Wednesday, 31 March 2010

And the walls came a tumblin’ down

So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. – Joshua 6v20

So what kind of Commander did Joshua meet? At first He does not appear to be any kind of military genius.

‘Here are the plans for the Battle of Jericho. Take all the people to the city walk around it one time with no noise, then come back home. Do the same thing for six more days. On the seventh day walk around the city seven times. On the seventh lap have the priests will blow their horns, everyone shout, and the walls will fall down and you can go in and take the city.’

Surely the people must have felt just a little foolish walking around the city 12 times. I can only imagine what the Jerichoites thought.

But it happened. The people did as God instructed. For six days they got up, got everyone ready, went to Jericho, walked silently around it, and came home. The seventh day came. Off to Jericho again. One lap, two laps, three, four, five, six laps. Finally the 13th lap of the week came. They knew their instructions, ‘when you hear the horns shout with all your might.’ How their hearts must have been beating in their chests as they waited for the horns. Then, the horns sounded, the people shouted, and, as the old song goes, ‘the walls came a’tumblin’ down.’

Sometimes God’s plans for us seem just as ‘crazy’ to our flawed and frail human minds. We can’t always see God’s way for the walls that we run into in our walk with Him. We look at ways to attack the walls, undermine them, or scale them. Often however God’s plan is just for us to patiently wait for Him to tear down those walls.

Can we trust and obey like Israel did?

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Our Commander

So He said, "No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?" - Joshua 5v14

Poor Joshua had to be a bit anxious. As he was approaching Jericho he saw a powerful military man with his sword drawn. They had just crossed the Jordan and really did not know what was ahead.

He approached the man and asked Him, ‘Are you fighting for us or for our enemies?’ The man replied, ‘I am the Commander of the army of the Lord.’ Joshua fell down in worship and he Man accepted his worship. In the Bible only God accepts worship. Then the man told Joshua to take of his shoes, for he was on holy ground.

Those are the same words that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush. Joshua was in the presence of a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.

Christ is portrayed in many ways in the Bible. He is the Lamb of God. We see Him loving the sinner and reaching out the poor and downtrodden. During His earthly ministry we see Him in His meekness and humility.

But we must never forget His role as military commander. That is how He will return one day leading the armies of heaven to finally vanquish sin and His opposition.

When it seems like everything in the battle is going against us, let us put our faith in our Commander. He knows the battle plans. He also knows the end result. Lets be faithful to our Commander in the daily fight!

Monday, 29 March 2010

They ate of the food of the land

Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year. – Joshua 5v12

29 March 1970. I was fourteen years old, the same age as our Eoin. I was in the 9th grade at R.L. Stone Junior High. The third moon landing flight, Apollo 13 was due to lift-off in a couple of weeks. The Kansas City Chiefs were Super Bowl champions. Dana had just won Eurovision for Ireland with ‘All kinds of everything.’ The Vietnam War was raging. Everton were on their way to winning the First Division football title and Chelsea would win the FA Cup. There were no consumer available computers and the ARPAnet, ancient ancestor of the internet, had just been developed linking four computers in California and Utah. The first email was a year away. Less than 1% of American homes had microwave ovens and only the rich and famous had telephones in their cars. Even the electronic digital watch was not on the market yet.

Forty years is a long time. Imagine spending all that time wandering around a desert, moving from place to place, and setting up and breaking down tents. It had been forty long tedious years since God has showed the marvellous lands they had were to one day possess. The land flowing with milk and honey with its huge clusters of grapes was so close, and yet so far away.

Finally, after all that time they are able to eat ‘the food of the land of Canaan.’ Isn’t it sad that they missed out on the blessings for so long just because of their lack of faith? They could have spent all that time raising their children in the comfort of the Promised Land, but they missed it because they did not think God was strong enough to give them what He had promised.

I wonder what blessings we miss because we don’t trust God. What kind of ‘food of the land’ do we miss out on because we have to solve things our way? How much do we miss while life rolls by?

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Rolled Away

Then the LORD said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day. – Joshua 5v9

‘Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away
Every burden on my heart rolled away
Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away
Every burden on my heart rolled away
All my sin had to go, 'Neath the crimson flow..[Hallalujah]
Rolled away, rolled away, rolled away
Every burden on my heart rolled away’

I could not help but think of this song as I read this passage today. The setting is just before Joshua and the people were to cross over into the land. None of the males who were born in the wilderness had been circumcised. Circumcision was required as a symbol of God’s cleansing and separation for His people so Joshua had them all circumcised and he called the place Gilgal. That word means be ‘rolled back‘ or ‘rolled away.’ The reason for the naming is that the final deliverance from Egypt was accomplished. The sin of the land was ‘rolled away.’

Why is this important to us? I think the writers of the little chorus above got the message. At salvation something was ‘rolled away’ for us. When we were saved our sin was indeed rolled away. We have our own Gilgal to remember.

Praise God for my own Gilgal way back in 1974!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Memorial stones

that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?' Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever." – Joshua 4v6-7

Memorials are a part of life. They are set up in towns and cites and important places all over the world. Sometimes they are set up on a roadside to remember someone who died in a tragic road accident. Sometimes they remember war heroes. Sometimes they remember victims of great tragedies. The purpose is that those who come later will not forget the people or events being commemorated.

God was doing a great work in parting the Jordan to let the people cross. You would think that it would be something people would never forget, and that is probably true, but people are going to come along who are not going to remember the event. Because of that God had the people set up memorial stones so that when their children and grandchildren asked about the stones they could tell them what God had done.

As I read this today I got to wondering if there are things that I can do to set up some kind of memorial of what God has done for me so that my children and my grandchildren will know what He has done.

What can we do to make sure they remember?

Friday, 26 March 2010

A step of faith

And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap." – Joshua 3v13

Whenever I read this passage my mind goes back to many years ago in the Madison County Coliseum in Huntsville where a gospel group, I think it was the Cathedrals, sang the song ‘Step Into the Water.’

Now it has been a long time, and my memory very well might be flawed here, but I think I remember them relating this Bible event to the song. The priests were told that before the Jordan would be parted for them to cross over on dry land they actually had to step into the water. As soon as the soles of their feet touched the river the waters would part.

This was a lot different than when Moses parted the Red Sea. There he raised his staff and the people saw dry ground. Here they were called to step into the river and then God would do the rest.

While the Red Sea crossing was big and powerful and obvious and one of those times when God just steps in and does a something massive for us, the Jordan River crossing is more like what we encounter every day. Most of the time we are called to step out in faith and God work. As fearsome as it might have been to those priests, and as much as they might have wondered if God was going to do it this time, they got to the river, perhaps took a deep breath, and stepped out. When they did, God answered and parted the river for them.

We face Jordan River experiences all the time. God leads us to a certain point, a chance to share our faith for example, and then it is up to us. If we stop short we never get to see God work, but if we say that first word, step into the water in essence, we see God open the way to do the rest.

What do we do when our faith had brought us to the Jordan River? How about trying ‘step into the water’ and see what God will do?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sanctify yourselves

And Joshua said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you." – Joshua 3v5

The next step for Israel was a huge one – entering the land of Canaan. For them to succeed God was going to have to do a great work for them. He had already sanctified them, or separated them from the rest of the world, when He had called them to be His people. Now, before they headed into this task, God told them that they had to do their part in setting themselves apart from the land which they were entering.

The instruction here is a wise one for us to listen too. God sanctified us at salvation when he set us apart in Christ. One day He will totally set us apart then we go to meet Him. In the meantime our daily, practicable sanctification is something that we are called on to do everyday.

Once saved we will always be His children. If we want Him to do wonders through us we need to choose to separate ourselves from the things of this world.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

That you may know the way

Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before." – Joshua 3v4

Finally. Forty years later, for the entire adult of everyone but Joshua and Caleb the time had come to enter the long sought after Promised Land.

I would imagine the scene being something like the boarding call for a Ryan Air flight with everyone rushing to the gate to be first and to claim their spot. I hate that but I get caught up in it as well.

I think that is human nature. I also think of the old grainy photograph of the settlers lining up for the start of rush for free land as a result of the Homestead Act in the United States. Thousands of people are lined up waiting for the gunshot that would send them on their way to stake their claims.

I can almost see Israel doing the same. ‘All we have to do is cross that river and claim our land.’

But God said wait. ‘The ark is going first. You all stay a kilometre back and wait because you have never been this way before.’

Think about that. Here is the chance to finally settle in the land and God tells you that you have to stay back 1000 metres, ten football pitches. Knowing me I would have been exactly at the 1000 metre mark anxiously watching every move.

God knew that it was best for them to hold back and watch Him before they acted. That goes against my nature. I don’t want to stay back and wait for God. I would rather just jump in to a situation that needs to be sorted.

In reality I don’t know what is around the next bend. God does. I need to hold back and watch His leadership before I act in my own wisdom.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Lord your God, He is God

And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. – Joshua 2v11

It is interesting to note that among the people James uses to explain the relation of faith and works we find a Gentile prostitute in the city of Jericho.

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

The only other example was Abraham, so this must be a major incident in the Old Testament.

Rahab expressed her faith in the Lord with her words, The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.’ But anybody can say words, without some evidence to back up her expression of faith it would be meaningless, or dead as James puts it.

Rahab proved her faith when she hid God’s spies from the enemy. She put herself in danger by doing so, but her faith was strong enough that it conquered her fear.

Rahab said that the Lord was God. He works proved her faith. True faith that does not produce works is not faith.

Monday, 22 March 2010

State of Fear

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." – Joshua 1v8-9

In 2004 Michael Creighton published a techno-novel titled ‘State of Fear.’ The theme of the book was his contention that the threat of ‘global warming’ was a hoax perpetration to keep people in a ‘state of fear’ and allow more control of the people and their way of life.

I happen to agree with his contention, but that was not really the point of the novel. Creighton points out that the ‘state of fear; is a constant because people thrive on living in fear. Communist plots, global warming, Muslim terrorism, and so on and so on have all been used to get people to accept more and more control.

I agree that people seem to relish living in fear, but I contend that there is another kind of ‘state of fear’ that can distract and paralyse God’s people.

This is on my mind this morning as I watch the response of some American Christians to yet another perceived political defeat. The US House of Representatives passed a health care reform bill yesterday and you would think that God had died with the 216th ‘yes’ vote. Many of my American Christian friends on Facebook and posters on a Christian forum are up in arms over this ‘dark day in American history’ and seem to be in a panic over ‘loss of freedom’ and the ‘act of tyranny’ that resulted in this seemingly earth shakingly disastrous news. Some folks even seem to be afraid of the future as a result of this single vote.

And yet all over the world their brothers and sisters in Christ live, serve, and thrive in far worse political situations. Have we forgotten the words that Joshua received from the Lord as he prepared to enter Canaan?

‘You have My word. Meditate on it day and night. Do what it says. Then you will be prosperous and then you will have success. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid no matter what happens. I am with you.’

God does not die with political actions. He is not defeated by the petty whims of presidents or prime ministers or parliaments or kings. This world is not really our home anyway. We are just passing through.

Our success is not dependent on political decisions. Our success and our prosperity is assured as we cling to His word and go forth in His strength and His courage.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t be dismayed – the Lord is with us!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

One of a kind

But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, - Deuteronomy 34v10

I don’t have a whole lot to say this morning, I just could not say good bye to Moses without one more mention.

We always hear the news about every famous celebrity who dies. This week Fess Parker, or Davy Crockett as most of us remember him, died. Every death is mentioned in the news and on Facebook and we think about them and possibly reflect on how time is passing along with the celebrities we knew growing up.

I don’t have a problem with that and I often reflect on these lives and for some the memories they left. Certain people make an impact on us whether we know them or not.

I sort of feel that way today as I read of Moses’ death. ‘So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.’ The people wept for the traditional thirty days and the days of weeping we done. That sounds like today when a celebrity dies. We think about it, we talk about, and then we move on to the next celebrity death. We often talk about them as being ‘one of a kind’ and some of them are too us.

But God adds a mention to Moses’ life that we need to see. The weeping was over, ‘but since then there has not risen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.’

A few men in the Old Testament really stick out in our memories. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Elijah was carried to glory accompanied by a chariot of fire. And Moses was the prophet that God knew face to face.

Moses led a stubborn and rebellious nation for forty years. He was not perfect, we know that by the very fact that he was buried on the ‘wrong side’ of the Jordan River. He was, however, God’s man for the hour. He was a standout in God’s eyes. He lived a life truly worth remembering.

Good ole Moses – one of a kind.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

He will provide atonement

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; a For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people." – Deuteronomy 32v43

The problem with theological words is that they can be so ‘theological.’ We can do a couple of things with theological words. Sometimes we just ignore them because they scare us off. More often we just kind of ignore them because we have some kind of vague understanding of them so we just listen along and go on our way without really grasping it.

Atonement is one of those words. Most have heard it preached about it or have read it in our Bibles without really getting it. We could go into all the details of the word, but I was once taught a very easy way to remember what this word means. Atonement provides an ‘at-one-ment’ with God.

Sin drove a huge wedge between us and God. An insurmountable wedge that created a chasm so wide that being ‘at-one’ with Him was impossible. Once man became a sinner there was nothing he could do about. Unworthy to become ‘at-one’ with God man was dependent on God to provide the ‘at-one-ment’ with Him.

From the first few books of the Bible we may have thought that any chance of atonement would only be for His chosen people. Yet His plan was always much bigger then that.

In this verse He calls on the Gentiles to rejoice with His people for the atonement that is to come. Apart from the gospel of Christ we might be slightly mystified at what seems like a cryptic message.

We are blessed to see the full impact of this verse in the New Testament. The Gentiles, all of us who are not Jews, cold rejoice because when Christ provided the ‘at-one-ment’ on the cross all the barriers between Jew and Gentile we broken down. ‘His people’ would mean more than just the Jews, but all who would accept His atonement.

‘For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.’ – 1 Corinthians 12v12-23

The prophesied atonement, to which the Gentiles we called to rejoice, came to fulfilment is Christ! Indeed, what a great cause to rejoice!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Forgetting your Father

Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you. – Deuteronomy 32v18

I have already been ‘outed’ in the fact that I like to watch Judge Judy. The episodes we get are at least a couple of years old, but Judge Judy is timeless so it doesn’t really matter J.

Realising that this is only Judge Judy I am still saddened when I see parents and children in lawsuits. Even sadder is the fact that these things really do happen. Parents and their children do fall out and relationships are shattered.

I think of how said this is. I know that there are cases where families are sadly broken from day one and that is terrible tragic. I am thinking today though of those families that went through really good years when the children were young. I think of birthday parties and Christmases and graduations and weddings and the birth of grandchildren and all those marvellous things. I think of family outings and picnics and trips to the zoo and wonderful photographs and fantastic memories. I think of the bonds between parents and children and how precious they are.

Then I think of myself as a dad. Most of our kids are grown and though I often differ with my adult children I am blessed to have good relationships with them all. I cannot imagine the hurt that would come if my children would forget me in any regard. Even at the most difficult times we stay in touch and work through our differences.

But what if we didn’t? What if they broke off contact completely? What if they ‘forgot’ all about me and the years we have had and the fathering? Even though my fathering has been flawed and I have blown it over and over I would still be devastated.

But here have Israel. After all He has done in provided for Hid children and meeting their needs they have forgotten Him. They have all of this despite that fact that their Father is perfect and has never made a mistake.

Terrible of Israel, right? Of course! But how about us? We have seen an aspect of God that they did not. We have seen out heavenly Father in the light of the precious gift of His Son. And yet we still can forget our Father and leave Him out of our daily lives.

How sad that we would heavenly forget our heavenly Father and remember all the rubbish of the world around us.

Remember Him today.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

His work is perfect

He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He. – Deuteronomy 32v4

I don’t always ‘get’ what God is doing. Sometimes it makes no sense to my mind and it does not fit into my planes. I have admittedly at times stepped back and asked myself ‘What is God doing here.’

It is easy enough to see how we get there. We have a financial blow. We lose a job. The care breaks down. Someone we love gets really sick. Someone dies. Our family and friends disappoint us. We have a house fire. All the while we are striving to serve God and do His will.

And yet we read here that ‘His work is perfect.’ How can that be? How can His way be perfect when everything can seem to be going wrong at once?

Because His perspective and my perspective are not the same. Because I am a sin cursed fallible human and He is holy fallible God. Because my ways and not His ways and my thoughts are not His thoughts. Because His ways are so high above my ways that I can never hope to really grasp them.

Isn’t this the root of faith; that we acknowledge His work as perfect even when we don’t get it?

His way is always perfect. His ways are always just.

The sooner we get that figured out the happier we will be.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Rock

He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He. – Deuteronomy 32v4

Whenever I think of this appellation for God my mind turns to Edinburgh Castle. As early as 1093 a mention is of a castle on the rock above Edinburgh. It is truly an amazing place to see and visit.

When I think of the castle I always think of the massive rock on which it was built. When you tour the castle today, a thousand years after its building started, you cannot help but be impressed by the strength of the structure. The early builders cut into the rock itself and therefore you can walk into the very foundation of the paragon of stability.

It is clear why the earliest tribes chose this place to build a castle. It is solid, stable, and strong. It is hardly going be easily moved or attacked. It was a place where the people could put their confidence for safety and security.

As impressive as that is, we have a rock even stronger and more stable than the rock on which Edinburgh Castle is built. In fact we have a rock who is called ‘the’ rock. One day Edinburgh castle may be moved. An powerful enough earthquake could, perhaps, shake the might edifice and it could crumble into dust. The chances are slim, but I suppose it could happen.

But our Rock, the Rock, will never be shaken. He will ever stand firm and sure and stable and solid and unshakeable. With even more confidence than those early Celts had in their mighty rock we can build on lives with assurance on our Rock. He will never be moved!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

God is great, God is good…

For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. – Deuteronomy 32v3

Moses is wrapping things up here. He has done all the leading he can do and taught all that he can. Like many great leaders who are retiring from the scene Moses gave a great farewell address to His followers.

What follows is a beautiful psalm of praise to the God who had carried them through the wilderness.

He begins with a simple enough instruction with plenty to follow; ‘ascribe greatness to our God.’

We tend to ascribe greatness to a great many things, and I don’t have a problem with that. ‘That was a great meal.’ Ireland played a great match Saturday.’ That’s great news.’

Sadly I can find myself only ascribing greatness to God when I see the results of His work as great according to my point of view. The truth is that God is great no matter what I see.

I thought about this recently when Matt was talking about Michelle’s leukaemia. From our perspective we can say things like ‘What a great God we have’ because He has brought her safely through the most serious part of her illness and the prognosis is good. As Matt pointed out the other day though, God would still be great even if she had not survived those first crucial days.

One of the first prayers I learned as a child was a prayer to say before meals. ‘God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen’

That might be a simple, childlike prayer, but it sure starts with some great theology!

Monday, 15 March 2010

He is your life

that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." – Deuteronomy 30v20

Yesterday we examined the choice of life over death. The next verse tells us how to choose life over death and good over evil.

Remember what Jesus said to Thomas and the disciples? ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ We all know that our physical life is nothing but a wisp that is here for just an instant, then gone forever. 70. 80, 100 years and then it is all over. Our life must therefore be much more than just this physical life.

So here we read that as Jesus said He is indeed our life. Everyday in many situations we have a choice to make. Are we going to choose what makes sense for our physical life, or are we going to choose what please Him who is our true Life.

This means even more for us as Christians. When we are saved it is no longer us who is alive, but Christ lives in us. The life that we now live in the flesh we are to live by faith in the One who is our life.

He is our life for all the days of our lives. As we make our choices today may we consistently choose life that is grounded in Him.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil…therefore choose life – Deuteronomy 30v15

Choices have always been a part of life. Adam and Eve had a choice. Cain and Able had a choice. Joshua will give the people a choice as did Elijah.

The context here is still preparation to enter Canaan. God told them, ‘I have set before you a choice; life and good or evil and death.’ He could not have made the choice any clearer. ‘Do what I command you and live or disobey me and die.’

We [should] do the same thing with our children. Give them a clear choice, do this and everything will be fine or disobey and suffer the consequences.

I certainly don’t want to get involved in an election debate so I will skip my view on how this principle applies to salvation. Instead I will address the issue for believers.

Those of us who are saved are His children. We are secure in that. God gives us choices in how to live as His children. We want to live in the peace of God? Then we can choose to obey Philippians 4. We want to have a happy family? Then we obey His principles for the familial order. We want peace in the church? The we can obey the principles of humility, patience, and putting others first.

We have choices – we can obey Him and enjoy all the benefits of life with Him, or we can ignore it and suffer the consequences.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The word is very near

But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. – Deuteronomy 30v14

It only makes sense, doesn’t it, that if there is a God who made us and cares for us that He would also communicate with us?

Anyone who has ever had or worked with children knows the classic excuse for not doing as instructed. ‘Why didn’t you come when I called you?’ The classic response – ‘I didn’t hear you!’

Now sometimes that might be true, and sometimes it might be true only because the child was not listening, or even practicing ‘selective hearing.’

Sadly, we might also use that same excuse when it comes to following and obeying God. God would not let Israel use that excuse. He told them not to say that they had to wait for His instructions, but that His instructions were right there before them and all the had to do was to just ‘do it.’

If God could tell Israel that how much more could He say that to us? We have His word with us always. We have Bibles on our desks, by our bedside, in our cars, on our computers, and even on our phones. We have preaching and teaching more available than it has ever been.

His word is indeed very near – we have no excuse. Now we have to ‘do it.’

Friday, 12 March 2010

He took my curse

"If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God. – Deuteronomy 21v22-23

I’ll be honest with you. Sometimes when I read through the genealogies or the list of laws I don’t catch every single word. Sometimes I just skim over these passages. I know that if I were spiritual I would not do this, but…

Anyway, Deuteronomy 21 is part of that list of rules and laws and regulations. But something caught my eye at the end of the chapter. It is a passage quoted by Paul in the book of Galatians - Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"),

This tie in is astounding. It seems almost just a cursory mention in the Law. If a man commits a crime worthy of hanging don’t leave his body on the tree overnight, because anyone who is hanged is cursed.’

In this passage the hanging is referring to a garrotting, the kind of rope around the neck hanging that we are familiar with. But the Holy Spirit in Galatians applies it to Christ hanging on the cross.

‘Christ became cursed for us’ is an amazingly powerful statement. Look back at Deuteronomy - ‘he who is hanged is cursed of God.’ Think about that for a minute. Jesus, God Himself, the ‘curser; if you will, became the ‘cursee.’

What kind of love would send the Creator and Controller of the universe to the cross as one who is cursed? The innocent Lamb of God hung for sins He did not commit. He became cursed for me.

When I take that into account I need to ask myself – ‘In the light of this, what have I really done for Him?’

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Open your hand

For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land. – Deuteronomy 15v11

Poverty is sadly a part of life. It is not going anywhere. It has always been here, and it always will be here. It is just a part of life.

The question for us is how to deal with the poor. It is easy enough to ignore or neglect the poor. Most of us rarely come into contact with the poor, and even when we do it is easy enough to ignore them.

Virtually every time God talks about the poor He talks about His people helping them. I think the only major occasion when this is not the case is when Judas criticises the use of the expensive oil to wash Jesus’ feet. Even here it was a matter of Judas’ heart and not really the poor.

From way back in the time of the Law God’s principle in dealing with the poor is to ‘open our hands to them.’ This was the true test of revival in the book of Isaiah. Jesus stressed it in His teaching. It a major part of the instructions to the church in the epistles.

Sadly, many churches have not yet clued in to the importance of the teaching in actual practice. Especially in the last 50-60 years we have been so afraid of being associated with the ‘social gospel’ movement that we have neglected what it obviously to be a part of our behaviour as believers.

The result is that we abrogate our responsibility to the social reformers and government and then we critcise them for doing it.

What would our societies be like if the church and God’s people were doing what is really our job? Do you think people would see the reality behind the words ‘Jesus loves you and so do I?’

We have the doctrine right. We have the words right. We tell the world that God loves them and that we love them.

If our care for the poor is any indication of whether or not we really care what are we showing the world?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Don't let curiosity kill the cat

take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise. – Deuteronomy 12v30

Of course the illustration of Israel going to live in Canaan is not a perfect picture of us as believers living in a foreign land. They were to conquer and take over the land. As believers we are to go into the strange land and live there amongst the people while we strive to bring them into the Kingdom.

The warning here to Israel was to not let their curiosity get the best of them. They were going to defeat the people, but they had to be careful not to get too curious about their pagan was and their false gods. There was a danger in studying too much about their ways because the curiosity could lead to being entrapped in their way of life and their worship.

There is a fine balance for us to walk as well. We of course need to know what is going on around us. We have to live here. We can’t afford to crawl into some monastery, be it literal or figurative. We have to know something about all that is around. We have to be able to function as aliens here in this land.

At the same time we too need to be ware that we don’t get trapped in their ways because of our curiosity. We need to make sure that we focus our lives and our thoughts on the word of God so we can still tell truth from error.

We are strangers in a strange land. Let’s be sure that we take heed to ourselves. Lets be sure that we do not get so involved in the ways of the world we live in that we find ourselves trapped by them.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Don’t do what you are doing

"You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— Deuteronomy 12v8

Man has a problem. He always has seemingly. We would rather do what is right in our own eyes that do what is right in God’s eyes. We seem to think, no matter what we see that our way is the best way.

Sometimes we logic our way through it and decide that what we want to do really is best. Sometimes we do what is right in our eyes because we are just focused on us and don’t really care about God or anyone else.

It started with Adam and Eve. They knew what God said but eating from the tree was that which was right in their eyes. Cain thought his sacrifice was as good as what God wanted. God says one thing, man says another, and too often we choose to do what is right in our eyes.

What does God say about that? ‘Stop it!’

The context was still how to live in a foreign land. As God’s people today we too live in a foreign land. If we are going to succeed there and make a difference we too must stop doing what is right in our eyes and do what is right in His eyes. Our way always results in disaster. His way always results in true success.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Lay up these words in your heart

"Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. – Deuteronomy 11v18

We all know that God’s word is important. Many of us have at least 2-3 Bibles around the house someplace. We may keep a copy in every room and in the car. We have a reading Bible and a church Bible. Today many of us have translations galore on our computers. We have Bibles on our phone. A pastor is liable to see half the congregation pull some time of electronic device out of their pockets when he says. ‘Open your Bibles to...’

We live an age where technology has given us great access to Bible teaching and preaching than we have ever had before. Not only can we assemble together in our local churches but in just a few minutes we can download podcasts of messages from all over the world.

We are a very privileged people. Yet we don’t seem to really be getting any more spiritual or having a much bigger impact on the world around us. In many places the church has never been weaker, more lukewarm, or more worldly.

Israel was preparing to go into a totally foreign culture. It was going to be tough. Part of God’s instruction to them was to hide God’s words in their heart and also always keep them visible.

We have done real well with the second part. God’s word is everywhere. The problem is though that we too often miss the first part. It is in our hands and is ‘frontlets’ between our eyes, but we have skipped over the heart.

In our own ‘foreign world’ we must live right amongst the residents. We had better be prepared. It is great to have the word of God visible, but unless it resides in our hearts it is not going to impact either us or those around us.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

He is your praise

He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. – Deuteronomy 10v21

Israel might be tempted to think they were pretty special. After all the difficulties they had indeed survived as a nation and made it to the Promised Land. Say what you will, they had made it through all the challenges.

We can be tempted to do the same thing. When we get through a difficult time or situation we might think we are pretty special.. We survived. We did it. We made it. Others might have fallen by the wayside, but we stuck it out. We are the survivors.

Wrong. Neither us nor Israel have anything to brag about. We are not our praise, only He is our praise. We are not our own little gods who can accomplish anything. He is our God. We don’t accomplish any great and awesome things. Only He can do these things.

God works in spite of us. Anything that is accomplished in our lives is because He does it through us despite our sin and stubbornness and rebellion and stiff-neckedness and pride and arrogance and self-centredness.

There is nothing to praise in us. He is our praise!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Love the stranger

He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 10v18-19

I really love our Sunday night Bible studies. They are always a blessing to me and to everyone else who comes. On an occasional Sunday we have an open Q&A night where any topic, within reason, is open for discussion. We have even had a couple of agnostics attend, one who was polite and respectful and another who was, well, not so much J.

Recently we discussed a topic which came from our Facebook fan page. The topic dealt with neighbours. We discussed who they are and how we are to deal with them. As we discussed we came up with three groups of people we are told to love; brothers, neighbours, and our enemies. Here is Deuteronomy we find another group.

In the descriptions of God we find that, among other things, He ‘loves the stranger’ and gives him food and clothing. Then he says, ‘Love the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt.

What a great lesson for us. It looks like God just wants us to love everyone doesn’t it? It is hard to find any group that could be excluded.

Why is it so hard for us to just love everyone? We can always come up with some kind of excuse for not loving. But at the end of the day there is one reason. Love is hard. It takes sacrifice. It always costs something. It takes work. It even takes work to love the ones we love sometimes.

We don’t love the way we should because we love ourselves more. It sound tough, but that’s the way it is. Love your brother. Love your neighbour. Love the stranger. Love your enemy. Is there anyone else to love?

Friday, 5 March 2010

No partiality

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. – Deuteronomy 10v17

I love how some of these sections of praise just seem to pop up throughout the narratives in the Old Testament. There are several words of praise in this one little verse, but I want to focus on just one this morning.

God shows no partiality. He cannot be bribed or bought off. Aren’t we fortunate to serve a God who is not a God of partiality? God’s desire is that all men would be saved. We don’t see it as clear in the Old Testament which deals primarily with the Jews, but in the New Testament the teaching becomes very clear. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek or male or female or circumcised or uncircumcised or barbarian of Sycthian or slave or free. God is not a respecter of persons.

Christian nationalism is a dangerous teaching. Sadly, it is not unusual. Christians is some country get the idea that somehow their country is more special to God than any other country. Tragically, this jingoistic attitude can eventually begin to affect, if not actual theology, at least church ethos.

God shows no partiality. All men are equal in His sight. There are only two groups of people in His sight – the saved and the lost. His desire is that all men come to repentance and come into His family.

Jesus loves the little children (and adults). All the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves ALL the children of the world.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Heart surgery

Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. – Deuteronomy 10v16

Circumcision is a tough topic to discuss, especially in ‘mixed company.’ Many years ago when I was teaching a junior high Bible class back at Triana Village one of the young guys innocently asked me, out loud, ‘Mr Parrow, what is circumcision anyway?’ Of course that brought a few chuckles and embarrassed looks, so I took him aside afterward and told him privately. Poor guy was so embarrassed (and probably will be today if he reads this J ).

Circumcision of course is a cutting away of the flesh. The Jewish parents have it done to their sons for religious reasons. Some tribal groups circumcise as a right of manhood. Americans and some other cultures practice it for supposed hygienic purposes. Embarrassing as it might be, it is a part of life and a regular topic in the word of God.

The Jews, since the time of Abraham, have placed a huge importance on circumcision. Many times in the past they have referred to Gentiles (non-Jews) as ‘uncircumcised dogs.’ They were truly proud of their circumcised status. ‘We do it all right! We are the circumcised race. That makes us all sorted with God!’

Sounds like some Christians today, doesn’t it? ‘We do it all right. We dress right, worship right, and preach right. We do all the holy stuff. We do the right things and don’t do the wrong things. We go to church every time the doors are open. We tithe. We give to the poor. We put our kids in Christian schools. We have our small group Bible studies. We are traditional/contemporary/mixed in our worship. We have it all figured out. Our outward show is right.’

Like usual, God cuts right to the heart of the matter – literally. ‘Circumcise the foreskin of your heart.’ Bang. Ouch. Game, set, and match. What was required was not the cosmetic/hygienic/ritual/religious surgery in the flesh, but true heart surgery. Until we rid our hearts of their ‘fleshiness’ the outer works do no good. It is only a painful experience and nothing more. Out of the heart spring all of the issues of life.

If we are ever going to get it right we, like Israel, need to work from the inside out. Someone has put it this way, ‘You have to change your heart before you can change you shirt.’

It is time to quit playing fleshly games. It is time to get serious and do some heart surgery.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

What does the Lord require?

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, - Deuteronomy 10v12

There is much in the word of God about what He requires. One thing that is clear is that He does not require a simple legalistic submission to and obedience of a set of laws.

Even during the time of the Law, before Christ came and freed us from the Law, there was more to it than obeying the rules.

Notice the combination of the inner and outer man here. ‘Fear the Lord and walk in His ways.’ ‘Love Him and serve Him.’

Sunday night in Bible study we were talking about the Law in connection with Jesus statement on loving your neighbour. It is obvious that keeping the Law will not save. It is obvious that works do nothing at all to save us. But is it also clear from James 2 that faith and works do go hand in hand. It is impossible to have faith without works. True faith always produces works – always. Where there are no works there is no faith.

What does the Lord require? For Israel it was faith marked by the right works. Freed from the Law, our He all He requires from us is faith, but it will always produce the right works.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Not your righteousness

Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people. – Deuteronomy 9v6

‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.’

I could not help but think of that verse when I read today’s passage. Just in case Israel thought they had done anything to merit the Promised Land God let them know that not only was it not by their power or might they conquered the land, it was certainly not because of their righteousness. They were not righteous; in fact they were stiff-necked and stubborn. They certainly did not deserve what God was going to give them

So what about us? Though not a perfect picture of eternity with Christ, there are some similarities between salvation and Canaan. This lesson is one of them.

Just like Israel could do nothing to merit the land of Canaan we can do nothing to enter the kingdom of God. We are no more righteous than they were. We too are a stiff necked people. Our best works of righteousness are no more than filthy, vile, disgusting rags in His sight.

In Romans 4v6 God makes it clear that ‘God imputes righteousness apart from works.’ The verse mention above from Titus God goes on to say ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.’

We don’t deserve it. We don’t deserve eternity life any more than Israel deserved the Promised Land. We too are a stiff necked people. It is not by our righteousness any more than it was by theirs.

According to His mercy He gave them the Promised Land. According to His mercy He saved us.

Praise God that it is not because of my own righteousness, but the imputes righteousness of the One who died for me.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Not your power and might

then you say in your heart, My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth. – Deuteronomy 8v17

We cannot ever really hope to comprehend the mind or the plans of God, but God graciously allows us to get a glimpse of why He does what He does.

Here is more instruction on what He allows, or even leads His people to go through tough times.

There is a tendency in our hearts to ‘think more highly than we ought to think.’ Because of that God sometimes allow us to get into situations that we can’t get out of to teach us to rely on Him. He wants us to know that He is the only one who is able so that we will learn to turn to and rely on Him. This is typical of His great love, because left to our own devices we are going to blow it.

We are reminded of this truth in 1 Corinthians 1 where God tells us the kind of people He uses. He tells us there that He uses the most unlikely, the poor, weak, base, and foolish to do His work.

Why is that so important? ‘That no flesh should glory in His presence,’ God says.

All glory belongs to Him. We are walking on dangerous ground when we start to think that we accomplish anything in our own power and our might.