Thursday, April 30, 2015

Joshua 10 - Ganging up on God

Now that Jericho and Ai had been utterly defeated and Gibeon now servants of Israel, the Kings of adjoining cities of the Amorites band together to issue a threat to Israel by attacking Gibeon. Gibeon appeals to the peace treaty and asks for help from Israel. Bound by the ill-gotten treaty, Israel is obliged to come to Gibeons defense. 

Joshua clearly learned his lesson in the treaty with Gibeon because he apparently seeks the Lord before marching into this battle. The Lord assures Joshua they should not be afraid because God has determined that this gang of five armies will be defeated. God will give them into Joshua's hand Josh 10:8. 

The army of Israel marches all night and takes the 5 armies by surprise. I am sure that humanly speaking Joshua was looking for an advantage in battle. He was surely outnumbered. I don't think it would have mattered when he attacked, God was doing battle for the nation of Israel so their victory was secured. God intervened in a miraculous way. He threw the opposing armies into confusion. Josh 10:10; God sent hail as they fled Josh 10:11, and at Joshua's request God made the sun and the moon stand still for a day as Joshua defeated the enemy. 
Later in the chapter after defeating the armies, the Kings are killed and each of the Cities is invaded by Israel and utterly destroyed. 

When enemies attack God's people they stand against God himself. Just as the Gibeonites received support from Israel, Israel drew its strength from the Lord.   When we are in the midst of conflict, we too can know that we serve a God who is able to stop the world from spinning if it will bring Him glory and demonstrate His power. 

While God gave the victory and the cities were defeated, the Israelites were not passive viewers of the battle, they were active participants in it. When they invaded the five cities, they left no survivors. The bloodshed must have been horrific, but Israel was obedient to God and left no trace of Amorite influence to poison their people. As people of God we are not exempt from battle and conflict, but as we trust in God for our strength and are obedient to His calling in our lives, He is faithful in protecting and caring for His people. 

Dear Christian, you are a child of God by adoption through the substitutionary death of Jesus which purchased our redemption. As His children, God will not abandon His own to the enemies you face. He will also not exempt us from the conflict. In obedience our faith is stretched and strengthened as we learn to depend on Him for each and every victory. 

We are no longer our own and we no longer belong to the devil, we belong to Jesus Christ, we are His church; we are His Bride. We are not merely left to our own devices as we go into battle. We are challenged each and every day to put on the full armor of God and be prepared for the conflict. Far too often we fail to prepare and feel defeated. We have great power we can depend on as we witness to the world of God's offer of redemption for them. Though we may be rejected and even ridiculed, God protects his own and builds an even greater testimony for Himself. 

Prepare yourself for battle today and be faithful to serve the Lord in thought, word and deed today. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Joshua 9 - Deception Subjection

The hand of God was truly on the nation of Israel. Nations all around began to fear for their safety and began to form alliances. One nearby country decided to assure their security by convincing Israel to sign a peace treaty. In order to convict them they lied to make Israel believe they were not from nearby, but far away. 

A far away nation had nothing to fear from Israel, and hence did not need a treaty. But when the men of Gibeon arrived with moldy bread and dried up wine skins Israel believed their story and agreed to offer peace to the nation. It seemed an act where no harm would come, so they didn't think to pray and ask God. 

Even though Israel was deceived, they were bound to two terms of the agreement. They didn't just fear the nation of Gibeon, but they feared God himself would judge their failure. They had to keep the peace. This subjection no doubt had implications for years to come. In order to honor the terms of the treaty allowing them to live, Joshua subjected them to slavery - bound to manual labor for Israel forever. 

How many times have we ourselves gotten into a mess because everything seemed wonderful at the onset of an arrangement. How many poisoned friendships, marriages, jobs, purchases, investments, etc could have been avoided if God's people had just prayed about the arrangement before engaging in the venture. There is an element of pride in our own wisdom. We like to think we can make good choices for ourselves. But we can't always discern the future and we can't always tell when we are being deceived. 

Rather than learning our lesson first hand, let's take our lesson from Joshua and run quickly to the Lord for all our decisions of life and allow Him to determine the best course for us. 

If we find ourselves in a poisoned situation, God does not immediately exempt us from it because we made choices without all the facts. God may allow that situation to continue for years as with Gibeon. God can however use that poison for His own glory as He teaches us to depend on Him more intently and to honor the terms of our contracts. We answer to a higher authority. 

Even a difficult situation may be the place God can use you best. He uses difficulties to mold His character in us. He teaches us to wait on Him and to trust Him for the outcome. Our responsibility whether our circumstances are easy or difficult is to be obey Him and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ to assure us of His constant abiding. You are right in the hand of God and if you are His, He will not abandon you. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Joshua 8 - Overcoming Failure

Failure has a way of deflating us. I admire scientists and inventors who have such a drive to introduce new ideas that they are willing to endure failure time and again. In moments of failure, our turnaround may hinge on whether we will take the lessons leaned in failure and apply them. 

Israel was defeated at Ai and now is being sent back to that place of humiliation by the Lord. Read Joshua 8:1, see how the Lord encourages Joshua knowing the impact the loss had taken. The Lord said, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. take the whole army with you...for I have delivered into your hands the King of Ai. The Lord didn't need the whole army to accomplish his mission, God himself had planned defeat for the city. The whole army needed to be in the front row to see what God had in store. 

Our success in this life is in God's hands. In chapter 7 of Joshua the people did not see success because they were not fully trusting God. Achan and his men were trusting I their own abilities. Now God is taking them right back to the place where they had been humiliated to allow them to see how their trust in God would be rewarded. It wasn't that God didn't plan for the nation to conquer Ai, they just needed to do it on God's way. 

I think about the countless times I have failed in my attitudes and in my service to God. The Holy Spirit living within me would prick my soul and remind me of my sin. he would sometimes send me back into the same battle to try again rightly, and sometimes to offer a humble apology to God and to those I had hurt by unkind words to deeds. God has never let me wallow in failure and has Maeve forsaken His servant, though I have failed again and again. God reminds me that the battle is His to win. Myosin is faithfulness and to be quick to follow Gods direction for me. Any success in this life will be because God did a work either for me or through me; perhaps even in spite of me. 

On the other hand for the King of Ai, success had inflated his estimation of himself and caused him to underestimate his enemy. The king did not know he had victory iver Israel not because of his own strength, but because God allowed it. He didn't know his demise was eminent. Success can be a terrible curse if it leads us to turn from God and deceive ourselves into thinking that we alone have overcome the odds and have established ourselves. God gives success to some hard hearted individuals who refuse to acknowledge Him as their Lord. The brief successes they have here will be all they know. Because of their denial of God they face an eternity separated from Him. First on earth finding only fleeting pleasure in their pursuits and never knowing real love or real joy in God's presence. Secondly, after this life they will know the true emptiness of their lives. The blinders will be removed and they will see clearly their great loss. 

Not all success is cursed. Notice that God gives the city into the hands of Israel and there is great rejoicing; not in the accomplshments of men but the assurance that they are kept in the hands of God. No failure or success is wasted in God's hand. Notice the response to the victory (Joshua 8:30-35):

1.  Offerings to the Lord. The people gather and build an alter to the Lord and offer sacrifices thanking God for the fellowship restored. 

2.  God's word is read among the people. The people wanted to hear the word of God and sought even deeper fellowship. They didn't just glory in victory, but they took time to consider God's instructions and the ways God has kept the people in the past. They then recorded the testimony of God's present work for a reminder of the ways God is still active in their lives. 

When we give God the credit and acknowledge Him as the source of our success, we honor God and can know that our hearts will not be tempted to rely on our successes but will rely on God for our security. No matter what conflict we face or what pleasure we enjoy, God longs for us to see His hand in it and to adopt an upward look. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.