I believe I’m Blessed In My Agony…

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Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.

Kevyn Aucoin

It’s hard to move forward when you don’t know where you’re headed or why. God’s plan gives us the answers to life’s most basic questions like, “Where did I come from?” “What’s my purpose here?” And, “What happens when I die?” Knowing the answers gives us hope and helps us find peace and joy.

Your life didn’t begin at birth and it won’t end at death. Before you came to earth, your spirit lived with Heavenly Father who created you. You knew Him, and He knew and loved you. It was a happy time during which you were taught God’s plan of happiness and the path to true joy. But just as most of us leave our home and parents when we grow up, God knew you needed to do the same. He knew you couldn’t progress unless you left for a while. So he allowed you to come to earth to experience the joy—as well as pain—of a physical body.

One thing that makes this life so hard sometimes is that we’re out of God’s physical presence. Not only that, but we can’t remember our pre-earth life which means we have to operate by faith rather than sight. God didn’t say it would be easy, but He promised His spirit would be there when we needed Him. Even though it feels like it sometimes, we’re not alone in our journey.

That doesn’t mean He expects you to be perfect. He knows you won’t be. But He does expect that while you’re here on earth you try to the best of your ability to be more like Him and that you learn and grow from your mistakes. Each time you make a poor choice with painful consequences, that decision leads to unhappiness—sometimes immediately, sometimes much later. Likewise, choosing good eventually leads to happiness and helps you become more like Heavenly Father.

After such a tremendous victory at Jericho, Joshua chapter 7 is surprising to say the least. Suddenly we are presented with a series of failures that stand in striking contrast to the wonderful victories of the past six chapters. How instructive this is if we only have the ears to listen to the message of this chapter. The thrill of victory was so quickly replaced by the agony of defeat. This is the story of life, and something we each must learn to deal with in our daily walk. One minute we can be living in victory and next in defeat.

The distance between a great victory and a terrible defeat is one step, and often only a short one at that. A fact of reality is that in a fallen world we can be riding high on the cloud of some great spiritual success, and the very next moment find ourselves in the valley of spiritual failure and despair. One moment we can be like Elijah standing victoriously on Mt. Carmel, and the next hiding out in a cave, fearing for his life, and complaining to God (1 Kings 19:10).

Ai was the next objective in the path of conquest because of its strategic location. As with Jericho, its conquest was vital to the conquest of the entire land. It was smaller than Jericho, but its conquest was essential because this would give Israel control of the main route that ran along the ridge from north to south along the highlands of the central portion of the land.

Jericho had been placed under the ban, a phrase which comes from the Hebrew word, herem, “a devoted thing, a ban.” The verb form, haram, means “to ban, devote, or destroy utterly.” Basically, this word refers to the exclusion of an object from use or abuse by man along with its irreversible surrender to God. It is related to an Arabic root meaning “to prohibit, especially to ordinary use.” The “harem,” meaning the special quarters for Muslim wives, comes from this word. So, to surrender something to God meant devoting it to the service of God or putting it under a ban for utter destruction.1

For something to be under the ban meant one of two things.

(1) Everything living was to be completely destroyed. This has been called barbaric and primitive—nothing less than the murder of innocent lives, but the Canaanites were by no means innocent. They were a vile people who practiced the basest forms of immorality including child sacrifice. God had given them over four hundreds of years to repent, but now their iniquity had become full (see Gen. 15:16Lev. 18:24-28). The one family who did turn to the Lord (Rahab and her family) were spared. As with Sodom and Gomorrah, if there had been even ten righteous, God would have spared the city (Gen. 18), but since he could not find even ten, He removed Lot and his family (Gen. 19). Further, if any city had repented as did Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah, He would have spared that city, but in spite of all the miraculous works of God which they had heard of, there was no repentance, they remained steadfast in their depravity. Note Norman Geisler’s comment:

… the battle confronting Israel was not simply a religious war; it was a theocratic war. Israel was directly ruled by God and the extermination was God’s direct command (cf. Exod. 23:27-30Deut. 7:3-6Josh. 8:24-26). No other nation either before or after Israel has been a theocracy. Thus, those commands were unique. Israel as a theocracy was an instrument of judgment in the hands of God.2

(2) All the valuable objects like gold and silver were to be dedicated to the Lord’s treasury.This was evidently to be done as a kind of first fruits of the land and an evidence of the people’s trust in the Lord’s supply for the future (cf. Lev. 27:28-29).

The Disobedience of Israel Defined
(7:1)

Chapter 7 opens with a small but ominous word, the word “but,” which contrasts this chapter with the preceding one, particularly verse 27. First, there was the thrill of victory, but now theagony of defeat. This little conjunction of contrast is designed to drive home an important truth, the reality of the ever present threat and contrasts of life—victory is always followed by the threat of defeat.

Never is the believer in greater danger of a fall than after a victory. We are so prone to drop our guard and begin to trust in ourselves or in our past victories rather than the Lord. One victory never ensures the next. Only as it builds our confidence in the Lord and develops our wisdom in appropriating God’s Word do our victories aid us for the next battle, but the basis of victory is always the Lord Himself and our faith/dependence Him. A New Testament chapter that deserves consideration here is 1 Corinthians 10 and especially verse 12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

The problem is clearly stated in the words, “The sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard …” Let’s note several things about this problem facing the Israelites as a nation.

(1) The word “unfaithfully” represents a Hebrew word that means “to act underhandedly.”It was used of marital infidelity, of a woman who was unfaithful to her husband. The sin here was both an act of spiritual infidelity, being a friend of the world rather than a friend to the Lord (Jam. 4:4), and a faithless act, seeking happiness and security from things rather than from God (1 Tim. 6:6f).

(2) The Lord held the whole camp of Israel accountable for the act of one man and He withheld His blessing until the matter was dealt with. There was sin in the camp and God would not continue the blessing of the nation as long as this was so. This does not mean that the rest of the nation was sinless or that this was the only sin, but this sin was of such a nature (a sin of direct disobedience and rebellion) that God used it to teach Israel (and us) a couple of important lessons.

a. God viewed the nation as a unit. What one did was viewed as a sin for the whole nation because Israel’s corporate life often illustrates truth and warnings for us as individuals (1 Cor. 10). As a warning for the church, it shows us we cannot progress and move ahead for the Lord with known sin in our lives because that constitutes rebellion against the Lord’s direction and control (Eph. 4:301 Thess. 5:19). It is a matter of loving the world and to do so is make one behave as though he or she was an enemy of God (Jam. 4).

b. One believer’s sin impacts everyone. Achan’s behavior also illustrates how one believer out of fellowship, pursuing his own selfish desires and agendas, negatively impacts and creates trouble for an entire group. Achan’s name, the Hebrew, akan, is a play on the word akor, which means “trouble.” So Joshua would declare that the Lord would bring trouble (akor) on Achan who had become a “troubler” to the nation because of his sin (cf. 7:24-25). Thus, the site of Achan’s death and grave was called, “the valley of Achor” (Hebrew, akor, “disturbance, trouble”). This should also call to mind Hebrews 12:15-16 and 1 Corinthians 5:6-7.

Though the crime was committed by one person, the whole nation was considered guilty. The nation was responsible for the obedience of every citizen and was charged with the punishment of every offender.

The Apostle Paul saw the same principle of solidarity at work in the church (1 Cor 5:6-13). Unjudged sin contaminated the whole assembly—“Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” (v. 6).3

(3) We are also reminded how nothing escapes the omniscience of God (Psa. 139:1f). Sin never escapes His watchful eye. We can fool ourselves and others, but never the Lord. God sees the sin in our lives and desires us to deal with it, not hide it. Hiding it only hinders our progress in God’s will and plan (Prov. 28:13) and creates trouble for others. Numbers 32:23 reminds us, “be sure your sin will find you out.” This is similar to the idea of reaping what we sow because of the natural consequences of God’s spiritual and moral laws and because of God’s personal involvement, but the Numbers text does not just teach that sin will be discovered but that the consequences of our sin become active agents in discovering us (see Gal. 6:7-8).

(4) Sin is no small matter to God. The words, “therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel,” dramatically call our attention to the holiness of God and the fact that sin is no small matter with Him because it is rebellion and rebellion is as the sin of divination (1 Sam. 15:23). Even though the Lord died for our sins and stands at God’s right hand as our advocate and intercessor, God does not and cannot treat sin in our lives lightly. It is against His holy character (His holiness, righteousness, love, etc.) and against His holy purposes for us since it hinders His control and ability to lead us.

Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning?” But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble” (James 4:5-6, the NET Bible).

Thus, God must deal with us and the sin in our lives; He deals with us as a Father and as the Vine Dresser, but He nevertheless deals with us (John 15:1f; Heb. 12:5).

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