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.

Choosing a Destiny

“God is not a man that He should lie” Numbers 23:19

The basis of all the covenants that God has ever made is that He speaks the truth with no hidden agenda. To doubt or reject God’s word is to call Him a liar. An example of this can be seen in Romans 3:10 where Paul writes, quoting from Psalm 14, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are those who reject these truths and thus call God a liar. John writes as much in his letter, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Jesus claimed to be Truth (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; 8:32) and God’s word to be truth (John 17:17). In so doing He was saying that God does not lie and therefore His word can be relied upon. Men do lie so when it comes to a choice whose word are we going to believe?

In his greeting to Titus, Paul states clearly that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The best a man can say is that he is not lying or will not lie but he cannot truthfully say that he cannot lie. Paul gives us the reason God cannot lie in 2 Timothy 2:13, “He cannot deny Himself.” What this means is that God always speaks and acts according to His Divine Nature. We can observe this in His Creation. All creatures and plants conform to their kind and can do nothing else. In breeding animals and growing crops we rely on this fact.

When it comes to God’s covenants and promises we can rely on them because God cannot lie. If we create an image of God in our minds that is like people we will not be inclined to believe His word. As such we call Him unfaithful and a liar. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He lied to Eve (Genesis 3:5) and he has been lying to people ever since.

In creating us in His image God has given us free will to make our own choice. We can choose to believe God or we can choose to believe Satan. Our choice will determine the course and destiny of our lives. Believe God to eternal life (John 5:24) or believe Satan’s lie to eternity in the “lake of fire and brimstone” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). We are choosing to be either in Christ’s presence or Satan’s.

What Kind of Love

“Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” John 20:20

The disciples were behind locked doors fearing for their lives. A few days earlier they had witnessed the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter had denied knowing Jesus and the other disciples had fled when Jesus was taken. The reason for their fear was that they had not listen carefully enough to Jesus words and hence not taken them into calculation. On at least three occasions He told them about His coming death and resurrection.

When Christians fear it is for that same reason – in some matter we have not heard at all, not considered carefully enough, not believed or taken on board, something that Jesus has said. The cure of fear is to draw near to and see the risen Jesus. We have His word to read and consider as often as we desire.

Not many days before His crucifixion and resurrection Jesus said to His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” and “I will come to you” (John 14:2-3, 18). Somehow these kinds of statements by Jesus were not on their minds while their hearts were in turmoil over His crucifixion and the perceived hostility against themselves.

Our lives will be in turmoil from time to time and we may have fears but just as the disciples were at rest in their souls and were glad in their hearts when they saw Jesus so will we.

What was it that they saw in Jesus that gave them this joy and peace? Was it just because they saw Him alive or was there more? The beginning of the verse gives us the answer: “He showed them His hands and His side” where the nails had penetrated and fixed Him to the cross and where the spear had caused His blood to pour out. When they saw His hands and His side they also saw His sacrificial and unconditional love. That is what brought peace and joy to their hearts.

When we see the nail prints in His hands we see His kind of love. His “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). To know Jesus is to love Him. If we are to experience this peace and gladness we must see Jesus. When we see the kind of love and magnitude of His love written in the nail holes and the gash in His side, we will no longer be in turmoil but trusting Him to care for us and our concerns for eternity. “Behold what manner [kind] of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).

In 100 Years

“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Matthew 16:25, 26

We make many, many choices every day but rarely do we take a good look at the basis on which we make them. Many choices may seem to have little consequence but that may be to underestimate the effect that a choice may have in the long run and on other people.

Paul writes that anything that our sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory we will experience in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:18). Earthly things are passing away and all that will remain is that which is eternal. The two are so far apart as not to be worthy of comparison.

In the passage above Jesus affirms that worldly treasure is only for a moment but eternal treasure is forever. It is an absurdity for a person to disregard an eternal possession (Ephesians 1:11, 14, 18) for one that will die with our bodies.

King David did make a comparison in Psalm 37 but as we read the Psalm it becomes quite evident that he realises there is no comparison. Those who choose ungodliness will lose everything for which they laboured but those who trust the Lord (v 3), delight in the Lord (v 4), commit their way to the Lord (v 5), rest in the Lord (v 7) and wait on the Lord (vv 9, 34) will have an eternal inheritance (v 18). The two destinies are not worthy of comparison.

There is no relationship that is worthy of comparison with that which we have with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If any one comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). Elsewhere we are commanded to love others especially our parents, spouse and children but what He is saying to us in this passage is that the love we have for them is not worthy to be compared with the love we have for Him. The reason for the disparity is who He is relative to whom our family members are.

When we make our myriad of choices during the course of the day it will be helpful to us to always have in the back of our minds whether we are choosing for the short term or eternity. We might ask ourselves, “What will it matter in 100 years? What will be the eternal consequence of that choice?” That might help us in the decision process.

Covenanting with God

“They entered a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul” 2 Chronicles 15:12

We don’t hear very often of people, either individually or corporately, entering into a covenant with the Lord. God has revealed Himself as one who makes and keeps covenants so we would expect that His people would do likewise. Fear of failure or an unwillingness to commit may be major reasons we don’t covenant with the Lord. King Asa failed later in life and is an example from which we may learn.

King Asa started out well by doing what was right and good in the eyes of the Lord. In the early years of his reign over the Southern Kingdom the Ethiopian Zerah came against him with an army more than twice the number of his army. Asa cried out to the Lord and the Lord routed the Ethiopians apparently without any effort on the part of Asa’s army. It was at this time that Asa and the people entered a covenant with the Lord. The Lord gave King Asa “rest” from war until his 36th year as king. Then King Baasha of the Northern Kingdom came against him with an army.

Instead of turning to the Lord for counsel and deliverance King Asa turned to the king of Syria for help. The prophet Hanani was sent by the Lord to make him aware of the change in his relationship with the Lord but King Asa refused to repent. Instead, he became angry at Hanani for exposing his sin and had him imprisoned.

What happened in the 35 years of “rest” from war that allowed king Asa to have such a change of heart? There are several observations we can make:

  1. The miracle of the Lord destroying the Ethiopian force did not guarantee Asa’s continued loyalty and reliance on the Lord
  2. A long period of time of prosperity and things going well with the people did not guarantee loyalty and reliance on the Lord
  3. In reality it would appear that the miracle and the extended period of peace and prosperity led to complacency and/or presumption with the result that the King no longer turned to or relied on the Lord

Peace and prosperity do not provoke reliance on and loyalty to the Lord. However, they do not of themselves provoke disloyalty. When things are going well we need to pay double attention to maintaining intimacy with the Lord. The history of God’s people in the Bible, in church history and in living memory of many of us, teaches us that miracles, peace and prosperity do not close the door of disloyalty and unfaithfulness.

Peter wrote, “Brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things (mentioned in the preceding verses) you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10).

When we make a covenant with the Lord it needs to be on the basis of the cross and God’s, gracious enablement and faithfulness otherwise we might follow Asa’s example in which pride welled up within him so that he no longer relied on the Lord.

What Kind Matters

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God” 1 John 3:1

When John wrote this he quite likely did so after a lengthy pause to consider the kind of love that God has toward us. In the world there are several kinds of love but this kind of love is uniquely God’s kind of love.

People often express a brotherly kind of love toward each other which occasionally includes acts of self sacrifice. Yet this kind of love is often conditional. If the object of the love does not reciprocate then it may fail.

There is a kind of love that may be better described as lust. Lust means that I must be gratified now; I must have it now. Coveting something that another person has may be the motivation for this kind of love. This is a self-serving kind of love.

The love that parents have for their children is often sacrificial and is evidence that we are created in the image of God. It is limited in its expression to our children and perhaps to grandchildren. Yet even this love can fail.

So that we are in no doubt as to the kind of love God has toward us John states it in verse sixteen: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.” Paul describes it this way, “God demonstrates His own [kind of] love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:8, 6). This is why Jesus can ask us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-35). When He lives in us we will show this kind of love from the heart – not out of a sense of duty or necessity.

God did not have to make a decision to love us in this way. “God is love” (1 John 4:16). He loves in this way because it is His nature. When His nature abides in us we will also love others in this way, even those who mock us and spit on us as they did the Lord Jesus.

When we know that God has this kind of love toward us we will have no difficulty trusting Him. The evidence that we trust Him is that we obey His word because we know it is for our good. When we do not obey Him we reveal that we doubt his love for us.

We can now see the exceeding sinfulness of unbelief. How could we doubt God’s goodness toward us when the evidence is plain before our eyes that while we were His enemies Jesus died for us?

Behold and meditate on this kind of love that the Father has bestowed on us and then let Him love even our enemies through us. God’s kind of love gives what is rightfully ours to another who previously had no right to it. It will cost us something to benefit another who doesn’t deserve it.

An Immutable Fact

“… in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, …” Titus 1:2

If we begin reading the Bible from this standpoint, “God, who cannot lie,” we would fare much better in understanding God and accepting His word and promises. As children we found it so easy to trust. As the years went by we found that it was naive to blindly trust everyone. Can God be trusted? That is the question that Adam and Eve had to answer. Satan convinced them that God could not be trusted and so they trusted Satan instead. We must also choose but regardless of what we choose the fact that God cannot lie remains.

The writer of Hebrews writes that it is impossible for God to lie (6:18). Paul writes something similar in 2 Timothy 2:13 when he wrote “He [God] cannot deny Himself.” He cannot think, speak or act contrary to His Divine Nature. We see this characteristic in all creation. All creatures act according to their nature.

If we choose not to believe a person we are saying that they are either ignorant on the matter or that they are a liar. When we do not believe God we prove that we are children of Adam and following his trust in Satan.

Repentance for salvation is that act of choosing to cease not believing God and to believe His word. In doing this we reject our allegiance to Adam and attach our allegiance to Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 5).

Sadly, there are some who claim the name of Jesus Christ who do not accept all His words. Such a claim is a deceit and hypocrisy and infers that Jesus is either ignorant or a deceiver. Unbelief may be masked by mishandling the word of God. We can become very adept at twisting another person’s words to suit our cause. Paul writes that elders in the church should be able to express “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9; 2:1) so that the congregation may become “sound in the faith” (1:13; 2:2) through “sound speech” (2:8). The word of God is the authority that a teacher has. When he speaks the word of God faithfully he has “all authority” (2:15) but the moment he strays he has no authority.

Those who abuse the word of God may “profess to know God, but in works they deny Him” (1:16). Paul’s assessment is that they are, to God, detestable, disobedient and disqualified to serve Christ.

Let us make this an immutable fact in our minds, God does not and cannot lie. That is the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.