Victory in Jesus – Joshua 6:1-5

Obedience Is The Key To Victory

1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

Overcoming when Overwhelmed

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by what God has asked you to do?  Does it feel like God has placed you in front of Mount Everest with a plastic spoon in your hand and tells you to move the mountain?   This is by design.  If we could do things in our own strength, how would God be glorified?  He wouldn’t – everyone who saw would say, “Wow – what talent!”  rather than “That could only have been accomplished through the power of the Lord God Almighty!”  Joshua must have felt the same way.

Let’s set the stage:  The Israelites, after forty years of wandering in the desert, have just successfully crossed the Jordan during FLOOD STAGE on dry land.  God began the Exodus with a parting of the waters, and ended it with another parting of the waters. Moses is now with the Lord, and Joshua has called the nation of Israel to be circumcised and dedicated to God.  Joshua is now facing his first battle; here was one of his first tests in leadership.  And the people of Israel are at Jericho, one of the most fortified and defensible cities they had ever seen.  The walls were insurmountable.  They might as well have been made from armor-plated concrete for all the good it would do for the Israelites to try to overcome.

But God (always notice the “but God” in any spiritual victory…) had already prepared the city to be conquered.  They had heard that God had dried up the Jordan, just as He did to deliver the Israelites out of the hands of Pharaoh.  And knowing this – that God was for the Israelites and against them – their hearts melted, and they no longer had the strength and conviction to defeat the people of God.  If God is against you, how can you prevail?  You cannot.

Powerful Perspective

Then, the commander of the army of the Lord appears, sword drawn.  Joshua questions the man, who announces himself.  Then, the Lord makes a statement to Joshua:

See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

From the perspective of God, who sees everything from the end to the beginning, the victory has already been accomplished.  In God’s mind, it has already occurred.  There is finality in it, because God DOES know the future, and sees it as it is, rather than as we see it (with uncertainty).  We are bound by time and space; God created both of these things, and is outside of them, with an eternal perspective.  Meanwhile, the city wall still stands, and the fortified city still stands.

He then gives Joshua some very specific and, in the eyes of the world, what would appear to be idiotic instructions – to march around the city for six days, then on the seventh day to march around it seven times, blow the trumpets, and shout.  So, have you ever shouted at an inanimate object before in anger?  Did anything change with it after you shouted, “Stupid car!” or “Worthless dishwasher!” or ?  If so, you are one of the rare people!  It may help us to vent our anger and frustration, but typically does nothing to improve our situation.  In the eyes of men, overcoming this city would have been nearly impossible.  It would only be through the hand and power of God that the city would be conquered.  Especially by just walking around it, blowing trumpets, and shouting.

Obedience Overcomes

And, when we are given instructions that don’t make sense to us, this is our crisis of faith:  do we follow in obedience, or look at our circumstances.  It is only when we are submitted to and obedient to the instructions of God that we will overcome.  It is then, and only then, that God will give us victory in our impossible situation, bringing glory to Himself, and showing the world that the Lord God Almighty, YHWH, is the only one true God, and is to be feared, worshiped, and obeyed.

In obedience to His word, He brings about victory and supernaturally displays His sovereignty over all creation.  He is able to make the wind and waves obey Him;  Every living creature is at His beck and call; time itself is in His hands, and the Sun, Moon, and stars obey his every command.  By His command, man has been brought forth in life, and the dead have risen.  Bushes ignite in flames but are not consumed. His faithful have been thrown into the fiery furnace and returned without even the smell of fire on them.  Lions mouths were shut and opened at His command.  Death itself was conquered through the obedience of His One and Only Son.  Nothing is impossible for God, and victory comes to the obedient.

Remember that taking a fortified city at that time came with great risks.  If you got too close to the walls, archers would turn you into a pincushion.  If you managed to get past the barrage of arrows, you would them be subject to a couple of different attacks.  Once you got up against the wall, they would often pour boiling oil or tar on you.  They may then fire some flaming arrows down at you, and you would burst into flame.  That will generally ruin your day.  In addition, they would often hurl stones at you.  From a sufficient height, a stone the size of a basket ball could effectively crush you.  There were great dangers in venturing this close to the city’s fortifications.  Yet that is what God told them to do.  Obedience to God always yields reward.

Faithful Followup

And when we are obedient to God – regardless of how silly, insulting, embarrassing, or impossible the command that we have been given – God reaches out with power, strength and provision, and causes the mountains to move, the Earth to shake, and His glory and power are revealed to all so that God may not be made out to be a liar, but instead keeps His word in complete and total faithfulness.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

In this particular case, the Israelites did exactly what God had told them to do.  And in return for their faithful obedience, the walls of Jericho fell, and the Israelites were victorious.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being obedient to the known will of God in faith?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, throughout Your holy word, You have shown us Your character, and even sent Your One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the truth.  For if we have seen the Son, we have seen the Father.  Your character is perfect, and You are not a liar.  You will faithfully carry out all that You have said that You would.  You have shown me time and time again in Your word where You have been faithful when we show up in faith and obedience.  Help me, Father, to overcome the giant that taunts me, and threatens me, and causes my heart to melt in fear.  Give me the strength to meet all resistance with the knowledge and faith that You are faithful, Lord God, and nothing is impossible for You.  Help me to do all that You have commanded me to do, and give me clear direction so that I can be faithful and obedient to You.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Jesus, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Perspective of God – Genesis 1:27

Who Is Sovereign?

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Two Thoughts

In the United States of America, there are currently two prevailing thoughts on the idea of person-hood:

  1. Man has evolved from a primordial ooze brought about by a “big bang” ex nihilo.
    1. Purpose: to fulfill his own needs and desires as man sees fit
  2. Man was created in the image of God
    1. Purpose: to worship God and have relationship with Him

In the first case, many take the position that man just evolved from lower life forms, such as apes.  This particular thought process identifies man as the chief architect over his life, goals, desires, motives, and directions.  In other words, it establishes that man is sovereign over his own life, and all life.  The complete end of accountability is with himself.  This is the model of self-focus.

In the second case, others take the position that man was sovereignly created by God for the purposes and pleasure of God.  Rather than having any sovereignty of his own, man is charged with stewardship over what God has created.  Because of this, man is accountable to God for everything that is done while man is alive.  This is the model of other-focus.

Sovereign Selection

This is effectively a question of sovereignty.  Is man sovereign, or is God sovereign?

From the perspective of sovereign man, it doesn’t really matter what man does.  There is no afterlife, there is no accountability, there is no real purpose in life.  Life is meant to be enjoyed, regardless of the outcome, because there is nothing else.  This is the natural extension of this particular viewpoint.  And as an added bonus to this viewpoint, there are no consequences to be endured after man has ceased to physically be alive.  This viewpoint allows for any and all things to be done while alive.

Additionally, it removes responsibility for actions.  Since the chief end of man in this perspective is that he will be growing daisies with his decomposing body, he has the full right to extinguish the lives of others.  Since there is no inherent value in life, apart from enduring it until one pushes daisies from six feet under ground, man can say that his body is his own to do with whatever he wants.  And while certain actions decrease the success of the propagation of the species (such as the choice of a woman to prematurely end the growing process of a child in her womb), the belief is that enough people will want to continue the process of life so that any particular single decision regarding this matter is not significant and does not directly impact society as a whole.

In the other perspective, because of the position that man has in relation to God, there is great impact and accountability with what man does while he is alive.  Man has a specific purpose, and that purpose is expected to be fulfilled by God.  There is not only responsibility and accountability to someone other than himself, but carries with it the knowledge that there are consequences to these choices beyond the physical life.  There is a sense of eternity in this view, and the consequences of life will follow the person into eternity.

Due to the responsibility for their actions, man is held accountable for his views and actions.  With regards to person-hood, this reveals itself as a deep respect for all life, and specifically the life of man, as man is an image-bearer of God.  The act of depriving another person of life is very serious.  This includes life that is growing but has not yet fully developed.  Because of eternity, man must pay very careful attention to how he conducts his life and affairs, knowing that these things will follow him into eternity.

Eternal Effects

These boil down to a question:  Is there life after death (eternity), or is there just death?  Is there a God, or isn’t there a God?  If there is a God, and man believes otherwise, he is in for a rude surprise once he physically dies.  If there is no God, nothing matters, and man can act in any way that he desires (regardless of his desire to act in any particular way, either in partnership with others or in opposition to others):

  • The strong can rule over the weak with impunity
  • Retaliation is not only allowed but should be encouraged to extend the natural life of man, as laws would only be a false construct of man to control the behavior of others
  • Anarchy and emotion will rule over man
  • Reason will have no part in deciding whether or not to act in a particular way, as life is over when you die anyway.
  • Buy bigger guns – you will need them to fend off the people around you as they seek to acquire your resources and force you to do their bidding

This is not to say that this viewpoint precludes people from acting morally.  It is just that since there are no consequences for actions after death, there is no driving reason to do so.  And once a situation arises that places the person’s self interests into direct conflict with the interests of others, the average person will choose their own interests (self-preservation) over the interests of others.

If there is a God, and we are accountable for everything we think, say, and do, we had better be ready to give an accounting for what we have done with the life that has been graciously given to us, and face any consequences that our thoughts, words, and deeds may carry into eternity.

The choice is yours.  Choose wisely.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Regardless of what we say publicly, do we believe that God is sovereign, or that we are sovereign?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, help me to have a perspective that sees You as my provider, protector, and instructor.  Guide me in every way I should go.  Help me to see how my actions will affect myself, others, and You.  Place within me a desire to see from Your perspective.  Guard my heart as I am bombarded with ideas and beliefs that directly or subtly contradict Your word.  Help me to have a Kingdom perspective of Your sovereignty and my role as Your child.  This I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Perspective of God – Matthew 25:21-22

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

In another stunning turn of events, Jesus turned the tables on those who would follow the letter of the law on the outside, but refused to change on the inside. The Pharisees were notorious for following the letter of the law without allowing the law to change their hearts; and in doing so, they broke the spirit of the law.  Jesus makes it clear here that God wants us to follow both the letter and the spirit of the law.

In just this one chapter of scripture (Matthew 5:27-48) , there are no less than five additional places where Jesus provided clarification regarding the letter of the law and the spirit of the law:

[Adultery]
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

[Divorce]
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

[Oaths]
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

[Eye for an eye]
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

[Love for enemies]
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

In each case, Jesus show how we should act when the law is brought into account.  Our sin nature desires what benefits itself most.  It is natural, in our old nature, to merely outwardly obey what the law requires.  We can easily overlook the deeper nature of what is required of us when we just seek to be justified in our perceived fulfillment through a minimalist attitude regarding obedience to the law.

Jesus was so upset with this from the religiously pious leaders that he called them white-washed tombs with dead men’s bones inside.   That is an interesting analogy!  What an insult that must have been to the pious leaders – that they were tombs, places where physically (but in this analogy, spiritually) dead people were placed.  And, appearing squeaky-clean on the outside, giving an appearance of cleanliness and holiness, they were instead filled with the rotting (spiritually dead) corpses that if touched, would make one ritualistically unclean for worshiping God.

Another example of this is a man who claims to know God. He is a very nice guy to all that he encounters, and appears to be of good moral character.  Due to a workplace accident, he is on disability.  He works as many side jobs as possible (perfectly OK), and asks for cash only when performing the work (still perfectly OK).  However, he doesn’t report the additional income he earns from these side jobs to the government so that his benefits are not reduced.  And while we all chafe at egregious taxation, he fails to take into account what Paul said in Romans 13:1-2,6-7:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

We can easily deceive ourselves into making a righteous justification for just about everything we do that is counter to the Word of God in the name of “circumstantial difficulty”.  This is where moral relativism creeps into our lives.  And once we start down that path, we can then justify everything we do, and then fail to realize just how far short of the glory of God we are becoming.

So let’s ask ourselves the question: Am I following the letter of the law, or the spirit of the law?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, our hearts are filled with deceit, and we deceive ourselves when we merely follow the letter of the law.  Father, cleanse me now of all unrighteousness.  Show me where I have this attitude in my heart, and bring it into the light so that the light would dispel the darkness.  If this is rooted in bitterness of spirit from an experience of my past, please remove it, no matter how painful it is.  Help me to heal, and to avoid this attitude in my life.  Guard my heart, and keep it until the great and terrible day that Your Son, Jesus Christ, returns in Glory to claim what is His, and bring judgement on all that refused Him in life.  Bless not only me, but all who struggle with this issue.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Perspective of God – Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This is a form of Hebraic poetry.  It takes the form:

    B   –   B
  /               \
A                   A

Ellis Scolfield writes, “Hebrew poetry is parallel in nature. A Hebrew poet would say something one way and then repeat the same idea later on in different words. These repeats could be a sentence, a paragraph, or even several chapters long. So how can we identify repetitive prophecies when we see them? By recognizing the Hebrew poetic style in which it was written.  [Textual scholars call this type of repetition the bifidic form.]12  (Brackets added for quote reference clarification)

Isaiah reveals to us something that we should already know – God’s thoughts and ways are beyond ours.  We are so bound by time, that we generally don’t have an eternal perspective.  But there are other instances where this is apparent.  Isaiah shows us something unusual in Isaiah 57:1-2:

1 The righteous perish,
    and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
    and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
    to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
    enter into peace;
    they find rest as they lie in death.

We generally think that it is a great tragedy when someone is taken home to be with the Lord, especially if they are young.  But communicating with us through Isaiah the prophet, God says this is a blessing; that the righteous and devout are taken away to be spared from evil.  Oh, how we long for the influence of evil to finally end!  The pain and suffering it causes; its ripple effects sweeping people into chaos like a tsunami rushing inland.  It leaves destruction and loss everywhere it touches.  Rather than having to resist that force, and pick up the broken pieces, they are taken away, where they are with the Lord now and for eternity.

Our perspective is focused on the loss of their companionship, wisdom, fellowship, giftedness, relationship, and other factors in which we are immediately affected.  From God’s perspective, it is for their benefit that they are now with God, and no longer subject to the trials and temptations that afflict us until the glorious second coming of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  In this, we can see our selfishness at our perceived loss rather than their great gain.  And in our grief, sorrow, and mourning, we can all too soon forget that God’s sovereignty and perfect plan are in action, and that we will, in the lens of Eternity, see them again soon enough.

If you are mourning and grieving, your pain is real;  Let God comfort you through it.  And when you emerge on the other side, rejoice!  For He has done a wonderful thing and has blessed your loved one with the privilege of being in His presence and in final rest and peace from the evils of this world, soon to be reunited with you in glory!

 A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my heart grieves the temporary loss of my friend and loved one.  Help me to work through the pain of loss.  Although I know that I will see them again when Your Beloved Son comes triumphantly in the sky, or possibly even sooner should You bless me with the opportunity to be in Your Presence before that great and terrible day, I am still in shock.  I am numb as I try to process this.  Please comfort me in my pain.  Uphold me, and restore normalcy to my daily routine.  Surround me with Your love as a mother hen gathers her chicks close to her under her wings.  Oh God, how it hurts!  Remember me this day, Lord, and give me the ability to just breathe.  This I ask and pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

[This post is dedicated to T. G., who recently lost his wife]

1 Packer-Tenny-White, The Bible Almanac, 1980, p349.

2 Ellis Scolfield, Bifids and Chiasms, [Unknown], p1.