Monday, March 31, 2008

The Land Had Rest

March 31: Judges 3-5

7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. . . . 9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. . . . 11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

12 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord. 13 He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. 14 And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. . . . 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.
Judges 3:7, 9, 11, 12-15 & 30

1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud died. 2 And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. 3 Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.

23 So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. 24 And the hand of the people of Israel pressed harder and harder against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.
Judges 4:1-3 & 23-24

And the land had rest for forty years.
Judges 5:31b

As we continue in the book of Judges, the "Judges Cycle" continues; as life became easier for the people of Israel, they began to mix with the nations around them through intermarriage, and then by serving the gods of the nations around them.

God then caused them to be subdued by the nations around them, and the cycle continued. The people then cried out to God for deliverance, and God would send a deliverer who often became their judge. As long as they remained obedient to God, the land had rest from war.

God used Othniel (the nephew of Caleb), Ehud, Shamgar, and Deborah and Barak to lead the fight for freedom against the nations around them. (Read through these chapters, and you will get the details of how that deliverance was won.)

Look at the time period that elapsed in these three chapters. Judges 3:11 - 40 years, 3:14 - 18 years, 3:30 - 80 years, Judges 4:3 - 20 years, and Judges 5:31 - 40 years, for a total of 180 years.

Sometimes we are pretty hard on the people of Israel because they never seemed to learn the lesson! In just three chapters, look how many different times the people of Israel left God to serve other gods, repented and cried out to God for help, and then were delivered by a servant of God. Yet, what is just three chapters to us, was really a time period of 180 years.

Now, let us look into our own lives. How prone are we to turn against God? Remember that phrase in the song, "Come Thou Fount"?

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.

How does the writer end that verse?

Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above.

That is the correct response we should have after reading Judges 3-5! We need to seriously look at these chapters and realize that we are even worse than the Israelites. It often seems that we are so quick to turn from the Lord at every crossing in the road of life. The temptations around us are so alluring and so deadly!

Pray today that God would seal your heart from the temptations all around you; seal it for God's courts above!

And the land had rest. Amen, so let it be!

God Bless You,
Linda

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Judges Cycle

March 30: Judges 1-2

1 Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3 So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.”

6 When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. 7 And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. . . . And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
Joshua 2:1-3, 6-7, & 10b, English Standard Version

Covenant Broken

The Israelites finally possessed the promised land, all of their enemies were defeated, and they all lived happily ever after. Right? The Bible is no fairy tale! The first chapter of Judges ends with some very somber verses:

*27 Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages.

*29 And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer.

*30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol.

*31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob.

*33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath.

Judges Cycle

As we traverse through the book of Judges we will find a cycle that is still being repeated in our day. God's people rise up and faithfully serve Him, they are corrupted by the gods of the world around them, they forsake God, God removes His hand of protection from them, they cry out to God for salvation, He saves them, and they rise up and faithfully serve Him.

Just look around you at the church as it exists in our world today. We see churches in every stage of the Judges Cycle. New baby churches spring up daily with new converts who are zealous and faithful to the Lord; as the church grows, the things of the world gradually seep in among the congregation. Either the entire church forsakes belief in God and the inerrancy of the Scriptures, or the church is split, etc.

One of the things we are afraid to say today, is that God uses the forces of nature, as well as other means to bring judgment upon a people who have once loved Him, but have now forsaken Him. That statement is just not politically correct, is it? But, is it true? God is a jealous God; He does not accept His children defiling themselves with the gods of the world around them.

Remember that, dear Christian; pray that God would help you to not flirt with the ways of the world, believing it will have no negative effect on your Christian life. Pray that God would be gracious to you so that you and your family will not become a part of the Judges Cycle.

God Bless You,
Linda

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Witness

March 29: Joshua 22-24

10 And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size.

16 “Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, ‘What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the Lord by building yourselves an altar this day in rebellion against the Lord?

24 No, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 For the Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the Lord.’ So your children might make our children cease to worship the Lord. 26 Therefore we said, ‘Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, 27 but to be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we do perform the service of the Lord in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord.”’ 28 And we thought, If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say, ‘Behold, the copy of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you.’

34 The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, “For,” they said, “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”
Joshua 22:10, 16, 24-28, & 34

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”

And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.”
Joshua 24:14-15, 22, & 26b-27

In today's reading our attention is focused on two rocks! The first rock, a huge imposing altar, was built by the tribes east of the Jordan River. The second rock was a large stone which Joshua placed near the sanctuary of the Lord. What was the purpose of these two rocks?

When the tribes east of the Jordan constructed a large altar, the other Israelites thought the worst; those east of the Jordan had already forsaken the Lord. Nothing could have been farther from the truth! Those east of the Jordan, fearing they would be castaways from the rest of the nation, placed the rock as a witness that they, too, were servants of the Lord God of Hosts. The people of Reuban and Gad simply called the name of the altar, "Witness."

As Joshua's life drew to a close he made that great challenge to the nation of Israel,

Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods . . . Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Joshua 24:15-16, and 18b

As a witness to the promise of the people, Joshua placed a stone near the sanctuary of the Lord, saying,

“Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.”
Joshua 24:27b

What is your rock of witness? What things do you use to remind yourself of your commitment to God, to love and serve Him all the days of your life?

What do you see around your house when you get up in the morning--what things do you put on your refrigerator? I have pictures of my family in every room of my house (well, not in the laundry room or bathroom), but you get the idea. I also have favorite Scripture verses that I like to place in convenient places, so I will read them throughout the day. My home page is Google, and one of the options is to have a Bible Verse of the Day posted.

God knows that we are people who are weak and prone to forget Him. Help yourself out--put remembrances of Him throughout your house or, if allowed, your workplace.

Here is one of my favorite Bible passages that I have made into a page-sized poster to put on my wall:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

God Bless You,
Linda

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Friday, March 28, 2008

All Came to Pass

March 28: Joshua 19-21

43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
Joshua 21:43-45, English Standard Version

All Came to Pass
It is done--the land has been divided, the cities of refuge have been established, and the Levites have received their cities. Look again at verse 45,


Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

We are now in the twenty-first century and we can still say, "Not one Word of all that God has promised to us has failed." Just think about that! How true is that of anything we know of in our world today?

World leaders promise many things--can they bring them all to pass? It is an election year in the United States--can we believe everything that the candidates are promising to us? How about the words of your friends, acquaintances, and even family? Are they able to bring everything to pass just as they promise?

Are you beginning to see the picture? There is no one, but God, who can truthfully make such a promise. As Christians, this is our God! No matter where life takes you this day, you can be assured that without a doubt God will keep every promise made to His children.

The best thing of all, is that because Christ has shed His own blood to purchase a people for Himself, every one of those children is assured a place in the new heavens and the new earth. Go to Christ today; He is the only one who can truly fulfill all of His promises.

He alone can save us, can keep us in this life, and can bring us safely to be with Him forever!

Ponder verse 45 as you go about your duties this day, and remember, all came to pass.

God Bless You,
Linda


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Not Enough

March 27: Joshua 16-18

14 Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?” 15 And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16 The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” 17 Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, 18 but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”
Joshua 17:14-18, English Standard Version

The Israelites arrived at their beloved Canaan land and the land is being divided among the tribes, and everyone lived happily ever after! Right? Not exactly! Before the land was even totally divided complaints began to arrise. I love this little interchange between representatives from the house of Joseph and Joshua.

What complaints did the people from the house of Joseph express?

*We are too numerous a people; the land is not enough.

*The hill country is not enough because the Canaanites live in the plains and they are too strong for us--they have chariots of iron.

Joshua must have been extremely exasperated. The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness with God at the head. After entering the promised land they have witnessed example after example of God's hand in all of their victories against the inhabitants of the land. Yet, here is a tribe (and a half--Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh) who believes there is no possible way they can drive out the Canaanites from their alloted land. How did Joshua respond?

Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”

Is God's arm now too short to deliver the house of Joseph? Before we become too critical, however, we should take a closer look at our own lives. How often do we doubt God? How often do we believe that our circumstances are so extreme that there is no way out? How often do we view things from our own lack of strength instead of turning to our all powerful God.

Pray, today, that you will not think like those from the house of Joseph, "It is not enough." Pray that God will give you the abilty to look beyond your circumstances, and see God standing right beside you guiding each step you take.

God Bless You,
Linda