Though tested positive for my antigen test on Day 6, I felt much better physically, and emotionally today. I am physically stronger to move about the house to clean, to sweep the fallen leaves on the porch, to delight watching the cats play from across the road, to water my plants and to end the day by preparing a simple dinner for myself.
The aroma in the kitchen smells different today: fresh and lovely. I was more present when I was washing the veggies, cutting them and cooking them in the pan. I was taking my time to enjoy the process of meal prepping and cooking.
A week ago, these simple chores of taking care of the house, gardening and cooking were done in a rush and mindlessly. They were things that I needed to get over and done with because there always something else more important that needed my attention: some messages to reply, some assignments waiting to be completed, another email to respond to, cleaning the house before the visitors arrive, rushing to church for some activities and so on. But, when I am in home quarantine, activities become slower, time seems longer and tasks are manageable. I can slow down and enjoy the beauty in the simple things in life, and not rush from chores to chores.
Apostle Paul writes, “4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”(Philippians 4:4-5)
Rejoice in the Lord is not something that we do when we feel like it. It should be our lifestyle as the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Joy comes from God. Joy is knowing that God sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, the Holy Spirit is with us and we have eternal life with God. We can rejoice regardless of our present circumstances because we stand on the promise and assurance of who God is and what He is doing and will do in the life of His people.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (verse 6)
What are you worried about? Our list can go on and on. Apostle Paul urges us not to be anxious or worried about anything but to commit everything to God in prayers. We are invited by God to tell Him the things that are bothering us. In prayers, we are reminded of the sovereignty of God who cares and loves us. When we tell God our needs and requests, we are to give thanks to God, simply because He is good. He has been faithful, merciful and loving to us. In our desperation, He hears us and delivers us.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
Peace is a state of well-being. In the Old Testament, the word “Shalom” in Hebrew means: harmony, wholeness, completeness, health, tranquillity, safety, rest, peace with God, and these are permanent state.
God’s peace guards our heart and mind. May He guard and protect our heart and mind from cumbersome worries and anxieties. Wait upon God. Rest in Him.
During this season of Lent, let us continue to:
Deepen our relationship with God through prayers. We pray and also hear for His voice when we pray.
(2) Read God’s Word
God’s Word illuminates our path. It leads us to the path of righteousness, holiness and wisdom. Let us read His Word, meditate on it and apply it in our lives. St John of the Cross (1542-91), a Spanish Catholic priest, said that when we read God’s Word, the new life of Christ gets brighter and brighter in us.
(3) Obedience to God
Perhaps much of our anxieties in our relationships, our chores and daily activities are more manageable if we commit them into God’s will and time. We can find peace and rest in God if we are mindful that God is with us in our chores and in our relationships with others.
May the peace of the Lord be with you in whatever you do and in the people you meet.
My retreat came earlier this year than I had planned. I had planned one in August right around my birthday. The reason for this unplanned retreat: I was down with Covid.
I could not believe it when I was tested positive. I had all those symptoms: flu, chills, muscle ache, cough but the results from the antigen tests were negative. I was hopeful that I might just be having a common flu. I prayed hard that I would remain ‘negative’ for Covid tests.
How could I get Covid, right? I am relatively healthy: I take my supplements daily. I have always been super careful: double my masks, sanitize the cart at the supermarket before using, sanitize my hands every time I touched something (may be I was a little extreme) and once I return home, I immediate sanitise my handbag and my phone. How can someone so careful like me get Covid?
On the morning of Day 5 of my exposure to the virus, I did an antigen test upon waking up. It said, “positive”.
I stared at the result. I was shattered.
I was given a ‘Home Isolation Or Surveillance Order’ for one week.
Home Isolation. Away from people. I am used to being away from people for retreats but this time, while in home isolation, I was in isolation with angry thoughts, bitter thoughts, sad thoughts.
On the first day, I spent much of my time being angry: I was angry at the person for giving the virus to me. My breaths were hot, like a fiery dragon’s. Nobody wants to be infected. Nobody in their right mind wants to pass the virus on to others, I understand. My friend is feeling guilty, I understand. But still, I was very angry. I have to announce to the church that I am a “Covid Positive”, a label I was trying to run away from ever since the start of Covid 2 years ago. And it has been miserable getting Covid. It was a terrible experience.
On the second day, I spent most of my time sulking and getting angry at God. I complained to God. Why would You allow this happen? What about Sunday? Who would preach at the church on Sunday? What would the church leaders think of me? Would the people run away from me when I see them in church on Sunday?
On the third day, I re-watched some of my favourite movies and TV series (grateful for streaming services and good internet connection). I laughed and laughed at my favourite scenes. The movie therapy took away my sadness and anger for a while. I talked to some friends (via chat, I couldn’t talk due to the persistent sore throat and cough). One of them commented that I have “joined the Covid party” which I thought was hilarious.
On the fourth day, I was ready for a therapy session with God. I stopped sulking and stopped throwing myself a pity party (but still angry at my friend!). Throughout these couples of days, family and friends remind me that God is with me. I may be angry and bitter but this does not change the fact that God loves me.
We are in the Season of Lent. Lent is to remember that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and night to prepare Himself for the public ministry. I would love to have been there to hear His intimate conversations with His Father in Heaven. In these 40 days, Jesus was tempted by the devil three times but every time He was tempted, He leaned on God’s Word and power and He was victorious over these temptations.
May be God wanted me to experience Him in a new way in this season of Lent. May be I should lean upon God and rest in Him, no matter what the circumstances I am in.
Looking back at the past couple of days, I am so grateful for family and friends who sent me words of encouragement. They check in on me daily to make sure that I am physically (and emotionally) healthy. There are friends who send me groceries, lunch and dinner, snacks, coconut juice, and a slice of yummy cheesecake. I am never hungry. I spent a lot of time at the dining table enjoying these little surprises. There are friends who go to the pharmacies for me to get the needed medication. I am never in need. My needs have been supplied.
When I count my blessings, I have less to grumble about. No more complaints. No more worries. No more asking God why. After all, this is what Lent is all about: focusing on the love and sacrifice of Jesus. Not on our current misery. For now, I will nurse myself to good health and to be strong for ministry again, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Suggestions from Pope Francis on Fasting for Lent:
Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and trust in God.
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
During this Christmas season, we have heard the narrations of the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Saviour of this world. He came to save us from sin and death.
Let us also give thanks to God for the Good News on the birth of the Saviour of this world which had been proclaimed to the shepherds in the field 2,000 years ago and to the wise men in the East is available to us today through the Holy Bible. Through the Bible, we could also rejoice together with the army of the angelic host who proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:13-14).
The Gospel of Luke was written by Luke, a physician. He was a Gentile and yet his work was included in the Bible. Luke was a close companion of Apostle Paul and had joined him on his missionary journey. Luke remained by Paul’s side when Demas left them because there were things in his life which he could not let go of.
The Gospel of Luke was written because a Roman friend of Luke, named Theophilus (‘lover of God’), see Luke 1:1-4 wanted to know about the life and account of Jesus Christ. Luke wrote this Gospel, stressing that Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world. He saves, regardless of their background, gender, nationality or ethnicity. Luke also wrote a second book to Theophilus about the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:1-2).
Theophilus had never met Jesus Christ. He had not touched Him or been in His company or even heard about Jesus. Surprisingly, neither had Luke. Luke never lived with Jesus as did His disciples. He did not hear the teachings of Jesus or see the miracles with his own eyes. Yet, Luke believed. Luke had got his source from the other eyewitnesses and particularly information from the gospel written by Mark. He believed “just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:2, NIV).
He told Theophilus, “With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4, NIV)
Luke had carefully investigated everything. It was his hunger for the truth that led him to the Truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Luke wrote this gospel so that his friend Theophilus will be even more certain of God’s love and His plan in saving humanity.
For us today, we are living in the times where information is at our fingertips. Yet, we want to live as the wise. We should not accept everything which we see or read but are required to investigate carefully. We are living in the end times. There are false prophets who seem to be telling the truth but they are not God’s messengers. We need to be in love with Jesus that we make it our duty to defend the Truth, and to live it out so that people will experience the love and work of God through us.
We too, are the witnesses of the Gospel that had been preached to us. Do our lifestyles bring people to God? This Christmas season, let us bring the hope, peace, love and joy of Christmas to the people around us, so that they too, will be convicted that there is a God who loves and cares for them.
The Israelites won the battle at Jericho. The city was fortified by a strong wall but the Israelites followed God’s instructions simply by marching around the wall seven times and this strong wall came tumbling down.
The next battle the Israelites had to face was to destroy the town of Ai. Joshua sent out spies to survey the land and they came back reporting that it was not necessary for the entire army to go into battle—only two or three thousand men would be needed. It was just a small town with a few people living there. No doubt, the Israelites expected a spectacular victory but unfortunately, they were badly defeated. 36 men were killed and the fighters from Ai chased them far from the city (verses 2-5). This was the only defeat recorded in the book of Joshua. This was also the report of the Israelites being slain in the battle. Joshua and the elders of Israel mourned for the defeat and suggested that God was not keeping His promise to give them victory (verses 6-9).
It was not God who was not faithful. It was the Israelites who were unfaithful (verse 1). Someone among the Israelites had hid the “devoted things” from Jericho, which God had specifically commanded them to destroy. Because of this sin, God’s anger burned against them (verse 2), they lost the battle and lives were taken. The hearts of the Israelites melted in fear and became like water (verse 5).
“11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.” (Joshua 7:11-12)
Achan was caught. He only admitted that he had sinned when he was found out. May be he would have a better ending if only he had confessed his sin on his own. Joshua sent messengers to find the things which Achan had coveted. As a result of his sin, Achan and his family had to be put to death. The devoted things he had stolen had to be destroyed too. That was the only way that would pacify God’s wrath and that the Israelites would have victory over their enemies.
It may seem like a harsh consequence to Achan’s action until we realise if sin is not dealt with, it can contaminate the entire community of faith. We can’t hide from God. He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-seeing and ever-present. The story of Achan reminds us to take personal holiness seriously. Our private sin will have an effect on others. Private sin not dealt with can mar the holiness of the church. We should always examine our hearts so that we are quick to turn from evil and turn back to God. If there are sins that we commit out of habits, we should ask for help and prayers to overcome them. Let us also encourage our church leaders to lovingly but firmly follow biblical standards of church disciplines so that sin will not destroy our community of faith.
In the previous post, we have read that the Israelites were to set themselves apart for the holy God through the act of circumcision. The whole Israelite nation was circumcised (Joshua 5:8). After the Passover, the Israelite ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. Then, manna (which God had rained upon them from the sky as their daily staple, except for the Sabbath day, during the 40 years in the wilderness) ceased. The Israelites then ate the food from the land. All these were dramatic changes in their lives: (1) They had made a commitment to live a holy life as their God is holy, (2) they were now adjusting to a new lifestyle. They had not been eating the produces from the land for as long as they could remember. Manna, something which carried significant meaning and comfort to them had ceased. Our God is active and living. When we follow Him, there are times when we have to leave the comfortable and the familiar just so we can step into something better which God has planned for us.
In order to take possession of the Promised Land (a land flowing with milk and honey that God had promised to give them), the Israelites first had to face a battle at Jericho. On the eve of this important battle, Joshua was awake all night. He was walking in the wilderness, perhaps with a lot on his mind: would they succeed to capture the city of Jericho? What were the best tactics to use?
The Israelites were in the Promised Land. Jericho was a hurdle they had to overcome. It seemed like an impossible task. The city was fortified with a strong wall and a strong military presence.
In his hopelessness, God appeared to Joshua in a human form—as a commander of the army of the Lord, with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua had to take off his sandals because where he was standing was holy ground. We need to consecrate ourselves (repent and refrain from behaviours, thoughts and actions) that are not pleasing to God in order to experience God at work. That night when Joshua was contemplating on the tactic for the battle, God appeared and reassured him that He is with him. Joshua was not alone; God was with him.
God is with us. There are times we have to make adjustments and changes in our lives in accordance to God’s guidance. We will be fearful, but in our fears, God holds us with His righteous right hand and gives us courage to overcome them. In our despair, God is with us. In our moment of weakness, God wants us to know that He is our strength. When we are feeling alone, He is right here beside us.
May it be that you are encouraged by what had happened to Joshua. He was alone, yet he was never truly alone because God was with him. The battle seemed overwhelming, but God’s presence changed everything. Trust in God. And you will see the wonders God will do in your life.
When the Israelites were entering the Promised Land, it was occupied with people who did not know the Lord. How would God mark His people out from those who were not His? He marked them as His own by the act of circumcision. He gave instructions that His people were to be circumcised.
Circumcision was an outward sign which demonstrated inward obedience. It may seem just a physical act but it has spiritual meaning that marked them as God’s people. By circumcising themselves, they were setting themselves apart for God. They would be holy people. Through the Bible, circumcising is a metaphor for holiness. Moses said that he had uncircumcised lips (Exodus 6:12, KJV). Jeremiah talked about uncircumcised ears which were not fit to hear God’s Word (Jeremiah 6:10).
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were to consider the fruits of the land as uncircumcised for three years, but in the fourth year, the fruits would be holy, an offering to the Lord (Levitcus 19:24).
Just as Jeremiah called the people to circumcise themselves to God, they were to circumcise their hearts (Jeremiah 4:4). The heart is the well spring of life (Proverbs 4:23). It is the source of our life. From our hearts flow everything we think, say, do and act. Our heart reflects our spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional state. Circumcising our hearts means we are to open our hearts and follow God by forsaking our old ways of living. We choose to follow God.
In the Bible, God’s people were marked by circumcision. Today, God’s people are marked by the circumcising of our hearts. Are we giving ourselves to Christ? Are we walking in holiness? Our God is holy and He desires His people to be holy too.
What does holiness mean? The world makes fun of holy people by associating “holiness” with a halo on the head and wings on the back of a person or it is a term mockingly used to refer to hermit people living in the mountains and detached from the world.
We can still have fun and live comfortable to be holy. Holiness means living a life that represents Jesus Christ. We no longer say bad words or do things that harm our bodies and minds. We carefully guard our attitudes, thoughts and actions We think of these things: whatever that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8, NIV).
Walking in holiness means we disagree with evil and sinful behaviour and choose not to participate in them.
Walking in holiness is a leap of faith too. We may be ridiculed or rejected for being “holy”. This brings us to the question: who will you serve? Will it be “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Before stepping into the Promised Land, Joshua needed military intelligence about Jericho. He sent 2 spies into the city to spy on the land. When the king of Jericho heard about the 2 spies, he sent men to capture them. But a prostitute in the city, Rahab, feared the Lord and decided to hide these spies in her home. Her house was located upon the city wall, and so, it was easier for them to escape with a rope through the window. (you can read the previous post by clicking here: http://eireneletters.com/devotional/joshua/god-specialises-in-using-the-flawed-people-for-his-purposes-joshua-21/)
These 2 spies escaped successfully, and brought their report back to Joshua. They told him all that had happened and said, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” (Joshua 2:24, NIV). Imagine the joy of the people upon hearing this. The Lord has given the whole land into their hands. This was the news Joshua was waiting for.
Their parents failed to enter the Promised Land due to their unbelief, and this generation was about to enter it. In the wilderness, they did not have permanent homes. They were always on the move. They were not able to plant vegetables or fruit trees, they were always in a state of deprivation. And now they would be moving closer to the Promised Land: a land flowing with milk and honey! There was great excitement and joy in the people!
Joshua gave orders to the people to set out and they came to the east shore of the Jordan River. Before crossing over, they set their camp there. The people must have felt confused and bewildered. Verse 15 tells us, “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest”. It was a raging river at flood stage!
The Jordan River
The Jordan River was not a shallow river that people can just cross over. It was a mighty river. The name “Jordan” means “descender”. The river bed was very steep. It was 3 to 12 feet deep. There were thick undergrowth on the bed of the river. If someone tripped over them, he would be swept away by the overwhelming current.
The length of the river was about 200 miles. What is most dangerous about the Jordan River is the swiftness of the current. There were dangerous currents and the bed of the river was muddy. The current could easily sweep a man away. In the month of April (and from this passage, it should be during this time when the Israelites had to cross over), the Jordan River would double in size, from 90-100 feet in width to 200 feet in width. It was because there were melting snows from the mountain. This river is literally the river of death.
How would you feel if you were an Israelite, watching the condition of the mighty river?
You had come so far, and now, when you are looking at the river, it seems that your dreams and hopes of reaching the Promised Land is impossible— again. All your excitement and joy must have been swept away by the sounds of the gigantic waves.
Think about your life and the circumstances in your life. Each of us has our own Jordan River—an impossible task that makes us so afraid and helpless. We may feel it will lead to nowhere and that we are stuck where we are. We may be angry at God for playing such a joke on us.
We want to make it into the Promised Land but this promise is too far away and not within our grasp. There are just so many things standing in the way and too many scary hurdles to overcome and strong waves beating against us.
But Joshua decided to walk by faith and not by sight. The waves in the river might be roaring but he was confident that God was with them and would carry them through. Here are some things that we can learn from Joshua and the Israelites:
Follow the guidance of God (Joshua 3:2-4)
“2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.”
This was the sign that they were ready to cross over: when the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord led the way.
Why was this Ark so special? If you remember during the days of Moses, when the Israelites were in the wilderness, God had given instructions to build this ark of the covenant. There were a few items inside the Ark which were holy:
*The stone tablets which God inscribed the Ten Commandments on with His own fingers. The 10 Commandments shows us that God desires a relationship with us.
*A pot of manna to remind the Israelites of God’s gracious provision during the past 40 years in the wilderness (Exodus 16:33, 34).
*Aaron’s rod. It was a stick that grew leaves and almonds to demonstrate God has the power to do anything, even to the smallest details (Numbers 17). This stick was a dead stick, and God could even bring life out of the dead stick.
All these items in the Ark were symbols that God had been with the Israelites and He was faithful. He is still with them. You see, apart from these items in the Ark, on top of the Ark was the Mercy Seat which was made of pure gold. There were two statues of cherubim, one on each side and they were kneeling down (Exodus 25:18-19). God was enthroned upon the cherubim (Psalm 80:1; 99:1). He was there with His people. He dwells with His people. The Ark was a symbol of His presence.
Today, we have the Holy Spirit who teaches us God’s commandments (Ephesians 6:17). God has also provided for our daily needs (Psalm 23:1). And we know God cares for the little details in our lives through His provision (Luke 12:7).
The Ark of the Covenant, carried by the priests, was to move into the Jordan River first, and then followed by the Israelites, it meant that God was leading the way. The Israelites only needed to see where He is going and follow Him.
Verse 4 tells us more details about the movement, “4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
The Israelites were to see where God was moving but they were not to get too close to the Ark. The purpose of God’s instruction was not really mentioned but perhaps so that everyone could see where God was going. Over 2 million Israelites were beside the terrifying Jordan River. All eyes could see the Ark and everyone knew God was with them.
In your life right now, may be you are able to cross the river but you are afraid and terrified of the waves and the river. May be in your mind, you think there is no way you can cross the river. It is too impossible. It is too difficult. It seems too terrifying.
What are you going to do about it? Will you be like the Israelites? Will you allow God to lead you? All you need to do is to follow Him. Follow His guidance. He is with you.
2.Consecrate ourselves (Joshua 3:5)
Apart from following the Ark, the second thing the Israelites have to do was to consecrate themselves.
“5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (verse 5)
Consecrate means “to be holy, to set apart”. We can’t see God at work if we are marred by sins. We can’t experience God’s presence if we choose to follow the lust of our flesh. We can not serve two masters: God and other things. We have to set ourselves apart, holy, blameless and righteous because our God is holy and righteous.
Many times in the Bible, we read how God was broken hearted at the rebellion and the sins of His people. And that God had to punish them corporately for their sins.
Before they crossed over, they had to repent and set themselves apart, not prostituting themselves with worshipping other idols or commit sins. They were to ask God for forgiveness and live in holiness.
Likewise, in our daily lives, we think thoughts, or say things that hurt God and others, intentionally or unintentionally. We need to seek God, examine our lives, confess and repent of our sins. Consecrate ourselves wholly to God and desire holy living.
(b) Welcome God’s intervention
In the Old Testament times, “consecrating oneself” also means, washing clothes, practicing ceremonial rites, refrain from having sexual relation with your spouse and so on. They had to put a hold on their daily routine and to pay attention to God’s presence.
Sometimes God calls us to do something which seemingly interrupts our daily routine. Taking time to pray, taking care of someone in need, all these may seem to interrupt our daily routine but to see God at work, we have to be willing to take extra efforts to allow God to change our time table.
Step Out in Faith
God spoke to Joshua, “8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’” and “13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
The river was at the roughest at this time of the year but God said they had to step out in faith. They first had to get their feet wet.
As James said, faith without action is dead (James 2:26). If Joshua and the leaders did not step out in faith, they would never cross the river.
Each step that you take into the unknown, you are stepping in faith. With each step by faith, you are moving closer and closer to depend not on yourself, but on God. That is where victory comes from, from God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
Imagine that the priests were carrying the Ark into the raging river. All of the Israelites were watching them in amazement, wondering what God would do next. As the priests were in the river, the water in the river gradually started to recede and the river became dry. One by one, the Israelites began to cross over: the old and the young, the grandparents and the babies, the youths and the adults, all crossing over a river that was once a fierce river.
Can you imagine the excitement? They were experiencing a miracle. They experienced God working miraculously in their midst.
The God who led the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt, to the wilderness, to crossing a gigantic river is still the same God today. I don’t know what your private battle and struggles are but please know that there is nothing too difficult for God.
We must follow Him, forsake our sins, repent and set ourselves apart for Him. Whatever He is calling you to do, step out in faith. Only when we step out in faith, we can move forward in our lives and in our faith journey.
God uses the most unlikely people for His purposes.
Lesson 3: God uses flawed people for His purposes too
Have you ever met someone who had a colourful background and yet, God is using them remarkably for His glory? We can see marks from their bodies and their faces that they had experienced some very dramatic experiences in their lives. Yet, God not only called them to Himself, He redeemed them and used them as His instruments to bless others.
Before leading the people into the Promised Land, Joshua needed to find out more about the city of Jericho. He then sent two young men disguised as foreign travellers to the city.
‘Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.’ (Joshua 2:2, NIV)
In Jericho, there was a prostitute named Rahab. She was also an innkeeper. Because of the nature of her job, as you can imagine, the other women in the city must not have liked her much. Men too, only used her to gratify their lusts and pleasures. The respectable people of the city must have avoided being in contact with her too.
Rahab’s house formed part of the outside wall of the city. Perhaps those who visited her would be able to escape quickly. Her house, used for her business, was not any holy place. However, God used her house as a hiding place for the two young men. The king of Jericho knew there were Israelite spies in the city, and he gave order to capture them. Rahab hid those two spies and therefore they were successful in their mission.
She was the last and the least, and yet, God used her in a wonderful way. God specializes in using people who are broken, flawed, rejected by society. God used Moses, a murderer. God used David, an adulterer, Samson, a philanderer, Paul, a persecutor of Christians. God used people with flaws and made them beautiful instruments for His marvellous plan.
Just like how God used Rahab, our past does not define us. Our flaws do not dictate our futures. While each of us are broken and flawed, we are still so loved by God. People may despise us but God does not despise us. We are precious in His sight. We are still worthwhile in His kingdom.
Rahab saving those two Israelite spies was not the end of the story. She survived the battle of Jericho and she became a part of the Israelite community. Later on, she married Salmon (one of the two spies), and became a respectable woman in the Israelite community. The Jewish tradition held Rahab as one of the four most beautiful women who had ever lived. She is still known as a hero of Israel today. Guess what? She was the ancestor of King David and Jesus Christ!
Her name is also recorded in the Hebrews Hall of Fame. “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Hebrews 11:31, NIV).
The Bible has many examples of ordinary people but made themselves available for God to use. Don’t be ashamed and discouraged by what had happened in your life. God holds you dearly in his hands. If you are willing, He too, can use you to bless those around you.
In the previous post, we see that Joshua relied on God’s strength to step into a huge task that seemed so overwhelming. In today’s post, we will learn to affirm God’s presence in our lives.
Lesson 2: Affirm God’s presence in your circumstances
Joshua was terrified. But God reminded him that he was not alone. God reassured him of His presence (Joshua 1:3-5).
It is in our darkest moments that we will feel God’s presence. It is in our weakest moments that we will feel His strength. When God gives you an impossible task, He will carry you through, for the sake of His plan and purpose.
We affirm God’s presence by stepping into what He is calling us to do—by faith. We need to take action. As James wrote, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).
God told Joshua, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” (Joshua 1:3, NIV). This is the promise God gave for people who are willing to take action. Unless Joshua and the Israelites move in obedience, they would not be able to accomplish what God was calling them to do.
Faith is more than knowing it in our heart. Faith is action. Joshua had to step out in faith to see God work. How is this true for your life? What are some of the ways that you are paralyzed in fear? Do you make excuses when you know God is calling you to do something?
Joshua took action despite knowing there would be dangers ahead of him. As a result, he experienced God’s blessings. When we step out in faith, we will experience God’s blessings too.
What are some of the things that you know God is calling you to take personal action? May be it is to strengthen your marriage, or to make a commitment to study the Bible consistently, serving in a church ministry or taking care of your health, let us take it a step at a time, knowing that God is with us.
I had my birthday last week. Family, close friends and church members sent their birthday greetings, and they spoiled me with yummy homemade cakes (the best!). I was deeply touched by their love and thoughtfulness.
As I am reflecting on my faith journey, there were times when I was overwhelmed and afraid. There were times when I was afraid to step into the place God has called me because I was worried that I was not good enough. What are we supposed to do when God had called us into something we think we are not ready for? Would you trust and obey and step out in faith and trust that He will lead you?
After the death of Moses, Joshua must have felt terrified too. Moses was the great leader, mightily used by God to deliver God’s people from the slavery in Egypt and to lead them on their journey towards the Promised Land. Now that Moses had passed on, Joshua certainly had big shoes to fill. It was not easy to be living under the shadow of a powerful leader. It also seemed an impossible task to lead more than 2 million people into a foreign land, to conquer it and claim it as their own.
The book of Joshua was written to continue the history of the Israelites and to reassure them that God is with them. There will be times when we are not ready for the assignment God is giving to us. With this in mind, I would like to have this mini-series on the book of Joshua. Let us learn from Joshua and follow his example of courage and faithfulness.
There are many lessons we can learn from this book.
Lesson 1: Depending on God’s strength
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites (Joshua 1:1-2).
May be Joshua was comparing himself with Moses, or he was not sure what he should do next. So, God said to him that Moses had already passed on and he needed to step up as the leader of the Israelites. Joshua had been assisting Moses for 40 years. During these 40 years, God must have been preparing him for this tremendous leadership task. Moses certainly was a great mentor to show him the ropes. Though Joshua was terrified, God reassured him that He was with Joshua. Our God is with us today too. When He calls you into something, He will certainly go with you. He gives you power to overcome your fears and courage to move forward.
What is your biggest fear that is stopping you from doing what God is calling you to do? Will you respond in faith as Joshua did?
Lean on His strength, not yours. And you will see what He will do for His glory.