Friday, April 20, 2018

Blogging Bible Study: Joshua 5:13 - 6:27 - Victory with a test

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
I broke my 'one chapter a week' plan just slightly; the last 3 verses of chapter 5 are actually part of a conversation that's continued in Chapter 6, so  we'll put it together.

Joshua apparently went off by himself to have a look at the city they would have to conquer to move anywhere in the land that was promised to them.  And, on his walk, he ran into a guy blocking his path, looking at him with a drawn sword in his hand.

Kinda intimidating, if you ask me.

Joshua, however, approached him, asking, 'Are you for us or for our enemies?'  ...IE, 'Whose side are you on?'

The guy replied, 'Neither.'

The question is NEVER...'Whose side is God on?'  the question is ALWAYS...'Who is on God's side?'  And God's side always involves WAY more than one or two issues.  Now the Israelites were following God's instructions as they moved, you'd think that would be a pat answer, 'I am with YOU, Joshua!'  But even the people of God mistake their ambitions for God's plans and get off track (more on that later).  Joshua went to have a strategy planning session for how HE would take Jericho; the Commander of The Army of God stopped him cold and gave him GOD'S plan for taking the city.

Which made no sense whatsoever.  March around it with trumpets sounding once a day for seven days?  Then march around it seven times in one day and YELL when they finished?  What kind of military strategy is that?

Joshua didn't question his instructions.  He took them back to the people, and that's what they did.  Just as instructed.  Trumpets.  Ark of the Covenant.  Soldiers.  No shouting or taunting or response to anything the people of Jericho did.  Around once and back to camp.  Next day, same thing.  Next day, same thing...until the seventh day.

On the seventh day, they got specific instructions to shout when the trumpets sounded after the seventh circuit.  And they were to allow only Rahab and her family to survive, as had been agreed.  Furthermore, everything in the city was to be destroyed, except the gold, silver, and bronze, which were to be put into the treasury to be used for God's house.

Pay particular attention to that, it's important.  The NIV refers to all the plunder of Jericho as 'devoted things', the KJV uses 'accursed'.  I kinda like the NASB, which refers to the plunder as 'things under the ban'...neutral, neither cursed nor blessed, just banned.    And there were two different categories of things under the ban...the gold, silver and bronze, which was to be given for use in God's house, and everything else, which was to be devoted to God and destroyed.  They were to keep nothing of Jericho for themselves.

But as for you, only keep yourself from the things under the ban, lest you covet them and take some of the things under the ban, so you would make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. - Josh 6:18, NASB

So instructed, when the priests blew the signal after that seventh circle around the city, the people shouted and...those massive walls fell.

Imagine standing there that day and feeling the ground shake and seeing the walls collapse, just as God had said they would.  What encouragement to the soldiers who went in and took the city.  The two who had come as spies went to Rahab's house and escorted her and her family out to safety; the gold, bronze and silver were set aside, and everything else in the city was burned.

Joshua pronounced a curse over the city, which proved to be prophetic and was recorded as fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34, although we don't have details on how it came about.

So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land. -- 6:27.

Am I quick to follow God's leading, even if it doesn't make sense?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Blogging Bible Study - Joshua 5:1-12 : Roll the Past Away

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

In the 'Look how God makes everything work together' category... Joshua 5:1 reports

Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.'  (as usual, all scripture today from the NIV '84).

Not only did God's miraculous intervention 1) get the Israelites from the east side of the Jordan to the west side 2) prove Joshua as the leader of the people and 3) provide a memorial for folks to reference for generations to come, it also put so much intimidation on the folks on the west side of the river that they bolted up their cities and hid.

Which was perfect, because the Israelites were going to be particularly vulnerable for the next few days.

See, the law of circumcision had not been enforced while the people were traveling.    So the entire generation of fighting men had not been circumcised, which is a prime commandment for the offspring of Abraham.  Now that they had entered the land that God promised them, it was time to renew the covenant.  Joshua made flint knives, and the entire male population was circumcised.

For a few days, they would not have been in any shape to fight anything (reference the decimation of Shechem, back in Genesis 34).  But the folks around them were so terrified of the Israelites and their God that no one ventured near them to see that they were, um, indisposed.

After the circumcision was completed, God made an interesting statement to Joshua.  He said, 'Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.' (v.9).  So, of course they named the place Gilgal, which sounds like the Hebrew for 'roll'.

Now, it had been 40 years since they left Egypt; everyone who was over the age of 20 when they left had died in the desert (except, of course, Caleb and Joshua).  Most of them wouldn't even remember Egypt.  But they had the identity of slaves and nomads.  It was time for that to change.  It was time for them to let go of the past and move into the future they'd heard of all their lives.  It really was happening.

While at Gilgal, two other significant things, they celebrated the Passover, and two, the very next day, they ate what was available from the land around them, which meant that the manna stopped.  Manna was pretty much the only diet they had known; it must have been odd for them to get up in the morning and not see the manna lying about on the ground as it had every other day.  But it was a new place and a new paradigm.

The reproach...the shame, the former identity, the old way of doing things...was rolled away.  It was time to move into what God had for them.

What old habits, thought patterns, even ways of doing daily life need to change in my life to move into what God has for me?  What has been a good thing in its time, but that time is past and I need to let it go?  Recognize that cutting off that old stuff may be painful, but know that God has this and will Himself make sure I have time to heal.

Monday, April 9, 2018

I Am Adamant Launch Team

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

I did something I've never done before.

I joined an online study group.

At least, I think that's what it is.

I got an email a while back from Messenger International, John and Lisa Bevere's ministry, offering a pre-sale deal on Lisa's latest book, along with a bracelet gift and access to online studies.  I pondered it for a while,  and, when I got the final 'tonight's the last chance!' email, I decided to jump in.

After all, it's a study on truth...and since I have concluded that my core passion is truth, I just figured it would be a good idea.

Today the package came.
She called everyone who signed up for it the 'launch team'; the package shipped the day the book was released.  I've read a bit of the first chapter; so far, I'm nodding 'Yes!'.  I'll admit to being pretty impressed by the back story of 'adamant' and the implication of that to the Rock, the Cornerstone...and it's just starting.

So I'm not sure how this whole 'launch team' thing is going to work or how much time I'll actually have to jump into the online studies/podcasts but I think it's going to be a good thing.

I'm going to need some good study after I finish the book I began last month...I need to just dig in and finish that.  Lots of blog material coming up, I think.  :-D

Friday, April 6, 2018

Blogging Bible Study: Joshua 4 - Build a Memorial

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

When we last left our heroes, the Israelites had just crossed over the miraculously-dried-up Jordan and the Levites who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant were still standing in the middle of the riverbed.

God reiterates His instructions to choose one man from each of the twelve tribes, and then describes the task for which they were selected:

...tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight. (V. 3)

Joshua elaborates just a bit, telling them, "Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder."

This ain't no little painted pocket rock; these were to be big stones, as big as each one could carry.  They were to be stones with a purpose.  Stones with a message.  A witness and a testimony to people yet unborn.  He explained,

"In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?'  tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD.  When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."

The events of that day make such a remarkable story that the whole thing is summarized for emphasis.

The priests remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the LORD had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua.  The people hurried over...about 40, 000 armed for battle crossed over before the Lord to the plains of Jericho. (vs. 10, 13)

And, here's the kicker, which may have been why God brought them around to the east side of the Jordan to enter the land, instead of sending them north from Kadesh:

That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses.  (v. 14).  Moses led them out of Egypt with a miraculous water crossing; Joshua brought them into the Promised Land with the same sign.  If any of them had doubted whether God would be with Joshua as He had been with Moses, that settled all the doubts.

God instructed Joshua to tell the priests to come up out of the riverbed, and they carried the Ark up on the western bank, in Canaan.

No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.

The people set up camp at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho, and there Joshua set up the stones that had been taken from the riverbed, and Joshua repeated,
"In the future, when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.'  For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had all crossed over.  The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it  up before us until we had crossed over.  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.'  (vs. 22 - 24)

Verse 9 states, And they are there to this day. ...when the book was actually written down as part of the books of history.

Crossing the river on dry ground was a pretty spectacular sign to the folks in that day, one that is harder to miss, maybe, than the works God does in our lives today.  But those current day works of God are no less deserving of memorials, and we are no less in need of them.  When times get tough, a memorial...whether it's a physical object of some sort to look at and be reminded, or a journal entry with details written remind us of what God has done in our lives to bring us to where we are goes a long way towards giving us the courage and motivation to keep going.

What are the memorials in my life that I  return to in order to remind myself of what God has done for me and why I am in this place at this time?  How can I be more mindful to create such memorials in the future?  Is there anything  I need to take the time to make a memorial about right now?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Blogging Bible Study : Joshua 3 - Crossing the Jordan

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi
After the spies returned, Israel moved from Shittim, where they had been camped,  to the east bank of the Jordan, a journey of a little less than ten miles.  They stayed there three days, then were given the command to be ready to move, to watch the ark of the presence of God and follow it,  'Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.' (v. 4, all scripture today from the NIV 84).

I could literally stop right there and do a whole teaching, but I'll content myself with a little observation. Following the presence of God was their only guidance in unfamiliar territory. Now, God could have taken them north into Canaan from Kadesh Barnea,where they failed 40 years earlier.  They were in Kadesh towards the end of their wandering; Miriam died there, and it was there that Moses lost his temper and struck the rock (Numbers 20).  But, instead they went southeast from Kadesh, around the Dead Sea and up through the plains of Moab.  This was not just a re-do; this was new territory and a new paradigm.  The old was gone and dead; it would not just be corrected but replaced.  You have never been this way before.

Joshua also told them to consecrate themselves, '...for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.'  (v. 5).  They were on the east side of the Jordan; they were going to the west side of the Jordan.  And it was at flood stage.  There would have to be amazing things if they really were gonna cross that mess.

The next day, they packed up and formed up...not in their usual marching order, with Judah in front and the Levites bearing all the holy items in the middle.  This time, the priests carrying the Ark were a bit over half a mile in front of the rest of the company.  And they had been instructed to go stand in the middle of the river.

Did I mention it was at flood stage?

Joshua announced to the people: 'This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canannites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.  See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.... And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD -- the Lord of all the earth -- set foot in the Jordan,  its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.' (vs10-11,13).  He also told them to select one man from each tribe, whose purpose would be made known later.

So they lined up and headed west. And as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off.  So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. (vs. 15b - 16)

Now, I have heard folks discount that statement, saying that, of course, there was a rock slide or some such thing that temporarily dammed the water upstream.  And I'm not going to say that didn't happen.   But even if there was an observable, natural event that caused the water to stop running down the river, isn't it remarkable that it happened just at the moment that the Israelites were crossing the river a good distance downstream?  Why does the possibility that God could have used natural phenomena to do His will want to make folks discount His actions?  The Lord of all the earth could certainly send a rock slide at the precise moment He needed it to happen and it would be no less His doing than blowing a fierce wind right at the river in just one spot so that the water piled up rather than flowing down.  However it happened...He did it at the exact moment He wanted it done.

The priests walked out to the middle of the riverbed and stood there, while the entire nation walked by to the other side.  Which, according to the census recorded at the end of Numbers, taken just before Moses died, included 601,730 men over the age of 20, not counting the Levites, of whom there were 23,000 men and boys over the age of one month,  plus all the women and children.  It probably took a while.

The chapter ends, right there, with the people on the far side and the priests still standing on the river bed.  God wasn't quite done with the Jordan River yet.  What came next...well, that's next week's post.

Do I look for the presence of God to guide me through places I have not walked before?  Do I expect Him to do 'amazing things' to take me to the place He has promised...or do I wander around looking for ways to make those promises happen myself?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Chop the Vines

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Whilst we were walking through the woods at the state park a couple of weeks ago, My Sweet Babboo mentioned a tree that he'd seen along our usual walking route on the greenway that runs beside the creek in our neck of the woods.

Today, when we were walking, he pointed it out to me.

I had to take a photo.  That'll preach, I said.

Look at the photo closely.

I don't know if the trees grew close together or if one blew over against the other, but vines have tangled up a live tree with what is now a remnant of a dead, decaying trunk of another tree.

That's  a powerful image, right there.

How many of us have a dead, decaying thing bound up in our lives somewhere?  Something that is hindering our growth, contributing to ill health (mental, physical or spiritual), weighing us down?

And how many of us have hacked away at that thing but are no closer to being free of it?

It's the vines.  We can't just get rid of the thing itself.  Ya gotta get rid of the vines.

Those habits that  keep us bound up in dysfunction.  Those relationships that pull us away from our relationship with God.   Those little pleasures that distract us from our calling.  The things that, in and of themselves, don't seem such a big deal.

But they are keeping us bound to dead stuff.

Therefore,...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.... (Heb. 12:1)

Yeah, that'll preach.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Blogging Bible Study: Joshua Chapter 2 - Rahab's Choice

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi.

This is a Hollywood script, no doubt about it.

Joshua sent two men to Jericho, secretly, to have a look round and see what they were up against.  They had to cross the Jordan; we know from events shortly to follow that it was a flood stage.

And, at some point, they were spotted.  Probably not by soldiers, who would have nabbed them on the spot, but by someone who reported it to someone who reported it to someone who told the king.

I don't know if they were looking for shelter and deliberately chose a prostitute's house, thinking that would provide cover for them.  Foreign men...just in the city...looking for a little pleasure...not that remarkable.  It wasn't a bad idea. They may have even asked someone for a recommendation.

Maybe it was the person they asked who realized they were Israelites; maybe someone overheard the conversation.  Or maybe they were just spotted going into Rahab's door.  But in any case,  their cover was blown and they were hunted.

How they got wind of it isn't clear.  Maybe they were actually aware someone was on to them and ducked into her house randomly, asking for shelter, since she was on the wall and had a window to the outside.  But I kinda think Rahab invited them in herself; maybe she saw them walking through town and, to anyone who observed, was drumming up business when she invited them to her house.  Or maybe she overheard something  that tipped her off and she went looking for them.  However she found out, she knew they were being hunted and took them home and hid them in pretty short order.

It took a little while for the word to get up to the king and the orders back down to the soldiers; she had a little time to devise a plan.  And, truth be told, she did have the perfect cover.  When the soldiers knocked, she could give them the impression that the two men had come, had their fun, and left: "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from.  At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left.  Go after them quickly.  You may catch up with them."  (Josh. 2:5; all scripture today from the NIV 84).

It appears the soldiers didn't even search the house; they took her word for it and took off on the road out of town, leaving just before the city gates closed behind them.

So, with a bit of a breather, Rahab told the men why she hid them...with a pretty amazing statement from a pagan ..."I know that the LORD has given this land to you." (v. 9)  All her actions, all her risk, was based on that statement.  She knew that God was with them and that they were going to take the land.

Indeed, she went on to explain that everyone knew the history of the Hebrews... that God dried up the Red Sea for them, that they had utterly defeated the kings on the other side of the Jordan, and that the whole city was terrified of them.  Then she made another statement of her personal belief, "...the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below."  (v. 11)

Rahab had just staked her life on the God of the Hebrews.  The actions she'd taken placed her firmly in opposition to the entire city of Jericho.  But, from her point of view, it was the only path to survival. She saved them so that they could save her.  "Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.  Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death."   (vs 12-13)

The guys had been about to catch some z's, but instead, she put a rope out of the window that opened through the city wall (remember, it was after the gates had been closed for the was dark) to let them safely down outside the wall, with instructions to go towards the hills and camp there for three days, since the soldiers were looking for them between Jericho and the river.

Just before they left, they gave her their promise to save her and her family so long as she met the conditions they gave not speak of them to anyone, to gather everyone she wanted to protect into her house, and to hang a red cord from the window.

She agreed and, as soon as they'd gone, she tied the red cord in her window.   The men took off for the hills, waited three days as instructed, then crossed the river and returned to Joshua, relating how terrified the people of the land were.  'God has surely given the whole land into our hands,' they told him.

I wonder if Joshua sent only two because two would not be very conspicuous...or if he sent only two because only two had returned  from a similar look round with those words 40 years earlier.  There were no naysayers to discourage the people this time.

Meanwhile, the red cord innocently hung from Rahab's window.    Some folks say it was the rope she used to let them down, but I think it was a decorative cord used on the window draperies that one of the men noticed as they were heading out the window.  A rope sturdy enough to hold a man would surely have drawn attention...especially since two men disappeared from that house.  No, I think it was exactly as it's described...a red cord. Nothing worth noticing...unless it was looked for.  It was Rahab's life if anyone noticed it and started asking questions.

Rahab believed the God of the Hebrews was able to give them victory.  Everyone else was afraid of the army, but she was afraid of their God.  God saw Rahab.  He saw what she believed; it was no coincidence that the spies ended up on her doorstep, however it happened.  HE gave her the opportunity to act on her belief.  She didn't hesitate; she grabbed that opportunity with both hands and put her life in theirs.  And God's.