There is no time to waste…

When you’re working for the Lord. Joshua’s tenacity shows us an example of how we are to behave if given a commission from God.

But before I begin, let me say this…

Wow.

So far, 2016 has had an interesting start. A lot of stories from 2015 have carried over, of course, but I am also surprised at the rapid number of notable deaths that sprung off this new year. Alan Rickman and the husband and manager of Celine Dion, Rene Angelil, were both just announced. My condolences to the families of the deceased. They have long roads ahead of them.

In other “wow” news, the scandal in Flint, Michigan just keeps getting worse. My heart breaks for those people, and I am wondering when some governmental heads are going to roll. Latest headlines report an increase in the number of reported cases and deaths of Legionnaire’s disease in the area, although public health officials are not yet saying that the tainted Flint water is the definitive cause of the spike in the disease (coincidence?? I think not!). Then, another report came that out of nowhere a $575 million budget surplus appeared. No, it didn’t come out of nowhere. It came from ripoffs perpetuated against the people of Michigan.

Flint Water Crisis–Spike in Legionnaire’s Disease

Sad to say that I do not trust our government in our home state with anything or about anything. I am so disappointed in this place. If it weren’t for a few members of my family who I know will refuse to move from this place I would leave in a New York minute. Michigan has just gotten sloppy in terms of our direction and leadership. Rick Snyder had no business being elected governor.

Before the aches and pains of my pregnancy interfere, let me get into Chapter Eight of the book of Joshua.

In the previous chapters, we saw how the sin of one man, Achan, resulted in dire consequences for the entire nation of Israel, including the loss of a battle in the city of Ai that the Israelites should have won easily had God not turned His back on them due to the presence of forbidden idols in the Israelite camp. Now, the Israelites will return to Ai, but since the sin has been purged from the camp, God will be with them, and chapter eight begins with God reassuring Joshua as such. The whole army is to go, and the Israelites are allowed to keep the plunder and livestock from the conquest for themselves.

Joshua lays out the strategy required to capture the city–he and 5,000 men with him (there are 30,000 men altogether) will draw the Ai soldiers out and then flee to a location where a second group of Israelite soldiers will be lying in wait. Once the Ai soldiers have pursued Joshua and those with him, the remaining soldiers are to ambush the city and set it on fire. Just as planned, once Joshua and his 5,000 comrades were spied out, every last man from Ai and Bethel pursued them, leaving Ai wide open for attack. The men from Ai that were in pursuit of Israel look back and see their city ablaze. They know now they have been defeated, but there is nowhere for them to turn. The Israelites stop playing possum and turn the tables on their pursuers. The men from Ai are killed from both sides–the Israelites who attacked the city have come to help, and the soldiers from Ai are surrounded. The king is spared and brought before Joshua, who impales the king’s body on a pole and left it on display until the evening. The men and women of Ai, about twelve thousand people, are put to the sword, and the city is burned into a desolate heap of ruins. At sunset Joshua orders the body of the king removed from the pole and thrown down at the entrance of the gate. A pile of rocks is then heaped on top of it.

Joshua then builds an altar atop Mt. Ebal according to the commands God had given Moses–using no cut stones or iron tools. The people provide offerings and sacrifices. In the presence of the entire congregation of people, Joshua writes the entire Law of Moses and reads it before them, every single word. Half of the people stood on Mt. Gerizim, the other half on Mt. Ebal (fulfilling Scripture of Deuteronomy 11:29 and 27:12). Joshua must have had a really loud voice, or those mountains had to be very close together :-)

The covenant has now been renewed, and that takes us to Chapter Nine. Word of the Israelite’s victory against Ai has traveled, and the kings of other nearby nations–the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites–unite in battle against Israel. However, the Gibeonites/Hivites have decided upon a different tactic–lying to save their butts. A group of Hivites approach Israel with a very well thought-out deception. They wore worn-out clothing, empty wineskins, and the bread they had was moldy. They pretended to be sojourners in the land, not a part of the nation the Israelites were preparing to invade and destroy (vv.6-13):

“We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?”
We are your servants,” they said to Joshua.
But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”
They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, 10and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.” ’ This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.'”

Well played, Hivites.

The next Scripture tells of an error Joshua and the Israelites made that could have prevented this deception–they sampled what the people had brought them but never asked the Lord about them.

I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Joshua has made a peace treaty with these people (recall that they are supposed to be wiped out) and he cannot take back his word (people took these oaths seriously back then). Three days later they learn that the people they have made the treaty with, believing that they were not neighbors, do in fact live nearby. Joshua and Co. attack the other cities, but per their oath, have to let the Gibeonites be. The Israelites are displeased and grumble against the leaders, and the leaders have to explain that because of their treaty with the Hivites, they had to spare them. They have no choice but to let them leave, but the Gibeonites will be woodcutters and water carriers for the service of the altar.

Joshua then gives the Gibeonites the what for, and they answer very honestly. They were afraid of what they knew the Israelites were capable of. Joshua places the curse on them that they will be woodcutters and water carriers, and life goes on.

A truly remarkable event takes place in Chapter Ten. Gibeonite blunder over, now it is time to move forward. Having heard of their victories and that Gibeon has allied with Israel, five kings come together to defeat Gibeon–the kings of Jerusalem (Adoni-Zedek), Hebron (Hoham), Jarmuth (Piram), Lachish (Japhia) and Eglon (Debir). They move in for the attack and Gibeon sends word to Joshua. God assures Joshua that he will be victorious in this battle (I see that Joshua remembered to consult God this time), and Joshua and his men march forward to battle. The Lord caused confusion amongst the enemy, allowing Israel to completely defeat them. As the men fled from Israel, God hailed down large hailstones, so many that more men died from the stones than the sword. Here is the passage of Scripture that describes the remarkable event I alluded to earlier (vv. 12-14):

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!”
Of course I wanted to know what this “Book of Jashar” was. It is mentioned again in II Samuel, and is probably a book consisting of numerous songs and poems detailing the victories and war heroes in Hebrew history.
As we move on, we read that the five Amorite kings are cowering in a cave in Makkedah. When Joshua hears that they are in hiding in the cave, he orders some of his men to shut up its entrance with large rocks and guards. However, a few men have managed to escape the battle, and Joshua encourages his troops to continue their pursuit of any survivors. He tells them not to let the people reach their cities, but a few of them do.
Joshua and camp return to the city Makkedah, where Joshua has the five kings brought before him. He summons the commanders of the army to come forward and put their feet on the necks of the kings, telling them that “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight” (v. 25). The kings are killed and their bodies exposed on five poles until evening. At sunset the bodies are taken down from the poles and thrown into the cave in which they had been hiding. Large rocks were again placed at the cave’s entrance. The Bible says that those rocks are there to this day.
Joshua’s conquests continue. Makkedah is destroyed, Libnah, then Lachish. Horam, king of Gezer, came to the aide of Lachish and was also destroyed in the process. Next on the agenda are Eglon, Hebron and Debir. In each situation, the king of that city and the people in it are destroyed. Joshua, per God’s instruction, left no survivors. I like this line here:
“All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel” (v. 42).
We can do all things with God, and nothing outside of God. We can be as victorious as Joshua if we are obedient and if we simply include God in our lives! If we have a decision to be made, no matter big or small, it serves us best to have a little chat about it with God first.
Chapter Eleven is an account of Joshua’s victories against the Northern kings. Several kings get together against Israel, but God assures Joshua that the victory is theirs. I’m sure you can guess that since God was with Israel, they defeated many kings and conquered much land:
“So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses” (vv. 16-20).
Joshua also destroys the Anakites in the hill country. He takes the entire land and gives it to the Israelites per their tribal divisions. Then the land is given rest from war. Chapter Twelve provides a listing, a historical record if you will, of Israel’s victories.
Although the record in Chapter Twelve is definitely a notable one, we learn in Chapter Thirteen that there is still land to be conquered, and Joshua is growing older (vv. 2-5):
“This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath”.
God informs Joshua that He Himself will drive out the Sidonians, and that their land is to be divided upon the nine remaining tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh (leaving out, of course, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the other half-tribe of Manasseh that decide to settle along the east of the Jordan, and of course the Levites, who were given no inheritance). Chapter thirteen then discusses how the land east of the Jordan is to be divided among the three tribes and tells us that the Israelites failed to drive out all the inhabitants of Geshur and Makaah, whose descendants continued to live among the Israelites. Here we also find out the fate of Balaam, who we first encountered in the book of Numbers, a practitioner of divinity. He is put to the sword.
And now I am starving. BAAAH! I have no access to what I am craving right now–the same thing I craved daily with both of my other kids–a Whopper with cheese and extra tomato. So I’ll have to make do. My husband is getting a kick out of my hunger pangs, but I tell you it is no joke. I get hungry within nanoseconds, and it’s not a regular hunger, it’s a “I haven’t eaten in weeks” hunger. SMH. And it’s actually quite irritating, especially, because like I just said, I always crave late at night when I can’t get what I want.
Ahh, the joys of bringing forth new life. I cannot wait for the 22nd, when I will find out whether this is a boy or a girl, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing a cute new face in June!

Jericho and Achan–Examples of Obedience and Disobedience

Gotta love it. As soon as I resolved to get up earlier than my three-year-old daughter to do some studying and make a post, she decides to get up earlier too. SMH.

I do have a moment while she eats her breakfast and watches a morning cartoon, so I’ll get right into it.

First, let me get a rant off my chest. A video came to my attention that made me a combination of sick to my stomach and angry. Watch below.

Televangelists claim they cannot talk to God while flying coach

Basically these guys are defending their private planes by using the excuse that other people in regular airlines would be too distracting. And I am probably putting that nicely.

Well sirs, that is a flaw with your thinking, and perhaps you need to read your Bibles a bit more. I am confident that I can talk to God in the middle of an earthquake. And you supposedly being men of God should be able to do the same. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t so IMPORTANT and actually got on a regular airline, who knows who you might meet and be able to minister to?

 Joshua Chapter Three. Recall that in chapter two, Joshua spent two spies into the land, where they were hidden from the king by Rahab the prostitute, widely hailed as the first Gentile convert. The men returned to Joshua with a positive report of how the people in the land had heard of their God and were fearful. Now it is time for movement. The people move and camp by the Jordan for three days as final preparations are made. Here we see that without a doubt, the Lord is guiding the people, as the officers move within the camp and give the following instructions to the people:

When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it” (vv.3-4).

I also found it interesting that the people, with the exception of the Levitical priests of course, are always to keep a distance from the ark. It reminds me to be thankful that the distance that is to be kept between us sinners and our holy God has been broken by our Mediator Jesus Christ. Upon completion of His sacrificial death, the curtain was torn to the temple, letting us know that we can have access to God through Jesus because of His death. We don’t need a priest to intercede for us or to pray for us. In the name of Jesus we can go straight to the source of all things and ask for help, guidance, strength, or just give thanks. Isn’t that a blessing???

Joshua instructs the people to consecrate themselves (consecrate is that five-dollar word that refers to making oneself (or a place) holy or sacred) as the Lord will do amazing things before them. I like the Lord’s following words to Joshua. He tells Joshua that as He did with Moses, He will begin to exalt Joshua in the eyes of the people so they will have definitive proof that that God is truly with Joshua as He was with Moses. Why do I like those words? Well, last night we began another Moody Bible Institute class, this time on the Book of James. We got into a brief discussion on faith without works, and brought up how unfortunately a lot of Christians engage in empty works–works that are not done for God, but done for rewards from men–money, power, prestige. I made the observation that oftentimes people who are quickest to try to give themselves a title instead of allowing God to put them where He wants them to be do the worst job.

People need not exalt themselves. If we are simply obedient to God HE WILL EXALT YOU! And not only that, I made a point to explain to my Sunday School kids that when God exalts you, no man can knock you down. Now if God allows you a certain status or position and you abuse it, He can remove you from it, and He might use other people in the process. But the point is exactly that–if you are a man or woman of God and He puts you somewhere, and if you are continuously praying and abiding in the Lord throughout it all, God won’t let you be felled by the selfish desires of other people. However, if you are one of those people who do things for show and reward and are allowed a certain position, the same people that put you up on that pedestal will be quick to pull the rug from up under you if you start doing something they don’t like. Rely on God’s exaltation instead of your own or that of others. People are just too fickle.

But I digress. Joshua is told the tell the priests to go and stand in the Jordan River once the people have reached the water’s edge. Joshua relays this message to the people, letting them know that once the priests that are carrying the ark of the Lord go and stand in the water the flow of the water will cease, quite the feat since the water is at flood stage. The people are also instructed to choose twelve men, one from each tribe (the Bible doesn’t indicate why at this point, but we’ll find out in a minute).

The people move as instructed. The priests go forth, and as soon as their feet touched the edge of the water, the water from upstream ceased to flow and instead gathered in a heap some distance away.The water flowing into the Dead Sea, here called the Sea of Arabah, which the Jordan River feeds into, stopped also, allowing the people of Israel to cross on dry ground.

That brings us to Chapter Four. Now that the people have crossed the Jordan, the 12 men that were chosen previously are to each pick up a stone from the Jordan and carry it to where they will camp for the evening. These stones will serve as a sign for future generations, reminding them of how God cut off the waters of the Jordan to enable them to cross. The stones are to serve as an everlasting memorial among the Israelites. The priests carrying the ark remain in place in the middle of the Jordan until Joshua has done everything with the stones that the Lord has instructed. Then the people finish crossing over, consisting of about forty thousand men ready to fight, including men from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The people’s trust in Joshua as their leader has been cemented by this. The Bible states that That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses” (v. 14). The priests are then commanded to come out of the Jordan. As soon as their feet are completely on dry land, the waters begin to flow again, right back at flood stage as they had been.

On the tenth day of the first month the people camp at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. There, Joshua sets up the twelve stones the men had retrieved from the Jordan River. Once again, Joshua explains the significance of the stones to the people–that they will serve as a reminder of what God did for them at the Jordan: Drying up the water just as He did with the Red Sea, so that all the peoples of the world would know of the power of their God (and so that THEY would never forget it).

In the beginning of Chapter Five we see that the people in the land the Israelites are preparing to invade have heard of the miracle performed at the Jordan River, and they are rightfully afraid. Joshua is instructed to prepare flint knives in order to circumcise the Israelites again. Reason being is that the previously circumcised Israelites had died in the wilderness, but the people who had been born in the wilderness upon leaving Egypt were not. There was still a covenant to maintain and circumcision was a part of that covenant. The circumcision occurs, and the men are given time to heal before they move forward. As a response to their obedience, God says to Joshua in verse 9 “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you”.

On the fourteenth day of the month the Israelites celebrate the Passover, eating the food of the land–unleavened bread and roasted grain. This is also the last time they will eat manna, which stops cHAof Canaan.

The people approach Jericho and encounter a man standing in front of them with a sword in hand. Interestingly enough, it is quite obvious that the fearless Israelite leader, Joshua, was the first to come in contact with this man. True leaders are supposed to be at the forefront of their flock. The Bible says in verse 13 that Joshua approached this man and boldly asked him to identify his allegiance: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” Undoubtedly Joshua was fully prepared to defend his people against this man if necessary. As it turns out this man is actually an angel of the Lord who identifies himself as such in the following verse: “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

I like that statement because it shows the true intention of the good angels that have remained loyal to God. It isn’t their job to show partiality. Angels are God’s messengers who are to do what He says and what He says only.

Now here is my thing–is this angel just a regular angel, or are we talking Jesus here? The reason I believe this is Jesus is because Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence. Had this man been simply another angel, the angel would have instructed Joshua NOT to show him any reverence or worship, as they have in other Scriptures where people attempted to worship them. Joshua inquires of Jesus what message He has for him, and is instructed to remove his sandals, as he is now standing on holy ground. Joshua does so, and that leads us into Chapter Six.

Jericho is a city of extreme importance here. If the Israelites are able to take down this heavily-fortified city, they will gain an immediate stronghold on the rest of the area. A strategy has to be in place–it cannot be done haphazardly. Who else better to go to for a strategy than God? After assuring Joshua that He has already delivered Jericho into his hands, God tells Joshua what to do:

March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in” (vv. 3-5).

There goes that number seven again–the lucky number of completion.

Isn’t that something? In other circumstances, the walls surrounding Jericho, which may have been uncovered by archaeologists to have been eleven feet tall and fourteen feet wide with a thirty-five foot, thirty-five degree angled slope at the top, then joined together by more stone walls, would have seemed impossible to break through. And then God gives these instructions that make no sense in our modern minds. Think of how we would break into such a city today. A wrecking ball comes to my mind, not marching around the walls silently and hollering on the seventh day.

Yet, the people are obedient. They show their faith by following these instructions and are rewarded with a victory. We see another mention of Rahab, as Joshua instructs the army to spare her and her family. She and her family are taken outside of the city and into a place to camp. The Bible states that she “lives among the Israelites to this day” (v. 25). The Israelites devote the entire city of Jericho to the Lord, and destroy with the sword every living thing in it, all of the people and the animals. The entire city is burned, but the articles of silver, gold, bronze and iron are put into the treasury of the Lord. These were the instructions they had been given prior to the battle. Again, the Israelites have to be set apart from the rest of the world, and this includes the inhabitants of Jericho. They are instructed not to keep any of the land’s devoted things that may cause them to fall.

Joshua pronounces an oath that anyone who attempted to rebuild the city of Jericho would be cursed, which includes the death of their sons. (This curse actually happens just as Joshua says in 1st Kings). Joshua’s fame grows after this important victory.

In Chapter Seven we see another incredulous moment. Let me ask you this–have you already forgotten the miracle of God allowing the waters of the Jordan to stand still for the Israelites to cross? I haven’t, but apparently some Israelites did. At the beginning of this chapter we find that not all Israelites had been obedient in terms of not keeping any of the devoted things from Jericho. Achan, son of Karmi, son of Zumi, kept some and for reasons unbeknownst to me thought he would get away with it (?????). The Lord’s anger burns against Israel because of this one man’s sin.

Achan’s sin causes the Israelites to lose a battle that they easily could have won. Joshua, obviously oblivious to Achan’s sin, sends men from Jericho to Ai to go and spy out the region. When the men return, they report that Israel will not need to send its full army. The number of people there are few. The men decide that only about two or three thousand Israelites need to go. However, because God has left them, as He will not dwell among idols, the Israelites are routed by the men of Ai, resulting in thirty-six deaths. They chase the Israelites out of the city.

Immediately Joshua tears his clothes in mourning. He goes to the Lord with his questions:

Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?” (vv. 7-10).

Notice that while Joshua has questions for God, he does not seem disrespectful or irreverent, or accusatory. But he needs answers, and he gets them. God informs him of the sin that has taken place in the Israelite camp. God tells Joshua He will not be among them unless the devoted items in the camp are destroyed.

I have to wonder what was so absolutely marvelous about this particular item that made Achan think he HAD to have it, at the expense of violating the covenant? Admittedly, I’ll bet he did not think that taking one little item would cause the loss of a battle and thirty-six deaths, but that is the problem with sin. We don’t know who it will affect or how. We might think we’re doing something that will only bring harm to ourselves, but cannot conceive of how our sins might cause others to stumble and fall.

Instructions are given to Joshua as to how the camp can right the wrong. The people are to consecrate themselves in preparation for the next day. Each tribe, each clan, each family, and then each man within the family will present himself to the Lord. God will do the choosing. How, I am not sure. In the morning, things go as God has decreed. The tribe of Judah is chosen (I am curious as to how God signaled which tribe, clan, family, person, etc.); then the Zerahite clans, the family of Zimri, and finally, Achan. Joshua exhorts Achan to admit to his son, and he does:

Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath” (vv. 20-21).

It would be money, wouldn’t it? The source of most of the evils committed by man. But isn’t this how people respond to sin sometimes–try to cover it up, as if God doesn’t already know? Why do people do that, when they could simply ask for forgiveness and right any wrongs? We as Christians shouldn’t have to wait until we are “outed” or our sins come to light. We already know that while we are not to downright disobey God’s decrees, we are also not expected to be perfect. We already know that when we do wrong, we can go to God and ask not only for His forgiveness but that He remove from us the propensity toward wrongdoing. While it may be easy to judge Achan, people do things like this every single day.

Joshua sends messengers to Achan’s tent where they uncover the items in the exact location he gave. Achan and ALL of his possessions–including the silver, robe, gold bar, his children, and even his animals, to the Valley of Achor, where Joshua, probably grieved by all of this, asks Achan why he had brought such trouble upon Israel???? Good question. Joshua then says “The Lord will bring trouble on you today” (v. 25).

Collectively, Israel stones Achan and everything and everyone that belonged to him, then burned them. Rocks are piled upon them which the Bible states remain there to this day, probably to serve as a reminder to the Israelites as to Achan’s sin and the devastation it caused. The Lord’s anger is now quenched.

It was unfortunate that the sin of one man caused the Lord to unleash His anger upon the entire nation, but the covenant God made with them was a collective one that required collective obedience. And while there are no degrees to sin, meaning one sin is not weighted more than other, this particular sin has such widespread ramifications. Achan unfortunately had to be an example to the others. They had to remain “set apart”. If one person was allowed to keep devoted items, more people would think it okay as well, and before you knew it idol worship would run rampant within the community. Achan had also withheld from God what was rightfully His. Recall that the bronze, silver, gold, and iron items were supposed to be stored in the Lord’s treasury.

Admittedly, I don’t understand why Achan’s children had to die too. Perhaps they were complicit in the crime by hiding the items. The Bible does not say, but that is my humble opinion.

More later!!

Always resolve to do better

If I am not mistaken, this is my first post of 2016.

The entire holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving and including Christmas and New Year’s, was a complete struggle. My mother, sister and I, along with our husbands and children, went into the holiday season downtrodden, knowing it would be by far the most difficult holiday season we would ever be forced to weather together. We were right. Even as I attempted to happily toast in this new year with a glass of sparkling red grape juice in the company of several family members, my heart still broke as I remembered that Dad would not be here with us physically for any portion of this year or any subsequent years.

And that still bothers me.

I am still plodding my way through this whole grief process the best I can. I will admit I have times when I question God (recall a long time ago I wrote a post about how Christians can respectfully communicate with God, even in our frustration, anger and sadness). What I truly want people to understand is that although I am extremely sad about the loss of one of my best friends and strongest allies, that does not mean my faith has been shaken. I know where Dad is; I am just confused as to why God took him so soon. Dad was only fifty-eight, and up until the very moment I found out he was dead I just assumed he would live to be 80 or so years old. I honestly believed that with all the people praying for Dad that he would come through his ailments. Obviously that wasn’t the case, and yes, I have asked God why.

Admittedly, since under no circumstances will Dad come back here, no answer that I receive will suffice. I will not get what I really want–more time with Dad. So in the meantime I have to rewrite my life, which I originally thought included him up until my children graduated high school, attended their proms, etc. And it’s not easy.

Every now and then, whether it is just my imagination or not, I hear his voice. He is trying to remind me that I still have to do what God expects of me in my lifetime, just as he did. I am trying.

There is another hindrance in my life, albeit a positive hindrance. This pregnancy has been KICKING MY BEHIND. This baby RULES me. There is no rhyme or reason to ANYTHING. There is nothing that consistently works with my digestive system. Everything I eat seems to bother me. Not only that, but my food doesn’t come out either way (I know, TMI, but it’s my reality). I am exhausted and my body hurts. I can never get comfortable enough to get a good night’s sleep. I have to take a Vitamin D supplement because out of the clear blue, my blood work came back showing that it was super-low. When I try to go places and do things, I get tired or nauseous quickly and have to retire. It is, quite frankly, the most annoying process ever and I can’t wait until June. In the meantime, I will find out whether this baby is a boy or girl later this month.

Despite my complaints about not being the old me, I am super excited about this baby. I just wish I felt better. I commend the women who find every aspect of pregnancy to be a miraculous, magical journey. While it is indeed miraculous and magical to be able to carry babies, that does not mean everything about it FEELS miraculous or magical. Sometimes I am aghast when I look down at my protruding belly, wondering how in the world will I EVER get rid of this disgusting flap of skin after I deliver this kid. I get angry in the morning when the alarm goes off, because nine times out of ten I have only slept for two or three hours, and then have to struggle just to get my fat body into an erect sitting position. I hate that whenever I feel a sneeze coming on I have to pray that I don’t pee myself. And I absolutely DETEST that I always crave things I can’t have–every morning without fail, around 2 a.m. or so, I NEED a Whopper from Burger King with cheese and extra tomato, or, out of nowhere, Manicotti with Italian sausage and cheese, or something else that is generally unavailable. I found myself in tears on the morning of New Year’s because I needed a burger and nowhere was open. Luckily, I was at my parent’s house, and Mom is sweet enough to keep a fully-stocked pantry, refrigerator and freezer. I was able to thaw out some hamburger meat and fry up a burger with all the fixins–cheese, heavy tomato, mayo, HEAVY PICKLE, ketchup and mustard. At 1:30 in the morning.

Speaking of new babies=new beginnings, I left off, a very long time ago I must say, as the Israelites were preparing to enter Canaan, the land God had promised Abraham so very long ago in Genesis. Moses has died, and Joshua son of Nun is his anointed successor. A brave, Godly warrior, Joshua is just the man for the job, one of only two men who initially explored the land and returned with an optimistic report, in stark contrast to the other ten men who freaked over the number of people in the land and their size.

Right at the onset of Joshua Chapter One, we see God getting back into the business of establishing his people. Remember, He has a promise to fulfill, and as we know, our God does not break promises. As I mentioned to my kids in Sunday School, if we make a covenant to God, rest assured He will keep His end of the bargain. It is up to us to make sure the vow is not broken, because undoubtedly God won’t be the one to mess up.

But I digress. The nation has grieved for Moses and now it is time to move forward. The people must prepare to cross the Jordan River and enter their new homeland. God assures Joshua that just as He was with Moses, He will be with him, and that “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5). God then exhorts Joshua to be courageous. (We have already seen what weak leaders can do to a nation–again we can look back to when Joshua and Caleb were the only two who showed courage after exploring the land. The other ten men were able to negatively influence the rest of the nation. This is what poor leadership can do–turn people aside from the ways of the Lord).

Speaking of poor leadership… I have to do this. I am super embarrassed about my state.

Four Days After Declaring Emergency, Michigan Governor Delivers Water

When Money Matters More Than Lives–The Poisonous Cost of Austerity in Flint, Michigan

If you have not heard of this awful story, I encourage you to catch up on it. Briefly–Flint, Michigan has been hit hard over the years. Every negative factor in Michigan seems to have hit this area harder–unemployment, foreclosures, loss of jobs, problems with schools, everything. Our illustrious governor, for whom I did NOT vote, has strong-armed the state into the use of emergency managers that report directly to the governor. Mind you, Michiganders firmly rejected the idea of emergency managers when given the opportunity to have a voice, but like Rick Snyder has done on multiple occasions, he found a way to push his will through anyway, and with appropriations making it virtually impossible to have the law overturned.

I have yet to see how these emergency managers have done a decent job. They do more of a “hostile takeover” than a job–taking over entire cities and school districts. I am confused as to how they get away with such dictatorial behavior, and how they continue to collect large paychecks and face NO negative ramifications if they screw up, like normal people do.

Snyder, a businessman who had no idea being elected to GOVERN a state, appointed two emergency managers to Flint. The first decided Flint could no longer afford to buy water from its Detroit source, and thought, for reasons unknown, that it would be better to save money by drawing water from the super-polluted Flint River, where toxic waste and other substances detrimental to human (and animal) health have been dumped for years.

I am no scientist, but from what I understand, the water was supposed to have been treated before it was run through Flint’s pipes and into people’s homes, and it was not. The untreated water from the Flint River leached lead from the city’s old pipes and brought said water right into the homes of unknowing residents who bathed, brushed their teeth, fixed formula for their children, and drank contaminated water.

When reports started coming in that something was wrong with the water nothing was done. Now a smoking gun shows that Snyder was fully aware of the problem back in July, yet nothing was done. And as you can see in the article above, even after declaring a state of emergency (an understatement considering the fact that people NEED fresh water, and up until very recently the people of Flint still did not have consistently safe water), nothing was done in response to the people’s immediate need. Charitable individuals and organizations brought in water, not the government.

Meanwhile, we will have to unfortunately wait and see what is in store for the future of the hundreds of children who have tested positive for lead poisoning, which is irreversible. It is an absolutely disgusting and scary story. Read up on it if you can. I don’t know how any of the people involved can possibly sleep at night. For me, this story hit entirely too close to home. At the very least I should feel secure that when my son or daughter gets water from our tap that it won’t cause them brain damage!

I apologize for the rant. Back to Joshua.

Again, Joshua is exhorted to be strong and courageous. Another mark of a good leader? He is to obey God’s law, to always keep the Book of Law on his lips, to meditate on it, even. In that way, Joshua (and any leader) can be prosperous and successful.

Even if we are not leading an entire nation of people, those of us who are blessed enough to attain positions of leadership have to be careful to go forth in GODLY leadership. Just like every other aspect of our Christian lifestyle, how else will we know what God expects of us as Christian leaders if we do not read, study and meditate upon the words in the Instruction Manual? I know many people who can quote Scripture after Scripture, but it is more important that we APPLY God’s Word to our lives than simply being able to regurgitate it.

At my church, I printed out several different Bible reading plans so that interested members of the congregation could choose one and read the Bible in a year. I encouraged my Sunday School students to do this also, reminding them that the hour we spent in Sunday School was not enough time for them to fully grasp the truths of the Word. Despite their youth, I have encouraged them to use one of the plans as well, as I firmly believe that each of us who claims to be Christian ought to get through the Bible AT LEAST once in our lives. And even if we have read the entire thing, we have to continue to read and study. Only then can we really understand God and apply what we know to be His plans and will for us. The Instruction Manual, as I fondly call it, teaches us how to be Godly leaders, Godly parents, Godly spouses, etc.

In verse 9 God asks Joshua a rhetorical question that I like: “Have I not commanded you?” Basically, God is saying that if He gives us a commission, then surely He will be with us through it. So there is no need to be afraid or timid. If we have truly been called by God to do something, He is going to have our back, front, and both sides throughout it all.

In turn Joshua commands the officers of the nation to instruct their respective tribes to prepare themselves, for in three days they will cross the Jordan and enter the land God has given them. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who have decided to settle on the east side of Jordan River, are reminded that they are still expected to go help their fellow Israelites clear the land across the Jordan. Those tribes agree to this. In this sense, I thought of us as Christians today, and how when we get to a level of comfort and peace in our lives, and satisfaction, we should never turn a blind eye to the plight of the brethren. So although those tribes had their land and could have settled comfortably and watched as their fellow Israelites engaged the Canaanites in battle, God expected them to present a strong, united front. We as Christians today ought to support each other as well. Nothing bothers me more than when people get famous, when they have “arrived”, and turn their backs on the people from whence they came. And think of how Christians get so divided when it comes to denominations. There is no denomination that is more “saved” than another, nor more “sanctified” or “holy” than another. ANYONE WHO HAS FULLY ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST AS THEIR LORD AND SAVIOR, AND BELIEVES IN HIS DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION, IS SAVED, SANCTIFIED AND HOLY! Imagine how better off America would be if EVERYONE who believed on JESUS came together!

Chapter Two includes one of my favorite stories of early Joshua. One of my favorite themes of the Bible is how God can and will use ordinary, sinful people to do extraordinary things. The story of Rahab the prostitute is one such example.

Joshua sent two spies to look over the land, concentrating on the heavily fortified Jericho. The spies end up being housed by a woman named Rahab. Wouldn’t you have loved to know more about her background or what happened to her after this encounter?? I know I would have. Either way it goes, Rahab must have had some measure of faith, because she hid the two spies when the king found out the two men were in the land. Apparently, Rahab’s house was in a prime location, somehow built right into the city wall (v. 15). Rahab was a smart woman and had an explanation ready when the king’s messengers, upon finding out about the two spies, demanded that she hand over the two men: “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them” (vv. 4-5). The men were hidden securely on her flat roof under stalks of flax.

On her word, the messengers leave in hot and fresh pursuit of the spies, after which the gate to the city is closed. Rahab then tends to the spies on the roof and confesses her faith by referring to God as “the Lord”. Remind you that Rahab is an Amorite woman enmeshed in an ungodly nation, so this is extremely important. She explains that she fully understands God’s plan–that He has given the land to the Israelites, and that it is causing fear among the people of the land, who have heard of God’s past miracles on behalf of the Israelites–the Red Sea and the destruction of the kings Sihon and Og. Rahab asks that she and her family be spared. The men agree, so long as she does not tell what they are doing. Rahab then lets the men down from a window with a rope and instructs them to hide in the hills for three days, lest their pursuers find them.

The men swear an oath to Rahab and instruct her to place a scarlet cord in her window, identifying her home to other Israelites as untouchable. Some believe that there is significance to the color of the cord/rope, that it is scarlet as in red like the blood of Jesus that saves and delivers. It was the presence of that scarlet cord that saved Rahab and her family and delivered them from destruction by the Israelites.

The men return to Joshua with a good report–the Canaanites are rightfully afraid of their God.

And now my daughter is sleepy and demanding my attention. I’ll be back, hopefully sooner than later. Joshua is a really good book.

Trying to find my way back…

To being me again.

I have not been on this blog in a long time. It has not been because I haven’t been praying or studying my Word. It is more because I have not been living my life as I should.

I hate to admit when I am at a weak point, but there is no denying that is where I am. Such that I am struggling to enjoy my life. My mind, especially as the holiday approaches, has become consumed with grief for my deceased Dad. All of these firsts–the first Thanksgiving, my first birthday without him telling me Happy Birthday, and now this first Christmas–without my Dad are even more difficult than I ever could have imagined.

I have been trying to remind myself that just as my Dad did, I should be enjoying all of the days God has allowed me, living them to the fullest, and miserably, I have not been. I have been going through the motions, basically just doing what is expected of me because I have to (I mean, I have to fix lunches, iron clothes, etc.). But the joy I had in doing those things before is not present, and I am actively trying to figure out how to get it back.

I am trying to keep in mind that as a Christian this is an especially joyous time of year, because although we do not know definitively that Christ was born on December 25th, we do know that He WAS born, that He died and rose again and secured our salvation, and that this December 25th is when we celebrate His undisputed birth. I am trying not to pass my attitude on to my kids, so I put on a smile when I can as they share their excitement for Christmas parties, gifts, church, putting up the tree, etc.

But my heart is not into it.

I know full well I am not myself. What I don’t know is how to get her back. But I’m trying. I am praying, and I am trying.

Rehearse the good…

So that you won’t be so inclined to focus on the bad.

I have a long way to go until this baby is born. The tentative due date is May 14th, although I have yet to visit the midwife to have that date confirmed. Either way it goes, I know I have at least six or seven more months of discomfort left ahead of me. Right now, I have a little belly but that is not the major issue. The major issue is the nausea and fatigue–mainly the nausea. I am a foodie. I love cooking, I love using different spices and trying new flavors. I love spicy food. I love pasta. I love sauces and condiments.

Unfortunately, this baby doesn’t like ANYTHING at all. And guess who is in charge right now?

Not I.

No, this kid has already pulled rank and is commanding what I can eat, when I can eat, and how I feel after I eat. I understand that there are a whole bunch of hormonal things going on that contribute to the nausea. That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Already I found myself complaining to God. Does it have to take nine months? Why couldn’t it be something reasonable like four or five? When can I eat regularly again?

Then I remembered that this baby, as are all babies, a blessing. God decided my husband and I had been faithful stewards of the two he has already given us and thought we were worthy of another, one that can bring special joy to this family in the midst of our grief. Being able to carry my own children has been a blessing that I know some other women can only hope for. It is a special thing to have another life inside of me–and yes, this is LIFE. I know I am at an early stage but I cannot understand how someone could get rid of such magic.

I often think of my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother birthed twelve children naturally, my maternal grandmother, eleven. The families my parents grew up with were all pretty big. I think the largest one consisted of 23 children (a nightmare in my opinion!). They birthed and raised them with limited means and did a darn good job.

So as for my little nausea, I will take care of myself as best I can and grin and bear it. At the end of the day, there is nothing else to do. When it passes, I will thank God for it. I thank God REGARDLESS. He has been super good to me, good beyond anything I’ve ever deserved. I have not always been a good representative for Jesus and yet He has kept me anyway.

Just like everyone else, I get overwhelmed with things. I’ve made it a point when that happens to rehearse, recite, or even write down the good in my life and compare it to the bad. The good side always outweighs the bad–as a matter of fact I usually have to quit writing the good because I find myself unable to stop.

Now, before this little pumpkin commands me otherwise, I’ll finally finish up Deuteronomy :-)

We were in chapter twenty-nine. In this chapter the covenant that God is making with the Israelites is renewed. Again, God is preparing the people to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. This is kind of like the pep talk coaches give their teams before they begin a game. “Okay… Now this is what we have been training for…” The coach may give players last minute reminders based on footage they’ve watched of the opposing team. The coach also reminds the team that there is victory when the team is united… whether they do this indirectly or not, when coaches design plays that involve all players, there the concept of unity is strengthened. The Israelites were a team and the people in Canaan were their opposition. Deuteronomy kind of serves as that pre-game “pep talk”.

The location was Moab, which no longer exists in name but is considered part of current-day Jordan. The Moabites were descendants of Lot–with his daughter. Surely you remember the sordid story in Genesis of how Lot’s two daughters got their father drunk and lay with him in order to conceive sons, right? The son of Lot’s firstborn daughter was Moab, and he became the father of this group of people, the Moabites. The second son by the other daughter fathered the Ammonites (see Genesis 19 for the whole story). All of Israel is before Moses, where he reminds the people of all of the many signs and wonders. In the forty years that they have wandered in the wilderness, their needs have been met–even though they were technically being punished for their disobedience and lack of faith, God still provided for them. Their clothes have not worn out, nor have their sandals become tattered and torn. The Bible says “You have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God” (v. 6). They have already defeated the people on that side of the Jordan and gave their land to the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh. The people should have full faith and confidence in God at this point that can travel with them during the rest of their journey.

All of Israel is present, and God is entering into this covenant with the entire assembly. They are warned again to refrain from idol worship. If anyone within the assembly accepted the covenant (at least by appearance) but conspires within himself to be stubborn, they will feel the fullness of God’s anger: The Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law” (vv. 20-21). If the Israelites break this covenant, generations after them and foreigners will look upon their desolate land and wonder what the people did to the Lord to make him so angry. They will know the answer to that question–because the people abandoned God.

As always with our loving God, there can be forgiveness if the people repent and turn from their sins. This is discussed in chapter thirty. Our all-knowing God knows full well that these people are going to do exactly what he is telling them not to do. So the next thing is to remind them that they can come back to the Lord after they have sinned. If they come back to the Lord they will be restored, and he will gather together all of them, even those who have been scattered. They will be numerous and prosperous, more than their forefathers. If the people take delight in prospering in the Lord, the Lord will in turn delight in prospering them. God tells the people that the commands he is giving them is not too hard for them to keep. God presents his way as that of “life and good”, as opposed to the worldly way, which leads to “death and evil”. If the people keep God’s commandments and statutes, they will have it good. If they turn from him, they will surely perish: But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (vv. 17-20).

A very important event occurs in chapter thirty-one. Moses has reached the ripe old age of 120 years and as we already know, he will not be the one to lead Israel into the Promised Land. That job will go to Joshua, son of Nun, who has already been acting as Moses’s right-hand man, thus being mentored and prepared for his role by the best source available. God will go before the people and destroy the inhabitants of the Promised Land so that Israel may dispossess them of their land. The land will be given over to Israel. Knowing that God is with them in this endeavor, the people are exhorted to “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (v. 6). I tend to think that is a good verse for all of us Christians to commit to memory. Every day we leave the comfort and solitude of our Christian homes we open ourselves up to worldly temptation. Even in the face of evil and adversity we have to be strong and courageous representatives of the Lord. Even though our beliefs are not popular in today’s carnal microwave society where people demand instant gratification, we still have to adhere to them and tell people about Jesus. As I tell the kids in Sunday school, whether or not people accept the Gospel message is not up to you. The only job we have to do as Christians is to tell people about Christ. If they reject the Gospel message it is not a person rejection–that person has rejected Jesus, as has the world. And unfortunately they will have to pay for it.

Now Moses summons Joshua and gives him a little pep-talk: Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (v. 7-8). This was done in front of the entire assembly of Israel. It was important for them all to see Moses, their current leader, do this mini-coronation of sorts of their new leader. Then they could truly accept Joshua’s authority.

The law is given by Moses to the priests. The law is to be read to the entire assembly every seventh year at the Festival of Booths. The Lord tells Moses the time is near that he will die, and requests that Moses bring Joshua to the tent of meeting where the Lord will commission him. Moses does as told (wonder how he felt knowing he was about to die?? I tend to think he might have been a bit relieved–after all he was an old man and the Israelites had been giving him the blues for DECADES) and once Joshua is in front of the tent of meeting, the Lord comes down in a pillar of a cloud and stands over the entrance of the tent.

Here, we find that God absolutely knows what the Israelites will do:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods” (vv. 16-18).

It’s like when we are born the first time. God knows that because of our sin nature handed down to us by Adam that we are going to do wrong. So he has established a way for us to come into fellowship with him–through his son Jesus Christ–and ways for us to remain on “good terms” with him–through confession of sins and repentance. God knows that we are not going to be perfect while we’re down here. He doesn’t expect that. He does expect spiritual maturity and growth.

Side bar–I must admit I am fighting getting extraordinarily irritated right now. At one point in time in Bible class we were discussing how it is easy to get distracted from reading and praying every day, and that sometimes the devil himself will put stumbling blocks in our way. One of the ladies in the class happened to bring up how her daughter always found a reason to interrupt her when she was doing Bible study at home, causing the teacher to ask her jokingly, “Are you saying your daughter is a devil?” Of course the answer was no–she was just making an observation about how some things, some of them priorities in her life such as her daughter, always seemed to get in the way of the time she wanted to devote to God. We discussed ways around that. Sometimes maybe she would have to get up earlier or go to bed later to get her time with the Lord, or keep her Bible on her and during a rare down time at work, maybe get a Scripture or two in.

The reason I brought that up is because my daughter keeps interrupting me right now and I am getting annoyed. It is not because she needs anything. It is because she has decided she doesn’t want to go to sleep.

Time has passed and I am alone. Let’s wrap this up before one of my two kids (or even this third one–the nausea still has not subsided completely) decides they need my attention.

God gives Moses a song to write down to teach the people to be a witness for him against the people of Israel. God knows once they get into Canaan and get settled in and comfortable and begin reaping the benefits of the land they will forget about God (isn’t that how we do now–when things go well we forget that it was because of God’s blessing and start getting the prideful big head, like we did it on our own??) and turn to idols. The song is given in chapter thirty-two. I’ll let you read that.

However as chapter thirty-one concludes we see the Lord formally commissioning Joshua: Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you” (v. 23).

The Book of Law that Moses has just compiled is given to the Levites, who are to place it by the side of the ark of the covenant. Once again Moses reminds the people that God already knows what they are going to do. He knows of their sins to come.

As I just mentioned the song that God gave Moses makes up the bulk of chapter thirty-two, but at the end of that chapter God tells Moses to go up to Mount Nebo which is in Moab, where he will die. AGAIN, God reminds Moses as to why this is happening in this manner–because he did not treat God as holy. Therefore he will only see the land, not cross into it.

In chapter thirty-three Moses bestows blessings upon the twelve tribes. In these passages I found the word “Jeshurun”. I don’t recall seeing it anywhere else in the Bible leading up to now, but from what I understand it is another way of referring to Israel as a nation. The root of the word means “upright” or “straight”… which is befitting, knowing that Israel was supposed to be an upright, Godly nation. The most interesting of these blessings is the one that is bestowed upon Reuben. It is brief and kind of a blessing and a… non-blessing??

Let Reuben live, and not die, but let his men be few” (v. 6).

Interesting. I suppose that this is because of the sin Reuben committed against his father Jacob when he slept with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22).

The rest of the blessings are more happy-happy-joy-joy than the one bestowed upon Reuben.

The book of Deuteronomy concludes in chapter thirty-four with the death of the leader of Israel, Moses. God allows Moses to see the fruit of his labor–he allows him to see Canaan, but up there on Mount Nebo Moses died and was buried by none other than the Lord: “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended” (vv. 5-8).

Joshua is now fully in charge. Since Moses laid hands on him, Joshua is filled with the spirit of wisdom and the people of Israel obey him. (Laying on hands is not necessary now because once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit comes to live and dwell within us. No one needs to put their hands on us for that to happen). As for Moses, the Bible says:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (vv. 10-12).

That concludes the first five books of the Bible. Referred to as the Torah by some, the Pentateuch by others, these first five books are the very foundation for all the rest that follow. There would be no New Testament without the Old, and the importance of Moses’s writings (and his deeds, of course) cannot be underscored. Christians ought not neglect reading these books. When we read about Moses and his life, we can draw many parallels between him and Christ. Moses was the “middle man” so to speak, the Israelite’s connection to God the Father, just as Jesus Christ the Son is our connection to God the Father. Moses delivered the people from sin and bondage, just as Jesus does for us presently. And as much as the people got on Moses’s last nerve, he did not leave them. On many occasions, he pleaded on their behalf, just as Jesus, our Advocate, Intercessor and Intermediary does for us when we fall short of God’s expectations.

We can also look at Moses’s life to see an example of true leadership. True leaders depend upon God. Moses had undeniable faith. If he didn’t, surely he would have broken under the pressure of dealing with such a large and demanding group of people. When they people had an issue, he took it to the Lord. When HE had an issue, he took it to God. In all things, Moses consulted God.

What I love about the Bible is that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. What I mean by that is that there was nothing special about Moses. He wasn’t a good speaker–he admitted that himself. What was important was not his ability to speak well, but to be flexible and faithful enough for God to use him. Now, we know that there are no more prophets, but certainly God can and does use his children to accomplish his will. People use other people all the time. I can think of no better example than in the corporate world, where people get to the top by climbing on the backs of others. There is no benefit when someone in this world uses you. But look at where you can end up if you allow God to use you! Look at what Moses has accomplished. While we are not going to be a prophet or deliver a nation from bondage, we can do great things through Christ if ONLY we are willing to let go of self and give our lives over to God.

Congratulations on reading through the first five books of the Bible! The story gets good in Joshua. But right now I have to go tend to my stomach. This baby is killing me softly right now. Part of me wants cookies and the other part of me is hoping to just puke and get it over with (TMI, I know).

Great actress, classic, un-siliconed beauty

GORGEOUS.

The lovely Maureen O’Hara acted in many movies… I’ll let those who do not know who she is examine her profile on IMDB or some other similar website. Although Miracle on 34th Street was probably one of her most memorable films, it’s not one of my favorites…one of my all-time favorite movies is none other than The Parent Trap. Maureen O’Hara was brilliant as the mother of separated twins Susan and Sharon (both delightfully played by Hayley Mills. I flippin’ HATED the remake with Lindsay Lohan, just like I was majorly displeased with the remake of Freaky Friday, another childhood favorite, which originally starred Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris).

Maureen O’Hara died recently at the ripe age of 95. Rest in peace. Your body of work lives on.

May I say something before I get into Deuteronomy?

I understand women are under a lot of pressure to conform, but we bring a lot of it on ourselves. When we stop looking to the media and whomever else to decide what is considered beautiful, I am sure we’d all be a lot happier. I love looking at old pictures. Not just of classic Hollywood beauties, but older pictures in general, to see when women actually looked like natural, regular women, not these plastic build-a-body women we see today on Botched or shows like that. Since when did it become such a bad thing to look like this:

Diahann Carroll

Marilyn Monroe

Sophia Loren

Raquel Welch

Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith–Charlie’s Angels, of course!

Pam Grier

Eartha Kitt

Cicely Tyson

Dorothy Dandridge

Phylicia Rashad–who doesn’t love Clair Huxtable??

I could have posted hundreds more pictures, both of beautiful celebrity women AND some regular Janes. Point is, I don’t understand how or why the ideals of beauty have changed to where so much unnatural is being accepted in the place of working with your own natural beauty. I’m not saying women shouldn’t use makeup or experiment with their hair, paint their nails, etc. What I am bothered by is the Fix-a-Flat behinds, lips plumped up with fat, and ZZZ breasts. If God intended for everyone to have a huge behind, soup cooler lips and back-breaking breastises He would have given them to us. (And yes, I said breastises).

You know what I don’t understand? People are so fickle, and what is considered fashionable is likely to change from minute to minute. Years ago, typically Black features like big lips and even big behinds weren’t fashionable. Now all of a sudden big lips and huge butts are in. I even remember there being an uproar about an article in Allure magazine that was a tutorial on how White women could get Afros–at one point in time, Afros were a no-no… they still are in the corporate world, as far as I can tell…So what happens if those fashion standards change? Are people then going to get the reverse procedures done, and are they going to keep destroying their bodies based upon what some random person has decided is in or not? Kind of pathetic. Everyone is not supposed to look the same.

Now on to Deuteronomy chapter 23, now that my little beauty rant is over. It begins by discussing people who are cannot join in worship.This chapter starts off with a super-random statement–that a man with a crushed testicle or missing a part of his sex organ cannot worship with the other men of Israel. This is a confusing passage, because I can understand how a man with a crushed testicle or other type of injury might be considered unfit for specific types of service to the Lord, but to not even be able to worship with the other men seems harsh–unless that man’s condition is the result of having been a willing participant in some type of pagan ritual where this type of mutilation occurred. Once again, everything God is doing is so that the Israelites will be a set apart, sanctified, holy people, completely unlike the people who are currently in the land they are going to inhabit, Canaan. It is my humble opinion that this verse and a lot of others that seem kind of random or have little explanation behind them are God’s way of making sure His people don’t look anything like the other people. I will have to research this passage a bit more carefully.

People born to unmarried parents cannot join in worship either, nor can his descendants down to the tenth generation. Again–admittedly this sounds harsh. I will never pretend to like everything the Bible says. Some things God decreed that I did not understand. What I DO know is that thank Jesus these regulations do not apply to us today! ALL are welcome to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, and all are free to worship Him. What was considered unacceptable, unclean and blemished per the Old Testament standards can be made acceptable, clean and pure by the blood of Jesus Christ. Whenever I read these passages and think “Geez God… what was the point of that???” I just remember how the Old Testament points to the necessity for Jesus. This is another passage of Scripture for which I have no explanation. In my modern mind, it seems harsh that a person would be punished for sins committed by their parents, but God has already said that would be the case in previous Scriptures. And THAT again shows us how Jesus just paved that perfect way… with Him the only sins we’re accountable for are our own. We don’t have to deal with our parents’ sins (at least not in terms of blessings and salvation. Not saying our parents’ wrongs might not influence our lives).

The Israelites are never to make friends with the Ammonites and Moabites, the individuals who refused assist the Israelites as they journeyed from Egypt and hired Balaam to curse them. They are not allowed to join in worship, and the Israelites must never make peace with them. There are some people that the Israelites are to embrace: The Edomites, who are their relatives and, interestingly enough, their former masters the Egyptians. Those people are allowed to worship God alongside the Israelites.

Even when the Israelites are encamped against their enemies they are still to remain set apart and keep themselves and their campground holy. Any man who has a nocturnal emission that renders him unclean he is to go outside the camp, bathe himself with water and re-enter the camp as the sun sets. There is to be a place outside the camp for Israelites to relieve themselves. They are to dig a hole and once they have finished their business, they are to cover their excrement so as to not offend the Lord their God who walks through their camp.

Another set of miscellaneous laws follows. If a slave has escaped his master and runs into the arms of another Israelite, that Israelite is not to give the slave back. The escaped slave is allowed to choose a place to dwell within one of the cities that he has escaped to. I suppose this is because of the regulations God has given the people regarding the treatment of slaves. Remember that slaves were supposed to be treated well, and were allowed the option of freedom after seven years or during the Year of Jubilee, whichever came first. I guess only slaves that were being mistreated would flee their masters, so apparently in that situation it is okay to do. They are not to be turned back over to a harsh master.

The sons and daughters of Israel are forbidden from being cult prostitutes. This warning obviously stems from the practices and rituals performed by the native Canaanites, as I believe I have discussed in previous posts. Temple prostitutes were especially popular in terms of worshiping Baal. Verse 18 says that “You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord your God for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God”. There has been some discussion as to what this verse means, particularly in terms of “wages of a dog”. It is my humble understanding that God is referring to male prostitutes when he talks about the wages of a dog, and that no one who has acquired money via involvement in prostitution ought to bring that dirty money to the house of the Lord for any reason. I’m definitely open to other explanations though :-)

Israelites are not to charge interest on loans made to other Israelites, although they can collect interest on loans made to foreigners. Israelites are to be careful in terms of making vows to the Lord–if they make a vow and fail to fulfill it they will be held accountable. As such, it is best not to make a vow at all, so as to not become guilty of any sin. Vows made to the Lord are voluntary, even now. God requires us to live a certain way and wants us to do things to bring glory and honor to him, but he does not physically compel us to do anything. It is a choice we get to make on our own. So if we tell God we are going to do something, we should make good on our promises to him as he does with his promises to us. (I could go on a marriage rant here, because it baffles me as to why marriage is so hard for people these days, but I’ll refrain).

Israelites are to be hospitable toward one another and respectful of each others’ property. If someone went into their neighbor’s vineyard, they were allowed to snack on some of their grapes, but could not take a doggie bag. The same applied if they went into their neighbor’s field of grain. They could eat some of the free grain but weren’t expected to get greedy and take a sickle (one of those farm tools that kind of looks like a question mark, used for cutting grain–has a wooden handle and a curved blade) and get more than they ought.

Chapter twenty-four begins with laws concerning divorce. When I first read this years ago it seemed kind of convoluted and made my head spin, so I’ll do my best at being brief:

  1. Man marries woman.
  2. Man decides he does not want to be married to woman.
  3. Man writes her a certificate of divorce and sends her out of his house (how kind).
  4. Woman marries another man.
  5. Second man either A) also decides he wants nothing to do with woman and writes her a certificate of divorce or B) dies.
  6. The man in numbers 1-3 cannot re-claim woman as his wife after she has been defiled.

Not sure why the woman would want anything to do with the man who has divorced her, but we’ve all heard stories of couples who have married each other two or three times after realizing it was a mistake to divorce. I guess the moral of the story is you shouldn’t take marriage and divorce lightly.

Verse five begins a new series of miscellaneous laws. If a man has just married, he is allowed to remain from fighting with the Israelite army for a year, giving him time to enjoy his new bride. Verse six tells us that Israelites were not allowed to take someone’s mill or upper millstone as part of a pledge. Of course I looked that up, because I wondered what the significance may be of those two items. Turns out those tools were a part of someone’s job, so basically God was not about to allow someone to take away someone’s livelihood. If an Israelite was caught stealing a fellow Israelite to enslave him or sell him, he is to be put to death. In the case someone is afflicted with leprosy, they are warned to follow the instructions given them by the Levitical priests to a T. When an Israelite went to collect on a pledge, they were not to go into the person’s home, but instead were to wait outside for the person to bring what was owed to them outside. If the pledge is that of a poor man, and, from the way the Scripture is written, is his cloak, the person to whom the pledge was owed was forbidden to sleep in that pledge overnight. It is to be restored to the person before sunset. I know these days most of us have several sweaters, a couple winter coats, some jackets, some hoodies, etc. that can keep us warm on these crisp fall days and, unfortunately, soon-to-come blistering wintry winds. The same was not the case back in these Old Testament days. People had one cloak on which they slept and protected them from the elements. God wanted the Israelites to treat all people well, even the poor, and even those who owed others money.

Oppression of hired workers who are poor is prohibited, whether they are native Israelites or sojourners. The poor person is to be given his wages that same day. People are responsible for their own sins–fathers are not to be put to death for the sins of their children and vice versa. Justice is to be fair in all cases, and there should be no perversion of justice against the sojourners, widows and orphans–three highly vulnerable groups of which God showed great tenderness and mercy. His mercies extend to cover all of their needs–for those who are blessed enough to have plentiful crops and harvests, they are commanded to let those vulnerable individuals glean from their fields: When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this” (vv. 19-22).

Can you imagine this type of society, where everyone has a vested interest in looking out for everyone else?

I can’t. Not in these times.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it–God’s way is selfless, man’s way is selfish. This society is heavily vested in man’s way. We’ve become far too individualistic for our own good. Why are people these days so mean and nasty? Their selfish black hearts are in bad shape. Think of the last time you did something nice for someone, an act you performed just out of the kindness of your heart. Didn’t it make you feel good? Didn’t you want to do it again? It’s unfortunate that when we read stories about people doing nice things for others we get happy, because it should be NORMAL BEHAVIOR, not EXCEPTIONAL BEHAVIOR. SMH.

On to chapter twenty-five…

If two men have a dispute and present themselves to the judges, and the judges render a verdict finding one man guilty and the other innocent, the guilty man’s punishment may be a beating. In this case, the man is to lie down and be beaten in the presence of the judge. No more than forty lashes is to be given. Then that quickly the Word jumps to talking about oxen. An ox is not to be muzzled when treading out the grain (maybe so it can eat some of it? I don’t know).

Next is another slightly convoluted marital situation:

  1. There are two brothers.
  2. One of them dies and has no son, but has a wife.
  3. The surviving brother has the option to take the wife as his own.
  4. If the wife gives birth to a son, she is to name the son after her late husband, so as to not blot his name out of Israel’s register.
  5. The brother may refuse the wife.
  6. The wife can speak to the city’s elders about his refusal, and they are to speak with him.
  7. If he consistently refuses to take the wife, she is allowed to pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. He has degraded his brother’s memory by allowing his name to be removed from Israel.  I suppose the shoe was a sign of dignity, and thus removing it symbolized a loss of dignity.

More miscellany:

If two men fight and the wife of one of the men tries to help her husband and grabs the offending man’s testicles during the fight, her hand is to be cut off. This reminds me of a discussion I have had several times with my husband. It’s actually kind of funny. We’ve talked on numerous occasions (jokingly) about what I would do if he ever got into a fight while I was around and started to lose. He said even if he is losing I am NOT supposed to jump in for a couple of reasons:

1. I might get beat up right along with him… LOL

2. Or, I might kick the guy’s behind and emasculate my husband in the process (that sounds more like me)…

I wonder if other men feel the same way? Either way, I thought the conversation was pretty funny. It was just one of many that illustrated how men and women often think differently, because until he said that I figured there was no way I could ever watch him get beat up.

There is a brief discussion on fair weights and measures: You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God” (vv. 13-16).

The people are then reminded to remember what Amalek did to them as they were on their way out of Egypt, how he attacked them when they were at their most vulnerable. Once the Lord has given them rest in their new land, the Israelites are to blot out the Amalekites from under heaven.

Chapter twenty-six begins with a concept we’ve discussed on many occasions–that of the offering of the firstfruits. Once the Israelites are established in their new land they are to offer the first some of their first fruits to the Lord while recounting the story of their deliverance from Egypt. In verses 12-13 God says that When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them”. Remember that in every third year the people were to fill the storehouses with produce for the Levites, the poor, the widows, the sojourners, and the fatherless (Deuteronomy 14:28). The Lord has promised to make Israel a great nation, and if they will obey, they will be set higher than other nations.

In chapter twenty-seven, Moses instructs the people to build an altar of uncut stones on Mount Ebal when they cross over the Jordan into the land the Lord is giving them. In verses 9-10 we see that this thing is really becoming official official:”Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the Lord your God. You shall therefore obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping his commandments and his statutes, which I command you today”.  After they cross the Jordan and enter the new land, they are to assemble at Shechem, where the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin are to stand on Mount Gerizim to hear God’s blessings upon the people, while Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali were to stand on Mount Ebal to hear the curses.

The Levites are to declare the following curses to all of the people (after each curse is pronounced, the people reply with an “Amen”):

1. Cursed is he who makes a carved or cast metal image and sets it up in secret

2. Cursed is anyone who dishonors his mother or father.

3. Anyone who moves his neighbor’s landmark is cursed.

4. Anyone who mislead a blind man down a road shall be cursed.

5. Anyone who perverts justice to those vulnerable sojourners, widows or orphans is cursed.

6. Anyone who lies with his father’s wife and thus uncovers his nakedness is cursed.

7. A person who lies with an animal is cursed.

8. A person who lies with his sister is cursed.

9. Cursed is the person who lies with his mother-in-law.

10. Cursed is anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.

11. Cursed is anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.

12. Anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them is cursed.

I wondered if there was any significance to how God gathered the tribes together, i.e., was there any special reason why he grouped the tribes the way he did to receive the blessings and the curses? I found what appears to be a sensible argument at http://www.twoagespilgrims.com/doctrine/mount-ebal-to-mount-gerizim-from-cursed-to-blessed/:

The list of tribes in Deuteronomy 27:12-13 composing the two groups is also striking. Those on Mount Ebal, the mount of cursing, are the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali, sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, slave women of Jacob’s two lawful wives. Those on Mount Gerizim are Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. Those on Gerizim, the mount of blessing, are children of Jacob’s lawful wives, Leah and Rachel (Gen 35:23-26). Reuben is the exception—though he was one of Leah’s legitimate sons, he was cursed because he had sexual relations with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Gen 35:22; 1 Chron 5:1)” (May 2010).

There you have it. I love that there is just so much to be learned in the Bible, and that God has given so many people the gift of Biblical wisdom that we might learn from one another. (I’ve looked at other postings at that site too–pretty good stuff there).

Blessings and curses for obedience are given in chapter twenty-eight. The curses are the opposite of the blessings, so I will briefly describe the blessings. If the Israelites would just obey God, they would be set high above all other nations. They will be blessed in all ways–their produce, their fields, their children, everything would multiply and be fruitful. They will reap the benefits of God’s boundless protection whether they are in their own cities and fields or not. The other peoples will see these benefits, recognize that God is with them and be afraid. The Israelites would “abound in prosperity” (v. 11). They will lend to many nations but never borrow. The exact opposite is the case if they disobey. Every part of them would be afflicted–their land, their bodies, their produce… and a king from a foreign nation would be set over them.

Here is a particular passage that makes me want to retch at the very thought of it:

They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you. And you shall eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your sons and daughters, whom the Lord your God has given you, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemies shall distress you. The man who is the most tender and refined among you will begrudge food to his brother, to the wife he embraces, and to the last of the children whom he has left, so that he will not give to any of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating, because he has nothing else left, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in all your towns. The most tender and refined woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because she is so delicate and tender, will begrudge to the husband she embraces, to her son and to her daughter, her afterbirth that comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears, because lacking everything she will eat them secretly, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in your towns” (vv. 52-57).

People are going to start eating each other??? GRODIE! But it does in fact begin to happen. The most vivid exchange I can remember involving eating one’s child is in 2 Kings 6. It’s a pretty disturbing passage about a time of famine and a mother boiling her son.

To sum it up, if the people disobey they face the consequence of ultimate, thorough destruction.

And now I must lay down. I have been sleeping a lot more the past few days. I have been physically exhausted and sick to my stomach. I rarely get sick to my stomach, so I knew once that started happening something was amiss. And I was right. I took three pregnancy tests and they all came back positive. So my party of four will become a party of five sometime in May. I am very excited, but I am looking forward to the time when I can eat again and not have to suffer the consequences. I want to eat everything and nothing at the same time. I get to where I can go from content to ravenous in 0.005 seconds, and then when I placate myself with food Mattphanie decides not to appreciate it (I called both my son and daughter Mattphanie before we knew what their sex was. It’s a mash-up of our names). I’ve noticed I’m sicker during the day than I am at night, but that is subject to change. I’m taking it all in stride, resting when I need to, eating when I can. I thank God for this because our family needed some good news. God is still blessing us even as we continue to grieve my Dad, who I still miss (and always will) dearly. God took someone very important to us home, but he sent someone else for us to love and teach him all about his wonderful Granddad.

Happy Friday!

My poor sweet little boy is sick today.

He had a great ninth birthday. Although I spent the day feeling pretty nostalgic, leafing through his old baby book and looking at the pictures of him in his little crib in the NICU, there was little time to relax after he got out of school. He had about ten or twelve of his little friends from school and some relatives join him for a bowling birthday party. Then, on Friday, we went to what is now my new favorite (relatively) close family destination, Kalahari Resorts in Ohio. MAAAAAAAN that place had it ALL! A fantastic buffet, little shops, a huge arcade, a zoo, well-equipped rooms with fireplaces (we had a FABULOUS suite with a hot tub on the balcony), and, of course, a FANTASTIC waterpark with one of the best slides ever…

Image result for slides at kalahari resort ohio

It was a ton of fun. What made it even more fun was that we had a big group of people. I was especially pleased that my father-in-law was able to come, all the way from Alabama. After my Dad passed (it still bothers me to say that) he decided he wanted to see his grandkids more often. I don’t blame him, and I am glad that he made that decision. My kids just love him. He’s a fun guy :-)

All in all, the ninth birthday was a success for my son. He works hard at school and he is so kind.

With him in bed already and my daughter on her way, I have time to hopefully get through a few more chapters of Deuteronomy. I believe I was on chapter sixteen.

Here, the Israelites are reminded that they are to celebrate the Passover in the month of Aviv (which roughly corresponds to when spring begins, around March 21), because that is when God delivered them from Egypt.They are reminded of their Passover instructions–the sacrifice to be made and there is to be no yeast used for seven days. The Passover sacrifice cannot occur just anywhere; it must be done where the Lord decides to choose a dwelling place for his Name. The people are also reminded of the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. In verse 16, we see that the men of Israel are the ones who are required to attend these Festivals: “Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, at the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles”. Although women were allowed to attend, and were expected to worship God outside these festivals, their primary place was at the home with their children. The man, as the head of the household, was also the spiritual leader of the house, if you will, so it makes sense that the men were required to attend while the women’s attendance was voluntary.

The people are then exhorted to appoint judges within each of the tribes who shall judge the matters of the people fairly. God tells the people–again–not to set up any Asherah poles or erect any sacred stones.

In chapter seventeen, God again warns the people against idolatry. The discussion begins with God telling the people that their sacrifices to him are to be flawless. Almost as an addendum to previous Deuteronomy scriptures, God tells the people that anyone among them who engages in idol worship, including bowing down to the sun, moon, or stars, the matter must be investigated thoroughly. If the investigation reveals that the person is guilty, they are to be taken to the city gate and stoned. There have to be two to three witnesses before conviction–the testimony of one witness is not sufficient for a death sentence. The hands of the witnesses have to be the first ones to take part in the stoning, followed by all the rest of the people, in order that full purging can take place.

With the understanding that there was the possibility that there might be a case presented to the human judges that would confound them, God gives them some additional help. In this situation, the party or parties involved are to be taken to the place where God chooses (as his dwelling place). The Levitical priests and the judge who is in office at that time will render a verdict in the case (sounds like the Supreme Court, doesn’t it? Are we also seeing some reflections of what would eventually become the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council that was instrumental in having Jesus put to death?). Whatever the priests and judge decide, the person is to adhere to or risk being put to death for showing contempt. God does not want the people to think it is ever okay to show disrespect for those who are ministering in his name, and he explains that in verses 12-13: “Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again”. Imagine that–if after the failing and punishment of one person, the people might learn their lesson. That just doesn’t happen anymore. People have no respect for God. More and more people are denying his very existence, and trying to take away from his many accomplishments. SMH. I guess one who doesn’t believe in God wouldn’t have any fear of him, but for those who do, I wonder if they have quenched the Holy Spirit, because I see far too many people who call themselves believers acting completely out of order.

This next passage of Scripture interests me. God with all of his knowledge knows that Israel is going to follow in the footsteps of other nations and eventually want to have a human king. One would think that God would be sufficient, but as we see in later books of the Bible, the Israelites did indeed follow the lead of pagan nations and request a king. God lays out the instructions for choosing this king right here. This king must be a fellow native-born Israelite. Here are the other qualifications, and here is a spoiler–in later books, the kings do not follow these rules:

“The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again’. He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver or gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel”  (vv. 16-20, italics added by me).

IMAGINE that kind of leadership. I must admit, that is what I think is wrong with a lot of our politicians. I find it hard to believe that people who make hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars can relate to someone like me. For a long time, I’ve had a problem with rich politicians, because number one, most of them in my humble opinion may have come upon their money in less-than-honorable transactions (not all, of course), and number two, we all know how money pollutes the mind. I would rather have someone representing me that makes forty to sixty grand a year and UNDERSTANDS the STRUGGLE of the many people he or she is expected to represent. The vast majority of Americans are NOT millionaires. We need representation of the people BY THE PEOPLE. Not saying millionaires are all blissfully unaware of the plight of others, but the millionaire politicians just don’t seem to get it–or don’t always seem to care. Some of them seem to think that they made it all by themselves with no help from anyone and because of that, everyone should be able to pull himself up by his own bootstraps. I find it hard to believe that everyone who was become wealthy had NO help at all–no help from family, no financial backers, no support or grants from the government ever? Yeah right.

Unfortunately when money and power come together a lot of people tend to forget where they come from and begin to blame those less fortunate for their circumstances. Of course there are some people in bad situations due to their own mistakes. That is not the vast majority of people. What do you think would happen if the same elite school that exists in Beverly Hills or something existed in Detroit? Do people really believe people would rather be poor than be comfortable?

That reminds of me of something else I have to get off my chest, now that we’re on people thinking they’re better than others… I know this is now considered old news at this point, but it burned me up…

So… apparently Raven-Symone believes that her name is traditional? But as per the main point of that segment… I’ll admit I have been appalled at some of the names I’ve seen popping up as of lately. Take when I go to my son’s school, for example, or from working at the office. I see parents bring in an absolutely darling little boy or girl, and when they write their name down, I can’t pronounce it correctly. Now, I stuck to fairly common names for my kids–I liked the way they sounded and what they meant. I did consider their future when I named them–neither my husband nor I really cared for unique names. But the point is that it is SAD that I even considered that my son or daughter’s application for a job might be trashed because I made the wrong name choice for them. Let’s say I had wanted to give my beautiful baby boy or girl something unique, that no one else had, something I had thought up. He or she might grow up to be an excellent student with great credentials, yet his or her resume might end up in the shredder because of the name that is at the top of the cover letter? How is that FAIR or RIGHT to anyone??

In my life, I’ve encountered tons of people with names that were, to me, DIFFERENT. Heck, Indian names are different. I went to middle school with some Vietnamese kids whose names were different. I remember one girl’s name was pronounced “Tampon” (that’s not how it was spelled, but that was how it was pronounced). I’ll never forget when I graduated from Eastern Michigan University–one of the names that was called out, belonging to a man, was Vijaynah. I’ll let you figure out how it’s pronounced. Did their name, and the fact that I had difficulty pronouncing it or because it sounded funny per my American standards, have any bearing on who they were as a person or their capability to learn and be productive? Absolutely not. I meant to do this awhile ago, but even after the bland apology she gave, here’s to you Raven-Symone:

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It is BAD ENOUGH that Blacks still have to face the possibility of being discriminated against by others because of skin color. Unfortunately we also have to worry about being discriminated against by our own because of petty stuff like names. SMH.

But I digress.

In chapter eighteen God discusses the offerings for the priests and Levites, reminding the people that the priests and Levites (remember that all priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests) did not have an allotment or inheritance among Israel, as the Lord is their inheritance. Details are given as to what part of the sacrificial animals belong to the Levites, as well as the firstfruits of their grain, wine and olive oil, and first shearing of their sheep. Levites are free to travel between the towns of Israel, and are to be welcomed in their servant role wherever they go. Other Levites are to welcome them with open arms.

When the people of Israel have fully inhabited the new land, they are prohibited from engaging in the practices of the people who currently reside in Canaan. Some of the detestable practices that God warns the people of Israel about are sacrificing their own children in fire, practicing divination or sorcery, interpreting omens, engaging in witchcraft, casting spells, or acting as a medium or spiritist or person who consults the dead. These are some of the practices for which God is driving those people from their land. The same can happen to the people of Israel if they decide to live in that way as well.

While those nations are practicing divination and sorcery, God informs the people that they will have something better–prophets. I like this passage of Scripture quite a bit, as it helps clear up any misunderstanding about prophets and prophecy:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed”  (vv. 15-22).
Interesting.
GOD is the one who called those particular men or women to be prophets. Was there something special about the people God chose for such a monumental task? Well, I’m sure being a prophet must have required strict obedience, as they could not do any “ad-libbing”, if you will. They had to say exactly what God told them to say, to whom God wanted them to say it. It was no small job, particularly if we consider the stressful economic situations during which the prophets spoke their messages, which were not always happy-happy-joy-joy messages. And we see that the punishment was severe–if a prophet said something he had not been commanded to do, or a person who prophesied in the name of any other god, was to be put to death.
Determining whether or not a prophet was truly sent by God was easy–if their message did not come true, they were not acting on the Lord’s behalf.
The only prophecy that is needed today has already been covered in the Instruction Manual. The entire Bible tells us what is going to happen, so we don’t need anyone to proclaim they know something different. And for people who go to other limited people and ask them about whether or not they are going to have a baby, get married, or get a job promotion, I wonder why you aren’t taking those questions to the ONLY ONE who really knows the answers–GOD.
That brings us to chapter nineteen. I’ll be brief here–God reminds the people they are to establish cities of refuge (three on each side of the Jordan for a total of six), and that there have to be multiple witnesses to a crime. Cities of refuge are only for people who have committed crimes without malice. The example given is very clear–if a man is cutting wood in the forest with a neighbor, and he swings his axe and the head comes off and hits his neighbor in the head, killing him, that man can go to one of those cities of refuge so as to avoid the wrath of the deceased’s family. God says that initially the people are to set aside three cities, and if he so decides to enlarge them (and eventually it becomes so) that they are to set aside three additional cities (that is why there ended up being six). Someone who plans and executes a cold-blooded murder are not to be shielded. They have to be turned over to the appropriate authorities and killed. God takes false witnesses seriously–if someone is found to have given false testimony (this person is referred to as a malicious witness), the punishment intended for the claimant will now be handed down to the person who provided the false witness. A phrase that is repeated multiple times in these chapters is you must purge the evil from you (or some other form of that phrase). One of the mothers from my church (now deceased, may she rest in heaven) used to say “if you give the Devil an inch, he’ll take a mile”. Sin has to be dealt with immediately and thoroughly so as to decrease the chance of widespread corruption.
(I guess I wasn’t that brief).
Chapter twenty deals with war. The Israelites ought not be afraid of any army, even if they have more horses and chariots and appear to be outnumbered, because they have God on their side. Before battle, the priest will address them to calm any fears they may have by reminding them of God’s protection. Although the following Scripture is intended for the Israelites as they prepare for battle, doesn’t this make for a good mantra or whatever for all believers to use at the beginning of our days, as we prepare to go out into the world, where our beliefs are in opposition to the entire world system???
“…(Hear, Israel): Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (vv. 3-4, parentheses added by me).

Some men may be exempt from a particular battle. If a man has just bought a home and not had the chance to yet live in it, he may go home and enjoy his house, lest he die in battle before being able to enjoy the fruit of his labor. The same goes for a man who has just planted a vineyard or become engaged to a woman. Interestingly enough, a man who is frightened or disheartened can be dismissed from battle too, because God would not want his fear to spread throughout the group. I assume not participating in battle was not necessarily an admirable thing to do, particularly for that last reason, but there were ways out.

Before attacking any city, Israel is to make them an offer of peace. If those people accept the peace terms, they are to be slaves to Israel. If they refuse the terms, the Israelites are to lay siege to their city, killing all the men and taking the women, children and livestock as plunder. They are able to use that plunder as they see fit. This is ONLY for the cities that are distant from them, not the ones they are to inhabit. The cities in the Promised Land are to be wiped CLEAN. Anything that breathes has to go:

However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God” (vv. 16-18).

When the Israelites attack the cities they are not to cut down the trees that bear fruit they can eat, but they can cut down other trees and use their wood.

Myriad topics are covered in chapter twenty-one. Atonement has to be made for any bloodshed, and that includes in the case of a murder where the assailant is unknown. If a body is found in a field, for example, the elders and judges are to measure the distance from the body to the neighboring towns. The elders of the nearest towns are to take a heifer that has never been worked or worn a yoke and break her neck in a sacrificial act in a valley that has never been plowed or planted and has a flowing stream. The elders of that nearest town are to wash their hands over the heifer, clearing them and the city of any bloodshed.

One of the easiest ways to get a man to fall is with a beautiful woman :-) God knows this. We have seen many instances where women have led men into bad decisions or even idolatry. Yet, God knows that beautiful women from the cities that Israel is demolishing or taking over may catch the eye of an Israelite man. If among the captives an Israelite man notices a beautiful captive woman, he can take her as his wife, but once home he is to shave her hair, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when she was captured. In essence, she is being stripped of her former identity in order to make way for the new. Think about it–a lot of most women’s identity revolves around her hair. We take pride in our hair. For most of us, in order for us to do something extreme to it there has to be a very good reason. She is allowed to mourn her mother and father for about a month before the husband and wife thing becomes truly official. If the man decides he is not pleased with her, he has to let her go wherever she chooses, but he cannot sell her or treat her as a slave, since he has dishonored her (by quitting her, I suppose).

Interesting circumstances are discussed in the next passage. Suppose a man had two wives, one he loved and the other he didn’t (I’m thinking Jacob and the situation with Leah and Rachel, perhaps?). If his firstborn was borne to him by the wife he doesn’t love, that firstborn still gets the firstborn rights. The firstborn son is considered the “first sign of his father’s strength” (v. 17) and as such he is entitled to a double portion of the father’s belongings.

The next set of Scriptures talks about a rebellious son (but not a rebellious daughter, interestingly enough). If a son consistently disobeys his mother and father, they are to take him to the elders of the town at the city gates, where he is to be stoned to death by ALL the men of the town. Again we hear that familiar phrase: “You must purge the evil from you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid” (v. 21).

Now, do you think God intended that to be an everyday thing? No. One would think it would only take ONE rebellious son being put to death before others would think twice about it. And if you notice in that passage of Scripture in its totality, the parents accuse the son of being a glutton and drunkard. Apparently they are not referring to a rebellious seven-year-old. I don’t think God ever expected small children to be perfect in their behavior. This sounds to me more like older rebellious sons whose behavior was disgracing themselves and their parents. Obviously, if God prohibited child sacrifice, he wouldn’t turn around and tell people to stone their small children, would he??

To close out this chapter, God discusses an interesting concept… if someone is put to death and their body is displayed on a pole (sound kind of familiar?) they cannot be left hanging overnight. It must be buried that same day, because “anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse” (v. 23). Yes, our Lord Jesus subjected Himself to becoming a curse in God’s eyes, all so people like you and me could be counted among those who inherit the kingdom of heaven.

And now duty calls. Hopefully much more later :-)

I’m not a huge football fan… but ummmm…

HAIL, TO THE VICTORS VALIANT…

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