Joshua 9 – Seek the Lord for Wisdom

Joshua 9:14 – “So the leaders partook of their provisions, and did not ask direction from the LORD.”

Just for a little background, my church is doing a study on Joshua and Acts right now, which is why most of the reflections I write will be from either of these two books. I’m just writing what I think about/wherever my brain takes me during my reading.

In Joshua 9, after the Israelites had won the battle at Ai, many of the kings united to fight against the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, but the Gibeonites decided to be deceptive so that the Israelites would not kill them. They made their clothing, shoes, and food appear much older and more worn-out than they really were, pretending to be from a far away country, and asked the Israelites to make a treaty with them. The leaders of Israel, including Joshua, agreed without consulting God first. Later, they found out that the people were actually Gibeonites and that they lived on the land with them as their neighbors. However, because of the treaty, the leaders of Israel had to keep their word to the Gibeonites and not harm them. Instead they allowed the Gibeonites to be their servants in the temple.

The leaders of Israel agreed to the treaty proposed by the Gibeonites (and “partook of their provisions”) without consulting God first.

My first question is, why would the Israelites partake in moldy food? My second question is, did they not notice while eating it that it was actually pretty fresh, and doctored to look moldy? Were they not suspicious?

Okay, but my actual question is, how often do we do the same thing? Rush into making a decision without seeking direction from the Lord? Without praying about it? How can we be sure to make wise decisions when we aren’t consulting the God of wisdom?

If Joshua and the other leaders of Israel had sought God, they would have known that the Gibeonites were being deceptive and not to trust them. This applies to almost everything. How many poor decisions could we have avoided if we had sought God for ourselves? I would even add that in addition to relying on the prayers and advice of other people, we need to seek God for ourselves so we are sure that God is speaking a consistent message. But when we go into these situations without godly counsel, we end up unprepared.

The leaders of Israel couldn’t go back on their word to the Gibeonites; it was too late. It’s so important to seek God so that we don’t make decisions we regret later on. I believe that God can redeem our mistakes and get us back on the right track, but what if we just listened to Him to begin with?

Think About These Things – Part 5

Acts 10:9-16, focus on vv. 11-16: “He (Peter) saw the heavens opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures, reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken to heaven.”

The background of this passage is that Peter went up on a roof to pray, but then he got hungry. God used the opportunity to show him an image of a banquet feast of animals, many of which were not kosher/clean. Peter thinks God is telling him to eat the unclean animals, and he’s confused, because he knows that God would never contradict anything in God’s word, so why is God telling him that He has made these animals clean, and that Peter should not call them unclean or profane?

We know from past readings/study that this refers to the gentile Cornelius, whom God used to pour out the Holy Spirit on gentiles. But in this moment, Peter did not know that. It was only revealed to him later.

Though it is an interesting image, especially when read next to 1 Corinthians 7:17-20, which states:

“…let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything. Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.”

Circumcision and uncircumcision are usually used as metaphors for Jew and Gentile. Normally, because of the law, Jews are circumcised. Gentiles are not, because they don’t have that law. So what Paul is saying here is that if you are an observant Jew who believes in Jesus, you don’t need to change anything you’ve been doing except to obey God’s commandments, especially as revealed in Christ. (Remember Jesus’s debates with the Pharisees, who were adding to and interpreting God’s laws in ways that God never said). The same goes for Gentiles. They don’t need to become circumcised. Just obey God.

This reminds me of the different Christian groups who believe they have to live exactly like the early Jewish believers in order to be righteous/in order to obey God. That is so not the point. We have the freedom to follow these laws, sure. It’s not going to affect our righteousness, though. God’s commandments in Christ are simple. Love God and love your neighbor. What you eat and drink, whether you are circumcised, ultimately means nothing.

I was born into an observant Jewish family, but since following Jesus (and being old enough to make my own decisions–because I believed in Jesus when I was still really little–it’s a long story), I know that I can continue to follow those extra laws if I wish or I can choose not to. As long as I am following the simple commandment to love God and others, which I also believe is reflected in the distribution of the Ten Commandments, I’m fine.

We are not justified by our works, but by our faith. The extent to which our works justify us is if we are obedient to what God tells us to do. God doesn’t need extra fancy sacrifices, but a pure and obedient heart.

Featured image: “Biblical illustration of Acts of the Apostles Chapter 10.” 1984. Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0. Jim Padgett.

Think About These Things – Pt. 4

You know what? I think I’ll keep this series going until Pentecost Sunday.

We are finally all caught up, and here is this morning’s post:

“Acts 9:4-5: ‘He (Saul) fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” He (Saul) asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply was, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” ‘

Saul is a devout Jew who is persecuting the Jews who believe in Jesus, because they have departed from the true faith. However, on his way to Damascus, a Syrian city with many believers, he has an encounter that Jesus that knocks him off of his bestial mode of transportation and blinds him with a bright light. Jesus asks, ‘Why are you persecuting ME?’

Clearly, Saul isn’t actually persecuting Jesus, but by persecuting those who believe in Him, he is. I believe this is the first allusion to the body of Christ in the Bible–that is, of believers being the body of Christ. This is why by persecuting the believers, Saul can be persecuting Jesus.

On another level, this can also be a continuation of Matthew 23:37 (Luke 13:34), where Jesus says, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.’

What if those early believers were God’s prophetic messengers? They had to be, especially if the Great Commission were to be fulfilled–to go throughout the world and make disciples of all nations. By persecuting the believers, Saul is continuing the tradition of killing those sent to speak God’s truth into the world.”

Think About These Things – Pt. 3

I don’t know how long this series will last, but this is what I wrote yesterday. I didn’t post this to the Facebook page, so hopefully this isn’t redundant:

“Psalm 116:13 – ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord…’

This verse comes from a larger passage, in which King David is thanking God for delivering him from an illness that had him close to death. The first thing I saw once I had read today’s sermon passage a few times–especially this verse–was a COVID-19 patient in bed. They had no one to visit them, and they really wanted communion. So they used what they had: a little piece of bread and a cup of juice from the meal that they were having. Holding the bread in one hand, they recited: ‘On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He took bread, and, breaking it, said, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”‘ I didn’t see anything past that, because that’s when I exited the daydream–or vision, if that’s what it was.

I immediately thought of Isa. 53:5 – ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises (wounds or stripes) we are healed.’

I know a lot of people have been talking about pleading the blood of Jesus over this virus, but what about His body? His broken body, His beaten body, which the prophet Isaiah has said holds the key to our healing?

I’m not going to focus on the act of communion as a panacea of healing, but rather the faith behind it. And I know I’m treading on dangerous ground here, because many people have had faith, yet were not healed. However, I believe that in our ‘remembrance’ of Jesus, this is part of what we should remember. We not only remember His death, but we also remember the significance of His broken body.

‘This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In our consumption of the carb of our choice, we remember that it represents–or actually becomes (depending on your tradition)–the body of Christ, of Jesus.

When King David refers to “the cup of salvation” and says that he will “call on the name of the Lord,” while we can’t be 100% sure that the cup of salvation refers to the blood of Jesus, I do believe it is a model of what we can do in our times of suffering and sickness, knowing that these elements are more than just a memorial. What if it also portrays the reality of the nearness of the Kingdom of God? That it is as close as the very bread we eat and wine we drink, and that in those elements are the powers of healing and salvation for all who believe?”

Think About These Things – Pt. 2

This is the second post in my Facebook transfer series. This one is from Saturday, April 24, 2020.

Psalm 46:10 – ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’

Stillness. Letting Go and letting You do what You do. Don’t rush, don’t work, don’t panic. Be still. Trust in You. 

To exalt means to lift up. You don’t say You will be exalted. You say You already are exalted.

‘Be still, for I am exalted. Physically, I am at a great height. I can look down and see everything. You’re not alone or ignored. No one is. Nothing that happens on the earth escapes my notice. Spiritually, My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than yours. You will never understand the whys and the hows in this life. But trust that I know what I am doing. You see through a glass dimly, but soon you will see clearly and you will see as I do (1 Corinthians 13:12). But much must happen before that time comes. Just be still and know that I am God. Ineffable (too great to be described in words), unfathomable (incapable of being fully explored or understood), immeasurable. Do not worry; just be still. Be still and I will work. Be still and you will see me work things out for you. Because I AM and I can.'”

Think About These Things – Pt. 1

Hey…so long no see!

(That looks weird, even though I’ve been hearing it as a greeting all my life…)

I want to share a couple of meditations that I posted on Facebook that should really be recorded here–at least for my own records. So if you’ve read these already, they’re pretty much redundant.

The first (this post) is from Friday, April 24:

“Acts 2:21 – ‘Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (NRSV)

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in (that Son) (that He–Jesus the Christ–died for our sins and was resurrected) would not perish, but will have everlasting life.” — paraphrase

Isn’t that a Reckless Love? To sacrifice your own child? To kill them for the sake of humanity? It’s like saying, ‘I created you, and I love you, and I want to be your Father/Parent, but I can’t tolerate such sin. How can you be made in my image, yet still be so sinful? I’m not like that. 

You know what? Normally, your priests would have to make a sacrifice on behalf of your collective sin, whether a lamb or another creature. I am going to send my Son into the world, clad in human flesh. He’s going to be just like you. He’ll experience hunger, thirst, pain, trauma, betrayal, passion. He will be like you in every way, except with the inability to sin, because He is also divine. He is a part of Me. A part of Myself I am sacrificing for you. 

Therefore, He will be the final sacrifice. Your sacrifices of lambs and turtledoves have to be renewed year after year–in some cases, every time you sin, you have to make atonement. However, this is the final sacrifice. The sacrifice to end all sacrifices. I will send my Son. He will take on all of your sin. He will suffer. He will be alone. I will have to leave Him–to remove Myself from Him–because, like I said, sin is just not in My nature. It’s not a part of who I am. I love My Son, and it grieves Me deeply to do this, yet He must die so that you may live–an abundant, grace-filled, guilt-free life. 

And all you have to do is believe. His death put your sin to death, and His resurrection means that it will never have power over you ever again, So come, receive that grace. That gift. You are no longer estranged or separated from Me. You are My child. Your sin has been replaced by My righteousness. Celebrate that this Easter. And rejoice, for I have sent you My Spirit, so you shall not fear or worry about your salvation. For I am also within you, ever renewing and transforming you to reflect My nature. So do not fear. I am with you. I have called you by name. You are Mine.”

A Litany for COVID-19

Hi everyone!

I wanted to share a prayer for everyone affected by Coronavirus COVID-19, which is pretty much everyone. Whether we or someone we know has contracted the virus, or our schools and workplaces are closed, this situation probably touches us in some way.

A Litany for the Coronavirus COVID-19

For hope in the midst of despair, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For calm within the storm, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the healing of those who are ill, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the wisdom to balance compassion with social distancing, and to understand that social distancing is also a form of compassion, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the safety of health care workers, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the protection and preservation of the vulnerable and immunocompromised, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For those in need of company and fellowship, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the poor, homeless, abused, and all with nowhere to go, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For leaders of governments, workplaces, schools, churches, and other organisations, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For international students who can’t return home and children for whom school lunch is their only guaranteed meal, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the Church to be our Churchiest best to all in need, in as many creative ways as we may need, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Blogmas Day 25: The MIXTAPE

Here are all the songs I wrote about (or mentioned) in one place. Some of these are on a Spotify playlist.

  1. “The People Who Walked in Darkness” – Mary Louise Bringle
  2. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – Traditional
  3. “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout/Canticle of the Turning/Star of County Down” – Arr. John Ferguson
  4. “Holy Is His Name” – John Michael Talbot
  5. “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” – Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
  6. “Wait for the Lord” – Taize
  7. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – Traditional (Charles Wesley/Felix Mendelssohn)
  8. “Jesus, Jesus, O What A Wonderful Child” – Mariah Carey (to the best of my knowledge)
  9. “O Come, All Ye Faithful” – Traditional (Wade/Oakeley)
  10. “While We Are Waiting, Come” – Don Cason
  11. “Soon and Very Soon” – Andrae Crouch
  12. “O Holy Night” – Traditional (Dwight/Adam)
  13. “Agnus Dei” – Michael W. Smith (again, to the best of my knowledge; also very shaky on the whole “Christmas” thing)
  14. “Alpha and Omega” – Israel and New Breed
  15. “Joy to the World!” – Traditional (Isaac Watts/Handel)
  16. “Hallelujah, Salvation, and Glory”– Stephen Hurd
  17. “Hallelujah Chorus” – Handel, Messiah
  18. “O Come, Let Us Adore Him”– Traditional
  19. “Emmanuel” – Norman Hutchins
  20. “Let Us Adore” – Elevation Worship
  21. “Holy” – Kim Walker-Smith
  22. “Keep Your Lamps!” – African-American Spiritual
  23. “The Night that Christ Was Born” – Kirk Franklin
  24. “Like You Promised” – Amber Brooks
  25. “Como Dijiste” – Christine D’Clario
  26. “Days of Elijah” – Robin Mark
  27. “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates” – William Mathias
black cassette tape on top of red and yellow surface

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Blogmas Day 24: “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates”

“Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates” is one of the last songs I learned in seminary. This song was composed by William Mathias. The version I linked to was performed by the St. Albans Abbey Girls Choir and released in 2016.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates!
Lift up your heads, O ye gates 
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors.
And the King of Glory shall come in,

Who is this King of glory? x3

The Lord, strong and mighty! x2
The Lord, mighty in battle!

The Lord of Hosts. x3

He is the King of Glory! (Glory x3)

This choral anthem is a rendition of Psalm 24.7-8, 10: “Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle…Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory” (NRSV).

This psalm is divided into three parts. The first part discusses God’s vast dominion: “The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (24:1).

The second part describes righteousness. Who earns the right to encounter God’s holiness in God’s temple? “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. They will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of their salvation” (24:4-5).

The final part (verses 7-10) is the focus of the anthem. In my bible version (the New Revised Standard Version), sections and chapters are usually titled. The title of Psalm 24 is “Entrance into the Temple,” so I would guess that this psalm is a sort of anthropomorphism of the temple gates.

For some reason, I see a clearer path from the discussion of God’s dominion to that of God’s glory and then to our response. It’s like saying:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The Lord God has dominion over the whole world. The Lord is the King of Glory, the God of angel armies. All who are righteous, all with pure hearts, shall be able to enter into God’s holy temple and stand before the presence of God’s holiness.

Even Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

Yet, the concept of lifting one’s head alludes to a joyful anticipation. “Lift up Your Heads!” Rejoice! Chin up! The Lord is coming! Although the psalmist describes God as having high standards, they are only proportional to God’s glory. Yet, we have nothing to fear. Sure, we will fear God and stand in awe of God’s glory, but we have no need to be afraid of Him. After all, as believers, the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing us and transforming us from the inside, so that we will have clean hands and pure hearts. And when God brings heaven to earth, we will be able to dwell in God’s presence forever.

gold and black metal fence

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Blogmas Day 23: “Days of Elijah”

I was halfway through writing a post about “Holy Is His Name”by John Michael Talbot when I realized I had already written about another arrangement of the Magnificat.

So, I shall reluctantly change gears. Today’s song is actually going to be “Days of Elijah” by Robin Mark.

These are the days of Elijah,
Declaring the word of the Lord
And these are the days of Your servant Moses,
Righteousness being restored.
And though these are days of great trial,
Of famine and darkness and sword,
Still, we are the voice in the desert crying
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”

Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.

These are the days of Ezekiel,
The dry bones becoming as flesh,
And these are the days of Your servant David,
Rebuilding a temple of praise.
These are the days of the harvest,
The fields are as white in Your world,
And we are the labourers in Your vineyard,
Declaring the word of the Lord!

Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.

There’s no God like Jehovah x15

This song is more “future Advent” than “past Advent.” It’s all about looking ahead to what will happen when Jesus returns.

Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament. His “job,” so to speak, was to declare to the people of Israel the messages that the Lord was giving him (1 and 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles).

Through Moses, God gave the people of Israel His divine Law, a Law that was meant to help the people live in a righteous way that pleased God (Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy).

The “days of great trial”: We live during a time of violence, hunger, and various sins. Revelation 3:10 specifically speaks about trials relating to the end times: “…the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth” (NRSV). Jesus also says that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matt. 24:7, Mk. 13:8, Lk. 21:11 — not all verbatim, but the same phenomena).

Ezekiel had a vision from God that God would infuse Israel with hope and strength again. The image of Israel was a valley of dry bones, but God promised to rebuild the bones with muscles and nerves and skin and breathe life back into them. God would infuse the people with His Spirit and make them live again (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

King David had a desire to build a temple for God, a house where God’s presence could dwell. However, it was not God’s plan for David to build the temple, but his son, the future King Solomon (2 Samuel 7:4-17).

Finally, Jesus talks about a harvest that is soon to take place, but there aren’t enough workers to reap the harvest: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38, NRSV). The harvest refers to people–all the people who need to know the Gospel.

If we are allegedly currently living during the “Days of Elijah,” this means that:

  1. Our role is to mimic the prophet Elijah by preaching and prophesying and proclaiming the word of the Lord, and encouraging people to prepare for Jesus’s second coming.
  2. Our role is to, specifically, encourage and exhort people to live righteously, to love God and one another, and to pursue justice and mercy.
  3. We should be aware of what is going on the world.
  4. We can look forward to God reviving His people.
  5. If we think about ourselves as dwelling places for God’s Spirit, in a way, we ourselves are “the temple of praise.” Living lives of worship and consecration are ways to give praise to God. Also, note Romans 12.1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
  6. Our responsibility is always to be evangelistic with the gifts that we have been given. There are so many people who don’t know Jesus, and we should always be thinking of how to show them God’s love.

So, in this Advent season, I think we can look ahead to Jesus’s second coming and prepare others through a) proclamation and prophecy, b) discernment, c) hope, d) worship and consecration, and e) evangelism.

clouds dark dramatic heaven

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