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

eastofJordan

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.

Application:

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?

Joshuabattle

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.

Application:

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

 

Joshua, the Man & the Book #11 January 2, 2018

My warmest wishes to all of you for health and blessing in 2018.   Let’s continue our study in Joshua, shall we?

A few short months ago, a complete Solar Eclipse across the United States of America captured our attention.  For the first time in many years, the path of the moon’s shadow passed through the entire Continental United States.  It was a scene of unimaginable beauty as the Moon completely blocked the Sun and daytime turned into twilight and the Sun’s corona shimmered in the darkened sky.

An even greater feat is recorded in the book of Joshua, The Day The Sun Stood Still.  This  is one of the greatest miracles God performed.

sunstill

I trust you remember from last week’s lesson that the city of Gibeon was under siege from five Kings of the surrounding area, kings who had full knowledge of what Israel had done to Jericho and Ai.  As the battles continued and Israel pressed her way into the land of Canaan, these kings became aware that the Gibeonites had made an alliance with Joshua. Since Gibeon was a great city, they decided they should take it to keep Joshua and the Israelites out of their midst. Therefore the Gibeonites developed a deceptive plan to ‘save their own hides’ out of fear of Joshua and the Israelites.

Remember that Joshua and the elders made covenant with the Gibeonites without asking God – a big mistake.  God could have responded to this situation in one of two ways:  God could have allowed the Gibeonites to fight this battle all by themselves to punish them for deceiving Joshua and the Israelites. Or He could have told Joshua: “You got yourself into this mess, now you can get yourself out,”  But being the gracious and compassionate God that He is, He did neither.  Do you know that God can take our dumbest mistakes, our most foolish decisions, and our ill-advised plans and work them out in ways that bring Glory and Honor to Him?

Facing their dilemma the men of Gibeah appealed to Joshua for assistance.  The Lord encouraged Joshua and Israel to fight this battle. He exhorted them not to fear, and promised them victory.

Joshua realized it was the will of God for him to have victory in the battle and sure enough, God intervened.  The day was just beginning to dawn when they swiftly launched their attack. The enemy was taken totally by surprise and frantically began to flee.

Not only was it a miracle that the gigantic hailstones fell on the enemy, it was also a miracle that the hailstones DID NOT FALL on the children of Israel. Thus, Joshua and his soldiers were dramatically reminded of God’s great concern for them. They were prevailing over their enemies because of the mighty intervention of God on their behalf – but they were running out of daylight. Joshua was convinced he needed to finish the job while the momentum was so greatly in his favor.

Joshua cried out to God, asking that the sun stand still – and God again demonstrated his concern for Joshua and his men by granting that request. God made the Sun stand still for about one day. So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. “And there has been no day like that, before it or after it that the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.”

We know that the earth orbits around the sun not the other way around but Joshua did not understand that during his day and age. So what exactly happened that day?

What are the laws of nature? They are simply processes which God has set into motion — and because he is Sovereign he can ALTER – SUSPEND – REVERSE – CIRCUMVENT – OR EVEN CANCEL THOSE PROCESSES ANYTIME HE SO DESIRES.

That’s what a MIRACLE is – it is when some usual pattern of nature is changed or interrupted due to God’s personal intervention. It is not reasonable to think God would allow himself to be a prisoner of the very processes which He, himself, has created.

Hailstorms were about to get in league with Joshua. The Sun stopping in its tracks was about to take place. The Moon altered its pattern for God’s plan. All of these things in themselves could be touted as natural disasters but God used nature to work out His purposes in His time frame.

What looked like a storm was deliverance and what looked like the world stopping was actually a victory.  God is never on our time frame!

Application:

Is there anything too hard for God? The answer is an unequivocal ‘NO’.  If what you need or what you are praying for is LESS radical than changing the orbit of the earth, you can be assured that God is well able and willing to be to you a ‘very present help in trouble.’

He has never failed anyone and He won’t start with you!

 

Joshua, the Man & the Book #10 December 26, 2017

When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys and wineskins worn-out, torn and mended, and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their porvision was cry and moldy.  They went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?” But they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” Then Joshua said to them, “Who are you and where do you come from?”  They said to him, “Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the LORD your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og, king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth.  So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, ‘We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us….So the men of Israel took some of their provisions and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD.  Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with the to let them live; and the leaders of the congregations swore an oath to them.  Joshua 9: 3-11, 14

JoshuaG

These enemies of Israel came posing as friends to trick the Israelites into a false covenant.  The intent of their deception was to infiltrate the camp in order to overcome Joshua and the children of Israel and to destroy them.

Being hoodwinked by others is a miserable experience.  Perhaps you’ve been tricked or deceived by someone who appeared to have your best interest at heart.  Why do people do that?

People trick us for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps they want your possessions or money.  Perhaps they’re after your job or they want you to do something for their benefit.  Perhaps they deceive out of a real or imagined fear of you.  Whatever the motivation, someone who behaves this way has a dishonest motive.

Joshua and the elders of Israel fell into this trap because they acted impulsively without taking time to pray: “They did not ask counsel of the Lord” (9:14).  A wise person does not act impulsively regarding decisions that link people together – whether marriage, friendship or business dealings.  The wise consider the situation and ask the LORD for guidance.

Secondly, Joshua and the elders didn’t want to face another war.  Here we are speaking of a literal war between Israel and the Gibeonites.  However, there are other ‘wars’ we face such as disagreements or arguments that put family members at odds with each other.  Before the stinging word crosses our lips, it is wise and prudent to turn first to the LORD for help and wisdom in the situation, rather than react impulsively, only to make things worse. Who of us has not regretted an impulsive word that lingered in the memory of another for years, causing tension or distance?

Thirdly,  Joshua and the elders were afraid of the big coalition of six nations.  They forgot momentarily how the LORD had saved them over and over again when they walked in obedience to Him.  They looked at the circumstances instead looking to the LORD of the circumstances.

Fourthly, their faith failed them. They didn’t believe or follow God’s promise to fight with them to conquer all the land.

Finally, they believed a half-truth.  The Gibeonites said:

“We have heard of your fame . . . what God did in Egypt” (v. 9-10). TRUE.

“We are your servants” (v. 11).  TRUE

“God commanded you to destroy all the inhabitants” (v. 24). TRUE.

But the Gibeonites, who lived only 18 miles away, told five lies:

“We are from a far country” (v. 6). FALSE

“We came because of . . . your God” (v. 9).  FALSE

“Our bread was hot . . . now moldy” (v. 12).  FALSE

“Our wine new . . . now old and rent” (v. 13). FALSE

“Our garments were new . . . now old and worn” (v. 13). FALSE

Sadly, Joshua accepted their stale bread as a basis for peace. “The men of Israel took some of their provisions” (9:14).  He believed the ambassadors. “Joshua made peace with them” (9:15) because he forgot that Israel was specifically told by God NOT to make covenants with those nations.

The result was catastrophic – it always is.  Three days later, Joshua and the elders learned the truth about these ‘ambassadors.’  They were liars and tricksters to whom Joshua had given his word on behalf of the nation.  Therefore Israel was bound to keep their part of the bargain.  The whole congregation grumbled against the leaders but Joshua and the elders refused to harm the Gibeonites because of the covenant they had made with them. Instead the Gibeonites became servants to Israel, the very thing they had falsely professed to be.

Application:

Joshua and the children of Israel learned a hard lesson in this situation.  Though they had been deceived and manipulated into a covenant, that did not give them license to break it.  To their credit, Joshua and the elders acted with integrity by keeping their part of the covenant and refusing to harm the Gibeonites.  To choose to do right when the other party has done wrong is never easy, but it is the RIGHT thing to do.

To avoid finding ourselves in such situations, let us remember what Joshua forgot.  Guard against impulsive decisions, seek the LORD’s direction before making decisions that form alliances and keep your word, even when it costs you to do so.

 

 

 

Joshua, the Man and the Book #9 December 19, 2017

In Joshua chapter 7 the children of Israel were defeated because of sin in the camp.  As we go on into chapter 8 this week, we are reminded that making up for lost ground is always difficult. For the football team that falls behind or the student who procrastinates too long, catching up is hard to do.  However, it is in those moments or situations that we are reminded that the Holy One of Israel is the God of second chances.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the King of Ai, his people, his city and his land.  Joshua 8:1

Ai

The Israelites had sinned, and that sin lead to fear. The people were hesitant to continue their attempt to capture the Promised Land. Their failure led to their lack of confidence. God gave them His plan, which depended fully on their willingness to live by faith, not by fear. When previous failures provoke fear, anxiety and a loss of confidence to face future situations, it is faith that moves us on.  Like the little child learning to walk who falls down repeatedly, our failures are meant to propel us to future victories.  Faith knows that, faith gets up and faith goes on.

We can only imagine the disheartening effect of the failure at Ai. These people who had lived in the victory of Jericho were now tempted to wallow in the defeat at Ai. However, God told Joshua to take the entire army to Ai. Everyone was involved; no one was left out. They set the ambush and prepared to fake a retreat so that the people of Ai would be convinced that, once again, they were running scared. Isn’t it just like God to take us back to the place where we last failed in our obedience to Him in order to restore our confidence?  As the men of Ai pursued the fleeing army of Israel, hidden Israeli soldiers entered the city from behind and destroyed it completely. Ai was defeated, just as God had promised.

No defeat is greater than God’s ability to strengthen and equip us for the next challenge. Therefore it behooves us to look to Him and journey on rather than waste time bewailing our failures.  When failure occurs, God’s formula is: ‘Repent quickly, receive forgiveness, get up and press on.’

The Israelites then took the 30-mile walk to Shechem in the beautiful valley area of Israel between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. We read in verses 30-31 that Joshua led the people of God in worship. They built an altar according to Moses’ specifications and offered sacrifices as a sign of their thankfulness to God for His victory.

It’s too easy, even tempting, to start celebrating after a victory and to forget Who is ultimately responsible. Ai was defeated not because of the cleverness of the children of Israel but because of God’s promise. By obeying His command, they were assured of victory.

Developing an attitude of gratitude is one of the best habits we can acquire in our walk with God.  Big victory or small – for everything, He is worthy of our thanks and our praise.

Besides offering a sacrifice, Joshua also pointed the people to God’s Word.  Verse 32 says that Joshua “copied on stones the law of Moses” and then read it to all of the people. While it is desirable and commendable that we should read from God’s Word every day, it is particularly important to do so when we are smarting from the sting of a failure.  Turning to the revealed Word of God renews our faith, strengthens our commitment and guards against self-pity, unwarranted depression and a debilitating self-loathing.  Nursing anger at ourselves for failure guarantees future failures!  Joshua rightly led the people to worship the LORD and to renew their minds by reviewing the Torah with them.

The real story of this chapter is not that Israel regained the city of Ai.  No, the real story is that the children of Israel renewed their faith and their commitment to their God.

Application:

Just like water, our human tendency is flow downhill, mentally and spiritually. We are so prone to look at the negative, to feed on the negative.  We need to be reminded constantly, in times of challenge and in times of victory, that our real strength and our true source of everything is God and God alone. That is why taking time to worship Him daily and to feed our spiritual life by reading and meditating on the Scriptures restores faith, empowers commitment and protects us from discouragement.

 

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.

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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…

Joshua, the Man and the Book #7 November 28, 2017

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout;then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”  Joshua 6:1-7

Jericho

There are many fortifications that exist in the world that have been designed to protect those who are inside from their enemies.  For example, consider the Rock of Gibraltar, located on the southern edge of Spain and the northern coast of Africa.

The British took advantage of the geography by building one of the most famous fortified positions for its time. The eastern face of the Rock of Gibraltar is a sheer cliff face, while the western slope is comparatively less steep but still a formidable position for an invader. Hundred tunnels were carved into the rock and used for communication, for storage maneuvers and cannons. The biggest triumph came during the Great Siege, when the garrison held on for three and a half years and suffered only 333 deaths as a result of military action. Hence, the saying, “solid as the Rock of Gibraltar” is used to describe a place of safety and strong.

Gibraltar

Now, the walls of Jericho that Israel had to conquer loomed large and menacing. They were designed to protect Jericho from invaders. These walls were formidable and structured on a three tiered plan, starting from the bottom with an earthen rampart, or embankment, which ran from ground level, upwards on an incline to a stone retaining wall which stood 12 to 15 feet in height. On top of the stone wall, stood another impregnable wall made of mud-bricks, 6 feet thick, and 20-26 feet high. Together, these two walls combined to form a strong fortification of 32-41 feet high, as high as a 4 story building. Such was the height of the walls of Jericho.

To the Israelite below, just looking at this massive wall seemed overwhelming and impenetrable. The people inside felt well protected and well defended by their huge wall.

However, walls can give false sense of security. You might think that everything is fine, but it really isn’t. Nothing is invincible. All walls and fortifications of men can be easily destroyed and demolished over time. NO walls regardless of how strong these are made of can protect us completely.

Only God can protect us. Only God is our source of peace of mind. Only God is the source of care and freedom. He can break those walls because He is our only wall of security. He can demolish any obstacle that rises against us.

Joshua 6:2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

Rightly understood, the walls around Jericho were not obstacles but opportunities that challenged the Israelites’ faith to trust in the word of the Lord. Walls are not dead ends but favorable circumstances that happen for our good so that we will be liberated from all of our fears.

Joshua 6:3  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.

The power of obedience, regardless of how foolish it may have seemed at the time, gained them the victory.  Imagine, going around in circles for six days and in total silence, no less.  Yet it was the wisdom of God.

Every time we trust God’s wisdom and follow His direction, even when we don’t understand it, we deepen our relationship with God. Obedience to God is not out of duty, nor out of fear or compulsion. We obey God because we truly love Him and we trust Him completely because He knows what is best for us.

What if Joshua did not follow God’s command to march around the city of Jericho six times?  The children of Israel would not have entered the Promised Land.

The greatest tragedy in life is to stand at the edge of our destiny but fail to enter into all that God has planned for us.  Faith that produces obedience takes risks and is rewarded with the manifestation of God’s faithfulness to His promises.

Application:

Are there walls in your life at present that you would like to see demolished? God will bring them down….if you will do as He directs you. Let faith arise, go ahead a take the risk and see what God will do.

 

 

Joshua, the Man and the Book #6 November 21, 2017

Joshua 5 opens with these words:

Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.  At that time, the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel a second time.’ So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them; all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt.  For all the people who came out were cicumcised but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 

Joshua5

God has always desired that his people be set apart, that there be a distinguishing mark upon them, that they be different. When the Hebrews crossed the Jordan to occupy the Promised Land, God marked them by circumcision.  Circumcision was an outward sign of inward obedience. It was a physical act filled with spiritual meaning,  a very important means of marking their identity as the people of God. It revealed the covenant relationship that God had with his people. Joshua set aside a whole day to perform mass circumcision. And God was pleased.

Throughout scripture circumcision is a metaphor for holiness. It is clear from the scriptures that the outward act of circumcision is of no avail without an inner commitment to the Word and the ways of God.

Moses complained that he had “uncircumcised lips” (Ex. 6:12), by which he meant his speech was not fit to participate in God’s program. Jeremiah spoke of uncircumcised ears, that is, ears unfit to hear God’s word. When Israel entered the Promised Land, they were to regard its fruit as uncircumcised for three years, but “In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the LORD” (Lev. 19:24).

Jeremiah issued the call to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts” (Jer. 4:4). A circumcised heart referred to the human intellectual-emotional-spiritual forum, where decisions were made. It was a call to radical spiritual surgery where the spirit was broken before the LORD, the heart was open and humbled, and the will was submissive to God. It provided the true identity of God’s people. It was a way that they would represent God to the world.

God still desires a holy people today. A holy person is not an odd person, but a distinct person. A holy person has a quality about their life that is different from the secular world. Their present lifestyle is not only different from past lifestyles, but is different from the lifestyles of the unbelievers around them. Those circumcised in heart are real, genuine, authentic.

Some people balk at being ‘different’.  Why?

We don’t want to stand out of the crowd. We wear the same style of clothes, we talk similarly, we conform to the in things. What we fear most in life is being different. We have become an assembly line society, terrified of being set apart.

And, furthermore, we don’t like the idea of holiness because, we think, it communicates an attitude and displays actions that have become known as “holier-than-thou.” We disdain a spirituality and behavior that puts one on a pedestal as being better than the rest. We think that holy people live in far away monasteries, separate themselves from any kind of fun and frivolity, and trade in their luxury cars, comfortable homes, and well-paying jobs for a peace corps stint in a third world country. Consequently, we say, “No, thank you” to holiness.

But is that a true picture of holiness?

Holiness, being different, is none of that. Yet it is more than that.

It is thinking differently, living differently, talk differently and love differently.

It means simply that we are dedicated to order our lives according to the Eternal Word of God and strive consistently to conduct ourselves in keeping with His Word.

Application:

Our world today has a desperate need for people who are different. There is a mark about their lives that sets them apart. Living such a way, like circumcision, will not be easy, in fact, at times it will be painful. But it will make a difference iod and learn to walk in His ways.

 

 

Joshua, the Man and the Book #5 November 14, 2017

In Joshua chapter 4, we are presented with one of the climactic events in all of biblical history. The Israelites had waited forty years, but now the time had come. It is a deeply emotional moment as they cross the riverbed of the Jordan, opened for them by the miraculous power of God. Behind them, they leave the tiring decades of meandering around in a barren wilderness and the tragic memories of countless funerals, for an entire generation of their forefathers who did not trust God’s promises died in the desert. Slavery in Egypt and the bare survival of nomadic life are now in the past.

Before them lay a land richer than their dreams, more fruitful than their hopes, and more beautiful than their imagination. God’s utter faithfulness is displayed.

It must have felt surreal to finally stand in Canaan, similar to when you unlock the door to your very first home. You’ve envisioned it, planned for it, imagined what you will do with it…but when you step in that front door, your emotions soar! In like manner, to participate in the fulfillment of the ancient promise to Father Abraham must have been overwhelming.

Their joy had been magnified by recent events. When they arrived at the Jordan, they found it at flood stage, menacing in its speed and dangerous for what it concealed. The river seemed impassible, its crossing impossible.

But God intervened, performing a miracle that paralleled the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt. God rolled back the waters of the Jordan River, just as He had done with the Red Sea. God meant what He had said through Moses years before. Here again, He assured His people that His Word was worthy of their trust.

I imagine there were songs and shouts as God’s people worshiped and exulted in Him. But there was also one important act. After the children of Israel crossed over, God gave Joshua some very specific instructions, recorded in Joshua 4:1-3:

“Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them, ‘Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests’ feet are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.’ “

Joshua did exactly what he was told, sending these 12 men back to the riverbed of the Jordan where they were to bring back 12 stones—stones that were earlier buried, unreachable, but now divinely accessible.

Twelve men hoisted heavy stones to their shoulders from Jordan’s floor and then piled them together in the Promised Land, by God’s command. They were stacked there as a sign, an unmistakable marker at the very place where God had demonstrated His power to overcome any obstacle to His will.

stones

Because stones don’t naturally stack, there would come a day when Israel’s children would ask for an explanation for this phenomenon. Here’s the answer God wants the next generation to know: “Tell them the story,” says God in v. 7, “of how the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.”

Verses 23-24 add, For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.”

This is what happens when the impossible meets the promises of God. Not only Israel but all the nations witness God’s faithfulness.

What do these stones mean?

Seeing that rock pile and hearing the story, the people of Israel would know clearly that they had not crossed Jordan on their own. Those stones cried out, “God did this! By His hand we have forded this river. By His power and faithfulness we have accomplished this!”  It’s all about God and His unfailing goodness and love.

This memorial still speaks. Let it remind us that ‘Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor over it in vain (Ps. 127:1). And that truly it is “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,” says the LORD of hosts. (Zech. 4:6).

Secondly, Joshua told Israel that the stones would serve as a reminder “that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.” (v. 24) Let no one be confused about the purpose of life.  We are here to glorify God and demonstrate His character to the world.

Thirdly, the stones out of the Jordan testified of the willingness of a people to leave what they had known in order to go forward with God, to face challenges to their faith, to step into the water, to believe in what they could not see.

Application:

Between the realization of your spiritual aspirations and today, there are challenges.  You may not yet see how God will answer your prayers and the desires of your heart, but you can stake your life on this truth: God is faithful.

You may not pile a few stones in front of your home.  You may instead have a particular scripture on a plaque in your living room, or highlighted in your personal Bible, or on the homepage of your laptop.  Whatever your ‘pile of stones’ may be, let it always remind you that your life is all about God and His glory; it is about the purpose for which we exist; it is about the challenge to allow the Spirit of God to so change you that His glory may be seen more fully through you.