Sunday January 13th
“Silver and Gold”
Acts Chapter 3
A lot of people don’t know this, but Beethoven was buried in a church graveyard. A couple days after he was buried, a man was walking through that cemetery when he heard some strange noises coming from the area where Beethoven was buried. The terrified man ran and got the priest to come and listen to it. The priest bent down close to the grave and heard some faint, unrecognizable music coming from the grave. The priest ran and got the choir director.
When the choir director arrived, he bent his ear down close to the grave, listened for a moment, and said, "Ah, yes, that's Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, but it’s being played backwards."
He listened a while longer, and said, "yes, there's the Eighth Symphony, and it's playing backwards, too. Most puzzling." He kept listening; "There's the Seventh... the Sixth... the Fifth...all in reverse!"
Suddenly the realization of what was happening dawned on the man; he stood up and announced, "There's nothing to worry about. It's just Beethoven decomposing."
Speaking of graves…
In Moscow, Vladimir Lenin’s body is kept in a crystal casket. The inscription on the casket reads: “He was the greatest leader of all peoples, of all countries, of all times.
He was the lord of the new humanity.
He was the savior of the world.”
There are two things we can be sure of regarding this inscription. One is that Lenin wasn’t the lord of humanity or the savior of the world, because he’s dead, and his body is still in its tomb.
The other thing we can be sure of is that Jesus Christ is the true lord and savior of the world, who defeated death for us all, which is why His tomb is empty!
And as we read through Acts chapter 3 this morning, we will see the power of the true risen savior being poured out through His earthly representatives, the church that He established.
In verses 1 through 10 we read about a visit of Peter and John to the temple, where the power of the risen Lord heals a man who had been lame from birth.
1One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every
day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" 5So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
Peter’s words must have sounded disappointing to the beggar when he said “Silver and gold I do not have”
Perhaps the beggar wondered, “Well then, what good are you if you don’t have any money to give me?”
But then Peter continued, “What I have I give you”!
And what he had was worth a lot more than money! He took the man by the hand, lifted him up, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, he healed him.
There is a great lesson in this story.
As Christians, we are supposed to do “what we can - with what we have – where we are – at any moment”
Let me repeat that: We are supposed to do “what we can - with what we have – where we are – at any moment” and not wait for a greater opportunity or for a better time when we might have more abilities or resources.
Because money isn’t everything! Too often people think that that giving money is the only way to help a person in need. But here we see a story that clearly demonstrates that money was not the most important thing Peter had to offer.
Peter said, “Silver and Gold I do not have” and then proceeded to be used by God to work a miracle.
Whether we talk in terms of money, talents, abilities or gifts, we must all answer the same question, “What do I have to offer right now?” And another question quickly follows: “Am I willing to give myself – including my finances, my talents, abilities and gifts – to be used any way that God sees fit?”
How else will the world know that Jesus Christ has the power to transform lives?
When we read about this particular encounter we must realize that we are also faced with cripples every day – an entire crippled society – and they need the power of Jesus to set them free just as much as this lame man did.
Our Society has crippled morals, crippled marriages and crippled relationships.
Our world is crippled by perversion and pornography.
Lives are crippled by alcohol and drug abuse.
People are crippled with negative attitudes, anger, hate, resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness.
Only Jesus Christ can bring the healing they need.
The truth is that all of us, prior to knowing Christ, were crippled and in need of healing.
Romans 3:23 says “All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
Isaiah 53:6 says “All are like sheep who have gone astray, we have turned, every one to their own way.”
We are dead spiritually and the words of Jesus recorded in Luke 13:3 state “Unless we repent we will perish”.
Like the lame man at the gate, we are helpless and powerless, spiritually crippled without Christ.
Salvation is our most basic need.
Verse 6 says that Peter healed the lame man,
“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
Jesus’ promise to his disciples in John 14:14 was “Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”.
The answer to our crippled generation is the name of Jesus Christ, not silver or gold or self-help books.
Jesus was given all authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18). He shared his power with the apostles, and according to Ephesians 1:18-19, all of us as believers share this power:
“18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
If we believe that then everything we do should be done in that spiritual authority.
We have the authority to lead people to salvation.
We have the authority to pray victoriously.
We have the authority to resist the devil and make him flee.
We have the authority to enforce Christ’s victory in our lives and homes and our church and our country.
Spiritual authority shouldn’t be taken lightly; it is intended to be exercised by believers who are filled with the spirit, living cleansed lives, and walking by faith.
Notice how Peter uses this healing to proclaim the power of the risen Christ in verses 11-26
“11While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade.
12When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.
17"Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'
24"Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. 25And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' 26When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."
Peter explains that the miraculous healing of the crippled man was the work of the risen Christ.
And then he uses the attention that the healing has brought to bring conviction and preach salvation. He reminds them that all of us are responsible for Christ’s death because He died in our place. And he points out to them that without the resurrection there’s no hope, no salvation.
He tells them that there is no new life without repentance, but if they turn to God their sins will be blotted out – completely wiped away – and that times of restoration, of refreshment await those who come to God for forgiveness.
And he quotes from Deuteronomy 18 where Moses tells the people of Israel that when the Messiah comes, whoever rejects Him will have to face God’s judgment.
It is a simple message: hear it and be blessed or refuse to hear it and be destroyed!
Responding to Christ’s forgiveness brings untold joy; rejecting him brings spiritual ruin.
The final point that we need to take from this chapter is simply this: that true spiritual power comes through obedience. Without Peter’s obedience to God, the power of the Gospel would not have been shown, the man would still have been lame, and the truth would not have been shared.
In obedience, we allow God to provide opportunities.
Peter and John were walking in obedience - "Now Peter and John went up together into the temple..." What would have happened if they didn’t feel like going to church that day?
Because Peter and John were obedient and went to the temple as God had commanded, they were used by God to perform a miracle.
Peter knew that because he was walking in obedience, he had the power of the name of Jesus.
So he was able to make the bold proclamation,
“Rise up and walk!”
1 John 3:22 states, "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."
There are conditions through which we receive His power - "Because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight!”
The key is obedience.
Are we living in the power of Christ because we’re walking in obedience to God’s Word, or are we lacking power because of disobedience?
We can’t expect to receive anything from God if we aren’t following Him and obeying His commandments.
Peter tells the people of Israel that “God desires not only to bless you, but to also make you a blessing to others.” The same is true for each of us.
We can expect the blessings of God to flow through our lives if we completely surrender our hearts to Jesus.
If you’ve never trusted Jesus as your personal Savior, today would be a perfect day to ask Him into your heart. He desires to fill you with His wonderful grace, power, and blessings.
If you are a child of God but have felt defeated because of your lack of obedience, make a new commitment to obey Him today.
Follow His path, be obedient in all things to His Word, and watch God transform your life.
The living savior means there is hope for our crippled world.
Ephesians 2:12 states that without Christ people have “no hope”.
They are spiritually lost, “condemned already” (John 3:18).
Not condemned tomorrow, or next year, not when they die, but now, already condemned, trapped in sin. Christ is their only hope!
But He’s all the hope they need!
Christianity has been described as “One beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”
You might not feel like you have a lot to give, but if Jesus has impacted your life in a way that gives you hope, then you can share that hope with others.
Peter didn’t have silver or gold, but he had hope. Jesus had freed him from the crippling grip of shame, and he knew that he could call upon the power of Jesus to help another man out of his crippled state.
In 2 Corinthians 1:4 we are told that…
“He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.”
Whatever you’ve been through, and God has helped you to get through it, you can share that experience, strength, and hope with someone who is going through their own struggles right now.
It’s not silver or gold, but to a person who sees no hope, what you have to share with them is priceless!
HOLY SPIRIT INSTRUCTION
In order to advance God's Kingdom, it must be an act of the Holy Spirit. We must know the teachings of Christ in order to know what He is doing. As we grow in our knowledge of God's will we will now be responsible to walk it out. As we seek Him daily, instructions will now be given us, we must choose to obey them in order to work with Him to see His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
We now become instruments to prove to the world that Jesus is resurrected through the demonstration of His power in our lives. Daily we must humbly present ourselves to God to be empowered by Him. We bear no witness of Christ without the Holy Spirit! We can do things in the name of God but without the power of God we will end up building nothing but our own man-made Kingdom. Any fellowship of Christians that do not accept and operate in the baptism of the Holy Spirit will never fully be able to represent Him. They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.
Apart from union with the Holy Spirit, we can bear no fruit, we are as John 15 describes dead branches, good for nothing but to be cut off and used for burning. It is not enough to be baptized in water for the repentance of sins we must be baptized in the Holy Spirit for the empowerment to be a witness, it is not an option, it is a command! Jesus commanded the disciples to go and wait until they are empowered and they did. We daily must wait until we are empowered before we go and do anything in His name! You can tell when someone has been with Jesus because they walk in authority and demonstrate it with power. People should know we are with Jesus if they don't we should not even tell them we are Christians. We can no longer settle for the human-created Christian religion, if Holy Spirit is not in it, we need to be out!
Too many people are looking to the sky, waiting for Jesus return, too few are looking for Jesus to empower them in the here and now! I look forward to Him returning and completing His work, ushering in the new millennium, but my main concern is to be an instrument He can use to prepare the way, to reform the earth, to be a witness so nobody can say they didn't have an opportunity to believe in Him.
Do you want to live an adventurous, world-changing life then ask Holy Spirit for His instructions daily, and be about it?
LET HOLY SPIRIT LEAD
Acts 1:12 through chapter 2.
You can expect it to be special when people come together with the same purpose; being devoted to God in prayer, with no selfish agenda just hearts desiring to hear from the Lord. As the body of Christ, we need each other, there is only so much we can receive alone. We must balance our personal time with God with our corporate time! Sunday morning will not cut it, growth requires more! We need to find a fellowship of like-minded believers that we can meet together regularly.
Each believer is like a puzzle that only together can the bigger picture be seen. When we neglect Christian fellowship we become narrow-minded, simpletons. It is praying, worshipping, and studying the Bible in small groups that expand our knowledge as we receive deeper insight into the ways of God. It is in these environments that certain decisions can be made because a wider perspective is developed through the grace on each person's life. When decisions are made by one individual failure will often be the result because of a lack of foresight. It is in the counsel of advisers that decisions succeed.
It is when we unite together in prayer that the culmination of the Holy Spirit in each individual creates an outpouring Pentecost experience. It will not always be like the day of Pentecost but we can expect to be refreshed each time we meet. The key is the condition of our heart, are we just going through the motions or are we expectant? We should not be looking to man but rather our focus should be on God and how He wants to move and through who depends on His lead. If we let Him lead, we will never leave disappointed.
Whom God uses will depend on who is ready to minister out of the overflow of His presence. In this place, you walk in discernment to know the thoughts and intents of man, to be able to minister to the heart, where those who listen can be convicted and be given an opportunity to repent and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As long as Holy Spirit is directing there will be people drawn to the Father. Man can help people make a temporary decision but God transforms lives to where a deep devotion follows. Christian leaders get frustrated because it is so hard to keep believers devoted to God, the problem is we are relying too much on ourselves and not on the power of the Holy Spirit.
We see in Acts 2:41-47 that the people who accepted the message of Peter were baptized, 3000 of them, and they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, and prayer. Signs and wonders followed the Apostles, the believers were together daily, joyful and humble, and they had favor with all people and the Lord added to them daily those who were being saved.
We make ministry way too complicated, it is simple, be baptized in the Holy Spirit and let Him lead in all we do, and He will do what only He can do, save souls, and make devoted followers.
Sunday December 30th
It’s been said that life is all about choices. That reminds me of the story of a Frenchman, an Englishman and an American who were exploring the jungle together when they were captured by a fierce tribe.
The tribe’s chief told them, "The bad news is that we're going to kill you, and then we are going to use your skins to build a canoe. The good news is that you each gets to choose how you will die."
The Frenchman said, "I vill take ze poison." The chief gave him some poison; the Frenchman said, "Vive la France!" and drank it.
The Englishman said, "A pistol for me, please." The chief gave him a pistol; the Englishman pointed it at his heart, said, "God save the Queen!" and pulled the trigger.
The American said, "Give me a fork." The chief was puzzled, but he just shrugged and gave him a fork. The American took the fork and started jabbing himself all over – in the stomach, the arms, the legs, the sides, the chest, everywhere. Blood was gushing from every hole.
Finally the chief screamed, "What are you doing?"
The American looked at the chief and said, "Good luck with your canoe, Chief!”
As the book of Joshua comes to a conclusion, there are some important choices that still need to be made.
Chapter 21 wraps up all of the distribution of land among the tribes of Israel, and it ends with these verses:
So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.
That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? God keeps all of His promises to the children of Israel. Of course He does! End of story, right? Well, not exactly!
We are going to take a look at chapters 22 and 23 in just a moment, but first I want to jump to the end of chapter 24, with is actually the end of the book of Joshua. Here are the final verses of the entire story:
29 It came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred and ten years old. 30 And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash.
31 Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel.
32 Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons. 33 And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him at Gibeah of Phinehas his son, which was given him in the hill country of Ephraim.
So Joshua, Joseph, and Eleazar have all passed on now, and it’s up to a new generation of Israelites to decide whether they are going to continue to follow God.
Earlier in chapter 24 we can see Joshua stating his famous pledge and challenge in verse 15:
“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
And then all of the people of Israel replied in verse 18:
“We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
Then Joshua makes this shocking statement in verse 19:
“You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God.”
What a downer! Why would he say something like that? Because Joshua knows these people pretty well. He has led them for many years, first alongside Moses and then on his own. He knows how easily they could turn to disobedience and fall away from following God.
If we go back to Chapter 23 we see something that is called Joshua’s Farewell Address. It could also be called Joshua’s Farewell Warning. Verses 1-3 set the scene:
Now it came about after many days, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies on every side, and Joshua was old, advanced in years, 2 that Joshua called for all Israel, for their elders and their heads and their judges and their officers, and said to them, “I am old, advanced in years. 3 And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the Lord your God is He who has been fighting for you.
Then in verse 14-16 he gives them this solemn reminder:
“Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. 15 It shall come about that just as all the good words which the Lord your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you. 16 When you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you will perish quickly from off the good land which He has given you.”
This is a pretty straightforward message for the people –
Because we have followed the Lord and obeyed His commands, we have been blessed by God and have received the fulfillment of all of His promises. But just remember that if you ever become disobedient to God, you will lose out on His blessings and instead you will have to experience His judgment and His wrath.
In Chapter 22 we find out why Joshua was so stern in his warning, and just how quickly and easily these Israelite tribes could move from peace towards chaos:
10 When they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, a large altar in appearance. 11 And the sons of Israel heard it said, “Behold, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel.” 12 When the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh to go up against them in war.
All of these tribes have labored together and fought together, side by side, to conquer and inherit the Promised Land. But now, as they are ready to start settling into their newly acquired lands, ten of the tribes get all fired up and ready to attack the tribes of Reuben and Gad. And over what? Because those tribes decided to build an altar on the side of the Jordan River that they didn’t own!
Most of us are familiar with Psalm 133:1, which says:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
Well, this situation points out how UN-pleasant it can be when brothers DON’T dwell together in unity!
So then 10 chiefs, one from each of the 10 ticked-off tribes, go to the leaders of Reuben and Gad and they confront them, starting in verse 16:
“Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, ‘What is this unfaithful act which you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away from following the Lord this day, by building yourselves an altar, to rebel against the Lord this day?
Then in verses 17 through 20 they rant about all of the previous sins against God committed by other Israelites.
Their main point can be summarized by verse 18:
If you rebel against the Lord today, He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow.
They use Achan, the guy who hid some forbidden stuff in his tent, as an example of what might happen:
20” Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.’”
Essentially what’s happening here is that these 10 chiefs are jumping to a MAJORLY wrong conclusion about this altar that their brothers have built. They think it’s a sinful act of rebellion against God, and that it’s going to bring God’s wrath down upon ALL of Israel.
However, that’s not at all what this altar is about. And now the tribes of Reuben and Gad get to explain the real reason why they built the altar, starting in verse 22:
“The Mighty One, God, the Lord, the Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion, or if in an unfaithful act against the Lord do not save us this day! 23 If we have built us an altar to turn away from following the Lord, or if to offer a burnt offering or grain offering on it, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, may the Lord Himself require it. 24 But truly we have done this out of concern, for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your sons may say to our sons, “What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you sons of Reuben and sons of Gad; you have no portion in the Lord.” So your sons may make our sons stop fearing the Lord.’
This is a very interesting and sincere concern. Remember that these two tribes had preferred settling in the land on the East side of the Jordan. They made a deal with Moses, and then renewed the deal with Joshua, that they would help the other 10 tribes conquer the Promised Land, as long as they could return back to the Eastern land when the fighting was over.
So they did their job as promised and then while they were heading back to their lands, a thought hit them – “What if, later on, the descendants of those other 10 tribes look at our descendants over here on the other side of the Jordan river and decide that our tribes aren’t part of Israel anymore because we are separated by the river?”
Then they go on to explain how this altar was designed to prevent that very problem:
26 “Therefore we said, ‘Let us build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; 27 rather it shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, so that your sons will not say to our sons in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord.”’ 28 Therefore we said, ‘It shall also come about if they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, “See the copy of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you.”’ 29 Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from following the Lord this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.”
The reason that the sons of Reuben and Gad made this altar was NOT for sacrifices! It was a symbolic altar which was meant to remind their descendants, AND the descendants of the other 10 tribes, that they all worshipped the same God! Plain and simple.
Do you remember the old character named Emily Litella, played by Gilda Radner from the show Saturday Night Live? She was an older woman with a hearing problem who would go off on some completely looney rant based upon incorrect information. Like she would say, “What’s all this fuss about violins on television?”
Then, when she would be confronted with the correct information, (it’s violence, not violins) she would say “Oh, that’s very different.” “Never Mind!”
That’s kind of what the chiefs of the 10 tribes said after hearing the truth about the reason for the altar.
30 So when Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the congregation, even the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them. 31 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the sons of Reuben and to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is in our midst, because you have not committed this unfaithful act against the Lord; now you have delivered the sons of Israel from the hand of the Lord.”
32 Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders returned from the sons of Reuben and from the sons of Gad, from the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the sons of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33 The word pleased the sons of Israel, and the sons of Israel blessed God; and they did not speak of going up against them in war to destroy the land in which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad were living. 34 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad called the altar Witness; “For,” they said, “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”
Just as Joshua had predicted, the children of Israel almost blew the entire covenant of the Promised Land before they even had a chance to get settled in. And for what reason?
Jealousy, misunderstanding, jumping to conclusions, being too quick to pick a fight before the facts were fully known, assuming the worst about their brothers.
Are these issues still things that we can fall prey to today? Absolutely yes, because we are no less human than these people were.
Can we AVOID falling into these problems? Absolutely yes, because WE have the advantage of learning from THEIR mistakes!
Look at what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-6
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
And for emphasis, he adds this in verses 11-13:
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
By studying the book of Joshua, we can learn from the example of the mistakes that they made, and we can guard ourselves from making those same mistakes.
Based on the example found in today’s verses, let’s enter 2019 with a renewed determination to avoid judging one another or assuming negative things about each other without finding out all of the facts first.
Do you want to make the coming year one of great blessings? Then listen to these words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve…you only need a heart full of grace and a soul regenerated by love.”
Are you ready to have a great year in 2019? Let’s do this together, by loving and serving one another!
Sunday December 16th
I read a story about an investigative journalist who went to Afghanistan and was shocked to discover that the women in that country were made to walk ten paces behind the men. She asked her guide why that was, and he said, "Because they are considered of lesser status." She was really outraged by this but there was nothing she could do about it so she just finished her assignment and went back home.
Several years later she returned on a new assignment to that same region and was surprised to see that the women were now walking ten paces ahead of the men. She turned to her guide and asked, "What has changed since the last time I was here?" The guide answered, "Land mines."
In exploring the relationship between men and women in God’s Kingdom, we’re going to highlight several significant portions of chapters 15 and 17 of Joshua.
Most of chapters 15 through 19 have to do with dividing up the land among the tribes of Israel, and this includes lengthy descriptions of the borders of each tribe’s territory, which we don’t really need to go over word for word. (Unless you enjoy being completely bored)
What we do want to focus on are two specific passages, one from chapter 15 and one from chapter 17.
Laurie is going to take us through the first passage.
Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; 2 only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly).
The Lord is a man of war;
The Lord is His name.
16 And Caleb said, “The one who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter as a wife.” 17 Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it; so he gave him Achsah his daughter as a wife.
For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.
2 Corinthians 11:2
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
18 It came about that when she came to him, she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she alighted from the donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” 19 Then she said, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
One more interesting thing about that story is that the whole thing is repeated word for word in Judges Chapter 1 verses 12-15, which isn’t really a surprise because Othniel became one of the judges over Israel after Joshua died.
The next section, from chapter 17, that we want to look at goes from verse 3 through verse 6:
3 However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. 4 They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the command of the Lord he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers. 5 Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan, 6 because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons. And the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh.
The daughters of Zelophehad realized that if they didn’t speak up, the land that should have been their inheritance might get divided up among all of the other families. So just like Achsah in chapter 15, they let their voices be heard, and they claim what is rightfully theirs.
This episode is actually a fulfillment of a promise made by God through Moses in Numbers 27:6-7
6 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 7 “The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them.”
In fact, in verse 8 God added that this didn’t just apply to these daughters, it applied to ALL daughters:
8 Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.’
Now I took the time to count, and I found that the words “son” or “sons” occur 61 times throughout chapters 15-19!
So why are we focusing so much on these two little episodes that involve daughters?
I’ll tell you why. Because Galatians 3:28 reminds us that:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Think about this: Every woman who is a part of this church is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother, somebody’s wife, somebody’s niece, or somebody’s granddaughter. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?
I want to share another quote with you as well. This is actually a quote from me!
It’s from an article in the Press of Atlantic City back on September 22nd, when they interviewed Pastor Josh and me for the 40th anniversary of the church.
The interviewer had asked me how the church had changed over the course of the 40 years. My answer was this:
“There is a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that said 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. That is not true at Praise Tabernacle. I believe that’s a work of God, and that He is pleased by that.”
I want to tell you for certain here this morning that God loves all of His children equally.
It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, Hispanic or Asian, rich or poor, male or female.
God loves His sons and He loves His daughters.
He has an inheritance to give to each one of us – an inheritance of blessings – an inheritance of gifts and talents – an inheritance of callings and ministries.
He wants to give us the upper springs and the lower springs. He wants to give us the fullness of what Jesus Christ purchased for us with His own blood.
Ladies, aren’t you glad today that God has such wonderful blessings to pour out upon the men of this church? Don’t you want to see them walking in the fullness of those blessings?
And men, aren’t you glad today that God has such wonderful blessings to pour out upon the women of this church? Don’t you want to see them walking in the fullness of those blessings?
You see, God has a wonderful plan for this church, and each one of us has a part in seeing that plan fulfilled.
Let’s rejoice today in the fact that God has called ALL of us to fulfill our part in His plan, and that we are called to do it together!
I am a big football and basketball fan and I love cheering for the underdog. Stories about teams that overcame uncountable odds to win, move me to tears. For example how the Eagles won the super bowl at the hands of Nick Foles, a backup quarterback who had almost quit football because of his lack of success.
The bible is full of such amazing death-defying stories. Here in Joshua 11, we see the children of Israel facing combined armies where their number was like sand on an ocean beach. This initially startled them with fear. Yet, as it says in verse 6, God said to Joshua: “Don’t worry about them. This time tomorrow I’ll hand them over to Israel, all dead.”
When God is with us and directing our steps there is nothing too big, or too strong, to overcome, “Nothing is impossible with Him.”
Those who seek first the kingdom will experience massive opposition. Satan will do everything he can to maintain his place in our territory. We must not be moved by whatsoever he throws at us, but only be moved by God. We can trust that God will increase our faith as the mountains around us become bigger.
Key to establishing Christ victory and manifesting the Kingdom of God is here in verse 15. Joshua like Moses did whatever God told him, leaving nothing incomplete.
Diligent leaders are those who complete everything that God commands them no matter the degree of difficulty. Many are those who obey God to an extent but when weary, they lose their drive and don’t finish what they started. We need leaders who will not stop until all the enemies of God are driven out of their land, and then and only then can they rest from war.
As it says in Ecclesiastes "there are times and seasons for everything," but even in times of peace where the battles cease, there is work to be done. Here in Joshua 13, though the "ites" of the land were defeated the children of Israel now needed to inhabit these territories and take claim to their inheritance or these "ites" would return. If we don't establish in the areas of victory, a right foundation, the evil spirits will return seven times worse (Luke 11:46).
Believers who are not discipled in the Word of God and who do not get baptized with the Holy Spirit eventually return to their old ways or become filled with religious demons.
Joshua had become of an old age but his time was not yet complete, the Lord told him that there was still land to take. The older we get and the less time we have on earth the more the urgency to pass on our inheritance to those who are called to receive our mantle and continue our legacy. As long as we have breath we should believe that our borders will broaden meaning our influence will increase, that we will maximize our full potential in Christ Jesus and be able to have God tell us when we leave this age, "well done, good and faithful servant."
God promised Joshua that He will drive out all the forces that would work against the children of Israel as long as he obeyed his commands. We don't want to die and leave any unnecessary burdens to those who will follow us. So we must be diligent to never rest until we have fully accomplished what God has commanded us. If we do want God asked we can rest assure that God will do what He promised.
In Joshua chapter 14 we see the land was distributed in strict accord and with the Lord’s commands.
“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” To see heaven on earth the land must be given back to God. We drive out the enemies of God by becoming owners of the land. Each child of God using their portion of property according to the Lord’s particular purpose.
Caleb had wholeheartedly followed the Lord but he had to suffer the consequences of the leaders who out of fear refused to cross over, yet while they died out, Caleb lived and remained strong, and now it was his time to finally enjoy what God promised Him.
Some of God’s promises may be on hold because of the disobedience of those around us but if we remain in Christ the opportunity will come back around again. Strength isn’t about age in the Kingdom of God, it is about trust in God and faith to believe despite the obstacles.
Caleb now 80 years old felt just as strong than when he was 40 and went forth and possessed Hebron which was his promised inheritance.
Faith should increase as we advance in age, we should not be retreating, but advancing forward and taking ground. What was lost when we were young and foolish or because of having bad companions can be finally in our reach in our upper age from the lessons we have learned.
Sunday December 2nd
Recently I keep having this same dream over and over again. In the dream I’m surrounded by all of these pregnant women and they all want me to help them deliver their babies. So I asked someone who is prophetic to help me interpret the dream and he said, “It sounds to me like you’re going through a mid-wife crisis!”
In Joshua chapter 10, the people of Israel find themselves surrounded by 5 Kings and their armies:
Now it came about when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had captured Ai, and had utterly destroyed it (just as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king), and that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were within their land, 2 that he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty. 3 Therefore Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent word to Hoham king of Hebron and to Piram king of Jarmuth and to Japhia king of Lachish and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us attack Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua and with the sons of Israel.” 5 So the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered together and went up, they with all their armies, and camped by Gibeon and fought against it.
Sometimes we read passages like this and we don’t see any connection between such a historical record of this upcoming battle and the lives that we live day to day.
But consider this – some days doesn’t it feel like we’re being surrounded by enemies and attacked from all sides!
Look at this sample of verses from the Psalms and see if you can relate to any of them:
Psalm 17:9 - My deadly enemies surround me.
The cords of Sheol (Hell) surrounded me
Many bulls have surrounded me
For dogs have surrounded me
For evils beyond number have surrounded me
The iniquity of my foes surrounds me,
I think that most of us have experienced times when the whole world seemed to be turning against us. Maybe the five kings and their armies who were attacking us included attacks against our family, our finances, our faith, our health, and even our sanity.
As we see how this battle unfolds for Joshua, let’s think about a few lessons that we can learn from HIS battle that we can apply to OUR battle! And we can start with verses 6 and 7:
6 Then the men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, saying, “Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites that live in the hill country have assembled against us.” 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him and all the valiant warriors.
The thing I want you to grasp from those verses is simply this – You might have enemies, but you also have friends! The men of Gibeon were under the same attack as the men of Israel, and they called out to Joshua asking for help. When the forces of darkness seem to be lining up against you, remember that you have brothers and sisters in Christ who are also facing the very same battles. God has given us the gift of fellowship so that we can lean on one another and support one another in the midst of these battles.
But we have even MORE than just each other!
Look what happens next:
8 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly by marching all night from Gilgal. 10 And the Lord confounded them before Israel, and He slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and pursued them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword.
Are you getting this picture? Joshua and his men, along with their allies, are fighting the armies of the five kings. But who is doing the most damage to these enemies? God is! He is raining down huge hailstones on Israel’s enemies!
We have to remember what David declared to Goliath in 1st Samuel 17:46-47
“This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
It’s probably fair to say that God’s ability to aim hailstones at enemy soldiers while avoiding hitting Israelite soldiers is pretty supernatural. But watch what happens next:
12 Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
“O sun, stand still at Gibeon,
And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies.
Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 There was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.
Wait! God did what? Yes, you heard it correctly. God made time stand still so that Joshua could complete his victory in battle before the sun went down!
Do you know that we serve a supernatural God?
Do you know that nothing is impossible for Him?
Jesus assured us of that in Matthew 19:26
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
And do you know what happens to your enemies when you fight back in the supernatural power of the Lord? They run and hide!
Verse 17 says:
It was told Joshua, saying, “The five kings have been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah.”
That’s exactly what James 4:7 says, isn’t it?
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
But Joshua isn’t done yet. And God isn’t done yet. So look at what happens in verses 22-27
22 Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring these five kings out to me from the cave.” 23 They did so, and brought these five kings out to him from the cave: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24 When they brought these kings out to Joshua, Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came near and put their feet on their necks. 25 Joshua then said to them, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the Lord will do to all your enemies with whom you fight.” 26 So afterward Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees; and they hung on the trees until evening. 27 It came about at sunset that Joshua gave a command, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and put large stones over the mouth of the cave, to this very day.
How’s that for an ultimate victory?
Do you remember those verses from the Psalms that we read earlier about being surrounded by our enemies? Well now let’s take a look at these Psalms as well:
All nations surrounded me; In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me; In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees; They were extinguished as a fire of thorns; In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
Do you see the significance of these verses?
It really doesn’t matter whether my enemies surround me or not.
What matters is that I can defeat every one of them in the name and the power of the Lord!
In verse 28-41 we see Joshua winning at least 8 more battles! And then verse 42 summarizes everything that has happened with these words:
“Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one time, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.”
That’s Joshua’s story. He was victorious because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought his battles for him.
Isn’t that our story too?
Isn’t that what the Apostle Paul is talking about in Ephesians 6:12?
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
So let me ask you a question this morning –
Are you running away in fear from the forces of darkness that are warring against you, or are you causing them to run away from you in fear?
Because that’s what you are able to do if you understand your identity in Christ.
I want you to think about this verse from Romans 8:37
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”
What are “these things” Paul is talking about? These things that we overcome through the power of Jesus?
Paul already told us in verse 35: “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, peril, or sword?”
Can we conquer those challenges? You know that we can!
Can we OVERWHELMINGLY conquer those challenges? You know that we can!
Did Joshua defeat the five kings? You better believe it! And then he defeated eight more kings for good measure!
That’s called an OVERWHLEMING victory!
You see, it’s not enough that your enemies turn and run and hide from you in a cave!
You need to pull them back out of that cave, step on their necks, hang them from a tree, stick them back in the cave, and roll huge boulders over the mouth of the cave!
Then you need to declare to the forces of darkness once and for all – “If you know what’s good for you, you’d better stay in that cave! Because I will no longer be afraid of your attacks!
My God has given me OVERWHELMING victory over you and anything, and I mean ANYTHING you can throw at me!”
People in American culture get there worth from what they do. So when you ask someone how they are doing they usually start talking about what they are doing. As disciples of Christ our worth should not come from what we do but who we are as children of God.
What we do is determined by what He is doing. We cannot expect God to bless what He never led.
In Joshua 9, the Gibeonites pretend to be a people from a far off land, and after a thorough inspection, Joshua and his fellow leaders of Israel find no evidence to say likewise, so they form a covenant not to wipe them out. The key verse is 14 where it says “they didn’t ask God about it.”
One of the biggest lessons we can learn in life is to never assume anything but to ask God about everything.
It was discovered that Joshua and the Israelites were fooled by the people of Gibeon, they were inhabitants of Canaan. They now could not fully obey God’s Word to destroy all the people in the Promised Land for it is against the law to break a covenant.
There is God’s perfect will and then His permissible will. We can either have God’s best or settle for less. When we acknowledge Him at all times we will take hold of all He promised us. When we don’t we compromise and some things cannot be altered, “we have made our bed and now have to lay in it.”
Sunday November 11th
As Joshua and Israelites continued their conquest of the Promised Land, they were heading north, towards the cities of Ai and Bethel.
That made me think how people can be so different depending on whether they come from the Northern or the Southern states.
For example, I heard about a man from up North here who traveled down to Arkansas to check out their famous hot springs.
He decided to ask the girl at the supermarket check-out where to find the best hot springs. He said to her, “I hear that you have a lot of spas around here.”
The girl looked puzzled and said “You heard what?”
The man continued, “They say there are a lot of spas around here. I wanted to see some of them.”
The girl shook her head in confusion and said, “Let me get this straight. You say you’re looking for spas? You mean like secret agents?”
Now the heading over chapter 8 in my Bible says “The Conquest of Ai”.
But wait a minute, wasn’t Ai the place where the Israelites just lost a major battle in Chapter 7?
Yes, that’s true, but today we’re going to talk about how God can help us to turn a defeat into a victory! And we’re going to do it in 4 easy steps!
The first thing we need to recognize is that the defeat of the Israelite army at Ai in Chapter 7 was a direct result of disobedience to God. In that particular case it was the disobedience of one man, Achan, who ignored God’s command by hiding some stolen treasure from Jericho in his tent.
So step Number 1 is going to be this: When we look at areas of our lives where we feel as though we’ve been defeated, we need to ask ourselves, “Have I been disobedient to God in some area of my life?”
Am I gossiping? Am I treating others poorly? Am I allowing my mind and my eyes to focus on things that are displeasing to God? Am I holding back in giving to God what is due unto Him?
And if we discover a situation where we’ve acted in a manner that is contrary to God’s will, then we can simply choose to repent and get that sin out of our lives, the same way that Joshua and the Israelites got rid of Achan.
Oh, and by the way, what did they do with Achan? The KILLED him! And what do we need to do with the sin in our lives? We need to KILL it!
The really good news is that as soon as we get right with God, He is ready to lead us to victory, as we see here in the opening verses of Joshua chapter 8:
Now the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.”
Notice how God doesn’t dwell on the mistakes of the past. He doesn’t tell Joshua that he’ll have to wait a while before he gets another chance. When we’ve confessed our sins, God is ready to move forward with us. There is no time to waste dwelling on what went wrong – Just learn from it, make it right and move on!
But did you also notice that God showed us the second step of our plan in that last part of verse 2 verse? It’s this – Listen to God’s plan!
God gave Joshua a very specific plan to defeat Ai. He was supposed to set an ambush behind the city.
Now you have to understand this – God’s plans only work if we listen to them!
Do you remember Naaman, the Syrian General from 2nd Kings Chapter 5? God gives him a plan to cure his leprosy, but Naaman almost doesn’t get healed because he doesn’t agree with God’s plan!
Thankfully, Naaman’s servants convince him to do things God’s way and he gets his healing. The point is – if you want to do things your way and stay in defeat, then go ahead. But if you want victory, then be prepared to do things God’s way!
Does Joshua listen to God’s plan? Absolutely!
3 So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. 4 He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready.5 Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. 6 They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us as at the first.’ So we will flee before them. 7 And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” 9 So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.
Joshua sets up the ambush of Ai exactly as God told Him to. In verses 10 through 17 the plan starts to unfold, but notice that is doesn’t start out looking like a victory:
10 Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai. 11 Then all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between him and Ai. 12 And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13 So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley. 14 It came about when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17 So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.
On the surface, this looks like another victory for the King of Ai and another defeat for Joshua. The Israelites are on the run, and the armies of Ai are chasing them.
Step Number 3 is this – Stop worrying about what things look like. If you are obeying God, then trust Him for your ultimate victory!
That’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about in 2nd Corinthians 5:7 when he says:
“We walk by faith, not by sight!”
Because look what happens just when defeat seems near:
18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 The men in ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it, and they quickly set the city on fire. 20 When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai. 22 The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; and they slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped.
Verses 23 -29 tell us that the entire city of Ai was destroyed that day, burned to the ground and reduced to a heap of rubble!
Think about this - that’s what your enemies will look like when you follow God’s plan for your life!
That’s the promise found in Isaiah 54:17
“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper”!
Do you believe that?
So then what’s the fourth step, you might ask?
Let’s look at what Joshua does next:
30 Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron tool; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.32 He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel. 33 All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34 Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.
The 4th step is simply this – Always give all of the Glory to God for the victories that He provides in your life!
Remember that it was God, His promises, and His word, that has won for you every battle that you’ve ever faced.
If we lose sight of that, then we take our eyes off of the very one who will carry us on from victory to victory, from glory to glory.
So let’s review our 4 step path from defeat to victory:
Step 1 - Ask yourself, “Have I been disobedient to God in some area of my life?” If so, repent immediately and get ready to move on
Step 2 - Listen to God’s plan!
Step 3 - Stop worrying about what things look like. Trust God and walk by faith, not by sight!
Step 4 – Give all the Glory, honor and praise to God!