The walls had been broken down and the gates had been burned. The city was open to being ravaged and its purpose, as a safe place to worship, had been compromised. Something had to be done. How does a person of GOD identify where to begin? Let’s read on.
This is a copy of the Sunday School Lessons presented to an adult class each Sunday.
- Name: Bible Study
- Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States
Retired, Lobbyist in Washington,DC - Management - BS Chemistry and various continuing education courses
Friday, July 31, 2015
Bible Study – Awake (3) – Return to Prayer – August 2, 2015
This is lesson three (3) in our series entitled “Awake: The Call to Renewed Life.”
Our focus scripture is Nehemiah 1:3-10.
Move forward by retreating into prayer.
Since the book of Nehemiah was written in the first person, Bible scholars have concluded that Nehemiah was the author. It was written about 445-432 B.C.
Jerusalem was destroyed and exiles were taken to Babylon in 586 B.C. When the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., the Jews intermarried and lost their national identity. When the Jews from Judah were exiled to Babylon in 586 B.C., they did not intermarry thus maintaining their identity as Jews.
Zerubbabel led the first return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. to rebuild the temple. The temple was completed in 516 B.C. In 486 B.C. Xerxes becomes the king of Persia. In 465 B.C. Artaxerxes becomes the king of Persia. In 458 B.C. Ezra led the second group to Jerusalem. It is during the reign of Artaxerxes that Nehemiah received the call from GOD to rebuild the walls surrounding Jerusalem. In 444 B.C. Nehemiah led a group to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which were completed in 445 B.C.
Nehemiah was GOD’S man at the right place at the right time. His name means “the Lord Comforts.” He was the cupbearer for the king. GOD called Nehemiah and Nehemiah responded. He had the respect of the king and he had faith that GOD would be his strength to help him accomplish what GOD had called him to do. GOD called him to rebuild the walls surrounding Jerusalem and its gates, which was a monumental task. Nehemiah needed physical resources and GOD provided them through Nehemiah’s relationship with the king. Nehemiah was a good organizer, encourager, supervisor, leader and a
man of action.
Let’s read Nehemiah 1:1-2: (Background)
1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah (HAK uh LIGH uh): News from Jerusalem During the month of Chislev (KISS lehv) in the twentieth year, when I was in the fortress city of Susa, 2 Hanani (huh NAY nigh), one of my brothers, arrived with men from Judah, and I questioned them about Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile.
The month of Chislev or Kislev is the November-December time period.
Nehemiah questioned Hanani and others who had come from Judah regarding the state of affairs in Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem. Bible scholars seem to lean toward Hanani being a sibling relative of Hanani.
The distance between Susa and Jerusalem was about 1,100 miles, which required weeks of travel.
Our next scripture reveals what the delegation told him about the conditions in Jerusalem.
Let’s read Nehemiah 1:3-4:
3 They said to me, “The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down.”
“The remnant” refers to the Jews who were permitted to return to Judah after Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. This was the first phase in 538 B.C.
The walls had been broken down and the gates had been burned. The city was open to being ravaged and its purpose, as a safe place to worship, had been compromised. Something had to be done. How does a person of GOD identify where to begin? Let’s read on.
4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
When have the hearts of Christians been broken because of the state of affairs in the churches over the world and in particular in America? Movements are rampant for Christians and the Christian churches to be politically correct more so than being Spiritually sound according to the GOD’S Word, the Bible.
The Christian community must call sin, sin but never lose sight of loving the
sinner while hating the sin.
Guess who is leading this effort? It is the angel of light, Satan and many in the Christian community are being blinded. May the veil be lifted from the eyes of Christians and Christian leaders to see, teach, preach and live truth!
Nehemiah’s heart was broken and he wept over the conditions in Jerusalem. But he not only wept but he put feet to his prayers.
Christians see what is happening but are we taking a stand? It is time for those who call themselves Christians to pray and seek GOD’S guidance and help to rebuild the walls which have been broken down. Not to keep those who seek salvation out but to prevent the enemy from preventing those who seek salvation from the truth according to GOD’S Word.
Let’s read Nehemiah 1:5-7:
5 I said, • Yahweh , the God of heaven, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant with those who love Him and keep His commands, 6 let Your eyes be open and Your ears be attentive to hear Your servant’s prayer that I now pray to You day and night for Your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against You. Both I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted corruptly toward You and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances You gave Your servant Moses.
Nehemiah referred to GOD by HIS covenant name “Yahweh.” Even though the Israelites were in exile, Nehemiah had faith in GOD that HE had not abandoned them and still honored HIS covenant with the Israelites. HE asked GOD to pay attention to what he was about to say to HIM.
Nehemiah acknowledged that GOD was awe-inspiring, which refers to the awesomeness of GOD when taken as a whole. Nehemiah was going to confess to GOD. Although he was not a part of those who brought destruction to Jerusalem, he indentified with Israel and he would confess, repent and seek GOD’S presence in his life.
Nehemiah knew that the rebuilding of the walls and the gates would not provide the security they needed but their true safety was in the hands of GOD and their relationship with HIM. That is true today. It is all about our relationship to GOD through our relationship with CHRIST.
Any revival must begin with each Christian. When we recognize and acknowledge that GOD is GOD and the awe inspiring relationship we, as Christians, have in HIM through our faith in CHRIST, HE becomes our source and resource. When things that are bigger than us, we must look to GOD Who will bring them into perspective and doable. We still have to put in sweat equity but as GOD lead’s us by the empowering Holy Spirit.
Notice that Nehemiah acknowledged his relationship with GOD and then he confessed his sins. Not only did he confess his sins but the sins of his heritage. He placed the tentacles of tradition on the sacrificial altar.
Tradition is one of the main stumbling blocks of the Christian church.
Remember our last week’s lesson? The members in the church in Ephesus were going through the motions of religious activity but they had neglected their first love, CHRIST.
Has church leadership become so focused upon appealing to the masses that they have neglected basic Biblical principles? It is not about numbers, it is about being obedient to GOD’S leadership through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. It is not about the church with the largest members or largest physical facilities but it is about the church doing the will of GOD. It is about teaching, equipping, ministering and taking action as led by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Throughout the Bible, GOD accomplishes HIS will and purpose through a small number of faithful, obedient followers. It all begins with each of us as Christians.
Let’s read Nehemiah 1:8-10:
8 Please remember what You commanded Your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. 9 But if you return to Me and carefully observe My commands, even though your exiles were banished to the ends of the earth, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I chose to have My name dwell.” 10 They are Your servants and Your people. You redeemed them by Your great power and strong hand.
The Bible is just as relevant today as the day it was written. Our unfaithfulness breaks our fellowship and unity with GOD. When we become disconnected for the true vine, JESUS, we wither. But the Good News is that when we confess our sins and repent, GOD forgives and restores. When our relationship with GOD is restored, unity is restored.
Unity with GOD through CHRIST equals power. It does not mean that we will not grow tired or weary but we will be empowered to live faithfully in obedience to HIS guidance.
Let’s read Nehemiah 1:11:
11 Please, Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to that of Your servants who delight to revere Your name. Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man. At the time, I was the king’s cupbearer.
A cupbearer was an important and trusted position. It was a position of power. It is amazing that Nehemiah being a foreigner was placed in such an important position. But we know GOD orchestrated it. When many of us look back over our lives, we can see where the hand of GOD has been much involved in the direction of our lives.
Nehemiah reminded us that he was the king’s cupbearer. But he was more than a cupbearer; he was the right man at the right time and place with a willing heart to put feet to his prayers. He first restored his relationship with GOD and fasted. He fasted because he was focused upon GOD. Fasting is not a ploy to manipulate GOD but we are so focused upon GOD that food is not as important as the issue or issues with which we are dealing. Fasting recognizes and acknowledges that GOD is our source and resource in the time of need.
Nehemiah prayed for success. He wanted others to see the hand of GOD working in behalf of the Israelites, as well as the king. The Israelites needed encouragement in a time of great despair. Restoration takes a commitment to GOD. We must keep our eyes fixed upon HIM as we move according to HIS leadership. Restoration is not easy but when accomplished, GOD is glorified and we are drawn closer to GOD.
Has the temple and the walls of our city been destroyed and have we, as Christians, been led captive into the exile of political correctness? It is time for those who are called by HIS name to humble themselves and get on their knees and pray. It is time for Christians to repent and be restored to walk in step with HIM to obediently accomplish HIS will and purpose. Blessings!!!
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Bible Study - Awake (2) - Return to Your First Love - Revelation 2:1-7 - July 26, 2015
Bible Study – Awake (2) – Return to Your First Love – July 26, 2015
This is lesson two (2) in our series entitled “Awake: The Call to a renewed Life.”
Our focus scripture is Revelation 2:1-7.
Return to a love for CHRIST that permeates everything you do.
The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation. He was exiled to the island of Patmos because of preaching the gospel of CHRIST. While in exile John had a profound revelation from CHRIST regarding evil forces fighting against GOD. Our scripture focuses on the church in Ephesus and CHRIST’S assessment of that church and the other six churches as a Spiritual body.
I like what the Herschel Hobbs Commentary, summer 2015, LifeWay, Nashville, TN, page 79 has to say “The revelation began with a “state of the church” address, expressed through letters to seven churches in Asia Minor. One church, the church of Ephesus, was singled out as an active church, but sadly it had lost sight of its reason for being so – love for CHRIST.”
This is so true in many churches today. The members of the church body are going through the motions and doing but have lost their first love. It is worse when the pastor and leadership of the church have lost their zeal for serving our LORD. Many Christians have settled into their comfort zones and they do not want to change.
I quickly add, I am not saying for us to change for the sake of changing by embracing an “anything goes” mentality but to take Spiritual inventory. Sin is still sin and the Christian community must take a stand and call sin, sin but not to forget to love the sinner. What is a church? Is it a showcase for the saints or a hospital for the Spiritually sick?
We must keep in mind that those caring for the Spiritually sick must not be Spiritually sick. They were at one time Spiritually sick. The Bible is very clear, if the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch as recorded in Matthew 15:14: (JESUS was speaking)
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Recently, I heard that the pastor of a certain denomination asked the church staff to stop referring to GOD as Father. I personally love to call GOD, Father. That is what faith in CHRIST gives to all Christians at the instant of salvation. Christians, through the miracle of rebirth, have all the rights and privileges of being the Son or Daughter of GOD. HE becomes our Father and what a joy it is to call HIM, Father.
When JESUS taught HIS disciples how to pray, what did HE tell them in Matthew 6:9?
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
When the leaders of our churches have lost their first love, it pollutes the church.
Let’s read Revelation 1:1-20: (Background)
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His • slaves what must quickly take place. He sent it and signified it through His angel to His slave John, 2 who testified to God’s word and to the testimony about Jesus Christ, in all he saw. 3 The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near! 4 John: To the seven churches in • Asia. Grace and peace to you from the One who is, who was, and who is coming; from the seven spirits before His throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood, 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father —the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. • Amen. 7 Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen. 8 “I am the • Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.”
John’s Vision of the Risen Lord
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of God’s word and the testimony about Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard a loud voice behind me like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” 12 I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me. When I turned I saw seven gold lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was One like the • Son of Man, dressed in a long robe and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool —white as snow —and His eyes like a fiery flame. 15 His feet were like fine bronze as it is fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters. 16 He had seven stars in His right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from His mouth, and His face was shining like the sun at midday. 17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, 18 and the Living One. I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and • Hades. 19 Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this. 20 The • secret of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and of the seven gold lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
The order of this revelation was:
- From GOD to JESUS to John. JESUS was telling John what to write. Some believe that Revelation was strictly code for John to get his letters by the Roman soldiers into the hands of his friends. I believe it is truth which will be fully revealed at the right instant.
- Bible scholars believe that all seven churches exist at the same time throughout history. That is, all we have to do is look around at any period of time and we can identify these churches today. Which one represents our or your church?
Let’s read Revelation 2:1-3:
1 “Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: 2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary.
JESUS instructed John to write to the angel of the church in Ephesus. Does each church have an angel assigned to it just as those born-again have a guardian angel? Or was JESUS referring to the pastor or minister of that church as an angel? Either could be correct because ultimately, the pastor/minister of the church is responsible and accountable to JESUS and GOD for the Spiritual leadership of the church.
CHRIST is the One Who walks among the seven gold lampstands. CHRIST knows the intimate details which HE stated:
- I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary.
- This is an impressive list. So what is the problem? We will get to the rest of the story in our next scripture.
Let’s read Revelation 2:4:
4 But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.
The church of Ephesus was going through all the motions but they missed something very vital. They had lost their love for CHRIST.
This is easy to do when Christians work in their own strength and follow the rules and regulations. We are “ok” and that is all we need.
In last week’s study of Jonah, Jonah went through the motions and in spite of him and his callous heart, GOD brought the results. GOD always produces the results in spite of us. GOD’S desire is for us to see what HE has done in spite of our attitude in hopes that we be drawn closer to HIM. But when we have the attitude that we are “ok” and are doing the will of GOD, we do not see the need to change. We are Spiritually blind because we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as church leaders, including the pastor, deacons, elders, staff or individual members.
Many Christians do not understand the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and HIS purpose in their lives. This is so sad. Christians think they will become some sort of fanatic. But the Holy Spirit gives balance to every Christian and empowers him or her to step out in faith as led by GOD to carry out the will, plan and purpose of GOD. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the opportunities which surround us.
Let’s read Revelation 2:5-7:
5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place —unless you repent. 6 Yet you do have this: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.
JESUS admonished the Christians in the church of Ephesus to take inventory. They think they are doing great but GOD says not. JESUS’ desire was for them to wake up and take a realistic look at themselves now, as compared to their hearts when they first became Christians.
Do you recall when you first accepted CHRIST as your savior, how excited you were and wanted to tell everyone that you were a Christian? You were unashamed and wanted all you came in contact with to know the Good News. You took steps of faith. You may have encountered resistance but you took it as an opportunity to pray and seek guidance. You may have come to the realization that at times you were working in your strength because of your zeal for others to know CHRIST. But you learned to wait upon the LORD. Christians are to move in step with HIM and often that is a learning experience. JESUS loves zeal but zeal which is in step and that is the purpose of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Do you recall the occasion of JESUS’ disciples as recorded in Luke 9:51-56 wanting to call down fire from heaven?
51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.
In their zeal, the disciples of JESUS wanted to destroy those who would not welcome them. JESUS is not about destroying but in changing and redeeming the lost.
JESUS urges HIS disciples to repent. We know what repent means. It means to stop doing what you are doing and turn around and head in the opposite direction.
JESUS issued the church in Ephesus a warning as we see in verse 5 “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
What is a lamp stand? It is a stand which holds the lamps that give light. JESUS is the lamp stand through Whom the light comes. HIS light dispels Spiritual darkness. The Holy Spirit is compared to the oil in a lamp. To remove the lampstand, JESUS was saying that HE would withdraw HIS blessings from that church. That would mean the Spiritual death of that church. JESUS is the foundation of any church and is the chief corner stone. The life within a church is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through its members.
The church at Ephesus and JESUS had one thing in common. They both hated the practices of the Nicolaitans.
Not much is known about the Nicolaitians. It seems that they were believers who had compromised their faith by embracing sinful practices espoused by the prophet Balaam. Balaam was a false prophet who urged the Israelites to follow their lustful desires to see them defeated. He was a sorcerer, yet he acknowledged Yahweh as a powerful God. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing; the most dangerous kind and motivated by money.
It is interesting that the king of Moab, Balak, wanted to hire Balaam to put a curse on the Israelites but GOD had blessed the Israelites and Balaam could not put a curse on them. After much wrangling, Balaam stated there was only one way any curse could be placed on the Israelites and that was if they sinned. Some of the princes saw that as an opportunity to defeat Israel.
Now that is a huge message to every Christian. We can remove ourselves from the blessings of GOD when we sin and do not confess our sins. Christians will not lose their salvation but they can open themselves up to all sorts of evil. We do sin and we must repent and confess our sins. Christians stay under the banner of HIS love as they journey through life and obediently serve HIM. Yes, Christians are under GOD’S grace and their salvation is secure in CHRIST but there is accountability for sin. That is why Christians must confess their sins, repent and remain a healthy branch connected to the true vine.
JESUS stated that those who remain true to their first love will be restored to eat of the tree of life which is in GOD’S paradise or heaven. Those who place their faith in CHRIST are restored to GOD’S original intent for HIS children. Once they receive the miracle of rebirth through faith in CHRIST, they are no longer prevented from eating from the tree of life and live forever. The joy of this fact rekindles the love that GOD and CHRIST have for us “in that while we were yet sinners, CHRIST died for us.” We who are the recipients of this Good News are the ones who are to share this never ending Good News. We will eat from the tree of life and live forever. JESUS continued as we read in our next scripture.
Let’s read Revelation 2:14-16:
14 But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. 15 In the same way, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent! Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Also, let’s read Numbers 31:16:
16 “Yet they are the ones who, at Balaam’s advice, incited the Israelites to unfaithfulness against the Lord in the Peor incident, so that the plague came against the Lord’s community.
May we, as Christians, be found faithful and obedient to our LORD and not be seduced into allowing persistent sin to enter our lives that becomes commonplace. So what do we, as Christians, need to do? The answer is recorded in Psalm 139:23-24:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Christians must be honest with GOD. HE already knows our hearts. They must reconnect with their first love through prayer and Bible study to rekindle the building of their relationship with GOD through CHRIST. They must then put into action what is being revealed to them as their relationship with CHRIST is restored. There is a time for prayer and study but then step out as led by the Holy Spirit. Blessings!!!
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Bible Study – Awake (1) – Return to GOD – July 19, 2015
This is lesson one (1) in our series entitled “Awake: The Call to a Renewed Life.”
Our focus scripture is Jonah 1:1-3; 3:1-5, 10.
GOD’S call to return to HIM demands a response.
For the next six (6) weeks we will explore various scripture regarding the call to a renewed life. The basis for this study is that America needs revival. But any revival must begin within each Christian. Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within but we need to take inventory periodically. Are we connected to the true vine, JESUS, and growing and maturing and producing the fruit that remains. This is very perplexing and frustrating when we work in our own strength but when we focus on our relationship with GOD through CHRIST, it becomes a natural part of our lifestyle.
Unity is an outcome of having the right relationship with GOD. When Christians are connected to GOD through CHRIST in a genuine relationship, we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and direct our lives. Our lives are not a struggle but abiding in the relationship. It is CHRIST living through us. We are connected to GOD and then in turn we are connected to others individually and in community. The things of earth grow strangely dim and we behold more of HIM because HE moves from being an entity called GOD to FATHER. HE becomes our reality and that reality is personal.
The more I listen to various, supposedly intelligent, people regarding GOD; they say that GOD is not real. HE is some object people refer to when they are desperate. They cannot conceive of GOD speaking to modern day people, especially through the Holy Spirit. They have never experienced the One True GOD of the universe and, therefore, HE does not exist. Experiencing and understanding Spiritual matters comes about only through a personal, intimate relationship with GOD by believing that CHRIST gave HIS life to pay the penalty for sin, in full, through the shedding of HIS blood. In doing so, HE opened the path to GOD for all who will place their faith in CHRIST.
Why CHRIST? It is because HE was GOD in human form revealing the way to salvation and the removal of the penalty of sin and its consequence, eternal death. The choice of eternal death or eternal life is every person’s decision to make here upon earth.
Our lesson focuses on the Prophet Jonah.
We know some of the background on Jonah. He was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B.C. during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.). In 2 Kings 14:25, Jonah delivered a message of encouragement to the Northern Kingdom:
25 He restored Israel’s border from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the • Arabah , according to the word the Lord , the God of Israel, had spoken through His servant, the prophet Jonah son of Amittai (uh MIT igh) from Gath-hepher.
Let’s read Jonah 1:1-3:
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai (uh MIT igh): 2 “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted Me.” 3 However, Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the Lord’s presence.
GOD communicated with Jonah. GOD speaks to those HE calls in the way HE knows they will know and understand what HE is asking them to do. HE still does today regardless of what skeptics say, including many Christians.
GOD’S instructions were very clear. GOD called Jonah to go to “the great city of Nineveh.” Nineveh was an important city which was located in Assyria and founded by Nimrod as recorded in Genesis 10:8-12:
8 Cush fathered Nimrod, who was the first powerful man on earth. 9 He was a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord. That is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord.” 10 His kingdom started with Babylon, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of • Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, 12 and Resen, between Nineveh and the great city Calah.
Nineveh was a wicked and barbaric city. The prophet Nahum had much to record about Nineveh. It would put what we know about ISIS today to shame e.g. prostitution, beheadings, witchcraft and torture of the most horrific kinds. Nineveh would become the capital of Assyria in about 50 years after Jonah’s ministry.
GOD made it very clear to Jonah that HE wanted him to go to Nineveh. Jonah responded quickly by going in the opposite direction. He bought passage to Tarshish, which is likely the Island of Sardinia, toward Spain. Some Bible scholars think it was Carthage on the coast of Africa. Either way Jonah was fleeing about 2,000 miles in the opposite direction GOD called him to go. If Jonah had gone to Nineveh directly, it would have been roughly a 500 mile journey.
There is speculation why Jonah defied GOD’S call. The answer is found in
Jonah 3:10 and 4:1-3:
10 Then God saw their actions —that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it.
1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious. 2 He prayed to the Lord: “Please, Lord, isn’t this what I said while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to become angry, rich in faithful love, and One who relents from sending disaster. 3 And now, Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
We get to see the heart of Jonah and it is not pretty. He was honest about his feelings toward the people of Nineveh but notice even with his ungrateful heart, the people of Nineveh repented and became worshippers of the One True GOD, Yahweh. GOD forgave them and changed HIS mind and did not destroy them because they repented.
Isn’t it wonderful that GOD’S plans and success does not depend upon our attitude? This event gives us a great look at the heart of GOD. HE continues to reach out to all people in spite of our human frailties.
Jonah did not like the Assyrians/Nineveh-ites and he did not want them to receive any good fortune from GOD. Our prejudices often prevent us from obediently serving GOD.
Don’t we, as Christians, sometimes let our prejudice get in our way? When we do, it is a reflection of our hearts. GOD loves all people.
We know that GOD had to change the direction of Jonah. Jonah needed his heart changed as much or more than the people of Nineveh. So GOD prepared a big or great fish and it swallowed Jonah and delivered him onto the shore near GOD’S intended destination.
There have been limited stories of others having been swallowed by a whale and survived. Their skin was bleached by the stomach acid and they presented a ghostly sight.
After Jonah was delivered on shore near Nineveh, GOD called Jonah the second time as we read our next scripture.
Let’s read Jonah 3:1-3:
1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah got up and went to Nineveh according to the Lord’s command. Now Nineveh was an extremely large city, a three-day walk.
Jonah responded and preached GOD’S message. The fact that GOD brought Jonah through such an ordeal to deliver them HIS message showed the people of Nineveh that HE cared for them. This was likely the encouragement they needed to change their ways and appeal to GOD for forgiveness.
GOD is not eager to destroy but to forgive and restore those who repent.
GOD’S message to the people of Nineveh through Jonah is recorded in our next scripture.
Let’s read Jonah 3:4-10:
4 Jonah set out on the first day of his walk in the city and proclaimed, “In 40 days Nineveh will be demolished!” 5 The men of Nineveh believed in God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in • sackcloth —from the greatest of them to the least. 6 When word reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 Then he issued a decree in Nineveh: By order of the king and his nobles: No man or beast, herd or flock, is to taste anything at all. They must not eat or drink water. 8 Furthermore, both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth, and everyone must call out earnestly to God. Each must turn from his evil ways and from the violence he is doing. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent; He may turn from His burning anger so that we will not perish. 10 Then God saw their actions —that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it.
WOW! What a picture of salvation and the love of GOD.
The fact that the GOD of the Israelites went to the extent HE did for the people of Nineveh to give them a heads up of their pending doom was also a message of hope. The Nineveh-ites repented, including the king. They repented, fasted and wore sackcloth. The king took off his kingly garment and put on sackcloth and sat in ashes to show his humility and repentance toward GOD. Our national leaders must repent and be genuinely involved in revival. The people of Nineveh responded and took the opportunity to appeal to GOD through their actions. GOD knows every heart and the fact that GOD did not follow through with HIS destructive plan reveals that their response was genuine.
We read Jonah 4:1-3 earlier, let’s read the rest of the recorded event in Jonah 4: 4-11:
4 The Lord asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 5 Jonah left the city and sat down east of it. He made himself a shelter there and sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God appointed a plant, and it grew up to provide shade over Jonah’s head to ease his discomfort. Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant. 7 When dawn came the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, and it withered. 8 As the sun was rising, God appointed a scorching east wind. The sun beat down so much on Jonah’s head that he almost fainted, and he wanted to die. He said, “It’s better for me to die than to live.” 9 Then God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “Yes,” he replied. “It is right. I’m angry enough to die!” 10 So the Lord said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. 11 Should I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than 120, 000 people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”
It is good that GOD looks upon the hearts of others with compassion and love. HE probed Jonah with a question regarding his heart, “Is it right for you to be angry?” In essence, GOD was saying, Jonah, I know you love ME and worship ME but where is your heart for others? Jonah, you need to examine your heart. The compassion and love of GOD is expressed in John 3:16-18:
16 “For God loved the world •in this way: He gave His •One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.
GOD tries to bring us into HIS work by opening our eyes to the places where HE is working. In the words of Dr. Henry Blackaby, “When we see where GOD is working that is our opportunity for us to join HIM.” LORD, open our eyes to your work and do not let our prejudice or bias prevent us from responding to your call. Christians can have a heart like Jonah.
GOD may change our direction but we may not change our hearts. HE never overrides our free will to choose.
GOD gave Jonah a second chance. Life upon earth is every person’s second chance for salvation through faith in CHRIST. GOD has sent HIS Only Son, JESUS, to all in the world with a message of destruction due to sin. But HE also has a message of hope and eternal salvation for everyone who repents of their sins and places their faith in HIM.
Today is the day of salvation. If you have not asked CHRIST to forgive you for your sins, now is that opportunity. After physical death, we do not have that opportunity. As we studied in last week’s lesson, choose you today who your will serve but for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Blessings!!!
Friday, July 10, 2015
Bible Study - Joshua (6) - Call Others to Step Forward - Joshua 24:14-18, 24-26. - July 12, 2015
Bible Study – Joshua (6) – Call Others to Step Forward – July 12, 2015
This is our sixth (6th) and final lesson in our series entitled “Be Strong and Courageous: Leadership Lessons from Joshua.”
Our focus scripture is Joshua 24:14-18, 24-26.
Leaders set the example and call others to follow GOD.
Joshua is coming to the end of his life. He was preparing the Israelites for his earthly departure. He had faithfully followed GOD and GOD had given him and the Israelites success according to HIS plan and purpose. He reviewed the journey of the Israelites from Abraham’s father, Terah, to their present day. He cautioned them about being exposed to other gods and forms of worship. He wanted them to remember the One True GOD, Yahweh, because HE and HE alone gave them victory. Let’s explore!
Joshua died at the age of 110.
Let’s read Joshua 24:1-13: (Background – Joshua reviewed the long journey of the Israelites with the One True GOD, Yahweh.)
1 Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem and summoned Israel’s elders, leaders, judges, and officers, and they presented themselves before God. 2 Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the region beyond the Euphrates River, led him throughout the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants. I gave him Isaac, 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave the hill country of Seir to Esau as a possession, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. 5 “‘Then I sent Moses and Aaron; I plagued Egypt by what I did there and afterward I brought you out. 6 When I brought your fathers out of Egypt and you reached the •Red Sea, the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen as far as the sea. 7 Your fathers cried out to the Lord, so He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea over them, engulfing them. Your own eyes saw what I did to Egypt. After that, you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 “‘Later, I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan. They fought against you, but I handed them over to you. You possessed their land, and I annihilated them before you. 9 Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, set out to fight against Israel. He sent for Balaam son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Instead, he repeatedly blessed you, and I delivered you from his hand. 11 “‘You then crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The people of Jericho—as well as the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites —fought against you, but I handed them over to you. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, and it drove out the two Amorite kings before you. It was not by your sword or bow. 13 I gave you a land you did not labor for, and cities you did not build, though you live in them; you are eating from vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.’
This background connects to our focus scripture with the word “therefore.”
GOD directs our lives and give us success when we obediently obey HIM. Success is not defined as the world defines success but as GOD defines success. Notice the number of times "I" was used and the "I" was GOD.
Pause and reflect on the times GOD has been involved in your life.
Pause and reflect on the times GOD has been involved in your life.
Let’s read Joshua 24:14-15:
14 “Therefore, • fear the Lord and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship • Yahweh. 15 But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.”
The word “fear” in verse 14, carries the idea of reverence and honor because you, the Israelites, have witnessed and been a part of HIS work.
Joshua had built a personal, intimate relationship with GOD through obedient service. The question was, had the Israelites built that same personal relationship with GOD or was their faith placed in Joshua’s faith? This is a question all Christians need to ask themselves. Are they riding on someone else’s faith or their faith? If their faith was based upon someone else’s faith when he or she is gone, in what or whom will they place their faith?
Religion attempts to meet everyone’s needs. We see that today with the religious institutions trying to be politically correct rather than being obedient to GOD’S Word, the Bible. I am not implying that Christians are to bash those who sin because we are all sinners saved by grace. We are to love the sinner but hate the sin and Christians must call sin, sin. We do a great and eternal disservice when we do not take a stand against the things GOD calls sin.
Christians, America depends upon us to take a stand and not be a chameleon and blend in with the world. We who know the truth must reveal truth through the lives we live each day. Christians are to be the salt and the light. We are not to hide nor hide the truth. If we endorse an “anything goes society”, then we are endorsing sin and we will be held accountable to GOD for hiding the truth and the need for salvation. How else will those around us know truth from error? This is no easy task and it is not the popular thing to do. The Kingdom of GOD is open to all who confess their sins, repent, which means to stop committing the sin and place their faith in the One and Only JESUS CHRIST, Who paid, in full, the penalty for sin.
Do Christians sin? YES! They must confess their sins as well and stop sinning. GOD forgives, cleanses, chastises, as needed, and restores. Christians never lose their salvation but their rewards can be lost or compromised due to lack of obedience. Sin carries consequences for all.
Joshua challenged the Israelites to make a choice who they will serve, the One True GOD, Yahweh or some other gods. Joshua made it clear: As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.”
The Israelites made their choice.
Let’s read Joshua 24:16-18:
16 The people replied, “We will certainly not abandon the Lord to worship other gods! 17 For the Lord our God brought us and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery, and performed these great signs before our eyes. He also protected us all along the way we went and among all the peoples whose lands we traveled through. 18 The Lord drove out before us all the peoples, including the Amorites who lived in the land. We too will worship the Lord, because He is our God.”
The Israelites made a quick decision and agreed “not to abandon the LORD to worship other gods!” They even restated what GOD had done for them. They confirmed that HE was “our GOD” which reveals ownership. They enjoyed what GOD had done for them physically. It seems that the Israelites had head knowledge and not heart knowledge of GOD. It is easy to mouth words that sound good to others but do these words come from an honest, sincere heart?
Let’s read Joshua 24:19-23:
19 But Joshua told the people, “You will not be able to worship Yahweh, because He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not remove your transgressions and sins. 20 If you abandon the Lord and worship foreign gods, He will turn against you, harm you, and completely destroy you, after He has been good to you.” 21 “No!” the people answered Joshua. “We will worship the Lord.” 22 Joshua then told the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you yourselves have chosen to worship Yahweh.” “We are witnesses,” they said. 23 “Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and offer your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Joshua sensed that the people were not being honest before GOD. He quickly told them that GOD knew their hearts and they would not deceive GOD. They needed to be honest with GOD and HIS help for them to develop a genuine relationship with HIM. They all said “No! We will worship the LORD.”
Joshua, in essence, told them listen to what you have said because you will be held accountable. It seems that Joshua knew that there was a problem with their heart and response when he stated, “Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and offer your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Let’s read Joshua 24:24-26:
24 So the people said to Joshua, “We will worship the Lord our God and obey Him.” 25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people at Shechem and established a statute and ordinance for them. 26 Joshua recorded these things in the book of the law of God; he also took a large stone and set it up there under the oak next to the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “You see this stone—it will be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words the Lord said to us, and it will be a witness against you, so that you will not deny your God.” 28 Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance.
The Israelites made a verbal commitment “We will worship the Lord our God and obey Him.” They reiterated their commitment to GOD. So Joshua established “statute and ordinance” or “decrees and judgment/justice” for them. This was likely a covenant renewal rather than establishing a new covenant.
It seems that Joshua gave the Israelites a set of guidelines based upon the law and ordinances to render judgment and ultimately justice, when violated. This was to keep the Israelites focus upon GOD. HIS desire was for Israel to live and worship HIM and be a witness to the world. To obediently serve GOD requires responsibility and accountability. The Israelites agreed to serve GOD. So Joshua memorialized their commitment by making a covenant for the people at Shechem in the presence of the tabernacle or the presence of GOD.
Shechem had been an important city in Canaan. During the period of time following the successful occupation of the Promised Land, the tabernacle was located in Shechem and represented the presence of GOD. Abram had passed by the oak of Morel near Shechem as recorded in Genesis 12:6-7:
6 Abram passed through the land to the site of Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your • offspring.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.
A covenant was established. In the Old Testament the word “covenant” was generally referred to as “cutting a covenant.” The word “covenant” comes from a Hebrew word which means “to cut.” Covenants were often confirmed by sacrificing an animal by cutting the animal in half and those agreeing to the covenant walking between the split halves. This was a graphic example of the two parties coming together as one and in unity and in agreement.
A covenant between two unequal parties is called a “suzerainty covenant.” This is the type of covenant GOD made with HIS people. Joshua was the intermediary, much like Moses, and urged the Israelites to renew their commitment to GOD. GOD had not changed HIS commitment to the Israelites. It was the Israelites who needed to rededicate themselves to GOD.
Joshua recorded these things in the book of the law of God; he also took a large stone and set it up there under the oak next to the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said to all the people, “You see this stone—it will be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words the Lord said to us, and it will be a witness against you, so that you will not deny your God.” Joshua had made his commitment to worship Yahweh, so he included himself in the covenant.
Joshua did all he could physically to get the Israelites to build a genuine relationship with GOD. In John 4:23-24, we read: (JESUS spoke these words.)
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
It is impossible to truly worship GOD physically. HE knows our hearts and we cannot fool HIM. We still worship other gods and have our idols such as greed, jealousy, prejudice, fame, stuff and the list goes on that we need to confess to GOD and get rid of. This was Joshua’s message to the Israelites.
This is GOD’S message to each of us today. GOD sent HIS only Son, JESUS, Who willingly gave HIS life that all who place their faith in HIM, will be cleansed of all sin and receive eternal life through the miracle of rebirth. Once we are born-again, we can worship GOD in Spirit and truth. Have you asked JESUS to forgive you of your sins and asked HIM to come into your life? If not, now is that opportunity and the opportunity to experience worshiping GOD in Spirit and Truth.
Joshua was a true leader whose success was built upon the obedient worship of GOD. He did not sweep issues under the table, so-to-speak, but dealt with them. HE trusted GOD’S leadership and made his decisions accordingly. He was organized, delegated to others and held them accountable. When he suspected a break in unity, he addressed it. Open communication solved a potential major problem. He prepared the people he led for his departure. He knew that their relationship with GOD was vital and he did all he could to implant that in their minds. He knew that their continued worship of GOD would depend upon them and if they didn’t they would suffer the consequences. Decide this day who you will worship! Blessings!!!
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Bible Study - Joshua (5) - Work through Conflict - Joshua 22:11-12, 15-18, 26-27 and 33-34 - July 5, 2015
Bible Study – Joshua (5) – Work through Conflict – July 5, 2015
This is lesson five (5) in our series entitled “Be Strong and Courageous:
Leadership Lessons from Joshua.”
Our focus scripture is Joshua 22:11-12, 15-18, 26-27, and 33-34.
Leaders handle conflict with clear communication.
This lesson fast forwards us to the time when the Promised Land had been conquered. The twelve tribes of the Israelites had fought in unity with each other in obedience to GOD to achieve GOD’S plan and purpose for HIM and them. Now it was time to go occupy the lands they had conquered.
The tribes of the Reubenites, Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh had negotiated with Moses, as recorded in Numbers 32, that they wanted to occupy the land east of the Jordan because it was good grazing land for their livestock. Moses told them if they would help the other tribes secure their land then they could have the land east of the Jordan.
The land west of the Jordan had been secured so now it was time for these tribal warriors to go back to their families and occupy the land east of the Jordan.
Let’s read Joshua 22:1-10:
1 Joshua summoned the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh 2 and told them, “You have done everything Moses the Lord’s servant commanded you and have obeyed me in everything I commanded you. 3 You have not deserted your brothers even once this whole time but have carried out the requirement of the command of the Lord your God. 4 Now that He has given your brothers rest, just as He promised them, return to your homes in your own land that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you across the Jordan. 5 Only carefully obey the command and instruction that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you: to love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commands, remain faithful to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” 6 Joshua blessed them and sent them on their way, and they went to their homes. 7 Moses had given territory to half the tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, but Joshua had given territory to the other half, with their brothers, on the west side of the Jordan. When Joshua sent them to their homes and blessed them, 8 he said, “Return to your homes with great wealth: a huge number of cattle, and silver, gold, bronze, iron, and a large quantity of clothing. Share the spoil of your enemies with your brothers.”
Eastern Tribes Build an Altar
9 The Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in the land of Canaan to return to their own land of Gilead, which they took possession of according to the Lord’s command through Moses. 10 When they came to the region of the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh built a large, impressive altar there by the Jordan.
The eastern tribes left with Joshua’s blessings and for them to continue to be obedient to GOD (V. 5). They had fulfilled their promise to Moses. The Promised Land had been conquered. When the tribes came into the area of the Jordan on the Israelites side, they built a large, impressive altar which was a replica of the altar built by their forefathers not for sacrifices or burnt offerings (V. 28). Their intent was pure and not intended to offend. But the altar offended the tribes on the western side of the Jordan because they made some false assumptions. The western tribes were afraid that the eastern tribes were planning to establish their own religion and rebel against GOD. The western tribes knew that they had the LORD’S Tabernacle with them. (The Ark was kept at Shiloh.) Communication is critical between powers, families, friends, businesses, etc.
The western tribes prepared to go to war against the eastern tribes because if the eastern tribes go against the One True GOD of Israel, they feared GOD’S wrath would come upon all of the tribes.
Wisely, the western tribes formed a delegation made up of Phinehas, the priest and ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.
The western delegation explained their concern to the eastern tribes and the eastern tribes explained their intent for the altar to the western delegation. Once communication had been established and there was dialogue, truth and understanding emerged.
With this overview, let’s explore our scripture.
Let’s read Joshua 22:11-12, 15-18: (Joshua honors the agreement the eastern tribes made with Moses now that the Promised Land had been conquered. It was time for the eastern tribes to go occupy their land.)
11 Then the Israelites heard it said, “Look, the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan at the region of the Jordan, on the Israelite side.” 12 When the Israelites heard this, the entire Israelite community assembled at Shiloh to go to war against them.
Explanation of the Altar
13 The Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest to the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead. 14 They sent 10 leaders with him—one family leader for each tribe of Israel. All of them were heads of their families among the clans of Israel.
Let’s read Joshua 22:15-25: (The western delegation meets with the eastern delegation.)
15 They went to the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and told them, 16 “This is what the Lord’s entire community says: ‘What is this treachery you have committed today against the God of Israel by turning away from the Lord and building an altar for yourselves, so that you are in rebellion against the Lord today? 17 Wasn’t the sin of Peor, which brought a plague on the Lord’s community, enough for us, so that we have not cleansed ourselves from it even to this day, (Sin of Peor - Numbers 25:1-9 – 24,000 Israelites died because of a plague due to sin.) 18 and now, you would turn away from the Lord? If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow He will be angry with the entire community of Israel. 19 But if the land you possess is defiled, cross over to the land the Lord possesses where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and take possession of it among us. But don’t rebel against the Lord or against us by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 Wasn’t Achan son of Zerah unfaithful regarding what was •set apart for destruction, bringing wrath on the entire community of Israel? He was not the only one who perished because of his sin.’”
The western delegation lays out their concerns and now the eastern tribes respond stating their intentions for building the altar.
21 The Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh answered the leaders of the Israelite clans, 22 “• Yahweh is the God of gods! Yahweh is the God of gods! He knows, and may Israel also know. Do not spare us today, if it was in rebellion or treachery against the Lord 23 that we have built for ourselves an altar to turn away from Him. May the Lord Himself hold us accountable if we intended to offer •burnt offerings and •grain offerings on it, or to sacrifice • fellowship offerings on it. 24 We actually did this from a specific concern that in the future your descendants might say to our descendants, ‘What relationship do you have with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between us and you descendants of Reuben and Gad. You have no share in the Lord!’ So your descendants may cause our descendants to stop fearing the Lord.
Let’s read Joshua 22:26-29: (The eastern tribe’s motivation for building the altar.)
26 “Therefore we said: Let us take action and build an altar for ourselves, but not for burnt offering or sacrifice. 27 Instead, it is to be a witness between us and you, and between the generations after us, so that we may carry out the worship of the Lord in His presence with our burnt offerings, sacrifices, and fellowship offerings. Then in the future, your descendants will not be able to say to our descendants, ‘You have no share in the Lord!’ 28 We thought that if they said this to us or to our generations in the future, we would reply: Look at the replica of the Lord’s altar that our fathers made, not for burnt offering or sacrifice, but as a witness between us and you. 29 We would never rebel against the Lord or turn away from Him today by building an altar for burnt offering, grain offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the Lord our God, which is in front of His tabernacle.”
Verse 27, can be tricky. The eastern tribes established the altar as evidence that they were in unity with the western tribes regarding the One True GOD, Yahweh. But as time goes on this fact could be lost, so the altar was to be a witness that the eastern tribe’s desire was to continue to worship Yahweh in HIS presence, which was where the Tabernacle was located. The altar they built was intended to be a symbol of the resolve.
Conflict Resolved: (Unity restored – a misunderstanding broke unity in the minds if the western tribes but not the eastern tribes. Once communication was established and understanding achieved unity in the minds of the western tribes was restored.)
30 When Phinehas the priest and the community leaders, the heads of Israel’s clans who were with him, heard what the descendants of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. 31 Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest said to the descendants of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is among us, because you have not committed this treachery against Him. As a result, you have delivered the Israelites from the Lord’s power.” 32 Then Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders returned from the Reubenites and Gadites in the land of Gilead to the Israelites in the land of Canaan and brought back a report to them.
Dialogue resulted in satisfaction and unity was restored.
Let’s read Joshua 22:33-34:
33 The Israelites were pleased with the report, and they praised God. They spoke no more about going to war against them to ravage the land where the Reubenites and Gadites lived. 34 So the Reubenites and Gadites named the altar: It is a witness between us that the Lord is God.
It is interesting that the King James translation states verse 34 “And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be witness between us that the Lord is GOD.” “Ed is a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “witness.” The altar became a marker in recognition of their confession “that the Lord is GOD,” a confession that confirmed their unity as brothers with the western tribes. They were not bound just by religious practice or geographical location. They were one in the Lord GOD.”(Herschel Hobbs Commentary, LifeWay, Nashville, TN, Summer, 2015, page 56.)
When Christians settle a disagreement in an amicable manner it sends a positive message to other Christians as well as to non-Christians.
Great leaders are willing to engage in dialogue to foster understanding. Blessings!!!