Sunday, July 29, 2018

Faith -- God Is Always With Us, Because He Dearly Loves Us.

Good morning!

Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."  (Zephaniah 3:17)

After the victory over Ai, Joshua and his people gave thanks to God and rejoiced in Him.    But they learned the hard way.   They knew the terribleness of sin, and its painful consequence, and most of all, the absolute importance of following God’s Word instead of their own desire and thought.   They also found their self-centered human nature trying to be the master of their own, instead of putting God as their master, serving and being obedient to God.   They found their wisdom, was foolish although it looked fantastic to their own eyes.    When relying on their own wisdom, they were just deceived.   Indeed, it was own stupidity.   They also realized that they were really fast to forget the God’s faithful act against Jericho – just circling the wall of Jericho and making the wall fall.  Yes, the God’s act was utterly stupid to human’s eyes, but it led to a huge victory.   Yes, they were quick to forget God’s wisdom and power.  Unfortunately, we are not so different from them.   Bible tells us:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  (1 Corinthians 1:25)

Joshua and his people had experienced again the great nature of merciful and faithful God again in the battle of Ai.   They determined not to forget what God did again.   They assembled as Moses commanded in two groups.   One group proclaimed the blessings of God, while the other group the curses from God to truly make all Israelites know and remember God’s blessings of obedience and curses from sinning.   The entire Israelites recited with one voice, and heard together.  All committed to be faithful to God being obedient to Him and keeping His commands.   Yes, God was with them.

Now all the kings west of the Jordan River heard about what had happened. These were the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who lived in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far north as the Lebanon mountains. These kings became terrified and were afraid of the Israelites.   They knew they could not prevail against the Israelites.   Thus, they discussed together this urgent matter, and agreed to combine their armies to fight as one against Joshua and the Israelites to protect themselves.

But the people of Gibeon were different.  When the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they decided not to fight against the Israelites.   They had already concluded that fighting against the Israelites and the God of Israel would be futile.  Their leaders got together spent time how to survive rather than being destroyed like the strong Jericho or the brave Ai.   After a long discussion, they reached an agreement that they resorted to deception to save themselves.  Then they sent ambassadors to Joshua for deception.  They loaded their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins.  They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy.   Surely, they looked being traveled long and afar.   In fact, Gibeon was very close to where the Israelite were.  When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us.”

The Israelites replied to these Hivites, “How do we know you don’t live nearby? For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you.”    The Israelites made a pointy question.  

They politely replied, “We are your servants.”

“But who are you?” Joshua demanded. “Where do you come from?”

They answered, “Your servants have come from a very distant country. We have heard of the might of the LORD your God and of all he did in Egypt.  We have also heard what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River—King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan (who lived in Ashtaroth).  Then you also destroyed Jericho and Ai.  So our elders and all our people instructed us, ‘Take supplies for a long journey. Go meet with the people of Israel and tell them, “We are your servants; please make a treaty with us.”’

They continued “This bread was hot from the ovens when we left our homes. But now, as you can see, it is dry and moldy. These wineskins were new when we filled them, but now they are old and split open. And our clothing and sandals are worn out from our very long journey.”

So the Israelites examined their food, but they DID NOT consult the LORD.   This was the biggest blunder.   Why?   They already forgot what God did for them, and who their master was.   The should had asked to God to consult the important matter of making a treaty.  Hastily in confidence, Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, because Joshua thoroughly examined and verified all evidences that they presented -- the bread, wineskins, clothing and sandals.  All of them were worn out or very old.   These items clearly proved what they said was true.   Joshua firmly believed.   Following the Joshua’s decision, the leaders of the community also ratified their agreement with a binding oath.    

Being confident in human wisdom often leads to a self-deception, which leads to a failure, disaster and pain.  Joshua and his people were trapped in their own wisdom.   While the Israelites were doing wrong, where was God?   Yes, God was with them.  Even so they did not search out for God.   We are not much different.   Although God is with us, we ignore him when we feel we know everything and everything is under control.   However, God, who dearly loves us, does not let us alone even though we are trapped in our own self-centered ego.   God patiently waits us.   According to God’s time, God reveals the truth so that we can learn. 

Three days after making the treaty, they learned that these people actually lived nearby! The Israelites set out at once to investigate and reached their towns in three days. The names of these towns were Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. But the Israelites could not attack the towns, for the Israelite leaders had made a vow to them in the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.   

The people of Israel grumbled against their leaders because of the treaty. But the leaders replied, “Since we have sworn an oath in the presence of the LORD, the God of Israel, we cannot touch them.  This is what we must do. We must let them live, for divine anger would come upon us if we broke our oath.  Let them live.” So they made them woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community, as the Israelite leaders directed.   Sadly, the promise of God – giving the Promised Land to you – was compromised by Joshua and the leaders.

Joshua called together the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us? May you be cursed! From now on you will always be servants who cut wood and carry water for the house of my God.”

They replied, “We did it because we—your servants—were clearly told that the LORD your God commanded his servant Moses to give you this entire land and to destroy all the people living in it. So we feared greatly for our lives because of you. That is why we have done this. Now we are at your mercy—do to us whatever you think is right.”    The Gibeonites feared the Israelites because they knew what God would do for the Israelites.   They searched for mercy from God through the Israelites.    What a contrast it was!   In fact, the Israelites, who supposedly always relied on God, did not see the needs to ask God when dealing with the Gibeonites, but the Gibeonites feared God.

Please look back what we did.   Have we really come and ask God before making an important decision?    In other words, do we truly put our whole trust on Him as our only master and king?    Especially, when we feel we know everything clearly, and we have done diligence -- examining every detail and verifying them too.   In fact, it is the time that we are most vulnerable.  We are quick to be comfortable and competent on ourselves.   We forget God.

Joshua and Israelites learned the hard way about God after they were beaten and defeated.   They did not do anything.   Actually, they did.   They determined to follow God and keep His command faithfully.  They recited together in one voice by facing each other as two groups.   Unfortunately, their determination did not last.   When the Gibeonites approached them with a deception, the Israelites DID NOT ask God first.  They made a decision by themselves.   Of course, they carefully examined and verified.   They did all things that were humanly possible, but they could not realize that they were being deceived.   Was Joshua stupid?  No.  Perhaps, he was the smartest and most capable among the Israelites.   Did he have not faith?    Remember Joshua was the most faithful, and stood against other ten spies for God.  His faithfulness was unmatched.   He obediently followed God for forty years.   Through his faith, he could enter the Promised Land as the leader.   (Please note that even Moses could not make to the Promised Land because his faithfulness was up to the level that God wanted.)   Even so, Joshua failed when he was tempted by what he saw, and when he relied on him and his judgement. 

Is there anybody who dare to say that I am more faithful than Joshua before God?   Nobody.   We will all fail, when we fix our eyes on ourselves rather than God.    If we rely on us and our own wisdom and judgement, surely, we will fail without exception.  Yes, we will be deceived by what we see and what we touch because we cannot see the truth behind what we see and touch.  (The world is full of deception.)   God reveals us the truth, only when we fix our eyes on God and come to him.   This is the first lesson that we get from Joshua today.   Let’s continue to see what really happened.   Did the Gibeonites, who deceived the Israelites, brought any harms or a disaster to the Israelites?    Practically speaking, they could in various ways, but they did not.   Why?   God loved the Israelites, and He himself protected the Israelites.  Although Joshua and the Israelites did not ask God first, God was right next to protect them like loving parents who are always carefully watching over their children regardless their behaviors.    What God wants is to know and love Him more and to go into a deeper and intimate relationship with Him.  For example, God made the Israelites suffer, but He did not made them fall into the disastrous pain that they could not endure.   Again, God loved the Israelites simply because they were God’s children.  How about us?   Surely,  we are His beloved children.    The same God who was with Joshua when he was failing is with us.    Have we done a wrongdoing before God, such as not asking to God first?    Yes, God will remind us in various ways including a pain in our life accordingly to His perfect time, but He will not give a pain that we cannot endure.   God is always with us, no matter what we did.   This is our faith.    Let’s continue fix our eyes on God, and always come to Him first.  This is what God wants and He loves to see from us.   Then we will know Him more and experience Him deeply in our lives.    Praise Him!  This is our praise.   You are faithful and your faithfulness toward us will never cease.   Sing praises.   Sing praise to Him.  He is our Ever-Loving Father, who will love us till the end – seeing Him face to face in our Eternal Home!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.  (1 Corinthians 10:13) 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Faith -- Rejoice In Him! God Subdues The Nations Before Us.

Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Indeed, He loves His people;
    all His holy ones are in His hands.
They follow in His steps
    and accept His teaching.
Moses gave us the LORD’s instruction,
    the special possession of the people of Israel.
The LORD became king in Israel.  (Deuteronomy 33:3-5a)

Joshua and his people finally had overcome the painful defeat of Ai.   Joshua asked to God why.   God instructed him, and Joshua precisely followed the God’s instruction.   Initially, it was a huge mistake for Joshua not to ask God first.   He also did not know Achan’s terrible sin because it was a hidden sin.   Joshua should have come to God and asked Him.   However, the painful defeat made Joshua returned to God.   God told the sin hidden among his people.   Joshua immediately searched for the sin, and completely eliminated the root of the sin and purified the entire Israelites.  Why?  The sin blocked the blessings from God.   Then he humbled himself and asked to God for His guidance.   

A mere appearance often deceives us.   Ai was one excellent example.   Ai looked small especially compared with Jericho.   Joshua and his people felt it was a piece of cake to take over the city of Ai.   To make sure, Joshua sent spies to Ai.    As expected, the spies returned and reported, “There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai. Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there.”    This report and suggestion exactly matched with what Joshua was about to do.   This made Joshua more confident for a victory over Ai.   Without a slightest doubt, Joshua sent 3,000 warriors to conquer Ai.    As we all know, they experienced a humiliating defeat, and this was how Joshua failed, such a faithful one before God.    It was also the greatest of Joshua that Joshua did not run away from the humiliating defeat.   Instead, he humbled himself and returned to God.   Once he heard God, he was infinitely faithfully and exactly followed what God instructed to him, such as how to ambush against, to trap and to defeat Ai.   Through the absolute obedience, Joshua and his people finally were able to capture Ai in God’s wisdom, guidance and protection.   

After the victory granted by God, Joshua immediately returned to God, and built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal.  He followed the commands that Moses the LORD’s servant had written in the Book of Instruction: “Make me an altar from stones that are uncut and have not been shaped with iron tools.”  Joshua learned the lesson the hard way.  Joshua realigned himself with God, and precisely followed God’s instruction given through Moses, the former leader before him.   Yes, the alter was built with stones not sharped by human’s hands.    The purity was maintained, and the uncut stones were dedicated before God to build the alter for God.  Then on the altar Joshua and his people presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to the LORD.  The built offering completely destroyed as the renewal of the relationship between God and the sinful Israelites.   The peace offering was given to please God, which was their thanksgiving from the deepest part of their heart.  And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.   It reflected Joshua’s highest gratitude to God, and his attempt to make the law of Moses, i.e., God’s Word permanently engraved in the hearts of the people of Israel.  

Then all the Israelites—foreigners and native-born alike—along with the elders, officers, and judges, were divided into two groups. One group stood in front of Mount Gerizim, the other in front of Mount Ebal. Each group faced the other, and between them stood the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant. This was all done according to the commands that Moses, the servant of the LORD, had previously given for blessing the people of Israel.

Here is what Moses did when the people of Israel were about to close the Jordan river and entered in the Promised Land.   Moses gathered the Israelites and gave this charge to the people: “Obey all these commands that I am giving you today. When you cross the Jordan River and enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster.  Write this whole body of instruction on them when you cross the river to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you—a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.  When you cross the Jordan, set up these stones at Mount Ebal and coat them with plaster, as I am commanding you today.

Then build an altar there to the LORD your God, using natural, uncut stones. You must not shape the stones with an iron tool.  Build the altar of uncut stones, and use it to offer burnt offerings to the LORD your God.  Also sacrifice peace offerings on it, and celebrate by feasting there before the LORD your God.  You must clearly write all these instructions on the stones coated with plaster.”

Then Moses addressed all Israel as follows: “O Israel, be quiet and listen! Today you have become the people of the LORD your God.  So you must obey the LORD your God by keeping all these commands and decrees that I am giving you today.”

That same day Moses also gave this charge to the people:  “When you cross the Jordan River, the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin must stand on Mount Gerizim to proclaim a blessing over the people.  And the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali must stand on Mount Ebal to proclaim a curse.”  

Joshua did exactly what Moses commanded.   He divided his people in two groups, and made them facing each other.    One group proclaimed the blessings of God, while the other group the curses from God to truly make all Israelites know and remember God’s blessings for obedience and curses from sinning.    Please imagine millions of the Israelites gathered and faced each other as two big groups on the two mountains: Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, which faced each other.  (The distance of the two mountains is about 1 mile or 1.6 km.)  Then in one voice, one group recited God’s blessings, while the other group God’s curses.   Why did God command this ritual?   God wanted for them to have a truly memorable moment in their lives so that they would not to forget the Law of God forever.   After experiencing the majestic scene and the solemnness of the presence of God with the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant, who would forget God’s majesty, His solemnness and His commands as blessings and curses.   Yes, not just blessings, but curses too.     

God dearly loved the people of Israel.   He stretched His Hand and subdued Jericho by tumbling down the mighty wall.    God pleased with His people who were truly faithful to His Word, and the Israelites were in joy and victory.   Soon after they had gone following their own heart and sinned.   The sin was hidden, but God patiently waited for their return.  They were beaten and in pain out of their sins, but God was there with them.  God did not let the Israelites alone.   God watched over every step of the Israelites simply because they were His beloved children.   God thought out for them, and when they return to God.   God embraced them again, and comforted them with His love.   Then He poured out His wisdom on them.   By following His wisdom, the Israelites, His children, prevailed again.   They captured Ai.  The victory was, then, contributed to God.  Joshua and his people bult the alter with uncut stones, and wrote down the Law of Moses to remember forever.   Most of all, they experienced God’s majesty, power and glory when shouting in one voice with facing each other in two groups on the two opposing mountains.   The Ark of the Covenant was at the center.    All Israelites heard the sing and praises of their fellow Israelites, “Sing praises, and praise to God.  The One who never stops loving His children.   Although we committed a hidden sin and reveled against Him, he was there.   When we were defeated by our enemies, His hand was with us to lift us up again.   He was faithful, and he is also as this moment.  Yes, He is always faithful to His children, because He is our Ever-Loving Father!”  Can we hear the song and praises of the Israelites?    Today, our God wants for us to sing praise to Him through our victory from impossibility in Him, through Him and for Him, whether we are in the greatest humiliation, pain and failure.  Let hear His voice sometimes strong and loud, some occasions subtle and quite.   Let’s be sensitive to His voice, and then come to Him.   Why?  Our God dearly loves us at this very moment simply because we are His beloved Children.

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
    Shout to God with joyful praise!
For the LORD Most High is awesome.
    He is the great King of all the earth.
He subdues the nations before us,
    putting our enemies beneath our feet.
He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
    the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves.  (Psalm 47:1-4)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Faith -- Our God Always Waits Us To Give Victory In Him!

Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

This is what the LORD says:
“At just the right time, I will respond to you.
On the day of salvation I will help you.
I will protect you and give you to the people
as my covenant with them.
Through you I will reestablish the land of Israel
and assign it to its own people again.   (Isaiah 49:8)

After the humiliating defeat before Ai, the Israelites were paralyzed at this turn of events, and their courage melted away.  They looked each other, and they could not believe about their defeat.   It was a really humbling moment.    They were turned out to be absolutely powerless before the smallest city, Ai.   The Israelites discovered the true nature and reality about themselves.   The news of the defeat of Israelites quickly spread.  All of the people in the Promised Land knew, and all inhabitants of the Promised Land looked down on the Israelites.   The Israelites were powerless before Ai, which was one of the smallest.   What did this really mean to the Israelites?    No more progress in the Promised Land because they would not able to conquer any other cities from that on.   The Israelites were stuck in one small corner of the Promised land.   The Israelite’s dream of inheriting the Promised Land was completely shattered.   Even they did not know where to go from there.   All of the Israelites were in absolute despair.
However, it was the very moment that God, who dearly loved His children, specifically prepared for them.   God was with the Israelites in the mist from the begging and till the very moment, while patiently waiting.   What was God really looking for?   God wanted for the Israelites to return to Him.  They had gone out on their own as if they knew everything and had power to accomplish what they wanted.  When the reality hit, they did not know what to do expect despair.   Yes, even in the mist of absolute despair and devastation, God was there for them.    There was no place to go except God, Joshua realized, after being hitting hard.   Upon realization of this, Joshua immediately returned to God, and spread out his pain and problem as his prayer.    God had been waiting long for this moment.   God saw Joshua who was truly humbling before God along with the entire Israelites.   God answered.  He revealed the hidden sin of Achan because the sin was the barrier between God and the Israelites.    As long as the sin existed, no more victory except painful and humiliating defeats.  Upon hearing God, Joshua quickly responded by getting rid of the Achan’s sin completely.    As soon as the loving relationship between God and the Israelites was restored, God, the ever-loving Father, comforted and encouraged the Israelites.   God even allowed to keep the plunder and livestock for the people.   God knew what they wanted, and answered with His blessings to the Israelites.  On top of this blessing, God gave His precious wisdom.  Although Ai looked weak, defeating Ai was so easy as it looked.  God told to set an ambush behind the town, which was never thought about before by Joshua and the Israelites, who were proudly in their own strength after defeating Jericho. 

So Joshua and all the fighting men set out to attack Ai. Joshua chose 30,000 of his best warriors.   Initially Joshua sent 3,000 warriors, but he experienced the total defeat.   In humility, he called for 30,000 of his best warriors.

Following God’s wisdom, Joshua sent them out at night with these orders: “Hide in ambush close behind the town and be ready for action.  When our main army attacks, the men of Ai will come out to fight as they did before, and we will run away from them.  We will let them chase us until we have drawn them away from the town. For they will say, ‘The Israelites are running away from us as they did before.’ Then, while we are running from them, you will jump up from your ambush and take possession of the town, for the LORD your God will give it to you.  Set the town on fire, as the LORD has commanded. You have your orders.”    

The chosen 30,000 warriors left and went to the place of ambush between Bethel and the west side of Ai. But Joshua remained among the people in the camp that night in prayer to God.   He was with God while being careful and sensitive to hear God.    Early the next morning Joshua roused his men and started toward Ai, accompanied by the elders of Israel.   Joshua did not go just alone either.  He set out with the elders, the spiritual leaders also to continually be connected with God.

All the fighting men who were with Joshua marched in front of the town and camped on the north side of Ai, with a valley between them and the town.  Joshua wisely planned and executed according to God’s wisdom.   That night Joshua sent 5,000 men to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the town. So they stationed the main army north of the town and the ambush west of the town. Joshua himself spent that night in the valley.

When the king of Ai saw the Israelites across the valley, he and all his army hurried out early in the morning and attacked the Israelites at a place overlooking the Jordan Valley.  But the king of Ai didn’t realize there was an ambush behind the town.  Of course, it was done by God.  God made the king blind about an possibility of being ambushed.   Joshua and the Israelite army fled toward the wilderness as though they were badly beaten.  All the men in the town were called out to chase after them. In this way, they were lured away from the town.  There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not chase after the Israelites, and the town was left wide open.
The God’s set time had come.  God said to Joshua, “Point the spear in your hand toward Ai, for I will hand the town over to you.” Joshua did as he was commanded.   Joshua raised his spear high while giving thanks to God.  As soon as the warriors saw Joshua’s raised hand high with his spear, all the men in ambush jumped up from their position and poured into the town. They quickly captured it and set it on fire.

When the men of Ai looked behind them, smoke from the town was filling the sky, and they had nowhere to go. For the Israelites who had fled in the direction of the wilderness now turned on their pursuers.  When Joshua and all the other Israelites saw that the ambush had succeeded and that smoke was rising from the town, they turned and attacked the men of Ai.  Meanwhile, the Israelites who were inside the town came out and attacked the enemy from the rear. So the men of Ai were caught in the middle, with Israelite fighters on both sides. Israel attacked them, and not a single person survived or escaped.  Only the king of Ai was taken alive and brought to Joshua. 

When the Israelite army finished chasing and killing all the men of Ai in the open fields, they went back and finished off everyone inside.  So the entire population of Ai was wiped out that day—12,000 in all.  For Joshua kept holding out his spear until everyone who had lived in Ai was completely destroyed.  Only the livestock and the treasures of the town were not destroyed, for the Israelites kept these as plunder for themselves, as God had commanded Joshua.   So Joshua burned the town of Ai, and it became a permanent mound of ruins.

Then the first thing that Joshua did was to build an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal according the command received by Moses form God.  He made the alter with uncut stones with iron tools, and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to the LORD.  And as the Israelites watched.   Then all praised the name of God, who was the ever-loving Father for the Israelites, who were dearly loved by God because they were God’s children.

God has been always faithful.  God, who had dearly loved Joshua and the Israelites, loves us because we are His beloved children.   He watches over every step that we make.   Whenever we are sinning and off from His word, He is in pain.   He, who is full of mercy, then waits for us with His unfathomable patience.   God waits and waits till we return to Him as Joshua and the Israelites returned to Him.   Today, God eagerly wants to see us returning to Him.  Yes, we might have sinned against Him or our family, relative, neighbor, co-worker, or business partner.   Our hearts are heavy due to the sin that we have committed.   Due to those sins, we are suffering and suffering both mentally and spiritually.   This slowly and steadily undermines us.   Let’s stop, and look at Him directly.  Then turn 180 degrees, and walk toward Him or even running into Him while fixing our eyes on Him.  Surely we can see His broad and open arms always waiting for us.    Why?  He is Our True Father.   He eagerly waits for us to forgive all our sins to restore our precious father-and-child relationship.    Let’s not disappoint God.   Now is the time to return to Him, Our Loving Father.   Then He will provide all things that have been prepared for us, which have been blocked by our sins and disobedience.   As Joshua did, we build our alter in our heart, and present ourselves to God.   Then His joy in us will be completed, and our joy in Him also be completed.  What a beautiful scene it will be for both God and us!   Praise Him, who is our one and only one God, our Ever-Loving Father!

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.   (Hebrews 12:1)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Faith -- Humiliation to Humility and Restoration in God's Hand

Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

 After the miracle of falling of the strong Jericho wall, the Israelites were in joy because they saw God’s mighty hand.   They just ran over the stones of the Jericho wall, and conqured Jericho.    They were praised God.   It was the first victory in the Promised Land.    They followed what God commanded, but Achan was tempted.  Achan saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound.  He wanted them so much that he took them. They were hidden in the ground beneath his tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.   Yes, it was really secure because Achan thought that nobody knew.   However, he was wrong.   God knew.

Without knowing the Achan’s sin, Joshua did as usual.   He sent spies to Ai, the next city.   The spies reported back as expected, “There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai. Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there.”  

 Per the spies’ report, Joshua assembled about 3,000 warriors.   He confidently sent to Ali.   However, the reality was opposite.  The 3,000 warriors were soundly defeated.  The men of Ai chased the Israelites from the town gate as far as the quarries, and they killed about thirty-six who were retreating down the slope.  As soon as the Israelites heard about this defeat, suddenly fear fell upon them.  The Israelites were paralyzed at this turn of events, and their courage melted away.

Why?  Of course, Achan sinned.  It was not the end of the story.   The Israelites did not completely rely on God.    Joshua assembled his 3,000 warriors based on his judgement, and sent them with confidence (in his judgement).    It was a stark different between the first battle with Jericho.   He asked to God first, and carefully followed God’s command up to the level of absurdity of just circling the Jericho wall day after day.   The people in Jericho laughed at the Israelites who were circling the wall, but they did not deter.    Even though the Israelites heard the laugher against them, they continued as commanded by God.    The result was the completely unexpected defeat and humiliation.    God allowed the defeat and humiliation because they were God’s children.   

If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.  (Hebrews 12:8)

Per Achan’s confession, Joshua sent some men to make a search. They ran to the tent and found the stolen goods hidden there, just as Achan had said, with the silver buried beneath the rest. They took the things from the tent and brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites. Then they laid them on the ground in the presence of God, the LORD.

 Then Joshua and all the Israelites took Achan, the silver, the robe, the bar of gold, his sons, daughters, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, tent, and everything he had, and they brought them to the valley of Achor.  Then Joshua said to Achan, “Why have you brought trouble on us? The LORD will now bring trouble on you.” And all the Israelites stoned Achan and his family and burned their bodies.   They piled a great heap of stones over Achan, which remains to this day. That is why the place has been called the Valley of Trouble ever since. So the LORD anger was subsided.  

Joshua humbly came back to God and lifted up his eyes.  He prayed to God.   Joshua now clearly experienced again who God was.   He approached God with all his heart and mind in his humility.   Then God, who was merciful, said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land.  You will destroy them as you destroyed Jericho and its king. But this time you may keep the plunder and the livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the town.”  (Joshua 8:1-2)

 How good was God? 
1.            God encouraged Joshua first rather than asking why you did attack Ai by your own way without asking me?  This was what God did to Joshua.  (God has not changed at all.  He is doing to us and will do forever.   This is our faith in Him.)           
2.            God again promised Joshua that Ai would be given to Joshua and the Israelites.   Some of the Israelites lost their hearts and courage after the defeat.   God knew and reinstalled His promise to the Israelites.    Yes, God’s promise had never changed, and will never forever, because God was, is and will continue to be faithful to us.
3.            God also knew the Israelites’ hearts – they wanted to have things that looked good to their eyes.   We, earthly parents, know children’s heart, and provide what they want as much as possible and as soon as possible.   God clearly told them for this time, “you may keep the plunder and the livestock for yourselves.”   Sometimes, we feel that God never answers our prayer, but in reality, God always wants to provide us as much as possible and as soon as possible.    God, who knows the future and all consequences, patiently waits the perfect time.   This is our faith in Him because He is faithful and ever-loving Father.
4.            God also provided a perfect strategy how to attack Ai.   Yes, we need His instruction.   Without His instruction, we will fail.   The Israelites failed not because they were suddenly weaker than when they successfully conquered Jericho.   In reality, God defeated Jericho.   The Israelites just followed God’s hand, which led to the huge victory.   Although they won, they did not actually fight with their own strength and wisdom.   All came from God.   They were deceived by their own ego.   They confused that the Jericho fell by their hands.  How absurd it was!   Yes, the Israelites were deceived by their own ego.    How about us?     When something goes well, we soon forget God’s merciful and mighty hand, which is the very source of the reason why things go well.   Our heart is really quick to search for an answer from our own goodness, and praises as if we have made such a greatness in our life.    What we need is to humbly and carefully listen to God always – no matter what happens in our life, whether a huge success or a miserable failure.   Why?  God never changes.   He is always our ever-loving Father, and He patiently waits for us to realize and experience Him – Our One and Only One Father and God.

Are we struggling and suffering in our lives? Yes, it is too hard to vocalize what we are experiencing even to ourselves because it is too harsh for us to even recognize, which makes us even hard to bear.   We just try to avoid or don’t remind of what we are going through because it is too painful to verbalize.   Of course, we have tried everything humanly possible.   Nothing changes.   This is time to listen to God, Our Ever-Loving Father.   How?   Spread what we have – concerns, pains, hardships, and our pure desire – before Him, and pour out our hearts to Our Ever-Loving Father.   Then listen to Him.   God knows our heart and He knows what we need more than us.    He will provide as much as possible and as soon as possible.  Also we need to look into ourselves for our sins and arrogant egos before God, and humbly put out before God.    Then ask His forgiveness and mercy.   God answered to Joshua.   The same God surely answers us.  This is our faith in Him, because He is faithful and absolutely faithful to His dear children, i.e., us.   

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  (Romans 8:32)

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Heberews 12:2)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Faith -- Victory to Sin and Humiliation in God

Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6)

Before the eyes of the Israelites, the formidable wall of Jericho crumpled down while leaving no stone on top of another stone.  The thundering sound of the falling wall was so loud that they felt the whole earth was shaking like a big earthquake. 

The people in Jericho believed the wall, which protected so many years.  It looked really strong.  It reached to heaven.   They actually felt fear about the Israelites because they heard about the Israelites and especially their God, who freed the Israelites from Egypt with His mighty hand.   For the last seven days, what the Israelites did was very strange.   Their priests were in front, and the warriors quietly followed the priests blowing horns.   Then they just circled the wall of Jericho.  Everyone in the Jericho carefully watched what the Israelites were doing.   Initially, they thought that it might be a trick.    But nothing suspicious.   Really strange.   Nobody said anything while the Israelites circled.   On the third day, one of the watchmen on top of the wall laughed at the Israelites as circling because it was completely ridiculous to his eye.   This laughter suddenly spread out among the entire people in Jericho.   All of them were laughing at the Israelites.    The laughter was so loud that it was even heard by the Israelites who were circling the wall.   On the seventh day, following the God’s command, the Israelites circled seven times, and shouted.   The wall that the people of Jericho so much believed suddenly fell.   The people of Jericho could not understand what was going on, and they were in chaos.

When the people of Israel heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could.   The Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it.  There was no resistance because the people of Jericho were in chaos.   They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Before this miracle, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the town!  Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and the others in her house will be spared, for she protected our spies.”   Rahab was the person who hid the Israel spies so that the spies could return safely, and they promised to save Rahab and her household.    

Joshua continued, “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel.  Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the LORD and must be brought into his treasury.”    Joshua commanded not to spare anything except those that were sacred to God, which could be given to God’s treasury.  

Then the men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her. They moved her whole family to a safe place near the camp of Israel.   The Israelites burned the town and everything in it. Only the things made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron were kept for the treasury of the LORD’s house as commanded by God.    God was great.  His power was above everything including the wall of Jericho, which was invincible for decades.   They praised God and His Glorious Name!

But all of the Israelites were not completely obedient.  A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things.  Achan thought that nobody would know if he secretly saved some of the beautiful and precious things on his eyes.   He hid them.  Yes, nobody knew what Achan did.   All of them were in the highest celebration mood because it was the first victory in the Premised Land.  Jericho was the biggest and strongest.    With God, there was nothing that could block their going through the Promised Land.   All of them felt that finally they possessed the Promised Land.   All believed that from the point, they just marched through the Promised Land and occupied the land.    Some of them even felt that they were invincible.   They defeated the biggest and strongest Jericho.  Nobody in the land could challenge the Israelites anymore.

Following the huge victory at the Jericho battle, all of them were really confident.   Then Joshua brought his people and told them they would repeat the victory again.   The people heard Joshua and shouted together in joy because the next victory was sure.   The next one was Ai, which was far smaller than Jericho, and much weaker than Jericho.   It was a piece of cake.  Joshua picked some of his men and sent to spy out the town of Ai, east of Bethel, near Beth-aven.

The spies returned, and told Joshua, “There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai. Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there.”   It was an excellent report.   As expected, Ali was an easy one.  

Per the spies’ report, Joshua assembled about 3,000 warriors.   He confidently sent to Ali.   However, the reality was opposite.  The 3,000 warriors were soundly defeated. The men of Ai chased the Israelites from the town gate as far as the quarries, and they killed about thirty-six who were retreating down the slope.  As soon as the Israelites heard about this defeat, suddenly fear fell upon them.  The Israelites were paralyzed at this turn of events, and their courage melted away.

Joshua hurriedly assembled the elders of Israel, and together tore their clothing in dismay, threw dust on their heads, and bowed face down to the ground before the Ark of the LORD until evening.   All of the hopes and dreams were suddenly gone, and instead, they were in fear and darkness. 

Joshua cried out, “Oh, Sovereign LORD, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side!  Lord, what can I say now that Israel has fled from its enemies?  For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe our name off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?”  Joshua with the elders were in tears before the Father God like children.

Then God said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?  Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings.  That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction.”

God continued, “Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow.   In the morning you must present yourselves by tribes, and the LORD will point out the tribe to which the guilty man belongs. That tribe must come forward with its clans, and the LORD will point out the guilty clan. That clan will then come forward, and the LORD will point out the guilty family. Finally, each member of the guilty family must come forward one by one. The one who has stolen what was set apart for destruction will himself be burned with fire, along with everything he has, for he has broken the covenant of the LORD and has done a horrible thing in Israel.”

Early the next morning Joshua brought the tribes of Israel before the LORD, and the tribe of Judah was singled out. Then the clans of Judah came forward, and the clan of Zerah was singled out. Then the families of Zerah came forward, and the family of Zimri was singled out.  Every member of Zimri’s family was brought forward person by person, and Achan was singled out.

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make your confession and tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.”

Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound.  I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.”    Achan loved what he saw, and he took it secretly.   Then he hid because he thought that nobody knew what he hid.   Achan did not realize that he could not hide the stolen goodies from God. 

So Joshua sent some men to make a search. They ran to the tent and found the stolen goods hidden there, just as Achan had said, with the silver buried beneath the rest. They took the things from the tent and brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites. Then they laid them on the ground in the presence of the LORD.

Then Joshua and all the Israelites took Achan, the silver, the robe, the bar of gold, his sons, daughters, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, tent, and everything he had, and they brought them to the valley of Achor.  Then Joshua said to Achan, “Why have you brought trouble on us? The LORD will now bring trouble on you.” And all the Israelites stoned Achan and his family and burned their bodies.  They piled a great heap of stones over Achan, which remains to this day. That is why the place has been called the Valley of Trouble ever since. So the sin ,which was the barrier between God and the people of Israel, was removed so that God’s promise could continue in their lives.   

God always wants His children to listen to Him first and do what God wants.  However, it is not easy.   Like Achan, when we see what we like, we want to have it.   Sometimes our desire to own what we want is so strong that we could not control ourselves like Achan.   Achan clearly knew what God wanted, but he could not resist his temptation.   Achan disobeyed God to own what he wanted.  Sins (even one single sin) before God block God’s blessings and build up a barrier between God and us.  Although God wants give, we cannot receive because of the barrier made out of our sins.   To restore the relationship with God, first, we need to get rid of our sins, especially hidden one that nobody knows except you and God.  (Remember that we can hide our sin from people, but not form God.   Yes, Achan was able to hid his sin from other people except God. )

Here is one more message from God.   How about Joshua?    Before occupying Jericho, Joshua prayed to God to know God’s plan and purified himself together with the rest of the Israelites to eliminate any chance of building up a barrier between God and Joshua together with the Israelites.    Please see what Joshua did before attacking Ai.   What was the mood and the mode of operations of Joshua?  How about the rest of the people?   They were really confident and almost felt they were invincible.   Did they pray to God to listen to God’s plan, and purified to get rid of sins that might be still with Joshua and his people?   No.   Joshua and his people were in joy and humanly confidence, which was another subtle form of sin.   This does not happen to just Joshua and the Israelites after the victory over Jericho.  We all become very self-confident as if we achieved a huge victory.  This self-confidence is very subtle, but deadly, which easily becomes the very source of our sins.   Once we are caught up in such a victory by being confident in ourselves, it is virtually impossible to get out of this trap.    Joshua was so faithful before God for forty years, but he could not resist this subtle and formidable temptation.   He became a prey of his own confidence.   Then who can say that I am immune to such a subtle and formidable temptation?   Certainly, nobody.   

Then how to overcome this temptation?     Only is the answer to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, who is the pioneer and finisher of our faith.   This is the very key to how to continue being a victor in our lives in Him, by Him and for Him.   Yes, we are more than conqueror in Christ!  Praise and Glory to God, whose mercy endures forever!    We are His people in His eternal care because He is our Ever-Loving Father.  Praise Him!  Praise His name from now and forever!

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  (1 Corinthians 5:7)