In the early days of the New Testament, God raised up a leader to lead his people by communicating spiritually to that leader. After Joshua died, God did not select another leader to guide the Hebrews.  It was not God’s will for God’s nation to be ruled by one man.

29 And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 30 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathserah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash. 31 And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel.Joshua 24:29-31

Judges arose during Israel’s ‘Theocracy’ because of problems, sin and bad situations that developed for the Hebrews. A cycle of governance was repeated over and over again during Israel’s history of that time.

11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: 12 And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.

13 And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 14 And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.

16 Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. 17 And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord; but they did not so.

18 And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.

19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way. Joshua 2:11-19

This could be written today and applied to our culture today. Our government is not a theocracy as evidenced by confusion, corruptness, immorality, lack of believing, greed and self-centeredness. When  people turn their backs to the God who created the universe, man scrambles to construct ‘ism’s’ in God’s place to control and regulate the problems that ensue. The only way to get rid of problems is to follow the right way and get back to loving and believing God.

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Part 1 – Covered – Atonement

In the Bible, the words, atonement, reconciliation, propitiation, are huge building blocks in scripture. Many theologians write about what these words mean and it can get very confusing because of the various theologies that have been spawned. The best place to look is God’s word. God never intended to make his word difficult, therefore we need to keep it simple and expect to get answers from him.

The word ‘atonement’ is almost exclusively used in the Old Testament.  In Genesis 6:14, the first usage of the Hebrew word for atonement is ‘kaphar’ and translated ‘pitch’.  ‘Pitch’ was a tarry substance.  It was a sealer God instructed Noah to cover the ark in pitch :

14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. Genesis 6:14

The ark had to be covered inside and out to prevent leaks.  Atonement in the Old Testament was a covering. It was a type of rescue on a temporary basis.The Hebrews had various offerings and sacrifices that could be used  to worship, receive forgiveness and exhibit commitment to God. These offerings were repeated and continued for reconciliation with God.

The next few places in the word where atonement is found is in Exodus 29-30 and indeed shows repeated action:

10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the Lord. Exodus 30:10

In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived in paradise, until they chose to not listen to God and thus sinned. Sin is simply not listening to God and therefore consequences develop because people look to something else other than God.

What caused the problems in Genesis 3? It wasn’t God. God is love and in God  is no darkness at all. As a result, he provided Adam and Eve with coats of skin  from animals for a covering. They had made fig leaves to cover their shame of their nakedness.

21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

God meets needs of people where they at in their minds. Covering up is not God’s heart.

Jesus Christ, who was God’s propitiation, brought about true, permanent reconciliation with God.  In the New Testament, the Greek word from which reconciliation was translated from means to change thoroughly. Reconciliation with God is to have a complete relationship with God.

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Part 2 – Reconciliation and Propitiation

In the New Testament, the King James Version, uses the word ‘atonement’ only once in Romans 5:11:

11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Romans 5:11

The Greek work that ‘atonement’ is translated from is the Greek word, ‘katalagge’ which in the other 5 places that it is used is translated ‘reconciliation’. This word has been defined as ‘restoration to favor’ and tied to the greek verb, ‘to reconcile’  indicating ‘to change thoroughly’. Probably the translators should have stayed with the word ‘reconciliation’ rather than ‘atonement’. The words reconciliation and to be reconciled are also found in II Corinthians 5:18-20:

18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Corinthians 5:18-19

It is important to recognize that reconciliation involves being reconciled to God. It is in turning to God that we receive all that God has made available to us. When we have our back to God we don’t receive. There is absolutely no darkness in God; God is pure love. Darkness comes upon us when we turn away from the light.

Sin is turning our back to God. It is when we take off in a dark direction, ignoring the light. Jesus Christ was a light unto the world:

12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.John 8:1

This ties into the word ‘propitiation’.

9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. I John 4:9-11

In the New Testament Covenant, the way back to God is not through the blood of lambs, goats or bird or bulls offered on a continual basis.  Instead, Jesus Christ was the once and all time propitiation and path for victory over darkness for  all men specifically for those who choose to change direction and follow light.

The word of reconciliation has been committed to us. God is very much in favor of reconciliation. In II Corinthians 5:19-20 above, notice the phrase “not imputing their trespasses unto them”. Does God focus on sin? No! Does God focus on having a relationship with him? It certainly seems so!

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Our Spiritual Engine

Sandwiched in between I Corinthians 12 and I Corinthians 14, there is a much-quoted and maybe misunderstood section of scripture. In chapter 12, the ‘spiritual matters’ in the new creation are illuminated. Chapter 14 contains the practical use of the spiritual functions in the community. In between, at the heart of this whole section, is the love of God spelled out in chapter 13.

These chapters did not fall together haphazardly. The gift of holy spirit that we have been given as a result of the new birth is the love of God shed throughout our beings. It is not just a worldly love as verse 3 indicates:

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity (love of God), it profiteth me nothing. I Corinthians 13:3

There is nothing wrong with doing good works, but it is important to know the cart does not go before the horse. Work does not come before love has established that work. The engine behind any spiritual good that we do is the originator of the gift, our Father, God.

In the Corinthians group, all those who received the gift of holy spirit could operate that gift.  It wasn’t just relegated to a chosen few. Paul wrote about how they were to keep things in order among such a spiritually endowed group in these three chapters.

In chapter 13:4-8 sits a figure of speech called Asyndeton where several things are listed together and at the end of the list is an all-encompassing summation: ‘The love of God never faileth.’

4 Charity  suffereth long (long-tempered), and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: Corinthians 13: 4-8a

This list is not something we break apart into individual bite size pieces, study and try to incorporate into our actions. This is something that emanates as we carry out the love that God powers in our hearts to do the works he would have us to do.

If, say, “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things”  or “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” is taken out of the mix, what have you got? The ‘things’ listed here refer to the things that God provides as described in his Word. If the Word is not there, what then is there to rejoice in?

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4 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy (axios-corresponding to the real value) of the vocation wherewith ye are called,  Ephesians 4:1

What’s the therefore there for? It is the connection to chapters 1-3 of Ephesians. Those first three chapters are a beautiful lead up to the second half (the practical) of Ephesians. It is great description of all that is involved in the summons to the high calling of God that enables us to walk practically with each other. here are just a few nuggets:

4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Ephesians 1:4

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Ephesians 1:17-19

21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: Ephesians 1:21

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Ephesians 3:16-20

When you read through these chapters in Ephesians, the word ‘worthy’ in 4:1 takes on a powerful meaning.  The real value of our vocation and our worthiness is what we receive from God. It is not about what we do, but what God has done. We walk in that!

So how do we walk in it? The next verse tells us:

2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering (not short-tempered), forbearing (standing firm) one another in love; Ephesians 4:2

It starts with lowliness (living with dependence on God) and gentleness with humility to God. When taken in context these words are powerful and do not convey any weakness. We rise above all circumstances by staying under the wings of God. This should be no-brainer for anyone who believes chapters 1-3!


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Joshua: A Type

In Joshua 23-24, Joshua addressed the Hebrew leaders in a speech that had poignant meaning for all of them. It was full of encouragement, yet not without warning.  He revisited their victories and reminded them how God took care of them.  He did not leave out the sinking sand warnings of idolatry.  The culture that surrounded them could easily dupe them into accepting so much less that what God desired for their life. It had the potential to cast a shadow on the riches of God’s grace and desire for all individuals.

There is a direct call to monotheism rather than the worship of pagans gods:

14 Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood (Euphrates), or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:14-15

The  gods they had been exposed to belong to three groups: The Chaldeans, Egyptians, and the Canaanites.  Joshua gave them the choice and told them about his own choice.  The last part of verse 15 is a much-quoted verse. It means so much more when it is quoted within the context of what was said. Joshua was saying “I choose God and that is who I serve.” He also made the point that you can’t mix it up with pagan gods and serve the one true God at the same time.

Each tribe was responsible for his own dominion. At the end of the speech, Joshua sent “every man unto his own inheritance”. ‘One man shall chase a thousand’ is another much-quoted verse (23:10) in this speech. Again the context within which this diamond sits is an encouraging thought. He saw them as doers, not pew sitters. That was the kind of leader Joshua was.

Joshua was a type of the future Christ. Joshua in Hebrew is Jesus in Greek. Joshua led the Hebrews to a physical military victory. Jesus leads to the spiritual victories of the New Covenant. They both were catalysts to those around them. Joshua’s victories related to the physical and temporal, Jesus’s to the spiritual and eternal.

Joshua was an amazing leader (I really prefer the word ‘catalyst’ for ‘leader’). Idolatry exists in the world today just as it did back in his time. We see it in religion, politics, entertainment, family and educational culture and ethics, just to name a few areas where it seeks to hide. Idolatry hides today behind political correctness and tolerance. Jesus Christ’s purpose was to flush out and expose even the most subtle tentacles by which it seeks its power. Jesus Christ is the head of the church that we belong to today. Understanding this not only opens our eyes; it gives strength, comfort and resolve to deal with things around us.

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Conflict and Joshua 22

IMG_7660 (5)Three tribes of Israel, Ruben, Gad and the 1/2 tribe of Manasseh, asked Moses about settling on the east side of the Jordan.  In  Joshua 22:9, this request was acknowledged  “according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses”. These  tribes then built an altar that caused all sorts of angst with the other tribes. The other tribes thought of this as a turning away and that, in essence, they were starting a new denomination. It took a little conversation and practical reasoning to avert a crisis.

Living in a day and time that has something like 24,000 different religious bodies, this type of argument is ever with us and sometimes it can be quite difficult to sort out. It was determined in Joshua 22, that all were worshipping the same God and that the altar the 2 1/2 tribes built would serve as a memorial to that commitment. Phineas got involved along with the princes of the tribes. It was settled peaceably. There were other times in the history of their trek to the promised land when some of them started worshipping other gods and it was not so easy. Phineas was also in on dealing with the sin of Peor in Number 25. The results were more severe on that occasion.

So how does one navigate in the world today with different doctrines and traditions? Nothing is black and white. We all can be cajoled into going along with stuff that goes against what we believe in for “love’s” sake, but  honestly, “love” can also be standing up for what is right. That kind of “love” is not legalism. There is a big difference. It takes patience, peace, love and humility to recognize the plain path. To maintain a “righteous” attitude is to go to God with whatever is set in front of you that is disconcerting and allow God to work. Job was a great example of this. He had some pretty nasty judgment thrown out at him from 4 people, but he held out for God’s answer. That is where peace comes in, settles the heart and brings freedom from fear!

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