Archive for March 1, 2012
Tags: Bible, Book of Deuteronomy, Franz Rosenzweig, God, Israelites, Joshua, Martin Buber, Moses
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” — Joshua 1:6
In the opening chapter of Joshua, with the death of Moses still fresh in the minds of the people, God speaks to Joshua for the first time as the new leader. God does so to reinforce the promises he made to Moses. Interestingly, within a span of eight verses, within this one speech, God tells Joshua “Chazak V’Ematz” three times.
The first time occurs in verse six, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” And two more times after that in verses 7 and 9.
Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber, two leading Jewish thinkers in the early 20th century, described this literary tool as a leitmotif (a recurring theme), but we always must ask, to what purpose? Why does God use these exact words, and why does He repeat them with such great frequency?
For the answer, we must look a few pages back in the Bible to when Moses transferred his mantle of power to Joshua. There, we find that Moses uses the same words when speaking to Joshua, “Chazak V’Ematz,” “be strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:6–7). In a simple sense, God’s repetition of this phrase serves as a sort of code to convey that despite the death of the great Moses, God will be with Joshua the same way He was with Moses.
But I think there is more to realize. Often in life, we lose our stability, our grounding, whether due to the death of someone close, or the loss of trust in a mentor, or a blow to a belief; we all at one time or another need to confront faith on our own and grow independent of intermediaries, especially in our relationship with God.
To us God says, despite the hardships that we face, despite the losses that we suffer, Chazak V’ematz, be strong and courageous!
Tags: Bible, Christianity, God, Lord, Lord Waiting, Prayer, Religion & Spirituality, With Wings as Eagles
“Wait on the Lord” (Ps. xxvii. 14). How often this is said in the Bible, how little understood! It is what the old monk calls the “practice of the presence of God.” It is the habit of prayer. It is the continued communion that not only asks, but receives. People often ask us to pray for them and we have to say, “Why, God has answered our prayer for you, and you must now take the answer. It is awaiting you, and you must take it by waiting on the Lord.” This it is that renews the strength, until we mount up with wings as eagles, run and are not weary, walk and are not faint. Our hearts are too vast to take in His fulness at a single breath. We must live in the atmosphere of His presence till we absorb His very life. This is the secret of spiritual depth and rest, of power and fulness, of love and prayer, of hope and holy usefulness. ”Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
I am waiting in communion at the blessed mercy seat,
I am waiting, sweetly waiting, on the Lord;
I am drinking, of His fulness; I am sitting at His feet;
I am hearkening to the whispers of His word.
Tags: Bible, Buzi, Ezekiel, God, Israelites, Lord, Prayer, Word
One disaster comes after another, and rumor follows rumor. They seek a vision from the prophet. Instruction disappears from the priest, and counsel from the elders. (CEB)
In Ezekiel 7, the Lord reveals to his people the painful judgment that is about to come upon them. He holds the people accountable for their persistent failure to obey him and to engage, instead, in “detestable practices” (7:8). Indeed, “the vision concerns the whole crowd” (7:13).
But, one of the reasons the people have wandered away from the Lord into a lifestyle of rebellion against God has to do with the failure of their leaders. In verse 26, the people “seek a vision from the prophet,” but no vision is seen. Moreover, “instruction disappears from the priest, and counsel from the elders” (7:26). The Hebrew word translated here as “disappears” might also be rendered “dies” or “perishes.” In other words, when the people went to their leaders for a living word to guide them, all they got was dead gibberish. No doubt, the people were impressed with polished speeches and what appeared to be divine truth. But the leaders spoke out of their own ignorance, and the people were guided, not into life, but into death.
We can see this very thing happening in our own day, as our leaders wander away from God’s truth. This can happen even in churches that uphold biblical authority. Some years ago, I attended a church that affirms the inerrancy of Scripture. The preacher got up, read the biblical text, and then began to preach. His sermon was witty, compelling, and full of good advice. But it had absolutely nothing to do with the text he had read, other than an occasional word in common. Instruction had disappeared from that leader, at least on that particular Sunday.
Ezekiel 7:26 challenges me to be continually taught by God’s Word in Scripture, so that my leadership might be shaped by divine truth. When I’m writing these reflections, it isn’t hard to do this. But what about when I’m sitting in a planning meeting, or dealing with an upset colleague, or helping my colleagues see God’s vision for the future? And what about when I’m trying to work through a tough issue with my wife or help my children thrive each day? In those contexts, am I still letting the truth of God fill my mind and shape my speech?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What about you? In places and relationships where you are a leader, is your leadership grounded upon and shaped by God’s Word? What helps this to be true for you?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me to be a source of your instruction, not just when I’m teaching the Bible, but throughout my daily life. Not that I should be preachy, of course. But help my speech to be seasoned with the salt of your Word. May my counsel reflect your values and vision. May your truth never disappear from me.
I pray today for all who receive this reflection, that their words and deeds will be shaped by your truth today. Amen.
Tags: Book Joshua, Gibeon, Gibeonite, God, Israel, Israelites, Joshua, Lord
According to lie-detection experts, “Our natural tendency is to trust people.” However, not everyone is trustworthy all the time. Signs that someone may be lying include fidgeting, lack of eye contact, and noticeable pauses in speaking. Even with these clues, experts warn that it is still quite tough to tell deceivers from honest people.
Joshua needed to know if he could trust the Gibeonites. When they discovered that God wanted him to get rid of some neighboring nations (Josh. 9:24), they pretended to be from a faraway land. They arrived in worn-out tunics and patched sandals, claiming, “Our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey” (v.13). The Israelites were suspicious (v.7), but they “did not ask counsel of the Lord” (v.14); and Joshua unwisely made a peace treaty with the deceivers.
Many want to gain our trust: salespeople, financial advisors, or estranged family members. If we wonder: “Can I trust you?” we shouldn’t decide quickly, based only on what seems right to us. It’s better to seek counsel from God’s Word (Ps. 119:105), godly people (Prov. 11:14), and God Himself (James 1:5). Wisdom from above will help us decide who to trust.
Tags: Christ, Easter, Gethsemane, God, Jesu, Kidron Valley, Mount of Olives, Psalm
Where do you go to seek God’s presence?
I don’t know about you, but I love to walk in a beautifully manicured garden. The sweet smells, the beautiful colors, the wonder of nature makes me feel close to Him. I admit that I do not have a green thumb, but I definitely appreciate the peacefulness amidst nature’s beauty. This past week there was another “garden” in my thoughts … the Garden of Gethsemane. Located east of the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, I can only imagine that it was a beautiful place too – a peace-filled place, where Jesus went quite often to seek God’s presence.
I hope you’ve been able to find some quiet time this past week … a time for reflection … a time to examine our hearts, and pray about the things that hinder our relationship with God. Now we have to step out of our comfort zone and cry out to God, just as David did in the words of Psalm 51.
Easier said than done!
Most of us are more comfortable with the idea of giving up something for Lent, or just focusing on the upcoming celebration of Easter morning. But the hard fact is that we need to walk through the darkness that comes before the light … the confession that comes before the joy.
As Easter approaches we need to be honest with God. We need to lay our sins and burdens at the foot of the cross. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse us from every wrong.”
Remember … there is nothing that will surprise God – no sin too bad, no secret too dark. God is a God of light and darkness cannot survive in his presence. Nothing can keep us from His mercy and grace when we confess our sins with a sincere heart.
For our God sent His own Son in to the darkness, to die on the cross … for US. He took our place. He was our substitute, so that we may live in the light.
PREPARING OUR HEARTS: Meditate on the words of Romans 5:6-11, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
This week take time to pray about what it really means to take someone else’s punishment in their place. What are the results of Christ dying for us while we were still sinners?
Counting down to Calvary … God’s Peace, Donna Weaver
Tags: Brake, Friction, General Motors, Lord, Parts and Accessories, Shopping, Vehicles, Washington
But there is another kind of friction which retards spiritual progress and does real injury to the soul. It is the friction created by inward maladjustment. Our Lord had this in mind when He spoke of the value of the “single eye,” and James referred to the same thing when he told of the wavering man of double mind who was unstable in all his ways. While the heart is at cross-purposes with itself, there can be no inward harmony, only discord and carnal heat that slowly wear out the life. One source of friction is resentfulness. To hold bad feeling against another is to put the brakes on; no matter how sincerely we desire to go on in the holy way, we are held back by the grinding of resentment within us. Morally resentment is static and will brake to a stop any soul that will harbor it. It is vitally important to remove the pressure that is checking forward motion. This we can do by forgiving our enemies and taking pardon and cleansing from the Lord. To name all the possible causes of inward friction would be to list the works of the flesh in their entirety. The flesh warreth against the spirit: that is, it seeks to stop the motions of the growing heart and bring it to a standstill. Or, failing that, it will put as much pressure as possible on the life and slow its progress as much as it can. The sad thing is that so many of us seem willing to let things go on that way. We “grovel here below,” creeping forward painfully and at a snail’s pace, when we might be racing unhindered toward the prize. Let’s check up on ourselves. Possibly we may need to take the brakes off.