Bold Obedience — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership and your submissions for this month.

Today’s post was originally published, July 13, 2021, based on readings from Joshua 18.
It was selected by reader, John from Singapore

Scripture Focus: Joshua 18.1-3, 8-10
1 The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The country was brought under their control, 2 but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. 
3 So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?
8 As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.” 9 So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. 10 Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.

Reflection: Bold Obedience — Readers’ Choice
By Elizabeth Franklin 

“Free bookshelf: must pick up!” As a student, the words “free [anything]” immediately catch my eye. Unfortunately, the words that often follow—“must pick up”—immediately send me back to searching, because my mid-sized vehicle cannot accommodate most furniture. I’m willing to receive it, but I’m hesitant to go and get it!

Seven of the tribes of Israel encountered a similar dilemma as their people were in the process of entering the land that God had promised them. Their problem was not so much the ability to receive the land, but their willingness to go get it. God had accompanied the Israelites through generations of trouble and travel to arrive at this promised land, and now he had enabled them to take possession of it. However, these seven tribes needed some extra prompting to move forward in obedience.

Throughout the Israelites’ history, God had made one thing abundantly clear: “Obey what I have told you, and you will be blessed.” God was guiding them in their identity as his people, but he expected them to be obedient to his direction.

In this case, obedience meant bold action. God had secured the land for them, but they had to physically go and take possession of it. The biblical text does not tell us why these seven tribes hadn’t done so already—perhaps they were afraid, apathetic, or just not paying attention. Whatever the case, their leader had to prompt them to do what God had already instructed. Once they obeyed, though, the land was theirs. God was faithful to what he had promised.

God has secured abundant spiritual blessings for us in Christ. If we are willing to take bold steps forward in obedience, we will receive what he has promised. Just as I am hesitant to pick up furniture that my vehicle can’t accommodate, we can sometimes be hesitant to take hold of the blessings of obedience that God has promised us. If fear, apathy, or a distracted heart is keeping you from acting, perhaps finding encouragement in a trusted friend or leader like Joshua will help prompt you to action. 

How is God asking you to be obedient today? Does a relationship need to be mended in love and humility? Does a sin need to be confessed? When we seek God’s direction, he will show us the way forward.  

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 24 (Listen – 3:36) 
1 Corinthians 5 (Listen – 1:58)

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt.

Read more about Abundance from Obedience
Because collective consequences are a reality, our focus should be on collective obedience. Following God is a group effort.

The Consequence of Carelessness — Readers’ Choice

Readers’ Choice Month:
In August, The Park Forum looks back on our readers’ selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals from the past 12 months. Thank you for your readership. This month is all about hearing from you. Submit a Readers’ Choice post today.

Today’s post was originally published, July 7, 2021, based on readings from Joshua 9 and Psalm 140.
It was selected by reader, John from Singapore.
“Insightful!”

Scripture Focus: Joshua 9:14
14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.

Psalm 140:1-3
1 Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
    protect me from the violent,
2 who devise evil plans in their hearts
    and stir up war every day.
3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
    the poison of vipers is on their lips.

Reflection: The Consequence of Carelessness — Readers’ Choice
By Erin Newton

There are times when the monotony of life creates an apathy toward caution. Each day is much like the last; one activity looks the same as the next. We grow comfortable in our abilities and go about our day with no need of counsel.

Joshua led the Israelite army against city after city. The mistake of Achan’s sin seemed to have been reversed with the defeat of Ai. However, the pattern of error had already taken root. Some of their enemies formed an alliance, but the Gibeonites chose an alternate method: lie and gain Israel’s protection through deception. With much planning, the ruse was set. The Israelite leaders took a cursory glance and trusted the Gibeonites’ claim. Regrettably, they did not seek God’s counsel. They were blind to the false pretense and propaganda before them. This lapse in judgment bound the Israelites with their enemy. Hastiness produced errors.

Psalm 140 presents a plea for protection, asking God for wisdom to discern evil plans and cunning words. The psalmist likens the words of an enemy to the poisonous, sharp tongue of a viper. The craftiness of the serpent in the Garden strikes again in the Promised Land through the Gibeonites.

Why did the leaders fail to inquire of God? Why do we? Is it apathy, busyness, or pride? Our lives are plagued with rash decisions because we operate at high speed. We are convinced of our abilities and fail to lay our lives before God. Are we neglecting God’s counsel because we do not want to deny ourselves certain things?

C. S. Lewis describes the gentle slope toward evil through his fictional story of demonic correspondence in The Screwtape Letters: “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards do the trick.”

Israel’s tendency toward neglect would be a festering wound resulting in more errors and consequences. If we do not open every corner of our lives to God, we will likely slip unknowingly into a pact with the enemy. We will be duped by anyone with persuasive words. We must remember to seek God’s counsel and see through deception. 

Joshua honored the covenant Israel made in error. Ultimately, the Gibeonites remained part of the Israelite community for centuries. Even though humanity errs, God redeems. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Hide not your face from your servant; be swift and answer me… Draw near to me and redeem me… Psalm 69.19-20

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

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 11 (Listen – 2:43)
Romans 9 (Listen – 5:15)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
Have we heard from you yet? Tell us about posts from the past year (September 2020 – July 2021) that have helped you in your faith.
https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about ​​The Idol of Control
True peace comes from trusting in the wisdom, plan, and counsel of God…we must ensure that we listen first and foremost to God’s wisdom.

Resting without Regressing

Scripture Focus: Joshua 23.1-2, 11
1After a long time had passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, 2 summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them . . . 11 “So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” 

Student Writers Month:

This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Resting without Regressing
By João Moraes 

Rest is precisely what we need at the end of a hard season. That is what the people of Israel receive from God after long years of battles and turmoil. At the end of his life, Joshua tells the people that it’s time to look back and see “all that the Lord your God has done” for their sake (v. 3). Joshua then moves sharply from encouragements to warnings.

In verse 11, Joshua exhorts them to “attentively guard [their] heart to love the LORD” (my translation). In this season of rest, Joshua is concerned that the people will turn away from the Lord. Now that the battles have stopped, he is afraid that Israel will be influenced by the survivors of the defeated nations and end up trapped.

Seasons of rest lack the sense of urgency that comes with times of crisis. As they expose our vulnerability, crises often force us to an extreme choice. We can either despair or cling hopefully to something. When that ‘something’ is God, our faith is strengthened beyond measure as we hold steadfastly to the Lord and trust His provision. By contrast, in seasons of rest we don’t feel pushed either way, we can relax. But if relaxation means abandoning sanctification, we are passively turning away from God. This makes us vulnerable to traps from the Enemy. When we are not actively seeking the Lord, we are open to all the gods of our era: fame, lust, success, money, etc.

Mid-2021 feels like a time of rest in many places around the world. After more than a year of uncertainties, isolation, and constant deaths as we battled COVID-19, the vaccine finally made its way to a significant number of people. As we remember, empathize, and pray for the several places that are still struggling, we may sigh in relief as we rest from this battle. But Joshua reminds us to question ourselves and stay attentive.

What will I do now that life is going back to normal? How will I continue the practices of prayer and meditation that I developed during isolation? How will I make sure that this season of rest is an opportunity for growth and not a snare for stumbling?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Gracious is the Lord and righteous; our God is full of compassion. — Psalm 116.4

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


Today’s Readings
Joshua 23 (Listen – 2:31)
Acts 3 (Listen – 3:33)

This Weekend’s Readings
Joshua 24 (Listen– 5:39)Acts 4 (Listen – 5:15)
Judges 1 (Listen – 5:08), Acts 5 (Listen – 6:49)

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

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Hearts God Moves
May God move in our hearts…making his dwelling place with us and shining brightly through us…


Resolving Misunderstanding

Scripture Focus: Joshua 22.21-23
21 Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Resolving Misunderstanding
By Sylvester Ngonga

This chapter’s plotline is captivating and full of suspense. In the backdrop of a concluded military victory, the tribes to the east of river Jordan built a memorial altar even though they knew of Moses’ command to only offer sacrifices at the altar at Shiloh (Leviticus 17.8-9). Fears of betrayal motivate the tribes to the west to attack but not before sending a high-level inquiry delegation to allow the eastern tribes to explain their actions. Will this delicate misunderstanding escalate to a full-blown civil war, or will it be resolved?

Feeling isolated, the eastern tribes intended the altar as a symbol of unity. Unfortunately, the western tribes misinterpreted it as disloyalty. Today, we may not be separated from our brethren by the river Jordan but we are separated by divisive political and religious ideologies which breed fears of betrayal. These fears propel us often to the precipice of civil wars and religious conflicts.

In our isolation, the ever-lurking impulse is to build culturally compliant monuments to express our faith. The divisive nature of competing scriptural interpretations fuels misunderstandings in our perception of God and each other. The eastern tribes, when confronted to explain themselves, appealed to God confidently about their action. Can we do so? Have we simply built memorials or are they altars to the gods of our man-made ideologies?

The gospel should bind us together. Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, was offered up for us once and for all (2 Corinthians 5.21). In our reasonable service, all that is required is to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12.1). Sadly, many today want to hear God without listening to him. We want to worship God in any way that pleases us rather than in unity, spirit and truth (John 4.24). 

This truth of God’s word should help us confront and respond to each other lovingly about misunderstandings regarding God’s holiness. Whenever there is a misunderstanding, our first appeal should be to God, not popular opinion. Understanding our accuser’s perspective helps to shape our reaction.

Both sides were assuming the worst of each other. The eastern tribes assumed that they would be excluded and the rest of Israel assumed that they were rebellious. We must seek  clarification lovingly rather than impute evil motives on others. Our unity in diversity is a tapestry of beauty, and God is pleased when we dwell in harmony (Psalm 133.1)!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name for evermore. — Psalm 86.12

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


Today’s Readings
Joshua 22 (Listen – 6:16)
Acts 2 (Listen – 6:35)

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

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Good and Pleasant Unity?
In such a divisive and cynical time, words like “unity” raise eyebrows, hackles, and suspicion.

We Are All Asylum Seekers

Scripture Focus: Joshua 20.2-3
2 “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, 3 so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: We Are All Asylum Seekers

By Erin Newton

No one is immune to mistakes. Split-second reactions, emotional outbursts, or lapses in judgment are issues that plague all our lives. Harm inflicted on another person results in social, relational, or legal consequences.

In Israel, accidental murder still carried guilt, “a life for a life” (Leviticus 24.17-21). Yet, temporary asylum might be found by grasping the altar in the sanctuary or permanently relocating to a city of refuge. The offender was exiled but not completely outside of God’s presence. The contamination from murder was removed to allow restoration of the land from bloodshed. 

If the murderer could safely arrive at one of these six cities, that person would be given shelter and provisions. Protection was ensured although the bloodguilt would still exist. These cities were also the designated lands for the Levites and under their priestly care the murderer would start anew.

The only way the murderer’s guilt could be ransomed was through the death of the high priest. As representative of the nation, it was the only death considered commensurate of such great guilt. Animal sacrifices covered unintentional sins but not the death of a person. God values human life exceedingly. No ordinary lamb could be the equivalent worth of humanity.

We may think this is irrelevant to us, “non-murderers”, yet in our anger, Jesus tells us that we are as guilty as a murderer. We commiserate with Paul; although we want to do good, evil is right there with us (Romans 7.21). We cannot escape the unintentional, harmful actions we commit against one another nor can we avoid the consequences of our impulses. We are in desperate need of amnesty.

Where shall we go to grasp the altar or what place will ensure our protection? How soothing it is to know that our Great High Priest has already died and paid our ransom. How comforting it is to lay down in rest knowing God is our ever-present refuge. We no longer need to spend our lives waiting for someone else to grant us redemption. Christ has already paid the price of our bloodguilt and the ground no longer cries out to condemn us. Today we live in different political systems which means legal consequences will continue to affect us. But our refuge in Christ is eternal.

No one is immune to mistakes, but we can find ransom in the death of Jesus and safety in His care. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at the noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back… God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. — Psalm 55.17

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

Today’s Readings

Joshua 20-21 (Listen – 6:38)
Acts 1 (Listen – 3:58)

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

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Jesus, our Restorer
Even in the intensity of his own suffering, Christ healed those Peter attacked and forgave those Peter cursed at.

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