Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 9 Apr 18:
1. Joshua 9:14 — “So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord.” Against God’s will, the Israelites were deceived into a covenant with the Gibeonites which resulted in a war between Israel and five kingdoms. This happened because the Israelites did “whatever seem[ed] good and right in [their] sight” rather than asking for “counsel from the Lord.” (Joshua 9:25) Christians have full access to the power of God, and God’s promises to empower us mightily in order to perform His will (not ours) for His purposes (not ours), for His glory (not ours), and through His power (not ours). God will always ask His people to accomplish what is impossible for them so that the world will see the power of God through them rather than merely the power of talented people. We see throughout the Bible how God works beyond human abilities to bring His people victory and to reveal Himself to a watching world: He knows the hearts of people (we cannot), He controls the hearts of people (we cannot); He orchestrates circumstances and the timing of events to produce amazing effects (we cannot do that); He controls nature (we cannot), and He directs the course of all activities on Heaven and Earth for His glory (we cannot even fathom that). God does not intend for His people to operate within the narrow constraints of their own extraordinarily small perceptions and abilities but rather He expects His people to operate with total faith and reliance in the unmatchable wisdom and power of God. How foolish is it for us to trust ourselves rather than God? As God’s servants, we are on very dangerous ground if we are making decisions apart from God’s leading and walking along our own path under our own power. As God warns, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) With the Israelites facing seemingly impossible odds, God says to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” (Joshua 10:8) If we are walking with God, we have ABSOLUTELY nothing to fear. If we are leaning on our own understanding, we have good reason to be concerned; life will be far harder and less joyful than God intended.
– Matthew 10:24 — A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.
– Jeremiah 29:11 — For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
2. Joshua 9:14, 15 — “…but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.” Failing to ask counsel from the Lord, rather trusting in their own reasoning, the Israelites became entangled in commitments with the ungodly which resulted in tremendous conflict for the Israelites (war against a coalition of five kingdoms). The Bible warns us time and time again not to establish dependencies with the ungodly or to establish covenants with them. Proverbs say that if we have become “ensnared” in a pledge to a “stranger,” we should seek to save ourselves “like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter.” Our faith teaches that unrepentant sinners are trapped in sin. What partnership can the godly have with the ungodly, the servants of God with the servants of Satan? “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3) How do we agree with both God and man? The Christian is on a mission of reconciliation (reunion with God) that by definition requires God at the center of all agreements – it is impossible to achieve unity and peace without this essential. As slaves to Christ, we have no authority to make covenant with the world. Even among believers, promises are often made falsely, with the wrong motives. Commitments always involve promises based on trust; trust is based upon an assumption about the heart or character of the other party. The Bible says that no one can really know the thoughts, heart, and character of another person — only God knows. (1 Corinthians 2:11; Proverbs 15:11) Often all we have to go on is reputation. As someone once said, “Reputation is what others say about you; character is what God knows about you.” Only God can reveal another person’s true motives and character to you. So, the first place to start when you are considering a partnership with another is in earnest prayer. If the partnership clearly doesn’t conform to the Bible standard, your prayer has already been answered. Beyond that, God can reveal through the Holy Spirit what you do not see through His written word. Key is to not rush into a promise but to wait on the Lord. Another point the Bible drives home is that God expects His people to honor their commitments and promises, even the ones made rashly. Once you have made a decision, you own that decision – your “yes” must be a yes, and your “no” must be a no. The importance of avoiding entanglements with the ungodly and waiting upon to Lord in decision-making cannot be overstated. We can only do what God has told us to do. Does God want you to make that promise?
3. Joshua 9:19 — “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them.” Again, God expects you to keep your commitments even if you made those commitments without the right information or if the commitment is later discovered to be unfair. We are called to demonstrate godly fidelity despite the infidelity of others.
4. Joshua 9:26 — “So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them.” God expects you to show mercy to others while still holding them accountable.
5. Joshua 10:6 — “And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, ‘Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.’” Getting entangled with the world will cause you many unneeded conflicts.
6. Joshua 10:8 — “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands.” God will honor your willingness to honor even your misguided commitments.
7. Joshua 10:14 — “There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.” God will work through you in a way that reveals Himself — it’s not about you.
8. Joshua 10:19 — “Pursue your enemies; attack their rear guard. Do not let them enter their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.” God’s plan involves thoroughly defeating enemies of the Kingdom, and often He uses strategy to do it.
9. Joshua 10:27 — “But at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set large stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day.” Joshua made a public example of God’s enemies but did not desecrate their bodies, remaining faithful to God’s commands. (see Deut 21:22, 23)
10. Proverbs 9:1 – “Wisdom has built her house….” Wisdom is organized, prepared, and purposeful.
11. Proverbs 9:8, 9 – “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” Wise people get wiser every day, and foolish people get more foolish every day because they refuse to listen and learn.
12. Proverbs 9:13, 14 – “The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town.” Foolish people are loud and proud, live by their passions, and consider themselves better than everyone else, always pursuing places of honor.
13. Mark 15:2 — “And Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ And he answered him, ‘You have said so.’” Some have legal authority to lead, and others have the moral authority to lead. By law, Pilate was the ruler, but by God, Jesus is the KING of kings, and Pilate could not deny the true leadership of Jesus. Before imparting the Great Commission to the disciples in Matthew 28, Jesus reminds them that all power and authority had been given to Him, and under that authority, the disciples were commissioned to lead the world to Him. He then reminded them that they would not lead solely on their own power. You may not have much legal authority, but you have been given the moral authority and the power to change the world one heart at a time.
14. Mark 15:10, 15 — “For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up…. ” Religious envy and selfish politics condemned Jesus to death. What destructive impact have you seen from envy in your own life and in the lives of others?
15. Mark 15:18 — “And they began to salute him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” The guards callously mocked and abused Jesus, The Truth. There is no limit to what the godless will be willing to do in defiance of the truth and those who proclaim it. God’s plan includes allowing His people to suffer for His glory. Whatever you are going through, remember what Christ went through on your behalf — He is not one who doesn’t understand your suffering. And remember, there is a big difference between persecution and prosecution. Too often, Christians suffer because of their own foolish behavior and then call it martyrdom in order to justify themselves. Most of our problems in life are self-induced.
16. Mark 15:28 — See Isaiah 53:12 — God had a plan for even the robbers to fulfill prophecy.
17. Mark 15:30-32 — Self-preservation is the human way; the cross is God’s way.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 April: Consider carefully who you are choosing with which to partner, in relationships, in business, in activities, etc. Are you surrounding yourself with people who share in your commitment to draw closer to Jesus every day, to follow Jesus wholeheartedly? Are you fully united to your fellow Christians as the body of Christ? Is Jesus at the center of all of your important relationships? Concerning your relationships with your ungodly friends, ask yourself how many times you have mentioned the name of Jesus to them. Is your primary focus for them reconciliation to God? How many others are you discipling daily? Fully commit to the Body of Christ and temple of God, God’s people. Partner with God’s people and engage everyone else with the goal of their reconciliation with God. Remember, a body must be fully connected to stay healthy, and the stones of a temple must be completely joined and in place to have strength. (See today’s readings)