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.
So, first of all, Happy Easter, ANZAC Day and all of that.
Second, things have been quiet on this front of late. To be honest, I’ve been struggling with a few things and not in the best frame of mind to be trying to read the bible much, let alone try and study it. Those trials are still ongoing, and not getting any easier, but it’s time to suck it up and stop letting my life get dicated by my problems. Our victory is in Christ, and while coming to know him doesn’t take away the problems that we experience, it gives us that much more hope, strength and resource to overcome them.
Therefore, I’m going to commit to getting back into the word and giving myself back to God, not letting my problems come between us.
But enough of me – I know, I said I was going to stop doing these little preambles.
Again, we find a whole heap of regulations and rules. First, bringing disputes before the court so that the judges can decide who’s guilty and who’s not, and mete out punishment if it’s so required. Then a short thought on working oxen – don’t muzzle them. From here, we have two brothers living together and the requirement that if one dies without a son, then his brother should take the wife as his own and give her a son so that he can carry on the dead brother’s name – and if the surviving brother refuses this, he will be given a title of “The Family of the Unsandaled.”
And so on…
There’s a theme here, though. One of honour.
First of all – in a dispute, take it to someone else and let them determine what the actual facts are. Not only that, but if you are guilty, man up and take the punishment allotted for what you’ve done – and in turn, the punishment is not to go beyond a level that is degrading. This man’s own honour in accepting his punishment is to be returned by not going further than what is classed as degradation – forty lashes.
And on that – I’ve just discovered something else. Throughout my life I’ve been taught that Jesus (back on the topic of Easter) received 39 lashes; but the gospels don’t actually say this – I’ve just tried to look it up and nowhere does it actually say how many lashings Jesus received, just that he was flogged and beaten among other things. Apparently the 39 comes from this verse, and other references to the fact that this was the maximum allowed by Jewish law.
It’s interesting, as I go through the scriptures in this blog, to discover just how much has been put in my head without having, necessarily, a scriptural basis.
Therefore, in closing tonight – whilst there’s more to say about honour, I’d like to finish up with an encouragement.
Always go back to the source. Don’t take something that’s said by man for granted and in blind faith, if it sounds dubious or there’s even a seed of doubt, then go back to God with it. Bring it back to scripture – because God is the ultimate source of information and wisdom.
As I read this chapter tonight, I started off with a slight sigh and a bit of an eyeroll, because to be honest, I really wasn’t sure what I could say about a chapter that once more goes through these feasts and rituals that the Israelites were supposed to follow.
Then something hit me, just as I’d set my bible down and was turning towards the computer to start writing something mundane and probably fairly boring.
Here’s what hit me:
Be joyful at your Feast – you, your sons and daughters, your manservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. ~ Deuteronomy 16:14
Here I am wondering what it is I can write about something because it just seems so mundane, and I’m completely missing the point!
The Israelites were to celebrate. They were to celebrate with God and alongside him. Once again, this comes down to God wanting to have a real relationship with them, to actually be partnered with them, not just to be a distant, far away being they get told about and should be afraid of.
I know from experience that it’s sometimes hard to turn to God when things are a bit rough. We tend not to give consideration to him because our minds are so caught up in everything else going on that we forget he’s there, waiting for us to ask for help. Still, the same thing can happen when things are going really well.
In fact, I sometimes wonder if it’s even easier to lose sight of Godwhen things are going great. It’s not that we start thinking we no longer need God; it’s just that there’s so much good stuff going on around us that we don’t really think about him at all.
What this chapter shows, when talking about the feasts and the passover, though, is that God wants to celebrate with us. Not only that, but he wants us to pause and say thank you, too. The passover is there as a specific reminder to their departure from Egypt. God brought them out safely, and he wants to be remembered for that.
God wants to be a part of the Israelites lives – and he wants to be a part of our lives, not just in the times when we’re sitting in the corner asking him to help us get out of whatever mess we’ve managed to find ourselves in (probably of our own doing, too). He wants to be a part of all of our lives. He wants to celebrate with us, wants us to celebrate with him and be joyful with him.
“I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”
Well, if you can, I think that’s how I’m feeling tonight. It’s not flatness, it’s not overwhelmed, but it’s not underwhelmed either. I just feel… Whelmed.
Apparently, though, you can feel whelmed. Whelmed – or “to whelm” is to cover or engulf something, to bury it, to submerge it. Which is pretty much accurate, tonight I feel a little whelmed, like I’m being submerged or buried. The fact is, though, that I shouldn’t. I know – as I’ve said before – that I should be happy, be joyful, be filled with praise. I know that the best way to get through these moments is to just praise and focus on God – but right now it’s hard, and I feel like things are just piling in on top of me, and I’m not exactly sure which way to dig to get out of it again.
I know I’ll come through it in the end. Trials will come, tests will come, and with God, I’ll get through all of them. I know I can’t do it on my own.
And when we do feel whelmed. When we are being buried by problems and trials – sometimes we do lose track of which way up is and can’t find a way out. That’s when it’s time to just lie still, and let God dig us out, because he does know which way up is, and he will find us.
You know what’s stood out to me as I’ve read the bible since coming back to God? Just how real it is. It’s not how I remembered it, I always remembered – or thought I remembered – the bible as this authoritative piece of ancient literature that, if you were to give it a voice, would be a big booming sound that was deep, powerful and made you just stop whatever you were doing when you heard it.
That’s not, though, the bible I’ve found recently. Sometimes I’m reading it, and I wonder if someone’s changed it in the past few years since I stopped really paying proper attention to it. No, the bible I’ve found recently is real, and has real voices, real people, with real problems and real issues. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses – these guys weren’t perfect men, in fact they were decidedly imperfect. They had issues, they had fears, they had problems. They were real.
And so are the Israelites in this chapter.
I don’t see really how one could accuse the Israelites of having too little faith or anything in verses 11 and 12. It’s another verse that’s just so real.
They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” ~ Exodus 14:11-12
It’s a fair call. They weren’t overly keen on Moses to begin with.
Of course, they DID leave with him. I’m pretty sure that no one actually forced them to go, although after the plague of the firstborn, there might have been a few handprints on their backs as they left the country. The Egyptians perhaps were paying them to leave as much as they were plundering on their way out of the country.
But God always has bigger plans, and whether we trust in them or not, he still has them. Here the plan was simple, the Israelites were trapped, or so it seemed, and the Egyptians were following them. So the waves of the Red Sea flowed back and forth under a strong East wind, and the water drew back.
Again, though, the Israelites were being tested. Would they let the Egyptians capture them? I wonder how many of them thought about it? At least life made sense back in Egypt, right? No, they walked out into the sea, with walls of water either side. It wouldn’t be as easy as just walking on sand across a sea, they’ve got to trust God enough, that he will continue to hold back the water while they’re in the middle.
Similarly to last night’s blog. Sometimes God’s plan doesn’t seem to make sense to us. Sometimes it seems like he’s led us straight to the edge of a sea, trapped and just waiting for Egypt to come and capture us, or kill us. That’s when God parts the sea, though. If we’re following God, he’ll always provide us with a way out, or through the things around us.
I was sure that today was going to be a good day.
And it really was. Today’s been a day that was really filled with blessing. This morning’s message at church was about whose voice will you listen to? Mark von Blanckensee from Devonport’s Gateway Church spoke about all those little voices that we hear in our heads – and no, not in a crazy way, just in the sense of those thoughts, the internal dialogues that occur when we think about things. The example he used was about taking up another offering, and the initial thoughts that would be going through people’s mind – from it being a great idea, to being grateful that they left their wallet back in the car!
It really spoke to me though. I’ve had a bit of a rough week when it came to internal dialogue, from two situations in particular, and it’s been a real struggle to focus on God’s voice, and to trust that he has things under control, when there’s all these other little doubts and arguments and rejections coming into your mind.
Apparently I missed a great message at Impact Conference about doubting the doubt, when we experience it – funnily enough, God was teaching me that lesson anyway. Definitely a message that I’m going to need to get the CD or DVD of though.
Rest of the day was great. I had lunch with some great people, came home spent a few hours just with God, and then church tonight was also a really strong message on Faith.
So yes, it turned out to be a great day – not necessarily the day I had planned, but great still.
This is a really interesting chapter, I loved reading it. Jacob’s on his way back home, and he starts wondering about his brother – now it’s been over twenty years since Jacob fled his homeland after taking his brother’s blessing and birthright. It’s amazing what time does to people.
Jacob’s blessing, back a couple of chapters, included a statement about being lord over his brothers, and Esau’s blessing, in turn, declared that he would serve his brother. Yet Jacob sends messengers out with a massive statement of humility. He has the messengers refer to him as ‘Your servant Jacob’ and to call Esau ‘my lord’.
Now, some of this might be from sheer terror that Esau’s still mad at him – as we go through the chapter we see that Jacob is genuinely afraid that his brother still holds a grudge. He asks God to save him from Esau’s hand, he separates his entire caravan so that if one group is attacked, the other can still escape, and he sends a caravan of gifts ahead of himself to try and soften his brother up.
I would say, though, that it’s not all about fear and terror. It’s cliche to say, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some validity to the statement “Time heals all wounds”. I’d disagree on the face of it, I think time allows the scars to fade, but scars never completely disappear. Still, Jacob’s grown up, he’s no longer an impetuous youth who ripped his brother off, he’s a man, with a family, with flocks, with something to live for – and more imporantly, we come back to the fact that with all this he also has something to lose.
He comes to his brother in humility, though.
Second part of the chapter! Wow, tonight’s a long one.
I love this story about Jacob wrestling with God. Once again, though, I’ve been reading this chapter and something’s leapt out at me that I hadn’t actually noticed before.
When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. ~ Genesis 32:11
The man wrestling Jacob saw that he could not overpower him. It does go on to say that all God had to do in the end was just touch Jacob’s hip, but Jacob didn’t give in or let himself be overpowered.
God’s all powerful, and stronger than any of us can imagine – I don’t think that this story’s saying that Jacob was as strong as God. God knows our strengths, our limitations, our boundaries – and my interpretation of this is that God was probably just putting enough effort in to make Jacob REALLY have to work for it.
Dave Morse used the example tonight in his message on Faith, about being at the gym and doing bench presses, and when you think you’ve got nothing left, the personal trainer or your spotter will encourage you and really push you to give it one more press.
I really envision that being where Jacob would have been at in this wrestling match, right on the edge of his limits, beyond his perceived limits and right on the edge of his real limitations, but he never gave up. God pushed and pushed him, and Jacob refused to give in.
It’s really true that our limitations actually tend to be a step beyond where we really perceive them to be, and that’s probably a good survival method built into us. You always want, in normal circumstances, to have a bit left in the tank. Jacob, I would imagine, gave it all, and still did not give in – and God blessed him, and said that he had overcome the struggle.
No matter what struggle we’re facing, if we push hard enough, we can overcome it. With God on our side, it’s even easier.