Snapshots: Day 131

Snapshots: Day 131

The Snapshot: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge.” (Josh 20:2) This is civilization in the making, the people of God in the making. This is the recognition of the Lord God of Israel that mankind struggles with sin in its various forms. The ‘cities of refuge’ were first a recognition that upsets happen and in the midst of upset things get said and then done that shouldn’t, even death, then regret. But that is only one side of the story. The other side is the onlookers, the family whose loved one has been killed. An eye of an eye, a life for a life!!!! Not when it was an accident. Killer, flee to a safe place to give them time to cool down! This is the God who seeks to cool tempers, bring peace, prevent further conflict, then and now.

Further Consideration: I am always amazed that the Law of God is not only full of practical care but also the grace and mercy of the Lord. It reveals to us a God who not only understands us but recognizes and provides for our failures. On Day 110 we considered Deut 21:1 “If someone is found slain…. and it is not known who the killer was…” which again was a recognition of sin in the people and yet which also provided a way for that to be recognised, acknowledged and dealt with appropriately.

The cities of refuge were a similar provision recognizing that in this fallen world, men act badly towards each other and if that wasn’t bad enough they might accidentally end up killing each other – but it was an accident, it was not intentional. But this provision cares for those on both sides of this. On the one side the family of the dead person are likely to be very upset, so much so that they seek revenge, they seek to take the law into their own hands, i.e. they seek the kill the other antagonist. But it was an accident and the Lord wants to both protect him and keep the other side from doing something that drags them down and become guilty of what would then be murder. Thus there were these cities of refuge.

When the fleeing man reached the city, he was to explain to the city elders what had happened and if they accept his story they are to give him protection (20:4) but then there is to be a trial in the city where the case is properly examined (20:6) and if found innocent he can stay on there. Thus both sides are saved from worse ongoing conflict and feud.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” (Mt 5:9) and that simple beatitude undergirds so much of the intent of God for His people. How many times in the epistles do we find in the opening, “Grace and peace to you”? Peace and harmony are to be foundation stones for our lives that flow from the grace and truth that Jesus brought (Jn 1:14) and which also go to make up that foundation. When we blow it and disharmony occurs, how can we heal the breach?

Snapshots: Day 130

Snapshots: Day 130

The Snapshot: “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.” (Josh 15:19) Caleb’s daughter is just settling down to married life and comes back and makes this request of her father who has oversight of this part of the land. The Message Version expands on it: “When she arrived… Caleb asked her, “What would you like?” She said, “Give me a marriage gift. You’ve given me desert land; Now give me pools of water!” Smart girl. Yes, the land is great but to flourish we need water, lots of it! Sensitive children of God realise their new life is great but there is yet more to come – we need water, we need the Holy Spirit, in abundance, we need to be immersed in Him, filled with Him, if we are to flourish. Ask and you will receive (Lk 11:13). How many live thirsty lives because they don’t ask, “Give me a blessing … give me also springs of water”? (Jn 7:38,39)

Further Consideration: Wisdom sometimes comes from unlikely sources. Here we are focusing on the ‘big people’ like Joshua and Caleb and then suddenly up pops Caleb’s daughter, ‘a chip of the old block’ as the saying goes, and she comes and makes this seemingly simple request. Caleb is a leader in Judah and so her land is in the south. Apart from the (Mediterranean) coastal plain much of Israel is hilly. The further south you go the lower the rainfall tends to be and to the far south of course is desert. Thus in the records, wells and springs are important sources of water in the land. The different between the two is that a well was man-made and tended to need to have water drawn by rope and bucket, while springs tended to be natural, mostly constant (except in drought times) outpourings of regular supply. She is looking for living water as against well water (ponder on the difference in Jesus’ talk with the Samaritan woman – Jn 4).

Recognising and rewarding the importunity (this demanding entreaty) we see, “So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.” (v.19b) Two lots of water, one possibly lower down and more accessible and the other higher up, maybe accessibly to herds of sheep on the hillsides. A double blessing. Now of course Jesus spoke of such pictures, for example, whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:14) and “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (Jn 7:38 – referring to the Spirit). So, upper and lower springs? Just to ponder on – upper, in the head, revelation in the mind, lower, in the heart signifying the thrust of life. Does the Holy Spirit bring you regular revelation, does He bring you regular life that bubbles up in you, or are we missing out in our inheritance and need to ask for Him to come with releasing?

Snapshots: Day 129

Snapshots: Day 129

The Snapshot: “here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.” (Josh 14:10,11) What an incredible testimony, claim and challenge from Caleb to his old compatriot who had been with him all those years back when the two had returned full of faith from spying out the Land. Our call, of course, is not physical warfare but spiritual, but how many Christians know of such things today? When was the last time you heard a sermon on spiritual warfare, on battling in the heavenlies against spiritual enemies, of using the armour of God (Eph 6) and the weapons of our warfare that have the power to destroy strongholds (2 Cor 10:4)? Perhaps we have much to claim back.

Further Consideration: Two old men, Joshua and Caleb, the only two of the twelve who had come those forty-plus years back with a good report after spying out the Land, a report that was faith filled. Caleb had been a leader in Judah (Num 13:6), the one who had silenced the others in their unbelief (Num 13:30) and together with Joshua had spoken against the people’s disquiet (Num 14:6-9) and was commended by the Lord (Num 14:24,30) and thus survived (Num 14:37,38) when the other ten died of plague. A faith-filled warrior, what a combination!

So when we look at his declaration above, at the age of eighty-five, it is not just the bragging of an old man, it is a statement of faith that he is still as able today to do the Lord’s will in clearing the land as he had been all those years back.

So it doesn’t really matter what age we are now but can we ask very gently, have we maintained that same level of love and faith and zeal as we exhibited when we were younger? There is always that terrible challenge to the church at Ephesus that we find in Revelation, “You’ve lost your first love.” (Rev 2:4) and the equally bad challenge to Sardis who were told to wake up (Rev 3:2), that warn us that it is so easy to lose what we once had. Oh, I’m too busy, (and if we’re aging) I’m not as strong as I once was, things keep going wrong with me, you can’t expect us to be full of energy like we once were! Read those words alongside the words of Caleb and he shames us.

We may get older and decline physically, but does that mean we lose our spiritual energy? It is when we let the new ways of the word make us feel out of date, out of touch, that we let the enemy weaken us. Removal of physical strength doesn’t mean we stop praying, stop being open to the Lord, stop being available to reach out with words of encouragement and hope to whoever. We still have voices and if they can match a strong heart, they will be voices that still impact the world for good and for God. May it be so.

Snapshots: Day 128

Snapshots: Day 128

The Snapshot: “the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” (Josh 13:1) I’m getting a bit touchy at the thought of getting old but one thing it does do is let you look back and realise – with the Lord’s help – how much we have not achieved, and when that sense comes through you see afresh the need for, and the value of, the Cross. Honesty does that! But these weren’t write-off words from the Lord to Joshua just a plain statement of the truth. The Lord was going to carry on with the job and Joshua still had a part to play. (And don’t forget all you have achieved!!!) Let that spur you on, and don’t say your role is finished until the Lord says it is – in heaven! Rejoice at whatever age. (see Psa 92:12-15). Hallelujah!

Further Consideration: It is one of those sad things that you don’t realise until it involves you, this whole business of younger generations saying, “Move over you old guys, it’s our turn now!” Yep, for a lot of things I am really glad about that. I’ve served my years putting out chairs, doing the washing up, distributing leaflets so, yes, it’s your turn now. I recognise your youthful energy, zeal and faithfulness and I’m thrilled about that but, guys, you are going to have to put in a few more years before experience teaches you wisdom unless you get a special portion from above.

I look back and I look around and I see a generation who pioneered stuff, seriously apostolic and prophetic stuff, guys who travelled the globe sacrificing family time, guys who have stood out the front week after week pouring out the truths of God, being up in the middle of the night for the crying flock, being there in hostile communities, and so on, and I see them in retirement today unappreciated by the flock who knew little or nothing of these things, who don’t realise the long paths these people have walked, and it makes me sad.

Yet some of them aren’t lying down quietly but are still plowing furrows that are impacting the world. Those verses in Psa 92 have really impacted me – “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Psa 92:14,15) There is a serious need in this deceptive world for voices to be heard – God is unchanging, He is who He is, He is good and He doesn’t make mistakes – and those words need to be backed by lives that testify, “we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes… now we’re telling you … what we witnessed,” (1 Jn 1:1,2 Msg) i.e. this is the life, people, don’t be afraid of this world, don’t be ashamed of the truth, be confident of it, tell it, continue to live it and be testimony to all around you – I’ve lived it, it’s truth and nothing has changed. Go for God!

Snapshots: Day 127

Snapshots: Day 127

The Snapshot: “the people of Gibeon …. resorted to a ruse.” (Josh 9:3,4) Sneaky Gibeonites! Jesus once said, the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (Lk 16:8) Rahab had already shown it was possible to join Israel and become part of them but Gibeon didn’t know that so they took to worldly deception – and almost got away with it, except ended up becoming servants to Israel. The lesson, on Israel’s side has surely got to be don’t take things at face value (see 1 Sam 16:7) and there is a need to inquire of the Lord when confronted with circumstances we’ve never faced before. Failure to do that means we may end up struggling for wisdom to deal with the consequences. Fortunately it is available (Jas 1:5)

Further Consideration: In the previous study we said life and how it works is funny, not ha-ha funny but strange funny, complex funny. It’s a real mish-mash of good, bad and indifferent. Sometimes people do things which leave the thinking person going, ‘Hold on, is that right?’ Some of us do that about Rahab. “Is it right that she told lies to the authorities to protect the spies?” Well in this Fallen World sometimes we have to choose between the lessor of two evils. If there weren’t so many wrong things going on in Canaan that God didn’t need to claim it back, this situation wouldn’t have arisen. Her lie means they were saved, able to report back and God’s plan proceed. She ends up in the family tree of the human side of the Son of God. (Mt 1:5) Amazing.

But then we come to these Gibeonites. Bad Canaanites! Pagans! Yes but smart Canaanites who knew which way the wind was blowing! You either get up, run and leave this land for who knows where, you stay and fight against this big nation, and probably end up dead, or somehow you plot to get them to accept you. Right, that last one sounds the most sensible!

What is interesting to ponder here is how Joshua and Israel would have responded to them if they had simply arrived and said, “We’re Canaanites but we want to join you.” My guess is that Israel would have said, “Not likely! We’ve been told to clear you lot out, so go or be killed.”
Now there is funny thing I’ve noticed about Israel, running through the Old Testament (again not funny ha-ha) and it is this awareness that who they were also went along with the awareness that they were to be seen who they were by the rest of the world, so the world could learn about God. Right, but so what? So they then go over to God’s side – just like these Gibeonites did! Wow, didn’t see that coming!

Expediency – the path of right end by wrong means – is something to be held lightly and, like the choice of the lesser of two evils, only used where necessary. I need to think more on that.

Snapshots: Day 126

Snapshots: Day 126

The Snapshot: “But the Israelites were unfaithful.” (Josh 7:1) The long and the short of this story is that Israel were told not to take the plunder from the Canaanites (probably because it had links with idol worship and they were not to get into that.) Everything appeared right on the surface until they went into battle – and lost! Then they get around to asking the Lord what’s happening and then they find Achan had been disobedient. Disobedience = unfaithfulness.  Unfaithfulness means lack of God’s blessing which means life going wrong. How often, I wonder, do Christians, like Achan think they can get away with a little sin – and are then surprised when God’s blessing is not there?  How foolish we are. God sees it all and will correct us because He loves us.

Further Consideration: Life and how it works is a strange thing, a thing we take for granted – it just keeps on going … until of course we die. The Bible suggests it keeps on going only because Jesus, administering his Father’s rule, says so (Heb 1:3b) But God has given us air to breath, food and drink, a heart to pump blood and a brain to direct us, and so it seems we can just putter on through life doing our own thing and sometimes that works well and sometimes it doesn’t. End of story.

Well not quite because the Bible is very clear that God does have a hand in the lives of His people. He tells them how to live and when they do, it all seems to work well. When they don’t they get into a mess. Now this could appear mechanical, rather like a big machine just trundling through history but it’s not that simple because God does have a hand in the lives of His people. How? Ah, that’s the key issue.

Because He loves us, when He sees us going astray He may let us go our own way until we pull the roof down on our own heads and learn that’s not the way to do things. Sometimes though He is more proactive, if He sees that is the better way, and dumps some negatives on us to bring us to our senses. We’ve seen it before in Deuteronomy, this thing about curses and blessings. The curses bit is the negative stuff. Sometimes that negative stuff is just Him stepping back and removing His protection or His enabling from us, as happened in Israel’s case with Achan. Sometimes that negative stuff is more proactive, like Him causing a drought or a storm, but it’s all designed to make us pause up think, reassess what we’re doing, and put it right.

The positive side of this, is when we are living out our lives in the manner He has suggested, yes it works, but as with the curses bit, sometimes He is proactive and acts into our situations to improve them and just make them work better. It is just that simple. That’s Him blessing us.

Whichever it is – curses or blessings – He does it all for our long-term wellbeing, for our best, simply because He loves us. Great isn’t it!

Snapshots: Day 124

Snapshots: Day 124

The Snapshot: “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  “Neither,” he replied.” (Josh 5:13,14) So often we think the battle is ours and it all revolves around us, and we need the reminder that is here. The night before entering the land and going into battle, Joshua is confronted by this stranger and it was natural to bring a challenge but it was the answer that brought the right perspective. The answer is followed by, “as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  i.e. I’ve come to do the fighting on God’s behalf. I don’t take sides; I only do God’s will. That brings a different perspective to our lives. When we enter conflicts, God isn’t for us, He’s for what is right, and if we have a wrong attitude in it, He’s after that too. We do His bidding, not Him doing ours.

Further Consideration:  Perspective is a strange thing. As children we were completely self-absorbed. I watch it in my grandchildren. As we hit our teenage years we change from self-absorbed to self-conscious. We start becoming aware of the person we are. Before that we just got on with own little world, thinking little about it, just being and doing it. But then our body and our mind and our thinking starts changing and we find ourselves becoming conscious of these changes in a way we had never known before.

What happens in the physical world tends to happen, I suspect, in the spiritual world. At the point of time we are convicted by the Holy Spirit and come to repentance and are saved, we become suddenly very self-aware. The world is suddenly a new place and we are new people. We had heard about God, submitted ourselves to Him and now started to learn about Him. As times goes on – and it is unique for every person – we realize He is here, actually here. For some it may take months, for many others of us years if not decades. Some never realize it, but the truth is that He is here and sometimes manifests or reveals His presence in a way that we feel and yet cannot describe.

And all the while we are learning what it means to call Him Lord. If we were guided well into our salvation we learned that Jesus wanted to be both Savior and Lord. ‘Savior’ meant us realizing he had done everything to bring about our salvation, our new birth, our conversions, as the Bible describes it in differing ways. ‘Lord’ meant us learning what his will is for us and then living according to it, obeying his word and his Spirit.

From a life that had been utterly self-centred, to one that becomes submissively self-conscious and God-conscious, the changes are enormous, sometimes dramatic, sometimes slow, sometimes quick, but at the heart of it we bring this challenge to Jesus – are you for us? No, I’m for my Father – and He’s for you!