Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 11: Joshua 3 – 4; Psalm 80; Proverbs 12:27-28; Luke 14:7-14:35


            Joshua: Israel is lead by Joshua to the edge of the Jordan where they camped for three days. Joshua told the people to follow the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Then the Lord told Joshua he would exalt Joshua in the eyes of Israel so that they would know that the Lord was with them. They would defeat the inhabitants of the land. When the priests carrying the Ark touch the Jordan it would stop flowing and stand in a heap.
            When the priest touched the Jordan, it stopped flowing and they stood in the middle of the Jordan on dry ground. The water was stopped at Adam a long way up the river. The Lord told Joshua to take one man from each tribe to pick up a stone from the bottom of the Jordan and take it to the other side. The heap was to become a memorial for future generations to know what happened on that day. It was also to let all the people of the earth know that the Lord is mighty and to fear God forever.
            The people passed over on dry ground. Joshua set up twelve stone on the dry riverbed. The Lord told Joshua to command the priest to come up out of the Jordan. As soon as they did, the waters started flowing again.
            Psalm: Asaph has a lament for the condition of Israel. He asks the Shepherd of Israel to hear and stir up his might to save Israel. He asks how long God will be angry with their prayers because he has fed his people with tears. Their enemies laugh at them.
            He recounts how the Lord brought them out of Egypt and planted them like vine that grew and filled the land. Why did he then let others eat of its fruit and wild boar eat it?
            He asks God to turn again and look upon the vine and the son he made strong. He asks God not to turn his back on them but to shine his face on them and restore them.
            Proverbs: A lazy person won’t eat because he hasn’t extended the effort to get his food. On the other hand, a diligent person will have much more than just food.
            Righteousness is the path to eternal life.
            Luke: Jesus saw how people chose better seats at a banquet so he told them that they should choose the lesser positions so that when the host comes he will honor them and tell them to move up. If they are told to take a lower position, that would be humiliating. People who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
            When giving a banquet, invite people who are marginalized and can’t repay. You will be rewarded at the resurrection. Someone commented that everyone who eats in the kingdom of God will be blessed. So Jesus answered with a parable.
            A man gave a great banquet and invited many people. However, they all had other things to do. The man became angry, told his servants to invite poor and crippled, anyone they could find in the streets. There was still room, so he told the servants to go farther to the highways and beyond so that there wouldn’t be any room for those he originally invited.
            Jesus explained discipleship to the crowds. They have to put Jesus ahead of family and even their own lives. They must carry their own cross. They must count the cost like a man building a tower or a king going to war before deciding. If they don’t renounce all that they have, they can’t be Jesus’ disciple.
            If salt loses its flavor, it can’t be restored. It is useless and thrown away. So we need to hear what Jesus said.

What Stood Out

            Joshua: “He [God] did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Josh 4:18 NIV 1984).
            Psalm: “Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?” (Ps 80:12).
            Proverbs: “In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death” (Prov 12:28).
            Luke: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).


            Joshua: What do you make of miracles in the Bible? When you read of the Jordan standing in a heap a long ways upriver, do you start to rationalize how this was a natural phenomenon that was coincidental to the priests stepping into the river? I’ve heard some explain it as a land slide that closed the river and backed up the water until it could break through.
            The other option is to understand that God caused the water to stand in a heap by some miraculous means. Consider the facts that the river was at flood stage (Josh 3:15). Consider that the priest stood on dry ground and the people passed on dry ground. This is repeated three times so there should not be a mistake. The word dry ground is the feminine form of the word that is used for desert, desolate, or waste.[1] How could the riverbed become dry so quickly? How could they cross on dry ground unless it was a miracle?
            When we start trying to reconcile our concepts of reality with what the Bible clearly says is a work of God by explaining things as natural occurrences or even worse, didn’t happen at all we are on the slippery slope of unbelief. What comes next? Do we question the virgin birth, Jesus walking on water, his death and resurrections? I submit that if you can’t believe that God performed a miracle for Israel to pass over the Jordan, then you have no business believing anything else in the Bible. God did it to show his might and that we would fear him forever (Josh 4:18)!
            Psalm: There isn’t one word in this Psalm about repentance. It is all presented from the perspective that God owed Israel something and he let them down when he sent the armies of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. Asaph is presenting a victim mentality that this is all someone else’s fault. In fact, he is even blaming God for the problem (Ps 80:12).
            I’ve heard people say that it is OK to get mad at God because the psalmists did and that is part of God’s word. I believe that the Lord included this Psalm in the Bible as an example of how not to pray. Asaph asks why, but has ignored what God said through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets. God said he would send these nations as punishment for their wickedness. Moses told them that when they turned to other gods, he would do this. If Asaph is reflecting the mentality of Israel in general, then it is little wonder that God delivered them to their enemies.
            When we do wicked things and the consequences catch up with us, we can’t blame God or other people for it. He will forgive if we repent and turn to him. Look at Daniel’s prayer for Israel in chapter 9. He admits the sins of Israel and owns them himself. Look at Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1 and 9. He does the same thing. There is admission of sin and repentance before asking for God’s favor. Don’t use this one of Asaph’s Psalms as a pattern for prayer. Use it as an example of how not to pray.
            Proverbs: The way of eternal life is through righteousness. It was established that righteousness comes as result of faith in God as early as Genesis 15:6. Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8) and it isn’t our righteousness but Jesus’ that brings eternal life (2 Cor 5:21).
            Luke: Jesus made the cost of discipleship abundantly clear. If we don’t renounce everything we have, we can’t be his disciple. The Encarta Dictionary says that renounce means: “To give up formally a claim, title, position, or right.” I say that all I have is his to do with whatever he wants. However, I haven’t been tested in this recently. Mentally, I’ve said it but I often wonder just how completely I’m willing to give up things like our house or other things. I most often act as if they are all ours and would be hard pressed to sell stuff and give to the poor if that is what Jesus wanted. I think my mind would make up many excuses to say it wasn’t really what the Lord wanted.
            If he asked me to go on a mission trip and use savings to do that, would I? That would be easier. But I could also find excuses not to do it. When it gets down to it, I don’t think I’m all that good of a disciple based on this standard of discipleship.


            Lord help me to be obedient to your call. Help me to have ears to hear it when you call and be a better disciple. Let me be one who can step into the flowing Jordan by faith.

[1] James Strong, Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, s.v. “OT: 2724, OT:2720”, (Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc. 2006).

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