I want for the bride price … 100 Philistine foreskins! … But what Saul had in mind was that David would be killed in the fight” (I Samuel 18:24b).

Instead of backing down from such a daunting challenge, “David was delighted to accept the offer. … he and his men went out and killed 200 Philistines. So Saul gave his daughter Michal to David to be his wife” (I Samuel 18:26a, 27a, 27c).

David was faithful to his Lord. He was faithful to his people. He was faithful to Saul. Yet Saul “remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life” (I Samuel 18:29b).

Not every person is going to like you, even if you’ve never wronged them in any way. As one wise grandmother told her complaining granddaughter, “Honey, fare is what you pay to ride the bus.” Life isn’t fair. You will be hurt. You will be wronged. But you must remain faithful because “He who calls you is faithful” (I Thessalonians 5:24b).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel. As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright” (I Samuel 17:23b-24, NLT).

While David’s three oldest brothers “Eliab, Abinadab, and Shimea” (I Samuel 17:13a) and the rest of the Israelite army ran from Goliath like a bunch of scared rabbits, David made a beeline for the giant Philistine, telling him, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (I Samuel 17:45).

And with that, David “hurled (a stone) with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground. Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head” (I Samuel 17:49b, 51).

First Samuel 17 ends with the Israelites triumphing over the Philistines who had been thrown into complete panic when Goliath fell dead. King Saul had to have been pretty happy with the turn of events. “When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals” (I Samuel 18:6). Sounds like a pretty good welcoming committee, doesn’t it?

But “This was their song: ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!’” (I Samuel 18:7).

Which went over just great with the king. Verse 8 tells us that “This made Saul very angry.” So angry, in fact, that “from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David” (I Samuel 18:9).

The trouble with jealousy is that it’s like any other sin: if you feed it, it grows. Saul undoubtedly spent the night fuming over David’s popularity, and “The very next day… Saul … began to rave in his house like a madman” (I Samuel 18:10a). So as “David was playing the harp … Saul … suddenly hurled (a spear) at David, intending to pin him to the wall” (I Samuel 18:10b-11a).

David, the shepherd boy who’d killed the giant the whole Israelite army had run from, had defended both his Lord and his people. And what did he get for his trouble? A new enemy. Saul tried on more than one occasion to kill him.

But how did that work out? “David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him” (I Samuel 18:14).

Keep your eyes off your problems and on your Savior. And remember: “We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” (II Chronicles 32:8b).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


David: the secret king; the shepherd; the musician; the armor bearer; the errand runner; the kid brother. He’s infuriated at the insults the giant Philistine Goliath is hurling at the Israelite army. But when he demands, “Who is this pagan Philistine … that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (I Samuel 17:26b), his oldest brother, Eliab, tells him to quit running his mouth and showing off and go back to “those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of” (I Samuel 17:28a).

Yet that’s not what David does. If you continue reading in First Samuel 17, you’ll see that David had to all but beg Saul to allow him to fight Goliath, but he finally got his permission. Saul even gave him his own suit of armor and sword. But David wasn’t accustomed to all that gear, so he discarded it and, instead, “picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine” (I Samuel 17:40). Why did David take five stones? Scripture indicates that Goliath had four brothers - see 2 Samuel 21:18-22.

Goliath was insulted and infuriated that the Israelite army would send a kid to fight against him. How did David respond to his insults? “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (I Samuel 17:45).

And with that, David “hurled (a stone) with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground. Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head” (I Samuel 17:49b, 51).

Little David won the victory over the giant because God was on his side. What giants are you facing? Whatever or whoever they are, your God is bigger and can lead you to victory.

“You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies …”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Here’s David, anointed as the new king of Israel, serving as musician to King Saul to soothe him during his bouts “with depression and fear” (1 Samuel 16:14b, NLT). When David wasn’t in the court playing for Saul, he was back in the fields tending the sheep and goats – neither of which sounds much like a royal assignment. First Samuel 16:21b says that David did get one sort of promotion: he “became (Saul’s) armor bearer.”

David’s brothers “Eliab, Abinadab, and Shimea – had already joined Saul’s army” (1 Samuel 17:13b), “but David went back and forth so he could help his father with the sheep in Bethlehem” (1 Samuel 17:15). David, as the king virtually no one knew about, spent his time lugging around Saul’s armor; playing the harp; and herding his father’s goats and sheep.

Oh, and did I mention his job as errand boy? “One day Jesse said to David, ‘Take this basket of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers. And give these ten cuts of cheese to their captain. See how your brothers are getting along, and bring back a report on how they are doing” (1 Samuel 17:17-18).

So “David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel. As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright” (1 Samuel 17:22-24).

That wasn’t how David responded. He demanded to know “Who is this pagan Philistine … that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26b).

That’s when everybody rallied around him in agreement? Nope. “When David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David … he was angry. ‘What are you doing around here anyway?’ he demanded. ‘What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of?’” (1 Samuel 17:28a).

Doesn’t sound like David had many folks on his team. What he did have, though, was God on his side. And that was more than enough for David. And He is more than enough for you and whatever you’re facing.

“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we saw that David not only didn’t start out as a king, but that he was so insignificant that when Samuel obeyed God and went to David’s home in Bethlehem to anoint the new king the Lord had chosen, David’s father Jesse didn’t even call him in out of the field – Jesse just assumed Samuel was there to anoint one of his other sons. And Samuel looked at David’s big strong brother Eliab and pegged him as the one God would be choosing.

But what did the Lord tell Samuel? “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b, NLT). God saw potential within David that those merely looking at him from the outside missed completely.

So being anointed as king ended David’s life of insignificance, right? Wrong. David had a long way to go before he would ever be a ruler. David returned to tending sheep and only a few people even knew that a new king had been selected.

First Samuel 16:14a tells us that “The Spirit of the Lord had left Saul.” Prior to Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit didn’t indwell believers. He had been with Saul as God’s chosen leader, but as Samuel had already told Saul: “Since you have rejected the Lord’s command, He has rejected you as king of Israel” (1 Samuel 15:26b). Even so, Saul’s dethronement and David’s enthronement were not going to be overnight changes.

But Saul, having lost the covering of the Holy Spirit, began to suffer greatly “with depression and fear” (1 Samuel 16:14b) – there’s a word in that for someone who’s either trying to deal with life without asking Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior, or they’re a born-again believer who refuses to leave their troubles and worries with the Lord.

The rest of First Samuel 16 describes how Saul’s servants suggested finding someone to play soothing music whenever Saul was at his low points. Saul liked the advice and, lo and behold, David, son of Jesse from Bethlehem, was brought in to play the harp for the king. David, the newly anointed king, was serving Saul, who was still in power – Saul, who had been rejected by God because of his disobedience.

Folks, it’s all about timing. David may have been anointed as the new king, but God wasn’t ready for him to move into that position. And David wasn’t ready for it, either. He had a lot of learning and growing to do.

Timing, folks, is everything. At a women’s retreat right around 35 years ago, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart, telling me that I would one day be standing before audiences. I received that as truth, but wondered how it could ever happen. Still, I stood when we were given the opportunity to share whatever we’d learned during the retreat, and I told this huge group of ladies the promise God had given me.

And I was swamped by well-wishers? Nope. They looked at me as if I had two heads. Later, one lady came to me and said she was agreeing with me in prayer and would continue to pray for God’s guidance. The rest made me feel like a fool.

Ten years later I received my first invitation to speak to an audience. Ten years, y’all. We MUST learn to trust and wait on God’s timing.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


David didn’t start out as a king. He started out as the kid brother of Jesse’s boys. He was so insignificant that when the Lord told Samuel to “go to Bethlehem…. [and] Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king,” (1 Samuel 16:1, NLT), David’s father didn’t even call him in from the field when he lined up the rest of his sons for Samuel’s inspection.

And Samuel, being human, did what humans do. When he arrived at Jesse’s home in Bethlehem, he saw good-looking, muscle-bound “Eliab and thought, ‘Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!’” (1 Samuel 16:6).

But what did God say to Samuel? “Don’t judge by his appearance or height … The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God knew exactly what Samuel had been thinking, so this statement was not only a rejection of Eliab as the king to replace Saul, but a reprimand to Samuel for judging “by outward appearance.”

Scripture goes on to tell us that “In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these … Are these all the sons you have?” (1 Samuel 16:10-11a).

And then Jesse had one of those “oh yeah” moments – he remembered little ol’ David: “There is still the youngest … But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats” (1 Samuel 16:11b).

Just a kid. Insignificant to his brothers. Insignificant to his father. Important to his Heavenly Father.

You may have been the kid that felt rejected. Even now, you may feel completely insignificant. But you aren’t. You’re important to God.

In the movie “The Help,” Mae Mobley was a precious little girl whose mother had no time for or interest in her. But Aibee, the family maid, loved her as if she was her own. And every day she would tell her: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Aibee’s love and encouragement was a tremendous blessing to Mae Mobley.

The English may not be correct, but the sentiment is 100 percent accurate: “You is important.” God loves you. And His Holy Spirit “looks at the heart” and speaks words of encouragement to those attuned to Him.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have royal blood flowing through your veins. You have a Heavenly Father who “will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, HCSB). Nor will He ever ignore you or consider you insignificant. He has a perfect plan for your life if you’ll only listen and follow His guidance.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Esther, a young Jewish girl, was chosen by King Xerxes as his new queen. But Esther’s Uncle Mordecai irked Haman, who had no idea of Mordecai's connection to Esther, so Haman went to the king, who had no idea Esther was Jewish, and asked for a decree to wipe out all the Jews. The king, completely unaware that Esther was Jewish, listened to Haman and issued the decree. Mordecai, learning of it, “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly” (Esther 4:1, NIV).

Hearing what Mordecai was doing, Esther sent someone to see what was wrong. She found out that her people were about to be annihilated. Mordecai then tells Esther: “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b). It was up to Esther to speak to King Xerxes and save the Jews.

Only one problem with that: “For any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life” (Esther 4:11b.

So if Esther went in uninvited to talk to the king, she would be killed. Her only hope was for him to “extend the gold scepter,” which would mean he’d let her live.

With the lives of her entire race on the line, what did Esther do? Rush into the king’s presence and hope for the best? No, she had a much better plan. She sent this message to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

Esther didn’t sit back and expect her royal position to keep her safe while the rest of her people were in peril. Esther didn’t weigh the odds and decide she wasn’t going to put herself in such danger. What she did do was fast and pray; and she had the rest of the Jews fast and pray with her.

A dire situation and yet she let three days tick by while she and the rest of the Jews called on God to guide and intervene. Did she know what God would do? No. She trusted Him no matter the outcome: “If I perish, I perish.”

What was the result? “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand” (Esther 5:1-2).

The king spared her life and listened to what she had to say: “If it pleases the king, … let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman … devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces” (Esther 8:5). And the king honored Esther’s request.

No matter how desperate things may seem, pray before you take action. God’s plan may be entirely different from the one you have in mind; and you won’t know His plan if you don’t seek it.

“And now I will show you the best way of all” (I Corinthians 12:31b, ISV).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


We’ve looked at some of the difficulties faced by Mary and by Noah. Today I’d like to peek into the life of Esther – you’ll find her in the Old Testament book by that title.

Esther was a young Jewish girl who lived in Susa where King Xerxes (ZERK-SEES) was in power. His wife, Queen Vashti, had displeased the king and one of the king’s advisors had told him: “Let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king. Then let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti” (Esther 1:19b, 2b, 4a, NIV).

And out of all the women in Xerxes’ kingdom, Esther was the one he chose. Esther 2:5-7 gives us Esther’s background: “Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai … who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah … This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.”

King Xerxes had no idea that Esther was Jewish since “Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so” (Esther 2:10). So when the evil Haman became angry with Esther’s Uncle Mordecai, having no clue of Mordecai's connection with Esther, he convinced the king to issue a decree to destroy the Jews living within Xerxes’ realm. The king listened to Haman, clueless as to Queen Esther's heritage, did as Haman suggested.

“When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly” (Esther 4:1). Esther, learning of Mordecai’s behavior, sent one of her attendants “to find out what was troubling Mordecai” (Esther 4:5b). And that was how she learned what the king had done.

Which put Esther in a serious pickle. See, even though she was queen, it was unlawful for her (or anyone) to appear before the king unless he commanded her presence. To violate that law would result in Esther being “put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter” (Esther 4:11b). Even if she could talk to King Xerxes, he couldn’t rescind his decree; but perhaps they could figure out some other way to help her people.

What was a girl to do? As her uncle told her: “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b).

Esther had a huge decision to make, but Mordecai had given her much to think about. Could God save the Jews through her intervention? Should she take that kind of risk? We’ll look at the rest tomorrow.

Meanwhile, what about your own life? What can God do through you? Where has He allowed you to be “for such a time as this?”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Before we move off Noah and baptism, I want to note a couple more points: (A) Peter said the flood “water is a picture of baptism” (I Peter 3:21a, NLT), but that (B) “Only eight people were saved” (1 Peter 3:20b).

There were countless people in those flood waters, yet they all drowned. Not a one was saved, except for Noah and his family inside the ark. Yet Peter tells us that the “water is a picture of baptism.” How is this possible?

Because those who had put their faith in God and had walked through “the door” (John 10:7 and 9), which represented Christ Jesus, were the only ones saved by and through those waters. None of those outside the ark were saved (see Genesis 7:22-23). Jesus Himself taught us: “Those who come in through Me will be saved” (John 10:9b).

Jesus is the One and Only Way to Heaven. He plainly tells us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep … is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1, NASB). And of course, we know from Psalm 100:3b that “the sheep” represent believers: “We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”

And if that’s not a good enough picture of what’s going on here, Jesus says in John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep.” The plan always was for Jesus “to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45b and Matthew 20:28b).

Look back at John 10:9. Jesus says “Those who come in.” Not only did “the door” represent Christ, but the ark represented His Kingdom. A lot of people passed through the waters that Peter says were “a picture of baptism,” but “Only eight people were saved.” Noah’s family. Those who had put their faith in the One True God.

A day is coming when Christ will return for His Bride, and those who aren’t His will be left behind. Jesus describes it like this: “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27).

Don’t assume your salvation. Your church membership didn’t give it to you. Your baptism didn’t. The statement has been made that there’s 18 inches between heaven and hell – the distance between having head knowledge and heart knowledge. Knowing Jesus Christ intellectually doesn’t mean knowing Him as Lord and Savior. As James 2:19 puts it: “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” See, the demons’ belief is head knowledge, which certainly doesn’t save them.

James goes on to say the proof is in the lifestyle. Everyone messes up, but when serving and honoring Jesus Christ is rarely a part of your life, the Bible says you don’t really know Him.

In other words, “faith without works” (James 2:18b, HCSB) isn’t really faith at all. “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds?” (James 2:18b, NLT).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Laughingstock Noah isn’t being laughed at now. While the rest of the world is buried under a flood of destruction, Noah and his family are safe in the ark. God “closed the door” (Genesis 7:16b, NLT) and it would not be opened again until God gave the order (see Genesis 8:18).

Noah and his family were saved because: (A) Noah “walked in close fellowship with God” (Genesis 6:9b) and (B) “Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him” (Genesis 6:22).

Jesus identifies Himself as “the door,” stating in John 10:9a, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9a, NASB). As I keep saying, the Bible continually points to Jesus. All those who entered through “the door” were saved.

There’s so much symbolism in the account of the flood. Peter words it this way: “God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:20b-21).

“Baptism, which now saves you.” This is a huge can of worms, folks. For some, the very act of baptism means you are indeed saved. Some denominations baptize infants, believing that the baptism of an infant is an act of salvation. Others baptize as an outward sign of an inward change.

Who’s right and who’s wrong? Do your own research, y’all, but here’s my personal opinion. Baptizing an infant doesn’t bring that child salvation. A child must reach an age where he realizes for himself his sinful nature and need for a Savior. Until that time, I believe a child is not held accountable before the Lord. Just as with an adult, a child must be mature to understand the decision he’s making. If it were possible to bring salvation to a child through baptism, then it would also be possible to bring salvation to an adult who was unwittingly baptized. No, I firmly believe salvation comes only through a clear understanding and acceptance of Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.

What about “baptism, which now saves you”? While many people slam one denomination who stresses the necessity of baptism, others stick baptism on the back burner like it’s a trivial matter. According to my Bible, it isn’t. When a person realizes his need for a Savior, he confesses that to God and receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Then, Peter says you are baptized “as a response to God from a clean conscience.”

Baptism is not something to be taken lightly. Nor is it something to be done expecting it to wash away your sins. It won’t. But when you go into the baptismal waters having confessed your sins and asked Jesus Christ to come into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, your baptism is “effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Your old life and self are symbolically buried beneath the baptismal waters and you are raised from the waters to a new life in Christ Jesus.

If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and you haven’t been baptized, you need to get ‘er done – throughout the New Testament, it’s clearly shown to be the very first act of obedience in a new believer. If you were baptized before you truly came to know Christ, you need to get your baptism in proper order. Talk to your pastor and tell him you want to be baptized as a true believer. That’s what I had to do.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Continuing our look at Noah, let’s review yesterday’s info and then move on. In his time, “Noah was … the only blameless person living on earth” (Genesis 6:9, NLT). Things were so bad, in fact, that “the Lord was sorry He had ever made” humans (Genesis 6:6). Even so, God remembered Noah and promised: “I will confirm My covenant with you” (Genesis 6:18a).

So Noah, 500 miles from the nearest significant body of water, spent the next century or more of his life building a humongous boat. And even though the people around him surely thought him a lunatic, he kept right on doing “everything exactly as God had commanded him” (Genesis 6:22 and 7:5).

And when the flood came (see Genesis 7:11), Noah’s family and everything else the Lord had instructed Noah to bring along, went into the ark and “Then the Lord closed the door behind them” (Genesis 7:16b).

Two things to think about here:

(1) Noah built the ark with a door too big and heavy to close. With it open, Noah and his entire family and all of the creatures God had instructed him to bring along would be drowned. Everything Noah had worked so long and hard on would be for nothing. They were helpless. But Noah trusted the Lord. Only God could take care of that part of the plan – He had to be the One to close the door. If God gives you a vision, you don’t have to worry about the things you can’t do for yourself – God expects you to do your part and trust Him to do the rest.

(2) Just as Noah couldn’t close the door, he couldn’t open it either – until God said to (see Genesis 8:18). Crazy ol’ Noah didn’t look so crazy when the rest of the world didn’t have time to take swimming lessons. I would imagine that everyone who could get near that ark was beating on the sides and pleading for Noah to take them in before they drowned. But Noah couldn’t. God shut that door and it could only be opened again in God’s perfect timing.

With all that under our belts, let’s take a look at John 10:7b: “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep” (HCSB). Jesus identifies Himself as “the door.” And in case His listeners missed it the first time, He repeated it: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9a, NASB).

What we see in the account of the flood is God’s eternal plan for the salvation of mankind: Jesus. Those who entered through “the door” were saved. Then God, not man, closed that opportunity and those outside the ark perished.

Notice that there were a whole lot less people IN the ark than OUTSIDE the ark. I fear that the same is true today. A. W. Tozer said he believed that 90 percent of the people sitting in church were lost. Billy Graham is said to have put that percentage at 85. Either way, it’s a terrifying thought.

Church membership doesn’t save you. Knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior saves you. And the proof of that commitment is in your daily living. Do you know Him?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we saw how Mary undoubtedly had to deal with false accusations and gossip. But Mary certainly wasn’t the only person in the Bible to have to contend with negativity. I want to take a look at a few other people and see how they handled adversity.

In Genesis 6:9 we read: “This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God” (NLT).

Things were so bad that the Bible tells us: “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and He saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry He had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6).

“It broke His heart.” God, who created everything and made man “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27a), grieved over how humans were behaving. So He told Noah, “Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. But I will confirm My covenant with you. Build a large boat from cypress wood …” (Genesis 6:17, 18a, 14a).

Bear in mind that most scholars agree that, at this time, it had never rained: “The Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth … But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground” (Genesis 2:5b, 6, NASB).

So here’s Noah, who scholars also agree lived around 500 miles from the nearest significant body of water, constructing a seaworthy vessel four and a half stories tall, the length of one and a half football fields and with the load capacity of about 522 railroad cars. No doubt the neighbors were thrilled and cheering him on, right? I don't think so.

What was Noah’s response? He “did everything exactly as God had commanded him” (Genesis 6:22 and 7:5, NLT).

And this was no overnight accomplishment. Of course, prior to the flood, humans lived much longer lifetimes: “By the time Noah was 500 years old, he was the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 5:32). But even bearing that in mind, it likely took more than a century for Noah to complete the construction of the ark (boat).

The Bible doesn’t tell us, but picture for yourself: if you lived nowhere around water and had never seen rain, how goofy would you look or feel hammering away every day building a giant boat on dry land? What would the people around you say? No doubt you and your boat would be on every news broadcast, YouTube, etc. You’d be labeled a nut.

Would that deter you from what God had called you to do? The critics didn’t stop Noah. Don’t let them stop you. More on Noah tomorrow.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Have you ever been bad-mouthed? Talked about? Run through the rumor mill? Allow me to introduce you to a young teenager named Mary. She was around 14 years old and pure as the proverbial driven snow. Her life – inside and out – was one of innocence and humility.

And then what happened? The gossips got busy. In a small town like Nazareth, nothing went unnoticed. Absolutely nothing. Everybody knew everybody’s business.

See, Mary had gone for a visit to her cousin Elizabeth’s and Luke 1:56 says that: “Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home” (NLT).

When Mary got back, the gossips took notice: “Doesn’t Mary look like she’s gained some weight? And I haven’t seen her hang out any rags since she’s been back. Know what I think?”

We’re all adults here, so let me explain how things were until the last century or so. When a woman’s monthly ordeal came along, what did she do? Used rags, strips of old cloth, in lieu of a sanitary napkin (which had yet to be invented). Afterwards, these rags were boiled in a laundry pot and hung outdoors to dry so they could be reused the next time around. Thus the tacky expression that’s probably already come to your mind – it was easy to know what was going on when your personal laundry had to flap in the breeze in front of the whole neighborhood each month.

It’s quite probable that Mary’s lack of monthly laundry is what caught folks’ attention. Whatever it was, Mary, very likely, to some, lived her lifetime with a blemish on her reputation; Mary, the mother of the Son of God.

Even her husband-to-be had heard the talk. Matthew 1:19-21 tells us: “Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Joseph believed the angel, married Mary, and was present at the birth of Jesus.

So when the happy couple and young Jesus returned to Nazareth, don’t you know there were those who said: “That baby was well on its way before she and Joseph were even married!” And this time, the gossips were right – they just had no idea what an awesome miracle Mary had experienced!

Mary didn’t let gossip defeat her. She knew the Truth and that was enough for her. How about you? Do you know the Truth? If you do, don’t let any negative talk or attitude stop you from fulfilling God’s plan for your life.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


How was the original sin covered? Through blood sacrifice. God took the lives of animals in His own creation to make a covering for the one part of creation that was made in His Own Image. And thus began a continual process of blood-shedding to achieve temporary cover for sin.

But that was the problem: the covering was only temporary. Matter of fact, the book of Hebrews says it like this: “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore … Christ came into the world” (Hebrews 10:4-5a, NIV).

It took a Perfect Man to pay the price for man’s sin, and only Jesus was perfect. As we prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas and think about the joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus, God Incarnate as a tiny helpless infant, let us also remember He was born to die. That special little Baby came for one solitary purpose: as the one perfect and permanent sacrifice to cover the sins of all who believe in Him.

Picture that innocent baby in the manger as you read these words: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jesus speaking, John 3:16, AKJV).

Folks, Jesus paid it all. And as the old hymn says, all to Him I owe. And so do you. How are we showing your gratitude?

“Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6b, NLT).

“But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time” (Hebrews 10:12a).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


This one is huge, y’all. Let’s hit the highlights of what we’ve looked at so far concerning the first humans:

(1) Humans were created as eternal beings: “Let Us make humans in Our image” (the Trinity speaking, Genesis 1:26a, God’s Word).

(2) Adam and Eve’s innocence died the moment they disobeyed God: “They knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7b, NASB).

(3) They attempted to fix what they perceived as their problem. What they came up with was inadequate: “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3:7c).

(4) Eve had not yet been created when God warned Adam not to eat “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17).

(5) Where was Adam when Eve ate the fruit? “With her” (Genesis 3:6). And “he ate it, too” (Genesis 3:6).

(6) Satan initiated the downfall of Adam and Eve by injecting a tiny hint of doubt: “Did God really say …” (Genesis 3:1b).

(7) Eve allowed Satan’s seed of doubt to grow into conviction: “The woman was convinced” (Genesis 3:6a, NLT).

(8) What helped convince Eve? Satan’s specialty: temptation. Satan dangled the carrot and Eve took the bait: “She wanted the wisdom [the forbidden fruit] would give her” (Genesis 3:6).

(9) When we look thankfully at what we have instead of enviously at what we don’t, we stay out of temptation’s way: “Let us be thankful and please God” (Hebrews 12:28b).

(10) Adam and Eve’s sin has affected every generation that ever existed. Likewise, our lives affect other lives.

With all that under our belts, let’s back up to our starting point: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21, NASB).

Adam and Eve, having eaten the forbidden fruit, realized “they were naked” (Genesis 3:7b). Uncomfortable with this new realization, they attempted to cover up. Let the light bulbs come on here, folks. Adam and Eve thought their discomfort was caused by their nakedness. Their feeble attempt to fix the problem only showed them how pathetically inadequate their own efforts were.

So God did what Adam and Eve couldn’t do for themselves: He showed them their real problem – sin. And He dealt with it accordingly: He (A) “banished [them] from the Garden” (Genesis 3:23a, NIV). (B) Bur first, He “made clothing from animal skins” to cover Adam and Eve and then “clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).

Don’t dare miss this: who put the clothes on Adam and Eve? God did. He covered their sin. How? With a blood sacrifice. God took the lives of animals in His own perfect creation to make a covering for the one part of creation that was made in His Own Image.

I keep saying it, folks. From cover to cover, the Bible points us to Jesus.

“Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9:14b, NLT).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re still in the Garden. Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit. Mankind has fallen from sinless perfection and eternal life. All because these first two humans listened to the voice of a liar. They allowed Satan to plant a seed a doubt within their spirits.

Don’t miss this, y’all: that doubt had to grow into conviction before they had the nerve to act on it; and we know it did because the Bible tells us: “The woman was convinced” (Genesis 3:6a, NLT); and clearly, Adam, who was “with her” (Genesis 3:6b), was also “convinced” or he’d have stopped Eve and certainly wouldn’t have participated with her.

What helped Eve come to such a conclusion? Satan’s specialty: temptation. See, the serpent told Eve, “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Satan dangled the carrot and Eve took the bait: “She wanted the wisdom it would give her” (Genesis 3:6b).

Adam and Eve lived as perfect people in a perfect world. God Himself came down and walked in the Garden with them – see Genesis 3:8. They had their every need supplied. They had beauty and wonder beyond anything we can imagine. They had Paradise. But Satan’s enticement took Eve’s mind off what she had and onto the one thing she didn’t have: “the wisdom [the forbidden fruit] would give her.”

When our son Mickey was a little fellow, Larry and I spent a lot of time at the ball park. Between tee ball, baseball, and football, it seemed we practically lived at the park for a big portion of the year. One of the families who was also there was a lovely couple I’ll call Jan and Bart. They had four adorable doorsteps, the youngest less than one and oldest about six. They were regular churchgoers, active in Bible study, and well-liked by all who knew them. Bart had a good-paying job and Jan was able to stay at home with the children.

The subtle changes happened over one ball season. Jan began to comment on how routine her life was “stuck at home with the kids.” She occasionally sniped about Bart wearing a suit and tie while she was more likely to be wearing spit-up. In a matter of months, Jan went from sweet-natured and pleasant to constantly complaining. A short time later, Bart and the kids showed up at the park without Jan.

We learned that Jan had left her family. She’d told Bart she no longer loved him and that she didn’t “feel fulfilled being a mother and wife.” Months after the divorce was final and Jan had severed all communication with Bart and her children, Bart learned that Jan had been having an affair with a man she’d met at one of the venues to which she’d often taken the children. He’d promised her love, marriage, and the usual phony baloney and had then used her and eventually thrown her aside.

Jan wanted what she didn’t have. Jan got what she didn’t want.

It’s all about focus, dear people. When we look thankfully at what we have instead of enviously at what we don’t, we stay out of temptation’s way.

“Let us be thankful and please God” (Hebrews 12:28b).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Meanwhile back in the Garden. Before God created Eve, He warned Adam not to eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” because “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die” (God speaking, Genesis 2:17, NLT). Eve, however, listened to the serpent and “took some of the fruit and ate it” (Genesis 3:6b).

Where was Adam? “With her” (Genesis 3:6b). This is what that passage says: “She wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her …”

But Adam, having firsthand knowledge of God’s warning, wouldn’t touch it, right? Wrong. Genesis 3:6 goes on to tell us that “he ate it, too.”

What initiated the downfall of Adam and Eve? The serpent, Satan. And it began by injecting a tiny hint of doubt. He asked Eve, “Did God really say …” (Genesis 3:1b).

And Eve quickly responded with: “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die’” (Genesis 3:3).

But instead of standing firm on what Eve undoubtedly knew was the truth about what God had said, she received the doubt Satan offered and let it sink in. Which opened her up for his second blow: “‘You won’t die!’ the serpent replied to the woman. ‘God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5).

And next comes one of the scariest phrases in the Bible: “The woman was convinced” (Genesis 3:6a).

How often have you talked to someone whom you knew was dead wrong yet who thought he was totally in the right? Eve took the word of a serpent over the Living Word! And just as amazingly, Adam stood beside her and agreed.

Nowadays there are a zillion teachings out there that Satan would have us to believe. “We’re very spiritual people,” one lady told me of herself and her husband. Being able to call herself “spiritual” seemed to have been of great importance to this lady who embraced everything from crystal-gazing to Buddhism. But God doesn’t call us to be spiritual. He calls us to be HIS – a “people for Himself” (2 Samuel 7:23 and Acts 15:14).

Titus 2:14a says it like this: “He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people.” That’s what Jesus Christ did for us. The second half of that verse shows us what we’re to do for Him: we’re to live “totally committed to doing good deeds.”

Stop wasting time on worry, anger, seeking revenge, gossip, whining, or anything else that isn’t constructive. “Doing good deeds” isn’t a sideline – it’s your vocation. Be “totally committed.”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re continuing our look at the fall of man. How’d it all start? Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17, NASB).

How do we know that God had strictly forbidden this? Look at Genesis 2:15-17: “The Lord God placed the man (Adam) in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die’” (NLT).

Now here comes an approach you may have never heard, but pun intended, I think it’s some good food for thought. Where was Eve when Adam received God’s warning? God had yet to create her. It isn’t until Genesis 2:22 that we read: “Then the Lord God made a woman … and He brought her to the man.”

So Adam received the warning about steering clear of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” But did he share this information with his wife? I have no doubt whatsoever that he did. Since she was a newcomer to the Garden, I imagine Adam spent time every day introducing Eve to all the wonders the Garden had to offer.

But did God ever speak the warning directly to Eve? The Bible doesn’t tell us. We do know, though, that God Himself came down and walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve – see Genesis 3:8. I’d call that pretty intimate fellowship, wouldn’t you?

Yet Eve “took some of the fruit and ate it” (Genesis 3:6b) after the serpent talked her into it. Why? Had I been Eve, my excuse would have been: secondhand information. “God told Adam, but He didn’t say a word about this to me.” And if I, as Eve, got hit with, “Yeah, but didn’t Adam tell you?” I’d still be ready with a comeback: “Yes, he told me many times. But still, if it was all that important, wouldn’t God have told me Himself?”

We can all come up with great excuses for doing wrong, which is the sugar-coated way of saying committing sin; and oftentimes the “secondhand info” line is a handy one. I frequently talk to a person about something the Bible says and get the response, “I didn’t know it said that!”

Folks, the Bible isn’t secondhand information – it’s the Living Word speaking directly to those for whom He came and died. Not knowing what the Bible says is inexcusable for most people reading this – we have no idea what it’s like not to have access to the written Word of God.

Is what I’ve written here the truth? Is what your preacher said last Sunday the truth? Is what your Bible study teacher is telling you the truth? What about that radio or TV evangelist? Don’t base your beliefs on secondhand information. As Romans 1:20 puts it, every person will one day stand before the Lord God Almighty “without excuse” (ESV). Read and know the Word of God for yourself.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21, NASB).

When and why did God make “garments of skin for Adam and his wife”? After they had eaten the forbidden fruit: “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (God speaking, Genesis 2:17).

So let’s see: Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God had warned them that, if they did, “you will surely die.” But they didn’t die, did they? They were still standing right there in the Garden. Hang onto that thought and we’ll get back to it.

What did happen immediately? “They knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7b). So what did they do? “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3:7c). What do we see in these two portions of Genesis 3:7? That: (A) Adam and Eve’s innocence died the moment they disobeyed God; and (B) what they came up with to cover themselves was inadequate.

When a person disobeys the teachings of God, he or she sins. We can call it messing up, making a mistake, or doing your own thing, but whatever you call it, it’s still plain ol’ sin. And sin is the very opposite of love. First John 4:8 and 16 remind us that “God is love.” So to sin is to disobey, to turn away from, to HATE the very goodness of God and His teachings.

The Lord explains in Ezekiel 14:7 that, “When [a person] separates himself from Me (NIV), he “fall[s] into sin” (NLT). You can’t ignore God’s warnings without suffering the consequences.

Adam and Eve didn’t drop dead when they ate the forbidden fruit, but their innocence immediately was lost. Not only that, but their eternal lives were lost.

And there was only One Way to fix that problem. There’s a lot more meat in this passage, so hang with me and we’ll cover some more of this tomorrow. Meanwhile, let me ask you: do you know without a shadow of a doubt where you’ll spend eternity? Have you asked anyone else that question?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“… As God’s manager, … be … hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:7-9, HCSB).

Yesterday we looked at how we are to “[hold] to the faithful message as taught.” We are to know the Word so we can share the Word, and the frightening truth is that most Christians don’t know the Scriptures.

So let’s bring it down to each one of us: if you have the only Bible in the world and it is suddenly taken away from you, how much of God’s Word is “treasured … in [your] heart” (Psalm 119:11)? How much would you be able to recall to sustain yourself, encourage others, and lead new people to Jesus?

Paul goes on to tell Titus that there are two major reasons for “holding to the faithful message as taught.” One is “so that [we] will be able … to encourage with sound teaching.” How “sound” is your teaching? How often do you teach? Whether negatively or positively, every aspect of our lives teaches other people what Christ really means to us, what kind of a difference He has made in our lives.

“But,” you say, “I don’t know that much of the Bible, so I’m not comfortable talking about Scripture.” Honey-lamb, get in the Word so that you CAN be comfortable! Meanwhile, ask the Holy Spirit to give you that desire to study and learn more of His Message. And ask Him for boldness to live in such a way that people will want to know what makes you different.

Yes, you need to know as much about the Word of God as you can possibly learn. But that kind of learning will never be ended until we reach heaven and completely understand what we have been given, “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). The greatest pastors, the greatest Christians walking this planet, continually study and learn and grow in His likeness. We are to do likewise.

A part of that growth is through sharing what He’s taught us. Don’t be ashamed to witness about what Christ has done for you, and don’t be hesitant to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll sure find out and get back to you.” Satan thoroughly enjoys prodding a believer to feel incapable and incompetent to share the Good News. Don’t give him that victory in your life – share from the heart and freely admit that you’re a long way from having all the answers. Just be ready to tell them you know the One Answer that matters most of all!

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“… As God’s manager, … be … hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:7-9, HCSB).

“Self-controlled.” How can we be “self-controlled” and yet completely submit ourselves to God’s control? Even when we are centered in Christ, we are still very much conscious of our human nature. We CHOOSE our response in every situation by choosing whether or not we respond in a manner as would Jesus.

When you’re driving in traffic and someone cuts in front of you, you decide whether to let it go or to react as foolishly as the driver whom you just allowed to upset you. And did you catch that word “allowed”? Part of making those mature Christ-like choices is deciding what we will allow to bend us out of shape.

Several years ago I underwent jaw surgery which resulted in me spending time with my mouth completely wired shut for about a week (which Larry still says was so peaceful). It wasn’t fun, but it had to be done. Sure, I could regale you with tales of what an ordeal it was, but you know what? I look around and see that, in the big picture, ALL my problems are so very small. As I began writing this, I had three friends on hospice care, and moments later, one them had already left this world. I could name so many friends and family members who are going through all sorts of serious difficulties right now. Compared to a jillion other people, I am teetotally blessed.

Being “self-controlled” means we can speak positively and refuse to dwell on negative topics or aspects even when, if we’re honest, our human nature prefers to home in on unpleasantness. There are more than enough party poopers around without us adding to the numbers. We aren’t the People of the News nor the People of the Bad News – we’re the People of the Good News, and we need to sound like it!

We are also to “[hold] to the faithful message as taught.” Paul delivered to Titus the Gospel Truth. We are to do likewise. We are to know the Word so we can share the Word. Problem is, if most Christians’ knowledge of the Scriptures was their only ammunition, they’d be hard-pressed to ward off an assault by a kid with a BB gun!

Is the Word really our ammunition? Could it be that our lack of Scripture knowledge is the reason we find ourselves getting clobbered in so many skirmishes against the enemy? Read the temptations of Christ (see Luke 4:1-13) and you’ll see that Jesus used the same weapon in every battle: the Word.

Yes, Christ has already won the war, but we, IN THE POWER OF CHRIST, still have to fight daily battles. Know the Word and suit up for battle (see Ephesians 6:10-18).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“Seventy years are given to us!

Some even live to eighty.

But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;

soon they disappear, and we fly away.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,

so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:10, 12, NLT).

Moses, with the weight of the entire people of Israel on his shoulders, penned the words of Psalm 90. (Yep, David wasn’t the only one whose words are recorded in Psalms.) The people had more fear of the enemy than confidence in the Lord, and the Lord was furious. Moses pled with the Lord and He relented of destroying the people. But they paid a great price for their lack of faith. The Lord pronounced His sentence:

“… as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen My glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested Me by refusing to listen to My voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated Me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:21-23).

Only Caleb and Joshua, the two explorers who had believed God would give them the victory over anything that stood in the way of their taking possession of the Promised Land, would ever see their faith become reality.

Caleb and Joshua spoke in faith that they would possess the Promised Land, and they did. The rest of the people cried out, “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” (Numbers 14:2). Seems to me both groups got what they were expecting.

Words are powerful. Are you speaking negatives or positives?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Although Naaman suffered from some form of contagious skin disease considered to be leprosy, he was still allowed to hold the position of commander of the Aramean army. A captive young Israelite girl who served as maid to Naaman’s wife told her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:4, NLT).

Naaman’s wife saw genuine faith in the young Israelite girl and told Naaman what she had said. This prompted Namaan to go to Elisha, along with an entourage of soldiers and horses: “But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: ‘Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.’ But Naaman became angry and stalked away” (2 Kings 5:10-11a).

Naaman was used to the royal treatment and Elisha didn’t even come out of his house to meet him. Naaman fumed, “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel?” (from 2 Kings 5:11-12).

Angry with both Elisha’s lack of respect for his position of authority and for his absurd-sounding instructions, Naaman left in anger. But the men who had accompanied him asked him, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child’s” (from 2 Kings 5:13-14).

God’s way is the only way. Naaman could have dipped himself in every puddle of water between Elisha’s house and his own and still not have been healed. Why? Because that’s not the way God said to do it. There is but one way to be healed of sin. It isn’t complicated, but it is specific: the Way is Jesus.

“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (Naaman’s words from 2 Kings 5:15).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“The day is near when I, the Lord, will judge all godless nations!” (Obadiah, verse 15, NLT).

How do you end up with a godless nation? Fill a country with godless people. Over and over, God warned His people to obey Him or suffer the consequences; and over and over, they turned away from Him and chased after false gods and materialism. And every time they did, God punished them.

Nothing has changed about God. He still expects obedience and He still disciplines His children when they disobey Him. Each one of us was assigned the fulfillment of the Great Commission the moment we gave Jesus Christ His rightful place of Lordship over our lives. I am and you are to “go and make disciples” and we are to teach “them to obey everything” God’s Word says (from Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).

Based on your own performance, how are we doing? How many people have you shared the love of Jesus with today? In all the time since you became a believer, how many people can thank you for telling them how to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

A recent study concluded that about 20 percent of America’s 118 million people are in church on Sunday. One out of five, although the vast majority of U.S. citizens consider themselves Christians.

. Somehow we’ve softened Christianity into something we can take or leave, dependent on what day of the week it is or how we feel. We somehow think that a little bit of religion is “good enough.” According to God, it ain’t.

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Jesus speaking, Revelation 3:15-16, NLT).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


I recently heard someone make a comment about those who “can’t afford Christmas.” I commend and support the organizations that help the needy year-round and during the holidays, but I also believe we need to be careful about developing the mindset that Christmas is about “stuff.” Christmas is first and foremost about celebrating the birth of the Savior. Christmas is “Christ-mass” – the celebration (“mass”) of Christ.

Secondly, it’s about others. Jesus came to earth as a helpless infant not for His own benefit, but to meet the needs of others, the greatest of which was salvation. He willingly came for the purpose of dying in our stead.

I hope you’ll make this Christmas a totally Christ-centered celebration. Don’t worry about gifts. Don’t panic over all the warnings flying around about short supplies. If there’s food on your table, you’re blessed!

Spend your time and money doing for those who can’t afford to have a turkey dinner or put gifts under the tree. I’m betting that most of the people you’re buying gifts for can afford to buy those things for themselves. Why not enjoy food, games, and fellowship with friends and family and forego the gift-giving except for the little ones? Put that money to better use being a blessing to those truly in need.

And when all those sales roll in on “Black Friday,” remember: there was a far more important Black Friday over 2,000 years ago: the day Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay our sin-debt. Be thankful, don’t go “buying crazy,” and leave your worries with the Lord.

"God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others" (2 Corinthians 9:8, CEV).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


In preparation for the time when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God gave them the Ten Commandments as we read in Exodus 20:

1. Do not worship other gods.

2. Do not worship idols.

3. Do not misuse God’s name.

4. Keep the Sabbath holy.

5. Honor your father and mother.

6. Do not murder.

7. Do not commit adultery.

8. Do not steal.

9. Do not lie.

10. Do not covet.

Of course, this wasn’t all God had to say to them at the time; the rest of Exodus 20 through Exodus 23:19 contains further instructions from the Lord which are known as the “Book of the Covenant.” We read in Exodus 24:7: “Then he (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people” (NIV).

But here’s what I want us to look at concerning all this: at what point were the Commandments given? AFTER the Lord had saved the Israelites from their Egyptian captors. The sign of the firstborn had already been given. Neither receiving the law nor obeying the law brought salvation to the people of Israel any more than it can do that for us today. They needed a Savior. We need a Savior.

In the New Testament, Peter says of the redeemed: “… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession” (I Peter 2:9b, NLT). Peter was quoting from the very words the Lord had spoken in Exodus 19:6 to Moses concerning Israel – BEFORE He had given them the Commandments.

So are the Commandments even relevant today? Well, let’s see. How did Jesus put it? “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17, ESV).

Jesus, as fully God yet fully man, was and is the only Person to have ever perfectly kept the Commandments (“the Law”). In doing so, He showed us the importance of not only obeying the Law, but of going beyond the written letter of the law and maintaining purity of intent. In other words, we’re to be clean inside and out. How? By focusing on the things of God.

May this upcoming season of friend and family gatherings be much more than food and fellowship for you. May it be a time of reflection on the goodness, provision, grace and mercy of the Savior.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.’ So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on” (Exodus 17:5a, 6, NLT).

The Israelites, having been freed from slavery in Egypt, were on their way to the Promised Land. However, they quickly learned that this was no easy journey. Trekking through a desert that is today as inhospitable as it was back then, they were entirely dependent upon the Lord for all their provisions. In Exodus 16 and Numbers 11, we see that God literally sent them bread from heaven: “The manna came down on the camp with the dew during the night” (Numbers 11:9). (Incidentally, the word “manna” means “What is it?”)

But the people were also in a dry land and became so thirsty that they feared for their own lives and livestock. So what did the Lord do? Gave them water and showed them what He was willing to do for His people.

Look back at our opening passage. God told Moses to “strike the rock,” but where was God when Moses struck it? “On the rock.” Don’t miss that.

Now look at what David wrote in 2 Samuel 22:47b: “Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!” (NIV). David clearly identifies his “Savior” as “the Rock.”

Moving over to the New Testament, we see Jesus, the “Savior,” “the Rock,” hanging on the cross: “One of the soldiers struck Him on His side with his spear, and at once blood and water issued forth” (John 19:34, Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

And if you still haven’t made all the connections, the apostle Paul clearly does that for us. He says that the Israelites wandering in the desert “… were drinking from The Rock of The Spirit, which was with them, but that Rock was The Messiah” (I Corinthians 10:4b).

From beginning to end, the Bible shows us Jesus. Our Suffering Servant Savior “was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).

Jesus is, has always been, and always will be. He, the Rock of our Salvation, was struck to provide Living Water for all who will believe in Him. The Bread from Heaven came down to provide for His people.

Folks, getting to our Promised Land, heaven, is no easy journey, but we have a Savior who goes with us and before us. Trust Him as your All-Sufficient God.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday I stated that when God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned in the sea just after the people of Israel walked across the bottom of the sea on dry land as the Lord held the waters back and allowed them to safely cross over. Today I want us to focus on those last two words: cross over.

Where had the Israelites been? In Egypt. In slavery. In a land filled with the worship of false gods.

Where did God want to take them? To the Promised Land. “A land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:9, NIV). To freedom.

Getting out of Egypt was impossible for the Israelites, but as the angel told Mary in Luke 1:37, “Nothing is impossible with God.” What the Israelites couldn’t do on their own, God did for them completely on His own.

Like the Israelites, every person born into this world was at one time in a place of slavery. In bondage to sin. Without hope and impossibly lost. But those who heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, repented of their sins, and received Him as Lord and Savior crossed over from slavery to freedom just as surely as did those Israelites of old.

In Mark 4:35 Jesus tells His disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side …” (NLT). Folks, this is the same message Jesus speaks to every person on this planet. He desires for us to cross over from slavery to freedom. From spiritual death to spiritual life.

Was it easy for the Israelites to step into that divided sea, seeing those huge walls of water on either side of them? No, it took courage. It took leadership. Someone to step out in faith and lead the others.

How about you? If you’ve crossed over from death to life, it should be your burning passion to show others how to receive this same great freedom. You should be leading others to Jesus.

After all, you are leading others. There isn’t one solitary professing believer – legitimate or otherwise – that isn’t being watched and imitated. What does your life tell others about Jesus? Where is your lifestyle leading those who follow in your footsteps? Be certain your words and actions are Christ-honoring and directing others in “the paths of the Lord” (Psalm 25:10, NASB).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“Who among the gods is like You, O Lord? Who is like You – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11, NIV).

When God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, the pursuing Egyptian army was drowned in the sea just after the people of Israel walked across the bottom of the sea on dry land as the Lord held the waters back and allowed them to safely cross over. Moses and all of Israel sang a song of thankfulness to God for His deliverance of His people. The passage above is from that song.

Note the beginning of the passage: “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?” Every people had their own deities – gods and goddesses for specific areas of their lives. Only Israel worshipped a single deity, the One True God. Egypt believed its war god went before them and that terror personified went before their god to put fear into the hearts of their enemies even before their god arrived on the scene, let alone their army.

Conquering a people meant conquering their gods. Egypt, like most ancient peoples, believed that as their army fought against an opposing army, their gods fought against the opposing army’s gods. So when the One True God whipped the Egyptians singlehandedly, it was irrefutable proof that Israel’s God was so powerful that He didn’t even need a single Israelite follower to lift a finger – let alone a sword – to defeat the enemy.

Winning armies always composed victory songs to glorify their gods and to taunt their opposition, so any other people hearing the Israelites’ song – which no doubt the people sang many times – would immediately understand that their God was being proclaimed as Victor. Just as importantly, they would realize that this God was so powerful that He accomplished the win with no help whatsoever from His people.

Remember our verse from Exodus yesterday? “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). Letting God fight our battles is the very best way to deal with most of our problems. Confrontation may occasionally be necessary, but most of the time, leaving the problem in God’s hands is the very best solution. Try it. You, like the Israelites, may very well “stand still” in wonder as you see His mighty hand bring about your victory.

“… majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders.”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today … The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still”
(Exodus 14:13a, 14, NIV).

Who spoke those words and under what circumstances? Moses was addressing the people of Israel who had just been delivered out of Egypt by the mighty hand of God. Now they found themselves trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s approaching army. But having seen the plagues God sent on the Egyptians for refusing to release them from slavery, they were cool as cucumbers, right? Wrong.

They’d just told Moses: “What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11b). Doesn’t sound like overly confident people, does it? Not in themselves; not in their leaders Moses and Aaron; and certainly not in Jehovah.

What plague had finally brought about the Israelites’ release? The death of the first-born. Every first-born child and animal died when the death angel passed through Egypt. But what of the Israelite households? They were protected against this plague, having been told to put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts so that the death angel would “pass over” the houses covered by the blood – see Exodus 12. Thus the celebration of “Passover.”

Covered by the blood. The death of the first-born. Throughout the Bible we see God painting the picture of Jesus. It took the death of Egypt’s first-born for Pharaoh to release the Israelites. It took the blood of a lamb to save the Israelites from the death angel’s reaping. And though they’d seen these miracles, the people of Israel huddled in terror as the Egyptian army marched toward them.

Sometimes we too find ourselves in situations so terrifying that we forget the many other times we’ve seen God work wonders on our behalves. We feel helpless. It’s not that we don’t know where to turn, as we sometimes say; it’s that we forget where to turn, which is to Jesus.

You may find yourself in the midst of a battle right now. Pray. Pray fervently. Seek the Lord’s guidance. And when you’ve done all you can, stand still. And “stand firm.” Don’t let the devil hoodwink you into thinking you’ve got to face this all on your own. “The Lord will fight for you.”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1, NIV).

“Out of Egypt”? But wasn’t Jesus a Jew? Wasn’t He born in Bethlehem? Wasn’t He a Nazarene? Wasn't He a Galilean? Yes, to all of these.

According to the passage we’ve already looked at in Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

How does all this mesh? Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Let’s look at Luke 2:1-7a: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.”

Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth: “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).

How’d Jesus come “out of Egypt”? In Matthew 2:1 we read: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’” (Matthew 2:1-2).

The idea of royal strangers coming from another land to worship a baby king terrified Herod! After the “wise men” failed to return and report to him the whereabouts of the infant king, Herod consulted with his astrologers to determine the time when the Christ Child was born and then “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16).

But God sent an angel to warn Joseph: “‘Get up,’ [the angel] said, ‘Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you’” (Matthew 2:13).

So Joseph took Mary and little Jesus and fled to Egypt. “After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt” (Matthew 2:19) and told him it was safe to take the family back to Israel. Apparently Joseph’s first plan was to go back to Judea, the region in which Bethlehem was situated. “But when [Joseph] heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there” (Matthew 2:22). So instead, Joseph took his family to “the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth” (Matthew 2:22b-23).

No other child could have fulfilled even these few prophecies. Jesus IS the Son of God! Celebrate Him. Share Him. Thank Him.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


In Genesis 49, we read the account of Jacob calling his sons before him to give them his blessing. (Remember: Jacob was renamed “Israel” by the Lord – see Genesis 35:10 – and was the father of the people who became the twelve tribes of Israel.) When he comes to his son Judah, he speaks these words: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10).

In Matthew 1:3-6, we read the lineage from Judah to David: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar; Perez the father of Hezron; Hezron the father of Ram; Ram the father of Amminadab; Amminadab the father of Nahshon; Nahshon the father of Salmon; Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab; Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth; Obed the father of Jesse; and Jesse the father of King David.”

Then we read in Luke 2 about Caesar Augustus ordering a census that required each person to report to their lineage’s hometown. Verse 4 says that “Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.”

So we see that Joseph was of the lineage of David. But what about Mary? If you look in Luke 3, you see another genealogy of Jesus – the lineage of Mary, also a descendant of David. In verse 23, Luke says, “Joseph, the son of Heli.” Most Biblical scholars agree that Heli is actually Mary’s father, Joseph’s father-in-law.

Jesus’ physical/human lineage came through Mary, as seen in Luke. But even though the Holy Spirit placed Jesus into the womb of the Virgin Mary, Joseph was considered to be Jesus’ father since he was the husband of Mary; which is why His legal lineage is traced through Joseph, as seen in Matthew. In Mary and Joseph’s time, it was quite common for cousins to marry, so it would certainly not be out of the ordinary for Joseph and Mary to have been related. As you see from comparing the two genealogies, Joseph’s lineage intertwined with Mary’s.

In coming to earth as a baby and being born of Mary, Jesus Christ fulfilled the words of Jacob/Israel spoken to Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet.” And He also fulfilled His promise to continue the rule of the house of David forever: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:7).

My prayer is that you truly know and celebrate Christ this Christmas. “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“His origin is from antiquity, from eternity” (Micah 5:2b, HCSB).

Jesus is and was God. John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).

As believers, it is critical that we realize that Jesus didn’t have His beginning as the tiny baby placed by the Holy Spirit within Mary. He was and is the Living “Word,” and “He was with God from the beginning.”

“Beginning” of what? Time as we know it, the world as we know it. And even once we’ve grasped this, we need to understand that this is NOT the point at which Jesus’ life started – this was the moment in which CREATION was started. Remember what Jesus told the Jews? “I assure you: before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

Catch the tense Jesus used: “I am.” Jesus, being God, has never NOT existed – He always was, always is, and always will be. And yet you can’t separate any of these phrases or tenses and really make an accurate statement about Him – all of them apply simultaneously.

As we move toward another year, I hope you’ll think long and hard about what it means for Jesus to be “the light of men.” John 1:5 goes on to say that “that light shines in the darkness.”

For each and every one of us, there was a time when our lives were in “darkness.” Only the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, could place His Internal and Eternal Light, the Holy Spirit, into us and transform us into His likeness. And having done that, then what?

Well, let’s see. If we were transformed into His likeness, what does that make us? The “light [that] shines in the darkness!” I’m a firm believer that the spiritual and the practical don’t necessarily contradict – in fact, that they can go hand-in-hand. So, looking from a practical viewpoint, let’s say that we’re all spiritual flashlights.

Now, having visualized ourselves as spiritual flashlights, what makes us work? What makes us “light”? Number One, we each need a bulb – the actual “light” that makes a flashlight what it is. Jesus, of course, is that “Light.”

Number Two, we need batteries. That, my friends, is the indwelling Holy Spirit. And being indwelling, that means He needs a receptacle in which to be placed; and that, beloved, is US.

So, having received our “Light,” we have become willing receptacles for our batteries, which is the indwelling Holy Spirit; in other words, we’ve become equipped. To do what? “Light … the darkness.”

How much good is a flashlight if it doesn’t shine? None whatsoever. Deep thought here, folks: do you have to take the batteries out of a flashlight in order for it to no longer be functional? No, you can be a totally ineffective flashlight simply by neglecting to keep them charged.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t fizzle out, leak out, or walk out – He remains, but His power is evidenced, is available, in our lives only as we continually “recharge” through regular prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers.

Where is the “darkness”? Anywhere Jesus isn’t shining. Your life, my brother or sister in Christ, is an assignment, a calling, to be Jesus wherever you are. And that makes you “light.” Charge up, then charge out, and shine for His glory.

“Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates 


This verse inspired yesterday’s study, and continues to be our focus for today: “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah” (Micah 5:2a, HCSB).

“You are small.” God isn’t impressed with size. Yes, a healthy church is a growing church, but it’s not about the numbers – it’s about the people. The Biblical goal of every physical church body is to teach, train, encourage and strengthen BELIEVERS, who are the spiritual body of Christ. It is then the BELIEVERS’ jobs to go out beyond the confines of the physical church and witness and win the lost and bring them into the fold.

Maybe you think of yourself as “small,” insignificant in God’s big picture. Child of God, nothing could be further from the truth! May I share with you a passage of New Testament Scripture that addresses this very issue? First Corinthians 1:24-29: “… to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Brothers, consider your calling: not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen the world’s foolish things to shame the wise, and God has chosen the world’s weak things to shame the strong. God has chosen the world’s insignificant and despised things – the things viewed as nothing – so he might bring to nothing the things that are viewed as something, so that no one can boast in his presence.”

I hope you’ll read this passage through several times and really let it sink into your heart. “God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” Of course, Paul is being facetious in even suggesting that God has “weakness” – He doesn’t. Which is the whole point. We who are equipped by God through faith in His Son and the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit are strong as long as we are depending on Him and not ourselves.

And what about those of us who don’t exactly consider themselves to have the I.Q. of a genius? Look how Paul says you’re equipped: “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.” Another tongue-in-cheek statement. There is no “foolishness” in God! You are equipped beyond your wildest imagination – all you need to do is pull out that equipage and use it!

Know why I’m so sure of this fact? The Bible says so! And this is a good spot to add the adjoining verse, First Corinthians 1:30, one of my favorites: “But from Him [that is, God the Father] you are in Christ Jesus, who for us became wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”

Talk about being fully equipped – just look at what you received when you received Jesus: “Wisdom.” And not just any ol’ wisdom, but “wisdom from God,” along with “righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”

Precious one, the moment you were redeemed, your equipage began; and it continues throughout your lifetime as you pray, read your Bible, study His Word, regularly attend a Bible-believing church and live your life as the hands and feet of Jesus along your pathway.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Today let’s read a verse from the book of the prophet named Micah: “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity” (Micah 5:2, HCSB).

What a great passage! How awesome to read its fulfillment throughout the New Testament! Let’s take a look at two connected passages:

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him’” (Matthew 2:1-2).

“And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him snugly in cloth and laid him in a feeding trough – because there was no room for them at the inn” (Luke 2:4-7).

It was no accident that Caesar Augustus ordered a census that would cause Joseph and Mary to travel from their hometown to Bethlehem. It was no accident that it was at that time that Mary gave birth to the Child the Holy Spirit had placed within her. God had promised that the “ruler over Israel” would come from this humble little village, and Christ’s earthly life began right there in a stable.

And it was certainly no coincidence that God placed a special Light in the sky to guide the “wise men from the east” to come and worship Jesus. Bear in mind, too, that these men didn’t jump into their cars or catch a plane to get to Bethlehem. They traveled so far and for so long that Scripture records that “When they were come into the house, they saw the young child” (Matthew 2:11). Most scholars agree that Jesus was already a toddler and that his parents had taken up residence in a house in Bethlehem before returning to Nazareth.

Are you grasping the significance of the timeframe here? The “wise men” sought Jesus diligently, and yet their efforts weren’t rewarded overnight – it took time and persistence, faithfulness to their goal. Likewise, we as believers may set out on many a plan that we truly believe to be a direction God is leading us in. But, unlike the “wise men,” when we don’t quickly “arrive” or achieve what we thought we were going to, we become discouraged and stop our efforts.

Beloved, God doesn’t quit on you, so don’t you quit on Him! Sure, reevaluate your direction; reexamine your goals and be sure they’re in alignment with God’s calling on your life – He most certainly has a calling and direction for each and every one of us. But once you’re assured you’re not heading off in the wrong direction, get back at it and hang tough for the long run.

Which brings up another point. GOD CALLS NO ONE TO DO NOTHING. You are not called to sit and wait on your calling. You are called to get with the program and do whatever you can for the glory of God until such time as you feel a stronger or more compelling leading into a different or clearer direction.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“He saw that there was no man – He was amazed that there was no one interceding; so His Own Arm brought salvation, and His Own Righteousness supported Him” (Isaiah 59:16, HCSB).

“There was no man … no one interceding.” Of course, this statement first and foremost speaks of the impossibility that any man could bridge the gap between himself and God, or between God and any other person – it simply cannot and could not be done. Until Jesus came. The One and Only Perfect Son of God could do and did do what no one else could: He became the Bridge of Forgiveness.

As we look at this verse, we also have to look at the reality of humanness. Even though there were priests among God’s people Israel who sincerely sought to please and honor Him and who cared passionately for God’s people, there were also many who were simply doing the job their lineage had landed them in – in other words, they were going through the motions. They weren’t truly, from the heart, “interceding.”

But before we frown on these people’s behavior, what about our own? How often are we, in church and at home in our prayer or quiet time merely going through the motions?

For years I was part of a weekly prayer and Bible study group. As I led the studies, another lady, Sue, led the prayer. Every week she’d come with her spiral binder filled with praise reports, ongoing prayer requests, and new things to bring before the Father. It took a long time for what I already knew to sink into my heart: that Sue’s prayer life at home was no different than her prayer life in front of our study group. That woman prayed for every need as if it was her own.

And so should we. I am so thankful that God is patient with nitwits like me! I had always been such a stickler for keeping an ongoing list of grocery and household items on a magnetic holder on my refrigerator – I knew I’d never remember those things if I didn’t write them down the minute I thought of them or realized we needed them. And I also realized that I could never go to the grocer’s and come home with what we needed without taking the list with me.

Which brought me to the realization: how dare I come before our Holy God and haphazardly rattle off the pitiful little I can remember! I should never have done that, and neither should you.

If you aren’t already doing so, start today keeping a list of prayer requests and praise reports and use it whenever you pray. I know folks whose lists are so long that they’ve broken them up into days of the week – my family is prayed for every Tuesday by one person. Whatever it takes, there should be a system, an ORDER to your prayer life, and to ALL your life because our Lord is “not a God of disorder” (I Corinthians 14:33). And we are to be like Him.

Add to that list all the things you’re thankful for. Also, write down the sins you struggle with. As you see God work in these areas and answer these requests, write down your thanks and tell Him how much you love Him for “interceding.”

What we couldn’t do for ourselves, Jesus Christ did. We owe Him our everything!

“His Own Arm brought salvation.”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Today we begin our look at a new passage from Isaiah: “Pay attention and come to me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David. Since I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples” (Isaiah 55:3-4, HCSB).

To understand these two verses more clearly, we need to look at Matthew 26:28. As Jesus gathered with His disciples for His final earthly Passover meal, He broke the bread and then presented the wine, initiating the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, or communion. He told them, “This is My blood [that establishes] the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus clearly identified His “blood” as the one thing, the single act, which established “the covenant.” What “covenant”? Look back at Isaiah 55. Jesus is speaking of the “everlasting covenant” established by His shed blood, the one that for all time will cleanse and set free any person who accepts what He has done for them.

Hebrews 10:4 reminded the Jews that “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” These imperfect sacrifices were a temporary fix to a permanent problem: man’s sinful nature. Man needed ONGOING forgiveness, an “everlasting” pardon. And only the Perfect Sacrifice of the Son of God could open that doorway.

Man was trapped in permanent, inescapable condemnation until Jesus Christ became “the door” (John 10:7)! Now each person who calls out to Him for forgiveness and salvation receives a full pardon, and LITERALLY passes “from death to life” (1 John 3:14).

Let me encourage you to read Hebrews 8:6-13 today. It speaks of Jesus as is “the mediator of a better covenant” (verse 6) and goes on to declare God’s promise that He “will be merciful [concerning our] wrongdoing, and … will never again remember [our] sins” (verse 12).

This day and every day, we have so much to be thankful for.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“He grew up before him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He had no form or splendor that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2, HCSB).

“A root out of dry ground.” Didn’t get much dryer than Nazareth. Philip told Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about…, Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!” To which Nathanael immediately voiced what I’m sure many people were thinking: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46).

Isaiah 11:1 speaks more about this “young plant,” this “root out of dry ground.” He says: “Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Of course, He’s speaking of Jesus and His lineage through the house of David, the son of Jesse.

“He had no form or splendor that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him.” Jesus wasn’t gorgeous, nor was it likely that he was blonde and blue-eyed with pale white skin – He grew up in a hardworking carpenter’s family and spent years working with His hands, learning Joseph’s trade, helping provide for His family. He wasn’t the physically beautiful person we see depicted in paintings and movies.

May I stop right here and say that you may consider yourself one with “no form or splendor,” “no appearance that” would make you desirable. Child of God, those who came to know the true Savior fell in love with Him! And it wasn’t because of His outward looks – it was because of the irresistible inner beauty that radiated from Him.

One of the greatest struggles for women, particularly – and also for many men – is self-esteem. You’re always your worst critic, and you may see yourself as unattractive and undesirable. May I say to you, first, that GOD DOESN’T SEE YOU THIS WAY. And may I say to you, secondly, that God has a plan for your life, and if you’ll only trust Him, He will be Your Everything, with or without an earthly life mate. Seek Him, and He will meet not only your FELT needs, but your TRUE needs.

Isaiah 40:7-8 reminds us, “The grass withers” and “the flowers fade.” Folks, if we keep on living on this ol’ earth, ain’t none of us gettin’ any younger! And while it’s important to care for our physical health, our spiritual health is even more important.

Which is precisely why Peter wrote that “Your beauty should not consist of outward things” but “instead, [it should consist of] the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes” (I Peter 3:3-4).

When my Aunt Syl passed away, she was well into the winter of her lifetime. Her preacher said at her funeral that in all the years that he’d pastored her church, he’d never one time heard her say a single unkind word about anyone or anything. Which means, my friends, that, in the eyes of God, my Aunt Syl was stunningly beautiful.

May this be my prayer and yours: O God, for a mouth that can only pour out kindness, and for that inward beauty that is “valuable in [your] eyes!”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“In the future he will bring honor to … the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. [The people] have rejoiced before you … for you have shattered their burdensome yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor … For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (from Isaiah 9:1-7, HCSB).

We see in this passage another promise concerning Jesus coming from the lineage of David. But we see much more than just that. Isaiah declared that the Messiah would “[shatter] their burdensome yoke” and do away with “the rod on their shoulders” and “the staff of their oppressor.” Jesus came declaring freedom!

We see this prophecy fulfilled in Matthew 4, where in Verses12b-13a we read: “He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea.” Verses 15-16 of Matthew 4 go on to quote Isaiah 9:1-2.

The biggest “yoke,” the heaviest load on the “shoulders” of the people of Israel, was their religion. Their leaders had added and added to what God had commanded until the law had become incredibly “burdensome.” God, through Jesus Christ, lifted that burden, as Paul explains in Romans 8:1-4a: “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His Own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished.”

There’s something else I want you to see in the Isaiah passage: “A child will be born for us.” The word “for” is so significant here, folks. Please don’t miss that. The purpose of Jesus’ coming as an innocent newborn baby was “for us.” The purpose for His perfect life and willing death was “for us.” The purpose of His return is “for us.”

The infant Jesus had one purpose and one purpose only: to pay the sin-debt of "the world" - see John 3:16. All Christ suffered, He suffered “for us.” And what He asks in return is that we believe in Him and tell others about Him.

All this He’s done for you. “For us.” What have you done for Him?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Today let’s read Isaiah 7:14: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (HCSB).

A virgin have a baby? Ridiculous! Yet the very Child this virgin bore told us: “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). If we would but latch onto the kind of faith it takes to believe Jesus’ statement in every situation!

Mary had that kind of faith. When the angel appeared to this young lady – who was probably around 14 years of age – she told him, “… may it be done to me according to your word …” (Luke 1:38).

And exactly what had the angel told her? “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you ... Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God … You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His Father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (from Luke 1:28, 30-33, and 35).

Mary asked one question: “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” (Luke 1:34).

Don’t misread her question as doubting – her statement is literal: tell me how this will be done. The angel’s reply is recorded in the passage above, beginning with “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” He concluded in Verse 37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

This was enough information for Mary to reply: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

If we look back to Genesis 18 we see a prophecy concerning another “impossible” birth – elderly Sarah and Abraham having Isaac. The angel said to Abraham: “Is anything impossible for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14a).

Let me give you just a few other verses I hope you’ll take time to read: Matthew 17:20; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27; and Mark 14:36. Please, please, please read Mark 14:36! We need to realize that while nothing is “impossible for the Lord,” He doesn’t always act in the ways that we think He should. He doesn’t always intervene like we want Him to. In other words, He just doesn’t act like we think He should.

I have no doubt that you can think of one or more situation in your life in which you wanted God to do a certain thing, but He didn’t. Folks, we don’t think like God does. He doesn’t think like we do. While we see this tiny glimpse of His plan and creation, He sees the whole picture, and even when we don’t understand, He’s always acting with our best interests at heart.

What are you asking the Lord to do for you? Are you asking Him to do it your way, or are you asking Him to work His perfect will?

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways …” (Isaiah 55:8).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


And now we come to Psalm 72:10-11, which says: “May the kings of Tarshish and the coasts and islands bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. And let all kings bow down to him” (HCSB).

Now let’s look at the New Testament’s correlating passage: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born. ‘In Bethlehem of Judea,’ they told him, ‘because this is what was written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel.’ Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.’ After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was – the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:1-11).

The “wise men” quoted to Herod from Micah 5:2: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel.”

Notice that the Matthew passage tells us that the family was now living in a “house.” Jesus was most likely a toddler by this time. These wealthy kings had started out in search of a newborn and found Him only because they stuck to the journey.

What hadn’t these men done? Worried about who was running their kingdoms while they were away. Fretted because their families and subjects might think they were nuts for putting so much time into such a preposterous presentation – they were, after all, bowing down to a BABY. They were paying homage to a poor family’s Child.

Ridiculous? Definitely – to those who saw with earthly eyes only. But for those with spiritual vision, they saw and recognized the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! These “wise men” are forever remembered as those who fulfilled Old Testament prophecy as they “offer[ed] gifts … and … bow[ed] down to” Jesus.

Big lesson here, folks. The “wise men” weren’t called “wise” without reason: They knew the writings of the prophets, and because of this, they were in the right place at the right time. And when God gave them a sign to follow, they were obedient and followed it – and we’re not talking about an overnight train ride.

Maybe there’s a passage in the Bible that’s been speaking to you. You may have that same passage pop up on every turn until you get His Message. And if that’s not enough, He may even send some very significant signs and pointers for you to follow.

You don’t have to doubt and you don’t have to wonder. If you’re hearing or sensing a leading to do anything that fully aligns with God’s Word, it sure ain’t the devil talking.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Hopping over to the book of Jeremiah, we come to one of the many wonderful prophecies that tell us that Jesus will come through the lineage of David: “‘The days are coming’ – [this is] the Lord’s declaration – ‘when I will raise up a righteous branch of David. He will reign wisely as king and administer justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. This is what he will be named: the Lord is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6, HCSB).

Moving over to Chapter 33, Verses 15-16, we read a similar passage: “In those days and at that time I will cause a branch of righteousness to sprout up for David, and he will administer justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely, and this is what she will be named: the Lord is our righteousness.”

And if we go back to the book of Psalms, we see another prophecy concerning this: “The Lord swore an oath to David, a promise He will not abandon: ‘I will set one of your descendants on your throne” (Psalm 132:11).

In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit had come down so powerfully on the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke boldly to the men of Jerusalem, proclaiming this promise to David concerning the Messiah. I strongly urge you to read all of Acts 2, or at least Verses 22-36. This is an awesome declaration of the Good News of Jesus, in which Peter concludes: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” (Verse 36).

I hope you’re catching a passionate excitement about the Word of God. How it thrills me to know that every word is true and abundantly rich in meaning. In addition to all the connections we’ve looked at above, think about this:

(1) The Lord sends Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king over Israel. Jesse calls seven of his sons to stand before Samuel, but Samuel asks:

“‘Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘There is still the youngest,’ [Jesse] answered, ‘but right now he’s tending the sheep” (I Samuel 16:11).

(2) The youngest was the chosen one. The one no one even thought to call in for the lineup. And what was he doing? Tending sheep. Jesus said: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

“Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

We don’t need to seek the spotlight. What we do doesn’t have to attract attention, or even be attractive, for that matter. We simply need to quietly and faithfully do whatever we believe the Lord has appointed us to do. You see, God doesn’t reward us for good intentions, or for whining about wanting a bigger or better assignment – He rewards us for being faithful. Do that, and in His timing, He will reward you with greater responsibility and blessings.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Continuing our look at some of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, we come to Psalm 35:11: “Malicious witnesses come forward; they question me about things I do not know.”

Jesus was illegally arrested as He prayed in the Garden – no warrant had been issued, no formal charge had been made. He was then brought before Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest Caiaphas – I hope you’ll read the full account in John 18. To be arrested and then questioned in private by a single individual was also against the Jews’ own governing regulations.

Then they convened an assembly, another illegal act since meeting at night – or literally, before the morning sacrifice – was unlawful. Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin (the chief priests, elders, and scribes), and Mark records this as happening: “… many were giving false testimony against Him, but the testimonies did not agree. Some stood up and were…stating, ‘We heard him say, ‘I will demolish this sanctuary made by [human] hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’ Yet their testimony did not agree even on this” (Mark 14:56-59).

Ever told a lie? Once you tell one, it seems to always require another to support the first one, and then another one to support the second one, and on and on it goes. Pretty soon you’re stumbling over your own words, unable to keep track of all of the stories. This was the mess the Sanhedrin and their hired liars had gotten themselves into.

And what did Jesus do about it? Mark continues to tell us: “Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, ‘Don’t you have an answer to what these men are testifying against you?’ But He kept silent and did not answer anything” (Mark 14:60-61a).

There’s an extremely valuable lesson in Jesus’ response here. Folks, a liar will always be found out. Haven’t you ever noticed that they’re the ones who so frantically defend what they’ve told? Truth doesn’t have to be shoved down people’s throats – only a lie is that difficult to swallow.

We need to be very careful not to allow any liar to upset us. Why? Because we know that “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12), and we know that Satan “is a liar and the father of liars” (John 8:44b).

Many years ago I was at a Christian retreat and one of the other speakers present told the director of the retreat something untrue about me. I was hurt that this person would do such a thing, but I gave it to the Lord and let Him deal with it. And He did. The Lord continues to increase my opportunities to represent Him before audiences. Why? Because I have a Great Defender who will never ever fail me.

And so do you. Let the Lord fight your battles; rest in Him and HE will take care of the victory! Got a problem with a liar? Personalize this prayer from the psalms of David: “May the Lord my rock be praised ... He is my faithful love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in him; … rescue me …, and set me free from the grasp of [put the name/s here] whose mouths speak lies, whose right [hand/s is/are] deceptive” (from Psalm 144:1-2, 7-8).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


If you believe at all in coincidence, then it’s certainly possible for someone to come along in history whose life coincides (thus the word “coincidence”) with some Old Testament writings. But when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ, there are over 300 prophecies, EVERY SINGLE ONE of which He fulfilled! This is only possible because of Who He Is, our God and our Creator, Who Wrote the Book!

Today we look at Psalm 22:18: “They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing” (HCSB).

All four Gospels record the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ clothing. John, the beloved disciple, gives the most detailed account: “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but toss for it, to see who gets it.’ [They did this] to fulfill the scripture that says: ‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing.’ And this is what the soldiers did” (John 19:23-24).

Why do you think John gave the most information? Because he was there. Standing and watching her precious child suffer such agony, the Bible records that Mary was comforted by several women and “the disciple [Jesus] loved.” John.

And John’s account continues: “When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, ‘ Woman, here is your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27).

There’s so much rich truth in this passage. The Bible tells us that Jesus had brothers and sisters – actually half-brothers and half-sisters – who were the children of His mother Mary and her husband Joseph (see Mark 3:32). Yet none of these were given the honor and privilege of caring for their mother.

Which brings up another subject. Where was Joseph? Every indication is that Mary was widowed by the time Jesus went to the cross. Traditionally – and well it should be – it was the responsibility of her children that one of them should take her into his home and care for her. But her Firstborn appointed that responsibility to another, to John the Beloved.

Why? We can only speculate, but I believe there were several important reasons: (1) to show John the confidence and trust He had in him; (2) to reward John for his faithfulness in being with Him all the way to the cross; (Please read John 18:15. In the courtyard of the high priest as Peter denied Christ, there was “another disciple” present, John.); and (3) to show the strength of John’s family tie through his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s just think about that third reason for a minute. How many of you will be honest enough to say that you have brothers and sisters in Christ with whom you feel more connected than with your own flesh and blood family? Spirit draws Spirit, and the Holy Spirit unites all believers as brothers and sisters, as joint-heirs, and as missionaries of the Kingdom.

I want you to think of John caring for Jesus’ mother. This is a picture of our responsibility too. We are to go above and beyond what is “normal,” above and beyond what sometimes even makes sense to those around us, in caring for and meeting the needs of our fellow believers – they are our family. And we are to continue to invite more people to come into the fold. John’s work didn’t stop at caring for Mary – it continued in the faithful spreading of the Gospel.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Take a look at this powerful passage from Psalm 2: “I have consecrated my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ I will declare the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:6-8, HCSB).

The Son of God was always the heart of God’s plan for man’s redemption. In Genesis 1:26 we read: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” Jesus wasn’t an afterthought as a plan to save man – He was and is God Himself; and the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – had no beginning and will have no end. The one and only plan God ever had or ever will have to redeem fallen man is in the name of Jesus.

Jesus came to John the Baptist as he was baptizing people in the Jordan River and asked that John also baptize Him. John immediately said, “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14), but Jesus insisted: “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

Then as Jesus came up from the waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit came down and the voice of His Father spoke: “This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!” (Matthew 3:17). This important event in the earthly life of Jesus is also recorded in Mark 1:11 and in Luke 3:22 and is a clear fulfillment of what was spoken long before in Psalm 2.

We don’t often hear the thunderous voice of God speaking to us, but we do sometimes hear His whisper, don’t we? And we also sense His Holy Spirit leading and guiding and prompting us to live in obedience.

In Romans 8:14 Paul makes this astounding statement: “All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons.” What a revelation! What an unspeakable joy! He goes on to say, “We are God’s children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16b-17a). Brothers and sisters, we have inherited the Kingdom!

Do you live like it? Do you walk in that victory? We have a tremendous inheritance and, with it, a tremendous responsibility to be Jesus to all those around us and to lead others to join us as “co-heirs.”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Another of Psalm 22’s prophecies concerning the Messiah is found in Verse 11: “Do not be far from me, because distress is near and there is no one to help.”

Psalm 22 begins with the very cry Jesus uttered in His moment of “distress”: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; & Mark 15:34).

As Jesus took on the sins of the whole world and put them to death on the cross, His Father turned His back on Him. The Triune God knew that this was the only way to redeem fallen man, and God the Son was willing to be that Holy Sacrifice.

Hear my heart on this one, folks: JESUS ENDURED ABSOLUTE REJECTION BY THE FATHER SO THAT YOU AND I NEVER HAVE TO. I hope you’ll read that statement over and over. ALL who will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will NEVER be deserted. As Hebrews 13:5 plainly promises: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

This verse quotes Deuteronomy 31:6, yet another wonderful evidence that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Which brings up the topic of consistency. If we’re to be like Jesus, and Jesus is consistently loving and forgiving – even as we saw Him in yesterday’s passage on the cross – how are we to be?

Doesn’t leave a lot of room for criticism and complaining, does it? Nor selfishness and greediness, huh?

“… let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us …” (Hebrews 12:1).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Psalm 22 contains at least eleven prophecies concerning the Messiah. We aren’t going to look at all of them, but we are going to get into several. Let’s start today with Verses 7-8: “Everyone who sees me mocks me; they sneer and shake their heads: ‘He relies on the Lord; let him rescue him; let the Lord deliver him, since he takes pleasure in him” (HCSB).

It’s not very hard to recognize this one, is it? In Luke 23:11 we read: “Then Herod, with his soldiers, treated Him with contempt, mocked Him, dressed Him in a brilliant robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.”

Of course, we know that that was only a tiny portion of the humiliation and suffering Christ endured in our place. Luke 23 continues the account: “The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine and said, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!’ An inscription was above Him: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” (Verses 35-39).

When we compare Psalm 22 with Luke 23, we again see clear proof that nothing takes the Lord by surprise. He knew what He was going to suffer before He ever came to be born of a virgin. He knew how He would be humiliated, and yet what do we find Him doing in this very same passage? Forgiving. As the one thief hurled “insults at Him,” the other turned to Him for salvation: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (Verse 42).

And what was Jesus’ reply to second thief? “ I assure you: today you will be with Me in paradise.”

“I assure you.” These are words translated in the KJV as “verily,” but we need to understand that the actual wording was a phrase only Jesus used about His promises. He wanted this forgiven criminal to know, and He wants us to know, that His words can be trusted. Literally, it’s “Amen, I say to you.”

Know the song “Blessed Assurance”? This is what it’s all about – the total trustworthiness of the words of the Savior. What has He promised you? Whatever it is, believe it as though it’s already come to pass, because your Messiah is able to do it!

And what about forgiveness? Look at Jesus’ situation as He talked to the thief on the cross. He was bruised, beaten, and totally naked. Unlike the modest and respectful paintings we see of the crucifixion, there was nothing to cover the Savior’s body – He was totally exposed and totally humiliated. And in agony.

Yet His thoughts were not on Himself. Insults being shouted at Him from all around, pain shooting through every portion of His body, His focus was on others.

When we’re in pain, when we’re hurt or humiliated, where is our focus? If you’re like most of us, it’s not on others; and it certainly isn’t on Jesus. It’s on “poor, poor, pitiful ME.”

Hmmmm. Sure are a lot of lessons we can take from this passage. How about forgiveness? Could you stand a little improvement in that area? If you want to be like Jesus, if I want to be like Jesus, we’ve got to keep our minds off our own troubles and focus on ministering to others.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“But God will redeem my life from the power of Sheol, for He will take me” (Psalm 49:15, HCSB).

Jesus’ birth, death, and role as Redeemer was continually proclaimed throughout the Old Testament. He would come and die, becoming Living Grace, the Bridge between fallen man and their Holy Creator.

In First Corinthians 15:54b-55, we read this familiar passage: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Not only does this passage hint of Psalm 49:15, we also see Paul’s reference to at least two other Old Testament passages – Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14:

“He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said, ‘Look, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He has saved us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:8-9).

“I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death. Death, where are your barbs? Sheol, where is your sting?” (Hosea 13:14).

If you’ve heard me tell this before, bear with me, but it’s well worth repeating. It was fall and late afternoon, and I was about 10 years old when I went with my daddy to my Great Aunt Jocie’s house so that he could put a new sink in her bathroom. As Aunt Jocie and I wandered in and out of the bedroom, peeking through the doorway into the small space where Daddy was working, I remember surveying my aunt’s humble surroundings.

The bedroom was sparsely furnished, with the unfinished heart pine floors barely peeking out around the edges of a linoleum rug patterned in big pink roses and swirls of different shades of blue. A small braided oval rug in a dingy rainbow of colors made a warm spot for Aunt Jocie’s feet whenever she climbed out of bed and an ancient coat of pale green paint covered the beadboard walls and ceiling. Overhead, in the center of the room, a single light bulb dangled from its wiring, and faded homespun curtains were pushed to each side of the window.

The rest of the furnishings were a chifferobe, her bed, a rocking chair, a nightstand, and a lamp. The old iron “bedstead” was brown painted metal and the bed cover was a well-worn handmade quilt. The rocker was slat-backed, cane-bottomed, and armless – as simple and unadorned as my aunt who stood no taller than myself. It stood opposite the bed from the nightstand and was angled just enough to allow its occupant benefit from either the lamp or the natural light from the room’s solitary window.

Beneath the lamp on the small square bedside table was a time- and use-worn leather-bound Bible and I remember watching closely as Aunt Jocie’s fingers caressed the cover before she lifted it. Pulling it to her breast, she hugged it fiercely as she stood and gazed at the gathering starlight, the loose hairs from her braided silver bun scattered about her face like a gossamer halo.

“You know,” she said, “sometimes I can’t sleep at night, so I get up and come to this window. I look up into the stars and get so excited, thinking, ‘Lord, will this be the night that you come to take me home?’”

It wasn’t too many years after that when Aunt Jocie went to heaven and I can only imagine how many hairpins flew from that bun as she ran down the streets of gold to Jesus! She had kept her heart and mind aware of where her real home was. How I pray for that same kind of passion for our real home to grow greater inside me. How I pray for this same kind of passion to grow within you.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


In Deuteronomy we read this powerful declaration: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. This is what you requested from the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not continue to hear the voice of the Lord our God or see this great fire any longer, so that we will not die!’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. I will hold accountable whoever does not listen to My words that he speaks in My name” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, HCSB).

The people of Israel could not stand in the presence of the Holy God – it was far too terrifying. They had seen Moses come down from the fire- and smoke-covered mountain, his face glowing from having been in God’s presence. They’d also seen Moses’ anger when he found them worshiping an idol they’d created during his absence.

Moses knew their bent toward disobedience – which is plain ol’ sin in any form – and even more importantly, God Himself knew their sinful natures. The people wanted Him to watch over them, but they knew they couldn’t bear to stand before Him – they needed Someone like Moses to act as their go-between.

Which is why God had already prepared to come in human form. The Triune God sent Himself as His Only Begotten Son to be born of woman and live and walk among men, and to die as the once-for-all Living Sacrifice as payment for man’s sin-debt. From Genesis to Revelation, the Book keeps pointing to the Savior!

Speaking of the New Testament, let’s move over there. If you recall the passage from Acts 3 that we looked at a couple of days ago, we saw Peter and John on their way to the temple. They stopped at the gates where a man who was born crippled had been laid to beg from passersby. When he called out to them for money, he instead received healing. The rest of the people were amazed to see this, so they flocked around Peter and John and the man who’d received the healing.

Peter used this opportunity to preach to them the Gospel: “Moses said: ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to him in everything he will say to you. And it will be that everyone who will not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from the people.’ In addition, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also announced these days” (Acts 3:22-24).

Peter announced, “The Savior, the Deliverer, you prayed for has come! Jesus!” Matter of fact, Peter went on to say these very words: “God raised up his servant and sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways” (Acts 3:26).

Man never was, isn’t, and never will be capable of being sinless on his own. He needs a Savior. And even having met and accepted that Savior, we still tend to disobey, to sin. But the amazing grace of God continues to cover our sins as we confess them, and the Holy Spirit continues to indwell each and every believer to convict them not to sin. Every natural man has a desire to sin, but thanks to the tremendous mercy of our Heavenly Father, we have an Advocate who sticks with us and keeps guiding us away from what can hurt us and toward the One who loves us.

If we’re to be like Jesus, guess what? We’re to be doing the very same thing: guiding people away from what can hurt them and pointing them toward the Savior. Is that what your life is doing? Ask the Lord to give you divine appointments to share the Good News with others.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


In Chapter 49 of Genesis the elderly Jacob lies dying, and he calls his sons to him and prophecies over them. Here we find this beautiful passage of Scripture: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, or the staff from between his feet, until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him” (Genesis 49:10, HCSB).

“The scepter,” the staff or symbol of kingship was with Jacob’s son Judah. And who was Jacob? In Genesis 32:28 God changes Jacob’s name to ISRAEL, so the tribes of Israel are the families growing out of the sons of Jacob, or Israel. Judah was one of these sons, and the one through whom the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ, would be manifested.

Moving over to the New Testament, we see it begins with Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus: “Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers, Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Aram, Aram fathered Aminadab, Aminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered King David. David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife [Bathsheeba], Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah, Abijah fathered Asa, Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, Joram fathered Uzziah, Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, Ahaz fathered Hezekiah, Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, Amon fathered Josiah, and Josiah fathered Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. Then after the exile to Babylon Jechoniah fathered Salathiel, Salathiel fathered Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel fathered Abiud, Abiud fathered Eliakim, Eliakim fathered Azor, Azor fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Achim, Achim fathered Eliud, Eliud fathered Eleazar, Eleazar fathered Matthan, Matthan fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:2-16).

All that waiting, and at last Jacob/Israel most assuredly saw the fulfillment of his God-given prophecy concerning his son Judah.

Child of God, your wait may be long, but hold on. God is faithful, and He will fulfill every promise that He’s given you. (And if this wasn’t for another soul reading this today, it was surely for me!)

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord said to Abram: ‘… I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you’” (Genesis 12:1a, 3, HCSB).

Remember, God later changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah. But even before this, God had made Abraham a promise: “… all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

We see this again in Genesis 18:18, after God has changed their names and after they have been told that the elderly Sarah would give birth to a son: “Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him.”

Don’t miss that: “… through him.” Through Christ Jesus our Lord. The God of the Impossible made an elderly childless couple a great part of the lineage of the Lion of Judah. God can do great things with ANYONE who is fully surrendered to His leadership. I pray that you are that submitted.

And now for the New Testament fulfillment. Luke records Peter addressing the crowd in the temple complex: “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your forefathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways” (Acts 3:25-26).

What had happened here? If you look back to the beginning of Acts 3, you see Peter and John on their way to the temple. At one of the gates a man born crippled has been laid to beg from passersby. He calls out to them for money, but Peter, instead of meeting his APPARENT need, meets his TRUE need: “… Peter said, I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have, I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6).

Was the crippled man’s true need to walk? No. The man needed to know Jesus. But the Lord also wanted the man to see that He could meet his physical need for healing.

We need to be careful and prayerful to look beyond people’s apparent or conceived needs and look for the true need within them. When a person doesn’t know Jesus, all the self-help programs in the world won’t fix the problem, nor will all the other helping hands or programs.

Am I saying not to meet people’s physical needs? No, I’m saying to be intelligent about how you choose to help anyone. A person who is able but won’t work doesn’t need help paying his bills so he can keep on not working – he needs encouragement and maybe some very tough love to help him get out and earn his own living.

Every situation is unique and requires prayerful consideration. Yes, we are to minister in the name of Jesus to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others; but we are to do it in a way that honors the Lord and seeks to draw those people to Him.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re at Genesis 3:15: “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel” (Genesis 3:15, HCSB).

This verse lets us know that Genesis is going to show us the pathways of the two seeds. Remember, everything in the Bible is leading up to Jesus. Early on, we see the division as Cain chooses the way of rebellion and murders his own brother, Abel. Seth, the child born to Adam and Eve after the murder of Abel, is the forefather of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob – the lineage of the Seed of Jesus Christ.

There are always two clear choices: the way of the world, which is following the pathway of Satan; or the way of the Lord, which is following the pathway of the Savior. In Galatians 4:4-5 Paul explains Jesus’ fulfillment of His role as Messiah: “But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Look back at Genesis 3:15: “The woman” and “her Seed.” In God’s perfect timing He sent His Son to be “born of a woman.” He chose to be “born under the law.” Why?

For a sacrifice to be acceptable it had to be perfect; and it had to be the right kind of sacrifice. Sure, the blood of sheep, bulls, and goats were accepted as temporary fixes for man’s sin, but what was needed was a permanent solution. Only a perfect man could once-and-for-all pay the sin-debt of mankind, and there wasn’t one. Until Jesus. He, out of His great love for all of us, left the glory of heaven and was born of Mary to be the sacrificial Lamb of God. So we see in Galatians the fulfillment of God’s words spoken hundreds of years before in Genesis 3:15.

Since we’re been looking at seeds, I hope you’re thinking about yours. What sort of seed are you sowing? A harvest is coming your way; may it be a great one for His glory!

“Now the one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness, as you are enriched in every way for all generosity” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11a).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Let’s take a look at some of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah. We’re going to look not only at where the passage is found, but when it was written, and when it was fulfilled: The dates of the prophecies range from 1450BC to 430BC; the fulfillments date from 45 to 95AD. We begin at the beginning, in the book of Genesis.

“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel” (Genesis 3:15, HCSB).

What’s happening when these words are spoken and who’s doing the speaking? At the prompting of the serpent – that is, Satan – Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of life and gave it to her husband Adam, who also ate it. They then realized they were naked and were embarrassed at their uncovered bodies, so they hid themselves.

Why? Because, according to Genesis 3:8, they “… heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden …” Can you imagine! The first two humans had such intimacy with the Lord that He literally came down and walked with them in the garden that He had created for them to live in!

And they traded that kind of fellowship for a bite of fruit. How foolish! And yet how often are we guilty of the very same sin? We prefer so many things over reading and studying God’s Word that time in the Bible is usually minimal or nonexistent in most homes today. And think of our attitudes too. We’d rather be done FOR than to do for others. And yet we know we’re to be like Jesus.

God Himself is speaking, talking to the serpent as He speaks the words of Genesis 3:15. He was saying that mankind and Satan would be continually at war with each other, but He was saying something far more specific:

“Your seed” refers to the “seed” of Satan – is rebellion, sin, which came into the world when Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of the serpent. Satan is the author of all rebellious behavior.

“Her Seed,” the Messiah, would be born of woman, fully man and yet fully God. Jesus would be attacked by Satan – “you will strike His heel,” (a wounding blow), but the Messiah would have the victory: “He will strike your head” (a death blow).

Eve was deceived and Adam along with her. Yet fallen humanity is redeemed by a Savior who is born of a human, a woman. How’s that for grace and mercy?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Amos concludes with the promise of the Lord to His people when they have repented and turned to Him: “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be … The days are coming … when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel … They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them” (Amos 9:11, 12-15, NIV).

God restores the fallen. God heals the broken. He never forsakes those He loves; and the Bible makes it clear that He loves “the world” (John 3:16) and accepts all who repent and “call on the Name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13).

When the Lord Jesus Christ reigns over the earth, His people will experience the three things spoken of in today’s passage: prosperity; fertility; and security.

(1) Prosperity. “New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.” There will be abundance and it won’t belong to a select few, but to the entire family of God.

(2) Fertility. “The reaper will be overtaken by the plowman … The planter by the one treading grapes.” Talk about your bumper crop! Read this carefully. There will be no more waiting! Never again will there be an unfulfilled need.

(3) Security. “I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” God’s people will live with Him forever!

Praise God! Doesn’t it thrill you to think of what Jesus has ready for you? Don’t you want your friends and family to share in it?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (First Corinthians 2:9).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re continuing our look at the Lord’s indictment against Israel: “Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth – yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob” (Amos 9:8, NIV).

“The eyes of the Sovereign Lord” see everything and everyone. No sin is hidden from Him, no matter how many people are fooled by the front a person puts on. Israel may have done a fine job of looking “religious,” but God knew that their hearts were far from Him. And even though He did and does show enormous patience, He eventually is left with no choice but to render discipline on the wayward person or nation.

But weren’t there some “good” people in Israel? Certainly; including the prophet Amos. But sin is never contained. It spreads like gangrene and it contaminates all who come in contact with it. The alcoholic or drug addict parent causes untold grief for their spouses, children, and other family members and friends. The money-holic who keeps his or her family buried in debt does likewise. And sin is sin. God is no more pleased with the irresponsible money manager than He is with the alcoholic or drug addict.

Yet He also reminds us of His mercy. Even though the nation of Israel was sinful, He promised not to “destroy” it completely. And He goes on to make a very important additional statement: “All the sinners among My people will die by the sword” (Amos 9:10a).

That may not sound too cheery, but look at this verse carefully. While the whole country may suffer greatly for their corporate/collective sin, the emphasis here is on individual accountability: “All the sinners.”

God is patient and loving and merciful, but He will only allow so much disobedience from a person or a nation who claims to belong to Him. The United States is in a heap of trouble, folks. Why? The individual believers are doing little or nothing to reach others with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Islam/Muslimism is one of our fastest growing religions simply because the followers of that faith are actively inviting others to know more about what they believe in.

How about you? Yesterday is past; let’s talk about today. Who is coming to faith in Jesus Christ because of your witness? How many people will you share the Good News with this week? What does your life this very day tell others about Jesus? I pray that your walk and talk draw others to Him.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


The Lord isn’t through with what He has to say to His people Israel. Amid even more rightful accusations, He tells them that He hears what they are saying, namely: “When will the new moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath ended that we may market wheat?” (Amos 8:5a, NIV).

The Israelites watched the clock, so to speak, waiting for the religious holidays and Sabbaths to be over so they could get back to business. Yes, they went through the motions of worshiping Almighty God; but He who sees all hearts knew that they were worshiping the almighty dollar.

We who don’t own businesses may enjoy a Sunday off, but what do we do so often? Use our “day of rest” (see Exodus 20:8-11) to catch up on all the work and shopping we weren’t able to do all week.

When I was a kid, my little town “rolled up the sidewalk” at 5pm. Businesses closed at noon on Wednesdays and weren’t open at all on Sundays. Why? People wanted to be home with their families in the evenings. People wanted to be in church on Wednesday nights and on Sundays.

Even more astounding, most restaurants followed the same schedule. People had their evening meals at home and Sunday dinners meant gatherings of friends and families in homes. And people actually managed to put gas in their cars and have the necessary food and other items taken care of before Sunday rolled around.

How’d all that change? Greed. People saw more opportunities to make money. People saw ways to get out of cooking. Stores started staying open a little later. Service stations opened on Sundays. Restaurants began offering Sunday lunches. And as the old saying goes, one thing led to another.

I’m as conditioned to these changes as the next person, but can you imagine how much less hectic our lives would be if Sundays were treated as Sabbaths? If churches didn’t schedule every meeting for Sunday afternoons and evenings. If Christians weren’t out shopping on Sundays. If believers gathered as friends and family and enjoyed meals and fellowship in home settings. (And I know some of you keep Saturday – literally sundown Friday to sundown Saturday – as the Sabbath.)

Like hamsters on wheels, we’re running because we’re on the wheels. We don’t know how to get off. We don’t know how or why we ever got on in the first place. And yet we still feel the need to keep pace with all the other hamsters.

Folks, it’s time to slow down. Get rid of some of the busyness in your life. And when you do, you’ll find time for Jesus. And you’ll also find that He’s exactly what you’ve been missing most of all.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Yesterday we looked this rightful accusation the Lord makes against Israel: “I despise the pride and false glory of Israel, and hate their beautiful homes” (Amos 6:8, Living Bible paraphrase).

I brought us to the present by pointing out how many of us live in “beautiful homes” with huge monthly payments that we manage to meet, even though we return little or no money to the Lord through our churches or other Christian organizations.

It boils down to this, folks: you can’t be STUFFED-obsessed and be CHRIST-possessed. If you’ve given Jesus Christ Lordship over every area of your life, there’s no place left for obsessing on materialism, because where Jesus reigns, He’s enough.

Am I saying that a true believer isn’t going to want nice things? Of course not. But a true believer who is totally committed to the Lord Jesus Christ isn’t going to have nice things while refusing to give to the work of the Lord. And a truly sold-out believer isn’t going to ignore the needs of others while he stacks up stuff for himself.

As we move closer to Christmas, I hope you’ll spend some serious time in the Word of God and in reordering your priorities. Spend less on stuff this Christmas. Refuse to spend for things you can’t pay cash for. Instead of giving to those who already have more than enough, agree among your friends and family to put that money to better use by providing for those less fortunate.

If you don’t think your little bit of money can make a difference, let me ask you to take a quick quiz. Not even considering all those unnecessary (and often unwanted) gifts we buy each Christmas, how much money do Americans spend just on CANDY during the holiday season? Is it more money than the annual budget of: The American Cancer Society; (2) The American Heart Association; (3) Habitat for Humanity; or, (4) All three combined.

If you chose Number 4, you answered correctly. Can you think of better ways and places to give your time and money now and this Christmas season?

“Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and … your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (Second Corinthians 9:10-11, NIV).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Moving on through the book of Amos, what else does the Lord have to say against Israel? “I despise the pride and false glory of Israel, and hate their beautiful homes” (Amos 6:8, Living Bible paraphrase).

Was the Lord angry at the Israelites for having nice houses? No. He was angry that the “haves” could enjoy such wealth without giving a thought to those around them who were needy. He hated the “pride and false glory” of the Israelites.

The Israelites were proud of the fact that they were God’s chosen people. They thought themselves above others and, in spite of countless disciplines, continually set themselves smugly upon a pedestal, thus enthroning themselves in their “pride and false glory” and dethroning the very One who chose them and set them apart.

How often I hear a Christian talk about how foolish the Israelites of the Bible were to treat the Lord as they did. And yet look at us Christians. We go to church if the wind’s blowing in the right direction or if it’s not blowing at all. We crawl to work with our noses dripping and our eyes watering; but if little Susie even has a sniffle Sunday morning – and I’m talking long before Covid – the entire family has to stay home and help her recover.

We can quote more of what The View or Ellen has to say than we can Scripture. We slap those fish emblems onto the rear of our cars and then break the speed limit; run traffic lights; cut people off in traffic; and in general, show people that Jesus Christ hasn’t done much of anything to make us different from the unbelievers.

We live in “beautiful homes” that are mortgaged and re-mortgaged up to our eyeballs. We manage to scrape up that big payment each month, but return little or no money to the Lord through our churches or even through organizations who help those less fortunate.

Folks, until WE aren’t the center of our attention, CHRIST can’t be who He’s supposed to be in our lives. And until people see Him as the center of our lives, they aren’t going to see Him at all – they’re going to see messed-up people with wrong priorities who give unbelievers a totally wrong impression of what the Christian life is all about.

You’ve heard this before, but bring it down to you and you alone: YOU’RE the only Jesus some may ever see. What does your life tell others about Him?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


We’re still in the book of Amos and the Lord is speaking through His prophet Amos to the people of Israel. He’s told them: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring Me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring Me choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps!” (Amos 5:21-23, NIV).

And why did the Lord reject Israel’s worship? One word is a big part of the answer: “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion …” (Amos 6:1a).

What does the word “complacent” mean? Pleased with yourself; self-satisfied. The Israelites went through the motions of worship, but in their hearts they were smugly content in and of themselves. In other words, they foolishly thought that their half-hearted worship placated (appeased, pacified) the Lord and that was all they really needed to do.

And so He continues His charges against them: “You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and calves. Your strum away on your harps like David and improvise on your musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions …” (Amos 6:4-6a).

To put it into today’s terminology, the Israelites lived like they had it “made in the shade.” No worries, mon. They had a lot of nice stuff and they loved it. Was having the stuff the problem? No. Being “complacent” was their problem.

Amos 6:6 ends with this: “… caring nothing at all that your brothers need your help” (Living Bible paraphrase).

The well-to-dos looked around at those in need and yawned. Those who had more than enough looked at those who were doing without and said, “It ain’t my problem.”

But it was their problem. And people in need today are our problem. As members of the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we aren’t to ignore the needy – we’re to help them.

As we sit down to meals of abundance, let’s remember those less fortunate and thank the Lord for putting the food on our tables. But even before we do that, let’s do something radical and Christ-like: invite a lonely person to share our meal, or in these days of Covid and distancing, deliver a meal to someone who’d appreciate a good hot dinner. Do something to show that we have the time and the compassion to touch a life less fortunate than our own.

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me. Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 25:40, 45).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Back to our look at Amos. The Lord had a problem with how His people were doing “church” in Amos’ time. Let’s see if we see any correlation with today’s churches:

“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring Me offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring Me choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps!” (Amos 5:21-23, NIV).

We can go through all the “right” motions and fail to please God. How’s that? Look at Jesus’ words to the religious know-it-alls of His day: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).

In other words, as the Lord said to Samuel, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). He saw the hearts of His people in the Old Testament; He saw the hearts of the people in the New Testament; and He sees the hearts of the people who claim His Name today.

And sadly, we’re sometimes no different than those other folks. We’re “full of greed and self-indulgence.” We do “church as usual.” We may tithe; teach; sing; or play music – we may even do all four! But God knows our hearts – and so often, what He sees within us breaks His.

God’s people should be the last people on earth to be dishonest. God’s people should be the last people on earth to lack compassion, since they’re indwelt by Compassion Incarnate. God’s people should know that going to church is going to the FILLING station and that the work is OUT IN THE FIELDS.

We can’t mistreat others and rightly represent Jesus. And there’s more to mistreating than we sometimes think about. Neglect is a form of mistreatment. I personally know pastors who stand in the pulpit and preach the love of Jesus while refusing to forgive and reconcile with people who have offended them. I personally know of believers who wouldn’t dare miss a church service, but they allow their elderly parents to sit home alone day after day without so much as a phone call. God forgive us!

And He wants to. He wants us to repent. And He wants us to be like Him – He even tells us how: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24).

We’ve received far more than “justice” from our Heavenly Father – He’s extended His grace and mercy. Do likewise; treat others fairly. We’ve been given “the righteousness of God” (Second Corinthians 5:21) through our Lord Jesus Christ. Walk in Him. Talk with Him.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and of the crash caused by courageous passengers on United Flight 93 that preempted another attack. Where were you? Larry and I had just finished having breakfast on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I’d told Larry I was going to spend what little Canadian money we had left by picking up some souvenirs in the adjoining gift shop. Only moments later, Larry came to my side, all the color drained from his face, and said, “We need to leave now.” He pointed to a TV mounted in the corner of the café, where he’d just seen the first plane slam into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

When we reached the border crossing and a guard was checking our trunk, another guard walked up and told him, “We’re closing the border. Don’t let anyone else through.” We were waved on, and the cars behind us were turned back into Canada.

Only two weeks before, I had flown United to New York City and spent a week with my friend Alice. We met another friend, Marlene, for lunch in Manhattan, and then Alice and I rode to the top of the Empire State Building and had someone take our picture. The Twin Towers were right behind us.

On Larry and my trip, we had flown United to Buffalo, New York and picked up a rental car before driving into Canada and touring around. When we left the café and made it across the border, we rushed to the rental agency at the airport, but they wouldn’t allow us to keep the car and drive it home. So we sped to Amtrak, then Greyhound, trying to find transportation. Everything was shut down. We were praying, praying, praying – not only to get home, but for the safety of everyone in the Twin Towers. We were praying for Alice’s husband, a policeman. For her son-in-law, a fireman. For her priest, who was a chaplain for her husband’s police unit. We didn’t even know about the other hijacked planes at that time.

When we returned to the airport, not knowing what else to do, we handed over the car and went to a different rental car desk inside the terminal. No one was even allowed in line without a reservation. Miraculously, Larry spotted a red phone with a sign that said, “Reservations.” We walked to it and he held that phone for ages until someone finally came on the line and we were able to get a one-way rental. Then Larry was allowed to get in line. I don’t remember what kind of little car we ended up with, but we were thankful to have one. Outside the airport, the quiet was so strange. It was as if the whole world had gone silent.

The only planes we saw during out entire 20+ hour drive to Atlanta (where we’d left our car) were U.S. military fighter jets. We took turns driving and sleeping. Over and over, I tried calling Alice, but couldn’t get through.

We were almost in Atlanta when I reached Alice. Her husband and son-in-law were okay, but her priest had stayed inside the Trade Center with some people who were trapped. That area collapsed, and he, along with the others, were all killed. My friend Marlene’s daughter worked in the Trade Center. She had an apartment within walking distance. As she left for work that morning, the heel of her shoe broke, and she turned around and went back home to change to another pair. Little did she know that running late for work would save her life.

The Sunday after 9/11, churches were packed. For months afterwards, people flocked to church, seeking the Lord, seeking comfort, seeking answers. And then we got over it. Life went on.

Today we need to remember. We need to recognize all the heroes, like Michael Benfante and an unnamed coworker who carried a woman in a wheelchair down 68 flights of stairs. Like Roselle, the guide dog for Michael Hingson, a blind man who worked on the 78th floor of one of the towers. Roselle’s calm plodding down the rubble-filled stairwell encouraged many others to follow them and make their way to safety.

So many stories of heroes, and yet every one of them will tell you: “When we were running out, they were running in,” referring to the countless firemen and policemen who hurried into the Towers, 412 of whom gave their lives. In total, 2,977 people died that day in the Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and on the four planes terrorists used in the attacks.

And as for blaming all Muslims for the horrors of terrorism, let me remind us that 31 of the people killed by those radical lunatics were Muslims. Their own people. Their own faith. Three were innocent passengers on the planes used in the attacks. Twenty-eight were in the Twin Towers, including Abdul Salam Mallahi, who worked at the Marriot inside the Trade Center. As other people ran out, he stayed inside, helping many to safety before losing his own life as the building gave way and crumbled.

Recalling 9/11 is painful but necessary. We need to realize it could happen again. We need to realize who the enemy really is. Ephesians 6:12a reminds us: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world” (NLT). The only enemy we need to concern ourselves with is the ruler of darkness. And the only thing we need to do about him is trust the Lord’s plan that will one day end his power forever. And in the meantime, those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ will be safe. Safe for eternity. Forever. Even if some of us “… must endure many trials …” (1 Peter 1:6b) as we wait for our Savior to take us home.

So remember 9/11 and pray we are spared from ever experiencing anything else so devastating. But refuse to be fearful. Faith and fear are opposing forces. Choose faith. Ask the Lord to remove your fear. Put your trust in Him. “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7a). And the result of that trust? “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7b).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


We’ve seen God’s words of judgment against the six nations surrounding His people Israel: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab. And we’ve seen His judgment upon disobedient Judah (southern kingdom). Now He speaks to Israel (northern kingdom): “… I will not turn back My wrath. They sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed” (Amos 2:6-7a, NIV).

The people of Israel had become self-centered, self-absorbed, self-pleasing. They sold as slaves anyone who owed them money and couldn’t pay; and they sold slaves even when doing so meant separating families. The “haves” had no regard for the “have nots.” Sound familiar?

But the Lord was just getting started. He continues through the next chapters:

“As a shepherd saves from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or a piece of an ear, so will the Israelites be saved …” (Amos 3:12a).

“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to Me” (Amos 4:6).

“‘You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the Lord. ‘Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God …’” (Amos 4:11b-12).

In spite of warning after warning, God’s people refused to repent. He names a number of disasters that failed to get their attention, repeating after each one, “Yet you have not returned to Me.”

Did the Lord give up on His people? No. Instead, He tells them, “… seek Me and live” (Amos 5:4a). And again He pleads with them, “Seek the Lord and live” (Amos 5:6a). And “Seek good, not evil, that you may live” (Amos 5:14).

Our merciful God hates sin, but loves the sinner. No good parent refuses to discipline His child; and the Best Parent of All is certainly no exception. He wants His people to obey Him. He wants His people to live as He has called them to live. He wants His people to position themselves for His blessings, not His discipline.

It’s back to that choice thing. Right this very moment your life is either positioned for blessing or discipline. Which is it?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


I want to add one more comment about the end of our Amos passage: “… I will send fire upon Judah …” (Amos 2:4b-5a).

Fire is used as a symbol of God’s presence and as a figurative or literal representation of His power. Let’s look at a few passages:

Numbers 11:1-2: “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when He heard them His anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down.”

First Kings 18:36-38: “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You are turning their hearts back again.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God!’”

Exodus 13:21: “By day the Lord went ahead of them [the Israelites] in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”

Revelation 1:14: “His head and [His] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes [were] as a flame of fire.”

Hebrews 12:29 (quoting Deuteronomy 4:24): “For our God is a consuming fire.”

Matthew 13:40: “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.”

Fire represents the presence of the Lord and it represents the judgment of the Lord. But it also represents the purifying of the Lord: Isaiah 6:5-7: “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’ Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’”

If you have accepted His free pardon of sin, Jesus Christ has already redeemed you and set you free. He experienced the fiery trial and suffering of crucifixion and death so that you wouldn’t have to know the eternal suffering of “… the second death …” (see Revelation 20:14). If He never did another thing for you, hasn’t He done enough already?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Another look at these verses from Amos: “… I will not turn back My wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept His decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire upon Judah …” (Amos 2:4b-5a).

We’ve seen why the Lord is angry with His people. They (1) “… rejected the law of the Lord.” (2) They didn’t keep “… His decrees.” (3) They allowed themselves to be “… led astray by false gods.” (4) And they followed the “… the gods their ancestors followed.”

What “gods” have our ancestors followed? The same ones many of us are following today. For the vast majority, the god of America is not Jesus Christ – it’s stuff. Materialism. We want a better job so that we can make more money. We need a better job to pay for the stuff we’ve already acquired. And when we get a better job or an increase in pay at our current one, we want to use it to acquire more stuff so we can owe more money. We’re so used to the rhythm of indebtedness that it never occurs to us to stop the cycle.

After the Depression, when people began to get back on their feet, everyone wanted “to give my kids better than I had growing up.” It was a great sentiment at the time. Today, for most of us, it means shoveling nonstop money into insatiable appetites. We’ve conditioned our kids – and ourselves – to believe that we not only should have what we want, but that we deserve what we want. Truth is, we’re getting what we deserve when we overextend ourselves and find ourselves chained to the debt monster. Money is a tool, not a god; and it’s a monstrous master when it has you in its power.

First Corinthians 3:11-15 tells us: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God don’t play. (Bad English, good theology.) Unless we get serious about our walk with the Lord, we’re headed for a fiery judgment. Get real or get left. That’s what it boils down to.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Continuing our look at Amos, the Lord addresses Judah: “… I will not turn back My wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept His decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire upon Judah …” (Amos 2:4b-5a, NIV).

Why is the Lord angry with His people? (1) “They have rejected the law of the Lord.” (2) They “have not kept His decrees.” (3) “They have been led astray by false gods.” (4) He’s been patient; this has been going on a long time – “the gods their ancestors followed.”

Countless wars have been fought and are being fought over religion. Countless lives have been snuffed out in the name of religion, including Christianity, and by the hands of both Catholics and Protestants. Over and over people have risen to power who said, “Either you believe like I do or you die.”

But how did Jesus say we’re to reach people for His kingdom? Just like He did. In love.

So why are other religions growing by leaps and bounds in our nation? In the world? Because God’s people aren’t living like God’s people should live. And because God’s people aren’t loving like we should love. If we aren’t exemplifying Jesus, it’s impossible for us to show anyone a better way than any other religion offers – because if we aren’t exemplifying Jesus, we aren’t showing The Way!

Let me give you some statistics from a U.S. study by the Barna Group ( I pray this will wake us all from apathy: “An estimated 73 million adults are presently unchurched. When teens and children are added, the total swells to roughly 100 million Americans. To put that figure in context, if the unchurched population of the United States were a nation of its own, that group would be the twelfth most populated nation on earth (trailing only China, India, the churched portion of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan and Mexico). Included among the unchurched is an estimated 13 to 15 million [professing] born-again adults and children.”

Believers in Jesus Christ are rapidly becoming a minority. Why? We’re not reproducing. How many people have come to faith in Jesus Christ through your witness?

“Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while He was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him. [Jesus said to them:] ‘…I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit’” (Matthew 21:23, 43).

We have our assignment. What are you doing with it?

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


Our shepherd-prophet Amos is a great example of God equipping the called rather than calling the equipped. Before we get into our verses for today, let me just say that if the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart about a ministry or mission, be obedient. Follow His leading. If He’s calling you, He’s equipping you to do whatever He wants you to do.

Meanwhile, back at Chapter 1 of Amos. The Lord has spoken a series of judgments against Israel’s neighbors, so far covering Damascus (verses 3-5); Gaza (verses 6-8); and Tyre (verses 9-10). And then He moves a little closer to home, to Edom, the descendants of Esau: “I will not turn back My wrath, because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually, and his fury flamed unchecked” (Amos 1:11-12, NIV).

In verse 9, one of the condemnations addressed to Tyre, a prosperous city of Lebanon (north of Israel), is this: “They broke their treaty with their brother, Israel; they attacked and conquered him, and led him into slavery to Edom (the descendants of Esau) (Amos 1:9, Living Bible).

Who was Esau? The twin brother of Jacob and son of Isaac and Rebekah. Esau dishonored his parents by marrying two Canaanite women (see Genesis 26:34) and later, in a badly misplaced effort to get back into their good graces, added Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael (Abram’s son by Hagar – see Genesis 16:15), as another wife (see Genesis 28:8-9).

Who was Jacob? Twin brother of Esau; son of Isaac; grandson of Abraham. After a divine struggle (see Genesis 32:28), Jacob was given a new name, Israel (“wrestler with God”), and became the father of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. Note that God didn’t give Abram his new name of Abraham (“father of a multitude”) until years after the birth of Ishmael but before the birth of Isaac – see Genesis 17.

But what I want us to focus on for today are the words spoken to the people of Edom: “I will not turn back My wrath, because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually, and his fury flamed unchecked” (Amos 1:11-12).

The enmity (hatred; ill will; feeling of hostility) Edom felt for Israel was long-standing. They had even taken Israelites “into slavery to Edom” (Amos 1:9). How did that come about? Through bitterness. Envy. Refusing to let go of past hurts, “he pursued his brother,” Israel.

Are you pursuing past hurts? Are you refusing to let go of the bad feelings brought about by a negative experience? If you’re to live for Jesus, you don’t have an option – your one right choice is to let it go. Otherwise, you open yourself and your friends and family to the horrible legacy of bitterness.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


I want to spend some time looking at the book of Amos and the message the Lord gave him – a message, like so much of the Word, which can greatly be applied to us today. For starters, who was Amos and how did he become a prophet?

Chapter 1, Verse 1 opens by telling us, “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa – what he saw concerning Israel … when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash (or Joash) was king of Israel” (NIV).

Amos isn’t mentioned in any other book in the Old Testament. He’s sometimes confused with Amoz, the father of Isaiah, but he’s not the same man. Scholars do estimate the time of Amos’ writing as between 860 and 850BC, which would make him a contemporary (one who lived in the same time period) of Isaiah and Hosea.

Amos’ hometown of Tekoa was about ten miles from Jerusalem. It’s important to realize that, at the time of Amos, the Israelites were divided into the Southern Kingdom – Judah, where Tekoa and Jerusalem were – and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Amos, a man of Judah, was sent as a prophet to Israel.

According to Amos 7:13-15, the shepherd-prophet was prophesying in Bethel (literally, “Beth-el”, meaning “house of God”), one of the southernmost cities of Israel. Names were highly significant in the Bible, and Amos’ name means “burden bearer.” The Lord had given Amos a burden for the people of Israel, to speak out about their sins and call them to repentance.

The first two chapters of Amos are devoted to God’s judgment against first the Gentiles and then against the people of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In verse 9, one of the condemnations addressed to Tyre, a prosperous city of Lebanon (north of Israel), is this: “They broke their treaty with their brother, Israel; they attacked and conquered him, and led him into slavery to Edom (descendants of Esau) (Amos 1:9, Living Bible).

I think there’s a huge warning in this passage that can certainly be applied today. Every nation needs to be careful how they treat Israel, “the apple of [God’s] eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10). Psalm 122:6 makes us this promise: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee” (KJV).

Do you, like Amos, have a burden for the lost? If not, pray for God to give you one. And pray for “the peace of Jerusalem.”

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“And if you are not faithful with other people’s money, why should you be trusted with money of your own?” (Jesus speaking, Luke 16:12, NLT).

In order to understand this passage, we have to look at it in the Light of eternity – you’d do well to read Matthew 25:1-30. As believers here on earth, we should understand the truth of First Corinthians 6:19b-20a which addresses every believer: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (NIV). When we don’t even have ownership of our own lives, we certainly can’t claim ownership over the “stuff” associated with earthly living. No, the money and other material possessions we lay claim to actually belong to the One who paid the ultimate “price” for our eternal pardon.

If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you’re managing His money. That life of yours means you’re also managing His time. He’s entrusted you with a specific amount of each – time and money – and He’s watching to see just how well or how poorly you can be trusted.

I’ve used this example many times, but allow me to once more ask you to picture a 3-year-old. You place a dollar in this little angel’s hand and she immediately toddles off down the hallway. Within moments you hear a familiar flushing sound and she returns to you empty-handed, palm out, expectant.

“What did you do with the dollar I just gave you?” you ask her. She smiles sweetly, shrugs her shoulders and continues to hold out the palm of her hand, waiting for you to hand over more money for her to play with.

Knowing what she did with the previous money you entrusted to her, how eager are you to give her more? Knowing how you’re managing what the Lord’s already entrusted to you, how eager should He be to trust you with more?

“We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.” (Dwight L. Moody)

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“Then Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or extra clothing, did you lack anything?’ ‘No,’ they replied’” (Jesus speaking, Luke 22:35, NLT).

Never forget, folks: Jesus doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. Don’t spin your wheels worrying about how to come up with the money for anything that’s in the perfect will of God for your life. If you’re lacking in an area of need – not want – it’s time to reexamine where your dollars are going.

A great practice is to keep a record of every penny you spend for a full month – whether it’s a credit card payment; gas for your car; eating out; or a pack of chewing gum. Write down everything – how much you spent and what you spent it for. At the end of the month, look over your list and categorize your expenditures. You’ll quickly spot the areas where you need to be less wasteful.

And when you cut your outgo, use that “extra” money to pay down some of those credit card debts. Pick out the card with the lowest balance and start piling on as much money as you can each month until that debt is paid. As soon as you knock out the first bill, attack the next one in line. By targeting your lowest debts first and taking them one at a time, you see a faster “reward” for your effort as that first monthly payment is eliminated. And then another. And another.

If God is your Provider, He’s not short-changing you. He’s providing. Question is: what are you doing with His provision?

“A man in debt is so far a slave.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“You cannot serve both God and money” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:24b, NLT).

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“… Don’t begin until you count the cost …” (Jesus speaking, Luke 14:28a, NLT).

Yesterday I talked about the commitment of marriage. What other commitment can we apply this verse to? In Luke 9:59-62 we see Jesus calling a man to be His disciple. The man accepts Jesus’ offer of discipleship, then tells Him, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father” (Luke 9:59).

What was Jesus’ response? “Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60b).

Was the Lord being unfeeling? No. The man’s statement was an excuse. Scholars believe the man’s father was alive and probably well. What the man was saying is, “Yes, Lord, I’ll follow you – but not until my father is no longer living.” He mouthed a commitment, but his actions proved his words were insincere.

In this same passage, a second man also agrees to follow Jesus. But he, too, says he has something he needs to do “first” (Luke 9:61). Jesus replies: “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Some people misunderstand this statement, thinking it means that if a believer messes up, as in “looks back,” he’s booted out of the Kingdom. This isn’t what Jesus was saying. Both of the men in this passage were being OFFERED the opportunity to BECOME disciples of Jesus Christ. Both men verbally COMMITTED to becoming disciples, yet both men’s ACTIONS proved them otherwise.

If you promised to drive your child to school, would you drive halfway and then decide, “Okay, he can walk from here?” If you were hired to work Monday through Friday, would you work all five days or just the days that you felt like it?

Has the Lord called you to be His disciple? If you’ve accepted Him as Lord and Savior, that’s exactly what you’ve COMMITTED to. Lip service doesn’t make you His – it’s your follow-through that is PROOF of your COMMITMENT. Be faithful. You know what “the cost” was to Jesus.

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work” (Vince Lombardi). And may I add, a church too.

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates


“… Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills?” (Jesus speaking, Luke 14:28, NLT).

We make a lot of commitments without thinking them through. Marriage particularly stands out when I think of commitments. Does God forgive divorce? Absolutely. Is He pleased by divorce? Most assuredly, no.

Time and again I hear something like, “Our marriage ended a long time ago.” Or, “we’re just not in love anymore.” Puh-leeeeeeze! You’re not “in love” with your job, either; but you’re not quitting it, are you?

Your marriage ain’t over until life is over. Your commitment isn’t over until life is over. No, your marriage isn’t perfect – show me one that is – but it’s YOUR marriage. As much as it depends on you, stay in it. No, don’t tolerate abuse; but don’t make excuses for window-shopping or breaking your vows. “For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; ‘til death do you part.” I think that about covers it.

“In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.” (Robert Anderson)

Copyright 2021

Judy Woodward Bates