Friday, June 22, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-22 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Our Commander


Our Commander

Our reading today gives us the full and glorious picture of the Commander of the Lord's Armies. In the Revelation John sees a bigger and clearer picture than Joshua did.

Jesus' appearance to Joshua is understated. The glory is muted. Joshua has the room to ask "Are you for us or our enemies?" The vision John has is of Christ who has overcome sin, death and Satan and who is leading heaven's army in final victory.

Joshua's battles are still ahead of him - he still has to face Jericho and subdue their enemies in the promised land. In Revelation, the greatest battles have been fought and it is only the final judgement that awaits.

We find ourselves somewhere between Joshua and John's Revelation. Joshua still has to fully understand and discover God's saving power. He still has to experience Jericho. We've seen Jericho and we've seen the Cross and we've seen the Empty Tomb. BUT there are still days that we are like the two on the road to Emmaus and like Joshua staring at Jericho - Jesus is with us, but we don't recognise Him.

This is where John's picture is so helpful - He takes the scales from our eyes and opens our hearts. He depicts Christ as glorious and victorious. His name is Faithful and True. He is just and majestic and has a name that no-one else knows (to name something is to have power over it...). He leads Heaven's armies and judges this broken world with authority and finality.

He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and He is the One we worship!

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.      (Revelation19:11-16)

(EmmDevs will take a break for the school hols...)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-21 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Chain of Command


Chain of Command

This encounter is a critical moment in Joshua's personal development. He's standing alone, looking at Jericho. Maybe he's playing a dozen military strategies through his head. Maybe he's paralysed with fear. Maybe he's quietly humming a psalm of trust.

But in this moment God appears to him. It is an interesting encounter because it involves a physical appearance and it doesn't seem to be an angel. Joshua sees a man with a drawn sword who identifies himself as the "commander of the armies of the Lord" and Joshua falls down and worships and the man tells him that he is on holy ground. (An angel would never allow himself to be worshipped.)

This leaves us with two possibilities. The first is that God is appearing in human form and the second is that this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ who, in the book of Revelation, is depicted as leading the army of the Lord in the final battle (Rev19:11-16).

This is a critical moment.
Joshua asks "Are you for us or our enemies?"
Jesus' answer shows us that Joshua's thinking is wrong.
It is not God who is with us, but us who are with God.

This fits in beautifully with view of Mission that David Bosch brought to the world's attention in the 1980's: It not us who take God to the peoples in the far corners of the earth, but we go to the far corners of the earth to discover what God is already doing.

We don't "take God to the world", God takes us to the world.

So often we're asking God to bless our plans.

Like Joshua, we have to learn the chain of command.
We're not in a position to ask Him to join us.
We must join Him.

It's about surrender...

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"
15 The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.      (Joshua5:13-15)


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-20 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Dedication and Trust


Dedication and Trust

Our reading today is about two significant practices that were resumed now that the Israelites were in the promised land: Circumcision and Passover.

When God called Abram, He instructed him to be circumcised and to circumcise their baby boys on the eighth day. This differentiated them from surrounding nations who circumcised at puberty. This early circumcision (which would have been noticed by boys from surrounding nations when they swam at waterholes) was a sign that the Israelites belonged to God. Our passage tells us that all boys born during the Exodus and desert wandering had not been circumcised. This points to a loss of identity and purpose.

Circumcision represented their belonging to God, but it was also an act that symbolised the Israelites being set apart and dedicating themselves to God.

The Passover was the Feast that celebrated deliverance from Egypt. Sadly it was only celebrated during their actual escape, and then a year later at Mount Sinai. Then, unfortunately, the spies went into the land and the people, overtaken by the "grasshopper mentality", rebelled and God sentenced them to wander the desert until that faithless generation passed away. It seems that they did not celebrate the Passover during these forty years.

Now, as they enter the Promised Land, these two rituals, which speak of belonging and deliverance are celebrated.

There was considerable risk in both these rituals. Circumcision incapacitated the men for a couple of days. Historically, Jacob's sons used this to their advantage when they convinced Hamor and Shechem and their village to be circumcised, and, while the men were still in pain, they attacked the village. (Gen.34) During Passover, the festivities would have distracted the people and they would have been easy to attack. But this risk is mitigated by verse 1 which explains that the inhabitants of the land are paralysed with fear because of the Israelites' miraculous crossing of the Jordan River.

When we take significant steps for the Kingdom of God, it is good for us to make sure that we take stock. Have we neglected practices of dedication? Have we lost identity and purpose? It might be good to take a moment and dedicate ourselves fully to God. Have we neglected to praise and give thanks for God's faithfulness in the past? It would be good to pick these up again...

1 Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.
2 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again." 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.
4 Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt--all the men of military age--died in the desert on the way after leaving Egypt. 5 All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the desert during the journey from Egypt had not. 6 The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. 8 And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.
9 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.
10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.      (Joshua 5:1-8)


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

EmmDev 2018-06-19 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Remember


Remember

Our reading for today is part of a bigger section (4:1-9) which deals with a fairly simple matter: That God wanted a representative from each of the twelve tribes to pick up a big stone from the middle of the Jordan and they were to place these stones in a memorial pile at their first camp site.

The passage describes it in three parts: God giving Joshua instructions, Joshua giving the people instructions and then the people actually doing it. (Our reading is the middle part)

This repetition gives a fairly simple action a lot of gravity. It is important to remember what God has done. It is important to be able to pass these significant events on to the next generation.

The number twelve is important because it signifies the whole nation by their ancestral tribes and also reminds us that this was the fulfilment of God's promise to Jacob, the father of the twelve.

It's also important that these stones come from the river-bed - their smoothed shape would make it clear where they came from. This pile of unusual stones would signify the miraculous nature of the event.

Placing the pile of stones at their first camp site was helpful too. Previously their camp sites had been marked by the pillar of fire/cloud, but their journey through the wilderness was a transition and so no permanent record was kept. Now they are here to stay and so this stone pillar was their first building, the first sign of permanence.

Remembering is important. We do well to document important moments, to take photos and to set up plaques and memorials. The "pillars" aren't the important thing though, what's important is that we tell our children and their children what the Lord has done.

Parents, have you told your children about how you came to faith and why you love the the Lord? Grandparents, have you told your grandchildren how you came to faith and why you love the Lord? Don't assume they'll get it by some kind of osmosis - show them your Bible (many of us have underlined verses or have a date written in the front or the back), tell them about that Youth camp where you prayed that special prayer, share with them why you've been going to church for so long. Talk about prayers that were answered and how you have been witness to God's faithfulness.

It's important!

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, "Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."      (Joshua4:4-7)


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!"



If you want to receive these devotions in email, sign up at http://eepurl.com/bjK8GT.
You can see past devotions at http://emmdev.blogspot.co.za

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)


If you want to receive these devotions in email, sign up at http://eepurl.com/bjK8GT.
You can see past devotions at http://emmdev.blogspot.co.za
--
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)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-24 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Resolution, Resolve and Promise


Resolution, Resolve and Promise

It's very easy to go into the future while still being shackled to the past. My favourite image of this comes from the film, "The Mission" where a former slave trader, Rodrigo Mendoza, played by Robert de Niro, converts to Christianity and struggles to climb up a waterfall dragging his armour (a penance to his former life of violence) only to get to the top and have a tribesman of the people he captured as slaves run up to him with a knife and instead of killing him, cuts him free of his burden.

Our past, sometimes good, sometimes bad, can hinder us in going into the future. God sets Joshua free from the past when He says "Moses my servant is dead." After stating the obvious God then mentions Joshua by his full name "Joshua, son of Nun", thereby recognising Joshua as his own person. For all the times we have mentioned the "big shoes" that Joshua has had to fill - we must now realise that these shoes need to be put in the cupboard. Joshua will fill his own shoes.
This is vital Resolution.

Now God frames a new mission "You and all these people, get ready..."
Before going into the land we have to get ready. We'll see in the next few chapters that getting ready will involve circumcision, crossing, eating, rededicating, re-thinking and a couple of other steps. We must never under-estimate the importance of preparation. This demonstrates our Resolve.

The last aspect of today's reading is the importance of Promise. Resolution and Resolve rests on the certainty of a good future. We can't let go of the past and prepare for the future if we are not convinced that it will be worth it. By God promises Joshua and the Israelites that He is leading them into a future that He will "give" to them.

What about you? Do you have resolution for the past? Moses wasn't forgotten, but Joshua was set free being held back by Moses. Do you have resolve for the future? What are you doing to prepare and consecrate yourself? And, finally, are you convinced that God holds your future?

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: 2 "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them--to the Israelites.      (Joshua1:1-2)


If you want to receive these devotions in email, sign up at http://eepurl.com/bjK8GT.
You can see past devotions at http://emmdev.blogspot.co.za

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-23 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Strong and Courageous - Overview


Strong and Courageous - Overview

The first nine verses of the book bearing Joshua's name are well beloved. We read them to our young people at baptisms and confirmations, we reflect on them at the start of new endeavours and we turn to them for encouragement when the going gets tough.

Over the next few days we'll pore over these wonderful truths.
But here are a few thoughts as an overview...

We've already noted that Moses was a tough act to follow and that there would be many who felt that Joshua had been too sheltered and lacked the necessary experience to be a good leader. The Promised Land offered great bounty, but also some imposing enemies and serious threats...

Before we read the passage, there are four things to note:

  1. God is clear on what Joshua must do: Many times we fail to start well because we are not clear on exactly what it is that we must do
  2. He promises His supportive presence: We fail when we become discouraged by the size of the task and the effort we think it will take. God has promised His presence!
  3. He calls Joshua to be courageous and strong. Big challenges will stretch and shape us. Nothing worthwhile is done without effort and courage. God is more concerned with our character than our comfort!
  4. Joshua must be careful to do things according to God's guidelines. If we allow our insecurities to push us into taking moral and spiritual "shortcuts" we doom our endeavours to failure. When we courageously do things God's way, He blesses us!

We'll zoom into each of these areas over the next few days, but for today, just read through this beloved passage.

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: 2 "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them... 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. 6 "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.      (Joshua1:1-10)

Friday, May 18, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-18 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Big shoes - Resourceful God


Big shoes - Resourceful God

Have you ever been faced with a tough and daunting task or had some serious shoes to fill? Have you wrestled with a sense of inadequacy or just felt completely unprepared and overwhelmed?

It's especially difficult when one follows in the footsteps of a someone who has done the job well and done it for a long time. Joshua had a daunting task and serious shoes to fill.
"Following in the shoes of Moses?"
For goodness sake! It's some 3000 years later and people are still writing leadership based on Moses! Moses went toe to toe with Pharoah. Moses and the Ten Plagues. Moses and the Ten Commandments. Moses and Water from a rock and manna and quail! Moses talking to God, like one speaks face to face with a friend. Moses, the living legend, who finished as strong as an ox and as sharp as nails.
Would you want to follow after him??

And did we mention that Moses was loved and respected?
The Israelites grieved his death for a month!

And then the Promised Land loomed in front of the Israelites who, forty years previously, had succumbed to grasshopper mentality...

But Joshua wouldn't be filling these shoes only in his own strength!
God's Spirit was given to Joshua when Moses inducted him as leader over the people. The Spirit gave him wisdom and authority.
And the people listened.

The life of faith excludes the "safe" option. The life of faith will take us to the borders of daunting, challenging and stretching.

When we face daunting tasks, God will equip us, inspire us, infill us, guide us, uphold us, transform us and use us!

Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses.          (Deuteronomy34:7-9)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-17 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Shepherd


Shepherd

Yesterday we saw how Moses longed for a shepherd for the flock of Israel. This is because Moses, and all good and Godly leaders, are shepherds - just like God shepherds us.

We're going to look at Ps 23 to understand how God shepherds us.
It is intimidating to even attempt to comment on a psalm that is so loved and appreciated by people. There are many who know this psalm by heart and it has been a comfort for many. I'm simply going to make a few comments on some of the key features of the Psalm.

The Palestinian shepherd does not herd or chase the sheep, he leads them. They know and follow his voice and go where he has already been. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He does not ask us to go where He has not been.

As sheep get heavier with wool, drinking can be very dangerous, rapidly moving water can overwhelm a wooly sheep as the wool absorbs the water very quickly and can weigh the sheep down allowing the water to sweep it away. When we listen closely to the Shepherd's voice, we will hear Him calling us to 'come apart and rest a while' so that we can feed where we will not be overwhelmed and where our souls can be restored.

We can be sure that He will lead us along paths of righteousness: His name is at stake. It is one of the sure ways to test whether it is God leading us or someone else. If there is a chance that His name will be dishonoured, then it is not God leading us.

The valley of the shadow of death is a place where the sheep get jumpy and can do silly things. Our Shepherd has not only been through the valley of the shadow, He has been through the valley of Death too. We know that He will be with us. The rod (or shepherd's crook) is used to hook around a sheep that has panicked and headed in the wrong direction. The staff is used to beat off predators. The Lord will pull us back when we are being silly and he will protect us when we are in danger.

The imagery shifts from a shepherd to a host, and the table we come to is the table of grace and love, the table of bread and wine, body and blood. The oil is the symbol of the Spirit and we overflow with the blessings of God's goodness, grace, and love.
In that love we would dwell forever.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.      (Psalms23:1-6)

Thank You Lord that You are our Shepherd. Help us to find the still waters You lead us to so that we can know Your presence in the valleys and shadows. Help us to see how our cups overflow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-16 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Leadership, Transition and Commissioning


Leadership, Transition and Commissioning

The time had come for Moses to pass on the baton, and being the great leader that he was, he did not want to leave a leadership vacuum as his legacy.

Today's reading deals with this transition and contains Moses' plea and God's answer. There are some noteworthy moments and concepts in our passage:

  • Notice how Moses recognises the fundamental spiritual nature of humanity. He addresses God as the "God of the spirits of all humankind". (Another translation renders it, "the God who gives breath (Ruach) to the flesh of man".)
  • Moses also speaks of the nature of leadership: To lead out of the past and in to the future and to be a shepherd. (The shepherd model of leadership merits further thought and we'll look at this tomorrow...)
  • Moses had a deep concern that the people should not be shepherd-less. This gives us an insight into his caring pastoral leadership style. He could have been insecure - after all Joshua gets the "cherry on the top" of leading the people into the Promised Land. He could have argued that such a big task needed an experienced and proven leader, but Moses doesn't cling to power, he wants what's best for the people.
  • In God's eyes, Joshua is qualified for leadership because the Spirit is in him. It is not Joshua's skill-set or training, but his willingness to be led and guided by God's Spirit.
  • Commissioning to leadership happens in the presence of the priest and the community with Moses clearly passing on the baton. Leadership is about God, community and continuity.
  • Authority is best received rather than taken.
  • The leader's task is to listen to God. The "Urim" referred to in the passage refers to an ornate vestment worn by the priest. When they made inquiries of the Lord, different gems on the vestment would glow, indicating the Lord's answer. Joshua had to learn to work with the priest to discern God's will.

What qualities or aspects of leadership do you see in this passage?

Moses said to the LORD, 16 "May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all humankind, appoint a man over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd."

18 So the LORD said to Moses, "Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. 19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. 20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. 21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in."
22 Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly.
23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the LORD instructed through Moses.  (Numbers 27:15-23)


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-15 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] From a scarcity to abundance mentality


From a scarcity to abundance mentality

The Israelites had been complaining again. They were sick of Manna and wanted meat. Moses wasn't coping with the strain of leading the people and their complaints. He'd reached the point of burnout...

So God asked Moses to gather the 70 elders who would be given the same Spirit that was on Moses. This would assure Moses that he was not carrying the load alone. And that's exactly what happened... These elders were powerfully filled with God's Spirit. The NIV Study Bible explains that they probably broke out in spontaneous prophetic utterance which was regarded as the presence of God's Spirit.

But there were only 68 elders at the Tent of Meeting. Two had stayed behind in the camp. Maybe they weren't well, maybe they were ritually unclean, or maybe they had a legitimate reason to be in the camp. But they had the same spiritual experience even though they weren't at the tent. God's Spirit is not confined to a place. (Makes one wonder at all the people who insist that one must go to a person or a place to be blessed!!!)

When this is reported to Joshua, he responds defensively. He perceives these two as a threat. This has happened outside of his sphere of influence and control and he is threatened by it. It is a sign of a scarcity mentality and a need to be in control.

Moses invites him to a more abundant view...
"I wish this could happen to everyone!"

Three important lessons emerge:
1. We don't have to do everything by ourselves.
2. God often works in ways that extend beyond our knowledge and control.
3. Good spiritual leaders recognise the work of the Spirit in others and encourage it with a beautiful sense of the abundance of God's love and the opportunities He gives us to serve Him.

However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp."
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!"
29 But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.      (Numbers11:26-30)


If you want to receive these devotions in email, sign up at http://eepurl.com/bjK8GT.
You can see past devotions at http://emmdev.blogspot.co.za

Friday, May 11, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-11 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Being with God


Being with God

We've seen that Joshua was mentored in the areas of leadership and war (particularly that war also has a spiritual dimension). Today we consider two passages that describe Joshua's spiritual tutelage.

Joshua didn't go to seminary or Rabbi school - he learnt about God by being with God.

When Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, he left Aaron and Hur to watch over the people, but Joshua went up on to the mountain with Moses while the people trembled at God's presence at a safe distance.

One can't help but wonder if the Israelites would have made the Golden Calf if Joshua was around... Or maybe Joshua had to experience the incredible presence of God so that when he descended with Moses, he would see how pathetic the golden calf really was...

Later, when the tent and tabernacle that God had spoken about on the mountain had been built, Moses would go to the Tabernacle where God would speak "face to face" with Him as "a man speaks with his friend". Can you imagine the intimacy of those encounters?

Joshua seems to have functioned as the gatekeeper to the Tent. One can imagine that people with ambitious intentions would want to be able to claim that they too had heard from God.

But Joshua was not only a gatekeeper - he would have been there to see Moses go into the holy of holies and seen him come out. Even if he saw and heard nothing else, I am sure that the anticipation, joy, contentment and resolution would have been evident in Moses as he went into and came out of the Lord's presence and it would have left a lasting impression on Joshua.

I believe that even if Joshua did not hear God's words to Moses, he would have sensed God's presence. This would have shaped his heart and soul...

(We see a similar journey in the life of a young Samuel growing up in the Lord's presence in the tabernacle at Shiloh...)

The best way to learn about God is to be with God and His people...

Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. (Exo 4:13)

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.      (Exodus33:11)


Thursday, May 10, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-10 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Mentored


Mentored

The first time we meet Joshua in the Bible, he is a young man being mentored by Moses. It is an interesting scenario. They are fighting the Amalekites who are a cruel and dangerous enemy.

Moses' mentoring includes:

  • Simple instructions: "Pick some men for the fight"
  • Reassurance: "God and me will be watching over you from the hill"
  • Behind the scenes support: Holding up the staff is a symbol of prayer and intercession
  • Putting a team behind Joshua: Aaron and Hur support Moses as he supports Joshua
  • Giving Joshua credit: From the behind-the-scenes we know that Joshua would never have won if it were not for God and Moses' team supporting him, but Moses credits Joshua with the victory

This kind of mentoring is vital - it is the process by which leaders are formed. What is doubly-vital is that Moses' leadership demonstrates clearly to Joshua, Aaron and Hur that it is all about God and not about Moses. Moses might have prayed for the strength to hold up his arms, but he allows himself to show weakness and he allows Aaron and Hur to help him. He could have emphasised his role as intercessor, but he lets Joshua shine.

How can you be a good mentor to people in your life?
Have you had a good mentor? Maybe its time to thank God for them...

Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites.
Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.       (Exodus17:9-13)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-09 [Faith among grasshopper hearts] Seeing God's GOOD.

Faith among grasshopper hearts



Seeing God's GOOD.

Our next series is going to be taking a look at the life of Joshua. Joshua had Moses' big shoes to step in to and he had the task of taking the Israelites into the Promised Land. If Moses had to help the Israelites to transition from Slaves to Pilgrims, Joshua had to help them move from being Pilgrims to Pioneers. This series will pick up some of the lessons from Joshua's life.
----------------------------------------
We first meet Joshua when Moses sends 12 spies into the Promised Land. Ten of the spies came back very negative and cynical. They saw only danger and difficulty. They were intimidated by the fortified cites, the fierce warriors and the number of giants in the land. Their closing comment was "We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

When the people succumbed to the horror stories of the 10 spies, there were two spies who were horrified. So horrified that they ripped their clothes.

Their names were Caleb and Joshua. They refused to have grasshopper hearts. They trusted God and believed in God's goodness. While there were fortified cities and giants in the land, they also saw the goodness of the land. They used words like "exceedingly good" and "flowing with milk and honey". Do you see the abundance mentality they display?

Not only did they believe that the land was good, they believed that God is good. They believed that God would lead them into this abundant land and that, with His help, they would swallow up their enemies who had no protection because God was with Israel.

When we face our challenges and difficulties, it is easy to succumb to "grasshopper fears." When we look harder for God's GOOD we will see amazing things. We will see great good, beauty and opportunity woven into our challenges and we will see that God is with us and that He is good.

Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."       (Numbers14:6-9)

Friday, May 4, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-04 [Insights from Isaiah] Determined Saviour

Determined Saviour

He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.       (Isaiah59:16-17)

This is a goosebump chapter for me. It starts with an assurance that God's arm is not too short to save, but then plunges into the extent to which humanity is drowning in its brokenness. Just look at the opening verses of the chapter:
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear...
Like the blind we grope along the wall,
feeling our way like men without eyes.
At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;
among the strong, we are like the dead.
(Isaiah 59:2 & 10)

To summarise verses 2-15: Our sins separate us from God, justice is driven back, truth is nowhere to be found and those who strive for righteous are victimised.

But then Isaiah reveals a staggering glimpse into God's heart: When He saw our predicament God was profoundly moved!
- He was appalled at our predicament.
- He set out to work salvation for us with His own arm.
- His righteousness became the sacrifice that paid for us
- Our salvation was the concern that would take Him to the cross
- He was determined to break Satan's power
- And He wrapped Himself in zeal.

Jesus wasn't resigned to His fate in a Oh-well-I-suppose-I-had-better-save-these-people way. No! He was appalled at where our brokenness takes us, and He rolled up His sleeves to get stuck into saving us. He passionately and zealously offered up His very best - even His righteousness (He carried the guilt of our sin) - so that we might be saved.

  • Look at Him route-marching to Jerusalem (Mark10:32)
  • See Him submit to the Father's will in Gethsemane (Luke22:42)
  • See Him forgive us on the cross.(Luke23:34)
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame."
--------------------------------------------
(This is a re-working of an older dev...
It also brings us to the end of our series on Isaiah. We will start a new series next week...)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-03 [Insights from Isaiah] Three thirsts

Three thirsts

Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.      (Isaiah 55:1)

My colleague, Andries Combrink, wrote this a few years ago and I can't say it any better.

In Isaiah 55:1 we are offered water, wine and milk.

These three drinks match our deepest needs. We all are needy and must be taken care of by a loving yet almighty God.

Water relates to our need for refreshment. When you are most thirsty and most desperate and totally dehydrated, water is what you want and nothing else. God invites us to receive refreshment, restoration, reviving and a new beginning which he only can give.

Milk relates to our need for ongoing nourishment and growth. When you want a little baby to grow day after day, you give it milk again and again. God is not just for thirsty emergencies, but even more for sustainable health. He invites us not only to come alive with water, but also to be stable and strong with milk.

Wine relates to our need for excitement, joy and celebration. We want to be truly alive. Yes, we need to be strong and stable. But that is not all we need to be alive. No matter how unemotional, laid-back and poker-faced we may look like to others, there is an excited child inside every one of us that God wants to bring to life for joy and delight: for shouting and singing and dancing and playing and skipping and running and jumping and laughing.

When we come to God, we will find that in our relationship with him we will receive more than resuscitation or even growth -- we will find that a relationship with God, in Christ, brings excitement and joy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

EmmDev 2018-05-02 [Insights from Isaiah] The Spirit's Fruit

The Spirit's Fruit

(17) The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.      (Isaiah 32:14-20)

This is a beautiful promise Isaiah offers as he envisions the work of God's Spirit in the world. While one is tempted to spiritualise these benefits and say that for the individual who lives righteously there will be inner-peace, inner-quietness and inner-confidence, the broader context of this passage (which is given in full below) is a picture of society restored.

Righteousness is justice well lived-out.
The results, according to Isaiah, of living righteously are peace, quietness and confidence.

1. In the midst of our broken world, the Spirit is poured out on us.
2. The Spirit causes Justice and Righteousness to spring up in unexpected places.
3. That righteousness bears peace, quietness and confidence - not only spiritually, but a peaceful, quiet and confident society.
4. Even though trouble comes, the righteous can continue to grow and bear fruit.

To sum up: It is the Spirit who brings forth righteousness in the world and in us, and when we co-operate with His work in us the results are peace, quietness and confidence in us and spilling over to our society.

So let's start the revolution now and relentlessly pursue righteousness!

-----------------------------------
32:14 The fortress will be abandoned,
the noisy city deserted;
citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever,
the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,
15 till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
16 Justice will dwell in the desert
and righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
19 Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
20 how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

EmmDev 2018-04-26 [Insights from Isaiah] BagPipe Heart

BagPipe Heart

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. 16 You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.' Therefore you will flee! You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.' Therefore your pursuers will be swift!      (Isaiah30:15-16)

Years ago I wrote a devotion as part of a series on Soul Care. A colleague and mentor, Calvin Cook, responded to it. Here's what I wrote in response...

Picking up on Henry Drummond's quote of the heart being an elastic chamber that expands with God in it or shrinks without Him, my friend Calvin suggested that we have the choice between being vuvuzelas or bagpipes. The key difference is not in the mono-tone of the one compared to the variety of the other, but in the bag, which, when filled, allows the piper to play a much longer note than the human lung can blow the vuvu!

Isaiah records God's Word to those who think they can keep going in their own strength. The bottom line? In the Rat Race the rats win.

In repentance, rest, quietness and trust is salvation and strength.

Soul-care means we fill the "sak" (bag) of the "doedel" (tune or ditty) with the breath of God. (Sorry, I just think the Afrikaans "doedelsak" for "bagpipe" is so onomatopoeic)

The old hymn says it best:

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Breathe on me, breath of God.
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
                                (Edwin Hatch 1878)

Have a "doedel" long weekend!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

EmmDev 2018-04-25 [Insights from Isaiah] Leaning on the wrong supports.

Leaning on the wrong supports.

"Woe to the obstinate children," declares the LORD, "to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin.      (Isaiah30:1)

Isaiah is prophesying against the Israelites who, when threatened by the Babylonians, went off and tried to set up a military alliance with Egypt instead of relying on God. (He later described the Egyptians as a splintering reed - a walking stick that would collapse when they leaned on it.)

The still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to the people called them to repentance but they wouldn't listen. Later in the same chapter Isaiah admonishes them with the following words:

"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.'
Therefore you will flee!
You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.'
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

We cannot ask for God's power until we stop relying on other sources of strength. We cannot ask for guidance if we plan to go our own way. We cannot expect that the Holy Spirit will always lead us along paths that seem obvious to us.

In ch.55 Isaiah says this:
8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

God has an awesome plan for our lives. The Holy Spirit will guide us in the fulfilment of that plan. If we ignore His promptings, we will not only miss out on God's plan, but we sin and walk in the darkness.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

EmmDev 2018-04-24 [Insights from Isaiah] Peace and Trust

Peace and Trust

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You.
      (Isaiah26:3)
There is general agreement that this passage was written in 716BC just after the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the miraculous narrow escape of the Southern Kingdom when the Assyrians who were encamped on Jerusalem's doorstep withdrew. It was a tumultuous time.

This verse is part of a hymn or song celebrating God's goodness and urging people to put their trust in Him. Peace is available to those who will steadfastly trust in Him. It is not about Bible knowledge, theology, good behaviour, church attendance, or church activities. It is about trust.

The common conception of peace is a concept of absence. We have peace when trouble is absent, when conflict is absent, and chaos is absent. God's peace is different. It is a concept of presence. In the midst of trouble, conflict and chaos God is with us - This is what His name, Emmanuel, means.

Our steadfastness in faith is like the sailor who lashes himself to the mast in a storm. The storm rages, but the sailor is secure. When we fasten ourselves to Emmanuel then we will experience peace in the midst of our storm. He is determined to be with us and carry us through. Peace is ours if we will look beyond the circumstances and trust that He wants to be with us and help us. Look not at your circumstances but to a God who will do what it takes to be with us.

If you ever doubt it - just look at the cross!

Friday, April 20, 2018

EmmDev 2018-04-20 [Insights from Isaiah] Bringing heaven to earth

Bringing heaven to earth

Yesterday we looked at the beautiful promise-prophecy in Isaiah 11 where He speaks of the blessing and the sense of "Heaven on Earth" that the coming of God's "Anointed One" would bring:
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
(Isaiah 11:6)

Although Jesus is the full realisation of this hope, we know that king Hezekiah, born a few years after this prophecy, was a partial fulfilment of this hope for "heaven on earth".
Here's one of the beautiful moments of Hezekiah's rule that must have felt like the "leopard lying down with the goat": (You can read about it in 2 Chron 30)

Hezekiah realised that it had been a long time since the Israelites had celebrated the Passover properly and so he wanted to reinstitute it. But there were some difficulties:

  • The official date for the Passover was very soon, too soon for all the practical arrangements and messages to go out.
  • The priests weren't properly consecrated and there weren't enough of them.
  • The people weren't properly consecrated and wouldn't be able to make the required sacrifices themselves.
  • Many of the people went ahead and celebrated the Passover without consecrating themselves.

Hezekiah handled these difficulties with incredible grace and compassion:
  • He moves the Passover Feast a month later - that's like sending out a letter to the nation in November and telling people that Christmas has been moved to 25 Jan! The invitation was sent out, and while some mocked and criticised, a large number of people responded in faith and with great devotion.
  • The Levites and Priests who had been holding back their support were convicted by the response of the people and jumped in and started serving. Hezekiah prayed that God would bless them even though they hadn't gone through all the processes of preparation
  • The priests and Levites helped the people make the sacrifices (sacrificing on their behalf)
  • Hezekiah prayed for the people who had come to celebrate but had not had time to consecrate themselves and God healed them.

In these acts of sheer grace (rather than strict law) the people experienced great joy and mercy and so we read the following:

The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. 24 Hezekiah king of Judah provided a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep and goats for the assembly, and the officials provided them with a thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep and goats. A great number of priests consecrated themselves. 25 The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, along with the priests and Levites and all who had assembled from Israel, including the aliens who had come from Israel and those who lived in Judah. 26 There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.      (2Chronicles30:23-26)

This is just a small foretaste of the joy and grace that Jesus came to bring to us!

We, like Hezekiah, can be agents of this grace!

May you be blessed as you celebrate this great God in corporate worship on Sunday!



Thursday, April 19, 2018

EmmDev 2018-04-19 [Insights from Isaiah] A beautiful hope and a great power

A beautiful hope and a great power

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.      (Isaiah11:6-9)
These verses are a lovely example of Hebrew Poetry:
  • Vivid imagery featuring polar opposites (wolf & lamb) (child & cobra)
  • Parallel structures: Two strophes with three lines about animals and one (or two) about a child
  • The two lines about children and snakes are a parallelism
  • It ends with strong inclusive imagery (mountain, earth and sea)

This vivid, imagination-igniting imagery was carefully and poetically crafted as a powerful expression of the hope that Isaiah has in the coming Messiah.

But you may ask:
"Isn't it all pie-in-the-sky?"
"What possible comfort can these verses offer when these images describe a reality that is just too good to be true?"
"Isn't Isaiah creating false hope? There is no point in Israel's history where any of this happened."

Three points need to be made about this:

Firstly, this poetic language that is being used to describe our ultimate destiny. It's talking about heaven and the peace and harmony that we will experience in the presence of the Lord. The poetry points to peace, harmony and healing. This is a strong hope.

Secondly, while this is poetry, it hints at the significant power of the Messiah to bring about restoration. He is more than able to heal and restore and renew. Can He heal my broken soul? Can He restore my broken relationships? Can He bring justice to a broken world? Well... He can bring the wolf and the lamb together, He can make the lion a vegetarian and He can make the world safe for a child. While we don't see it in its full reality yet, but we have experienced this incredible power when we were forgiven and when we forgive others...

Which brings us to the third point... While the full reality is yet to come, it is not just pie-in-the-sky. Every time we ask for God's forgiveness, every time a relationship is restored and every time a memory is healed, we are experiencing a taste of the hope and power we referred to in points one and two. Think about the peace that flooded your heart when you knew your sins were forgiven - was that not the leopard lying down with the goat? Think about the relief of a relationship restored - was that not the cow feeding with the bear?

When Jesus died on the cross, His sacrifice was powerful enough to heal the world. While the full healing is still coming, the magnitude of its goodness inspires us and gives us hope, and in the meantime we draw on the power of the Messiah to bring hope and healing to our corners of the world.

And so we regularly pray:
"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.
On earth as it is in heaven."

(Tomorrow we'll take a look at a BEAUTIFUL example of heaven on earth from the life of Hezekiah)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

EmmDev 2018-04-18 [Insights from Isaiah] A shoot from the stump #4

A shoot from the stump #4

and He will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.      (Isaiah11:3-5)
As Isaiah lists the qualities of an ideal "shoot from the stump", we recognise that these are high standards for any king.

Here's Isaiah's list:
- delights in the fear of the Lord
(loving, loyal obedience)
- is impartial
(not being deceived by "hearsay" and "eyesay")
- judging with righteousness and justice,
- and being fair to the poor and the needy
(when the powerful and rich can exert such pressure)
- carries strong authority in word and deed
- leads so that righteousness and faithfulness are seen as part of his uniform.

This is the standard for a good king.

Hezekiah had many of these qualities.
And we desperately hope for these qualities in our presidents and leaders.

But when we look at Jesus we see all of them!

  • Think of His loving, loyal obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Think about how he shielded the woman caught in adultery from injustice at the hands of the religious tyrants, but also confronted her sin
  • Think of how He overturned the money-changer's tables and confronted hypocrisy.
  • Think about how Pilate and the Roman Centurion instinctively recognised his righteousness and innocence.

Indeed Jesus was the ideal "shoot from the stump".

But we also recognise that Hezekiah embodied many of these qualities, albeit imperfectly, and we pray the same for our leaders.