All Connected

Judges 1-2 and John 4

This year our Bible reading plan has included one Old Testament reading and one New Testament, Psalms or Proverbs reading every day. I’ve enjoyed the daily variety and I think rather than feeling disjointed, like I had feared, it actually helps me see the Bible more as a whole. There have been several times when one reading would refer to something in the other, if not from that same day then something recently read.

On Sunday our devotion was on Psalm 69, one of the most quoted and referenced Psalms in the New Testament. It portrays a zealous suffering servant of God who is surrounded by the enemy. And just 2 days later we read John 2 which included Jesus entering the temple and being shocked to see the disrespect and greed of the moneychangers and those wanting to make a quick buck selling animals for sacrifice rather than revering the house of the Lord and the holy God they should have been focused on. Jesus forcefully clears the temple, and John records, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ ” (John 2:17 NIV – quoting Psalm 69:9). Those disciples knew and loved the same book we just read! They saw connections and how Jesus fulfilled and carried out the Scriptures they were devoted to and knew well. That’s just one example of the many times it’s been exciting to see overlap and referencing reminding me of how precious this book is and how it all works together to show us God: His character, story, plan, majesty, and His Son and ultimately, what will our response be? As Joshua said (just yesterday), “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)

As we see it all work together, woven together as one, it’s sometimes hard to decide which passage to write about. It’s exciting that God gave us SO much in His Word, we couldn’t possibly discuss it all thoroughly in one year of devotions. But every day we can increase our knowledge and understanding just a little, find a new thought or reference we hadn’t seen before, learning to love it and the God it reveals and putting His word to use to become more and more what He wants us to be and do.

And, today we read of the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well in the land given to Joseph. This well is not specifically mentioned elsewhere in Scripture – but we did just read a lot about the land of Jacob’s sons’ families and we read of the tribes of Joseph’s sons (Ephraim and Manassah) receiving their inheritance and burying the bones of Joseph in his land. The Samaritan woman knew these stories and these families – and now she was going to meet the Messiah, the Christ, she has been waiting for!

That was a much longer introduction than I expected. No wonder we don’t have time to look closely at every passage every day. But, today I want to try something different. Instead of having you read any more of me than you already have, I want to give you some questions to consider for both the Old Testament and New Testament scripture – two excellent passages God wants us to consider. You could pick some of your favorite questions to think about today and even discuss with your family and circle of influence. Enjoy digging into God’s Word and considering what God wants you to see!

JUDGES 1-2

Judges 2 tells of the cycle of obedience and disobedience that Israel will fall into after the death of Joshua. Can you see in your own life, family, church, community, nation any similar cycles?

Have there been times when you have slipped away further from God? Any ideas what prompted that? What turned things around again?

How would you describe the difference between a life of obedience to God and one of disobedience? The results? (Use personal experience anytime you can)

Have there been times you have benefitted from having a strong Godly leader (like Joshua or one of the judges)? How so? What did they provide? What dangers do we need to avoid in regards to having (or losing) a strong leader?

How/when can you help others who are in a time of disobedience and trouble?

JOHN 4

What do we learn about Jesus in this passage? (especially verse 6, 9, 10, 13, 18, 26, 29, 34, 42, 53).

What did the Samaritan woman already know before meeting Jesus? What did she learn that day?

How would you describe Jesus as the Living Water? Would you say you have experienced him as living water, or will experience it, or have just heard about it? What does Jesus want to offer to the Samaritan Woman? To You?

What was the result of the Samaritan woman’s talk with Jesus?

Jesus said his “food” was “to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (vs 34) and then he asked the disciples to see the harvest work around them. What fills you up or have you been feeling a little starved lately? What can you do today to help you feel full and satisfied? What harvest work around you does Jesus want you to see and act on?

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Judges 1-2 and John 4

Your Reputation

John 3

What’s your reputation? The Bereans were known for checking Paul´s words against Scripture. Thomas was the doubter. Saul had a reputation for persecuting the Christians before he became Paul. The Pharisees were hypocrites.

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day, and at the time were esteemed by many. But in the eyes of God they were dangerous men who didn’t get it. Matthew 16:12 ¨Then at last they (the disciples) understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.¨ What a common misconception, right? The Pharisees had all the knowledge of the scriptures and Jewish traditions and laws. They were the teachers and leaders of the Jews. Yet Jesus rebukes them because they were missing a love for God.

This type of thinking reminds me of chapter 5 of Matthew where Jesus keeps on telling the people  that they have all heard what the law says but Jesus comes along and ¨tightens¨ up the law, by changing the outward focus inward- off of the laws and onto the heart. The Pharisees had all the knowledge of the scriptures and Jewish traditions and laws but no matter how much they seemed to do they missed the point- following God, not just the laws.

 From what the Bible tells us about the Pharisees we see them continually trying to trick Jesus into messing up, or catch him red handed going against God´s law. They are the ones who plotted and killed Jesus! With the exception of Gamaliel and Nicodemus and Paul, the Pharisees are recorded as hypocrites, blind guides, lovers of  money, and a brood of vipers. (Matthew 23:23-24, Luke 16:14, 12:34) The Pharisees´ hated Jesus and everything he did and said.

In John 3 we see Nicodemus, a Pharisee, come to Jesus at night. Even to come at night had to have taken guts. But when Jesus tells him that one must be born again before they can see the Kingdom of God, he is stuck in his thinking as a Pharisee. But he knows Jesus is different from the rest of the Jewish teachers. Later on in John, Nicodemus makes steps in not following the Pharisees when he convinces his colleagues to allow a trial for Jesus, and when Jesus was laid in the tomb, it was Nicodemus who provided the myrrh and aloes and worked with Joseph of Arimathea to care for the lifeless body of Jesus.

What do you want to be known for? Nicodemus could have been a stereotypical Pharisee but he stepped out to learn from Jesus, the Son of God. He wanted to follow God instead of people. 

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here Joshua 23-24 and John 3

A Wedding

John 2

I can relate to Mary at the wedding in Cana. The proud momma wanting to show off her son. Here she is, celebrating at a beautiful wedding, eagerly pushing her talented son forward to perform and save the day, as she knows he can. He seems reluctant. The timing isn’t right. He isn’t ready to draw attention to himself yet. But she pushes ahead and doesn’t accept no for an answer. She is eager to show him off and watch him work. And, it just might be kind of advantageous for her when the neighbors find out what her son can do. It would be interesting to know if Mary had received a prompting from God that this was the time for Jesus’ miracles to begin, or if she was acting on her own.

I admire the servants. Even without knowing of the miracles Jesus would yet perform, they are quick to listen and obey, fully. They filled those jars with water – to the brim. And, then, not knowing how it would turn out – they followed his directions and brought some of this mystery liquid to the master of the banquet. I can imagine they were relieved to find the master was impressed. They sure had a story to tell their friends and family! I want to serve wholeheartedly like these servants, following Jesus’ every word even when work and risks are involved and the outcome is uncertain.

I have often felt the hesitation Jesus seems to show in this passage at the very beginning of his ministry. Perhaps unsure of the timing or his role? Should he listen to his mother or his gut instinct that said this wasn’t the time. Just like me and every other human, Jesus was not in control of his circumstances. Jesus had free will and made decisions and other people’s decisions would impact him greatly as well. Sometimes people cooperated with him and his plans and ideas and timing and other times they resisted and went their own direction – sometimes taking him on a path he did not choose for himself. But because of his strong connection to His Father developed through study of the Scriptures (knowing God’s words and thoughts and character and how he has acted in the past) and much time spent with God in prayer he carried out so beautifully the Father’s will, not necessarily his own, every step of the way.

Too often my own hesitation causes me to overthink and I end up not doing anything. I need to take more time in His Word and in prayer so I can more clearly see what opportunities God is putting in my path and make the most of them.

The end results of Jesus’ first miracle were the wedding guests continued their celebration and Jesus’ momma went home happy. But, more importantly, the disciples saw his glory – John did not say his deity – but his glory, his magnificence, his connection with his Father.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 21-22 and John 2

John 1

How many times does it take for a false statement to be repeated before it becomes true? Can you make a myth true if a lot of people believe it long enough?

What would happen if we read the Bible with no prior bias. What if we could vacuum out of our brain all knowledge and impact of the Apostles’ Creed which would be written hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth? What if we could read John for what John wanted to say, instead of what the emperor and church leaders over 200 years later decided they wanted it to say?

John, the beloved disciple. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. Perhaps he knew Jesus better than anyone. He was there very near the start of Jesus’ ministry – the fisherman who with his brother James left their fishing nets to follow and learn more about Jesus. He heard Jesus’ teachings and was with him when he calmed the storm and healed the sick. His feet had been washed by his master, Jesus. That horrific day at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusted to John the care of Mary, his mother. John ran to the empty tomb and saw with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus and spent 40 more days listening to and learning from his risen Lord and Savior. And, then Jesus was taken into heaven in the clouds and John and the others were told Jesus would return in the same way – but until then they were to be his witnesses. John had a job to do, to tell the world of Jesus. And so, before his death he carefully writes it down for all the future generations – and we have the New Testament book called the Gospel (good news) of John.

John specifically states near the end of his gospel what his purpose in writing has been. He says Jesus did much much more than could be recorded, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31 NIV – parenthetical definition of “Christ” added). Obviously, it becomes very important for John to clearly represent Jesus if life and salvation come from believing in Jesus. We wouldn’t want to get that wrong, would we? And, we can expect that since this is John’s purpose statement nothing we read in the book of John will contradict what his mission is – to show us who the Christ, the SON of GOD is. Remember, we already cleaned out of our brain any future manipulation, twisting or reversal of this term that will develop centuries later. John, and the other New Testament writers (and Old Testament for that matter) never used the term “God the Son”. If it didn’t come from the Bible, where did it come from? It seems we should be concentrating on who and what John meant by the Christ, the Son of God, rather than trying to use this book to explain God the Son.

John would have been very familiar with Old Testament scripture which exalts and reveres the word of God – the words, plans, thoughts, intent, desire, ideas, as well as the actual spoken word of the Almighty God. The terms word of God and God’s word have also been used to refer to His written word, the Scriptures, in part or whole. Can we worship God, without knowing or trying to understand (to the best of our human ability) what His words, His thoughts, His desires are? It’s almost like voting for a president without having a clue what he stands for, what he has said in speeches, written in papers, what he thinks, believes and intends to do. It sounds dangerous to try to separate a candidate or a God from His words. We should view them as one – God and what He says/plans/intends/thinks/desires are the same.

It is also helpful to know that in Greek all words are assigned a male or female pronoun (similar to Spanish and many other languages in which every noun is known either as a she or a he) and the word “word”, in Greek “logos”, is assigned a male pronoun. It is interesting to note that 8 Bible translations written before the first King James version of 1611 did not use the Greek male pronouns (he and his) when referring to the word in John 1, but used “it” the gender neutral English pronoun given for all the other Greek nouns that were not people (he or she) but objects or ideas (its). Also, in the Greek language they did not use capitalization, so when John wrote “word” he did not write “Word”.

John also would have known of the use of personification in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs wisdom is often personified as a female who is calling in the streets or building her house. In a whole chapter devoted to ‘Lady Wisdom’ we read, “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth…then I was the craftsman at his side…” (Proverbs 8:22-24a, 30a). It is goes on. And, yet, no one has convinced too many people that God has two parts and one of them is a lady named Wisdom who existed before the world began and who created the world with Him. This theory would be called foolishness because of course we all know Solomon was using personification speaking of wisdom which comes from God.

So, now let’s read John with a brain cleared of all preconceived human ideas. We just want God’s inspired word. While we read, let’s try to think like John, the one who was at Jesus’ side for 3 years, knowing that logos – the word – of God does not have to be a person any more than the wisdom of God is a person. And, yet both the wisdom and the word of God can not be separated from God – they are God’s, or, you could even say, they are God.

So reading John 1, with simply removing capitalization and eliminating male pronouns (which was done in most or all other uses of the word logos) we now have something like this: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The word was with God in the beginning. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5 NIV but removing capitalization for “word” and replacing neuter pronouns for masculine).

Remember creation – God spoke His word and it came to be. This makes sense. God and His word. They are powerful. They are inseparable. They get the job done. They light up the world. “Let there be light.” That was God and His word! But, some will not understand – made me think of some biology professors who certainly don’t understand the power of God and His word.

Next, we see in verse 6 that God sent a man. “There came a man who was sent from God: his name was John.” (John 1:6 NIV) Yet, no one argues that John the Baptist pre-existed his birth. To be sent from God or come from God does not require pre-existence or to be part of God.

In verse 14 we have the plan of God, His design, His purpose, His word becoming flesh. Here we indeed have another man, in the flesh. This time it’s not John the Baptist. This time it is Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the One and Only Begotten (comes from), in flesh, Son of God. There would have been LOTS of ways John could have said that Jesus was God, if that is what he wanted to say. But, he didn’t say it because he knew Jesus as the SON of God, just as he said.

Not only did John not say it – but no other place in Scripture says God became a man. It is not in Scripture, but it is very common in mythology (which we are warned several times in the Bible to avoid). How did this idea get into so many Christmas songs, hymns, worship songs, and sermons if it did not come straight from the Bible? Could it be the false teachers that God’s word warns would sneak into the church to twist the apostles’ words and the God they served? This is something we don’t want to be wrong about. We need to be sure we are correctly handling the word of truth – God’s word – and not just what others hundreds of years later would teach about it.

We all like to be right (some of us more than others) so when we are approached with a “new” idea that would mean we have been wrong before it is easy to immediately discard it. But, this one is pretty important and could in fact mean life or death. If you have read this far, congratulations. I encourage you to do more seeking and searching. I recently listened to a podcast of a woman who was shocked to learn her grown son no longer considered himself a trinitarian. In the podcast she does an excellent job describing her thoughts and feelings as well as her search in the Scriptures for truth and what she found. If you would like to hear what this journey looked like for her, you can listen to her story here – Hildy Chandler (She tells her story to Mark Cain in 3 parts, I thought the second was the best but I linked the first hoping you can make time for all three valuable parts.) I love her heart for truth and her devotion to the Scripture.

I know I am not the best one to explain John 1, or probably any other passage in Scripture. But, as we continue with our reading of the Gospel of John, I pray we will all see more and more clearly the Jesus that John walked with on earth. The Jesus that died on the cross and that God rose from the dead. The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Chosen King, the Son of God, the Jesus who showed us His father. God bless our journey reading and loving God, His word, and His Son.

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 19-20 and John 1

Not a Fairy Tale

A Survey of the Land

Joshua 17-18

Fairy tales don’t have settings. Sure, technically the setting would include in the forest or at the castle or under the sea but we don’t REALLY know where the stories took place. City? Country? Even continent? We aren’t told. Believe it or not, Cinderella’s castle wasn’t actually in Orlando. Fairy tales don’t have detailed settings; because, fairy tales aren’t real.

But, the Israelites occupying the Promised Land, as well as SO MANY other events of the Bible, those are stories with a setting, a lot of very specific and detailed settings to be exact. For the last couple of days, and for the next few days, our Joshua Bible reading has and will include a good bit of geography from ancient Israel. Some of these places actually still exist in the exact same location, today! And others have been lost through the years. Just for fun I looked up the “Stone of Bohan son of Reuben” which is just one of several landmarks listed as part of the northern boundary of Judah’s inheritance (Joshua 15:6). Sure enough, no one knows where that stone is today or what significance it held, but it meant something to the people of their day. The writer of Joshua didn’t give GPS coordinates, but he gave all the information needed for the tribes to find and settle their land, and he left enough clues for us to retrace and map out who got what.

This was their new home. The land promised to them by God. The home they had been anticipating for hundreds of years, and fighting for the last 4-5 years. It was better than a fairy tale or dream – this was a real true event. Real people in a real land receiving their real inheritance from a very real God.

I enjoy Bill Schlegel’s Satellite Bible Atlas which offers a historical geography of the Bible. Every major Bible event is mapped out, with dates and commentary. And, this post would have been available sooner today, but I was having too much fun watching videos Schlegel created which include further photos and videos of the REAL land of Israel. They really help the Bible lands come to life. I encourage you to see for yourself at Satellite Bible Atlas and accompanying videos. As an associate professor in Israel for 25 years Schlegel knows the area very well.

One day I plan to visit the Holy Land, either before or after Jesus returns. Until then, it’s exciting to take some video field trips and learn more about the land God gave His children. Real people in real places. God’s promises are true.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here Joshua 17-18 and Psalm 70-72

In Suffering – surrounded by enemies

Psalm 69

We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.

Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!

But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).

Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.

Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).

Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.

There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.

Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep singing. Keep glorifying. Keep thanking.

The enemy surrounds but they don’t win in the end. Our God saves.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 15-16 and Psalm 69

If God Wrote Birthday Cards

Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

When I first read today’s passage and the opening verse of Joshua 13 I chuckled out loud thinking how inappropriate we would deem this opening remark, if it had come from anyone other than God. The verse says, “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.'” (Joshua 13:1 NIV). Who wouldn’t love to open a Hallmark greeting card that says , “You are VERY old, and there are lots of things you haven’t been able to accomplish yet “? Thanks, God. I can always count on you for telling the truth. I am now ready to just curl up and die.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I am sure that is not what God was saying.

Sadly, we have become a culture that doesn’t honor the aged. We all want to be told how young we are, or look or act. We love to have others in awe of how much we have accomplished already in our few short years of life thus far. We sell products that will fix that devastating gray hair and wrinkles so you can look like you did 20 years ago so no one will ever have to know just how old you really are.

Joshua was there as a young aide to Moses when the 10 Commandments were given and the people were told that if they followed the commandments and feared the Lord they would be blessed. They would be able to cross the Jordan, increase greatly, prosper in the Promised Land and enjoy long life (Deuteronomy 6, specifically verse 2 for long life). Getting old is a blessing. And VERY old, a double blessing! “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.” (Deuteronomy 6:24 NIV). When God told Joshua he was VERY OLD, this was definitely not a put-down as some would read it today. It was a compliment to Joshua and a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

We would do well to regain a thankfulness for every day we are “kept alive”, rather than constantly trying to turn back the clock. As well as, looking up to those who have been kept alive longer.

Job 12:12 — Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Proverbs 16:31 —Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Remember too, that God was not saying this to Joshua in the final verse, final chapter of Joshua’s life. We are still in chapter 13 and Joshua won’t be dead and gone until chapter 24 (at the ripe old age of 110). Yes, a lot of the ACTION of the book of Joshua, as well as the life of Joshua has been completed by chapter 13…but God is certainly NOT done putting Joshua to work! Biblehub.com gives a timeline of Joshua’s life and they suggest that Joshua will live 24 more years from this point. We can’t give away everything that is yet to be done in the rest of Joshua’s life and book, but God has a lot more direction and guidance to give to His servant Joshua and Joshua does it. Just a few verses down from God’s VERY OLD comment, we read how God says HE himself will continue the work of driving out the inhabitants of the Promised Land, and He wants Joshua to “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.” (Joshua 13:6 NIV). It doesn’t help to have taken the land, if no one will be there to justly divide it and distribute it. Even though Joshua’s work at the thrilling battle front just may be winding down, there is still a lot of important work to be done. Going from the front lines to the desk job isn’t a demotion. Your ministry may look different through the years. Be thankful for the long life and listen to see what He wants you to do next!

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” (Psalm 68:19-20)

If God helps you escape death today, praise Him for it and be thankful for yet another day to dig in His Word, to serve Him and watch Him carry your burdens.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

Creating a Nation

Psalm 65-66 and Joshua 11-12

Joshua and the Israelites are getting things done and cleaning up Canaan land. Piece by piece, city by city, town by town, they are accepting their inheritance – the Promised Land that God has been preparing for them the past 430 years.

Beginning with the promise made to Abraham, the old man with no offspring, that if he followed God he would be made into the father of a great nation that would occupy the land. The promise was passed down to Isaac his miracle child, and given again to Isaac’s son Jacob, the father of 12 sons/tribes. It was these brothers that were saved by Joseph when he brought his family to Egypt to survive the famine in their land. A new pharaoh brought the Israelites into slavery and for the next few generations their numbers continued to grow in Egypt. Then Moses entered the scene with the 10 Plagues and “Let My People Go”.

This hasn’t been the easy way to grow a nation. But, God doesn’t have to go the easy route. He was not just creating any nation, but creating a holy nation that called on Him and relied on Him and followed Him.

In Joshua 11:15-16a it is recorded, “As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses. So Joshua took this entire land…”

The work passed on to the next generation and the promise passed on to the next generation. And here they were, back in the land where Abraham had pitched his tent. They were seeing the fulfillment of so many years of waiting and watching to see how God would make His promises come true. They had seen the waters of the Jordan stop flowing at flood stage so they could cross into this land. They had felt the ground shake when the walls of Jericho came down. They had witnessed the sun standing still! This was not a usual way to create a nation, because they did not have a usual God!

I love that this same awe of God is found about 200 years later in the writings of David. David is still writing about when God “turned the sea into dry land” (Psalm 66:6), as well as His majestic creation, His forgiveness, His care through rain and crops, and His “awesome deeds of righteousness” (Psalm 65:5).

I especially love a passage from yesterday’s Psalm reading – Psalm 62:11-12

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard;

that you, O God, are strong,

and that you, O Lord, are loving.

Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

We serve a strong and loving God who rewards his faithful children. It is not enough for God to just be powerful (that could be scary). It is not enough for God to just be loving (that is also scary if you consider a loving but powerless God). But a loving and powerful God is the one I want to follow. He will have good things for His children and the strength to deliver them. Just as He delivered in mighty ways for the children of Israel as they entered the Promised Land under the outstretched arm of Joshua, God is now preparing the fulfillment of all His promises in the Coming Kingdom of God which will be ushered in at the return of His Son Jesus. And that is an event you don’t want to miss.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 11-12 and Psalm 65-66

Friend or Foe?

Don’t be Deceived!

Joshua 9-10

The lessons for us today just keep coming in the book of Joshua! In the last few days we’ve learned from Joshua: arm yourself daily with God’s word for strength and courage and success; God’s will, way and day leads to victory; and stop blaming God when we ought to be dealing with the sin amongst us which will then help us to overcome defeat.

Today we learn valuable intel on how to distinguish friend from foe, how to guard oneself from being deceived, and the all important how to get more hours added to your day. The answer to all three – Ask God. Don’t try to do it on your own. Trust His way and His understanding and His power, not your own.

The Canaanite neighbors have heard how Joshua and the Israelites have destroyed Jericho and Ai (on the second attempt). Some are ready to fight. Others find it easier to deceive. The sly Gibeonites, who live just over the next hill, came to Joshua. Pretending to have just made a long journey from a far off country, with worn-out clothes and old food, they convince the Israelite leaders to make a peace treaty with them. Three days later the Israelites learn they have been tricked. They have just signed a treaty protecting the lives of those who should have been their next targets.

What went wrong? They had been so careful. They had even tasted the Gibeonites’ stale bread! All their senses and intuition and prior knowledge told them this was safe and trustworthy and reliable and in their best interest. Scripture tells us, “The men of Israel sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9:14 NIV).

I believe it is even harder today to distinguish friend from foe. Satan would love to have the world believe that what and who is actually an enemy of God is harmless, trustworthy or far-off. When actually this danger is at our doorstep, dressed in a disguise. And, since it looks good and convincing and seems to make sense Christians take the bait and sign the peace treaty and align themselves with the enemy. Because they did not inquire of the Lord.

Deception abounds on so many fronts. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What happens when you die? What is the value of a life? Who really has your best interest in mind? Who can be trusted? Who is on God’s side? And who is not?

God knows. And He wants to reveal the answers to you. Ask Him – not your own heart. Seek His wisdom – not man’s. Read His word. Spend time in prayer. Listen – to the Lord. Don’t sign the treaty without His okay.

Our reading in Psalms includes many great verses that would have been great refrigerator verses for the Israelites at that time – if only they had refrigerators.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock, and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1

“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:7-8

Don’t be deceived. Trust God alone.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 9-10 and Psalm 62-64

Dealing with Sin

Joshua 7-8

Yesterday we got to see the thrill of victory, even if it didn’t come as expected or immediately, an incredible victory was given to those who did it God’s way. And the walls came a-tumblin’ down at the battle of Jericho.

Today’s lesson is in the agony of defeat – and what happens when we don’t do it God’s way.

The story of Achan and Ai rarely makes it into anyone’s Top 10 stories of the Old Testament. I don’t believe it has a VeggieTales episode or children’s Sunday School song devoted to it. We much prefer talking about victory and Jericho than sin and Achan. But when we don’t talk about it, it’s so much easier to fall into the pit ourselves.

With their confidence bolstered from the impressive win at Jericho, the Israelites send a small delegation to bring down the little town of Ai. But, instead they are met with strong resistance and lose 36 men in their forced retreat.

Even strong and courageous Joshua crumbles at the news. Defeated, already. Why God? Where were you? Why were we even trying to follow you? What will people say of us now?

Doubting and blaming God comes so naturally. It’s often the first response to tragedy and difficulty. But, God was not impressed with Joshua’s line of thinking. I love God’s answer (perhaps I love it a little less when it is directed toward me, though).

Joshua 7:10-12 (NIV)

The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

We were having such a good pity party while pointing the finger at God. But, He will have none of it. Israel has sinned. They have violated God’s covenant. They have brought this upon themselves. And they won’t see victory again unless they destroy what has led them into sinning against God.

It is powerful to remember how the sins of one affects so many. My sins have the power to destroy not just me. My sin has tentacles that reach out to negatively impact and harm and destroy those closest to me – my family, as well as my church and my community and even sometimes my nation.

So it was with Achan when his greed led him to steal a few of the treasures of Jericho, just for himself. But as he hid them in his family’s tent, he was utterly destroying their chance for blessing as well. Even the 36 Israelites who died fleeing from Ai would not have perished if God had been blessing their mission. The devastating effects of this sin could have continued to snowball if the sin and the sinner were not revealed and dealt with quickly.

Of course, every tragedy suffered in your country is not a direct result of your own personal sin. But when we turn to blaming God we would be wise to check ourselves first. Perhaps He would tell us, too – “Stand up! _________ has sinned.” Perhaps blessings and victory are being withheld because there is sin in your life, your family, your church, your community, your nation that must be dealt with. Can we trace the defeats of our nation to the sins of our nation? It is easy to think like Achan, that we can hide sin and it will only affect us. But, we are wrong. Sin is serious and it has serious long-reaching effects on many. What are we trying to hide that has led us into sin? It is time to dig it up and destroy it. When we deal with sin, we can have another chance at victory.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 7-8 and Psalm 59-61