April 15

April 15

Pause and Reflect:

The judges highlight for us the reversals that humanity experiences when our own effort is all we have to maintain our relationship with God.

As you reflect today, consider some of the ways God has extended grace to you, overcoming the weakness of your own efforts.

Have a great day.

Mark.

April 13

April 13

Judges Origin — The days of the judges & the cycle of sin/judgment/prayer/deliverance.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Judges 1

Reading 2: Judges 2

Reading 3: Judges 21:25

Have you ever heard the saying “It’s a test!”? Sure you have! Tests are very valuable because they show us what we have mastered, as well as what we have not. Sometimes tests show us how far we have drifted from a course we have been following, and that is the theme of the Book of Judges. Israel has been set a course: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” But they keep drifting away from it, failing the test.

The cycle of test and failure is not the only available option: they could learn from their mistakes, repent for their self-centeredness, and pass the test next time. But that is not the path they choose. So God sends judges to test them, call them back to their purpose, and restore their direction. Between judges, they turn back to their own ways, just as we often do when left to our own devices. The final verse of Judges is an indictment of us all: “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

This is why we need God’s Word (to show us the way) and God’s people (to help us stay on course). Who has God placed in your life to help you in this way? Why not thank them today, and agree with them that together you will serve the Lord?

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 12

April 12

Joshua’s Charge & Death — Joshua’s warning about serving two masters.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 24

Reading 2: 1 Samuel 7:2-4

Reading 3: Matthew 6:24

Yesterday we saw that the gift of the Promised Land reflected God’s gift of destiny to each of us. Today we read about the repeated sins of the Israelites in worshipping other gods. This is similar to wanting the freedom to choose between gasoline and diesel for your car. You can claim that freedom, but the consequences of your choice follow sooner or later! One is intended for your vehicle, and the other is not! In the end, it is wiser to follow the maker’s instructions.

So they are presented with a clear choice – the gods of their ancestors, the gods of the people they are driving out, or the Lord? And Joshua adds a famous statement: “as for me and my household, we will serve The Lord.”

Today it is hard for us to relate to such stories (there are few baals and ashtoreths being worshiped openly today). But we are surrounded by gods which are foreign to our heavenly Father’s nature and character: the god of money or possessions (including the god of poverty), the god of self-determination and independence, the god of sexual ‘freedom,’ the god of ‘might is right,’ and the god of ‘tolerance.’

None of these gods (and you can probably think of some others) is true to the nature of the true God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who is revealed in Jesus, the God who chose us before the world began. The God who loves us in our sin.

So who will you choose today? One choice will make you part of this Story – One Story of One God with One Love – humanity.

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 11

April 11

Joshua & Dividing the Land — Some tribes possess their land & some procrastinate.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 13:1-14

Reading 2: Joshua 14

Reading 3: Joshua 18:1-10

The Promised Land was a gift from God to the nation of Israel, given because God chose them to enjoy a special relationship with Him. The peoples driven out of the land had no interest in following God and no heart to worship Him.

The Land was also a type, or foretaste, of God’s destiny for His people in centuries to come. God chooses followers of Jesus to be His children, and thus to inherit a destiny in this life and eternal life after death. Like the Promised Land, this destiny does not just come to us because we believe in Jesus. Instead, there is a process of brave obedience for us to complete until we fully inherit our destiny in God.

Some of the Israelites were hesitant to take the land they had been given, whether because they didn’t know it, or because they were afraid of the process of displacing the pagan enemies, or perhaps because life was comfortable staying with the rest of the nation on their lands.

Whatever the reason, God clearly instructs them to continue to occupy and subdue their inheritance. While earlier readings have shown us the Israelites’ presumption in failing to listen to God, today’s readings show us their procrastination – failing to obey God’s instructions to the full. Procrastination and presumption are cousins. Both are offspring of lies sown by our enemy. Let’s overcome both today and live obediently, boldly, and expectantly until God leads us to inherit our entire destinies in Him.

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 10

April 10

Joshua & the Sun/Conquests — Israel’s enemies & God’s victories.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 10

Reading 2: Joshua 11

Reading 3: Habakkuk 3:8-14

After the setback of the Gibeonite deception, Joshua and the Israelites faced a new challenge as the king of Jerusalem joined forces with all the other kings in the region to attack God’s people. But God, who forgives our sins and overlooks our failures, promises that the Israelites will be victorious.

After the victories over the southern kings, then the northern kings make an alliance and march out to fight Joshua and the Israelites. Again the enemies are defeated by the people of God.

So much fighting – is God an angry, volatile being who is bloodthirsty and cruel? No, those descriptions would better apply to the kings of the cities and regions the Israelites conquered. God is loving, caring, and determined to see righteousness restored in this land. The battles are like surgery, cutting out the evil from the land. Habakkuk tells us that the determination of the enemies was cultivated by God to ensure their destruction and that through the turmoil God is saving His people.

So how do you need God to engage your enemies today? He WILL bring you to victory!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 9

April 9

Joshua & the Gibeonites — Israel’s gullibility & not asking for God’s counsel.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 9

Reading 2: 2 Samuel 21:1-14

Reading 3: Isaiah 30:1

Sometimes our actions have consequences far greater than we imagine when we make the original choices. Today we read about the failure of the leaders of Israel to consult God when the Gibeonites tricked them into a treaty. The consequences of this failure were many. First (and most importantly) the Israelites were prevented from fully obeying God. That led to grumbling against the leadership, and deceptive pagans becoming servants of God’s people. So now there was an ungodly influence in their midst.

Later Saul took the sin of presumption a step further by seeking to wipe out the Gibeonites (thinking that doing what God had instructed originally was more important than keeping the oath his forebears had made). This presumption caused a famine in the land as God showed His disapproval of human reasoning without Godly guidance. Religious zeal always leads to judgment, not to blessing! And more lives were lost as David had the unenviable task of disentangling all this sin, in order to see the famine lifted.

God describes the path we have followed as rebellion and says that it leads to sorrow, as sin is piled upon sin without submission or repentance.

Let’s take this warning to heart: don’t think you know what to do. Always ask God and wait for His answers. It will save you from a multitude of sins!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 8

April 8

Pause and Reflect:

We have read a great deal about sin in the recent readings. How does that resonate in your life? Are you more aware of your own sin, or conscious of how much you are forgiven?

It is always worth remembering that God paid a very high price to be able to forget our sin and restore us to a relationship with Him!

Have a great day.

Mark.

April 7

April 7

Joshua & Achan/Ai — One man’s sin affects many innocent people.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 7

Reading 2: Joshua 8

Reading 3: Joshua 22:20

Remember how all the Israelites honored Joshua’s leadership and obeyed God’s instructions through him? Well, there was one who did not. It is Achan’s story we learn from today.

There was a reason why God told Israel to invade the land and destroy the people in it: these peoples had no place in their lives for God and no desire to follow Him. Israel, by contrast, is called to both follow and obey. Just as there is no compromising with cancer cells in an otherwise healthy body and no compromising with a deadly infection like Ebola. Hence, there was no room for compromise in dealing with the ungodly nations in the land.

But Achan was tempted by valuable goods he found during the destruction of Jericho, and he sinned in several ways: he kept what God had instructed them to destroy, he hid what he had kept, and he only admitted his sin when he was found out. All these sins brought a high price on his family because the wages of sin are death.

Presumably, his family knew about the deception; it is impossible to bury valuable items in a tent without the occupants of that tent knowing about it! Thus they were implicated in the sin along with him.

Unfortunately, many innocent people were also affected by the sin: the army went to attack Ai but did not realize that sin in the camp was causing God to withdraw from them. Without God’s presence, there was no way for them to win their battles, so 36 innocent soldiers died.

It is a deception of the enemy to convince us that we can ignore God’s instructions without penalty. Such presumption no longer results in instant death, thanks to the grace of God in Jesus, but it can still have far-reaching effects in the lives of those we love and leave us tainted by the whiff of disobedience.

So let’s agree with God today – disobedience is sin, and so are deception, covetousness, and greed. Thank God that there is forgiveness in Jesus because every one of us needs it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 6

April 6

Joshua & Jericho — The faith of Joshua/Israel/Rahab & our spiritual warfare.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 6

Reading 2: Hebrews 11:30-31

Reading 3: 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

We already saw the power of faith and obedience: in crossing the Jordan and in the purification and provision at Gilgal. Now we see how faith can bring victory and salvation. Faith is doing what God says, even when humanly it makes no sense! The instructions God gave Joshua should not be taken as a pattern for military victory – they were a one-off command for this specific situation. And (aside from God’s intervention), they are not a credible strategy for achieving the objective of having the walls of the city fall!

But Joshua and the people demonstrate their faith by obeying God’s instructions to the letter. Notice that they have no indication that the strategy is working until they complete their obedience; that is where the faith is put into action!

And we know the result from Sunday School classes and kid’s Bible stories: the people march around Jericho, and on the seventh day, the walls fall, and they conquer the city. God shows His power in response to our obedience to His instructions.

And in the midst of the destruction, we see another example of faith in action – Rahab and her family take the spies at their word and so are rescued. Rahab goes on to marry an Israelite and becomes part of the family tree of Jesus! Faith is as active in salvation as in victory!

For us today, the defenses we face in our journey to fulfill our calling are not physical structures, like the walled city of Jericho. Rather they are strongholds of thought and habit that elevate human reasoning above obedience to God. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that such reasoning is a false argument and is to be demolished, just as Jericho fell to the Israelites.

What does God want you to encircle and demolish in your life today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

April 5

April 5

Joshua & the Commander — The commander of the Lord appears, & Jesus is worthy of worship.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: Joshua 5

Reading 2: Exodus 23:20-23

Reading 3: Revelation 22:8-9

Breakthrough leads to worship and purity, frightens the enemy, and invites God’s presence. After the Jordan crossing breakthrough, Joshua and the Israelites start preparing to worship God by observing the Passover. To do so, they have to circumcise all the men who have grown up in the wilderness for years without being circumcised. (There is some disagreement among scholars about the correct translation of that verse – whether it means none of the men were circumcised, which seems highly unlikely, or whether it means that all of the previously uncircumcised men were now circumcised). Either meaning would bring an increase of ceremonial purity to the nation. This came as a result of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan. In the same way, breakthroughs in our lives can lead us to seasons where purity and holiness are more prominent in our experience.

The enemies in the Canaanite cities quickly hear about God’s miraculous presence with the Israelites, and they are filled with fear. But the Israelites do not fall prey to presumption on this occasion, perhaps because the healing process delays them after the purification. And the Angel of the Lord, whom God had promised would accompany them on the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, appears to Joshua in human form. Joshua (good commander that he is) thinks in military terms: “friend or foe?” but receives the reply “Neither” because God’s army is commanded at God’s instruction and for God’s purposes. Whether His warriors are friend or foe depends on our perspective on God’s instructions. If we put God first, His instructions are welcome, and His armies are friendly. If we choose the opposite path, putting our own agenda before God’s, we may find we have made a new enemy!

Living as a friend of God today, you will find that He has already provided all you need, just as He did for Israel as soon as they set foot in the Land.

Have a great day!

Mark.