Joshua 11-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has a strategy for our lives that will bring victory

Strategic planning, surveillance and big guns are all important components of a successful army at war. Although Germany had developed the most powerful tanks during World War II, those tanks did nothing to keep the German soldiers alive in the frozen Russian countryside – their strategy had failed them.  All resources are necessary to win a war, but even with the most sophisticated equipment and strategy, success will not be realized unless the boots on the ground obey orders.  Because of this, training for military service is not for the faint of heart, and only those men and women who have learned to submit to their authorities are allowed to serve.  Joshua was one of these faithful soldiers who understood the chain of command, and because of it, God appointed him General. 

@ Joshua 11
Moses, Israel’s great leader, was gone, but he left a strategy and assignment for his assistant, Joshua.  Now in command, Joshua could have easily thought that he had a better plan, a more strategic way of conquering the Promised Land; but no, not this trained military man.  Joshua followed the chain of command, “As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua.  And Joshua did as he was told, carefully obeying all the commands that the Lord had given to Moses.” (15)

The Israelites soldiers won battle after battle because they, too, followed the orders that were given them.  After seven long years at war, victory had come, “So Joshua took control of the entire land, just as the Lord had instructed Moses.  He gave it to the people of Israel as their special possession, dividing the land among the tribes. So the land finally had rest from war.” (23)  We can be assured of victory as well when we obey the commands from our General and all those He has placed in His chain of command over us.  We may think we have a better strategy to take new ground, but we will never be more effective than when we, like Joshua, follow God’s plan and do as we are told.

I hate to mention this after such glowing reports of success, but a few of Joshua’s soldiers had a little trouble following his example of carefully obeying all the commands they were given by completely destroying the enemy, “But the tribe of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, who lived in the city of Jerusalem, so the Jebusites live there among the people of Judah to this day.” (15:63)

Over the years, the Jebusites grew in number to where they controlled Jerusalem, this beautiful city promised to Abraham.  King David finally captured it 400 years later, but even after that, King Solomon had to deal with them and made them servants in the land.  Now, some 3000 years later, many non-Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem lay claim to this war-torn city because they maintain that they are from the line of Jebusites, even the late Yasser Arafat claimed to be a Jebusite.  Whether this claim is based on truth or not, it would not even be considered if the Jebusites had been completely destroyed by the soldiers.

There is no need to belabor the importance of obeying all the commands of the Lord because we understand the ramifications.  In the battles we face against the enemy in our own lives, we should be careful not to allow any part of his wickedness to dwell in our camp to affect our future and that of our children.  Joshua did as he was told. 

Moving Forward:  I want to be Joshua today, carefully following the Lord’s strategy and commands for my life, insuring victory!

Tomorrow @ Psalm 6-8

Joshua 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He provides the strategies we need for victory in our lives

Whether in football, business or war, there is a strategy that has been around since the beginning of time when facing the opposition:  Find the weakest point in the line of defense, the most vulnerable point, and make your attack.  In past wars, armies sent out reconnaissance teams, soldiers who were trained to find the weakest point in the enemy’s defense, but with today’s high tech armies, many other forms of surveillance such as predator drones are used first before the soldier is put into harm’s way.  In our reading today, however, surveillance had been done, the strategy was given and Joshua was ready to take Jericho. 

@ Joshua 6
“Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. But the Lord said to Joshua, ‘I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.’” (1-5) Unique as it was, the strategy was given by God, and it couldn’t fail.

Jericho was one of the oldest and most fortified cities on the planet at that time.  Its walls at some points were 25 feet high, that’s two and a half stories tall, they were 20 feet thick, and were considered invincible.  Were those walls really the most vulnerable point in Jericho’s line of defense?  No, probably not.  Jericho’s weakest point in its defense was its pagan heart, and God was not on the side of its inhabitants.  So its walls, no matter how thick and high were vulnerable to God’s strategy in taking the city. Joshua was righteous enough to trust it, and those walls came down!

God knows our enemy’s weakest point. When Jesus was confronted by Satan, He soundly defeated him by quoting the scripture. (Matthew 4)  Even though he has been known to quote it himself, our enemy can’t stand against God’s Word when it comes from a blood-bought Christian.  And when we declare to others our testimony of what Jesus has done in our lives, we run right over him. (Revelation 12:11)  What a great strategy!

@ Joshua 7
On the other hand, in their next battle at Ai, the Israelites’ true enemy, Satan, discovered where they were the most vulnerable, the weakest point in their line of defense.  God had forbidden the Israelites to take certain items from the spoils of Jericho, but one man had his own agenda, “But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord.  A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites.” (1)  Not good. Israel was soundly defeated at Ai.

When God revealed Achan’s sin, Joshua confronted him and Achan came clean, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them.”(20-21)  Just as the enemy had captured Eve’s heart, he defeated Israel with what Achan saw with his eye and desired with his heart.

We can be sure that the enemy has been doing surveillance and knows our weakest points of entry; but we, too, have been given a strategy by God to defeat his attacks, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” (James 4:7)  Had Achan run to God in this attack and resisted the enemy’s temptation, the battle at Ai would have had a different outcome. The James 4 strategy will work every time in our lives, and we can trust it! 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for the strategies God has given to protect me from the enemy’s attack and beat him at his own game through the power of God’s Word.

Tomorrow @ Psalm 3-5

Genesis 4-7 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is merciful

I have in my possession an afghan that I started to crochet in the mid-1980’s, my very first crochet project.  Now over 25 years later, it’s still not finished.  It hurts my pride to admit that I have several similar projects in boxes and drawers, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer craft projects that take five hours or less to complete.  It’s not that I need instant gratification, but if a project takes much longer than that, it’s easy for me to lose interest and move on to something new.  We all have our flaws. With this mindset, I read the account in our scripture today of a man who stayed on task in a project that took more years to complete than most of us have been on the planet.  Hat’s off to Noah – good job!

Speaking of Noah’s project, we’ve read the amazing accounts in the Bible of God parting the Red Sea for the Israelites, causing the great fish to swallow Jonah and cough him out on shore and raising people from the dead.  But, a 500-year-old guy building a ship that was one and a half football fields long and four stories high, no matter how many years it took him, is really astounding.

Noah was quite a guy and is still popular today.  Movies have been made recounting his story, yet I imagine it was considered to be pure fiction by most involved in the making of them.  Those who read the Bible know Noah’s story is mentioned several times in His Word to show the incredible mercy God has extended to His people.

@ Genesis 6
“Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God…Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence…So God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence…Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out…Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will confirm my covenant with you.’” (9-18)

At the outset, God’s message to Noah did not appear to be incredibly merciful.  To destroy every living thing that breathes, other than Noah, his family and selected animals, is not considered an act of mercy by most.  While trying to justify their unbelief in God, those who consider God to be judgmental and cruel often note the story of Noah and God’s judgment on the earth, asking “How could a loving God…”  He could because He is merciful.

Rather than allowing mankind to perpetuate its gross sin to future generations and be forever lost, God put an end to it, saving a man who was in close fellowship with Him and saving his family.  As we will soon read, God then called a people, His chosen people, to tell the world about Him, but sadly their message was weak and tainted. God ultimately sent His Son to die for us.  Since our beginning in the Garden, God has always given mankind the right to choose to love Him in an intimate relationship. Jesus was the only One worthy to bring us back into the Garden.  God is merciful.

“So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.” (22)  Noah obviously endured backbreaking labor – 500 years old, huge ship, decades-long project – while preaching about the impending doom for those who did not follow God. (2 Peter 2:5)  I imagine the ridicule as he built the ship was crushing.  After all, no one had ever seen a raindrop much less a flood, but Noah did not get discouraged and give up nor did he lose interest and put the project aside.  “Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him,” and God was merciful to Noah. 

Moving Forward:  I want to be tenacious like Noah in any project the Lord assigns to me.  I want to be faithful like Noah in my witnessing and in my ministry, whether it is singing in the choir or feeding the hungry.  No matter what the project, I’d love to read, “So Phyllis did everything exactly as God had commanded her.”  Be still my heart. 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 6-10

Joshua 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is willing to save anyone who calls Him Lord

Whenever I’m visiting a city for the first time anywhere in the world, I make it a point to find a travel book on the city or visit the local Visitor’s Center for maps and local information.  But when I get down to the nitty-gritty about where to eat, shop and hang out, I talk to the locals.  Yes, the hotel concierge is helpful to a point, but when I want to find the best seafood or barbeque ribs in town, I have a little chat with some of the locals, especially those who look like they’ve eaten a rib or two.  Joshua’s two covert spies that entered Jericho must have had this same strategy; but, unlike them, I must admit I’ve never chatted with a harlot…to my knowledge. 

@ Joshua 2
“Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.’ So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.” (1)  Help!  What were two nice Jewish boys doing in a place like that!  Well, I imagine it might be a good place to gather information from the locals.  We are uncertain of their reason for stopping at Rahab’s place and they may have been unsure themselves, but we do know that God was in it.  After all, if God can use a talking donkey, an ungodly Persian king and a stubborn Pharaoh to accomplish His will, He certainly can use a prostitute.

Rahab gave just the information the spies needed to know, “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.” (9-11)   Most agents of espionage only hope to have intelligence like this handed to them!

Rahab’s actions that night not only spared the lives of the two spies when the king’s men came searching for them, but also provided them with valuable information to report to Joshua. “Then the two spies came down from the hill country… and reported to Joshua all that had happened to them. ‘The Lord has given us the whole land,’ they said, ‘for all the people in the land are terrified of us.’” (23-24)  Victory was at hand!

Through her encounter with the spies, Rahab and her entire family were saved.  As a relative of Boaz, she is mentioned in Matthew in the lineage of Jesus, imagine that.  And because of her faith, Rahab is included with the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11.  When God chooses individuals to use for His purposes, we would be wise not to question the validity of their credentials.  God saw a hungry heart in Rahab who recognized Him as “the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below,” and, sadly, many of the Israelites never made that leap of faith.  Rahab the prostitute was a hero.

There are individuals connected with us at work, in the neighborhood or even in our families who we feel are the least likely to ever find the Lord as their Savior, but because they are in our lives, we are probably wrong.  God sees their hearts and, like the spies, we are expected by God to follow His leading to their heart’s door with the message of Jesus.  Who knows how God will use them to bring victory in our own lives.

Moving Forward:  Because He knows each heart that is open to Him today, I’ll follow Him wherever He leads me, regardless. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 1-2

Deuteronomy 33-34 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He knows us and blesses us with what is best

Some people seem to have a gift or talent for making money, everything they touch turns to gold.   Many have a natural ability for making friends, never meeting a stranger. Still others are great communicators, whether verbal or written.  We always seem to envy the gift we don’t possess and sometimes go to great lengths to achieve it.  After all, who doesn’t want to be wealthy, popular or wise?   But so often our striving to achieve what others possess backfires on us. Better to walk in the blessings and talents He has given us.

@ Deuteronomy 33
“This is the blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the people of Israel before his death:  ‘The Lord came from Mount Sinai and dawned upon us…Indeed, he loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands.  They follow in his steps and accept his teaching.  Moses gave us the Lord’s instruction, the special possession of the people of Israel.’” (1-4)  As the Israelites stood at the threshold of their Promised Land, they listened as Moses gave his final address to them, one that was filled with blessings for each tribe.

Just before his death, Jacob, the patriarch of the sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, delivered a similar message of blessing to his sons, but included what would be the history of their sins as well.  The address by Moses was about the blessing, character and function that each tribe possessed through their relationship with God.

The tribe of Simeon was not mentioned by Moses because it no longer existed and had been absorbed into the other tribes.  Levi was blessed with the ministry role for the tribes, Gad would be the great land owner and Asher was blessed with prosperity.  All together, the tribes would be a formidable nation in their new land…if they kept their relationship with God.

God has blessed each of us, His children, with giftings and talents that not only enrich each one of us on a personal level, but also advance His Kingdom here on earth.  We may envy the abilities of others, but we have no idea about the responsibilities that come with them.  According to Jesus, great wealth comes with a great struggle to surrender it to Him for His purposes (Luke 18:25).  Thankfully, without a struggle, He has promised that He “will supply all [our] needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  Also, I’ve discovered that when I use the talents He has given me, His blessing overflows in many other areas of my life.

Early in his ministry, Moses did not want to accept the role that God had assigned him, yet this leader, gifted and blessed by the Lord for this task, delivered the Israelites to the door of their promise.  He may have worn the same pair of shoes for 40 years, but Moses was successful beyond measure because He walked in the gifts God had given him, “…the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11), “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (34:10)  Life just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward:  I really don’t want the gifts and talents God has given others, but I do want to be faithful with what He has given to me. 

Tomorrow @ Esther 6-10

Nehemiah 5-9 NLT)

Discover His heart: He is blessed when we show respect and honor to His Word

Sometimes we forget the impact of scripture on our lives.  If we take a moment to think about it, we will remember occasions when we were distraught over a situation but a verse from the Bible brought comfort and strength to us.  Then, there have been numerous times in my own life when I have been reading His Word and a particular scripture gets all up in my business, if you know what I mean.  This is when the conviction of the Holy Spirit invades my life, and I am reduced to tears of repentance.  I really don’t enjoy the process, but the peace and joy that follows makes it all worthwhile.  The entire nation of Israel experienced the convicting power of the Holy Spirit when the Levites read from the Book of Moses. 

@ Nehemiah 8
“Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion… they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.” (4-5)  As Babylonian captives, 42,000 plus Israelites returned to their home of Jerusalem.  Their Temple had been rebuilt under the guidance of their spiritual leader, Ezra, and the walls of their city had been rebuilt under the direction of their wise governor, Nehemiah.

With purpose in their hearts, they had assembled together for the reading of God’s Word, and as the book was opened, they rose to their feet to show honor and respect for His Holy Word.  Perhaps this example is why we often stand for the reading of God’s Word when we assemble together in our churches.  It’s only right that our position and demeanor should distinguish between man’s words and God’s Holy Word.  Nothing we say in our own strength can compare to the perfect, trustworthy and pure words of God. (Psalm 19:7-8)  At the very least, our hearts should stand at attention when we read or hear His powerful Word.

Apparently the Israelites had a lengthy Bible Study that day as they stood assembled together.  Over the 70 years of captivity, Aramaic rather than Hebrew had become the first language for many of the younger Israelites.  Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites went to great lengths to translate and interpret the scriptures so that all could understand their meaning.  This is the role of our pastors today as well, to read the Word of God and explain it in a way that all will understand.  Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”(4:6) Thankfully, the Holy Spirit anoints His Word and the lips of His servants, and He touches our hearts as we listen.

“Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, ‘Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.’ For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law” (9)  Just like King Josiah when he heard the words of the law for the first time, the hearts of the people were tender to God’s Word and they were remorseful for their many sins of the past.  The scriptures had revealed to them the high cost paid for their low living.

But now the people had repented, the Temple was standing and the walls had been rebuilt – it was time for celebration!  “And Nehemiah continued, ‘Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (10)  With sins forgiven, it was time to celebrate the goodness of the Lord in their lives.

God doesn’t want us to live in guilt over our past sins and mistakes.  “If we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (I John 1:9)  It’s time to celebrate and put on the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness! (Isaiah 61:3)  Then His joy will be our strength to celebrate His goodness and to live in obedience to Him.  It’s difficult to sin against God while celebrating His goodness and mercy with great joy in our hearts…it really is. 

Moving Forward:  With joy in my heart for His forgiveness and grace, I move through this day celebrating His goodness. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 140-142

Deuteronomy 20-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is with us through every battle we face

My husband and I were thrilled with the opportunity some years ago to take a few days off after a busy summer.  We rented a cabin in the Tennessee Mountains and enjoyed lazy days and beautiful scenery.  One late afternoon we were grilling out on the deck and spotted an uninvited guest. A black bear smelled our delicious barbecue ribs and decided to join us.

Having read several books and seen movies about bears and their hunt for prey, I knew the most important thing was not to be afraid because the bear would smell my fear and could attack.  Well, needless to say, he smelled a lot more than ribs.  We ran in the cabin, slammed the glass door shut and locked it as if the bear would choose to try to open the door.  Fear can cause irrational behavior.  The bear walked around the deck for what seemed like an eternity, sniffed the ribs and peered in at this shaking woman and then sauntered down the steps and out of the yard.  I’m assuming his delicate palate was looking more for sushi than my ribs and I just wasn’t worth the effort. Thank God! 

@ Deuteronomy 20
“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you!” (1)  Whether we’re facing a battle right now or in the future, we can take the words of Moses with us as a source of encouragement.  As the Israelites looked at the strength of their adversary in their new land, it may have caused their knees to shake, but he encouraged them, “do not be afraid.”  David, the mighty warrior, often found himself facing the giants of the land but encouraged himself, “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)  In the heat of the battle, we need to remember the Lord is our General and also recall His faithful guidance in the past.

Moses then urged the officers of the army to release from battle all those who were distracted by the cares of this life. (5-7)  Focus is a powerful tool in our battle against the enemy as we follow our leader to victory, but distractions will change our focus and resolve.  Another concern of Moses was that of fear. “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else.” (8)  Fortunately, my fear did not frighten my husband in our close encounter with a bear, perhaps because he was too busy videoing our dinner guest and laughing at me.  In a truly perilous situation, fear is contagious.  It can cause even the bravest of souls to lose heart, and it’s not helpful on the battlefront.

The advice Moses gave that day as the Israelites sat poised for victory in the Promised Land was advice that we should take to heart when we face any battle.  Whether it is in the area of our health, our relationships, our finances or anything, we should keep our focus on the Lord and remember His faithfulness.  We never should be afraid.  “Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will give you victory!” (3-4)  Thank you, Moses. I needed that today! 

Moving Forward:  By His grace, I am focused, unafraid and ready to see what the Lord will do on my behalf today.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 1-4