Friday, June 15, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-15 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Timing


Timing

So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea ) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.      (Joshua3:14-17)
When we watch movies like "Mission Impossible" where the heroes plan their intricate capers, there's always that moment where they have to "synchronise their watches", because each person has a part to play and each part needs to play out with split-second timing.

There are a couple of elements to the crossing miracle:

  • There's a place called Adam (some 20 km upstream) where scholars note that as recently as 1927 the clay banks collapsed and the water stopped flowing for 20 hours.
  • There's the people and the priests packing up camp and gathering getting themselves together and starting walking towards the river. (And if you've ever been camping you know how frenetic and chaotic packing up becomes - and you hardly ever leave on time...!)
  • There's the unspecified distance between where they started walking from and the water's edge
  • There's the speed at which they walked.
  • There's the speed at which the water flowed and would slow down as the back pressure decreased.

This would require precise timing. If we had the data and a supercomputer we could work it out: If the people started walking at a certain time and covered a specified distance at a fixed speed then we'd know what time the the priests' feet would hit the river's edge. Working back from that time, if we had a good fluid dynamics engineer, we could figure out at what time we'd need to cut the water off upstream so that the riverbed would be dry at just the right time.

Of course we're assuming that the priests walked at a constant speed and that the water flowed at a constant speed (which would need a straight river course and a fairly constant gradient). None of these assumptions are true and so our supercomputer calculations would be very hit and miss.

But God times it perfectly!

Someone once said - "God isn't always there when I want Him, but He's always right on time!"



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Thursday, June 14, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-14 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Consecration


My apologies for the missed devotions of yesterday and the day before....


Consecration

Before they can cross the Jordan...
Before they can attack Jericho...
Before they undertake any major task...
God asks Israel to consecrate themselves.

What did "consecration" involve?
The English words we use to translate the original Hebrew word are interesting: "Purify", "Set apart", "Sanctify", "Consecrate", "Set yourself apart", "Dedicate yourself", "Keep yourselves holy", and "Separate yourselves".

Acts and rituals of Consecration included washing, cleansing, with-holding, abstaining and preparing.

One could probably summarise it in four movements:

  1. Reflection on one's life, priorities and values.
  2. Dealing with sin: Confession, Repentance & Receiving forgiveness (often symbolised by washing)
  3. Resolve to belong to God: This could be demonstrated by abstaining from food or practices that distract us. Or by wearing priestly garments or adopting symbols and practices that pointed away from earthly things toward heaven.
  4. Whole-hearted devotion to God: The rituals mean nothing if this is not the final state of our hearts.

When one analyses this, it really involves two things: turning away from temporary things (the world, our desires and ambitions) and turning towards God. (The latter part is the ultimate point, but we can't turn to God without turning away from other things.)

Even though we find ourselves in a covenant of Grace, consecration is something we do, not to earn God's love, but because we are much loved.

Ultimately it's about being filled with the Spirit.
And being filled with the Spirit is not so much asking how much of the Spirit I have,
but how much of me the Spirit has.

(Imagine the significance of going through the four movements described above before beginning a day or week or starting an important activity.)

Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."      (Joshua3:5)


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--
Theo Groeneveld
Emmanuel Presby Church
theo@emmanuel.org.za Cell: 082-5510752

Friday, June 8, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-08 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] God vindicates Joshua


God vindicates Joshua

God vindicated Joshua.
So often leaders have to prove themselves, but, as they go into the Promised Land, Joshua doesn't have to prove himself. God establishes him as the leader.

Our passage for today tells the story...
It's an interesting passage, it reads as though the narrator has ADHD! It's an excited and exciting narrative that jumps around between events and speakers and indicates the significance and momentousness of the events...

It starts on the previous day with Joshua telling the people to prepare themselves. Then it jumps to the next day with Joshua giving the priests instructions to go ahead of the people with the Ark of the Covenant. Then God gives Joshua the promise that He will exalt him, and then, in the same breath, He instructs the priests to stand in the river, but he doesn't say what will happen. Then Joshua is speaking to the Israelites giving them a William-Wallace-speech about how God will defeat the Canaanites, Hittites and all-the-other-ites before them. Then Joshua sends representatives of all the tribes to follow the priests and the ark and only then explains that the waters of the Jordan will be cut off so that they stand up in a heap.

If one reads on, there is a fairly orderly narrative of how it all happens...

But I love the chaotic excitement of the preparation. One gets a sense of the newness, the breathlessness and the importance of the events that are coming.

What God did for Moses and the Israelites by opening the Red Sea, He now does for Joshua by opening the Jordan River. It is a significant transition.

Sometimes we are involved in exciting endeavours that come to significant moments and important transitions. Whether we are leaders or supporters, we should allow ourselves to be excited about these moments.

Last Sunday I participated in the one year celebration of our Pretoria North Congregation. It is a unique congregation, and after a year of services, it moved from 2 services per month to 3. A significant moment that we celebrated with joy, pomp & ceremony, photographs and (of course) food!

It's vital that we get excited about these moments...

Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."
Joshua said to the priests, "Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people." So they took it up and went ahead of them.
And the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river.' "
Joshua said to the Israelites, "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD--the Lord of all the earth--set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap."      (Joshua2:5-13)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-07 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Faith despite danger


Faith despite danger

Forty years previously twelve spies went into the land. They came back carrying samples of the produce of the land. We have no indication that their lives were in danger at any point, and, if they had engaged any of the people of the land, I think they would have encountered the same fear of Israel's God, because the events of the Exodus would have been fresh in everyone's mind.

But only two of the spies were positive, the remaining ten were fearful. They were still slaves in their hearts.

Joshua's two spies are a stark contrast to the fearful ten. They go into the heart of an enemy city. They engage the people and experience great danger. They have to lie under the flax stalks on Rahab's roof for a day and then they have to hide in the hills for three days before they can make the dangerous trip back to Joshua and the people.

After four days of life-threatening danger the spies return to Joshua. One might expect them to say: "Wow. We were barely there for a day when the city's intelligence caught on to us. We nearly didn't make it. We need to be very careful about this."

But this is not their language. Despite the personal risks they have had to take, they are able to see the bigger picture of what God is doing. They are able to see the gift that God has given, even though it comes in dangerous packaging. They understand that God's promises sometimes require taking some risks. They understand the leap of faith.

So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 Now she had said to them, "Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way." ...
22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. 23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, "The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us."      (Joshua1:15-24)


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-06 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Faith in unexpected places


Faith in unexpected places

Joshua sent two spies in to Jericho. They went to stay at the house of a prostitute named Rahab. Somehow word of their presence in the city leaked to the King of Jericho who sent soldiers to capture the men, but Rahab misdirected the soldiers leading them to believe that the men had already left, while she had hidden them on the roof of her house.

It was good spycraft for the men to go to the house of prostitute. It was a likely place for strangers to go and it was not unexpected to find strange visitors there. It was also a good place to pick up gossip and look for inside information. Unfortunately this cut both ways, because it is likely that one of the "regular" customers might have been a palace official who noticed the two strangers with strange accents who they identified as Israelites. This is probably how the king heard about them...

What is interesting about this passage is the role that Rahab plays. She is obviously an influential woman as the soldiers don't doubt her word or dare to search her place. Very often people in Rahab's position have a lot of influence because of the secrets they know. Many of her "customers" would prefer their connection to her not to be revealed. Also, people in Rahab's profession often develop a tough cynical exterior because they see men at their most unfaithful.

But Rahab surprises us. She protects the men and reveals great spiritual sensitivity. She reveals to the spies that God has already gone ahead of Joshua, placing fear and dread in the hearts of the citizens of Jericho. She also reveals a sophisticated theology. Whereas local religion depicted pagan gods as localised and shadowy, Rahab uses the covenant name of the Lord ("LORD") three times and she identifies him as "God in heaven above and on the earth below."

This is God's first word to Joshua. Here, unexpectedly, in a brothel of all places, the spies find a woman of faith and they find that God has already conquered the hearts of their enemies.

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don't know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them." 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, "I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.      (Joshua2:4-11)


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-05 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Presence


Presence

While they were wandering in the wilderness under Moses' leadership God was present with Israel through the fiery and cloudy pillar. He was present in the tabernacle and in a very powerful way on Mount Sinai. The Israelites felt God's caring presence in the arrival of manna in the mornings and quail in the evenings.

In the transition into the Promised Land things would change. The manna and quail stopped and the fiery cloudy pillar ceased. As we journey with Joshua, we will discover that God is present with him in a number different ways:
- He speaks to Joshua in the tabernacle
- He appears to Joshua as a commander overlooking Jericho
- He speaks through people like Rahab in Jericho
- He speaks in His absence too

Over the next few weeks we'll see how Joshua grows and journeys in his relationship with God. What is significant for now is to realise that God deals with each person uniquely.

So when God promises "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you," He is not promising to keep doing things the same way, but He is promising that His presence will be intimate and personal.

Today God still remains present personally and intimately in our lives. He follows no recipes. He treats each person uniquely and handles each circumstance distinctively. But He promises to be with us.

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
... Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."      (Joshua1:5-9)


Friday, June 1, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-01 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Presence in the overwhelming and overbearing


Presence in the overwhelming and overbearing

All of God's instructions to be strong and courageous and to build a just and Godly community are bracketed by God's promise to be with Joshua.

Right at the outset God promises Joshua: "As I was with Moses, I will be with you." And after numerous exhortations to Joshua to be strong and courageous, God says: Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

"Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged..."
These two "do nots" need thinking about...

Terror is something that happens in a moment. We experience terror when something unexpected or overwhelming happens. Terror is the emotion that goes with being out of control. It is a moment that pushes rationality into the corner and gets our fight-or-flight endorphins pumping. Terror can cause paralysis, bad decisions and fear-driven behaviour. It swallows trust and hope and in a few moments of terror we can tear down things that took months and years to build. In moments of terror we must think of Jesus asleep in the boat on the stormy sea of Galilee and know and believe that He will calm the storm. (Mark 4:35-41)

Discouragement is a war of attrition. It takes time and is a relentless series of little setbacks, doubts and tough obstacles that tire us physically, deplete us emotionally and diminish our store of faith. Discouragement robs our joy, reduces our rest and fills our mental radar screen with so much noise that we struggle to make sense of the bigger picture. Discouragement is overbearing - it makes us bear too much. We must remember the One who calls us to Him. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt.11:28-30)

God promises Joshua that, when life becomes overwhelming or overbearing, he will not be alone.

He promises us the same!

5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."      (Joshua1:5-9)


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-30 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Stay on track


Stay on track

The Hebrew word used for God's Word implies a road or a pathway. When we face big challenges and have big shoes to fill, our strength and courage is greatest when we are on the right path. As God gives Joshua his marching orders, He refers him to a safe pathway - God's Law.

But what was "the Law"?
Joshua didn't have a full Bible. He only had the laws given to the people on Mount Sinai and in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. His "Bible" didn't have Psalms, prophets, or New Testament.

So how does a bunch of ceremonial and moral laws give courage, strength and success in a dangerous mission?
These laws reveal the character and nature God and provide the ethics of a just and caring society. A quick glance at the Ten Commandments reveals this:

  1. No other Gods - this is obvious - when we take our eyes off the one true God we will sink in the brokenness of the world.
  2. No idols/graven images - The minute we try to draw God or make a statue of Him, we begin to limit Him and shape Him according to our own desires.
  3. Don't misuse God's name: when we use God's name for our purposes instead of in worship we shipwreck ourselves.
  4. Remember the Sabbath: Take time to slow down and remember that everything comes from God.
  5. Honour your parents: It is easy to discard the elderly and when we do this society crumbles.
  6. Don't murder: Life isn't cheap
  7. Don't commit adultery: Marriage is a stabilising force for society
  8. Don't steal: Taking without earning creates a downward spiral that devalues work and human dignity.
  9. Don't lie: Truth holds society together
  10. Don't covet: Unbridled ambition and greed destabilises society

Joshua is called to create a Godly, just and caring society. This society needs to be under-girded by values and principles. These values are the worship of God, the valuing of life and property and the reining in of the vices of greed and ambition.

Joshua isn't being asked to have a daily QT reading a psalm or proverb each day. He is being asked to build a society on values and principles that reveal God and create a just society.

"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."      (Joshua1:6-9)


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-29 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Fear vs Courageous


Fear vs Courage

Courage and Fear are quite different.

Fear is something that happens to us. It is caused by circumstances and pressure. It is often involuntary and irrational. Things happen and we feel fear - often at a very basic instinctive level. When the door slams shut, when the lion roars or when something goes "bump" in the night, our adrenal systems kick into high gear preparing us for fight or flight.

Courage on the other hand, is more of a choice than an instinct. We don't feel courage like we feel fear. We choose courage. We make a decision to face our fears. Courage does not cancel out or dilute fear. Being strong means that we push through fear. We work around and in spite of fear.

Forty years previously fear and a grass-hopper mentality caused the nation to listen to the ten fearful spies instead of Joshua and Caleb. This resulted in forty years of wandering in the desert... Now Joshua and the people find themselves at the border again. Nothing has changed on the other side of the Jordan. It's still the same cities, the same topography and the same enemies.

But God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous...
Be strong and courageous. Choose to face your fears. Choose to endure your circumstances. Choose to keep going and not quit or run. Step up and report for duty. Do what it takes, but keep moving.

Courage is not the absence of fear or even the opposite of it.
Courage and Strength are decisions we make in spite of our fears.
In just three verses God tells Joshua three times over:
"Be Strong and Courageous."

Joshua had to choose and so must we...

(Tomorrow we'll look at a few things that help us to be strong and courageous.)

"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."      (Joshua1:6-9)


Friday, May 25, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-25 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Promise, Destiny and Participation


Promise, Destiny and Participation

God's future for us as His children is an exciting one. The scriptures are full of pictures of our destiny, both in this life and the next:
  • "For I know the plans I have for you - to prosper and not to harm you" (Jer.29)
  • "All my days were written in your book" - (Ps.139)
  • "...a life of good works which God has prepared in advance for you to do" - (Eph.2)
  • "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" - (1Cor.2)

The destiny God offers Joshua is the Promised Land, victory over opposition and His constant presence.

I think the promise of land can be translated in all sorts of ways. I think many of us may not possess physical land, but our "territory" could be impact, influence and legacy.

The interesting thing about Joshua's "land" is that he has to set foot on it. Money in the bank means nothing until we withdraw it. A promise means little until we act on it. Influence is only effective when we leverage it. Very often we have incredible resources at our disposal, but we sit back and wait for it to happen instead of recognising that God chooses to have us participate in our destiny. We are not passive share-holders - God wants us to be co-workers in His plan for us.

This requires courage. We have leave the known behind and take a plunge into unknown territory. But we have God's good promise: "I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you."

I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates--all the Hittite country--to the Great Sea on the west. 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.      (Joshua1:3-5)