Hanukkah – December 13-21, 2017

At sundown this evening, Jews around the world will light the first Hanukkah candle to begin the eight day celebration of the Feast of Dedication.  The miracle that happened at the time of the Maccabbees and the prophetic implications of this festival are too often missed.  Therefore it is worth interrupting for this week our study of Joshua to take a look at what Hanukkah really means.

happy-hanukkah-image

Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the things long past, for I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying , ‘My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’ 

Very early in Genesis, we read of a man whose name is Enoch or in Hebrew, Chanoch.  His name means ‘Dedication’ and it is this same root that gives us the word Chanukkah.  Enoch, or Chanoch, lived a life of total dedication to God and at the appointed time, God ‘took him’, the Bible says.

Chanukkah is the feast of Dedication – the re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration by Antiochus, the Greek Emperor who made it his goal to bring all peoples of the ancient world into the worship of Zeus, the primary Greek god.  In other words, to create a one world religion.  Are you aware that there is a serious effort underway in our day to do exactly what Antiochus wanted to do?   There are religious/political leaders literally working together to forge a ‘one world religion’, a sign of the end of days.

The Jews of Antiochus’ day refused and their resistance was led by a man and his sons known as the Maccabbees.  Though they were small in number compared to the army of Antiochus, miraculously the Maccabbees won the battle.  After the defeat of the emperor’s troops, the Maccabbees went up to the temple which had been desecrated by the Greeks for Antiochus sacrificed a pig on the altar. As they trudged through the rubble, they found one small vial of pure oil for lighting the Menorah.  It was not enough to light the entire Menorah but enough for one branch.  And so, at a very dark hour in Jewish history, one small vial of oil served to encourage the survivors that Antiochus had not been able to extinguish completely the light of the God of Israel.  Miraculously that one vial – with oil enough for one day – continued to burn until the eighth day.

The number 8 in Scripture speaks of plentifullness, of regeneration; it is the number of new beginnings.  At the time of Noah’s flood, eight people survived to replenish the earth in its ‘new beginning’.  In I Samuel 8, the prophet Samuel visits the house of Jesse to anoint a new king for Israel.  Jesse presents seven sons to the prophet but none of them are the anointed of the Lord.  It is only when Jesse calls for his eighth son, David, that the Spirit of the Lord speaks to Samuel to ‘anoint this one’ as king.

We are all called to carry the light of God’s truth, His Word and His ways to others; to be an example of godly living to a confused and chaotic world.

This Chanukkah, may the light of the Holy One of Israel fill us anew and afresh and may we spread His light everywhere we go.

A Happy Chanukkah to all of you!

Joshua, the Man & the Book #8 December 5, 2017

Joshua 7 comes as a bit of a surprise.

The children of Israel under Joshua’s leadership have just witnessed the tremendous defeat of the city of Jericho and they are still basking in the glow of that great event. But, verse 1 tells us that God was upset with the people. Israel thought that everything was all right. They thought that they were standing on the edge of a great string of victories that would see them conquering the entire land of promise. Yet, what they didn’t know was that there was a problem in the camp. There was one in their midst who was causing a problem for the entire family of God.  Because of that, the nation was about to suffer a painful defeat.

In vs. 2-3 of chapter 7, Israel is a confident people. They looked at Ai and felt like that little town would be no problem for such a great army, but their confidence was misplaced. Israel did not realize it, but they were living through one of the most dangerous times of life. You see, the time just after a great spiritual victory is a dangerous time. Often, like Israel, we will be over confident and believe that we can handle any battle that comes our way.When we have that attitude, we are vulnerable to suffer our greatest defeats.  Why? Because we are trusting in ‘OUR’ achievement, rather than in the grace of God.

When Israel, without consulting the LORD, set out to conquer Ai they suffered a terrible defeat and 36 of their number were killed. Shock waves went through the camp. How could this happen?

Achan

Joshua, as commander, takes responsibility and goes before the LORD in prayer with a broken heart, v. 6. However, he also displays a hint of anger and accusation against the Lord.  Joshua is about to learn that prayer is the correct recourse in a time of trouble, but that prayer will avail nothing until sin has been dealt with, Psalm 66:18! Joshua wonders why Israel was powerless in the battle. He learns that the answer wasn’t to blame God, or to dispute His will. The answer was within their own camp.

When our decisions bring unpleasant consequences, it is not the time to play the ‘blame game’.  It is also not the time to accuse God of anything. We need to look within and see where the problem is.  When there is a lack of power in my life, the problem is not with God, nor is it with others, the problem is always with me!

While Joshua and Israel try to figure out what is going on, God in Heaven already knows and tells Joshua all about it.

The answer is quite simple: there is sin in the camp of Israel.

The LORD makes Joshua to understand that this sin that is hindering His power and is the cause of their defeat. Further, the LORD gives Joshua instructions on how to discover the guilty party. In these words to Joshua, God gives us some insights into sin, insights worthy of our attention.

1. God knows about our sins – vs. 11 (Proverbs 15:3)

2. God hates our sins – vs. 11 (Proverbs 6:6-19)

3. God has a plan for our sins – vs. 14-15  (Psalm 32:5)

4. Sin affects those around us – vs. 11-12

5. Sin must be dealt with; it cannot be ignored. vs. 13

Essentially, God makes clear to Joshua: Either you deal with the sin in the camp or I will. Either way, sin must be confronted.

God knew who was guilty so why didn’t He just tell Joshua who they were looking for? In my opinion, He was giving Achan time to repent and to confess his sins voluntarily. In any case, Achan was identified as the culprit.

In verse 19, Joshua speaks to Achan with love in his heart. He knows that Achan is condemned, but Joshua still cares for this man who brought so much trouble to Israel. In the next verses, Achan finally confesses his sin but grudgingly. Don’t believe for a second that Achan truly repented! He, like some others in the Bible, only confessed his sin after he got caught, when it was impossible to hide it any longer!

God’s way is for His people to throw the covers off their sins and tell God the truth that He already knows. He blesses the person who handles sin the Biblical way. However, the person who tries to hide his sins will never prosper, but will face God in judgment.  Our sins will be exposed in one way or another. You can confess them sincerely and be forgiven, or you will be forced to confess them when you face the LORD in Judgment. Either way, you will confess your sins.  Far better to be a quick repenter like David, than an unwilling repenter like Achan.

The following verses give us the sad conclusion to this tragic tale. Achan and all that he had were taken out and stoned to death by the people of Israel. It didn’t have to end this way! However, these verses demonstrate the horrible end of all sinners who refuse to repent.

Application

No human being is perfect or sinless.  But God in His great mercy and loving kindness, before we were ever born, had already made provision for us to return to Him after sinning: REPENTANCE.  And what is repentance? It is the decision – made sincerely – to approach the Holy One of Israel with humility to acknowledge what we have done wrong and to ask for His forgiveness.  It is coming to Him with no pretense, no hypocrisy, no mental excuses or rationalizations regarding what we have done, but to simply acknowledge the truth: I have sinned, I sincerely regret having offended You, My God, You, who have blessed me with so many blessings. I ask for Your mercy and forgiveness.

Knowing from His written Word that He is faithful to forgive us when we repent, we then thank Him for that forgiveness and pray for grace to refrain from repeating that sin again.

If Achan had only taken this course of action, his entire family would have been spared.

A sobering thought…