Wow, so a whole month has almost managed to pass by. Time goes so quickly!
As I read this chapter, it felt like a revision of the latter half of Joshua, actually. We have Judah going out and conquering the land that was given to them, and as they go out, then the records continue for the rest of the nation of Israel until they’re all able to settle in their lands.
And that’s what they do: settle.
Back when I read through Joshua 15-21 I noticed how Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh all managed to get into the lands that they were promised and allotted, but they didn’t actually dislodge all of the Canaanites in those lands. In this chapter, this fact is reiterated, but it goes on to talk about the other tribes as well.
Nor did Asher drive ou tthose living in Acco or Sidon or Ahlab or Aczib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. ~ Judges 1:31
Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land. ~ Judges 1:33
And so it goes on.
At church this weekend, we had an amazing time where God moved powerfully through both services, it was an amazing time spent with family and father. One of the focal points, though, was breakthrough. Taking a step further into the things that God has for us.
As I read this, though, I can’t help but wonder – and probably reiterate some things that I’ve considered and written here before – about how deeply into God’s destiny we actually walk. Throughout this year, with the references to the Promised Land, God’s continually used that term in my heart as a metaphor for the destiny that he has for my life, and for others’ lives too. The thing is, though, that to really be able to walk in the freedom and destiny that he’s given us, then we need to destroy the corruption in our lives and in our hearts. We need to be free from the distractions that can come upon us.
I’ve heard people use the term ‘In the world, but not of the world’ in the past – and one of my favourite clothing brands, NOTW is founded on that entire message. However, I’ve noticed that some people seem to take that message to the extreme. They consider themselves living in the world as being a holding bay, somewhere that we just live out our lives until we die and can get to heaven.
I feel, as I’m writing this, that there’s more to it than that; and that this nation of Israel – and what was supposed to be for them – is the great example. I can imagine that Israel was meant to settle in their land, and then be the shining light of God’s love, of his faithfulness, of his truth and so much more to the entire world. They would, though, have to interact with the world. It’s not like they were put there to then be neutral and insular – they were put there to be the light on a hill that Jesus spoke about.
But therefore, at the same time, they weren’t meant to be in bed (so to speak) with everyone else. They needed a safe zone, a place where they could be protected and watched over by God.
Imagine this: A million candles, all lit and spread out over a field. The light would be intense, bright and radiant. Then imagine, though, that there are a bunch of people wandering through that field and blowing them out. If you’ve had experience with candles, it’s generally easier to blow them out than it can be to relight them.
This is why we all need our safe place, not so that we can hide there and wait for God to take us to heaven – but so we can have somewhere that we’re refreshed, where if we’re running short on fuel, we can be refilled, where we can have our light rekindled without it being blown out – so that when we DO go out into the world, we can shine God’s light, and reflect his love to everyone else.
Today, we live in an exceptionally PC (Politically Correct) society. A society where PC has actually gone too far – these days, many people are afraid of saying anything for fear of upsetting or offending one person. It’s a world where everyone is ‘free’ to do, be, say or think what they please – as long as you don’t infringe upon anyone else in the process.
And this is perhaps one of the most difficult battles facing Christianity today. We know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; we know the God above all gods – but in this PC society, we’re not allowed to say that.
When I was in Perth, I stayed at a Backpackers’ Hostel – it gave me this great juxtaposition between my days and nights while I was there. Most of my days were spent on the YWAM base, talking to Christian friends, having a wonderful time. Then at night, I’d go back to the hostel where alcohol was flowing, cigarettes and marijuana were being passed around and offered to whoever might want some, it was almost a total opposite of what I’d been experiencing during the days.
But when I first got there, I ended up talking to this English guy about God, and my relationship with Him. The difficult thing with evangelising to him was, though, that he agreed with pretty much everything I had to say! He was able to just nod and smile, and basically tell me that it was great that I believe in God; and he believes in a higher power too, and that really, it’s all about loving people and having faith and being happy.
Sure, but it’s more than that, too! God – our God – is love! Everything else is just a shadow of that; it’s a piece of the picture, but it’s not the whole picture. Mankind was created in God’s image, so yes, we know how to love – but we know how to love in our own selves, the same way someone in a tropical area knows about snow from reading a book. It’s an image, but it’s not the real thing – the only way you can really know what snow is like, is to actually go there and experience it through all five senses.
In our society, though, it’s okay just to look at the pictures. You can’t tell someone that no, they don’t know what snow is just by looking at a picture, they haven’t experienced it – because if they think they know all about it from the book, then that’s enough for them.
This is a world where people are encouraged to think freely, and to do whatever they want that will make them happy. Political Correctness to the extreme of making everything correct. Love who you want, love how you want. Be who you want, where you want, when you want. Worship who or whatever you want, and no one can tell you any different, because all that matters is what’s true to you.
Well, here’s one fact: Just because something’s ‘true’ in your mind doesn’t make it truth. I can say that I don’t believe gravity exists, but just because I say it, I’m not going to float away into space because gravity suddenly ceases to exist in my reality. It’s still there, whether I deny it or not.
The same goes for God, too. This chapter gives very stern warnings against listening to people who would encourage the Israelites to start worshiping other gods. Even if their own brother, son, daughter, wife or closest friend was to encourage them to stray from the truth of God, do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. ~ Deuteronomy 13:8
When I reconnected to God last year, he said something to me not long after. He told me that there really hadn’t been much to worry about during my time away from him; because I’d been searching for the truth, and ultimately, that search was only going to take me to one destination: God.
So to be Politically Incorrect: I have a relationship with the one true God; and he wants to have a relationship with you, too. Many people who read this will already know him, but if you don’t then might I just say – look around for him. Really look, because if you look with an open heart, you will find that one truth, too.
Tonight I heard a great analogy made.
The flavour – or the character – of tea isn’t actually released until you put it in hot water.
We were talking about character; and in the discussion this analogy came out, which I found wonderful. Our character, the real truth of who we are is evident and released when we find ourselves in hot water. Our character isn’t the person who we show to the world when everything’s fine and dandy, no, the real character of a person is shown when things turn bad. I might show the world this face of being calm, happy, innocent, pure or whatever – but what happens when I’m working with a hammer and slip, and break my thumb?
That’s when the real me shows up. I can present myself as calm and pure all I like, but if, when I hammer my thumb, I suddenly curse enough to make a sailor blush, well then which person is the real me?
I haven’t hammered my thumb in quite a while – for which I’m grateful – but it doesn’t have to be something so dramatic.
For me, and I’m going to openly confess something here – it’s courage. I do have a lot less courage than I tend to present to other people. Perhaps I don’t present it as well as I think, and there are actually people who know me nodding their heads as they read this going. I do know that some of my closer friends will already know this, but for me, at least, I feel I present a much more confident face to the world when Ican, than what I really have.
That’s something that I have to ask God for help on, to grow my character and to strengthen it – and he’s doing that, by putting me into the hot water. The fact is that in some situations, I’ve come through it well, and in others I haven’t done so great. We’re building on it though – because I know I’m going to need to have real confidence and courage when it comes to the future, both in Kazakhstan and other plans that God has for my life.
So; question – What part of your character could do with some hot water? It’s how we grow it
You know how annoying it is when you get through explaining something to someone, and they just zoned out and need you to repeat yourself?
Imagine how much more frustrating it would be, to have chiselled out the law and moral code onto two stone tablets, only to have the delivery guy break them?
Well, we know that God’s not quite in the same category as us, but it must have at least been a little frustrating for him to look at Moses and ask him to bring two more stone tablets up so that they could be recarved.
There is one thing that I love about passages like this, and that is the reality of God. You can – to go back a step – really see his character.
Here is God, in one of those positions that we would consider ‘hot water’. He’s spent all this time helping Israel, getting them out of trouble, and because he and Moses talked for too long, they got bored, melted down their jewellery and decided that instead of God, they’d worship this golden calf. Over and over and over they’ve defied God; they’ve ignored him; they’ve whined, complained, moaned, grumbled; they’ve blamed him and accused him of trying to kill them rather than rescue them.
And what does God do?
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” ~ Exodus 34:6-7
He loves. He forgives. He is compassionate and gracious.
He is also just.
God makes a covenant with Moses, and he begins to reiterate much of what he said in the law back when Moses was up the mountain the first time. God and Moses talk to one another for forty days and forty nights, and when Moses returns, his face is radiant, so radiant that he actually has to wear a veil over his head to keep from freaking the Israelites out too much.
Today was a tough day to get through, and I don’t really think that the next two days are going to be much easier, unfortunately. Thankfully, I have a four day weekend starting Thursday – which is probably going to be one major reason why the next two days are going to draaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag.
Still, tonight was more fun. Watched some friends play touch football, and I realised how much I miss playing sport. I’ve missed it for a while but just watching it tonight, I had moments of reminiscing back to playing soccer or football or hockey when I was at school in Launceston in days when it didn’t matter if it was cold, wet or raining, we’d still go out and play if we could. The truth is that there’s actually something really nice about playing sport in the rain, or even running in the rain or something. I don’t really know what it is, but I do love doing it.
While watching, though, we started discussing making up our own sport, and I think we actually started coming up with a great little concept. I’d like to see if we can actually make it work!
But onto the topic, because I want to go to sleep soon.
The lesson out of this chapter almost follows on from chapter 17, about supporting yourself. This time it speaks more to a role of leadership, though.
Moses and the Israelites are camped, and his father in law, Jethro, decides to bring Moses’ wife and two sons to come and see their daddy. They all feast, and then Jethro stays and watches Moses’ life the next day. Moses spends the day dealing with disputes among the people.
The Israelites are a strange bunch. They might want to kill Moses every second day because he took them away from their lavish lifestyles of slavery into this horrible desert freedom, but it would seem that they still rely on him to settle any arguments that they have.
Well, Jethro sees this and asks Moses what on Earth he’s doing. He’s burning himself out faster than a petrol-soaked matchstick! Jethro points out to Moses, that he doesn’t need to deal with every little problem that comes along. He can delegate others to deal with the minor things, and just leave himself to deal with more important matters.
See, it’s very easy in life to get bogged down with minor matters, things that really are insignificant. This passage is certainly a good one to look at from a leadership perspective, when it comes to delegation – and initially I started writing something about that – but I think it goes deeper than that, and even more widespread.
We need to learn to let go of the things that aren’t really that important. When it comes to Faith, there are only a couple of core points to remember. This list was what brought me back to God, from a life of intellectual questioning and reasoning.
1. God exists
2. God loves us
3. Jesus died as the sacrifice for our sin
4. Jesus rose again in victory
I stood in church one night a few months back now, and said to God that I couldn’t deny any of these facts; and if I can’t deny those facts, then what else can I do but accept the free gift that God gave through Jesus’ sacrifice?
Grace, Love, Faith, Hope, Forgiveness and Salvation – these are truths that cannot be denied or defeated. When it comes down to it, other questions don’t really matter that much. God’s pointed out to me over and over, that while we’ll tackle those other big questions at some point in the future, what I really need to focus on at the moment is the foundational truths of his love and grace.
Let go of the small things, of the insignificant things. When you just focus on what’s important, it makes everything so much easier to manage.
I am in such a fired-up state of mind right now. There’s a passion, a desire, a desparation to see something change in this world.
I’ve been getting the feeling that something big is coming for a while now; and it just keeps getting stronger. It’s time, time for a Faith generation to rise up and take a stand, to take back the world for God – for goodness, for love, for truth, for honour, for all of the fruits of the spirit.
Our generation cries out, is screaming out for something, but they don’t know what. The world has gotten really dark, and really really frightening, and it’s time to start shining the light back into the world, and bringing comfort, peace and truth to the people.
And I don’t care what people might say against it, I don’t care what people might say against me.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23
Say what you want, bring it on, because no matter what can be brought against me, there are two things I will hold on to. First, that bringing the above list of things to other people cannot be bad, it cannot be damaging, it cannot be harmful, because they are good.
Secondly: the one who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world ~ 1 John 4:4.
Anyway, though… Wow…
Here’s Moses’ moment of, “Well, that sucked.”
He and Aaron go and face Pharaoh, telling him to let them take the people on a three day journey into the desert to spend time with God. What’s Pharaoh’s reaction? No!
Not only no, but he ups the workrate. He figures that if the Israelites have time to complain and think about worshipping their God, then they mustn’t be working hard enough! Make them do more! Take away the straw!
It’s quite funny, when, in verse 17 Pharaoh’s going, “Lazy, that’s what you are – lazy!” All I can think of is him shrieking it at them, like some kind of cartoon evil dictator ruler who’s totally and utterly insane, but because he’s king, no one can actually tell him he’s insane.
Or – Mick Malthouse!
Sorry, for those who aren’t Australian, or don’t follow AFL – just let it go.
The first thing, therefore, that I see in this chapter is the taking away of the straw. At the end of the last chapter, the Israelites were probably getting a bit excited. Moses and Aaron had come and spoken to them, told them what was going on, and the Israelites were bowing down and worshipping.
Isn’t it such a reality, that sometimes, just when we think that things might be taking a turn for the better – the world comes along and takes away our straw. One more thing goes wrong, and we’ve got to make the same amount of bricks, but now we have to find our own straw too.
Secondly, is Moses’ problem. He, too, has proceeded into this scenario in faith that God’s going to keep everything under control and let the Israelites go free. Instead, Pharaoh just shrugs him off without even a second thought – and because Pharaoh takes out his anger on the Israelites, the Israelites also turn against Moses – again!
So Moses goes right back to God, and asks him why.
Not every lesson that God has to teach us is always warm and wonderful. The biggest thing that I take from this particular chapter? Is that things can always get worse. Strangely, these days I’m encouraged by that thought. If things can always get worse, then I’m not at the bottom, and if I’m not at the bottom, then it’s not as far to get back to the top?