Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

1 Samuel 19:11-17
Michal Saves David’s Life

I remember an episode of The Big Bang Theory entitled “The Egg Salad Equivalency” in which Sheldon presents a scenario to the girls on the show about a real life situation over which he wants advice on how to react.

In this so called hypothetical scenario, the characters had the silliest of names. There’s Ricardo Shillyshally. There was Tondelaya della Ventimiglia and Sheldon renamed himself as Doctor Einstein von Brainstorm. The names were changed, in Sheldon’s mind, so no one could figure out who he was really talking about. Or so he thought. Just the outrageousness of the names made the scenario presented in the scene so hilarious. For the purposes of our blog today, I will borrow two of the names from that episode of my favorite show. I will use Ricardo Shillyshally and Tondelaya. However, in my scenario, Tondelaya will become Ricardo’s daughter instead of co-worker. Let’s present the scenario now…

There is a man, let’s call him Ricardo Shillyshally and Ricardo had a daughter named Tondelaya Shillyshally. Ricardo loves Tondelaya without reservation. He just wants what’s best for Tondelaya. He sees Tondelaya wasting her potential. He has helped her out of several jams in life. He has given her cars. Tondelaya disappears from Ricardo’s life for months on end over the past four or five years. She surfaces in his life when there is a financial crisis in her life. She swears every time that Ricardo helps her that she will be more active part of his life. But again and again, she disappears from his life and will stay underground and away from him until the next crisis occurs. Ricardo doesn’t understand why she disappears, but the contact always stops. Phone calls are not returned. Text messages are not responded to. Maybe it’s because she thinks Ricardo will demand changes in her lifestyle. Who knows? The contact always stops after a week or two after she has gotten what she wants.

Ricardo just wants her to quit living her hand to mouth existence and grow up. Tondelaya says she has a job with a baby sitting service now so according to Tondelaya she is working and has a career. Ricardo just wants her to use her brilliance to become something greater than a babysitter. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with being a babysitter working for a babysitting service but most girls who do it don’t do it forever. Some do. But most don’t. Ricardo knows that this is just the latest in a line of jobs for Tondelaya who is avoiding having to grow up.

Ricardo just wants her to be able to take care of herself when he’s gone. He doesn’t want to go to his grave worried about her. He doesn’t care if she is corporate CEO or salesperson at a shoe store or whatever. Just whatever that maybe, just be able to have a house or an apartment, a place to live and be able to put food on the table and pay for your own transportation. These are the simple hopes that Ricardo has for Tondelaya. He is not requiring that she do what he thinks her potential is (which he thinks is great since she is so smart just naturally). He thinks that anyone who can justify her hand-to-mouth existence as being temporary and the greatness being just over the next hill for a decade has great ability if applied to her true talents and giftedness in life. His prayer for her is that she finds her passion for what she wants to contribute to the world and is able to feed and clothe herself and put a roof over her own head without anybody helping her. That’s all Ricardo wants for Tondelaya as any parent wants for their child.

However, right now, Ricardo knows that the next phone from Tondelaya will be when she is in a financial jam and needs her daddy, Ricardo, to help her out of it. He prays that one day the cycle will be broken and she flies like Ricardo knows she can. But for now, he will love her. But for now, he is weary that she will reappear when she needs something next time and then disappear again and continue to live in her hand-to-mouth world where success remains just over the next hill.

That story of Ricardo Shillyshally and his youngest daughter, Tondelaya, reminds us all of how sometimes a family member will use us to get what they want. That’s what I thought of this afternoon as I read through the passage, 1 Samuel 19:11-17. Let’s read it and then deal with how we respond to such things:

11 Then Saul sent troops to watch David’s house. They were told to kill David when he came out the next morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t escape tonight, you will be dead by morning.” 12 So she helped him climb out through a window, and he fled and escaped. 13 Then she took an idol[a] and put it in his bed, covered it with blankets, and put a cushion of goat’s hair at its head.

14 When the troops came to arrest David, she told them he was sick and couldn’t get out of bed.

15 But Saul sent the troops back to get David. He ordered, “Bring him to me in his bed so I can kill him!” 16 But when they came to carry David out, they discovered that it was only an idol in the bed with a cushion of goat’s hair at its head.

17 “Why have you betrayed me like this and let my enemy escape?” Saul demanded of Michal.

“I had to,” Michal replied. “He threatened to kill me if I didn’t help him.”

In this passage, we again see Saul put a family member in a compromising spot. He put his daughter in the position of either enabling her father to get what he wanted or doing what is best and right in this situation. How many of us reading this blog have a family member who takes advantage of the fact that we are kin to them to further their own agenda? How many of us reading this blog have a family member who uses us to get what they want and then disappear until the next time they need something. How many of us have broken hearts over these situations? I am sure that Michal did not flippantly disobey her father. She probably agonized over it. She probably wanted to give her father what he wanted but she had to weigh that against what was best and right.

In today’s story, it is Ricardo Shillyshally and Tondelaya, his child. But the story is quite familiar. You can insert your own names of how this situation (whether it be family members, friends, distant relatives, coworkers, and so on) applies to you. We’ve all experienced being used by someone to get what they want.

In today’s passage, Saul simply uses his own daughter to get what he wanted. He did not care that Michal may have loved David. That was of no matter to Saul. He wanted David’s head and nothing else would do. It didn’t matter if he had to use his own relationship with his own daughter to get to David. Only Michal realized that Saul was not being a godly man in his request. He was asking his daughter to betray her husband. He was asking her to be a party to murder. What he asked of his daughter was so wrong on so many levels. But did that matter to Saul? No. He was trying to get what he wanted in his jealous rage. Nothing else matter. Relationships did not matter. Loyalty did not matter. Family did not matter. It was just Saul uses whatever way he could to get what he wanted. It was Saul manipulating his relationship with a family member once again (remember in the last passage he ask is other child, Jonathan, to participate in something that was morally wrong).

So in the 21st century such things still happen. People use us. People manipulate us to get what they want and then sometimes disappear from our lives when we are no longer useful to them in their self-centered world. How do we respond?

Patience, prayer, and discernment is how we respond. Biblical patience is tolerant of the imperfections, faults, and differences in others. It gives the other person time to change and room to make some mistakes in the process. Paul lists patience as the first quality that describes love (1 Cor. 13:4). If you’re not patient, you’re not loving! It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Like all fruit, it takes time and effort to cultivate. Patience with others does not come naturally. It is counter-intuitive to our nature. When others use us to get what they want and disappear, we typically want to hold back and get angry. That’s our natural inclination. To be patient with someone who uses us to get what they want is a tall order. Is it not?

Patience only comes through prayer. Prayer is not where we demand of God to do things our way but we ask Him to work in a situation that we cannot solve. We in that process give up control of the problem to the Lord. We pray for the person who just seems to want to use us for what they can get. We pray that God brings about situations in their lives that will reveal their need for Jesus Christ. We pray that God brings about situations that will bring them to see God’s love for them. That will change everything in their lives just as it did for us. When we pray for them to come to Jesus, it will change their mindset on everything including how they treat other people.

God certainly wants us to be patient with others. It is definitely a fruit of the spirit. God wants us to have a forgiving spirit and that is only achieved through patience. Patience is only achieved through prayer. In the meantime, though, until the person that uses us displays the fruits of the spirit that we have prayed for, God gives us discernment. Discernment is when we love people just as God requires but discernment is God-given wisdom in knowing how to respond. Discernment is loving people but responding in ways that are healthy for both parties. Discernment is sometimes loving people with a “no”. Discernment is sometimes saying no because it is best even though saying yes would be easier.

Saul was someone who used people to get what he wanted. He tried to use his kids to get what he wanted (to kill David). However, even though Jonathan and Michal loved their dad, they had the discernment not to follow through with Saul’s immoral requests on them.

Who is it that has used you to get what they want? Remember patience. Remember prayer. Remember discernment.

Amen and Amen.


1 Samuel 1:9-18 (Part 2 of 3)
Hannah’s Prayer for a Son

If you were alive back in the late 70’s to mid-80’s, there was a show called Fantasy Island, starring Ricardo Motalban. Fantasy Island was a unique resort in the Pacific Ocean, where there was very little that the mysterious overseer, Mr. Roarke (played by Ricardo Motalban), could not provide. Visitors could experience adventures that should be impossible, but this island could deliver. However, what actually happened was often far more than they expected as they faced challenges that test their character in ways they never imagined. “Da plane, da plane!” was the famous line uttered by vertically challenged Herve Villachase in his role as “Tattoo”, Mr. Roake’s little assistant. The plane he was talking about, of course, was the one that was delivering new arrivals to the island, each of whom had lain down a sizable sum of money to have his or her personal fantasies fulfilled. Mr. Roarke would take it upon himself to greet every guest as they stepped onto the island and then describes to Tattoo the nature of their fantasy request. Of course, being a supernaturally-powered mentor, Mr. Roarke very rarely allowed his guests’ fantasies to play out in the way they expected them to.

And quite often the fantasies themselves were used to teach each guest an important moral — one intended to open their eyes to some facet of their own lives they might have been neglecting. Or to teach them to appreciate what they have. Or just simply, to be careful what you wish for. But rather often, everybody just had a good time, even if it wasn’t what they were expecting. It was predictable formula each week even though the characters and the fantasies that they wished to live out were different, the pattern was the same. During the first half of the show, the guest characters would be living out their fantasy and it was working for them. It would be great. During the second 30 minutes of the show, things would start going wrong with the fantasy and the guest character would complain to Roarke how the fantasy was not at all what they were expecting. Then, in that moment, Roarke would teach some moral lesson to the guest character based on the experience. By show’s end, the guest character had come to terms with the way the fantasy played out and the lesson that they learned from it. Everybody was happy. Got back on the plane and went home. Each changed in some way by their experience on Fantasy Island.

We all have fantasies of what life would be like if we just had the opportunity to do something. For example, here in the last few blogs, I have been lamenting the lack of God’s action on His calling on my life to be in full-time ministry. Maybe, I should go to Fantasy Island and have Mr. Roarke show me what it would be like. Maybe, I would find out that it is more than I bargained for. Maybe, even though I am aware of all the unique pressures of being a pastor, as I have been close to the pastorate most of my life, it is a whole different thing to live it out. In my Fantasy Island adventure, maybe Mr. Roarke would design to expose my ability to deal with the pressures of being a full-time vocational pastor. Maybe, Mr. Roarke would put me through the paces of being a full-time pastor. I read something once about a job description for a pastor that said it was a job description fit only for Superman. It said,

“A pastor is expected to make house calls as willingly as yesterday’s country doctor, to shake hands and smile like a politician on the campaign trail, to entertain like a stand-up comedian, to teach the Scriptures like a theology professor, and to counsel like a psychologist with the wisdom of Solomon. He should run the church like a top-level business executive, handle finances like a career accountant, and deal with the public like an expert diplomat at the United Nations. No wonder so many pastors are confused about just what is expected of them and how they will ever manage to live up to all those expectations. – excerpt Frank Minirth and others, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), 165.

Maybe, Mr. Roarke would arrange events during my fantasy that would expose cracks in my moral fiber, and my ability to make good moral choices. Maybe, he would expose areas of my life where I am not spiritually as mature as I will need to be as a pastor. Maybe, he will arrange things to show me that I am just not ready yet. As well, maybe he will show me what my true ministry calling will be – maybe its not as a pulpit pastor. Maybe, it is as teaching pastor such as a discipleship pastor. Maybe, it is as a teacher in a seminary. Or maybe it will confirm that God is readying me for just that right group of people in the right place at the right time at the right church that either exists or will be planted by me. Maybe, during my trip to Fantasy Island, I will learn who that people group is and will set me on fire to seek them out.

That’s what I thought of this morning – being careful what we pray for and being careful about demanding things from God in prayer. Let’s read this passage, 1 Samuel 1:9-18, once again, now:

9 Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle.[a] 10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.[b]”

12 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. 13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. 14 “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”

15 “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. 16 Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”

17 “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”

18 “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.

In this passage, we see that we must be careful what we promise God in prayer because He may just take you up on it! Hannah so desperately wanted a child that she was willing to strike a bargain with God. God took her up on her promise, and to Hannah’s credit, she did her part, even though it was painful (see 1 Samuel 1:27-28). Although we are not in a position to bargain or barter with God, He may still choose to answer a prayer that has an attached promise. When you pray, ask yourself “will I follow through on this promise that I made to God if He grants my request?” It is dishonest and dangerous to ignore a promise, especially to God. God keeps His promises and so should we.

This episode in Hannah’s life reminds us that we must have trust that God will shine the light on what we need to see when we are ready to see. Sometimes that is so difficult to do and we begin to bargain with God. How would you like to be Hannah. So desperate for a child and then have to later give him up to the priests at the Tabernacle. Of course this was all part of God’s plan and we see that play out in 1 Samuel – heck the book carries the name of Hannah’s son, sure fire evidence that this was part of God’s plan. But what about us. If there was ever an impatient people, it is 21st century Americans. We want what we want and we want it now. That’s our mentality. We, as Christians in America, often act the same way with God. We want him to fulfill our dream prayers immediately. Sometimes, God’s best answer to us is no response or a not yet response. Let us remember that we work on God’s timetable and not ours. Let us remember to have trust that the Creator of all things has a plan for your life and mine. It may not always play out in the exact timing or in the exact manner we envision. But we must trust the Lord. We must as limited humans trust the Eternal Creator God. We must trust in the Lord. We must trust Him even when it seems like He is not doing anything for an extended period of time. Let us trust that He is pruning us and readying us for His answer to our prayers and for the fruition of His plan for our lives. We will have our moment with God where He reveals why things turned out the way they did and we will have our eyes opened. We will then grasp why things happened the way they did and then use that live out what His plan for our lives really is. It’s not Fantasy Island. It is the real deal.

Amen and Amen.

1 Samuel 1:9-18 (Part 1 of 3)
Hannah’s Prayer for a Son

Yesterday, I wrote of the barrenness that I feel in my call to ministry. I had been bitter about it, despondent about it, to the point of being angry with God about it. I vacillated between that emotion and even being angry at myself for why I was even pursuing it as if it were not a calling but a desire of my own heart. Is all this education I am seeking a delaying tactic to keep myself from realizing the reality of this not being a true calling? Am I just climbing up a tree like a squirrel looking for a nut but there are no nuts to be found in the tree? I admit that my prayer life has been wanting throughout my walk with the Lord that began 16 years ago. It is the primary area that I have yet to truly mature. But this drought of what is it that God wants from me has led me to seek Him more in prayer. At first, these prayers about this situation with my calling to ministry were very selfish. God, why are you not doing anything? God, I am falling your calling on my life, now, do your part! You know the drill when you are immature in prayer. We pray for the things that we want. We think that if we pray it that it should come to pass because it is what we want and we prayed with all the right Christian-ese buzz words. We think if we pray in just the right way that God will give us the desires of our heart. In our freeze-dried, microwaved, ready in just one minute hot pocket world, we think that if we pray it that God should spit out the result we desire immediately. I have been like that over the past year or so about this calling that has been a burden on my heart since 2011.

What I have learned through this time of barrenness is that sometimes you just gotta learn to pray for God’s will. There is a tension between what we know as our heart’s desire and God’s will that we may not always be certain of. We have to learn to take our anguish, our worry, our frustration, our anger to the Lord in prayer and honestly pray. Not just some selfish ranting. Not just saying the right buzz words. But honestly lifting up our concerns to the Lord. When we really pray, the process changes us. For me, the prayers have drawn me to one indelible conclusion because I constantly hear from my Lord that for now I need to keep plowing the field in front of me and be faithful in the field that I am currently plowing. He will led me to the next field to plow when He sees that I am ready for it. There has been a sense of calm that has come from that repeated line that comes to me from God to “keep plowing the field in front of you!”

That’s what I thought of this morning is how, through honest, emotional, gut-wrenching prayer, Hannah goes from anguish to peace. It reminds me of the path that I am on myself where nothing is being birthed from my calling to ministry…just yet. But I have peace about doing what I am doing right now and it is only through heartfelt prayer and switching from saying to God what I want in a way that I think He wants to hear it to true prayer for peace and understanding and trust in Him to open the doors that He has for me. Let’s read this passage, 1 Samuel 1:9-18, now:

9 Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle.[a] 10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.[b]”

12 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. 13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. 14 “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”

15 “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. 16 Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”

17 “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”

18 “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.

In this passage, we see that Hannah had good reason to feel discouraged and bitter. She was unable to bear children. She shared a husband with a woman who ridiculed her (1 Samuel 1:7). Her loving husband could not solve her problem (1:8). Even the high priest misunderstood her motives (1:14). But instead of retaliating in bitterness, hatred and anger or giving up hope altogether, Hannah prayed. She brought her problem honestly before God. Each of us may face times of barrenness when we “can’t have the baby we desire,” so to speak, or “nothing is coming to birth” in in our work, our service to the Lord, or in our relationships. It is difficult to pray sometimes when we feel so ineffective. However, as Hannah discovered, prayer opens the way for God to do what He do as only He can do it!

I am at peace right now with the field that I am plowing. There is ministry in what I am doing right now. There are things that I am learning right now both in school and in my exposure to my leadership at church that are of great value. There are ministry opportunities that I am experiencing now through the teaching opportunities at church. There are ministry opportunities in this, my blog. There are ministry opportunities in everything that I do every day. It is all part of being faithful and realizing that whatever big thing that God may have for me in the future depends on how faithful I am in being the caretaker of the field in which He has me planted now. Faithful in the small things now will lead to faithfulness in the big things later. We must see our lives on a day to day basis as the ministry that God has for us right now and live that ministry to the fullest. It is all about faithfulness. It is all about faith. It is all about trusting that God has a whole lot better view of the big picture of my life than I do. Hannah walked about with peace. I have come to a place of peace. You can too about whatever is troubling you. God is a big God and we need to trust Him and listen to Him and seek His voice. It starts with prayer. Prayer changes us. It does not change God. Prayer moves us toward God and not God toward us. Prayer opens our ears to hear what He has to say.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 6:1-32 (Part 2 of 5)
Gideon Becomes Israel’s Judge

I told my wife last night that the Lord had been working on me to spend time doing a daily devotional with her. We both do our separate Bible studies and prayers. However, we have never really done any type of devotional or Bible study together. We have never really sat down and discussed Scripture together except maybe as part of a larger group of people in small group. So last night we began making a reading of Scripture part of our evening meal. So, often, we make small talk about the day’s activity at the dinner table and scarf down the wonderful meals that my wife prepares for me. Thus, the meals that it takes her an hour or so to prepare are consumed and gone within a half hour at the most, but last night we actually sat at the table for an hour because we had more to discuss than our separate histories of the day just passed.

We began a study of the Psalms last night. Not some fancy devotional written by some high powered Christian author or scholar. Just reading a Psalm and discussing what we each gleaned from it. Last night, we began at the beginning with Psalm 1. In that psalm, David says:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law, day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
In that psalm, David is praising the Lord for the fact that He is the source of all we need. He is the river from which our tree draws its strength and sustenance. The river is a symbol for God’s Word and we must stay connected to it or we begin to decay and be blown about by the whims of our desires, the whims of the latest cause celeb, the latest self help guru, and any other form of self-determined worship or anything we believe in other than God. How do we stay connected to the river of God? It is through God’s Word. David says that we should mediate on His Word, His law, day and night. It must be part of what we do each and every day. When we fail to make God’s Word part of our daily lives, we begin to let decaying thoughts have greater rule in our lives. When we withdraw our tree’s roots from the river for His Holy Word, we are like chaff blown by the wind. We lose our anchor and we lose our way and become enamored with things that are not of God and tend toward defining for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. As we continually lower the bar of what is acceptable (because we have no standard of God to measure it by since we are not in His Word), we lead ourselves down a path of destruction, all the while thinking that it’s OK for me to live this life of sin – like the story of a frog who sits in an pot of water where the temperature is slowly increased and the frog is OK with it until it kills him.

Likewise, last night as part of my studies for my doctoral program, I finished up my fifth book of required read. This book was one entitled, Prayer, by Tim Keller. One of the best quotes from those final 50 something pages that I read last night was this,

Paul said we should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) meaning that we should if possible, do everything all day with conscious reference to God (1 Cor. 10:31). There should be a background music of thankfulness and joy behind every incident in our day, audible only to us (Col. 3:16-17). This kind of spontaneous and constant prayer during the day should be a habit of the heart.

However, this daily and constant communion and realization of the presence of the Lord in every aspect of our day will not happen unless we take up the discipline of regular, daily prayer.

p.240, Prayer, by Tim Keller

It often amazes me how God drives home points to me, words I need to hear, from multiple different avenues. That’s how I often figure out that it’s a God thing – when I hear the same message from God, a message that I need to hear a specific time in my life, from multiple sources that are not necessarily cognizant of the other one speaking the same message to me. God provides me with a synchronous message from multiple, unrelated sources.

So, here, between the first psalm in the Bible, a powerful quote from Tim Keller’s book, and now here in Judges, the message is clear. OK I get it Lord. In order for us to stay grounded in that which is holy, and honorable and righteous, that those things that are of you, we must do more than give lip service to God. We must do more than read the Bible to say we have read the Bible. We must make God’s Word so integral in our lives that we meditate on it day and night. We must have an intimate relationship with the Lord such that His Word is the background music of our day to day lives. From this passage, we see that Israel has forgotten how to be God’s people because they no longer make God’s Word a part of their daily lives. They are like the chaff mentioned in Psalm 1. They had so begun living for themselves or living in such a way being God’s people was just lip service that they sank into their own evil ways that led to their oppression. Without obedience to God, He withdrew his blessing from Israel and they became fat and sassy in the own self-involved lives and allowed themselves to get conquered, raided, oppressed, destroyed.

Today, as we look again at Judges 6:1-32, let us focus on the fact that as we have seen throughout Judges so far that the Israelites are often far from God and must get into situations where they are oppressed before they seek God again. Let us concentrate on the first seven (7) verses of this passage once again, but this time, look at them from that perspective of Israel crying out to God, as it seems, only when they get in trouble. Here is the passage now:

6 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.

7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”

19 Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah[a] of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak.

20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

25 That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old.[b] Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole[c] beside it. 26 Then build a proper kind of[d] altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second[e] bull as a burnt offering.”

27 So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.

28 In the morning when the people of the town got up, there was Baal’s altar, demolished, with the Asherah pole beside it cut down and the second bull sacrificed on the newly built altar!

29 They asked each other, “Who did this?”

When they carefully investigated, they were told, “Gideon son of Joash did it.”

30 The people of the town demanded of Joash, “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.”

31 But Joash replied to the hostile crowd around him, “Are you going to plead Baal’s cause? Are you trying to save him? Whoever fights for him shall be put to death by morning! If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.” 32 So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name Jerub-Baal[f] that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him.”

In this passage, we see that, again, the Israelites hit rock bottom before turning back to God. How much suffering they could have avoided if they had trusted Him! Turning to God should not be our last resort. We should look to Him for help each day. This isn’t to say that life will be easy, but God will give us the strength to live through them. Don’t wait until you are at the end of your rope. Call on God first in every situation.

Why is it that we only cry out to God when we get in trouble? Why is that we think we are self-sufficient when things are going good and that God is simply the backstop for the wild pitches of life. We only cry out to God when things get out of control. He is our last resort. Why is it that personal success is often the worst recipe for our relationship with God. We ignore Him til we encounter something that we cannot handle. Israel of the Bible is the mirror of ourselves. We worship God when we need to. We worship God when things get so bad that we can’t handle our lives. Once the crisis is past, we return to our evil ways. Sorry, God, I was just kidding about having a deeper relationship with you. There’s still my sins that I enjoy committing too much to subject myself to your authority full time! Even we Christians are that way sometimes when we are not daily grounded in God’s Word and meditation on His Word and prayer about how His Word applies to our lives.

When we are not daily grounded and founded in an intimate relationship with God through study and prayer, daily study and prayer, we begin to bend God’s Word to make living in the culture easier. We begin to make God’s Word be inconsistent with itself. We begin to make the Bible say what we want it to say. We begin to make certain sins acceptable just to fit in with the culture or to justify the evil that we participate in.

The point is clear from David in Psalm 1, from Tim Keller in his book about prayer, and from the lesson of Israel here in this passage. We must firmly plant our roots in God’s Word daily. We must study His Word and understand it and understand how each passage fits into the grand narrative of the Bible, and understand what it reveals about God, what universal and eternal truths of God it reveals. We must meditate on God’s Word and on the wondrous character of God every day and every night. We must be aware of God’s presence with us as we go about our day in everything that we do. We must have specific prayer time where we have intimate talks with the Lord and seek His will for our lives. All of this leads to intimate knowledge and intimate love of the Lord to the point that we are firmly grounded in the water of God’s river. We are not blown about by the wind. We are secure in His love for us and we are not subject to the whims of culture and we know the difference between what is of God and that which is not. Message received. Let us not be like Israel with their cycles of obedience and disobedience. Let us stay with the Lord. Let us be so intimately in love with Him that it is our greatest desire and pleasure to please Him and only Him – our audience of one!

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 15:13-19

The Land Given to Caleb

That is when I know I am sunk. When one of my daughters puts like four a’s in the word, daddy. You know, daaaady! I reach for my wallet because I know a money request is coming. My daughters and step-daughter are all grown up now, but they can still use their daughter charms on their daddy to get their way. Back in the day though when they were little and they could still sit easily in their daddy’s lap, they would come up, hop in my lap, put an arm around my neck and then bat those little girl eyelashes at me and make their request whatever it might me. How can you refuse a daughter so cute and precious? Little girls come into this world knowing how to work their daddies!


Even though they are grown now, there is always a special relationship between a father and a daughter that transcends time and chronological age. To even grown girls (unless they lived in an abusive home growing up), they think of their dads as ten feet tall and bullet proof. To daughters, dads are full of wisdom. To daughters, dads are their protector from everything bad in the world. To daughters, their fathers are the example of what they subconsciously measure every man by in comparison. To dads, daughters are the most precious gift of all. They are wonderful little mysteries to us. They are unlike having a boy to a dad. Dads know everything about a boy because we once one ourselves. But daughters are this amazing mystery of laughter, unbridled joy, and of tea parties, and dolls, and pink and thinking that Dad is the most amazing man in the world. To dads, their daughters are examples of just what is right and perfect about the world. How they love flowers and to smell them and to give them to you as if they have brought you this amazing thing. To dads, our daughters seemingly without cultural influence are the nurturers. You seem them being mommy to their dolls and when they jump in your lap after you have had a hard day and they just hug you. There is nothing better than being a dad to daughters.


There is nothing that I would not do for my daughters. Sometimes, though, like currently, with my youngest daughter, she is making foolish choices in her life and seems to now blame me for all the problems of her life and she has completely shut me out of her life. I have seen and spoken to her only over a 3 day period back in February. That’s the only contact with her over the past year. What I have done; I do not know. I know that over a year ago I told her that I could not give her money for another one of her all of a sudden emergencies and that is part of this. However, the complete shutdown of our relationship has come as surprise to me and it certainly hurts me down deep. I am only going to be on this earth for 20-30 more years and why is she wasting valuable time over some perception that she has created in her mind. If she just knew how much I love her and just want her to grow up and reach her God-given potential! Why has she created this ocean between us. I just don’t get it.


All of these things remind me that no matter the state of the relationship between a father and his daughters, they know that their dad will be there for them when the chips are down and when they need that feeling of protection. Dads love their daughters no matter what. Theirs is a special and unique relationship that I have been privileged to have been granted by God. I am now venturing into the granddaddy-granddaughter world. There will come a time when Ralyn has learned the ropes and will have learned the tricks of the female world and will look at her Papa in a certain way and she will say Papa with four a’s in it…Paaaapa! I will be like ooooooohkaaaay, Ralyn! What do ya want!


I thought of how daughters can usually get what they want from their daddies simply by being bold enough to ask. Dads will draw the line at some point because we want them to grow up to be responsible young women, but if we know that giving them what they want is not going to hurt them, we will give it to our daughters. All they have to do is ask. That unique relationship between a dad and his daughters is what I thought when I read this passage, Joshua 15:13-19, that seems to be almost inserted into the narrative about the division of land. It is about land of course but it is a highly personal story about a father and his daughter. Lets read it now:


13 In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) 14 From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. 15 From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 16 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 17 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.


18 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him[a] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”


19 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.


In the desert, water springs are very important and strategic. Whoever who controls the water control the area. Without water, nothing grows. Without water, all living things die. A spring is a place where water comes to the surface of the desert. Normally water is absorbed into a porous soil and then sinks until it encounter a non-porous rock such as igneous rock. There it remains until it finds an outlet where it flows to the surface. However, depending on the source of these springs, it may dry out in summer or very hot seasons. These are the upper springs. Some water collects in large underground chambers. So of it is under pressure and is what we called the artesian wells. They never dry up. These are the lower or nether springs. So Caleb was very generous when he gave to his daughter, Acsah, both the upper and lower springs.  In modern day Israel, the desert is a major agricultural area because of water from these springs.


What is my takeaway from this passage this morning? What if Aksah had not asked for what she needed? The Negev was an arid land and it needed water. What if his daughter had not been confident enough in her father’s love to ask him for what she needed as a long-term solution to a long-term problem? She loved her father and knew that her father loved her. She was bold enough to ask him for something that she needed desperately. It was not that she was asking for something impetuous, selfish, or that would hurt her or others. She was boldly asking for something that was a sustainer of life, a real need.


How often are sitting in our own personal arid country and have not asked our Father in heaven for what we need. Do you not believe that your Father in heaven wants what is best for you? We do not have because we do not ask. We do not pray. Prayer is talking to God. Sometimes I feel that God is waiting for us patiently to ask Him. He has what we need and He knows what we need. Sometimes I think He is just waiting for us to ask Him. Like Caleb and his daughter. He gives her the land without the water. He is willing and waiting to give. He waited for her to ask. Often, we are too busy to pray. Too busy to ask.


If you think an earthly father loves his daughters, think how much more our Father in heaven loves us. Have you ever thought that maybe it comes down to how big you think God is and how much he loves you? Are those the reasons that you do not ask. Let me assure you, God is big enough and He loves you more than you can even understand. He doesn’t care so much about temporary things but if your request is consistent with the character of God and what He wants for us – why have you not asked our great and mighty Father in heaven for what you need? He knows of your needs. He is just waiting for you to be confident enough in how big He is and how much He loves you for you to ask.


Amen and Amen.

Joshua 7:1-15 (Part 2 of 4)

Ai Defeats the Israelites

Have you ever felt like that your prayer life was disconnected? Have you ever felt like that your prayer life is not what it is supposed to be? Do you feel like your prayer life is pale in comparison to those of others that you hear pray? Do you feel like you are rambling all over the charts when we you pray publicly yourself?


The answer is a resounding yes to all those questions, for me. I feel like these days and have felt for a long time that my prayer life is empty. I don’t feel as though that I am praying to anything when I pray these days. When I pray I feel no close connection to God. Not like it is supposed to be. I just feel as though, when I actually do pray, I am going through the motions. Just saying what needs to be said. A public prayer, I just touch on the points that need touching and not really feeling connected. I just feel as though I am occupying time when I pray at times. It’s been a while since my soul was stirred by my own prayers. It’s been a while since I felt the Holy Spirit settle over me and lift my soul to the presence of God. My prayers in this place that I am right now just feel like the kid at the chalkboard writing repeatedly “I will talk in class unless given permission by my teacher” 100 times on the board as punishment for being disruptive in class. After the first two or three times of writing that sentence on the chalkboard (and, yes, I have had to do this as late as my high school 11th grade history class), you just robotically write the words with no connection to what is being written. You are just getting through a task from the 4th time to the 100th time you write the sentence on the chalkboard. That’s how I feel about my prayer life right now. I am just going through the motions to get the task done.


Then, I feel even worse about my own prayer life when I hear others pray publicly or talk about their own prayer lives. It does not bother me so much that my prayer life may not be as good as, say, the elder/pastors at my church. They are full-time ministers. They get asked to pray constantly over their careers and they have gotten pretty darn good at it. And, add to that, they are probably light years more spiritually mature than I am. But what strikes despair in my soul is not them but rather the prayers of everyday people at our church. They look at me, since I am on staff at the church, and think that I am some spiritual giant but I feel inadequate when it comes to prayer – the thing that is, to me, the most critical part of being a Christ follower. I hear other people pray and they seem to have all the right words to say and it seems so genuine. They move the spirit of other people when they pray. Their prayers are like getting on one of those old fashioned theme rides where you get in a boat on water and you are transported through this 3-D animatronic world as you float through. You are taken away to another place. I have friends who pray in such a way that you are taken through illustrative words to a spiritual place that is a whole other world and you thank God for having listened and for having been transported to this wonderful spiritual place that they have taken you. I hear people pray with great emotion and come to tears as they pray. I just love hearing these kinds of prayers – the ones that take you away to a place, transported by their flowery, spiritual words and those that just touch your heart. Why is my prayer life not this way? Why?


Then, when I do get the opportunity to pray, I feel as though I am rambling and making no sense at all. I may pray down a road of thought and then forget how to land the plane, as the saying goes. I fumble and ramble. I repeat thoughts. I forget what I had prayed previously. I get jammed up. I don’t use all the fancy prayer buzz words that are common to Christianese. Shortly put, I feel as though my public prayers are travesties of justice. That’s why here lately, I have shied away from publicly praying because I feel so inadequate compared to other prayer warriors. I just feel ashamed over my prayer life and my ability to pray effective prayers in public. Just being completely honest here.


That idea of feeling inadequate in prayer is what I thought of this morning as I read through Joshua 7:1-15 for the second of four times that we will read through it. Let’s read it together, now:


7 But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things[a]; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,[b] the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.


2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.


3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” 4 So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.


6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! 8 Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”


10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.


13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.


14 “‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. 15 Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!’”


In this passage, for this morning, we see that Joshua and the elders tore their clothing and through dust on their heads, an ancient Israelite custom that demonstrates deep mourning before God. They were confused by their defeat at Ai after their spectacular victory at Jericho. They went before God in deep humility and sorrow to receive His instructions. Imagine praying this way before God. This prayer was not some formulated church prayer. It is a prayer of a man who is afraid and confused by what is happening around him. Joshua poured out his heart and his real, gutty thoughts to God. Hiding our needs from God is to ignore the only one who can really help. God welcomes honest prayer and wants us to express our true feelings to Him. From this passage, we can learn that it is OK to be honest with God in our prayers and that He is not going to zap us or smite us from revealing our true feelings to Him. It is only through such honesty that we grow more intimate with our Maker.


It was that honesty and that heartfelt emotion that I admired of Joshua here this morning when reading through this passage a second time. I made fun of his whining about the defeat at Ai in my blog yesterday and, yes, Joshua deserved it. He failed to consult God in prayer before the battle. But I do admire his reaction as the passage goes on. I think he realized that He should have consulted the Lord in prayer and goes all out in prayer. He humbles himself before the Lord and pours out his heart to the Lord. He is honest with God. He lets it all hang out.


Maybe that’s the lesson that I need to learn today if I am ever to get my prayer life back on track or let’s be honest – to get it on track. I don’t think I have ever really been good about prayer. That say that in order to get good at something, you have to practice. Instead of having these formula prayers that I sometimes pray. Or praying what I think God wants to hear and ignoring what is really on my mind. Maybe, I need to be like Joshua and just let it all hang out. Just be totally open and honest with the Lord. Not be afraid to reveal to the Lord what I am really thinking. He already knows what I am really thinking anyway. It is just a matter of me being honest about it. God wants, I think, for me to throw my garbage out on the table and help me examine it from His perspective. God wants me to be honest about it when I am angry at Him about something (even with it being unfounded). He wants me to be real with Him and just say what needs to be said. It’s like the transition from dating your wife to being married with your wife. When you are dating you show her the best of you. When you are married, you show her all of you. That’s what makes marriage last is the honesty and real-ness between a man and a woman as they progress through their lives together. Should we not be that way with God.


We should be married to God when it comes to prayer not just dating Him. We should reveal all our raw-ness, all our emotion, all our angers and frustrations, all our sorrows as well as all of our joys. He wants all of us. The depths of emotion not just the intellectual ascent to His existence. He wants us to be real with Him. He wants no formulas. He wants the real you and the real me. He wants us to be married to Him in prayer where we reveal everything by choice and knowing that we are safe doing so. He wants us to quit dating Him in prayer and saying just what we think He wants to hear. He wants us to be married to Him in prayer so that we can reach a level of intimacy that comes only in the honesty and no-holes-barred way that marriage is.


Amen and Amen.

Joshua 6:1-27

The Fall of Jericho

My favorite song right now is “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship, the worship band for Elevation Church, the multi-site and one of the top 10 fastest growing churches in America with campuses across the Charlotte, NC area. It is has that great combination of great lyrics and great music. The opening stanza’s lyrics to the song go like this:


Walking around these walls

I thought by now they’d fall

But You have never failed me yet

Waiting for change to come

Knowing the battle’s won

For You have never failed me yet


The idea of this opening stanza is that sometimes we wonder why we are doing what we are doing for the Lord. Sometimes it’s hard to see the end game. It’s an idea that is close to my heart right now as I spiritually struggle with what the future holds. In the song, I see a group of Israelites on like the fifth pass around Jericho on the fifth day. They had walked around Jericho four times on four different days now. They are on the fifth pass on the fifth day. They still have tomorrow single pass around the walls of Jericho. And then there are the six passes on the seventh day where nothing will happen before that fateful seventh pass when it is time to shout, to blow the horns, and for the walls to fall and for the hand to hand, house to house Battle of Jericho to begin.


It kind of reminds you about playing football back in school. You have the two a day practices in the August heat with no game on the immediate horizon. You are busting your butt doing drill after drill and all the exercises, all the wind sprints, the suicides, the hill climbs, the stadium step climbs, the dreaded six inch drills, the high step running through the tires, the one on one blocking drills. The two-a-day practices in August are more about conditioning than they are about installing an offense and defense and about running plays. It’s about breaking down your pride and pushing you to your physical limit. All of it is done so that when the game is on the line in the fall that you have the stamina, the heart, and the willingness to follow instructions to win the game.


In both situations, the fifth time around Jericho with much behind you and much ahead that does not necessarily produce immediate results was a test of the soldiers’ willingness to follow God. Just as the August two-a-days test your willingness to lay it all on the line for the team, we are faced with those situations ourselves at times. I remember in football, there were always people that quit during August two-a-days. Those that wanted the glory of game day without the hellish work of the August two-a-days. Imagine being the soldiers at Jericho. I wonder if any of them quite on the fifth day – thinking it stupid that soldiers should have do this silliness of walking around the city of Jericho in the hot weather of spring and/or summer in Palestine. What’s the point of it. Why can’t the walls just fall down after one pass? Why must we do this day after day with no results. Why can’t we just attack the city now? What is God waiting on?


Walking around these walls

I thought by now they’d fall



For me, I am walking around the walls thinking by now they should have fallen so that I can go into Jericho and begin the fight. Why is it that God gave me the passion, the desire, and the calling to go into ministry but yet nothing has happened? Walking around these walls. Why have the walls not fallen? Why has there not been any opportunity for my to have my entry into the “city” of full-time ministry.


Some have suggested that I plant a church if there is nothing opening up for me in established churches. Yes, that’s certainly an alternative. But someone once told me that you should have a burden for a certain people group or location of people to plant a church. He said that you needed to have that burden be so great on you that you can do nothing else but to go that people and/or location and plant a church. You ache for those people and their lostness. I wish that were the case for me. I wish that I had that burden. Maybe I will someday soon. Maybe, I will encounter a people and a place that God just strikes me down to the core to go to them. But maybe right now, God is testing my resolve to follow Him. I am on the fifth pass around Jericho. I still have tomorrow’s single pass and the next day after that there is the 6 passes before the all important final and seventh pass. I think that we all have had times in our past where we have gotten on spiritual highs and dedicated ourselves to be better Christians. Then, something happens where it gets too hard and we quit. Sometimes I think God puts us through spiritual two-a-days like in August preparing for the high school football season.


To continue with the football analogy, what if you have made it through two-a-days in August and you haven’t quit. But now it’s football season and you must endure classes all day during the week and then practice after school 4 days a week. Those after school practices can test your resolve too. Three hours of intense work after you have already been in school all day. Then, after you go through all that work during the week, you are not a starter yet. You must put in all that work but you are not a starter on Friday night. That can test your resolve to your team. You put in all the work but you do not get to play under the lights with the stands filled with fans. It’s like walking around the walls of Jericho on that fifth day. You are putting in the work but no results yet. You are doing the work but nothing is happening.


It’s that idea of following through on God’s direction even when you do not see immediate results is what struck me this morning when I read this 6th chapter of Joshua this morning. How often do we give up on God’s call on our lives when it gets difficult or when there are no immediate astounding results? That’s what I want us to have in mind as we read it together now:


6 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.


2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”


6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” 7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”


8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. 9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.


12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.


15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”


20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.


22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” 23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.


24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.


26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:


“At the cost of his firstborn son

    he will lay its foundations;

at the cost of his youngest

    he will set up its gates.”


27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.


The first thing that comes to your mind when reading this chapter/passage is the question, why? Why did God give Joshua all these complicated instructions for battle? I think there are several reasons. First, God wanted it to be undeniably clear that the battle’s outcome would depend on Him, and not upon Israel’s weapons and expertise. To support this claim, it is why priests carry the Ark of the Covenant, not soldiers, lead the Israelites into battle. Second, this strange military maneuver was a test of the faith and resolve of the Israelite people in following the Lord’s instructions completely.


That’s the thing. So many times in life we are quitters. We don’t want to put in the work necessary to achieve our goals. We sometimes quit sports teams when we are young because the practices are too hard and we don’t get to start on game day. It takes dedication to the team to put up with the hard hitting practices during the week to then sit on the sidelines waiting for your opportunity to get in the game. You have the heart and the passion for the game, but it’s just not your time to start. What if it takes three years for you to become a starter? Are you willing to continue to work at it till it’s your turn. Are you willing to continue walk around those walls on the fifth day with still more walks to come before the big chance to show what you’ve got?


Sometimes, God tests our resolve to follow Him. If He is going to entrust us with much, He wants to see how obedient we are going to be on that fifth trip around Jericho with still much more to come before He grants us the right to join the fight, to jump in the game. Sometimes, you and I find ourselves in spiritual dry places where nothing seems to be happening. We pray and pray and God seems not to hear us. We do and do and work and work but God does not reward us. We keep putting in the effort but nothing seems to come of it. Are you in that place? Are you in a spiritual desert where you feel like you are just going through the motions and you see no results? You can either quit on the fifth time around Jericho or you can keep going. If we quit on the fifth time around Jericho, we will miss that miracle on the seventh time around on the seventh day. How many miracles have we missed because we gave up on God, we gave up on prayer, we gave up on doing what He called us to do, because it was too hard, too mundane, too little immediate results.


The thing that keeps being drilled in my mind by God here lately is “keep plowing the field in front of you.” Sometimes we have to keep our land to the plow and till the land for many months before we see crops grow. Sometimes God wants to make sure that we are going to keep our hands to the plow before He reveals the fruit and the harvest. When we get into full-time ministry there are going to be times where the pressure’s on and there is no way out of making the tough decisions, no way out but doing what is unpopular but what is godly, no way out but to follow God instead of following public opinion. He wants to see how dedicated we are in the trusting department before He entrusts us with the souls of the sheep.


Are you in dry place? Has God not answered your prayers? Has the miracle you asked for not yet come? Are you studying the Bible but not getting anything out of it? Is your prayer life hit a place where it just feels empty? Is what you are asking God for not coming? Are you a single mom just trying to keep your head above water and there’s no end in sight to the responsibilities of both parents that you are carrying by yourself? Are you praying for your grown child to find their way in life so you don’t have to worry about them anymore but there is no change in them? Are you a couple who has been trying to get pregnant for five years but nothing has happened yet?


Keep plowing the field. Keep trusting. Keep praying. Sometimes God breaks down to the point of giving up on Him so that we will know that what He gives us as the answer is truly a God thing. Sometimes, He pushes the envelope with us to see how strong and how long we are willing to trust Him. We are temporary and God is eternal. Sometimes, his clock is different from ours. Sometimes, we have to just keep plowing the field til the miracle comes. Sometimes we have to keep walking around Jericho the fifth time, the sixth time on the sixth day and then the first six times on the seventh day before the miracle come on that seventh trip around. Sometimes we have to pay our dues on our football team before we become a Friday night starter. Sometimes we have to pray for years before our prayers are answered. In the process God has taught us to trust Him and not ourselves.


Walking around these walls.

I thought by now they’d fall.

But You have never failed me yet



Amen and Amen.