Chapter nine of Joshua features the people of Gibeon. The Israelites have miraculously crossed the Jordan River on dry land and defeated Jericho and Ai. Word of the mighty works of God (v9) spread to the surrounding Canaanite towns. A call went out for the Canaanites to set aside their differences and unite militarily. The Gibeonites ignored the call, fearing they would be the next ones to be wiped out (v24). They came up with a ruse intending to secure a peace treaty with the Israelites.
The Gibeonites offer convincing proof that they are from a far off land showing the Israelites their moldy bread, old wine, worn out clothes as proof. “We have traveled far,” they said. The Israelites fell for the ruse and swore an oath. Unknowingly they made a peace treaty with their neighbors.
God was never consulted before they swore an oath to strangers? When the ruse was exposed, the Gibeonites were not killed but subjected to a life of servitude carrying water and cutting wood in tabernacle service.
How many of us have resorted to a ruse as a means to avoid trouble. Ruses often become yokes, which we are forced to bear indefinitely. What is to be gained with a lie draped around one’s neck?
“The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18 NLT
For people of God, the Jordan River carries heavy symbolism. If you are a churchgoer, take a quick peek in your hymnal. You will find songs revealing the Jordan as a symbol of death. Crossing the Jordan and reaching the Promised Land meant entering the gates of heaven.
Some time after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, baptism took the meaning of dying to your old self (upon immersion) and being raised to new life found in Christ (being drawn back up out of the water).
In Joshua chapter three we read the people of Israel needed to sanctify themselves before they could cross the Jordan River. For this ancient people it involved devoting themselves completely to God and worshiping him. God was about to perform a miracle and he wanted their undivided attention.
“Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”” Joshua 3:5
Unlike the Red Sea crossing found in the book of Exodus, crossing the Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land required an act of faith on their part–especially by the priests. God wasn’t going to stop the flow of the Jordan River at flood stage until their feet were in the water. The priests, however, didn’t go into the water alone. God was with them in the form of the ark of the covenant, which they carried.
“The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.” Joshua 3:17
Some thoughts for those who know God through his son Jesus:
God sometimes performs miracles at the most extreme times, often only after we step out in faith
How many miracles have we missed because we failed to take that first step of faith?
Every person passed by the ark (containing the Word of God) as they traveled through the dry riverbed. Much as every person today must encounter God to pass from death to everlasting life.
God will accomplish the impossible in our lives if we will trust Him.
Carl Sagan was an atheist who had this to say about the power a book possesses.
“What an astonishing thing a book is,” marveled [Carl] Sagan. “It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.”
Sagan’s comment certainly explains the desirability of books through the ages. It would also seem to explain the power and effectiveness of the Bible. Its author, God, is not dead and its words are timeless. That being said, one has to wonder why we don’t read the Bible more.
I find this image to be a picture of contentment, which is probably why I love it. It has great elements: friends, a favorite pet, a favorite hot beverage all in a relaxing setting. Wouldn’t it be great if life was served up to us like this on a daily basis?
I find it hard to be content when I’m always on the go, busy with this and that, or striving for material things that never seem to completely satisfy. Apostle Paul’s addresses the subject of contentment in his letter to the Philippians.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12
According to Pastor Matt Chandler, contentment is something we must learn. It does not come naturally. We can learn contentment from staying connected to the source of truth (scripture), by remembering God’s past provision, and by being grateful for things we already have.
Contentment isn’t a path to complacency, rather, it involves actively striving to be a f.r.o.g (someone who Fully Relies On God).
This stanza of the 119th Psalm highlights the righteousness of God. He is righteous (137) and so is his word (138). His righteousness is everlasting and true (142) and is unchanging (144).
How can anyone measure up to this standard of perfection? The psalmist’s approach is one of an all out pursuit of holiness (139). He recognizes his lowly and despised condition (141), yet he has an unwavering desire to understand God’s word.
The second stanza reminisces, considering the time and manner of the psalmists pleadings with God. Charles Spurgeon summarizes it this way…He prayed with his whole heart (145). He prayed, “God save me!” (146). He prayed before dawn (147) and all through the night watches (148), He cried out, “Preserve my life!” (149). God drew near in response (150).
“He who has been with God in the closet will find God with him in the furnace.” C. Spurgeon.
1 Peter 3:12 ties the two stanzas of this psalm together. The eyes and the ears of the Lord focus on the righteous and listen to their prayers.
The previous three stanzas of Psalm 119 emphasized drawing near to God. In verses 121-136 we do not find the cry of a proud person looking over his domain. Instead, a different cry arises, that of a servant.
(122) Ensure your servants well-being is a cry for God to take up the psalmist’s cause, for God to represent him. Christ ensures his followers are heard by interceding on our behalf (Hebrews 7:23-28). The Holy Spirit also intercedes for those who are God’s people (Romans 8:26-27).
The servant asks for God to (124) deal with them mercifully, (125) give them understanding, (128) and keep them from the wrong path.
What does the right path look like? (130) Unfold your words is the preparing one’s heart to receive the light of God’s word. It involves turning towards (not away from) the God of mercy. Those committed to the right path ask Him to direct their footsteps (133), deliver them from oppression (134) and shine on them (135).
If you find yourself on the right path do not be surprised if (136) streams of tears flow from your eyes when you observe those around you who are hostile towards the Savior they do not know personally.
Two themes rise to the surface in verses 49-56 of Psalm 119. The first theme dwells on remembrance. The psalmist is not asking for God for some new promise. He is standing on an existing one. He is not saying, “remember all I have done for you, God,” rather he is asking God to remember his promise. As Christians we need to remind ourselves of the promise of the empty grave that once held our Savior! Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we can experience the forgiveness of sins and have the promise of eternal life.
The second theme that emerges in this section is one of comfort. Comfort comes from knowing who or what you believe in.
A worldly person clutches his wallet and proclaims, “this is my comfort.” A drunkard lifts his glass and sings, “this is my comfort.” A man of God grounded in the Word of God testifies, “this is my comfort,” for he personally knows who it is he believes in. (Charles Spurgeon)
The next section of the Psalm (57-64) opens with, “the Lord is my Portion.” As Matt Chandler puts it, “God is enough, he is BIG enough!” We don’t serve an ancient, obsolete God. He is actively at work in the world he created. Chandler provides four points that highlight why God is big enough, even in times of suffering.
God is gracious and kind
The testimonies of God are faithful
God is always available
God has given us people of God as companions
(56) Remember God – how often do your thoughts dwell on God? Weekly? Daily? Hourly? He is a God who comforts.
(57) Remind yourself at least a dozen times today, “the Lord is my portion.” (God is enough, he is BIG enough!”