Saturday, 28 July 2018

Road to Revelation: Joshua

The baton has been passed Joshua steps into Moses' giant sandals.  His first task - lead the people into the Promised Land driving out the inhabitants before them until the Israelites fill all the land given to them.  His second task - commit the writings of his predecessor Moses to memory.  No pressure then...

The first hurdle facing the people was the great city of Jericho so Joshua sent spies to scope it out in order to plan his attack.  They are almost captured but escape thanks to Rahab and her family.  Rahab was a woman of great faith; she believed that the God of the Israelites alone is God and is rewarded for her faith by being saved from Jericho when it is defeated by the Lord and Joshua's army.   Rahab joined the Israelites and became part of the heroes of faith roll call in Hebrews.

Next city up for battle (ch.7-8) was Ai.  Things didn't quite go to plan as Achan disobeyed the Lord and took forbidden loot.  But second time around the Israelites all listened to the Lord and defeated the city and it's inhabitants.

One of the people groups living in the area started freaking out about the strong invaders coming their way.  The Gibeonites decided it was best to befriend these Israelite warriors and deceitfully made a treaty with Joshua.  This bought them their lives but not their freedom; the Gibeonites were made to become servants to the Israelites as a result of their deception (ch. 9).

Chapters 10-12 outlines further battles and enemies defeated.

Chapters 13-21 outline the divisions of the land to all the tribes, the naming of the cities of refuge  and the towns for the Levites.

In chapter 22 the three tribes who claimed land on the other side of the Jordan to the the land were allowed to go home and work their land.

With his life over Joshua farewelled the people.  He reminded them of the works of the Lord toward His people from Abraham to this day.  He urged them to remain faithful to the Lord as he had and to finish the work he started - conquering the remaining land.   Key Verse: ch 24:14-15 Like Moses before him, Joshua is sure that the people will not remain faithful to the Lord but he begged them to be anyway.

Takeaway: They made it!  Finally the Israelites were finished with their journeying and could settle in the land given to them.  They had much work to do but they were there!  God's promise to give them a land of their own was more than halfway there... but would they trust in the Lord as Joshua and Moses had?  Or would they turn to other gods to "rescue" them before the job was completed?

Road to Revelation: Deuteronomy

Remember in Numbers how Moses disobeyed the Lord and was forbidden from entering the Promised Land?  This great man of faith has now reached the end of this life and his last act is to write a love letter/last will and testament to the people he was given charge of.

The first chapter of Moses' letter remind the people of the events which led up to their wanderings in the desert; that is the sending of the spies into the land, their unbelief (bar two) and the appointing of Joshua to lead the people into the land when their time of exile is over.

 Chapters 2-3 remind the people of their wanderings and the battles they fought.  Moses outlined for them again the divisions of the land they have been given but that he will not be joining them.

Moses was so sure of God's promise to give the Israelites the land that he spent the rest of his letter going over key aspects of God's laws and their obligations to each other and to Him.  How they were to act in the land, what exactly they would receive and the expectation that they will stuff the whole thing up!! but that through it all God would remain true to Himself and His people.

Chapter 8 in particular highlighted for the people all the things God had done for them so far; giving them freedom from Egypt, caring for them in the wilderness for 40 years, protecting them from their enemies, giving them a land of abundance.  His blessings come with but one caveat:  Stay faithful to the Lord!  Do not turn to idols!  It all seems so easy...

The famous chapter in Deuteronomy is number 28; the blessings and curses.  To summerise: if the people remain faithful to the Lord they will receive abundant harvests, safety from enemies - basically heaven on earth.  BUT  should they turn to idols then the Lord will curse the land, allow their enemies to conquer them and ultimately cast them out of the land again - basically their worst nightmares.  Sadly *plot spoiler* the people do turn to idols and everything Moses prophesied comes to pass.  They were warned.

But there is hope!  Moses knew that the Lord is a merciful and gracious God and also prophesied that in their exile God would not forget them but would restore the scattered Israelites back to the land again but more importantly he would restore their faith in the Lord.  Key Verse: ch 30:6 "The Lord you God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

With that Moses handed over the care of the people to Joshua, prayed and epic prayer for them and died.

Takeaway:  Moses never did make it to that land across the Jordan but you can bet your bottom dollar that Moses made it to that new and perfect eternal land which he could not see with his eyes but only by faith.  "All these people [Moses included] were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance...they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11:13-16

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Road to Revelation: Numbers

Numbers is the account of the people of Israel in the wilderness and starts like the name suggests; with a numbering of the tribes.  We see how big the family of Israel has become!

Chapters 2-4 detail the organizing of the Levites.  The Levites were the helper tribe for the priests.  They did all the work around the tabernacle and helped the priests fulfill their duties (ch 3: 5-10).

Chapters 5-6 are another grouping of miscellaneous laws.  Chapter 6 is the section which details the Nazerite vows.  It’s weird but will come up again in Judges with Samson (Judges 13).

Back to the Tabernacle and it’s time to dedicate it to the Lord.  Chapters 7-10 list the people involved and the ceremonies undertaken.  This was the second Passover (the first being at the escape from Egypt in Exodus).

The complaining of the people starts in chapter 11 and doesn’t end until... well... never really?? Lol!  Even though the people are ungrateful so and so’s God provides them with quail to go with their manna.

Then the people were close enough to the promised land to explore it and Moses sent the 12 spies into the land.  All the spies except Caleb come back with despair in their hearts.  The land was indeed good, but the people living in the land were powerful.  The people responded with complaining (again) and so only those with faith (Caleb and Joshua) were allowed to enter the land.  The rest of the people were cursed to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation had died.  Key Verse Numbers 14:20-24

Following this account are more laws and attempted mutinies against Moses and the Lord.  Then in chapter 20 a very sad account of the people complaining (no surprises here), and this time Moses had had enough.  He was angry toward the people and his anger led him to sin against the Lord and as a consequence he was also forbidden from entering the promised land.  Noooooooooooo!

The account of Balaam and his donkey (which talked!)  (ch.22) proves to be an important, although strange account.  Balaam was ordered to curse the Israelites by the king of a nation close to the Israelites so that he could defeat them in battle.  However Balaam cannot curse the people and so devised a plan for the king to infiltrate the Israelites with beautiful women and weaken them that way.  Unfortunately Balaam's plan worked and the love Israelite men had for foreign women and their idols were a thorn in Israel’s side for generations, even after the Israelites were in the promised land.

In their wanderings the Israelites rebelled against the Lord again (bronze snake—ch 21), were attacked by other nations (ch 21-22), the people were counted again (ch 26), and Joshua was named as Moses successor (ch 27). 

Despite all the challenges the people of Israel encountered because of their own and others sin the book of Numbers ends on a hopeful note.  The last chapters detail the borders and divisions of the promised land.  God still intends to keep his promises to his people!  They will still make it!

Takeaway:  From one man, Abraham, the people of Israel have grown from a small family into a large nation.  Although the people are faithless, God remains faithful to them and keeps his promises to them (1 John 1:9).  Their children will enter the Promised Land and receive all that he says they will.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Road to Revelation: Leviticus

 Leviticus: The Book of sacrifice

Now that the people had  a place to meet with God, they needed people to help with guiding them through the complicated process of that (Leviticus 1-7).  These people were the priests.  Aaron’s family were chosen to be the priests in the Tabernacle/Temple and the first priests after Aaron were his sons Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 8-10).
Unclean!  Unclean!  Everything is unclean!  The next section of the law (Leviticus 11-15) deals with everything which excluded people from approaching God.  Skin discharges, womanly discharges, bodily discharges, mildew.  All were unclean.  All must be clean before a perfect and holy God.  Under this system, if they were unclean they were excluded from participating publicly in worship of the Lord. 

 Extra Reading: But was it God’s intention to reject them?  No!  We see in Jesus the mercy of God towards the unclean when he dealt with the woman who had a continuous bodily discharge.  See Luke 8:40-48  The unclean could not participate publicly in worship, but they were always loved by God.

Leviticus 16  The Day of Atonement:  Once a year the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place and offer sacrifices to God on behalf of the people to cleanse them from their sin.  When Jesus died the curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51), indicating that all sins for all time had finally been cleansed and now anyone could boldly approach God.  See Hebrews 10:19-20

Leviticus 17-20  Rules for how people should conduct themselves towards their neighbours.  Key Verse: Leviticus 17:11—the life is in the blood and is spilled to cover sin.  Christ's blood is the fulfillment of this verse, and ushers in a new covenant.  One not based on continual sacrifice of animals on our behalf to cover our sin, but one based on Christ's sacrifice which cleanses us from sin once and for all time (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Leviticus 21-22  Rules for how the priests should conduct themselves in life .  Jesus is our perfect High Priest see Hebrews 5:1-10

Leviticus 23-25  Festivals for the people to hold to remember God’s  provision to his people

Leviticus 26 A list of blessings for faithfulness/obedience and punishments for idolatry/disobedience in the promised land.

Leviticus 27 Redemption of gifts to the Lord.  God is a gracious God; if someone dedicated something to him and then changed his mind, there was a way out.

Takeaway:  On their way through the wilderness and once they entered the promised land the people of God would be surrounded by other nations with other gods.  God wanted his people to look different from the other nations.  He wanted their conduct and worship practices to reflect his character so that they would be different to the surrounding nations and a light to guide the nations to the true God.  Even if they rejected him, he would not reject them but would remain faithful to his promises (Leviticus 26:42-45).

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Road to Revelation: Exodus

After Joseph died, years passed and the Egyptian rulers gradually forgot who Joseph was and what he had done to save their people during the great famine of the past.  Racism grew (as it always does) and the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites.  Things got so bad the Israelites cried out to God for rescue.  He sent them a man, Moses, who was used by God to free the people from Egypt (10 plagues) and they escaped into the wilderness (through the Red Sea) Exodus 1-19. 
Extra Reading:  The last plague killed all the firstborn sons in Egypt.  The only ones who escaped this plague are those who believed God and therefore killed a lamb and sprinkled it’s blood around their doorposts.  This was the first Passover meal: lamb and unleavened bread.  Moses was commanded to institute this as an annual festival so that God’s people never forgot the great rescue from Egypt and the power of God.  Key Verse: Exodus 13: 14-16
When Jesus came he instituted a very similar meal  at the last supper (held at Passover time).  He commanded his followers to drink wine and eat bread to remember what he was going to do—rescue his people by dying for them; just like the lamb had to die for the people of Israel to rescue them (Luke 22).  Jesus is the perfect and final Passover lamb.  See 1 Corinthians 5:7.  Jesus’s life echoed the Israelite’s escape from Egypt; miracles followed by death and through that death, many are rescued from slavery.

After they reached the wilderness God took the Israelites to the foot of Mt Sinai.  Moses went up the mountain alone and received the Mosaic Covenant; the 10 commandments and the ceremonial and civil laws for God’s people.  Key Verse: Exodus 20:1-17  While he was up there the people immediately turned to other gods!!!  Arghhh!  But although God was angry, He persevered with the people and His promises to them and gave them instructions for how the Tabernacle [God’s tent/meeting place] was to be set up and operated.  God’s people finally had a way to approach God and for Him to live among them. 

Takeaway:  The Tabernacle system was complicated, difficult and bloody.  It was only a partial fulfillment of what God had in mind for his people but it did allow them to access Him and have peace with Him.  The best they could do during this time was to sacrifice their animals and look forward in faith to something better to come.  HE [Jesus] came eventually, to be the final sacrifice for sin and fulfill all the symbols laid out in the Tabernacle.  Hebrews 9-10 explains how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Tabernacle. 

We have a much better covenant with God that Moses did.  For we can approach God any time, in any state, knowing that he will receive us gladly because Jesus is right there standing in our place interceding for usSee Hebrews 4:14-16

Friday, 16 March 2018

Road to Revelation: Genesis - Joseph

Whew!  Genesis is a long book!  And yet here we are at the last patriarch of Abraham's family of  promise before they grow to become a great nation, yes, it's Joseph.

Genesis 37-50

By Genesis 37 Jacob’s sons are all grown up.  One of the younger brothers, Joseph, was the favourite of his father and was sold as a slave to an Egyptian because of his brother’s jealousy.  A famine had wrecked the land of Canaan [the land promised to Abraham], forcing Jacob’s family to flee to Egypt.  Genesis ends with the people of Israel still in Egypt, living in peace while Joseph is alive.

Key Verse: Genesis 50:19-21.  Joseph realised that what his brothers intended for evil, God used for good—to keep his promises to Abraham and keep his people alive.

Extra Reading and Takeaway: Hebrews 11:22  Joseph knew that he had been sent to Egypt to prepare a safe haven for God’s people until it was time to go back to the promised land again.  He knew God would make a way for His promises to come to pass.  Though God’s people are a wild bunch, God remains faithful to them because He is faithful (2 Timothy  2:13).

Read also Act 7:1-16.  Stephen gives a marvelous summary of the book of Genesis from Abraham to Joseph.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Road to Revelation: Genesis continued - Jacob

 Now back to our regularly scheduled program ;)

Isaac had two sons; Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:19-26).  His older, Esau, was tricked out of his birthright by his younger brother Jacob and consequently leaves the people of God's promises and becomes another people group; the Edomites (Genesis 36).  

 Jacob was a “trickster” and spent his life deceiving others for his own gain but nevertheless God used him to carry on the family line of His people.  From Jacob’s four wives we get 12 sons.  These sons became the tribes of Israel (so named because Jacob’s name was changed to Israel in Genesis 32:28) after he wrestled with God (an event symbolizing his life up to this point). 
Key Verse: Genesis 49:10 Jacob prophesied that Judah’s line would be the one to bring about the kings of Israel and the promised Messiah [Jesus].

Extra Reading and Takeaway: The story of Jacob illustrates to us that God sometimes chooses the most unlikely/unsuitable/unexpected people to achieve His purposes.  Romans 9:10-13 tells us that we can apply Jacob’s story to our story; that it is primarily God who chooses us, rather than us choosing Him.  And that none of us are too tricksy or sinful to be excluded from God's promises made to us through Jesus Christ.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Road to Revelation: Job


Meanwhile in another part of town…  actually in another country, God had been discovered by a man named Job.  He feared God and sacrificed to him in the tradition of Noah (Genesis 8:20).  Who knows where he learned these traditions but he is approved by God (Job 1:8) because of his faith.  

The book of Job was passed down by oral tradition before being written down long after the events (most likely in the time of Solomon) and reads a lot like a live performance piece in that the "actors" [Job and friends} are unaware of the cosmic conflict [God vs Satan] which is affecting their lives but we, the audience, can see it all.  The dramatic retelling of Job's life... now showing on Broadway!! 

Job's faith was tested by Satan (allowed by God) and he suffered much because of it.  His three friends attempted to comfort him but bungled it badly with their poor theology.  They accuse Job of causing his suffering by his sin but he is confused because he believed that he had obeyed God as he was supposed to.  

 In the end God does not reveal the reason why Job suffered (the debate between God and Satan) but instead asked Job a series of rhetorical questions illustrating his greatness and wisdom so that at the end Job conceded that he could not know the reason for suffering unless it is revealed to him by God Himself (which He does not) and he put his trust in God again, receiving back more than he had before.

Key Verse: Job 1:21 Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Extra Reading:  Romans 8:18-30.  Job had hardly any information about God to work with but we have much more revealed to us.  We suffer, Paul says, because the world is suffering under the weight/curse of sin and is being slowly destroyed because of it.  And Paul also tells us that when sufferings come God intends to use them for our eternal good.

Takeaway: Although we, like Job, cannot always know the full reason for our suffering we can know that the God who created the world also controls the world [and Satan].  He not only knows why these things come to us but more importantly, He is willing and able to help us through them.