Archive for June, 2011

June 30, 2011

The Apex of Evil Achieved the Apex of Glory

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Jdg. 14:1-4
Full Text: Jdg. 13-14 & 1 Chron. 9:35-59

Our Sin | How does God work in the midst of our sin? Can He make good of things that we have done against Him? Is His glory diminished and His name defamed when we consciously and willfully disobey Him and His will?

The Sin of Samson | Once again, the Israelites repeated their pattern of spiraling downward – they sinned, God handed them over to their oppressors (here, the Philistines), they cried to Him for help, and He sent them a deliverer that is even worse than his predecessor (here, Samson). Yet, when Samson grew up [1], he decided to marry a Philistine woman – even though his parents knew that the law prohibited an Israelite man from marrying a Philistine woman [2]: “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people?” [3]. Nevertheless, he insisted on what seemed right to him – irrespective of God’s command: “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes” [4]. Yet, God had not lost control; He was sovereign over Samson’s sin: “His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines” [5]. It would still be His Spirit [6] that would bring about the Israelites’ victory over the Philistines.

The Sin of the Cross | The sin of Samson, however, pales in comparison to the most appalling sin ever committed – namely, the murder of Jesus Christ. Yet, even this outrageous sin displayed Christ’s glory and obtained God’s grace magnificently! In Christ’s death, God did not merely defeat evil; He made evil destroy itself. Although the dark powers did their best to destroy His glory, they found themselves “quoting the script of ancient prophecy and acting the part assigned by God” [7]. Thus, by killing Christ, they displayed His glory – the same glory that they wanted to destroy. Thus, “the apex of evil achieved the apex of glory of Christ” and His grace [8].

Prayer | Lord, We are sinners – we do things that we should not do and we fail to do things that we should do. Thus, we are in need of Your grace. We need You to right our wrongs and to work all things – even our sins and mistakes – to the good of Your kingdom. And, although our hearts do not aim to sin that Your grace may increase [9], we pray that the depth of our sin would magnify the height of Your forgiveness and grace. Amen.

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[1] Jdg. 13:3-5  |  [2] See, e.g., Deut. 7:3-4. See also 843 Acres, “Our True Identity” (19 May 2011).  |  [3] Jdg. 14:3 NIV  |  [4] Jdg. 14:3 NASB. See also Jdg. 21:25 NIV, which ends the downward spiral in the book of Judges and is foreshadowed in the account of Samson (“In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”).  |  [5] Jdg. 14:4 NIV  |  [6] Jdg. 14:6 ESV, see also 14:19; 15:14  |  [7] John Piper, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ. Wheaton: Crossway, p12.  |  [8] Id.  |  [9] See Rom. 6

June 29, 2011

Where Love and Righteousness Kiss

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Jdg. 10:10-16
Full Text: Jdg. 10:6-12:15

Riddle | After God delivered the law for the second time [1], He proclaimed His name to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” [2]. Referring to this passage as “the riddle of the Old Testament”, Mark Dever asks, “How can this be? How can God both ‘forgive wickedness, rebellion and sin’ and yet ‘not leave the guilty unpunished?’” [3].

Impatience | An example of this riddle is found in His dealings with the Israelites when they were under Jephthah’s leadership. Again, God handed them over to be oppressed because they sinned against Him. This time, however, when they cried to Him for help, He was impatient because He had rescued them so many times already: When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!” [4]. Yet, in humility, they repented: [T]he Israelites said to the LORD, ‘We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.’ Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer” [5].

Cross | How could this be? Although God had forgiven their “wickedness, rebellion and sin,” how could He leave “the guilty unpunished”? Having persistently worshiped idols, were they not subject to His justice? Yet, God was looking ahead to the cross – the answer to the riddle of His name. In Christ’s death, God executed His judgment on our sin and secured His love for us. Thus, the cross is where “love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other” [6].

Prayer | Lord, You have been patient with us for many generations and, on the cross, You championed Your faithfulness, for You are just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus [7]. So, like the Israelites, we pursue hearts of repentance and humility, as we cherish Your great name – a name that is a riddle apart from the cross. Amen.

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[1] After God delivered the Law to Moses atop Mount Sinai for the first time, Moses descended the mountain and found the people worshipping a golden calf rather than the Lord. Moses then smashed the two stone tablets and the Lord executed His judgment on those who refused to follow Him. Thus, when He called Moses to meet Him again for a second delivery of the Law, the Lord was demonstrating His forgiveness to His people. Thus, He passed in front of Moses and proclaimed His mighty name.  |  [2] Ex. 34:4-7 NIV  |  [3] Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament.  |  [4] Jdg. 10:11-14 NIV  |  [5] Judg. 10:15-16 NIV  |  [6] Ps. 85:10 NIV  |  [7] See Rom. 3:24-26 NIV (“… all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”).

June 28, 2011

Leadership: From Thornbushes to a Crown of Thorns

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Jdg. 9:7-20
Full Text: Jdg. 8:22-10:5

Election | After Gideon’s spectacular victory over the Midianites, the Israelites asked him to lead the nation [1], but he refused: “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you” [2]. When Gideon died, however, they returned to worshiping idols and his son Abimelek made himself king [3]. In order to ensure his throne, he hired “reckless scoundrels, who became his followers” and then “murdered his seventy brothers” [4].

Allegory | His half-brother Jotham, however, escaped and, when he heard that Abimelek was crowned as king at Shechem [5], he publicly delivered an allegory: “One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’ But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil … to hold sway over the trees?’ Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’ But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit … to hold sway over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’ But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine … to hold sway over the trees?’ Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’ The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’” [6].

Careless | Like the allegorical thornbush, Abimelek was incapable of offering shade or protection. Having not sought the Lord’s guidance, the Israelites had been careless when they selected Abimelek as leader – although he was an Israelite, he was a deceiver and an aggressor. Yet, again, however, God lovingly protected His people. After three years, He raised up a disloyal and self-serving faction to divide Abimelek’s followers and, ultimately, to bring about his destruction: “Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelek had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers” [7].

Prayer | Lord, Like the Israelites, we are tempted to choose thornbushes as leaders without seeking Your counsel. Yet, we praise You that, even though we mockingly put a crown of thorns on our ultimate king – Jesus Christ – You established His throne forever. And, as a result of His everlasting and merciful rule, we are saved and have full assurance of faith and salvation. Amen.

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[1] Jdg. 8:22 NIV  |  [2] Jdg. 8:23 NIV  |  [3] See Jdg. 9:1-6  |  [4] Jdg. 9:4, 5 NIV  |  [5] Shechem has a special place among the Israelites. It is where God appeared to Abram and said that He would give him the land and where Joshua met with the tribes and led them in a rededication. It was the center of the Promised Land – not only in its location but also in the hearts of the people.  |  [6] Jdg. 9:8-15 NIV  |  [7] Jdg. 9:56 NIV

June 27, 2011

Risk-Taking Is Our Native Air

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Jdg. 7:2-7
Full Text: Jdg. 6:1-8:21

Risks | God does not take risks – for every decision He makes, He has all necessary and relevant information. Not so with us. Uncertainty and risk are inescapable parts of our lives. All of our plans can be exploded by hundreds of unknowns. We do not know how things will turn out. Thus, uncertainty about tomorrow is our “native air” [1].

Inability | As we have seen [2], the period of judges was marked by a repetitive cycle – the Israelites would sin [3], God would hand them over to be oppressed by other nations, they would cry to Him for help, and He would send a deliverer to rescue them [4]. Gideon was one of those deliverers [5]. Yet, when God called him to rescue His people from the Midianites, he focused on his inability: “Pardon me, my lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” [6]. Yet, God – abounding in mercy and not disqualifying people because of their fears or doubts – replied, “I will be with you” [7].

Numbers | God was going to save Israel in a way that displayed His power, not Gideon’s ability. Thus, He pared down Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300 – so that the Midianites heavily outnumbered them [8]. As a result, Israel’s victory would only be possible by depending on Him: “The LORD said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me’” [9]. Yet, Gideon could not be certain about what was going to happen. In his mind, he had to make a choice – either take the risk of sending his men to be slaughtered, or depend on God and His promise to give them victory [10]. Thus, God reassured Gideon again [11] and, ultimately, kept His promise: “While each [Israelite] held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled” [12].

Prayer | Lord, We often cannot understand how You accomplish Your purposes [13], which sometimes leads us to question Your ways. Yet, we long to grow in our appreciation of Your love for us so that, even if we do not understand Your ways, we can trust You more deeply and venture with You more boldly in ways that display Your glory for the world to see [14]. Amen.

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[1] John Piper, Risk and the Cause of Christ, Sermon, 26 April 1987.  |  [2] See 843 Acres, Preserving the Knowledge of the Lord, 22 June 2011.  |  [3] See Jdg. 17:6; 21:25  |  [4] Jdg. 2:16  |  [5] Jdg. 6:1  |  [6] Jdg. 6:15 NIV  |  [7] Jdg. 6:16 NIV  |  [8] Jdg. 7:12  |  [9] Jdg. 7:2 NIV  |  [10] Jdg. 7:9 NIV  |  [11] Even when God called Gideon and Gideon protested, God sent reassurances through the testing of the fleece. Again, when Gideon was nervous about sending his army into the Midianite camp, the Lord spoke to him through the dream of another man. This was a divine appointment. Thus, in the life of Gideon, we see that God uses less-than-ideal people – people who need extra signs and encouragement.  |  [12] Jdg. 7:21 NIV  |  [13] We cannot understand His ways in the same way that infants cannot fathom how their parents feed them, clothe them and protect them from harm. His ways are mysterious. Here are a few examples: (a) He called Noah to build an ark in the desert, (b) He called Moses to escape through – not around – the Red Sea, (c) He called Moses to speak to a rock to get water, (d) He called Joshua to march around a walled city while blowing trumpets to bring about its defeat, and (e) here – Gideon to go against a great number of opponents with merely an army of 300.  |  [14] This may mean giving sacrificially without knowing where certain funds will come from, passing up a particularly attractive opportunity without knowing whether another one will come along, etc. Obviously, some have abused this type of thinking – people have drowned from trying to walk on water, died from being bitten by snakes, gotten sick from being refused medication, etc. Nevertheless, there is a pattern in the Bible that shows how God delights to work in our lives through ways that seem unusual – or even foolish – to the world so that He gets the glory and we get the blessing.

June 24, 2011

Sisyphus and Israel

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Judges 4:1-7
Full Text: Judges 4-5

Sisyphean Task | In Greek and Roman mythology, Sisyphus was a king who rebelled against the gods by putting Death in chains. When Death was freed and Sisyphus was dying, however, the gods decided on his punishment: for all eternity, he would have to push a rock up a hill, watch it roll down again, and then start over – again and again [1]. There is a sense in which the cycle in Judges seems like a Sisyphean task. Here, in the account of Deborah and Barak, we see the same cycle that has happened twice already – and will repeat again [2]. Once more, (a) “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD” [3], (b) “the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan” who cruelly oppressed them for twenty years [4], (c) they “cried to the LORD for help” [5], (d) He responded by calling Deborah the prophetess and Barak the army leader to deliver His people: “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” [6], and (e) finally, the Lord delivered them and “the land had peace forty years” [7].

Measuring Progress | Were the Israelites merely attempting a Sisyphean task, ceaselessly and pointlessly toiling at their feeble attempts to become holy – finally enjoying peace, only to do evil once again? No! Although their account does serve as a warning, our Lord is diametrically different from the Greek and Roman gods – where they repeatedly caused the stone to roll back down the hill (despite Sisyphus’ best efforts), our Lord repeatedly rescues His people from their own folly (despite their repeated idolatries). He recognizes our sinful nature – to fall and rise and fall again – and He never exhausts His infinite love on our behalf. Our success, therefore, is not dependent on how far we have rolled the stone up the hill, but on how much we have depended on His mercy and power that rolled the stone away from the grave.

Prayer | Lord, Thank You for abounding in love, mercy and forgiveness. We confess that, although we often feel like Sisyphus in our obedience to You – moving towards You and then falling away, we are not in fact like him – for You continually draw us towards You. Give us eyes to depend on Your mercy as the source of our progress, as You remain faithful to finish Your work in us. Amen.

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[1] French philosopher Albert Camus presented Sisyphus’ ceaseless and pointless toil as a metaphor for modern lives spent working at futile jobs: “The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it become conscious.” Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942).  |  [2] Othniel (see Jdg. 3:9-11), Ehud (see Jdg. 3:11-29)  |  [3] Jdg. 4:1 NIV  |  [4] Jdg. 4:3 NIV  |  [5] Jdg. 4:3 NIV  |  [6] Jdg. 4:14 NIV  |  [7] Jdg. 5:31

June 23, 2011

The Disarming Deliverer from Gluttony

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Jdg. 3:12-30
Full Text: Jdg. 3:7-31

Bondage of Eglon | Again, the Israelites fell into apostasy [1] and God handed them over in bondage to an evil earthly ruler – Eglon king of Moab [2]. Eglon was “a very fat man” [3] because he and his fellow Moabites stuffed themselves on the tribute that they forced the Israelites to bring. Although many conquered peoples brought their rulers tribute in the form of silver or gold, Eglon forced the Israelites to bring grain – grain that was supposed to be given to God [4]. Thus, they feasted in gluttony on what rightfully belonged to God as the Israelites starved.

Deliverance of Ehud | Then, “the Israelites cried out to the LORD and he gave them a deliverer – Ehud” [5]. Ehud was the perfect symbol of Moab’s supremacy over Israel – he was a military leader with a handicapped fighting arm. In fact, Ehud’s presence was so disarming and Eglon’s heart was so proud that, when Ehud requested a moment with the king, Eglon sent his attendants away. Then, as the two were alone, the king rose from his seat and “Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it” [6]. Thus, having lived eighteen years for his belly, he died by it as well. As a result, the Israelites were freed from Eglon’s bondage and enjoyed peace and ease for the next eighty years.

Deliverance of Jesus | Like Ehud, Jesus was an unexpected deliverer – a disarmingly poor carpenter from Galilee who had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him [7]. Yet, He rescued us from the bondage of sin that fattens us, as we consume the glory that rightfully belongs to God: “ … Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God the Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever” [8].

Prayer | Lord, Thank You for sending Jesus to deliver us from the power of sin in our hearts. Although we have grown fat with our sin, we know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set [us] free from the law of sin and death” [9]. Amen.

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Footnotes: [1]  Jdg. 3:12  |  [2]  Id.  |  [3]  Jdg. 3:17 NIV  |  [4]  See, e.g., Lev. 2:1-16; 6:14-18; 7:9-10; 10:12-13  |  [5]  Jdg. 3:15 NIV  |  [6]  Jdg. 3:20-22 NIV  |  [7]  Is. 53:2  |  [8]  Gal. 1:3-4 NIV  |  [9]  Rom. 8:1-2 NIV  |  [FN]  For an excellent sermon on this chapter – which I used for research for this post – can be found here: Rico Tice (pastor at All Souls in London), “Ehud Left-Handed Savior” (Jan. 1, 2000) (32 minutes in length).

June 22, 2011

Preserving the Knowledge of the Lord

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Jdg. 2:18-19
Full Text: Jdg. 1:1-3:6

Forgetting | After Joshua died, those in his generation continued to maintain their devotion to the Lord because the memory of His greatness had been well preserved: “The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel” [1]. Eventually, however, that generation died and a new one arose that did not know the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. Thus, they forsook worshipping Him and turned to false gods, thereby responding to His blessings with the exact thing that He had commanded against – idolatry [2].

Repeating | As a result, over the next 350 years, God sent twelve judges to lead His people. Yet, a repetitive cycle occurred: “Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.  But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways” [3].

Preserving | Faith grows and obedience flourishes when knowledge of the Lord is preserved in a community, especially by those who have personally experiences His power. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was the shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength“ [4]. When Moses delivered these words, he told the Israelites how to preserve them: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” [5].

Prayer | Lord, Be it not said of us that we failed to preserve knowledge of You among the next generations! Show us how to teach our children – whether in our family, our church or our community – how precious and mighty and true You are. Amen.

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[1] Jdg. 2:7  |  [2] See Jdg 2:2; Deut 7:1-6; Deut 20:17-18; Josh 23:6-13  |  [3] Jdg 2:18-19  |  [4] Deut. 6:4-5 NIV  |  [5] Deut. 6:6-9 NIV

June 21, 2011

Every Promise Has Been Fulfilled; Not One Has Failed

by Bethany

Relevant Reading: Josh. 23:14
Full Reading: Josh. 23-24

Confusion | For me, it is a daily struggle to believe in God’s promises more than in my circumstances. Recently, for example, I have been struggling with an unresolved situation. I do not know its outcome nor what I want its outcome to be, which has led to anxiety and insecurity. Yesterday, through tears of confusion, I wondered, “Is there a single way – please – that this can end well?”

Promises | Throughout their history, the Israelites often wondered the same thing. For hundreds of years, they were slaves in Egypt [1]. Then, they wandered for forty years in the wilderness, where they frequently longed to return to Egypt, as they trusted more in their former slave master Pharaoh than in their loving God [2]. Yet, although they doubted Him and forgot His promises, He remembered them – rescuing them from Egypt, providing for them in the wilderness, and bringing them into the promised land. Thus, as Joshua was dying, he reminded them how God had kept His promises: “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” [3].

Perspective | Thus – as I sit in New York, separated from Joshua by thousands of years, knowing far better than him that God keeps His promises because all of them have been kept in Christ [4] – when I ask myself how my situation could end well, another question bubbles up: “From whose perspective?” For the past few days, I have been looking at things upside down – from my perspective instead of His! Rather than focusing on my confusing circumstances, I should have been looking at His certain promises! Although these days have been hard, He has increased my dependence on Him, reinvigorated my desire for more grace in my heart, and sparked my prayer life. As He has promised, He is completing the good work than He began in me [5].

Prayer | Lord, Your promises are the most precious things that we can know and believe. Yet, we confess that we spend more time analyzing our circumstances than we spend reading, meditating on, and rooting down in Your promises. Give us the strength to live without fear in Your promises. Amen.

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[1] See Ex. 1 | [2] Ex. 16:3 NIV | [3] Josh. 23:14 NIV | [4] 2 Cor. 1:20 NIV | [5] Phil. 1:6

June 20, 2011

Worship Across Cultures

by Bethany
Full Reading: Josh. 22
Relevant Reading: Josh. 22:11-34
Global | Christianity is expanding rapidly and, as a result, “we are currently living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide” [1]. Philip Jenkins wrote, “Over the past five centuries or so, the story of Christianity has been inextricably bound up with that of Europe and European-derived civilizations … Over the past century, however, the center of gravity in the Christian world has shifted inexorably southward, to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Already today, the largest Christian communities on the planet are to be found in Africa and Latin America. If we want to visualize a ‘typical’ contemporary Christian, we should think of a woman living in a village in Nigeria …” [2].

River | After allotting the land east of the Jordan to the eastern tribes, Joshua sent them home and reminded them to obey the Mosaic law – to love and serve God [3]. Along the way, however, they“built an imposing altar there by the Jordan” [4], which alarmed the western tribes since there was to be only one national altar [5]. Fearing that this sin would be imputed to the entire community [6], the western tribes confronted the eastern ones: “How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? … If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the LORD’s land, where the LORD’s tabernacle stands …” [7]. Yet, the western tribes misunderstood what the eastern tribes were doing. Rather than using the altar to worship other gods, the eastern tribes wanted it to serve as a“witness” [8] to the western tribes’ descendants so that no one could ever say, “You have no share in the LORD” [9]. Thus, it was named, “A Witness Between Us – That the LORD is God” [10].

Boundaries | Although the Jordan is no longer a geographical boundary between God’s people, there are oceans and languages and cultures that separate us. But, among God’s children, these geographical, linguistic and cultural distinctions pale into insignificance. For the worship of the one true God is not about ceremony or places or forms; it is about what is happening in the heart – every day, all the time, in every area of life.

Prayer | Lord, You long for all nations to be glad and all people to worship You! We confess, however, that sometimes we have assumed that worship should be done in a particular way – contemporary, traditional, expressive, etc. Thus, give us hearts that are passionate about worshiping You in spirit and in truth  [11] – regardless of form. Amen.

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Footnotes: [1]  Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity : Oxford University Press, 2002 (pp. 1-2).  |  [2]  Id.  |  [3]  Josh. 22:5 NIV (” … to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul”).  |  [4]  Josh. 22:10 NIV  |  [5]  The tabernacle. See generallyLeviticus.  |  [6]  They had learned – through the sin at Peor (see Num. 25) and the sin of Achan (seeJosh. 7) – that God could impute one person’s sin to the whole community.  |  [7]  Josh. 22:16 NIV  |  [8]  Josh. 22:28 NIV  |  [9]  Josh. 22:27 NIV  |  [10]  Josh. 22:34 NIV  |  [11]  Jn. 4:20-24 (where Jesus explicitly de-emphasized the importance of outward forms of worship and emphasized the importance of inward forms of it – i.e., true worshipers will worship “in spirit and in truth”).
June 17, 2011

A Rest Better than a Vacation

by Bethany

Relevant Reading: Josh. 21:43-45
Full Reading: Josh. 20-21

Rest | Last weekend, while at my brother and sister-in-law’s home in Alabama, I sat on the back porch and watched their boys play in the creek behind the house. I thought, “I could live like this. It seems so simple compared to New York.” Of course, their lives are difficult in different ways than mine. But I found myself wanting a rest from the City’s work-obsessed environment, image-conscious culture and rush-hour traffic. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was, in fact, on a rest from the City; I was on vacation in Alabama. So, what was it that I really wanted?

Partial | When Joshua finished distributing the land, God gave His people rest – that is, a peaceful freedom from attack – just as He had promised: “So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled” [1]. Yet, this rest was imperfect and temporary – enemies lurked and idolatry lingered. It was hardly the grand and final fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to Abraham.

Full | The conquest of Canaan, however, was a foretaste of something greater and, today, “the promise of entering his rest still stands” [2]. While “the ancients were commended for” [3] their faith – that is, their confidence in what they hoped for and their assurance of what they did not see – “none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” [4]. Thus, there still remains a permanent and all-satisfying “Sabbath-rest for the people of God” and we should “make every effort to enter that rest” as long as it is called, “Today” [5].

Prayer | Lord, In Christ, we are sons of Abraham and heirs according to the promise [6]. Yet, like the Israelites, we do not make every effort to enter Your promised rest, as our hearts harden through disobedience. Forgive us and open the eyes of our hearts to see that Jesus has been victorious over death and, thus, has secured our eternal peace with You. Amen.

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[1] Josh. 21:43-45 NIV. See also Josh. 23:1  |  [2] Heb. 4:1 NIV  |  [3] Heb. 11:1 NIV  |  [4] Heb. 11:39-40 NIV  |  [5] Heb. 4:9, 11 NIV  |  [6] Gal. 3:29

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