This week's Bible Study - July 26, 2015
Be Confident in God's Power
Quotes of the Week:
I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it. ~
Edgar Allan Poe
Have you ever started a task and then found out that you weren't really prepared for what you faced? Since I am not much of a do it yourself around the house type of person, I can say this becomes an issue in almost anything that I start to do. Sure, I can mow the yard, take out the trash, empty the dishwasher and so forth, but when it comes to the 'handyman' stuff, I am certainly beyond unqualified! I remember when I got my Electrical Engineering Degree, my grandmother thought that meant I could rewire the house! Oh, how wrong she was! Even when I have managed to tackle a project on my own, it is obvious that it wasn't done by someone who was more familiar with the problem. Thankfully, God has brought Berkley into my life and between the two of us we have been able to tackle several projects around the house, with the help of youtube videos and advice from Home Depot, Lowes and our other 'handy' friends.
When any of us are working on a task that we are able to do on our own, confidence is not an issue. We may know and understand the obstacles that are to be expected, and we are more than able to work through any issues. However, issues may arise making what was once easy to do become very difficult. If you talk to anybody that has suffered from loss of capabilities, you will hear them say that you should never take anything for granted. We tend to wake up each day and believe that we will always be able to do what we could the day before. We should take time to thank God for the many blessings that we have and never take capabilities that He has given us for granted. We should realize that any capability we have is God given and be thankful for all we do have.
Often, when we begin working on tasks that are beyond our capabilities, we turn to others who are more experienced for help. They may give us some guidance on how to deal with potential problems. This can work with tasks we do around the house or perhaps in our jobs, but where can you turn when you have stepped out and accepted God's call on your life? For example, if you feel God has called you to teach Bible Study, there are certainly resources that can help you with teaching skills and people can pray for you. However, only God can truly work through you as you teach His word. There are things that we have been called by God to do where the only confidence we have can be found in Him. In those times, we know that in and of ourselves, we are incapable.
In the previous lesson in this series ( click here ), we read about the passing of the great leader of the Israelites, Moses. They had grown to accept Moses' leadership and saw that he was the one through whom God spoke. God spoke to Joshua to tell him that he would become the next leader. In chapter 1 of Joshua, we read that God told him to be 'strong and courageous'. In fact, he told Joshua this three times, and God assured Joshua that He would be with him as he led the nation. Joshua accepted the call, but he certainly knew that the task before him was far beyond his own capabilities. His confidence had to come from God.
After Joshua assumed the role of the leader, he passed through the people and told them that they needed to prepare to cross the Jordan and take possession of the Promised Land. In Joshua 1:17, the people replied "Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses." As I read this, I immediately thought of two things. First, the obedience that the people showed Moses was likely not what Joshua was hoping for. During their time in the wilderness, the people were often disobedient to Moses. They complained to Moses on many occasions, saying that they were better off as slaves in Egypt and asked why he brought them out into the wilderness to die. Secondly, there was a veiled 'condition' in their words when they stated "only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses". The people stated that they surely 'hoped' that Joshua was going to be legitimate and that God would work through him.
In chapter 2 of Joshua, you can read that Joshua sent two spies into Jericho to get the lay of the land. While there, Rahab the harlot hid them from being found by others looking for them. She told them "We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below". It was obvious that the people in the Promised Land were on edge because of what God had done in the past. In some ways, the enemies of God attributed more power to God than the Israelites, who were God's people.
The Israelites camped by the Jordan before they were ready to cross over. After three days, the officers went through the camp, telling them that when they saw the ark of the covenant of the Lord "your" God and the Levitical priests carrying it, they were to move out from their positions and follow it. It was important for the people to realize that it was their God that went before them, as opposed to the God of Joshua or someone else. Similarly, today, as believers, we pray to our God, as opposed to the God of somebody else. When we realize that we have a relationship with God, we can be more personal in our prayers, knowing that He hears us.
The Israelites were to be led by the ark. None of the Israelites had been into the Promised Land. Having been slaves in Egypt for 430 years and then wandering around in the wilderness for another 40 years, it isn't as any of them had any notion of where they were going. The ark of the covenant and the priests were to lead them, but the people were warned to stay far behind the ark and not to approach it.
Joshua told the people to consecrate themselves. While this is not a word that we use often today, it means to be set apart for a divine purpose. In practically, it is to separate oneself from things that are unclean, especially those things that contaminate our relationship with a perfect God. I've heard it described as if you empty your hands and then you open them to be filled by God. The people were going to experience the amazing things that God would do among them, and they needed to be set apart. Have you ever wondered what blessings we miss out on because we come before God too casually? Is there any of us that can say that we have not been contaminated by the things of the world? What do you need to do to be consecrated? If there is anything that comes to mind that is hindering your relationship with God, perhaps this is your cue to take care of that now.
The Lord said to Joshua that He was going to exalt Joshua in the eyes of all Israel, so that the Israelites would know that the Lord was with Joshua just as He was with Moses. Joshua told the priests to take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people. I feel sure that the priests did not understand fully what was about to happen, but they were willing to follow the words of Joshua and trust that the Lord would provide for them. They were simply told that when they reached the edge of the Jordan's waters, they were to go and stand in the river. We don't read of any of the words between the priests, but can you imagine what you might be thinking? Perhaps they were already starting to believe that Joshua was not the one to lead them.
In a study that Berkley and I have been doing on Exodus, we have become more aware of the sheer size of the Israelites. When they came out of Egypt, there were as many as two million (or more) people, as there were 600,000 men, and in Numbers 26:51, when a census was taken, we read that there were over 601,000 men, prior to this time of crossing the Jordan. Can you imagine how large this throng of people must have been and what the task of moving this many people must be like? It would be hard enough to move this many people in an ideal setting, but what must they have been thinking as they approached the Jordan?
Joshua gathered the Israelites and shared with them the words of the Lord your God. Again, we see the importance of the Lord your God, and not simply the Lord. God was going to work in such a way that the Israelites would know that He was living among them and that He would drive out the nations that were current residents in the Promised Land. This included the Canaanites, Hitties, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. God wanted them to understand that He was indeed able - and that is what we need to understand today. The Lord our God is able.
Joshua explained that the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth (not just their God) would go into the Jordan ahead of the people. As soon as the priests who carried the ark of the Lord would set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap. It is important that the people would realize that not only is the Lord their God, but He is also the Lord of the entire earth. We tend to forget that God is able to act in our world. In the days in which we live in today, we see so many things that are moving further and further away from God, yet He is still the Lord of the earth.
The people broke camp to cross the Jordan and followed the priests who were carrying the ark of the covenant. You would have to think that there was a lot of discussion among the people. There had to be some excitement, fear, skepticism and a bundle of other emotions as they neared the Jordan. We read that the Jordan was at flood stage, which implies that it was not simply a trickle, as some rivers can become in a dry season.
As soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. The priests stepped into the river that looked like it wasn't going to stop and within a moment, the riverbed became dry. The water piled up in a heap upriver and the water flowing to the Dead Sea was completely cut off. Some will try and point to some coincidence or some natural occurrence. While this may have been the case, the timing of when this all occurred was all at the hand of God.
The priests continued carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord and stopped in the middle of the Jordan River (riverbed) on dry ground. Then, all of Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. They weren't slogging through a muddy river bed, but a clean, dry passage.
This is an incredible story of how God used this miracle for the people to understand that His hand was upon Joshua. This required confidence on Joshua's part to be able to trust the Lord to the point of being able to tell the priests and the people what to do. Joshua couldn't control the outcome, so his confidence was totally placed in the Lord. As the Jordan River flowed and as the group drew nearer and nearer, we can wonder what the priests and the throng of people were thinking and saying. Do you wonder what Joshua was thinking? This is a predicament that we, as believers, often find ourselves in. We know what God "can" do and we know what God has done, but when we have expectations that God will do a certain thing at a certain time (our time), our confidence can be lacking. In Joshua's case, God had told Joshua what He was going to do, so Joshua could have confidence in Him.
The people were told to be consecrated. Isn't this something that we all need to do? What parts of the world are we holding onto that contaminate our relationship with the Lord? We look around and we see so many things in our world that have turned completely away from God. As believers, there are times that we need to take a stand, but I believe that many people, in taking stands, are contaminating their own lives by the attitudes that they hold. True marks of Christianity are mercy and grace that we all receive. We know of forgiveness and restoration. What does it mean for you to be consecrated? Perhaps, there are areas of your life that you need to turn over to the Lord? You may be involved in sin in some specific area that God is exposing to you. Perhaps, your issue may be in how you deal with someone else and in many ways exhibit what would be described as far from a godly attitude. Many people seem to be eaten up with unforgiveness and bitterness, which will ultimately cause issues in their relationship with the Lord, as well as destroy relationships with those around them.
Perhaps you are currently coming upon your own Jordan River. When you look up, you see what appears to be ahead of you and you are questioning what God is going to do. There is no process to 'make' God do our bidding, even when we know that it would ultimately bring honor to Him. There will be many times in our lifetime where the Jordan opens before us, and there will be other times where we reach the Jordan, and either have to turn back or learn how to swim. Even as we write this, we are facing our own medical Jordan, and while we know that God 'can' restore health, we know that will not always be what happens.
We want that confidence that can only come from God. Fortunately, God will often work in our lives, even when we are far from Him. Our prayer is that God will take you to your Jordan River and provide the Crossing when needed. Place your confidence in Him. Our prayers are with you as you face your Jordan River and we certainly covet your prayers as well.