Becoming Part of the Promise

Scripture Focus: Joshua 2.8-11
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. 

Reflection: Becoming Part of the Promise
By John Tillman

Those who feel powerless to stop sexual victimization will often attempt to profit from it and Rahab had carved a place for herself in the power structure of Jericho.
Her work filled a niche in the economy and her brothel filled a niche in the wall. Powerful men knew her well and came to her not only for sex but for intelligence.

Her brothel, situated strategically in the wall of the city and near the gate, was a natural place to search for unsavory, shifty spies in the land. The leaders knew that if there were trouble-makers, Rahab would have seen them. If there was trouble coming, Rahab would have heard of it. 

She had heard of trouble, probably from the bedside whispers of some of these same men. The rumors coming out of the desert told of a people whose God fought for them. A God so powerful that his people couldn’t be cursed. Armies fled before them. Canaanite gods were powerless.

Sending the leaders away with a plot of misdirection, Rahab plotted a new direction in life as she climbed up to the spies hiding on her roof.

I imagine her sitting on the roof with Abraham’s promised children, not yet equal in number to the stars they sit under. There, she delivers to their ears the pillow talk of her clients. The powerful kings of Jericho and surrounding towns were melting with fear. Rahab asks to be accepted by this powerful God who is not only in the heavens but active upon the Earth.

In this act, Rahab the Canaanite prostitute becomes a part of the Abrahamic promise. The promise itself would pass through her womb as one of the Canaanite grandmothers of Jesus. God who promised Abraham these children, numbered like stars, would fulfill to an infinite degree the promise he made to Abraham to bless the nations, through the fruit of Rahab’s womb.

No situation is hopeless and no person is doomed to destruction who turns to God. No matter what niche of the economy we feel trapped in or what political citadel demands our loyalty, like Rahab, we can climb on the roof, look to the stars, and join the children of the promise. We can help birth God’s promise on Earth to benefit others. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord has sworn an oath to David; in truth, he will not break it:
“A son, the fruit of your body will I set upon your throne.” — Psalm 132.11-12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis TickleToday’s Readings
Joshua 2 (Listen – 3:49)
Psalm 123-125 (Listen – 1:52)

A Better Joshua

Scripture Focus: Joshua 1.2-3
2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.

Reflection: A Better Joshua
By John Tillman

Human leadership is flawed and highly variable. Even poor leaders occasionally do something positive. Even great leaders fail in some ways. When changing leaders there is sometimes the fear that the new leader will not live up to the last one and sometimes the hope that someone better is now taking charge.

If Meribah had gone differently, Israel may not even have experienced the change of leadership described in the first chapter of Joshua. It is only due to his own frailty that Moses is excluded from the promised land and Joshua is promoted.

Moses was the human liberator of the people of Israel. He set them free from slavery. He led them into an unknown future with a promise of finding peace.

Joshua was the one tasked to fulfill that promise. Moses had established the spiritual identity of Israel. Joshua was to establish the territory of Israel, giving them geographical, agricultural, and political identity. 

Just as God worked through the flawed human leader, Moses, he promised to work through the flawed human leader, Joshua. Human leaders are sent from and responsible to God, however, we have a better leader in which to hope. Jesus, who’s name is a shortened form of Joshua’s name, is greater than Joshua or Moses. 

Jesus is a greater liberator. He liberated us not from a political power but from the spiritual power of sin. Jesus is a greater lawgiver, for his commandment to us is to love one another and his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Jesus is a greater savior. He saved us not from temporal dangers but eternal dangers. He saved us not merely from armies, snakes, poison, or thirst, which might kill our physical bodies but from our own rebellion, venomous lies, and sins that kill our souls. He satisfies us not with water flowing from a rock but with living water flowing from our renewed hearts.

Jesus is a greater leader. In our lives, his presence is reliable, empowering, encouraging, and patient. When we walk with Jesus, everywhere we set our foot belongs to God. In every place we go and in every role we fill, we press God’s impression into the clay of this world. 

We pray for the courage, not only to ask that his will may be done on Earth, but that we may set out to walk in it.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 105.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Joshua 1 (Listen – 3:11)
Psalm 120-122 (Listen – 2:12)

Read more about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time for us to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 through July 2021) that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Read more about Over Jordan
In the story of the transition from Moses to Joshua, from Elijah to Elisha, and from John the Baptist to Jesus, the Jordan symbolizes a change in leadership.

The Garden of Psalm 119

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.169-176
169 May my cry come before you, Lord; 
give me understanding according to your word. 
170 May my supplication come before you; 
deliver me according to your promise. 
171 May my lips overflow with praise, 
for you teach me your decrees. 
172 May my tongue sing of your word, 
for all your commands are righteous. 
173 May your hand be ready to help me, 
for I have chosen your precepts. 
174 I long for your salvation, Lord, 
and your law gives me delight. 
175 Let me live that I may praise you, 
and may your laws sustain me. 
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep. 
Seek your servant, 
for I have not forgotten your commands. 

From John: As we wrap up Psalm 119 this week, we look back again at our reflection on Charles Spurgeon’s words about the great psalm. We are also eagerly anticipating the beginning of Student Writers Month in July followed by your Readers’ Choice selections in August. To submit your selections for Readers’ Choice, follow this link.

Reflection: The Garden of Psalm 119
By John Tillman

We finish Psalm 119 today and reflect on it with some words from Charles Spurgeon: 

“Those who have studied this divine hymn, and carefully noted each line of it, are amazed at the variety and profundity of the thought…The more you look into this mirror of a gracious heart the more you will see in it.”

Spurgeon is convinced that David wrote the Psalm and if not he, then some other writer who spent long years in its work and created it not over a short span, but through a lifetime of faithfulness.

“There is evident growth in the subject matter. The earlier verses are of such a character as to lend themselves to the hypothesis that the author was a young man, while many of the later passages could only have suggested themselves to age and wisdom.”

In the end, rather than rising in acclaim or celebration, the aged wisdom of the psalmist leads him to a humble and prostrate stance.

“The psalmist is approaching the end of the Psalm…he seems to break into the inner circle of divine fellowship, and to come even to the feet of the great God whose help he is imploring. This nearness creates the most lowly view of himself, and leads him to close the Psalm upon his face in deepest self-humiliation, begging to be sought out like a lost sheep…It is a very sweet thing to a suppliant when he knows of a surety that his prayer has obtained audience. It is to Jehovah that this prayer is expressed with trembling earnestness…we crave audience of none else, for we have confidence in none beside.”

Meditating on Psalm 119 daily has been a common spiritual practice for centuries with many reporting a wealth of spiritual benefit.

“This sacred ode is a little Bible, the Scriptures condensed, a mass of Bibline, holy writ rewritten in holy emotions and actions. This Psalm, like the whole Scripture which it praises, is a pearl island, or, better still, a garden of sweet flowers.”

It is our hope that each cycle of our two-year-long tread through the garden of scripture produces not pride, but humility. Not judgmental attitudes, but merciful gratitude. Not clamoring commands for others, but tender notes of correction in our own hearts.

*Quotations abridged from A Treasury of David, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Hallelujah! Give praise, you servants of the Lord; praise the Name of the Lord. — Psalm 113.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 33-34 (Listen – 4:43)
Psalm 119:145-176 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time for us to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 through July 2021) that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Read more about Setting Aside the Scriptures
Considering all of Scripture together without breaking it apart requires patience and a deep familiarity with Scripture.

The Stretching Arm of Salvation — A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 30.11-14
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Psalm 119.81
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, 
but I have put my hope in your word. 

Reflection: The Stretching Arm of Salvation — A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

The gospel is not a lifehack. Salvation is not a touch-up job on a fender bender. Sanctification is not akin to the marginal improvements available by the effort of will and self-determination. Jesus is not a self-help guru.

Self-help righteousness has been tried. It failed. Despite the fact that Moses tells the people that it, “is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach,” the rest of Israel’s history proved otherwise. Israel lived by sight yet could not avoid idolatry and judgment. We live by faith and our failures, in many ways, are more spectacularly evil than theirs. 

We cannot reach salvation. Salvation reaches for us—and His arm is not too short.

We pray, today, along with a section of Psalm 119, a prayer for those in need of salvation. It is a prayer for those suffering oppression, injustice, and persecution. We pray on behalf of those inside or outside our borders who suffer the sting of unjust treatment and the careless disregard of the powerful. May God move on their behalf and may he do it through us. 

For Salvation
My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.

Extend to us the stretching arm of salvation, promised in your holy word and fulfilled in The Word who became flesh for us.

My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
    I say, “When will you comfort me?”

We seek not the comforts of this world but those of the next, “on earth as it is in heaven.

Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
    I do not forget your decrees.

May suffering burn up our pride and vanity and fill us with your Word.

How long must your servant wait?
    When will you punish my persecutors?
The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
    contrary to your law.

Your law is abused, Lord. 
Twisted to harm rather than protect.
Used to excuse abuse rather than to empower love and mercy.

All your commands are trustworthy;
    help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
They almost wiped me from the earth,
    but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your unfailing love preserve my life,
    that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.

We can obey your commands with joy, for they are good.
Your love will not fail us.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
With his right hand and his holy arm has he won for himself the victory. — Psalm 98.1-2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 30 (Listen – 3:12)
Psalm 119:73:96 (Listen – 15:14)

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 31 (Listen – 4:57), Psalm 119:97-120 (Listen – 15:14)
Deuteronomy 32 (Listen – 7:10), Psalm 119:121-144 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Ways of Canaan, Ways of Christ
Seek God’s face and ask him to reveal and remove “ways of Canaan” within you, replacing them with the ways of Christ.

Read more about The Antivenom for Sin
We cannot save ourselves from the venom of sin. It inevitably will cause our death and many other harms in our lives.

Make God’s Love Evident

Scripture Focus: Psalm 119.50-53, 61-64
50 My comfort in my suffering is this: 
Your promise preserves my life. 
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully, 
but I do not turn from your law. 
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, 
and I find comfort in them. 
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, 
who have forsaken your law. 

61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes, 
I will not forget your law. 
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks 
for your righteous laws. 
63 I am a friend to all who fear you, 
to all who follow your precepts. 
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord; 
teach me your decrees. 

Reflection: Make God’s Love Evident
By John Tillman

There is great wickedness in the world. Yet, in such a world, the psalmist proclaims God’s love, the power of God’s laws, and the strength of his desire to know God more deeply.

Even in a world in which a person may be bound with ropes, or separated from their family, or denied justice, or put into a cage, or killed for the convenience of others, or hung from a tree, or gunned down in a church… Even in such a world, the psalmist tells us, “God’s love is evident.”

Wickedness is evident but God’s love is also evident.

God’s love is evident in the many Christian and secular organizations that move, at times into dangerous circumstances, to help the downtrodden, the poor, and those purposely excluded from justice. Our God sends help to the helpless, no matter the owner of the goods, the ship, the truck, or the organization.

God’s love is evident in his promises to bring disaster upon nations that ignore their responsibilities to the poor and to the foreigner. An endlessly repeating biblical theme, especially in the Old Testament, is that God’s people are to be kind and compassionate to foreigners and the marginalized. Our God humbles nations addicted to greed—including His own

God’s love is evident in God’s help and justice, but also in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer.

Only the suffering God can help. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our God lies on concrete floors under aluminum blankets with abandoned children and ethnic minorities. He bleeds on the floor of a sanctuary with victimized worshipers. His body bears the wounds and scars of unjust captivity that are familiar to those brutalized by government forces.

God’s love is, of course, most fully evident in the gospel. However, passively chattering about “the gospel” in the face of evil, with no action, makes us smiling signposts on the road to Hell rather than under-shepherds of Christ, pulling sheep from the mouths of wolves.

The gospel is Christ’s frontal assault on wickedness. He storms Hell to set free its captives. We are Christ’s body in this world to carry out his righteousness. 

Make God’s love evident. Reach out in God’s love in any way that is available to you, whether through financial means or political. Even giving a cup of water in the name of Christ to the least of these will be remembered.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them be merry and joyful.
Sing to God, sing praises to his Name; exalt him who rides upon the heavens; Yahweh is his Name, rejoice before him!
Father of orphans, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation! — Psalm 68.3-5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 29 (Listen – 4:14)
Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Spiritual Indicators
God holds his people responsible for the welfare of the poor, the foreigners, the widows, and the orphans.

Read more about The Sojourn of Sanctification
Those who had been exploited as foreigners were commanded to become a nation that blessed foreigners.