Scripture Read: Judges 4
Title: Deborah and Barak
(H) Highlight verse: "Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment." Judges 4:4-5
(E) Explain: The dysfunctional downward spiral continues. The people of Israel do what was evil in the sight of God and the death of Ehud, a judge. God raised up Deborah to be appointed the next judge. She was a prophetess, and she called upon Barak, the commander of the army and told him to attack Canaan, more specifically Sisera. Barak did as he was told and as the Israelites pursue Sisera, his life comes to a gruesome demise. God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan and he was destroyed by Israel.
(A) Application: So how can we apply this passage to our everyday life? Well, I will start with letting you all know it is not ok to befriend your enemy and then kill him with a tent peg and a hammer. I can only imagine the gruesome sight that was. What I do see is that God was with his people, He kept his promise to be with them as long as the judge was alive. God gave His people victory and He kept the nation in line until the next judge came onto the scene. We can be reminded that even though this Old Testament story depicts a gruesome and savage death of an enemy of Israel that Jesus shows us a new way to treat our enemy. Jesus called us to love our enemies and He has also calls us to obedience.
(R) Respond: Lord, help me to love my enemies and more so help me tolerate them.
Scripture Read: Judges 2 - 3
Title: The people do what is evil in the sight of the LORD
(H) Highlight verse: "Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so." Judges 2:16,17
(E) Explain: How quickly the Israelites forget their commitment and their God. After Joshua dies a new generation arises and this generation did not know or care about the God of Israel. Their disregard for Him was so, that they did whatever they wanted. They did evil in the sight of God. The wickedness of this generation begins a multi-generational systemic problem for the nation of Israel. This downward spiral goes like this.
(A) Application: There is an old cliche' that goes like this, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." The nation of Israel fits this definition perfectly. But, how true is it for us today? I see churches and individuals who have deep systemic problems that have been around for generations and nothing is done about it. People continue to think, well maybe things will change, just because while putting no effort into trying to change anything. An addict can't expect to overcome their addiction by not taking any action to change. No, if one does nothing, nothing will happen. The same goes for churches. If they are unwilling to look at their future and see that there is a systematic problem that often results in dysfunction and do nothing about it, then how can things change? How can people expect God to bless a church or individual if they choose to continue doing the same thing over and over?
Now, how does this passage apply to you personally? Are there symptoms in you life that are contributing to you doing what you want to do without regard for God? Is there something going on with you that continually hinders you from fully hearing from and committing to God? Remember, God is gracious and merciful. He will forgive, but He will also correct when we need correcting.
I close with another cliche', "If you keep doing what you are doing, you're going to keep getting what you get."
(R) Respond: Search me God, to bring to light the negative or systematic dysfunctions I have in my life that are keeping me from completely following you.
Scripture Read: Joshua 23 - 24
Title: The Death of Joshua
(H) Highlight verse: "And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15)
(E) Explain: The majority of Joshua is a written account of the Israelites taking possession of the promised land. There are war stories, and there are inheritance or allotment stories. But we see in Joshua 24:31 that it is also a testament to the fact that Israel served the LORD all of the days of Joshua and the elders. We also read that it is a testament of what God has done. He has fought the battles, He is the victor and He keeps His promises.
Tucked in all of this account we come across a passage that is well-known to many people in Joshua 24:15. Unfortunately, it is often taken out of context and when we read it today we can see that this passage is not some feel good declaration that makes for nice wall art. It is a decision and a commitment. Joshua implores the people of Israel to decide this very day, will they choose to follow the foreign gods of their fathers or will they choose to serve the God of Israel. The God who has been with them from Egypt, the wilderness and now the promise land. Joshua then makes the commitment that he and his household will serve the LORD. This commitment meant that Joshua would forsake anything that is considered idolatrous and commit to serving or worshiping God alone.
(A) Application: Joshua's legacy is amazing. He was a great leader, military man and man of God. God used Joshua in powerful ways. One of his greatest legacies was his commitment to God and Him alone. He declares in 24:15 that he has chosen to forsake idols and serve God wholeheartedly. This was not a cutesy quotable quote intended for memes and Hobby Lobby trinkets, it was a declaration of his commitment to God.
So, how does that apply for us? The first thing I would ask is what does it mean for you to "choose this day whom you will serve" and "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD"? Are these inspirational scripture passages that you like to quote to let other people know that God is part of your life? OR, are they true declarations and commitments that you are making to God? Does it mean that you will forsake ALL things that have become idols in your life and serving God wholeheartedly? The only way you can fully answer that question is by acknowledging the idols that are before you in your life. What idols do you have? Are they money, power, self preservation, relationships, jobs, family, material possessions, fear, loyalty, substances, etc. Determine the idols in your life today and choose this day whom you will serve. Hopefully, after some true heart searching you will be able to publicly and truthfully declare, "As for me and my house, we will serve/worship the LORD."
(R) Respond: Lord, help me determine the idols in my life. In response I pray that I will forsake them all and choose this very day to serve you and not them.
Scripture Read: Joshua 7 - 8
Title: Israel Defeated at Ai
(H) Highlight verse: "The LORD said to Joshua, 'Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.'" Joshua 7:10, 11)
(E) Explain: In today's passage we are introduced to A man named Achan. He secretly kept some of the plunder from the raid of Jericho for himself. This was a direct disobedient act that God forbid. Ultimately because of his sin it constituted in the failed attack on the city of Ai.
At the onset the Israelites looked at Ai and said there was no need for the full army to attack, so they sent 3,000 troops and unfortunately about 36 men were killed, and the Israelites were defeated. This really upset Joshua and he complains to the LORD about why God would ever let this happen?
God answers him and tells him about the sin of Achan. The Israelites deal with Achan and then God commissions Israel to go back to Ai and attack and face this city that defeated them earlier.
(A) Application: Let’s be realistic, we all have or will face seemingly impossible situations in our lives… Whether they be physical, emotional, financial, spiritual or relational they can loom over us and cause us to lose hope and in some cases, give up all together. In chapter 7 we see the reason the Israelites were unsuccessful in the attack on Ai is because there was sin in the camp. Unchecked sin and outright disobedience in our lives to God will usually, if not always, result in hindering what God is planning on doing. However, His plans are never thwarted He just deals with us until we come to the place where we acknowledge and repent of the sin(s) that are hindering us.
(R) Respond: When we are faced with difficulties or daunting tasks I believe it is important, if not necessary to begin with prayer. We need to ask God to search us and speak to our hearts to see if there is anything hindering us from truly following, worshiping and trusting Him.
Scripture Read: Joshua 5:10- 15; 6
Title: Israel Defeats Jericho
(H) Highlight verse: " And the LORD said to Joshua, 'See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city. all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall do for six days... On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow trumpets.' " Joshua 6:2 - 3, 4b)
(E) Explain: God gives Israel a plan of attack to overthrow the city of Jericho. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that if this was a human devised plan it would have been a terrible way to try and overthrow a city.... However, God was the one making the plan so they were guaranteed success. He laid out specific plans for attack and the people were to follow these instructions exactly and they did. The Israelites go to Jericho and defeat the city. God tells them to go and conquer but all the silver, gold, objects of copper and iron shall go to the treasury of the Lord, they are not to keep any plunder for themselves. This is the first battle the Israelites enter and they were victorious because of the LORD.
(A) Application: Sometimes God calls us to do really weird things that do not make any sense whatsoever. We read about this continually throughout the scriptures. There are too many to write down here in this small paragraph. Ultimately, God doesn't tell us to do weird things just because. He has a purpose and usually that purpose is to show that God is Almighty and He wants to show his power, might and glory to all people through HIS people. The war tactic at Jericho was a very unusual tactic, but it shows us some truths...
(R) Respond: I would encourage you as you continue to read through the Bible and take note of the times where God commands or asks his people (prophets, Israelites and others) to so some head scratching things. Then ask yourselves, "What is the result? What did God accomplish in this task and how does it apply to me?" That's a tough task to ask you to do, but I think it would be worth the time.
Scripture Read: Joshua 3 - 4
Title: The Israelites Cross the Jordan
(H) Highlight verse: "so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever."" Joshua 4:24
(E) Explain: God shows his mighty hand to the Israelites once again. This time he gives Joshua, the Levites and the people of Israel specific instructions for crossing over the Jordan River. Fortunately for them there was no need to cross hastily because their were no enemies pursuing them. The purpose of this crossing was so God could exalt Joshua in front of the people and they will see that God was with him, just as he was with the Moses.
The crossing involved the priests and the Ark of the Covenant. Once the people crossed the Jordan successfully, God commanded them to find twelve stones and set them up as reminders so when children ask their fathers what the stones mean, they can tell them about the faithfulness of God.
(A) Application: God is always at work in our lives and in the lives of His Church. When we see God's God at work, it is important for us to both acknowledge it and share what He has or is doing. I believe it is important for me to have ways where I can celebrate God working in my life. Some of those ways include sharing with others what God has/is doing. I like to write key verses that God gives to me and put them in frames and hang them on the wall. I write about them on the web page. I talk about them from the pulpit. And with our trip to the Philippines my family and I are taking all the letters that people write to us to tell us they are supporting us, we hang the letters on our wall in our kitchen. There are many other ways I celebrate and remember God's faithfulness. How do you remember or acknowledge God's faithfulness in your life? Do you? I would encourage you today to find ways to remind you of God's faithfulness in your life. It doesn't have to be extravagant or creative (although it can be) it just needs to help you remember that God has and is with you always.
(R) Respond: Today, I openly acknowledge that God has been faithful to me. He has provided for me financially to get through every day of my life. He has given me the provisions of food to sustain me. He has given to me awesome godly friends who encourage me and walk in discipleship with me. He has given to me a beautiful family who loves me and blesses me every day of my life. He has given to me a beautiful wife who loves me more than I deserve to be loved, is faithful and loves God with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength. Thank you LORD for these blessings in my life and for the constant reminder of your faithfulness to your people.
Scripture Read: Joshua 1 - 2
Title: Joshua is commissioned as the new leader of Israel
(H) Highlight verse: "Moses my servant is dead. Now, therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.'" Joshua 1:2
(E) Explain: Moses, has died at the ripe ole age of 120 years and it is now time for his successor, Joshua to step up to the plate. From the time of his commissioning by God to his death, Joshua faced and overcame many seemingly impossible odds in his life.
To begin with Joshua as he was commissioned to take over as leader of the people of Israel after the death of their iconic leader. This was a big task. Moses was highly respected and revered by the people of Israel and surrounding nations. Filling the shoes of a great leader is always a challenging task and is one that is not always done successfully. However, he not only had big shoes to fill but he was commissioned to complete what Moses had begun. In some ways Joshua is charged to do greater things than his mentor, he was to lead the nomadic people wandering in the desert into enter and to settle into the land God promised Moses 40 years earlier. He is tasked with the overwhelming responsibility of strategically planning military tactics so that Israel could overcome the cities that 40 years prior they would not face because they were paralyzed with fear.
(A) Application: God commissions Joshua as Moses’ successor and He promises victory and protection as they fearlessly and boldly go to the land of promise. God confirms and affirms Joshua’s leadership and He repeatedly (three times) says, “Be strong and resolute (courageous)”. We need to cling to these words. When God commissions or calls us to go forward and follow his calling, we must be faithful in responding and trusting that God will be with us through it al.
(R) Respond: I will trust God's calling on my life, and I will go when he says to go and stay when he says to say. I must be faithful to Him and Him alone.
Scripture Read: Deuteronomy 32:48 - 52, 34
Title: The Death of Moses
(H) Highlight verse: "And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and all his servants and to all his land.'" Deut. 34:10, 11
(E) Explain: Today we read about the death of the great man of faith Moses. His life and death brought many joys and sorrows. He had a relationship and communion with God that no other has. He was truly a man called by God.
Moses’ life could be broken down into three 40 year clusters. His first forty years are his prince years. He lived in the house of Pharaoh and certainly enjoyed the privileges of being a prince. His middle forty years were spent as a humble shepherd. It was during this time he was being trained as a leader for the nation of Israel. His last forty years were spent as a called agent of God. Moses led the nation of Israel out of captivity and into the desert. Unfortunately he never makes it to the Promised Land but he used this time to disciple a young Joshua to lead the nation into this land in due time.
(A) Application: The life of Moses is fascinating. His story gives me encouragement to know God is not out actively seeking for men and women who “have it all together” to accomplish his will. I look at his successes and failures and I see the hand of God in all aspects of his life, even when he was unfaithful. We can also be encouraged by this because God’s hand is upon us to accomplish his will here on earth. God has done some amazing things in the history of the nation of Israel and I believe He can and still does have amazing things in store for his Church. We may not know what they are, but we can only pray, wait and see.
(R) Respond: Moses' legacy was that he was a man who met face to face with God. He was and is truly a man of God. This is the legacy I would like to leave when God calls me home. LORD, help me to live my life for you and bring honor and glory to your name.
Scripture Read: Deuteronomy 30 - 31
Title: Joshua Commissioned As Moses' Successor
(H) Highlight verse: "And the LORD said to Moses, 'Behold the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting that I may commission him.'" Deut. 31:14
(E) Explain: Joshua was a one of a kind person. Throughout his life, especially in his younger years, God was preparing him to take over as the leader of the nation of Israel after the death of Moses. He had some big shoes to fill because Moses was an excellent and beloved leader, but God had bigger plans in store for Joshua.
Joshua was unique in many ways, but the area he was most was in his loyalty to God and Moses. In retrospect I see that he is the kind of person that every leader would want to have by their side. He shared a relationship with Moses that none could ever have; which ultimately led to him having the kind of relationship with God that Moses had.
In today's reading we see that he was appointed by God as Moses' successor and he was commissioned by Moses in the presence of the priest Eleazar who would later be his counselor for war. We also read the promise of God to commission Joshua as the one who would lead the people of Israel into the promised land.
(A) Application: In the days to come we will read more about the life and leadership of Joshua. But for today I see Joshua as the kind of person everybody would like to have by his/her side. I am also challenged by this passage because I look at his loyalty to both God and his mentor Moses and I desire to be and to have a Joshua in my life.
(R) Respond: LORD, I pray you bring men into my life who can be a Joshua to me and who I can be a Joshua to. I pray for people to invest my time, energy and trust in so that they in turn can pour their life into other people. This is my heart and this is my calling in life.
Scripture Read: Deuteronomy 8 - 9
Title: God Reminds Israel to Remain Humble... It is not because of your righteousness
(H) Highlight verse: "Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me wealth.'" Deut. 8:17
(E) Explain: Moses continues his speech and now reminds the Israelites that they need to remain humble. Multiple times he reminds them that they should not become prideful by thinking in their hearts that the reason why the have had military and financial success up to this point was because of their might, intellect, or righteousness. No, it was God who went before them in the desert, it was God who gave the wealth, and it was God who gave them victory over their enemies. Moses tells them to keep this truth in perspective. Moses once again warns the people against idolatry. He says, in 8:19 in regards to worshiping false gods, "I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish." Moses continues his motif, "Give God credit and remain faithful and obedient."
(A) Application: I have met people who have a hard time being humble. They like to brag, seek glory and want credit for everything successful that has happened in their lives. It's hard to talk to these individuals because of their pride. Actually, to me, they are just plain annoying (but I still love them). The Bible is specific in stating that God's people must remain humble. We must know and acknowledge our position before God Almighty. In fact we are told all that we have and all our abilities were given to us by God. The Apostle Paul tells us time and again that the salvation we received from Jesus Christ is not according to anything we have done. God didn't choose you to be his child because he saw potential in you and thought you had some real strengths, talents and abilities that he could use in helping advance his Kingdom purpose. No, God gave you your strength, talent and ability because He is a great God who loves His children. He gave you all you have so you can glorify Him and build up the Body of Christ for His purpose. It is because of God's grace, mercy, love, and faithfulness that you have life, salvation and the ability to do what you do. So, let us remain humble in the presence of God and give Him the due credit in our lives
(R) Respond: LORD, keep me humble. I do not want to be prideful or self-serving. I acknowledge that I can do nothing worthwhile for your Kingdom without You. LORD, keep me close to You, so I may walk this life in complete dependence of You.
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