Greetings. These articles in this edition challenge me in my faith, obedience to that faith and in my character. I hope you will be encouraged and challenged also. Mike
OBEDIENCE FOLLOWS FAITH
In order to reach the Promised Land, Joshua and the Israelites had to cross the Jordan River (Joshua 3-4). It was the time of the year when the Jordan banks overflowed, at flood levels with fast flowing, cold water. This was no meandering brook.
God’s specific instructions were for all the priests to step into the flowing waters, carrying the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was heavy, the box itself was plated with gold plus the 10 Commandments tablets, jar of manna and Aaron’s staff were all in it. The priests carried this symbol of God’s presence and power into the river on their shoulders, not spilling or toppling the Ark.
When they took their steps into the river, the flow of the water stopped a great distance way upstream, piling up the water. The priests, Joshua and all of Israel had to trust God to do this. They did not see the stopped water, so they had to wait a bit to see the river stop flowing and the river basin dry up.
The Israelites crossed the river on dry ground while the priests kept the Ark in the middle of the river as they also stood on dry ground. Before leaving the Riverbed, Joshua had one man from each of the 12 tribes head back to where the priests were standing and gather up a good-sized stone. These stones were then set down on the Promised Land side, becoming a memorial, a remembrance of what God had done, When the Israelite children would see those stones in the future, they would be told of how great, powerful and almighty God is.
As soon as the priests brought the Ark up out of the Riverbed, the waters flowed again. Word of this great miracle spread to the Amorite and Canaanite kings. They lost their courage to fight the Israelites. God was going before the Israelites. God had punished the Israelites for their disobedience forty years earlier; now the Canaanites would be punished for their wickedness, materialistic worldview and Baal worship.
The priests had to put their feet into the river to have the flow of the water stop. God did not speak to stop the water, though He had the power to do that. Rather He wanted obedience of following by faith what was instructed to Joshua and the priests. The act of obedience then activated God’s promises. Too often we simply want God to make something happen when we are not willing to be obedient. What “land” are we not willing to enter because of a lack of faith on our part?
Prior to crossing the Jordan, God had the Israelites purify themselves. To be truly blessed by God, we need to be pursuing purified lives. That means among other things to have a personal, growing relationship with Jesus that is a life of obedience to the Word of God and His voice. If we are not in the Word of God and listening to Him through the Word and prayer, it does not even pay to move out in faith on anything because we will not know what direction to head.
This passage shows the responsibility of spiritual leaders. Though Joshua was not a world power leader yet, his reputation for handling these responsibilities God’s way brought him great glory and honor. Doing the right thing in God’s eyes is more important than looking good in the eyes of people.
When the enemies of Israel heard what occurred at the Jordan, they were petrified of God would do to them. Let God go before you. He will prepare your ways and we need to follow obediently. Be faithful to Him and watch how He takes care of things. God can change the hearts of those that oppose and are enemies to Him. Never underestimate God.
Character Involved In Your Prayer Life
When you pray, for what or whom do you pray? If God granted all your requests, would you then be satisfied and happy? King Hezekiah of Judah had a situation that he prayed over and the answer to his prayer tested his character. He was a good king and was a godly believer in God. To understand his story completely, you need to read portions from three Old Testament books (2 Kings 18 & 20; 2 Chronicles 29,30 &32 and Isaiah 36-39).
During the siege on Jerusalem by King Sennacherib of Assyria, Hezekiah was told he was going to die (2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32:24-30, Isa. 38). Hezekiah pleaded with God to spare his life. God answered his prayer by extending his life fifteen years. In 2 Chronicles 32:25, we find that Hezekiah became proud and did not recognize the kindness shown to him. He did repent (in verse 26) and the Lord’s wrath did not come upon them.
At the same time God defeated Sennacherib and saved Jerusalem.
During those fifteen years of extended life, Babylonians came to visit and Hezekiah showed them all the riches his kingdom had. Isaiah questioned why Hezekiah would do that. Isaiah prophesized that Babylonia would take all the riches and overthrow Judah after Hezekiah would be dead. Hezekiah’s response was “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good…There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (Isaiah 39:5-8).
Is this a case where a king, a leader of one’s country was more concerned about his wellbeing than for his people. Could the last 15 years that he requested have been too much for Hezekiah to handle? With great power and victory comes great responsibility. Might that success and power have been more than Hezekiah’s character could keep under control?
God is sovereign. With His sovereignty and greatness, could He allow us to receive things in our lives that are not the best for us, yet still accomplish His will? Judah was going to fall to captivity because of the rebellion and idolatry in the people’s hearts from many years of ignoring God. Hezekiah became an instrument for this to happen.
We need to be very careful how we pray and for what we pray. God knows what is best for our lives. Sometimes that can be scary to pray because we do not know what the answers to that prayer will be. God is not in the business of giving us garbage. If we are Christians, we are His children, and He wants to give His children good gifts. “Good” may not always be our definition of good but that is where we need to trust Him.
In the way it should work, as we grow older while living with our family, our trust in our parents becomes deeper. We gain insight that there are times our parents say no to our requests or demands, knowing what is best for us, much better than we know for ourselves. With Jesus, the goal is to grow in our relationship with Him, resulting in a deeper trust to Him and an understanding that He truly desires what is best for us.
Learn what is written in the Bible because there are many prayers found in there. Begin to pray biblical prayers for others and yourself (for example – Colossian 1:9-12, 3:12-17, Ephesians 1:15-19, 3:16-19, Philippians 1:9-11, Galatians 6:1-5,9-10)
When prayers are answered in the way we desire, there is no boasting about how important we are or that we are more special than another believer in Jesus. It is God’s grace that we received the answer. He blesses us in His way and manner which goes way beyond material blessings.
When I was a teenager, the comment about allowing God to have His will be done in someone’s life was to possibly send someone to Africa. I have been to Africa, and it is a pretty amazing world to go to. He knows what we can handle because He created us. Trust God with your life and prayer life.