Judges 7-8

Little Is Much When God Is In It.

“The LORD said to Gideon, ‘You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength.‘” ­– Judges 7:2 NLT

God works in mysterious ways. He doesn’t do things the way we would. He accomplished His victories in ways that we never could have dreamed up. Take a look at the story of Gideon. We’ve seen the seriousness of the situation. We’ve seen the fear and doubt in Gideon. There are 135,000 enemy troops amassed (Judges 7:10) against Israel and Gideon has only 32,000 soldiers – that’s more than 4 to 1 – bad odds – and bad odds can lead to some seriously big doubt. We already know Gideon struggles with doubt. Now he finds himself in a difficult situation and yet God has promised to deliver the Midianites into his hands. But as Gideon takes a look at the situation, he has to conclude that the odds are NOT in his favor. He does not have enough troops. But bad odds are great for revealing just how big our God is. In fact, Gideon was going to learn something about his God, and he was going to learn something about himself. He was going to learn that this battle was God’s battle. The odds didn’t matter to God. In fact, God was going to even the playing field and make the odds even worse! Why? So that when the victory came, only He could get the glory.

So God tells Gideon he has too many men. In doing so, God is telling Gideon that this isn’t about Gideon’s strength, but His! God has Gideon send home everyone who is afraid, so 22,000 men take up Gideon on his offer, leaving only 10,000 men. Now the odds are more than 13 to 1. But God is not done. He tells Gideon he still has too many men and has Gideon take his men to the spring to drink. One group kneels to drink, the other laps the water like a dog. God tells Gideon to send home all the kneelers. We don’t know why. The passage doesn’t tell us. I think it was an arbitrary decision. God was going to use the lesser group to accomplish His will. So 7,000 more men are sent home. That leaves Gideon with just 300 men to fight a force of 135,000. The odds just got worse – 450 to 1. But God is not limited by our limits. He tells Gideon, “With these three hundred men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midinates.” (Judges 7:7).

Then God tells Gideon to march against the camp of the Midianites – 300 against 135,000. But God knows Gideon and He knows that Gideon still has doubts and fears. So He tells Gideon to take his servant and go sneak into the Midianite camp at night. Gideon has no way of knowing what this little trip will bring about. But when he arrives at the edge of the enemy encampment, he discovers that the armies of the Midianites are like locusts, their camels like grains of sand on the seashore. There are so many of them, that they are too many to count! But while he is there, Gideon overhears two Midianite soldiers talking. One is sharing a dream he had had that night. It involved a loaf of bread rolling into a tent and knocking it down. Immediately, this guy’s buddy informs him that he knows the meaning! “Your dream can only mean one thing – God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over all the armies united with Midian!” (Judges 7:14).

God had preordained this encounter. He had arranged for this enemy soldier to have this dream and for him to relate it to his friend. Then God had given this other soldier the exact meaning of the dream. All so Gideon could overhear it and be assured of God’s upcoming victory. Gideon takes it as a sign from God and immediately worships God. Then he goes back and organizes his “troops”. God used this simple dream to mobilize the Israelites and demoralize the Midianites. No doubt this dream and its interpretation spread like wild fire through the Midianite camp and caused all kinds of doubt and fear among them. Which probably explains their bizarre and erratic behavior when the “battle” took place.

You know the rest of the story. Gideon takes 300 men armed with little more than a  dream, clay pots, torches and rams horns, and goes up against the 135,000 Midianites. They blew their trumpets, broke the pots and held up their torches and screamed, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon” (Judges 7:20). Then all the Israelites had to do was stand and watch. They didn’t have to swing a sword or throw a spear. God did it all!

When the three hundred Israelites blew their horns, the LORD caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords. Those who were not killed fled to places as far away as Beth–shittah near Zererah and to the border of Abel–meholah near Tabbath.– Vs 22

God made it look easy. When we let God fight the battle, it’s always a whole lot easier. Because His ways are not our ways. God is the God of the impossible. He is the God of the improbable. He uses the weak, foolish, and powerless to accomplish His will. “God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful” (1 Corinthians 1:27 NLT).

God wanted Gideon to come to grips with his weakness and God’s strength. He wanted him to realize that the victory is always the Lord’s. God doesn’t want to know how strong you are, He wants to prove how strong He is.

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the LORD. – Proverbs 21:31 NASB

For the king trusts in the LORD, And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken.– Psalm 20:7 NASB

Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. – Psalm 24:8 NASB

O Sovereign LORD, my strong savior, you protected me on the day of battle. – Psalm 140:7 NLT

And everyone will know that the LORD does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours. The LORD will give you to us! – 1 Samuel 17:47 NLT

So what do we learn? God is the hero of this story – and of ours. God’s salvation doesn’t come to the strong, but the weak. God is God alone, and there is no other. In the heat of battle is where God so often reveals Himself. God’s ways are not our ways. Less is more when God is involved.

Father, help me learn these lessons. Help me to see your strength in the midst of my weakness. The odds mean nothing to You. The greater the odds, the greater my God. You want to prove Yourself strong in my life and You regularly do. But I still doubt and fear. Help me to learn to trust You more and more with each passing day. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Judges 5-6

The Reluctant Rescuer.

“…if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” ­– Judges 6:13 NLT

Do you ever doubt God? Do you ever struggle believing He’s there? Or that He cares? Do you feel like you’re out-numbered and under-manned at times? Do the odds ever seem stacked against you? If so, then you’re going to relate well to Gideon. There are some characters in Scripture I have a hard time relating to (i.e. Daniel, Joseph). But Gideon is my kind of guy. He is painfully honest and transparent and the Scriptures don’t cover up his flaws. His story begins with some less-than-spectacular circumstances. Israel finds themselves once again under oppression because of their disobedience and unfaithfulness. The Midianites have been harassing them for seven years. They were experiencing regular invasions at the hands of the Midianites and the loss of their crops and livestock. They had been reduced to near starvation. Their land had been stripped bare and so they were once again crying out to God for help? (Isn’t that just like us?)

In the midst of all this, God sent a prophet to remind them of all that God had done for them. He had brought them out of Egypt. He demanded faithfulness. But they had failed. I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me.” (Judges 6:10 NASB). The people had been worshipping Baal. Even Joash, the father of Gideon, had been worshipping Baal. And so God comes up with His plan of rescue and redemption. And He chooses an unlikely hero. We find Gideon threshing grain in a wine press. He is hiding from the Midianites, trying to keep what little he has from being stolen. Yet when the angel of the Lord comes to Gideon, he addresses him, “O valiant warrior!” The New Living Translation renders this phrase, “Mighty hero!” What an unexpected greeting. What had he done to deserve this title? Nothing up to this point. But God is actually revealing who Gideon would become, not who he was. It was a title of expectation. Much the same way God called Abraham the father of a multitude of nations before he even had any children. He called him that when Abraham was old and his wife was barren! Jesus called Peter a rock before he behaved as one. God calls us saints even though we’re not yet as saintly as we will one day be. God knew what He was going to do in and through Gideon.

The angel then tells Gideon, “The Lord is with you!” This is the theme of these two chapters. This story is really about God, not Gideon. We are all bit players in God’s grand play. He is the author, director, and star. God is choosing to use Gideon, not because of who he is, but because God wants to reveal who He is through Gideon. But Gideon gives an unexpected response to God’s call. He responds a little flippantly. He accuses God of abandoning them and not doing anything for them. He takes a look at the current circumstances and determines that God has been nowhere to be found. Gideon wants to know why all this has happened. He wants to know where all the miracles are. He’s basically accusing God of doing nothing and of abandoning them. But it was really the other way around. He failed to realize that their condition was the result of their abandoning God, not His abandoning them.

God’s response was to tell Gideon to go and deliver! He tells Gideon to go in his strength. What a strange statement. What strength was God talking about? Gideon hadn’t exactly shown himself to be strong up to this point. Once again, God is not talking about a strength coming up from inside of Gideon. He is talking about a strength that would be based on God’s presence. This isn’t about how strong Gideon is, but about how strong Gideon’s God is. Gideon was to go in the strength of God’s presence. God was sending him. God was going with him. God would give him victory over the Midianites (Judges 6:16). But Gideon shows his doubt again. He tells God he is too weak and insignificant for the job. But God refused to listen to Gideon’s excuses. Instead He tells Gideon to clean house! He commands Gideon to go and clear out the idols in his own home (Judges 6:25). His own father had erected idols to the gods of the Midianites. Gideon obeys, but fearfully. He tears down the altar at night because he is afraid of what they might do if they catch him. And his fears are justified because when the people find out what he has done they threaten to kill him.

Gideon continues to struggle with trusting God. Time and time again, God assures him of His presence and His calling on his life. But Gideon doubts. He is reluctant to believe God and step out in faith. So God continues to reassure Him with a variety of signs. God is preparing Gideon to accomplish great things, and He is willing to tolerate Gideon’s doubt. Much the same way He does with us today. We constantly doubt and question God. We look at our circumstances and question whether God is even there. We look at our own strength and qualifications and determine ourselves unfit for duty. But God has other plans. He has resources we aren’t aware of. He can even use us to do His will. And He will, if we allow Him to.

Father, if You can use Gideon, You can use me. And You do – on a regular basis. And each time You do, I am amazed and humbled. Thank You for tolerating my doubts and using me in my weakness. I know I can’t boast in my accomplishments, because anything I do of value is all a result of Your activity in my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Judges 4

Thank Heaven For Little Girls.

“Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But since you have made this choice, you will receive no honor. For the LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. ­– Judges 4:9 NLT

Barak hesitated. This valiant warrior was given the honor of leading God’s troops into battle against the Canaanites, but he hesitated. He told Deborah, the judge God had raised up to lead His people, that he would not go into battle unless she went with him. We don’t know the exact reason for his reluctance to fight without her, but it seems clear that he was unwilling to do the job he had been called to do. He tells Deborah, “I will go, but only if you go with me!” (Judges 4:9 NLT). For refusing to simply obey the command of God, Barak would lose the honor that would come with the defeat of the Canaanites. God had already assured him of victory, but Barak would not get to enjoy the glory that normally comes to the conquering hero. Instead, an obscure woman named Jael would get the glory and honor.

The key to this story is that God is the one who deserves recognition and honor. He is the one who rescued the Israelites from the hands of the Canaanites, in spite of their unfaithfulness. He rose up Deborah. He gave her the command to attack the Canaanites. He led her to choose Barak to lead the troops. He assured them of their victory. And he placed Jael at just the right place at the right time to ensure that Sisera would be killed. This was God’s battle and God’s victory. And He determined who He would use to bring it all about. The fact that He chose to use two women to bring about a resounding victory just further illustrates the power of God. In that culture, women were not held in high esteem. They were viewed as little more than property. But God chooses to use two women to bring about a great victory. It is Deborah, a woman, who leads Barak, the great warrior, into battle against the Canaanites. It is Jael, who eliminates the Canaanite threat once and for all by killing the Canaanite king Sisera.

But when all is said and done, it is God who gets the glory. “So on that day Israel saw God subdue Jabin, the Canaanite king” (Judges 4:23 NLT). God will use whoever He wills to accomplish His will. In this case He chose to use two women. Barak hesitated. Jael didn’t. But God gets all the glory. Deborah, Barak, and Jael would all eventually fade into obscurity, but not God. He would continue to lead and deliver His people just as He does today. And He is using men and women of all types to accomplish His will. Are you one of them?

Father, use me. I want to be like Jael, ready to do Your will – to get my hands dirty if necessary. I want to be used by You to bring about victory, but I want You to get all the glory. Raise up a host of men and women in Your church who will serve like Jael. There is work to be done and You will accomplish it through some unexpected sources. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Judges 2-3

Our Standard Achievement Test.

“I did this to test Israel – to see whether or not they would follow the ways of the Lord as their ancestors did.” ­– Judges 2:22 NASB

Have you ever wondered why God left you here? I mean, if heaven is so great (and I think it is!), then it seems like it would have made more sense for Jesus to take us to be with Him when He saved us. But for some reason He chose to leave us here. So we spend out lives living in a place that really isn’t conducive to Christ-likeness and where the inhabitants really don’t like us very much. Jesus Himself warned us that the world would hate us (John 15:19). And yet, we have to live and somehow survive here. He even expects us to thrive here. Why? Could it be that He wants to do the same thing for us that He was doing for the Israelites? God put them in a place where they were surrounded by enemies. The land He had given them as a possession was not void of conflict, but seemingly full of it. The Philistines, the Canaanites, the Sidonians, the Hivites… were all in the land. So what was God up to? He was testing them. Yes, He was punishing Israel for her infidelity, but there was more to it than that. He would use the presence of these nations to continue to test Israel’s allegiance. Each of these nations had their own gods and Israel would be constantly tempted to make those gods their own. Not only that, there would be a constant temptation to interact with and even intermarry with these nations – even though God had forbidden it.

So how did they do on the test? Well, not too well. Not only did the Israelites live among them, they intermarried with them and ended up worshiping their gods (Judges 3:5-6). But there was another test. God was allowing the enemy to remain in the land not only to punish Israel and tempt them, but to prepare them for battle. They were going to learn to fight. This generation was not battle-hardened or ready for war. So they would have to learn to fight. They still had land that needed to be conquered and to do so would require going to battle. That meant they would have to become warriors. You don’t really learn to be a soldier in boot camp or in peace time, but on the battlefield. And we learn to fight the spiritual battles in our lives not by learning the concepts of war, but by getting in the trenches and doing battle with the enemy. God left us here to test us, try us, and train us. He is using the trials of this life to teach us to trust Him, rely on Him, turn to Him, and to serve Him alone. God wants to reveal our weaknesses and display His power.

As we read through the history of the various judges of Israel, we see how the people of Israel did with the tests of life. And we see how God intervened and rescued them time and time again. He is always faithful. What an incredible reminder to us that God is with us in our daily battles with sin and temptation. He is testing us, but He is also fighting alongside us – showing us that He can be trusted for the victory we need in whatever conflict we find ourselves.

Father, thank You for allowing me to experiences the tests of life. Forgive me for the many times I fail, but continue to show me what You have to teach me. And continue to reveal Your power in the midst of my weakness and failure. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Judges 1

A Lack of Drive.

“The LORD was with the people of Judah, and they took possession of the hill country. But they failed to drive out the people living in the plains because the people there had iron chariots.” ­– Judges 1:19 NLT

The first three chapters of the book of Judges will paint of picture of why this period in Israel’s history was even necessary. The book forms a bridge from the time in which Israel was ruled by God (a theocracy) to the time in which they would demand rule by a king (a monarchy). As we read we will see Israel move from success to failure. They will go from victory to defeat. All due to their disobedience and unfaithfulness to keep the commands of God. But the primary purpose of the book of Judges seems to be to show the sovereign grace of God in preserving Israel in spite of Israel. God will remain faithful in spite of their increasing unfaithfulness.

Chapter one sets the stage for what is to come. Joshua has died and God does not replace him with another military style leader. Now the individual tribes are expected to continue to process of conquering the land and inhabiting it. We read in verse 19 that Judah had the presence of God with him as he and his tribe fought against the Canaanites. But in spite of God’s presence, they were unable to defeat the inhabitants of the hill country. The excuse given for their failure is the advanced weaponry of their foes (iron chariots). But was that the real reason for their failure? As we continue to read in the days ahead we will discover that the real issue was their disobedience. Rather than fight, they were making allegiances and alliances with the people and worshiping their gods. The people of God had become highly selective in their obedience to God’s command. They were making executive decisions about what they would and would not do. And as a result, they were experiencing limited success. In fact, verses 27-36 record failure after failure on the part of Israel in driving the inhabitants from the land.

…Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean…

…but they did not drive them out completely…

…Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites…

…Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron…

…Ahser did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco…

…Napthali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh…

And on it goes. The situation in the Promised Land will continue to degrade until God has to intervene and rescue His people yet again – time and time again. The book of Judges is a record of the period of the judges. Who were these individuals? Were they prophets, pseudo-kings, or military leaders? To help us get a better grasp on the role these people played in the lives of Gods people, take a few minutes to read what John Bright has to say about them:

Though the judge enjoyed great prestige, he was in no sense a king. His authority was neither absolute, nor permanent, nor in any case hereditary; it rested solely in those personal qualities (the charisma) that gave evidence that he was the man of Yahweh’s spirit. It was a type of authority perfectly expressive of the faith and constitution of early Israel: the God-King’s direct leadership of his people through his spirit-designated representative. . . .

The judges were by no means men of identical character. Some (e.g., Gideon) rose to their task at the behest of a profound experience of divine vocation; one (Jephthah) was no better than a bandit who knew how to strike a canny bargain; one (Samson) was an engaging rogue whose fabulous strength and bawdy pranks became legendary. None, so far as we know, ever led a united Israel into battle. All, however, seem to have had this in common: they were men who, stepping to the fore in times of danger, by virtue only of those personal qualities (charisma) which gave evidence to their fellows that Yahweh’s spirit was upon them, rallied the clans against the foe. – John Bright, A History of Israel

So as we read through the book of Judges, keep your eyes open for God’s faithfulness. Look out for examples of His sovereign grace and mercy. Watch how He rescues His own even in the midst of their rebellion. He is faithful. And look at the ways in which he uses ordinary men to accomplish extraordinary tasks. Just like He longs to do today.

Father, as we read through the book of Judges, give us eyes to see You. Don’t let us read it as ancient history, but as an up-to-date glimpse into Your heart. You are still gracious and merciful. We are still rebellious and disobedient. And You continue to rescue us from the results of our own unfaithfulness. Make that reality come alive to us in the days ahead.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Joshua 24

When Good Intentions Are Not Enough

“So honor the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone.” ­– Joshua 24:14 NLT

I think they meant well. The Israelites that is. They had been challenged by Joshua to serve God and serve Him alone, and their response was a strong affirmative. They all gave Joshua a thumbs up and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.” (Joshua 24:16 NASB). Twice in chapter 24 they swear to worship God alone – even after Joshua somewhat pessimistically warns them, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and sins” (Joshua 24:19 NLT). But they assure him that they will. And I think they meant it. They sincerely wanted to serve God alone. But the problem was that they still had idols they were worshiping in place of or in addition to God. I think it is interesting that they never seem to come right out and say that they are willing to worship GOD alone. While a few of the translations add this word, it does not seem to appear in the original manuscripts. So the people seem to conveniently leave out the word “only” or “alone” when assuring Joshua that they will serve God. They seem to be leaving themselves an out – a way to keep their existing gods while assuring Joshua that they will serve Yahweh as well.

Joshua seems to sense this when he tells them to, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel” (Joshua 24:23 NLT). He knew that they were going to have a hard time giving up their idols, their substitutes for the one true God. They wanted both. They wanted the freedom to worship God, but also keep their alternative gods carefully tucked away in their tents – just in case. It’s kind of like us saying that we will trust God to provide for us, but all the while we keep checking on the status of our 401k or mutual fund, just to make sure that we have something else to fall back on in case God doesn’t come through for us. Sure, we’ll worship God, but we want to make sure we have other options when it comes to meeting our daily needs.

Joshua warned the people that God is a holy God and a jealous God. He doesn’t like to play seconds. He doesn’t like being an option. He wants His people to serve Him wholeheartedly, in sincerity and truth, totally committed, showing loyalty and not allowing anyone or anything else to compete for our love or attention. But we allow so many things to stand as replacements for God. We put all kinds of things in His place, turning to them for comfort, assurance, hope, help, power, rescue, joy, contentment, and a sense of peace. God made it clear in the opening verses of this chapter all that He had done for the people of Israel. Over and over again He said, “I gave,” “I sent,” “I brought,” “I delivered,” and “I destroyed.” From the day He had called Abraham out of Ur, He had been leading, guiding, protecting and providing for them in incredible ways. He deserved their sold-out allegiance, their non-distracted commitment to Him and Him alone. But they would struggle with faithfulness for generations to come. Just as we do. James gives us a powerful warning in his letter about allowing anything to come between our love for God. He is as jealous for us as He was for the people of Israel. “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, jealously longs for us to be faithful?” (James 4:4-5 NLT).

So are you friendly with the world? Is your aim to enjoy this world and all it has to offer? If so, then James says you can’t be a friend of God. Sound a bit harsh, doesn’t it? But God jealously longs for us to be faithful and He knows how easily it is for us to become distracted by the things of this world. Maybe its time for a reality check. What ARE we worshiping other than God? What are the idols in our life? Are we willing to remove them?

Father, I say I worship You and You alone, but the truth is, I have so many things that compete for my love and attention. They show up as the things I worry about, think about, stress over, and spend my time with. In giving them my valuable time and attention, I am in essence worshiping them. I am giving them something of value that I should be reserving for You. Give me the ability to recognize the idols in my life and the strength to remove them. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Joshua 22-23

Cling to the Lord.

 

But you are to cling to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.” ­– Joshua 23:8 NASB

Joshua is growing old. The people are in the land, but have yet to take possession of all that God has given them. Several times in these two chapters Joshua refers to the land “which remains.” God had given them enough land to take over as their numbers grew. He had taken into account their future as well as their present needs. But because they had not yet occupied all the land, there were still other nations remaining in those areas. Joshua warns the people not to grow intimate with these people. “So be strong! Be very careful to follow all the instructions written in the Book of the Law of Moses. Do not deviate from them in any way. Make sure you do not associate with the other people still remaining in the land. Do not even mention the names of their gods, much less swear by them or worship them” (Joshua 23:6-7 NLT). Joshua knew that the people would be tempted to not only allow these other nations to remain, but to grow comfortable with their presence and even learn to accept their ways and their worship. So he strongly warns them of the consequences of their actions.

Joshua spends a good part of his address to the people reminding them of all that God has done for them. The Lord had given them rest from all their enemies on every side. It was the Lord who had been fighting for them all this time. God would continue to give them victory over their enemies as long as they remained faithful to Him, keeping His commands and expressing love to Him through their obedience. God had remained faithful, but He expected Israel to do the same.

“If Israel does not do her part, then God will not do his. Here is the danger of freedom. God seeks man’s free response of love. God does his part to deserve and receive such love. God does not force his attentions upon man. But the man who ignores God’s claims finds God’s punishment.” – Trent C. Butler, Joshua

Because we live in a dispensation of grace, we sometimes fail to realize how serious God is about faithfulness in His people. We relish His grace and count on His constant forgiveness. We love the idea that our future salvation is guaranteed and we can’t do anything to screw it up. But that assurance can lead to a kind of complacence. We can become casual in our obedience and a little too familiar with this world. Joshua warned the Israelites of how dangerous this would be for them. But is it any less dangerous for us? No, we will not lose our salvation, but we can miss out on all that God has promised for us. John warns us as believers, “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. or the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world.” (1 John 2:15-16 NLT). Jesus Himself prayed on our behalf, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world any more than I am. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth.” (John 17:15-17 NLT).

We are not to grow cozy with the world in which we live. We are not to take on the characteristics of this world system. Instead, we are to be set apart. We are to be in the world, but not of it. We are to be agents of influence, not the influenced. Like the Israelites, we are to be God’s representatives in a land where He is not worshiped or esteemed. We are to be His people, living according to His will and illustrating what it means to walk according to His way. No, we need not fear His cursing of us, but we should fear living outside of His will. Falling in love with the world should be the farthest thing from our minds when we consider all that He has done, is doing, and has promised to do for us in the future. Even in the midst of all the temptations and influences to be unfaithful, we should cling to the Lord. He is our help, our hope, and our faithful God.

Father, I want to learn to cling to You. But instead I tend to cling to the things this world offers up as replacements for You. Forgive me for my lack of faithfulness and my complacency. I have become far too casual in my relationship with You. I don’t want Your love for me to cause me to lose my respect and awe of You. Never let me grow so casual that I become complacent. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Joshua 20-21

The Faithfulness of God.

“Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” ­– Joshua 21:45 NASB

Sometimes we fail to recognize the faithfulness of God. In fact, we oftentimes doubt it and complain that God is not doing His part. We take a look at our circumstances and determine that God has not done for us what we assumed He could or should do. If we find ourselves going through difficulty, we assume that it is NOT from God, and therefore He has dropped the ball and inadvertently allowed the difficulty to take place. At other times we may feel like God is nowhere to be found. He is absent or preoccupied with other things and too busy to help us. Or perhaps we think that God is angry with us and has decided to punish us for something we have done or haven’t done. In all these cases, we fail to understand the unfailing faithfulness of God. The end of chapter 21 of Joshua is a welcome reminder that we serve a faithful God who never fails to follow through on His promises.

Joshua reminds his readers that God had done all He had promised to do. “So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies” (Joshua 21:41-44 NLT). Now the reality was that they had not yet occupied ALL the land. There were not enough Israelites available to take possession of all the land that existed. But they had taken possession of great portions of the land, and as the previous chapters indicate, they had divided up the land between all the tribes, including the Levites. Now it was up to the Israelites to do their part. God had done His. In verse 45 Joshua seems to be illustrating the fact that God had been faithful to His promises up to that point in time. He had promised possession of the land, rest on every side, and victory over enemies. And the truth was, Israel had experienced all of these to some degree. God had been faithful to the “good promises” He had made to them when they had prepared to cross the Jordan (Joshua1:1-9).

God had been faithful and would continue to be so. The only reason the Israelites would not take possession of some of the land would be due to their own infidelity, not God’s. Any future conflicts with their enemies in the land would be their own fault, not God’s. God had given them the land and victory over their enemies. It was up to the Israelites, by faith, to make it a reality. But they would prove to be unfaithful. Just like we tend to be. We don’t lack peace and joy because God is unfaithful to provide it, but because we turn to anything and everything else to get it, other than God. It is ours for the taking, but we will only find it in Him. Chapter 21 tells how the Israelites gave portions of their land and cities to the Levites, the priestly family. This assured that priests were close by all throughout the land. The priests were to instruct the people in regard to the Law of God and help them keep it. In Shiloh, the tabernacle was erected, the place where God’s presence dwelt. Shiloh was in the middle of the Promised Land. So God’s presence was always in the middle of the people of Israel. God’s priests were always close at hand. They had no excuse for not following God. But they would do so any way, and on a regular basis. But so do we. God has given us His Word, He has provided us with places of worship and ministers to instruct us in His Word. But we still turn to other things for comfort, happiness, and significance. God has been faithful to us, but we regularly reveal our unfaithfulness to Him. If only we could open our eyes and recognize His presence and power in our midst. He is there. He is faithful.

Father, help me grow in my awareness of Your unfailing faithfulness. I have no reason to doubt You. You are a constant presence in my life – whether I see You or not. You are there and You care. Your promises are as good as fulfilled. Even your promise of eternal life. It is a done deal. Nothing can change it. Thank You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Joshua 18-19

Possess the Land.

“How long will you put off entering the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? – Joshua 18:3b NASB

The land had been promised by God. Now all they had to do was take possession of all that had been given to them. Without doing so the inheritance would remain unofficial. It had to be received, possessed, and appreciated. But seven of the 12 tribes still stood around waiting to take what had been given to them by God. The land had been subdued (Joshua 18:1), but unoccupied. So Joshua confronts the remaining tribes and asks them a somewhat uncomfortable question: “How long will you put off entering the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? (Joshua 18:3b). “What are you waiting for?,” he seems to ask them. “Why are you procrastinating?” “What’s keeping you from enjoying what God has already given you?

Those same questions could be asked of you and me today. Like the Israelites, we have incredible promises made to us by God. We are heirs of God with access to everything from peace and joy to abundant life and contentment. We have the promise of His constant presence through the indwelling Spirit. We have the promise of His power. We have the promise of His provision. Yet we fail to take advantage of all the promises of God. We live like paupers instead of princes in the land. There is so much waiting for us, yet we seem content to settle for less. We have learned to accept a weak and powerless brand of Christianity that is far from what God has promised. That may be why so many of our lost friends, neighbors, and co-workers are turned off by what we offer up as the “good news” to them. There is far more at our disposal than we are taking advantage of. We have become satisfied with a steady diet of beans and weenies when we have a sumptuous banquet right at our fingertips. We have put off entering the land.

It’s interesting that right in the midst of all this, we read about the tent of meeting or tabernacle being set up in Shiloh. The name literally means, “place of rest.” God had given His people the promise of His abiding presence. And His presence was to dwell wherever the tabernacle was erected. So when they set it up in Shiloh, the place of rest, there seems to be a not-to-subtle reminder that God’s presence and rest go hand in hand. The sanctuary of God was to be right in the middle of the people of God. So they set up the tabernacle in the central hill country – smack dab in the middle of the land allotments to the various tribes. The presence of God should bring the peace and rest of God. He is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is there to empower us.

When we fail to “possess the land” we fail to enjoy the full extent of His presence and peace. We live in weakness and fear. We fall prey to the powers and the worries of this world. He is there, but we do not sense or see Him. He is with us, but instead of the peace of His presence, we suffer from a feeling of aloneness and emptiness. Both of these we attempt to fill with other things. But God is offering us a place of rest. He is offering us the power of His presence. He is offering us joy in the midst of the battle. But we must take possession of what He has given us – in faith.

Father, forgive me for failing to take possession of what You have already provided. I don’t enjoy Your peace. I fail to live with a sense of contentment and joy. I don’t recognize and utilize the power You have made available to me through the Holy Spirit. I live too often like a pauper instead of a prince. I act like a squatter in the land instead of an heir of the king with the full rights and privileges that come as one of Your sons. Help me to step out in faith and take hold of all that You have put at my disposal. Let it begin today. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Joshua 16-17

When Almost Isn’t Good Enough.

“But the descendants of Manasseh were unable to occupy these towns. They could not drive out the Canaanites who continued to live there. Later on, however, when the Israelites became strong enough, they forced the Canaanites to work as slaves. But they did not drive them out of the land.Joshua 17:12-13 NLT

They couldn’t drive out the Canaanites. That little statement speaks volumes. Their inability or unwillingness to completely exterminate the Canaanites from the land would come back to haunt them. It didn’t really matter that they would occasionally make them slaves. They were supposed to purge them from the land. And they didn’t. However big or small this remnant of Canaanites was, they would continue to have a negative influence on the people of Israel. It would be like attempting to break a nasty drug habit all the while keeping an assortment of drugs in your pantry. The likelihood of you remaining “drug free” would be minimal at best. The same was going to prove true for the Israelites. They would find themselves constantly harassed and negatively impacted by the presence of these people. No matter how much Israel may have felt that they had the Canaanites conquered, their presence would prove to be a continual problem.

What a reminder to you and me about the sin in our own lives. We can learn to tolerate it and live with it – rationalizing it away. But sin is sin and its presence will have consequences. That is why it is so critical for us to deal with it seriously and often. Which is why John encourages us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NASB).

Father, forgive me for the many times I have allowed the “Canaanite” to  remain the land. Help me see the seriousness and the dangerousness of sin in my life. Don’t allow me to grow complacent of comfortable with it – no matter how small I may think it is. Help me to see it, acknowledge it, and confess it on a regular basis. Give me the strength to remove it from my life with Your help. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org