Tag Archives: scripture verse

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!

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

 

Worry less, be thankful more

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On my way to work this morning, I heard an interesting statistic; 92% of the things we worry about never materialize.  The statistic came from a radio program by Dr. David Jeremiah who is currently doing a study on the book of Philippians.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 4:6-7

According to Dr. Jeremiah, when we pray we must be prepared to want the answer we receive and not pray with the mindset that God will always give us what we want.  

 

Joshua 10: A very long day

asteroids-1017666_960_720By now the Israelites have demonstrated a pattern of military success.  Jericho and Ai were conquered.  They entered into a treaty with five Gibeonite cities.  Why was the Canaanite king Adoni Zadek so upset with the Gibeonite treaty (v2)? The security of his city was being threatened. Strategically the Israelites controlled a swath of land through the center of the Canaan, splitting the land in two .

Adoni Zadek seeks to quell his fury by attacking the Gibeonites.  He talks four other Canaanite kings into leaving their fortified cities and camp out in the open to fight against the Gibeonites (v7). Rather than let the Gibeonites pay for their earlier deception, Joshua honors the treaty and marches his troops all night over difficult terrain to engage the Canaanites in battle (v9).  The Israelites and the Gibeonites fight all five northern kings in open terrain rather than in secure fortified cities.

God is the warrior here.  He proclaims he has given the enemy into Joshua’s hands.  God throws the enemy into a panic when the battle begins and then sends great stones from heaven down upon the fleeing armies (10, 11).

The miracle of prayer – Joshua prays with great faith asking God to cause the sun and moon to stand still. It should be noted that the sun and moon were principle deities of the Canaanites and any disturbance in their orbits or times would cause fear and panic among them. God listens to Joshua’s prayer and fights for Israel.  The extended day enables the five northern kings to be completely defeated (v13, 14).

Lest we consider the account of the long day of Joshua to be a fable, one has to consider that the Inca’s, Aztec’s, Babylonian’s, Persian’s, Chinese and other ancient cultures make mention of singular long day event.  Did the earth stop spinning?  No. More likely the earth was tilted several degrees on it’s axis making one day longer than all the others.

The Israelite army marches south and six more towns (v28).  When Joshua and his army return home to Gilgal, they have effectively quelled any major threats from the surrounding countryside but they have yet to completely occupy all the land of Canaan (see Judges chapter 1).

After reading this account in Joshua chapter 10, one has to be puzzled as to why a loving God would instruct his people to kill all the Canaanites in their battles.  It’s certainly not because the Israelites were faultless or more spiritual than the Canaanites, they were far from perfect.  They did worship the living God.  When the Israelites turned their backs on Him they often paid of severe price, even.  This very land would be taken from them many centuries later.  On the other hand, the Canaanite pagan worship practices were very dark.  Their worship demeaned and degraded human life, which included child sacrifice and sexual exploitation of older children.

Today, Jesus Christ is the advocate of those who follow his teaching.  I am reminded of a saying I once heard, “God and you are always a majority” not matter what the odds are.

[For] If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31