Today’s Bible reading: Joshua 3-4:24; Luke 14:7-35; Psalm 80:1-19; Proverbs 12:27-28
After a 40-year delay, Israel crosses the Jordan today and finally sets foot in the Promised Land. Before doing so, however, God had them camp out on the banks of the river for 3 days. None of these people had been alive when God parted the Red Sea and they must have been anticipating God doing something similar again.
When we are faced with a seemingly impossible situation we can look at it either one of two ways. We can become afraid and depressed, thinking there is no way out. Or we can sit back, relax, and wait to see how God will come to our rescue. The latter way is preferable, not to mention more fun and less stressful. It also builds our faith for the next time (and there will be a next time) we find ourselves in a tough spot.
During this time the people were to purify themselves, ostensibly by refraining from unclean activities (Joshua 3:5). They were about to enter a spiritual battle and needed to be as close to God as possible for it was He who was going to take them across the river, as symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant leading the way (Joshua 3:6).
Joshua shows faith in God in Joshua 3:6 when he commands the priests to start the journey. At this point Joshua did not have specific instructions from God. He acted on faith. The specific instructions don’t happen until verse 8 which occurs after God had encouraged Joshua in verse 7.
Notice that it was harvest season (Joshua 3:15). This would have been sometime in April when the snowmelt from the mountains and the rain would have swollen the river. There would not be a more perilous time to cross. Isn’t it cool how God always waits until the situation is most difficult to show His power? Otherwise we might attribute success to other factors, like ourselves.
But the only reason Israel was able to cross the Jordan (on dry ground, not mud) was because God was with them. The Ark is mentioned 9 times in this chapter of only 17 verses. We need to be focused on Jesus to get us through life. We can’t rely on our own efforts. There is no way Israel, a nation of millions at this point, could have made this crossing at this time of year with all their possessions, animals, and children. They only made it because of God.
After crossing the Jordan (Joshua 4:1) I’m sure the people were on such a high that they were ready to go conquer the town of Jericho immediately. But that is not God’s way. Before we can do something for God we need to be something for God. The first thing God has the people do is stop and build a memorial to what had just happened. God wanted them to reflect on the miraculous care He had just provided for them.
The memorial was built to remind future generations of the great thing God had done (Joshua 4:6). Its very important for us to tell our children stories of how God has worked in our lives. Nothing carries more weight than something spoken out of first-hand experience.
But I think the memorial had a second effect. Taking time to build the memorial gave Israel time to reflect on what had just happened. So often I find myself charging forward on adrenaline after something really good has taken place in my life only to fail in my next endeavor. I need to remind myself that I have all the time in the world. The sun rises and the sun sets and days come and go, but I am eternal. I will live forever. There is no reason to rush through life. Its better to move at God’s pace (which is almost always slower than ours) and take time to refill my spiritual tank. This is accomplished by spending time with God, learning from Him in between battles.
In Luke 14 we see Jesus at the home of one of His enemies. Jesus did not avoid the people who opposed Him. He still associated with them in order to teach them. It was up to them if they would learn or not. This shows us that Christians should not surround ourselves only with other believers. We need to hang around with those who don’t believe, even if they are hostile towards us and/or Jesus. We shouldn’t let them influence but we should live in a way that demonstrates our faith in God.
Jesus notices people vying for the best seats at the dinner He was attending (Luke 14:7). He uses this situation to teach. The lesson is we should not use self-promotion or play politics to advance in life. Instead we should just work hard and wait for recognition.
Likewise we should not seek to associate only with those who can do something for us, but we should generously give of ourselves to those who can’t pay us back (Luke 14:12-13). Doing so will invite reward from God.
God invites everyone to come and be with Him, but many make excuses. That is the message of Jesus’s parable in Luke 14:15-24. Some people are too tied to material possession (Luke 14:18,19). Some people put family before God (Luke 14:20). We all find excuses. Blessed are those who finally realize that their excuses are preventing them from obtaining the one thing they need most of all – a relationship with Christ.
Jesus continues this message in the rest of the passage. Compared to our love for Jesus, we must ‘hate’ everything else this world has to offer (Luke 14:26). This is the only way we can be a disciple (“learner”). Notice that this “hate” is “by comparison”. We are not being commanded to hate. We are being commanded to love God infinitely more than the things of this world. In Luke 14:27 Jesus repeats an early theme He made earlier: we must die to self (carry our own cross). We need to live for Jesus if we want to truly be alive.
Following Jesus costs something though, as He points out in Luke 14:28. Some people jump on the Jesus bandwagon only to find that the ride isn’t as smooth and wonderful as they would have liked. So they jump off. It isn’t easy being a follower of Christ at this point in history. Jesus’s name is repugnant to many people including, sadly, our leaders who do all they can to eradicate every sign and symbol of God from our society. I have been called all kinds of names by people over the years because of my commitment to Christ, even by some members of my own family. But we must not shy away from the truth. We must forgive people who hurt us the same way Jesus did when He said on the cross: “Forgive them Father for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Psalm 80 recounts Israel’s prosperity (Psalm 80:10-11) which only occurred because of God’s provision (Psalm 80:8-9) and also its fall (Psalm 80:12-13) which also came at the hand of God. This happened because Israel abandoned God (Psalm 80:18). I’ve stated numerous times on this blog that I see many parallels between the current state of the United States and Old Testament Israel. There is no doubt that God has been abandoning us over the past 50 years as we have pushed Him out of our lives. The question is, will the United States turn back to Him and ask for forgiveness and revival as Israel did (Psalm 80:18)? I hope so. But I doubt it.
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