|Ride towards the sound of gunfire, take up the side of God!|
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; 2 And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. 3 Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. 4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. 6 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. 7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. 9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. 10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Dan 6:1-10)
I was reminded of this splendid little inspiring hymn by the Rev. Pearson Olweny of Kisumu, Kenya, in an message I received from him very late last evening. I was struck with the need for many Daniel's of our day and for our present times in America. Though sung in churches mostly as a child's hymn, I see no reason why a child's hymn should not appeal and apply to adults just as much as to children; in fact, this hymn calls for manly courage, not childish fad. The hymn lyrics and its music were composed by the famous hymn writer, Philip Paul Bliss, in 1873. It singing was prohibited to be sung in Turkey by edict of the Sultan of that country according to Ira Sankey - another great hymnist. He wrote many well-known hymns, including "Almost Persuaded," "Hallelujah, What a Saviour!," "Brightly Beams our Father's Mercy," "Wonderful Words of Life," and the tune for Horatio Spafford's "It Is Well with My Soul."
The character and Christian testimony of Philip Bliss is at least equal to his talent as a hymn writer. His hymns often were those that exalted the Christian character and, I believe, mirrored the soul of Philip Bliss. His hymns and songs were never copyrighted, and he gave all of his royalties to charity though he himself was poor. He died suddenly in a railway disaster at Ashtabula, Ohio, on 30 December 1876. Though he survived the accident, he perished trying to save his wife, Lucy, who also died there.
Dare to be a Daniel
Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.
Many mighty men are lost,
Daring not to stand,
Who for God had been a host
By joining Daniel’s band.
Many giants, great and tall,
Stalking through the land,
Headlong to the earth would fall,
If met by Daniel’s band.
Hold the Gospel banner high!
On to vict’ry grand!
Satan and his hosts defy,
And shout for Daniel’s band.
REFRAIN: Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known. The life of Daniel epitomizes the virtues of faith, courage, and wisdom. We have all read the account of Daniel being cast into the lion's den by a reluctant king, and surviving; but we often forget what events led up to that event. Daniel was the first ranking of three leaders set over the Princes of Persia under King Darius at Babylon. This evoked great jealousy and covetousness from the remaining two leaders of the 120 Princes. They sought how they might destroy Daniel by exposing his faith in the one true God. The account is found in the introductory text above. Please note that Daniel took no account of personal dangers when it came to serving his God. He saw no such barrier, as many do today, to bringing his faith with him into the halls of power and government. There was not then, as there is not now, any such "Separation Clause" of his constitution (or ours)! He did not cringe under the boot of tyranny, but continue to openly practice his duties of faith and worship. He made his faith KNOWN. Have we?
Standing by a purpose true, Heeding God’s command, Honor them, the faithful few! All hail to Daniel’s band! When King Darius was tricked into making a decree that would, unintentionally on his part, result in the casting of Daniel into the lion's den, Daniel was not phased at all. According to the government (King's) decree, anyone who would seek counsel of any God or man other than the king for thirty days should be cast into the lion's den. Many TODAY Christians would be tempted to relent from praying for only thirty days to avoid the wrath of mammon, but not Daniel. When he heard the news, he immediately went home, as was his custom, opened his windows and prayed where any passers-by could see. He stood, like a red-blooded man or woman, upon the sure promises of God and not the whims of man or governments.
Many mighty men are lost, Daring not to stand, Who for God had been a host By joining Daniel’s band. There are many today whose character and reputation seem to commend them to a higher service in standing up to the errors of false religion or an over-reaching tyrannical government. They are sound in mind and strong in body, yet they slink away to the dark chambers when called upon to challenge powers that are in open rebellion to God. Reluctance and hesitation in the face of the enemy assures defeat and destruction. There will never be a great number standing with those who stand on the side of the LORD, but numbers are not necessary with the LORD. He constitutes a victorious power if only a Daniel will stand erect to the battle.
Many giants, great and tall, Stalking through the land, Headlong to the earth would fall, If met by Daniel’s band. Only one smooth stone - AND LITTLE DAVID - was required to down a giant. Only a small stone of faith, AND YOU, are required to down the giants that stalk our land today. Once he is down, we are prepared for others as was David in selecting FIVE smooth stones - one for Goliath, and four more for his brothers. But Daniel stood against the multiple giants of Persia, and he did it ALONE!
Hold the Gospel banner high! On to vict’ry grand! Satan and his hosts defy, And shout for Daniel’s band. There is nothing more inspiring to the soldier on the battlefield than to meet an enfilading fire from the enemy, but to then look forward to see his ensign held aloft by the standard-bearer. If the ensign leads the battle line, so can the trailing soldier bear faith to carry on. The enemy we face is ruthless and will take no quarter. We need only take heart in the God of Battles and know that the victory is sure and that it belongs to Him.
We are building a wall and a bulwark of sure defense in our land when we stand, without fear or compromise, on the word of God. Even when the wall is not finished, it yet serves as a defense against the wiles of the devil. When the walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt after the Babylonian bondage, the enemy sought to destroy them, and their builders. But the walls are not just for our own defense, but for that of our loved ones to follow: And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. (Neh 4:14-15)
Monday, June 29, 2015
Dear Family in Christ:
Tomorrow morning, Tuesday 30 June 2015, I will be going to Montgomery, Alabama to meet on the steps of the Supreme Court Building with other clergy in the cause of preserving the dignity and sanctity of biblical marriage.
As you may know, Chief Justice Roy Moore has been stellar in his courageous attempts to restore Federal parameters in the area of marriage and religion to Constitutional limits. He has not given up the field on these matters. The least we can do, as Christians, is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with such gallant men.
Your prayers are solicited on behalf of the Church that her Lord will once more be honored in the once-hallowed land.
In Christ Alone,
† Jerry L. Ogles, DD
Presiding Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Chancellor, Faith Theological Seminary
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Sermon Notes - Fourth Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 28 June 2015, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)
Fourth Sunday after Trinity.
GOD, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Romans viii. 18-23
RECKON that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
St. Luke vi. 36-42
E ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
There are men who say they believe there is a God, but God is too merciful to punish sin. He is too full of compassion and love, and He could not punish sin. The drunkard, the harlot, the gambler, the murderer, the thief and the libertine would all share alike at the end. Suppose the governor of our state was so tender-hearted that he could not bear to have a man suffer, that he could not bear to see a man put into jail, and he should set all the prisoners free. How long would he be our governor? You would have him impeached before the sun set. The very people who repudiate God's justice and claim only His mercy would be the first to demand justice from a compassionate governor for criminals who were pardoned. (D.L.Moody).
In a world that places a very high premium upon achievement and performance, we are often misled, even by our clergy, to believe that our works are the means by which we are saved. The modern church emphasizes giving almost to the exclusion of all other considerations. The rich man, or woman, will be rewarded with honors and positions of responsibility even if their daily lives do not reflect that Spirit of which Christ spoke. Perhaps the poor widow that spends all of her available time in cooking for the sick and homeless will be forgotten in the perishable minds of men, but shall be more highly remembered and favored in the Infinite Mind of God. God gives us many hints of His Will to be fulfilled in Christ in the midst of the Old Testament. The people of Israel were living as they pleased and believing that all their sins were remitted by the sacrifices of the wealthy. But God counseled: For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6) The money-changers of the modern temple would have us persist in believing that we can BUY God’s favor while living as we please, but it was NEVER so. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psalms 85:10) Mercy and truth are husband and wife – inseparable! If we will have mercy, we must accept truth with it. As Jesus told the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well, . . . the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (John 4:23) ‘Spirit’ is not emotionalism, but love of God and our fellow man. But our love must be directed in truth, for false worship is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.
As we read in our biblically-oriented prayer of Collect, God is the protector of all who trust in Him. We can claim none of God’s protection apart from the measure of trust we place wholly in Him. Without God, we have no strength at all, and our righteousness is as filthy rags. Apart from God, there is no holiness to be had. We lean upon God for His increasing mercies in His Sovereign Rule over us, and to Guide us through the Wilderness of Sin of this present world. Only God can show us the safe and righteous way – we cannot find it alone. In avoiding those things that worldly, we are amassing to ourselves those treasures that are heavenly. These are the Godly petitions we repeated from today’s prayer of Collect.
In our Epistle for today, taken from Romans 8, we discover there is groaning of the mortal soul inclined to the Holiness of God. Such a struggle and groaning is forever present with us until the curtain of time is lifted and time shall be no more. It is not a sorrowful groaning, but an intense desire to see God’s will worked out on earth as it is in Heaven according to that prayer the Lord taught us to say. When sorrow and misery befalls the stranger to God, hope is forlorn and there is no brilliant Light upon which he may fix his eyes from the darkness that engulfs his wretched soul. But the child of God embraces the Light even more earnestly as the dark circle surrounds him, or a loved one. He knows, innately, that the Light is his destination and not the dark fires of Hell that seem to presently surround him. . . . . weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalms 30:5b)
Our Gospel text calls us to a higher standard of life and Spirit than a rigid adherence to the law can afford. If perfect obedience were possible, there would be no need of mercy; but we can never be perfect keepers of the Law of God, therefore, we must have mercy if we are to be accounted blameless and righteous in entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
Consider the great pardon and mercy shown to us through the substitutionary death of Christ! He suffered that we might forego the eternity of Hell. We should rightfully be punished for our life of sin, yet Christ died in our stead that we, accepting His Lordship, might be pardoned and forgiven. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. This is a mighty admonition to us, for we can never be as merciful as God has been toward us. But God would have us to take on the very nature of mercy in our dealings with others. Though a child can seldom match the understanding of his father or mother, he will nonetheless mimic the nature he sees in his parents. That is what God desires of His children today.
37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven So many good Christians misunderstand this to mean that Christian judgment is forbidden. Nothing could be further from the truth. The meaning to us is this: We should not judge with our personal judgments, but with the righteous judgment of God as evidenced in His Word. Jesus Christ gives us commandment that is clear: Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:24) We are not only to judge from the heart, but also judge only by the measure of God’s judgment and not our own. If God has declared a certain behavior sin, that is not OUR judgment, but God’s. Simply declaring God’s condemnation of a sin is not our PERSONAL judgment, but HIS! Remember the debtor to the king whose great debt was forgiven by the king and, who, after went out and took a man by the throat who owed him a small sum, threatening to sell his wife and family into slavery? He was forgiven a fortune, but refused to forgive his own servant a small debt. How merciless was he! Are we not the same? The King of Glory has forgiven us an enormous debt, and a multitude of debts, yet we refuse to forgive those who offend us in the slightest measure.
38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. It is not possible to give more than God has given, for He immediately replenishes our bottles of oil the moment we pour out our blessings to others. There are blessings that cannot be measured in simple terms of a piece of bread for a piece of bread. Our giving of bread to the poor is multiplied in return value a thousand times. Our souls have rest and a good conscience thereby. Peace of mind is a possession not enjoyed by the greedy.
Can the blind lead the blind? Of course they can! It is happening in 90% of America’s churches today. Ministers, blind to the love and Spirit of God, are leading their blind disciples ever nearer the gaping abyss that awaits all who do not hear with clarity the voice of God. 39 And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? This is a parable of Jesus that has profoundly present implications. Our seminaries have been turned from a concentrated focus on the Word of God to an obsession with church growth, conflict resolution, seeker friendly programs, and, yes, MONEY schemes! If the lay Christian is NOTR blind (informed deeply by the Word of God) it is not likely that he can be led by the nose by a blind guide.
Do you know that there are theologians today who believe that they are better informed of God’s Will than Jesus Christ? It is true. There are those among the despicable movement called “Higher Critics” who believe that textual analysis and archeological digs have revealed to them information that Jesus did not have while on his earthly ministry. They obviously discredit Christ as the Son of the Living God, and God Himself! Their new bibles attempt to alter the evidence to support their intentional errors. 40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. I once disputed with a local minister who claimed that speaking in tongues (nonsensical babbling) was required for salvation. We argued the issue endlessly. Finally, I asked, “Is Jesus Christ our perfect example in all things?” Of course, the minister answered in the affirmative to which I followed up, “Do we have any evidence of Jesus EVER speaking in an ecstatic and incomprehensible tongue?” The man REFUSED to answer. If we will have perfect religion, and undefiled, let us be as much like Christ as our earthen vessels will afford.
How many clergymen preach against the sins of lying, stealing, adultery, etc., and harbor those sins in the dark chambers of their own hearts? Of course these sins are condemned by God; however, we must not judge others by a stronger measure than we apply to our own conduct. If we criticize the housekeeping of a neighbor, let us first sweep the trash and filth from our own floors. 41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.
If we are to have authority as men and women of God, we must see that we follow Christ in love and truth. We not only pronounce the truth of God’s Word to others, but we must make that truth the rule of our own lives. Owning the Spirit of Love and Truth, we shall walk the Valleys and Mountains with our eyes open to the presence and company of God.
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Devotion on Firsts of the Bible - First Crossing of the River Jordan Part Two – 27 June 2015, Anno Domini
… Stones of Remembrance …
1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. 3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. 4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: 5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. 6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. 7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate. (Joshua 2:1-7)
We approach a most solemn event that has troubled some theologians and Christian believers over the ages: Why would God require all inhabitants (including women and children) of Jericho to be killed? This matter will arise in Part III of our devotion, but we may make some explanation in prelude to it at this point. You will remember that God is gracious to those who love Him and obey His will. Recall the city of Sodom in which God could not find even two who were righteous in the city. Even the daughters of Lot were less than righteous, and were saved only as a favor to Lot. So God destroyed the whole city - every man, woman, and child. Was this just? Of course it was just. Sodom had become a den of iniquity and had turned to the most horrendous of sensual sins. In His omniscience and Providence, God knew every last one of their offspring would likewise reject righteousness and follow in the path of their fathers. None who reject God are worthy of life and grace. That is just. They deserve, as did we before we were accounted among the Elect, death!
So, out of Sodom, God saved the only righteous man of the whole lot - LOT! (no pun intended) Jericho is likewise a city lying just to the west of Jordan Waters. Its rulers and inhabitants knew all about the saving graces of God in bringing the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and the manner in which He followed (and led) them in the wilderness with many miraculous interventions. Yet, they rejected God and chose rebellion to Him. This is born out in the testimony of Rahab. God knows His people wherever they be, and God had a certain harlot in Jericho whom He would raise to righteousness and renown - Rahab. Because of her, just as with Zaccheus, she and her whole family would be saved from the ravages of war to come. Here her testimony of God: 8 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. (Josh 2:8-11)
It does not take an overly wise farmer to realize that a peach tree will bear peaches just as a wicked generation will bear fruit of a nature like unto itself. So God would rid the country of the poison of Jericho in one fateful day! That is justice for all deserve death having fallen short of the righteousness of God, but some are granted grace and forgiveness by being drawn to the breast of God, and forsaking a sinful past. This did Rahab! Please do not doubt that God may soon render such a judgment against the fair haven of these United States for its abject rejection of Him and turning to the filth and grit of the sensual gutter. Naturally, as long as planting and harvest time endures, He is always alert to hear the combined prayers of his people as noted in 2 Chron 7:14-15 - If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. You will also note that God does not demand every citizen of the land to pray in such a way - only those who are "called by my Name (i.e. Christian). From what I see of the modern church, this may never happen until the fires are falling.
Rahab extracts a vow from the spies who have come into Jericho to spy the city out that they will spare her house and her family since she has helped the men escape. They agree and ask that she tie a scarlet cord in her window piece as a sign of her fidelity to Israel. This was much like the lamb's blood over the doorpost in Goshen. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. (Josh 2:18-19) As Christians, should we, too, not bring our " father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto" the place of safety and salvation in Christ? For the sake of brevity, I am passing over many inspiring details of the story that may be had by a personal reading of the text by our readers of this devotion.
The two spies escape Jericho and return to report to Joshua. "Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us." (Josh 2:24) Please note what truth is revealed in the report of the two spies: the agnostics, atheists, and pagans fear God, but choose to deny Him. See with what audacity and fervor those who claim themselves to be atheists attempt to eradicate every memorial and mention of God in our society. If they believed our faith in God to be nonsense, why would they be so zealous to extinguish the mention of His Name? Mere superstition does not evoke such animated opposition, does it?
Joshua now issues his Operations Order through his subordinates: And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. (this position constituted Joshua's Line of Departure) And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore. And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you. And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people. (Josh 3:1-6) I doubt any land force in the then civilized world observed such detailed and organized structure as this host about to cross the Jordan. Unquestioned discipline is imperative during great ventures and occasions.
And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. (Josh 3:7) God will always magnify a good Christian leader who is obedient to His Word, but He is truly magnifying His own glory since all glory belongs to God. The Lord, too, will forever precede His people in dark, as well as light, paths. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. (Josh 3:11)
Here, the hosts of our fathers, and our father's God, encamp by Jordan Banks. The occasion has great and deep meaning on our spiritual lives. It represents the crossing from the wilderness of the sinful world of the righteous people of God into His Kingdom at last. The name of the river, Jordan, means "descender." This is representative of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the only One to descend from Heaven and live among us. I have written another devotion regarding the nature and comparison of this river with the life of our Lord.
The season of this crossing is Spring - most surely March, when the melting snows of Mt. Hermon fill the river bed to overflowing. God chooses the most difficult times and obstacles for us to cross to show forth His great power and glory.
10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. (Josh 3:10-11) Jesus passed over Jordan Banks before us that we may be also privileged to pass into that Paradise of God that awaits His people. Such an historical event is worthy of memorials, and God provides that consideration just as surely as the cross at Calvary stands in for a memorial. And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people; And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) That the waters which came down from above (from Galilee) stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam. (Josh 3:14-16) Adam was about 30 miles to the north of the encampment and site of crossing. God expects us to remember His Providential intercessions in the lives of nations and individuals. and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan. (Josh 3:17) So what memorial have we to erect of our passing over Jordan, or in our establishment as a God-fearing nation?
And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night. (Josh 4:1-3) For what purpose was the strange command given by God to Joshua? And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. (Josh 4:5-7) Stones of remembrance are important, for if we know not how far the Lord has saved us out of bondage, how shall we know the value of that salvation?
I am troubled to believe that America has forgotten her Stones of Remembrance; and what are these stones? They are the way markers of our freedoms, and of the God whose Providence led our way in the days of our ancient founding as a nation - the Bridge at Concord, the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence, Valley Forge, the bombardment of Ft. McHenry and the Star Spangled Banner aloft - these are only some of our Stones of Remembrance. The courageous men and women, living and dead, who fought and bled for our freedoms are also stones of remembrance. Do you remember them, or has Israel forgotten her stones: And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side. (Judges 8:34) Have we forgotten Yorktown, Vera Cruz, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Flanders Field, Normandy, Bastogne, Iwo Jima, Bataan, Chosin Reservoir, or Hue Phubai?
Perhaps our memories have faded, but the memory of the Lord has not faded.
He remembers, and we had best remember!
Friday, June 26, 2015
… Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest …
1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. 7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Josh 1:1-9)
It is true that Moses, in a physical sense, is dead; yet God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; and God was the God of Moses. The Wilderness is comparable to the journey of life and sin. There were at least a few million Hebrews who came out of Egypt, but owing to their besetting sins of murmuring and distrust of God, none of them lived to set foot in the Promise Land beyond Jordan Waters – except TWO (Caleb and Joshua). Caleb and Joshua trusted that their God was greater than all of the armies of the Canaanites, the Amalekites, the Amorites, and the sons of Anak (giants). Moreover, they averred that the false gods of the land are no match for the mighty God of Israel who would have the victory. (see Num 13:28-33) But the people disbelieved and gave counsel of their fears and not their faith. So they wandered aimlessly in the Wilderness until all who made the Red Sea crossing had died except Caleb and Joshua – men of courage and faith. Even Moses and Aaron were not permitted to cross over. So, as Israel encamps of the borders of the Promised Land, they comprise a vital and well-organized army of young men and women (all less than forty years of age).
It seems spiritually awkward that out of so many, only two of the original legions to leave Egypt were found suitable to enter the Land for which they had suffered long in desert areas. But this is the life of the Christian pilgrim. He looks up and forward to the promises of God without hesitation or murmur. This, Caleb and Joshua had been faithful in doing. I wonder how many saints of the Church in the wilderness world will be permitted to cross the Jordan Banks at the close of this age? I believe it will be found true that many of the Wilderness pilgrims will be present in Heaven with Moses when we cross the Heavenly Jordan, but were not permitted, as a point of order, to cross the physical Jordan Waters. In a manner of speaking, the Israelites crossing over Jordan is a perfect picture of the saints of the New Testament Church passing the cold waters of the deathbed into the splendor of Heaven. John Ruskin has said, “Death is not a journeying into an unknown land; it is a voyage home. We are not going to a strange country, but to our Father’s House, and among our kith and kin.” We see that Ruskin was absolutely correct in the case of Moses – why not for every saint. We are, after all, strangers and pilgrims in a strange land, and we seek a faire country. (Hebrews 11) The world is strange to us, but not Heaven!
Joshua will be the field commander to lead the children across Jordan, but he merely is commissioned by the God of Battles to act on His behalf and according to His pleasure. The name, Joshua, is of particular significance. It is the same name as the Hellenized name of Jesus - [Yehowshuwa` (yeh-ho-shoo'-ah) – meaning, “Jehovah is Salvation.” The great prophets and shepherds such as Moses, Aaron, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc, can lead us to Jordan Banks, but only Jesus (Joshua) can bring us across those turbid waters into God’s Land of Promise. Only Jesus could redeem us and make our salvation possible to cross over “to the other side.”
The tribes occupying Canaan, with their strange little gods, dwell in walled cities. They are not organized in the manner of the Israelites. God has caused, long ago around the Tabernacle, for the Israelites to be organized in squads, companies, battalions and brigades (in the modern military vernacular). This was beyond the comprehension of the primitive armies of the pagans of Canaan. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law had given Moses Godly counsel, which Moses followed, early in the wilderness: 19 Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: 20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. 21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: 22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. 23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. (Ex 18:19-23) A host so organized in units from small to large represents a formidable force to armies no so organized; however, Israel’s strength resided not in their commendable military structure, but in their faith in God who had been their mainstay and Rock from Egypt until this day.
An army commander, or even a President, inspired by the Word of God, will give wise and Godly counsel. So does Joshua in preparation for the crossing of the Jordan River. 10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it. (Josh 1:10-11) Any military logistician will tell you that the army only travels as far as her well stocked train of provision. Not only does Joshua counsel preparation, but also states, as a good commander, the objective. Joshua had a vision, as should every great leader, but the vision was not his own, but that which God gave him. Suppose, in these latter days, that we had a national leader who looked to God for his vision?
Joshua further commands, but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them (Josh 1:14), that is, officered or marshaled under five leaders in the old and approved caravan order. Our National Pledge of Allegiance is not unlike that which was proclaimed by Israel in loyalty to the leadership, under God, of Joshua: 16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage. (Josh 1:16-18)
A valiant army cannot proceed on valor alone, but needs to know both its enemy and the terrain of the battlefield. On the one occasion that Napoleon failed to reconnoiter the battlefield (at Waterloo) he met his demise. 1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there. (Josh 2:1) In performing our service to the Lord, He expects us, as a means of common sense and reason, to use the faculties with which He has graced us. On some occasions, such common sense may require us to go where we would not otherwise go, and stay where we were not wont to stay.
Staying at the house of a harlot (Rahab) may seem beneath the dignity of men of God, but if Rahab failed of dignity, the Lord made up the difference by granting her the privilege to being accounted in the genealogical line of the Lord Jesus Christ: 1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; 3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5 And Salmon begat Boaz of Rachab; (Matt 1:1-5)
We shall take up our continuing study of the Jordan River crossing on the next devotion.