Day 90: The Rescuer

Judges 1:1-3:6; Luke 7:1-30

If you need evidence of the darkness of the human condition, look no further than Judges. It is the story of every human heart apart from Christ. Our best efforts to follow and obey lead only to ruin and apostasy. We just can’t make this journey in our own strength. We need rescuing. The people in Judges needed rescuing…

But as we’ll read over the next few days – the rescuers that God sends are inadequate. The people just keep falling further and further away from the Lord and falling deeper and deeper into worshiping the despicable gods of the Canaanites. The book of Judges ends with the people crying out for a King.

Many kings would come – but it would take many hundreds of years for the real King to come. We read of Him today in Luke. From our modern eyes, we don’t understand how odd Jesus’ ministry was to the Jewish nation. They expected a military ruler in similar form as the Old Testament Judges or Kings – only more powerful and effective!

Imagine their surprise when rumors spread of a man in rags that could heal and bring people back from the dead! But he was so different – even John the Baptist questioned whether he was truly the Messiah.

And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19).

Jesus answers by referring back to Isaiah’s descriptions of the days of salvation and then Jesus turns to the crowds and praises John the Baptist. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and the one who had the highest honor of preparing the way of the Savior… But Jesus says that even the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John! Why?

Because of the Rescuer.

No longer would the people be left to obey a law that was impossible to obey in their own strength. No. When Jesus came and made the ultimate Sacrifice for sin, God instituted a New System. He writes the law on the heart and gives the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you have placed your faith in Jesus to rescue you, your faith is credited to you as righteousness. We live in the New System, under the New Covenant. We, yes, even we, are greater than John the Baptist because we know the Rescuer. We know the Savior. We know Jesus!

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Day 89: Fulfillment fulfilled!

Joshua 22-24; Luke 6:27-49

Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel (Joshua 24:31).

And so ends the patriarchal history. It ends with God fulfilling His promises to Abraham of 1) blessing, 2) becoming a great nation and 3) possessing a land. Fulfillment… at least partially.

Jesus would come and bring the next stage of fulfillment – the ushering in of his Kingdom – but we will not see the consummate fulfilling of all the promises until the end of the age with the dawning of a new heaven and a new earth. Until that glorious day, we wait…

In Luke, we read of how we are to live as members of God’s Kingdom – but Jesus’ teaching is not only an instruction manual for a life-well-lived in the present day, but it paints a picture of life in the new earth… A life that is not tainted with sin – a life where everyone loves and lives for the sake of Another. We will live as a great nation, under blessing with the new earth as our land. There will be fulfillment. Complete and glorious fulfillment!!

Day 88: Fulfillment

Joshua 20-21; Luke 6:1-26

Joshua 20-21 is the fulfillment of Numbers 35… These commands were given to the people just before they entered the land.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there (Numbers 35:9-11).

The Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, “Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites some of the inheritance of their possession as cities for them to dwell in (Numbers 35:1-2).

In today’s reading, we see these commands fulfilled by Joshua in the presence of the Priests and the people at Shiloh. Shiloh is the central sanctuary that Israel was to set up after they entered the land. God has fulfilled his promises because the people depended on Him for their strength in battle. It is a satisfying time in Israel’s history!

Fast forward to today’s passage in Luke and we see this same people very much divided over the person of Jesus…

But [the scribes and Pharisees] were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus (Luke 6:11).

And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all (Luke 6:19).

Jesus is polarizing. He greatly offends some and draws the hearts of others. Why?

If you don’t think you need Him, “you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24). But if you seek and hunger after Him, “you shall be satisfied” (Luke 6:21).

We can learn similar lessons from both Old and New Testament passages. God has the power to fulfill and bring about all of His promises – but He can only work when we look to Him from a position of spiritual poverty and hunger. We must need Him. Only then can we experience the fulfillment of His blessing!

Day 87: We have to follow to lead

Joshua 18-19; Luke 5:17-39

Joshua exemplifies leadership. I’m sure someone has written an entire leadership training course based on Joshua’s life! I think he is such a good leader because he is an even better follower. Joshua followed Moses as his assistant for most of his life. And after Moses died, Joshua followed God.

In this section of Scripture, we read as Joshua allots land to the remaining tribes and their clans – and at the very end, Joshua receives his allotment. It’s a conservative plot – located away from the major cities. You can tell his job is almost complete and he plans to enjoy the rest of his time in peace.

Joshua, like many of the Old Testament figures, points forward to Jesus. Jesus exemplifies leadership in today’s passage from Luke. We see him teaching, healing, forgiving and serving. We see him spend time with “sinners” and endure criticism from the religious leaders. Jesus followed the will of his Father. He was the perfect leader because he followed perfectly.

We, like Joshua, are called to follow. We are called to follow in the steps and ways of Jesus. In order to follow, we must humble ourselves and lay aside our own agendas. We must admit our need for spiritual healing. Jesus tells us…

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

In order to be an effective leader, we must first be a humble follower.

Day 86: For our own good!

Joshua 15-17; Luke 5:1-16

But the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day (Joshua 15:63).

This sentence is tucked in the middle of lists of newly occupied cities and almost seems like an aside. But it spells trouble. The people were to drive out ALL the inhabitants of the land. This lack of obedience is evidence that the people were not whole-heartedly devoted to the Lord. This small misstep will fester and multiply so that after only two generations, the people will have turned away to worship other gods. God’s command to drive out all of the inhabitants was to protect the people from idolatry. God calls us to obey for our own good!

Meanwhile, in Luke’s gospel, we read of Jesus calling his first disciples by the Sea of Galilee (or Lake of Gennesaret). This is the third time this event is recorded in the gospels; it is also found in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20.

In each of the three Gospels, it seems as if these men barely know Jesus – and they just suddenly decide to leave their professions and livelihood to follow a virtual stranger (albeit a famous stranger!) But in reality, they had spent almost a year with Jesus prior to this scene. The first four chapters of John occur chronologically before this event. So these men had plenty of opportunity to witness Jesus’ ways and work. It is only after they have spent considerable time with Jesus that He asks them to make such a drastic commitment.

In the same way, Jesus gives us time to learn his ways and work. But be careful… eventually he will ask for your whole heart. As we struggle to surrender, we must remember that all He asks of us is for our own good!

Day 85: Individually Known

Joshua 13-14; Luke 4:14-44

Today’s passages remind me that God is big enough to see the big picture AND the minute detail. To borrow Paul’s metaphor from 1 Corinthians 12… God cares about the “Body” and “its parts.” In other words… He cares about the individual.

We read of Joshua continuing what Moses began – allotting the land to the 12 tribes of Israel. The people were grouped by their tribe. Their identity was based on being a member of a group. Yet, there is a narrative in Chapter 14 describing Caleb’s land allotment. The writer of Joshua takes the time to remember God’s promise to Caleb – that he would possess the land that he spied out 45 years earlier. God remembered Caleb. He cares about the individual.

In Luke, we read of Jesus beginning His earthly ministry. Luke’s gospel contains so many rich details.  Listen to Luke’s words…

Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them (Luke 4:40).

Luke tells us that the day is almost over and there are still sick waiting to be healed. If I were Jesus, I would be tempted to perform one big group healing; “You’re healed. Now go home. I’m tired.” Thankfully, I’m not Jesus!! Jesus “laid his hands on every one of them.” He cared for them individually.

Luke 4:18-19 are some of my favorite verses in all of scripture. Why are they my favorite? Because one day when I was reading the bible, God knew the inner-workings of my heart. He knew I felt “poor” and spiritually “blind.” So when I came to Luke 4:18-19, I felt like Jesus was speaking directly to me. The Holy Spirit worked in my heart to remind me that Godknew me and loved me anyway! God cares for the individual!

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

Day 84: Our call to battle

Joshua 11-12; Luke 4:1-13

Joshua made war a long time with all those kings (Joshua 11:18).

It takes maybe 5-10 minutes to read through these two chapters of Joshua. We read about Joshua destroying this city and killing that king. If you’re anything like me, it’s tempting to skim through quickly – and those with more sensitive hearts might skip this gruesome section all-together!

But think about this… the events in these two chapters took a long time. Most commentators estimate around 7 years. Joshua was a real man who sacrificed much to obey the Lord. His life was not one of comfort or ease – he lived a life of faith – doing battle for his God.

Because God was establishing a nation – the battle he commanded was physical in nature.

But we live in the time when the gospel is available to all the nations. Our battle is now spiritual in nature.

Consider Jesus in Matthew 4… He battles with Satan not by clanging swords but by matching wits. Jesus, the 2nd Adam, is able to overcome Satan’s lies because unlike the 1st Adam… He knew AND believed the truth of God’s word.

We’re called to the same spiritual battle. I pray we are equipped through the Spirit to understand God’s truth revealed in His Word.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

Day 83: The currency of the Kingdom

Joshua 9-10; Luke 3

I love the way God works in these passages in Joshua. The people of Gibeon trick Joshua and the Israelites into making a covenant of peace with them. What does God do? He stands by and watches Joshua fail. Did Joshua inquire of God? No.

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live (Joshua 9:14-15).

Failure is often the precursor to success. I think Joshua learned from his failure… because Chapter 10 describes many battles and many victories!

But listen closely… They didn’t win because of their great numbers. They didn’t win because of their experience in battle. They didn’t win for any earthly reason. Rather, they won “because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:42).

This is the way of the Kingdom. God gets the glory when He works through lowly (yet willing) vessels.

Another example of God working through a lowly vessel is found in today’s passage in Luke…

John the Baptist lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel. His dress and diet were typical of a poor desert dweller. His fiery words wouldn’t score him any popularity points! John was not rich in the things of this earth, but he was “strong in SPIRIT”(Luke 1:80).

John the Baptist was no earthly good, yet God used John… MIGHTILY to prepare the people for repentance and faith in Jesus.

Don’t you love the way God works?

This is so typical of God’s Kingdom. The economy is different. Money, power and fame don’t get you very far in God’s Kingdom. His currency is humility, compassion and obedience. Which leads me to wonder… How rich are we in the currency of the Kingdom?

Day 82: Intricacy and Goodness

Joshua 6-8; Luke 2:22-52

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”

“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:7; 13-16).

These are the words that God spoke to Abraham hundreds of years earlier. We have read of Abraham’s descendants moving to Egypt to escape the famine, of the people being enslaved by the Egyptians, of God’s amazing rescue mission. He indeed brought great judgment on Egypt and the people came out with great possessions. We’ve read of the giving of the law, of the building of the tabernacle, of the marching to Canaan, and of the people’s failure to enter the land. We’ve read in Numbers of the 40 years of wandering and we’ve listened to Moses reiterate the law in Deuteronomy.

And now, finally…the people begin to posses the land. The iniquity of the Amorites is complete. You see, God used every circumstance and weaved each failure as he orchestrated the perfect plan to both bless His people and bring judgment on a very sinful people. If Israel had taken the land earlier, it would have not been fair to the Amorites (one of the main peoples who lived in Canaan) for “the iniquity of the Amorites [was] not yet complete” (Gen 15:16).

God’s plans for nations are intricate, complicated and good. But somehow God manages the same intricacy and goodness in His plans for individuals.

Consider Simeon in Luke’s passage. He is but one man. But like all people of faith, he was important to God. God had plans for him. Plans that included seeing the promised Messiah before he died. And God weaved and orchestrated so that Simeon, as an old man, would see Jesus as a 40-day-old infant.

And then God used Simeon, the individual, to prophesy God’s plan for the nations.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

God’s ways are intricate and complicated. But most of all, they are good.

Day 81: Signs among us

Joshua 3-5; Luke 2:1-21

Words are inadequate to describe the events in these chapters. The shepherds fall before angels, and Joshua bows before the Commander of the Lord’s army. The Israelites cross the Jordan on dry land and God squeezes his form into an infant’s shell.

God is the same… yesterday, today and forever. But have you ever wondered why God doesn’t show himself to us in such a dramatic fashion? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen the glory of an angel or crossed a river on dry ground. If God is the same, why does He seem so different?

First, miraculous signs don’t make it easier to believe. What did the people do after they saw God part the Red Sea, provide water and manna in the desert and descend on the temple in glory?? They failed to believe that God would help them defeat the Canaanites. They did not enter the land.

Second, I believe that He has chosen to display His power and work in the world through His church. It is a great responsibility – a work that requires humility and compassion – and can only be done as we are unified by the Spirit. Remember Jesus’ words in John 17…

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21 NIV).

The world notices when believers are unified and serve one another with humility and compassion. On the other hand, the world is quick to mock when we show division and hypocrisy.

And finally, we shouldn’t need signs because we have the privilege of having his Word. And even more importantly, we have Jesus.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).