Are we the angry mob?

Daily Readings: Joshua 9-10, 2 Corinthians 13

Frequently when I get to the portion of Paul’s letters that serve as his final greeting, I find myself reading it quickly and not really taking it in. This morning I actually read it.

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Whenever I write, I want to end with a bang! I want to end with the main takeaway that I hope the reader will hold onto from what they just read. And yet, with Paul’s letters, I have always treated these final few verses in the final chapter of his lengthy letters as simply a form of “good bye”.

There was so much internal turmoil going on in the church at Corinth at this time. In fighting was rampant, debates robust, and they were anything but “of one mind living in peace”. What was Paul’s final charge to them?

Rejoice!

Encourage!

We live in a society that currently does very little rejoicing and even less encouraging.

With Easter rapidly approaching, it struck me this morning how far the American church has gotten away from the vision that God had for us as a collection of believers. We have so much to rejoice about!

And yet, when we look around, it becomes increasingly evident that we spend far more time complaining, arguing on Facebook, etc. than we do rejoicing or encouraging. We have become like Corinth.

If God’s people made the decision that we would collectively be a group that never ceases to rejoice in the amazing gifts of the father and never stops encouraging one another, what an amazing change our world would see!

However, there will always be those who claim to be followers of Christ that seek to divide. There will always be those who seek to manipulate, control, and advance their own agenda to maintain power. The story of Easter is incomplete without remembering that most of God’s people blindly followed the religious leaders of the day to the point of becoming an angry mob crying out for the death of the very Messiah they had been waiting for.

All throughout the Bible there are stories of those who would seek to deceive and divide God’s people. We continuously see the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, and more often than not, we fall for it. Today in Joshua we read another of these stories.

However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgaland said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”

Joshua 9:3-6 

We frequently walk right into these traps because it is often more convenient to believe the deceiver. We want to believe that this person, or group of people, is on our side. When it seems like there are so many enemies seeking to destroy, it is an attractive thought to have an ally!

In Joshua we continue on and read that, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.” 

When we decide to “sample their provisions” without inquiring of the Lord, bad things tend to happen. When we simply listen to talking heads, political figures, or outspoken religious leaders of the day without consulting God’s word; it is a dangerous game we play.

So, as Easter approaches, are we comfortable being the angry mob? Are we comfortable being riled up through those that would use fear and anger to divide and conquer? Or are we going to get back focused on Jesus and worship the only person in human history who has been truly worthy of worship?

Will we take to heart Paul’s final words to us in Corinthians when he said:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Read that one last time slowly and really let it sink in.

Let’s go live that out this week. This Easter season Christians have the ability to have a massive impact on the world that lasts for an eternity.

Let’s make it count!

Thought to ponder

How can I spend more time rejoicing, encouraging, and acting in such a way that helps expose people to the grace and love of God?

 

Faithfully marching around Jericho

Daily Readings: Joshua 5-6, 2 Corinthians 11, Psalm 59

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’

When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!”

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.”

Joshua 6:1-5, 8-11, 16, 20

One aspect of the story of Joshua and Jericho never really struck me until today when reading this story again; Joshua never told the Israelite army about the seventh day. He did not go to them saying, “Here is the plan…” and lay out for them exactly what God instructed him to do. In the minds of the army, there was no definite timeline. They were simply told to march.

When reading this morning it occurred to me that there must have been two distinct types of people in the Israelite army when Joshua told them to start marching around the city. There surely were those that trusted in God completely, along with Joshua’s leadership, and marched with full confidence that the city of Jericho would be delivered into their hands at some point.

However, there must have been some who were marching day after day, tension mounting, fear building, and patience growing thin. I have to imagine they were wondering what the plan was, feeling less and less confident the more time that went by, and getting a bit stir crazy, wanting to divert from the plan and take some other course of action.

There have been so many times in my life where I have existed in each of these groups. There have been times where I unconditionally believe in the path God has set me on, knowing that I am marching around the walls of Jericho and that they will eventually fall if only I have the patience to keep marching.

However, there are many times where I start to ask, “God, can’t these walls crumble already? How much longer must I continue to march dutifully before these walls begin to fall?”

There have been so many moments where I feel like I am running out of time, money, patience, stamina, love for others, emotional energy, etc. I am just not sure how much longer I can march around Jericho unless the walls fall soon.

I imagine we have all been there. I imagine we have all had jobs, ministry opportunities, friends we want to reach for Christ, people we are mentoring, or habits we are trying to form/break; where we are just not sure how much longer we are going to be able to march.

What is your Jericho right now? What is the path God has set you on, where it is day 4, 5, or 6, and you are starting to tire of the relentless marching?

In many cases we might be more like Moses wandering through the desert, as opposed to Joshua and the army marching around Jericho. The season we are in is not simply 7 days of patience, but years, even decades.

God is faithful.

We do not always have the luxury of being Joshua, knowing the exact timeline and waiting patiently for that beautiful seventh day. It is extremely rare that I have seen God put on my heart a concrete timeline for his promises.

More often than not, he simply wants me to march. He wants me to wake up day after day, put on my armor, pick up my spiritual weapons and shield, and go to battle against whatever comes my way.

Based on the entire rest of the old testament, I am assuming that God would not have been overwhelmingly pleased if the armies had decided to simply stop marching after day 4. I am guessing he would have burned with fury had they started grumbling and saying, “What is the point of all this marching God?” and simply sat back in their camp waiting for a different plan, looking for a different path.

God wants faithful servants willing to march. And when we remain faithful, whatever walls he intends to collapse, whatever metaphorical cities he intends to deliver into our hands will always be delivered. God’s plan is not always our plan and his timing is not always our timing, but it is always the right plan. It is always to right timing.

The question is, will we faithfully march?

Thought to ponder

What is my Jericho? Where is my patience growing thin where I have been tempted to just stop marching?

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