It’s So Shiny! (Judges 1-3)

Friday, September 30

nikki-fri-1

Nikki Green

Joshua spends significant time during his life encouraging the Israelites to remember.  Remember… the commands of Moses, the allotted inheritance, all the LORD has done for you… However – we soon see, what appears to be, short term memory loss as we jump into the book of Judges.  I think many of us, as Christians, want to make great choices… then we see something attractive, fun, accessible, & maybe a little shiny.  We think we want it and we can handle it.  As you look at our friends from Finding Nemo staring at the shiny object, they feel happy and mesmerized by something they aren’t familiar with –but it’s close and it’s shiny and hard to turn away from.  The period of Judges spotlights some dark times and poor choices made by God’s chosen people.  The Israelites seem to trap themselves in a repetitive cycle throughout this book.  They persist in forgetting the LORD and follow a pattern of: sin, bondage, deliverance by a Judge, blessing, death of the Judge, and sin again.  It seems their shiny lure comes in the form of heathen people and their idols.

nikki-fri-2      nikki-fri-3

 

 

 

“The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (Judges 3:7).  “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them … into the hands of …the king of Aram” (Judges 3:8).  Their shiny idols and lifestyle changes have now turned on them.  (Notice Dory’s shiny attraction turned on her too).  They were greatly oppressed for 8 years by these pagans.  God raised up Othniel (Caleb’s nephew) to deliver his people.  He went to war and overpowered the enemy, and the land had peace for 40 years.

It would be great if the Israelites brushed up on their history lessons and took a stroll down memory lane, but no!  They revert to their ever-so-popular repetitive cycle of sin.  The shiny idols and old pattern of infidelity reasserts itself.  They once again fall into the hands of their enemy.  This enemy is King Eglon of Moab and they are overpowered for 18 years.  We see a cry for help, and God is faithful to give them a deliverer.  Ehud is clever and uses his gifts of left-handedness and wit to his advantage.  He made an 18 inch double-edged sword and strapped it to his right thigh.  He secured this under his clothing when he joined other Israelites to present tribute to the king of Moab and his thugs.  Ehud and his men left the tribute and headed back to their people – but Ehud stopped and returned alone to the king.  As Ehud approached big ol’ King Eglon, I am sure the king and his guards were keeping their eyes on Ehud’s right hand – the expected offensive strong arm.  Ehud used a technique on the king that he couldn’t resist.  A little bait and hook!  Maybe this was King Eglon’s moment to want something special and shiny just for himself.  Ehud said, “I have a secret message for you, O King” (Judges 3:19).  Eglon was intrigued and selfish enough to want this all to himself!  He sent everyone out of the room.  He was ready for his special message.  Ehud approached him and told him he had “… a secret message from God for you” (3:20).  The King didn’t see it coming… Ehud used his dominant left hand to grab the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly.  Following this sneaky execution, Ehud led the Israelites in battle against the Moabites and won.  They had peace for 80 years.

Each time the Israelites relapsed to their infuriating cycle of sin, God was faithful to their cries to Him for help.  Judges 2:18 tells us, “Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.”

We don’t know a lot about Shamgar, the third judge of Israel.  We do know he killed 600 Philistines with only an ox goad and he too saved Israel.  The Philistines were wise enough to realize if one man can defeat that many men with one farmer’s tool (long pole with a sharp metal point for herding oxen), maybe they should walk away.  If one man could do that – what could a dozen men, armed with ox goads, do?!  God’s power was written all over this story.  Why the Israelites couldn’t just hang out in the “deliverance by a Judge/ blessing” portion of their repetitive cycle… who knows?? Maybe too many shiny choices?  Let’s not allow distractions or shiny things to blind us.  We can attract others for the kingdom by reflecting God’s radiant light.  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Let’s remember everything the LORD has done.  Let’s also turn away from sinful (shiny) desires… and, in the words of Dory, “just keep swimming!”

nikki-fri-4

 

Advertisements

May Our Choices be Righteous & Courageous! (Joshua 22-24)

Thursday, September 29

joshua-24

Nikki Green

As we wrap up the book of Joshua, we find our strong and courageous leader in the last days of his life.  Joshua calls the twelve tribes together to review all God had done for His people.  Joshua states that the LORD fought for Israel and drove out the other nations.  He urges the Israelites to remain faithful to God.  He warns them not to worship foreign gods or marry outside the Israelite nation.  He cautions them not to disobey – not to turn to the right or the left.  The theme of courage is echoed again.  He reminds them that what God gave, He can take away.  The land has always been His.  Joshua’s words of wisdom lead to a choice when he says, “Choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 14:15).  The Israelite people responded with the commitment, “We will serve the LORD, for He is our God” (Josh 24:18).

After the remarkable history lesson and reflection on the mighty deeds of God, we read that Joshua died at age 110.  He was buried in the land of his inheritance – the Promised Land.  Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua, which speaks volumes about his leadership and authority.  The book of Joshua ends with the completion of a generation of heroes.  We are reminded of Moses and Aaron, the dynamic duo, who began this great land repossession quest.  Joshua and Eleazar, the priest, jump in and prove to be the next generation of heroes.  Joshua was mentored by Moses.  Eleazar was the son of Aaron, Moses’ brother, and received outstanding mentorship from these men as well.  The book ends with the death of these “super men” and symbolically completes the story of conquest and conquer as “The LORD Saves” (Big thanks to Moses for Joshua’s new name & the answer to what we all need)!

 

 

What is Your Refuge? (Joshua 19-21)

Wednesday, September 28

nikki-wed-1

Nikki Green

The Israelites were given the privilege to celebrate the LORD as their military general, intelligence leader, informant, strategist, defender, King, and Promise Keeper.   Joshua followed the orders of his commander in chief and finished up the land divisions.  Inheritance was finally bestowed on him, as well, and he received the town of Timnah Serah in the hill country of Ephraim.  Joshua rebuilt the town and settled down.  He was reminded many times through his career to be strong and courageous.  He listened and believed – and the LORD granted him success.

nikki-wed-2

The LORD requested Joshua to set aside cities of refuge for those guilty of accidentally causing someone’s death.  Moses heard this command also, in Numbers 35:9.  This was the beginning of the judicial system for God’s people.  If someone had been accused of murder and was a fugitive, they could find sanctuary as they awaited judgement.  They could flee to one of these designated cities of refuge, stand at the gate, and state their case.  The elders of the city would allow the fugitive to enter their city and provide a place of protection for them to live as they awaited trial.  These people, awaiting trial, were safe there, as long as the high priest was alive.  How grateful I am to have a high priest who never dies!  “The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).

 

It’s Time to HERO UP! (Joshua 15-18)

Tuesday, September 27

nikki-tues

Nikki Green

We need heroes who will conquer the giants of life.  Giants will persist as long as we let them.  We see literal giants hang around for 45 years, occupying the land promised by God, as Caleb waits to take on his old nemesis.  We have learned that Hebron was given to the tribe of Judah.  Caleb quickly “heroes up” and drives the giants out of his God given land (Josh.15:14).   Caleb was not only a mighty man of bold action, but also a man who encouraged others to great and bold deeds.  He did this by offering his daughter in marriage to the man who was brave and courageous enough to conquer a city to have her.  Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, was up for the challenge.  He takes the city and then collect his compensation, a wife -the daughter of one of the greatest heroes on earth.  Achsah, the bride, is okay with marrying this guy, but is not okay with living in the desert.  She asks her dad for land with springs of water.  She imitates her dad’s boldness and asks for what she wants.  We see God, the Father of the Israelites, give choice land to his kids and now we see Caleb do the same for his child.  As insignificant as daughters may have been to some people in that day, I love that her dad got her a quality man, a hero in his own rite.  Then we see Caleb ask her “What can I do for you?”  She replied, “Do me a special favor.  Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.”  (Josh. 15:18-19).  A dad doing something special for his little girl – I love this!  And it seems he doubles what she requested – not one, but two areas of springs.  He gives her land with upper and lower springs (Josh. 15:19).

Joshua continues divvying up land for the Israelites.  Sadly not all were like Caleb and Othniel, willing to put in the effort, time, or energy to drive out the Canaanites.  As God’s people took over the land, they began making compromises that later get them into trouble.  Many of the people decided, instead of fighting and destroying the enemy – they will just do what’s convenient and create a forced labor from these people.  This may have seemed innocent but it opened their hearts, eventually, to idolatry and struggles they should have never had to deal with.  This becomes a giant that keeps popping up because it wasn’t handled properly.  The Israelites did not fully conquer their immoral enemies, they disobeyed God and fell short of what He had for them.  How sad they couldn’t see the challenge in front of them, and get rid of all evil in their sight.  We will soon watch their personal giant show up time and time again, as significant struggles in the days of the Judges.

We all have giants that need conquered.  Anyone, like Caleb, had to deal with such an adversary for 45 years?  Is your giant taking up residence where it doesn’t belong?  Let’s be bold, brave, and courageous in our thoughts, actions, and requests.  God gives the victory to His kids.  He wants to bless us with more than we even know to ask for.  Time to HERO UP Friends!

Requesting war with giants on their home turf – super crazy or super hero? (Joshua 11-14)

Monday, September 26

nikki-mon

Nikki Green

In 1933 two Jewish boys had an idea for a super hero.  This hero was an outsider, taken from home, and dropped in a strange land.  He believed in justice and truth.  His role would be to save people.  This soon became the legend of Superman.  This brings to mind a similar story.  Moses was dropped in the land of Egypt and became the hero God’s people needed.  He stood up to the Pharaoh and delivered the Israelites from slavery.  As we moved through the Bible, Joshua becomes the Moses 2.0.  Joshua 11:15 reminds us “As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.” Joshua followed God’s commands and led Israel to ultimately take over all the royal cities and their kings.  Chapter 12 reiterates, without any exaggeration or embellishment, the many victories of God’s hero, Joshua.  The Israelites had followed this great man through warfare and were now ready to receive their inheritance.

Joshua, the chief priest, and the heads of the twelve tribes oversaw the allotment of God’s Promised Land.  Joshua seems to barely wrap up his military duties and has to quickly take on the responsibilities of property management and administration.  He assigned lots as God commanded through Moses.  The Levites had not been granted an inheritance in terms of land.  The sons of Joseph had become two tribes (Manasseh and Ephraim), since Jacob had adopted them as his own (Gen 48:5).  This made it possible to have the twelve part nation.  The Levites carried out religious duties for the Israelites.  They were given cities to live in, but were not land owners “because the Lord the God of Israel himself is their inheritance” (Deut. 18:2).

We need heroes that show us how to follow God wholeheartedly.  Caleb, from the tribe of Judah, had joined Joshua 45 years earlier as one of the twelve spies sent by Moses to scout out the Promised Land.  Caleb boldly approached Joshua, on behalf of his tribe, and requested exactly what both men had heard Moses promise to Caleb, because he “followed the LORD wholeheartedly” (Josh. 14:8).  This is where the hero-status jumps up to a whole new level!  The land Caleb was requesting was not void of “bad guys”.  As a matter of fact, if you remember the “giants” that terrified 10 of the 12 spies – they were inhabiting this land.  Caleb admits he’s 85 years old and says he’s still as strong as the day Moses sent him out.  He says he’s ready to go out to battle.  “Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day.  You yourself heard that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” (Josh.14:12).  Why does the Bible name the folks living there?  The 3 sons of Anach (Sheshai, Ahiman, & Talmai) were also known as 3 clans of giants – the stuff legends are made of.  We watch 85 year old Caleb request the large, fortified cities, full of giants, & on a hill – for his retirement package.  I wouldn’t have blamed him if he requested land near the river, shaded with palm trees, and free of his enemies!  In his old age, he did what the rest of Israel could not and would not do – he believed in God’s word & defeated the giants (and their fortified cities) on their home turf.  (Josh 15:14).  He won and took up residence in Hebron, something he’d probably envisioned for his tribe for more than four decades.

2 Cor.16:9 tells us “the eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him”.  Young and old can learn from Caleb’s example, as he followed God wholeheartedly – that’s the stuff heroes are made of!  I’m sure those two imaginative Jewish boys heard their fair share of Old Testament Bible stories.  Superman is fun to read about, but as we continue our journey through God’s instruction manual, we have some truly super men to learn from.

 

 

 

Your Name Means WHAT?!? (Joshua 8-10)

Sunday, September 25 – Start of Week 10

nikki-sun

Nikki Green

Do you like your name?  Any clue what it means?  Working as a labor & delivery nurse opened my eyes to many interesting names.  Here are a few that stand out over 20 years: “7” (yes, the number), Anakin Skywalker, Luke Sky Welker, Kal-el Krypton, Beau Ty, A-a (pronounced A-dash-a), Sonny Boy, Sunshine, Tequila, Serenity Bliss (also the name of an incontinence product), Yaz (after the birth control pill that failed), and Benjamin James, The Sequel (not “Jr.” or “II”).  Some of these parents created names, hoping to lead them into a specific character or vocation.  Some were placing blame.  7’s mom was hoping for a rock star, she said.

Hebrew names given to people & places were more than just labels.  Joshua was renamed by Moses (Numbers 13:16), anticipating his later life mission.  “The LORD Saves” was a great name, and great reminder that Joshua would be completing the mission of redemption that the LORD started with Moses.  As we read Joshua 8 we get a glimpse at God’s specific, military direction, and how much better life plays out when everyone follows God’s game plan, not their own.  We get to read the excitement that goes with hiding, ambush, and claiming their promised land.  We also see how God blesses his army with wealth by giving permission, this time, to carry off the plunder and livestock they find.

In Exodus 23:32 the Israelites had been forewarned not to form any alliance with local people.  Joshua had been working hard at living out the destiny Moses prepared him for.  He was a problem solver, military leader, and spiritual mentor.  As we all do, he made a mistake.  When a group of people approached him requesting a treaty, he did not inquire of the LORD.  They showed up carrying mended wineskins and moldy bread, dressed in worn out clothes and patched sandals.  It appeared they had traveled quite a distance and were not a “local people,” but it was all a scam.  They were “local people,” only five or six miles away.  Joshua formed a treaty with these deceptive Gibeonites.  Once he realized the sham, he reduced them to being woodcutters and water carriers.  This reminds me that I intentionally need to consult God, not just think “this seems okay, everything looks good”.  We read that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).  The meaning of his evil name is “adversary/one who resists”.

As Joshua continues his calling, he follows what is asked of him by God’s people (and those he’s become responsible for).  Conflict and conquest seem to become a theme for our brave leader.  Chapter 10 describes one of my favorite military strategies.  Who hasn’t ever wished for more time in their day?  Joshua, with complete confidence, knows what will help his men and boldly asks the LORD to have the sun stand still.  The sun stopped and delayed going down about a full day.  Joshua had an all-night march with his men and then took them by surprise.  The LORD threw them into confusion, fought with them by hurling large hailstones from the sky, and gave His people a great victory.

What a blessing to watch someone fulfill their God given purpose.  Joshua’s parents spoke life over him with his birth name, Hoshea.  This name meant Salvation.  Starting with a foundation of “Salvation” and exchanging that name (and need) with “The LORD Saves” (the answer), became a great foreshadowing for his life.  How does your name suit you?  Regardless of the interesting names we were all given at birth, Oh how sweet to know God wants to bless us (like his army), and will call us by name! Isaiah 45:3 says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”

 

Nikki Green considers it a blessing to come from a family of believers.  She’s the daughter of Steve & Betsy (Mattison) Moore.  She married her HS sweetheart, Greg, and they have 3 kiddos (Justin, Natali, & Brendan).  She enjoys teaching Jr. Church, which she’s done since 1989 and loves spending time with her family.  She plays piano at Troy View, while her husband leads worship, and feels blessed to have Dan (& Rachel) Cain leading their congregation.  She loves working as camp nurse-even though most injuries seem to be the FUEL staff! 🙂 She relies on God daily and prays He will use her to further His kingdom.

 

Jericho! (Joshua 5-7)

Saturday, September 24

joshua-lego

By Jill McClain

God told Joshua that the Israelites were going to use a very unusual strategy to conquer the walled city of Jericho. The Israelites marched around the city once every day, for six days.  Then on the seventh day they marched around the city seven times.  On the seventh time around the city they played their trumpets and shouted, and then miraculously the walls surrounding the city came crashing down, so the Israelite army could enter the city and destroy every living thing in the city, except for Rahab and her family. Rahab was spared because she had faithfully assisted the spies that Joshua had earlier sent to the city. God had his people conquer the city of Jericho in such a unique way, so that there would be no doubt that God had been in control and caused the victory.  Do you have a something in your life that seems too large or difficult to overcome?  Do you need to turn your issue over to the Lord and let him help you win the battle?  Listen carefully for signs from God about how you should proceed with your problem.  We read earlier in Joshua that God wants you to remain strong and courageous in your battles against the world and that he will never leave your side.  However, just like the Lord’s army had to obediently march around the city for seven days, there may be actions that the Lord requires of you before you can be victorious in your own battles.

Following the successful battle at Jericho, Joshua sent a portion of the army on to the region of Ai.  There were only a few people living in Ai, so Joshua assumed that it should be an easy victory for his army. However, the Israelites lost 36 of their soldiers in the battle and were quickly defeated and chased out of Ai. At first, Joshua was devastated by their loss and could not understand why God would allow his chosen people to face defeat. Then God revealed to Joshua that one of the Israelites, Achan, had stolen plunder from Jericho for himself, despite God’s specific commands to destroy everything in Jericho. God allowed the Israelites to be defeated at Ai because Achan had been deliberately disobedient.   Are there sins in your own life that you need to seek repentance for?  Are there areas in your life that you need to turn over to God so that you can experience all of his blessings?

 

 

(Note from GROW16BibleReading – feel like some Saturday morning cartoons – here’s a 60 second story of The Battle of Jericho from Taylormation – Enjoy!

If you were making the cartoon, what would you have included?  AND – how can you use each and every one of your talents to please God and spread His Word? )

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94ltRveQVJY