Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Message to National Leaders

Read Joshua 23.

Nearing the end of his life, Joshua delivered two major addresses.  The first is in this chapter and it is directed to the national leaders of Israel.  The speech emphasizes a singular message of national life and death, repeated three times.

1. (vv.1-8)
Yes, they were on the land.  But the reason they were there was according to God's everlasting covenant-promise to Abraham. 
Yes, they fought the battles to capture the land.  But "it was the LORD your God who has fought for you." (v.3b)
Yes, they controlled the land.  But there remained much left to do in order to actually possess all the land.  For their future they would need to "be very strong to keep and do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses..." (v.6)  This statement is right out of Joshua 1 and has been his guiding life principle ever since.
Yes, they knew and served the Living God.  But there were many luring, spiritual distractions.  "But you shall cling to the LORD your God." (v.8)

2. (vv.9-13)
Israel with God on their side was invincible.  Again, Joshua repeated that it was "God who fights for you." (v.10)
Instead of obedience to God, this time he states, "Be careful to love the LORD your God." (v.11)
And then the warning of giving in to the sinful distractions around them that would pollute the nation spiritually.  The first result would be "that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you." (v.12)  Second, they would suffer, perish, and lose the land.

3. (vv.14-16)
"Not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you." (v.14)
This was followed by the reminders again of how God has provided and the disaster of sinning against Him.

The scripture states clearly that God raises up one and puts down another.  Leaders and peoples can become prideful that it was by their own doing that they have come to power.  Righteous exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."  (Proverbs 14:34)

The take away statements for all of us are:
God is faithful and keeps His promises.
God's people are to cling to Him alone, to be strong, obeying God's word and loving Him.
There are blessings for obedience and severe consequences with great loss for disobedience.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

3 Keys to Handling Misunderstandings

Read Joshua 16-22.

Most of this section is the account of how the land was divided among the tribes.  The nation convened at Shiloh and this where they set up the Tent of Meeting (The Tabernacle).  Now everyone had a place to settle and call their own.  The conclusion of chapter 21 is not to be missed.  Israel fought the battles, but it was God who gave them the victory, peace, and the land by promise.  "Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass." (21:45)

Two and half of the twelve tribes claimed land on the east side of the Jordan prior to the crossing.  With the war being over they were free to go home.  At their departure in chapter 22, Joshua charged them strongly "to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul." (22:5)

As the people of Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh came to the Jordan they did not want future generations to think that a river meant they were not a part of the nation of Israel and the worship of God.  With all the best intentions of unity and spiritual commitment they built an altar as a monument of remembrance by the river.  They made it big so, I suppose, they could see it even across the river.

But when the folks back home got wind they these tribes had built their own altar, civil war nearly broke out.  God made it clear that there was only one altar and one place where sacrifices were to be made to Him.  That altar remained in the Tabernacle in Shiloh.  The rest of the nation perceived this well-intentioned act as an extreme violation of their faith and the perhaps the worship of false gods.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed to inquire before taking military action.

There are three key principles here for all of us in resolving misunderstandings or offences.
1. Confrontation. (22:10-20)
In order for this to be effective it must be prepared.  Choose carefully where to meet and when.  This should be as mutually comfortable as possible to have a serious conversation.      Confronting someone with a wrong motive, in a wrong way, or meeting under false pretenses will only worsen the conflict.  It should be seasoned in prayer, lots of it, so that God is control of you, the situation, and the outcome.

2. Explanation. (22:21-29)
Emotions must be in check so as not to cloud thinking and reasoning.  Wording should be prepared so the inquiry does not get off-track and you end up saying things that will later be regretted.  What to say and not say is crucial to the outcome, but the inquiry should be specific and honest.  Always assume that there may be something you do not know or understand yet.  Ask for the explanation and then listen to their answer without interrupting them.  Listen to their words and their heart.

3. Reconciliation. (22:30-34)
The legitimate goal of confrontation is restoration.  Before any confrontation, you should know what is needed in order to reconcile the misunderstanding or offence.  God loves reconciliation.  That is why Jesus came to reconcile us to God.  When we are able to reconcile with each other we are putting God's heart and principles into real action.

"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:1-2) 

Monday, June 25, 2012

4 Leadership Lessons from Caleb's Family

Read Joshua 15.

The courage and character of Caleb continued into the next generation of leaders in his own family.  As the land was being allotted, Joshua honored Caleb's request from chapter 14 when he said, "Give me this hill country."  He battled and defeated the sons of Anak who occupied that land.  This was the family of so-called giants that frightened the ten unfaithful spies in Numbers 13.  They proved to be no match for an 85 year old man with God on his side.

With one enemy stronghold left, Caleb offered his daughter in marriage to the man who would complete the victory.  His nephew, Othniel, did the job and won the girl.  Notice Achsah's words of response.  It was a bit uncommon for a woman to speak up like this, but she came by such boldness honestly.  She said words to her father very similar to his words to Joshua, "Give me a blessing...give me also springs of water."

There are four characteristics of these bold leaders that are worth our attention.
1. Vision.  They knew what they wanted.  There was something that they foresaw and it was worth fight for.

2. Opportunity.  They recognized the opening of the door for which they had been waiting.

3. Action.  When the timing was right, they were ready to seize the opportunity.

4. Dependence.  God gave them strength, resources and victory.  After all, it was what the LORD wanted for them.

"Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

One of the Greatest Unused Resources

Joshua 13-14.

There is a difference in conquering a territory and possessing it.  Indeed, Joshua militarily conquered and controlled the land of Canaan.  However, the nation had not made it their home.  God said, "There is still much land to possess." (13:1b)

It was time to chop up the land among all the tribes and allot to each their covenant inheritance.  Two and a half tribes had requested land on the east side of the Jordan.  The tribe of Levi did not receive a land grant due to their charge to serve the rest of the nation. 

When it came time for Judah to receive their tribal boundaries, one man stepped forward.  Caleb served as one of the original twelve spies in the book of numbers.  He had seen the land.  When the twelve gave their report to Moses only Joshua and Caleb were faithful in what God wanted done.  The nation rejected God's plan and that initiated the previous forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

He was forty when asked to be a spy.  Now at eighty-five years of age, Caleb's testimony is pure gold.
1. "I wholly followed the LORD my God." (14:8)
2. "I am still as strong today as I was..." (14:11)
3. "So now give me this hill country." (14:12)
4. "I shall drive them out just as the LORD said." (14:12)

In America, we were brainwashed into thinking that at about age 65 one should quit working and simply retire.  The economic realities of that plan has come as a surprise to most.  The majority may never be able to retire, certainly not as they had once dreamed.  The result of that thinking has been to marginalize older adults who still have plenty of fight left in them.

These four statements from Caleb should encourage all who are of a certain age and be a great enlightenment to those who are younger.  Just because a person has some miles on their odometer does not mean either they are through serving God or that God is through using them mightily.  Instead, the Bible has a few things to say about respect for those who are older.  Leaders should be jumping at the opportunities to utilize the experience and knowledge of those who are ahead of them on the road of life.

Age does not equal maturity, nor wisdom.  But look for answers to the key elements.
1. Have they/are they wholly following the LORD?
2. Are they able to handle the task?
3. Do they still have dreams and ambition for more, even greater, achievement?
4. Do they have the energy and capacity to move forward with change and new challenges?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Is it God or us?

Read Joshua 10:29-12.

When the army of Israel came to the rescue of the Gibeonites, the attacking kings retreated west and then south.  Joshua simply kept pursuing them until the last one was captured and destroyed.  By then he had divided the land in two.  He conquered the south and now his attention would be directed to conquering the northern kingdoms.  It literally turned out to be a battle tactic for the land of divide and conquer.

"(Joshua) left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.  So Joshua took all the land."   "And all the land had rest from war."  (11:15-16,23c)

Was it Israel's might and cunning or was it God whose power enabled them to accomplish this?

In 11:6, the LORD said, "I will give over all of them, slain to Israel."  In 11:20, "For it was the LORD's doing to harden their hearts that they should come out against Israel in battle."

There is no question of God's sovereign control over the lives of His creation.  And, there are instances in the Bible where He completely wiped out entire armies without Israel doing anything.  At the same time, notice His encouragement to Joshua in 11:6-"Do not be afraid of shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire."  God was not going to do it without them.  He set it up and they did the work.

We cannot do what only God can do.  We are totally dependent upon Him. 

God will not do what He has commanded us to do.  He enables us by providing all we need to accomplish all His will.  Amazingly, the LORD of heaven wants to use us for our good and His glory in every situation of life.

Our job whether interacting with neighbors, or working through personal difficulties, or achieving some great project, is to make the name of the LORD famous.

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:20)

I spoke this week with a man from Ghana, living in Washington D.C. whose life goal was to be a diplomat.  Instead, God made him to be one of His ambassadors.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Battle is not Yours

Read Joshua 10.

Allied local kings decided to make war against the Gibeonites because of their peace pact with Israel.  The Gibeonites in turn called to Joshua for help.  Note that this time Joshua first received God's go ahead and encouragement.

As the battle ensued and the several kings fled, the army of Israel kept pursuing them due west until they literally divided the land of Canaan in two.  The descriptions of war as kings, peoples and cities were destroyed are brutal.  Not one of the enemy was left alive.

Only a sick mind or demonically influenced person would relish the slaughter of men, women and children.  But this was not by the choosing of Israel, nor the ego of Joshua.  These plans were God's all along.  These people groups worshipped self-made gods and were known for their immorality.  When they heard of God's power and might, they rejected Him, defending their own beliefs to save them, and made war against God's people.

Upon their rejection, the LORD hardened the hearts of the Canaanites.  The LORD gave Joshua the battle plans.  The LORD even gave Joshua extra time in the day in chapter 10 to fulfill His will against these enemies.  It was the LORD who empowered and gave Israel the victories.  It was His battle and His glory that would be revealed.

For Israel, the war became difficult.  Joshua was encouraged by Moses in Deuteronomy and then directly by God in the first chapter to be strong and courageous.  He would need every bit of it to make the tough calls.  See how Joshua used those same words to encourage his troops in verse 25.  They had to be obedient to go, they had to be bold to fight, and careful to do all that God commanded.

Facing the hard issues and obeying what God has made clear is the substance of character.  As seen with Joshua, it is not a one and done solution.  Every day brings new challenges with new opportunities for the LORD to use us in powerful ways.  We cannot not do what is right without Him.

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Our best is not good enough

Read Joshua 9.

Instead of the victories at Jericho and Ai causing fear of the God of Israel, the surrounding kingdoms united to fight.  Some people never learn.  Some others are scared and act smart.  Say what you will, but the Gibeonites were cleaver.  Yes, they spent the rest of their lives as slaves but they figured it would be better to be slaves and alive than dead.

God's command was clear.  The inhabitants of the land were to be destroyed.  Period.  The Gibeonites dressed up and told a story of a great journey, when in fact they were next door neighbors.  Joshua violated the word of God when he accepted them, helped them, and then made a covenant of peace with them.  How did that happen?  Verse 14 gives the answer that Joshua "did not ask counsel of the LORD."

That was exactly the error he made in chapter 7.  He made these decisions as an owner, not as a steward  of what God gave to him.  A steward, or manager, always must represent what the owner wants done.  Yes, he asked good questions, but his best was not good enough. 
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." (Proverbs 14:12)

He needed spiritual insight and God's perspective in order to do what was right.

It seems after each victory there is a test.  Pride can get in the way, saying to us that we can handle the next challenge or the next decision on our own.  We can scarcely blame the devil for ignoring God's guidance in our lives.
Here is good counsel for all of us-
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil." (Proverbs 3:5-7)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What to do after the Failure

Read Joshua 8.

He is called the God of the second chance for a reason.  When one fails the first test, the LORD will bring that person right back to the same situation in order to pass the test and move on with His plan for their lives.  It is pitiful when some wastes their entire lives failing the same test over and over.

The failure for Israel happened in chapter 7.  But then the LORD encouraged Joshua to go back to the same place, better armed with a better plan, and ready to succeed.  The plan came with a promised blessing.  This time they were allowed to take all the plunder for themselves.  Unlike last time, they knew exactly what God wanted done and dispatched ten times the resources to destroy this little city.

While the implementation of the battle strategy makes for fascinating reading, it is not the point of the story.  This was the second generation who received a second opportunity to obey God and reestablish themselves in the promised land.  Therefore, after the battle was won, Joshua took care in following all the instructions in the second giving of the law (Deuteronomy).

It is a wonderful picture of how to get back on track after a train wreck failure.
1. He built an altar.
Joshua went to the place God had chosen for public worship.  Hebrews 10:25 exhorts us to increase meeting together "as you see the Day drawing near."

2. He presented offerings to the LORD.
Worship and giving are inseparable.

3. He wrote out his own copy of the word of God and read it just as Moses instructed.
Today, we can simply purchase a Bible.  But reading it, knowing what it means, putting it into practice for our blessing requires the daily discipline of a true disciple.

Let's move on.  Today is an opportunity to pass God's tests and be blessed.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lessons from a Disaster

Read 7.

The first battle for Israel in the new land was a huge success.  God's power was demonstrated; the goal was accomplished; Joshua's leadership and fame was established throughout the land

"But..."  This is the first word in chapter 7.  God gave clear instructions to destroy everything, except some precious metals and those were to be dedicated for holy use by the priests.  In the attack, a man named Achan saw a beautiful coat, some silver and gold and decided to keep it for himself.  In fact, this was stealing from God and disobeying what He had said.  As a result, God was angry with the entire nation and no one seemed to be aware of it.

Then a second problem arose.  In planning for the next battle, pride and self-confidence crept in.  Joshua decided to send only a few soldiers to capture a small town.  After the extensive plan God had given them for Jericho, there appears to be an absence of dependence upon God and seeking His marching orders for the city of Ai.  This explains why Joshua did not know that God was angry.  He never inquired of Him.  The attitude of "we can handle this on our own" is a statement that says, "We do not need God."  The result was Israel' first defeat and 36 men paid for it with their lives.

A devastated Joshua fell on his face before God crying and praying.  There are times when God desires such an outward display of humility toward Him.  This is not one of those times.  "The LORD said to Joshua, 'Get up!'" (v.10).  Joshua's prayer questioned God, instead of realizing that the disaster had been self-inflicted.

Verses 12-13 state that further defeats would be happening unless the sin was removed.  Finally, Achan was identified and his sin cost the lives of his entire family.

Lessons from a disaster:
1. There is no such thing as a victimless crime.  This is evidence how one person's sin does affect all those around them.
2. Getting rid of sin is sometimes involves a painful decision.  The followers of God must be willing to obey and make the tough call.
3. God offers forgiveness for those who respond rightly to Him.
"Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back." (Isaiah 38:17)
4. A life lived on its own is a recipe for disaster.  It is only when we cast our dependence upon God that we know what He wants done and He can bless our lives.

The old hymn by Annie Hawks and Robert Lowry says it best:
"I need Thee, O I need Thee, Ev'ry hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, my Savior-I come to Thee!"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

When there is a Mess focus on the Mission

Read Joshua 6.

Conventional warfare against a high walled city like this would have involved a long term siege.  Demands from the attackers followed by pronouncing curses upon each other were common.  The attacking army would encamp around the city and build ramps against the wall.  If the city was unprepared, quite often the attacker waited until starvation destroyed the people inside.

None of this happened to Jericho.  There were no demands, no cursing, no ramps.  Indeed, the battle plan issued by the LORD was silence and simple marching around the city.  After that, they went back to their base camp.  To the fighting men of Israel this must have been some of the most conflicted moments of their lives.  They were ready to attack but not allowed to do so.  This they did every day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. 

Inside the city walls, they would have been preparing for the worst.  But each day nothing happened.  The scripture tells us that they had already lost their courage to fight.  The shear dread and fear from this daily routine is unimaginable.

But on the seventh day, on the seventh lap, the horns sounded, the people shouted, and Joshua ordered, "Shout, for the LORD has given you the city."  It has been proven by archaeological digs that the walls fell downward in place.  Obviously, the section of the wall where Rahab lived did not fall.  She and her family alone were rescued.

Other instructions for this battle included total destruction, but anything made of gold, silver, bronze and iron was to be given to the priests for their use.  It was deemed holy to the LORD.

There are at least three life applications for us here.
1. Reject the things banned by God. (v.17-18)
A believer in Jesus must be aware and on guard moment by moment to love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates.

2. Reclaim some things for God. (v.19)
In the midst of the mess there is most always something that can be pulled out to use for God's purposes.  Look for it in problems, broken people, and other shambles of life.

3. Rescue people who respond to God. (vv.22-23)
In spite of all the fear, the warnings, and the pending doom not one citizen of Jericho put their trust in the God of Israel except this one family.  They were not only kept alive but they united with and were embraced by God's people.  This is our daily responsibility as representatives of Jesus.  "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to Prepare for your Future

Read Joshua 5.

What happened at the Jordan River and the crossing of the nation of Israel had spread throughout Canaan.  The result was a complete loss of courage to war against these people of the Living God.  To a military mindset, this would have triggered an immediate urge to attack and begin subduing all the major cities and kingdoms of the land.  Not so with God.

This would not be a physical fight only.  When moving forward on God's plans the most important preparation is spiritual readiness.  This generation was not ready to take on what the LORD had promised to give them.  How should we prepare for God's future for us?

1. Personal Commitment.
Circumcision was an outward sign of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants.  This began in Genesis 17.  It was a statement of belonging to the LORD from generation to generation.  All males were circumcised prior to leaving Egypt in preparation for the Exodus.  However, that was 40 years ago.  Because of the constant and unpredicatable movement through the wilderness wanderings, no one born along the journey had been circumcised.  The nation evidently could not allow the necessary time for healing.

The Prophet Jeremiah clarifies that this outward sign was to represent the commitment of the heart to the LORD.  "Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem..." (Jeremiah 4:4)  The Apostle Paul goes further and states that what really counts is obedience to God.  "For neither cirmcumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God." (1 Corinthians 7:19)

2. Corporate Worship.
God's timing is perfect.  The date of this preparation was the exact time for celebrating the Passover.  They were to stop and remember their redemption from slavery.  It took the shedding of blood and the personal application of a substitute sacrifice for God to passover them in judgment.  Dr. Donald Campbell wrote, "Remembering the past was an excellent preparation for the tests of the future."

"For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

3. Private Worship.
The commander of the LORD's army appeared to Joshua in private.  Here is another example of a preincarnate apprearance of Jesus.  This is not an angel.  Angels are forbidden in scripture to receive worship.  Once Joshua realized who was standing in front of him, he fell on his face.  He was on holy ground because God Himself was there. 

We are not told what the message to Joshua was, if any.  It may have been simply the reassurance to this leader of God's presence and power as he faced the future. 

Jesus taught, "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33)

Monday, June 11, 2012

What to do with a Miracle

Read Joshua 4.

Imagine standing in the middle of a river at flood stage, with a the hand of God holding back the water on one side and millions of people passing you on the other. 

Why did God lead them to this spot and then perform this powerful miracle?  Why did He not instead lead them north on the west side of the Dead Sea and avoid this?  I believe there were at least three reasons:
1. Generational.
The previous generation, after crossing the Red Sea on dry ground and witnessing God's power to take care of them, rejected God's leading the nation north into the land of Canaan.  They feared the inhabitants, they feared the fight ahead, they feared the high walled cities of the land.  Indeed, they embraced their fears instead of embracing their faith in God to take care of them.  Now, 40 years later, God gave the 2nd generation a similar water-crossing miracle and led them straight to one of those high walled cities.
2. Theological.
God's miracles are never performed for show.  It was not intended to wow the people.  Rather, the miracles always were used to validate God's message.  In 3:10, Joshua explained in advance why God was going to do this miracle.  "Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the (the inhabitants of the land)."
3. Memorial.
The LORD instructed that a representative of each of the twelve tribes go back into the middle of the river bed and for each of them to shoulder a stone out to the west bank.  There they were to stack them as a monument.  To this day, monuments are built, usually by governments, for reasons of honor, memory, and teaching about people and events.  This is exactly the case here.

"When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?'  Then you shall tell them..." (4:6)

"So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever." (4:24)

When God answers a prayer, when we see His hand move in our circumstances, it is a opportunity to honor Him by telling others what this means to us and how mighty the LORD is.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Are you ready for a miracle?

Read Joshua 3.

The dictionary defines a miracle as an event or effect that contradicts known scientific laws; a supernatural event demonstrating divine intervention.  This chapter tells of one such intervention by God in order to fulfill His promises to the nation of Israel.

This nation of several millions of people were encamped on the east side of the river, just north of the Dead Sea.  The Jordan River is about 65 miles long and ranges from 1/2 mile to 2 miles wide.  Verse 15 states that the river was at flood stage, making the crossing humanly improbable, if not impossible.

Before God acted there were three elements of preparation at work:
1. They were Organized.
Without some structure of procession, moving millions of people anywhere would have been chaotic, disastrous and dangerous.  In the book of Exodus, God organized how the nation would position themselves to move and to camp.  The Tabernacle was in the center with three tribes each on the north, south, east and west.  Tribes and families stayed together.  In addition, in this instance the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant over half a mile ahead of the people to show direction.
2. They Communicated.
The communication system included verbal orders from the leader to the leaders of the tribes to the leaders of the families, etc.
3. They Consecrated themselves.
This was not just a time of packing their belongings.  They were by faith to prepare themselves spiritually to experience a miracle from the LORD.  He is holy.  He expects His people to be holy.

Question:  How can we know from the scriptures that there is no other explanation for this occurrence other than a miracle from God?
1. The Timing of the Miracle (3:13-15).
The prediction was that the waters would not part until the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped on to the top of the water.  Think of their faith in God marching toward a flooded river doing this.  Often God is waiting to see if we will obey before He will intervene.
2. The Flooded River (3:15).
This was no shallow creek through which they could wade.  They had children, animals and goods to transport.
3. The Tributaries (3:16).
The waters coming from the north stopped and "rose up in a heap".  The result was that the river bed south going to the Dead Sea had no water during the crossing.
4. The Dry Ground (3:17).
When the priests stepped into the river, the waters not only were cut off, but the ground was immediately dry.  The people did not slosh through a muddy river bed.  This is the same experience of the previous generation in crossing the Red Sea.
5. The Timing of the River's Return (4:18).
The priests stood in the middle of the river bed until the last person crossed.  The water flow resumed normalcy at the exact time the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant crossed to the other side.

Performing a miracle is the work of God.  Preparing to experience a miracle is our responsibility.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

It is the present, not the past, that determines your future.

Read Joshua 2.

Joshua knew the value of reconnaissance.  He had been a spy for Israel in the book of Numbers.  Back then, Moses sent 12 spies, one from each tribe.  Only two, Joshua and Caleb, came back with a faith-filled report.  So, this time Joshua sent only two.  Their assignment was to gather intelligence on the city of Jericho.  When the nation crossed the Jordan River headed west, Jericho would be the first major city in its path.

The spies came to the house of Rahab, a prostitute.  She was able to tell them all they needed to know about the city and how God had already struck fear in the people.  The people of Jericho knew about the Red Sea miracle and the power of Israel's God.  Everyone knew and lived in dread, but when Rahab heard she placed her faith in the LORD.  That made all the difference.  Her faith changed her life, her legacy, and her destiny.

1. Rahab in the Past tense.
She was a Canaanite.  These were the current inhabitants of the promised land.  God's  order was to root them out so Israel could possess what was rightfully theirs.  The Canaanites were pagans.  They worshipped various sorts of deities they made up, often fashioning them with wood or metal.

She was a prostitute.  Her reputation for immorality and loss of character would seem to have her on an opposite path from God.

She was a liar.  When asked about the spies, she did not tell the truth.  Was it justifiable?  Most would say, "Yes."  But the fact remains.

2. Rahab in the Future tense.
In Matthew 1, we read the family tree of Jesus, the Messiah.  Several women are particularly noted in that passage.  In verse 6 is the name of Rahab.  After the fall of Jericho, she and her family lived with the nation of Israel.    She married a Jewish man who was in the very lineage of the Messiah.

In Hebrews 11:31, when examples of great faith in the LORD were listed, Rahab is given as a prime example.

In James 2:24-26, Rahab is again shown to be a person who did not just express belief in God, but proved it by her actions.

3. Rahab in the Present tense.
There are four spiritual responses by Rahab in Joshua 2 that are true of everyone who put their faith in God and experience an eternal change of life.
     A. She heard about God.
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)
     B. She believed what she heard about God.
"'...what must I do to be saved?'  And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.'"  (Acts 16:30)
"Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)
     C. She obeyed God as proof of her sincerity.
Jesus said, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples." (John 8:31)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The 3 R's of Getting God's Work Done

Read Joshua 1.

His name means "Jehovah is salvation".  The New Testament equivalent of that name is Jesus.  After 400 years in slavery, and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, it was now his duty to return the descendants of Abraham back to the land God promised them in Genesis 12. 

What a fill the shoes of Moses as the leader of Israel!  Joshua was not inexperienced.  He had been Moses' aide most of his life.  He was the general of Israel's army and with the battles ahead in taking the new land, the nation would need such a leader.  He served as a faithful spy and had already seen the land.  It is a sobering reminder that none of us are irreplaceable.  God's work is not limited to one person.

Geographically, the nation had camped on the east side of the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea.  They must cross the river and begin a military campaign in order to establish themselves on the inhabited land of Canaan.

Note that the vision came from God.  It was not a selfish goal on Israel's part, nor an ego-driven effort from any person.  With clarity of what God wants done comes His power and resources to accomplish His work.  The leader must be dependent on God and disciplined in behavior to accomplish the task.  But the leader cannot do it alone.  The leaders and those who follow must be aligned with God as well and willing to carry out God's vision.

First, the LORD's Reassurances to the leader.
This was God's everlasting covenant with Abraham.  These were God's marching orders.  These were God's people.  It was God who would be glorified by the fulfillment of His will.  The LORD encouraged Joshua with power-filled promises to empower his leadership.
   A. Territorial leadership.  Concerning the land, God said He had given it to him. (vv.3-4)
   B. Military leadership.  No enemy would be able to stand against him. (v.5a)
   C. Spiritual leadership.  "I will be with you.  I will not leave you or forsake you." (v.5b)
The result was predetermined victory.

Next, the LORD's list of Responsibilities to the leader.
God's word and presence would be there, but Joshua must discipline his emotions, his thinking, his speech, and his behavior.
   A. "Be strong and very courageous". (v6)
   B. "Being careful to do according to all the law." (v.7a)
   C. "Do not turn from it." (v.7b) 
   D. "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth." (v.8a)
   E. "You shall meditate on it day and night." (v.8b)
   F. "Do not be frightened." (v.9a)
   G. "Do not be dismayed." (v.9b)
The result is prosperity and success.

Then, the leaders' Responses to leader.
Unity among leaders of any organization is imperative.  A divided leadership leads to a divided people 100% of the time and destroys their potential as a group.
   A. Obedience.  "All that you have commanded we will do." (v.16)
   B. Allegiance.  "Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you." (v.17a)
   C. Urgence.  "Only may God be with you." (v.17b)  "Only be strong and courageous." (b.18b)


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Parting Words of Comfort

Read Deuteronomy 32:48-34.

In chapter 34, the LORD performs a funeral service for Israel's greatest prophet-leader.  "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face." (34:10).

But before he died, Moses two things happened.  First, God allowed Moses to see the promised land from Mount Nebo.  Second, Moses blesses the tribes of Israel individually and encourages them corporately.

You may notice that the tribe of Simeon is missing from the list of blessings in chapter 33.  The reason seems to be that when the new land was divided among the tribes, the tribe of Simeon lived among the people of Judah. (Joshua 19:1)

Moses' encouraging words in 33:26-29 are classic and to this day are used to comfort those who put their faith in the Living LORD.

1. "There is none like God." (v.26)
The God of heaven is not distant, but watching over His people from above.  Pictured as a rider in the sky, He will quickly come to their aid in times of need.

2. "The eternal God is your dwelling place and underneath are the everlasting arms." (v.27)
Though God was giving Israel this promised land, it was only temporal.  The people of God have an eternal abiding place.  It is in their relationship with the LORD Himself.  He is the refuge for His people and their everlasting support.

3.  "Happy are you." (v.29)
The result is happiness!  Why?  Because the people of God are special; there is no one like them.  Not only are those who belong to the LORD saved, but also they are shielded from those who would harm them.  Victory is assured in advance.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Biblical Value of Rock Music

Read Deuteronomy 31:14-32:47
The LORD foretells of Israel's falling away from following Him to chase other gods and what will happen.  To help the nation through those hard days ahead God has Moses write down and then teach the nation a song to memorize.  How important is this song of Moses?  "For it is no empty word for you, but your very life..." (31:47)

This is heavenly music.  Unfortunately, the scriptures do not come with audio for us to hear Moses' singing voice.  Follow the great themes of the stanzas in the song:
1. The greatness of God.
-He is called the Rock with a capital R.  This refers to the LORD being a sure foundation of our faith.  He is strong and will not change.  Reliable.  He is worthy of our trust.
-His work is perfect.
-His ways are just.
-His character is faithful and upright.

2. The Unfaithfulness of people.
Instead of being thankful and totally committed to the LORD for all He had done for them, they repay Him with "foolish and senseless" behavior.

3. The discipline of God.
He will not allow His people to live in continual disobedience.  The LORD will intervene and use others to chasten them to a point "when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free" (32:36)  In other words, there is no fight left in them to continue their rebellion.

4. The compassion of God.
"Then he will say, where are their gods, the rock (small r) in which they took refuge..?" (32:37)  When they come to the end of themselves they will realize that all they had trusted did not help them.  Indeed, the very things they had put their faith in had only brought them misery and heartache.  The problem is found in 32:31-"For their rock is not as our Rock..."

There is an old story about a preacher being interrupted repeatedly by an inebriated fellow wanting to hear about the Shamrock.  Finally, the preacher had had enough and declared, "Christ is the solid Rock.  All other rocks are sham rocks." 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Encouragement for Today

Read Deuteronomy 31:1-13.

At age 120, Moses announced that he would not be going with Israel when they cross the Jordan River.  For forty years he lived as an adopted son of Pharaoh in Egypt.  The next forty years of his life was spent tending sheep in Midian as a fugitive.  These last forty years he has led the nation in the wilderness.  It was time for his successor to be introduced.

So the nation would not worry in the absence of Moses he told them "Be strong and courageous."  It was not Moses' leadership they needed in the new land but the LORD.  "He will not leave you or forsake you."

Joshua had been Moses' assistant most of Joshua's life.  He was one of the original 12 spies.  He served as the field general for Israel's army.  But now he was introduced as the nation's new leader.  Moses repeated the exact same words of encouragement and personally applied them to Joshua.  And then in 31:23, the LORD Himself repeats same words to Joshua.

Moses put in writing all that God had given to him to say in this book of Deuteronomy.  Indeed, evangelical scholars attribute the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy to Moses as the human author.  The purpose of having the word of God in writing so that:
1. The people of would read, hear, and learn to fear the LORD and be careful to do all that God has said.
2. The children of the people of God may hear and learn to fear the LORD.

The LORD's very presence is with us today encouraging us.  He has allowed us to actually own a Bible so that we may own our faith.  He has placed us in families to in order to pass it on.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Life's Greatest Choice

Read Deuteronomy 30:11-20.

As Moses began to conclude his review of the law, he encouraged the people.  I like how Jack S. Deere restated verses 11-13.  "The Law was not incomprehensible (too difficult) or inaccessible (beyond your reach).  Though the Law had a heavenly origin God clearly revealed it to Israel so there was no need for anyone to ascend into heaven to get it nor did anyone need to travel across an ocean to get.  Nor did Israel need a special interpreter of the Law before they could obey it." (The Bible Knowledge Commentary)

The nation had it writing, in their language, and heard it.  Levites, priests and leaders were already in position to help them put it into practice.

And, then it was time for a decision.  Moses presented the choice: life and good or death and evil.  That's it.  There was not a third alternative.  Not all roads lead to heaven.  It is not true that we all worship the same god.  The decision is urgent.  Their entire future and that of their children was on the line.  The preacher, Moses, cries out, "Therefore, choose life!"

The Apostle Paul quoted this very passage in Romans 10:6-10 to explain how comprehensible and accessible faith in Christ is for us.  More than earthly blessings are at stake.  Eternal life or eternal separation from God and those who know Him are in this choice.  How is the choice transacted?

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."