Tag Archives: Israelites

Step in the Water

step in the waterNov. 23, 2018’s Minute in the Word on Joy 99.1 FM in St. Louis highlighted Joshua 3:8, in which the Lord says, “When you reach the edge of the waters, go and stand in the river.”

The Children of Israel were steps away from entering the Promised Land the Lord had promised, but they still had to cross the Jordan River to get there. Joshua must have wondered how they were going to do that. But God simply said to step foot in the river, which Joshua and all the nation of Israel did:

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:17

God parted the waters as he had done at the Red Sea forty years before when they had escaped Egypt. The two crossings of water bookend the incredible story of God saving his people.

But the people had to trust that God would do it. They could not cross the Jordan without God’s help, yet they had to take the first step into the water and let God do his work.

That is what we need to do in our lives today. When challenges stand in our way of God’s goal for our lives, we need to take the step forward and come to God and let God do the rest.

As Joshua told the Israelites in Joshua 3:5: “The Lord will do amazing things among you.” And he will do amazing things among us as well. Step right up and see what God has planned.

 

 

 

 

When You Pass Through the Waters

when you pass through the watersGod sometimes makes it clear that he wants you to listen to a particular verse in Scripture. This recently happened to me with Isaiah 43:2-3. We sang it as an anthem in my choir. Then it was the reading of the day in church and then it was used in an article called “Fear Not,” by Elizabeth Eaton in the September 2018 issue of Living Lutheran. Here is the verse:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers; they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel.”

God was speaking to the Israelites in their wandering, assuring them that whatever things came their way, they could get through it.

Watching the aftermaths of hurricanes that have hit Florida and Texas in recent years, we can see firsthand the power of water. It is not something you can discount or go around when flood waters that forceful are upon you. You must go through it. We have seen so many stories about how people were rescued by boat or helicopter from the rising waters. Those rescue operations are a metaphor for how our God rescues us from the rising waters of troubles at work, home our school. We just must pass through them and God will lift us out, he assures us.

He makes it clear that we will not be overwhelmed or consumed by any obstacle in our path. Why? Because he is with us and he is the Lord. That’s all we need to cling to in the midst of strife.

 

Idolatry

golden calfWhen the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”  Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. —Exodus 32:1-4

When we hear the word idol, we think of things like statues and golden calves and we say to ourselves, “I don’t have any idols.”

But the truth is, of course, that idols can take all shapes and sizes and can be all sorts of things.

Whatever takes the place of God in our lives or pushes God to the side is an idol for us.

One look at our society today, and it is not too hard to spot our modern-day idols:

TV shows, our smartphones, the internet, social media, movies, video games, pop culture gossip, food, clothes, cars, our intellect, our abilities and skills, our jobs, our houses, our personal possessions, our social calendars, superstars, the desire to have fun, the need to be popular, the want to be first.

The list could go on.

When I think of what causes me to turn to idols, it is the same cause that the Israelites had in the wilderness: They did not trust God enough. They got impatient for God to do something to help them, and when they didn’t feel like God was doing it quick enough, they took matters into their own hands and crafted a calf from their own belongings.

What calves are you crafting lately, and why?

So much of life comes down to trust and we must as Christians put all our trust in God’s hands, not our own.

When we craft calves for ourselves, we are saying, “We don’t trust you anymore, God.”

And when we turn over our destiny to the things of this world, we have only disaster to look forward to.

Everything on this earth will cease to exist someday, and all that we will have is God.

So do a good hard idolatry inventory and cast aside all that takes your focus off of the one true God.

As the Bible says,

The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever. —Isaiah 40:8

And never forget that Christ went to the cross to take away all our idolatrous ways and bring us back to God. The shadow of that cross is what keeps idols at bay to this very day.

For more insight into this topic, I highly recommend one of my favorite books Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols by Madeleine L’Engle.

Agents of Blessing

hands of blessingWhen my niece was confirmed several weeks again, I as her godfather was asked to place my hand on her, along with her parents and godmother, as she was being confirmed by the pastor. Then last week, to mark the 20th anniversary of my pastor’s ordination and his 10th anniversary as a pastor at my church, the assistant pastor asked everyone in the congregation to reach out their hands in blessing to him as the assistant pastor played over it.

Both instances proved to be particularly emotional for me as I considered the passage of time and what God was doing in the lives of my niece and my pastor. And the mirror events recalled for me the calling that we all have to be agents of blessing in this world.

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