Abimelech, the self-appointed leader!

Scripture reading for March 12: Judges 9-12

All authority come from God and the Bible declares that God places people in authority. (Psalm 75:6-7)  When God places someone in authority, His anointing and counsel guide that person.  The person must stay under God’s anointing and follow His directions closely.  As we have observed the various leaders so far in Scripture, we see how God has placed them where He wanted them and used them as they followed Him.

For example, Gideon was a man placed by God in a position of leadership.  Gideon interacted with God to be certain of what to do and how to do it.  He certainly was not perfect and made some glaring mistakes, but brought peace to the land for a period of time.  He had 71 sons and a large family.  When Gideon passed away, a leadership crisis arose.  The Israelites went back to idol worship and one of Gideon’s sons sought to take over.

Abimelech arose to take over his father’s place.  Abimelech was the son of a slave girl.  He had 70 brothers who were produced through his father by other mothers.  He went to his mother’s town and relatives and proposed to take over leadership.  They paid him some money from an idol temple and he hired mercenary soldiers. They then killed 69 of his seventy brothers.  Jotham, the youngest, was the only one who escaped.  Jotham spoke a word of prophesy from Mt. Gerazim at Abimelech’s coronation ceremony then quickly escaped.  He basically pronounced a judgment on Abimelech’s leadership and those who followed. (Judges 9:7-21)

The Scriptures state that God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem.  God did this to avenge the shedding of innocent blood of the seventy brothers.  Abimelech and the citizens of Schechem had conspired to commit that murder and now they would become enemies themselves!  (Judges 9:22-24)  This evil spirit would destroy them both and was God’s judgment on a self-appointed leader and those who joined with him in rebellion!

What can we learn from this today?  God does place people in leadership for our good, protection, and blessing.  When a leader follows the Lord, the people and leader are blessed.  When someone tries to place themselves in leadership by his own power, craftiness, or manipulation, then both the leader and those who scheme with him come under God’s judgment!  We must be vigilant today in our country.  Politics and media are always at work trying to manipulate people.  Politicians use religion and try to destroy their rivals.  In the workplace, people scheme and plot to get advantage.  In the church at times, people seek to appoint themselves.  Beware– God’s judgment will come on those who appoint themselves!

Shechem’s punishment: “So all the men cut branches and followed Abimelech.  They piled them against the stronghold and set it on fire over the people inside.  So all the people in the tower of Shechem, about a thousand men and women, also died.” (Judges 9:49)

Abimelech’s punishment: “Abimelech went to the tower and stormed it.  But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. Abimelech had his armor-bearer kill him so he did not die at the hands of a woman.

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“Mighty Warrior!”

Scripture reading for March 11: Judges 6-8

Poor self-image and discouraging self-talk are common symptoms of a life out of touch with the Lord.  It is so easy to focus on our lack and the way we are made.  We always seem to magnify our weaknesses, see only the flaws, and are quick to blame them on someone else.  Sometimes, we simply rehearse them over and over to ourselves and stew in the negativity.  Gideon was just such a man during the days of the Judges.  The God we serve loves to use the weak and flawed and make them into mighty warriors, even in spite of themselves!

For seven years the Israelites had been under attack by the Midianites.  They cried out to God for help and He sent them a prophet.  The prophet told them about God’s mighty power in delivering them from Egypt and His warning not to worship the gods of the Amorites.  This was their problem.  They had not listened to the Lord!

God then sent his Angel to Gideon.  We find Gideon hiding in a wine press, threshing grain.  The Angel’s first words to Gideon: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”  (Judges 6:12)  Gideon’s first response is not one of faith.  He was not sure why the Midianites were attacking them.  He believed that the Lord had abandoned them.  This messenger then sent Gideon on a mission to deliver Israel–in the strength he had.  (Judges 6:14)  Gideon again protests that his clan is the weakest in Manasseh and that he is the weakest of all!  What a self-image problem!  Or could it be that he is seeing accurately through his natural eyes?

The angel had told him to use the strength he had–little or great!  God would be with him and that would make all the difference in the world.  God sees each person as special and has a job that they can do.  He specializes in taking weak people and infusing them with His strength.  When they choose to believe His Word, nothing shall be impossible to them!  (1st Corinthians 1:25-29)

As Gideon prepared to deliver Israel, he gathered an army together.  God reduced it from 32,000 to 300!  He took away their weapons and gave them torches and pitchers!  He told them to break the pitchers and wave the torches and shout!  Gideon’s faith was strengthened by supernatural signs that he asked for.  God met him where he was.  God sent him into the enemy camp to hear a prophetic dream about his victory.  He obeyed and in the strength he had, delivered Israel from the Midianites!  (Judges 7:13-20)

If you are struggling today with a poor self-image or have been engaging in negative self-talk, let this greeting from the Word of God touch your heart today!  With God on your side, there are more for you than against you!  Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!  “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”

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Book Review–March

How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture

I read this book earlier in my life, but it did not impact me then as it did this past month.  In preparation for the “Truth Project” from Focus on the Family, I committed to read “Total Truth” by Nancy Pearcey, which I reviewed last month.  I also wanted to re-read this book and another by Charles Colson, “How Now Shall We Live”, which I hope to review next month.

This book, like last month’s, is not an easy read but it is very helpful and insightful.  In it, Schaeffer reviews history from ancient Rome up to the present day.  There are chapters on the middle ages, renaissance, reformation, and enlightenment.  He covers modern science, art, philosophy, literature and films.  He covers changes in theology that have roots in the ideas of the culture.  Major trends in thought and culture have an impact on the morals, government, arts and literature.

The Bible states that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he”.  (Proverbs 23:7 KJV)   Man’s thinking has been clouded by sin and the idolatry of self since the fall of man in Genesis 3.  Because of this, truth as revealed by Scripture, has not been popular in most cultures.  The great thinkers of the ages have tended to shape the art and culture of their times, but most of them were not focused on the one true God.  Frances Schaeffer attempts in this book to trace man’s thinking and it’s impact on the development of Western thought and our present culture.

This book also attempts to show how Christianity and the Gospel worked on the pagan cultures and began to bring change in thinking.  The Gospel is a powerful message of truth that can truly set men free from the chains of humanistic culture that attack them constantly.  As God’s people faithfully lived and preached everywhere, God did His work of saving people.  But there has been a constant war against Biblical truth and God’s people are in a constant battle.

In America, this battle has been fought as well.  America was founded with many who had an understanding of Biblical truth.  America, as a nation under God, was to be different from other nations in it’s respect for God, His laws, and human freedom.  These concepts have been attacked from the beginning and are currently under attack as never before.  I feel that Frances Schaeffer was a modern day prophet.  The last chapters of his book declare what he saw happening in America in 1976.  Now in 2009, many things have come to pass or are unfolding before our eyes.  This book is amazing for the author’s careful study of history and insight into our present culture.  I would highly recommend it to serious Christians who are seeking to understand and impact their culture today.  It is very helpful in a study of current world views!

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Another generation, who knew not the Lord!

Scripture Reading for March 10: Judges 1-5

When I was younger, we heated our home on the farm with wood.  When it was extremely cold, we had a small bin of coal to help with the heat through the long winter nights in Iowa.  One of the jobs right before bed was to go down and stoke the fire.  More wood would be added and ashes removed so a good flow of air would cause the fire to heat up and blaze.  A scoop of coal would be tossed in too.  A short time later the damper was shut so all the coals and logs would glow with a steady fire all night.  If no one stoked the fire, it would often go out and the house would quickly cool down to nearly outside temperature.

Good and godly leaders stoke the fires with the wood of prayer and pour on the coals of God’s Word to keep zeal burning through the long night.  But when the leader is gone and the  fire is not being stoked with fresh wood and coal, complacency sets in with our walk with the Lord. This happened in the time after  the death of Joshua.  Joshua left some elders who stoked the fire for a time.  They passed from the nation as well.  The next generation arose without a personal experience of God’s mighty miracles and deliverance.  This generation began to drift into idolatry and the bondage of sin.  Isn’t it funny, drift is always away from the Lord!

The cycle is recorded in Judges.  After the death of Joshua and the elders, the nation drifted into sin and idolatry.  God got angry and sold them into slavery to an oppressing nation.  The people cried out to the Lord and he heard them and raised up another leader who would deliver them.  Then there would be a time of peace during the life of that leader (Judge).  After the leader’s death, the cycle would begin again.  (Judges 2:10-19)  This is repeated seven times in the Book of Judges!

I see this kind of cycle also present in our culture today.  A godly leader teaches and preaches and lives out God’s Word and a revival springs up in a home or church or city.  (That leader can be a father or mother, pastor or Sunday School teacher, or a janitor who loves the Lord.) The fires of the Spirit are stoked with prayer and faithful, anointed preaching of the whole counsel of God.  A generation is set on fire and the wind of the Spirit  brings salvations, healing, and deliverance.  The land enjoys peace until another generation arises who did not experience God moving.  They fall into bondage as they drift away from the Lord.  God looks for another godly leader who will pray and preach to stoke the fire again!  Will you stoke the fires of the Spirit today by praying and reading God’s holy Word?  God will anoint you afresh with the Holy Spirit and Fire from on high!  (Matthew 3:11)

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Pastor’s Walk Podcast: Exodus Summary Part 2 (14-19)

In this podcast Pastor John continues his summary of the book of Exodus. Pastor John’s primary focus is on chapters 14-19.

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“As for me and my house!”

Scripture reading for March 9: Joshua 22-24

I like it when someone takes a stand!  Its been said that “if you don’t stand for something, then you will fall for anything.”  I  am not ashamed to tell people that I love Jesus Christ!  I often confess this when I speak to people.  I also have repeatedly told my children that our family serves the Lord and we are known as followers of Christ.  I believe in confessing this publicly!  I don’t want the Lord to be ashamed of me because I have been ashamed of Him! (Luke 9:26)

In our reading today Joshua is giving his farewell address to the people God had allowed him the privilege of leading.  He had lived a hundred and ten years and was wise about the tendencies of his brothers and sisters.  He knew by personal experience that they were stubborn and rebellious.  He was making a strong statement to those he was leaving behind to provoke them to serve the Lord.  There is something about confessing our convictions that helps us to be more established in them.  When we take a public stand and let others hear our heart, it is harder to go back on our word.  Life and death are in the power of our tongue. (Proverbs 18:21)  The tongue is like the rudder of a ship that directs our life.  (James 3:4-5)

The closing chapter records the famous confession of Joshua:”. . .but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)  This confession has stood over the years as a beacon to fathers, pastors, and those who fear the Lord.  It brought a positive statement from the Israelites as well!  (Joshua 24:16-18)  After the positive response,  why does Joshua speak negatively about the people’s ability to follow through with serving the Lord?  Joshua states:  “You are not able to serve the Lord.  He is a holy God; he is a jealous God.  He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.  If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end to you, after he has been good to you.” (Joshua 24:19-20)

I believe that Joshua knew these people too well.  He also had Moses’ song and God’s prophetic word that told of these people’s future unfaithfulness.  (Deuteronomy 32:15-22)  God had warned these leaders so that they could do what they could to preach and prepare the people to avoid these temptations of idolatry and unfaithfulness.  Joshua also knew God’s holiness and his jealous nature!  (Exodus 34:14)  God would not put up with these sins.  Good preaching exposes sin and rebellion and leads people to repentance.  This is God’s way of helping His people and showing them love!

Take time today to make a strong confession of faith to someone close to you who needs to hear it!  Use Joshua’s challenge and pray that it will provoke a response of positive confession in those you speak it to!  “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”

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Sunday Rest and Reflection–Patience

As I read this book of Joshua and think about what he faced in his lifetime, I am reminded of my need for patience.  Patience takes strength and courage.  When you know what the Lord has said and nobody around you is listening or walking in faith it is hard to have patience.  When all around you grumble and complain and see only the problems, it’s hard to be positive and not loose your temper.

Joshua had to wait 40 years to enter his inheritance.  He saw it as one of the spies and understood from God’s Word that He it belonged to them.  He knew that God would help them with the walled cities and the giants.  He had a good attitude and a good confession.  He tore his clothes and pleaded with the people when they rebelled at Kadesh. (Numbers 14:5-9) He faithfully served Moses for the 40 years of wandering.  He was a good second man to Moses.   You never see him trying to usurp authority or grab anything for himself.  He walked with those who were destined to die in the wilderness and kept his focus.  He was so faithful that he was chosen by God to lead Israel after Moses’s departure.  The Bible tells us that the first requirement of a steward is that they be found faithful!  (1st Corinthians 4:2)  Joshua was faithful through the hard times and patient to wait until God’s time came for him to enter and possess his inheritance.

As you take time to rest and pray today, thank God for his faithfulness in sending His son Jesus Christ!  He is our Joshua.  He keeps a good attitude even when we whine and complain.  He walks with us faithfully.  He kept God’s Word perfectly and is the only one who can take us into the “promised land’!  He took the lowest place of a servant and God exhalted Him to the hightest place of authority.  His patience with us is amazing!  What courage and strength it took for Him to save us!  Are you letting patience have it’s perfect work in your life today?  Have a great day of rest and refreshing!  Remember to gather with others of faith and worship the Lord!  God bless you!  Pastor John

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“Not one promise has failed!”

Scripture reading for March 7th: Joshua 18-21

“So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there.  The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as He had sworn to their forefathers.  Not one of their enemies withstood them, the Lord handed all their enemies over to them.  Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” (Joshua 21:43-45)

God is faithful to His people!  I have lived nearly 62 years and found this to be true personally.  Our family has been through a number of trials during our journey here on earth.  When we farmed, we experienced a severe drought in 1974 and harvested very little.  We had been farming only a few years and really could not stand a crop failure.  But God brought us through!  We had a fire in 1975 that destroyed a large hog building and a large number of animals.  It was the only building that was not listed on the insurance policy!  God brought us through again!  In 1976 we had a tornado strike our farm.  It destroyed barns, cattle sheds, machine sheds and trees on both sides of our house.  We all survived and God took us through!  In 1981 a severe economic crisis hit agriculture as a result of government policies and high interest rates.  Many farmers lost their farms and we were deeply in debt, too.  God showed us a plan and brought us through again!  In 2001, we were 2 miles from the center of a 6.9 earthquake that shook our house, church and city in Olympia, Washington.  God brought us through again!  I could go on, but I am sure you are understanding my point about God’s faithfulness!

In today’s reading, Joshua is dividing the land because the war in Canaan to possess the land is essentially over. (Joshua 18:2)  It took seven years of fighting and following God’s instructions.  Not one enemy could stand up against them when they were obedient!  Not one promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ever failed!  God’s Word is a proven commodity.  When everything else in the world is shaking and the worst appears to have happened, God is faithful and His Word is true!

“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as He has promised.  Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave through his servant Moses.” 1st Kings 8:56

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

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“Give me that mountain!”

Scripture reading for March 6: Joshua 13-17

Some people are positive and exude strength and courage!  God commanded Joshua and the nation of Israel to be strong and courageous! (Joshua 1:8)  When we choose to believe God’s Word and act on it, our lives change from sight-driven to faith-driven.  Caleb’s destiny changed from “dying in the desert” to “possessing the promised land”!  In our reading today, we listen in on Caleb as he prepares to receive his portion of inheritance in the promised land.

Caleb and Joshua are the only two left out of 603,550 Israelite males that left Mt. Sinai for the promised land. (Numbers 1:46)  They were two of the twelve spies and the only ones to bring back a good report!  God rewarded them by sparing their lives and allowing them to have what they proclaimed in faith!  (Numbers 14:24) Caleb’s inheritance included the fortress at Hebron where the Anakites lived. (Joshua 14:15)   They were large people and renowned fighters.  This made no difference to Caleb!  He was still confident in God’s ability to give him the land! (Joshua 14:12)  Joshua blessed Caleb and sent him off to his inheritance!

Caleb is one of my favorite people in the Bible.  He exudes confidence!  He maintains an attitude of faith and confidence even in his older years.  At 85 we find him strong and vigorous and ready for battle!  He isn’t in retirement or sitting out life in a rocking chair.  He understands what belongs to him, and is ready to take it and possess it!  He is praising God and making the good confession!  That’s my kind of man!

What obstacle do you face today?  What excuses have you been making for not attacking it?  Learn from Caleb how to walk by faith and confess God’s ability to help you!  “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for  forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert.  So here I am today, 85 years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day! You yourself heard  that the Anakites were there and that their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as He said!” (Joshua 14:10-12)

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The Sun Stood Still!

Scripture reading for March 5th: Joshua 9-12

Sometimes the days aren’t long enough to get done everything that we would like to.  Joshua had just such a day when he responded to the call to help the Gibeonites. Joshua prayed to the Lord and asked God to cause the sun to stand still while the nation of Israel attacked it’s enemies.  God listened and a great miracle helped bring victory!

The Gibeonites had earlier deceived the Israelites in order to save their own lives.  Joshua made a covenant with them and then found out that they had lied to him. (Joshua 9:22-23)  As a result, this Canaanite tribe became servants to Joshua and Israel.  A lack of prayer and discernment caused this problem.  A short time later, five Amorite kings had formed an alliance and were attacking Gibeon.  God spoke to Joshua and told him to go and attack and He would give him the victory.  (Joshua 10:7-8)  Joshua and his troops marched all night long and the fight was on.  God helped the Israelites out with a heavy downpour of hailstones, killing more of the enemy than did the Israelites!  The fight was going well, but daylight would soon be gone.  Joshua prayed to the Lord.  God listened to this man and the sun literally stood still in the sky for nearly a day! (Joshua 10:12-14)

This miracle is very interesting because of what must have happened to bring it about.  For the sun to stand still in the sky, the earth had to quit rotating!  This would be very difficult because the earth is rotating at 24,000 miles per hour!  The moon would stand still too!  It is orbiting the earth!  Only God could make this happen!  The hail storm that killed the enemy but did not affect the Israelites is also a miracle! (Joshua 10:11)

At the end of this story, Joshua brings the five kings out of the cave and has his men put their feet on the kings’ necks. (Joshua 10:24-25)   He again instructs them to be strong and courageous!  They get a visual picture of victory and what God wants us to do to our enemy Satan!  (Romans 16:20)  God alone gets the glory for these victories!

What do we learn from this ancient record of Joshua’s exploits?  With God, nothing is impossible!  (Luke 1:37)  If we ask Him in faith for what we need, He is able to deliver even the most difficult and impossible requests. Joshua was responding to God’s directions in his battle.  He chose the all-night march as a surprise factor.  The journey would have been over 20 miles at night with a 3000 foot gain in altitude!  He felt he needed more time to subdue this enemy and simply asked!  Do you have a request that sounds too difficult for the Lord today?  Ask Him!

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