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Bible Reading Plan thoughts: And the walls fell flat?

jericho1
Our Bible Reading for today is Joshua 6-10. It’s the famous scene where Joshua and his army are commanded to march around the city of Jericho for six days. On the 7th day they were to march around it 7 times, shout, and the LORD would make the walls fall flat.

The walls were about 7 feet high, with a ditch around that, and atop a steep incline. The wall was actually a double wall. Towers were built into the walls, and anyone attempting to climb the hill and attack would be at a severe disadvantage.

It must have been unnerving for the Jericho-ites to see the Israelite army marching around and around day after day, the tension heightening, the strangeness of the scene increasing their apprehension. It was a good lesson for the Israelite army too. Obedience in the face of a strange command. Its fulfillment promised blessing, though, and would be a tremendous miracle.

And it was!
jericho

Some people say that such a thing could not physically happen. Others say that archaeology does not confirm what the Bible says, that Jericho never even had a wall. In both cases, these are not a problem for the Bible believer. We believe God, therefore we believe what He says in His inspired word. The walls fell flat? Yes, the walls fell flat. Praise God for His mighty and mysterious ways.

Joshua 6:21 says that all the people and animals in Jericho were then killed by the sword. (Except Rahab and her brethren).  It’s always rough to read something like that. But the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says-

It should be remembered that the Canaanites were incorrigible idolaters, addicted to the most horrible vices, and that the righteous judgment of God might sweep them away by the sword, as well as by famine or pestilence. There was mercy mingled with judgment in employing the sword as the instrument of punishing the guilty Canaanites, for while it was directed against one place, time was afforded for others to repent.

God is good, He is gracious, and He is merciful. He is also righteous judge, and if idolaters refuse to repent, and continue idolizing the devoted things, then their sin will be paid with death. Joshua’s march shows that obedience brings blessing.

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Further Reading

Answers in Genesis: The Walls of Jericho

 

Who was the real prisoner?

We know the story of Joseph and his brothers. Genesis 37 to 47 recounts Joseph’s two dreams of superiority over his elder brothers, his coat of many colors, the murderous plot to kill Joseph (Genesis 38:18) and his sale into slavery in Egypt. (Genesis 38:28)

We know that Joseph’s faith was great, and that despite arriving in Egypt as a slave, God was with him. Joseph rose to a place of prominence in Potiphar’s house, (Genesis 39:2), was then unjustly accused of rape and thrown into jail. Even in jail, Joseph’s faith was great and he rose to a place of authority within the jail, (Genesis 39:23) then to a place of prominence in all of Egypt. (Genesis 41:40). Twenty-four years or thereabouts pass before Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt a second time.

Initially the brothers had plotted to kill Joseph. But Judah said “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites…” (Genesis 37:26a).

Indulge your sin of jealousy, conspiracy, fratricide, anger, AND profit from it.

So they did, they waffled on killing their brother, they ended up stuffing Joseph in a pit but then dragged him out when the caravan passed by so they could sell him into slavery. And that seemed to be the end of Joseph for the brothers, for all they knew.

Decades later, the famine had become very severe in all the surrounding region. Unbeknownst to the brothers, Joseph had foreseen the famine coming, thanks to a dream the LORD had sent to Pharaoh, and which Joseph and interpreted by His grace. Facing starvation, the brothers decided to travel to Egypt to buy grain, and they were of course faced with Joseph who had become vizier to Pharaoh, second most powerful man in all of Egypt. The brothers did not recognize Joseph, but Joseph recognized the brothers. Joseph accused the brothers of being spies and held them in custody. He told them to return to Canaan and bring back Benjamin, the youngest, to him. The brothers huddled and said to one another,

In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” (Genesis 42:21-22).

Reuben was referring to the death penalty for taking a life, but there is also a spiritual aspect to this.

Source Wikimedia

Joseph had been in actual prison, and no doubt had some dark days. But the LORD was with Joseph, it says so during the recounting of Joseph’s life, many times. (Genesis 39:2, Genesis 39:21, Genesis 39:23…). When the LORD is with you, no matter the circumstance, one can dwell in joy and peace. (Philippians 4:4). Being “in the Lord” brings with it a sphere of peace that is unrelated to the circumstances of this worldly life. Being in the Lord means you possess an unchanging, invincible bubble of joy that none can penetrate. (Philippians 4:7).

Contrast Joseph’s spiritual success with his brothers’. When accused, they crumbled at once under the weight of their collective guilt. They’d been carrying this tremendous burden of guilt since the day they rode off, deaf to the pleas of the teenager they conspired to sell. It was their prison.

The scriptures declare we are all prisoners of sin, release only comes in faith in the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 3:22, John 8:34, Romans 7:14).

That is why Joseph, though imprisoned, was free; and the brothers, though free, were imprisoned. The burden of sin is heavy, but a clean conscience is light.

The solution:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24–25).

Are you like Christian, the man in the allegory Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan? Christian was weighted by a burden on his back of which he could not rid himself and was causing much distress.

Christian: I cannot go as fast as I would, by reason of this burden that is on my back.
Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew nigh to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain: and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.

Slough of Despond, Dyer Library, Saco, Maine

Evangelist explained to Christian why the ground was so bad at the Slough of Despond:

‘This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

Are you sinking deep into guilt and shame, as were Joseph’s brothers, weighted in guilt by their heinous acts? Do you long for freedom from sin and a cleansed heart, forgiven of the sins which are burdening you? Only Jesus can provide that, and He has.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).

THE GOSPEL

Sacrifice of Isaac prefigures Christ: the grace of Old Testament symbols and acts

Genesis 22 has the story of the great test of faith of Abraham. God called to Abraham one day, and Abraham answered “Here I am!” God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, his only son, who Abraham loves. Abraham was to do this on Mt Moriah, a place God initially told Abraham would be a place I will tell you. Not even initially knowing where, Abraham hastened to obey, and the two hiked to the fateful spot.

Theologians have examined this scene and compared it to Christ’s sacrifice so I am certainly not plowing new ground. I have no deeper insights. But in this day and age, with fears and tribulations, and griefs and apostasy, it is always refreshing to keep our eyes on Christ. It is always edifying to see how in the word, the LORD God has it all under control and His plan is unfolding from that day to this in magnificent fashion, and will continue to do so.

Italian Renaissance painter Caravaggio’s depiction of the sacrifice of Isaac.

Comparison of Old Testament texts with New Testament texts. Isaac pre-figures Christ.

click to enlarge

Preparing for Christ’s death

The cross is the epitome of redemptive truth, foreshadowed in the acceptable sacrifice of Abel, foreshadowed in the ark of safety that saved Noah, foreshadowed in the sacrifice provided on Mount Moriah–a ram in the place of Isaac, prefigured in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, where Moses said, “The Lord is my strength, and my song, and He has become my salvation.” We see the cross foreshadowed in the smitten rock in the wilderness that brought forth water to quench the thirsty people. We see the cross foreshadowed in the Levitical ceremonies, sacrifices and offerings. We see it foreshadowed in the serpent lifted up in the desert for healing. We see it even in Boaz, the kinsman redeemer. We see the cross detailed in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. We see the pierced and wounded Savior in Zechariah, chapter 12–all the way through Scripture. J. MacArthur

Scripture is amazing and wonderful. Read your Bible today.

Micah’s question: Who is like God in His judgments?

EPrata photo

The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains. (Micah 7:2 NIV)

Some thoughts on Micah’s entreaty regarding the moral breakdown of Isaraelite society, after listening to James Montgomery Boice’s exposition of Micah 7.

God has stored up His wrath on sinners for His great Day. We know this because it is promised repeatedly throughout the Bible. But that does not mean He is not judging now, also. He does send His wrath onto the earth when He judges nations. (Romans 1:18). He is supreme in His holiness, and one of those supreme attributes is that He judges now. When He judges a nation, its rulers, and its people,  He shows us that the wages of sin really is death. (Romans 3:10). On a more individual level or regarding a family unit, when we go our way He begins to show us the frustration of sin in our lives, and eventually if someone is unrepentant, destruction comes- ether now or later.

Micah begins his picture of judgement on national Israel by showing a three-pronged cycle.

1. God judges moral breakdown in a society. “Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.” (Micah 7:2b).

2. It continues with a breakdown in leadership. “Judges accept bribes. Rulers demand gifts. The powerful dictate what they desire— they all conspire together.” (Micah 7:3).

3. His judgment finalizes with breakdown in the family, the most personal and foundational of all. Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies are the members of his own household. (Micah 7:5-6)

The cycle Micah describes above begins with a general immorality in a society, descends to more personal immorality such as corrupt leaders, rulers, and judges. It ends with neighbors betraying one another and one’s own intimate family members being an enemy. A society exhibiting that kind of judgment is truly at the end of its national life.

We see that last-stage internal family betrayal as an indicator of a society’s moral breakdown is repeated in Matthew 10:36, “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

Societies break down, that happens. What Micah is doing in recording his own day’s societal breakdown is that he was showing the breakdown against God’s moral excellency. In chapter 7, Micah is talking about the judgment of God upon a rebellious society. What makes this so significant, is that this is an aspect of God’s judgment in the here and now (of Micah’s day, of Jesus’ day and of our day and of the future day) and not only a future Day of the LORD. It’s like this- if a society refuses God who made them and blesses them and protects them, then breakdown will follow. This promise of wrath revealed upon corrupt and rebellious societies is mirrored in the New Testament cycle of Romans 1:18-32, a cycle which I’ve mentioned often.

When you see this kind of breakdown is should be evident to the people as to what has happened in their national life. In Romans 1 it effectively states that when they would not have God, He would not have them. When a society rejects God, the decline of national life is inevitable. They reject God, He rejects them. They rebel against God, He gives them over to rebellion. After a while it is impossible to detect who is doing the rejecting, as the very sin a society chose becomes their very own judgment.

Micah asked, Who is like our God in His judgments? and it is good and wise thing to remember and ask ourselves in this day.

Yet for all the reality of wrath and judgment, there is a promise of deliverance! There is no one like God in His judgments, yet there is no one like God in His deliverance. God judges, but He delivers and when He delivers, He shepherds! He is a good God who cares for His flock. Micah was speaking specifically of Israel and to Israel here, look at the promise of future deliverance of the nation God has elected!

You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago.

He is a God who fulfills His promises! What do we need to do in the meantime, as we wait for the glorious return?

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me.
(Micah 7:7)

Wells of living water: Old Testament pictures are New Testament promises

The passage today is from Genesis 26:17-22. I found that as far as my interpretation of it goes, there seems to be a historical/practical meaning, a spiritual meaning, and a metaphorical meaning. God’s word is great. Here is the passage.

So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, [contention] because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. [enmity]. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, [room] saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

Ancient well diggers dug a shaft to obtain water from a water-bearing layer beneath the ground. They lined the shaft with wood, stone, or baked brick to prevent it from caving in. To keep contaminants from the well and to protect people from falling in, well diggers often built a low stone wall like the one shown here and covered the well opening with a large flat stone. ‎Gen 16:14, Gen 21:19, 25, 30, Exod 2:15, Isa 12:3, Luke 14:5, John 4:1–45. (Source, Myers, R (2012) Logos Bible Images, Lexham Press, images are public domain.)

Practically, as a herdsman Isaac would have depended greatly on water to keep his flock alive. Water was a precious commodity in a dry and thirsty land. Earlier in Genesis 26 it had been reported that Isaac had become a very wealthy man.

And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.)

Isaac’s father Abraham had obtained the land legally and rightly, and he had dug the wells. Yet the Philistines stopped them up. And the Philistines’ envy and hatred carried through to Isaac’s day, when they contended with Isaac over the water and there was strife. It must have been a great hardship for Isaac with all his herds, servants, and flocks to go without enough water during the periods the Philistines contended against him. Calvin said of the stopped-up wells,

Moreover, the fact that the wells had been obstructed ever since the departure of Abraham, shows how little respect the inhabitants had for their guest; for although their own country would have been benefited by these wells, they chose rather to deprive themselves of this advantage than to have Abraham for a neighbor; for, in order that such a convenience might not attract him to the place, they, by stopping up the wells, did, in a certain sense, intercept his way. It was a custom among the ancients, if they wished to involve any one in ruin, and to cut him off from the society of men, to interdict him from water, and from fire: thus the Philistine, for the purpose of removing Abraham from their vicinity, deprive him of the element of water.

Aside from the physical need of the practical matter of water, the second item to note is Isaac’s placid response. Stopping up a well is akin to a declaration of war because no water equals financial ruin and perhaps death. The Philistines had already noted Isaac’s large retinue and knew he could have defeated the them yet Isaac did not fight. He simply relied on the Lord’s providential care by abandoning his freshly dug well – several times – and moved on. Talk about turning the other cheek! (Luke 6:29).

Calvin again, this time of the spiritual relationship Isaac had with YHWH-

First, Moses, according to his manner, briefly runs through the summary of the affair: namely, that Isaac intended to apply again to his own purpose the wells which his father had previously found, and to acquire, in the way of recovery, the lost possession of them. He then prosecutes the subject more diffusely, stating that, when he attempted the work, he was unjustly defrauded of his labor; and whereas, in digging the third well, he gives thanks to God, and calls it Room, because, by the favor of God, a more copious supply is now afforded him, he furnishes an example of invincible patience. Therefore, however severely he may have been harassed, yet when, after he had been freed from these troubles, he so placidly returns thanks to God, and celebrates his goodness, he shows that in the midst of trials he has retained a composed and tranquil mind.

Thirdly, the metaphorical aspect. Whenever there is water in the Bible, I pay attention. It is a blessing to me to think of the Lord Jesus as the Living water. With the stopping up of the wells and the final well finally flowing freely in an area of enough “room”, I searched to see if my hunch had been right. Matthew Henry alluded to the flowing water, metaphorical aspect of Isaac’s wells issue.

In digging his wells he met with much opposition, v. 20, 21. Those that open the fountains of truth must expect contradiction. The first two wells which they dug were called Esek and Sitnah, contention and hatred. What is the nature of worldly things; they are make-bates and occasions of strife. What is often the lot even of the most quiet and peaceable men in this world; those that avoid striving yet cannot avoid being striven with, Ps. 120:7. In this sense, Jeremiah was a man of contention (Jer. 15:10), and Christ himself, though he is the prince of peace. What a mercy it is to have plenty of water, to have it without striving for it. The more common this mercy is the more reason we have to be thankful for it.

Source: Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 60).

The two verses which come to my mind are:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3).

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)
Matthew Henry one more time:

Upon God’s providence, even in the greatest straits and difficulties. God can open fountains for our supply where we least expect them, waters in the wilderness (Isa. 43:20), because he makes a way in the wilderness, v. 19. Those who, in this wilderness, keep to God’s way, may trust him to provide for them. While we follow the pillar of cloud and fire, surely goodness and mercy shall follow us, like the water out of the rock. 2. Upon Christ’s grace: That rock was Christ, 1 Co. 10:4. The graces and comforts of the Spirit are compared to rivers of living water, Jn. 7:38, 39; 4:14. These flow from Christ, who is the rock smitten by the law of Moses, for he was made under the law. Nothing will supply the needs, and satisfy the desires, of a soul, but water out of this rock, this fountain opened. The pleasures of sense are puddle-water; spiritual delights are rock-water, so pure, so clear, so refreshing—rivers of pleasure.

May the Lord bless you abundantly as you drink freely from the well of salvation and refresh your justified soul in the river of living water.

Repentance is more than just "turning".

As one reads through Hosea, particularly chapter 7, it is amazing the number of metaphors God uses to show Israel’s perfidy. They were separated from their God and Protector through their own actions. God hadn’t gone anywhere, Israel had. They needed to repent and turn to Him.

However there is turning and there is turning. God was angry that Israel turned to idols. They turned to Egypt. They turned to Assyria. They turned to themselves, in their own beds crying and wailing. (“They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds”; Hosea 7:14) They turned a lot. They didn’t turn the right way.

They turn, but not upward,  (Hosea 7:16a)

Turn upward!

Judas turned. In the KJV of Matthew 27:3 it says, “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,”

Did Judas repent? No. He turned, he felt grief, he refused to look at his sin… but he didn’t turn upward.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary says there are several words for repent used in the bible. In the case of Judas the verb is “metamelomai is used of a change of mind, such as to produce regret or even remorse on account of sin, but not necessarily a change of heart. This word is used with reference to the repentance of Judas (Matt. 27:3).

The other word for repentance according to Easton’s is “Metanoeo, meaning to change one’s mind and purpose, as the result of after knowledge. This verb, with (3) the cognate noun metanoia, is used of true repentance, a change of mind and purpose and life, to which remission of sin is promised.”

In Judas’ case, his turning was not upward.

In your grief over sin, in your restlessness in finding peace, in your agitation, turn, not from one worldly thing to another, but upward!

The lessons of Hosea 7 are many. One is, that God is looking down upon His elect. He is looking. Look upward! See Him! Our holy Savior as High Priest is looking at us, loving us, calling to us to repent. Repentance is a matter of turning, but turning in the right direction, and it is having a right heart condition. Judas’ heart wasn’t right. Ephraim’s heart wasn’t right. They cried but it wasn’t from the heart. Judas cried, but it wasn’t from the heart. If you cry over your sins, is it from the heart? If you turn from your sin, is it in the right direction? We have learned that a horizontal turning is not the right direction because the only thing in our horizontal field of vision is the world. The world doesn’t forgive. God in heaven forgives. Upward is the right direction and having the right heart attitude is important too.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9).

Satan blurs lines, rubs the sharp edges off Christianity, hates distinctions

“Thus Saith the Lord” sermon on Jeremiah 17:5-8
Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“I sometimes imagine that the supreme achievement of the devil is to blur essential distinctions. He is interested in gray always. He doesn’t like black or white. And he has taught mankind to listen to him. ‘We don’t like these either-ors,’ they say. ‘We don’t like these stark, striking contrasts’. But those, my dear friends, are the very essence of the subtlety of sin and the devil. … the great lie of the present century is to have blurred the distinct edges of Christianity and the Christian faith. The Christian is distinct, stands apart. It is a lie to say you cannot ultimately define a Christian at all.”

MLloyd-Jones sermons here