Where to Find Courage

August 28, 2019 at 11:28 am | Posted in Joshua, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

Joshua 1:1-4

Moses had been used by God to lead God’s people out of bondage in Egypt. He had led them through the Red Sea. When their disobedience had caused God send them wandering into the wilderness rather than entering into the promised land, Moses had led them in the wilderness – always subject to God’s guidance, protection, and provision. All of the Israelites who had come out of Egypt and gone into the wilderness for 40 years had died – except for three: Moses himself, Joshua, and Caleb.

Joshua had been Moses’s chief military general, his close friend, and a loyal helper. When loyalty among the people had been in short supply, Joshua was the exception. He loved Moses, and, although Joshua was no longer the young man he had been when the people left Egypt, he still looked up to, and admired, Moses. Perhaps you have or have had a spiritual mentor or even sort of a hero like this in your life.

Now Moses died, too, leaving Joshua to lead in his place. How this must have devastated Joshua! Of course, God’s plans are not dependent upon even the greatest of human beings, and Joshua, although I’m sure he FELT alone, was far from BEING alone. God gave Joshua a tremendous promise.

I hope as you read this that you have been born again. If you have, then this is a promise for you, too, and it is a promise that we all desperately need, whether we realize it or not:

There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Joshua 1:5 (emphasis added)

This promise alone would enable Joshua to do what the Lord was about to command him to do. The land across the Jordan River was not uninhabited. Spies had previously gone there to scout the terrain, and they brought back reports. Tribes and nations of warlike people lived there: Hittites and Hivites and Jebusites and Cannanites and parasites and mosquito bites and tighty whites and all sorts of less-than-friendly people. Some of them were huge warriors, giant in stature, living in walled and fortified cities designed to defeat and annihilate anyone who would challenge them. Joshua would need the promise God gave him in Verse 5 in order to do what God commanded him to do in Verse 6:

Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

Joshua 1:6

Courage is often misunderstood. We contrast courage with fear and we believe they are opposites, but they are not. Courage does not cancel out fear, nor vice versa. Fear must be present for courage to exist. Fear is the sine qua non of courage. The Bible does not condemn the existence of reasonable feelings of fear, but it does exhort us to find the courage to OVERCOME fear. The Bible does not promise us the absence of fearful circumstances, but it does encourage us to act in faith despite our fear, rather than responding with paralysis or retreat.

Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

Joshua 1:6 (emphasis added)

1. The first place to find courage is in the promises of God.

What God has decreed will come to pass. He is not only faithful in character – which makes it impossible to for Him to lie and break His Word – but He has the omnipotent power to perform what He has promised.

There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.

Joshua 21:45

And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.

Joshua 23:14

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

I Thessalonians 5:24

Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

Jeremiah 1:12

The Lord stands outside of time at the place of promise and at the place of fulfillment. He comprehensively and minutely supervises His promises so that they come to pass perfectly in His impeccable timing and through His brilliantly organized, ordered, and executed circumstances. By remembering and believing in the demonstrated trustworthiness of God, you will find courage to overcome fear.

2. The second place to find courage is in obedience to the Lord’s commands.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Joshua 1:7-8 (emphasis added)

We tend to think of God’s commands of righteousness as burdensome and fearful things – as though they are given to us as a trap, so that, when we inevitably stumble into disobedience, God can rejoice in shaming or punishing us. This is not accurate, though. God’s commands are given to us for our safety and comfort. They are the commands of a loving Father, not a cruel and sadistic taskmaster.

But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Joshua 22:5 (emphasis added)

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.

Psalm 119:97-98

God’s love and care for us are not at odds with His desire for our obedience and submission to Him. Our obedience and submission glorify Him, yes, but they are objectively the best things for us, too. We were expressly created to glorify Him, and, in doing so, we find our greatest fulfillment and freedom. Obedience to the commands given by God to you in the Bible will assure you that God loves you, and will give you the courage to overcome the fear that the world tries to use against you when it tells you that sometimes you just HAVE to cheat and disobey God to escape trouble or to prosper.

3. The third place to find courage is in the presence of the Lord even in our trials.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Joshua 1:9 (emphasis added)

Joshua had lost Moses. Moses would not – could not – be with him any longer “withsoever he would goest.” No human being can give you the assurance of constant loyalty, consistency, or steadfastness, but God can – and He does. The promise of Jesus that so many of us like to claim (Hebrews 13:5) does not mean that He will start out with us, then forget about us for a while, and then come rushing back just in the nick of time (although it may seem that way from our sinful, lack-of-faith perspective). No, this is a promise to attach us to Himself permanently and to be there in the midst of our worst trials and troubles.

You will experience no greater pain or shame than what He experienced in the Cross, and He is able to comfort you and fortify you so that you can continue to trust Him through absolutely anything.

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:34-39

When you feel fear, don’t try to deny it. Don’t opt for some distraction. Don’t give up and retreat. And don’t let the devil intimidate you into paralysis and inaction. Be courageous and strong by:

1. Remembering the strength of God’s promises;
2. Remembering that God has given you an assignment that is worthy of obedience;
3. Remembering that God is with you and will not forsake you.

Passing over the Passover?

October 5, 2018 at 9:28 am | Posted in Joshua, Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: It looks like the Jewish people didn’t observe the Passover any more after leaving Egypt. Why not?

Answer: I believe they did observe the Passover the very next year, but it is not clear whether they kept doing it during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Remember, they lived mainly on manna (and later quail) during that time. Joshua 5:5-15 seems to indicate that they did not celebrate it again until they entered the promised land, but the Bible doesn’t specifically state for sure whether they did or not.

What Do You Have to Do with God?

February 8, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Joshua, Luke | 4 Comments
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And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,

Luke 4:33

The description “unclean devil” sounds redundant, but Luke the physician was interested in the cause of illness.

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.

Luke 4:34-35

Jesus sometimes warned others against making a proclamation about Who He truly was during His earthly ministry. Satan, whether or not he knew that Jesus’s great act of salvation would come “in the fullness of time” and that He was on a God-ordained schedule as He headed toward the Cross, did seem to have a desire to see Jesus arrested by the religious authorities sooner rather than later. Therefore, Jesus rebuked the demons to stop them from calling Him “the Holy One of God,” although that’s Who He truly was.

Their question, “What have we to do with thee?” was a plea to postpone their inevitable judgment, but the way it is worded in our English translation makes it sound to our modern ears like a challenge for us to consider how we are to interact with Him. In one sense, it sounds like what we say when we don’t want to be bothered by someone else: “I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” But in the other sense it sounds like we have a problem to deal with: “Now, young man, what am I going to do with you?” Let’s take a brief look at three times in Scripture when similar wording is used.

What do you “have to do do” with God?

1. You have to live in His presence and to give an account of your life to Him.

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Hebrews 4:13

 

God is omniscient, but His omniscience is not a cold distant omniscience. He is also omnipresent, and His omnipresence is an intense searching omnipresence. One day, everything we’ve done will be “manifested” before Him – brought out into the open. All our deeds will be naked and open.

And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

Luke 5:17-21

The scribes and the Pharisees weren’t interested in the power to heal. They were worried about how this healing prophet could forgive sins – because that would mean He knew what those sins were.

But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?

Luke 5:22 (emphasis added)

That He could “perceive their thoughts” is exactly what they feared!

Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

Luke 5:23-25

Not all sickness is in a one-to-one ratio with sin in the life of the sick person, but a person – like this man who was sick with palsy, and his friends – would not be deterred by pride. God forgives the sins of those who humble themselves in repentance and confess their sins. Our sins cannot be hidden from God. He knows about them already. Yet they still need to be confessed to Him.

2. You have to give an account to your loved ones of why you love Him and fear Him.

And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?

Joshua 22:24

The was a dispute between the tribes of Israel over an altar, and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh protested their innocence and appealed to their future posterity as proof that they recognized their part of the Covenant with God. The people you go to church with know you (hopefully), and the people you work with know you, and your neighbors and the parents of your kids’ friends know you, but nobody (except God) knows you like your family. If someone asked your kids, “What does your dad ‘have to do with God?’” (and you weren’t there to monitor the answer) what would they say? If someone asked your spouse, “What does your spouse ‘have to do with God?'” (and you weren’t there to monitor the answer) what would he or she say?

In Luke 5 Jesus was teaching and preaching on Peter’s fishing boat, And He commanded Peter to launch out into the deep where it was unlikely they would catch fish during the day. Peter obeyed and let down the net even though he had been fishing all night the night before and hadn’t caught anything. When he did this he caught so many that the net broke.

For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.  And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

Luke 5:9-11 (emphasis added)

And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. 

Luke 5:27-28 (emphasis added)

What do you think they told their families? What do you think their families thought that they “had to do” with Jesus? They forsook all for Him. He said “follow Me,” and there was no doubt in their minds about whether they should “follow,” because they had caught a revelation of the “Me.”

3. You have to tremble before His holiness.

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

Mark 1:24

Peter and the Disciples were going to follow Jesus, but they weren’t going to be “partners.” As already noted, they were more motivated by the “Me” than by the “follow.”

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Luke 5:8

The most glaring difference between Peter and Jesus is the same glaring difference between Jesus and me. Jesus never sinned; I sin all the time. Peter recognized that Jesus was God and immediately became horrified over his own sin. Maybe the better question than what do “I” have to do with God, and even better than what do I “HAVE” to do with God, is what do I have to do with GOD? Is He my kind and loving Heavenly Father? Yes! Is He merciful and gracious toward me? Yes! Is He longsuffering and patient with me time and time again? Yes! But He is also the sovereign Lord of Glory, the maker of Heaven and Earth, the Alpha and Omega – beginning and end – and I dare not forget that He holds me in a hand so holy, so righteous, so worthy, so powerful – that it would dangerous to lapse into a careless familiarity, or to casually presume upon His grace.

Lord, help us to love and to fear you. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

 

Beware of Forsaking Formalities

November 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Joshua, The Fives | 3 Comments
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New Testament Christianity is predicated upon each individual having a real relationship with Jesus. You do not become a Christian by joining a church, reciting an oath, signing a document, getting baptized, or performing any type of rite, ritual, or work.

Under the Old Covenant, however, the rite of circumcision was a key part of being one of God’s people. In fact, God required that all Jewish male babies be circumcised on the eighth day after their birth. During the time of the “wilderness wandering” after their deliverance from Egypt, this rite, though, was not practiced. Therefore, when the existing generation had died out, and Joshua finally led the people into the promised land of Canaan, God commanded that they re-institute the procedure.

Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.

Joshua 5:5

Christians today are not required to be circumcised or uncircumcised, but we may still apply a spiritual principle from the original purpose for the procedure. God’s people are supposed to be set apart from the world around us when it comes to our “conversation:” the way we live our lives on a daily basis. We are supposed to be holy, and we should be known for practicing certain “formalities.” Do your neighbors see you heading to church each week at the same time? Are you known for giving thanks for your food before you eat it? Are you in the habit of answering questions about moral matters with quotations from Scripture? We don’t want to stumble into legalism and act as though we achieve a higher standing with God because of our “good works” or spiritual disciplines. Nor do we want prayer, worship, and Bible study to be mere formalities (without any substantive impact on our lives). However, it will be good for us to remember that the things that God has commanded us to do in response to His grace, and in response to His love for us, may sometimes be improved by a little solemnity and ceremony as we seek to be consistent in our walk with Him.

The Stones of Curiosity

February 15, 2013 at 10:36 am | Posted in Joshua, The Stones that Don't Cry Out | 16 Comments
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Joshua was leading a new generation out of the wilderness and into the promised land of Canaan. Only he and Caleb were still alive from the old generation to see God’s chosen people finally cross the Jordan River. Despite what many of the old hymns proclaim, this is not a picture in Scripture of making it to Heaven. There were still battles, wars, enemies, and obstacles to be overcome in Canaan; there will be no wars in Heaven. No, the crossing over into the promised land is a picture of believers claiming their inheritance in the Lord, and receiving the promises of confidence and assurance by faith.

The priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant went down into the Jordan and God stopped the waters like He had done at the Red Sea. The people crossed as on dry land. Then the Lord spoke to Joshua and told him to choose twelve men – one from each tribe – to gather big stones and put them in the river at the place where the priests had stood.

Some Bible scholars believe that this was to be a symbol of faith in the unseen. Once the stones were in place, the waters of the Jordan would cover them up, and future generations would believe by faith that they were there. Others argue that the stones would only become visible in times of drought when the water went down – to remind people to be faithful during hard times, and to trust God to send water – life-giving water – which would once again conceal the stones.

http://daughterbydesign.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/a-memorial-to-gods-faithfulness-josh-4.jpg?w=365&h=260

It is generally agreed that these stones were to be some kind of memorial, and, as they say, either of those interpretations “will preach.” As Christians today, we should set up memorials in our own lives to remind us of the great things God has done, but we must not make idols of God’s past accomplishments. God can do even greater things in the future.

What I want to do is look a little closer at the passage of Scripture.

And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Joshua 4:5-6 (emphasis added)

We can imagine children asking their fathers, “Dad, what mean these stones? Dad, I want to know about those stones – there in the river. People still talk about them. Tell me again why they’re there.” But that is not precisely what Joshua 4:6 is telling us.

That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Joshua 4:6 (emphasis added)

That’s the question for us today, dads, grandpas, Christian men. The question is not, “What do these stones mean?” The question is, “What do these stones mean TO YOU..?” Because that’s what our children are really wanting to know. “Dad, what does that Cross mean to you? Is it just a decoration? Just something to wear on a chain? Just a design on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker? A bookmark in your Bible? A tattoo for rock stars?” I don’t think we should ever stray from the theological truth of the Cross, but our children need more than a theological discourse. They need to know more than what the Cross means. They need to know what it means TO ME.

Whenever God has entrusted you to fulfill some responsibility for your family the right way, and you don’t want to do it, the devil or the world has someone waiting in the wings who will be glad to do it the wrong way. Satan could explain the theological meaning of that Cross far better than any of us could. He could tell us exactly what that Cross means. He could tell us more about that Cross than we ever thought we knew. What your son – your daughter – your grandchildren – want to know is, “What means this Cross TO YOU?”

“Why do we go to church, Dad?”
“Because of that Cross, and what happened there.”

“Why do you sing songs about God and Jesus, Dad?”
“Because of what happened to Jesus on that Cross – and what happened to Him after they took His body down.”

“Why do we do things differently from the other kids at school, Dad? Why can’t we go to those kinds of movies? Why can’t we listen to that kind of music? Why can’t we dress like everyone else? Why can’t we say some words? Why do have to have a Bible study in our house, Dad? Why do we have to say our prayers and pray before we eat?”
“Because of that Cross. Because of what that Cross means to me – and what I want it to mean to you.”

The King of this universe – the One True God – the Creator of everything – came to die on that Cross for me – and for you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your children – your whole family – are not watching you. They want to know what is important to you. You must have a desire for your Father if you want to be “a” father.

We must bring the Cross of Jesus Christ into our daily lives and everyday conversations – especially with our children.

“Dad, they told us in school that the earth revolves around the sun, and the earth rotates.”
“That’s true, sweetie, but did your teacher tell you that the earth doesn’t just rotate – it ‘repents’ – over and over again – it turns to darkness, and then back to light. And the sun is like God – it shines its glory. Did she tell you about the moon? We want to be like the moon. The moon reflects the glory of the sun onto the part of the earth (the world) that’s turned away from the sun. We need to be ‘moonlight’ Christians. We don’t care about shining our own light. We just want to reflect God’s light on a dark world.”

You can have conversations like this with your children if you are prepared – if the “stones” that memorialize what Christ has done in your life provoke your children to curiosity.

Watch Out for Pretenders

June 4, 2009 at 9:26 am | Posted in Biblical neighbors, Joshua | 15 Comments
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Joshua was the great general, who had, by faith in God’s promises, led God’s people into Canaan, the Promised Land. Joshua had a “hit-list” of enemies. God’s instructions were to not appease his ungodly neighbors, but rather to conquer and destroy them.

The Gibeonites, hearing of this (possibly through the influence of Satan), devised a plan to trick Joshua. Taking on the disguise of weary but friendly travelers, they pretended to be something that they were not. The Bible describes Joshua’s dealings with them:

And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them. And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.

Joshua 9:15-16

God ultimately blessed Joshua for keeping his oath, by using these circumstances to bring about a great victory. However, it is clear that Joshua’s discerning by sight, rather than faith, had been a mistake. We must learn from this. Although the Christian’s orders today are not to destroy our neighbors, we must beware of “sneakers,” who are pretending to be “seekers.” Take time to consult the Lord in prayer before placing your trust in strangers, regardless of how harmless they may appear.

Spending Your Retirement on Your Children

May 20, 2009 at 9:39 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting, Joshua | 10 Comments
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At the age of 85, Caleb, who, along with Joshua, had survived the wilderness wandering in fulfillment of the promise of the Lord, might have felt a desire in his flesh to retire. However, instead of seeking an earthly “retirement plan,” he continued to wholly follow the Lord.

And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.

Joshua 14:10-12

Caleb apparently had little desire for physical “rest,” preferring instead the spiritual rest that comes with conquering mountains and overcoming giants in the name of the Lord. Caleb’s faith allowed him to claim valuable property for his family. Even his daughter, no doubt influenced by her father’s Godly leadership, followed his example of faith.

And it came to pass, as she came unto him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou? Who answered, Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs.

Joshua 15:18-19

We must never underestimate the effect that our walk with the Lord has on our children.


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