Archive for the ‘06-Joshua’ Category

Joshua 21:1-45 (Part 2 of 2)

The Towns Given to the Levites

Sometimes, we forget to enjoy the journey. We are so hellbent on getting to our goal that we forget to enjoy the moment. Sometimes in waiting for a goal to be fulfilled, we forget to enjoy the precious moments along the journey that taught us so much. Sometimes, we get angry and frustrated because it taking God so long to fulfill the promises that we believe He has made to us. Sometimes, the journey to the promise is the thing that God is teaching us.

 

When I look back on six years ago when I felt for the call to ministry, I almost immediately enrolled in seminary. I enjoyed all three years of seminary en route to my Master of Christian Ministry (MCM) degree. For some reason though, upon walking across the stage at graduation, I expected some church, some parachurch organization, some non-profit, or even my own church to be waiting on the other side with the gift that I had been waiting on. A chance to prove myself in full-time ministry. However, nothing happened immediately. I began to wonder and wander. But a part-time opportunity came up at my church that seemed to be the dream come true. I would work part-time there (in addition to my staying at my regular job) for a small monthly salary (it was nominal but that was not the point – I was on staff). The promise was that it would become a full-time job as a pastor of discipleship and administration at some point in the future when the money for the church was there consistently to be able to support an additional full-time salary. Budgets are always tight at our church no matter the year, but giving grows about 4-5% per year. However, within the first year of working “part-time with a promise” the church had the opportunity to rehire, this time on a full-time basis, a former pastor who had left us to go plant a campus of our church in Connecticut. It was now self-sufficient, mostly, and one of the plant team members had grown so much spiritually that the reins of the pulpit were handed to him. This former pastor was then rehired as the discipleship pastor back here at our church. Once he was on board, the elder team was reorganized and one of the new aspects of that reorganization was that the worship pastor was made also the executive pastor to take much of the day-to-day church operations responsibilities off the lead (founding) pastor. So, as you can see, the two avenues that were once out there as my route to full-time employment had changed – discipleship and administration. Both filled by full-time pastors other than myself. But most assuredly I cannot blame them for what they did. Our pastor of discipleship is an amazing man. I am a total project and he is an accomplished discipler of men and women. He was that free agent that they had to go out and grab when he became available. I get that. Our church is so headed in the right discipleship direction with him on staff. It was a stroke of genius inspired by God to bring him back to our Lyman, SC staff.

 

The elder team carved out responsibilities for me to fulfill under the title of director of finance and administration working up under the new executive pastor position. However, I knew from the time that the new discipleship pastor was brought on board as a full-time pastor, then the hiring of a full-time youth pastor near the same time, and the expansion of responsibilities for the worship pastor as the executive pastor and knowing the finances of the church, the future of me being a full-time member of the pastoral staff at my church would be delayed for a long-time as the church worked on what the needed priorities were. As well, there came a point too in my limited capacity there I had accomplished a lot by a year and a half later. When you combine that with what we had accomplished when I was completely volunteer as the finance director, we had accomplished a lot in 5 years. We had implemented an accounting software package that enabled us to understand the church’s performance. We had gone back and developed financial statements all the way back to almost the beginning of this young church. We had refinanced the church’s building debt. We had defined roles and responsibilities. We had developed policies and procedures. We had hired a maintenance contractor service. We had identified all the things that were wrong with the church buildings and began working on them. We had developed and refined the budgeting process. We had adequately satisfied the bank’s documentation needs each year. We even were able to secure a line of credit for the church to help ease the peaks and valleys of giving. So much was accomplished, particularly during that year and half I was on part time staff.

 

However, God had laid it on my heart that my salary from the church was a drag on the finances of the church and that it would be 5 to 10 years before they could bring me on full-time. It was time to go back to volunteer status and free up $1k of cash plus taxes per month. I just didn’t feel right any longer just working part-time with no real target in sight. After much prayer, I went back to volunteer status as of April of this year. Sure, I still manage the financial reporting of the church and am still a teacher in the discipleship team, but the dream of being a full-time pastor seems to have ended or been delayed or something.

 

Maybe it is not here. Maybe there is some people group that I am going to meet where God just lays it on me to go there and plant a church. Maybe, like in the show, How I Met Your Mother, when Stella tells Ted that though he is alone now, his perfect soulmate is out there, somewhere, and “she’s getting here as fast as she can!” Maybe, there’s an already existing church that God has in store for me and she “is getting here as fast as she can!” Stella told Ted that he HAD trust that! Likewise, I have to trust that! Maybe, this time at LifeSong is preparation for me to develop a new ministry out of our church. That idea has been gelling in my mind as part of deciding what my doctoral thesis will be about it. Maybe, I can translate that doctoral thesis plan into an actual plan of action and ministry to be operated out of our church (because that was the original laboratory for what my thesis is going to be all about).

 

There’s a lot of maybe’s and nothing is clear at this point. But like Ted trusting that his woman of his dreams was getting to him as fast as she could, I must trust that God is working out the details of my true ministry where I will spend the remainder of my days on this earth. That idea is working its way out. It is getting here as fast as it can. I must. I HAVE to trust that from a God who keeps his promises.

 

It was that idea that God always, ALWAYS, keeps his promises that struck me when I l re-read this passage this morning – particularly those last three verses. Let’s read the passage together now:

21 Now the family heads of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the other tribal families of Israel 2 at Shiloh in Canaan and said to them, “The Lord commanded through Moses that you give us towns to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock.” 3 So, as the Lord had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance:

 

4 The first lot came out for the Kohathites, according to their clans. The Levites who were descendants of Aaron the priest were allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. 5 The rest of Kohath’s descendants were allotted ten towns from the clans of the tribes of Ephraim, Dan and half of Manasseh.

 

6 The descendants of Gershon were allotted thirteen towns from the clans of the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan.

 

7 The descendants of Merari, according to their clans, received twelve towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.

 

8 So the Israelites allotted to the Levites these towns and their pasturelands, as the Lord had commanded through Moses.

 

9 From the tribes of Judah and Simeon they allotted the following towns by name 10 (these towns were assigned to the descendants of Aaron who were from the Kohathite clans of the Levites, because the first lot fell to them):

 

11 They gave them Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), with its surrounding pastureland, in the hill country of Judah. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) 12 But the fields and villages around the city they had given to Caleb son of Jephunneh as his possession.

 

13 So to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Libnah, 14 Jattir, Eshtemoa, 15 Holon, Debir, 16 Ain, Juttah and Beth Shemesh, together with their pasturelands—nine towns from these two tribes.

 

17 And from the tribe of Benjamin they gave them Gibeon, Geba, 18 Anathoth and Almon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

 

19 The total number of towns for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.

 

20 The rest of the Kohathite clans of the Levites were allotted towns from the tribe of Ephraim:

 

21 In the hill country of Ephraim they were given Shechem (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) and Gezer, 22 Kibzaim and Beth Horon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

 

23 Also from the tribe of Dan they received Eltekeh, Gibbethon, 24 Aijalon and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

 

25 From half the tribe of Manasseh they received Taanach and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—two towns.

 

26 All these ten towns and their pasturelands were given to the rest of the Kohathite clans.

 

27 The Levite clans of the Gershonites were given:

 

from the half-tribe of Manasseh,

 

Golan in Bashan (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) and Be Eshterah, together with their pasturelands—two towns;

 

28 from the tribe of Issachar,

 

Kishion, Daberath, 29 Jarmuth and En Gannim, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

 

30 from the tribe of Asher,

 

Mishal, Abdon, 31 Helkath and Rehob, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

 

32 from the tribe of Naphtali,

 

Kedesh in Galilee (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Hammoth Dor and Kartan, together with their pasturelands—three towns.

 

33 The total number of towns of the Gershonite clans came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.

 

34 The Merarite clans (the rest of the Levites) were given:

 

from the tribe of Zebulun,

 

Jokneam, Kartah, 35 Dimnah and Nahalal, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

 

36 from the tribe of Reuben,

 

Bezer, Jahaz, 37 Kedemoth and Mephaath, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

 

38 from the tribe of Gad,

 

Ramoth in Gilead (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Mahanaim, 39 Heshbon and Jazer, together with their pasturelands—four towns in all.

 

40 The total number of towns allotted to the Merarite clans, who were the rest of the Levites, came to twelve.

 

41 The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all, together with their pasturelands. 42 Each of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it; this was true for all these towns.

 

43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

 

In this passage, we see that God proved faithful in fulfilling every promise He had given to Israel. Fulfillment of some promises took a good long while, but “not a single one of all the good promises the LORD had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled.” God’s promises will be fulfilled according to His timetable, not ours, but we know His words is sure. The more we learn of the promises of God has fulfilled and continues to fulfill, the easier it is to hope for yet to come. Sometimes, we become impatient, wanting God to act a certain way right now. Instead, we should faithfully do what we know He wants us to do right now and trust Him for the future.

 

We get impatient with God at times, when He does not dispense what we want from the vending machine fast enough. We may feel the need to bang on the vending machine. We may feel the need to shake the vending machine. We may get all pouty about why God has not come through on the promises He has made to us. We may get all pouty because the dream has worked out the way we planned it. I imagine that the Levites may have been wondering the same thing after wandering in the desert for 40 years and then watching the assignment of the lands to the tribes and nothing was happening for them. Finally, God gives them cities and towns scattered throughout the nation as their inheritance.

 

God never fails to keep a promise. If He has called you to ministry, He will make a way. It may not be today. It may not be five years from now. It may only happen when you quit trying to set the agenda for God. God’s plan for my ultimate ministry will fall into place in God’s timing not mine. He will bring it and it will be abundantly clear. It will be that aha moment that everything falls into place for me to do exactly what He has planned for me. He’s getting the plan together right now and everything is about my readiness and that ministry opportunity coming together at that right moment in time according to his plan.

 

None of this is wasted. Every bit of everything I have ever gone through is preparation for that intersection moment of perfect clarity, passion and burden that lies ahead. I must trust in that. It is His timetable. It is His plan. And He is bringing it to fruition even as I sit here and right about it being out there somewhere. And God is getting it here as fast as He can. I have to trust that. I am trusting that. God is bringing my dream ministry to me as fast as He can. In the meantime, I should enjoy the journey. I should enjoy what God is teaching me that is to ready me for what is next.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Joshua 21:1-45 (Part 1 of 2)
The Towns Given to the Levites

Social media is a neat thing. It is a powerful thing. You can reach and stay in touch with friends that you rarely see around the corner, around the country, and around the globe. You can express your own unique personality in a public way that was once not afforded to anyone but those who could access national or regional media. We can tell the world what we like and dislike. We can show the world what we do every day. We can show the world our vacations while we are on vacation (instead of boring people to tears with slide shows and 8mm films like they did back in the 60s and 70s or with instant photographs like the 80s). Now with digital cameras and cameras in our phones and ubiquitous access to the world wide web, we can post pictures from wherever, whenever we want. We can post pictures of what we are doing instantaneously. It’s an instant access world now where whatever you do can be on social media within seconds. Whatever you think can be expressed in a post immediately – and unedited.

Social media is now the virtual neighborhoods in which we live. We have the ability to influence what other people think of us who never even hardly see us. For example, from social media, there are things that people can tell about me. First and foremost, most people know that I love the Bible and discussing what passages of the Bible mean for our daily lives. That’s my thing! People know that I am an corporate accountant. People know that I am a husband. People know that I am a huge Clemson fan. People know that I have a really oddball, corny, ironic, sometimes profound but mostly silly (fifteen year old boyish) sense of humor. These are things that you can know about me without even having ever met me because of my presence on Facebooks and WordPress, for example. You can gain an impression of the lifestyle that I live by the pictures I post and the things that I sound off about in my posts. You can tell what my political leanings are. You can tell all kinds of things about me by what I post.

It has long been a thing for me to think twice before I post something on social media. What impression am I making on people who look up to me as a leader in our church, as an employee of my church, as an employee in my secular company. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to hide who I am. With me, what you see is what you get. I have never really cared about what others think about me. It is too tiring to try to set forth an image to the world that is not really me. That is really a too great a burden to bear. Maybe, I am just getting older and with that age comes the desire not to have to work so hard to impress people. If you like me, you like me. If you don’t, well in the end, it just was not meant to be for us to be friends and we move on.

However, what I do concern myself with on social media is that I don’t want what I post or what I say on social media to be a stumbling block to someone finding Jesus Christ or say something that is in contrast to the beliefs of our Christian faith or to bring ill repute to Christ Himself by how I act and what I post on social media. Again, don’t the idea I am prudish or whatever. I have fun in life and on social media. Most people get a kick out of my quirky sense of humor and my “realness”. However, one thing to consider when you post something on social media as a Christian is how does this help or harm my witness to the world around me? Do my posts give the impression that I go to church on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week. Can you tell any difference between my social media posts and those who thumb their nose up at God and live lifestyles of carnality and vanity on a daily basis? Can you tell a difference between me and a non-Christian in the things that I post about, shout about, pictorialize?

As a Christ follower, we each are sprinkled throughout the world and we live in the world on a daily basis. We live more in the world than we spend time at church! We are in the world on a daily basis. Can you and I be identified easily as a Christian? Do our posts on social media spew hate and drive people away from a relationship with Jesus Christ? Do our posts reflect a lifestyle that is not centered on understanding and meditating upon God’s Word? Do our posts reflect that we do not even understand what we believe in as a Christian? Do our posts more reflect what we are against as opposed to drawing people unto Christ? Do our posts reflect a hedonistic lifestyle but we clean up and dress up real nice for Sunday pictures? Do our posts reflect values that are of the world and in opposition to the Bible that we say we read but it is just easier to go along with culture?

We are sprinkled everywhere as Christians in our society and in every walk of life. Do people in your sphere of influence know that you are Christian? Can they tell it from your social media? Do you want to draw people unto Christ by your presence in your sphere of influence? These are questions I ask myself when I post on social media? I am sure there are times that I fail at answering that question in a Christ-like manner, but it is a question I ask myself before I post. What if social media was the only way that you could influence people for or against a relationship with Jesus Christ? And in some cases, that may well be true. We may be the only Christian a person knows and what they know of Christians can be limited to what they see you post in words and in pictures. We are more than just Sunday Christians. We are Christians every day. Let us make sure that we are little Christs in the communities in which we live. We want to draw people unto Christ not drive them away with hate, with inconsistency, with choices that are inconsistent with Scripture, and so on.

That was the thought that came to mind this morning when I was wondering why the Levite cities were spread across the whole nation. It was more than just a logistical thing. It was important to have a priestly influence in every area of the country. It was important for them to be nearby to everyday Joes and everyday Janes. Then that got me thinking about how Peter tells us that we are each priests to the world around us. We are sprinkled around the communities in which we all live. Then, that got me to thinking about how people can tell we are Christ followers or not. Then, that got me to thinking about the new medium of social media and how that gives people understanding of who we are, really. Ok, so it’s an audit trail of thinking things to get to why I wrote what I wrote after reading this passage, but I do think it is a logical trail. Let’s read the passage together now:

21 Now the family heads of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the other tribal families of Israel 2 at Shiloh in Canaan and said to them, “The Lord commanded through Moses that you give us towns to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock.” 3 So, as the Lord had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance:

4 The first lot came out for the Kohathites, according to their clans. The Levites who were descendants of Aaron the priest were allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. 5 The rest of Kohath’s descendants were allotted ten towns from the clans of the tribes of Ephraim, Dan and half of Manasseh.

6 The descendants of Gershon were allotted thirteen towns from the clans of the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan.

7 The descendants of Merari, according to their clans, received twelve towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.

8 So the Israelites allotted to the Levites these towns and their pasturelands, as the Lord had commanded through Moses.

9 From the tribes of Judah and Simeon they allotted the following towns by name 10 (these towns were assigned to the descendants of Aaron who were from the Kohathite clans of the Levites, because the first lot fell to them):

11 They gave them Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), with its surrounding pastureland, in the hill country of Judah. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) 12 But the fields and villages around the city they had given to Caleb son of Jephunneh as his possession.

13 So to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Libnah, 14 Jattir, Eshtemoa, 15 Holon, Debir, 16 Ain, Juttah and Beth Shemesh, together with their pasturelands—nine towns from these two tribes.

17 And from the tribe of Benjamin they gave them Gibeon, Geba, 18 Anathoth and Almon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

19 The total number of towns for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.

20 The rest of the Kohathite clans of the Levites were allotted towns from the tribe of Ephraim:

21 In the hill country of Ephraim they were given Shechem (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) and Gezer, 22 Kibzaim and Beth Horon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

23 Also from the tribe of Dan they received Eltekeh, Gibbethon, 24 Aijalon and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

25 From half the tribe of Manasseh they received Taanach and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—two towns.

26 All these ten towns and their pasturelands were given to the rest of the Kohathite clans.

27 The Levite clans of the Gershonites were given:

from the half-tribe of Manasseh,

Golan in Bashan (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) and Be Eshterah, together with their pasturelands—two towns;

28 from the tribe of Issachar,

Kishion, Daberath, 29 Jarmuth and En Gannim, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

30 from the tribe of Asher,

Mishal, Abdon, 31 Helkath and Rehob, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

32 from the tribe of Naphtali,

Kedesh in Galilee (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Hammoth Dor and Kartan, together with their pasturelands—three towns.

33 The total number of towns of the Gershonite clans came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.

34 The Merarite clans (the rest of the Levites) were given:

from the tribe of Zebulun,

Jokneam, Kartah, 35 Dimnah and Nahalal, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

36 from the tribe of Reuben,

Bezer, Jahaz, 37 Kedemoth and Mephaath, together with their pasturelands—four towns;

38 from the tribe of Gad,

Ramoth in Gilead (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Mahanaim, 39 Heshbon and Jazer, together with their pasturelands—four towns in all.

40 The total number of towns allotted to the Merarite clans, who were the rest of the Levites, came to twelve.

41 The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all, together with their pasturelands. 42 Each of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it; this was true for all these towns.

43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

In this passage, we see that the Levites were to minister on behalf of the people so they were given cities scattered through the land. Although center of the faith was first at Shiloh and then at Jerusalem which were each far away from most Israelites, almost no one lived more than a day’s journey from a Levitical city. Note that the striking thing about this list is that God wanted the Levites “sprinkled” all throughout the land of Israel. He never intended there to be one “state” of Levi, but every tribe was to have the priestly influence and presence in their midst. Though the Levites were scattered throughout the land of Israel, there was only one place in the land where they could assist in the service of the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple). When Israel got the possession of the Land of Canaan, they set up the Tabernacle first at Shiloh and later in the time of Solomon it was finally moved to Jerusalem where the portable structure was abandoned for the permanent Temple. But the greatest percent of the Levites did not perform services in the Temple. That building was simply too small for all of them to work there. Most Levites performed duties in other employments within the nation of Israel. The occupation of the Levites were in what we call professional fields today. Moses expected this to be the case. When collect all the OT references together this is what you would find that they did:

• They were ordained to be teachers of the nation (Deuteronomy 24:8; 33:10; 2 Chronicles 35:3; Nehemiah 8:7).

• They also represented many of the judges of the land, and in the time of Ezra they were the sole members of the Sanhedrin — the Supreme Court of the nation (Deuteronomy 17:8–9; 21:5; 1 Chronicles 23:4; 2 Chronicles 19:8; Ezekiel 44:15, 24)

• Most medical services were in their care (Leviticus 13:2, 14:2; Luke 17:14).

• They were professional singers and musicians (1 Chronicles 25:1–31; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 34:12).

• Producers of books and librarians were almost exclusively Levites (2 Chronicles 34:13).

• It may appear strange to some but even law enforcement was in their care (1 Chronicles 23:4) — they were the “sheriffs”.

• Many of the Levites were architects and builders (2 Chronicles 34:8–13).

As stated before, the Levites earned their living by becoming what we call “the professional people” of the community.

In the same manner, Christians (being priests, 1 Peter 2:5 and 2:9) are to be “sprinkled” all throughout the world and society. We are priests where we live. We are the church every day wherever we are. We are representatives of Christ by how we live, how we work, and how we play. As teachers, lawyers and judges, as doctors and nurses, as singers and musicians, as writers and librarians, as law enforcement officials, as architects and contractors, as accountants, as housewives, as church employees, as whatever you are, we are sprinkled everywhere. We are representative of Christ not only when we go to church and not only when we wear of LifeSong t-shirt (or the t-shirt of whatever church you go to). We are on stage every day. Sometimes, we are the only Christians that other people will ever encounter. What does my social media say to those people. What impression of Jesus Christ are we giving? Do I represent the forgiveness and redemption and truth of Jesus Christ well in how I post on social media?

Something for me think about. Something for you to think about. Think about be the Christian sprinkle that you are. We are sprinkled throughout the countryside. We are daily reminders locally and closely to others of who Jesus Christ is. It is geographical and and strategic that God places us where He places us. We are to be representatives of Jesus Christ…where we live, where we work, where we play, where we post!

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 20:1-9
The Cities of Refuge

One of things that never changes even in this generation of indoor kids with their addiction to video games that they play for hours on end is the outdoor games that children play. Once you get a group of children outside, one of the inevitable games that they play is the game of tag. In this game, to begin a kid either volunteers to be “it” or kids devise some method to pick the first “it” person. Another of the pre-game choices that must be made is to establish a home base object. It can be a tree, a car, a porch, or just about anything that is sturdy and that can’t be broken by a kid running at full speed toward it and grabbing hold of it. Once all this stuff is defined, the game begins. Another decision that must be made is how high the kid who is “it” must count before he can begin his pursuit of losing his “it” designation.

The person who is “it” then must close their eyes and count to ten, twenty or a hundred (depending on what the group of kids agree upon). While the “it” kid is counting to the pre-specified limit of the sequence of numbers (1 through 10, for example), all the other kids are scurrying to find hiding places. When the “it” kid finished his/her count, they began running around the yard trying to seek out and identity and “tag” one of the other kids. This can take a short period of time or a long period time depending on the athletic skills of the kids being chased and of the kid chasing. One of the reasons a home base object or location is chosen is so that the kid being chased can go and touch the home base and the “it” kid can no longer tag that person as long as they are touching the home base. The chase was over and the “it” kid had to move on and chase some other kid until he was able to touch, “tag”, them before a kid being chase could reach home base. Kids can entertain themselves for hours with this game. It would not end until a majority of the kids either got bored with the game or everybody was so tired that all the kids fell out on the ground and started laughing and talking about what had just happened while the game was on. Another stopping factor could be nightfall and kids getting called home for dinner, or the host house’s mom bring out drinks and/or snacks for the kids. It was always a fun game and certainly moms encouraged us kids to get outside and play the game so (1) she would not have a bunch kids running around her house and (2) so we would get so tired from playing the game that she would have no trouble getting us to go to sleep that night.

It was that concept of the home base tree that I thought of when I read through this passage for today, Joshua 20:1-9. Let’s read through it together, right now:

20 Then the Lord said to Joshua: 2 “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, 3 so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood. 4 When they flee to one of these cities, they are to stand in the entrance of the city gate and state their case before the elders of that city. Then the elders are to admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them. 5 If the avenger of blood comes in pursuit, the elders must not surrender the fugitive, because the fugitive killed their neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought. 6 They are to stay in that city until they have stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then they may go back to their own home in the town from which they fled.”

7 So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. 8 East of the Jordan (on the other side from Jericho) they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh. 9 Any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly.

In this passage, we see a new nation in a new land forming and they needed a new form of government. Many years earlier, God had told Moses how this government should function. Once of the tasks that God wanted the Israelites to do when they entered the promised land was to designate certain cities as “cities of refuge” These cities were to be scattered throughout the land. Their purpose was to prevent injustice, especially in cases of the perceived need for revenge. For example, if someone accidently, without malice of forethought, killed another person, he could flee to a city of refuge where he would be safe until he could have a fair trial. The Levites were in charge of these towns. They were to ensure that God’s principles of justice and fairness were kept. If a person were found innocent, when standing trial at a city of refuge, they were free to remain in the city of refuge for the remainder of their lives or when the priest that had judged him innocent died. At that point, they were free to leave the city of refuge. If they were found guilty of maliciously killing someone they were left outside the city and the gates would be closed. They would then face the wrath of the family who accused him of murder.

These cities of refuge reminded me of home base in the game of tag. Once we got to home base the kid who was chasing us no longer could do so. We were free from being tagged as “it” and then have to do the dreaded chasing of other kids trying to get rid of our label as “it”. That is what these cities of refuge were like – a home base of sorts. Once a person accused of malicious murder got to these cities they could not be touched and a trial had to ensue to determine their guilt or innocence.

You know they say that everything in the Old Testament points toward Jesus in symbolic ways so that God’s people would understand and be prepared to identify the Messiah when he did come. All the Old Testament is pointing us toward our need for a Messiah. Here in this passage, we see Jesus clearly in the symbolism of these refuge cities, these home base cities to use the analogy from the game of tag.

Jesus is our refuge city. In each case, the person running to the city stands accused of a crime, by the letter of the law, they committed. There was no disputing that a crime had been committed. It was up to the Levitical priest to determine whether a person had maliciously committed the crime or whether it was a crime committed accidently. Jesus is our refuge. It is through him that we can find refuge from our sins. If we confess our sins to him and are repentant of our sins we can dwell in him as long as he lives (and he lives eternally). We are no longer subject to the punishment for our sins – sins that condemn us to death, to hell, under the letter of the law of God. When we reach the city of refuge, we know that we are guilty. We understand that we are guilty before God….’there is none righteous, no not one’. But we are invited to come to Jesus for refuge. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). Matthew 11:28 tells us that Jesus wants us to come unto Him and He will give us rest. He will give us refuge. The city of refuge was the only way to avoid punishment under the letter of the law. Similarly, Jesus is the only way we can be saved for there is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4:12) and the only way to the Father in heaven is through Him (John 14:6).

Therefore, Jesus stands as the only way out of the mess that we have created for ourselves before the perfect law of God. We stand guilty of sin that condemns us to the death of hell where there is burning of flesh and gnashing of teeth forever. We deserve hell under the law. We deserve punishment eternally for our imperfection caused by our first sin much less the thousands upon thousands that we commit in a lifetime. We stand condemned must realistically beg for the mercy of Jesus Christ. We have no leverage of goodness. We are sinners. We stand before Jesus guilty as sin over our lifetime pattern of rebellious sin against God. We have no excuse. We have no rationalizations that will hold water before Jesus. We have sinned. We will have our lifetime of sin played out before us as we stand before God. We will know and understand how completely deserving we are of hell. It is only through begging Christ to be our Savior and Lord that we are relented from our just and deserved punishment. It is only through Christ having taken our punishment for us and imputing his perfection upon us through the act of salvation that we are admitted into the city of refuge. We are free from the penalty of our sin only, only, only through Jesus Christ and no other person and no other way. Never will we be good enough by going good deeds will we outweigh the weight of just one sin before God. Jesus is our only refuge. He is our only way that we are not caste out into the darkness of hell.

Thank you Jesus for being our home base and our refuge.

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 18:11-19:51
The Lands & Cities Given to the Remaining Tribes

Last night as we were watching the movie, Dirty Dancing for the millionth time, one of the famous lines is “this is my dance space! This is your dance space!” It reminded me of being a kid at home living with my mom, dad and my brother.

As kids, we wondered about why our dad had such specific rules for us and such specific chores for each of us. My brother and I shared a bedroom up until we moved to Elgin, SC when I was about to go into the fifth grade and my brother into the sixth. Prior to that we shared the same room and my dad, I guess, knew us too well. So, he established rules about what part of the room was my brother’s part and which part was mine. We would, of course, bitch about the fact that the other got some part of the room that the other didn’t. We were very competitive little boys. Our competitive nature covered everything. Of course, in sports, our competitiveness toward one another would often boil over into fights in the yard if one lost to the other or if one cheated and refused to admit it. We were competitive about toys, about clothing, about who did what for chores. We would always cry foul when we thought one brother was being favored over the other. Road trips in the car even required my dad to divide the back seat into halves and there was a defined boundary over which neither of us could cross. It was easy then for him to determine who was at fault on the trip. If you were over the boundary you were at fault, no questions asked.

It was the same with our room at home. If my toys were found on RT’s side of the room (my brother goes by his initials now instead of Little Ralph or Scooter as did at home), then I was at fault. If when cleaning the room on Saturday mornings before we were released for outdoor play the remainder of the day there was a piece of furniture on RT’s side of the room that was not dusted and cleaned, then RT was at fault and vice versa for me. It was brilliant on my dad’s part because you know how kids are. The “not me” syndrome is ever present. I think it was Bill Cosby that once said that “you are not a real parent until you have two kids. When you have only one child, you know who was at fault when something goes wrong!” When you have more than one kid, it is like solving a mystery sometimes as to who did what. The pointing fingers to the other child and away from ourselves was the thing. Blaming your other sibling or siblings was paramount. Not me it was him or them. By having his pre-set definitions and boundaries for us, my dad was actually making it easier on himself as to who was to blame for what. Sure, there were claims that my brother did it or that Mark did it when it came to our room, but dad had the rules down pat and we knew what they were. If my toy was on RT’s side of the room, then I was trouble regardless of how it got there.

It was funny growing up (looking back at it now) about how insane we were about the equality thing. The slightest perceived imbalance in the equality of our rights and privileges and property would bring about a need for a supreme court hearing before our dad. I bet it must have drove him insane. We could not really see that our parents loved us equally and for who we were individually. We could not see that sometimes life ebbs and flows and that sometimes my brother would get the better of things and then sometimes I would. Life is just like that.

I remember our jealousies and demands for equality would take on insane proportions. I remember when it was February 11, 1969, on my brother’s birthday, his 8th birthday (right in the middle of the school year). That morning we got up and we were in the kitchen waiting for breakfast and mom was making over my brother because it was his birthday. We had to get up early in those days because we lived in a small, rural town and we lived a long ways from the school. But even in that early morning hour, the war of equality waged on. It was my brother’s birthday for God’s sake, but I asked mom what time of day my brother was born. She said it was like 3:40pm on February 11, 1961. I pridefully blurted out that it was not yet time for his birthday because it was like 6:00am in the morning at the time. Woohoo! Not your birthday. Hah!!! Premature celebration, hah!!! My mom had to rein my celebration in by explaining that no matter what time you are born on your birth date that the whole day becomes your birthday. Bummer! A loss in the battle for equality. Most assuredly six months later, I would have been celebrating August 25th as soon as I woke up. Oh the jealousies that we had for one another that raged on for years all the way up until we were old enough to leave home. It is only now that as adults that we actually get along. Those rivalries and jealousies are mostly a thing of the past now. However, back in the day, especially when we were elementary and middle school kids the rivlaries and jealousies must have drove mom and dad to the outer reaches of annoyance and to “oh crap! Here we go again” syndrome when the détente of equality between was perceived to have been violated.

I guess that was why dad had all those specific rules and boundaries for us about what belonged to my brother and what belonged to me, about what was the boundary of his part of the room and what was mine, about what was his part of the back seat was RT’s and which part was mine. It must have been exasperating for my dad to have to be so specific about everything but I am sure that when the poop hit the fan between me and my brother he was glad he was that specific. Determining guilt and punishment was easier.

That was the thing I thought about this morning as I read through these two very specific chapters about the boundaries of the lands for the remaining tribes of Israel. I saw how detailed it was about these boundaries between what is basically family, brothers – the twelve tribes of Israel descend from the brothers, the sons of Jacob. Wow, how specific these boundaries are. That then reminded me of how dad had to be so specific with my brother and me. Think back to your own childhood. It was probably similar in how your parents had to be sooooo specific about everrrrrything. With that in mind, let’s run through these two chapters now:

Allotment for Benjamin

11 The first lot came up for the tribe of Benjamin according to its clans. Their allotted territory lay between the tribes of Judah and Joseph:

12 On the north side their boundary began at the Jordan, passed the northern slope of Jericho and headed west into the hill country, coming out at the wilderness of Beth Aven. 13 From there it crossed to the south slope of Luz (that is, Bethel) and went down to Ataroth Addar on the hill south of Lower Beth Horon.

14 From the hill facing Beth Horon on the south the boundary turned south along the western side and came out at Kiriath Baal (that is, Kiriath Jearim), a town of the people of Judah. This was the western side.

15 The southern side began at the outskirts of Kiriath Jearim on the west, and the boundary came out at the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. 16 The boundary went down to the foot of the hill facing the Valley of Ben Hinnom, north of the Valley of Rephaim. It continued down the Hinnom Valley along the southern slope of the Jebusite city and so to En Rogel. 17 It then curved north, went to En Shemesh, continued to Geliloth, which faces the Pass of Adummim, and ran down to the Stone of Bohan son of Reuben. 18 It continued to the northern slope of Beth Arabah[a] and on down into the Arabah. 19 It then went to the northern slope of Beth Hoglah and came out at the northern bay of the Dead Sea, at the mouth of the Jordan in the south. This was the southern boundary.

20 The Jordan formed the boundary on the eastern side.

These were the boundaries that marked out the inheritance of the clans of Benjamin on all sides.

21 The tribe of Benjamin, according to its clans, had the following towns:

Jericho, Beth Hoglah, Emek Keziz, 22 Beth Arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, 23 Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, 24 Kephar Ammoni, Ophni and Geba—twelve towns and their villages.

25 Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 26 Mizpah, Kephirah, Mozah, 27 Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, 28 Zelah, Haeleph, the Jebusite city (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah and Kiriath—fourteen towns and their villages.

This was the inheritance of Benjamin for its clans.
Allotment for Simeon

19 The second lot came out for the tribe of Simeon according to its clans. Their inheritance lay within the territory of Judah. 2 It included:

Beersheba (or Sheba),[b] Moladah, 3 Hazar Shual, Balah, Ezem, 4 Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, 5 Ziklag, Beth Markaboth, Hazar Susah, 6 Beth Lebaoth and Sharuhen—thirteen towns and their villages;

7 Ain, Rimmon, Ether and Ashan—four towns and their villages— 8 and all the villages around these towns as far as Baalath Beer (Ramah in the Negev).

This was the inheritance of the tribe of the Simeonites, according to its clans. 9 The inheritance of the Simeonites was taken from the share of Judah, because Judah’s portion was more than they needed. So the Simeonites received their inheritance within the territory of Judah.
Allotment for Zebulun

10 The third lot came up for Zebulun according to its clans:

The boundary of their inheritance went as far as Sarid. 11 Going west it ran to Maralah, touched Dabbesheth, and extended to the ravine near Jokneam. 12 It turned east from Sarid toward the sunrise to the territory of Kisloth Tabor and went on to Daberath and up to Japhia. 13 Then it continued eastward to Gath Hepher and Eth Kazin; it came out at Rimmon and turned toward Neah. 14 There the boundary went around on the north to Hannathon and ended at the Valley of Iphtah El. 15 Included were Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah and Bethlehem. There were twelve towns and their villages.

16 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of Zebulun, according to its clans.
Allotment for Issachar

17 The fourth lot came out for Issachar according to its clans. 18 Their territory included:

Jezreel, Kesulloth, Shunem, 19 Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath, 20 Rabbith, Kishion, Ebez, 21 Remeth, En Gannim, En Haddah and Beth Pazzez. 22 The boundary touched Tabor, Shahazumah and Beth Shemesh, and ended at the Jordan. There were sixteen towns and their villages.

23 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Issachar, according to its clans.
Allotment for Asher

24 The fifth lot came out for the tribe of Asher according to its clans. 25 Their territory included:

Helkath, Hali, Beten, Akshaph, 26 Allammelek, Amad and Mishal. On the west the boundary touched Carmel and Shihor Libnath. 27 It then turned east toward Beth Dagon, touched Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtah El, and went north to Beth Emek and Neiel, passing Kabul on the left. 28 It went to Abdon,[c] Rehob, Hammon and Kanah, as far as Greater Sidon. 29 The boundary then turned back toward Ramah and went to the fortified city of Tyre, turned toward Hosah and came out at the Mediterranean Sea in the region of Akzib, 30 Ummah, Aphek and Rehob. There were twenty-two towns and their villages.

31 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Asher, according to its clans.
Allotment for Naphtali

32 The sixth lot came out for Naphtali according to its clans:

33 Their boundary went from Heleph and the large tree in Zaanannim, passing Adami Nekeb and Jabneel to Lakkum and ending at the Jordan. 34 The boundary ran west through Aznoth Tabor and came out at Hukkok. It touched Zebulun on the south, Asher on the west and the Jordan[d] on the east. 35 The fortified towns were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Kinnereth, 36 Adamah, Ramah, Hazor, 37 Kedesh, Edrei, En Hazor, 38 Iron, Migdal El, Horem, Beth Anath and Beth Shemesh. There were nineteen towns and their villages.

39 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Naphtali, according to its clans.
Allotment for Dan

40 The seventh lot came out for the tribe of Dan according to its clans. 41 The territory of their inheritance included:

Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir Shemesh, 42 Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Ithlah, 43 Elon, Timnah, Ekron, 44 Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath, 45 Jehud, Bene Berak, Gath Rimmon, 46 Me Jarkon and Rakkon, with the area facing Joppa.

47 (When the territory of the Danites was lost to them, they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their ancestor.)

48 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Dan, according to its clans.
Allotment for Joshua

49 When they had finished dividing the land into its allotted portions, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun an inheritance among them, 50 as the Lord had commanded. They gave him the town he asked for—Timnath Serah[e] in the hill country of Ephraim. And he built up the town and settled there.

51 These are the territories that Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel assigned by lot at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And so they finished dividing the land.

When we read through this mundane passage with names and places that are in no way a frame of reference for the average reader like you and me (because we are unfamiliar with maps of the ancient Middle East and because some of these towns no longer exist or exist today under different names), we fail to see the benefit of why all of this division of land and cities was beneficial to the new nation of Israel. First, the boundaries gave each tribe ownership of an area, promoting loyalty and unity that would strengthen each tribe. Second, boundaries delineated areas of responsibility and privilege, which would help each tribe mature and develop. Third, the boundaries reduced conflicts that might have broken out if everyone had wanted to live in the choicest areas. Fourth, the boundaries fulfilled the promised inheritances for each tribe, which were promised as early as the days of Jacob (Genesis 48:21-22).

Because of the fact that we have sin natures, each one of us. God has to be very specific with us. He wants us to be holy like Him but because of our sin nature, we are blinded to holiness. We want. We covet. We are jealous. We are prideful. We are vengeful. We are murderous. We are … you name the evil … we have it. Because of sin nature passed down through the generations since almost from the very beginning of man’s time on earth, we no longer know how to act in relation to one another and to God Himself. We have to have instruction. We have to have a pre-established playbook about what is right and what is wrong. Because we are not like God, we have to have his guidebook, the Bible, on how to be holy toward one another and toward God. Because we are utter failures at it, the Bible tells us of our need for a Savior named Jesus Christ. This has been the plan and the playbook of God from the beginning of man. Redemption through Jesus Christ.

Like my dad knew that he had to be very specific with my brother and me about our boundaries, God has His Word as the specific way in which we are to relate to Him. He knew that we would need specifics. That was why the Bible was written by men inspired by Him to do so. We need the specifics of the Bible. We need to know our boundaries and we need to know about God and we need to know our need for Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 18:1-10
The Allotments of the Remaining Land

The professor for my next semester in my doctoral program for my Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree released the syllabus for the upcoming semester. As is with this program, there is a lot of (and I mean a lot) of reading. There are two required texts which I guess would be considered the textbooks for this class since we all have to read these two books. In addition to that you have to read at least one book from each of five different categories from which we have to select. With the books, I have selected for the semester and the required texts, I will be reading a total of 2,104 pages. Because I am not necessarily the fastest reader in the world. I cannot wait until August 7th or 14th when North Greenville University’s fall semester officially begins. I must begin now, tomorrow, in fact.

Being the geeky accounting type that I am, I, of course, have a spreadsheet for all of this study. I sat down Thursday night and developed my study calendar (giving myself weekends of and such). I figured out that for my reading I will have 45 study nights beginning this Sunday and ending on Thursday night, September 7th. Then from September 10th through September 21st, I have ten nights to write and complete an essay, a book critique/review, and a research paper. All of these papers have to be turned in electronically by 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 25th. Then, the week of October 2nd-6th, we have what the university calls a “weeklong intensive” where we are on-site, on-campus from 8am-5pm that entire week. During that week, we give presentations on our work during the first half of the semester and listen and participate in group discussion about what we have learned so far. Then, after the weeklong intensive, we must complete the second half of the semester which will have its own reading and its own assignments.

Man, sitting on this side of the work where all the work for this, my second semester in the program out there in front of me, it seems like a burden that is too great to bear. It just seems like too much. The easy thing to do would be to take the path of least resistance and not do it at all. The things that you hear in the back of your mind are “Why are you doing this?” or “This is just added expense to your life, why do it?” or “What’s going to come from this? You are simply going to be the best educated church member (not preacher) there is!” or “This is just too much work and we are not going to have anything to show for it?” or “You are just delaying the inevitable realization that you will not being going into full-time ministry anywhere, anyplace!”

These are the struggles that go on in your mind when you are acting on faith. Satan will create doubt. Satan will try to make you bitter about what you are doing. Satan will make you question yourself. And, then, there is just this sheer volume of work to be done. For sure, I love being a student. I love learning. I love the climb the mountain and grab the flag accomplishment orientation of school work where there are goals established and goals achieved. I love that stuff (standing on the mountaintop after a multi-faceted task has been completed). However, at the same time, I still have my job at Fujikura America, Inc. that is as demanding as any finance job out there. It requires lots of my time even if I did not do anything else. Then add to that I am heavily involved in the leadership of our church from a financial management perspective as well as from a teaching perspective. Then, add to that I am a husband to my wife who needs my attention too. Then, I am a parent and a grandfather. Add to that I have to workout to try to get rid of this big ol’ bellay! Where’s the time. Time has to be made and carved out. Why? Wouldn’t just be easier NOT to pursue this degree that may have no visible effects once you have completed it? Why do it?

It is these doubts about what I am doing in the doctoral program at NGU and about how much easier it would be for me all around just to not do it that came to mind this morning as I read through this passage about the tribes not wanting to go and execute the plan to take their land. I could identify with their doubts and struggle of not wanting to tackle a great big old problem. Let’s read the passage together, shall we:

18 The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The country was brought under their control, 2 but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance.

3 So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you? 4 Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. 5 You are to divide the land into seven parts. Judah is to remain in its territory on the south and the tribes of Joseph in their territory on the north. 6 After you have written descriptions of the seven parts of the land, bring them here to me and I will cast lots for you in the presence of the Lord our God. 7 The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the Lord is their inheritance. And Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. Moses the servant of the Lord gave it to them.”

8 As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.” 9 So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. 10 Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.

Here, in this passage, we see that seven tribes had not yet been assigned their land. They gathered at Shiloh where Joshua cast lots to determine which areas would be given to them. Using the sacred lottery, God would make the choice, not Joshua or any other human leader. By this time the Canaanites were effectively so weakened that they were no longer a threat. Instead of fulfilling God’s command to destroy the remaining Canaanites, however, these seven tribes would often take the path of least resistance. As nomadic people, they may have been reluctant to settle down, preferring to depend economically on the people they were supposed to eliminate. Others may have grown weary of the constant state of warfare that the Israelites had been in for the past 6 or 7 years. Trading with Canaanites was seen as easier and more profitable than the destroying the suppliers and having to fend for themselves.

As well in this passage, we see Joshua asking why some tribes were putting off the job of possessing their land. Often, we delay doing jobs that seem large, difficult, boring or disagreeable. To continue putting off the taking of the land showed lack of discipline and disobedience to God.

That the thing that rings true here for me is that sometimes God calls us to do things that are difficult and seemingly insurmountable. He rarely calls us to do things that do not require a stretch. He calls us always outside our comfort zone. We could take the path of least resistance and continue to live in our comfort zone where it’s easy and known. Like the tribes here would rather trade with the enemy rather than go through the tough task of waging war to cleanse the land of the evil people, we sometimes shy away from what God has called us to do. God calls us to do what He has designed for us to do. He calls us to do what is hard for us so that we will realize a dependence on Him and express that through living in faith that God will provide us the strength, the stamina, the courage, etc. that we will need to accomplish our calling.

That’s about all that I can say to Satan or anyone else, even myself, that may question why I am pursuing my D.Min. degree – Because God has put it on my heart to do it. Whether it makes sense or not to others, whether it makes sense to me or not, He has called me to do this and I am going to do it. I can’t see what God has for me on the other side of this. That’s where faith and trust comes in. I know that whatever hardships I will encounter over the remaining 2 ½ years of D.Min. program, God will use it somehow and in some way that I cannot even see right now. When I get to the other side of this program, God will have something there that will have made all the pain and heartache of the studies worth it and make all that study useful in some way for the kingdom. I must trust that. I must then act on what He has called me to do. Anything less would be disobedience. I don’t get a choice in obedience to God. It is simply something that I must do in order to have a deeper and more dependent relationship with my Father in heaven.

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 16:1-17:18 (Part 2 of 2)
The Land Given to Ephraim and West Manasseh

You know, yesterday, I talked about Steel Magnolias and one of the many famous lines from that movie. I briefly mentioned that Southern women were the most amazingly complex creatures on the planet. I have lived in California for three years and I have traveled to many places around our nation and our globe over my adult life, mainly because of the jobs that I have held during my career. However, there is no place that I would rather live and breathe than in the American South. This place is home. People here are just more friendly here. People still have honor here. And although race relations here can always be improved, the New South probably has better race relations now than any other part of the country. There seems to be a greater respect between the races here. But aside from all that stuff, there is one thing that makes the South a great place to live is our women.

Southern women are complex and simple at the same time. They compare themselves to the traditions of Southern women that have gone before them. They are gracious hostesses. They may try to divert the world’s attention to how modern they have become but yet the Southern traditions of life are their go-to thing. When in crisis, they bombard you with food. They scurry to clean their home when company’s coming. Even though many work outside their home, they take great pride in their home and they often measure themselves by their homes and their families. They are obsessed with their kids getting into accidents without clean underwear on. They may workout and wear the cutest fashions while doing it but they will make enough food for meals to make any man fat. Food is at the center of Southern women’s culture. There is always food be it a picnic, an after church meal with all its finery, or be it a family crisis. While Southern men can sweat and be dirty even if they are professional men, Southern women just don’t sweat. I can’t figure that out! The air conditioning may have gone out, and they have got the Southern Sunday dinner on the way in the kitchen with 15 pots going at the same time and something cooking up beautifully in the oven, and its 92 degrees outside and 75% humidity but they ain’t sweatin’! It is a mystery of Southern women I will never understand.

Southern women may act demure but they are the strength of their families. They may let their husband think he’s the head of the household and he may well be in the big decisions of life and about things that go on outside a Southern home, but inside the Southern home, the Southern woman is the director of operations. She makes our homes click. Without our Southern women our homes would fall apart. Also, I think Southern women are just more beautiful than anywhere else in the country. Southern women enjoy being women. They enjoy being the belle of the ball. They enjoy being beautiful. They are unashamed of being women. They know that Southern culture is all about them. We Southern men may fuss about all their fussiness but we know that our Southern world is so much more beautiful because of the beauty and gentility of our women. Southern men know that if it was left up to us life would be simpler without our sometimes frustrating Southern women but man our South would be so drab and ugly and comin’ apart at the seams without our women here in the South. For us, Southern men, we would be happy as long as we have some kind of roof over our head, a good source of food, a little lovin’ every now and then, and ESPN, particularly in the fall for college football, on a large screen TV. Everything else after that is gravy to a Southern man. So, we depend on our ladies to make our world beautiful. They fuss over the wreaths that will don the front door for each season. They fuss over the clothes we are going to wear as we go out into the world. They fuss over the towels and such in the bathroom….and the candles…don’t get us started about the candles.
Southern women are wonderfully complex. They are traditional and modern all that the same time. They say “bless your heart” and sometimes it’s compliment and sometimes it is put-down. They enjoy being women but they can be so strong and pull their families through when its needed of them. I think that is why we Southern men have a healthy respect for our women. We may make fun of them and how everything has to be all color coordinated and matching and how everything has to be just so-so, but we know we’d be lost without them. And, I don’t think there’s a Southern man out there that would not take you down if you mess with one of our women. We are willing to protect them to the nth degree. For it is our women who make the South worth calling home. Without them, we would be lost.

To say that women are treated poorly in the South would be dead wrong. Sure, there are extreme elements here that mistreat women just like anywhere else, but a true Southern man honors the Southern woman because they make us better men. We do not hold them back. We protect the world they live in and allow them to be all that they are. Southern women are our treasure and they get their way – make no mistake about that. To say that they are second class citizens is just not to understand the culture of the South. They are treasured, revered, protected, pursued, honored, loved, and placed in high regard by us Southern men.

That idea that Southern women are revered by us as men here and how we make sure that they can be all that they want to be is what came to mind when I read about how women were given an inheritance of land in verses 3-4 of Chapter 17 of the book of Joshua. It is the misunderstanding of Southern culture and the women here that came to mind because often detractors of the Bible say that it espouses treating women poorly, but that’s just not true. It is no truer than saying that Southern women need to liberated from how they are treated here. Let’s look at these two chapters now:

16 The allotment for Joseph began at the Jordan, east of the springs of Jericho, and went up from there through the desert into the hill country of Bethel. 2 It went on from Bethel (that is, Luz),[a] crossed over to the territory of the Arkites in Ataroth, 3 descended westward to the territory of the Japhletites as far as the region of Lower Beth Horon and on to Gezer, ending at the Mediterranean Sea.

4 So Manasseh and Ephraim, the descendants of Joseph, received their inheritance.

5 This was the territory of Ephraim, according to its clans:

The boundary of their inheritance went from Ataroth Addar in the east to Upper Beth Horon 6 and continued to the Mediterranean Sea. From Mikmethath on the north it curved eastward to Taanath Shiloh, passing by it to Janoah on the east. 7 Then it went down from Janoah to Ataroth and Naarah, touched Jericho and came out at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the border went west to the Kanah Ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the Ephraimites, according to its clans. 9 It also included all the towns and their villages that were set aside for the Ephraimites within the inheritance of the Manassites.

10 They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.

17 This was the allotment for the tribe of Manasseh as Joseph’s firstborn, that is, for Makir, Manasseh’s firstborn. Makir was the ancestor of the Gileadites, who had received Gilead and Bashan because the Makirites were great soldiers. 2 So this allotment was for the rest of the people of Manasseh—the clans of Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher and Shemida. These are the other male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph by their clans.

3 Now Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. 4 They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our relatives.” So Joshua gave them an inheritance along with the brothers of their father, according to the Lord’s command. 5 Manasseh’s share consisted of ten tracts of land besides Gilead and Bashan east of the Jordan, 6 because the daughters of the tribe of Manasseh received an inheritance among the sons. The land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the descendants of Manasseh.

7 The territory of Manasseh extended from Asher to Mikmethath east of Shechem. The boundary ran southward from there to include the people living at En Tappuah. 8 (Manasseh had the land of Tappuah, but Tappuah itself, on the boundary of Manasseh, belonged to the Ephraimites.) 9 Then the boundary continued south to the Kanah Ravine. There were towns belonging to Ephraim lying among the towns of Manasseh, but the boundary of Manasseh was the northern side of the ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. 10 On the south the land belonged to Ephraim, on the north to Manasseh. The territory of Manasseh reached the Mediterranean Sea and bordered Asher on the north and Issachar on the east.

11 Within Issachar and Asher, Manasseh also had Beth Shan, Ibleam and the people of Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo, together with their surrounding settlements (the third in the list is Naphoth[b]).

12 Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. 13 However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.

14 The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly.”

15 “If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.”

16 The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”

17 But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—“You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment 18 but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out.”

Here in this passage, you will see because of the unique circumstance of the descendants of one of tribes of Manasseh. He only had daughters. So, under traditions of ancient Middle Eastern cultures, they should have not gotten any land in the allocation of the promised land. However, Moses declared it and Joshua executed it that these women would inherit some of the Promised Land. Laws were included by God in the regulations of Israelite society to protect women from the strict letter of the laws about inheritance in ancient Middle Eastern cultures.

To say that Judaism and Christianity, based on what is said in the Bible, mistreats women is just wrong. Sure, the Bible is clear throughout that a man is supposed to be the head of his family. But with that honor comes great responsibility according to what I read in the Bible. Here, the women are taken care of and not just pushed aside to fend for themselves. They are given land and a way to sustain themselves. In the New Testament, Paul straight up tells that, yes, husbands should be the head of the household as a God-ordained thing. However, he follows that up by saying that we should love our wives as Christ loved the church. Christ loved his church, the collective body of believers, so much that He gave His life up willingly for the good of His believers. Jesus did this for us even though we do not notice it until we accept Him as our Savior. That’s love. Doing for others even when they are not looking for it. Giving up our rights for the rights of others. Loving people even when they are not looking. Loving people to the point of willingly giving up His life for us. That is complete, total and humble love. We are supposed to love our wives that way. We see throughout the gospels, particularly in Luke’s gospel, about how Jesus valued women and made them important parts of His ministry on earth. It was women who were there at the cross when all but one of the disciples had scattered. It was women who were the first witnesses to the resurrection. It was women (see Luke 8) who often financed the day to day operations of Jesus’ ministry. To say that the Bible encourages poor treatment of women is just wrong. Even here in the Old Testament, where the treatment of women gets the most flack from those who truly do not know the Bible, this passage shows God’s great concern for women and how He ensured through Moses and Joshua that women were taken care of. Later on, we see Boaz go out of his way to take care of Ruth. And then later we see Hosea go out of his way to honor Homer, even when she did not deserve it. To say that the Bible encourages poor treatment of women is just wrong.

It is often us men that bastardize the Bible and treat women poorly. If we read the Bible correctly, we are commanded to take care of the women in our lives. We are to treat them fairly. We are to treat them with honor and dignity. We are to make them feel loved, secure, and safe. We are to protect them with our lives. They are the life givers and nurturers and they are more delicate than us. We are to fiercely protect them, honor them, adore them, and create an environment where they can flower into the women that God intended them to be. That’s our job as men.

Just as I see Southern women as the most wonderful creatures on the planet. I call on all Southern men to rededicate themselves to honoring these wonderful creatures that God has granted us, Southern women. They are everything that is great about the region in which we live. We should make sure that we create environments where the Southern women in our lives can continue to make our world worth living in, make it more beautiful, more than just Southern football in the fall (just as an aside, Southern women make football tailgating a social event of the highest proportions – with lots of food of course). We have been granted a Southern girl by the grace of God. We should make sure that she can be all that she can be…bless her heart (complimentary version of that saying).

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 16:1-17:18 (Part 1 of 2)
The Land Given to Ephraim and West Mannasseh

There is a line from that wonderful movie that I adore about Southern women, the most wonderfully complex creatures on the planet, that seems to ring true for all of us. Shelby tells her mom, “I would rather 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special!” Her mom was arguing vehemently against her having a child (Shelby was a diabetic) because it could kill her during pregnancy, childbirth, or simply cut short her life even though she might be able to deliver the child. Shelby was telling her mom that the risks were worth getting the reward of having a child. So many times in life, we will shy away from some big prize because the work to get there may be risky or too hard.

Some of us may want to be doctors when we are kids but then we find out that there is a whole lot of school that you have to go through to get there. We rationalize away that we cannot afford it. We rationalize away that it would be too difficult to not only go to college but to medical school, do an internship while in school, and then do a residency after medical school and all that before you can begin earning a living as a doctor. It is a long, hard rode that few choose and even fewer succeed at. However, the rewards for those who make it through the grueling process. You are typically set financially if you are just even an average doctor. However, the primary reward is to be able to help people in times of sickness about which they can do nothing for themselves. Some of the most joyful people that I encountered growing up were the doctors who dotted the churches that my dad served. These were people who truly cared about helping people while balancing that against making a living for themselves so that they could do good for their families and their churches.

Some of us dream of being missionaries or ministers as second careers. Some of us want to fight against injustice in the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Some of us want to go to Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, India, Eastern Europe, or anywhere to fight against sex trafficking and modern slavery. Many of us envision ourselves as going to the Middle East to predominantly Muslim countries to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of us envision ourselves as missionaries in third world countries such as Haiti or in any of the countries of the continent of Africa. Many of us envision ourselves as pastors because we love God and His Word and we study it daily and incessantly. We may say that we want to serve the Lord full time and whine about why it is not happening. But when it comes down to it, are we willing to make the sacrifices to do what we are called to do.

Are you willing to give up your current life to follow God’s calling on your life. Or are you postponing away your life with excuses? Are you impassioned about ending sex trafficking to the point of wearing a Red X t-shirt and show how hip you are to current causes? However, are you willing to risk it all, leave the cushy lifestyle here in the United States and go to India and live in abject poverty to help prevent 12 year old girls from being sucked into or sold into sex slavery or once there help them get out? Is it that passionate for you? Or would you rather feign support for the cause and maybe even throw money at it but tolerate its existence by saying there is nothing that I personally can do.

Are you willing to give your all to plant a church or seek out a ministry position and see yourself preaching and teaching as God has called you to do? Has God called you and given you a passion for being a missionary to a third world country or to a nation dominated by another religion than Christianity? Are you willing to make the sacrifices to make that happen when it comes down to crunch time? You may use excuses such as financial situations, such as an unsupportive spouse, such as having kids locked into a materialistic culture that would revolt against you if did this.

God does not give us a calling for the simple. God does not give us a calling for the easy. A calling is a calling because it is hard. It is difficult. It will require sacrifice. God’s callings on our lives will be the toughest thing we will ever do.

That idea of shying away from what God calls us to do is what came to mind when I read these two chapters and again I read about not following God’s explicit instructions to drive out the pagan cultures of Canaan. Each tribe failed in this directive in one way or another. It reminds me of us, those who talk a big game but are not willing to do the hard work. Let’s look at these two chapters now:

16 The allotment for Joseph began at the Jordan, east of the springs of Jericho, and went up from there through the desert into the hill country of Bethel. 2 It went on from Bethel (that is, Luz),[a] crossed over to the territory of the Arkites in Ataroth, 3 descended westward to the territory of the Japhletites as far as the region of Lower Beth Horon and on to Gezer, ending at the Mediterranean Sea.

4 So Manasseh and Ephraim, the descendants of Joseph, received their inheritance.

5 This was the territory of Ephraim, according to its clans:

The boundary of their inheritance went from Ataroth Addar in the east to Upper Beth Horon 6 and continued to the Mediterranean Sea. From Mikmethath on the north it curved eastward to Taanath Shiloh, passing by it to Janoah on the east. 7 Then it went down from Janoah to Ataroth and Naarah, touched Jericho and came out at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the border went west to the Kanah Ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the Ephraimites, according to its clans. 9 It also included all the towns and their villages that were set aside for the Ephraimites within the inheritance of the Manassites.

10 They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.

17 This was the allotment for the tribe of Manasseh as Joseph’s firstborn, that is, for Makir, Manasseh’s firstborn. Makir was the ancestor of the Gileadites, who had received Gilead and Bashan because the Makirites were great soldiers. 2 So this allotment was for the rest of the people of Manasseh—the clans of Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher and Shemida. These are the other male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph by their clans.

3 Now Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. 4 They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our relatives.” So Joshua gave them an inheritance along with the brothers of their father, according to the Lord’s command. 5 Manasseh’s share consisted of ten tracts of land besides Gilead and Bashan east of the Jordan, 6 because the daughters of the tribe of Manasseh received an inheritance among the sons. The land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the descendants of Manasseh.

7 The territory of Manasseh extended from Asher to Mikmethath east of Shechem. The boundary ran southward from there to include the people living at En Tappuah. 8 (Manasseh had the land of Tappuah, but Tappuah itself, on the boundary of Manasseh, belonged to the Ephraimites.) 9 Then the boundary continued south to the Kanah Ravine. There were towns belonging to Ephraim lying among the towns of Manasseh, but the boundary of Manasseh was the northern side of the ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. 10 On the south the land belonged to Ephraim, on the north to Manasseh. The territory of Manasseh reached the Mediterranean Sea and bordered Asher on the north and Issachar on the east.

11 Within Issachar and Asher, Manasseh also had Beth Shan, Ibleam and the people of Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo, together with their surrounding settlements (the third in the list is Naphoth[b]).

12 Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. 13 However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.

14 The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly.”

15 “If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.”

16 The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”

17 But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—“You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment 18 but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out.”

Throughout Joshua, you will see the phrase, “they did not drive out” the people of the land. The fact that they did not do so was against God’s explicit commands in Joshua 13:1-6. The failure to completely remove the pagan people and their idol worshiping religions from the land would cause many problems for the nation of Israel, though it does not seem that way here at the beginning. The book of Judges records many of these struggles. Another thing that you will notice in these two chapters is that there is a contrasting attitude toward settling the promised land by these two tribes compared to Caleb. Caleb took what God gave him and moved ahead to fulfill God’s plan for him. He was confident that God would help him drive out the wicked inhabitants and the he would soon fully occupy his land. In contrast, the two tribes of Joseph were given rich land and lots of it, but they were afraid to drive out the inhabitants and take full possession of the land. Instead, they asked for more land so that they would not have to fight to win full control of their allotted land.

Why is it that we will tolerate things that we know are evil because it is too hard to do the work to drive it out. Why do we talk about sex trafficking but tolerate its continued existence. Why the hell are we not mad as hell enough to en masse go do something about it. Why do we tolerate this evil? It took William Wilberforce a lifetime to get the British Empire to outlaw slavery in the empire. It took convincing an entire empire that slavery was wrong and could not be tolerated. It will take the same en masse conviction of entire nations, particularly ours as the most powerful nation in the world to end this modern slavery known as sex trafficking. Doing nothing is tolerating its existence and allowing its evil to exist and continue.

Are you willing to follow your calling into the ministry or to the missionary field? Are you willing to chuck it all and depend on God to provide for you and your family. Are you willing to trust that God will convince your spouse that it is the right thing to do. Are you willing to trust God to change the hearts of your spoiled American children entrenched in the gadgetry of our culture. Are you willing to trust Him yourself to guide you into the unknown most craziest, most unbelievable, thing you have ever done? What if God removes every roadblock in your life that you throw up to him as to why you can’t following His calling? One by one He removes them. What now? It is you and God, are you willing to do the hard work that may not even get mentioned in your church newsletter? Are you willing to dive into the deep end of the pool when all your excuses are gone? Are you willing to follow God’s call on your life – for real, not just talk, not just dreams, but for real?

We may die in the effort to bring the gospel to third world countries. We may die in delivering the gospel to Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist nations. We may go broke and die penniless in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may die in trying to save someone from the injustice of human slavery. We may feel as though we made no impact at all save a few girls that we helped smuggle out of slavery. We may serve for years without any visible evidence other than God called us to do it.

But at the end of the day, in following God’s call on our lives, wouldn’t you rather have had 30 minutes of wonderful rather than a lifetime of nothing special. It was Thoreau who said, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation!” Thoreau was saying the same thing as Shelby. We can regret our ways to the grave. All the things we should have done. The calling on our lives that we should have followed.

What is God calling you to do? What is that 30 minutes of wonderful that God has called you to do? Or are you going to make excuses such that it becomes a lifetime where you lived a nothing special life? God is calling each of us to real ministry whether its in our neighborhood, our town, our state, our region, our nation, our world? He is calling you to something? What is it? Are you willing to take the risks necessary to follow God?

30 minutes of wonderful or a life of nothing special, a life of quiet desperation? How much do you trust God? He is calling you to something wonderful….what’s it gonna be? 30 minutes of wonderful or a life of nothing special, filled with regret, that you did not follow God’s calling on your life…

Amen and Amen.