God Provides.

Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters, and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They approached Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our brothers.” So according to the mouth of the Lord he gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father. Thus there fell to Manasseh ten portions, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is on the other side of the Jordan, because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance along with his sons. The land of Gilead was allotted to the rest of the people of Manasseh.

The territory of Manasseh reached from Asher to Michmethath, which is east of Shechem. Then the boundary goes along southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but the town of Tappuah on the boundary of Manasseh belonged to the people of Ephraim. Then the boundary went down to the brook Kanah. These cities, to the south of the brook, among the cities of Manasseh, belong to Ephraim. Then the boundary of Manasseh goes on the north side of the brook and ends at the sea, 10 the land to the south being Ephraim’s and that to the north being Manasseh’s, with the sea forming its boundary. On the north Asher is reached, and on the east Issachar. 11 Also in Issachar and in Asher Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages, and Ibleam and its villages, and the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; the third is Naphath. 12 Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 13 Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.

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 17:3-18 ESV

1200px-The_Daughters_of_Zelophehad.jpg

When reading the Scriptures, there will be times when certain names and events are mentioned that seem to come out of nowhere and make no sense in the context. Today’s passage is a case in point. As the author describes the allotment of the land of Canaan to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph, he suddenly mentions the five daughters of Zelophehad. He even provides the names of the five women: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And it’s almost as if he expects his audience to be well acquainted with these women and their story. Seemingly, out of nowhere, these women appear, making what appears to be a very bold demand of Joshua, Eleazar the priest and the leadership of Israel.

The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our brothers. – Joshua 17:4 ESV

This is one of those situations where, if we are not familiar with the rest of the Scriptures, we will find it difficult to understand what is going on. Are these women making up their story? Have they joined forces to fabricate a lie in an attempt to deceive Joshua and finagle a portion of the land for themselves? First of all, it is important to understand the situation in which these women found themselves. They were the sole remaining heirs of their father. He had no sons. And in that culture, the inheritance passed down through the sons. So, any allotment of land would have gone to the sons of Zelophehad, not his daughters. But years earlier, these women had seen the handwriting on the wall and had understood that with their father’s eventual death, they would be left unprotected and unprovided for. And when the people finally entered the land of Canaan, they would have no right to a portion of the land. So, they had appealed to Moses, Eleazer the priest and the leadership of Israel.

1 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”

Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter. And if he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 And if he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. And it shall be for the people of Israel a statute and rule, as the Lord commanded Moses.’” Numbers 27:1-11 ESV

Their father had died in the wilderness, leaving them, in a sense, destitute. They were unmarried and without the protection and provision of a male figure in their lives, a necessary requirement in their culture. But they had been brave and bold enough to appeal their case to Moses and the leadership of Israel. And Moses had wisely taken their case to God. Their whole argument was based on the fact that their father had been a good man and his death had not been the result of sin against God. So, why should the legacy of his name fail to carry on just because he had daughters instead of sons? And God agreed with the logic behind their argument, telling Joshua, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them” (Numbers 27:7 ESV). Not only that, God used their case as a precedence for a new law concerning inheritance. From that point forward, the inheritance of any man who had no sons, was to pass on to his daughters. And if a man was childless, his inheritance was to go to his brothers. If he had no brothers, it was to go to his uncles. And if he had no uncles, his inheritance was to go to his nearest living relative. God had taken the plea of these five women and turned it into case law, providing for His people a statutory requirement concerning the issue of inheritance. 

It is important to notice that these women were the ones who came to Joshua and reminded him of the decision handed down by Moses as he had received it from God. Had they not spoken up, there is a good chance that they may have forfeited their right to a portion of the land. These woman showed extreme faith by making their initial appeal to Moses, but also in bringing their God-decreed right to their father’s inheritance before Joshua, Eleazar and the leadership of Israel. And their faith and fearlessness to stand up for their rights was rewarded with “an inheritance among the brothers of their father” (Joshua 17:4 ESV). We can only imagine that this decision was not well-received by their uncles. When Joshua apportioned part of the land to these five women, the brothers of Zelophehad lost out. Their portion of the inheritance diminished as a result of the womens’ request. But it was their God-given right to enjoy their fair-share of the inheritance and enjoy the blessings of the land promised by God. 

The story of the daughters of Zelophehad is the positive side of this chapter. But then the chapter ends with a somewhat sad recounting of the descendants of Joseph, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, coming to Joshua and complaining about the inadequacy of their allotment of land. Perhaps it was based on God’s decree to give a portion of their land to the five sisters. But whatever the case, the descendants of Joseph demanded that they were too large in number to live in the land that they had been given. But part of their problem was that they viewed portions of the land as uninhabitable. Part of it was occupied by well-armed Canaanites. The rest was forested and would require work on their part to clear and cultivate it. But Joshua challenged them to do just that. Not only that, he expected them to do what God had commanded them to do and drive out the Canaanites from the land. Yes, the land was filled with enemies and part of it was covered by forests, but it was not a case of too little land, but too little faith on the part of the people of Joseph. Trees can be cut down and Canaanites can be defeated. What God had given to them was more than enough. But the full enjoyment of their inheritance was going to require that they do their part. Joshua reminded them that they had been blessed by God and were “a numerous people and have great power” (Joshua 17:17 ESV). They saw their size as a problem, but Joshua challenged them to see it as a blessing from God. Their superior numbers would give them an advantage over their enemies, and a workforce large enough to clear the trees and cultivate the land. God had adequately provided for their needs. But they were going to have to make the most out of the gift given to them by God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Advertisements

Our Good God.

1 The allotment of the people of Joseph went from the Jordan by Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, into the wilderness, going up from Jericho into the hill country to Bethel. Then going from Bethel to Luz, it passes along to Ataroth, the territory of the Archites. Then it goes down westward to the territory of the Japhletites, as far as the territory of Lower Beth-horon, then to Gezer, and it ends at the sea.

The people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance.

The territory of the people of Ephraim by their clans was as follows: the boundary of their inheritance on the east was Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon, and the boundary goes from there to the sea. On the north is Michmethath. Then on the east the boundary turns around toward Taanath-shiloh and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah, then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, and touches Jericho, ending at the Jordan. From Tappuah the boundary goes westward to the brook Kanah and ends at the sea. Such is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Ephraim by their clans, together with the towns that were set apart for the people of Ephraim within the inheritance of the Manassites, all those towns with their villages. 10 However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.

1 Then allotment was made to the people of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war. And allotments were made to the rest of the people of Manasseh by their clans, Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida. These were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph, by their clans.Joshua 16:1-17:2 ESV

ad503-mapjos1617.jpgThe author now addresses the inheritance of the descendants of Joseph, the son of Jacob who had been sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. In spite of Joseph’s ill-treatment by his brothers, God blessed Joseph, sovereignly ordaining his rise to the second highest position of power in the land of Egypt. It would be Joseph who would be used by God to preserve the lives of his father and brothers when they were forced to turn to Egypt for aid when a famine struck the land of Canaan. When his brothers discovered that Joseph, who they had long considered as dead, was Pharaoh’s right-hand man, they were petrified. But Joseph had assured them that God had divinely orchestrated every event in his life for a much greater purpose.

7 “And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 45:7-8 ESV

And later on, Joseph reconfirmed to his brothers his unwavering belief that God had been behind all that had taken place, so that each and every one of Jacob’s sons would remain alive.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. – Genesis 50:20 ESV

God had made a commitment to Jacob, the father of Joseph, that He would bless him and give him many descendants who would live in the land of promise. And, on his deathbed, Jacob confirmed his belief in God’s promise, choosing to bless the two sons of Joseph, born to him in Egypt. In essence, Jacob adopted his two grandsons making them his own and promising to give them a portion of the inheritance of the land.

1 After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.’” – Genesis 48:1-6 ESV

More than four centuries later, the 12 tribes of Israel (the sons of Jacob) were in the land promised to Jacob by God. And Joshua was in the process of dividing the land between the tribes. And in keeping with Jacob’s promise to include Ephraim and Manasseh in the inheritance, Joshua awarded a large portion of the land to the descendants of these two men.

Throughout this story, the sovereign hand of God is clearly visible. Had not God prospered Joseph in the land of Egypt, miraculously orchestrating his rise to power, the remainder of his family would have died of starvation in Canaan. God’s original covenant, made to Abraham, was seemingly jeopardized by the sinful acts of Joseph’s brothers. They had sold Joseph into slavery because they were jealous of him. They knew he was their father’s favorite son, and it didn’t help that Joseph had shared with them the content of several dreams he had experienced. In those dreams, Joseph had seen his father, mother and brothers bowing down to him. And Joseph’s disclosure of that news hadn’t won him any favors with his brothers. But the dreams were actually God-given visions of what was to come. His father, mother and brothers did eventually bow down before him, recognizing him as a powerful ruler in Egypt and the arbiter of their fate.

God had remained faithful to His covenant with Abraham. He had also kept the commitment He had made to Jacob, allowing he and his sons to find salvation from the famine in Canaan, by providing them with rest in the land of Egypt. And all of this was in fulfillment of the prophecy He had made to Abraham hundreds of years earlier.

13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” – Genesis 15:13-16 ESV

God had ordained the famine in the land. He had pre-planned Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt. And He had orchestrated the 400-year period of exile in Egypt for the descendants of Jacob. Four generations of Israelites would live in the land of Egypt before God determined it was time for them to leave and inherit the land promised to Abraham. All of this was part of His divine plan. The timing was perfect. And it was all because God was willing to keep His covenant promises, in spite of the disobedience of His chosen people. The apostle Paul recognized the sovereign hand of God in his own life, and was able to see His will being accomplished through the ups and downs and the setbacks and seeming successes of life. Which is why he could write:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 ESV

The descendants of Joseph were provided with a place in the land of promise. They were given a portion of the inheritance among the brothers of Joseph who had sold him into slavery out of jealousy. What they had meant for evil, God had meant for good. What they had done in order to bring harm to their brother, God used to bring blessing to their brother’s sons and their descendants. God works all things together for good.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

In Fulfillment of a Promise.

So Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night. And he commanded them, “Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you remain ready. And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us just as before, we shall flee before them. And they will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the city. For they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, just as before.’ So we will flee before them. Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city, for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. And as soon as you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire. You shall do according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” So Joshua sent them out. And they went to the place of ambush and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai, but Joshua spent that night among the people.

10 Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11 And all the fighting men who were with him went up and drew near before the city and encamped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. 12 He took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley. 14 And as soon as the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the men of the city, hurried and went out early to the appointed place toward the Arabah to meet Israel in battle. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16 So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. 17 Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 And the men in the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and as soon as he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it. And they hurried to set the city on fire. 20 So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. 21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22 And the others came out from the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side. And Israel struck them down, until there was left none that survived or escaped. 23 But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him near to Joshua.

24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai. 26 But Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai to destruction. 27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their plunder, according to the word of the Lord that he commanded Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. 29 And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day. Joshua 8:3-29 ESV

Bethel and AiBefore we take a look at the second battle for the capture of Ai, it is important that we recognize the importance of this particular region of the land. We know that Ai is the city Joshua intends to attack, but the text also mentions Bethel (vs 17). Bethel was a nearby city that had evidently formed some kind of alliance with Ai, agreeing to come to their aid in the event of an attack by enemy forces. Soldiers from Bethel were part of the army that attacked the Israelites in an attempt to route them a second time. But why is this important? These two cities play an important role in the history of Israel. They provide direct ties all the way back to the days of Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people. Abraham, then known as Abram, had been called by God out of his hometown of Ur, and sent to the land of Canaan, which God had promised as his inheritance. And when Abraham had arrived in the land, he came to the very location where Joshua and his troops were about to do battle.

From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. – Genesis 12:8 ESV

Abraham had built an altar to God in this very spot. But due to a famine in the land, Abraham was force to flee to Egypt. In time, he returned, a very rich and prosperous man, and he came back to this same spot.

And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord. – Genesis 13:3-4 ESV

Many years later, Jacob, one of the grandsons of Abraham, would find himself in this very same place. He was on his way to a place called Paddan-aram, sent by his father Isaac, in order to escape the wrath of his brother, Esau. Jacob, with help from his mother, had tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing of the firstborn, rightfully belonging to Esau. Having robbed Esau of his birthright, Jacob was forced to live with his uncle. And yet, in spite of his use of deceit to get what was not rightfully his, God appeared to Jacob in a dream and spoke to him.

13 “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” – Genesis 28:13-15 ESV

God had reaffirmed the promise made to Abraham many years earlier. And Jacob memorialized the spot on which he had the vision.

18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel… – Genesis 28:18-19 ESV

So, this location held significant meaning for the people of Israel. After 400 years in captivity and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, they were standing at the very spot where their forefathers had built an altar and a memorial to God. This land was theirs by right, according to the promise of God. Ai and Bethel were not just two arbitrary cities that happened to stand in the way of Israel’s conquest of the land. They were important landmarks that provided a link to Israel’s past and a reminder of God’s covenant promise to make of them a great nation and to provide for them a land.

Back to the battle. This time, Joshua was careful to do things God’s way. They had removed the sin from their midst, having stoned Achan and his family for his crime of disobeying God’s ban on taking plunder from Jericho. Now, they could move ahead with God’s battle plan for taking Ai. It involved a bit of subterfuge, taking advantage of the over-confidence of the people of Ai, since they had easily routed the Israelites in their first confrontation. But this time, Joshua divided his army up, sending a portion of his troops to wait in ambush on the other side of the city while he and the rest of his force marched toward the city as if to attack it a second time. The plan was simple. They would draw out the forces from Ai and then feign a retreat as soon as the enemy exited the walls of the city. This allowed the troops in hiding to enter its open gates and capture the city. They set fires that acted as a signal to Joshua and his troops, who then turned on the men of Ai and Bethel. Surprised by the sudden display of aggression on the part of the Israelites and seeing the smoke rising out of their city, the men of Ai and their allies from Bethel lost heart and were completely annihilated. Not a man was left alive. And the city fell that day, with every single citizen put to the sword.

As grim and gruesome as this scene appears to our modern sensibilities, we must not overlook that this entire affair was according to the will of God. He had clearly told Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand” (Joshua 8:18 ESV). God had promised to give the land on which Ai sat as an inheritance to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And now, God had promised to give the city of Ai to Joshua.

“Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land.” – Joshua 8:1 ESV

But God knew that the removal of the inhabitants of the land was critical if the people of Israel were going to remain pure and totally dedicated to God. God had warned Moses not to make alliances with the people of the land, because He knew what would happen if they did.

12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. – Exodus 34:12-16 ESV

And we will see that, in time, the people of Israel will fail to consistently keep this command of God. As the book of Joshua unfolds, we will witness the Israelites disobeying the will of God and choosing to spare the inhabitants of the land. They will make compromises and concessions, even intermarrying with the Canaanites, Amorites and other people groups. And as a result, they will find themselves worshiping their false gods.

But the battle of Ai was a rousing success. God gave them the victory, just as He had at Jericho. They had been obedient and God had blessed. And God had been faithful to the promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The question is, will the people of Israel be faithful to God?

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

How Long Must I Wait?

After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh. – Genesis 41:1-8 ESV

Even for those of us who believe that God is in control and sovereign over all things, we sometimes lose patience when it comes to His sense of timing. We tell ourselves that He is at work behind the scenes and has a plan in place, but then we wonder what is taking Him so long to put that plan into place. The story of the life of Joseph should be a great reminder to us that God’s will for us may not always match our own, and the manner in which He intervenes in our trials may be anything but timely.

Chapter 40 ended with the words, “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (Genesis 40:23 ESV). Joseph had interpreted the cupbearer’s dream and all he asked in return was that the cupbearer remember him and share his plight with Pharaoh. But then, chapter 41 opens up with the words, “After two whole years…” (Genesis 41:1a ESV). The space between these two chapters represents two full years of Joseph’s life. We are given no details of what went on during that time. He more than likely remained in charge of the other prisoners because he had found favor in the eyes of the warden (Genesis 39:21-22). But we are given no glimpse into the state of Joseph’s emotional or spiritual health during this time. Was he depressed? Had he become defeated and disillusioned with God over his long incarceration. We would understand if he had, because he was innocent. He had done nothing wrong. Even as we read the opening words of chapter 41, we find ourselves asking the question, “Why two years?” Surely, God could have moved faster and done something sooner to change Joseph’s circumstances.

But the story of Joseph is really the story of God’s sovereignty and providence. It has less to do with the specifics going on in Joseph’s life than it does with what God is doing behind the scenes as He orchestrates His plan to fulfill the promise He had made to Abraham.

I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.– Genesis 12:2 NLT

It is the same promise He repeated to Isaac.

Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. – Genesis 26:2-4 NLT

Isaac would then pass on this promise in the form of a blessing to his son, Jacob.

May God Almighty bless you and give you many children. And may your descendants multiply and become many nations! May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings he promised to Abraham. May you own this land where you are now living as a foreigner, for God gave this land to Abraham. – Genesis 28:3-4 NLT

And Jacob’s son, Joseph, was going to be instrumental in God fulfilling that promise. When Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers, his family had been living in the land of Canaan. But they did not yet possess the land. It belonged to the Canaanites and an assortment of other people groups. Like his grandfather and father before him, Jacob was more or less a nomad or wanderer in the land. The promise of God had yet to be fully realized. And one could ask the same question: “What is taking God so long?” The delay seems unnecessary. After all, He is God. He can do what He wants, whenever and however He wants. But who are we to question the wisdom of God? The prophet Isaiah gives us some much-needed advice:

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’” – Isaiah 45:9 NLT

And God provides us with His own thoughts regarding our audacity to question His wisdom, timing, or methods.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 56:8-9 NLT

Joseph had to remain in prison two full years. Why? God does not tell us. But His ways are beyond anything we could imagine. Even if He told us, we would not understand. What right do we have to question His motives or methodologies? How arrogant and prideful for us to suggest that God might somehow be doing things wrong.

Joseph was sold by his brothers. He was falsely accused and thrown in prison. He was all but forgotten for two years. Job suffered the loss of all of his children, his wealth and even his health. Stephen was stone to death for sharing the gospel. Paul spent the majority of his most productive ministry years in prison. Jesus was hung on a cross for a crime He didn’t commit. The Bible is full of injustices and what appear to be apparent lapses in God’s sovereignty and power. But the story of the Bible is one of God’s divine plan being played out over time in perfect detail and according to His infinite wisdom. We may not understand it or even like it, but we can trust that God knows what He is doing. Joseph’s two-year wait was purposeful, not regretable. God’s delay was intentional, not insensitive. There is always a reason behind God’s seeming madness. There is a purpose behind all that seems purposeless and meaningless.

“After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed…” The wait was over. The divine plan was being unveiled. At just the right time. No sooner. No later. This story is about far more than Joseph’s imprisonment. It is about the promises of God and His faithful, unwavering commitment to do what He says He will do.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
 – Numbers 23:19 ESV

 

 

God’s Unbreakable Promise.

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. – Galatians 3:15-18 ESV

As a former Pharisee, Paul had a scholarly understanding of the Old Testament. But it was after his conversion, when he had received the indwelling Holy Spirit, that Paul truly began to understand that the Old Testament was a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Post-conversion, his comprehension of the Scriptures was both magnified and clarified. Familiar passages took on a whole new meaning when he was able to view to view them through the lens of the gospel. In the case of Genesis 13:15 and 17:8, where Moses records God’s covenant to Abraham, Paul exegetes these all-too-familiar passages by revealing that through them, God had been promising the coming of Christ. He was the “seed” or “offspring” through whom all the nations would be blessed. God’s promise to Abraham would ultimately be fulfilled through Jesus. But what is Paul’s point in bringing this new interpretation or understanding of God’s promise to light? He was attempting to answer the argument that the Mosaic law, which came after the giving of the promise by God to Abraham, somehow superceded or supplanted it.

On the contrary, Paul argues, God had made a binding covenant with Abraham and his “offspring.” That God-ordained covenant could not be nullified or broken. It was a unilateral covenant, made by God and could only be annulled by God. But Paul argues that at no point did God revoke or replace the covenant, even when He had given Moses the law some 430 years afterwards. In fact, Paul points out, the inheritance tied to the promise of God could be received only through the promise of God. It was not accessible any other way, especially not through the keeping of the law. And the inheritance of which Paul speaks is tied directly to the idea of justification by faith. This was the crux of the problem taking place among the Galatian believers. They were being told that their justification was tied to the keeping of the law, most specifically to God’s command regarding circumcision. In other words, they were being sold a bill of goods that promised them a right standing before God through law-keeping and self-effort, not faith in Christ alone.

Paul wrote to the Colossian believers:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:11-14 ESV

He prayed for the Ephesian…

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints – Ephesians 1:17-18 ESV

For Paul, the promise of God made to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ, was all about the wonderful reality of a restored relationship with God, for both Jews and Gentiles. And this incredible gift was only available through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It could not be attained through self-effort. Paul went on to tell the Ephesian believers that he wanted them to understand

what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… – Ephesians 1:19-20 ESV

Our salvation, justification, sanctification and glorification are all tied to the work of Christ on our behalf. Our righteousness comes from Christ. Our right standing before God is as a result of His shed blood. Our future inheritance is tied His sacrificial death on the cross. All that we are and all that we hope to have is based on the finished work of Christ. And for that we have much to be grateful.

Fully Convinced.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. – Romans 4:18-25 ESV

Belief does not come without its obstacles. It does not go unopposed or unchallenged. The author of Hebrews gives us great working definition: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). It is not a timid thing. It is not half-in kind of a commitment. It requires confidence and assurance, both of which must be firmly placed in God, not the thing for which we are hoping. Earlier in chapter four, Paul wrote, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3 ESV). Paul was quoting from the Old Testament account found in Genesis 15, where God promised Abraham, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5 ESV). And it says that Abraham believed God. He took Him at His word. But Abraham had plenty of reasons to doubt God. He had just offered an alternative plan, suggesting that God consider using one of his male servants as his heir. The problem, as Abraham saw it, was that he was old and his wife was barren. He believed that God was going to do what He had promised, but he just wasn’t sure how. That is why Paul says, “in hope he believed against hope.” The New Living Translation puts it this way: “Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations.”

Abraham had every reason to doubt. His situation and circumstances shouted out to him daily, “This is hopeless!” All he had to do was take a look around and the evidence would suggest that God’s promise was nothing more than a dream. Yet Paul says, “he did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old)” (Romans 4:19 ESV). As long as Abraham looked at his circumstances, he would find himself doubting. But his faith was in something else. Even when he considered the fact that his wife was barren, rather than conclude that God’s promise was null and void, Paul says, “no unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God.” Instead, “he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Romans 4:20 ESV). He was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:21 ESV). His faith was in God. His confidence was in the source of the promise. And Paul says, “this is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:22 ESV).

Martin Luther wrote, “Faith is something that is arduous and difficult. First, it is directed to what a person does not see; indeed, to the very opposite of what one perceives. It seems utterly impossible” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans). Abraham grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God. There is a reciprocal nature to our faith. When we believe and trust in God, He is glorified. And as we believe in Him, our faith is strengthened as we see Him work in ways we could never have imagined. Placing our faith in God provides us with front row seats in which to watch Him work. To believe God is to glorify God. Trusting God increases our faith in God. When we trust Him in spite of the circumstances swirling around us and the doubts welling up within us, we get to see God work. As a result, our faith in Him grows stronger.

Abraham’s faith was in God. Yes, he believed the promise of God, but his faith in the promise was based on the faithfulness of the one who had made the promise. He knew that God was good for it. He would come through. He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. And Paul uses the faith of Abraham as an illustration of the kind of faith we are to have. We are to place our faith in God and His gospel message, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 ESV). And when we “believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification,” our faith is counted to us as righteousness. It is our faith in God and His ability to save us through His Son’s death, burial and resurrection that results in His declaration of our righteousness. We are saved by faith. And while the world will constantly strive to cause us to doubt the veracity of God’s words and to question the reality of the gospel message, we must remain fully convinced and unwaveringly confident in the one who stands behind the promise. Our circumstances will stand against us. The evidence will not be in our favor. Our hopes will begin to waver. But like Abraham, in hope we must believe against hope, and believe that God is able to do what He has promised.

The Footsteps of Faith.

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,  and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. – Romans 4:9-12 ESV

The “blessing” Paul refers to is the one mentioned in the previous two verses, where he quoted directly from Psalm 32:1-2: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” This blessing includes the forgiveness of sin because of the atonement or payment for those sins by another, leaving the one forgiven with no guilt or further remnants of that sin. Paul says that remarkable blessing is not just reserved for the Jews, those he refers to as “the circumcised.” Because the blessing is available to all through faith, just as Abraham’s righteous standing was made possible by his faith. Paul makes it clear that the point at which God declared Abraham righteous was long before he had been given the command by God to institute the right of circumcision among his people. “He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11 ESV). In other words, Abraham’s right standing before God had nothing to do with circumcision. But circumcision had everything to do with his right standing before God. It was to be a symbol of his unique relationship with God that was based on his faith in God. Being circumcised did not make anyone right with God, any more than being baptized makes someone right with God. Both were intended to be outward signs of something that had taken place inwardly. The Jews had turned circumcision into the source of their righteousness, when God had intended it as the sign of their righteousness. Circumcision for God without faith in God was worthless. It meant nothing. Paul stated this truth earlier when he wrote: “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:29 ESV). Over in the book of Jeremiah, God prophetically declared, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh…all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart” (Jeremiah 9:25, 26 ESV).

Paul tells us that God declared Abraham righteous prior to the covenant of circumcision because He intended Abraham to be the father of all who believe “without being circumcised.” The righteousness God was looking for was to based on faith, not works; belief, not obedience to a command. It was not a righteousness that could be earned. It was not a standard to be lived up to. It was to be “a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.” In plain language, it was to be a work of God, not man. It was to provided by God, not man. So that no man could boast or brag.

Back in the book of Jeremiah, we read the words of God as He pleads with His people to return to Him. “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. O people of Judah and Jerusalem, surrender your pride and power. Change your hearts before the Lord, or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire because of all your sins” (Jeremiah 4:3-4 NLT). The people of Judah were guilty of unbelief. They had failed to trust God and believe His promises concerning them. They had gone after other gods. They had made alliances with other nations. They had broken His commands and lived in the false security of their status as God’s chosen people. But what God was calling them to do was impossible for them. They would not be able to surrender their pride and power. They would not have what it was going to take to change their hearts. And God’s punishment was going to come. The would experience His wrath against their sin and rebellion. But God would not annihilate them. He would preserve them. And while He would allow them to fall to their enemies and experience 70 years in captivity, He would also restore them to their land and reestablish them as a people. Why? Because He had made a promise to Abraham. God had told Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3 ESV). He had also promised, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7 ESV). But in the book of Galatians Paul makes a clarifying interpretation to these passages. “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16 ESV). In other words, God’s promise to bless the nations through Abraham was going to be fulfilled through one of his descendants – specifically, Jesus. God made His promise to Abraham long before He gave the law to the people of Israel. And so Paul concludes: “The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise” (Galatians 3:17-18 NLT).

Our righteousness is made possible by faith in the promise of God, just as it was for Abraham. I am not made right with God by trying to live up to God’s standards. I am made right with Him when I recognize my complete inability to meet His criteria for righteousness and place my faith in His plan for my salvation: His Son’s death, burial and resurrection. He died to pay the penalty for my sins. He rose again to prove that His sacrifice was acceptable to God. He took on my sin and gave me His righteousness. All men are made right with God through faith in His Son. And when we place our faith in God’s plan of salvation, we walk in the footsteps of faith laid down by Abraham all those years ago. The righteous shall live by faith.

Who Am I?

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God!” – 2 Samuel 7:18-20 ESV

2 Samuel 7:18-29

David desired to build a temple for God. He had enjoyed great success and his kingdom had grown strong and prosperous. As a show of gratitude, he wanted to construct a suitable house for his God. But Nathan the prophet, under instructions from God Himself, informed David that he would not be building a temple. First, God made it clear that He had never asked for anyone to build Him a permanent dwelling place. “In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’” (2 Samuel 7:7 ESV). Not only that, God told David that He would build his house. But instead of talking about a dwelling place, God was speaking of David’s dynasty or lineage. God told David, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Samuel 7:12-14 ESV). God was speaking of David’s son, Solomon. It would be he who would build the temple David envisioned. But it would be God who made it all possible, providing Solomon with a prosperous and peace-filled reign. And as a final word of promise to David, God said, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 ESV).

While David’s initial reaction to this news was probably disappointment, because he was not going to get to fulfill his dream of building a temple for God, his prayer reflects his amazement and gratitude at the grace of God. His immediate response was one of awe, leading him to ask, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” God had reminded David of how he had gotten to where he was. “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth” (2 Samuel 7:8-9 ESV). David’s rise to prominence had been totally God’s doing. He had taken an obscure shepherd boy and transformed him into a mighty warrior-king. And this reminder led David to wonder out loud why God would have ever chosen him as the recipient of such an amazing blessing. God had done great things for David and that fact had not escaped the king. And now God was promising David a dynasty – an ongoing, unbroken succession of kings who would be his own descendants. This was a first for Israel. Saul had been their first king, but David had succeeded him. Now David was being told, “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 ESV). This was an incredible piece of news for David. He was being promised by God that his throne or kingdom would have no end. David knew that for that to happen, it would have to be the work of God. No dynasty lasted forever. No earthly kingdom went on without interruption or end. So God was promising something extraordinary and seemingly impossible, and David reacted accordingly.

But little did David know what this covenant really meant. God had something far greater in store than even David could imagine. We know that Solomon’s reign would not end well. In fact, his disobedience to God would end up splitting the kingdom in half. The coming years would see a succession of kings, most of whom would not serve the Lord faithfully. Eventually, the northern kingdom of Israel would be defeated and taken captive by the Assyrians. Not long afterwards, the southern kingdom of Judah would fall to the Babylonians. And then there would be a long period of time where no king reigned over Israel. It would appear as if God’s promise to David had failed. But God was not done. It was all part of His divine plan of redemption. Because eventually, He would send His own Son, born to Mary, a descendant of David, making Jesus a legitimate heir to the throne of David. God made this clear to Mary when He gave her news of her unexpected and miraculous pregnancy. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33 ESV).

God had chosen an unknown shepherd boy and made him a king. He chose an obscure peasant girl and making her the mother of the Messiah. God is always the instigator. As Paul reminds us, “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 ESV). No one deserves God’s blessing. No one merits God’s salvation. All of us who have experienced the joy of forgiveness of sins and restoration with God through faith in Jesus Christ could say along with David, “Who am I?” We must never forget our own undeservedness and the reality that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). Our salvation is the work of God and of His Son Jesus Christ. It is not our doing. Which is why we should never cease to be amazed that God chose to extend His love, grace and mercy to us.

2 Chronicles 21-22, 2 Timothy 1

God’s Grand, Unstoppable Plan.

2 Chronicles 21-22, 2 Timothy 1

Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. 2 Chronicles 21:7 ESV

Jehoshaphat died and left the throne to his son, Jehoram. But while Jehoshaphat had been a good king who tried walk in faithful obedience to His God, Jehoram would prove to have inherited little of his father’s religious fervor or love for the things of God. And in a way, Jehoshaphat was to blame for this outcome. We’re told that Jehoshapat “walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4 ESV). Back that doesn’t mean that Jehoshaphat always made the right decision. In chapter 18, we get some insight into a particular decision that would have long-term ramifications. It simply says, “Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor, and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab” (2 Chronicles 18:1 ESV). Sounds innocent enough, until you pick up the story in chapter 21. There we read that Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son, “walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done” (2 Chronicles 21:6 ESV). Why? What influenced this young man to go down that path when his father had been so faithful to God? The text tells us. “For the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 21:6 ESV). That marriage alliance had been between Jehoram and King Ahab’s daughter, and the evil influence of her family would be devastating. So much so, that when Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah would take his place on the throne of Judah. But Ahaziah’s mother, Athaliah, was none other than the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. So when Ahaziah ends up being eliminated by God for his apostasy, Athaliah kills off all the legal heirs to the throne and crowns herself queen. {Now when Athaliah the mother of Azariah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah” (2 Chronicles 22:10 ESV). What should strike you in reading this account is that in doing this, Athaliah had wiped out any possible heir to the throne of David who might make possible God’s promise to place an descendant of David on the throne whose kingdom would last forever.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But God was at work behind the scenes. “But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were about to be put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom” (2 Chronicles 22:11 ESV). God would use this young girl to spare the life of the only heir to the throne of David. She was the wife of Jehoiada the priest and she and her husband would hide Joash in the house of God for six years while Athaliah reigned in Judah. At this point in the story, there is no Davidic king sitting on the throne of Judah. But all is not lost. God is not done. While things look bleak, God is in complete control of the situation. It is important to remember that the chronicler is writing to Jews who have returned to Judah from their captivity in Babylon, and they also found themselves without a Davidic king on the throne. In fact, they had not king at all. They had to place their faith and hope in the promise of God that one day a descendant of David would once again rule from the city of David. In spite of all the sin and spiritual sickness infecting the people of Israel, God was not done yet. Even during the days of Jehoram, when he allowed himself to be influenced by his wife and ended up doing what was evil in God’s sight, we are told,  “Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever” (2 Chronicles 21:7 ESV). God had made a promise and He was going to keep His promise. Paul would later write to Timothy, reminding him, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV). In the books of Numbers we are told, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19 ESV). God is a covenant-keeping God who cannot and will not break His promises.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man cannot thwart the plans and promises of God. While Athaliah thought she was in complete control of the situation, she was painfully unaware of what God was doing behind the scenes. When her son, Ahaziah had been king and had made an alliance with Jehoram, the king of Israel, little did he know that his decision would prove deadly. When God brought judgment against the Jehoram and his house, Ahaziah just happened to be paying a visit. He would end up being executed along with Jehoram. The chronicler makes it clear that this was God’s doing. “But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram” (2 Chronicles 22:7 ESV). Over and over again we see men trying to derail the plans of God. They attempt to make their own plans and determine their own fate, but they, like so many others, failed to understand that God is sovereign over all. Solomon wrote, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The apostle Paul knew full well that his life was completely in the control of God. While Paul had planned his life and was pursuing a career path that included the persecution of those who called themselves Christians, God had another plan. He had ordained that Paul would be his spokesman, taking the good news regarding Jesus Christ to the Gentile world. God Himself said of Paul, “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15 ESV). And Paul would later remind Timothy, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:8-9 ESV). While Paul was writing this letter having just been released from house arrest in Rome, he knew that his life was in the hands of God, and that God was working out a plan that was eternal in nature – from “before the ages began.” Paul had no problem accepting his imprisonment, because he knew that God was in control. He also knew that God was faithful and He was keeping the promise He had made to David. Jesus Christ was the one for whom the Jews had long waited. He was the Messiah, the King of Israel. And Paul knew that God’s plan was still not yet complete. “…for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12 ESV). “His confidence lay in the person of God. He believed that God is faithful. God would protect something that Paul had placed with God for His protection and preserve that until the day he would see Christ face to face at the Rapture or death” (Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes On Timothy, 2007 Edition).

Father, You are faithful and true. You are powerful and fully capable of accomplishing all You have promised. Help me rest in Your unwavering commitment to keep Your Word. You are not done yet. You have promises yet to fulfill. There are aspects of Your plan that have yet to happen. But they will. Because You promised and You never break Your Word. Amen

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

Genesis 47-48, Matthew 24

The End In Mind.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14 ESV

It is so easy to see the Bible as 66 isolated and independent books written by a variety of authors and covering a timeline thousands of years in length. But it is important to remember that the Bible is the revelation of God, not a record of historical events written down by men. It is, in essence, one book written by one author and dealing a single storyline: the redemption of mankind by God. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are essential to the overall plot of the book, but are not to be confused with the central theme and the primary character: God Himself. One of the benefits of reading the Old and New Testaments simultaneously is that it provides a constant reminder that there is really a single story going on. It’s a story with a beginning and an end. The death of Jacob does not end the story. The arrival of the people of Israel in Egypt is not the climax of the plot. The rise of Joseph to power in Egypt and his wise handling of the famine is simply just another plot twist in the bigger story of God’s plan for the restoration of mankind to a right relationship with Him.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Jacob, near death, reminded his long-lost son, Joseph, about the promise of God. “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession'” (Genesis 48:3-4 ESV). This was a long-standing promise originally made to Abraham and confirmed over and over again by God to each of Abraham’s descendants. “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:6-8 ESV). Once again, we see the promise being passed down to each successive generation. Even though he was close to death, Jacob knew that God was not done yet. His passing would not negate the fulfillment of the promise, because its impact was to be cross-generational and international in scope. Even before Abraham had ever set eyes on the land of Canaan, God had told him, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3 ESV). The story wasn’t going to just be about Abraham and his descendants. It wasn’t going to be limited to the people of Israel. God’s story was about the fate of mankind and His plan to deal with the sins of mankind in a just, holy, and righteous way. God’s story includes the creation, the fall, and, ultimately, the redemption of man through the coming of Jesus Christ. Everything points to that moment and God’s Word must be read with that end in mind.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Every man who has ever lived has had a plan for his own life. There is a natural bent in each of us to see our lives as central to the storyline. We view our moment in the spotlight as paramount. We want to be significant. We want to have an influence. There is a natural tendency to focus on self and to see the world from our limited and somewhat selfish perspective. But when reading the stories of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, we see that each of these men, while important, were not indispensable. They were not the point of the story. Each of them played a limited part, but there was a much greater story going on behind the scenes to which they were, for the most part, oblivious. To each, the blessing was important. Which is why they were so adamant to make sure that they or their children received the blessing. Joseph was upset when Jacob laid his hands on the wrong sons, saying, “Not this way, my father, since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head” (Genesis 48:18 ESV). Joseph had a plan and it included his firstborn son, Manasseh. But God had a bigger plan. He was operating with a far greater plot in mind than simply the blessing of a single son or a solitary generation. Our greatest problem is that we too often think the story revolves around us. We see ourselves as the main characters in the plot and view God as a glorified screenwriter whose job it is to craft our story according to our own self-centered, self-satisfying notions.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But God is doing something far greater than any of us can even imagine. Abraham had no idea just how big God’s plan was. Isaac was oblivious as to the magnitude of the storyline God was writing. Jacob and Joseph were unaware of the incredible nature of what God was doing behind the scenes. Men would come and go. Generations would pass from existence. And yet God was still at work implementing His plan for mankind. No one individual or nation would be more important than any other. Kings and slaves, Jews and Gentiles, men and women … they all would be used to accomplish God’s divine plan for the future. His mind was focused on the end. He knew what had to be done for mankind to be restored to a right relationship with Him. He knew the blessing was about more than promised land and progeny. It was about salvation and redemption from slavery to sin and the condemnation of death that every man was under. I need to have that same mindset. It isn’t all about me. The world doesn’t revolve around me and my desires. I don’t exist for my own satisfaction and I should not live to seek my own limited will. I exist for God’s glory and am part of a long-standing line of men and women whom God has used to accomplish His greater plan for the good of mankind. I am to live with the end in mind. I am to focus on the reality that my life and my short time on this planet are not the point of the story. I am to live faithfully focused on the end. Jesus told His disciples, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44 ESV). Interestingly enough, not one of those men lived to see the second coming of Christ. And yet they were told to live with that event in mind. They were to be ready. And so should we be. We are to live with the end in mind – not our end, but the one God has planned for all mankind. It is the end of the story, the culmination and conclusion of His plan.

Father, keep me focused on Your plan and not my own. Constantly remind me that there is something far more important than my own selfish, self-centered satisfaction and comfort. I want to be a faithful servant who is found doing what You have called me to do when Your Son returns. I may not live to see that day, but I want to conduct my life as if I will. I want my greatest desire to be Christ’s return and the conclusion of Your planHelp me to live with the end in mind. Amen.