Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won’t be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.
Joshua 5 & 6
Joshua 5 & 6:
A Hill of Foreskins
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins (5.2-3).
I imagine all the men reading this portion of Scripture cringed a little when they read about flint knives, circumcision, and “the hill of foreskins.” I can’t help thinking the men in Joshua’s time, probably, felt the same way.
Their Parents Disobedience
The fact that this second generation had not been circumcised was another symptom of their parents disobedience. But now, before they could go in and take the land God had given them, this covenant sign had to be performed. This must have been a memorable (after all, the hill was named after it) and solemn ceremony.
It was, also, a huge step of faith, since this mass circumcision made them vulnerable to attack. In Genesis 34 we read about an angry brother who convinced a whole village to get circumcised by promising to allow his sister to marry her rapist. While they were weak and in pain, he killed them all in revenge.
God watched over them, but humanly speaking, it was a risky decision. Risk is, often, a reality when you step out in faith.
When you forgive and turn the other cheek, you risk being struck again (Matt. 5.39). When you stand up for the truth, you risk being persecuted (Matt. 23:34-36). When you do what’s right, some people are not going to like it. The world does not like the light. Sometimes you’ll, even, be targeted for your faith.
Just ask Barronelle Stutzman. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, Barronelle is a 72-year old grandmother, a florist, and a follower of Christ. She has been targeted by the State of Washington and people on the left for declining to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
Since then her case has worked it’s way to the Washington Supreme Court where she lost in a 9-0 decision. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, it could cost Barronelle her livelihood and all her assets.
It’s important to understand that Barronelle wasn’t trying to discriminate against the men. She had provided flowers for them on numerous occasions over a 9-year period, but when one of them asked her to provide flowers for their wedding, she declined because of her religious convictions. Instead, she recommended some other florists.
Sometimes, persecution, pain, and rejection come from our own families and those closest to us. That can hurt even more deeply. But we must be quick to forgive and keep our eyes on the Lord no matter who mistreats us. Otherwise that hurt can be the seed that grows up into a root of bitterness.
14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many (Heb. 12.14-15 , NLT).
But, as believers, we shouldn’t go looking for persecution. We need to be wise and prayerful. Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, says:
Not every challenge in the workplace is a hill worth dying on. Not every office is the Roman Colosseum.
David Hall, a federal employee in Illinois, put his job in danger by repeatedly refusing his employer’s request to watch an LGBT diversity training video. Hall, a Christian, told his agency that signing a statement acknowledging that he had viewed the clip would be “an abomination.”
Though Hall must ultimately obey his own conscience, it’s hard to sympathize with someone willing to sacrifice his job over something so trivial. Signing a statement affirming one has seen a training video is not the same thing as signing a statement affirming homosexuality.
Christians must exercise wisdom in these cases. Life is full of compromises, and not every one turns a believer into Judas. Claiming religious persecution unnecessarily will not help the cause. Instead, it will provide the secular left with grounds for claiming that all concern for religious liberty is a sham.¹
You may disagree that Mr. Hall’s concerns are trivial. But we must remember that not everything with which we disagree, puts us personally in a position of disobeying God.
Just a few more comments about today’s Old Testament reading:
In 5.3-15 we meet the “Commander of the army of the LORD.” This is a Christophany, an Old Testament appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. He appeared in the form of a man with His sword drawn confirming to Joshua that He was going to give him the victory at Jericho.
As I’ve said before, even though the word “Trinity” is not used in the Bible, we see evidence of the triune nature of God throughout.
You remember in chapter 2 Rahab had said:
9 … “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath (2.9-11).
As we were talking about this passage, my husband Mike shared some things that are worth noting:
In John 10.38 when the Jewish leaders thought to stone Him, Jesus said, “… though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”
Rahab heard about the miracles God had performed in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the two kings, and she believed that “the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” and then begged for mercy, just like the thief on the cross who turned to Jesus in faith and went with Him to paradise.
17 So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. 19 So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him.20 And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.” 21 Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window (2.17-21).
Just as the scarlet stain of the blood, protected all who were in the house when the death angel passed over in Egypt, the scarlet cord symbolized God’s grace and protection because of Rahab’s faith in the One True God.
We will see later in our reading that not only was she spared, but her life was completely changed because of her faith. She would later marry an Israelite and become one of the women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus Christ. What a merciful, awesome, life-changing God we serve!
So, too, those of us who have heard of the miraculous signs through the Scriptures and have chosen to believe (Rom. 10.17) will be spared for all eternity because of what the scarlet cord symbolized, the blood of Christ.
Today’s Other Readings:
Life’s Waves & Billows
The psalmist understood God’s sovereignty—that He is completely in control and that trials ultimately come from Him—either because He caused them or because He allowed them. Verse 7b, “… All Your waves and billows have gone over me.”
Even so, he trusted in God’s love and care for him through it all.
Verse 8, “The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”
We, too, need to understand that no matter what God has allowed in our lives, He has our good in mind—part of which is conforming us to the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8.29) by developing the fruit of His Spirit in our lives (Gal. 5.22-23).
The Companion of Fools
Verse 20, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”
We can never underestimate the power of associations.
1 Corinthians 15.33 says, “Do not be deceived. ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'”
When we get saved God doesn’t remove us from the world. Jesus said we are to be salt and light. But, if you are walking with, hanging out with, and developing close relationships with people who are either not believers or not sold out to pleasing God with their lives, they are much more likely to pull you down than you are to pull them up. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen!
If your spouse is not a believer, or is not committed to growing, that is all the more reason why you need friendships with believers who will love you enough to challenge you in your walk with God. If your friends tell you what you want to hear and not what God says, you are putting yourself in a dangerous position.
When Peter’s “encouragement” to Jesus was not in keeping with God’s plan and truth, Jesus said to him:
“Get behind Me, Satan! you are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matt. 16.23).
The Glory of God in Christ
What a scene that must have been on the Mount of Transfiguration! The three disciples had been asleep so it was probably night. It says that Jesus’ face changed. It shone with the glory of God. It says His robe became white and glistened. The word “glistened” means “emitting light.” According to John MacArthur it suggests a “brilliant flashing light like lighting.” Picture that!
While Peter, James and John are still trying to get the cob webs out of their brains and process what they are seeing, a brilliant cloud (Matt. 17.5) envelops them and God speaks to them out of it. Once again we see God the Son and God the Father—one God, two persons.
What about you?
Are you willing to have risky faith?
Is there someone who has hurt you? Have you truly forgiven?
What trial has God allowed in your life? What character quality of His Spirit might He be developing through it? … love … joy … peace … longsuffering (patience) …kindness …. goodness … faithfulness … gentleness … self-control … (Gal.. 5.22-23)?
Is there anyone you are listening to who merely tells you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear?
Let’s remember what God said to Joshua, “meditate in the Word day and night.” I pray we will all meditate, chew on, think about His Word today and everyday and that we will observe to do all that is written therein (Josh. 1.8). And then, like Joshua, God will make our way prosperous and we will have good success—not just what we consider success—but what brings glory to Him and moves His kingdom forward.
¹ Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (pp. 183-184). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The Benedict Option is both manifesto and rallying cry for Christians who, if they are not to be conquered, must learn how to fight on culture war battlefields like none the West has seen for fifteen hundred years. It’s for all mere Christians—Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox—who can read the signs of the times. Neither false optimism nor fatalistic despair will do. Only faith, hope, and love, embodied in a renewed church, can sustain believers in the dark age that has overtaken us. These are the days for building strong arks for the long journey across a sea of night.
The prodigal. The wanderer. The skeptic. The rebel. Each of us knows someone who has walked away from God, and it is heartbreaking and bewildering. We wonder how to reach out to them and bring them back, but often it seems impossible. Maybe you yourself are the one who has walked away and sees little reason to return to faith and the church.
The invitation of this book is this: come home. It invites the departed to return and offers the promise of the gospel – that all wrongs and sins can be forgiven through Jesus. There is no expiration on the promise of forgiveness and the open arms of Christ, so no matter how long the wanderer has wandered she is still welcome. All hurts can be healed, all brokenness mended. Just come home.
Whether you are a family member or friend of the prodigal or whether you are that person, this book offers hope and an open invitation to return to the safety of forgiveness and restoration in Jesus.
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