Joshua 1:10-18: Recognizing Godly Leadership

Read Joshua 1:10-18

Joshua was Moses’ selected leader and was commissioned by God to lead the Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua had been commissioned in front of all of Israel while Moses was still yet alive in Deuteronomy 31:7-8. Moses commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous in the context of obeying the Law. God had said the same thing to Joshua in Joshua 1:1-9. Now, Joshua was taking up this task that he had been appointed to do. He gathers together the leadership and tells them to make ready their provisions to enter the Promised Land. Joshua tells them to be valiant and battle ready when they cross the Jordan, but reminds them it is God who is going to give them the land. The people respond, accepting Joshua’s leadership. They promise to follow his leadership as they followed Moses. And lastly, they commend Joshua to be bold and courageous too.

From Joshua’s recognition, some principles on how godly leaders are recognized:

  • Leaders are recognized by God. God recognized Joshua and appointed him as leader of the Israel, telling him the same sort of message Moses did: to be bold and courageous and obey the commandments of the law.
  • Leaders are recognized by their predecessors. Moses recognized Joshua saw in Joshua the qualities needed to be a leader of the people of Israel, and raised up Joshua to succeed him after he was parted. Moses tells Joshua to be bold and courageous and obey the commandments of the law.
  • Leaders are recognized by their followers. When a leader ascends to a leadership position, the followers pledge to obey and follow the leader. But even they ask their leader to be bold and courageous as God and Moses had done.

All those who recognize leaders want their leaders to be bold and courageous rather than lacking in principle and faith. Leaders who are bold and courageous are not necessarily brash and wild people, rather they are willing to do what is necessary in accordance with the principles of God to accomplish the mission of God, even if some of the decisions they make are not popular or otherwise.

Christian leaders should be recognized in the same manner that Joshua was recognized: by other Christian leaders, by God, and by those who will follow. The calling to lead the people of God is a high calling and the qualities of such people are steep. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 outlines the qualities Christian leaders ought to exhibit. In short, leaders are to be mature and wise believers. At the same time, Christians should be willing to stand behind their leaders and be obedient to their authority. Leadership is a consensual relationship that requires buy in from both the leader and the lead. Subversive action on the part of the leader or the follower is detrimental to not just one person, but the whole church. Ultimately, all are under the leadership of God, and it is God’s authority to whom everyone must submit. God will hold leaders accountable for their leadership and followers accountable for their obedience.

Lord, help me to recognize leadership whether I am leading or being lead!

Joshua 1:1-9: Courage and Obedience

Read Joshua 1:1-9

The first 9 verses of Joshua record God’s command to Joshua concerning what God would do with the Israelites. Moses had died and Joshua succeeded him as the leader of Israel. God charges Joshua and the people to cross the Jordan and go into the Promised Land. The land, as described by God here, stretched the length from the Hittite territory in the North to the Negev in the South, from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Euphrates in the East. This occupation, however, was not fully realized until the time of David. The command given to Joshua is rather intriguing – it is not a command to go in conquering the land, rather a command first to be strong and courageous and second to obey the commandments that God had given them in the book of the Law. The one who was going to do the taking and giving was God. And in this courage and obedience, God was going to go with them wherever they go.

Moses encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous when he was handing over the leadership to Joshua before he died (Deuteronomy 31:6-8) and David said the same thing before he died to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:20). The commission to Joshua to be strong and courageous is antithetical to being fearful and shrinking back. 40 years earlier, the Israelites were looking to go into the land after leaving Egypt. They sent in 12 spies and the spies came back. 10 of the 12 spies saw the task as impossible, and wanted to go back. Caleb and Joshua believed they could enter the land and take it. The result was devastating for that generation. Of the ones who left Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua were allowed to enter the land (Numbers 13, Numbers 14).

The promise that God would be with his people is found in Matthew 28:20 at the end of the Great Commission. Hebrews 13:5-6 quotes this on the context of love of money. The author also quotes from Psalm 118:6 that speaks of God as being a helper and asks what man can do to them. The surety of God’s presence in the life of the believer is reason enough to be strong and be courageous. At the same time, one should also obey the commandments too. The connection with courage and obedience is clear, and these qualities are what are needed to lead the people of God. The focus here is not on performing great deeds for God, rather focusing on being obedient to what God wants. It is God who does the taking and giving!

God, help me to courageous and obedient and leave the fighting up to you!

Joshua: Introduction

Read: Joshua 1:6-9

Joshua picks up after the death of Moses and Joshua had been installed as the leader of Israel in Moses’ place. Moses had sinned and for this reason was not allowed to enter the Promised Land and the task had been given to Joshua to complete this task. Joshua’s former name was Hoshea (Numbers 13:16), but was changed by Moses to Joshua, literally “Yeshua” which us the same name “Jesus” comes from. Two other people of note had their names changed in the Bible because they were deemed with a special purpose for God: Abraham and Paul (Genesis 17:5, Acts 13:9). Joshua was one of the spies who went and spied in the land of Canaan to see if the people of Israel could indeed conquer it. He along with Caleb believed it to be possible while the others did not and thought they’d be better go back to Egypt (Numbers 13, Numbers 14:5-7). Joshua and Caleb alone where the only two of the Israelites that left Egypt who would be allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:23-24). It is evident that Joshua was a man of faith willing to do what it took in spite of the apparent risks and seemingly impossible obstacles.

Many scholars date the book Joshua to around 1400 BC, some 400 years before dates become more certain with the consecration of the temple during the reign of Solomon in 996 BC. Archeological evidence shows an invasion of people during this time with the fall of many cities. During this time, there is certainly upheaval of the indigenous that were supplanted by another people. Undoubtedly, by the time of David, Israel was the dominant nation of the area. The accounts of Joshua were probably recorded early, many by Joshua or an associate of Joshua himself. At some later date, these accounts were collated and commentary was added with many assertions about things existing “to this day”, a phrase found throughout the book (Joshua 4:9, Joshua 5:9, Joshua 7:26, Joshua 8:29, Joshua 10:27, Joshua 16:10, Joshua 23:8-9).

When one begins to read Joshua, there are a couple of things one needs to consider about the genre. Joshua is history, but not in the since of Western history. Western history looks at cause and effect relationships in a linear manner. Ancient Near Eastern history looked at history in a cyclical manner in which stories have a similar pattern.  The story of Joshua begins with a strong exhortation to Joshua the people of Israel to not only be strong and courageous, but to be obedient as well. The prologue and charge serves as the theological framework for the book, as it unfolds. When Israel does as God commands and acts courageously according to the ways of God, they are victorious. But when they do not, they are not victorious. Joshua is often seen as a historical narrative, and indeed it is, but is more than mere history because it teaches many things about the character of God and his relationship to people.

The story of a courageous and obedient people lead by a courageous and obedient man can still speak volumes to Christians today. God is still working the world to accomplish his goals of making his name great among the nations and he is still using people and their leaders alike. The command to be strong and courageous and obey the commands of God still goes out to all who call upon his name today!

Lord, help me to be courageous and obedient to your calling!

Ecclesiastes 12:8-14: The End of The Matter

Read: Ecclesiastes 12:8-14

The Preacher ends where Proverbs starts off – the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7 says that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Preacher, after having searched things out and evaluated his entire life accordingly, concludes that all is vanity and that the lot of main is to fear God and keep his commandments. He Preacher sought to gather wisdom and arrange it in a fashion for his readers to understand, and writes his treatise as if it where the ultimate manifesto on the subject matter concerning life. He shifts from third person to first person, warning his “son” to beware of anything beyond what he has read in the Preacher’s writings here. The Preacher warns that there is no end to the making of books and much study is tiresome. But nevertheless, the Preacher does commend wisdom calling it a “goad” – that is something worn by cattle to prod them on. In the case of wisdom, it is to live skillfully in accordance with God’s commands, because God brings action into judgment.

The Preacher already encouraged his reader to fear God (Ecclesiastes 5:7, Ecclesiastes 8:12). The Preacher in his conclusion echoes what the Law had already spoken in Deuteronomy 10:12. When the Old Testament talks about fearing God, it is not talking about being afraid of God in the sense that one is afraid of something that is scary, rather being fearful of God is realizing one’s place before God and responding appropriately to that knowledge. The appropriate response is obedience as the Preacher points out and what God requires. Deuteronomy 10:12 says that God’s people should love him and serve with all their heart soul. Jesus declared that this was the greatest commandment on which the law and the prophets were suspended like a weight on a rope (Matthew 23:37-40) and says that obedience is how one shows live for God (John 14:15). What is certainly true throughout the whole of scripture and is the bedrock of all that one does in life is to love and fear God, and one does this by keeping his commandments.

One’s relationship with God begins at the point of salvation where one follows Jesus’ command to repent from one’s sin and another to believe the gospel (Mark 1:15, John 12:50). After this, a believer receives the Holy Spirit and with the help of the Holy Spirit embarks on a life that pursues godliness by following the commands of Christ. The Preacher learned this lesson the hard way, but people need not do this – they can learn what brings the most fulfillment by hearing the gospel, believing it, and living it!

Lord, help me to fear you and keep your commandments!

Ecclesiastes 8:2-8: Government

Read: Ecclesiastes 8:2-8: Government

The Preacher’s admonition to obey the king comes sandwiched between the accolade to wisdom and the warning on the limitation of wisdom. The Preacher gives a number of observations concerning one’s relationships to the king when one is on the presence of the king:

  • Do not be in a hurry to leave the presence of the king. Being in the presence of the king, so it seems, is a matter of importance. One should not be hasty to leave, as this could show disrespect for the one in authority.
  • Do not stand up for bad cause. This almost goes without saying, but the Preacher qualifies it saying that the King will do as he pleases concerning matters. In matters of procedure, one should exercise wisdom on choosing the causes one wants to advocate and not advocate.
  • The one who obeys the king avoids harm. The text here is talking about matters of proper times and procedure – that is, in a matter of court. Related to being hasty, one should do what is necessary in terms of procedure so that there can be no mistake made concerning the issues at hand or the importance of a matter being addressed by the procedures.

The Bible commands Christians to submit to governments. Governments that exist are established by God and the ones in authority are God’s servants for good. One that rebels against them brings judgment on themselves. The ones who do what is right are really the ones who are free from the government because governments exercise the most authority over those that break the laws rather than follow them (Romans 13:1-7). But one has to realize though that the ultimate authority for government is God – that is even those one authority are still subject God’s authority. Sometimes, men in positions of authority make commands that run contrary to the commands of God. In these cases, one has to ask, does one obey man or does one obey God? On two occasions the disciples were brought before the authorities and told not to preach about Jesus. On both occasions, the disciples said that they must obey God rather than man, and they did so (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:27-32).

When Ecclesiastes was written, perhaps the most common form of government was an absolute monarchy. The world has shifted away from absolute monarchies to more democratic forms of government. Even though the forms of government have changed, the principles taught concerning matters of procedure and due respect are no different. Democracy in many respects provides procedures for the people under authority to express their concerns and descent through petition, peaceful gatherings, and voting among other things. For this matter, Christians should exercise these civil liberties to help bring about change for the better and help empower people who represent the ways of God in government and ultimately in laws. But at the same time, some places do not have such liberties, and Christians who live under these circumstances have to ask the same sort of questions as the early disciples: does one obey men or God. Many choose God, and suffer greatly for it. Christians in places of religious freedom ought to pray for those who are persecuted. In all things whether one is living free or under persecution, people under authority should pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4, Matthew 5:44). God, who is the ultimate authority, will judge everyone who is under him.

Lord, I am under authority. Help me to recognize this and act in the appropriate manner!

 

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7: Vows

Read: Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

Better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it – these are wise words coming from the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. The Jews of his day were certainly religious. Israel had the temple in Jerusalem, and they would make offerings there to God and make vows before God. There offerings were made here too.  The Preacher’s concern for vows is that in not fulfilling one’s vows, one becomes a liar – that is he or she says one thing and does another. The warning is against rash vows made by what the Preacher calls fools. They would go before God and make grandiose promises without thinking them through to completion. The Preacher wants people to be slow to speak before God who is in heaven. God is exalted to be feared and the Preacher encourages one to consider his position before uttering anything before God.

Leviticus 27 covers an assortment of vows people make before the Lord. A person could dedicate himself, an animal, his house, a field among many other things to the Lord. These items were deemed “holy” and became property of the priests for the purposes of the priests. The person would make a vow to dedicate such items then the priest would determine its value. These acts were not compulsory, rather they were completely voluntary. There was no law prescribing how much or how little the Israelites should give or if they should give at all. The Preacher is encouraging his readers to consider what they are doing carefully before making any sort of commitment to the Lord concerning vows.

The nature of vows had become by Jesus day and probably long before then a means of displaying one’s piety in public for all to see. Jesus speaks to this matter in Matthew 5:33-37. Some were apparently swearing upon anything number of things from the temple to the footstool of God as if the level of whatever they were swearing undergirded the fecundity of the vow. Jesus says that one should not swear on anything at all, rather just in a manner of simplicity, one should fulfill his or her vow, rather than make grandiose promises among other things.

Peter’s denial of Christ is a principal example of the foolishness that the Preacher is warning against. Peter, on the night of the Lord’s betrayal made a grandiose promise to never deny Jesus (John 13:36-38). Jesus knew that this was not true. Rather he predicts that before the rooster crowed the next morning, Peter would deny him three times. Peter realized what he had done and wept bitterly. He had failed to fulfill his vow concerning never denying Jesus.

In the same manner Christians would do well to heed the wisdom offered by the Preacher – don’t make hasty vows before God. One should consider the cost of what he or she is doing. When one does make a vow, one should, as Jesus taught, let his “yes” be yes and “no” be no. Vows can be a rich act of worship, acting on one’s own initiative before the Lord in a voluntary manner rather than a compulsory manner as one would do in following commandments. The blessing of a vow is not the display of piety, rather the satisfaction of knowing that one has been faithful in an act of worship to God. In the end, God wants the faithfulness of his people rather than the grandeur of promises.

Lord, let my words be few and my “yes” be yes!

Ecclesiastes 1:12-18: Wisdom

Read: Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

The writer of Ecclesiastes claims to have accumulated more wisdom than all of his predecessors. He “set his mind” to explore what people do. He set out to explorer life in general and all the wisdom and knowledge pertaining to it. At the end of his exploration, he concludes that He had studied much concerning the issues related to man, and found that the pursuit of wisdom is as anything void of meaning — what he calls a “chasing after the wind”. He says it is crooked and cannot be made straight. The sage is saying that man, in all his cunning, cannot do anything to alleviate meaningless in life through the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge.

It would stand to reason that the one writing a piece of wisdom literature putting down the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge is self-defeating.  The author if Ecclesiastes though isn’t putting down wisdom in general, rather the pursuit of wisdom as the end in and of itself. Wisdom is praised elsewhere in the scripture. Ecclesiastes 7 speaks of the value of wisdom. Proverbs speaks of wisdom in great lengths too, saying that is useful any number of things (Proverbs 1:1-6). Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, rather than the end of it. Ecclesiastes concludes the matter after pursuing all other things to an end (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Proverbs starts the book with the fear of the Lord. Wisdom for the purpose of serving the Lord is always better. James 1:5 says that one should ask for wisdom and the Lord will give it (Proverbs 2:6), and one should ask for it in all things so that the Lord can teach one how to live skillfully.

For any Christian wanting to live a life of godliness, wisdom and knowledge are essential. But wisdom is not an end and of itself. If it does not manifest itself in some practical way to enable one to live skillfully as one should do according to the principles of God, then wisdom is useless, and without meaning, as the write of Ecclesiastes notes. One should be a hearer as well as a doer (James 1:23-25), learning the wisdom and knowledge of God and putting these things into practice. This way one can be filled with knowledge and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and be able to bear fruit and please God in all respects (Colossians 1:9-12).

Lord, help to to have wisdom when I need and apply it skillfully!

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!

John 18:16-18,25-27: Delusions of Grandeur

Read: John 18:16-18,25-27

The denial of Christ by Peter is a very prevalent story in the gospels. All four gospels record Jesus predicting this event (Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38) and record the details of the event too (Luke 22:55-65, Mark 14:66-72, Matthew 26:69-75). Peter’s zeal for Jesus was displayed when he declared that he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus (John 13:37) and never leave him (Matthew 26:33) and also when Peter brandishes as sword in an attempt to defend Jesus while Jesus was being arrested (John 18:10). It was not too long afterwards though that Peter was standing around a fire trying to get warm because it was cold outside, and people begin to recognize him as one of Jesus’ followers. Three times people recognize him, and after the third time, there was a rooster crow. Peter recalls what Jesus had said the evening before. Matthew records Peter weeping bitterly because he knew exactly what he had done after he swore up and down profusely that he would never do such a thing.

John later in his gospel records what is the apparent undoing of Peter’s denial (John 21:5-7). Here, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. Each time, Peter says that he does, and each time Jesus asks Peter to in some way care for his sheep. While Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, he also knew that Peter would become a source of strength for the disciples in the time following the ascension. Before Jesus predicts Peter’s denial in Luke 22:31, Jesus says that the others will be sifted like wheat, but Peter would be the one to strengthen them.  Peter would be instrumental in the early church in Jerusalem and would preach a sermon at Pentecost that would lead to the salvation of thousands of people.

Grandiose promises have a way of setting one up for failure. Matthew 5:33-37 records Jesus speaking in the matter of making vows. He quotes from Leviticus 19:12, which speaks to the one who makes vows to fulfill them. Apparently there was a problem with people making vows. They would swear on Jerusalem, on the throne of God, or on a number of grandiose things. Rather than make lavish promises, Jesus encourages his listeners here to simply let their yes be yes and their no be no—that is to keep what one says one is going to do simple.

It is easy to point a finger at Peter and see his obvious failing, and claim that one has never denied Christ. But would not be easy to do is claim that one has promised to never do something and ended breaking that promise at one point or another. Peter was zealous for Jesus—there can be no mistake about that, and like Peter, people generally have zeal to keep the promise. While zeal is not inherently bad, it is better to not make lavish promises. And like Peter, Christians will fail.  In all cases though Jesus is there to restore and whoever failed can get back up and when back to serving God. A Christian should simply focus on trying to obey God, rather than get delusions of grandeur about how one is never going to disobey God.

Lord, help my ‘yes’ to be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ to be ‘no’ and nothing more!

John 18:1-11: Obedience Even Unto Death

Read: John 18:1-11

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was something that Jesus had known about since the beginning of his ministry. He first mentions the betrayal in John 6:71. Jesus allowed Judas to stick around even though Jesus knew his intent even when under the guise of piety, Judas wanted Mary to sell her perfume for money so Judas could pilfer some off the top for himself. Earlier that evening, the devil had entered into Judas, and Jesus knew this (John 13:2,26).

Jesus had gone out to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mountain of Olives with his disciples before he was betrayed. Jesus here prayed to God if he was willing, to remove the cup from Jesus, but prays not for his own will, but the will of the Father (Luke 22:42). Jesus had laid aside his glory and took on a position of a servant to glorify God and do the will of the Father (John 4:32, John 6:33, John 6:38, Philippians 2:5-11), but the task to Jesus troubled him He knew what he had to do (John 12:27). God knew long before any of the events surrounding the crucifixion transpired that Jesus would have to carry out the will of God on the cross. The task was huge such that it caused angst for one who knew his place in heaven.

Judas came back this time with the Romans, priests, and Pharisees to betray Jesus and have him arrested. When they did come, they asked twice. The first time they ask, Jesus speaks “I am he” and they are knocked back. When Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus he went down in the presence of a glorified Christ (Acts 9:4). This act may have been a demonstration of the plain spoken mode of Jesus who was forcefully willing to take on the forces of darkness even though he was angst about it. They ask again, perhaps because they were dumbfounded by what had just happened. Jesus again answers “I am he” to their question and says to them to let the others go their way.

But Peter in a brash display of zeal draws his sword and cuts the ear off of one of the servants. Jesus tells him to put away his sword, saying in a manner of a rhetorical question, that the cup was given to him by the Father and he should drink it. Peter’s zeal is contrasted with his betrayal. Peter had previously said that he would not betray Jesus even to death, but Jesus knew that Peter would deny him (John 13:36-38, John 18:25-27). Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, as he had spoken it before (John 17:12), and this was being fulfilled.

The plan God had set in motion long before these events had transpired could not be undone. Judas’ betrayal was set in motion and Jesus knew this. Peter in his zeal would try and stop it, but would later deny Christ, and Jesus knew this too. Jesus even asked the Father to remove the cup if possible, but nevertheless submitted to the will of the Father. His act of obedience to the will of the Father is what brought about the redemption of mankind. Paul says that one should have the attitude of Christ Jesus in Philippians 2:5 who became obedient as a servant and obedient even unto death on the cross. Jesus is not only the means of redemption, but also the model of obedience one should aspire too. Jesus says the ones who love will keep his commandments (John 14:15, John 14:23-24, John 15:10). In all things, one should obey the commands of Christ as Christ obeyed the Father, even when one does not want to or being obedient causes angst. Doing so will bring about the will of God. In all things though, Christians can know that anxiety can calmed by way of prayer and petition to the Father–even Jesus did this in the last hours before he went to the cross! One can know that the peace of God is with them (Philippians 4:6-7).

Lord, help me to obey you, even when it hurts.

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