The Power of Words #2 March 13, 2018

Last week we opened with these scriptures:

Proverbs 21:23 tells us: He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles. (NASB)

And the same verse in the Passion Translation: Watch your words and be careful what you say, and you’ll be surprised how few troubles you will have. (TPT)


There’s not a one of us who haven’t said things we regretted later.  We’ve all had to repent, far more than just once.  So why do we say some of the things we later have to repent for?  This week let’s look at some of the reasons that prompt ungodly speech.

SELF-PITY – when we feel that we are being unfairly treated or have to fulfill responsibilities that others don’t understand or appreciate, we can so easily feel sorry for ourselves. If you’ve been lied about, rejected or discriminated against or when you thought you had a chance at something special and then were derailed by someone else, self-pity tells you that life is passing you by and you’ll never see your dreams come true.

We’ve all been guilty of it but self-pity is not acceptable for a Christian.  When we utter words of self-pity, we expose our lack of confidence in God and His perfect plan for our life.  You see, God’s more interested in your holiness than in your happiness!  Ouch!  But it’s true.  When Jesus paid the highest price in the universe to make you a child of God, He had in mind that you would grow into His image and likeness.  And Jesus never uttered one word of self-pity!

Stuff happens.  It sure does. The issue is how we view it.  Any situation that would incline you toward self-pity is actually a TEST.  The Lord is looking to see if your faith in Him will triumph or whether you’ll fall into fleshly patterns. Every test is for advancement. Remember that.  Words we speak out of self-pity betray a lack of faith and trust in God’s plan for our lives.

SELF – DEFENSE:  A great man of God, Peter Cantrell, often says, ‘The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.‘  How true that is.  The person who is compelled to prove that they are right and others are wrong is not free; neither are they humble.  They spend their energies struggling to make others think they know better or are smarter or wiser. They have a ready answer before the other person finishes the question.

The truth is that working so hard to prove your superiority actually exposes your weakness. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.  Luke 16:15

The most compelling feeling in the world is to defend yourself, to explain yourself, to vindicate yourself.  We all know what it feels like to want to be vindicated. Trying to be justified or exonerated before people is a crippling and counterproductive exercise. It is stressful and exhausting.  However, we can enjoy peace IF we learn and live by the principle: GOD does the best job of vindicating his servants.  If we try to do it for ourselves, He backs off. If we trust His word: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” Romans 12:19,  He’ll do it brilliantly!

FEAR – Speaking out of fear always leads to trouble – always!  Most lies are told because of fear: fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, fear of what other people think, fear of negative consequences if we tell the truth, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, fear of being controlled.  To say it another way, dishonesty is the system of controlling what scares us.

My dear friends, God loves you with an incomparable love; Jesus gave everything to make you His own.  You are utterly secure in His love if you have given your all to Him.

Proverbs 29:25 says: ‘The fear of man is a trap but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.’ Fear is a killer. Truth is life-giving. Words spoken from fear hinder our relationship with God and with others. We all have to repent for words spoken in fear, don’t we?

ANGER –  Angry words. Nasty words. Mean words.

Again we turn to the Proverbs. The man who controls his temper is greater than a powerful warrior who conquers a city.  Prov. 16:32  A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.  Prov. 29:11

What about ‘righteous’ anger?  There is a thin line between righteous anger and losing your temper.  Righteous anger is not about you; losing your temper is.

What the Bible calls righteous anger refers to attitudes about blatant sinfulness in a city or nation, corruption in government or business, desecrating the Name of God and the Word of God. Yes, there can be a holy, righteous anger about those things.

Losing your temper is entirely different.  That’s when something or someone sends you over the edge because what they did or said, or what happened, doesn’t fit your personal agenda for that time and place. You’re impatient, quick-tempered and in that state of mind, say and do things that do not in any way reflect the Christ in you.

Undisciplined anger can lead to serious sin.  Cain killed his brother, Abel, because he was angry. Anger explodes in cruel words, in harsh words and sometimes in expletives that should never cross the lips of anyone professing to be a follower of Christ.


FATIGUE – This may surprise you but the truth is, we are easily prone to say things we will later regret when we are exhausted, tired out, worn out.  We get snippy, short with others, careless with our words and sometimes sarcastic.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.  If we know – and we should all take this to heart – if we know that when we’re tired, we’re more likely to spew out something we’ll regret later, let’s have the good sense to bridle our tongues.  Let’s recognize that we’re not at our best when we’re exhausted, ask the Lord to help us and bite our tongues!

There are probably other reasons why we misuse words and find ourselves needing to repent for what we’ve said, but I pray that these few thoughts will be of help to all of us in our ongoing effort to make our speech pleasing and honoring to the Lord.

Some years ago it was quite popular to wear a bracelet with the letters, WWJD. Those initials stood for ‘What Would Jesus Do?’

I think of it from time to time and in the context of today’s lesson, perhaps we should train ourselves to ask, ‘What would Jesus say?’

Change your words – Change your world.


The Power of Words #1 March 6, 2018

Welcome to a new study series.  Instead of choosing a specific book of the Bible this time, I felt compelled by the Spirit of God to focus on a topic instead, the importance and power of our words.  Proverbs 21:23 tells us: He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles. (NASB)  I especially like the way this verse is translated in the Passion Translation: Watch your words and be careful what you say, and you’ll be surprised how few troubles you will have. (TPT)


To be sure, I lay no claim to mastering the art of guarding my tongue and have repented more times than I can count for words I regretted.  But one thing I do know: having reached the age when more of my life is behind me than what is ahead of me, I want to make every day count and every word I speak pleasing to my God.  How about you?

Let’s begin with a verse that grips my attention every time I read it.  It’s found in the New Testament in the book of Matthew.  “I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”  Matt. 12:36  These words were spoken by Jesus and reflect precisely what is written in the Torah and the Prophets, the very scriptures that were familiar to the people of His day.

King Solomon wrote in the Proverbs: When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19

And in Proverbs 17:27 we read this words: He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

And again, Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.  Proverbs 29:20

And perhaps the most significant verse regarding our speech in all of the Proverbs: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

‘He who restrains his lips is wise…’ we read above.  Wisdom is knowing what to say and when to say it, as well as what NOT to say and when NOT to say it.  Whether or not we have acquired wisdom will be manifest in how we talk.

The Bible does not sugarcoat the lives of the men and women in its pages.  We read of their triumphs and we also read of their failures and what some of them did and what some of them said at times were at times exceedingly wrong.  From the best of God’s servants we learn what not to do, as much as we learn what we should do.  And when it comes to our tongues, the imperfections and failings recorded are almost always traced back to their words.

Consider Adam: The very first conversation he has with God after eating from the forbidden tree finds Adam blaming his wife, not himself.  But look a little closer.  Actually he was accusing God!  ‘The woman You gave me…’ he says to God.  Since Adam mankind is so prone to blame others and not ourselves.  An irrefutable proof of our fallen human condition is our eagerness to defend ourselves, to shift the blame to someone else, to avoid admitting our guilt – all of which we do with words.  Pointing the finger at someone else for our failure exposes the fact that we have lost control of our tongue.

You may say, ‘Well I was thinking that so I might as well say it.’ Wrong! Look again at the scripture we started with: “I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”   What we say is what gets us in trouble. Perhaps we need to pray more often: ‘May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.’ Psalm 19:14

Consider Sarah:  It was at her suggestion that Abraham slept with Hagar yet afterwards, Sarah gives Abraham a tongue-lashing. ‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering.’ Gen. 16:5  It’s a proven principle: those who carry within them the greatest sense of guilt are the ones who excel at inflicting guilt trips on others.  Abraham and Sarah survived the crisis but her criticism put a strain on their marriage.  The blame game always does that.


The words we say have more power than we realize. Our God created the entire universe with words.  ‘Let there be…’  We are made in His image and likeness; is it any wonder that our words also have power?

Of all of creation, we are the ones with the power of speech….like God.  It was bestowed on us that we might praise and worship our Creator, not for the purpose of cutting other people down.  We live in a world polluted by coarse, haughty and wicked speech.  As God’s people we are called to be different and a major evidence that you and I belong to the Lord is expressed by the way we talk.

Let’s each of us take responsibility for our tongues, repent for words we’ve spoken that have not reflected the Lord Who called us, and ask Him for grace to bring our tongues under His control.


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Joshua, the Man & the Book #19 February 27, 2018

We have now come to the last chapter in the book of Joshua, the servant of Moses and his successor, who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land.  Joshua is 110 years old and close to death as he reviews for the people all that the LORD has done for them and then gives them his final instructions in Joshua, chapter 24.

Now therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.  Joshua 24:14-15


Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these verses:

‘…fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth…’  Many people have a confused idea about the ‘fear of the LORD’ and ask, Why would God tell us to be afraid of Him?

He doesn’t.

The Hebrew verb yare means “to fear, to respect, to reverence” and the Hebrew noun yirah “usually refers to the ‘fear’ of God as a positive quality. It is a reverence and respect for God founded in love which fears offending Him and wants to live in a manner pleasing to Him out of love for Him. It is a fruit of learning and obeying God’s Word and imparts wisdom to the Bible believer.

Joshua is admonishing the people to maintain an attitude of reverence and respect towards the God who has so lavishly blessed and cared for them.  Is this not an admonishment so needed in our world today?  How often do you hear people use the name of the LORD crudely and carelessly, showing no respect?  How prevalent is it now to mock and scoff at morals and values that our parents and grandparents taught us?  How widespread is a spirit of corruption and debauchery?  Truly our society needs a fresh revelation of the fear of the LORD!

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10).

Joshua added ‘…and serve Him in sincerity and truth…’   Sincerity is the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.  That covers a lot of ground.

To serve the LORD free of pretense completely rules out engaging in prayer, Bible study, financial giving and helping the needy with self-serving motives such as looking good in front of others.  He who truly serves the LORD with sincerity is not concerned with the praise of men, but only the approval of God.

To serve the LORD free of deceit is to avoid being two-faced at all costs.  As has been said, you may fool your fellow man but you never fool God. We can be two-faced with other people but we can also be two-faced towards God by professing our allegiance to His commandments and principles on the one hand yet living in just the opposite way.

To serve the LORD free of hypocrisy is related to the previous comments yet has a nuance of its own.  The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word meaning ‘an actor.’  That’s exactly what a hypocrite is – he pretends to be someone he’s not.  Example: someone who makes a show of his religious practices but is mean and hateful in his relationships.

To serve the LORD in truth is to be real, to be honest, straightforward and without pretense, to be the same person at home that you are in social or work situations,.

We are not perfect; we make mistakes, we sin. To serve the LORD in truth is to be humble enough to acknowledge our weaknesses, repent for our transgressions, make things right in whatever way we can and then pick ourselves up and with God’s help do better tomorrow.

Every human being worships someone or something.  Joshua challenged the people: ‘Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve..’  In reality there are only two choices: you serve yourself or your serve the LORD.

If anything at all – anything – is more important to you than your relationship with the LORD, you are serving yourself in one way or another.  ‘But I love God…’ someone may protest. You probably do – the question is ‘How much?’

Listen to yourself talk.  It’s quite revealing.  The bible says that ‘out of the heart, the mouth speaks.’  Do you realize what that means? Your words reveal who you really are and what you really love the most.  Listen to yourself sometime.  What you talk about the most is what fills your heart the most.

Do you love Him more than your possessions?  Do you love Him more than your opinions, your attitudes, your ideas?  Do you love Him more than your money, your house, your career?

And here’s the biggest question of all?Do you love Him more than you love your own will and getting your own way?


To serve God in sincerity and truth is not a choice we make just once in our life; it’s a daily choice to be honest with Him, with ourselves and with others; to be real, to be genuine, to put away from ourselves all hypocrisy, compromise and insincerity.

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully?  Psalm 24:3-4

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10



Joshua, the Man & the Book February 20, 2018

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.  Joshua 23: 6-8


In the 23rd chapter of Joshua, we read his farewell address to the children of Israel.  Joshua is getting up in years and knows that his days are numbered.

We’ve learned in the past the value of faithfulness.  We are by nature selfish and there is no inherent faithfulness in our lives.  It is a virtue we must learn as we grow.  God, on the other hand is totally faithful and it is His desire that we learn to mirror that character trait in our own lives.  Faithfulness means being reliable, trustworthy, responsible and devoted.

But there is another virtue or character trait that Joshua addresses here.  Steadfastness.

Are faithfulness and steadfastness the same? Not exactly.  Let me put it this way:

Faithfulness is finishing the race well under normal circumstances.

Steadfastness on the other hand is finishing the race well under very difficult circumstances.

Steadfastness is the ability to be fixed in one direction, to be steadily directed and to have an unwavering faith in God in the midst of great trouble and difficulty.  Steadfastness walks hand in hand with determination, with courage and with fortitude.  God wants us to remain steadfast in our faith even if we are under great trial or stress.

This should bring to mind the great martyrs of the centuries – men and women who endured criticism, insults, beatings, tortures, imprisonment and even death for the sake of their faith, people we look up to, admire from afar and applaud their heroism.

Our contemporary culture promotes selfishness, greed and immorality.  The very thought of having to ‘suffer’ for one’s convictions is foreign to many people, in part because so few have convictions worth dying for!

God’s people should and must be different.

In this chapter, Joshua is very old and about to die. He was worried about the future of Israel. Would they continue the work he had started? And given the various lapses into sin that he had witnessed over the years, he had to give them a piece of advice regarding steadfastness in their faith.

He summoned all the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel. When they were all gathered around him, he reminded them of what the Lord has done for them in the past . He also cautioned them that the task of possessing the Land was not yet finished and there were still victories to be won.

And so, he encouraged them to be steadfast and remain focused in one direction because there would be troubles and difficulties ahead, obstacles to overcome and victories to be attained. Aware that he would be leaving them soon, he urged them to remain strong in the faith.

They must not associate with the wickedness around them lest they be influenced into the wrong path.

They must not serve or bow down to the idols of the pagans because the Lord is a jealous God and His anger will burn against them.

They must be steadfast in their faith so that what they have worked for so diligently in the past will not be lost to succeeding generations.

He made eminently clear to them that steadfastness – the determination and commitment to remain faithful in the face of any and every challenge and trial – was the key to dwelling safely and successfully in their promised Land.

It is no different for us. Being steadfast in the faith means we keep on obeying God even if other people are doing differently.

Being steadfast in the faith means we keep on living a holy life even if others are living lives that are immoral and shameless.

Being steadfast in the faith means we continue to walk in the ways of God even when those around us mock or ridicule us for our beliefs.

Being steadfast in the faith means we dare not compromise the clear and revealed Word of God as found in the Scriptures.

Being steadfast in the faith allows for no political correctness nor the fear of what other people will think. Steadfastness concerns itself with what God thinks, not what men think.

Steadfastness – a magnificent and beautiful character trait.


The ‘People of the Book’ – both Jews and Christians – are finding themselves these days increasingly criticized and marginalized. As secular thinkers promote their hostility towards faith and religious expression, it is incumbent upon us to remain steadfast, unmoved and undeterred by the ungodly forces that would seek to silence us at the very least and do away with us at the very most.

It is the hour for God’s people to do more than be quietly faithful within our own circles, but to have the courage and strength of character to demonstrate a steadfastness in our faith in the face of any kind of attacks that may come against us in the future.

As Joshua admonishes us: But you are to cling to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.  23:8




Joshua, the Man & the Book #17 February 13, 2018

Joshua said to them: You have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you and you have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you.  You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God. And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan. Joshua 22:2-4

We are nearing the end of the book of Joshua but still have a few important lessons to absorb.

At the beginning of his leadership, Joshua had reminded the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh of their promise to fight with their brothers to conquer the Promised Land.  In Joshua 1: 12 – 18, they had promised not only to do so but to even go beyond their original commitment.


Now the war is over and the land is divided among the tribes so Joshua summoned the two and a half tribes to thank and applaud them for their unselfish allegiance to their brothers and for keeping their promise.  He gave them permission to return to their families which awaited them on the opposite side of the Jordan and added this exhortation:

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the Torah which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.  Joshua 22:5

There are two principles in this chapter of importance in every generation.

Integrity – Among other definitions, Webster describes integrity as “soundness of moral character.” Integrity from a biblical viewpoint has to do with being morally sound. What does that mean? A person with integrity knows what is important to God and consistently lives in light of that knowledge. It involves more than living our values; it involves subscribing to God’s values and with His help learning to conform our conduct to those values. Integrity is like the foundation of a house, if it is unstable, the entire house may come apart when it comes under pressure.

Integrity is not determined by circumstances or based on credentials. It is not to be confused with reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are; your character is who you really are! A good reputation is as good as gold but a person with integrity owns the gold mine. If you take care of your character and become a person of integrity, your reputation will take care of itself.

Integrity has to do with a sense of consistency between a person’s inner values and attitudes and his outward words and actions. It keeps you from being a double-minded person, unstable in all your ways.

A person with integrity can’t be bought, but he/she can be trusted.

The two and a half tribes demonstrated integrity by keeping their promise at personal cost to themselves and their families.  For that, Joshua blessed them and thanked them.

Community – The second part of Joshua’s message to them was a well-placed exhortation. They were about to leave the constant fellowship of the other tribes to settle on the other side of the Jordan.  They would be separated from the larger community of Israel and Joshua wisely foresaw the possibility that separation could bring alienation and assimilation into foreign ways.  He cautioned them to keep their faith alive by staying true to God’s commandments, to hold fast to the God Who had brought them thus far and remain loyal to Him.  Notice he said nothing directly about community – or did he?

Joshua knew that if they would stay true to the God of Israel, they would of necessity remain in good relationship with each other.  They had fought alongside their brothers, they had seen miracles and divine protection, they knew well all that God had done for their forefathers during the forty years in the desert.  If they would just maintain and strengthen their relationship with God and their relationships with each other, Joshua was confident that all would be well with them.

It goes without saying that a person is known by the company he keeps.  Our human relationships – the friends we choose – have a distinct impact on each of our lives.  Do not our parents urge us to stay away from “bad companions”?  So does the scripture!


Living a successful spiritual life depends on two important things: your personal relationship with God Himself AND your relationships with those around you, particularly your closest associates – family and friends.  Both of these are governed by the two great commandments: you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and resources; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

This is essentially what Joshua was saying to the men of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh.  Love God and take good care of your relationships.

And what he is saying to us, these many centuries later.  Integrity and Community – two pillars of a successful spiritual life.


Joshua, the Man & the Book #16 February 6, 2018

If there’s one thing we can learn from God’s dealings with the Israelites, it’s that God is FAITHFUL.


And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed to come true; all came to pass.  Joshua 21:44-45

After designating forty-eight cities for the tribe of Levi, the parcelization of the Land was complete and Joshua records that the ‘promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel’ all came true; every single one of them.  God cannot deny Himself nor can He violate His own Word.  He is utterly and completely faithful in every way and that, my friends, is one of our greatest sources of strength.

There is a philosophy that is out there that believes in God, but has some messed up opinions on how God works. They believe that God created the everything that you see in 6 days, but then He has left us to our own devices; something like a clock that has been wound up but then is left alone and never tells time.

What exactly do I mean when I say that God is faithful?

Faithfulness means seeing it through till the end. “Seeing what through?“ Whatever you are committed to. Marriage. A friendship. A Career. Lacking the last five yards of anything makes the first ninety-five pointless!”

God is not a 95 yard dasher. He completes the whole thing! He’s faithful to the end!  He always has been and He’s not going to start being UNfaithful with you!

God is faithful to His promises

God promised Abraham – Genesis 17:4 ‘This is My covenant with you. I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.  NLT

So God took this child-less man and was faithful to His promise and during the time of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, Abraham’s descendants numbered 1 – 2 million.

God is faithful to His people

God made an important promise very early in biblical history that He has faithfully kept even to this day! The promise was made to Noah, and Noah’s descendants afterward, and every living creature that was with Noah in the ark. Never again, would God allow there to be a world wide flood. And God has sealed this promise! – sealed with what? A rainbow!

A colored banner that hangs in the sky for all to see. And when does a rainbow usually appear? After a rain! It’s as if God is winking at us reminding us – “hey don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my promise!”

God’s love for you is HIS promise! That’s why he created you in the first place. You are loved. You will always be loved

Are you getting the picture here? God is COMMITTED to you! He’s not going to stab you in the back. He’s not going to let you down. He’s not going to abandon you. He’s not too busy. He’s not annoyed with your requests. There is NO question about it – He will be there for you – always.

God is faithful to His own Word

This, in part, is what separates God from us. We live in a world of broken promises don’t we? We live in a world where people aren’t true to their word, where talk is cheap. F

Faithfulness is something that separates God from you and me. God has never broken a promise or failed His people!  He meant what He said and He said what He meant.  You can utterly depend on the Word of God.

God’s Word is Supernatural in origin.  It is:

Eternal in duration

Inexpressible in value

Infinite in scope

Regenerative in power

Infallible in authority

Universal in application

Inspired in totality.

It doesn’t get any better than that.  We should read it, absorb it, meditate on it, pray over it and pass it on to others.


Joshua declared with authority that EVERY promise of God came to pass.  Remember however that it didn’t happen overnight!  We tend to be impatient in this modern society. We want to see the answer yesterday.  The message from Joshua to us this day, right now, is to hold firm in our faith, immovable in our commitment, and uncompromising in our life style for EVERY WORD OF GOD IS SURE.  What God has promised WILL come to pass.

If you’re waiting for the answers to certain prayers, don’t give up.  NEVER underestimate the power of prayer. Leave the timing to Him and busy yourself with hiding His Word in your heart and trusting Him who cannot fail.


Joshua, the Man & the Book #15 January 30, 2018

In chapters 15-19, Joshua along with Eleazar the priest and the elders of the tribes apportion to each tribe the land which is to be theirs.  As chapter 20 opens, we read:

Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there  20:1-2


What were these cities of refuge?

According to the Torah, in the the case of deliberate murder, the Law permitted the Avenger of Blood to exact punishment, essentially a life for a life. But to guard against a miscarriage of justice, Cities of Refuge were designed to provide Divine protection for the manslayer, making a clear distinction between premeditated murder and unintentional manslaughter.

There were six cities of refuge, based on the geography of the area. To be of any use, a city of refuge had to be accessible. For this reason, three were placed on either side of the river Jordan. There were good roads leading to each city, which provided the easy access for all of Israel.

A man’s blood could be shed in two ways – on purpose or by accident. If someone was killed on purpose, it was murder. But not all men kill with intent. What was to be done for them?

To guard against a miscarriage of justice, Cities of Refuge were established where the accused could flee so that his case may be properly considered free from the emotionalism surrounding the death of the person in question. So the accused manslayer had to stand before the tribunal of the people. By doing this, two principles were achieved:

  1. The accused’s life was not put at risk by the arbitrary actions of the avenger of blood. The question of intent could be decided in an impartial court, so that the interests of the slain man’s family could also be safeguarded, for the cities of refuge were never intended to harbor murderers. But even if the manslayer was found innocent of the crime and was vindicated he did not get off completely. He had to stay within the city of refuge for the rest of the life of the high priest. The other way was if he died himself.
  2. If the avenger of blood were to defy the law and take the manslayer’s life either inside the city of refuge, or outside it after the high priest’s death, then he would himself become a murderer. But if the avenger of blood found the manslayer outside the city of refuge before the high priest’s death, and took his life, then the dead man had brought about his own downfall, and the case was closed.

The provisions made for the innocent manslayer does have a spiritual significance.

Look at Numbers chapter 35 and verses 32 to 33.

And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest. 33 So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. (Numbers 35:32-33)

It is saying in verse 33 that blood will defile the land. Whenever blood was shed, the sin which had contributed to the man’s death, and was represented by his blood, was absorbed by the land which was defiled as a consequence.

Whenever life was violently terminated, even accidentally, the law had particular requirements so as to demonstrate a spiritual principle. God wanted to show that sin also leads to death. So the Torah’s treatment of a life terminated by another can show that in a similar way sin can also terminate a life. As a result, some sort of  compensation or amends was needed for the death.

A killer put himself on the side of sin, by killing someone. For even if he had killed someone accidentally, he has still taken someone’s life which is strictly the prerogative of sin. He had put a man to death, which normally only sin can do. So his actions had made him “sin” even if only accidentally.

The manslayer was to stay within the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. This concept indicates that the high priest represented all who sought refuge, and bore the iniquity of the spilled blood to his own grave. By doing this he released the manslayer from the burden of accountability.

This is appropriate for two reasons:

1. The high priest was head of the tribe of Levi. All the cities of refuge were Levitical cities. The activities of the cities of refuge therefore came under his responsibility.

2.Even more importantly, the high priest, as spiritual leader, represented purity and freedom from sin. One of his roles was to atone for innocently shed blood.


It is not difficult to recognize God’s redemptive plan in the account of the cities of refuge. While the LORD does distinguish between premeditated, deliberate sin and sins of weakness, keep in mind that SIN is SIN, and there must be repentance, forgiveness and atonement.  Since all mankind has sinned how comforting it is to know that in our times of falling short, He Whose mercies are new every morning, awaits our repentance that He might forgive us and restore our relationship with Him.

He also expects that we set our minds and hearts to learn from our failures and not continue to repeat them.



Joshua, the Man & the Book #14 January 23, 2018

Joshua continues the mission he was given by God through Moses to grant to each tribe of Israel and inheritance of land.  In Chapter 13, he grants to Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh the territory they requested from Moses on the east side of the Jordan. Chapter 14 continues the narrative of distributing the land among the tribes.

These are the inheritances that the people of Israel received in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel gave them to inherit. Their inheritance was by lot, just as the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses for the nine and one-half tribes.  Joshua 14:1-2

When the tribe of Judah approached Joshua, Caleb presented his request on their behalf. Remember that years earlier, it was these two – Joshua and Caleb – who were the only two among the twelve spies that Moses sent to spy out the land, who gave a good report to Moses.  So Joshua and Caleb are old friends, distinguished by their wholehearted devotion to the Holy One of Israel.

And Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenitzzite, said to him [Joshua], You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-Barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to spy out the land and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses swore to me on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as He said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old.  I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.  So give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there with great fortified cities.  It may be that the LORD will be with me and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.’  The Joshua blessed him and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.  Joshua 14: 1b-12


God identified three things about Caleb that distinguished him from the crowd and explains God’s blessings on him, three things that speak to us all these centuries later.

First, Caleb saw opportunities where others saw problems.

Joshua and Caleb saw the same facts in the Promise Land as the Ten other spies. But they came to an altogether different conclusion because they saw it from a different perspective.

The ten spies saw good things that they wanted but the Bible clearly teaches us that these ten spies were not pleasing to the Lord.  Why? Because the main things they saw were obstacles and problems. They saw giants in the land. Were they there? Yes. Did Caleb see these problems? Yes he did.

The difference was in their attitude. Caleb understood the challenges.  Yes, there are enemies. Yes, they are formidable. If we were in this by ourselves, it would be too much for us. But the deciding factor is not how big the giants are.  The deciding factor is God!

If you leave Him out, then you may very well agree with the ten spies. But Caleb saw something in the equation that the 10 spies ignored. He saw God’s involvement. God had already told them through Moses that He had given them the land. That alone should settle the matter.

Secondly, Caleb followed the LORD when others did not.

Caleb’s faith at Kadesh Barnea stood in contrast to the others. He was a person who could stand in faith when surrounded by unbelief, a man who can stand by his convictions regardless of what those around him were doing.

In our democracy, there is a tendency to validate things by majority vote. At Kadesh Barnea the majority certainly voted wrong, and it cost them dearly.  Majority agreement doesn’t necessarily make something right. You cannot define morality by popular vote. Morality is not something that shifts with the tide of society. Right and wrong is rooted in the nature of the eternal God Who does not change (Mal. 3:6). You either take what God has declared in His word or you are a ship adrift in a raging sea of chaos.

Decades earlier, God had said this about Caleb: “But My servant, Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Notice how Caleb’s choices affected his posterity. The decisions you and I make today, will affect our tomorrows and even that of our children and grandchildren.

Notice three things God says here about Caleb.  He was God’s servant which means he didn’t live life for himself but for God. He had a ‘different spirit’ – while the majority rebelled against God, he remained faithful.  And Caleb ‘followed the Lord fully’ – Caleb was radically committed to God.

Thirdly, Caleb finished well and left a godly legacy to his descendants.

It is one thing to start out with zeal, with spurts of excitement and consecration. It’s another thing to consistently and faithfully follow the Lord throughout life. That means we follow Him when it’s difficult, when we’re tired and when there are other things we would rather do.

All of Caleb’s generation died in the wilderness because of their sin and unbelief. But Caleb kept plodding on.  I can envision him encouraging them to trust the Lord just like he did at Kadesh Barnea. Some days his lips were dry and cracked. Some days his feet hurt. His journey was no easier than the man beside him. But he was not complaining. He continued to trust God to fulfill His promises to him.  His journey was longer than he had hoped it would be; but he kept walking and he kept trusting God Whom he knew to be faithful.


How do you handle it when God doesn’t answer your prayers as quickly as you wish He would? Do you keep going? Keep walking? Keep serving Him?

How do you handle it when those around you speak words of unbelief, doubt and discouragement? Does your faith remain strong? Are you able to withstand negativity around you without succumbing to it?

Let us, like Caleb, remember always that we are the LORD’s servants, that the only reasonable option in life is to ‘follow Him fully’ in light of the manifold blessings He has given us and let us end well, like Caleb, leaving a godly inheritance of holy and righteous living to our children and grandchildren.





Joshua, the Man & the Book #13 January 16, 2018

These are the kings that the People of Israel defeated and whose land they took on the east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, with the whole eastern side of the Arabah Valley.  Joshua 12:1


Chapter 12 of Joshua at first glance seems to be the least enticing for it is primarily a detailed list of all the kings that were conquered by the children of Israel.  The names are difficult to pronounce and for most of us, it’s a turn-the-page moment.  However a few verses down there is a subtle but very important message.  Come with me to verse 6:

Moses the servant of God and the people of Israel defeated them and Moses the servant of God gave this land as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh.

So why is this important?

Back in Numbers 32 there is the account of the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh to inherit the land east of the Jordan.  They approached Moses with their request, explaining that they had great herds of livestock and the land on the east side was perfect for their needs.

Moses responded with a rebuke. ‘Do you mean that you are going to leave the fighting that’s ahead to your brothers while you settle down here? Why would you even think of letting the people of Israel down, demoralizing them just as they’re about to move into the land God gave them? ‘ vs. 6-7

The LORD had promised the land of Israel to ALL the tribes of Israel so what is at issue here is that two and a half tribes are opting out of their inheritance!  They were called to cross over the Jordan and take possession of the Land but Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh wanted to stop just short of fulfilling the will of God.

Think of it.  They’d been through forty years in the desert, faced battles and hardships, all for the purpose of taking possession of God’s gift to them. And now when it’s in their sight, they draw back and want to stop short of fully obeying the LORD.

In the end Moses granted their request on condition that they fight with their brothers to take the land and if they did, they would be allowed to go back across the Jordan to the area they fancied.

This account is one of the most stark displays of following God…but not quite; going so far but falling short of the goal.  It is a sobering example of how we can make a commitment to follow the Lord and then put the brakes on, so to speak, when His will takes us in a direction we don’t want to go.  The consequences are never pretty.

Fast forward several hundred years to the first century of the Common Era.  The Gadarenes – and presumably some of the tribe of Reuben and Manasseh with them –  appear again, in the very same location, but instead of raising livestock, they are raising – of all things – pigs! (Matthew 8) The most abominable animal to the Jews!  From wealthy and prosperous forefathers who settled just short of the Promised Land has descended generations who over time were reduced to raising pigs.  The implication is profound.

We are too easily moved by appearances and/or rational arguments instead of keeping as our highest priority the revealed will of the Lord God of Israel in His Word.

Whenever we compromise or rationalize our commitment to the LORD, the result will always be the same, sooner or later.  The land on the east side of the Jordan looked so good but to settle there was in conflict with the will of the Holy One of Israel and the descendants of the two and a half tribes suffered the consequences.

It’s a profound lesson too often missed as it’s tucked away in the midst of a list of kings whose names elude us.  How important it is to pay attention and search for the treasures of wisdom, even when they are semi-hidden in the Word of God.


God did not hide the failings of His people from us when He gave us the Torah and the Prophets. Their successes and their failures are clearly demonstrated so that we might learn from both.  When did they enjoy success? When they obeyed the word of the LORD. When did they fail? When they failed to obey the word of the Lord.

Let the wise take heed.



Joshua, the Man & the Book #12 January 9, 2018

Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one time, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. Joshua 10:42

Joshua was a great man, a strategic military leader yet the Scripture makes clear that the victories of Israel over rival kings and kingdoms was not due to Joshua’s expertise but rather ‘because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel’. Do you realize there is a message encoded in that verse that applies to all of us?


Life has its battles. We all face struggles at one time or another in various ways and for various reasons. Our tendency is to withdraw into ourselves and exert undue energy trying to figure out the solutions ourselves, too often forgetting to seek the wisdom and guidance of the LORD Who knows far more than we do about the situation!  He understands us when we don’t understand ourselves; He knows what is going on in the lives of others who may be part of our ‘dilemma’.  And He – and only He – sees the true picture.  We see only a part.

David as well as Joshua set the example for us in how many times during his life, the scripture tells us: ‘And David inquired of the LORD.’

Having served Moses for some 37 years, Joshua had learned the lesson well that to achieve victory in any area of life, the wisdom and guidance of the LORD must be sought after.  It is written that after Moses would leave the tabernacle, Joshua would linger there in the presence of the LORD. The testimony of Moses’ life loomed large and powerfully in Joshua’s consciousness as he assumed the leadership of Israel and led the nation into battle over and over again.

In Joshua 11 we read, ‘A huge army went to war with Israel’. (vs. 4-5)  Israel went to battle with a promise of victory for God had said He would give them the land.  How long did it take?

How long is a long time?? – a long time! –  years!

As we apply this principle to our lives today, sometimes God will call us to battle something for a long, long time; as a matter of fact, the spiritual battle within us to become godly lasts a lifetime until we reach our eternal promised land.

And so: How did Joshua know what to do??

In v15 & 23: God instructed Moses; Moses instructed Joshua; then Joshua instructed God’s people!  In v23 we learn the result: After a long time of battle, God gave Israel rest!

The story can be summarized in 4 simple truths:

1. God commanded the Israelites to conquer Canaan. The battle was God ordained for the glory of God.  So are ours.

2. God’s instructions were passed on from generation to generation. God’s message did not change as it was passed on from one generation to the next. The Word of God must never be altered! Joshua and the 3 million Israelites could have ignored what God said to Moses, whom they never met, but they did not; they trusted and obeyed.  It is our responsibility to teach our children and grandchildren to seek the LORD, to trust His Word and to obey Him.

3. As the Israelites obeyed God, victory was given by God.  As we obey, victory is also ours.

4. God gave rest to His people. To walk through life with the peace of God that sustains us through good days and bad is a wonderful thing.

When difficulties or trials come our way, we are given opportunity to follow the example of our forefathers: to turn to the LORD for wisdom and guidance, to conquer evil with good (for, as the saying goes, two wrongs never make one right!) and to recognize that it is the LORD, the God of Israel, who equips us to overcome fear with faith in His everlasting kindness and mercies.


Joshua led the children of Israel in battles against an impressive number of kings and armies. They consistently won when they sought the LORD and His direction and then obeyed what He told them to do.

It is no different for us. Whatever ‘battle’ or hardship we face, the LORD has promised that He is always with us, that He never forsakes us, that He is aware of every detail of our life and that His love compels Him to respond to those who seek Him.

Let us then go to Him confidently, like Joshua, and enter into His abiding peace.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is fixed on You.. Isaiah 26:3