Today’s reading includes one of the top 10 stories of the Old Testament – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. And the walls came a-tumbling down!
I love reading the Biblical account of this event. Imagine the army and priests given their marching orders – to March! That’s all, just march around the city once. There will be priests carrying the ark of the covenant and 7 priests blowing trumpets and armed men ahead and behind. And all you have to do is march around the city once and return to camp.
And day 2 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.
And day 3 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.
And day 4 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.
And day 5 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.
And day 6 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.
It doesn’t seem to make sense. This is not how battles are typically won. Are the people of Jericho laughing yet? They had been scared of the stories they had heard of a powerful God who saved His people from Egypt. But, this doesn’t look too threatening on day 6.
Wait for It…Wait for It…
And just keep up with your marching orders. God’s Will. His Way. And in His timing. Salvation could be right around the corner. Any day now. Don’t give up following God’s way when it seems you aren’t seeing results – yet. Day 7 is coming! Marching, Marching, Marching. His Will. His Way. His Day.
It is also exciting reading of the archeological evidence discovered at the site of old Jericho. The only place where archeologists have found all the walls fell down – outward. Also found were storage jars full of grain that had been burned along with the rest of the city – showing that the city was destroyed during harvest season (as recorded in the Bible) and not following a long siege. Just as the Bible records, the walls of Jericho fell, the city was thoroughly burned and then abandoned for a long time.
The God of Joshua and the God of the Battle of Jericho is still the God of today. His army tactics can be surprising. We have never seen a war won this way before. But because we know the final outcome, we know who reigns victoriously in the end, we will keep following His marching orders. His Will. His Way. His Day.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 5-6 and Psalm 56-58
God had promised Abraham, in Genesis 17:19, “Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”
At this point, Abraham was over 100 years old, and had faithfully followed God. In Genesis 12, Abraham obeyed when God told him to leave his country and family. Abraham allowed Lot to take the lush land around Sodom in Genesis 13, and trusted God to provide for his own flocks and herds on barren mountains. In Genesis 15, Abraham trusted God’s promise that he would have a son in his old age, and God counted that faith as righteousness.
In Genesis 22:2, we find God commanding Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
This doesn’t make sense. God had explicitly promised that God’s promises to Abraham would be passed down through Isaac’s descendants, and now God was commanding Abraham to sacrifice him – apparently destroying the promise He had made to Abraham.
By this point, Abraham had developed a very close relationship with God. In fact, we’re told 3 times in the Bible that Abraham was God’s friend (2 Chron 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23) – and as far as I know, Abraham is the only person in the Bible of whom this is said.
We’re told in Hebrews 11:19 that Abraham reasoned that God was able to raise the dead, and that He was going to keep His promise.
So early the next morning, Abraham took Isaac and 2 servants and left for the place God told him to go. When they got close, Abraham told the servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and we (emphasis added) will come back to you.”
As they got even closer, Isaac asked his dad, “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Can you imagine how this must have broken Abraham’s heart, looking down into his son’s questioning face, knowing that in a few minutes he would be killing his beloved son, who would be the offering? Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb.” (Actually, God had provided Isaac – as a miracle baby in his parent’s old age.) When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood, tied up Isaac, and laid him on the altar.
As he was getting ready to kill Isaac, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and stopped him. Abraham then saw a ram caught in the brush by its horns, and sacrificed it instead. God then promised Abraham, as recorded in Genesis 22:16-18, “I swear by myself, declared the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore… and through your offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
I could point out all the similarities of Abraham’s being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, and God being willing to sacrifice His Son, Jesus. I could point out the significance of another quote from this chapter, “Jehovah Jireh – on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (This was the mountain where Soloman’s temple was built hundreds of years later.) I could point out the importance of obeying God, and the benefits that result.
Instead, I want to comment on who, when, where, how, and why of God’s provision.
Who: God tested Abraham with a very difficult test even after a life of serving God. We see that God provided the ram in this case only after Abraham trusted and obeyed God – even though it didn’t make sense. Assertion: God provides for those who trust Him and obey Him.
When: God provided for Abraham at the very last minute, not before. We’re told in Hebrews 4:16 that we will “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Assertion: God provides precisely when we need something, not when we think we need it. (i.e. according to God’s timing.)
Where: God provided for Abraham only after Abraham went where God told him to go, and after he obeyed everything God told him to do. Assertion: God will provide if we are where He wants us to be. We should have no expectation of receiving God’s provision if we aren’t where He wants us to be.
How: God didn’t send an angel from heaven with an offering for Abraham to sacrifice, God provided a normal ram, caught in a normal thicket, by it’s normal horns. And God didn’t send a whole flock of sheep, just one ram, because that was all that was needed. Assertion: God will usually provide in ways that are very natural – don’t look for miracles.
Why: In times of testing, it’s easy to only think about our problems, and focus on, “why is this happening to me?” I think there may be two general reasons why trials come. First, we are told in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Note that this only applies if we are living according to His purpose. Also note that trials are by definition difficult, and won’t seem to be beneficial at the time. Second, ultimately, everything is for God’s glory. Isaiah 43:7 says, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory…” We see an example of this with God destroying Pharaoh and his army for God’s glory in Ex 14:4, 17. Assertion: God allows trials and gives provision for our good and for His glory.
The bottom line is, if we are faithfully following God, times of testing will come. If we remain true to God, if we are where He wants us to be, and if we are obedient to Him, he will provide what we need (not necessarily what we want), at the very last minute, usually through normal means – and this is for our good. If we aren’t following God, the times of testing may just be to bring Glory to Him. I’d rather be in that first group. How about you?
It is a common question asked through the ages, “Why, God?” Why do the wicked succeed? Why do the violent survive? Why is there injustice in the nation and even in the courts? Why, God? Why?
Habakkuk had the same questions. He lived during the “end” days of Judah, before the Babylonian captivity we have read about the last 2 days. He had a heart for God and sought to do what was right. But, what about everyone else? He was outnumbered, “The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4 NLT). And that can be a hard place to be. Where right has become wrong and wrong has become right. And, where was God? Why was God not taking action to right the wrongs, punish the evil and make things right?
God answered Habakkuk, but it certainly wasn’t the answer he was expecting or wanting. God did see the evil, violence and injustice. and he was taking care of matters – in His time and His way. He revealed to Habakkuk that He was preparing the wicked, idolatrous Babylonian neighbors to the north to bring God’s judgment on Judah. Wait, a minute, God – they are even worse than us! That’s not fair!
If God had a penny for every time He heard that line – but, He owns everything already.
He doesn’t need your penny – or your advice. God doesn’t need to be understood by His creation. But we would be wise to accept His sovereignty, as Habakkuk did. Even when faced with answers He didn’t fully understand or like, Habakkuk realized and accepted that God was in control. He would punish Judah – and then Babylon – when and how He wanted. And, He would show His power, His patience, His justice, His grace, and His love when and how He saw fit. God’s people can rest in that knowledge. There is a lot we don’t have to know or understand – a lot of “why’s” we can’t answer. But we can rest in knowing that God knows. He knows. He sees. He’s got this. He is working out all things. We can bolster our faith and reliance on God’s way by joining with Habakkuk as He proclaims:
I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:16-19 NIV
In our questioning, in our fear, in our uncertainty – yet we will wait patiently for God. He WILL set things straight. His perfect judgment is coming. Until then, wait and rejoice in God our Savior – He is our strength.
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Habakkuk 1-3
What do you do when you think God is taking too long to answer your prayer?
If you are King Saul, you tell the priest to “withdraw your hand” (1 Sam 13:19) – meaning that God is taking too much time responding to a prayer request. King Saul believed that he had some sort of advantage over the enemy and didn’t want that advantage to slip away. So he took matters into his own hands, assembled his men, and went into battle. The outcome wasn’t too good.
Have you ever prayed for something so long, that you become impatient waiting for God to give you directions and end up rushing the timeline just to pursue your own desires, wishes, or dreams? Any time we read a Bible study about an individual doing something for him/herself rather than waiting on God, it never ends well; it’s always a disaster. Why do you think that is?
After some careful self-reflection, I think that I’ve got it figured out for myself: It’s because I like being in charge – to be independent – to not have to rely on someone else’s timing. And even as I type these words, I know it’s ludicrous because my decisions are based on a very limited perspective; whereas, God has a completely different view of my life. His reasons for delaying an answer to prayer, is all about the timing that will give him the most credit.
So the next time you are tempted to move on without God’s response to your prayers, just remember that Saul ended up making some outlandish ultimatums and in so doing, ended up discrediting himself and losing God’s favor.
Stay persistent in your prayers. Do not give up. Keep waiting for an answer to your prayers. At the proper time, God will provide an answer or solution for your need. And in the meantime, always remember that God is by your side – he has not abandoned you.
Anytime God asks a question, you should be thinking to yourself, “Why would God need to ask that question if he already knows the answer?” Here, Moses doubts that he has any ability to convince anyone that he had spoken with God. Then God asks him this leading question as if Moses should have known that he already had everything that he needed to fulfill the duty that God called him to. When you are given a task by God, you had better believe that he has already equipped you for the job. The staff is already in your hand.
The method that Moses is given of turning his staff into a snake is an interesting one. The Egyptians sorcerers already have tricks like this; they can perform a similar feat. God always has a plan and he knows the hearts of his audience. He knows that when Moses’ staff turns into a snake, no one will be surprised because they have already seen sorcerers perform the same feat. Then why would God use this method? This is simply the first of many signs to come that will change the hearts of the audience by degrees. This is the same method that Socrates extolls as the tool of a great rhetorician. The great rhetorician will not attempt to change a man’s mind by presenting him with facts. On the contrary, he will use his knowledge of the man’s heart and what is familiar to the man, even if it is false. In this way, you can slowly turn the man’s thinking towards your position by degrees, small increments. This is how I see the signs that Moses performs before Pharaoh and all of Egypt. In other times throughout the Bible, prophets perform different signs and these signs are more suited to the people of that time and region. If Elijah had performed the signs that Moses performed, he may not have been a successful prophet because the signs of Moses are too different compared to what his community was used to experiencing. If this is the case, what kind of signs might God use in our modern age?
Yesterday we saw some of the ignorance and incompetence of the Pharaoh, and again we see it today. When he takes the straw away from the Israelites and demands the same quota, he is acting as a bad leader. There are leaders like this who still exist today, be it our teachers or our bosses. The bad leader sees the failures of his subordinates and reprimands them by increasing their workload or taking away resources which he sees as a crutch. Doing this only makes their productivity decrease. The good leader sees the shortcomings of his subordinates and reinforces them in their areas of need so that they can be productive and produce good results. I don’t see Pharaoh’s action in this case to be cruel, merely foolish; he sincerely does not know how to lead people.
When God speaks to Moses again, he says that he has heard the groaning of the Israelites. What is incredible about that is that well before he heard their groaning, he had a plan in place to save them. He took the evil of the murder of all baby boys and turned it into good by allowing Moses to live. He allowed Moses to grow in knowledge by being raised as an Egyptian. Then He met with Moses to show him the way to deliver his people. This plan was set into motion before the Israelites even knew they needed saving. That is the power of a God who does not operate on our time. By the time we realize that we are in trouble, God has already been working to get us out of it.
Can you believe we are about 1/12 of the way through the Bible already! (Genesis and Job are big books!) The Bible has 1,189 chapters in all – which means on average reading 99 chapters a month to complete the Bible in a year. Well Done! And, if you haven’t been reading every day – February is a great time to get started!
In chapter 12, we met Abram and the covenant story of the Bible began. God expands on that covenant in chapter 15 when he promises that Abram, who was childless, would have a son who would be the father of nations. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”
Many of us wonder how we can be righteous, and some of us may feel like, to be righteous, we need to live a perfect, sinless life. However, we can learn from the life and attitude of Abram that righteous living is not only about right actions. Righteous living also centers around our belief. What does it mean to believe in God? Many assume that this belief is just to acknowledge that God exists. However, James says that even the demons know that God exists and shudder (James 2:19). Belief that produces righteousness is not simply that. Instead, belief is trusting in God and letting that trust influence our actions. Through belief, we do end up living a righteous life, but that is because we know that God’s plan for our life is trustworthy- it is the best way to live.
To trust God is not a one time choice that we make. It takes a lifetime to learn how to truly trust God, and many times it seems like we are taking one step forward and two steps back on our trust journey. Abram certainly experienced this. In chapter 15, he believed in God’s promises and trusted him. But, in chapter 16, he tries to build a family in a way that was not God’s plan through his servant, Hagar. Then, in chapter 17, he shows his commitment to the covenant through circumcision. Our lives will often mirror this. When we feel like God is delaying in his promises, we may stop trusting him and try to fulfill those promises ourselves, falling prey to the lie the serpent spoke in Genesis 3 when he said, “Did God really say…?” We have to remember that God’s timing is the perfect timing and be assured of his faithfulness.
Where do you need to trust God today? What steps do you need to take in faith to show that trust?
Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
There is a line in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” that I find myself playing repeatedly in my thoughts whenever I become discouraged or tempted to completely forsake any number of particular dreams I have. Little Suzy had finally come to believe that Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus and she dared to ask him for the biggest thing she could imagine, a house for her and her mother to live in; complete with a big tree in the backyard from which a swing hung. Christmas day had come and was just about over, when she finds herself sitting in the back seat of the car with her mother and Mr. Gailey, Santa’s lawyer. As they drive through a quaint subdivision, little Suzy says over and over, “I believe, I believe; it’s silly, but I believe”, with so little enthusiasm that the movie-goer can practically feel the hope drain out of her heart. With one last gigantic sigh, Suzy looks up and out the window to see the exact house that she had asked Santa for. All of a sudden her downtrodden countenance becomes full of life!
Now please don’t mistake my comparison of Santa Claus to the Almighty, but I do think that God instills in each one of us really big hopes and dreams that He alone can execute. In today’s scripture, the apostle Paul is encouraging the Roman believers by reminding them of how big God is and how there is nothing that will prevent God from fulfilling a promise that He makes to those who call Him Father. Abraham and Sarah’s situation was laughable when put next to the promise that God had made them – but the soon to be father of many nations “strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God”.
How about you? Is there a call, purpose, dream, vision that you completely believe came from God and you have no idea how he’s going to get it done considering your present circumstances? I have several and I have my days when I look up to the sky and ask God, “Were you really serious about this because I don’t see it happening.” The reasons for any delay are as varied as the number of hairs on your head, but that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten. He’s waiting for the perfect time to bring your dream into fruition.
In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your hope alive and it starts with diving into His Word daily. The more you immerse yourself into what God has already done, the easier it will be for you to state, “I believe, I believe, God loves me, and I believe.”
Dear Friend, God sees you, He hears you, and He’s making something beautiful of your life! So be encouraged and remember to give Him Glory.
Daily Diving Into His Word! Indeed, a great way to keep your hope alive in 2020. A great way to help you SEEK God and His kingdom First (not with your left-overs). A great way to strengthen and GROW your faith. A great way to motivate you to LOVE God and others. SeekGrowLove – it’s our new blog name and we are gearing up to jump into 2020 with daily devotions based on a chronological reading of the Bible in a year. Later today the reading plan will be available to print from the SeekGrowLove.com site. Print it and share it with your friends, family, and church group. Help them SeekGrowLove, too! Follow the site to receive daily devotion emails based on your reading for the day. The plan starts January 1 with Genesis 1-3. I can’t wait to see how God is going to reveal Himself and work with His children as we read through His Word in 2020 and sharpen our SeekGrowLove skills.
It is amazing for as much time this group of men spent with Jesus, they were still confused. Just as we long for the kingdom, the disciples were ready for it. And like us – they didn’t want to wait. After the resurrection, Jesus spent forty days popping in and out on the disciples. While he was with them he was calming their doubts and promising a future gift. When he left, they were preparing his take over to free them from Roman domination.
On one of his visits he gives one of the hardest commands – wait! Stay where you are and wait. This prompts multiple questions that have been on the minds of all the people: Has the time finally come? Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel? How long do we have to wait?
His response: it is not for you to know – or in other words; none of your business! He then picks up where he left off – the promised gift – the holy spirit. Following his answer and promise, he was taken up before their eyes never to be seen again.
The disciples get the lesson of patience we all need. God is at work but is not working on our schedule. Christ was preparing his followers to join the work God was doing while they were distracted with their own plans.
We often face trials in life that are less than desirable and we long for the problems to be taken away. We know of God’s overall plans but want them to be done now! We want insight and details – the who, what, where, when, why and how – and often times the response is that is not for you to know. Stay in your lane, bro!
Like the disciples we are given what is needed to do the work that has been set up for us to do. They were given the same power that was at work in Christ and told go be a witness to the world. We also have access to that power and are given that same mission.
Have you ever prayed to God for something specific and you feel like he is just not answering you? Have you ever prayed for a specific relationship and just wondered how long you are supposed to wait? Have you ever gotten impatient with God? *currently raising my hand, because this is me* I have felt ALL of these things, and it is so hard not to be frustrated sometimes. Sometimes I feel like the things I want are pretty simple, especially for God who is all powerful and could do pretty much anything he wants. This year, I am trying to be more patient and be okay with waiting. I want to learn how to wait on God and trust in his timing, because the only time that I get disappointed is when I rely on my own timing. I am imperfect and so are my expectations, God already knows the plans for me, and I am pretty sure they are going to be pretty cool, so why wouldn’t I wait for them?
The verses today are Genesis 17:1-10, 15-18 and then Genesis Chapters 37, 39-41. (Not the entire chapters, just understand the gist of the story of Joseph son of Jacob.
Genesis 17:1-10, 15-18. These verses are about God’s promise to Abraham and his wife Sarah. Abraham and Sarah were very old and they had no children, but God told them that Abraham would be the father of multitudes, and Sarah would be the mother of nations. These people wanted children, but they waited patiently for God and followed God’s will. They waited and waited, continuing to be faithful and righteous even when they had not received what they had prayed for and what they had wanted desperately. After they were patient for many many years, God gave them a son, for which they were extremely grateful, and they could hardly believe that they would be granted a child in their old age. We need to be patient with God, because he is very patient with us. We need to be willing to wait for what he has for us. Sometimes we do not get what we want because God has something different planned for us, but sometimes we do not get what we want when we want it because God already has that written in his plan for our lives and we will be given the answer in his timing. That is so hard to accept sometimes, but Sarah and Abraham are a great example of great patience and they were greatly rewarded for their patience.
The other example that you are reading today is the story of Joseph. When you have the time I encourage you to read the entirety of his story because it is one of pain and exhaustion and some truly intense waiting. Joseph was sold to slave traders by his own brothers because they were jealous of him. Then he was brought very very far from his home, and was eventually put in prison for something that he did not do. He felt very alone when he was in prison and felt like God was not answering his fervent prayers to be released or to at least gain some information about what would happen to him. Even in the lost and the loneliness, Joseph continued to wait. He waited to get out of prison, he waited to hear from God, he waited for something better and he never stopped listening for God. During his waiting he began to interpret dreams for people, and he was asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. These dreams told them that the land was going to go into a famine, so they began to prepare to protect all of the people. Because Joseph helped Pharaoh and in turn helped the people of Egypt and the surrounding areas Joseph was appointed to the position of the vizier, which is the second most powerful man in Egypt. This was all because of Joseph’s patience. He waited on God and on God’s timing and was rewarded greatly for it, as was Abraham and Sarah.
Sometimes we may feel like God is just not hearing us, sometimes we may feel alone, but we need to remember to wait. There may be difficulties, and there may be joys in our periods of waiting in our lives. Let go and let God. He knows what he is doing, we just need to have the patience to trust that his plans are for a purpose, and that his plans involve something greater than ourselves. Thanks for reading today, join us tomorrow for the last day of the week.