Thoroughly Equipped: The Lion of Judah

Today’s reading includes Judges 1:1-2:9, Luke 21:29-22:13, Psalm 90:1-91:16, Proverbs 13:24-25.

Today’s reading begins a new book of the Old Testament, as well as a new season in the life of the Israelites.  It begins with a big sigh and a question.  It is time to pick up the pieces and go forward, despite the death of the leader.  Upon first glance, I saw that the Israelites are finally seeking the Lord themselves.  They aren’t waiting for a leader to see the Lord on their behalf.

“After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Which tribe should go first to attack the Canaanites?”

    Judges 1:1

What strikes me as interesting, is that they knew what they must do, and they knew who to ask how to do it.  They had observed Moses and Joshua, and now it was time to follow their example on their own.  Remember, the story of Noah’s sons?  One was cursed because of his behavior towards his dad.  The other two were blessed, with one more blessed than the other.

The blessing Noah bestowed on his sons was distributed in this order:

Shem first

Then Japheth

Then Ham, or Canaan, who received a curse

Why is this information important?  First of all, the Canaanites, Ham’s descendants, became enemies of the Israelites.  The Canaanites occupied the Promised Land, which was promised to the Israelites.  The Canaanites followed false gods, and God warned His people not to be overcome nor influenced by the Canaanites.

The Israelites, on the other hand, were direct descendants of Shem.  Abraham was a direct descendent of Shem, as was Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s sons, which formed the tribes of Israel.  So, now the Israelites are in the Promise land, ready to conqueror what is rightfully theirs.  And they pose the question, “Which tribe will go first to attack the Canaanites?”

The Lord answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.”

   Judges 1:2

This answer the Lord gave was not only practical—He would give them victory at that time—it was also prophetic.  You will remember that Judah was not the first-born son.  He was actually the fourth son of Jacob.  But it was Judah, whose name meant “This time I will praise the Lord”, who would be in the direct lineage of the only One who can truly defeat our enemies.  Judah was a direct ancestor of Jesus.

In his time of blessing over his son, Jacob spoke these words:

“Judah,[b] your brothers will praise you;
    your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
    you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
    like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[c]
until he to whom it belongs[d] shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
    his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
    his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine,
    his teeth whiter than milk.[e]

                                                                   Genesis 49:8-12

There is so much we could dissect in that blessing, but today I want you to see the prophetic word spoken over Judah, which would have prophetically been passed down to his ancestors.  They were the lions–the “king of the jungle”, the fierce, the brave, the conquerors.  Most importantly, they carried the Seed who would fulfill this part of the prophesy:  “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come…”  He, to whom it belongs, is the Lion of Judah–Jesus the conquering Christ.

And so we read in this passage about God’s chosen tribe, the tribe of Judah, going forth and conquering the Canaanites.  They had great victory, much more than any of the other tribes.  The others tried, and conquered some, but over and over we see that they failed to drive out their enemies.  Perhaps because they were not reliant upon the Lion of Judah to come, as were the tribe of Judah.

Now, the conquering Christ has sent His Holy Spirit to those who believe.  And for this reason, we, too, can conquer our enemies, our sins, our trials, our temptations.  We have the Lion of Judah on our side, and we fight our battles in His strength, not our own.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k]neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                                                                                Romans 8:31-39

 


Thoroughly Equipped: The Stones Will Cry Out

Today’s reading includes Joshua 24:1-33, Luke 21:1-28, Psalm 89:38-52, Proverbs 13:20-23.

We have made it through another book of the Bible.  At the beginning of the book of Joshua, we found him gathering stones from the middle of the Jordan River, as he led the people into the Promise land.   The purpose of the stones was to be stones of remembrance.  At the Lord’s command, Joshua said to the people.

“In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?  Tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’  

For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over.  The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

                              Joshua 4:21-24

The Lord wanted them to take the stones from the Jordan because He knew them so well.  He knew they were a forgetful people.  They were forgetful about who He is, what He can do and what He requires.  So for the rest of Joshua’s life, He was called to remember.  Joshua gathered the stones from the River Jordan as they entered the Promised Land, and this was just the beginning.

As we continued studying about Joshua, we found that throughout his time of leadership he and/or the people were called to gather stones of remembrance seven different times.  Notice that holy number seven! The seventh time that Joshua was called to gather stones of remembrance was just before his death.  Here is a list of the seven times of gathering stones of remembrance.

  1. Joshua 4:20—Stones from the River Jordan
  1. Joshua 7:26—Large pile of rocks gathered as a memorial of how they weeded out sin and evil from among the people.
  1. Joshua 8:29—Large pile of rocks gathered as a memorial of victory over their enemies.
  1. Joshua 8:32—Gathered large stones and copied the commandments as a memorial of renewed decision to follow God.
  1. Joshua 10:27—A pile of stones gathered to cover their defeated enemies.
  1. Joshua 22:31—Built an altar of stones as a testimony and reminder that the people and their future generations would stay true to God.
  1. Joshua 24:26—Gathered all the people together to remember their great journey, and to renew their covenant with God.

We have already studied the first episode when they gathered the stones from the River Jordan.  Now, let’s look at the last time Joshua was called to gather stones.  This is found in Joshua 23 and 24.

“After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years,  summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them: “I am old and well advanced in years.  You yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you. Remember…”          

                                                                                Joshua 23:1-3

And then Joshua began to instruct the people for the last time.  This is what he told them: “Be very strong:  be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left” (Joshua 23:6).  Compare that to what Joshua heard over and over from the Lord himself, when He first became leader:

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go”                          

                                                             Joshua 1:7, 9

He passed the wisdom on to the others.  And that wisdom had now been tested and proved throughout his lifetime. Then, he goes on to give more instruction:

“But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now. The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you.  One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised.  So be very careful to love the LORD your God…You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed.  Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”                                                                                                                                            

                                                        Joshua 23:8-11, 14

And then he gathered all the people together, and he called them to remember the great journey on which God had led them.  Then he challenged them, through remembering, to renew their covenant.  He said, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”         Joshua 24:15

The people renewed their covenant to their faithful God.  And then Joshua called them to action.  They were to do two things:

  1. They were to throw away and rid themselves from all false gods.
  2. They were to yield their hearts to the Lord.

The people enthusiastically agreed.  Joshua drew up a “plan of obedience”…decrees and laws.  He took a large stone and he set it up under the oak, as a stone of remembrance of their moment of decision to follow the Lord wholeheartedly.

This proved to be Joshua’s final assignment from God.  He died right after setting up this final stone of remembrance.  With this seventh Stone, Joshua could rest.  Seven being the number of completeness and perfection signified that with this last stone, Joshua had completed his ministry.  Sounds much like Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

With these seven different piles of stones of remembrance scattered throughout the land, the land itself shouted the story of God’s faithful promises: the wonderful Promised Land.  We can understand with greater clarity the encounter with Jesus found in Luke 19: 37-40:

“When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 

‘“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ 

      ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ 

“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’

‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’”

Joshua learned most of all to remember who God is, what He has and can do.  To remember that He is an extraordinary God who loves to work in the lives of ordinary people.    Gather your own stones of remembrance, that they, too, can cry out the truth of God and His faithfulness.


Thoroughly Equipped: Christ, Our Refuge

Today’s reading includes Joshua 21:1-22:20, Luke 20:1-26, Psalm 89:1-13, Proverbs 13:15-16.

Today’s reading speaks of the Cities of Refuge, which had been commanded by Moses, but were now able to be put into action.  The Old Testament is focused on blood.  Blood shed by man cursed the land and cursed the one who shed the blood.  And these consequences could affect generations.  If a man shed blood, even if it was accidental, he subjected himself, his family, and the land itself to a curse.  The remedy was the shedding of that man’s blood.  Blood covered blood.

In Deuteronomy, the concept of the Cities of Refuge was described, but in this chapter, the actual cities were assigned.  Each of the tribal land allotments had a City of Refuge within its territory.  Geographically, the Cities of Refuge were set upon the hills of the Promise land.  According to Matthew Henry,

These cities were upon hills to be seen afar off, for a city on a hill cannot be hid; and this would both direct and encourage the poor distressed man that was making that way; and, though therefore his way at last was up-hill, yet this would comfort him, that he would be in his place of safety quickly, and if he could but get into the suburbs of the city he was well enough off. 

The Cities of Refuge were also spread out in equal distances from each other, so throughout the Promise land the Cities of Refuge were accessible to all.   The Cities of Refuge were inhabited not only by the ones seeking refuge and covering from their accidental sin, but they were also inhabited by the Levites, which Matthew Henry calls “God’s tribe”.

Most significantly, the Cities of Refuge were symbolic and prophetic of the coming Savior.  Matthew Henry had these beautiful words to say:

Some observe a significancy in the names of these cities with application to Christ our refuge. I delight not in quibbling upon names, yet am willing to take notice of these. Kedesh signifies holy, and our refuge is the holy Jesus. Shechem, a shoulder, and the government is upon his shoulder. Hebron, fellowship, and believers are called into the fellowship of Christ Jesus our Lord. Bezer, a fortification, for he is a strong-hold to all those that trust in him. Ramoth, high or exalted, for him hath God exalted with his own right hand. Golan, joy or exultation, for in him all the saints are justified, and shall glory. Lastly, Besides all these, the horns of the altar, wherever it was, were a refuge to those who took hold of them, if the crime were such as that sanctuary allowed. This is implied in that law (Ex. 21:14 ), that a wilful murderer shall be taken from God’s altar to be put to death. And we find the altar used for this purpose. 1 Ki. 1:50 1 Ki. 2:28 . Christ is our altar, who not only sanctifies the gift, but protects the giver.

The biggest truth we can glean is wrapped up in the realization that in the Old Testament is Christ concealed, in the New Testament is Christ revealed.  The Cities of Refuge were a concealed representation of Jesus, the Savior to come.  We no longer need a city to run to.  We have a Savior to run to.  He is our eternal refuge.  Meditate on the following verses and rejoice in the truth they bring.

 

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

 Psalm 46:1-3 

 

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”

                                                                             Psalm 91:2

 

“The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms; 

                                                                      Deuteronomy 33:27

 

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.

                                                                            Proverbs 18:10


Thoroughly Equipped: Boundary Lines

Today’s reading includes Joshua 19:1-20:9, Luke 19:28-48, Psalm 88:1-18, Proverbs 13:12-14.

For the past two chapters, we have been reading about the boundary lines of the Promise land.  As you remember, after the Exodus from Egypt, the tribes of Israel were made to wander in the wilderness for forty years because of their sins (Deuteronomy 8:2). According to the folks at www.biblestudy.org, after this time period, Joshua lead the people into the Promised land in 1405 B.C. Seven years later, in 1398, the land of Canaan is divided by lot among the children of Israel (Joshua 14).  Look at those holy numbers!  They spent 40 years wandering.  This represents cleansing and preparation.  Then they spent 7 years conquering the land.  This represents completion and perfection.  The land was divided among the tribes, although the tribe of Levi, the priests, did not have an allotment, for they had spots throughout each area.  Remember that Joseph’s allotment was divided between his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who each became a tribe.  So, the Levites were removed and Joseph’s allotment was divided into two, so there were still twelve tribes and twelve allotments.  These allotments were assigned to them—given as a gift.  I see that they didn’t vie for the position or request certain territory. The only exception was that the tribes of Reuben and Gad, along with half of the tribe of Manasseh wanted to stay east of the Jordan, while all the others were west of the Jordan.  Even though those 3 groups did not want to officially live inside the Promise land, but stay on the outer edges, they were still required to fight and conquer the Promise land along with their brothers.

Two thoughts came to mind when I read these passages.  First of all, each were given an allotment.  They accepted their allotment and settled there.  They didn’t fight their brothers for what had been given to them, nor even seem to request specific areas.  They saw their allotment as a gift from God.

We, too, have certain “allotments”.  We have certain “territories” of influence.  We have certain giftedness and talents to offer the world.  We can look around us and long for the allotment of others.  We can wish for a different territory of influence.  Or we can accept it all as a gift and bloom where we are planted.  Comparison kills calling.  We all have a calling from God.  We were all called for a specific purpose in His great plan.  We should not look around us and compare our calling to the calling of another.  Ours is ours and theirs is theirs.  Instead, we should be grateful that we have been called, that we have been given a territory or allotment in the first place.

I love this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Secondly, God is in control of the allotments and His plan is greater than we could ever imagine.  He has His reasons, which may take generations to see, of why He called us to a task, a job, or a territory of influence.  When you look at a map of the territory allotments, you see a glimpse of the coming plan.  For example, Bethlehem was in the territory of Judah.  Jesus was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem, and Jesus was in lineage of the tribe of Judah.  Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to register for a census, which was based on their tribe, which is why they were in Bethlehem when she gave birth to the Son of God.  There are reasons we can’t always see.  But we trust that we have a good God, who is our good Heavenly Father.  We can trust His gifts to us and His plan for us.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

                                                Psalm 16:5-6


Thoroughly Equipped: Schedule for April Readings

We are over halfway through our April reading.  Though I have listed the passages each day, I failed to post a comprehensive list for the month for those who may want to read ahead.  So, here you go!  Keep reading!  Even if you miss a day or two, just pick up where you left off.  There is so much the Lord wants to teach us, and it is through His Word that our lives are transformed.

April 19:  Joshua 19:1-20:9, Luke 19:28-48, Psalm 88:1-18, Proverbs 13:12-14.

April 20:  Joshua 21:1-22:20, Luke 20:1-26, Psalm 89:1-13, Proverbs 13:15-16.

April 21:  Joshua 22:21-23:16, Luke 20:27-47, Psalm 89:14-37, Proverbs 13:17-19.

April 22:  Joshua 24:1-33, Luke 21:1-28, Psalm 89:38-52, Proverbs 13:20-23.

April 23:  Judges 1:1-2:9, Luke 21:29-22:13, Psalm 90:1-91:16, Proverbs 13:24-25.

April 24:  Judges 2:10-3:31, Luke 22:14-34, Psalm 92:1-93:5, Proverbs 14:1-2.

April 25:  Judges 4:1-5:31, Luke 22:35-53, Psalm 94:1-23, Proverbs 14:3-4.

April 26:  Judges 6:1-40, Luke 22:54-23:12, Psalm 95:1-96:13, Proverbs 14:5-6.

April 27:  Judges 7:1-8:17, Luke 23:13-43, Psalm 97:1-98:9, Proverbs 14:7-8.

April 28:  Judges 8:18-9:21, Luke 23:44-24:12, Psalm 99:1-9, Proverbs 14:9-10.

April 29:  Judges 9:22-10:18, Luke 24:13-53, Psalm 100:1-5, Proverbs 14:11-12.

April 30:  Judges 11:1-12:15, John 1:1-28, Psalm 101:1-8, Proverbs 14:13-14.