Day 210: The Power of the Weak

1 Chronicles 22-24; Acts 23

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 22:10
“[Solomon] shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.”

Acts 23:1
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”

Today we read the beginning of the end of 1 Chronicles. David has brought the ark to Jerusalem, subdued his enemies and purchased the land for a permanent temple. The rest of the book will now detail all of the preparations David made for the building of and worship within the new temple.

David’s devoted preparations for the temple are reminiscent of Moses preparing the people to enter the promised land. Neither David nor Moses would live to see the fulfillment of their work, and they were both commanded to raise up a younger leader to finish what they had began…For Moses, it was Joshua who led the people across the Jordan into the promised land. And here we read of David commissioning his son, Solomon, by reiterating the covenant promises of God (1 Chronicles 22:10).

The Davidic covenant would not be fulfilled in the expected way. Under Solomon’s reign, Israel would reach the heights of power, prosperity, and peace. Human wisdom would suggest that Solomon was the fulfillment of God’s promise to establish his kingdom on earth. But history tells us that Solomon’s sin brought dissension to Israel culminating in the destruction of the temple and the nation. God’s promise was fulfilled hundreds of years later through a Divine baby born in poverty. It is so often that we expect God to fulfill His will through pomp and power – yet he surprises us by working through the weak and lowly.

As I read Acts 23, again I marvel at God’s ways… From this point until the end of Acts, Paul would be a prisoner. Human logic would propose that God could accomplish more through a “free” Paul than an “imprisoned’ Paul…

Consider this… Solomon and Joshua would have never risen to be two of the most effective leaders in biblical history if Moses and David were still in the picture. Paul’s imprisonment gave room for other leaders to emerge. The spread of the gospel didn’t stop because Paul was imprisoned. Rather, God used Paul’s imprisonment to stir the passion of the early church – and God raised up others to multiply Paul’s work among the churches.

This is the fingerprint of God… His modus operandi… He breathes power into the weak and lowly to accomplish His Great work in the world. He turns the impossible into possible. And in so doing, He receives the glory!

Day 90: The Rescuer

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

Key Verses

Judges 2:11-12
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger.

Luke 7:9
When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

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!

Day 89: Fulfillment fulfilled!

Joshua 22-24; Luke 6:27-49

Key Verses

Joshua 24:31
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.

Luke 6:47-48
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.

The end of Joshua marks the end of 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

Key Verses

Joshua 21:43-45
Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Joshua 20-21 is the fulfillment of Numbers 35 where God commands Israel to set aside cities of refuge for both manslayers and priests. 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 the Israelites heavily 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

Key Verses

Joshua 19:49
When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun.

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

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 spending 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. 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

Key Verses

Luke 5:11
And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Joshua 15:63
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.

Today’s key verses illustrate the difference between the wholehearted devotion of Jesus’ disciples and the half-hearted obedience of the Israelites.

Joshua 15:63 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 wholeheartedly 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 opportunities 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. Be warned… 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

Key Verses

Joshua 14:10-12
“And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”

Luke 4:18-19
“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.”

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 God knew me and loved me anyway! God cares for the individual!

Day 84: Our Call to Battle

Joshua 11-12; Luke 4:1-13

Key Verses

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

Luke 4:7-8
“If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered [Satan], “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.'”

It takes maybe 5-10 minutes to read today’s reading. 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 altogether!

But think about this… the events in these two chapters of Joshua 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

Key Verses

Joshua 10:42
And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.

Luke 3:16
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

I love the way God works in today’s Old Testament reading. 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 81: Signs Among Us

Joshua 3-5; Luke 2:1-21

Key Verses

Joshua 5:13-14
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.”

Luke 2:9-11
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

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).