All Because of Good Intentions

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
   as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
   and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
   and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
   he has also rejected you from being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23

I feel really sorry for Saul.  He was handsome and strong and a head taller than everyone.  He looked good. In the eyes of the world he was the perfect leader, and yet he was an utter failure.  I think that’s why God chose him. Had Saul submitted to God when he made his decisions, he would have been blessed by the Lord.  But Saul had a lot more confidence in worldly strength than he did in God.

It’s sad, because on the surface it appears as though Saul did inquire of God.  He constantly inquired of the Lord after he made a decision to do something, he had the Arc of the Covenant with them, and he even had a priest traveling with him, ephod and all.  “…The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3 including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, wearing an ephod…” 1 Samuel 14:2-3 But appearances and tradition are never what God wants from us.   Saul never looked to God until after he’d made up his mind what he wanted to do. He decided his plans were great (probably because he’d been chosen by God, so who needs to ask God again, right?) and then asked God for a blessing after he’d made up his own mind. He did it when he performed the sacrifice to God, instead of waiting on Samuel.  And he did it before going into battle with the Philistines.

Saul’s son Jonathan, on the other hand, boldly moved forward to defeat his enemies by trusting in the power of God to provide the victory even against all odds.  We know this because Jonathan sees an oportunity to attack the Philistines in a really strategic way, and moves forward to act with only his armor bearer to help him!  But where Jonathan differed from Saul is in this: Jonathan inquired of the Lord before He asked. He felt confident that his plan was solid, but he still asked God to make it clear by asking for a sign, and didn’t move until he’d gotten the clear sign of God’s promised victory.  (See 1 Samuel 14 for all the details.)

And so we go back to poor Saul.  This earthly king, chosen by God, who looked the part well and surrounded himself with all kinds of powerful heroes in order to ensure his military victories.  He made sacrifices. He had the Arc. He had his priest. He even had a prophet. The people loved him! After all, they constantly deferred to him, saying, “Do what seems good to you!” (1 Samuel 14:41)  He had everything he needed to look and act like the best darn victorious king who ever lived. And that was his downfall. It became all about him and not about God.

Justifying our bad behavior for the sake of serving God is a terrible crime!  How many times have I justified an act of my own choosing because I had decided it was best without looking to God for wisdom and permission first?  Seriously! If I’m being honest with myself, I do it all the time! Even though the Lord has told me that I need to limit nutritionless food to honor him with my body, I justify dessert because I’m celebrating or I crave it, or I’m free in Christ.  I go on fad diets, justifying the extremes in order to get quick results. I make plans for vacation because I need a break instead of needing sabbath rest, or I read a book instead of read my Bible because I’m tired, or I don’t have time.  If I think about it too hard, I think I could quickly fall into shame over it all!

But that’s not why I’m here.  That’s not why God put me on this planet.  He put me here to worship Him, to partner with me in love and friendship, and to have us be together in all things.  He wants me to be unified with Him and with His Church. I make presumptions that I know what God wants from me, so I don’t need to inquire of Him, and that only leads to rebellion. Rebellion to my solitary purpose in Christ is a stepping stone for sin and more rebellion.  And that disobedience from good intentions leads me further and further away from my King, which is definitely not God’s good plan for me!

I look again to Samuel’s words to Saul after yet another huge failure with good intentions that would lead to God’s rejection of him as King:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
   as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
   and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
   and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
   he has also rejected you from being king.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23

Sadly, Saul’s response to this fall from grace is to blame the people he was leading.  

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”

His intentions were so pure, weren’t they?! (Yes that’s sarcasm.) And yet, how many times have I been blind to my own excuses and good intentions? So. Many. Times.  I’m so thankful to have the sealed promise of the Holy Spirit within me to convict me of my wrongdoing and correct the flaws of my thinking. Our Lord is not content to leave us where we are.  When we sin against Him and go to Him for guidance through repentance, He is quick to show us what we’ve done and what we need to do differently. It hurts. It’s no fun. Frankly, it sucks. But it is so good, too! Unlike Saul, I have the glorious forgiveness of Messiah, Jesus, to pay for my failings and shortcomings, to pay for my sin, and to give me life and victory.  And He is so quick to forgive and to teach, that the mercy that flows through Him to me would spill out of me into others, and thus share the fruit and life that comes from submitting to the will of God.

 

God’s Got a Plan. Really.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
   but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 16:25

Sometimes I feel like my life could be defined by failure after failure after failure, as I’ve turned away from God and His protection countless times in order to defend myself by my own means.  I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, but it’s the truth nonetheless. Like all people, I have a tendency to think I know best. And honestly I can’t help a bit of sardonic laughter at the thought of that because I’m acting like I know better than the Creator of the Universe.  The One who made all things. The One who made me. And everyday it seems that I can find at least one opportunity to say boldly in the face of the Lord of Hosts, “Nah, I got this one, Jesus. I can handle it.”

This isn’t a new concept for me.  I know this stuff. I know I need a Savior.  I know I’m hopelessly lost without Jesus. And then the whim hits me, and I let sin take charge, and voila: folly.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
   and shrewd in their own sight!
Isaiah 5:21

Yep, that’s me.  Everyday. I get so darn cocky about how wise I am and how smart or safe or satisfied I will be making choices for myself.  God doesn’t need to be bothered with this little stuff. God’s busy running things in the world, He doesn’t have time for this sort of thing.  And he gave me an intellect, I should use it. That’s how He helps me, right? After all, it’s my life, so it’s my choice. Right? Sure, ok. And the Lord says to me, “How’s that working out for you, Daisy?”

In a word: badly.

I find myself in a constant state of repentance with that kind of behavior.  I approach the throne of grace with hat in hand, embarrassed and ashamed, ready to sing out the Britney Spears line, “Oops I did it again!” to the Lord.  And the Lord shakes his head at me and responds with open arms and a forgiving smile. He isn’t asking for me to be ashamed. He isn’t asking me to be afraid.  He just wants me to believe Him when He says He knows best for me.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

But, God, I screwed up.  I knew the truth and I stubbornly chose to act against it.  I deserve to be punished. I need to be humbled. I need to be chastised.  I need. I need. I need.

And God responds with a solid and resounding, “Nope, nope, and nope. Look to the cross, my silly little daughter.  Punishment paid in full. Now stop whining, pick yourself up and let’s try this again. Only listen to me this time, would ya?”

And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
1 Samuel 12:20-22

Sounds like a good plan, Jesus.  Help me trust You this time.

 

To Go From Knowing to Doing

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:18-19

Lord, I’ve been afraid of a lot of things lately and I didn’t even know it.  It’s a true tragedy to realize that the enemy has convinced me so often that the fear I’m feeling is not fear especially in regard to the judgement of God.  I have spent 45 of my 49 years of life as a believer in Jesus, and I guess I thought that I had established a deep understanding of God’s love and forgiveness.  I’ve certainly asked for it enough times! Sin sneaks up on me and the next thing I know I’m calling out to You, God, asking You to please, please forgive me.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:8

I know you love a repentant and contrite heart. I know that You are most pleased when I choose to submit to Your will for my life instead of choosing to rebel.  I know that Your plan for me is so much better than anything I could plan for myself. Frankly I KNOW a lot of things. But knowing and doing are two very different things.  And I don’t do near as much as I know.

Lord, how else can I bridge that gap except to call upon You?  You are my Creator. You are my strong Tower. You are my bridge to salvation.  You can be my bridge between knowing and doing.

So, help.  I need help, God. I’m tired of being afraid.  I’m tired of letting fear, disguised as a million different things that seem ok, rule my choices and my life.  I want to walk in the confidence of your forgiveness so that I can walk through life without fear of judgement.  If I am going to believe that the judgement of my sins were poured out on the cross of Christ, then I’m not supposed to walk in guilt any longer.  I am forgiven so I don’t need to be afraid of You, God. Let Your perfect love cast out all fear in my life as I submit to Your sufficient and all encompassing forgiveness.  Perfect Your Love in me, Lord Jesus, so that I can help show others how to have the peace of Your forgiveness. No one who trusts You will ever need to fear the judgement of their sins.  Silence the enemy and all the lies he spreads that say we’re not worth it, or we don’t deserve it, or what we did is too horrible. Help all people to find and recieve Your free offering of life and love without judgement, by Jesus on the cross. It seems a very fair punishment for anything anyone could do.  Help me to accept it more fully. And help others to find it and be free of guilt. Amen.

But I call to God,
    and the Lord will save me.
Psalm 55:16

A Call to Repentence

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
1 Samuel 7:3-4

Beloved Savior, the people are dying.  They are defeated and broken and lost and they don’t even know it.  Your Presence is so far from them, mighty Yahweh! They don’t even believe You exist anymore.  Show them, my King, show them You are real and true. Show them that Your Power will save them if only they would turn away from the false gods they serve and look to You for their salvation.  

You are asking so little of us, Lord.  You ask so very little.

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:9-13

Why are they so stubborn, Lord?  Please Father, break their hardened hearts to pieces.  Show them the power of Your love against their enemies and urge them into the shelter of your Presence.  It is Your Presence, Your Salvation, Your Power that brings salvation to the lost. Not images. Not ideals.  Not even crosses. It is Your Victory over the cross that brings salvation to any who would believe it!

Even the Philistines got it eventually.  Sort of.

Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed?
1 Samuel 6:6

They finally acknowledged what they were dealing with, and tried to make amends to You with a guilt offering.  (see 1 Samuel Chapter 6) Our world now doesn’t even believe the history that has been protected for thousands of years, a history that declares Your faithfulness and Your salvation offered for all of humanity.  It took the Egyptians ten plagues that eventually led to death, just to submit to Your will. Even then they didn’t repent. And the Philistines, who finally acknowledged Your existence with terror, only wanted You to go away.

I feel like that’s the world we live in now, God.  Only it’s even worse than that. People refuse to see You.  They refuse to acknowledge You. And their time is running out.  Their hearts are so hardened and so committed to the lusts of their own desires, that breaking through that seems an impossible task.  But You are faithful, Yahweh! You can breathe life into the things of this world that are dead, even if they don’t yet know they are dead.

So breathe Your life into the world one last time before the end.  Perhaps a few will recognize their folly before it’s too late. And let Your words permeate this planet as a final warning siren of Your eminent judgement.  Lord, I know that it is your will that none should perish. Please, convince them, Jesus. Convince them that Your love and forgiveness are worth turning away from the false idols that have given the world nothing but death, war, famine, and pain.  Fleeting pleasures are nothing compared to the glorious riches that await the ones who recieve Your Life and Your Salvation.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
2 Peter 3:8-10

 

When I am Faithless…

I seem to start a lot of my conversations with, “I’m sorry, God.”  Lord, I know full well that repentance is a fine and necessary thing.  But Lord, I’ve neglected to accept Your punishment for my crimes against You as already PAID IN FULL.  I’ve walked around, suffering and moaning with the failures that surround my day. I am sad and I hear myself say, “I know I’m just suffering the consequences of my own actions.”  So sad. And I know that I often do have to suffer the consequences on occasion. But I have neglected to fully receive from You that the consequences for my sin were paid on the cross of Christ.

I have victory.  I am forgiven. I have let the enemy convince me that I have neither!  I have walked in grieving and loss. I have walked in guilt and shame. I have walked in all the things You conquered for me in Your payment for my sins on the cross.  You rose from the dead! You PROVED your victory. You proved it and proclaimed it and then sealed it as a promise in our hearts by giving us–giving me–Your Holy Spirit.

But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”
Ruth 1:11-13

Why do I ever think You’ve left me to my fate?  Why do I act the way Naomi did when everything she depended on in the physical world had been taken from her.  Distraught, she cried out in her misery, but not to You, God. She cried out in shame and worry and hopelessness.  How many times have I felt that same way? I’ve walked in the sorrow of my circumstances instead of the peace of Your Gospel.  

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
Ruth 1:16-18

Ruth, on the other hand, who had nothing, and by worldly standards was fated to a worse fate than Naomi, chose to trust in You.  As a foreigner she had no hope without You, and so she chose by faith to walk to the very end trusting You regardless of how things looked.

I’ve always thought I knew the story of Ruth and Naomi.  I’ve always thought of Naomi as so faithless. And today I saw that I have been walking like Naomi, in faithlessness.  But You are faithful even when we are faithless. Thanks for that, God. Please give me more faith. Teach me to trust You more and hope in Your salvation.

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:11-13

 

Repentance Pays Off

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
   consider my groaning.
2 Give attention to the sound of my cry,
   my King and my God,
   for to you do I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
   in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.
Psalm 5:1-3

Jesus, I called out to You this morning with such longing.  But instead of despair, Lord, I laid my sins out before You in repentance.  I took a hard look at my life and my actions over the last few days and You drew me into Your lap.  I laid it all out there, God. I poured out myself to You. I shared my fear, my guilt, my love, my longing.  I gave it all to You God. And when I thought I was spent, I cried out some more. Through my tears I confessed my weakness.  I confessed my doubt. I confessed my sins.

You held me in Your arms with such sweetness, Lord.  There was no condemnation. Though I was afraid and felt guilty, You showed me no anger and gave me no punishment.  Instead, You listened to my cries. You listening and You wiped away my tears with laughter and kisses. You reminded me of Your great love.  You showed me Your renewed mercy. You gave ear to my words, Lord. You considered my groanings. You heard my voice as I sacrificed my own will to follow Your ways and obey You.

I turned to the Word, Lord, and You spoke to me.  You reminded me of Your faithfulness even in my folly.  You are so quick to teach me! You are so quick to comfort me, Jesus!  

And that would have been enough.  But You weren’t satisfied with enough.  Instead You gave me more. You had a sister text me with these verses from Psalms.  She said that You had encouraged her to share them with me this morning. Lord, You answered my groanings with concrete truth from Your Word.  In the obedience of a friend, You comforted me beyond my expectations and my requests, because that is who You are.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
   let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
   that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
   you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Psalm 5:11-12

Thank you, God, that You hear me, You see me, You love me, and You hold me in Your hand.  You cover me in favor as with a shield, and I will glorify Your name.

Lost in the Land of Shadows and Dirt

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds.
Judges 6:1-2

It’s crazy what disobedience can do to people.  Disobedience fills us with fear, shame, and guilt, and drives us out of all the good things God wants to give us.  Disobedience causes us to stop trusting in God’s provision and start trusting in fear. We let fear become our leader instead of God.  And it takes us nowhere good. For the Israelites, disobedience to God led them to do evil in the sight of God, which ultimately led to their self inflicted exile out of the Promised Land and into the mountains to hide in caves.  They went from the Land of Milk and Honey to the Land of Shadows and Dirt.

“For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in.
Judges 6:3-5

God allowed the Israelite’s enemies to take over the land He had given to them so that they would repent and recognize that the Land and God’s protection were by His sovereign hand alone.  As the people of God walked away from the worship and trust of Yahweh, The One True God, they also walked away from His blessing and provision. The people began to worship the false idols and put their trust in those things to provide for them and it had them living in the dark in caves!  How often have I found myself living in a cave because of my own lack of trust in God. I fall into fear and doubt and worry, and then there I am: in the dark instead of the light, afraid and hungry.

And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.
Judges 6:6

So, what do we do when we have thrown ourselves into the dark? We cry out to God!  He is our rescuer and our salvation. If we know God, then we are all too familiar with His love and mercy and His longing to restore us into a right relationship with Him.  But God isn’t content to just save us, though that would surely be enough for us! Instead, He lovingly teaches us and guides us, so that we will understand how to avoid going into the dark again.  

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

For the Israelites, God’s compassion and deliverance came from a curious source.  And over and over again we see God do this. As it says in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “God chose the foolish things to confound the wise.”  That’s just how God rolls. And the Israelites needed to see that even though they were weak and afraid and living in caves, He could rescue them from their own failings and bring them back into the inheritance that He had planned for them from the beginning.

And so God chooses Gideon whom He calls “a mighty man of valor”. Gideon who hid from his enemies in a wine press to beat out his wheat. Gideon, who doubted and questioned even after the miraculous sign of the appearance of the “Angel of the Lord”.  Gideon, who even after he agreed to do as Yahweh commanded, took it upon himself to do it under cover of darkness so no one would see him do it! (reference Judges 6:11-40)

Yes, God chose Gideon, because Gideon bodily encompassed everything that the Israelites had become.  Gideon was afraid, in the dark, and doubted God. And don’t we all do the same thing? Don’t we all fall short a thousand times a day?  Don’t we all fall back on fear and hide in the dark? Thankfully, our God knows that about us, and just like Gideon, He will patiently teach us again and again that He is faithful and He will save us.  Our inheritance is ours for the taking if we will simply cry out to Him from the darkness and trust Him.

 

  

The Lord is Faithful

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
Joshua 21:45

Lord, You are faithful with Your promises.  The written accounts of Your faithfulness are vast.  You describe Yourself as faithful and true. You have been faithful to me and to the promises You have made me.  So, why do I always doubt? Why do I fall so short of trusting You? I look around and it seems that everyone who knows You counts on Your faithfulness.  Do they question it in their hearts the way I do? 

Why do we doubt You?

I know it is the enemy sowing his seeds of doubt.  I know he is trying to knock me out of Your lap. But You have a firm hold, Lord.  You won’t let me fall. You are faithful. I recall Your faithfulness and my heart is made light.  I get reminded of Your goodness. I remember Your work in my life: how You saved me from sin and death, how You walked with me and gave me strength, how You put courage and faith in me and held me up.  

Why do I doubt You?

You have brought me back from death so many times.  When I repent, You hear me. You have turned my failings into blessings.  You forgive me and love me and walk with me. You know everything about me.  You made me. And still You love me. Still You see me. Still You forgive me.  

Why do I doubt You?

Hold me up with Your righteous right hand.  Create in me a clean heart. Prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Make my paths straight. Guide me in the paths of righteousness for Your namesake. Be my strength and my shield.  Be my fortress, my shelter, my comfort, my defender. Be my everything.

Don’t let me doubt you.

Lord, You are faithful.  You are good. And Your love and forgiveness never need to be doubted.  Yet over and over again You prove Yourself to me. When I doubt, You don’t condemn, You encourage.  When I feel dead, you show me life afresh. When I doubt, You provide faith. Build my faith fresh today.  Fill me with Your power, Precious Lord. Let me feel Your Presence and be reminded of Your faithfulness.

Lord, You are faithful.

 

A Lesson from Joshua and the Gibeonites About the Mercy of God

Lord, you are so merciful it baffles me at times.  Even in the midst of dishonesty, trickery, and cowardice, You are faithful and merciful.  Your compassion is boundless. Your mercy is unrelenting. Your love is a rock of salvation that cannot be moved.  You are good. You are light. And in You there is no darkness.

As I read Joshua, it would be easy to look at all the conquering and destruction and think that the God of the Universe was a terrible creature, full of hate and fury.  But instead what I have been constantly reminded of is the faithfulness of God, and His incredible mercy. We see it first with Rahab of Jericho. She was a filthy, Godless, prostitute, and the spies Joshua sent to gather intelligence found protection in her house.  She gave them shelter. She lied for them. And she trusted that God would show mercy to her for contributing to his people. Okay, maybe it’s easy to see the profound mercy of God through Rahab. She becomes part of the direct lineage of Jesus because she trusted God would protect her if she acted on behalf of His people, and trusted that He would spare her.  Cool, right? I get it.

But what really blows my mind is God’s mercy for the spies.  Rahab was a prostitute! What on earth were the spies doing with her?  I doubt they were there for conversation! And God sees them, deep in the midst of unrepentant sin, distracted from the task at hand, enjoying the pleasure of the very city God had destined for destruction because of sin, and He is still faithful to deliver Jericho into the hands of Joshua and the Israelite army.  Do you see that? And we find ourselves doubting God’s mercy?!

Later on with Joshua, the Gibeonite deception causes Joshua to make a terrible mistake.  

They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?”9 They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. 11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”’12 Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. 13 These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” 14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord.5 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
Joshua 9:8-15

When the Gibeonites masqueraded as sojourners seeking after the God of Israel, Joshua accepts them with open arms.  He fell for their deception immediately because it seemed like the right thing to do. But Joshua failed to ask what God wanted.  He depended on his own judgement to discern the intent of the Gibeonites and he was wrong. He trusted himself over God, totally out of self-confidence and good intentions.  And that self-confidence and good intention turned Joshua from the Lord to himself. Sounds a little like accidental idolatry of self to me! How many times have I done that?  How many times today have I done that!? When you think about it, it’s kind of terrible.

But God is so merciful!  The Gibeonites came to Joshua in fear and enslaved themselves to the Isrealites.  How sad. And when Joshua discovers the deception he admonishes them and tells them they are cursed now to be slaves.  In other words, if they had been honest and turned from their own wickedness and trusted in God to spare them, they would have been spared and they would have been free.  But their fear enslaved them. Even though they’d enslaved themselves, God spared them from destruction.

22 Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? 23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” 26 So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27 But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place that he should choose.

The Gibeonites, even in their fear and cowardice and eventual enslavement, receive mercy from God.  They had to deal with the consequences of their actions by being enslaved, but they were spared. Sounds a lot like the Israelites in Egypt! What a profound mystery is the love and mercy of God and His desire to commune with us!

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish…32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:25-27, 32

God’s love for us is so profound, so merciful, so bonding, that He uses marriage as a metaphor for what He wants with his people, His bride.  Intimacy and forgiveness. That is a mystery, indeed!

Both Joshua and the Gibeonites find mercy from the Lord.  Even though Joshua had sinned mightily. And the Gibeonites melted in cowardice and fear when faced with the potential slaughter from God’s armies.  God used it to bring potential salvation to the Gibeonites (because having been spared and enslaving themselves to the Israelites, they would be among them and see evidence of His grace by proximity.)  So in cowardice from the Gibeonites, and in self-confident, careless disobedience from Joshua, God showed His mercy to both sides.

God took the mistakes that had been made, the inevitable failings of humanity and used it for good.  In Joshua Chapter 10, the story of the mighty Gibeonites in submission to the Israelites became a warning and a trumpet call to the rest of the people in the land.  Destruction comes to the enemies of God, but mercy comes to all who will turn to God and accept His leadership. Like Rahab, one can come to God with faith that He will rescue, or one can come to God in fear.  Fear may have saved the Gibeonites from death, but it came at the cost of their own freedom. Fear brought them only temporary life and at the cost of their own freedom. Only turning to God in faith will lead to life forever in His family.

If only they had turned to God in faith instead of fear!  What a valuable lesson. Faith will bring deliverance and acceptance into the body of Christ.  Fear will only bring enslavement by your own hand. And can your own hand save you? Surely not.  Just ask the Gibeonites.

Cages

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16

Jesus, I’m haunted.  The sins of my past, both big and small, haunt me and I’ve grown too comfortable with just accepting that feeling.  I’ve let myself think that there is no way to move past them. I’ve believed the enemy’s lies, Lord. And I’m sorry.  I’ve let him put me into a million different cages of fear, doubt, shame, and sorrow. Lord help me, I’ve been comfortable there.  I’ve been so comfortable. It’s all I’ve known for so long.

You’ve promised me your blood has paid the price for my sins, no matter what they were, no matter who they hurt.  You’ve promised me that my sins are forgiven, that you’ve paid the eternal price for them and have had victory. I’ve known that in my head since I was a little girl, ever since you saved me, Jesus.  But I’ve let my callouses build up, I’ve let them be a shield instead of You. I’ve tried to fight my own battles, even as you cried out to me to let You fight instead.

I’m tired of accepting defeat.  I’m tired of listening to lies. I’m tired of beating myself up for the wrongs I’ve committed against You.  I’m tired of carrying the weight of their burdon, Lord. Help me to release them. Help me to be humble enough to accept Your forgiveness, because I know that it is pride and shame that have kept me from believing Your blood is enough.  Help me to have the humility to give up control so that I can receive the victory I can never find on my own.

I’m sorry, Lord.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  Help me, Jesus. Help me to receive Your salvation fresh and new right now.  Help me to walk in Your victory and Your peace. Your blood was enough. Your blood IS enough.  You are enough. Help me, Jesus. Help me to move forward. Help me to have hope. Help me let go.  Get me out of all these cages I’ve put myself in and let me be done with it forever.