Category Archives: Sin

Joshua 18-21; The Donut Hole

I’m the type of person who usually needs to see something in order to understand it. So reading these chapters concerning the division of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel is like trying to read Chinese or something. It’s meaningless. The map in my study Bible didn’t help much. It had the tribal names in the right places, but it didn’t show the borders. It kind of all ran together for me.

Then I found a map on biblestudy.org that not only drew in the borders, they color-coded the different tribes! Now I get it.

But what is it I get? I’m not one to spend a lot of time studying the material components of Scripture. I don’t have a burning desire to visit that area of our world we call the Holy Land. But because God inspired the recording of the details concerning this property survey, I figure it must be important. So I pulled out my commentaries.

Didn’t get a lot of insight. But Matthew Henry did connect some dots. Like telling me Mount Carmel and Nazareth were in Zebulun’s territory. The tiny area allotted to Issachar is where Ahab’s palace was, where Sissera was beaten by Deborah, where Saul and Jonathan were killed. It was a happening place! Anna, the prophetess who hung out at the temple until she could hold baby Jesus, came from all the way up north in Asher.

I’ve spent all morning dot-connecting. I found it very interesting. But is the reason why these chapters are included in Scripture so that we can get to know a piece of dirt that will perish with the rest of the world some day? I put my commentaries aside, and asked God if there was something He wanted to say to me.

I stared at the map on my computer screen for a while and my eyes kept going to the southern most part of the Promised Land. It’s where Judah received their inheritance, and it’s one of the largest portions of land. But right in the middle, like a donut hole, is Simeon’s land. Simeon, who had disgraced himself, and who was cursed by his father Jacob because of his sin, was placed right in the middle of the territory given to his brother Joseph’s family.

The black sheep of the family was surrounded by the family Savior.

Now there’s a lesson!

I think this is a beautiful picture of how we are to handle it when a brother or sister in Christ sins. So often, we turn our backs on them. We shun them. We talk about them behind their backs. But God, painting a beautiful picture here, puts that sinner right in the middle, surrounds them with the strongest believers.

I notice that the map I have of this area during the time of King David, identifies that area simply as “Judah.” My research tells me that by that time, most of the tribe of Simeon were assimilated into Judah. I LOVE THAT!!!!

The New Testament tells us that when a brother sins, we are to confront him, talk to him, take one or two others with us to do everything we can to bring that person back into the fold. Yes, there may come a time to disconnect. But that should never be our first response.

So the next time you become aware of someone in your family or your church fellowship  who is falling away, remember you are the donut. Surround that person, embrace that person, love that person back to the Lord.

I hope your family will do the same for you.

 

 

Joshua 8-10; Wax or Clay?

The Israelites had a reputation in Canaan. Or rather, the God of Israel had a reputation. The people inhabiting the Promised Land had heard the stories. Plagues in Egypt. Impressive victories in war. The Jordan River crossing. City walls collapsing.

Not only that, but the Canaanites knew the amazing God of the Jews had promised His children their land. If that happened, the Canaanites knew they would lose everything, including their freedom, maybe their lives. What to do?

The Gibeonites decided to go to the Jews and form a treaty. Five other kings decided to join forces to fight the Jews. One king heard the truth and chose surrender. Five kings heard the truth and chose to defy God.

Matthew Henry reminds us the same sun melts wax, and hardens clay.

It’s the same with truth today. I don’t need to give examples. You see it every day on a work-wide level, in our nation, our schools, in some churches, and in hearts of people close to us. We saw it when they hung Jesus on the cross.

Truth: There is ONE GOD, the creator and supreme ruler over all creation. Jesus is GOD’S SON, eternal God in human form. God is HOLY. He demands holiness of anyone who will come to Him. But we have sinned against Him. ALL OF US have sinned against Him. So in and of ourselves, there is NO HOPE, because the penalty for every sin is DEATH, eternal separation from God. But Jesus went to the cross to die, to pay the debt of our sin, of my sin, of your’s. And whether you want to believe it or not, Jesus is THE ONLY WAY to God.

Does that truth melt your heart, or make you angry? Do you want to surrender to God, or deny Him? Do you want to accept the truth, or fight against it?

I hope you’ll read these chapters in Joshua today. Find out for yourself what happens when people surrender, then enjoy God’s protection from the enemy. And find out what happens when people refuse to surrender, when they take up arms against God. They didn’t stand a chance.

Holy God, I surrender. I am a sinner who deserves your wrath. I deserve to die for the sins I’ve committed. But I’ve heard about You, how powerful and awesome You are. And when I hear You say there is only one hope of salvation, I believe it. So, God, I accept Jesus. I repent of sin, I turn my life over to You. Because the truth is, when I stand before You on that day, I don’t want You looking at me, seeing my sin. I want You to look at me and see Jesus. He is my Savior. And He is the Savior of anyone who surrenders to the truth.

Joshua 6-7; Quit Crying

When you were a kid, did you ever hear the words, “Quit crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about?” I have to admit I heard it more than once from my dad, the father of five girls. ‘Nuff said.

I have a great nephew who I adore. When he was younger, and didn’t get his way, or was disappointed about something, his voice would go up about two octaves, he’d scrunch up his face, and he’d whine. One time, during one of these delightful episodes, I asked him if he ever got his way when he whined like that.

“No,” he whined. (good on you, parents) I smile.

You do know we have raised a generation of whiners, don’t you? You can’t watch the news without seeing some millennial whining about something. It’s embarrassing.

The Israelites had just watched Jericho crumble. God had given them such an amazing victory, they seem to have felt invincible. “Let’s get Ai,” they decided.

So Joshua sent some men into Ai to check out the lay of the land. They came back with a glowing report. “Piece of cake. Send a few soldiers and we’ll take that city with no problem.” Hoo-rah.

Well, Joshua did send only about 3,000 soldiers. And they were soundly defeated. Routed. Crushed. They went running for their lives like cockroaches when the lights turn on.

When Joshua heard they had lost the battle, he tore his clothes and fell face down on the ground before the ark. He stayed there all day like that. The elders followed suit.

Then Joshua prayed something like this: Why God? We should have never crossed the Jordan. The Canaanites think we’re a joke now. They’ll attack and defeat us. They’ll wipe us out. It’s not fair. (I can imagine his voice was a couple octaves higher, too)

I love how God answered that prayer, and I can almost hear my dad’s unsympathetic voice as God says, “Get up. Quit whining.”

God goes on: “Israel has sinned. Do you honestly expect me to give you victory when you treat me like that? You know better. A deal’s a deal, and you’ve broken your end of the bargain by your disobedience. Don’t come crying to me. This is on you.”

That’s rough. Where is compassion? Where is tolerance: Where is this love that everyone is talking about?

God’s compassion and love are never directed toward sin. God never looks at a sin and weakens because of a tear in our eye. He cannot and will not tolerate sin. His holiness demands that.

I think God would have us take Him very seriously concerning this sin thing. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. No grey areas there. Not only will God not tolerate sin, He cannot bless sin, either. The consequences for sin are serious. Deadly. I hope you read all of chapter 7 today. It’s not pretty.

It is futile to whine about God’s view of sin. You might think He’s unfair. In reality, He is absolutely fair. He hates your sin as much as He hates mine. And what is sin for you, is also sin for me. We don’t have to guess. He’s absolutely clear about that.

I can’t help but think of the movie, League Of Their Own. I’ve never watched the whole movie, but I’ve often seen the part where the frustrated coach of a girls’ baseball team tells a weepy player, “There’s no crying in baseball.” In life, as in baseball, there are rules. Three strikes and you’re out. Beat the ball to the base and you’re safe. Obey God and you are blessed. You can whine about the “unfairness.” But it doesn’t change the game.

Get over yourself, dear one. If you are holding on to a sin, and think God ought to bless you in spite of it, think again. If you want God’s blessing, repent, get rid of the sin, obey Him according to Scripture.

Quit crying. You just might find yourself with something to really cry about.

Deuteronomy 30-34; The Law and Grace

What is your definition of grace? When you think of God’s grace, what comes to mind? Jesus? The cross? Forgiveness? Eternal life? What about, the Law?

I’ve heard religion criticized for being a list of rules, of “don’ts.” And actually, Moses reminds us it is. The Law is a very big part of this thing we call Christianity. Even though we know the Law is powerless to forgive sin.

The Law reveals sin, though. And in doing so, it points us to our Savior.

I guess God could have left us to our own devices, not defined sin for us, then sat back and watched us unknowingly crash and burn. Like a cop who knows the speed limit sign is missing, then pulls over unsuspecting drivers and tickets them for driving too fast.  Sorry, boys, not knowing the speed limit doesn’t change the speed limit.

Not knowing what sin is doesn’t change what sin is.

But God is full of grace. In Romans 7:7, Paul tells us he would not have known what sin even was if it had not been for the Law. I wouldn’t know what light was except for the darkness, what health was if it weren’t for sickness, what joy was but for sorrow. I wouldn’t know what forgiveness was if I didn’t know I needed to be forgiven.

Deuteronomy 33:3 tells us God loved the people, He held them in His hand, they worshiped Him, and God gave them the Law as a possession, an inheritance. God gave them the Law as something precious, not because they deserved it, but because He graciously wanted them to know their boundaries so they wouldn’t cross over them. Then He could bless them, like He longed to do.

The Law is still in effect today. Those boundaries are still in place. Idol worship is still a sin. Adultery, lying, dishonoring parents are still sins. And because the wages of every sin is death, God wanted to spell it all out so we would not be caught unawares.

He wanted to give us life instead of death. A life, as sinners, we don’t deserve. That’s grace. And in a very real way, the Law plays a big role in God’s grace.

Grace greater than all our sin.

God, thank you for letting me see your Law as an act of grace. You want us to know what sin is so that we are quick to repent of it, to accept what Jesus did on our behalf, and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with you. That’s grace. Thank you for grace that is even greater than my sin.

Deuteronomy 16-17; Bread of Affliction

Moses, in 16:3, called unleavened bread, “the bread of affliction.” Remember, the Jews were to eat only unleavened bread during Passover. The bread was to remind them about their ancestors’ time of slavery in Egypt, and how God told them to flee Egypt in haste.

As a non-Jew, I don’t think I’ve given enough attention to that symbolism as it applies to my own life in 2017. I don’t know about you, but there are just some things I’d rather forget. So why were the Jews commanded to remember the darkest time in their history, the days of affliction and slavery? And is this suggesting I remember my own darkest days, the days I was a slave to sin?

I think there are two reasons why this is exactly the case:

1.  If we don’t remember our mistakes, we take the risk of repeating them. “History repeats itself” is sadly true way too often.

2.  Remembering my past sins helps me to recognize what a great salvation is mine through the blood of Jesus, and how far I’ve come with Him since I asked Him to forgive me.

But didn’t Paul say, “Forgetting what lies behind…”? So which is it? Are we to remember the past or forget it?

Yes.

There is a difference between remembering the past, and living there. As awful as the things I did in my past, I don’t want to just forget them and pretend they never happened. I don’t want to ever do those things again. But I don’t want to continue to beat myself up for things God’s forgiven me for, either. That’s why Paul said he lets the past live in the past, but then he presses on toward the goal of knowing Jesus today.

I want my relationship with my Savior to be a realistic one. That’s why I have those memories of past sins, to recognize how much it cost Him to pay for each and every one. I want to live my life out of gratitude for so great a salvation. And I want to remember what being separated from Him because of my sin felt like, so I never go back to those dark days.

The Old Testament Jews were told to leave Egypt quickly, and completely. They weren’t told to go back, or even to revisit their place of captivity. But they were also told never to forget what it was like to live back there.

I am reminded Jesus called Himself, the Bread of Life. No longer the bread of affliction. He is the life-giver, the sin-forgiverer, the One who redeems by past and makes something beautiful out of my ugliness.

Thank You, Lord, for reminding me today what it was like to live in “Egypt.” A slave to sin, with no hope. A woman condemned to life and eternity without You. And thank You for being the Bread of Life, who has forgiven me for every sin that I’ve committed, who sees me as Your child, Your friend. I am in awe. I am humbled. And I am grateful for what Jesus did for even me, as He hung on that cross. May I never forget what it cost Him, may I never forget where I’ve been, and may I never go back there. I give you my past, and press on toward the future with You, my Savior and my Lord.

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 7&8; Obedience= Blessing (Not The Other Way Around)

Five times in these two chapters, God makes a direct link between obedience and blessing. Verse after verse describe the Promised Land with all its abundance. But God is not handing the land over to His people without some strings attached.

Clearly He says, all the blessings of Canaan are theirs, IF. Then three times He tells them what will happen if they disobey. First, in 9:14 He warns them they’ll forget Him, then in verses 19, and repeated in 20, He tells them disobedience will lead to destruction.

For myself, I know that when I am blessed by God, it encourages me to obey Him again and again. But I think the Bible is consistent in saying God does not bless disobedience. In fact, there are severe consequences for disobedience.

Sometimes I think people believe God chose Israel (and perhaps the Church) to bless them above all nations, when in reality God chose them (and the Church) to worship Him before all other nations and people, to demonstrate how much He blesses a people who obey Him, in order to draw unbelievers to Himself, so that they can believe, worship, and obey Him, be blessed, and continue to reveal Him to others, and so on, and so on, and so on.

God delights in blessing His children. But obedience comes before blessing, and disobedience comes before a fall.

Deuteronomy 4-6; The Greatest Commandment

I was reading Moses’ re-teaching of the Ten Commandments, and was struck by the simplicity of them:

  1. Don’t worship other gods
  2. Don’t make idols
  3. Don’t misuse God’s Name
  4. Keep the Sabbath
  5. Honor your parents
  6. Don’t murder anyone
  7. Don’t commit adultery
  8. Don’t steal
  9. Don’t lie
  10. Don’t covet

Moses elaborated on these commandments later, but in a nutshell, these are the condensed version of God’s commandments to His people.

Do you remember how Jesus answered the young man who asked what the most important commandment is? Jesus said: Love God. Love each other.

Love is the umbrella over which all the other commandments exist. And God Himself IS love. (I John 4:8)

Now, I am by no means an authority on world religions. I have scratched only the surface in my study of them. But I can’t think of another religion whose god says, “Love me.” Or even one who claims to love its followers.

The God of the Bible demands obedience, for sure. But when you understand His love, those demands don’t seem so daunting. In fact, obedience becomes a privilege, not a ritual. Worshiping Him out of love produces love. And when I break a commandment, when I sin, I can receive forgiveness through the precious blood of God Himself, Jesus Christ.

Holy God, thank you for telling us, and retelling us what it is You require of us as Your people. As straightforward as those commandments are, I have broken them more than once. So, Father, I thank You for giving Your Son to pay the consequence for my sin. He did what I can never hope to do. And His perfection is mine through His blood. God, I thank You for love. First for Your love of me, then for the privilege of loving You in return, and lastly for the love that I share with Your people. May my life be lived in such a way that Your love is evident, and enticing. And may I obey You today, out of love.