The Physician

Note: If you want to follow along reading the whole New Testament this year, read Mark 2 today!

“He/She is a lost cause!”  “They are too far gone!” Have you ever thought like that about someone?  Or maybe, you’ve had a thought like that about yourself?

Read this passage from Mark 2 and we’ll take a look at what Jesus has to say about the “lost causes” among us.

[13] He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. [14] And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

[15] And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. [16] And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [17] And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

-Mark 2:13-17 ESV

In Jesus day, tax collectors were some of the most hated people. They were famous for being dishonest and greedy.  Jesus walks by and says, “Follow me” to one of these “too far gone” people.

When the religious big shots (the Pharisees) see Jesus hanging out with “tax collectors and sinners” they start murmuring amount themselves.  Of course, according to Romans 3, hanging out with the Pharisees was hanging out with sinners too, but they weren’t willing to admit that.

Jesus’ reply is what spoke to me this morning. He says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

That’s us!  And everyone you know. We’re sick.  Sicker than we know.  And he came, not just to forgive us and feel sorry for us, but to call us!  He came to say, “Follow me.”  Not healthy enough spiritually to follow Jesus?  That’s like saying you’re too sick to call the doctor.  He came for sinners, and calls us to himself.

One of my heroes says it like this:

He came to give health and cure to the dying, to heal the broken hearted, and to offer strength to the weak. No sin-sick soul is too far gone for Him. It is His glory to heal and restore to life the most desperate cases. For unfailing skill, for unwearied tenderness, for long experience of man’s spiritual ailments, the great Physician of souls stands alone. There is none like Him.

– J. C. Ryle

There is none like him! Worthy of the investment of our whole lives.

God bless!

Well Pleased

Note: One of my goals this year is to help the students of AHBC get in the Word more.  I’m hoping to write 1 quick devotional each weekday to help.  This will follow along with reading 1 chapter of the New Testament each week day, which lets you read the whole new testament in 2017! Today’s chapter is Mark 1.

“11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  13a And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.” 

Mark 1:11-13a

These verses come at the end of the story of Jesus baptism in Mark 1. When God the Father looked at his Son Jesus, he said he was, “well pleased.” The wonderful truth of the gospel is that when the Father looks down at us, inspite of our sinfulness, he sees Jesus’ righteousness. The apostle Paul says it like this:

“For our sake he (the Father) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ”

2 Corinthians 5:21

If you are in Christ, when God looks at you this morning, he says, “With you I am well pleased!”

Here’s what struck me as I read this passage! As soon as God tells Jesus that he’s pleased with him, he sends him away to the wilderness where Jesus was tempted by Satan!

This year will have it’s ups and downs.  It will have it’s temptations and wilderness moments.  Remember, that was true even for Jesus. Your trials and your tough times don’t mean God has abandoned you.  He sent his only son to die for you!

He’s pleased with you, and the trials we face he works for our good.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him”

James 1:2-5

God bless!

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Thanks so much for reading! I pray it is a blessing!

Is This Those Days?

14194_Bible_in_the_Pew.jpgThe book of 1 Samuel is a fascinating tale of a major shift for God’s people.  They are moving from the dark time of the judges to a glorious time of the kings.  There is much pain yet to be experienced, but redemption is coming and 1 Samuel tells of its birth. We’ll dive further into the book next week, but I want to point out just one truth from the lesson that I believe is critical for our church.

Early in the book, we find these words:

“And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” 

1 Samuel 3:1b ESV

This sentence is the introduction to a passage where we see God speak.  God’s voice breaks in through the deafening silence the people had experienced for so long.  Why had God been silent?  Perhaps to test His people. Maybe because His people had been refusing to listen. Possibly in His sovereign wisdom He was waiting for “the fullness of time.” Scripture doesn’t tell us why God didn’t speak, it only tells us He was quiet.

What about now?  In 2016, is “the word of the Lord rare?” As the title of this article asks, are we in “those days?”  Let me offer a version of 1 Samuel 3:1 that I fear applies to today’s church:

“And the word of the LORD was common in those days; but no one cared.”

1 Samuel 3:1b ESV (Easley Standard Version)

OK, OK…I’m only one semester into Hebrew, but even I know this isn’t an accurate translation.  I do fear, however, it is an accurate diagnosis. God has not been silent.  We have the full, inherent, authoritative, inspired word of God. We just don’t care about what He has spoken.  His precious word to us sits on our books shelves while we come up with our version of the truth. We prefer an imaginary bible that tells us about salvation but excludes difficult commands.  We love that God has spoken about His grace but prefer to ignore that He has spoken about discipline.  We claim all our favorite traditions are in the text of scripture, but don’t bother to go The Book to understand what God has actually asked of us.

Brothers, sisters, the word of the Lord is not rare, but the careful study, interpretation and application of it is all but extinct.  I see precious copies of the word of the Lord everywhere, but I see a general tendency to either carelessly read and apply it, or ignore what it says altogether.  This is heart breaking.

The church is in trying times right now.  We tend to think the great threat is external, but I beg to differ.  Every verse we carefully dance around, every time we act as though a passage we like should trump one we don’t, every time we try to soften a text of scripture, we move the needle towards destruction.  Who are we, as the supposed people of God, if we refuse to trust His word?  How many verses do we have to believe “don’t apply in our day” before we admit we really just don’t believe we have God’s revealed word?  How many practices must we add to scriptures prescriptions before we just admit we don’t believe His word is sufficient?

If you keep reading in 1 Samuel 3, God speaks to Samuel and tells him that judgement is coming.  Telling people they are wrong and under judgement was no more popular in Samuel’s day that in our own.  Thankfully, Samuel was faithful.  He took God at His word and delivered a difficult message to Eli and his family.  Would it have been more loving for Samuel to hide what God had said?

If you can’t tell, I’m deeply concerned.  I’m concerned for the church in the US.  I’m concerned for my sister churches in the SBC.  I’m even concerned in my own church here at Arlington Heights.  I don’t think many in my circles would articulate a disbelief in the inspiration of scripture (though tragically some would), but I do fear that our approach to the word of God is generally one of standing over it, not under it.  Brothers, it must not be this way.

In the words of John Stott, “We need to repent of the haughty way in which we sometimes stand in judgment upon Scripture and must learn to sit humbly under its judgment instead. If we come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it only an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed he will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behaviour.”

Perhaps the word of the Lord is rare in these days.  Not for a lack of provision, but rather for lack of submission. Let’s be people who seek to believe every verse, submit to the authority of the word, and let it be our only guide for faith and practice.

NOTE: These notes are my own, but they are meant to supplement Session 12 of the Spring 2016 Gospel Project Chronological curriculum.  

 

A Tale of Two Hearts

NOTE: These notes are my own, but they are meant to supplement Session 10 of the Spring 2016 Gospel Project Chronological curriculum.  

NOTE 2: This is not a love story.

Heart #1:

There once was a man named Samson.  Samson was powerful beyond measure in his day. The very omnipotence of God flowed through Samson’s muscles it seems.  Samson’s feats of strength included killing a lion with his bare hands (Jdg. 14:6), killing 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone (Jdg. 15:15), and ripping out a city gate (also with his bare hands) and carrying it up a mountain just to make a point (Jdg. 16:3).

But as Charles Spurgeon put it, “though he had great physical strength, [he] had but little mental force, and even less spiritual power.”  Samson seemed to have an uncanny ability to make really bad decisions.  His actions seemed to be born out of the most base impulses.  His stomach led him to break his Nazirite vow to God for a few handfuls of honey. His sex drive led him to marry an idol worshiping Philistine woman (Jdg. 14), and sleep with and then marry a prostitute (Jdg 16).  His temper led him into all sorts of troubles.  He once tied 300 foxes together, lit their tails on fire and sent them through an enemies field out of pure rage. Even the examples given above of his feats of strength were driven mostly by rage and seem to have no higher motive.

In the worst view, Samson was a guy who, given any scenario with multiple options, always seems to land on the wrong one. With a more gracious lens though, Samson was just being himself.  He was just doing exactly what he wanted to do in any given scenario. In modern terms, Samson followed His heart.

Heart #2:

There once was a man named Jesus.  Jesus was powerful beyond measure in His day*. The very nature of God flowed through Jesus in every way.  Jesus’ powerful deeds included making the blind see, making the lame walk, healing the lepers, raising the dead, and rising from the dead himself.

But Jesus didn’t just do great things.  He had an uncanny ability to always do the most gracious, loving, and perfect action.  His actions seem to be born out of His most natural impulses, which were always perfectly aligned with the will of God.  His love for the Father caused Him to obey the law perfectly, His grace caused him to be kind to a prostitute, and a woman who had been divorced many times.  His anger burned only against those who would defile the house of God, or twist God’s law for their own gain.

Jesus was a man who given any scenario with multiple options always chose the wisest, best possible choice. Of course, Jesus was just being Himself.  He was doing exactly what He wanted to do in any given scenario.  In modern terms, Jesus followed His heart.

Jesus perfectly revealed the will of God in every action because His will was God’s.  It may make us squirm a bit to say, “Jesus followed His heart.”  I realize that is not the most precise language. Let me be clear, I don’t mean Jesus always did the most fun thing, I mean Jesus always acted consistently with His nature.

The Two Hearts

So here is the question for us.  Are we best described by Samson or Jesus?  Now this isn’t a simple question, and it isn’t a conundrum that a WWJD bracelet will solve. The reality is, at some level, we all “follow our hearts.”  When you gossip, lust, lie, etc. you are “following your heart.”  Yet as a Christian, when you give grace, offer an encouraging word to a hurting friend, or even battle with sin, you are “following your heart.”  This is because within the believer there are two wills.  Though painful to admit it, we all have the capacity to be like Samson.  Blindly acting on impulse as we dishonor God, and destroying  ourselves and those around us as we live out our most depraved desires. But for all who believe, Christ works in you a heart of flesh through His spirit.

Paul speaks about this issue in Romans 7 when he laments:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

Romans 7:18-25 ESV

As a believer, there is a real inner “delight in the law of God.”  We ought to be concerned if we don’t have that.  Yet there is also a humbling tendency to violate Christ formed in us and do the very evil we don’t want to do.

So are we best described as Samson or Jesus?  Short answer? Yes.  We think too much of ourselves if we believe our natural desires lead us in any better way than Samson’s did.  His actions may have been more dramatic, but that is likely just a result of his incredible strength.  Do we not find that in our flesh, we tend to do as much evil as we can get away with?

Oh but dear brother or sister, the cross does not leave us as it found us.  In Christ we have a new heart (Ez. 36:26). In Christ we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:16).  In Christ, “we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” (Rom. 6:6)

Jesus gave himself not simply to help us avoid hell, but “to purify for himself a people zelous for good works.”  His blood bought us a new way of life. The Christian lives in a daily struggle to embrace the new nature of Christ in us, and put to death the old nature that we share with our friend Samson. With the cross in view, how will we walk?

NOTE3: Maybe this is a love story.

*insert profound clarification about Jesus’ eternality for the theologically precise.

 

Prophet, Priest, & King

NOTE: These notes are my own, but they are meant to supplement Session 9 of the Spring 2016 Gospel Project Chronological curriculum.  

This weeks Gospel Project lesson is centered around the story of Gideon in Judges 6&7.  Gideon’s story is one of an unlikely and unconventional warrior-leader of God’s people.  As the lesson points out though, before God called Gideon to lead His people in battle, He sent a prophet to show them their sin.  We can learn something about Jesus through both of the men God sent to save His people.

For centuries, God’s people have noted that Jesus fulfills three offices that we desperately need as humans. These offices are that of a prophet, a priest, and a king.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 23:

Q.  What offices doth Christ execute as our redeemer?
A. Christ, as our redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

In this story, we get to see two of those roles played out through the history of Israel.

Jesus as Prophet

“When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD on account of the Midianites, the LORD sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.””

Judges 6:7-10 ESV

When the people cried out to God for deliverance, God didn’t just send someone to tell everyone that every little thing was gonna be alright.  He sends someone to meet them in their sin, and confront it.  God takes sin seriously, and his revelation to us will confront our wickedness and rebellion.

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1&14).  He fully communicates everything to us that God has to communicate to mankind about Himself.  That includes the truth about our desperate state as those born into rebellion.  “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18) because those who are perishing have not seen the reality of their desperate state.

Jesus tells us our desperate position and the path to deliverance with both His words and His actions on the cross.  He is the true prophet.

 Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 24:

Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Jesus as King

Of course the people didn’t just need someone to tell them their problem and how to fix it.  They needed someone stronger and wiser than themselves to guide, protect and deliver them.  Gideon may not have been crowned king, but he was certainly a warrior leader and deliverer of God’s people.

Through Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, we find victory over our great enemy: sin. Not only that, He is the wise and powerful ruler of the church (Col. 1:18 & Matt. 28:18), and He promises a glorious return where the score will be settled and He will stand triumphant with His people (Rev. 19:11-16).

Jesus delivers us from our enemies, and stands as our victorious king.  He is the greater king.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 26:

Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Jesus as Priest

If you are paying attention, we skipped one of Jesus’ offices.  While Judges 6 may not include a priest, we see the need for this office throughout scripture.  We don’t just need someone to inform us of our problem and the path to victory, we don’t just need a warrior leader, we need a substitute to take on the wrath we deserved.

Jesus is both priest and sacrifice.  He stands between the wrath of God and the people of God and intercedes for us.  He does this, “not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Heb. 9:12)

Jesus is the “one mediator between God and men” who mediates not based on the sacrifice of another, but by giving of Himself.  He is the perfect priest and the spotless lamb.

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 25:

Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.

The story of Gideon gives us many great examples of faith, but at the end of the day, Gideon was an imperfect leader, with a temporary victory, and a spotty legacy.  He only points us to one who is greater.  The true prophet, the perfect priest, and the greater king.

Just Do It

NOTE: These notes are my own, but they are meant to supplement Session 8 of the Spring 2016 Gospel Project Chronological curriculum.  

NOTE 2: Dear Nike, please don’t sue me.

There are so many great takeaways from the story of Deborah and Barak in Judges 4 and 5. For times sake, I’m only going to highlight two.

Faithful obedience often has some fear mixed in.

Barak refused to go to battle unless a woman went with Him.  I’m not a master historian, but something tells me that in ancient Israel, that’s not a good look.  Let’s not be too hard on old Barak though, Deborah was speaking for God, and he wanted God with Him.  He knew that he would be mowed over by the 900 chariots of Sisera’s army.

That internal spinning of your stomach that happens when you face an insurmountable obstacle isn’t all bad if you don’t stay there.  The gospel doesn’t say, “You’re bigger than your enemies.”  In fact, the bible says that we were defeated and dead when Christ came to us (Eph. 2).  Barak was 100% right that he was incapable of defeating the Canaanite army.  He was also right to have the faith to go forward into battle with the knowledge that God was with Him.

Faithful obedience lets God do the marching.

If you were there that day watching Barak head out to battle, you would see men marching out to war with crude weapons in their hands.  But when the battle was over, the tale was told accurately:

“LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the region of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped, yes, the clouds dropped water.”

Judges 5:4 ESV

This reminds me of Paul’s words at the end of Colossians 1:

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

Colossians 1:29 ESV

As Barak marched, so did God.  What does that mean?  I’m not going to pretend to be able to explain exactly what it means to struggle with His energy, but I do know that struggling without it is vanity (Ps. 127:1-2).

Our job is to obey and trust God.  God’s job is to accomplish His will.  If we begin to think we are more clever than God, and seek to accomplish His will through means other than obedience, we labor in vain.  Let’s be people who read and study hard, trust that God is with us, and then just do it.

You Gotta Serve Somebody

Well folks, I wrote a nice long blog post on Joshua 24, pulled it up this morning to clean it up and publish, and somehow in the world of WordPress drafts, it went away.  I’m at Together for the Gospel this week so I won’t have time to rewrite it.  Here are three very quick thoughts on Joshua 24. 

You Gotta Serve Somebody
Joshua said it:

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

‭‭Joshua‬ ‭24:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Jesus said it: 
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Even Bob Dylan said it:
“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

 You’re gonna have to serve somebody

 Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

 But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”

-Bob Dylan

Ultimately, each of us will serve serve someone or something, and there is no squishy middle.  “It is either evil to serve the Lord in your eyes, or you will serve Him.” Joshua says.

Fervent Commitment is Not Service

Verses 16-28 of the last chapter of Joshua shows the people fervently committing to serve the Lord.  By the end of chapter 1 of Judges (the next book in the story) they have disobeyed God by failing to fully obey His commands.

Beware lest we fall into this trap.  It is easy to swear ourselves to radical obedience.  It is hard to obey radically.  Perhaps this is on my heart because I’m currently at a pastor’s conference.

Joshua Died

The heading of the last section of Joshua 24 struck me.  “Joshua’s Death and Burial.”  Maybe it’s because I was reading at 5:00 AM, but my brain tried to auto correct to “Joshua’s Death, Burial and Resurection.”  But Joshua isn’t Jesus.  He was a great leader, but ultimately the sting of death defeated him as it does every man.

Christ is the true warrior leader of His people who conquered the grave.  He leads us into battle with the war already won.  Someday there will be a chapter written “Johua’s Death, Burial, and Resurection.”  It will be after Christ returns, and all those who hope in Him will have the same chapter in their story.

Sin Matters

NOTE: These notes are my own, but they are meant to supplement Session 5 of the Spring 2016 Gospel Project Chronological curriculum.  

Joshua chapter 6 recounted the incredible display of God’s power through His people at the ancient city of Jericho.  The chapter ended with these words:

“So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.”

(Joshua 6:27 ESV)

Yet within the first ten verses of Joshua chapter 7 we find Joshua in a very different place.

“Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan!”

Joshua 7:6-7 ESV

What happened in such a short period of time?  How can the leader of God’s people see such great success and then crash into this kind of despair? Sin. Sin is what happened.  Sin is how God’s people go from victory to defeat.

The story of Achan, found in Joshua 7, is brutal. I really cannot think of another way to describe it.  God’s people are coming off the high of a great victory at Jericho. After sending in a couple of spies and realizing the battle of Ai would be an easy win, Joshua sent a few thousand troops to take over the city.  As they prepare for the victory celebration back home, the soldiers end up coming home with their tails tucked between their legs and about 36 mens bodies on their shoulders.

What exactly happened between the victory at Jericho and defeat at Ai?  Did some pride well up in the peoples hearts keeping them from trusting and listening to God?  Perhaps.  Should Joshua have consulted with the Lord on how to attack instead of depending on his intellect?  Certainly.  Most significantly though, someone in their midst had coveted, idolized money, and stolen from God.  Achan had been strictly commanded not to take anything for himself from the wealth of Jericho, and he chose to disobey that command. Not only that, he refused to admit what he had done until he got caught. The results were devastating.  An embarrassing military defeat, a few dozen dead soldiers, and the death of Achan and his family.

I’m not going to try to figure out why God chose to judge this sin so quickly and harshly.  I am going to note that God is holy, and sin always has serious consequences.  In fact, “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23)  It’s also important to point out that it wasn’t just Achan that suffered from his sin, it was Achan, his family, and all the people of God.

There are many things that we can take away from this story, but I want to point out one that is applicable to a conversation that is ongoing in our body here at Arlington Heights.

Sin is really serious.  It can kill the person committing, it can wreck the people of God, and until it is dealt with, God does not give victory.  Michael (our pastor) preached a powerful sermon from 1 Corinthians 5 on church discipline called “Love Hurts” this past Sunday. This story from Joshua 7 points out why dealing with the sin among us matters.  What if before the people were defeated at Ai, one of Achan’s friends or family members would have stepped in and confronted him?  What if two or three would have gone to him and said, “Brother, your disobedience is dangerous, you must stop.”  What if it would have been brought before all of God’s people and with a united voice they would have said, “Stop the insanity Achan, our God is loving, but He is also holy and wrathful, this won’t end well.”  What if God would have used one of those moments of intervention to bring Achan to repentance before there was blood on his hands?  Or, if he didn’t repent, what if the people had said, “Achan, we can’t let you blatantly rebel against God and live among us.”  As tragic as that would have been, it’s better than body bags.  It’s better than defeat.  Of course, at this time, they didn’t have Matthew 18.  Now we do.

The good news is, God is full of grace and always restoring His people.  After the sin was dealt with, the people marched into Ai and took it over.  If we love our brothers and sisters, and love the church, we will extend grace upon grace as Christ does with us.  Yet at the same time, in light of the gospel, we expect grace to be transformative. Let’s be sure we take sin seriously.  Let’s be sure we obey Christ’s command to go to a brother in sin and pursue loving restoration in the way He commands.

 

 

Gospel Project Commentary: The Battle of Jericho

As God’s people entered the land promised to their father Abraham, it was not without opposition.  The great fortress at Jericho stood looming before them as they miraculously crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.

I want to quickly offer three highlights/takeaways from the story of the battle of Jericho.  Bible scholars, this story can be found in Joshua chapter 6.  These notes are my own, but they are meant to supplement Session 4 of the Spring 2016 Gospel Project Chronological curriculum.

God uses the foolish things to shame the wise.

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV

Jericho loomed as an impenetrable fortress for the nomadic Israelites, but perhaps with a solid plan, flawless execution, and an extra measure of luck, a take over was possible.  Of course, after the battle, the masterminds of the plan would have boasted in their wisdom.  The soldiers would have told tales of great strength.  And the people would have forgotten their Savior.

So what did God tell the people to do?  March in circles.  Blow some trumpets.  Shout real loud when I tell you.  Why?  Because in choosing a “foolish” plan, the wise man cannot boast, and in choosing a plan that even children could accomplish, the strong man cannot brag.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.'”

Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV

Faithfullness is better than genius.

If we serve a God who uses the foolish things to shame the wise, then we must be very wary of pragmatism.  Our own wisdom is faulty.  There are times when God would have do things that make no practical sense.  Things like marching around a city 7 times instead of attacking it.  In His wisdom, God has given us rich, practical instruction in His word. Creativity is a wonderful gift from God, but so is the prescriptive nature of the bible.  God’s word gives us bounds for our creativity, sometimes those bounds might not feel “smart” to us.  We must trust that His ways are higher than ours and let Him work through us on His terms.

There is always a thread of redemption.

Rahab the Prostitute.  Now that doesn’t exactly sound like the name of a key player in God’s plan of redemption does it?  If you blink, you might think she’s just the lady who let two strange men stay at her house.  Yet our holy God is not only merciful, He transforms people.  It turns out that “Rahab the Prostitute” gave up her sinful ways and settled down.  She married a man named Salmon and had a son.  His name was Boaz.  Boaz married a lady named Ruth.  (If you know that story, you might ask if Boaz learned his redemptive heart from his dad.) Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David. Of course being King David’s great great grandmother is a big enough claim to fame, but in His sovereignty God brings His own son into the world through the line of David, through the line of Rahab the Prostitute.

Closing thoughts.

God is always redeeming His people.  That includes Him forgiving our sins.  That includes Him transforming our lives. That includes Him giving us a place in His plan to fill the earth with God worshipers.

If we want to honor God, we will seek to be apart of His work of redemption.  Yet as we seek to be apart of His work, we must remember that it is His work and that He set’s the terms by which we participate.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ESV