Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 13 Apr 18:
1. Joshua 17:4 – “So according to the mouth of the Lord….” The word of God is sufficient authority to call for obedience without any further evidence or conditions. Many leaders have been frustrated subordinates who question their orders because they simply don’t understand them or don’t really like them – “But why?” This challenge of authority ultimately comes down to a lack of trust in the leader (often due to a lack of understanding), and it delays progress and success. Perhaps there is good reason to question an imperfect human leader, though perhaps not always good justification – as the adage goes, “Leaders have the right to be wrong.” However, there is no good reason to doubt our perfect God or to delay in our obedience, even without understanding. Again, delayed obedience is disobedience, which only robs us of God’s best for us and for others. The word disciple is related to the word discipline. Discipline has been defined as, “instant and willing obedience to all orders and respect for authority.” Are you a disciplined disciple, or is your delay robbing you of God’s best?
2. Joshua 17:11, 14 — God gave Joseph’s sons a strong portion including places inside other tribes’ territories, but Joseph was not satisfied. We are challenged enough to be faithful simply with what God has already given us. When you are faithful with little, God can give you more. He knows what you can handle better than you do. Often, we are so worried about what we don’t have, we fail to see and appreciate what we do have. Leading small teams can often produce more fruit than leading big teams because the leader can dedicate more attention to those being led. The Father gave Jesus 12 to facilitate global change – “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12).” Contentment is the mark of faith and the attitude of gratitude that pleases our Lord and produces fruit.
3. Joshua 17:13 — “Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.” A small compromise in your obedience to God that seems like no big deal to you, is always a big deal to God. Even small acts of disobedience reveal what you care about is more important to you than what God cares about, that something other than God has become your priority. All disobedience is you saying, “God, You are not Lord here.” Rather than driving out the Canaanites, the Israelites made a comfort-based decision and put them into forced labor, avoiding conflict while promoting financial gain. No big deal, right? I wonder how the Israelites justified this defiance of God? Have you ever told yourself that you could control the apparently small sin in your life or keep it in a box? “I know the words of this song are bad, but I just like the music….” Have you ever said something like this: “Other than the profanity and sex scenes, that was a pretty good movie.”? Proverbs 6:27 asks, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” Don’t strive to control sin in your life – drive it out. Accept no compromise with sin. Trust and obey.
4. Joshua 17:14, 15 — “’Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?’ And Joshua said to them, ‘If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.’” Once again, God expects us to be thankful for what we have, not complain about or make excuses based upon what we don’t have. God wants us to make the most of what He has given us, under the conditions in which He has placed us. Circumstances don’t determine our success but rather how we respond to those circumstances. One of the easiest and most common copouts is to claim that we don’t have the resources (time, abilities, materiel, people, etc.) to get done what needs to get done. However, if God called us to do it, He will provide the resources. But God expects us to work diligently, persistently, and obediently. (Proverbs 10:4, 5) Proverbs remind us, “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) The people of Joseph were not satisfied with God’s blessings and commands and made excuses for their lack of obedience. As a result, they induced sorrows with the blessings they had received. Work joyfully, thankfully, contently, diligently, persistently, faithfully, and confidently with what God has given you and be blessed. Don’t make excuses. Don’t add your own sorrows.
5. Joshua 17:17-18 – “For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” God calls you to accomplish what is impossible for you to accomplish without His power so He will be glorified rather than you. It doesn’t take faith to do what you already know you can do.
6. Joshua 18:4-6 – “Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land. They shall write a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me. They shall divide it into seven portions. Judah shall continue in his territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall continue in their territory on the north. And you shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the Lord our God.” God gives us instructions for how to deal with the realities of human nature in order to keep peace and unity. People often struggle with rules of equality and fairness, particular when concerned with who gets what. Politics has been described as the process of deciding who gets what. God’s plan for dividing the land fairly was to send out teams of three (three witness are required for big decisions) to survey and record (putting the agreement in writing) the portions of land. Since the surveyors had no idea which portion of land they would ultimately get, they were incentivized to make equal portions. Casting lots takes the human out of the process, thereby eliminating any perceptions of bias. This God-given approach to negotiations should serve as a model for us today in order to preserve unity.
7. Joshua 18:6 – “And I will cast lots for you here before the Lord our God.” What we call chance is never chance to God. God is in total control. God gives the final answer. If you ever feel that you are the victim of circumstances, you fail to fully appreciate the sovereignty of God.
8. Proverbs 13:25 — “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want.” This is a very interesting Proverb. The appetite of the righteous is satisfied, but why? Perhaps it is because the appetite of the righteous is content with “enough” rather than “just a little more.” The righteous have learned to be content with what God has provided while the wicked are never satisfied in their empty cravings. The choice of the word “enough” in this Proverb is significant – it doesn’t say “plenty,” or “an abundance.” Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” rather than “give us this day bread for a lifetime.” Learning to walk in daily dependence on and confidence in God is where we find peace, contentment, and joy. In this position, we are like the “poor man” who “hears no threat (Proverbs 13:8).”
9. Romans 3:2 — To be entrusted with God’s word is a great advantage. What are you doing with God’s word?
10. Romans 3:3 – “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?” God is faithful even when we are not faithful. And a lack of faith does not change the truth of God’s word or the consequences of living or not living by God’s word. Without faith it is impossible to please God because faith trust God’s faithfulness to receive what He has already given us. In unfaithfulness, we don’t use what we have been given and act as if we had never received it. Our failure to take hold of what God has given us does not change the fact that He freely gave but merely demonstrates our lack of appreciation for the giver and the gift and robs us of the joy that comes from receiving.
11. Romans 3:5, 6 – “But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means!” Our sin only further reveals the truth of God’s word, the truth of His Righteousness, and the need for salvation through Jesus Christ.
12. Romans 3:5-8 – “And why not do evil that good may come?” The reality of our sinfulness and the reality of God’s grace for those who rely on Jesus does not in any way lighten the seriousness of sin or provide a license for continued sin.
13. Romans 3:9-18 — All people are subject to God’s judgement and need salvation through Jesus.
14. Romans 3:10-18 — Your thoughts, words, and deeds continually reveal your dependence on God’s mercy and grace and your need for continued sanctification.
15. Romans 3:19 – “…so that every mouth may be stopped….” The reality of our sin should eliminate all pride and boasting. Most people feel that they are generally good people. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).”
16. Romans 3:22-26 — “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” God is a God of love, but He is also a God of justice. In fact, love and justice go hand-in-hand. A loving God cannot accept injustice. God in His character of love and justice cannot simply overlook or excuse any sin – that would be unjust, unloving. The penalty must be paid. God has shown His righteousness through Jesus Christ by demanding the full penalty for sin, and penalty that we could not bear. And He has shown His love through the sacrifice of His One and Only Son on our behalf. Through Christ, God reveals that He is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” God Himself offers to pay the penalty for our sins “as a gift.” Said another way, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” However, a person doesn’t own a gift until they accept it from the giver. Who do you know who hasn’t accepted the gift of grace through Jesus Christ? Do you love that person enough to patiently lead them to Christ and to freedom? We have all fallen short, and justice demands our eternal death, but through the grace of God, Jesus paid the price for our sins that we can have freedom from God’s judgment and the gift eternal life. Having received grace and forgiveness from God through Jesus, God expects us to live our lives lovingly but also justly, and He holds us accountable for our sins and disciplines us, though not unto eternal death. Of God, the Bible says – “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he (Deuteronomy 32:4); of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice (Job 24:12). Shall one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty (Job 34:17)? But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice (Psalm 9:7); He loves righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:5). Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you (Psalm 89:14). Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:24). But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness (Isaiah 5:16). It is from the Lord that a man gets justice (Proverbs 29:26).” The God of love hates injustice: “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight (Proverbs 11:1). For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense (Isaiah 61:8). But woe to you Pharisees! For you… neglect justice and the love of God (Luke 11:42).” God calls justice light and injustice darkness (Isaiah 59:9). God says that His disciples are to be a light in the world, modelling the attribute of God’s justice. The God of love who hates injustice demands that people not only live justly but also fight against injustice — “You shall not pervert justice (Deuteronomy 16:19). Justice, and only justice, you shall follow (Deuteronomy 16:20). You shall not pervert the justice (Deuteronomy 24:17). Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice (Deuteronomy 27:19). He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 17:15). The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy (Psalm 111:7). “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God (Hosea 12:16). Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate (Amos 5:15).” Can you imagine a world totally without any justice? How dark would that be? How unloving? How evil? Have the courage to stand up against injustice in the Name of Jesus and under the authority of Jesus. Matthew 12:18 — Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
17. Romans 3:22 — Ultimately, righteousness cannot come from living a “good” life but only through total dependence on Jesus, His righteousness imputed to the unrighteous. Salvation depends on God’s accomplishments, not yours. Having been made righteous through Jesus, our only worthy response is to strive to live righteously in accordance with His character and will. We were paid for with the ultimate price of the blood of Jesus. The thought of trampling on the blood of Jesus should horrify you.
18. Romans 3:22-24 — Salvation in Jesus is available to every person who will believe and surrender their lives to Jesus.
19. Romans 3:31 — Grace does not nullify the law but gives us freedom to obey Jesus without fear.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 April: Explain Romans 3 to someone today.