Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Judges 10 - 12: Many Judges and Jephthah's Rash Vow

LINK: Judges 10-12 


BACKGROUND


Israel had peace for forty-five years under the leadership of the judges, Tola and Jair, but then the sons of Israel repeated the same old sin cycle:
SIN: They did evil, served other gods, and forsook the LORD (10:6)
SERVITUDE: The LORD's anger burned so they were oppressed by foreigners (10:7-9)
SUPPLICATION: They cried to God, repented, and God pitied them  (10:10-18)
SALVATION: God sent a deliverer/judge who is this time Jephthah (11:1-12:7)
In this case, salvation came through Judge Jephthah. In Judges 11:23-26, he had three arguments against the Ammonite king's claim that the Israelites had stolen the land of Gilead from them:
1) Gilead was the land of the Amorites. So, they could not have stolen it from the Ammonites. 
2) Israel's God had given the land to them, and the Ammonites should be satisfied with the land their god, Chemosh, had given them. 
3) No one had contested this since Gilead's conquest 300 years before!
The arguments did not work, but the Spirit of the LORD came on Jephthah, and he had victory over the Ammonites, but his rash vow to the LORD led to being obligated to give his daughter as a burnt offering. So sad!

The Ephraimites were jealous and angry that they were not invited in the battle against the Ammonites. Jephthah responded by slaughtering 42,000 of them. Ephraimites could be identified because they pronounced the Hebrew sh as a single s. "Shibboleth" is the word for stream.

Jephthah died after ruling for six years. Then, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon ruled for a total of  25 where they entered into the period of SILENCE in the "Sin Cycle."

REFLECTION/APPLICATION


I made a rash vow to the Lord in the summer of 1980, and it was like a noose around my neck for many years (until 1990!) because I could never keep it!  My zeal got the best of me. Do not make rash vows!!!

I should have heeded the directive from James:
 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment. (James 5:12) 
PRAYER


Protect us LORD from making any kind of vow to You. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Judges 9 - Abimelech's Ambition

LINK: Judges 9 


BACKGROUND


For photos of Shechem including remains of the temple mentioned in this chapter, see HERE.


In this chapter, Gideon is called by his other name, Jerub-Baal, which means "Let Baal contend against him"(6:32). Abimelech was Gideon's son through a concubine. So, his half-brothers probably shunned him. He recruited his mother's relatives to kill all his half-brothers but one, Jotham, Gideon's youngest son.  Abimelech seemed to be one who craved power, or maybe he was bitter toward them because of being shunned. We do not know for sure, but he was crowned King of Shechem. Jotham's "calling to account" for the murder of his brothers and the crowning of Abimelech in the parable was brave. Abimelech was a worthless "bramble king," and the curse came true by the end of this chapter.

After three years, the Shechemites revolted against the new king by interrupting the caravan trade route through their city. This hurt Abimelech by not allowing him tributes and tolls. Furthermore, they exalted a new leader, Gaal, which led to Abimelech attacking and defeating Gaal and his company. In addition, he ambushed the Shehemites in their fields. The fire did "come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon" (9:15) because the cedars represented the leaders of the city who supported Abimelech originally.

The scattering of salt was symbolic of a sentence of infertility so that the land would remain barren forever (Deuteronomy 29:23; Jeremiah 17:6; 48:9). According to archaeologists, Shechem was destroyed in the 12th-century! King Jeroboam I, who reigned from 931 - 910 B.C., rebuilt it, and it became the Northern Kingdom's capital (1 Kings 12:25). 

(Looking up 1 Kings 12 made me VERY EXCITED about next year in Bible Book Club. I worked on the schedule all weekend. I am such a Bible NERD. But I digress.)

What goes around comes around though, and Abimelech lost the kingdom eventually when the woman from Thebez dropped a millstone on his head. What a humiliation to be killed by a woman (2 Samuel 11:21)!

REFLECTION


Ambitious Abimelech would not let anything stand in his way in his desire to be king. He wanted power, probably to make up for the inadequacies he felt as a shunned half-brother.

This reminds me of a quote from a lesson called "Taming Temptation" from Leadership Essentials by Greg Ogden:
What must Christian leaders guard against?
Since the health of the Christian community reflects the health of its leaders, leading disciples are a primary target of the evil one. Satan will attempt to separate leaders from the source of their life, their connection with the living God. When Christian leaders are not grounded firmly in their identity in Christ, they are particularly susceptible to the lure of money, sex, or power to fill the deficit. (p. 137)
Abimelech obviously was not a believer. So, he had no identity in Christ, but there is a lesson for us that if we want to rise to be in any position of influence, it cannot be because we are doing it to fill a void inside of us. It has to be because we know who we are in Christ, and He places us in those positions, not because we force ourselves into them to fill the void. I have worked with people like this in leadership, and it is so tough!

Ogden goes on to say:
 Our identity, our sense of value and worth, is where Satan will most likely launch his attack. Jesus entered the wilderness with His identity secure. He knew his value because of the place he had in the Father's heart.  
Because of this, the devil could not tempt Jesus with power. He had no ambition but to see the Father glorified, and this should be our ambition also.

"Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" (2 Corinthians 5:9). AMEN!


APPLICATION


Have you fallen prey to selfish ambition?  Pray about any areas where you are trying to take control instead of letting the Lord guide and direct and exalt.

I heartily recommend doing this book with a couple of friends. We are doing it with our leadership team for our ministry right now.

PRAYER

Lord, guard us from selfish ambition. Help us to be honest with ourselves. Uncover areas where we are not secure in our identity in You and may be susceptible to the enemies wiles in this area. We pray this in the name and identity of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Judges 6 - 8 Gideon and the Midianites

LINK: Judges 6-8

I am covering the whole story of Gideon in one post, but your reading is spread out over three days. Enjoy!

BACKGROUND

After peace for forty years, Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the sin cycle started all over again. This led to suffering at the hand of the Midianites which led to deliverance through God's fifth judge, Gideon.

Gideon was to "go in the strength he had" and conquer the Midianites. He had his doubts, and he needed extra confirmation through the sign of the fleeces, but he obeyed God even when it meant reducing his original army from 32,000 down to 300. Facing incredible odds, the victory could only be attributed to the Lord and not to any strength on the part of Gideon and his small band.

Do you remember who the Midianites were from our genealogies back in Genesis 25? They were the descendants of Midian who was Abraham's son by his concubine Keturah. Abraham sent them away from Isaac to the land of the east. They had become camel-riding marauders by the time of the judges.

Gideon did not finish well. He made an ephod (garment) from Midianite gold, and it became an object of worship to the Israelites and a snare to Gideon and his family. In spite of this, they enjoyed the last period of peace in the book of Judges. After Gideon's death, Israel went back to idol worship, and one of Gideon's offspring, Abimelech, became a key player in the next downward spiral of Israel.

REFLECTION

I always marvel at this story. Gideon was from the weakest family in Manasseh and was the youngest of that tribe. Gideon was not a warrior but a common farmer who had to thresh his wheat in the pit of a winepress for fear the Midianite raiders might come. Yet, God called him to deliver Israel from a formidable foe! Gideon seemed like such an unlikely choice.

Gideon was hesitant, had many excuses, and was even afraid, but eventually, he went forward in obedience once he was convinced of God's calling on his life. It was looking promising when we read that even though he was only a farmer, he would have an army of 32,000 men! Maybe there was room for confidence against the formidable Midianites.

Nope.

God does something here that always blows me away: He cuts the army down to 300 men with only pitchers, bowls, and trumpets. God showed that victory was only because of the LORD! The only reason this weak farmer could do anything was simply because God was "with him" (Judges 6:16).

This is not the first time we have seen God using the weak to overcome the strong:

Moses versus Pharaoh
Joshua versus Jericho
Tribes of Israel versus "Giants" in the Promised Land

And in the future, we will read the story of the little shepherd boy, David, against the giant warrior, Goliath.

It is a familiar theme . . .


God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. 
(1 Corinthians 1: 27)

because it is . . .

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit (Zechariah 4:6)

that the work of the Lord is accomplished.

So, maybe you are feeling a little like Gideon; God is calling you to a God-sized task, and you are feeling too small and ordinary to take it on. Just remember . . .


at the end of yourself, there is God.

That is all you really need to know.

APPLICATION (written in 2008 on the verge of a big trip)

Are you hesitant to take on something bigger than yourself? Do you feel too "ordinary" to be used of God? Are you afraid? I am feeling all of the above as I go on this trip (cannot go into detail about it, email me if you want to know more and please pray!) Yet, I am utterly convinced of God's call. So, I go forward with a small "army," a mustard seed of faith, and a BIG God. That is all I have got, but it is really all that I need!

2011 Update: The trip in 2008 was amazing, and it led to the beginning of some great things God is doing there! Now, three years later, we are on the verge of the same kind of trip in another place! Praying for the courage of Gideon again!

2014 Update: That trip was even more amazing. We went on faith to a place with nothing planned, and God ordered our plans, and we just prayed. He is doing amazing things there now! 

What about you? Talk to Him about it.

PRAYER

Lord, teach us to walk in obedience to Your call on our ordinary lives. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Judges 5 - Deborah and Barak's Song

LINK: Judges 5


BACKGROUND


War resulted when Israel chose to follow new gods (5:8; Deuteronomy 32:17). The victories of Judges 4 are recounted in this song. It was a praise proclamation of the powerful God of Israel to surrounding nations!
Here this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!
I will sing to the LORD, I will sing;
I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel. (5:3) 
This was a victory hymn that was common from the 15th to 12th centuries B.C. in this Middle East. This hymn has a five part pattern:

1) Heading (5:1)
2) Praise (5:2-11)
3) Mustering of the tribes (5:12-18)
4) Defeat of the enemy (5:19-30)
5) Concluding prayer of cursing and blessing (5:31)

The last verse calls for love of God rather than choosing to follow new gods:
So may all Your enemies perish, O LORD!
But may they who love You be like the sun
when it rises in its strength. (5:31)
The choice was pretty clear for Israel, and it is pretty clear for us: love the LORD above all else!


REFLECTION





The victories of God caused Deborah and Barak to break into song. It had been a long time since I have just lost myself in songs of praise; Teala (in the picture) invited me to come to her house last Sunday and just listen  to music and praise. It was amazing. What a wonderful time.

APPLICATION 


God is winning battles on our behalf all around us, and we rarely stop and give him pure praise. Set aside pure praise time this week. Since I did this all afternoon Sunday, I have been trying to set aside time every day when I listen to music or sing without doing anything else but focusing on the One who is our warrior!


PRAYER


We sing a song of praise to You today, most high God. Amen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Judges 4 - Here Comes the Judge: Deborah Leads the Charge

LINK: Judges 4



BACKGROUND (written in 2008)


How appropriate that I would be reading about Deborah when one of my best friends in all the world, Deborah, just left to go back to Idaho after two fun days together! This friend is aptly named because she is a Godly and brave woman who is an excellent leader! 

2011 Update: I am on vacation with her AGAIN on the same day as her story comes up in the Bible Book Club!

2015 Update: I just went on a snow showing/cross-country skiing/yurt trip with her in February of this year! 


Deborah is a great example of a woman in leadership that God uses to do great things!


Barak asked Deborah to go with him in battle. Some commentators believe this was an unfitting response to a command from God. Yet one particular commentary has a different take on this:
His somewhat singular request to be accompanied by Deborah was not altogether the result of weakness. The Orientals always take what is dearest to the battlefield along with them; they think it makes them fight better. The policy of Barak, then, to have the presence of the prophetess is perfectly intelligible as it would no less stimulate the valor of the troops, than sanction, in the eyes of Israel, the uprising against an oppressor so powerful as Jabin. 
(Jamieson, Robert ; Fausset, A. R. ; Fausset, A. R. ; Brown, David ; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments)
Regardless, it comes out well in the end for him because Barak is listed in the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11:
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions. quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:32-34)
Regardless of what was behind Barak's response, we have a wonderful example of a woman in leadership in the person of Deborah. In addition, we see another woman helping to finish the battle, Jael! Deborah's prophecy from 4:9 was fulfilled by two women.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

What are some things you can learn about leadership from Deborah's life?


PRAYER

Lord, give us the strength to face battle with the faith of Deborah. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Judges 3 - The Spirit of the LORD Comes Upon Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar

LINK: Judges 3


BACKGROUND


The remaining nations are listed in addition to the two reasons why they remained. They remained in order to . . .
  1. Test the Israelites in their faith and obedience
  2. Train this new generation for warfare
Israel's slide into idolatry had some steps. First, they lived among the inhabitants when they should have obeyed God and expelled them. Next, they intermarried with them. Lastly, they worshiped their gods.


The gods mentioned in this chapter are Baal and Asherah. Baal was the most worshipped god of the Canaanites often cast as a bull. He symbolized strength and fertility and was the god of agriculture. Asherah was the goddess of the sea and was the female complement to Baal. She was often worshiped by means of wooden pillars and poles. Archaeologists have uncovered many Baal idols in Israel.


"The Hivites are thought to be the Horites who were previously associated with the Upper Mesopotamian kingdom of Mittanni. The Horites who were best known in Joshua’s time were the Gibeonites" (Joshua 9: 7, 17). (Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:384)


Judges 3:7 - 16:31 begin Israel's series of cycles that I explained in the post under Judges 2: sin, servitude, supplication. salvation, and silence. Salvation was always by means of a judge sent by God. The first one is Othniel who had a rich spiritual heritage in that his uncle was Caleb!


"The Spirit of the LORD came upon him" will be a key phrase for many of the judges. It was a "temporary and spontaneous increase of physical, spiritual, or mental strength" (Life Application Bible, p. 381).

The next two judges were Ehud and Shamgar. Ehud was called a deliverer because he delivered Israel from the the Moabites giving them eighty years of peace. The Moabites, Ammorites, and Amelekites were nomadic tribes that lived southeast of Canaan. They were famous for their military skill and raiding abilities. Shamgar saved the Israelites from the Philistines with an ox goad which was a long stick with a flat piece of iron on one side and a sharp point on the other. Archaeologists have found ox goads that were eight feet long!




REFLECTION


The Holy Spirit was temporary and spontaneous in the people of the Old Testament. I am thankful that the Spirit of God is living inside of us on a permanent basis because of faith in Jesus Christ. He indwells us at the moment of salvation, and we are given spiritual gifts to use for the glory of God. Our job is not to grieve or squelch Him through disobedience but yield to Him on a moment-by-moment basis!


APPLICATION


Print off the picture of the YIELD sign below and put it in a prominent place to remind you to yield to the Holy Spirit on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis.


PRAYER


These are some Holy Spirit affirmation verses I pray on a daily basis from Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship by Kenneth Boa:


Filling of the Spirit


Holy Spirit, control me and fill me today:


I was once darkness, but now I am light in You, O Lord. May I walk as a child of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), learning what is pleasing to You (Ephesians 5:8).


As I walk in You, O Spirit, I will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to You, and You, Holy Spirit, desire what is contrary to the flesh; for you oppose each other, so that I may not do the things that I wish. But if I am led by You. I am not under the law (Galatians 5:16).


Since I live in You, Spirit, may I also walk in You (Galatians 5:25).


Fruit of the Spirit


Holy Spirit, may your fruit grow in me:


But your fruit, O Holy Spirit, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).


I want to glorify the Father by bearing much fruit and so prove to be Christ's disciple (John 15:8).


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Judges 2 - Israel's Sin Cycle

LINK: Judges 2

BACKGROUND


Because the people did not obey by driving out all the inhabitants (weeds), they would be thorns in their sides and their gods were to be a snare.


Judges 2:6-3:6 continues the narrative of Joshua 24:28-31. It is a survey of all the things that will be described in detail in Judges 3:7 - 16:31 that follow a predictable pattern:
  1. Sin - They fell into sin and started worshiping other gods
  2. Servitude - God gave them into the hands of their plunderers and sold them into the hands of their enemies
  3. Supplication - Israel cried out to God for deliverance
  4. Salvation - The Lord delivered them by raising up a judge who delivered them from their enemies
  5. Silence - The land had rest until the judge died and the cycle started all over again!
God often used oppression to bring his people back to Him just as He warned He would in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.


REFLECTION


What an exhausting cycle! I just cannot understand it. Why didn't they just obey and be a holy nation through whom the whole world would be blessed as promised to Abraham in Genesis 12?


We know that the blessing of the whole world would only be fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus!


It is easy for me to throw stone at the Israelites until I realize that I have been trapped in a cycle of sin and servitude many times in my life! Let's thank the Lord that because of Jesus "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).



APPLICATION



Are you caught in a cycle of sin? Claim 1 John 1:9 and "confess and press" on. If you are in bondage to a cycle of sin, try praying through Praying God's Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds  by Beth Moore. I have found it a very powerful tool for getting to the root of persistent sin issues in my life and use it on a regular basis.


PRAYER


Lord, I praise You for the forgiveness that we have because of the blood of Jesus Christ. Please help us to confess our sins to You and press on. Lord, break the cycle of sin in our life. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Judges 1 - Incomplete Conquest Leads to Weeds

LINK: Judges 1



INTRODUCTION TO JUDGES

Judges is a book that begins with the death of Joshua and ends with the coronation of Saul and the beginning of the monarchy. The Hebrew word sopet (judge, deliverer) meant more than our contemporary meaning of this word. It was a general term for leadership containing executive (including military) and judicial aspects of governing.


The book of Judges recorded Israel's continued disobedience through His appointed leaders leading to an earthly kingship. It records their disobedience and worship of the Canaanite gods that prevented them from experiencing God's blessing and complete conquest of the land. It covers a time span of approximately 350 years ending with the coronation of Saul in 1050 B.C.


BACKGROUND FOR JUDGES 1


Joshua 1 begins with "after the death of Joshua." There were still Canaanites left to expel in the land, and Judah was selected to expel them. This follows with the blessing in Genesis 49:8. Judah was the preeminent tribe and the tribe through whom Jesus would come. Judah selected Simeon (both children of Leah) and they captured Jerusalem and the cities south by God's hand.


With many conquests there were also many 'half victories" in that Israel did not take full possession of some areas and put the people into forced labor. Thus, "the Canaanites persisted in living in that land" (Judges 1:27). These were the seeds of Israel's undoing. Stay tuned.


REFLECTION (written in 2008)


WEEDS!


I absolutely hate them! I have such a lovely yard, but weeds keep on popping up everywhere. I sat in my hammock in the backyard yesterday, and I noticed that if my dear husband does not stay on top of them and pull them out at the root, they overtake the yard. Right now, he is just too busy to deal with them. So, they flourish. (I suppose I could pull them, but I always end up with a pulled out back when I do that, but I digress).


Israel did not pull out the weeds of Canaanite worship at the roots according to God's command. You see this in Joshua 1:19, 21, and 27-33:
19: Now the Lord was with Judah, and they took possession of the hill country; but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had iron chariots. 
21: But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

27: But Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. 
28: It came about when Israel became strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely. 
29: Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer; so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them. 
30: Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol; so the Canaanites lived among them and became subject to forced labor. 
31: Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Aphik, or of Rehob. 
32: So the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out. 
33: Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, but lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; and the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath became forced labor for them. 
(New American Standard Bible:1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995)
Living among weeds blocks the loveliness of the yard. In a garden, they can ruin the crop. This is what happened to Israel's "garden." The purity and beauty of worship of the one true God would be marred by the weeds of worship to the false gods of the Canaanites.


APPLICATION

Where are your weeds? Are you nipping them at the root as they crop up in the garden of your life, or are you letting them flourish through laziness or neglect, or are you just too busy to deal with them? They could be the weeds of pride, laziness, bitterness, addiction, negativity, wrong thought patterns, idolatry, etc.


Weeds do not disappear on their own. They also do not go away by doing a surface chop. You have to deal with them at their root. Sometimes that requires backbreaking effort on your knees.


So . . .


Start pulling!


You'll be glad you did. :)


One great place to start pulling is with Beth Moore's book Praying God's Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds.

PRAYER


Here is a "weed pulling prayer" from the "Quiet Walk e-devotional" from http://www.walkthru.org/:
Because we can be delivered from bondage to sin, offer your praise for the Lord's goodness: 
O Lord, how manifold are Your works! 
In wisdom You have made them all. 
The earth is full of Your possessions . . . 
May my meditation be sweet to Him; 
I will be glad in the Lord (Psalm 104:24, 34). 

Pray this confession to the Lord as you seek to keep your life free from sin: 
He is despised and rejected by men, 
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. 
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; 
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. . . .All we like sheep have gone astray; 
We have turned, every one, to his own way; 
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:3, 6). 

Confess any sins that the Holy Spirit brings to your mind. Now pause to pray this affirmation to the Lord: 
Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). 

As you make your requests known to the Lord, pray for: greater faithfulness with your time,whatever else is on your heart. Offer this closing prayer to the Lord:
The Lord God is a sun and shield; 
The Lord will give grace and glory; 
No good thing will He withhold 
From those who walk uprightly. 
O Lord of hosts, 
Blessed is the man who trusts in You! 
(Psalm 84:11-12).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Joshua Chapter TItles

1: Be Strong and Courageous

2: Rahab and the Spies

3-4: Consecration, Crossing, and Memorial Stones

5: Circumcision at Gilgal

6: The Fall of Jericho

7: Defeat at Ai Because of the Sin of Achan

8: The Conquest of Ai God's Way

9: The Deceitful Gibeonites

10: Battle with Five Kings

11: The Northern Victories

12: Summaries of Campaigns

13: Distribution of the Land

14: Caleb Who Followed the Lord Fully

15: Allotment for Judah

16-17: Allotment for the Joseph Tribes

18-19: Allotment for the Remaining Tribes

20: Cities of Refuge

21: Cities for the Levites

22: The Witness Altar

23: Cling to the LORD your God

24: Joshua's Final Charge to the People

Put Joshua Back on Your Shelf

CONGRATULATIONS!You finished your first history book!

Joshua 24 - Joshua's Final Charge

LINK: Joshua 24


BACKGROUND


God gave the promise to Abraham that his descendants would be given the land of Canaan in Shechem, northwest of Shiloh (Genesis 12:6-7). How appropriate that this is the location of Joshua's final charge. Also, Jacob buried family idols there (Genesis 35:4), and Joshua built an altar and inscribed the Law of God on stone pillars there on the way into Canaan (Joshua 8:30-35). 


Joshua 24 contains a standard suzerainty (overlordship) treaty common during this time between Hittite kings and their vassal states. God was renewing a suzerainty treaty with His vassal people, Israel. This is the pattern contained in this chapter:
  1. Preamble (24:1-2a)
  2. Historical prologue (24:2b-13) - contains a review of Israel's history and their blessings from God (note the "I" statements from God)
  3. Stipulations and consequences of disobedience (24:14-24)
  4. Writing of the agreement (24:25-28)
It was a renewal of the Mosaic Covenant. Remember that this covenant was not an everlasting one like the one with Abraham, and it needed to be renewed in every generation. 

The book of Joshua closes with the burial of Joshua, servant of the LORD, Joseph's bones (Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19), and Eleazar, the high priest.

APPLICATION 


At the end of your life, would your gravestone say "Servant of the LORD"?


PRAYER


Lord, make us Your servant. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Joshua 23 - Cling to the LORD your God

LINK: Joshua 23

BACKGROUND

Joshua called all the leaders to give them a charge to "cling to the LORD their God" (23:8). If they took diligent heed (23:11) to love Him, they would have the LORD to fight for them, but if they would "cling to the rest of the nations" which remain among them, the LORD [would] not be with them.

REFLECTION (written in 2008)


The last couple of weeks have been interesting for me. My eldest brother died suddenly on July 7th. This makes four deaths in my family in the last fifteen months. My brother's death hit me the hardest because, contrary to my mom (who died on December 7th), Bill did not "cling" to the Lord.


I knew where my mother was going, and it was a joy to sit at her death bed and pray with her in her slide toward heaven. Not so with my brother, he was found utterly alone, face down in his house with evidence of alcohol strewn about the room. He was estranged from his children and divorced from his wife, all because he chose to cling to alcohol.


While I do not know where he was with the Lord at the final moments of his life, I know that he had always rejected every offer, even when he spent a year and a half at Green Oaks Ranch, a Christian drug and alcohol rehab center that also happens to be where I "came to cling" to the Lord in the fall of 1969 when it was just a ranch for kids and not for drug and alcohol rehab. Bill did not "cling to the Lord" but chose to "cling to the bottle" that had become an idol in his life. His end was tragic. I am heartbroken. 


It has been up and down these last couple of weeks for me, but one thing I know and can always count on is the LORD. I always have Him to cling to in times of trials and grief. He is faithful to me through every hill and valley. Praise God!

APPLICATION

Who or what do you cling to? When you go through times of trial, do you cling to the Lord or something/somebody else? Anything we cling to other than the Lord is an idol in our life. Talk to the Lord about that and cling to Him today.

PRAYER

Here is a video called "Clinging to the Cross" for your prayerful meditation:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Joshua 22 - The Witness Altar

LINK: Joshua 22

BACKGROUND


The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had fulfilled their promise to help the rest of the tribes conquer the land west of the Jordan (Numbers 32:20-22). After seven long years of separation from their wives and families, they could go home to the east side of the Jordan. They had a solemn charge:
Only be careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Joshua 22:5)
Yet, on the way back, they built an altar on the west side of the Jordan, provoking the rest of the sons of Israel to want to go up against them for war, misconstruing that this altar was a rival altar of sacrifice contrary to Mosaic Law (Leviticus 17:8-9)! Thankfully, wisdom prevailed and instead of acting on their own misconceptions, they sent a contingent led by Phinehas, the priest, to clarify the situation.


Through discussion, they learned that it was not rebellion but an altar to remind the future generations that these tribes, separated by the Jordan River, were indeed part of one unified Israel. Thus, it was called Witness.

REFLECTION

Have you ever had someone do something that you quickly misinterpreted and then reacted in anger or hurt based on that misinterpretation? Or have you ever done or said something that has been misinterpreted only to have someone react in anger or hurt? Either way, I am sure it caused conflict.


One time, I led a mock "underground believers" Bible study where the women were to come to a dark and deserted house at a specified time. They were to give a password and be admitted by a silent person with a flashlight to the deep, dark basement of the house. Other things were going to happen in quick successive order, and we all needed to be in place in the basement by a certain time. One of the girls had not shown up, and I knew that once the "program" started, we would not be able to hear her knock on the front door. Not wanting her to waste a trip in the dark, I went ahead and called her and left a message with her roommate that we were leaving the original location and would not hear her knock. So, I apologized for that and told her roommate that if she had not left yet, she probably should not come.


A little while later, I had one of the guys in our ministry, who lived in the same residence hall with this woman, come up to me, very angry, and yell at me because I had kicked Theresa out of my Bible study. I was shocked. After I had calmed him down, he told me how Theresa had told him that I had left a message telling her to not come to my Bible study. I was horrified that Theresa would think this, and I was able to clear up the misinterpretation of my actions but only after she had told her whole dorm floor that I had kicked her out of my study. Oh dear!


This is a case where clarification rather than confrontation would have led to unity rather than conflict! What a mess!


Thankfully, this is not what happened in Joshua 22! Instead of going forth in war toward their brothers, the other tribes sent a delegation to clarify the situation and bring reconciliation where there could have been disunity.


APPLICATION

Next time you have a situation that could lead to conflict. Make sure you listen to the other person and clarify rather than jump to a conclusion that may lead to conflict.


PRAYER

Lord, thank You for this example of unity. Help us to be at peace with all people around us by listening to one another. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Joshua 18 - 21: Allocation Completion

LINKS for reading over the next few days:


Joshua 18
Joshua 19-20
Joshua 21


BACKGROUND


Joshua 18-21 deals with the allocation of the land to the remaining seven tribes (18-19), cities for refuge (20), and the 48 cities set aside for the Levites (21).


Benjamin's territory included the Jebusite city of Jerusalem (18:28), the place where the future temple would reside (Deuteronomy 33:12). 


This section concludes with a summary of the conquest and distribution of the land with special emphasis on the faithfulness of God. "Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass" (Joshua 21:45).


REFLECTION


We serve a faithful God, but sometimes we forget that. Meditate on God's faithfulness today!


Do this by doing a word study on the faithfulness of God by looking in a concordance for all the references to God's faithfulness, writing your favorite verses on cards, and carrying them around to remind you!


If you do not have a concordance, they are a very good tool to have in your Bible study tool box! Through thinking about my first concordance, it reminded me of God FAITHFULNESS, and I wanted to share this little story with you!


One summer in college, I did a Bible study called Becoming a Woman of God. At the end of that study was a "Personal Goals and Planning Sheet for the Development of the Woman of God." In the "Spiritual Development" section, there were questions about my plans for deeper Bible study, and it asked this question:


Which of the following standard study tools do you not own?

Concordance
One-Volume commentary
Bible dictionary
Bible Atlas
Good, inclusive English dictionary


The only tool that I did own was an English dictionary. So I purposed to start gathering more tools by buying a concordance and Bible dictionary by 11/79 from the Christian Supply store in Corvallis. Of course, being a poor college student, I had no money to buy a concordance and Bible dictionary, but I prayed that God would provide the money for it.


I started my junior year of college, joined a FANTASTIC bible study led by Sheryl Rice, and grew like a weed in my spiritual walk! Sometime during that fall term, the housekeeper for my sorority, whom I had never talked to before, called me aside while I was running out the door and said, "There is something for you in my closet up on the third floor." 


Perplexed, I ran back upstairs to find a brand new Strong's Concordance and Davis Bible Dictionary. I ran back downstairs and exclaimed, "How did you know I wanted these?" She said, "My son was given two sets of these for donating to The Old-Time Gospel Hour, and I have noticed you coming and going with a Bible in your hand and thought you might like to have these for your Bible study."


Words could not contain my joy and excitement. Our faithful God had answered my specific prayer for two specific books and provided it through someone I had never even talked to before! My concordance is quite tattered after more than thirty years of use, but I cannot bear to part with it because of the special reminder it is of His faithfulness to and provision for me.

APPLICATION


He is a faithful God to you too. After you do a word study on God's faithfulness, try to remember times of God's faithfulness in your own life and journal about it.

BIBLE STUDY TOOL: WORD STUDY

If you are reading along in the Bible Book Club from Genesis to Revelation, you will have already seen this in the post on Exodus 36-38. But here is the excerpt of that post devoted to how to do word studies:

Here is a handout to help you do this (Just remember the example is for a Greek study, and you will be doing a Hebrew study in the Old Testament.): 

"How to Do a Word Study"

If you do not have the resources, BibleStudyTools.com has both Hebrew and Greek lexicons. 

Click on an example from Exodus 36 HERE:  BibleStudyTools.com

You can set this up to have the words in blue. If you click on them, the Hebrew or Greek definition (with pronunciation) will come up. 

In order to do this, you must always be on the New American Standard Bible or King James Version, click on the "settings" button on the far right that I have circled in red:


This will lead you to a drop down menu: 


When you click on "Strongs Numbers," it will show Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) words in blue. If you click on the blue words, they will lead you to a new page with the definition! 

The website www.preceptaustin.org also has some amazing study tools. Here are their directions for doing a Greek Word study on the web:

Performing Greek Word Studies (scroll down)

If you prefer to not use heavy books or be tied to being online, LOGOS is an amazing Bible software that I have used since 1996. I am completely digital in my Bible Study now. 

PRAYER


God, I am so ENERGIZED by remembering Your faithfulness to me more than thirty years ago in the provision of the concordance and Bible dictionary! I beg You to help each and every reader in the Bible Book Club to remember Your faithfulness in their own life and give praise and glory to You today. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.