Friday, September 29, 2017

4 insights from bad Examples

Read Judges 3.

There are two reasons mentioned here as what God was doing with the nation.  Pagan people groups lived all around them.  First, He was testing them to see if they would reject spiritual corruption and obey His word.  Second, this new generation grew up without knowing how to go to war when needed.  They had to learn both.

Their moral and spiritual failure of God's tests did not happen overnight.  The compromises took place over time, step by step.
Step 1. They lived among the unbelievers.
Step 2. They intermarried with the unbelievers.
Step 3. They served the pagan gods of the other culture.

This, then, began cycle number one in the book.
God was not going to tolerate their disobedience and evil in rejecting Him.  So, He brought King Cushan-rishathaim of Mesopotamia to enslave them for eight years.  The people cried out to God for help and the LORD raised up a godly national leader.  His name was Othniel, the nephew of Caleb.  Note that it was not the leadership of Othniel that delivered them, but "the Spirit of the LORD."  The nation experience peace for 40 years.

Cycle number two begins in verse 12.
After 48 years, another generation had grown up who did not desire to live in honor of the LORD.  So, God energized King Eglon of Moab, along with a some allies, to conquer and enslave Israel for eighteen years.  Then, the people cried out to God for help and the LORD raised up Ehud to deliver them.  God gave the nation 80 years of peace.

There are four insights here for us.
1. The power of influence.  All of us need to be fully aware of our surroundings.  God has left believers in this world to influence our culture, not the other way around.  Indeed, those who live for Christ will increasingly find themselves living counter to culture.  We are "in the world but not of the world."

2. The priority of teaching the next generation.  It is our duty, responsibility, and mission to teach the generations behind us what God's word says and how to put it into practice.  Otherwise, the consequences of shame, loss, and ultimately enslavement are well documented here.

3. The purpose of accountability.  It has never been the plan of God that one should live without accountability.  Self-reliance is a recipe for disaster.  That is why godly, transparent relationships are crucial to our spiritual growth and maintenance.  Close friendships and/or marriage partner, and Bible teaching churches are core elements to the Christian life.

4. The primacy of godly leadership.  When people are in need of leadership, the LORD does not raise up a committee.  He does not ask for a majority vote.  He raises up a godly leader, empowered by His spirit, and appropriately accountable.  The book of Judges demonstrates repeatedly that one leader in the power of God can rally and deliver a nation.  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

What happened to God's Grandchildren?

Read Judges 2.

Someone once said, "God does not have any grandchildren."  That could not be more clear than in this chapter.  The first generation coming out of Egypt saw firsthand the miracles of God.  Moses even wrote down the word of God and their commitments so they would not forget.  The second generation benefited as they wandered in the wilderness.  God provided their daily food and needs.  When the second generation came into the land, they saw firsthand God's power and miracles under Joshua's leadership.

But when Joshua died, "there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.  And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals."" (v.10-11)  This resulted in their loss of God's power in their nation and placed them in "terrible distress."

In their helplessness, the nation cried out to God for help.  The LORD responded by raising up a new national leader, called a judge.  That was followed by a time of victory and peace.  But as soon as the judge died, the people abandoned God and plunged back into pagan worship.  That was followed by oppression from a neighboring nation, great distress, helplessness, crying out to God for help, a new judge, and a time of peace.

This cycle repeated itself 7 times in this book.  Walk Thru the Bible described it this way:
1. Sin-the nation falls in to pagan worship
2. Servitude-the nation suffers under an oppressive enemy
3. Supplication-the nation cries out to God for help
4. Salvation-God responds by raising up a new national leader to deliver them
5. Silence-a time of peace

In verse 22, God called each generation to a spiritual test to see if they would live according to His word.  Whatever grade the previous generation made on their test did not apply to the next. 

No one can take God's tests for us.  Godly parents do not guarantee godly children.  Parents are commanded to teach their children by precept and by living example (Deuteronomy 6).  But each generation, each person, is responsible and accountable for their own response to God.  The consequences for not listening and abandoning the LORD are devastating.  Great blessing, forgiveness, deliverance, and peace await those who cast their helplessness on Him.

Monday, September 25, 2017

When coexistence becomes Sin

Read Judges 1-2:5.

Controlling the land and taking possession of it are two different issues.  Joshua led the nation into the land, exercised great power over it, and set the boundaries for the tribes.  But the land was far from being fully occupied by Israel.

One by one the tribes set out to take the land that God had given to them.  Yet, a half-dozen times we are told that a particular tribe "did not drive out" the inhabitants.  Instead, they worked out a covenant of coexistence.  Most often that meant that those who lived in the land submitted to forced labor.

While on one hand that may sound like a wise, even merciful, thing to do, it was a direct violation of what God ordered.  The command was clear.  Israel was not to make any agreements with the surrounding peoples.  The reason was not to display military might and power over others.  From the beginning of the conquest, the LORD warned them against spiritual compromise.  The Canaanites had rejected the God of Heaven to worship their multiple man-made idols.  In Genesis 15:16, God told Abraham that his descendants would return and take the land at that time because of the completed sin of the Amorites.

There can be no compromise or coexistence with sin and false worship.  God is a jealous God and will not share the honor due Him with anyone or anything. 

The good news is that the nation of Israel repented in tears for their disobedience.  Then, they worshipped the LORD. (2:4-5)

The Apostle Paul wrote that believers in Jesus are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  In stating his case, he quoted Leviticus 26:12 and continued-"God said, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

We must be diligent and vigilant about the spiritual areas of compromise and attempts at coexistence with sin in our lives.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Decisive Message for the Nation

Read Joshua 24.

In the previous chapter, Joshua addressed the nation's leaders.  Here in his final words, he spoke to all of Israel.  He began with a history lesson.  It is a walk through the first five books of the Bible.  His message had three parts and then a most interesting back and forth about the challenge.

1. How God has led us? (vv.1-12)
Notice how Joshua is actually presenting this on behalf of God Himself, "Thus says the LORD."  Beginning with God's call of Abraham, Joshua recounted their family lineage.  Next, he reminded them of the days in Egypt and how God miraculously delivered them.  He mentioned the wilderness wandering and how God gave them victory over enemies along the way.  Then, God brought them into the land and gave it to them, just as he had promised Abraham centuries before.

2. How God has blessed us? (v.13)
God said, "I gave you a land" with cities they did not build and crops they did not plant.  This was their inheritance from the LORD.  They were to enjoy it all.

3. How should we respond? (vv.14-28)
Fear the LORD.  This is more than just a reverential awe of the Almighty.  If anything, one should have learned through Israel's journey that God knows how to mete out judgment here and now.  Sin has consequences.  Respect and right responses to what God has made clear is a matter of life and death.  Paul wrote, "Knowing the fear (terror in KJV) of the Lord we persuade others." (2 Corinthians 5:11)

Serve the LORD.  Joshua said this is to be done "in sincerity and in faithfulness."  Integrity is demonstrated in how we live out what we say we believe.  This is not referring to a job as much as how we demonstrate of our faith.  "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Incline your heart to the LORD.  Which way are you leaning; toward the LORD or away from Him?  One translation puts it, "make up your mind."  Joshua's challenge to the nation was, "Choose this day whom you will serve." (v.15b)

His conclusion is the famous quotation, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

The exchange that followed is a curious one indeed.  The people responded with agreement, "We also will serve the LORD."  Then, the preacher, if you will, said, "You are not able."  The people responded again, "No, but we will serve the LORD."  All this proved to test the seriousness of their commitment.  Joshua made it a national covenant, wrote it down, and dedicated a monument for it so they would remember what they promised.

These are serious reminders for all of us.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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 leaders of Israel.  The speech emphasizes a singular message of national life and death, repeated three times.

1. How we got here.  (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. How to protect what we have.  (vv.9-13)
With God on their side, Israel was invincible.  Again, Joshua repeated that it was "God who fights for you." (v.10)
Instead of obedience to God, this time he stated, "Be careful to love the LORD your God." (v.11)
And then came 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. How to preserve our future.  (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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

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 River 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 the separation of 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 bank.

But when the folks back home got wind that 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 cause things to be said that will later be regretted.  What to say and not say is crucial to the outcome, but the inquiry must 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)  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

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 worthy of our attention.
1. Vision.  They knew what they wanted.  There was something that they foresaw and it was worth fighting 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)

Friday, September 15, 2017

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 yet made it their home.  God said, "There is still much land to possess." (13:1b)

It was time to divide 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.

Caleb was forty when asked to be a spy.  Now at eighty-five years of age, his 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 have 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 experience and ability left in them.

Those 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 or 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?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Is it God or us?

Read Joshua 11-12.

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, in Chapter 11, his attention was directed to conquering the northern kingdoms.  It literally turned out to be a battle tactic of divide and conquer for the land.

"(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 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)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It's not your Battle

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 (v.8).

As the battle ensued and the five 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 enemies was left alive.

Only a sick mind, or a 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 renowned for their immorality.  When they heard of God's power and might, they rejected Him, depending instead on their own beliefs to save them, and chose to make 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 these 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 they had to 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)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Our best is not good Enough

Read Joshua 9.

Instead of the victories at Jericho and Ai resulting in fear of the God of Israel, the surrounding kingdoms united to fight.  Some people never learn.  Some others are scared and try to 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 cannot blame the devil when we ignore 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)

Friday, September 8, 2017

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 when they failed, 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 or download an app.  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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

4 lessons from a Disaster

Read Joshua 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, the Lord 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 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.  One person's sin does affect all those around them.
2. Getting rid of sin 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!"

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

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.  The only sounds were the rams horns and marching feet.  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 once every day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. 

Inside the city walls, the people of Jericho 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.  Only Rahab and her family 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.  They were dedicated to the LORD.

There are at least three life applications for us here.
1. Reject the things banned by God. (vv.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 Rahab's family.  They were not only kept alive but they united with and were embraced by God's people.  Seeking those who are responsive to the message of Jesus is our daily responsibility as His followers.  "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)

Monday, September 4, 2017

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 unpredictable movement through the wilderness wanderings, no one born along the journey had been circumcised.  Evidently, they could not allow for the necessary time of healing.

The Prophet Jeremiah clarified 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 circumcision 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 appearance 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)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

What to do with a Miracle

Read Joshua 4.

Imagine standing in the middle of a river at flood stage, with the hand of God holding back the water and millions of people crossing on dry ground.  

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, and they feared the high walled cities of the land.  Indeed, they embraced their fears instead of acting on 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.  They are not intended merely 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 circumstances, it is an opportunity to honor Him by telling others what this means to us and how mighty the LORD is.

Friday, September 1, 2017

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 Israel.

This nation of several millions of people was encamped on the east side of the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea.  The 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 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.  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 in Exodus.
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 to 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 obediently to experience a miracle is our responsibility.