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


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)

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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


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.