(Joshua Chapter 3)
As we wrapped up Joshua 2 there was a sense of anticipation for what was coming next. We watched as the Lord protected two men scouting out a land they had been called to pursue. We sat near the edge of our emotional seats when they nearly lost their life at the hands of the King. And then eased back in comfort watching God do what only he could do. The outcome they all wanted came in a way none of them could have predicted.
Rahab the prostitute reminded us what faith looks like. Her life changed forever the moment she trusted in her creator. And now...the men who came to spy on the land returned home...as the next step of the journey begins.
We find Joshua "up early and on his way". He's already showing us that when God calls you to something, a sense of urgency jolts past every other feeling (uncertainty, anxiousness, fear, doubt, etc...) and causes us to act with boldness.
Joshua knew where he was called to go (The Waters Edge), because of what he was called to do. (Cross The Jordan River)
They camped for three days staring at the task ahead (Crossing the Jordan). What they must have been thinking! Seriously...here is where my head would have been at...I know we are supposed to cross that river, and I know God has already promised us victory...but I can't see how. We are here, and there is a massive river between us and our victory. A MASSIVE OBSTACLE.
I don't know about you, but I would have been scared out of my mind. I know...I know...God said the victory was already won. I didn't say I was being rational...just brutally honest. I wonder if they felt like they were staring at a dead end too.
Have you ever looked at a promise God made to you, and felt held back by the dead end you saw in front of you?
So here is what happens next...
The leaders in camp gather everyone and give specific instructions.
"When you see the Covenant-Chest of God, your God, carried by the Levitical priests, start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile - be sure now to keep your distance! - and you'll see clearly the route to take. You've never been on this road before."
THAT! In its entirety it has so much juice in it, you could drink the cup it would fill forever. And when I read it, it was emotional for me. I've been asking God to show me direction in a specific area I feel he is calling me. That passage of scripture in Joshua about froze me with equal parts excitement and overwhelming humility in His presence as I read it.
Just as the people of Israel has been given specific instructions...if we are being called by God to move on something, He will provide us with direction as well.
"...keep your distance!"
"...you'll see clearly the route to take."
"You've never been on this road before."
I think sometimes we try to outrun God on the way to the victory He wants to bring for us. We hear him say go, and somehow we infer that means go ahead of Him. In this moment...the instructions the Israelites get are a remarkable reminder to us, that when we follow God, the distance between where He is (moving on our behalf doing only what He can do) and where we are creates the clarity we've been longing for.
The route we are to take becomes clear when we follow God, not race past Him.
And then the reason this book is named Ocean Road.
"You've never been on this road before."
Joshua tells the people...
"Sanctify yourselves. Tomorrow God will work miracle-wonders among you."
The priests were called to "...step out before the people."
And as they went, God speaks life, love and hope into Joshua's heart. He builds his leader up so that the very next command Joshua gives to the priests doesn't overwhelm them, but rather infuse them with the power only God can impart.
"When you come to the edge of the Jordan's waters, stand there on the river bank."
"...take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the Chest of God, Master of all the earth, touch the Jordan's water, the flow of water will be stopped - the water coming from upstream will pile up in a heap."
Do you see it? When you come to the very edge of your dead end...the very edge of what you cannot change...GOD WILL ACT. Sometimes we get to know how, other times we don't. The fact remains that if he's called us to it, he will bring us through it.
Are you at a "water's edge moment" in your life right now?
Two months after God showed this to me in August...I am.
As I sit here and write this to you, tears are full in my eyes, dropping slowly along my cheeks, as I stand at my water's edge, following a promise God spoke into my heart. So if you feel like no one understands your feelings, trust me...many, many people do.
When the priests feet touched the very edge of the overflowing banks of the Jordan River that day...when the people had to wonder if they were staring at their dead end...or their God-given future...
"...the flow of the water stopped. It piled up in a heap....The river went dry."
A road of safe passage had been created, where an obstacle used to stand.
And as I stared at the banks of the Atlantic ocean in the distance this past August, God reminded me that He was in control. My heart was full knowing that if that water needed to part so that I could get through, He would do it.
In the moment that feels like a dead-end, He will create our…Ocean Road.
And he will do the same for you if you’ll be obedient at your water’s edge.
"And the people crossed, facing Jericho."
"And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot."
Obedient feet led to a dry street. The priests obedience to lead as God directed, through Joshua's voice, led all Israel to safety. The priests took the first steps in, stayed in the middle until everyone had crossed, and were the last ones to walk out.
IN FIRST...IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHALLENGE...OUT LAST.
That's leadership. (*1)
You’ll see * and #’s throughout the rest of the book. It’s the PERSPECTIVE POINTS I promised, and they are listed at the end of each chapter so that you can go back and review where they came from in the story.
We're getting close to the end of chapter 3.
But I can't leave before I share this with you...
Notice that they weren't given boats to cross the Jordan River. Neither was Moses when the Red Sea parted. No...both times they were given a way through that was totally dependent on God to act. They weren't given boats to coast over the obstacle. They were sent right through the center of it...and the provision of HOW it came to pass could only be explained as a miracle.
Can you relate to that?
We look for a route over our problems, rather than the miracle through.
Perhaps...let's be honest...if we could get over it, we could take some credit for it. Hmmm...that would feel good because we'd look good. It would also give us a huge sense of security in ourselves that is undeserved, and ultimately dangerous...as we not only revel in what we've done for ourselves, but pass it on as "advice" to others that they can take care of themselves too. (*2 & *3)
We perpetuate our problems when we build on our own opinion rather than God’s vision. (*4)
Does that mean we sit on our butt and do nothing, because we don't want to accidently solve our problems? No...not at all. It simply means that our diligence needs a direction. And it will very likely not make much sense at times. (water's edge moment anyone?)
The priests didn't sit around...they responded obediently to the person God gave them in Joshua...EVEN THOUGH the marching orders had to have absolutely confounded them. (…and probably Joshua as well)
Seriously...it must have sounded something like this...
Hey, go grab that huge, heavy chest and start marching toward the water. You know...that thing over there (Jordan River) that looks more like a dead-end than the path to your new beginning.
The priests did what every great leader would...they stood in the middle. (*5)
Sometimes our water's edge moment will look like a creek, sometimes a river, and others times...the sheer impossibility will seem as big as trying to cross an ocean. When you feel like you are staring at a dead-end...remember...if it's the direction God has called you to move in, he will be faithful to move you through.
Your water's edge moment is a promise that you are about to walk on an Ocean Road.
Here are the PERSPECTIVE POINTS that I shared throughout Chapter 3 that we can reflect on as we get ready to head into Chapter 4 of Joshua.
And some questions to reflect on.
Chat about these with a friend, your family, a small group, and if you are of age...a bar. (Yes, I said bar. Jesus was particularly fond of meeting people where they were at.)
The last question is the perfect place to end our time together today. And honestly...one of my favorite ones.
Don't forget...the comments section is open to share thoughts and ask questions. It's located just below, or by clicking in the upper-right section of each chapter where it says...wait for it...COMMENTS. :)
See you tomorrow for Joshua Chapter 4.
We will tackle how to respond during the moment that we desperately need our greatest breakthrough.
Wait until you see what the Israelites did!!!
(Joshua Chapter 4)
When we left Chapter 3 there were likely many things buzzing around in your head. There were for me as well. Admittedly, it's a lot to take in. And it might even help to re-read the chapter a couple of times. Sometimes that helps me re-emphasize something I need to hear, and help bring clarity to questions as I process.
Something we talked about at the end of Chapter 3 sets the stage for Chapter 4.
Leaders stand in the middle.
One very powerful and incredibly impactful thing happened after the whole nation of Israel crossed through on their Ocean Road (or river road in their case). Notice the end of Chapter 3 said "those priests...stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle...while all Israel crossed on dry ground."
The next statement leads us to believe that the priests had passed through as well.
"Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot."
Except there was something remarkable that happened before the priests left the middle. And that is where we pick up the beginning of Chapter 4.
God told Joshua to pick 12 men, each from a different tribe, to grab a stone. A marker of remembrance. He told them to take the stones from "...the middle...where the feet of the priests are standing firm."
They were to take them to the place they'd camp that night.
Think about that for a second. Every one was through. A giant PHEW, that was a close call! must have been the common sentiment. And then...Joshua sends 12 men back in to the middle, where the priests were still standing. How would you like to be one of them? Just when you think you are clear of the intensity of the moment, you are hand picked to go back to the middle of where the greatest danger was!
None of us can know for sure why God didn't have the priests just grab a few stone momentos on the way out. But I have a guess.
Each man was from a different tribe. Perhaps God knew that they would need a very personal reminder of the power of God, in the days, weeks, months...years ahead. That by sending them in, they would see the obedience on the face of the priests more clearly. At that point the rest of the nation would have passed. It was only 12 guys, and some priests. A very intimate moment where glances between these men and the priests would create a moment of remembrance. Perhaps these 12 would one day, in their own way, have to stand in the middle for their tribes...their families...their friends.
And that is why I bring this up.
Leaders stand in the middle.
There is a gap in my notes on Chapters 4 and 5. But as I write this book, the Lord is making it very clear to me why that was, and what fills that gap.
Sacrificial leadership grows fearless followers.(*6)
The sacrifice the priests made to go first, and stand in the middle, gave the 12 men the courage to go back in on Joshua's word. Where fear may have made them run through, right past the priests the first time...the example the priests set created an environment where they could walk back, in a confidence only God could provide.
Once they came out with the stones, God told Joshua that it was time for the priests to finish the job. And in that moment around 40,000 soldiers ready for battle...watching as the priests came through.
And once the very last foot hit the banks of the Jordan River?
"...the Jordan's waters resumed their flow...just as before."
The priests stood in the middle.
The 12 men went back in.
Both groups were obedient to the leadership moment they were given.
It's the same with us.
Sometimes we'll be called on to go first, stand in the middle, and leave last.
Sometimes we'll think we are clear, and we'll be sent back in to the struggle.
No matter when we are sent, this serves as a reminder that we are all called.
As a parent.
As a spouse.
As a business owner.
As an employee.
As a friend.
As a stranger.
As a child of the most high God.
It's not a matter of if, but when we will be called.
How and where is up to God.
The response of yes, and I'll go is up to us.
After the priests left the river, and the waters began to flow again, the people camped out at a place called Gilgal. They built a monument with the 12 stones.
"In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, 'What are these stones doing here?' tell your children this: 'Israel crossed over the Jordan on dry ground.' "Yes, God, your God, dried up the Jordan's waters for you until you had crossed, just as God, your God, did at the Red Sea, which had dried up before us until we had crossed."
The impact of the moment and a monument. (*7)
"This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God's rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always."
What an amazing example for the next generation.
What an amazing reminder for ours.
As a parent...I know that there will be moments when I am called to go first. I know there will be times when I will stand in the middle. And like every parent would, be the last one out, so that my kids would make it through.
I'd do Anything. Anytime. Anywhere...for my kids.
I know you'd do the same.
It's what we do as parents.
And there may be times when I look up and see someone else standing in the middle for my kids...and realize it's time I go back in so that I can take a reminder out so that my kids never forget who and what came before them...so that they are where they are.
Chapter 4 of Joshua is a celebration of sorts.
The Israelites deserved that moment based on their obedience to walk it out.
But if it's left there, we just took in on a cool story, and forget what it can teach us.
If you are standing on your water's edge and can't see a way through, perhaps getting the focus off of you will help. It's helped me. It's a reminder I need, too.
I imagine that is what gave the priests the confidence to go first.
As a man...I might chicken out because it's about me.
As a parent, I'm all in because it's about my kids.
If we choose our response based on our individual preference, we could very well miss the blessing found being a leader acting in obedience.(*8)
The list of leaders is long.
The list of excuses not to cross over when we are called shouldn't be.
Stand in the middle.
Go back in.
Go all in.
The next generation is watching how we respond, so that they know WHO to follow.
The next generation is watching how we respond, so that they know WHAT to do.
Because when we know WHO to follow, we'll know WHAT to do.
Just like the Israelites needing to keep a distance between them and the priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant...I think it helps us to step back and allow God to speak to our hearts in a way only He can.
Think of it this way as you head into the Perspective Points for Chapter 4, and the reflection questions...
Perspective is found at a distance.(*9)
The further we are from it (our challenge, our struggle, etc...) provides the opportunity to gain the clarity in how we see it.
Remember...we've never been on this road before.
One step at a time to our calling.
A safe distance behind God's leading.
We'll arrive right on time if we trust Him on every step of the journey.
6. Sacrificial leadership grows fearless followers.
7. The impact of the moment and a monument.
8. Preference steals the blessing found in obedience.
9. Perspective is found at a distance.
6. What sacrifice(s) have you made lately, or will you commit to make so that those who look to you as a leader have the confidence to follow you?
7. Is the impact of your sacrifice so that you will get credit for it, or are you clear about the moment being a monument to God's strength through us?
8. Are you reacting or responding? Here is the difference. Reacting to a situation will always choose preference because it succumbs to the pressure you feel. Responding is knowing that when push comes to shove you will choose obedience to what God is calling you to...yes, even when and if it's hard. What areas of your life will you commit to share with someone close to you...that will walk this journey with you...so that you don't forfeit the blessing we find in our obedience?
9. Are you stepping back from your situation to find God in it, or rushing past Him to get credit for it? Are you trusting in Him from a distance, or your own strength in stubborn persistence?
*And here's a bonus encouragement for you. You've got this! I believe in you! God has put in you right where you are so that you can show others...through your sacrificial leadership what it looks like to live your life as a monument of praise to the God who will bless your obedience. And the coolest part about being a leader is watching that blessing show itself strong in the people we lead. Our kids. Our employees. Our colleagues. Our congregation. Our teammates. Our players.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite verses...
Perhaps you were made "...for just such a time as this."
(From Esther 4:14)
See you soon with Chapter 5!
Don't forget the comments section is open to you if you need it to share a thought, or ask a question. We're all in this together!
(Joshua Chapter 5)
Roller coasters used to be fun for me. As I get older, they toss my stomach around like a wet towel in a dryer. Unfortunately once the roller coaster stops it takes several moments before I feel like I'm not going to decorate the landscaping with my lunch.
That's exactly how I feel about life as I get older. When I choose to rely on my emotions and opinion to get through life, nausea can set in pretty quickly. But when I refuse to get on that roller coaster of emotions things turn out much better.
Does that mean I'll never have a feeling of doubt, worry, or anxiety? No.
Does it mean I can choose to hand it over as fast as it shows up? Yes.
I think that is where the Israelites were at as we start Joshua Chapter 5.
Remember the spies from a couple of chapters ago? Remember Rahab the prostitute? Remember God commanding Joshua to speak up and tell the priests and the people to march towards what looked like a dead-end? Remember the 12 men being called to go back in the the Jordan River after they had already crossed over?
All of those moments were potential emotional roller-coaster moments.
And we have plenty of them in our own life.
Kids head off to college.
A job feels like it's in jeopardy.
A family member is diagnosed with cancer.
A marriage is falling apart.
Our team is hurting and it isn't getting any better.
Whatever the emotional roller coaster looks like, you don't have to get on it.
The Israelites were beginning to realize something.
When you walk in faith, you don't have to ride in fear. (*10)
"When all the Amorite kings...and the Canaanite kings...heard how God had stopped the Jordan River before the People of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts sank; the courage drained out of them just thinking about the People of Israel." (Italics mine)
The kings were choosing the roller coaster. And they were coming to a stark realization that the Israelites had chosen the obedient walk of their God.
The results were speaking for themselves.
Walking can feel slower, but in faith, it's a multiplier.(*11)
When we least expect it, God can move in ways we can't comprehend. And while its natural to focus on the speed of our progress, we forget God operates in the supernatural ability to change the pace at any point. There is an amazing example of this coming in Joshua Chapter 6...where it seems like God literally orders up some Israelite busywork and a side of potential embarrassment to go with out.
So how do we respond?
Our diligence needs a direction.(*12)
We can work hard and get hardly anything done. How? By working so hard trying to prove we are right/can do this/have what it takes...that our diligence turns into ignorance. What do I mean by that? We end up convinced that we know better, and exhaust ourselves as we pour everything we have into trying to prove ourselves.
The alternative is choosing to trust the process of obedience, even when we don't feel like results are coming fast enough, or the way we thought they would.
Further in to Joshua Chapter 5 we are reminded that the generation of Israelites before the one we are reading about chose the roller coaster too. It ended up costing them 40 years of wandering, and not being able to walk into the land God had said was theirs.
Their children (the generation Joshua was leading) was seeing the wisdom found in obedience to God's vision for their lives. They were making decisions that would assure them they wouldn't repeat their parents mistakes.
Some time passes, and the Israelites are celebrating Passover near Jericho. Something interesting happens as soon as Passover ends. The people had been eating manna (bread) that God was literally sending from heaven...as in dropping it out of the sky...while they were on their journey. It was the sustenance for the obedience.
When we obey Him, He will sustain us. (*13)
"As soon as they started eating food grown in the land, there was no more manna for the People of Israel. That year they ate from the crops of Canaan."
They were eating the crops from the soil of their promised land.
When we reach where God has wanted to take us all along, we begin to realize the more we've been longing for was worth every ounce of trust we poured into our relationship with God to get there.
But just when you think arrival means kicking back, the Lord steps in and kicks it up a notch. See...we have a limited view of the end. Often times where we think the touchdown is, is really just a first down on a much longer drive.
Joshua looks up and see's a man with a sword drawn.
That'll wake ya up in hurry!
Joshua asks him a rather solid question.
"Whose side are you on - ours or our enemies?"
Pause. Can you imagine? You've just arrived at what you thought was your destination, and it appears the gig isn't over yet. Not only that, but you might be staring you demise right in the face.
Unexpected, and unprepared.
When we least expect it, we are stretched to the ends of our faith.
Has that ever happened to you before?
What you thought was the end...success to enjoy...turned into potential chaos?
Then this from the man with the sword...
"...I'm commander of God's army. I've just arrived."
Joshua knows in an instant this isn't about assessing a threat, it's about honoring his God. What happens next, particularly the order in which it happens is so important.
1. Joshua fell face first on the ground and worshipped God.
2. Joshua asked "What orders does my Master have for his servant?"
He didn't ask questions first.
He worshipped first.
Stop and think about that for a second.
He wasn't making requests, asking questions and trying to figure out what was about to happen. He was lost in love, reverence, and awe that God was coming to Him through this man. He was humbled. He was quiet. He shows us what contentment looks like.
I don't know about you...but when things get dicey...I often start with asking questions. I want to know what's up. I make requests. I have to know details. And in those moments I'm missing my greatest opportunity.
Being content in His presence.
"God's army commander ordered Joshua. 'Take your sandals off your feet. The place you are standing is holy."
"Joshua did it."
Sometimes I am in such a hurry wanting to know what's next, that I miss the point.
It's not about what's next, it's about WHO I am with. (*14)
As a dad I'm in a hurry, a lot.
I'd do better to simply take a step back and keep my distance so that I can see the value of their presence. Who is with me is always more valuable than what's next, where I'm off to, when it will come to pass, and every why answered on the way.
Our diligence needs a direction is the title of this chapter in Ocean Road.
Not just because it will help us navigate our journey. (that's part of it)
More importantly because it will help us honor WHO goes before us (God), and WHO we are going with (the people God has placed in our lives to honor).
Joshua was on it.
I think we're on it.
It's time to slow down and look around.
The direction our diligence needs is found face down on our knees.
We're on it.
The Israelites were on it.
Joshua Chapter 6 will tell us what we can learn from it.
Want a hint?
Perspective Point #11.
When a slow walk becomes a faith-driven multiplier epic shows up!
How's that for a teaser?
Here's your PERSPECTIVE POINTS for today.
10. When you walk in faith, you don't have to ride in fear.
11. Walking can feel slower, but in faith, it's a multiplier.
12. Our diligence needs a direction.
13. When we obey Him, He will sustain us.
14. It's not about what's next, it's about WHO I am with.
10. What emotional roller coaster do you need to stop riding? Do you have someone who is always begging you to go for the ride? Who can you start surrounding yourself with that will walk in faith with you instead?
11. What are you doing so that when the walk is slow, you are reminded to stay the course? What reminders (like the stones from the Jordan) can you use to keep you moving forward? Are you focusing on the answer coming (the WHAT) or THE answer you are with along the way (God)? Are you focusing on the pace of your progress, or the face of the only one who controls that (God's)?
12. Are you focused on trusting the process God has called you to, or your strength and ability to get it done on your own? Are you trying to prove you are right, or trusting Him to prove Himself strong? Are you doubting you have what it takes, or content that if He has called you to this, He will bring you through this?
13. Are you willing to walk in obedience and trust Him for your sustenance? And when HOW He has been sustaining you changes, how will you react? Will you trust Him when it seems success is being traded in for chaos? Will you fall to your knees in worship or stand and yell in defiance? Will you hold on to the manna so closely that you miss the crops He wants to give you in your promised land? AND...when you are facing a man with a sword moment, will you trust?
14. How are you showing those around you that matter most to you how much you appreciate them? How much you love them? That they matter more to you than any answer you are waiting on, project you are working on, or place in life you are trying to get to? How can you be more intentional about spending quality time with those closet to you. TLC. Tender Loving Care, right? Well...try this...Tangible Life Change. How can you create Tangible Life Change in the lives entrusted to you?
*The reflection questions feel more intense to me today. I think that's ok. Where we are going means we'll need to be able to ask ourselves the hard questions, if we want to experience the very best God has for us. Be encouraged as you process where you are at today. God loves you. He's crazy about you. That's pretty cool. And as you go...remember...when he sends you a man with a sword...it's a reminder that He's got your back. How cool is that. :)
(Joshua Chapter 6)
There are times when I'll walk up to my wife and tell her "I'm gonna take a walk". After 15 years of marriage, she'll smile as I leave because she knows it's not me being disciplined to work-out (although that's needed), it's me needing to go clear my head.
I'm not sure what it is, but when I walk I think more clearly. It has the same effect that being near water does. It calms me. And when I can combine the two, that puts me at my ultimate happy place. And when I come back from a walk I can usually process whatever I'm dealing with at the time much better.
But I can't imagine taking one walk, much less a weeks worth, and coming back empty on almost every single one. That would be hard. It might feel like it would have been better had I not taken the walks all-together.
Imagining how that might feel is one thing.
Where the Israelites were at the start of Joshua 6?
That was about to be their current reality.
As they looked around it was obvious that the City of Jericho was closed for business. "No one going in, no one coming out." In those days there weren't fancy signs welcoming you to the area that talked about how many little league titles they'd won on the side of the road. These cities were fortified. They had HUGE walls, massive gates, armed guards, etc...
And then this from God to Joshua...
"Look sharp now. I've already given Jericho to you".
There. No problem, right? The city no one can get in or out of. Yup, that one. God said it was their city. Wait, what? How? That seems a bit crazy. Except for the fact that the Israelites had just seen God make a road in the middle of a river.
But the next instruction still had to seem a bit odd. It wasn't storm the gates! In fact, it was the polar opposite. It wasn't immediate, loud, or brash.
It was go march around the city once a day. Do it with priests carrying trumpets out in front of the Chest of God, and armed guards behind you. Do it for 6 days. And then...on the 7th day have the priests starting blasting away on the trumpets, and march around the city 7 times. Not just once like before. Not a handful for good measure. 7. On the last lap go all Dizzie Gillispie on the horn with one loud note. When that happens choir practice is gonna come in handy... SHOUT! As loud as you can...SHOUT!
Because when you do...
"The city wall will collapse at once."
The Israelites must have thought...that seems a bit odd, kinda drawn out and exhausting. But at least we know that God is saying if we do it, that is what is gonna happen.
Except that the only one who knew all the instructions was Joshua. And the only thing he told the Israelites was to walk around the city, and stay quiet. They didn't know if that meant once. They might have assumed that. They were likely hoping above all hope it was that. But it must have been crazy not knowing.
Every single day, out they'd go. A long walk. Come home. Nothing to show for their efforts. Then back at it the next day. And the next. And the next. Do you think at some point some of them started to doubt that Joshua knew what he was doing, or if he was really hearing anything from God at all?
I think those feelings would have been fair game, and very real.
And on top of all of it?
Joshua tells them "Don't shout. In fact, don't even speak - not so much as a whisper until you hear me say, 'Shout!' - then shout away!"
Have you ever been on a long family trip, and someone (usually an exhausted parent or an annoyed older sibling) suggests playing "the quiet game"? You know...first one who talks loses. The person suggesting it hopes everyone buys in, so that peace and quiet prevail.
Yeah, that's pretty much what Joshua was telling the entire Israelite nation to do. Only...he wasn't asking. He wasn't suggesting. He was mandating.
Joshua was telling them to zip it, and walk it.
I want to show you something now that almost knocked me out of my chair on the porch when I made the connection for myself.
As the Israelites approached the Jordan River, Joshua told them to KEEP THEIR DISTANCE from the Chest of God. Now, as they walked around the City of Jericho he was telling them to KEEP THEIR MOUTH SHUT.
Keep your distance so that you can see the route to take. STAY BACK.
Keep your mouth shut so that you can hear your next move to make. STAY QUIET.
Are you starting to sense that following the Lord's lead is what brings the breakthrough?
And we sit back and watch the obedience of an entire nation, lead to a moment that only God could bring to pass. They marched quietly. The moved forward obediently. When nothing changed, they stayed the course. They got up on day 2 the same way they did on day 1. And they repeated it on days 3, 4, 5 and 6. And just when it seemed like nothing would ever change?
They did what we'd all be well served to do when we face a challenge.
Double the obedience in the face of the resistance. (*15)
They had walked around the City of Jericho 6 times in 6 days.
They walked around the City of Jericho 7 times on the last day.
They ignored their preference to quit.
And then it happened.
The 7th lap completed...the trumpet sounded...and they sounded off.
"When the people heard the blast of the trumpets, they gave a thunderclap shout. The wall fell at once. They people rushed straight into the city and took it."
"The wall fell at once."
And if the story stopped here we'd clap politely and put the book down. Something very important might get missed if we do. Something that if we are being honest, we all struggle with from time to time.
We stop walking because we don't see anything changing.
For the Israelites the 6 days of marching consistently , remaining quiet, with no visual progress of any kind must have been hard. It must have been exhausting. How many times they must have wanted to SCREAM...to try and hurry the process up a little...yet they didn't.
Have you ever faced a moment like that?
Have you ever wanted to stop walking during a time you know you need to keep moving?
As much as the wall fell "...at once.", it wasn't that moment that tells the whole story.
Included in the moment of triumph that unfolded quickly was the obedience to instructions that happened quietly.
They took the City of Jericho because they first took instruction.
Obedience to instruction creates clarity of direction.(*16)
When it seems like quitting makes more sense.
When it seems like maybe we've mis-read the situation.
When it seems like all hope is lost.
Remember the promise God made to make it happen.
Remember the promise we made to walk it out.
Breakthroughs are built on a foundation of consistency.(*17)
What happened to me next on this Ocean Road journey was a head-scratcher.
Where we were staying was next to a street that caught my attention based on it's name alone. I can't remember ever seeing a street with this name.
East Luke Street.
My wife and I have talked from time to time how cool it would be to own a home in the Outer Banks. It is such a place of rest for our family. That moment is a long ways off, unless the Lord...well...makes an Ocean Road for it to happen sooner.
As I was thinking about that...I noticed the number on a house for sale on East Luke Street. And when I did...something hit me.
205 East Luke Street.
The numbers quickly mushed together in my head.
I don't know why...they just did.
2 + 5 = 7
And as God as my witness I felt a prompting. Not some big, booming voice...just a gentle nudge in my heart to do something.
Go read Luke 7.
I kid you not...and this is what I found when I did.
There is a story about Jesus and his disciples approaching a village. As they did they bumped into a funeral procession for a young boy who had died. He was an only child. And on top of that, his mother was also a widow. She was now completely alone.
And then this...
"When Jesus saw her, his heart broke. He said to her 'Don't Cry'. Then he went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said 'Young man, I tell you: Get up.' The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother."
Do you see it?
At a moment when the mother felt COMPLETELY ALONE, Jesus met her GREATEST NEED. A need she didn't even know she had, because she knew the reality of her boy's death. She might have been hoping for the pain to slowly dissipate over time. But it would never totally go away. How could it? Her son was dead.
One touch of the coffin.
One word to 'Get up".
I think someone may be sitting on the death of a dream that Jesus would tell you...
He'd tell all of us that just because it looks like all hope is lost, it doesn't eliminate his ability to step in and move on our behalf.
Are you tired of walking?
Once, twice...three, four times. Five, Six...Seven. Just keep moving.
Does your dream feel like it has died?
"They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful - and then noisily grateful, call out among themselves, 'God is back, looking to the needs of his people!"
And there is the connection to Joshua.
A place in our lives of "...holy mystery."
"God was at work among them."
'...Quietly worshipful...', like the walk around the City of Jericho.
'...Noisily grateful...', like when the city walls fell.
A nation dependent.
A mother desperate.
When God showed me that on the front porch of a small house next to a vast ocean...it was almost too much to take in. Showing me that I can remain quiet in the calling, knowing that at an appointed time I will have a moment to shout with a joy that bellows from a deep sense of knowing God had it all along.
I can't force the process.
I can't move the needle faster.
I can't create a substitute that'll work for now until it comes to pass.
Moments in my life, your life...all of our lives...that we are to remain obedient while we wait. Walk when were tired. Stay quiet when we want to shout. When we'll need to double our obedience in the face of resistance, so that we can see the clarity of direction in God's instruction. Knowing full well that if we'll stay the course the foundation of consistency we are laying down is the breeding ground of...
Our greatest breakthrough.
15. Double the obedience in the face of resistance.
16. Obedience to instruction creates clarity of direction.
17. Breakthroughs are built on a foundation of consistency.
15. What can you do, with what you have, where you are at to increase your obedience? What can you give more of? Your time? Your finances? Your service to others? Where do you feel stretched? What can you double as you face resistance?
16. What do you need to act on that you've been hesitant to? What freaks you out so you haven't done it, even though you know God is prompting you to act on it?
17. What area of your life do you need to be more consistent in? What breakthrough are you waiting on? Is it possible your breakthrough not coming has something to do with your unwillingness to stay quiet, stay consistent, and walk out an area of your life you've been hesitant to? Will you commit to taking the next steps so that not only you...but those around you get to experience the breakthrough from your consistency?
This Chapter is going to change the game for someone today.
Before we dive in, I wanted to give you an update on Rahab.
Actually, Rahab and her whole family.
Remember the promise the two men made to her because she protected them? Well...when the city walls of Jericho fell in Chapter 6, Rahab and her family made it out.
A promise honored.
And as Chapter 6 wound to a close, something happened that is important we mention here, because it set the stage for where we are going next.
Here's the short version of the ending of Joshua Chapter 6...
The Israelites were told not to take anything that didn't belong to them. One step further...all of the silver, gold, bronze and iron were to be placed in God's treasury. This instruction seemed easy enough to follow. Except, well...you probably guessed it...someone didn't.
Enter Achan and Joshua Chapter 7.
He "...took some of the cursed things."
What happens next is very interesting. You'd think God would call him out directly. You'd think that Achan's actions were one man going rogue, so he'd be dealt with accordingly. Except that, just like most times when we do something wrong, our actions impact other people as well.
It seemed Achan had gotten away with it.
Life was moving on for the Israelites.
They'd just experienced two miracles, and were ready for more.
Joshua sent two spies (sound familiar?) to scout out a land called Ai.
The spies returned with another familiar response. "Don't bother sending a lot of people...Don't wear out the whole army, there aren't that many people there."
Except that they got their tales whooped.
"The heart of the people sank, all spirit knocked out of them."
Joshua and the rest of the leaders reacted the same way. They bellowed out before God, asking why he even bothered to bring them across the Jordan. He complained that God should have just let them settle on the side of the Jordan (forgetting that it wasn't all peaches and cream over there.) He was convinced that because of what happened at Ai, everyone else in the area would hear, and defeat the Israelites as well.
And if that temper-tantrum wasn't bad enough, Joshua finished with this comment...
"...how then will you keep up your reputation."
Did Joshua really just tell God...that God's reputation was at stake?
That takes some serious Israelite stones!
I love what God says back to Joshua...
"Get up. Why are you groveling? Israel has sinned."
AKA...Shut up. Quit your whining. How about asking me why things turned so quickly against you instead of insulting my intelligence. Your man Achan put his hand in the proverbial forbidden cookie jar...hoping no one would notice.
God can't bless what we cover up.(*18)
And there it is. Achan's actions didn't just effect him. They impacted a nation.
Whether we like it or not, what we do/don't do can do the same thing.
Our opportunity to reach others.
It's all at stake every...single...day.
Here is a perspective that we'd all do well to adopt.
Our obedience is our sustenance.(*19)
But if we see what we should/shouldn't be doing as just a bunch of rules, we will fail to follow through. At some point we'll find & justify an excuse to act on preference.
That's exactly where Achan found himself.
God continued to Joshua...
"The People of Israel can no longer look their enemies in the eye - they themselves are plunder. I can't continue with you if you don't rid yourselves of the cursed things."
The next day Achan was confronted on what he did. He admitted to it. He explained exactly how he did it. He told Joshua where he hid it. And let's all be glad that we don't live in times where the result is what it was for Achan that day. Suffice it to say, we can relate to the fact that when we go off script with God's plan, we land in a bad place.
Achan's disobedience led to a nation's initial defeat.
Notice I said initial.
Because once the matter was over, and Israel was right before God, things changed.
In the beginning of Joshua 8, God very clearly tells Joshua that Ai will be theirs.
"Don't be timid and don't so much as hesitate. Take all your soldiers with you and go back to Ai. I have turned the king of Ai over to you - his people, his city and his land."
So what is it for you?
What area of your life do you need to come clean on before God?
There's good news.
You aren't going to get stoned for it.
The sacrifice Jesus made for you is enough to cover you.
This moment of Ocean Road serves as a marker (remember the stones earlier?).
This is a moment where we can move forward because we are willing to own the actions that we thought were far behind us. Like Achan, we thought God overlooked them. And in the end...it's what has been holding us back all along.
It's also what may be holding our relationships back. With our spouse. With our kids. With our family. With our neighbors. With our colleagues. And with those we are called to be a light to in the world around us every single day.
Achan was sick of having "just enough" so he thought he'd fill in the gaps.
The fact is Achan's disobedience created a gap. Between him and God. Between the nation of Israel and God. And when we try to fill in the gaps of what we have with what we think we need...we do the same thing.
So how can we stay on script when ad-libbing seems more attractive?
Honoring a vision that is connected to our calling.
A vision allows us to see and make decisions that are connected to our calling, rather than excuses that are connected to our cravings.
I'm reminded of a verse from Ephesians 4.
(v. 19) "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality."
When we numb our sensitivity, we don't feel the danger of sensuality.
Put another way...
Sensitivities create callings, sensualities create cravings.(*20)
There is...if you will...a sexiness on the surface of the things that could destroy us. Until we step back, and look through the lens of who we are called to be. The things that could knock us off course will always have a more immediate appeal to them than the hard work of sticking to the script of our calling.
We all have a calling.
We all have cravings.
Winning the battle starts with gaining a perspective on it.
#GiveUp or #GiveIn.(*21)
We can #GiveUp a craving so that we can pursue our calling.
We can #GiveIn to the craving and forfeit the blessing that comes with our calling.
Forfeit is a pretty hard word.
It means we hand something over.
It means we walk away empty-handed and heavy-hearted.
But we don't have to.
Remember how the Israelites would receive manna from heaven on their journey? How when they needed sustenance, the Lord would bless them because of their obedience? And remember how once they crossed through the Jordan, that the manna ceased?
The manna ceased, because the blessing of their promise had come.
And walking in obedience...towards our calling...is the same thing.
We walk away.
We pursue it even if it's hard.
Manna isn't sexy. It's rather bland. But it's also the marker of remembrance that led the Israelites to the blessings found in the land promised to them. If they'd all given in, like Achan, to a craving...can you imagine the ending?
Times will get hard.
Temptation will come.
When it does, remember this...
The manna means more when you know WHO you are doing it for.
Everyone who needs to experience freedom they'll find in the calling you'll share.
What craving do you need to #GiveUp, so that you don't #GiveIn and miss out?
18. God can't bless what we cover up.
19. Our obedience is our sustenance.
20. Sensitivities create callings, sensualities create cravings.
21. #GiveUp or #GiveIn
18. What is your "cookie jar" that you've sensed you need to keep your hand out of? When you choose to cave to the craving who does it impact besides you? (We need to name them specifically so that we see the reality of the impact of our choices)
19. What do you need to "own", and come clean on so that you can move on? What gap have you been trying to fill, that has actually created a gap between you and God? Who are you going to ask to help you stay on script when you do?
20. What are you numbing your sensitivity with? What can you do/who can you talk to...to distance yourself from the cravings that tempt you? Have you taken the time to write down where you feel called so that you have a "stone of remembrance" to refer to when it gets hard?
21. What is your "manna" that God has given you for now, as you pursue His best for you? When you look back...where are the moments when God left you "manna" because of your obedience? And if it's hard to see those moments in the past...Will you commit to #GiveUp your craving now so that you don't #GiveIn and miss the blessing found in your calling moving forward?
(*Joshua Chapter 8)
We move forward today.
What held us back, does no longer.
The time has come to honor the gifts we've been given on a level we never knew we could, so that those we are called to do life with can experience a relationship they always wanted...but never knew how to ask for.
It's time for us to lead the way.
It's time for us to go back to our "Ai."
With our spouse.
With our kids.
With our family.
With our neighbors.
With our colleagues.
And with those we are called to be a light to in the world around us every single day.
And so that we don't get to a place in our minds and hearts where we start to feel like God is taking "fun" stuff away for us, or layering rules on top of us...we can refer to Joshua 8...just a few verses in.
"Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king. Only this time you may plunder its stuff and cattle to your heart's content." (Italics mine)
I don't know about you, but I can get caught up feeling sorry for myself when I feel like God is prompting me to do something I'd rather not. Most times, if I'm being honest, it's because I don't understand why He'd ask what He is asking. I can't see the end-game, so I complain that the request is even part of the game. And it's in those moments that I can end up like Achan.
I grab onto something God wants me to leave alone like a stubborn toddler who insists they are entitled to something their parent says no to. I throw my temper-tantrum. Not always for others to see...but in the quietness of my frustrated heart, I throw it.
But today we're going to move forward.
We've come clean before God...ready to move forward.
We can go back to our "Ai"...where the initial ending didn't turn out the way we thought it would...so that we allow God to do what only He could...and can.
When Joshua and his soldiers went back to Ai...he gave orders that resonate with me...and I believe they will with you...as you approach your Ai.
"Look sharp now...Get as close as you can. Stay alert."
We get close once we get serious.(*22)
In fact, close proximity to victory comes once specific direction is followed.
Once the Israelites realized they couldn't partake of "the cursed things", they found themselves on the doorstep of their blessing.
Joshua laid out the plans to his soldiers as to how it would all happen. And then something fascinating takes place before the victory. Once everyone was in place scripture tells us this...
"Joshua spent the night with the people. Joshua spent the night in the valley."
We might have to wait on the way. Right before we take the thing God is handing to us...we might have to wait in a valley. A low point. Low points can have perceived connotations of frustration.
Like where we are isn't where we are supposed to be, or want to be.
This serves as a tremendous reminder to simply...wait.
Spend the night in the valley.
Look at the promise that God gave you from a distance, and don't worry about the current accommodations.
Before you know it...it will be yours.
If God has promised it, it's not a maybe...its your destiny.(*23)
The very next morning Joshua walked out what God commanded he do. And piece by piece...move by move...God's promise to give the Israelites the land of Ai, happened.
One last part of their story at Ai...
The moment of the battle that stood to be the greatest test of Joshua's faith for God to act on their behalf came with a command from God.
"Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai - I'm giving it to you."
I suppose that isn't all that crazy of a request.
But what is remarkable to me is what Joshua does with it.
Throughout the conflict Joshua didn't lower the javelin until the battle was completely over. He stood in faith. He acted in obedience. He saw it through...all the way to the end. He was tired. His arm was sore. His body's strength waining. But...
Joshua stood, acted, and was rewarded for his obedience.
And so will you be.
Stay on script.
Stay the course.
I want to share a personal story from our vacation as we close out our time together in this Chapter of Ocean Road.
On Tuesday night of our vacation our family went to dinner. We had spent the day at the beach as a family, and decided we’d attempt to wash all the sand off and have a nice dinner out. It was fun...but what happened after dinner taught me something I will never forget.
I can't remember how it came up, but when we got back to the house, we decided we'd go for a walk on the beach. Still remotely dressed up from our dinner out, off we went. The sky was beginning to look a bit overcast, as the possibility of a storm was looming that day, and into the next. The night air was mild...and as the sun began to set the temperature dipped a bit. The wind was picking up a little as we came over the dunes to the beach...
And then we saw it.
There were two people in the water in front of us...doing what looked absolutely crazy...until we got closer.
They were standing waist-deep in the ocean. Every so often they would plunge into the water with their hands, causing themselves to be covered up to their neck by the cool evening temperatures of the water. They would run their hands quickly across the ocean floor and raise them up with a burst...awaiting what might be, in their hands.
They were searching for Conch shells.
Now that might not seem like a big deal to you...so let me explain.
In all the years that our family has been to the OBX, we've NEVER...I repeat NEVER seen a single conch shell. Not in the water. Not on the beach. Just the fake ones for sale in every shop on the boulevard...and those don't count.
And as we stood there watching, it happened.
One of the girls came up out of the water and yelled..."I've got one!"
And that was all it took.
Without a moment's hesitation I was in that Ocean up to my neck. I had completely forgotten that I had on a leather belt that was moments away from running all over my neatly ironed, navy blue and white, gingham-check shorts. I had my glasses on...special ones that had been a gift from my dear brother-in-law...forgetting that they would likely be gone forever the first time I plunged to the bottom searching for a conch shell.
My wife stood on the shoreline with the smile she often gives me when I've gone temporarily insane. She quietly reminded me of the aforementioned mental blips on my radar...and I ran from the water to hand her my belt, glasses, watch, and sweater. Yes...I had gone in the ocean in a sweater. I didn't care...I wanted a conch shell.
And here's the thing.
Not because I wanted it for me.
I wanted it for my daughter.
We've been walking the beach...watching the sunrise together...since she was a little girl. We've never once seen a conch shell. And I wasn't leaving there until I found one for her. It's what you do as a dad.
And as the night set in, the sun set...and most everyone had left (including my wife who took the boys back to the house so they wouldn't be cold)...there we stood.
My daughter and I.
Soaked in the chilly-evening...standing in the ocean.
Slamming into the water.
Reaching down into the ocean floor.
Sweeping our hands furiously...grasping...hoping.
And there is one very important element I have to add that makes this whole thing come together. The reason the conch shells were a possibility was because a large storm coming was a reality. (Isn't that symbolic. The greatest rewards come from the hardest times) With a storm over the ocean comes waves. HUGE WAVES. The waves move fast. They hit hard. And that means that every single rock, and broken shell on the ocean floor comes crashing in...TO YOU!
As we stood scouring the bottom of the Ocean for the possibility of finding a once-in-a -lifetime find...we were pelted consistently by the harshness of the ocean.
I literally came out of the water that night with shins that were beaten, bruised and nicked-up. Drops of blood the reminder of what we had to stand in...all for a maybe.
We had gone ALL-IN for a maybe.(*24)
Just like Joshua and his javelin.
Just like you and whatever challenge God is calling you to right now.
And it was worth every single second.
Not only did we find a conch shell...we brought in a haul of them!
But it took going into unchartered, and uncertain waters for it to happen.
On day one of our trip we picked up tons of broken shells, because that is all there was. We didn't want to leave empty-handed, and knew it was possible that the beach wouldn't have any more shells the rest of the week. So we collected them.
On day two we were amazed to find shells that were HUGE and completely intact. All of a sudden the previous day's finding didn't look so amazing.
And on day three...the conch shells.
Do you see the pattern?
It's not lost on me that...
The more rare the moment...the greater the challenge and commitment it would take to receive the reward.
And that's the point.
It was for Joshua.
It was for my daughter and I.
It is for you, too.
Picking up what we saw (shells on a beach) made us happy at first. But then...when we saw what was possible (the conch shells) we went ALL-IN for a maybe. We searched many times...over and over...and came up empty. Broken ocean pieces slamming into us. But that didn't deter us.
It was harder work, for fewer results.
But those results were worth more than what we had found before.
And because of how it had to be done?
They meant more.
Sometimes the journey will remind us that obedience trumps preference.
Just like it did for Achan, Joshua, and the Israelites.
Sometimes the journey is going to toss us back and forth in a storm.
Just like it did for my daughter and I.
No matter what the journey brings...
"Look sharp...and stay alert."
Your victory is coming.
22. We get close once we get serious.
23. If God has promised it, it's not a maybe...it's your destiny.
24. ALL-IN for a maybe.
22. Is there something you need to do so that you can arrive on the doorstep of your blessing? What do you need to do so that you get serious about your calling?
23. Are you more focused on the frustration of your current accommodations, or the promise found in God's promise?
24. What's holding you back from going ALL-IN for a maybe?
I'm praying for you today. I believe in you! Trust HIM.
Make today the day...that you move forward. You've got this!
(Joshua Chapter 9)
This was the end of Chapter 8...
"Sometimes the journey will remind us that obedience trumps preference.
Just like it did for Achan, Joshua, and the Israelites.
Sometimes the journey is going to toss us back and forth in a storm.
Just like it did for my daughter and I.
No matter what the journey brings...
"Look sharp...and stay alert."
Your victory is coming."
And then came the next morning...
We were back to our usual pattern to start our day. Up early. Up before the sun was up. Off to the beach to meet it's arrival over the horizon. And in as much as we take those walks to see what we can find on the beach, they mean more because of the time spent...and who it's with.
On this day, as we came up over the dune, we did the same thing we always do. We kicked off our sandals so that we could walk the beach barefoot. As we started down the beach, Ella had a little head start on me. I trailed a few feet behind, as I heard it.
She began to stand up from her previously held catcher's stance position as she saw something by her feet. In her hand as she stood was something I'd never seen in person before on our walks. It was something that, I kid you not, I had prayed Ella would find on our trip. I know that might sound silly...but as a parent, it's what you do. You pray for things for your kids because you love them. You long to see the smile on their face, and their heart leaping for joy. And today was one of those days.
She turned to me, opened her hand, and held it out.
There it was.
A sand dollar.
A tiny little sand dollar.
I couldn't believe it. Not because I thought they didn't exist. It's just...in all the walks we've ever taken on a beach, we'd never seen one. And couple that with the silent prayers I had been praying that week on our walks for one to appear. Well...it was a special moment. And as we took off to walk the beach after she found it, waiting for the sun to rise, something struck me.
Like a quiet whisper on my heart, the Lord spoke to me...
You have to walk where most won't walk, to find what most won't find.(*25)
And as I process what that means now, it means even more.
Walking where most won't walk means different things. For us?
That morning was incredibly special. I still have no clue how she found that sand dollar. It was the size of an eraser on the tip of a pencil. That sand dollar, amongst all the broken shells, HUGE shells, stones, sand, driftwood, and occasional piece of trash on the beach...and she see's it.
Instead of taking a moment for face value, sometimes it requires us to dig a little deeper. And that is where Joshua and the Israelites found themselves in the beginning of Joshua, Chapter 9.
They were coming out of two huge victories.
Jericho and Ai.
Like Ella and I.
Huge shells and conch shells.
When we are most successful is a time we are most susceptible.
To missing the point that is right in front of us. What we think looks like one thing, is very different, because we didn't look close enough.
Ella could have walked right past that sand dollar. But based on the amazing experience of finding the conch shells the way we had the night before...I think her radar of possibility was heightened. But she knew that in order for it to work, she had to look differently. She had to pay attention where she might have walked past before.
There were several kings that lived on the west side of the Jordan river. And once they heard about how God moved on behalf of Joshua and the Israelites, they were scared.
"They came together in a coalition to fight against Joshua and Israel under a single command."
And just like the odds were stacked against us finding that sand dollar, these kings were about to do something to stack the odds against Joshua and the Israelites.
Here is how it went down. People from all over dressed up. They took on the look of weary travelers. They dressed the part. Clothes, donkey sacks, and sandals looking worn, torn and beaten up. Like they'd been on the road a long time. They broke off food so it looked like all they had was crumbs and leftovers.
They only lived a short distance from where the Israelites were, but they looked as if they'd come from far away. When they reached Joshua they laid down an academy award winning performance. They convinced the Israelites that they were impressed with how God acted on their behalf, and how they wanted to be part of the Israelites world.
They asked the Israelites to make a covenant with them. To be their servants. To get in on the good stuff, they'd do anything.
The reality was these people were terrified. They knew God had promised the Israelites this entire land. It didn't take a genius to figure out that meant they were next. Just like Jericho. Just like Ai. They'd be taken over...and in their time, that meant that they'd likely not be alive for long.
So as they presented their "evidence", the Israelites did something on their own that cost them a greater reward that God wanted to give them.
"The men of Israel looked them over and accepted the evidence. But they didn't ask God about it."
A covenant was made.
The Israelites acted on their gut, rather than checking with their God.
The distraction of what looked good on the surface, led the Israelites to miss the point of why they were there. Ella could have walked right past the sand dollar had she done the same thing.
But she stopped. She slowed down. She bent down. She looked closer. And somewhere between me praying she'd find one, and her quiet patience to wait?
The moment we'd both wanted happened.
The moment the Israelites wanted could have to.
And in both cases, there's another lesson for us.
Part of the reason Ella found that sand dollar is found in the many walks, over many years, that she and I have taken on beaches. It's found not in what she saw or didn't see. It's found in what she heard. Instruction. Teaching. Guiding. From me. From her dad. On how not to go so fast, that you miss out on what is right in front of you. How to look closer, even when you think there is nothing there.
And the Israelites would have done well to see the value in listening as well. To God.
Mentors see obstacles we can't see.(*26)
Ella trusted me over time, and was able to respond because of our conversations.
The Israelites had forgotten to consult their mentor, and reacted to their circumstances.
What happened to the Israelites that day is something we can all relate to. We look a moment we aren't sure of square in the face, and react rather than respond.
I think it sounds like this...
What do you have for me? (a response to a conversation with God)
What can I do with this? (a reaction to the circumstances around us)
Ask God what he has for us, don't accept evidence AS-IS.(*27)
As a result, the Israelites made a covenant that cost them God's promise to them. Once they realized their mistake (only 3 days later), they went off to confront them. It was too little, too late. The deal was struck. They couldn't do a thing to change it. So they settled for the only thing they could do about it.
The Israelites made these people "...wood-cutters and water carriers."
A lesson learned.
The hard way.
A moment that was meant to be one thing, became another.
A check-mate demotion turned out to be a life-saving promotion for their enemy.
Well played kings from everywhere else. You suckered the Israelites to walking right past their sand dollar moment. Your distraction techniques kept the Israelites from slowing down, and kneeling down. For if they had, they'd have asked God what He had for them, rather than taking a false presentation as factual proof.
Don't take a false presentation as factual proof. (*28)
I think there are more SAND-DOLLAR MOMENTS in our life than we realize.
But we don't see them, because we live in FEAR of what it will take to experience them.
Have you ever heard this before?
False Evidence Appearing Real.
I think there is one more very important point thing we need to do moving forward...
Stop accepting FEAR as proof, and walk in FAITH.(*29)
Don't mail in your promise, because you are pre-occupied with your problems.
When we walk where most won't walk (in obedience), we will find what most won't find (our answer). Why? Because we've trusted God. Because we've trusted mentors God has placed in our lives. When we start having conversations with God we'll be able to respond to what He has for us. The alternative? Accepting evidence around us AS-IS, and reacting to our circumstances instead. That's mis-placed trust and more forfeited promises. Don't take a false presentation as factual proof. Lean on God to help you discern the difference between walking in FEAR and standing in FAITH. Because, at the end of the day, that's where we find the promises fulfilled that God has made over our lives all along.
25. You have to walk where most won't walk, to find what most won't find.
26. Mentors see obstacles we can't see.
27. Ask God what he has for us, don't accept evidence AS-IS.
28. Don't take a false presentation as factual proof.
29. Stop accepting FEAR as proof, and walk in FAITH.
25. Where do you need to go in your life so that you can experience what God has for you? Is it an actual place? A physical trip you need to take? A move? Is it simply going to a point that you place your trust in Christ for the first time ever? Do you need to walk into a relationship with him, rather than continuing to walk in frustration based on how you've lived your life...on your own...apart from him?
26. As you look around you, who can you go to as a mentor? In addition to the time you'll spend with God moving forward...who can you put around you...to keep you on course? Will you make the commitment to finding someone, so this goes from being just a good idea...to an implemented life-change?
27. What area(s) of your life do you need to ask God what He has for you? What area(s) of your life are you currently accepting evidence AS-IS instead?
28. What false presentations are you giving weight in your life? That you aren't good enough? That you don't have what it takes? That your past is too big to overcome? That your future is to scary to move into? (None of it is true by the way. You are enough just as you are. You have what it takes. Your past can inform your future. All of this is true as you place your trust in Christ to show it to you, as He shows Himself strong in and through you)
29. What one thing can you do today to stop accepting those fears as truth? What one thing can you do to simply...walk in FAITH?
*As you leave today, my prayer is that this will encourage you...
Philippians 4:6-7(NIV Version)
"(6)Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
(Joshua Chapter 10)
Have you ever felt like the odds were stacked against you? That whatever it was you were attempting to do seemed more likely to fail than succeed? But at the same time...you knew that it was something you were supposed to do?
Let's look at a moment when Joshua was staring this feeling in the face, and how his response can be an encouragement to us, today.
No sooner than things seemed to be settling down a bit, Joshua received some news. 5 kings decided they were going to combine their forces and come after the people of Gibeon. (The Gibeonites were the people that had become the "woodcutters & water carriers" for the Israelites) As you might imagine, the people of Gibeon freaked out. They ran to Joshua and begged him for help. And in typical Joshua fashion, here was his response...
"Don't give them a second thought. I've put them under your thumb - not one of them will stand up to you."
Uhhh...easier to say chill, than feel it. At least that's what I imagine the Gibeonites reaction must have been. And then Joshua does something that might be easy to gloss over, but is a must that we pick up on.
"Joshua marched all night from Gilgal and took them by total surprise."
(Bold and italics mine)
Just because Joshua displayed confidence through his words, didn't mean he would stop walking in obedience with his feet.
There was work to be done, so that they could experience the promise they'd been given. And the reality is, the numbers weren't exactly in the Israelites favor. 5 kings, remember? All of their soldiers...ganging up on Gibeon and the Israelites.
Watch what happens once Joshua forges ahead despite the odds.
"God threw them into total confusion before Israel, a major victory at Gibeon...As they ran from the people of Israel...God pitched huge stones on them out of the sky and many died. More died from hailstones than the People of Israel killed with the sword."
Think about that for a moment.
Their victory had very little to do with their combat skills.
Their victory was the result of...you might say...a Hail Mary!
Let's bring this into what we are dealing with. Today's terms.
We have no problem lobbing up the Hail Mary prayer. BUT...we often, if we are truly being honest, proceed to sit and wait for the answer. I think we need to learn from the Israelites here. We need to "march all night". We need to go to the front lines, and trust that God will act on our behalf.
God didn't throw the hail stones until the Israelites showed up for work.
God isn't going to step in and act on our behalf either, until we show up for whatever it is He has called us to do.
Show up and ask for forgiveness.
Show up and spend time with our kids.
Show up and put in extra hours at work.
Show up and put in the work at the gym.
Show up and serve someone before we keep for ourselves.
Show up and...
When Joshua shows up he receives more than just hail stones, too. As he's continuing on, he realizes that the promise God made to him looks unlikely to happen. And the reason might seem simple. God's reaction is anything but.
Joshua and the Israelites were running out of daylight. (simple) So Joshua asks God to literally stop the sun and the moon. (not so simple) A simple man like Joshua challenges the God of the universe to do something never done before, and that has never been repeated, so that he could complete the task.
And God did it.
He stopped the sun.
He stopped the moon.
The day stood still.
The night stood still.
Joshua finished the work.
It was over.
How do hail stones and a hail mary prayer translate to our world, today?
When I was studying this part of the story, something jumped out to me. I think it's the reason we don't experience "hail stones" in our life.
We spend so much time fighting with one another, that we don't have the energy/focus left to hear from God about what he wants to fight for us on.
Let that really sink in.
Can you imagine if Joshua had spent time arguing with the Israelites about what God said/didn't say, instead of just acting? What if Joshua had stood there and told God that he was wrong? Or what if Joshua looked at his circumstances, and instead of trusting in what God had instructed, decided to deal with the situation how he saw fit?
In the simplest of terms, it's this...
We do 3 things...
We fight with one another.
We fight with God.
We fight off our circumstances.
Instead of this 1 thing...
Experience God fight FOR US.
The odds that are stacked against us today aren't insurmountable. But the way over them, through him, or around them will only be found in God dealing with them. The reason it feels like our efforts will fail is that, well...on our own, apart from God...they likely will. But neither stacked odds, or long odds...nor the feeling of being outmatched, is a reason to quit...when we are walking out the call of God on our lives.
Look around and ask yourself a few questions...
Am I allowing God to fight for me, as I walk obediently?
Am I spending my time doing HIS work, or fighting with others on how to do it?
Am I trusting that if God has called me to it, He will bring me through it?
Am I trusting the process He has promised, or the situation as I currently see it?
When we stop fighting with one another, with God, and against our circumstances...
we open our current reality to the only answer we need.
Like the Israelites.
Like the Gibeonites.
Experience God fight for you today.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Leave the hail stones up to God.
They are too heavy for us to lift anyway.
Stick with the hail mary prayers, and the obedient feet.
They are all we are called to lift.
Just one PERSPECTIVE POINT today.
It's enough to chew on for now.
FIGHTING WITH vs. FIGHTING FOR. (*30)
Are you fighting with one another?
Are you fighting against God?
Are you trying to fight off your circumstances?
Are you "marching all night" trusting God will show up and act on your behalf...where He has called you to go?
The end of Joshua 10 shares something very important. Remember the 5 kings that were trying to come after the Gibeonites in the beginning of the chapter? Here is the ending. Like any epic story that you start to sense the momentum shifting in. The ending we all want to happen...happens.
"Joshua took all these kings and their land in a single campaign because God, the God of Israel, fought for Israel."
When life gets hard...
Let God fight for you, too.
30. Are you fighting with one another? What area of your life do you need to set your verbal sword down, and stop swinging at each other with your words? Are you fighting with God? Where are you telling God all the reasons in your life why it won't, or can't work? When are you going to stop fighting against God's call on your life? Are you trying to fight off your circumstances by being clever in your own strength? When will you stop fighting in your own strength?
When are you going to let God fight for you?
(Joshua Chapter 11)
There are going to be moments in life when it seems like a break in the action has finally arrived...only to find out that more stuff is hitting the fan. That's about as honest as I can lay it out there. You sense an answer to prayer arriving, and on it's heels comes a twist you didn't see coming. Your joy collides with frustration. The long awaited breath of relief you are taking feels like someone put a shop vac on your lips and is taking it back with an even greater force.
That is where Joshua was standing in the beginning of chapter 11. Massive numbers of kings heard what was happening, and they pooled their resources. As in, "They came out in full force, all their troops massed together - a huge army, in number like sand on an ocean beach - to say nothing of all the horses and chariots...ready to fight against Israel."
Hence the aforementioned shop-vac reference.
At some point when enough stuff comes against you, it's like you are anticipating that if any good does come, it will be short-lived. That makes walking in faith pretty hard. I know...that's not the churchy pat answer you were thinking I'd say. It is, however, real. And so is life. But instead of tossing in the towel, Joshua stood in faith once again.
God's response to these new developments?
"Don't worry about them. This time tomorrow I'll hand them over to Israel."
And he did.
But not because Joshua had the chutzpa to take them on his own. In fact, it had everything to do with God acting on his behalf...again.
One of my favorite parts of this story is a verse in the middle of chapter 11.
"Just as God commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it. He didn't leave incomplete one thing that God had commanded Moses."
Not one thing incomplete.
Honestly...that's a tough pill to swallow.
Not. One. Thing.
Have you ever been at a point where you were frustrated, and wondered what you could have done different? Sometimes I think we keep looking for this massive shift that would have made the outcome different. And I think we are looking in the wrong places. We'd be well served to look at the smallest details we didn't think mattered.
If the details don't matter, neither does the outcome. (*31)
We see the big picture, but forget to walk out each step on the way. And we end up in a place where the big answer we are looking for was found in the small things we overlooked along the way.
The returned phone call.
The scheduling of an appointment.
The making time to be emotionally present with our kids.
The trusting God with our finances more, even when it makes less sense.
The honor we show someone we'd rather show the door.
That list could go on for a very long time. Frankly...it just scratches the surface. The few minutes we take to invest in someone will always be more important than what we could gain from keeping them for ourselves.
And before we go feeling sorry for ourselves, we'd do well to realize this too...
Cancel the Pity Party...it's not just about us. (*32)
It tells us that Joshua actually had to fight against the Kings that were after him for a long time. Remember, God said their enemies were toast. He'd wipe em' out. But he didn't say how long the whole thing would take.
And then this...
"It was God's idea that they would stubbornly fight the Israelites..."
Sometimes the answer we are looking for isn't about us. There is more at play. There are other people affected. And just because it doesn't make sense to us, doesn't mean God doesn't have a reason for the moment playing out the way it is.
It makes me think of a couple of verses in Isaiah 55 (verses 8 and 9)...
"I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work. God's Decree. For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think."
Are we content in the fact that sometimes...it's not about us?
It's not an easy question, but a necessary one.
And before you decide to bail on me because of the enormity of the ask I am making to you...to myself...to all of us, watch what happens next.
"Joshua took the whole region. He did everything that God had told Moses. Then he parceled it out as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribes. AND ISRAEL HAD REST FROM WAR." (Caps, Bold & Italics mine)
Rest comes after the resistance, if we are diligent in our obedience. (*33)
We talked at the beginning about how it's hard to catch your breath when you feel like the emotional shop-vac moment is just around the corner.
My encouragement for you, me...all of us, today?
We can't live life in fear of what could take the wind out of us, and miss the contentment that comes when we invite the presence of Jesus all around us.
Israel did experience rest in their heart.
And so will we.
After they did, and we will, do everything God commands us to.
If you sense God laying it on your heart, walk it out in your life. You don't need to be perfect, just present. You don't have to wait to start until you have the right words, you just need to be willing to start the conversation. You don't have to feel qualified, you just need to respond.
Letting Jesus fill in the gaps where we can't see how it matters.
That is the space we need to live in.
But the only way to set up camp there, is to walk in that direction.
The last thing that happens is a pretty cool reminder of the blessings that arrive through this life of obedience we are talking about.
Our surplus is someone else's sustenance. (*34)
The hot topic of taking care of others leads the news in lots of ways today. The answer we are looking for is closer than we think, and requires a whole lot less paper work and policy. When we'll walk where God is asking us to go, there will be more than enough to go around when it's needed most.
(31) If the details don't matter, neither does the outcome.
(32) Cancel the pity party...it's not just about us.
(33) Rest comes after the resistance, if we are diligent in our obedience.
(34) Our surplus is someone else's sustenance.
(31) What have you walked past in your hurry to get to the answer that likely matters more than you've given it credit for? What details have been overlooked that are the key to building a foundation the answer you are looking for can support?
(32) When is the last time you stopped...and considered the fact that what you are going through...maybe, just maybe has more of an impact on others than you realize?
(33) Are you more in love with the idea of rest than the implementation of walking out what you need to be? Are you willing to let Jesus fill in the gaps on the way, rather than have an emotionally bullet-proof plan (those don't exist btw...) in place before you start?
(34) Where is there an area of surplus in your life that should be the sustenance for someone else's? In your finances? In your time? In your encouragement? Some? All? More areas I haven't even mentioned?
It's your move...what are you waiting for?
About the book
Brett W. Gould
Author. Speaker. Teacher. Coach.