God’s Most Unlikely Characters

Pray for men to lead

Judges 3:7 to 5 If given the opportunity, who would you like to meet from the pages of history? Would it be Abraham Lincoln, Adoniram Judson, or Deborah and Jael from today’s reading? As we browse the pages of this book, we come face-to-face with Joshua’s challenge of Israel’s men to lead. To a man, they said they would, but Joshua warned them that they would not and so it came to pass.  As we wander these chapters, we want to put it aside, for it is the book with the most violence, and we meet the most unlikely characters.

First is the woman Deborah who sat under the Date Palm Tree, solving disputes. What happened to the men’s leadership? We aren’t told. In this chapter, we learn about the man Barak whose name means lightning, but he does not live up to his name. He is, in fact, fearful of many things and will only go if Deborah accompanies him. She reminds him that he may be victorious if she goes, but the glory will go to a woman. And who is this woman but Jael, who is a Kenite, not even an Israelite.

What is the lesson we are to glean? When men do not lead, God will allow another to get the glory. Pray today for the men of our families and our nation. Pray that they are strong and courageous, just as God told Joshua.

Keep Memories Alive

Keep memories alive

Judges 1-3:6 Memories Fade

What do we do to keep memories alive and fresh? We keep diaries, journals, and we rehearse orally. Yet, as so often happens, the succeeding generation, just like today, forgets, and the glory days quickly fade from memory. The Israelites were to enter a time of testing that God allowed. He did this “to test Israel…whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” [Judges 2:22]

When the older generation passes on, we want to recall the benefits of their wisdom, so we rehearse that we may glean what insight they left us. That is what the Israelites needed. They needed a new commitment to God and His ways. But as so often the case, the hearts of the people failed and became short-sighted. They forgot how God had protected them. The author of Judges asks us to stop and recall the past, where it was when Joshua died, and what happened after and learn the lessons of a fading memory.  Recall Joshua’s words: you are disobedient children, and what you say, you will not do. How quickly we forget.

Are we sharing the past with our children? Are we teaching them the lessons of the past? Are we asking:  how is this relevant to me today?

Beware of Presumptuous Sins!

Beware of presuming

Joshua 22 to 24 Presumptuous sin can lead to disasters. Three hundred years ago, a presumed statement led to over 300 deaths and the destruction of an entire ward of a city. Someone made a statement which led to rumors—but no one checked. That could have been the same story for the two and a half tribes who built an altar of remembrance or memorial as they were leaving the western side of Israel. 

The tribes on the western side presumed without evidence. They instantly made assumptions and readied for war. If it had not been for Phinehas, it would have happened. They jumped to the only conclusion before them; these eastern tribes were apostatizing! How often do we presume and make assumptions without evidence?

Note; all it took was one cool head that prevented war. There is a verse that provides wisdom: “Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant/presumptuous sins; do not allow such sins to control me. Then I will be blameless and innocent of blatant rebellion.” [Ps 19:13]

 Matthew 18:15-18 tells us to go one on one to determine what the problem is. Before you are gearing for war, hear the other side out. How do you respond when you are right before God, but others see it differently?

The Measure of Greatness

This is one characteristic God loves and honors

Joshua 19 “Humility”

What are the marks of a humble person? They are willing to wait on God’s plan and timing. Joshua is such a man; a picture of true humility. He had waited over 47+/- years to achieve a place of rest since leaving Egypt’s slavery. He had seen the wonders of God at work in Egypt; he had been a faithful spy at Kadesh Barnea and had been a faithful servant of the Lord under Moses. He then led the children of Israel over seven years as they conquered the land and until every one of the Lord’s faithful promises to the family of Israel was completed. He waited patiently for his inheritance. He didn’t ask for land but only a city. Humble people are satisfied with the least and are willing to wait until others have their share. Humble people are those who do not seek glory or honor but only that which pleases the Lord. Joshua only wanted what the Lord wanted. God has placed this man for us to study and to learn exactly what God requires and desires. God has told you…to carry out justice, to love faithfulness, and to live obediently before your God.” [Mic 6:8]

Today may we take our lesson from this man and learn from him how to please God.

Joshua, Caleb, Heroes of the Faith

how are your waiting skills

Joshua 12 to 15: Waiting is the most challenging test God has given to us in so many ways. We want the answer now, but the psalmist reminds us to “trust in the Lord and do what is right.” [Ps 37:3] And Isaiah tells us that God’s ways are higher than ours. [Is 55:9-10] God’s answers are so precious that we can claim the principle that Jeremiah told the exiles in Babylon; “God has a plan; to prosper you, to give you a future filled with hope.” [Jer 29:11]

Joshua and Caleb had waited patiently for 40+ years to see the Promised Land again. The sin of others’ unbelief had caused them to wait, which was another test they passed. Do we pass these kinds of tests as they did? Sometimes, God has us do laps around the wilderness until we are just the perfect spot for His plan, not ours, to come to fruition. It might be hard, uncomfortable—think camping night after night, eating manna day after day.

Take a lesson from Joshua and Caleb. God’s timing is perfect; His plan is higher and grander than you could ever think to imagine.

Will you trust Him? Will you wait on Him?

“Blindsided by Men yet God gets the Glory”

Our mistakes

Joshua 9-10 Have you ever made a snap judgment only to find it blow up in your face? The Israelites did just that when the Gibeonites entered the Israelites camp and deceived them by wearing rags and carrying moldy bread, along with a tale of their journey. Their deception included meekly approaching the camp of the Israelites who accepted them at face value.

But as quickly as they deceived the Israelites, they now found out that their cleverness just might be their undoing and the Israelites will learn a hard lesson in accepting others without checking in with God. This unlikely friendship has turned the Gibeonites into enemies in the land and others seeing them as betrayers. Without Israel’s help, they would have been defeated. Even though the Israelites were not happy with the leaders for their rash decision to accept the Gibeonites, they fulfilled their promise of protection and God will use this experience to bring Him glory and teach the Israelites never again to accept others on what they see rather than checking in with God.

Remember the truth of Romans 8:28 “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God used Joshua’s error in not seeking God’s wise counsel regarding the Gibeonites to bring honor to Himself. God can and will use our mistakes to honor Himself. We often only see the cloud’s underside, but the silver lining, although hidden, will be revealed, so God gets the credit, not us.

When was the last time you didn’t check with God? Did you stop and give Him praise for how He used your mistake to bring about His good?

“The Price of Sin”

God sees our sin

Joshua 7 to 9 Jericho had seemed a sweet victory, but unbeknown to Joshua, God was angry. Fresh from a victory, the Israelites failed to consult God about taking the next city, Ai. Looking with only their human eyes, they saw Ai as a simple takeover, unlike Jericho. Secondly, Joshua foolishly failed to consult God before sending his army into battle. Ai should have been easy; instead, they faced defeat. Returning to camp and hearing the news, Joshua took time to go before God only to hear: “Get up!” Sometimes God has to do that with us as well. We can’t see our sin lying down. We must get up and face the problem.

Even though the Israelites had heard of God’s directive of the ban on all things in Jericho, Achan had casually dismissed it. How like us. We know what God desires, but we fail to think ahead to the consequences of disobedience. Achan not only lost the treasures he stole and hid, but also the blood of his family and thirty-six men were laid to his account.

Do you dismiss sin? Do you think “God will understand?” God does not overlook sin but demands purity and righteousness. We foolishly believe our sin only affects us. Be forewarned; “be sure your sin will find you out.” [Num 32:23]

if you are facing defeat, get up, seek God’s face about your situation and let Him reveal what is truly happening.

“Be Strong and Courageous”

be strong and courageous

Joshua 1-3 What weakness do you face? What fears do you experience? What promises do you claim from God’s Word to challenge those weaknesses? Joshua had seen the miracles that only a living God could perform for over 40 years. Yet, God knew that Joshua would face the same weaknesses that we do. Thus God reminded Joshua over and over: “Be strong and courageous; do not swerve to the right or the left.”[Josh 1:7] God wanted Joshua to know that He could be trusted but also that Joshua needed, in turn, to trust Him.

We wonder what memories surfaced as Joshua recalled the land he had seen 40+ years before. Perhaps it was because of those memories that God knew he needed fresh eyes, ears, and a heart to understand. Therefore, God encouraged Joshua with these words: “I will be with you and never forsake you.” [Josh 1:5] He had to remain “steadfast immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord.” [1Cor 15:58] Just as God reminded him, so he reminded the Israelites, “Be strong!”  It would be the Lord who would drive out the great and mighty enemies they would face.

When you recall your weaknesses and your fears, remember the words of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”[Josh 1]

God’s Shadow

God's shadow is His presence

Psalm 91 The Shadow of God

This psalm, unlike any other, shares the privilege of being one chosen for service members to carry across their hearts in times of war. It reminds us that the Almighty’s shadow covers us from head to where our toe falls. Amid a pandemic or unrest or any disturbing event, we can retreat to this psalm and know the character of God.

 God has a dwelling place, and those who choose His way will abide in His shadow, a shadow that reaches beyond life to the grave ultimately to the heavenly. In this dwelling place, we come face to face, as Moses did, with The Most High God; and His shadow. In this dwelling place, we are promised His deliverance as He covers us against the worst that Satan can produce. It is there that we never need be afraid, whether at night or daytime or when the arrow flies from the bow to the intended target.  It is there that we experience but do not see the angelic forces that have been given charge over us—our guardian angels. And all of this is His gift which comes down from heaven with no variation or shifting shadow. [James 1:17] God’s shadow is steadfast and covers the one who has chosen to love Him. In this place of safety, we can call upon God, and He will answer, be with us in trouble, and experience rescue from our arch-enemy, Satan.

He is the God of the shadow hiding us from the evil one.

Be Strong and Courageous

be strong and courageous

Deut 31 Moses presents to us an example of what to do when the hour draws near and you prepare to take your last breath. Draw those you love near to you and whisper words that will be words of confidence and challenge. Moses told the Israelites and Joshua in particular: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them (meaning those they find as they cross the Jordan). The Lord, your God, is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” [Deut 31:6] 

Again, Moses called Joshua and repeated that last sentence to him privately. His last set of instructions was to “assemble the people so they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law.” [Deut 31:12] It was time. God commissioned Joshua to take Moses’ place, and again he said, “Be strong and courageous…I will be with you.” [Deut 31:23].

God will repeat these words as we close Deuteronomy and open Joshua. They are words of hope and deliverance from the enemies. God charged Joshua, and He charges us to do the same. There is no enemy too strong for God. He will do just as He said to Isaiah “your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it.” [Is 30:21]

Comforting words to live by.