Judges 1

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The Israelites, under Joshua’s able leadership, have almost completely conquered the land promised to them by God. Joshua – all of the elders – as well as all of that generation died off, leaving Israel in occupation of the land of Canaan. That is how the book of Joshua ends and the book of Judges begins.

The book of Judges is the beginning recording of the downfall of Israel. Under the strong leadership of both Moses and Joshua – the fledgling nation has thrived – obeying the Lord (somewhat) and seeing His goodness come to pass in their lives. But, we now enter a period where the nation has no strong leader – and they vacillate between obeying the Lord and not. The Jewish Talmud says that Samuel wrote this book (although some suggest it was the prophet Isaiah) – and numerous statements throughout indicate that it was written as a “looking back” into history.

Chronicling the events of about 400 years or so after the death of Joshua’s generation – the book of Judges details the Israelites struggle to obey God – coupled with their rebellion. God sends 16 Judges who attempt to lead them administratively in obeying the commands of the Lord. Back and forth we see God’s people move from obeying God (under the leadership of a judge) to disobeying God (after the death of that judge) and being thrust into servitude to a foreign power.

Either way – it is a sad recounting of Israel’s repeated failure to obey the Lord – as both Moses and Joshua had repeatedly implored them to do. It also is a telling view of the incredible patience and grace God demonstrated to them with each judge He sent to lead them.

Right out of the gate we see the problems start as the various tribes attempt to complete the clearing process that was left unfinished by Joshua. The instructions from the Lord were to completely remove these people from the land.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you are entering to possess and has plucked away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, And when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you smite them, then you must utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them, or show mercy to them.”Deut 7:1-2 AMP

We have already discussed why it was necessary for the Israelites to completely destroy these people groups – and their failure to do so would prove to be a stumbling block for generations to come.

Judah – Benjamin – Manesseh – Ephraim – Zebulun – Asher – Naphtali – Dan and Joseph all failed to obey the Lord… instead leaving some of the original inhabitants of the land in place. Obviously these Canaanites had no desire to leave their homes – being perfectly willing to settle for slavery and paying tribute in exchange. BUT – God did not tell the Israelites to make them pay tribute or keep them as slaves – He said to destroy them.

The reasons varied – from iron chariots to just plain disobedience – but the results were still the same. One by one the tribes chose to only partially obey God’s instructions. But the truth is, partial obedience is really not obedience at all. By only taking God’s Word so far into their reality – the Israelites only created heartache and drama for themselves.

In fact – notice how things progress: the tribe of Judah disobeys in fear of the iron chariots – this eventually leads to the tribe of Asher “dwelling among the Canaanites” (instead of the other way around). – (Judges 1:32). Eventually the slippery slope of partial obedience leads to the enemy forcing the tribe of Dan to live up in the mountains, instead of in the fertile valley as God had planned. (Judges 1:34).

As we shall see – this compromising attitude will spread and rot the nation from the inside out. Their choice to only obey God in as far as they could understand would allow the enemy a foothold into their lives which would wreck havoc in the future – leading to their total demise.

This is a picturesque warning for all of us Christians today. God has provided instructions in how to live our lives according to His original intent. When we choose to only obey these instructions in part – we give the enemy a foothold into our lives from which he can launch attacks from within (Eph 4:27) – eventually leading to our complete destruction. It is amazing how much of our struggles and problems in life can be traced back to partial obedience.

As we follow along on this bird’s-eye view of the early years of the nation of Israel – may we heed the warning placed before us and ensure that we obey God completely. That is the only way to true blessing, multiplication and fruitfulness.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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Joshua 21

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As we read through the final stages of Joshua – it can be daunting to find deeper meaning within these past few chapters. Yes, it is clear that God is with Joshua as he leads the Israelites on the unfinished campaign of clearing the Promised Land. As we discussed in the last post, there were very good reasons why the Israelites were instructed to wipe the Canaanites off the face of the earth. (After all – the land had already “vomited them out”). The call to holiness and the dire need to follow the Lord’s ways is obvious – not only for them, but for us today as well.

There was even a clear message behind the trickery of the Gibeonites – who pretended to be someone they were not and convinced Joshua to make a covenant of peace with them. Instead of obeying God and removing ALL of the Canaanites from the land – Joshua made a pact of peace with a portion who would serve them as slaves – but also be a future thorn in their sides. Again – obey the word of the Lord.

But – it is a bit more of a struggle to glean from the allotment of the land to the various tribes. I have heard teachers wax eloquently about this being a metaphorical picture of our future allotment in heaven, etc. Sure, that may make some sense… but it really just left me skimming through the names of cities long forgotten and of which I could not even pronounce, had I tried!

Until I read the following little verse tucked away at the end of Chapter 21:

There failed no part of any good thing which the Lord had promised to the house of Israel; all came to pass.”Josh 21:45 AMP

What a promise that is! That should fill you up with encouragement as you continue reading! God’s promises will ALWAYS come to pass in the lives of His people – as long as they continue in His ways. As we have seen, as long as the Israelites follow the instructions – everything worked out great. BUT, when they chose a different path (Achan… I’m talking to you here!) then things did not go so well.

In this world we live in we are subtly (and not so subtly) taught that there is nothing we can absolutely count on. We are fed a continuous diet of skepticism and a lack of trust. The economy will fail – other people will fail – even the weathermen will probably fail you… but, here we have been reading about One who will never fail to keep His promises. We do not have to make things happen – we are simply told to walk in His ways and watch Him work all things out for our good.

So, as you continue to read – finishing up the life of Joshua and entering the establishment of a new government – keep in mind the ebb and flow of obedience… coupled with the results of those choices; and may you been strengthened in your resolve to take God at His Word – trust Him to make your crooked paths straight – and walk in faith that “no part of any good think which the Lord has promised to you will come to pass”!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Joshua 10-12

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As we continue through the account of Joshua – we have entered one of the worst periods of bloodshed and destruction the Bible has to offer. While it was Moses’ job to lead the Israelites out of Egypt – introduce the Law – and lead them across the desert for 40 years… it is up to Joshua to lead the campaign of the cleansing of the Promised Land. These series of events seem to confuse many people who rightfully acknowledge that, by cleansing the Promised Land they were effectively decimating and exterminating an entire group of humanity – namely the Canaanites.

Typically, when one is reading of these events, the question of fairness and mercy arises. “How can a loving God order His people to kill all of these humans – even women and children?” Or as one author puts it, “This divine command to exterminate from the face of the earth all men, women, and children belonging to the seven or eight nations of Canaan is one of the most frequently raised objections to seeing God as just and loving in the Old Testament. How can God’s fairness and mercy be seen in such blanket and wholesale condemnation of entire nations? “

Let’s ignore the major issues which present themselves when we begin to question God and His “fairness”. Instead – let’s take a quick look at human history, the culture of the people who inhabited Canaan at hat time, and finally how it all fits together.

To begin – we must remind ourselves of what human life had been like prior to the Israelites entering Canaan with sword in hand. Rom 5:13 tells us that “[To be sure] sin was in the world before ever the Law was given, but sin is not charged to men’s account where there is no law [to transgress]. “ What this is saying is that, for an extended period of time – from Adam to Moses (about 2000 years) – God was not holding sin in judgement against humanity. He was instead operating in grace and mercy… attempting to woo people back to His ways that had been rejected in the Garden. (This does not mean the effects of sin were not present. These effects – as stated in Rom 5:14 – was death… and people still died due to sin during this time frame). All this verse is telling us is that it wasn’t GOD who was judging them… just the natural consequences of life apart from the LIFE.

So from Adam to Moses – man was not being judged by God for their sin. But, instead of God’s mercy causing man to return to Him – it allowed them to wander further and further away. It is told of us how bad things get when describing the generation before the Flood as “every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually “ (Gen 6:5). Apart from God – history tells us – mankind only gets worse… not better. God waited 2000 years for this to be proven wrong… yet it only proved true. The only fix for sin is Jesus – and He couldn’t come without someone of faith to bring Him.

This brings us to the Canaanites. These people were living under this “age of grace” so to speak. They were a part of a world which had strayed completely away from God. They had built the Tower of Bable (Gen 11) and were under the impression they did not need God nor His guidance. They had developed into a culture that was purely evil… in every sense of the word.

For starters, the people living the in the region of Canaan practiced a crude and debased form of ritual polytheism. (This means that they worshiped a group of “gods”). These false-gods were all in the image of gross immorality and gore. They were built around myths which involved immense bloodshed and violence – thus the people adopted a culture which mimicked these examples. The practices of sodomy, bestiality, (as well as child sacrifice), were all a normal part of their religious (and cultural) lives.

They were not good people… actually they were quite far from it.

The results of this blatant ignorance toward God and vile lifestyle was that the “land itself vomited out it’s inhabitants”. Lev 18:24-28 tells us exactly why the Canaanites were destroyed. (In essence – one could argue it wasn’t God that judged them… but the Land itself rejected them. The Bible also repeatedly tells us that the Israelites were not selected by God due to their own goodness or righteousness – but instead due to God’s goodness and mercy alone (Deut 7:6-8). That same mercy gave the Canaanites 40 years of warning as the Israelite army progressed towards them to repent and return back to God. Rahab herself admitted that the inhabitants of the land had heard of the God of the Israelites and what was coming… yet she was the only one who repented and turned back to God (Josh 2:10-14).

God brought the Law into effect – and began to punish the sins of humanity because He had no other choice… mercy was not working. The only answer for sin is Jesus. It brought God no joy to use the Israelites to cleanse the land – yet the future aspects were much bigger then the present pain. The Canaanite people were part of a much larger issue of wanton sin and lawlessness… in need to correction before it grew too late.

Which brings us to today… We currently are living BACK under the age of mercy and grace which is the character of God. Unlike the first 2000 years – Jesus had come and paid the penalty for sin. Death has been conquered – and the grave is empty! THAT is why bad things happen today and seemingly evil people are not judged. It is God’s mercy which withholds – because He longs for everyone to return to Him… and this can only happen through Jesus.

So as we read the accounts of Joshua and his destruction of the Canaanites – may it remind us of the heart of God – mercy, grace, love – and the immense need for Someone to take the penalty for sin away.

May it turn us toward Jesus.

(If you are interested – you can read more about the Canaanites here.)

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Joshua 5

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Joshua has fully assumed command of the Israelite army – and is preparing to lead these people across the Jordan and into a series of battles to conquer and take the land which God has been promising them for countless generations. Joshua has a big job ahead of him – and (as we all probably would), he has reservations and needs encouragement.

“Be Strong and Courageous” he is told numerous times… and then he gets a surprise visitor.

Throughout our reading through the first 5 books of the Bible, we have seen Jesus show up in various forms: the Passover Lamb, the Bronze Serpent, Abraham’s Visitor – and here once again we see Jesus make an appearance… this time as the Commander of the Lord’s Army.

The setting is that Joshua has obeyed God and led the Israelites to the brink of the Promised Land. Perhaps while walking along to gather his thoughts, Joshua comes face to face with Jesus Himself. We know this “Man standing near him with sword drawn” is Jesus because – for starters he allows Joshua to bow and worship Him, and second, He describes the ground He (and Joshua) are standing upon as holy. Bible scholars agree that this figure is indeed, Jesus – come to speak with Joshua.

Remember what Joshua has experienced: he stood by Moses side all those years as the Israelites grumbled and complained about their situation – frustrating Moses in the process. It was also Joshua who (along with Caleb) brought back a favorable report from Canaan – only to have the people side against him and for the 10 spies… culminating in their 40 year trek through the desert. Joshua had seen his fair share of disappointment and struggle – and it is understandable that his confidence is low.

So in walks Jesus.

Notice what Joshua says to Jesus – “When Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up, and behold, a Man stood near him with His drawn sword in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, Are you for us or for our adversaries?” Joshua 5:13 AMP. Joshua was unsure about what (or Whom) he was seeing – and based on all that he had been through, he is understandably cautious. So he immediately seeks to nail this Angelic Being down on whose side He would be fighting.

But notice how Jesus replies!

 “And He said, No [neither], but as Prince of the Lord’s host have I now come.“ Joshua 5:14 AMP

Do you see what Jesus does? He basically tells Joshua – “It’s not ME that is choosing a side here… it is YOU. I’m not on either of these “sides”. This entire process isn’t how I wanted this to work… but sin has brought this into being. Therefore – it isn’t ME who must choose sides – it is YOU!”

I don’t know about you – but that reply is comforting to me. How many times have we all seen someone claiming God on their side – yet they end up doing the most “un-godlike” things? Or how about when opposing sides of a conflict BOTH claim God behind their mission? It is enough to drive a sane man, crazy!

The Truth of the entire matter is that God does not conduct Himself like we do. Sin has completely destroyed our perspective – and it is we who are in need of a “side” – not God. God is not worried, concerned, apprehensive, or in conflict. He is not rubbing His hands together and attempting to manipulate the world to His desired result. Instead, He has already completed the destruction of sin by sending Jesus to the cross. In God’s eyes – the outcome is already finished and decided.

That is what is means for the “righteous to live by faith” (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17). To not make my decisions and choices based on fear – but instead to walk in the understanding that the outcome is already finished and decided.

In the end, the real question isn’t “Is God on MY side” – but instead “Am I on HIS side?” May our response be like that of Joshua… to bow in worship and humbly obey what He says to do. Then all His Promises shall be ours.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Joshua 1

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“Moses, my servant, is dead.”

That is how the leadership of Joshua begins. With God – the past is the past – and now is the time to move forward. The Book of Joshua picks right up where the Torah ended. Moses has been leading these people for the past 40 years – and has brought them right up to the doorstep of Canaan. The entire nation is encamped along the Jordan River – right across from the fortified city of Jericho (with it’s infamous thick walls). After God buries Moses up on the mountain, He immediately turns to his assistant Joshua and instructs him to prepare to finish the job of taking the land God has promised all along. The instructions that God gives Joshua on how to fulfill the promise God made is two-fold.

First, God reminds Joshua to be strong and courageous. He tells Him not to fear – but instead to trust Him. As God led Moses, so will He lead Joshua as well. He also tells him:

Every place upon which the sole of your foot shall tread, that have I given to you, as I promised Moses.”Josh 1:3 AMP

Now this promise from God is not just an open-ended one. God isn’t telling Joshua that he can just go off kilter and expect God to make it all work out. For immediately after this verse, God sets boundaries for where Joshua is to tread.

Many Christians will quote this verse to support the erroneous notion that God is just following them around waving his magic wand and making all obstacles get out of their way. Instead, the correct way to look at this is that God is leading Joshua along a prescribed route – and that as long as Joshua follows the Lord and obeys His every word, then every place he walks the Lord will give to him.

Which leads us to the second part of God’s instructions to Joshua.

This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success.Josh 1:8 AMP

With the recently completed Law in his possession, Joshua is reminded by the Lord to not just discard it and forget about it. In fact, God tells Joshua that he is to keep it in his mouth and heart constantly. God tells Joshua that the keys to his success is not in his mighty battle plans, nor in his good looks or charisma – but instead is in his ability to trust in the Lord and carefully follow His instructions. In order to follow those instructions, Joshua must constantly put those instructions into his heart by reading them every day and observe them in his daily decision making. God knows that man is inclined for forget – so He keeps reminding Joshua of this fact (just as He did with Moses).

This principle is the same for us. We cannot expect any form of success in our lives without first applying the Word of God to our every situation. Applying the Word of God requires us to know that Word. Almost all of the problems and frustrations Christians face today and based on their not knowing what God has said in His Word – and then not applying it to their lives. Like Joshua – we have been given instructions on how to execute and fulfill the promises of God in our lives. God has plans for us and wants us to take possession of a good land… but in order to do that we MUST follow His lead. The way we follow His lead is to invest our lives into studying and knowing His way of life (as defined in His Word).

Then, and only then, will we find success and prosper in all that we set our hands to.

Just like Joshua.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Deuteronomy 34

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In the final chapter of Deuteronomy – we see the end of the life of Moses. This man – who started out as the son of a Hebrew slave, redeemed as a prince of Egypt, hunted as a murderer and fleeing into the life of a nomadic shepherd – obeys the call of the Lord to return to Egypt and lead this motley crew of slaves into a full-fledged nation of God’s people. As we have read, we have seen Moses stand mighty against seemingly impossible odds, but also we have watched him struggle with his own limitations, doubts and flesh.

In the end, it was these moments of doubt and flesh which cost Moses the opportunity to enter the very land which he had been speaking of all those years. God did allow him to view it upon Mt. Nebo – and it was there that Moses died (with only the Lord Himself attending to his funeral!). But – as we read, did you notice the interesting tidbits about this amazing Prophet? Even at the ripe age of 120 years “his eyes did not dim nor his natural force abated” (Deut 34:7). As well, whoever wrote the closing remarks to this great man’s life, inserted that “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (Deut 34:10).

That is how I want to be remembered… as a man whom the Lord knew face to face.

With the closing of the book of Deuteronomy – along with the closing of Moses’ life – we also reach the end of what is referred to as the Torah. As you may recall, the word “Torah” means “teaching” or “Law”. In one sense it refers to the opening five books of the Bible – Genesis through Deuteronomy – all written by Moses. To the Jewish people it is not simply a list of rules and regulations, nor simply a narrative of the journey of their heritage. More so, they view these first five books as the very cornerstone of their lives. Every Jewish child would have these books memorized by the time they reach middle school age. (That means ALL that we have been reading since the top of the year!).

As we close out the Torah – what stands out to you?

Maybe you (as many others have noted throughout history) struggle to understand the harsh method God uses in training up His people. This struggle comes mainly because we have such little information about what else is happening during this time. After all, the Bible does’nt record many of the historical and political happenings in the other nations (such as Egypt) that existed during that time. The reason this is so is because the purpose of the Bible is to speak of God’s relationship with man.

When we read through the various laws and rules of the Torah, it can strike us as unfair and harsh. Countless details which, if not followed to the letter, result in sometimes deadly punishment. While we have already spoken of the larger picture and how sometimes things that appear harsh to us are actually actions of love from an all-knowing God, there is another part to this puzzle we must briefly touch on.

Paul tells us in Romans that for the first 2000 years (from Adam to Moses), God did not hold man accountable for their sin.

[To be sure] sin was in the world before ever the Law was given, but sin is not charged to men’s account where there is no law [to transgress]. “Romans 5:13 AMP

For many, it is shocking to hear that 2000 years actually passed during that time. (The book of Genesis alone encompasses 1500 years of human history). But just as shocking is to hear that God was acting in mercy all of that time. Sin was overlooked time and again. (Not always – as we see with Noah and Sodom/Gomorrah) – but most of the penalty for sin was not administered during that time. During that time God was longing for mankind to see the devastating effects of the broken condition and come to Him – allowing Him to bring Jesus and repair the breach. God eventually finds Abram (who believes Him) – and begins to build a people – but eventually even those turn from Him and allow sin to destroy the earth.

By the time God raises up Moses, the earth was in complete chaos. Sin had done it’s dirty work and satan was using men to destroy themselves. Sin was easily overlooked and explained away on every level – while God was completely ignored. It was, therefore, necessary for God to establish strict guidelines for what sin is and literally persuade His people to return back into some form of holiness in order for Jesus to one day be born.

So, while the Law can appear harsh and overly strict – the bigger picture (once again) tells us the whole story. God’s heart has always been love and mercy, but the ravaging effects of sin on His beloved creation necessitated all that we have read about thus far.

As the Torah closes – we now enter what is known as the History Books. Joshua will take over leadership of this young nation, wars will be fought, God will continue to intervene in the lives of the Israelites… and yet many will continue to reject Him.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK