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)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Submit a Readers’ Choice
Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post helped you better understand the Bible?

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.

Creator of Worlds :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Michelle Perez, from New York, NY
This extols the beauty of the Lord’s creative work with such reverence and joy! I especially love that the prayer from Jamaica includes the importance and beauty of each created human life and pleads with the Lord to remember those who do not look at “life” through that lens.

Scripture Focus: Psalm 148.1-4
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Reflection: Creator of Worlds :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 12th, 2019
By John Tillman

Scripture tells us that creation groans to be released from sin. If the beauty and wonder of creation is what shines through despite its being shackled with sin, how much more beautiful may it be when all has been restored?

And…if creation is still capable of beauty and wonder through its groaning and pain, so much the more are we. We are not mere rocks that cry out, but God’s children whose mouths are filled with ordained praise. 

We are not trees that clap our hands with the breeze but God’s own family who celebrate the grace of God our Father even with our faces set firmly against a blowing gale.

With joy, we join this prayer from Christian brothers and sisters in Jamaica, praising and calling on the Almighty God, creator of all worlds!

Creator of Worlds
Prayer for the preservation of creation from Jamaica

Almighty God: Creator of all worlds!

We honor you for the marvels of your creation, and thank you for that part of it which is our home— the mountains, the green fields, and the sea— the abundance and energy of life in us and around us.

We confess that we have often forgotten that the world is yours and so we have misused and abused your gifts, causing distress and pain to others and to ourselves.

Out of your forgiving grace—hear us now as we pray for healing in our world.

Remember those who behold but cannot appreciate your wonderful world and those who abuse and deface its beauty—that they may discover the joy of tending the garden of the Lord.

Remember those who squander and waste resources you have entrusted to them, but are not concerned that others are starving.

Remember those who respect not life, your precious gift, in themselves and in others, and who from greed, or anger, or malice destroy human life without pity or fear.

Remember those who bear rule in communities and nations, acting with arrogance and without wisdom—that they may know that power is a trust for which they must give an account to you the only Absolute Ruler. May they in humility exercise the stewardship you have allotted them. May their labors promote peace and prosperity among the peoples of our troubled lands.

Oh Lord, help us all to be good stewards of this beautiful universe your mighty hand has brought into being.

In Jesus’ great name.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The trees of the Lord are full of sap, the cedars of Lebanon which he planted,
In which the birds build their nests, and in whose top the stork makes his dwelling.
The high hills are a refuge for the mountain goats, and his stony cliffs for rock badgers. — Psalm 104.17-19

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

Today’s Readings
Ruth 1 (Listen – 3:33) 
Acts 26 (Listen – 5:17)

Thank You!
Thank you to our donors who support our readers by making it possible to continue The Park Forum devotionals. This year, The Park Forum audiences opened 200,000 free, and ad-free, devotional content. Follow this link to join our donors with a one-time or a monthly gift.

Submit a Readers’ Choice
Let our community hear how your faith has grown. What post made you want to share?

Read more about Overgrown by the Gospel
May the gospel make ruins of our pride and selfishness. May we be overgrown by the gospel.

Redemption at Work in Generosity

Scripture: Ruth 2.20
He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.

Reflection: Redemption at Work in Generosity
By John Tillman

Our culture is obsessed with romance. (To the tune of thirty percent of the fiction market and over a billion dollars a year) However, as tempting as it is to interpret Boaz’s actions in Ruth’s second chapter to an instant romantic attachment, gleaning doesn’t make for a good “meet-cute.”

Gleaning was a part of the social safety net put in place by the communal regulations of the Old Testament covenant. Ruth’s story puts a relational microscope on this practice.

Landowners, the CEOs of Israel’s agrarian society, had a holy responsibility to not wring every grain of profit from their fields—to not harvest the edges and corners of the field, and to not pick up dropped grain or return for forgotten sheaves. This runs counter to our modern business mentality of efficiency at all costs and it seems that the community of Bethlehem wasn’t fully living up to these ideals either.

Boaz’s warnings not to glean elsewhere and his assurances of good treatment in his field are strong indicators to us that gleaners were seldom well treated. His statement, “I have told the men not to lay a hand on you,” is a particularly telling hint at the kind of treatment that Ruth was likely to get elsewhere and may indeed already have received before Boaz arrived.

Then as now, the marginalized are the easiest targets for harassment and violence, and it is up to people of faith to intervene.

The redemptive view of work, profit, and charity in Ruth, asserts that ownership is custodial—that the fruits of investment are meant to benefit the entire community. The initiative to provide assistance must sync up with the initiative to seek it. Systems and programs for the marginalized are nice and societies should have them. But compassion goes further.

Living generously is more than giving out of “our” profit that we have harvested. It is recognizing that the profit never belonged to us. It is more than giving a prescribed percentage of income to carefully vetted charities or happily paying taxes for social programs. Generosity is making room in our lives, our fields, and our communities for the marginalized and the needy. Fulfilling religious or social law is compliance. Generosity means going beyond what is expected.

The Call to Prayer
Let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them be merry and joyful. — Psalm 68.3

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ruth 3-4 (Listen – 5:24)
Acts 28 (Listen – 4:56)

Ruth, the Immigrant

Scripture: Ruth 2.6
The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi.

Reflection: Ruth, the Immigrant
By John Tillman

Ruth’s story is attractive for those who long for a quid-pro-quo relationship between their good deeds and God’s blessings.

This line of teaching focuses on Ruth’s hard work to aid Naomi, but usually skips the antecedent action in which Ruth had a controversial interracial marriage with a Jewish immigrant and, following his death, chose to abandon her biological family, her culture, her country, and her religion to seek a home among a people who had pledged to wipe out her race in the previous generation, but hadn’t quite succeeded yet.

Ruth, the immigrant, isn’t a version of the story we think about much, but it is the primary way those who interacted with Ruth would have thought of her. With our gift of hindsight, we associate Ruth with her great-grandchild, Israel’s greatest earthly king, David. But to everyone else, Ruth was “the Moabite.” She would have been seen as a dangerous immigrant—one of “those women” the law warns Israel about, who would seduce and lead Israel into sin. By remembering that Ruth is an immigrant, we get a clearer picture of her story.

More important than showing us the value of hard work, or kindness, or having a successful marriage, Ruth shows us how God’s grace helps us immigrate from our own selfish kingdoms to the kingdom of God through repentance. Ruth shows us how to turn our back on our self and what we have known, to abandon what is best for us by the world’s standard, and to turn our face toward a new God and a new kingdom.

Ruth becomes a member of a new community and, by grace, she joins the lineage of a new family—the family of Jesus. Our place in Jesus’ family is as much by grace as Ruth’s place in His genealogy. Ruth is an example of God’s grace extending, through Israel, to the Gentiles, and eventually, to us.

Boaz, the son of Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho, and Ruth, the Moabitess, make a life together in the promised land. This is a unique picture of God’s mercy and grace. By rights they shouldn’t be here. Yet they not only live, they flourish, and they foreshadow the Gospel spreading beyond Israel to the nations.

The Morning Psalm
Hallelujah! When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech — Psalm 114

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

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

Victory In Loss

Scripture: Acts 26.29
I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.

Reflection: Victory In Loss
By John Tillman

Many of the elements we long for in blockbusters are present in the Gospel narrative of the New Testament—a small group of outcasts facing long odds, narrow escapes from violence, capture and imprisonment, government corruption—but the story’s parts don’t go in the order we wish them to. They all end in death. Christ and his first followers in Scripture stubbornly refuse to fulfill the types of hero-journeys that we are accustomed to.

Paul’s defense before Agrippa is a moment when the story could turn in the outcast’s favor. When Agrippa is asked to weigh in, it is a potential game-changer. Agrippa is more than simply familiar with Jewish theology, he is a believer in the prophets. From a modern perspective, without knowing the rest of the story, one would be prone to think, “Finally, someone sympathetic to our cause is on the court! Finally, our hero Paul will orate his way out of captivity and gain notoriety for the cause of Christ!”

Instead, Paul’s impassioned defense is met with accusations of mental illness, and then disbelief. Even then, Paul could have been set free except for a strategic legal error—his appeal to Caesar. Paul’s “loss” follows the model set by Christ, who also strategically lost his own trial.

The idea that it is God’s plan to give believers victories in this world, through this world’s power, has little support in the New Testament. In the trials of our lives, we are not expected to be victors in the common cultural interpretation of winning.

The victories Christ calls us to are different than common narratives. They lie in the opposite direction from religious achievement and striving. They wait on the opposite side of the valley of the shadow of death. It is there that Christ leads us, lending us his guiding hand along a path narrow, but well worn by his own travel.

Other religions seek to bend the will of godly power to mortal benefit through performance of acts of sacrifice, incantation, and supplication. In Christianity, it is God who bends willingly to us—it is our wills that are unbending and our own power that holds us back from God’s presence. In Christianity it is God who sacrifices, submitting to execution under the power of mortal legal machinery. And it is God who sings an incantation, attempting to summon us to Him, supplicating our presence along the path that leads through suffering to victory.

The Request for Presence
I put my trust in you; show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you. — Psalm 143.8

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ruth 1 (Listen – 3:33)
Acts 26 (Listen – 4:40)

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