The Hand of Providence

Scripture Focus: Acts 27.22
22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 

Reflection: The Hand of Providence
By Dennis Nicholson

In Daniel Defoe’s classic work Robinson Crusoe, the eponymous hero finds himself shipwrecked on an uninhabited Caribbean island. Marooned! And just when Crusoe had begun making a living for himself, too. It’s the latest in his lifelong streak of bad luck.

However, in the following days, Crusoe begins to see the gracious hand of Providence at work. Though he’s stranded, he’s alive. Though he’s hungry, he’s surrounded by wildlife to scavenge. And as he reflects on his old life, he begins to hear the call to repent of his sinful ways and turn to God.

Providence saved Crusoe’s life.

Luke tells us of another tempestuous ocean journey in Acts 27—Paul’s journey to Rome. Here, too, we see flashes of Providence. Julius, the centurion assigned to the prisoners, treats Paul favorably. Storms sweep the group away but also usher them towards Malta. The ship runs aground, but everyone reaches land safely.
As the storm rages, Paul’s companions lose hope of salvation. But Paul encourages them: “Not one of you will be lost.” Paul is confident that they will all survive because he sees the gracious hand of Providence at work.

Paul knew that God would protect him because God had plans for him in Rome. No storm could thwart God’s plans then. And no storm can thwart God’s plans now.

Paul’s eyes were open to God’s providence in his life. So often we blind ourselves to God’s work. As the storms of life surround us, as fear and loneliness consume us, we lose hope of salvation. But we can take heart, for “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8.28).

God will protect his church for his good purposes.

Let this hope be our anchor in the midst of the tempestuous seas. Let’s fix our eyes not on the waves, but on the outstretched hand of our Savior (Matthew 14.22-23). Let’s remember that we weather the storms not by our wisdom but by his providential hand. And let’s thank him for the ways he provides for us each and every day.

Thank you, Lord, for the breath of life.
Thank you, Lord, for sunshine and rain and food.
Thank you, Lord, for the strength to work.
Thank you, Lord, for friends who encourage and exhort.
Thank you, Lord, for saving our lives.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me…Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful. — Psalm 86.1-2

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 3 (Listen -4:40)
Acts 27(Listen – 6:09)

Read more about Faith After the Storm
Jesus rebuking the storm rebukes us as well. “Quiet. Be still”…He is no longer someone we can shake awake and push around.

Jericho’s Wall :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Barbara, from Chattanooga
Following God is His call on us. We don’t “deserve” anything. Some hard, and exciting lessons in this story!

Scripture Focus: Joshua 5.13-14
Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

Reflection: Jericho’s Wall :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 3rd, 2019
By John Tillman

If you ask Christians how the inhabitants of Jericho responded to Israel and their silent marching around the city, most will probably say they taunted them and that the point of the story is that the Israelites demonstrated faith by following God’s strange plan despite being made fun of. This is a complete fabrication. There is no textual evidence to suggest that the Israelites were teased or taunted at all by Jericho.  

Scripture doesn’t shy away from a great taunt. The scriptures are full of them. God himself delivers sharply barbed taunts. Even Jesus gently taunts Nicodemus. But no taunts are recorded here.

Jericho wasn’t in a taunting mood. They were terrified. No matter how funny the French Peas are in a Veggie Tales video, the reality is that scripture tells us multiple times how terrified everyone in Canaan was of Israel, but it never tells us once that they taunted Israel or made any comment about God’s plan of marching around the city.

It’s not difficult to see why Jericho was terrified. This gigantic group of former slaves destroyed the entire army of Egypt—the world-wide superpower of its day. Today, this would be comparable to the United States military being wiped out by an opponent. Then this same group traveled through the desert completely destroying any king or nation that stood up to them. Then, these desert-crossing, dangerous, religious fanatics show up at Jericho’s border, crossing the river without permission and in a miraculous fashion.

One possible reason for our extremely poor handling of scripture, in this case, is that, when teaching children, we are so uncomfortable with the idea of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out an entire city, we need a distraction. “Perseverance amidst taunting” is a kinder-gentler lesson to teach children. 

This erroneous reading of scripture turns the power dynamic upside down allowing us to feel “persecuted” like the Israelites and justified in destroying our enemies.

But God isn’t interested in destroying people we call our enemies. If the commander of the Lord’s army was not on Joshua’s side, we can rest assured that the commander of the Lord’s army is not on “our” side today. Especially if we define our side so narrowly as to exclude those outside of something so meaningless and trivial as a political party.

The lesson of Jericho’s wall is not that God’s plans are weird, and people will make fun of us, but we should follow God anyway. The lesson of Jericho’s wall is that it is God who initiates judgment, not us. The lesson is that we don’t deserve what God has given us and that if we are unfaithful, we too will face God’s wrath and no wall will stand in its way.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come Lord Jesus! — Revelation 22.20

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ruth 2 (Listen – 3:56) 
Acts 27 (Listen – 6:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ruth 3-4 (Listen – 6:24), Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)
1 Samuel 1 (Listen – 4:13), Romans 1 (Listen – 5:02)

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Read more about Over Jordan
On the other side of the river is the land that is promised, the land of blessing, the land of freedom, the land of rest, the land of satisfaction and plenty.