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A Servant's Heart

Christians are called to live a life of humility, self-sacrifice and servanthood. This is hard at times. Love is the strongest motivating factor enabling us to live in such a way. It’s difficult trusting that God has a plan when times are tough but being confident in the Father’s love is the answer.

There is a short story I’ve been meditating on recently. It’s about a young woman named Achsah in the books of the Bible, Joshua 15 and Judges 1. She is the daughter of Caleb, one of the spies that entered the Promised Land with Joshua. Right after conquering Hebron, Caleb wanted to take the city of Debir as well. I believe Caleb wanted to provide for his daughter with a strong husband and land. So he promised Achsah in marriage to whomever took the city. Othniel, son of Kenaz took on the challenge, succeeded and subsequently married Achsah.

A commentary by W.F. Adeney on states that “Othniel was nephew to Caleb and therefore must have known Achsah. It is probable that he accepted the challenge to seize the city from motives of real affection for Caleb's daughter. God providentially arranges that human love should serve as a help for the performance of difficult tasks. Christianity shows love by directing it to Christ. It is because of the Father’s love that Jesus came to serve as a sacrifice of love to humankind. Love is meaningless when it will not encounter danger and attempt hard tasks. The highest human affection is shown not in mere emotions, but in sacrifice and toil.”

Not only did Othniel display love in performing a difficult task, but Achsah did as well. I imagine it might have been difficult for Achsah to have put her faith and trust in her father’s judgement for her life. It would be nice to think Achsah could have had a choice even though marriages were arranged then. If she did have a choice, then her submission out of love and humility would indicate her self-sacrifice.

Achsah’s dowry came with a certain amount of land in the Negev. This desert land was known for its dry, arid temperatures. Achsah approached her father and asked him for the upper and lower springs. It would have been extremely difficult to cultivate her land without them.

I would like to think that Caleb loved his daughter because the name she was given is considered an endearment. It comes from the noun עכס (ekes), meaning anklet or bangle. Even though it is not mentioned in the scripture, it would be lovely to think Achsah was given this name because her father loved her. She may have been confident enough in her father’s love to ask for the springs in addition to the wedding gift of the land.

So many stories in scripture, point to God’s plans being better than anything ever dreamed. Little did Achsah know that Othniel, the warrior that would take the city and become her husband would go on to rule as judge over Israel and she would be at his side for 40 years of peaceful reign.

By the end of the story, she had stepped out in faith and claimed an additional blessing for her family. She was bold and confident in her father's love to ask for more. Just like our heavenly Father is ready and willing to bless us, we must also go to Him with this same type of faith, knowing He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The reward Achsah received may have been land and additional springs but the greater reward was God revealing His glory through her life by including her short story in the canon of biblical history. She is not only mentioned in Joshua but Judges as well. The reward of enjoying the fruit of our labor is superseded by the true reward of God getting the glory through our lives of obedience, of love and self-sacrifice. We are able to follow His plan for us when we live a life of humility and sacrifice of our own agendas.

Living a life of self-sacrifice means living a life of humility. So, it is out of this perspective that we are now able to live. The story of how Jesus Himself became a man demonstrated His servant-leader roll when He took a towel and wash basin, knelt before each of His disciples and washed their dirty feet. They should have been ready to do it for Him and in the very least, have a servant ready to do the job for them. This showed them how much He loved them and how they are to love others in return.

I’m reminded of what 1 Corinthians 13 truly means. It’s the passage that everyone uses in wedding ceremonies but the meaning is so much deeper. Selflessness, humility, sacrifice, servitude...these are all words that cut to the heart. We must allow God to develop this gift of loving others in us in the same way Jesus loved us.

One of the women I have always admired for humility, self-sacrifice and servanthood, is Mother Teresa. Her work with the poor amazes me. It's heart-wrenching to watch video footage of her holding and kissing impoverished children. I love what she said - “If you cannot feed one hundred people, feed just one.” The idea goes way beyond hunger. Being a blessing to just one person can show God's love to them. It is the greatest thing that anyone can do in life. You’ll never fully know the ripple effect of when you bless someone. The only way this can be accomplished is through love. They say, "Love is the answer." It's Christ's love through us.

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