I love this story.
Here we have Gideon, who is actually a really impressive young bloke. I’m not sure, but I feel like sometimes we might misinterpret the fact that he came across a bit doubtful when he was called. Initially was the statement about being the least in his family, in the smallest clan and the smallest tribe or whatever, and then he put the famous fleece out overnight – twice.
The thing is, though, I can’t help but wonder if we sometimes confuse his seeking reassurance as doubting. I remember back to when God called Moses, and he just kept making excuses, to the point where it actually says that God got mad at him. However it doesn’t say that with Gideon.
And the thing is, that Gideon seems to be pretty much a man of action. One word of confirmation from the angel, and he was off tearing down the Asherah poles. Yes, it was night time. Yes, he went off and hid, but it all turned out alright.
Now, he’s got himself an army and they’re ready to take on the Midianites. 32000 or so men.
And God says he has too many people.
I tell you what, can you imagine that? God’s just called you to go down and take on an army, and just before you’re about to leave, he says, “Hold up, you’ve got too many bodies on your side. Send some of them home.”
I’d be telling him we’re off to war, there’s no such thing as too many bodies.
So Gideon turns to the men and tells them that anyone who’s scared can go home.
And 22000 of them take off.
I tell you what, I’d be watching in shock. Two thirds of the army’s just taken off, but Gideon’s still ready to go.
Except that God says he still has too many men.
I can just imagine Gideon looking up at God going, “Are you serious?”
So there’s another elimination, and Gideon’s left with 300 men.
To take on an army.
But it gets better.
They arm themselves with: A pitcher, a torch and a trumpet.
Again: “Are you serious?”
The key to all of this, though, is right back at the beginning.
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.’” ~ Judges 7:2
The point that God was trying to make, was that it wasn’t about the Israelites. The point he was trying to make, was that this wasn’t their fight, it was his – and the victory, therefore, was his too.
How often do we doubt God? How often do we look around and see our army of 32000 men and say to ourselves, “Right, I’m ready for the battle now.”
It’s not about us.
It’s not our battle.
It’s not our victory.
I can tell you that I’m not very good at letting God have control of things in my life. I’d much rather take care of it myself – in my way – with the resources around me.
But that’s not what God calls us to do.
God says to send the men home. He says you don’t need 32 thousand – you only need three hundred.
What would you achieve, if you used less than 1% of the resources you actually thought were necessary to accomplish a task?
God, however – would achieve a heck of a lot.
So next time that you feel like God’s stripping back your resources; or that he’s leaving you a little too vulnerable? Revel in it. Relish the fact that God’s probably about to do something big – and you get to witness it, and maybe even benefit from it.
When we let God do it his way, it’s going to work. Just trust him.
So as I started to read this chapter, my mind was worrying – it’s another history tale, of battles and defeated kings as the Israelites take over the Promised Land. Sure, it’s an exciting story for someone like me, but I was worrying more about what application there could be from this chapter.
Turns out, there’s two things. Well, three actually, but two in particular for tonight.
They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots – a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. ~ Joshua 11:4
When I think of a statement like, ‘as numerous as the sand on the seashore’, I imagine a massive army. I’m picturing standing up on a hill overlooking the enemy, and just seeing them spread from horizon to horizon, with no end in sight. Imagine standing there, looking out over an army that size, the thoughts that would run through your head.
I can’t help but to think of The Lord of the Rings - and in particular the battle at Helms’ Deep, when we see the heroes looking out from the city walls, and they can just see row after row after row after row of orcs. Right there, they struggled to have hope, because the enemy in front of them seemed invincible – there were just too many to stand against, and even with their determination; the end result seemed obvious.
This happens with us sometimes, doesn’t it? Often we’ll look at a task we’re faced with, a struggle we’re up against, and think that it just seems insurmountable. We’ll look at a mountain we have to climb, or an enemy we have to defeat, and just think it can’t be done.
The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain.” ~ Joshua 11:6
This is the sort of thing that God’s saying to us when we’re staring at that mountain thinking it can’t be climbed, when we’re looking at that challenge thinking there’s no way we could possibly get past it – God says not to be afraid, because He will hand the victory to us. Our victory is not in ourselves, and yes, if we try to undertake these seemingly insurmountable challenges in our own strength, then we probably won’t succeed – but when we remember that the victory is in God, that’s when we can do like the Israelites.
So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel. ~ Joshua 11:7-8
With God on their side, the Israelites were victorious over the whole combined armies of the people of Canaan.
So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions.
Then the land had rest from war. ~ Joshua 11:23
I think this is as important a part as the rest of the chapter, that last line: The land had rest from war.
For a long time now I’ve felt God building in me a warrior spirit, that he’s training me up to be a soldier in the spiritual front lines of the battles. However one thing that I tend to forget about is the rest part. Even the greatest heroes, the greatest soldiers, require rest. The land itself needs rest from war so that settling can be done and restoration can occur. We need to rest our hearts, be renewed and refreshed and restored when God provides us with the victory.
I have to admit, whenever I look at one of these chapters like this one and see that it drags on for several columns, a part of me sinks a little. At times it’s a real struggle to read the scriptures, and I don’t really understand why… In a way, it’s kind of like exercising when I first started going back to the gym. See, I’d dread it, because I knew how hard it would be and that it involved some work and some struggle – but I always feel fantastic at the end of a workout, and the same goes for reading the word – I always feel better at the end of reading it, so I don’t know why I struggle to start!
Anyway, though; we’re totally in campaign mode now. Joshua and the Israelites have defeated Jericho and Ai, and they’ve gone and made peace (however inadvertently) with Gibeon.
So enter Adoni-Zedek, King of Jerusalem.
A lot of the things that I wonder from reading this chapter come back to my knowledge mind rather than anything really spiritual. It comes back to that part of me that wants to know the history, the story behind everything. For example: What was Jerusalem at this stage in history? Who was Adoni-Zedek?
What I mean, is that ever since the Israelites had a king, pretty much, it’s been one of the most important places in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. So the question is, was there anything special about the city at this point in history? I’m sure there’s some archaeological studies that have been done to shed some light on the situation, but I haven’t read them.
Still, Adoni-Zedek is one of the Amorite kings; and he sends out messages to his fellow Amorites.
So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.” ~ Joshua 10:3-4
Again, back to the history, I’m really fascinated to learn about the politics of the time. The Israelites have come out of the nation of Egypt and made their way to the Promised Land, which isn’t that. The way I read all these stories of Joshua having to take out so many kings of so many different cities seems to represent this tribal warlord sort of political system. There were a whole group of city/states at a sort of tribal level, each watched over by its own king – but with family ties as well. All of these five were kings over their own land, but they came from the same heritage, it would seem. Suddenly, you have Joshua and the Israelites coming into the land deciding they’re going to make it a nation – kind of like how Egypt was run.
It just fascinates me.
So the kings march on Gibeon, who in turn send word to Joshua.
After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. ~ Joshua 10:9-10
This is another one of my favourite stories in the bible. The sun stands still for another full day or thereabouts, to give the Israelites time to defeat the Amorites in one go – and this is after an all-night march already. Effectively, these guys were probably up for about three days straight, and doing hard physical work – they were probably exhausted by the end of it.
The tale continues, they kill the kings and then lay waste to each of the cities involved.
The sun stood still.
I actually find it amusing that this is a concept that blows my mind perhaps even more than trying to conceive of eternity does. See, I just think about the idea of the sun standing still, and can’t really conceive of it. Our world’s very gravitational force is caused by the fact that the Earth is spinning as it journeys around the sun. Now what we’re saying is that the Earth, effectively, stopped spinning for a day which allowed the sun to therefore hang in the sky.
So my question for God: Did he move the sun to keep it aligned with the Earth’s position? Or did he stop the Earth spinning and give them an artificial gravity source for that 24 hours or so?
Also, just to finish, the other thing that frustrates me about these sorts of passages is when they refer to other books that I”m not allowed to read.
So the sun stood still,and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. Joshua 10:13.
I so would love to know what else the book of Jashar says. It makes me wonder – in line with how much I’d love to know what the society and politics and everything were like in these cultures at the time, how much knowledge has been lost over the millenia?
That’s all – probably nothing really spiritually deep tonight, unfortunately, but it’s all fascinating stuff to me!
Joshua and the Battle of Jericho.
One of my favourite stories growing up – for obvious reasons.
It’s funny, though, to go back and read it now and actually think about the text and the story itself. I’ve always called it – and heard it called – the battle of Jericho; but really, was there much of a battle? They took a stroll around the city each day for a week, and then God knocked the walls down for them when they gave a big shout at the end of it.
Admittedly, then they had to charge the walls and take out the people inside.
What I wonder, though, is what the people of Jericho were doing at this stage. One simple point to bear, is that when the spies were checking the city out, Jericho was scared of the Israelites. So you would think that, having the people march around the walls, they’d perhaps try to do something. I was thinking about this as I read it, but came to a possible revelation – maybe a God inspired thought – the whole nation was marching around the city. Is it possible, therefore, that they actually were marching further out than right up against the walls like we tend to think of it? This wouldn’t really make any difference to the story. I don’t know if it’s factual or been checked out, but that was just the thought that came to mind.
This is one of those bible stories, though, that I love the idea of checking out the historicity and archaeological evidence for it.
Still, like most of the stories in the biblical history – really, there’s an essence to the story, and regardless of the historical evidence, or factual truths of the matter, what I want to establish is what God’s wanting to tell me – tell us – in telling the story.
God sometimes asks us to do some crazy things. Imagine what the reaction must have been by the Israelites, when Joshua said to them that they were going to march around the city in silence, with only the trumpets playing – they’d do that every day for a week, and then on the seventh day they’d march 7 times, shout, and that would be it. Can you imagine the looks on their faces? I’m betting there were at least a few who entertained thoughts that Joshua had lost it.
I think I’ve told the story of the guy who performed a handstand next to the coke machine – although I can’t seem to find it on a cursory glance back through the pages of this blog, but it just reminds me of that. Sometimes God’s going to ask us to do some strange things – and it’s up to us just to follow, because ultimately, when we follow with faith, that’s when God’s most able to work.
Here’s a moment of realisation.
“With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the LORD has not given youa mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:3-4
There are a great number of ‘Christian Cliches’ out there that people like to throw around – and I say throw around because quite often, I feel, they are statements that get said without really thinking of the meaning behind them. We sing in church lines like, ‘take all of me’ or ‘I give you my life’ and other things like that – but do we sing them with a conviction in our heart as to what they actually mean as a commitment?
The other side, though, of cliches, is that they become cliche for a reason. They just work. They are short statements that actually convey what a person is trying to say.
One other one that I’ve heard many a time is about the ‘scales falling from their eyes’ - going back to Saul/Paul’s conversion and how ‘something like scales’ fell from his eyes.
This is basically used to describe that moment of realisation, of actually recognising God and his awesomeness.
It’s kind of like what’s going on here for the Israelites, too. Things that they may not have thought of, or had gotten to a point of taking it for granted, were pointed out to them as something to go, “wow” at. In forty years, their clothes didn’t wear out. They ate no bread and drank no wine. They won battles – and considering the fact that really, they probably had no military training, this too was something to be able to look at and realise that God had been taking care of them the whole time.
I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God. ~ Deuteronomy 29:6
I remember nice and clearly my own moment like this. My moment of ‘scales falling’ so to speak – when I came back to God last year and opened my heart and life to him again. I’d been going through a process of being drawn back in, I guess, and finally stood there and realised: I could not, and cannot deny God’s existence; and I could not, and cannot deny Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. At that point I realised, nothing else actually matters in the long run – if I cannot deny those things, then I have no choice but to accept the gift of love, grace and salvation that God gave to me.
What moments of clarity have there been in your life?
I’ve been going through some old stuff of mine recently, sorting and trying to decide what I actually need or want to keep, and what is junk that’s just been following me around for years. As the years have gone by, I’ve just accumulated more and more boxes of stuff, many of which I don’t really even know what’s inside them.
What I found over the weekend, though, was some old notebooks and things like that. One of which was a collection of little notes that friends had written to me when my family moved from Launceston to Hobart back in 1998. Then, it was a really long way away, it’s funny how perspectives change.
As I was reading through these notes, though, I found myself wondering about the people. Some of them were friends who I’d been right through school with, since grade 2 when we moved to Launceston. Others had joined the class along the road, and then others were people who I only met when I started at Launceston College that year. These were the people who I wondered most about. They were in my life for such a small portion of time that some of them I don’t even remember.
One person, though, I did remember. I looked them up on Facebook and after taking a bit of a gamble, actually found them. There was a bit of head scratching at first but we found familiar memories after a couple of emails, and one email was one that said I was one of this person’s first friends at the college.
It got me thinking. Here I have a snapshot – an almost infinitesimal speck of memory of some people who were obviously important enough in my life twelve years ago for me to want to remember them; and now here I am again all those years later, wondering who they were. For one person, a nice little friendship blossomed fairly quickly; and even though we only knew each other at the time for a couple of months, there was obviously enough impact on one another’s lives to remember aspects of each other.
Don’t ever underestimate the impact you might make on someone’s life. You might only meet them for a moment, but that moment might change them forever.
See, now we’re well and truly into the interesting bits of Numbers. Funnily enough this seems to be where I’m starting to forget to do this every night. Which is surprising because I actually quite like this chapter.
So Moses picks out twelve people – one from each tribe – to go and explore the promised land. Here’s a group of leaders, ready to go and have a look around and bring back a report to say what’s been happening, what’s going on, what the place is like, how strong it is, all these sorts of things.
Away they go, they find a bunch of grapes so heavy that two of them are carrying it on a pole between them; along with pomegranates and figs.
The place is obviously quite amazing. As they return there’s comments about it flowing with milk and honey, we’ve got these great looking fruits that they’ve brought back, the place is just fantastic. So of course, Moses gets all excited! Here’s the promised land, the land God said he was going to give to his people, and it looks beyond their wildest imaginings.
But of course, what happens? Instead of looking at the great big grapes (I picture grapes the size of canteloupes) and stuff like that, most of these guys come back with reports of the people living there, who are giants and powerful. There’s all these other people there: the Amalekites; Jebusites, Hittites, Amorites and Canaanites.
I want to be Caleb in my life.
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” ~ Numbers 13:30
What belief, faith and confidence. Assuredness speaks for much, especially when going into battle. If you watch sport, then you’ll have probably witnessed what happens when a player or team’s confidence is down. They end up making mistakes they wouldn’t normally make, they don’t try as hard, it’s hard to actually get out of the rut. When a team or player is confident, though, then everything just seems to keep going right for them. They make the difficult shots, they hit the hard balls, it’s amazing how confidence just escalates our game to another level still.
It all comes down to what we focus on, though. We can, in our own lives, focus on the Anakites, these giants who are so much bigger than us, that make us look like little grasshoppers. Or, we can focus on God, and the confidence and assuredness that comes from knowing that he is on our side – and that’s when confidence grows.
So Christmas is finally over.
I say finally, because Christmas with my family seemed to take a week this year. In actuality it could even be a month. Because we weren’t actually going to see my little sister and her family at Christmas, there were gifts (Coconut Ice – perfect) sent my way early December.
Still, as I’ve said, Christmas isn’t about the gifts. What was great was that it did take so long, from extended family, right through to some of my best friends, I count Christmas as being finished as of Tuesday night.
Now that Christmas is over, we start to look forward towards the new year. 2011′s only two more days away now. It’s time to start planning new years resolutions, and seeing how long we can make them last. I’m simply not going to actually tell anyone what mine are this year – that way if I don’t actually achieve them, then there’s no disappointment; and if I do, then I can jump up and down about it later.
The Nazirite is a ‘character’ of the bible who’s always fascinated me. It goes back to the obvious: Samson, from being a child. I didn’t really get the whole Delilah thing as a kid, all I did get was this super strong hero warrior who killed hundreds with his bare hands.
Samson was like Chuck Norris.
But I guess from there, my fascination with the idea of a Nazirite’s always been something that’s stuck in my head.
I do find it interesting that the ascetic lifestyle’s been one that I’ve slowly been drawn closer to over the past six months. I gave up smoking before I even came back to God; but it was most certainly still a part of the process. Then in September God told me quite clearly to stop drinking alcohol. At first I thought it was a temporary thing but as the months have gone by, most of the time I wonder whether it might be permanent – and occasionally I hope it isn’t; like when my brother-in-law offers me a whiff of the high-grade scotch whisky on his shelf.
Since going to Perth, I’ve been challenged to give away coffee. I’ve replaced the occasional hot beverage with chai or green tea, and still probably get at least a minor fix of caffeine through the green tea and other things each day. However, eventually I’m wondering whether I’ll just end up on water.
Which is okay – kind of. I still remember the taste of whisky or coffee, or the feeling of having a cigarette, and find myself wanting to partake and enjoy. However God’s will is God’s will, and I’m not about to bend from that if I can help it.
Not, though, that I’m saying I’m taking the vow of a Nazirite, either. Although I can’t help thinking that it would probably actually be a very powerful experience; dedicating and separating yourself to God for a period – imagine being solely dedicated to God for a whole year; following the law and vow of the Nazirite. It would be a pretty powerful experience.
That level of dedication is extreme, and I notice that the passage does clearly state that there’s an end to the vow of the Nazirite. I feel that speaks something to us, to remember that we are actually dedicated to God, but we are also expected to live this life that we’ve been given. If it was all just about being solely separated from the world and dedicated to God, then why live in the first place?
We have a mission and a plan to fulfil here in our lives, a plan that God has for us. It’s all well and good to try and get closer to God, but he has other things for us to do too. Eventually we need to shave our head, give up the dedication and go out into battle in the real world.
So I learned something today – or learned more of it, perhaps.
It goes back to a darker period of my life, when I suffered quite severe depression. I don’t have a real problem talking about it these days, although I won’t go into details here. The point is, though, that since coming through that darkness and depression, I’ve been a much more positive person. I’m optimistic to the point of irritation of some people I’ve come across.
See, these days, I just don’t entertain the thoughts that bring me down. Or I do my best not to. There’s so much to hope for, so much to look forward to, and so many reasons to be happy. Since I’ve rekindled my relationship with God, too, then it’s even easier still to actually just bring those negative thoughts into captivity and focus back on God. I had a few issues this evening just for a while, so I went for a walk, calmed down a little and let God take the negativity away.
This is perhaps one of my favourite stories in the bible. The story of Israel versus the Amalekites.
But first – wow, once more patience from God, and from Moses too. How many times do these Israelites need to whinge? Seriously, I’m starting to picture them all as seven year olds in the back of a really large van, going “Are we there yet?”
Poor Moses is at the point of being stranded somewhere between patience and accepting his role as leader, and fear that the Israelites are about to stone him. He cries out to God and asks for help once more. As if manna and quail (which they eat for the next forty years) weren’t enough proof of God taking care of them, the Israelites are once more complaining and being melodramatic about how they’ve been taken from that luxurious, wonderful slavery in Egypt to die in the desert.
How much does God have to show us before we start to really trust in him? How many things does he have to do for us before we actually accept that yes, he’s got things under control and is actually taking care of us?
I love the story of Joshua and the Amalekites – I guess partially because, given the whole namesake factor, Joshua’s always been one of my favourite characters in the bible. That influence probably also gives a sign as to why I’ve always given myself this whole warrior mentality and persona.
This story in my mind has always been about Joshua and the Amalekites. I’ve always known about Moses, but he’s only been a side character, standing up on a mountain holding his arms up while Joshua and the army fight down in a valley.
It’s all good to be in battle, but you need to have support as well. Joshua had support, through Moses, during this battle, but Moses also required support. He had Aaron and Hur at his side to ensure that even if his arms became weak, he would still be able to hold them up over the battle.
During the message at church this morning, it was said that if you’ve got God on your team, you can always bet on that side. The statement I wrote in the notes was “You + God is a majority in every situation.”
Which is true, but when you have support from friends around you in person as well, then the battle’s even easier won. God and me is one thing – but when it’s God and us, his children working together, well then that force is even greater.
What a powerful night, tonight was.
It’s one thing to talk about spiritual warfare, about all of life being a battle, about how we’re soldiers of the Lord’s army, all those kinds of things; but sometimes, the reality of the situation just slaps you in the face. That’s what happened to me tonight, in a couple of different ways.
Not too long ago I got really empassioned about faith, about the fact that we can’t fail if we’re in God’s will and following him.
The world is real, and it’s really dark. It’s all well and good for us to sit in Church and pray for things to get better, but something God’s really been challenging me with lately, is the reminder that we’re his footsoldiers, we’re the ones called to battle. Not too long ago I prayed heavily and earnestly that God would train me as a knight in his army, to go in to battle, to carry things forward – and the time is coming when that’s going to be required.
Our world is crying out in pain, in loss, in hopelessness, in darkness. Who will shine the light and bring hope and healing to those people if not us? The society we live in is getting scarier every day, it seems – it’s time for action.
There’s a Casting Crowns song: What If His People Prayed which is very pertinent to what I’m saying here. Listen to the lyrics, and give thought: What if?
You know, sometimes I’ve wondered – wouldn’t it be so much easier to hear God’s word if he actually came by in a burning bush, and spoke to me audibly?
Sometimes it’s hard to work out what’s God’s voice and what’s just me, and sometimes those two voices can sound very similar. Sometimes, the voice of the flesh really does sound like it’s got the right motivation behind it, and that its suggestions seem really good – then reality strikes and, no, perhaps that wasn’t the right thing after all.
So of course, it would be easier to hear God’s voice if he spoke from a Burning bush, right?
Well, you’d think so. Moses doesn’t really seem to give that same example, though.
Moses is tending his father in law’s flocks, when he sees a bush on fire, but not consumed by the flames. So, just out of curiousity, he decides to walk over and check it out.
And it speaks to him.
Once again, the response: “Here I am.”
God tells Moses that he’s heard the cries of Israel, and that he is going to do something about it. He’s going to bring them back to the land of Canaan, and Moses is going to be the person to set them free. Moses is God’s messenger to Pharaoh.
Easy, right? Who needs faith? You’re talking to a burning bush!
Moses answers with a but. Who is he to go to Pharaoh? Who is he to lead the Israelites out of Egypt?
Has he forgotten? He’s – essentially – Pharaoh’s grandson! Pharaoh’s own daughter adopted him, and while he was nursed by his own Hebrew mother, he must have spent some time in the court of the royal family. Yes, admittedly, he killed someone – not really the best grounds to be going back again – but he’s got royal ties, if not royal blood in Egypt. I’m pretty sure with his connections, no one would try take him on without Pharaoh’s absolute say-so.
God doesn’t argue with him, though, he simply reassures him:
And God said, “I will be with you.” ~ Exodus 3:12
When we’re in God’s plan, and God’s will – he will be with us. It doesn’t matter what comes up against us, God is with us. Not only that, but look at how he talks to Moses, God takes Moses through the entire situation, one step at a time. He tells him how to deal with the Israelites, he tells him how to deal with Pharaoh, he tells him that it’s not going to be easy, that Pharaoh won’t actually just roll over and say, “Sure, go ahead.” But he also tells him that he’ll take care of that, and in the end, the Egyptians will favour the Israelites.
But he does say that they should ask for it, too. God doesn’t just say that the Egyptians will give them gold and silver just for no reason. They still have to ask for it.
When we have a destiny in our lives, God will be with us, and he will be with us every single step of the way. He will guide us through the preparation, the readiness, each step leading up to the big moments, and then he will be with us for them also.
Wow. Sorry, this is speaking to me on a really personal level, obviously.