This is where it all gets exciting. We see them talking about the wars and battles to come.
Okay, that’s exciting for me. Not that the rest is not exciting, but different bits and pieces stand out to different people.
I think I’ve spoken before about the warrior mentality and attitude that God has given me, which is perhaps why passages like this are the ones that really stand out and grab my attention when I’m reading them. When I’m reading one of these passages, therefore, I perhaps find myself with an additional level of focus than normal.
There was one passage in this chapter that really stood out to me though. Verses 5 to 9. I won’t quote the whole lot, but basically it’s saying that if there’s anything back at home that you haven’t resolved, then go back and fix that up before you go into battle. Then it goes on to add:
Then the officers shall add, “Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too.” ~ Deuteronomy 20:8
I’ve really been struck again, recently, by the analogy that those of us who know God here on Earth are part of an army. I was listening to some comments about evangelistic outreach events that can be held by church congregations to bring people in not too long ago, and started thinking about it again. The imagery that God gave me was this image of an army sitting inside the walls of the city, waiting for the enemy to come to them. This kind of attitude seems to be one of letting the world come to us.
We’re the ones with the victory, though! Why aren’t we the ones going out to them?
Also recently, I went out into Hobart one Saturday night, and while I was walking home I felt my heart breaking. I just saw person after person who needs to be loved, who needs to know that they are cared for and special and a diamond in the eyes of the heavenly father.
And I walked home, wondering why I wasn’t doing anything more – why we’re all not doing anything more.
Isn’t it about time that we did do something? Isn’t it about time that we did get out there and remember that in Christ, we have the victory?
This chapter does remind us of something. These guys were going into a real war, into a physical battle in which they might die. So they were reminded – go home, settle what you need to settle before you go to war.
At first I thought this seemed a bit strange. After all, wouldn’t it be better not to go home and marry your fiancee before going to war? Isn’t she better off being free to marry someone else rather than find herself a widow three days after she got married?
Then I realised the other side of the coin. Who’s likely to be the one who will hold on more? Who’s likely to be the one who will fight harder and struggle to survive? The one who has doubts in his mind that the fiancee could find someone else? Or the one who knows that he has something to fight for? A house, a vineyard, a wife – these were the valuable items.
When we’re fighting for something, we fight that much harder. This passage was urging the people who would be going into battle with a wrong attitude, to go home, sort out their attitudes and distractions, and come back when they were ready.
And that’s just how it needs to be with us. God-willing, we won’t have to face death when we go into the spiritual battles that we should be going into; but that’s not to say we won’t face them. Even if we’re not facing death, though, we need to make sure our hearts are in the right place before we’re getting out there.
I understand now, after reading this passage, moreso than I have previously, one thing. That is, that if I’m going to go out and actually take the battle to the enemy, then I’m going to face a heavier level of attack against me. The thing about taking the battle forward is that we no longer have the city walls to protect us, and therefore we’re more vulnerable. So we need to make sure that we’re prepared, not only in the sense of having our armour on properly, but having our heart and mind in the right place.
We can’t afford to be distracted, when we’re out there.
God’s doing amazing work.
Not just in my life, but in the lives of people around me as well. I’ve talked to quite a few people in the past few days who are expressing just how great God is, and how he’s doing amazing things in their lives. If there was any doubt in people’s minds; if anyone thought maybe he isn’t preparing for something big, get in to his presence and his heart, because otherwise you’re going to miss out.
God is powerful and mighty. We have nothing to fear if we are in him.
There are certain numbers that are powerful in the spiritual realm. I’m not sure why or how. Forty is one, three is another, and seven is a third. Seven’s kind of obvious, it’s the amount of time God took in creating the world, according to Genesis. It’s one quarter of the cycle of the moon, too.
There’s something powerful, though, about remaining for seven days. The priests are told, after they go through the rigmarole of being consecrated and prepared for priesthood, not to move for seven days. They are to stay in the Tabernacle for one week, and not come out.
Imagine how you would come out at the end, if you spent seven whole days in the presence of God, to the exclusion of anything else in your life?
It would be life changing. Absolutely life changing.
I think this passage, though, also speaks of something else very important. Once again, we see the detail that goes into the report. They could have just said that Moses dressed the priests and prepared the offering like God had told him to do, and things would be all happy and smooth. They didn’t, though, they specifically described each detail, to verify that yes, they actually did everything the Lord commanded them to do.
And that’s because of how important it is. Just like the building of the Tabernacle, God’s meeting place; it is clarified exactly what they did in consecrating the priests for service in God’s house.
Serving directly in God’s presence is an amazing privilege, and one that doesn’t come about lightly. There is preparation, and determination required. There is consecration and purification required. There is discipline and observation required. We don’t enter into the service of God lightly or casually. It comes with massive amounts of responsibility and requirement. God commands all submission and all faithfulness. God commands obedience, absolute obedience, to the point where we ensure that we have crossed every t and dotted every i in the commands he gave us; just like we see here in this passage.
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.
Today’s been a bit all over the show. I’ve been like a yo-yo, bouncing up and down for part of the day.
But hey – there are always challenges.
What I’m really starting to notice, though, is that the challenges are getting – not easier, per se – but easier to deal with. Things just don’t seem to “get” to me so badly lately as they used to. I’m probably setting myself up for a more difficult challenge or something to go through in saying things like this, but it’s true.
It’s amazing, but I have to attribute it to God. I’ve rediscovered him – and in a way, I’m discovering some of him for the first time – or it feels that way, anyway; and in that (re)discovery, has come hope, and faith, and love – which is actually the verse I’m getting tattooed on my wrist later this month: 1 Corinthians 13:13, for several reasons. The point, though, is that when we have that hope, when we have that faith, when we have the love of God inside us – wow, does anything really seem as hard?
It’s like I said in a different context last night: I’ve got God on my side, he loves me, he cares for me, so what do I really have to worry about?
One thing we should learn from Joseph’s story, though, is that even if we do have faith. Even if God is standing with us – that doesn’t mean that he won’t let us go through trials and tribulations in order to strengthen us even more. You can’t get stronger without practice, or training – but the best way to get stronger, or better at something, is to do it for real. I played cricket as a teenager (and hopefully, one day will play again), and I could spend as many hours as I wanted bowling in the nets, getting my line and length right – but I could only get so far that way. Put a batsman at the other end of the pitch and the dynamic changes.
The point that I’m trying to make there is that we’ve seen Joseph go through all these challenges. Despised by his brothers, sold into slavery by them, falsely accused and imprisoned, then forgotten by the man he gave reassurance to while in prison. Each time, though, he stayed standing – and this wasn’t just training, it was the real thing. Joseph went straight to Game Day, and as he continued, he got stronger. So that when the important time came for him to step up properly – well, he was ready.
It took another two years for Joseph to finally find himself free of prison, when the cupbearer finally piped up after overhearing Pharaoh talking about a dream that he didn’t understand.
See? All this preparation – Joseph had his own dreams, then he was interpreting the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. He was basically the household manager for Potiphar, he was put in charge, essentially, of the prison in spite of being a prisoner himself.
Then those two key factors are required on what would arguably have been the world’s greatest stage in that era, in front of Pharaoh himself. Joseph is able to face Pharaoh with confidence and faith.
Importantly, I think, there is a difference in the way Joseph speaks. Back when he was in Potiphar’s household, Joseph referred to himself first. He said that it was with him in charge, that there was no one greater than him in the household; but when he faces Pharaoh, the first words out of his mouth are:
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” ~ Genesis 41:16
He denied, in this instance, that any of the authority came from him, it was all in God’s hands. All the recognition went God’s way.
And Joseph gets put in charge of all of Egypt. He’s second only to Pharaoh himself – the position of Vizier. All that preparation paid off, and now he’s at the very top of the game.
It makes you wonder – if Joseph hadn’t had faith, hadn’t been hard working and dedicated. If he hadn’t actually had that attitude of making the best of what little he’d been given, how different would the outcome have been?
Well, they say that it takes 40 days to make a habit, and 40 days to break one. I’m coming up to that forty day mark, so I guess this is becoming a habit now?
I remember, writing here a couple of weeks ago about how excited I was, being blessed with a form of insight into the future, being able to see a couple of different paths I could take, and being able to see that they were each filled with blessings, but of a different kind in each one. It’s funny, though, once you actually pick the path you’re going to take, the destination suddenly seems to get further away.
Because it’s becoming reality, and with reality comes the planning I’ve talked about recently. With reality comes the journey. With reality comes the preparation and the individual steps. Now, instead of looking down the line at where I want to go, I have to make sure I keep that in mind and in my eyes, but at the same time I need to look closer to home. I need to take each important step one at a time.
God’s been teaching me about two main things the past few weeks: Faith and Contentment. There’s been two verses in the past two days I want to remember:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. ~ 1 Timothy 6:6
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1
After the brief interlude with Judah, we’re back to Joseph. He’s been sold into slavery to – essentially his own cousins, really – and now has been bought by Potiphar, captain of the guard and one of Pharao’s officials.
It would have been so easy for Joseph to get down about this. Imagine the rejection.
His own family, his own brothers have thrown him down a well, then dragged him back up and sold him to slavers. His own brothers.
I can’t even imagine what that would feel like, to be there, probably in chains, exhausted, dirty, torn, broken, and cast out by his own family. I don’t think many people would come back from that.
But Joseph has the God with him, and God blesses him. I don’t think that this just meant Joseph got to run free – he’d have to have worked pretty hard in Potiphar’s house still, and that’s where we really see the strength of Joseph, and the strength of God in him. Instead of letting himself get down and out, he puts his head down, works hard, and God blesses him and blesses Potiphar – and the next thing he knows, Potiphar’s putting him in charge of the whole household.
When things don’t go right in our lives, it’s easy to get down and miserable about it. It’s so, so easy to mope around and wonder “Why me?”
Bad things happen to all of us, though. It’s a fact of life, and really, nothing that I’ve been through, comes close to the experience of being enslaved and sold by your own family. It makes the things I’ve been through seem pretty minor in comparison.
Yet Joseph didn’t fall apart, he had God with him and made the best of what he could.
Perhaps he made too much good, though, because the Mistress of the house starts noticing him as well, and tries to seduce him.
And Joseph really doesn’t seem to have gotten rid of that arrogance that plagued him in the first place, does he? I notice one thing in the conversation between Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Joseph does not attribute the blessing over the household to God.
But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am.” ~ Genesis 39:8-9.
He does, yes, admit that sleeping with Potiphar’s wife would be a sin against God – but his statement really sounds quite proud before that.
It’s interesting – once again he’s sounding a little cocky, and then what happens? He comes crashing back down again.
I know that this isn’t necessarily the standard way of looking at this story, but just think about it for a moment. It’s a fairly cliche statement, “Pride comes before a fall,” yet Joseph really does sound quite proud and arrogant, right before he gets sold into slavery, and this time, he gets accused of attempting to seduce the Mistress of the household.
Yet, as the chapter closes, we see the same thing happening – Joseph still has God with him. The guy is blessed! Potiphar didn’t worry about a thing in his house, with Joseph in charge, and now, neither does the warden.
Something just struck me. I’ve made humorous references in the past when I’ve been caught blowing my own trumpet a little too loudly, joking with the statement that it isn’t arrogant if it’s true. Well, I’m just thinking, maybe Joseph wasn’t proud or arrogant after all. It was true, wasn’t it, that Potiphar’s house was blessed by having him in charge, it was true that there was no one greater in the house than he was, and it was true, further down the track, that his brothers and family would bow down to him.
I’m in two minds about what attitude Joseph may or may not have had.
Either way – one thing’s clear, God stays with Joseph all the way, and Joseph just keeps going. He’s now in an Egyptian jail, as a slave, and once again instead of getting down and depressed, he just keeps going, keeps working, and once again he’s put in charge. Once again, just like it said about Potiphar, the warden doesn’t even pay attention to what’s going on with anything Joseph’s in charge of.
So he not only works hard, but he earns the trust and respect of those stationed above him. It doesn’t matter how low he is, he has God, hard work, and what must have been one astonishingly optimistic attitude – and with these things, he ends up succeeding no matter where he gets put.