Seek His Counsel

“They did not ask counsel of the Lord” Joshua 9:14

Like Joshua and the other leaders of Israel we may act without seeking the Lord’s counsel and, if we do, we don’t wait for a response. Following the Lord destroying the walls at Jericho Israel’s leaders urged Joshua to send what they rationally calculated to be enough men against the city of Ai. They were severely routed with the loss of thirty six lives. It might not sound like much of a loss but it meant thirty six families without a husband or a father because they did not ask counsel of the Lord. Israel was humiliated, Joshua’s leadership questioned and the Lord’s name blasphemed among the peoples of the region.

Satan is a liar and a deceiver and he has had plenty of time to hone his skills manipulating people. Once again Joshua and his leading men relied on their own rational assessment of the situation regarding the Gibeonites and did not ask counsel of the Lord. They were deceived and their leadership was again called into question by their own people (v 18). The deception meant that they could not fulfil the commandment of the Lord and they would have a constant reminder of their failure in their midst.

The presumption that the Lord is with us and will give us the victory, as we perceive victory, is all too common among professing and genuine Christians. In the current attack on Jesus Christ and His church many, but not all, Christians are trying to win a spiritual battle using the secular world’s practices. Perhaps the first point of error is the one that Joshua made; he did not ask counsel of the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-12 expresses the way we should follow.

  1. We will ask the Lord’s counsel, trusting his counsel and not our own judgment (vv 5-6)
  2. We will trust His counsel even when it seems to us to be wrong (v 7)
  3. We will trust His counsel even when we don’t appear to have sufficient resources (vv 9-10)
  4. We will trust Him when He chastises us for not previously asking His counsel (vv 11-12)

The above implies that a response is waited for and received. We cannot win the battle by secular means. Joshua and Israel discovered this and we must learn from their error. Ask the Lord’s counsel, wait for His response and, even if we don’t like His answer, trust Him.

Be Strong and Courageous

“Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9

After forty years of being second in command to Moses, Joshua has now been delegated the leadership position, under the Lord, to lead Israel. Four times in this chapter the Lord tells him to “to be strong and courageous” which tells us two things: 1) He was facing the humanly impossible; and 2) he was feeling the weight of responsibility. What could possibly allay his fears and uncertainty?

The Lord had the answer to that question and it is given in verse eight, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” The Book of the Law, the first five books of our Bible, includes the covenant promises that the Lord had made with Israel. The previous generation had faltered at the promises of God and failed to enter the land. Of the twelve spies who spied out the land Joshua and Caleb were the only ones who recommended going forward. Forty years later Joshua was facing the same circumstance but this time as leader and with a new generation. Each generation must face a test as to whether they will believe and act on God’s word.

Our generation is facing such a test. Satan has desired to sift the church, as he did Peter (Luke 22:31-34), but equally Jesus has prayed for His church as He did for Peter. Peter would come through strong and of good courage. The professing church is being sifted. Out of this sifting a divide will become clear between those who are faithful to the Lord and His word and those who are not. As the Lord said to Joshua, strength and courage come from trusting in the word of God and God’s faithfulness to it and His people.

Testing the professing church will reveal the true church and expose false professors. This will have the effect of removing much of the haze around the true Gospel. One cannot honestly claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ and reject His teaching.

As we face this test, and it may well become severe very soon, we will remain strong and very courageous only as we meditate on and observe to do according to God’s word (Joshua 1:7). After the testing and separation the Lord will remove His own and then judge the nations as He has done on previous occasions (e.g. Noah & Lot).

Arguing with a Donkey

“The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak” Numbers 22:38

Balaam was a prophet of God but was moved by the temptation to use that role to gain material wealth. Balak had promised him wealth if he would come and curse Israel. Balaam knew that God would always bless Israel in accord with the covenant He made with Abraham.

The lure of wealth warped Balaam’s thinking. But God had a purpose for Balaam. He met him along the way but only Balaam’s donkey could see the threat and refused to go on. Balaam’s temper rose so high that he didn’t think it at all odd that he was having an argument with a donkey. At last the Lord revealed Himself to Balaam and then he realised his foolishness. From that moment of meeting with the Lord Balaam was a changed man. No one can meet the Lord and not be changed. Either he will surrender to Him or become outspoken and violent against Him.

The professing church is currently being tested as to whether it will abide by God’s word and only speak the word that God has given. The outcome will be a clear division between those who are the Lord’s and those who profess to be but are not. Those who are not the Lord’s will take the world’s lead and refuse to pay the price of faithfulness to the word of the Lord.

Balaam was in a sticky situation humanly speaking. He would only speak as the Lord directed and that meant that he would not get any money. It also meant that his life was at risk. Those who truly are Christ’s will only speak in accordance with what the Lord has given them in the Bible even at risk of losing all material things or their lives.

Balaam had met the Lord and now understands the words that Jesus would later speak: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37)

There are many faithful Christians in the world today who are living this out. If we refuse to do so it dishonours the Lord Jesus Christ and those who endure persecution for His sake. Let us speak only that which God has given us and leave the outcome to Him.

The Last Adam

“The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” 1 Corinthians 15:45

The first Adam is the ancestor of us all and Paul had stated clearly that “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). This is indeed bad news and is why Paul could write that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He also wrote that sin entered the world through one man and through him all his descendants inherited the sin nature (Romans 5:12).

The Bible is clear that sin entered by Adam, yet it was Eve who first took and ate of the forbidden fruit. I used to wonder why Adam was held responsible – until I read Numbers chapter thirty. Society has a habit of swinging like a pendulum on several fronts, perhaps many, and this is one of them. Not that long ago, in western society, women were not regarded well in comparison to men but now the pendulum is swinging the other way.

Adam was given the privilege and responsibility of authority and his wife was given to serve the Lord alongside him in the exercise of that authority. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit and offered it to Adam, what should he have done? At first I thought that Adam was forced to choose between his relationship with God and his relationship with Eve. In Numbers 30:8, however, we read that Adam had the authority to overrule Eve’s action. Had he done so, sin would not have entered the world at that time. Eve had been deceived by Satan (1 Timothy 2:14), but because he had authority to overrule her action, Adam bore responsibility.

Our society is the poorer when we do not follow our Creator’s instructions for relationships within family and society. It seems that just when the pendulum is swinging back nearer to the correct place it just keeps on going. God’s Word will keep us just right if followed. In Christ that is possible.

The good news is that by the grace and miracle-working power of God in Jesus Christ our ancestry can be changed. The “last Adam” is Jesus Christ, who gives eternal life to all who will receive it. “The free gift is not like the offense. For if by one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Romans 5:15).

As in the Day

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5)

This was the assessment of the Lord concerning mankind prior to the world wide flood in the days of Noah. By the grace of God Noah and his family were saved to accomplish God’s plan and purpose. The people of Noah’s day were warned by Noah’s testimony as he built the ark. Those who ignored his testimony went on as before and were drowned in the flood.

Jesus warned that His second coming will be in similar circumstances (Matthew 24:37f; Luke 17:26f). In these days God’s warning of impending judgment and the outpouring of His wrath against sin is through the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. Those who do not heed His words will carry on as before and be unprepared for His judgment. Those who receive it will be saved from wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; Romans 5:9).

In the days of the Tribulation the Lord’s witnesses will be 144,000 Jews who will preach the Gospel to all nations and ethnic groups in all languages. Those who carry on as before and ignore the warning are destined to endure God’s wrath. Those who receive it will be delivered through it or from it by bodily death.

Jesus also gave the illustration of the city of Sodom (Luke 17:28f). Lot had been less than faithful in warning the people that their wickedness would bring an outpouring of God’s wrath. The judgment of God fell upon those people also.

Denying either of these historical events is to call Jesus a liar and renders one carrying on as before and unprepared for the wrath to come. His words are clear; when every intention of the thoughts of the heart of mankind is evil, then we can expect God to again judge the earth.

God is presently allowing Satan to test the hearts of nations and of individuals to reveal openly whether they are truly His or not. He is giving us an opportunity to see the world as it would be without His righteousness and without Him. Perhaps some will turn to Him and call for mercy.

Of that great city, Nineveh, the Lord said, “Their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Jonah was sent to warn them. With reluctance he went saying, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Unlike in the days of Noah and the days of Lot the Ninevites had a change of heart and pleaded for God’s mercy. They believed the warning and acted upon it through prayer and fasting believing that God might show them mercy. God will always respond to genuine calls for mercy.

It is not difficult to see that our world is at the threshold. Those who know the truth have the privilege and responsibility of warning others. We don’t know whether the world, our nation or our neighbour will respond in the way the people in Noah’s and Lot’s days did or in the way that Nineveh did so let us persevere in sharing the Gospel of grace and see what the Lord does in the hearts of people and nations.

Giving Myself Away

“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” Exodus 25:2

Contrary to the world’s conception of giving, the above is the biblical base for giving. The world’s conception of giving in the church is derived from people who falsely profess to be Christian and who reject teaching from the Bible for their own material gain.

The Apostle Paul affirms the Old Testament teaching in 2 Corinthians 8 in reference to the churches in Macedonia, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (v 3). The reason behind their willing giving is given by Paul, “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (v 5).

Key here is that they first gave themselves to the Lord. This is where we may fall short and fail the test of faith by placing limitations on how much we will give to the Lord. In my first year of learning to walk with the Lord I came across the following and I believe it depicts accurately what Christian giving really is. It was written in the front cover of the Bible of teenager Elizabeth Alden Scott on August 3, 1925.

“My Covenant

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my desires, hopes and ambitions (whether they be fleshly or soulish), and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to thee, to be thine forever.

I hand over to thy keeping all of my friendships, my love. All the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart.

Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Work out thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever.

‘To me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ Philippians 1:21

Why don’t you reread her covenant and pause to speak with the Lord Jesus. Tell him whether you will accept or reject this covenant as your own. Your carefully and prayerfully considered response from your heart will be a defining moment for now and eternity.

Of course, having made such a covenant you can expect the Lord Jesus to take you on a path to test your heart as to the genuineness of your desire. Then He will lead you to fulfilment. As for anyone walking with Jesus life will be anything other than what is expected. As He did with Israel (Exodus 24+), the Lord will deal with our heart relationship with Him first, not our behaviour. Behaviour is shaped by our heart, never the other way around.

Elizabeth (Betty) Scott Stam and husband, John, missionaries with China Inland Mission, were murdered in China by Communist revolutionary soldiers on 8th December 1934 when she was just 28 years old. Her baby girl was rescued. For more of her life story click the link below.

Biography: Elisabeth (Betty) Alden Scott Stam

Declaration of Ownership

“God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” Exodus 2:25

As in child birth, pain often precedes pleasure and joy. The birth of the nation of Israel would be no different and it has similarities with the nation’s rebirth at the end of the Great Tribulation.

In the last three verses of Exodus two we find Israel groaning under the weight of bondage as slaves in Egypt. In their pain and suffering they cried out to the Lord. God had been with them all along but now that the people were crying out for deliverance He would act.

First we note that He heard the cries of Israel for deliverance to the point of acting (v 24). But on what basis would He act? In the same verse we are given the answer; “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” It isn’t that God had forgotten His covenant. This and the preceding chapter are evidence of that but He is now going to act in a special way with regard to that covenant.

When we read that “God looked upon the children of Israel,” it isn’t that He had been distracted elsewhere but that He was taking into account their present situation and their crying out for deliverance. He would now act.

Finally, in these verses, we note that God acknowledged Israel and was concerned for them. The idea here is that of a relationship, that of a father for his son (4:22). God is declaring His ownership of Israel. As such He will act to deliver Israel. He affirms this again in 3:7 where He refers to Israel as “My people.”

This is a beautiful picture of Israel’s future. The closing days of the Great Tribulation will see Israel again crying out to God for deliverance. On that occasion the Lord Jesus Himself will appear for the same reason that He gave attention to Israel as recorded in Exodus two, “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” He will then deliver believing Israel and believing Gentiles and establish His earthly kingdom.

These circumstances have a parallel with salvation now. When a person is sick and tired of the corruption of this world, bondage to sin and death, they will cry out to God for deliverance. Jesus promises to respond. He said, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine [teaching], whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). When a person desires to hear the truth Jesus will ensure they hear it and know that it is true but it is up to the person as to whether they will receive it and trust Jesus and His word.

It is the delight of the child of God to know that Jesus Christ declares His ownership of them and in due course will do so publicly. Of greatest importance is that He will declare His redeemed to the Father.