Favor and Light

Psalm 44:3

For by their own sword they did not possess the land, and their own arm did not save them, but Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, for You favored them.

Here is a good example of partnership with God and I hope you find it encouraging because the favor of God was sufficient weaponry to possess the land.

What land are you trying to take? Is it a new job, financial security, a big project? How about raising kids? Whatever your big goals, you don’t have to do it in the power of your might. We kind of know that but we often know it intellectually rather than experientially. I find that I can have very strong theology when we sit and chat but that in the moment of everyday happenings, my inner self does not always act out those intellectual beliefs. I may even hold to those beliefs very strongly and would argue adamantly about them but still not instinctively employ them in day to day life. This partnership with God theology is one of the largest ideals I write about. However, the practical application can be somewhat enigmatic. How do we actually allow God to be our strong right hand? How do we come to own Canaan if not by our own sword? Is our Puritan work ethic a hindrance to walking by faith or is it what makes for quality individuals? Better still, do we misuse our work ethic?

I believe in setting goals, determining what is required in order to reach them and then setting realistic activity goals. If one wants X, what will be required in order to attain X? Secondarily, am I willing to do what is required? However much I admire this approach I must recognize that it is still a worldly process. That is not to say that I recommend rejecting it, it just means that it is only the beginning of the method. The more important step is taking all of this to God, talking with Him about it and then, more importantly, listening to Him. If we seek the goals He has for us then we will start off on the right track. Second, once we have God’s vision for our future, then we should enquire of the course. What would He have us do? He will tell us our part if we listen. Then we don’t run off half-cocked making a mess of big dreams.

I want God to win the goal for me. That sounds infinitely better than toiling. God will hand Canaan into our hands if we will follow Him. Most interesting of all, today’s verse reveals that His presence was the key to obtaining the goal. We have only to walk in the shadow of His glory, follow along in the footsteps He leaves as He leads and the next thing we know will be the Promised Land.

What do you want? What do you really, really want? Is there a goal out there that is almost too big to even dream? Maybe your dream is even too big to talk about but the light of His presence can bring it to pass. This takes some meditation. Today’s verse is really poignant, and I hope you will ponder it. When we learn to walk with God such that His hand delivers the victory then all things shall be possible. Remember, the Israelites defeated a city by walking around it. God’s way is not usually our way but we can learn to hear Him and follow His direction instead of launching out in the power of our might and when we do, even those biggest of dreams will be yours!

How Long?

Joshua 18: 3

So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you?

God had already given the land to the Israelites. They had only to take possession of it. What held them up? Why did they delay?

The question applies to us as well. What land has the Father already given you that you are not taking possession of? I imagine that we delay for the same reasons as the Israelites. Perhaps fear constrains us. Could it be that we are not certain of God’s word or confident in His support? How are we to know that He is with us? Sure, the Bible tells us time and again that He is with us even until the end of the age and that He will never forsake us but those are words. It is when we have the experience that God’s Word is truth rather than simply a belief that His Word is reliable, that we find the courage to forge ahead into the land.

The land God has given us all is strength, courage, stamina, health, financial well-being, friends, family, redemption, spiritual gifts, faith and more. Anything promised in the Bible is yours. Beyond these things, though, there is something which God has or is speaking specifically to you, a land He wishes to lead you into. Perhaps there is a job opportunity or a position in your church that He has opened for you. In all promotion, there is a tremendous risk. Sometimes you are so aware of the risk that you fail to grasp the opportunity.

Wherever God is leading you, no matter how risky or frightening, that is the land of opportunity. Did you know that two and a half of the Israelite tribes stayed on the eastern side of the Jordan? They never crossed over into the promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey. That is so amazing. It staggers the mind. Don’t let this be you. Take the land. Whatever God has promised, wherever He is leading, that is the land of promise and just as He did Israel, He has empowered you to walk the land victoriously.

Too many of us are living below God’s intention for us. We are not walking in His will which is life in the blessing. I declare that you are not of the tribe of Reuben, Gad or the half tribe of Manasseh. You are the tribe of Judah with Jesus. He has already won all the territory God promised. Now, go in and stake claim to your inheritance. Do not leave it to the locusts and wild animals. It is bought and paid for. Go in! Take what belongs to you. Seek God’s will and go boldly where the Spirit leads.

One Way Road

Numbers 32: 11                    NIV

Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promise on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

I quoted from Dr. Jim Richard’s book How To Stop the Pain earlier this week. In that book Richard’s teaches that the way to happiness and a life of security and freedom is in following Jesus wholeheartedly. I would suggest that advice shows the way to the promised land that our Father has for us.

God is not trying to keep us out of the promise. He is trying to lead us into receiving all of His good gifts. Unfortunately, sometimes we quit on Him or do not go in the direction where the provision lies. I often think of it like the old Pony Express system. The riders needed to follow a prescribed route because that is where there supplies were stationed. God has already provided everything we need also but it is on the prearranged path. God has told us that He has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29: 11) and He has laid out a course and provisioned that route so that we arrive in the promised land on time, nourished and without injury. We just need to stay on track.

How is that actually accomplished though? We speak and write a bit figuratively so how does this apply to real life? I believe there is a practical truth revealed in today’s verse. Although we are living in different times and in a different situation than the Israelites I believe the truth and the revelation is in following Jesus wholeheartedly. I also believe there are several layers of truth in that statement.

First, there are a lot of lukewarm Christians out there. You know them. Some of them even attend your church regularly. Sometimes I fear one of them looks back at me from her home in my mirror. How do we prevent ourselves from being what I call a “Cultural Christian”? Somehow our Christianity ought to color our lives. There ought to be a difference in our lives since Jesus came into it and I do not mean that we attend church every week. A cultural Christian can do that. No, this is a heart matter. There ought to be something changed about us so that Jesus, his current thoughts, his teachings and his example are important to us. Do we really consider what it means to be under his lordship on a daily basis? Do we let him affect our thinking and decisions? Do we talk to him as if he really is our very best friend? Are we following him wholeheartedly or maybe just halfheartedly?

Second, as I said, this is a heart matter. Apparently we are supposed to follow Jesus with our hearts, even our whole hearts. So, our life in Christ is an internal matter. It is not for others to determine the commitment of our hearts. This wholehearted devotion to our professed Lord is not external, in other words, it is not about the things we do. It is not even mental as in study. A heart that loves Jesus will certainly show itself in study and actions but they are only the product. We are meant to have a heart connection with Jesus. He is supposed to influence our hearts and perhaps we even affect his. This is not an intellectual relationship, it is not a work relationship. We are supposed to follow Jesus with our hearts. For some people this is challenging because we have anesthetized our hearts in a vain attempt not to feel or express emotion. But we have learned that we will not enter the promised land if we do not follow Jesus wholeheartedly. This is not because our Father doesn’t want us reaping all the blessings of the promised land. It is just simple logistics. The way to the promised land is through Jesus and the way to Jesus is through the heart. It’s just how it is.

There is a way. The way has been marked out for us. Supplies have been stationed all along the way so that we will always have our needs met. However, there is only one way whether we like it or not and that is in following Jesus, his ways and his teachings with our whole heart.

Cross the River

Numbers 32: 5

“If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”

There are some passages of the Bible that just make you grieve. This is one of those for me but it is good for us to read it and learn from it. The background here is that the Israelites were on their journey from Egypt to the promised land. They were led by Moses. As the nation of Israel passed through the lands of Jazer and Gilead two of the twelve tribes, seeing that the land was good, petitioned Moses to give them this land rather than making them continue across the Jordan. Do you know what was across the Jordan? Yes, the promised land.

Yahweh promised the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey, a land ordained and set apart for them, the land of promise. Canaan, the land across the river, held all of that good promise but these two tribes wanted to stop. They wanted to quit. They gave up on the promise of God just shy of everything God promised them. How very tragic.

Why is this story in the Bible? It is there for our edification. There is nothing we can do to go back and help those two tribes but in the telling of their story, perhaps they can help us. How often have we stopped just short of the promise? Have we gotten tired, lost hope or our will to go on and stopped shy of God’s promise to us? It is easy to do but our God is a god of hope. In Him is our hope and the ability to go on.

The key to maintaining the strength to continue is to not rely on our strength or our will. Our strength is in the Lord and it is His good will to lead us by the hand. Our labor, our task is to learn to trust Him and to be led by Him. There are 57 uses of the word “strength” in the Psalms. In the 28th psalm we find this encouragement, “The Lord is their strength, And He is a saving defense to His anointed” (v. 8). Too bad the two tribes didn’t have a revelation of this. We, however, have been given these words in order that we might not lose our strength. We can understand that if we allow God to be our strength, our strong right arm, there is no need for us to get tired and fall short of the prize. Isaiah 57: 13 reads, “But he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land, and shall possess My holy mountain.”

We have only to take our refuge in the Father and we shall inherit the land and all of the fullness thereof. So, learn to lean on the Father. Use His strength and wisdom. Let Him carry you to the promised land where your life will flow with the proverbial milk and honey.

Desert or Oasis

Numbers 14: 22

Surely all the men who … have not listened to My voice shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers.

This verse is taken from a piece of a conversation between God and Moses. I have to stop right here in awe of dialoguing with God. That should be a goal for us all and what a privilege it is to get to sit in on this conversation. Anyway, they are discussing the people that God freed from Egyptian slavery and subsequently led to the Promised Land. 

The end of the story is that these people did not get to enter the Promised Land even after travelling for years to reach it. What is going on here? The long and short of it is that you can only enter the land of promise by faith. The reason they didn’t get to go in is because of doubt, they did not listen to God’s voice. We run the same risk when we don’t turn our ears to hearing the voice of the Lord.

Let’s begin simply. The easiest way to hear God speak is simply to pick up the Bible and read it. If a person is unwilling to do that then there is very little any minister or even God Himself can do for them. They are going to die in the desert with their testimony of doubt. Everyone can hear God speaking to them because He has written it down. Let’s keep it simple here. Pick up the book. Read it. No excuses.

We love to look down our noses at the Israelites but many times we are their modern day equivalents. We think, “If I had been there I would have been different.” Well, we are there. Many of us are still wandering around in the desert despite the voices calling out to us. Additionally, consider that they did not have a Bible. Okay, they had a cloud and that is cool but you don’t have to go outside and see if the cloud is still there. You can pick up your Bible and have God speak to you any time you wish. It’s like having a tape recorder with God on it so that all you have to do is press “play” and God begins speaking to you. Wow!

Doesn’t it strike you that these folks followed God around for forty years and yet did not get to enter into the Promised Land? It grieves my heart for them. But then it grieves my heart tremendously today when I see so many people rob themselves of the promises of God. Do you know why the Israelites took 40 years to make an 11 day trip? The answer is exactly the same as to the question, “Why is Jesus taking so long to come back.” He sees us wandering around in doubt and unbelief and he knows if we are confronted with the promise we will not be able to enter in because of our unbelief. God did not take the Israelites the most direct route because of the littleness of their faith. He knew that would fall immediately. So He led them around in the desert; feeding them manna from heaven, water from rocks, meeting their every need and answering their every complaint. He went before them in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night, His very presence with them at all times. He showed them miracle upon miracle trying to build their faith. However, when they reached the goal and surveyed the land of promise their report was full of doubt. Love couldn’t let them go in because they would have destroyed themselves. So, God had to wait to raise up another generation, a generation that could go forth in faith and take possession of the land which God had already given them.

Let the report about our generation be different. Let us end the desert years and go boldly into the Promised Land. There is so much the Father has for us if we can but listen to Him and do what He says. We all need to hear the voice of God and that is available to each of us but the Israelites did not fail to enter in because they did not hear the voice of God. They failed because they did not listen to God. They didn’t attend to His word. It really is that simple. They didn’t give it the proper weight in their lives and they did not act according to the Word of God. We can be different. With just a little effort and faith as small as a mustard seed we revolutionize our experience and our environment. We can be the generation that believed. Read the Word, listen to what God is saying to us and be a believer.