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Posts Tagged ‘victory’

trumoet

The people of Israel had been through hell and high water – literally.  They had been slaves in Egypt specially delivered right through the sea.  Finally, after forty years of stubborn, rebellious, complaining wandering in the desert, Joshua led them into the land God had promised.

In Joshua chapter 5, we find Joshua circumcising the sons of the Israelite slaves.  Mom and Dad didn’t make it out of the desert, but their children did.  The kids had been born on the way and had never been circumcised in accordance with God’s law.  Just afterward they eat their last provision of manna and remember the Passover and God’s deliverance and mercy.  Their new leader, Joshua, understands the order of importance when it comes to victory.  First, his men must be physically and spiritually obedient and prepared, then they must listen to the Word of the Lord.  Only after all of that is done do they begin to take what God has promised in victory.  It is not until they are physically healed and spiritually prepared that someone important shows up.  Joshua 5:14 tells us that the commander of the Lord’s Army comes and speaks to him about how to conquer the people living in the land God was giving to them.

Up until the point they arrive at the town of Jericho, all the people in the land have been in fear knowing what God had done for the Israelites in marching them through the sea.  Rahab the prostitute had even said as much to the spies Joshua had sent (Joshua 2:9).

They were afraid, but it did not cause them to obey God or befriend God’s people.  Instead, it caused them to shut themselves up inside the walls of their city.  The people of Jericho had resolved that Israel would not be their master.  No one could come in to their community and no one could go out to make peace or otherwise.  “Thus were they infatuated and their hearts hardened to their own destruction – the miserable case and character of all those that strengthen themselves against the Almighty.” ~ Matthew Henry

Those silly walls, as strong and mighty as they were, were no match for the Commander of God’s Army.  Those walls were destined to fall flat despite how fortified and exclusive they were built to be.

The angel gives some rather bizarre instructions for this first military conquest in the promised land.  He tells God’s people to take the ark of the covenant (symbolizing His presence), march around the city, and blow trumpets continually every day for seven days.  The seventh day they were to march around seven times blowing the trumpets and then shout.  That is what would make the walls of Jericho fall down.

There were several reasons why this was going to work and several reasons why God chose to do it this way.  It was going to work, firstly, because it was God’s sovereign will, but, from a practical standpoint, the blowing of the trumpets from outside the walls of this closed city served to intimidate those therein.  By doing so, God’s people were declaring war.

 “They proclaimed war with the Cannanites and so struck a terror upon them; for by terrors upon their spirits, they were to be conquered and subdued.  Thus God’s ministers, by the solemn declarations of his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, must blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in the holy mountain, that the sinners in Zion may be afraid.  They are God’s heralds to denounce war against all those that go on still in their trespasses, but say, ‘We shall have peace, though we go on.’ “ ~Matthew Henry

The trumpets themselves were least impressive.  God loves to use the foolish things to shame the strong.  Good news for me!

Another reason this worked, from an earthly standpoint, is that, while they may have feared firstly, after seven days of this ridiculous, noisy parade and no attack, the insiders doubtless began to think it was all a laughable show.

“Thus they cried peace and safety, that the destruction might be the more terrible when it came.  Wicked men think God in jest when he is preparing for their judgement; but they will be convinced of their mistake when it is too late…The wall fell down flat, and probably killed abundance of people…That which they trusted to for defense proved their destruction…they became an easy prey to the sword of Israel, and saw to how little purpose it was to shut their gates against a people that had the Lord on the head of them.” ~Matthew Henry

We all know how the story ends.  The walls fall down flat at the shout of God’s people and Jericho is the city chosen to serve as an example to their enemies and an encouragement for the further conquests in taking over the promised land.

There were some practical and spiritual reasons why God chose to have his people conquer the city of Jericho in this way.

It made God’s glory known because only he can be credited with victory when a walled-in city falls at a shout.  This parading around also served to honor his ark as well as his priests who were carrying it and sounding the trumpets.

There is not too far any of us can get in spiritual victory apart from the presence of God going with us.  That’s why Jesus said, “…Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Furthermore, this was meant to test the faith, patience, and obedience of God’s people.  Wonder what they were thinking.  Wonder how they felt when they had to march around thirteen times.  Thirteen trips around this city with nothing but a promise and their dull and meager instruments.  Yet, the purpose of this slow going-round served to test as well as encourage them heartily when victory came.  This was only the first battle.  Many were to follow.  This was for them to look back on and remember how strong and wise their God really was.  He keeps his promises.

God is in the business of tearing down walls.  So many times we find ourselves building them up, though.  The weapons he gives have divine power to destroy strongholds.  Jesus himself came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility and make one man out of two.  He came to bring unity between God and man as well as man and man.  He came to demolish strongholds.

Pray. Fast. Repeat.  God will take care of the walls.  They will fall when he is obeyed and honored by his people.

“The God of heaven easily can, and certainly will, break down all the opposing power of his and his church’s enemies…Thus, shall Satan’s kingdom fall, nor shall any prosper that harden themselves against God.” ~Matthew Henry

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sweet

No sooner do God’s people sing their great song of prayer, victory, and celebration to Him than they are led into the wilderness.  These people are on quite a journey – a grand adventure wherein they must learn how to follow the commands of a righteous, heavenly master as opposed to the unjust earthly master they had just been delivered from.  Let’s just call it an adjustment period.

They arrive in the desert and they are, not surprisingly, thirsty.  They only water they do find is bitter and undrinkable…so…because they just saw all these miracles, watched God destroy their fierce enemies, and sang for joy, they decide to pray for good water and they live happily ever after…

Fail.  Unfortunately that is not what God’s people did.  Even after all they had just seen God do for them, they allow their physical thirst to shift their focus from joy and praise to unbelief and complaining.  Even after all they had seen God do, these followers went right back to complaining.

 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” ~Exodus 15:24

I call them “followers” because that is what they were.  Some people are leaders.  Others are followers.  One is not better than the other.  The problem was not that they were followers, it was who they were following.  When they should have been following God and his prophet, they chose to follow each other and their physical and emotional desires  dwelling upon all they could find unfortunate about their situation.  It proved a real lack of character and maturity on their part.

Fortunately, God’s people had a prophet.  Oh, wait, that was the guy they were complaining about.  Drat.  The very man whom God gave to help, to deliver, to lead, and to prophesy to them, they exasperate and burden by their abusive speech against him.  Here, they have a man who was trusting God as he led them.  Yet, they grumble against him.

Moses prayed.  Moses cried out to God on behalf of his very fearful, unbelieving, abusive followers formerly known as the joyful praisers of the Lord who sang the great victory song right along with him just three days before.

God answers Moses’ prayer miraculously.  The text says: “And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” (Exodus 15:25)

Wait.  God “showed” the prophet a log?  A log.  What?  How does that work?  Does God just point out random objects to people and enlighten them about what he wants done with them?

I am here to tell you…Yes.  He.  Does.  God speaks to people who pray in earnest to him for the sake of others.  God is in no way limited in the means or the methods he may choose to use for the sake of his people.  God can and does use whatever he will when we are willing to listen and obey.

God can use a log.  He can use a murderer like Moses.  He can use a donkey, a tax collector, a doctor, a colt, a hate-filled Pharisee like Saul (Paul), or even, *gasp*, a GIRL if he wants to.  May he, complaining unbeliever?  May he, grumbling follower?  Just wondering.

Here, God gave his prophet practical insight and wisdom on what to do and how to do it.  The prophet obeyed and God provided.  Therefore, what was bitter and unusable became life-giving to all God’s people.  So God used an obedient, praying murderer turned prophet coupled with an inanimate object in order to work a miracle and set an extremely important precedent for his people.

It seems that change is always difficult for people.  It is one thing to follow an earthly master who threatens punishment and sure death in the instance of disobedience.  It is another to be given freedom and liberty to choose right or wrong for the sake of a life-giving, heavenly Master who has just shown you great love, grace, mercy, and favor.  Here, God clears up any misconceptions these chosen ones may have had about their responsibility to him as well as the consequences of their obedience and disobedience, respectively.  God made himself quite clear.  His message was this:

Hey, kids.  I have control over all things.  I have been extremely gracious to you.  I destroyed your enemies because of their sin.  I know it is hard to believe, but I am not going to just overlook your sin.   Listen and obey me and you will be healed and protected.  Ignore and disobey me and you will be destroyed just like your enemies.  You are no better, no different, and in no way above them.  All men are the same to me.  This is life or death.  You choose.

Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Let not the Israelites think, because God had thus highly honored them in the great things he had done for them, and had proclaimed the to all the world his favorites, that therefore he would connive at their sins and let them do as they would.  No, God is no respecter of persons; a rebellious Israelites shall fare no better than a rebellious Egyptian; and so they found, to their cost, before they got to Canaan.”  

Like I said, change is always difficult for people – especially those who have lived in harsh bondage their entire lives; especially those who have lived in positions of preference, position, and pride over their own personal heritage their entire lives. When transitioning from a slave-driving, hard task-master like Pharaoh and sin, as well as from a self-serving attitude of self-importance wherein our task-master is our own sin, to a life-giving, love-bestowing, righteous Father-master like God, we are, like they were, bound to have some misconceptions and make some mistakes.  God knew.  That is why he made himself so clear upon their entry to this wilderness.

The prophet has spoken.  The miracle has proven his prayers as effective as his words were true.  Now, God’s great mercy gives even more grace.

 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. ~Exodus 15:27

God gave a place of rest and refreshment.  He will do the same for us if we would but trust him.

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hurricane

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter knockout

The Lord delivered his people out of slavery and evil oppression by many signs, wonders, and miracles.  He delivered them out of Egypt, gave them the spoils of war, led them by supernatural means, and walked them straight through a would-be raging sea.  Their enemies are lying dead on the seashore in full view.  God’s people fear and believe God more than they ever have before.  That’s a hard act to follow.  What do the people of God do after an unmitigated display of God’s power?

There is only one thing they can do – praise God.  Moses and Miriam lead the people in  singing a song of praise.  It goes something like this:

Wow, God!  You won!  You threw our enemies and the high horses they rode in on into the sea!  You are my strength!  You are my salvation!  You are my God!  Be praised!  Be exalted!  You are a divine warrior!  You literally threw the most powerful guy in the world into the sea!  You sunk him like a heavy rock!  You sunk his entire army like stones!  What power!  What wrath!  What majesty!  What victory!  They are like nothing to you!  So proud!  So confident they would capture us again!  But you destroyed them with one single blow and they sank to the depths of the sea!  Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?  Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?  Your wrath consumed our enemies.  Your love led us as your redeemed.  People everywhere fear you now!  They fear us!  Everyone is afraid!  None of our enemies can even move when we walk by because they have seen your power and they know you fight for us!  You bought us.  We belong to you.  We know you are giving us a home and a holy place where you will rule for all eternity.  Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

This song was intended to convey the greatness of God in three ways.  1. It was to magnify the obliteration of all the fierce enemies of God’s people.  2.  It was to magnify the protection and tender leading of his own.  3.  It was to serve as a tangible reminder for every generation to come of those two realities.

Remember, Christian, we serve a God who smites the proud.  Matthew Henry notes, “This destruction of the Egyptians was made the more remarkable by their pride and insolence, and their strange assurance of success: The enemy said, I will pursue, Here is, first, great confidence.  When they pursue, they do not question but they shall overtake; and, when they overtake, they do not question but they shall overcome, and obtain so decisive a victory as to divide the spoil.  Note, it is common for men to be most elevated with the hope of success when they are upon the brink of ruin, which makes their ruin so much the sorer.”  

Remember, Christian, we serve a God who delivers the purchased.  The Lord is a divine warrior who fights valiantly for those whom he will.  Henry states, “The Lord is a man of war, that is, well able to deal with all those that strive with their Maker, and will certainly be too hard for them.”

Remember, Christian, He is worthy of our praise!  Both Moses, the prophet, and Miriam, the prophetess, led God’s people in praise after their victory.  Henry says, “Those that are active in public services should not be neuters in public praises.”

Sing, Christian.  Your enemy has been defeated.  Your God has bought and delivered you.  Sing praise to the Man of War who fought, died, purchased, and delivered you before you were even born.

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milk

Paul has just exhorted the Philippian church to put away their differences.  He urged unity, joy in every circumstance, and anxiety in none.  He instructed them to look at the good and imitate his example.  Now, he goes on to conclude his letter with a call to contentment and thanksgiving.

Notice how Paul begins his instruction on contentment:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. ~Philippians 4:10

Here is a man who has been faithfully preaching and teaching the gospel for the sake of others’ souls and Christ’s call.  Each place to which he is called proves his worldly enemies increasingly more hostile.  As he sits in prison again, falsely accused and wrongfully punished, he gives thanks to a church who had, for a time, all but forgotten him.  Still, he takes no offense, or, most likely, completely overlooks their negligence and offense and instead praises them with his gratitude for what they had now given to him.  He even seems to make an excuse for their neglect recognizing that they had had “no opportunity.”

Really?  A whole church full of people to whom he had brought the gospel simply had “no opportunity” to care for him as he sit in prison?  Perhaps.  More likely, as Mr. Henry and I agree, Paul is excusing their neglect towards himself because of his own godliness.  He is refusing to take offense, though plenty enough reason for it has been given by those who should have previously loved him well.

Nevertheless, Paul rejoices.  He holds no grudge.  He dismisses every reason he has for bitterness and discontentment because he has only one goal in mind: the gospel.  Paul is not interested in fighting for rightful respect or well-deserved apologies for himself from those who have already “come around.”  The reason?  He loves them deeply.  Love covers a multitude of sin.

Let me just say that again so I don’t miss remembering it when taking offense when willful neglect in the church lands on my doorstep.

Love covers a multitude of sin.

I must choose love.  To do so, I must overlook offense.  I must assume the best, even when actions seem to speak the worst.  This is the beginning of contentment.  Dwelling on ill-treatment from brothers and sisters will steal our joy and divide our church faster than worldly persecutors ever could.  Paul knows it.  Therefore, he disregards their hurtful neglect, chalks it up to a “lack of opportunity” and rejoices that they’ve shown up at all.  Better late than never, right?

If anyone had need in the church at this point, it was Paul.  He likely needed financial support, food, material things, etc.  It’s probable that he was indigent because of his confinement.  Most of all, though, I believe he must have needed encouragement.  Still, Paul is content.  He says he has learned the secret of contentment.

 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13

Christ is the secret.  Christ is the source.  Christ is all and that makes him all we need.

So then, the question becomes, “Do we need?” or are we already full?

Paul needed.  But he did not beg.  He did not complain.  He did not take offense at the offensive.  He encouraged giving solely for the sake of the givers’ growth – not self indulgence or personal gains.

He ends his letter with grace.  Paul treats his imperfect church with remarkable grace.

The moral of this amazing prison-written letter to us?  Lead by example.  The only way we can ever hope to be joyful in affliction, stop complaining and taking offense, start dwelling on the good and rejoicing even when Christians disappoint and be genuinely content is to, at all costs, find the Source; draw from the Source.

 Christ alone is our Source.  Be thankful and rejoice because you know him.  Some do not have such a privilege.

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Image

In Job chapter 37, Elihu goes on to expound upon God’s greatness.  His goal?  Help Job recognize his own ignorance, the right, and the reign of his Creator in all things.

“At this also my heart trembles
    and leaps out of its place.
2 Keep listening to the thunder of his voice
    and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
3 Under the whole heaven he lets it go,
    and his lightning to the corners of the earth.
4 After it his voice roars;
    he thunders with his majestic voice,
    and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard.
5 God thunders wondrously with his voice;
    he does great things that we cannot comprehend. ~Job 37:1-5

Elihu begins by stating carefully his own fear of God.  He describes the hand of God in nature – in humanity, in the animal kingdom, in the weather.

But didn’t Job know this already?  Hadn’t he displayed a great and holy fear of God in his own life through faithfulness, service, and obedience?

He had.  But Elihu points to what was lacking in that faithfulness, service, and obedience.

“…he does great things that we cannot comprehend.”

Job, in his misery, had exchanged his fear of God for a desperate desire to understand.  He knew God was sovereign.  He believed God was in control.  Job just couldn’t stop questioning God’s methods.  Job wasn’t sure if the God in whom he wholly believed was wholly believable.  He wondered where God’s compassion for him lie and he raised more than a little doubt about the goodness of the motives underlying God’s providence.

Guilty.  Guilty.  Guilty.  Guilty.  Guilty.  On all charges, I’m with you Job.  I have spent my entire life wondering where God really is, who he really is, and what he is really doing.  Of course I believe in him.  Often, I just do not believe him.  That’s a problem.  Father, forgive me, I know not what I do, or worse, I do know.

“It is good for us to be made sensible of our own ignorance,” once said Matthew Henry.  Elihu is good for that.  Thank God for people like him.

In verses 13-24 of Job 37, Elihu cross-examines Job.  His speech goes a little something like this: God has a plan, Job.  Sometimes it is to correct men.  Sometimes it is to bless them.  Sometimes it is simply to display his great love.  How could you possibly know what God is doing all the time?  Do you know how he commands the clouds?  Do you understand how he makes lightning?  Can you do all that he does?

No. No. No. No. No, you cannot.  So why do you think #1. you deserve to and #2. you are able to understand what God is doing to or through your own life?  You are a debtor, Job, but God loves you anyway.  All that he does is out of love for you.  You neither deserve nor are able to understand these things.  Stop trying.  God opposes the proud.

He loved me ere I knew him, and all my love is due him.  Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Despite all I do not know, this is enough.  Understanding can wait for glory.  Right now, I have an all-consuming call from and an insurmountable debt to my Savior concerning love.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6C4_hp7RG8

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ImageIt’s judgement day.  David has just triumphed over his enemies and conquered them completely.  He’s shared his spoil with everyone he knows.  But Saul?  Saul is being attacked and overpowered by the Philistines.  He, and his whole company are about to go down in flames.

Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. ~1 Samuel 31:1-5

First, Saul experiences the pain of watching his own sons die before his eyes.  Surely there is no worse punishment on earth than to see your children die as a result of following you.  Be careful how you walk, parents. (more…)

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ImageDavid has been compassionate to a helpless man.  He revived him when he was as good as dead.  In turn, the man led him and his army to the enemy’s camp.  Now, they come unsuspectingly upon those who have robbed them of their goods and their families.  

 And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. 17 And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. 18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives.19 Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. 20 David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil.” ~1 Samuel 30:16-20

When David sneaks up, these guys are all-out partying with their stolen goods.  I guess they felt pretty safe.  Big mistake. (more…)

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