Category Archives: Bible Study

Joshua 20-21: Our refuge

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In biblical times, the Israelites were instructed by God to set up cities of refuge for a specific purpose.  They offered protection to anyone who accidentally committed a crime, which normally carried the sentence of death.  Intentionally committed crimes were settled using  “an eye for an eye” principle. The sentence was carried out by the avenger of blood (nearest living relative). 

Accidental killings were to be handled differently. The person responsible for the killing was to immediately flee to a city of refuge where he could present his case to the elders of the city. If his explanation was judged satisfactory, he would be admitted to the city and given provisions and a place to stay. He (or she) would be protected in the city from the avenger of blood. If he left the safety of the city for any reason, he was fair game to the avenger of blood. Under the instructions provided in the Torah (Numbers 35), the person had to remain in the city until the high priest died. The guilty person could then return home relieved of his guilt and be safe from any reprisals.

If we fast forward to the time of Jesus Christ, we can see how this ancient practice was instituted by God as a way of modeling the concept of salvation, which He would offer to the whole human race.  Salvation from what?  Romans 3:23 and 6::23 offer a sobering statements: everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection and the wages for this sin is death.  Romans 6:23 goes on to say, God offers a gift (a place of refuge) in the person of his son Jesus Christ.  Anyone who accepts this gift will experience forgiveness and have eternal life.

Jesus Christ is a sinner’s city of refuge.

  • Jesus was divinely appointed as were the cities of refuge
  • Jesus, from the cross proclaimed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” ( Luke 23:34). This statement validates humanity’s guilt as accidental or involuntary manslaughter granting us access to a place of refuge.
  • In Christ the guilty can find safe haven
  • The way to Christ must be clearly revealed just as the roads were leading to the cities of refuge back in the time of Joshua.
  • Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 7, 8, 9). His death and resurrection have set us free from the penalty of our sin
  • Since Jesus is God’s Son, then God will be the avenger of blood to all who have not found refuge in Jesus

There are two more points to be made found in Joshua chapter 21.  After the cities of refuge were established by the Levites (Israel’s priests), God gave the Israelites rest on every side (v44).  The second point: None of the Lord’s promises to Israel failed, every one was fulfilled (v45).

We can find refuge in the person of Jesus.  When we enter his refuge we can experience rest on every side and begin to enjoy the promises of God; not one of them will ever fail.

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New life from lifelessness

For over the past half a century, I have witnessed the coming of spring.  Each and every year it comes according to its preordained time.  In the midst of intermittent snows and the cold temperatures the grass greens, flowers arise, and trees bud.  Mankind has nothing to do nothing with its arrival.  That which is ordained remains unaffected by any chaos overshadowing it.

Each year we witness new life springing forth from lifelessness, as if creation has suddenly been given a signal to awaken from its slumber.  For people of faith, spring is a time of renewal.  It reminds us of a day long ago when the Savior of the world was crucified, entombed and rose to new life.  Easter is the season of resurrection, when new life is possible from lifelessness.  

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I am reminded of a scripture passage found in Luke 5:35-43, in which Jesus of Nazareth gives new life to a twelve year old girl.  Everyone surrounding the little girl’s family knew she was dead, including the town’s people, the professional mourners, and her family.  Yet Jesus’ response was, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”  What was it Jairus, the little girl’s father, was supposed to believe?  When Jesus arrived at the residence of the dead child he said, “why all this commotion and wailing?  The child is not dead but asleep.”  Is this what the father was supposed to believe, that the child was not dead only sleeping?  He certainly knew the child was dead.  It is more likely Jairus needed faith to believe new life could come from lifelessness.  Luke, the author of this book of the Bible, intended this story to be a foreshadowing of the miracle which occurred on Easter morning; when new life came from lifelessness, when hope sprang forth from hopelessness.

A chaotic pandemic will overshadow this Easter season.  Remember Jesus’ words to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”   Hold fast to the certainty that the resurrected Jesus, the author of spring, is still in control.  Hope can spring forth from hopelessness!

Joshua 16-19: Possess your inheritance

photoshop-2845779_960_720Joshua chapters 16-19 go into great detail of how the tribes of Israel received their inheritance beginning with Caleb (from the tribe of Judah) and ending with Joshua (from the tribe of Ephraim). Lots were cast before God’s presence in the tabernacle in Shiloh (Joshua 18:6). Casting lots for land distribution involved God in the process. Today’s equivalent would be casting dice or picking a slip of paper out of a hat with a choice written on it. How many of us today would attribute the casting of lots to divine providence?

Joshua 16

Ephraim is given land before Manasseh even though the latter was the oldest child. This follows the order of Jacob’s blessing pronounced on Joseph two sons is found in Genesis 48. Jacob (old in years and blind) knowingly reverses his hands placed on the heads of his grandsons by Joseph and blesses Ephraim first. Jacob said, “his younger bother will become greater than he.”

Joshua 17

This chapter chronicles the land given to Manasseh, which includes the daughters of Zelophehad. Back in Numbers 27:1-11, the inheritance of Zelophehad is in jeopardy because he has no sons, only daughters. Zelophehad appealed to Moses to grant his daughters their father’s inheritance. God instructed Moses to honor their request.

“Do we as Christians lack the boldness, assurance and confidence to lay hold of God’s provisions?” D.R. Davis

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

The opposite of bold faith is complacency.  We find complacency clearly demonstrated by Israelites when they fail to completely possess the land, allowing the Canaanites to remain.  The Canaanites worship of Baal would become a cancer to the Israelites and eventually cost them their inherited land.

Should Christians be complainers if, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Joshua 18

A fair amount of grumbling and complaining occurred as the land was being distributed by the casting of lots. It became necessary to have the lots cast before God’s presence in the tabernacle.  Joshua exhorts the remaining seven tribes to stop procrastinating and possess their inheritance.

Joshua 19

The last allotment taken was for Joshua. He received the town, Timnath Serah, which is what he asked for.

Judges 2:4, “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua…”

The territory dispersed began with Caleb and ended with Joshua, two of the twelve spies who gave a good report when the Israelites spied out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13-14). The remaining spies gave bad reports.  The same pattern continued after the Israelites entered the promised land and possessed it.

Christians are not perfect and need to go about the business of giving a positive report to the dying world around them. True believers will one day receive their inheritance. In the meantime they should not see themselves as the “elite,” rather, humbly live out their lives in a manner pleasing to God.

Growing faith

“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.”  2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 NLT

Growing faith leads to abounding love. How does faith grow? One way is through persecution or trials, when we are forced to fully rely on God. How can we as followers of Christ, abounding in love, help those who are embroiled in such a predicament? Several years ago I began the practice of praying for someone who seemed to be wandering in a proverbial “desert wilderness.” I reasoned, if Jesus’ wilderness experience lasted forty days, then hat should be the measure of my commitment.  My forty day commitment to praying for someone is often done without telling them.  It builds up my faith to see God answering prayer in the life of another person.

praying-1319101_960_720Dear God, strengthen my faith by your mighty power. Remind me my strength comes from every word that comes out of your mouth. Guide my words and deeds to bring glory to your name. Show me someone who may be suffering, whether they’re facing a trial or struggling with doubts about their faith.  

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”  Thessalonians 1:11 NLT

 

Joshua 11-12: Battle fear with faith

chariot-1151742_960_720As we walk through the book of Joshua, Chapter 11 validates God’s decision to appoint Joshua to be the leader of the people of Israel and secure the Promised Land.  After Israelite victories over the Canaanite factions in central and southern Canaan, war again appears on the horizon.  Jabin, king of Hazor, is furious and filled with hatred.  He gathers the northern Canaanite kings together to form a massive coalition army intending to rid the land of the Israelites once and for all.

Hazor was a massive city of some 200 acres compared to Jericho which was less than 10 acres.  Hazor was located on a main trade route, which runs from Syria to Egypt.  The Canaanite army had a massive numerical and technological edge, yet the power of God shines brightly (Deuteronomy 20:1). Josephus, a Jewish historian, records the size of the force facing Joshua is 300,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 20,000 chariots.

“The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel.”” Joshua 11:6

To engage the enemy, Joshua has to march his army for five days over difficult terrain.  When he arrives he finds the enemy forces bogged down in a now flooded plain. Joshua attacks.  Any tactical advantage Jabin planned to use was washed away by a flood. Joshua routes the Canaanite army, pursuing remnants of the fleeing enemy to the east and west.  The war was not over however.  Joshua reassembles his army and attacks the northern cities, decimating them.  

We need to remember the Bible gives us a condensed account of this war. In reality the war with the Canaanites lasted a long time (Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22).  The war included a battle against the Anakites to the south, the “incredible hulks of the land of Canaan.” (D.R. Davis). These were the same giants that discouraged ten of the twelve Israelite spies some forty years earlier.  “Who can stand against them”, they asked, shaking with fear.

Though the descendants of Anakin were defeated by Joshua, a few of them remained in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath and Ashdod. David would later fight Goliath from hailed from Gath.

The listing of conquered kings in chapter 12 appears to be a boring account, but it demonstrates in detail the complete fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21).

What can be learned from this scripture passage?  When you face giant problems, don’t focus on how big they are, instead focus on your faith. Rob fear of its victory.  And when you pray remember to give God detailed praise for all the blessings He has bestowed on you.