Joshua 14: Delayed Blessings

Read: Joshua 14

Caleb was one of the two spies that went into Canaan after the Israelites had left Egypt. He alongside Joshua was one of the two people that believed that they could take the land that had been promised to them. For their faith, they were the only Israelites that left Egypt that lived to see Israel enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 13, 14). Israel spent 40 years wondering in the desert and now, after some years of conquest, he was 85 years old. Joshua remembered Caleb and for his inheritance, Caleb received the city of Hebron.  Caleb inheritance is noteworthy because Caleb and his family were initially an independent tribe living in the Negev, a desert region in southern Palestine (1 Samuel 30:14). Some of the descendants of Caleb are referred to as “Calebites” noting there ancestry albeit they were absorbed by the tribe of Judah and Caleb was the son of Kenaz, a tribe associated not with Israel but with Edom.  It would be unusual for an outsider to receive such an inheritance because Caleb had no real claim to a birthright. But Caleb didn’t receive his inheritance by birthright; rather he received it because he followed the Lord through all his years.

The New Testament speaks of the blessings of faithful service: The beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-12 speak of many different conditions, each with a blessing that comes from that condition. The New Testament also speaks of four “crowns” First there is a “crown of righteousness” mentioned by Paul that is receive by those who live a righteous life (2 Timothy 4:6-9). Second, there is a “crown of life” that comes from one persevering under trial (James 1:12). Third, there is an “incorruptible crown”. Paul says this crown is received for preaching the gospel and living according to it. It is received because he practices what he preaches, saying the rules and not disqualifying himself by obeying the rules (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Fourth, there is a “crown of glory” that comes from rightly shepherding a flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). Ultimately the crowns that are received for faithful service will be cast before Jesus as an act of worship because all the glory, honor, and power belong to Jesus (Revelation 4:9-11).

Caleb, although he was an outsider, believed in the God if Israel. He did not receive the blessing immediately – it took 45 years and it still was not completely his until he conquered Hebron. Like Caleb and Paul, faith that spurs on obedience has its reward. The rewards that are given are eternal rewards that will ultimately bring more glory to Jesus and may or may not be seen until one meets Jesus face to face.

Lord, help me to be faithful to you even when the blessings are not apparent!

Ecclesiastes 7:7: Integrity

Read: Ecclesiastes 7:7

Ecclesiastes has one short verse in Chapter 7 on bribery and extortion. Bribery as something that is inherently unholy almost goes without saying, but the Bible does speak to bribery in many places.

  • Exodus 23:8 explicitly forbids the act as a commandment.
  • Proverbs 15:27 speaks to the matter, saying that the one who accepts unjust gain brings trouble, but the one who does not accept bribes lives
  • Proverbs 29:4 is similar to 15:27, but talks about it from the perspective of a king: a king that does not accept bribes has stability in his country, but the one that does tears it down.
  • Psalm 26 speaks of a man who is blameless, and asking the Lord for vindication. He is contrasted with a man full of wicked schemes and who accepts bribes.
  • In Acts 24, Felix wanted a bribe from Paul so that he would let Paul go. Paul was never succumbed to the temptation; rather he remained in jail for two years under Felix.

Bribery and extortion is not limited to illicitly accepting money for some sort of illegal or dishonest act. A bribe can come in all kinds of forms. The principal of the matter is that one should not compromise one’s integrity for some sort of gain – that is one should be honest in his or her dealings. The Preacher says that accepting bribes turns one into a fool and corrupts the heart. Integrity is something that is difficult to maintain, and it only takes a single incident to ruin one’s integrity. But at the same time, integrity can also be the very thing that foils baseless accusations about corruption. A person who is not even suspected of being dishonest in his or her dealings has the integrity to carry him through. When this is not present, it can only lead to ruin.

Bribes come with a price. While accepting a bribe is easy, the bribe itself corrupts one’s heart and destroys one’s integrity. But such is not limited to bribes. Any number of compromises to one’s integrity can have the same effect. Christians should seek to not fall prey to the temptation of quick gains. They should maintain integrity on all fronts. Paul encourages Timothy to compete according to the rules as an athlete does so that he can win the prize (2 Timothy 2:5). Paul felt that he had run the race and would receive a crown of righteousness because he had done so according to the rules (2 Timothy 5:6-8). Paul expounds on this motif in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 saying that he trains to compete. The motif of an athlete practicing a strict training routine and competing according to the rules is analogous to the Christian life. The way to avoid temptation is to undergo strict training and compete according to the rules, and for the Christian this is done by exercising the spiritual training that comes from spending time learning God’s Word. This is intentional, not haphazard as Paul describes. There is purpose to the training so that one can hone skills so that he or she may perform with excellence. Second one competes by living one’s life according to what one learns from his or her training. In this manner, one can run the race and not be disqualified!

Lord, help me to train and compete so that I am not disqualified!

2 Timothy 4:6-9: Crowns

Read: 2 Timothy 4:6-9

Paul when writing first Timothy seems to feel that his end is near. He claims that he is being poured out like a drink offering and that time for his departure has come. He’s dying. He says this on the cusp of telling Timothy to fulfill his ministry. Paul speaks of the rewards that await him after he passes to go to be with God, and uses this opportunity to remind Timothy of the rewards that await everyone who God has loved. Paul speaks of a crown of righteousness. The sort of crown that Paul is alluding to is a wreath awarded to athletes who win competitions. Paul feels this crown is well deserved because he has “finished the course” and “fought the fight”. He had spent the better part of his life enduring hardship for the sake of the gospel by traveling throughout Asia and Greece starting churches and telling people about how they could find salvation in Jesus.

The New Testament speaks of many rewards for various sorts of activity. The beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5:1-12 speak of many different conditions, each with a blessing that comes from that condition. In addition to the “crown of righteousness” mentioned by Paul there are three other crowns that are mentioned in the New Testament. First there is a “crown of life” that comes from one persevering under trial (James 1:12). Second, there is an “incorruptible crown”. Paul says this crown is received for preaching the gospel and living according to it. It is received because he practices what he preaches, saying the rules and not disqualifying himself by obeying the rules (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Third, there is a “crown of glory” that comes from rightly shepherding a flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). Ultimately the crowns that are received for faithful service will be cast before Jesus as an act of worship because all the glory, honor, and power belong to Jesus (Revelation 4:9-11).

The purpose of the work of the believer is to glorify the Father, and Paul knew this. He had every right to brag about his accomplishments as a Jew, but he considered that all loss for the sake of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). Now at the end of his life, he has worked hard and endured much for the sake of the gospel. He could have been prideful in this work, but rather he takes the opportunity to encourage Timothy to continue because of the prize that await after one’s departure, and this prize will bring the most even more glory to God. Christians in the same manner as Paul should fulfill their ministry and receive the crowns for faithful service. Older Christians who have lived their lives faithfully and have fulfilled their ministry can likewise encourage young Christians to do the same. And on that Day that Paul speaks of, Christians can alongside Paul cast their crowns before God in worship giving the glory, honor, and power to him for all he has accomplished in and through the lives of believers!

Lord, I want to live so I receive crowns that I can used to glorify you! Help me to do so!