Saturday, January 26, 2013

Following Jesus

6 Jesus answered, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. The only way to (God) the Father is through Me." John 14:6 (NCV), see also Acts 4:12 and Hebrews 10:19-20.

One of the main purposes of the Holy Bible is to help people understand and accept the call to follow Jesus. Following Jesus means we get a NEW LIFE and a better life (2 Corinthians 5:17) empowered by God’s Holy Spirit (John 15:26; Galatians 5:22–26). For some, following Jesus can be difficult (Mark 10:24-25), while others find following Jesus relatively easy (Mark 2:14–15; Luke 7:36–50). In either case, God provides His grace through the Holy Spirit to help us in our journey to follow Jesus (Mark 10:27; John 14:17). Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to His followers to encourage, instruct, and strengthen them every day with life’s challenges and struggles (John 14:16–17, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7, 13).

Following Jesus requires a simple few steps: (1) a sincere commitment to turn away from sin and unhealthy habits (Mark 8:34–38; Romans 10:9-10); (2) trusting one’s life wholeheartedly  to Jesus in faith (Mark 1:15; Mark 5:34-36; Mark 10:52); (3) repenting of sins (Mark 1:15; Mark 6:12); and (4) total allegiance and loyalty to Jesus even above loyalty to one’s own family and friends (Luke 14:25-35). Jesus demands absolute and total commitment to Him as Lord and Savior (Mark 8:34–38; Luke 9:57–62).  In fact, following Jesus may cost you friends, money, popularity, leisure time, or sports and hobbies. 

God found in Jesus is worthy of all our love, affections, and worship (John 3:16-18).  All the more, God demands that He comes first in every area of our lives, even our families (Matthew 6:33).  Yet, the benefits of following Jesus greatly outweigh any temporary earthly sacrifices. Following Jesus is an eternal investment that will bring enormous rewards (Mark 8:35; Revelation 2:7, 10, 17, 26–28; Revelation 3:5, 12, 21). One day, all faithful believers will go to heaven to be with God (John 14:2–3). 

In addition, Jesus wants all believers to live sanctified or holy lives as God is holy (Leviticus 19:2; John 17:17). Believers are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16). Believers become sanctified (set apart for sacred use, cleansed and made holy) through faith in Jesus’ life and death (Romans 3:21–29; Hebrews 9:9–15) and obeying the Word of God (John 1:1–3; Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is God’s truth. Daily application of God’s Word purifies our minds and hearts. Most important, obedience to God’s Word proves our wholehearted love for Him as our God (John 15:1-17).

Jesus wants everyone to turn from sin and trust Him as Lord and Savior by faith (Luke 18:15–17). Faith means complete dependence, trust, and obedience (see Joshua 1). Only by being connected with Jesus through faith can anyone have eternal life and power for living. Receiving Jesus through faith is the beginning of a new life. Believers can stay connected to Jesus by committing their life to Him (Romans 12:1–2); seeking Him through Bible study, prayer, and worship (Colossians 3:16); regular church attendance with other believers (Hebrews 10:24–25); and asking the Holy Spirit to help with daily living and other challenges (Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:22).

So, let everyone follow Jesus because Jesus is the only way to a happy life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Hebrews 10:19-20).

God’s Protections

9 Joshua traveled all night from Gilgal and took the Amorite armies by surprise. 10 The Lord threw them (Israel’s enemies) into a panic (confusion), and the Israelites slaughtered great numbers of them at Gibeon. Then the Israelites chased the enemy along the road to Beth-horon, killing them all along the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As the Amorites retreated down the road from Beth-horon, the Lord destroyed them with a terrible hailstorm from heaven that continued until they reached Azekah. The hail killed more of the enemy than the Israelites killed with the sword. 12 On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. Is this event not recorded in The Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. 14 There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer. Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day! Joshua 10:9-14 (NLT).

After Israel’s defeat of Jericho and Ai, the reputation of Israel’s conquering army under the leadership of Joshua spread throughout the rest of Canaan (God’s Promised Land).  From this point, Israel faced an alliance of united cites rather than one city at a time. Israel would eventually fight against a southern coalition of forces (Joshua 10) and then a northern coalition of forces (Joshua 11). The southern coalition of forces included the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. However, Gibeon of the Hivites decided to break from the southern coalition of forces.

Gibeon and its people lived in important cities, like one of the royal cities, in the southern region. Moreover, Gibeon was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters (Joshua 10:2). The Gibeonite cities occupied what would come to be called Bethlehem. The people of Gibeon heard of God’s protection of His people Israel and Israel’s victories (Joshua 9:9-10). These people knew God was fighting for Israel, and no army could resist God (Joshua 10:14). So, the Gibeonites sought peace with Joshua and the Israelites (Joshua 10:4: Joshua 11:19). However, Gibeon people deceitfully hide their true identity as Hivities of Canaan and disguised themselves as being from a far of country to make peace with God’s people. (Deut. 20:10-11). So, Gibeon hid their identity to deceive Israel and save themselves destruction. However, Gibeon’s surrender to Israel gave Israel four Hivite cities (Joshua 9:17; Joshua 10:2) and placed Israel in the central highlands of Canaan close to Jerusalem. The Gibeonites also became Israel’s servants and God’s people (see also 2 Samuel 21:1–15). Furthermore, the Gibeonites and Rahab’s household were the only people in Canaan that made peace with God and His people and received God’s grace, mercy and salvation from utter destruction (Joshua 2:12-14; Joshua 6:22-25; Joshua 11:19-20; see also Luke 15). The Gibeonites and Rahab surrendered to the one true and living God, became reconciled to God and part of His people (Matthew 1:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5).

Nonetheless, the author of Joshua points out that for the second time Joshua acted without seeking God for guidance (Joshua 9:14). The first time was at Ai (Joshua 7:2-4). The initial defeat at Ai should have taught Joshua and Israel the importance of seeking God first and His guidance (Joshua 7:2). God is the real hero of the Book of Joshua and the Commander (Joshua 5:13–15).

After the Gibeonites surrender to Joshua and Israel, five kings of Canaan created a coalition strategy to recapture Gibeon because of Gibeon’s central location in Canaan (Joshua 10:5). The people of Gibeon were now a part of God’s people and Israel came to help the Gibeon people (Joshua 9:15; Joshua 10:6-7). As at Jericho, God spoke to Joshua to affirm him and Israel that He had also given the five Canaanite kings and their cities into Joshua’s hand (Joshua 10:8). So Joshua led Israel into battle and God led the way (Joshua 10:9). Even more amazing, God threw the Canaanite people into panic and confusion before Israel. God threw large hailstones down from heaven on the southern Canaanite armies. In essence, God personally fought for Israel using nature as His weapons of war to defend His people from enemy attack (Joshua 10:10-11; see also Job 38:22-23). Then, God listened to Joshua’s prayer for help and even stopped the sun from setting so Joshua and Israel would have more time to defeat Israel’s enemy in battle (Joshua 10:12-14). God made the sun and moon stand still!

Joshua 10:12-14 describes one of God’s spectacular miracles on earth.  On this day, Joshua prayed aloud to God and asked God to "Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and let the moon stand in its place over the valley of Aijalon!" (Joshua 10:12 (TLB)). So, God ordered the sun to stand still, and the moon stopped, until Joshua and Israel had defeated their enemies.  So, the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day (Joshua 10:12-13). With this event, God revealed to the Canaanites that He was the true, living, and all-powerful God of heaven and earth. Israel’s God was dominant over any of the gods of Canaan.

But how could the sun stand still? From a scientific standpoint, the sun always stands still in relation to earth as the earth travels around the sun. Many explanations have been given for this miraculous event. Some scholars have argued that God slowed earth's normal rotation on the earth’s axis to give Joshua more time to fight. Other scholars argue that God sent an unusual refraction of the sun's rays to give Joshua additional hours of light, while other scholars argue a solar eclipse occurred on this day. Regardless of God's chosen method, the Holy Bible is clear that Joshua experienced the longest day in recorded history (Joshua 10:14). Even more, we know that God hears and response to the genuine prayers of help from His people (see also Luke 11:1-13; Luke 18:1-8)! From this battle, Joshua and Israel now had conquered the central and southern regions of Canaan (God’s Promised Land) for His people.

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31 (NLT).

Reference
Coleson, Joseph. Joshua, Judges, Ruth. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Streams, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 2012.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On God's Side!

13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a Man standing in front of him with sword in Hand. Joshua went up to Him and demanded, “Are You friend or foe?” 14 “Neither one,” He replied. “I am the Commander of the Lord’s Army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at Your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want Your servant to do?” 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 as he was told.
Joshua 5:13-15 (NLT).

Before the Israelites entered into the Promised Land, the people of Israel renewed their commitment and devotion to wholeheartedly follow God. This new generation of Israelites was committed to trusting and following God. God had always commanded absolute allegiance and love for Him as their  God (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) and this new generation people accepted God’s call of wholehearted faith in Him.

Even more important, Israel’s new leader, Joshua, met the Commander of the Lord's Army before entering the Promised Land (Joshua 5:13-15). Some biblical scholars say that Joshua actually met God in human form, also called a Theophany.  Other biblical scholars believe Joshua met the pre-incarnate Christ in human form or possibly an angel. Either way, Joshua’s encounter with Commander of the Lord’s Army is similar to Moses’ experience at the burning bush (Exodus 3:2–8) as God declared the land holy (Joshua 5:15).  As God was with Moses to lead the people, God was now with Joshua to lead Israel. Joshua humbly fell to ground in utter respect for the Commander of the Lord's Amy and removed his sandals. Joshua understood that God deserved absolute respect, honor, and worship. 

Moreover, God personally met Joshua to help him lead Israel into battle and conquer Canaan (or the Promised Land) for God’s people. God gave Joshua and Israel the battle instructions for victory as He was truly Israel's leader. Joshua humbly accepted God’s leading and guidance because Joshua knew God’s plans and ways is best (see also Jeremiah 29:11). Moreover, Joshua learned that God had a good plan for Israel’s victory. All Joshua and Israel had to do was humbly obey God and follow Him. Wholeheartedly following God would be Israel’s secret for their victory (see also 2 Chronicles 20:15).

Finally, Joshua asked God if He was a “friend or foe” (Joshua 5:13)  God relied to Joshua “neither” (Joshua 5:14)  To put this conversation in biblical terms, we are not to ask God to be on our side.  Rather, we must declare our wholehearted devotion and love to Him as our God and declare our commitment to be on God’s side.  This is what Joshua did when he realized who stood before him as he “fell with his face to the ground in reverence” to God (Joshua 5:14).  As Christians, we too must wholeheartedly commit ourselves to God.  At the heart of this Scripture passage is holiness.  Holiness means being wholeheartedly devoted to God and God's commands and set apart from sin and sin’s influence (1 Peter 1:16; see also Joshua 24:14-15, 23).  So, let us all get on God’s side!

Reference
Coleson, Joseph. Joshua, Judges, Ruth. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Streams, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 2012.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trouble With Sin

6 Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing in dismay (sadness), threw dust on their heads, and bowed face down to the ground before the Ark of the Lord until evening. 7 Then Joshua cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, ....” 10 But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11 Israel has sinned and broken (disobeyed) My covenant (commandments)! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for Me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied (acted deceitfully) about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. 12 That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer . . .  13 Get up! Command the people to purify  (santify or make holy) themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things (sin) from among you.” Joshua 7:6-7, 10-13 (NLT).

Jericho was the first city Joshua and the people of Israel came to in the Promised Land of God. The Promised Land was God’s property. This city protected entrances into the heart of the Promised Land (or Canaan) and was well defended with two strong walls.  Yet the people of God did not come against Jericho with weapons. God was with Israel. God had told Joshua that He had already given the city of Jericho into Israel’s hands and their enemies were defeated (Joshua 6:2; see also Romans 8:37-39; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8). In essence, Israel’s battle with Jericho was already won (see also 2 Chronicles 20:15). All Joshua and the Israelites had to do was to faithfully obey God’s instructions to reclaim God’s property, the Promised Land!  

God instructed Joshua to “march around the city” (Joshua 6:3) carrying the Ark of the Lord. Seven priests with seven rams’ horn were to precede the Ark of the Lord. The Ark of the Lord symbolized God’s holy presence with Israel (see Exodus 25:10-40; Numbers 7:89) and symbolized that God Himself would fight against Jericho. Israel only needed to march around the city, then shout, and observe God’s deliverance of the city into their hands. God wanted Joshua and Israel to clearly know that the battle would depend absolutely upon God for victory and not their weapons, know-how, or military might (Numbers 10:9).

Joshua 6:11-14 emphasizes the presence of the Ark of the Lord circling Jericho. For six days, Israel marched around Jericho with the Ark of the Lord (God’s Presence). With the Ark of the Lord leading, Israel circled once around the city with trumpets blowing and voices silent for six days.  On the seventh day, Israel did as they had done the previous six days, but this time circled Jericho seven times. Seven equals the number of perfection. So, Israel circles Jericho a total of thirteen times with only the sound of trumpets. Then, Joshua gave Israel the command to “Shout!” to announce God’s victory (Joshua 6:16).  The walls of Jericho came tumbling down! Jericho was the first city taken by God for Israel. Thus, Jericho and all Jericho’s gold, silver, bronze, and other possessions belonged to God as God’s first-fruits (Exodus 13:2; Exodus 23:19; see also 1 King 16:34; Joshua 7:1-26). After Jericho’s defeat, Joshua and Israel’s continued success depended upon their wholehearted obedience, devotion, and commitment to God.

Then, Israel moved to the next city for battle called Ai. However, Israel became over confident. Joshua and Israel did not seek God’s guidance and plans in their attack against Ai (Joshua 7:3-4; Matthew 6:33). Instead, Israel sent a small delegation to scout out the small Ai city without getting God’s direction. Even more, Israel’s sinned continued with Achan of the tribe of Judah. Achan disobeyed God’s commandments by lying (Exodus 20:16), stealing (Exodus 20:15), and coveting (Exodus 20:17) God’s possessions from Jericho (Joshua 7:10-12; 20-21). Because of these sins, Israel suffered defeat and death at Ai (Joshua 7:4-5).
Israel’s sin and disobedience demonstrated the seriousness of God’s commandments (see Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5). God loves and welcomes everyone who wholeheartedly turns to Him in faith and obedience and turns away from sin (John 3:16-18). Rahab and her household, non-Israelites, are an example of God’s open acceptance and welcome to all who places their trust and obedience in Him as God. However, Achan of Judah along with his household was ex-communicated from God’s family and presence because of their sin and greed (see also 1 Timothy 6:9-10).

After the initial defeat at Ai, Joshua and Israel cried out to God for forgiveness and repented of their sins (Joshua 7:6-7). Also, Joshua and Israel removed Achan's sin from their encampment (Joshua 7:24-26). With this confession and turning from sin, God’s holy presence, favor, and victory returned of Joshua and Israel (Joshua 8:1). Even more, Joshua and Israel succeeded in their second attack on Ai because God directed and guided their battle (Joshua 8:7). 

Now, Joshua and Israel sought God first and re-committed themselves to wholeheartedly obeying God’s directions (Matthew 6:33).  We too must obey God's commands (e.g., Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31). Moreover, we must also communicate by talking to God daily to discover His ways and directions. Like the generation of Joshua, we too must wholeheartedly seek to love, obey, and trust God and stay free of sin and sins influences (Joshua 1:5-9). God’s physical and spiritual blessings come to those who wholeheartedly love and obey Him (Deuteronomy 28).

God is holy (Leviticus 19:2), and He also want His people to be holy (1 Peter 1:16). Israel and Achan’s sin and its consequences reveal how serious God takes sin and disobedience (Joshua 7:24-26). Holiness means being wholeheartedly devoted to God and set apart from sin and sin’s influence. God’s holy presence, favor, and blessings will not remain with the presence of sin and evil. Yet, if you do sin, God offers a way out by genuinely confessing your sins to Him. As a loving God, He promises to forgive you (1 John 1:9; see also Joshua 7:6-7). Never forget that God is faithful and His loving kindness never ends (Lamentations 3:22-25). 
 
9 But if we confess our sins to Him (God), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (wrongs). 1 John 1:9 (NLT).

Reference
Coleson, Joseph. Joshua, Judges, Ruth. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Streams, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 2012.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Living God Goes First!

9 So Joshua told the Israelites, “Come and listen to what the Lord your God says. 10 Today you will know that the living God is among you. He will surely drive (without fail) out the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites ahead of you. 11 Look, the Ark of the Covenant, which belongs to the Lord of the whole earth, will lead you across the Jordan River! . . . 13 The priests will carry the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. As soon as their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will stand up like a wall.” Joshua 3:9-11, 13 (NLT).
 
The crossing of the Jordan River occupies two chapters of the Book of Joshua (Joshua 3 - 4).  This great event reveals Israel’s faith history and God’s presence on Israel’s behalf to save. This crossing meant this new Israel generation would not turn away from faithful following God as their parents had done forty years earlier (Numbers 13-14). With God’s leading, Israel would now claim the Promised Land and overcome the spiritual failures of the previous generation. 
 
Central to the Jordan River crossing is the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant (also called the Ark of God or the Ark of the Testimony). Chapters 3 and 4 of Joshua reference the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark represented the visible presence and power of the living God with Israel (see Exodus 25:10-40; Numbers 7:89). This visible presence filled the people with grace and mercy as well as calming their fears and worries. God was said to occupy the “mercy seat” (covering) between the two cherubim of gold (Exodus 25:17–22). With the Ark of God leading, the true and living God Himself went into the Jordan River first as He led the people first across the flooding river on dry land (Joshua 4:7). God Himself remained in the river until all the people, weak and strong, had crossed (Joshua 3:17).
 
At the crossing, the Jordan River was at flood stage and the river banks were overflowing (Joshua 3:15). From a human viewpoint, crossing the Jordan River was humanly impossible.  But the new generation of Israel finally believed and trusted that nothing was too hard for God if God led first (see also Genesis 18:14; Numbers 14:5-9; Matthew 6:33).
 
When the people entered into the Promised Land, they would also faced a people who worshipped many gods and idols.  The Ark of God reminded the people they worshipped the “living God” (Joshua 3:10) of the “whole earth” (Joshua 3:11). He was the living and powerful “Lord of all the earth” not only of humans but also nature, including the Jordan River at flood stage. Revelation 11:19 reveals the Ark of God in God’s heavenly Temple. For Christians today, Jesus Christ is our Ark of God.  Jesus Christ is our symbol of God’s full and holy presence with us through Jesus Christ's Holy Spirit living within our hearts (John 14:17; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 9-10).  Thus, God can always be trusted as we faithfully and obediently follow His leading and instructions first!  Our God, Jesus Christ, is with us now (Matthew 1:23).

Monday, January 14, 2013

Remember God!

19 The people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. Then they camped at Gilgal, just east of Jericho. 20 It was there at Gilgal that Joshua piled up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River. 21 Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and He kept it dry until you were all across, just as He did at the Red Sea when He dried it up until we had all crossed over. 24 He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s Hand is powerful, and so you might fear (reverence, respect, or worship) the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:19-24 (NLT).

The crossing of the Jordan River was a miracle! Joshua reminded the people to remember that the Lord God had dried up the flooding Jordan River right before their eyes. Israel crossed the river while the river was overflowing and at flood stage. To memorialize this miraculous event, Joshua directed Israel to build a memorial of twelve stones taken from the riverbed. God wanted the people to never forget who was guiding and giving them the Promised Land (see also Joshua 4:6, 21). In this crossing, God demonstrated to Israel and the other surrounding nations His great power and a witness to His faithfulness. Most important, God revealed that He was the living, true, and powerful of heaven and the whole earth that cares for His people (Joshua 2:10-11; Joshua 3:10; Joshua 4:24). 

The crossing of the Jordan River occurred the tenth day of the first month.  On the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar, this event occurred in late March, April, or early May and a few days before Passover. The miracle of the Jordan River crossing on dry land (Joshua 3:14–17) recalled the miracle of the Red Sea crossing forty years earlier by Israel escaping Egyptian slavery (Exodus 14:21–31). Israel had its first Passover in the Promised Land signifying God’s faithfulness to keep His promises (Joshua 5:10). Thus, God can always be trusted! So, tell everyone to remember God and His great faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-26).

Faithfulness to God!

Rahab:  11 When we (Canaanites) heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you (Israel), for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Joshua 2:11 (NIV).

The Book of Joshua has much to teach us and much with which to inspire the church today. Joshua teaches on or develops a surprising number of important biblical themes. The most important theme of the Book of Joshua is that God is the center of redemption history.  In the Book of Joshua, God was the Divine Warrior and Defender for the people of Israel. God fought for Israel against the Canaanite kings and armies.  The entire Book of Joshua from beginning to end reveals God’s goodness, greatness, and gifts to His people as He through His servant and the main leader, Joshua, lead His people into the Promised Land.  Our Joshua, Jesus the Christ and our God, brings us out of bondage to sin and into a fellowship with God in the “new land” of freedom with Jesus (John 8:36).   

Moreover, the Book of Joshua highlights the fulfillment of God’s covenant and promise to the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) (e.g., Genesis 15:18; Exodus 6:8; Deuteronomy 8:7-10). God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the Promised Land (Canaan). Now, the Patriarch’s descendants (Israel) would possess the Promised Land as a gift from God. In essences, the Book of Joshua demonstrates the absolute faithfulness and goodness of God to His people and how God can always be trusted to fulfill His promises (see Genesis 15:18-21; Joshua 21:43-45).

Because God is good and faithful, God must be our object of love, allegiance, and spiritual affection. We must never worship another god, other than the true and living God (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Joshua 2:11). The one true and living God is not a god of a particular place and purpose. Rather, God is highest everywhere and He loves us with an everlasting love (Joshua 2:9–11; John 3:16). God can be trusted!
 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Faith That Saves

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions (by helping others)? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds (actions or works), it is dead and useless. . . . 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. 25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers (spies) and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works. James 2:14-17, 24-26 (NLT).

Rahab described in Joshua 2 exercised courageous faith. She trusted and believed that the Lord God of Israel was the true and living God of both heaven and earth (Joshua 2:10–13). Moreover, she not only believed in God but she also acted on her faith by hiding the two Israelite spies as Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land (Canaan) (Joshua 2:3-6). The people of Canaan also believed in God and heard of God’s miraculous actions on behalf of Israel (Joshua 2:9-11).  However, believing in God is not enough as God wants us to also act on our faith with good actions by helping others (James 2:14-17).

Rahab was a woman of great faith and courage. Because of her courageous faith in God and actions, she not only saved herself from death and destruction but the lives of her entire family (Joshua 2:18-20; Joshua 6:22-23). Rahab and her faith are commended in the New Testament as she demonstrated faith by good works (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25-26). The faith that saves takes courage and obedience to God. 

Rahab was not a native Israelite. In fact, Rahab was a prostitute or a harlot (Hebrew zanah or z┼Źnah) from Canaan and she even lied to protect the Israelite spies (Joshua 2:4-5). God did not approve of Rahab’s lying or her harlotry. The Holy Scriptures clearly prohibits lying and harlotry, and nowhere does God condone Rahab’s lying nor lifestyle (Proverbs 12:22). Proverbs 12:22 expresses how much God values truth. Nonetheless, many biblical scholars have noted that deception and espionage are part of warfare as an explanation for Rahab’s lying to protect the invading Israelites spies. Nevertheless, we must affirm Rahab’s courageous faith and leave any judgment to God.

But in God’s mercy and grace, God forgave and received Rahab into the family line of God because of her courage and faith in Him (see also Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:1–10; 1 Timothy 1:15). Together with Sarah, Rahab is one of the only two women mentioned by name in the great faith hall of fame (Hebrews 11:31). Rahab later married Salmon of Israel and through whom was born Boaz, Ruth’s husband (Ruth 4:20-21). Thus, Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, became part of the family lineage of King David (1 Chronicles 2:11-12) and hence of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:4-6, 17; Luke 3:32).

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Did Jesus Ever Sin?

In every respect, Jesus’ body was just like that of any other human. Jesus was fully human with a human nature. He had a human genealogy (Matthew 1:1–17; Luke 3:23–28); a human birth and childhood; conceived in Mary’s womb (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26–27); a human birth by a woman (Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:1–7; Galatians 4:4); circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21); visited the Temple as a boy (Luke 2:41–51); grew up as any other human (Luke 2:52); had a human soul (Matthew 26:38; Luke 23:46), and was handled by people (1 John 1:1; Matthew 26:12). At His passion (suffering, death, and burial), Jesus experienced bloody sweat in the garden (Luke 22:44); death on the Cross at Calvary (Matthew 27:50; John 19:33; Philippians 2:7–8); blood and water flowed from His wound (John 19:34–35); His body was taken down from the Cross (Luke 23:53); His body was prepared and laid in a tomb (John 19:39–41); and burial clothes were used (John 20:6–7).

Nonetheless, the New Testament states clearly that even in His humanity, Jesus did not sin. Jesus lived a human life with a complete absence of sin (Exodus 20:1–21; Deuteronomy 5). Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus never disobeyed God (Genesis 3; 1 Peter 1:19–22; 1 John 3:5). Jesus fully obeyed God in our place and as our representative, thus succeeding where Adam and Eve failed, where the people of Israel in the wilderness failed, and where King David failed (2 Samuel 11–12; Romans 5:18–19; 1 Corinthians 15:45–47). Jesus never lied, cheated, coveted, disobeyed His Father, committed adultery, murdered, nor did He commit any of the many other sins noted in the Old Testament (John 15:10; John 18:38; 2 Corinthians 5:21). No deceit was found in Jesus’ mouth (1 Peter 2:22). However, King David did sin and he committed adultery, murder, and deceit (2 Samuel 11:27; 2 Samuel 12:1–15); nonetheless, he remained wholeheartedly devoted and loyal to God. Once his sin was revealed, King David confessed, repented, and received God’s forgiveness. However, the consequences of King David’s sin never departed from his household (2 Samuel 12:10, 15).

The author of Hebrews states that Jesus was tempted but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:14–16). He faced every temptation humans faced and continue to face (Hebrews 4:4–16). Being human, Jesus could not conquer temptation without a struggle. As fully God, Jesus did not yield to these temptations and, in fact, resisted and defeated evil in accordance with God, the Father’s, plan (John 5:19, 30). Jesus was tempted by evil—to disobey God for self-gratification, self-display, and self-aggrandizement (Matthew 4:1–11), and the temptation to avoid the Cross (Matthew 16:23; Luke 22:28). However, Jesus remained faithful to God and sinless, “a Lamb without blemish or defect” (Romans 6:6–7; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Colossians 2:13–14; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18–19). “Because He [Jesus] Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, while temptations were real, the Holy Spirit kept Jesus from committing any sin. Jesus had the Holy Spirit without measure to help Him in His earthly ministry (John 14–16). References to the Holy Spirit precede the temptation narrative in the Gospels: Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit… and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days He was tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1–2). Thereafter, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Jesus suffering as a human being led to His exaltation by God the Father (see Philippians 2:5–11; cp. Isaiah 52:13–53:12).

 

Fear!

1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “. . . . 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. . . .” Joshua 1:1, 5-7 (NLT).

In the first chapter of the Book of Joshua, God repeated to Joshua three times to be “strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9).  Just to assure Joshua did not forget, the people of Israel also told Joshua to be “strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:18). Fear and unbelief often weakens our strength and faith in God. Yet, God remained Joshua of His continuous presence (Joshua 1:5) to give Joshua the confidence to trust in Him and His Word (Joshua 1:7-8).

As believers of Jesus Christ, we too have the promise of God’s daily presence with us. Therefore, we must also be “strong and courageous” to trust God and live our lives according to God’s Word. God’s Word is a treasure chest of instruction, inspiration, and wisdom. Most important, God’s Word helps us understand and learn the heart and mind of God.

All believers of Jesus Christ have become a part of “the Israel of God” or the people of God (Galatians 6:16). God promises all His people that He will never leave them nor forsake them. This was Jesus Christ's promises just before He ascended and return to heaven (Matthew 28:20). The reality of this presence is evident in the fact that God has given His people the Holy Spirit of Jesus (John 14:15-17). So let everyone be “strong and courageous”.

Reference
Coleson, Joseph. Joshua, Judges, Ruth. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Tyndale House, 2012.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Strong and Courageous

1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant (aide). He (the Lord) said, “ . . . 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey (do or observe) all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful (or act wisely) in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction (the Law) continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is My command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:1, 5-9 (NLT).

After 40 of wandering in the wilderness, Joshua led a new generation of Israelites into the Promise Land (also called Canaan). Joshua had a spirit and heart for God (Numbers 27:18). He had a wholehearted devotion, faith, and love for the one true and living God (Joshua 24:15; see Genesis 26:5).  As one of the 12 spies to first enter Canaan (Numbers 13 – 14), only he and Caleb believed and trusted that God would help Israel triumph and possess the Promised Land.

God had promised the patriarchs of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) that the people of Israel would possess this great land (see e.g., Genesis 12:1-7; Genesis 15:12-20; Genesis 17:7-8; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 26:4; Genesis 28:13-14; Exodus 32:13). Furthermore, God repeated this promise to Moses (Exodus 3:6-8; Exodus 13:3-5; Numbers 14:30–31; Deuteronomy 1:6-8; Deuteronomy 6:10-19). God always keeps His promises, as the Book of Joshua illustrates (Joshua 23:14).

God instructed Joshua to constantly mediate, study, and do God’s Word (Joshua 1:7-8). God’s presence and His success come by daily obeying and doing God’s Word (Joshua 1:7; see also Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 11:8-9, 22-25; Deuteronomy 29:9; John 15:1-17). By faith and obedience to God, God’s people are victorious in spite of great challenges and obstacles (see also Deuteronomy 31:1-8). Victory comes from the power of God that is released when we obey God by faith. Nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37)!

But before Joshua and the people could enter this great land and obtain God’s promise, God gave both Joshua and the nation teaching on the importance of obedience, courage, and faith in Him. As God appointed Joshua as the new leader, God’s instruction to Joshua to be “strong and very courageous” is repeated from Deuteronomy 31:6, 7, 23 and Joshua 1: 6-7, 9, 18 (see also Joshua 10:25). The Divine instruction from God is for a courageous faith centered on obeying God’s Word. True and lasting success comes from daily meditating, study, and doing God’s Word as one’s lifestyle (Psalm 1:2-3). God wanted Joshua and the people to be confident in Him and His Word. Without God and God’s guidance, Joshua and the people would not succeed (Proverbs 16:9). God’s victory can be claimed only by obedience, courage, and faith in God. God encouraged Joshua by giving His promise (Joshua 1:6) and His presence (Joshua 1:3, 5, 9) but his success came from obeying God’s Word (Joshua 1:7–8).

Thirty-nine years earlier, the people had an opportunity to enter the Promised Land. However, the previous generation was filled with fear and lack of faith in God (Numbers 13-14). As a result of their lack of faith and fear, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness desert for 40 years. The earlier Israelites failed to realize that obedience, courage, and faith in God brought victory (see also 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 40:6-8; Psalm 51:16-19; Isaiah 1:11-15; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 9:13). As we faithfully obey and trust God, God is with us (Matthew 28:20; John 14:15-17). But we must first love, seek, and obey God and ask God to direct our daily paths (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 6:33).