Saturday, March 16, 2013

A promise kept...Joshua 9-10

At first the trickery of the Gibeonites seems to be a serious failing on behalf of the Israelite leadership, and it probably was.  The Hivites were one of the tribal groups that God promised to remove from them.  Joshua and his leaders didn't consult the Lord before they made their covenant with them and so they were trapped by their own promise. 

Was this a good thing?  No.  The Gibeonites could have easily led Israel into sin and idolotry, and probably did some of the time.  Could God do good things through it?  Absolutely. 

This treaty provided a more obvious tilt in the region's power structures so Gibeon became the flash-point for an epic battle.  To their credit, despite complaints from the people, the leaders of Israel refused to go back on their word and God honored them for it.  After marching all night to defend their new allies, the Israelite army routed all five attacking armies.  Joshua even asked for additional daylight so that he could complete the task--and God answered.  There are historical records from around the world that confirm that God did, in fact, stop the movement of the earth.  The hail that was recorded in the same battle would have been a natural consequence of the earth standing still, like water sloshing out of a moving bowl that suddenly stops.  The kind of celestial even that would be required to stop the earth's spinning on its axis would also have to include a fairly large gravitational or magnetic object in close proximity to the earth, which would also explain the description that God hurled stones at them (a meteorite shower). 

Then in his first sweeping campaign that seems to have lasted less than a week, Joshua took a huge swath of the land God had promised them, right through the heart of the territory.  The Gibeonites kept their submissive attitude toward the Israelites throughout their history.  Later on in II Samuel, God confirms their position alongside Israel, but that is for another day.  Ps 15 tells us that a prerequisite for worshipping God is that we keep our promises, even when it hurts.  God honors our word because He keeps His own word. 

What promises have you kept?  What promises do you need to keep?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Choice, Authority or Frustration: Deut 28

Check out this series on Vimeo:
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.

But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today...The Lord himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning me.

This was the agreement God had with the Israelites.  It doesn't explain why all good or bad things happen, but it really did happen exactly that way for the Israelites, at least all of the bad things. When they honored God, all of the blessings happened just like He described, and Solomon's reign showed the scope of God's ability to bless them. After the final seige of Jerusalem, where people did eat their children out of starvation, they were exiled back to Egypt where no one would even buy them as slaves (we'll see that later this year when we get to Jeremiah).

The thing that stands out to me is that His blessing comes with authority and His curse comes with confusion and frustration. Many of the individual blessings and cursings listed in this chapter happen at a corporate level, but I see them happening in my own life all the time. PJ's getting annoyed hearing the verse from Proverbs: "Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor." One of the first things you admit in Celebrate Recovery is that "My life is out of control and has become unmanageable." Disobedience (whether mine or others) puts lives out of control and leads to frustration and confusion. Obedience means relinquishing control to God and ultimately regaining real control under His authority.

Jesus was able to say that all authority under Heaven and earth had been given to Him because He was obedient, even obedient to death on the cross. Our authority is equally contingent on our obedience. That's important because we have no real power. Without God's authority, we won't have a chance--the enemy will eat our lunch. Once you choose obedience, your circumstances may not change immediately. You probably didn't get here overnight either. I can tell you that when you relinquish control to God through consistent obedience, He can eventually bring things back under your authority because you are under His authority.

So, where in your life do you feel out of control? Is there anything God can't do to bring that back under His control if you choose to let Him? (Yes, I'm preaching to myself too...)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Margins--Deut. 24-27


I don't know about you, but there have been times when it felt like my life had no margins.  I would work till I dropped.  I would fill up the plate and eat every bite.  I'd find one way was hard, but I'd go do it anyway.  I would take advantage of others in ways that were fair or within the rules, but just weren't right.  Mostly this came from my own fear or greed--I might miss out or not have enough. 

In these passages we see God directing his people to not just act justly, but to act generously with deep compassion for their kinsmen.  He is a God of abundance--He never has lack.  He is directing us to believe we are heirs to the same abundance and act with the same generosity.  The margins in our lives become the space where He cares for the needy. 

Besides, it takes so much more energy to gather in the last little bits and it really isn't worth it.  In traffic analysis, I can tell you that it's easy to figure out the timings for an intersection that has plenty of extra capacity--it might take half an hour or so.  When the intersection gets close to capacity, squeezing out that last 5% can take hours of adjusting the analysis.  In the same way, managing that last 5% of our time, energy and resources seems to take herculean effort.  Did God mean for us to fill every minute of our days with work and entertainment? 

As I write this, my sweet Katie has been laying on my chest like a cat sitting on the keyboard.  On most Saturday mornings, the TV would have been on and she would have been entranced by it.  Instead, in the quiet space of a less occupied morning, she came to pour out her heart of love for me and in turn receive the snuggle time she needs so badly too.  (And yes, I did put the computer down.)

She's calling again, so I need to go.  Have a great day...