Bait and Switch


Bait and Switch

Genesis 44:1–34

Joseph Detains Benjamin

Then he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the top of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him. As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, “Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup? Is it not from this that my lord drinks? Does he not indeed use it for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.’ ”

When he overtook them, he repeated these words to them. They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! Look, the money that we found at the top of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan; why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? Should it be found with any one of your servants, let him die; moreover the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.” He said, “Even so; in accordance with your words, let it be: he with whom it is found shall become my slave, but the rest of you shall go free.” Then each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. At this they tore their clothes. Then each one loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.

Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house while he was still there; and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that one such as I can practice divination?” And Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; here we are then, my lord’s slaves, both we and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.” But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the one in whose possession the cup was found shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

Judah Pleads for Benjamin’s Release

Then Judah stepped up to him and said, “O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’ When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.’ Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became surety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.”

Romans 11:13–29

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

All Israel Will Be Saved

So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”

“And this is my covenant with them,

when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

One of the oldest cons in history is the bait and switch. It’s a simple gimmick of promising one thing and delivering another, usually followed by a quick escape from angry customers. Jacob pulled this fast one one his father Isaac, getting the blessing away from his older (slightly) brother Esau. Perhaps the apple did not fall far from the tree because Jacob, promising help to his starving brothers, set them up by putting stolen goods in their bags, making them look like thieves instead of poor people begging for food.

There is actually a fair amount of deception that occurs through the Old Testament in particular, among God’s people. Where does it come from and why did God allow it among those who were supposed to be models of faithfulness and holiness in the world? I think the answer to both of these questions is going to take us back to God Himself.

God established relationships with people from the Garden of Eden to today and most of these relationships were based on some kind of promise, usually conditional, and usually involving an exchange of blessing for obedience and loyalty. Many times God delivers some kind of blessing initially with more promised to come in return for faithfulness. However, conflict arises and we find ourselves struggling to remain faithful. We begin to question the validity of God’s promise. We begin to suspect God may have pulled a bait and switch on us.

The stories of this are many. Consider Abraham, who was promised a child – only to have it delivered 20 years later. Consider Moses, who indeed led God’s people to the Promised Land but could not pass over into it himself. David was anointed King of Israel 20 years before he took the throne – most of that time in waiting he spent as a refugee from his own people, hunted by the very government he was supposed to rule over. Job was faithful and lost everything, only to have it multiplied at the end.

Two common theme in these stories are time and the purpose of blessing. We want fulfillment now, or at least 2 day shipping for free. God is looking at the long game.Tweet: We want fulfillment now, or at least 2 day shipping for free. God is looking at the long game. God is less concerned with what we acquire and more concerned with who we become. Most of the time saints are not created by comfort. They are made in the refining fire of persecution and hardship, where God’s blessing provides the right kind of relief that creates strength of character and trust in God. It also let us see the purpose of blessing is not for us to enjoy, but for us to pour into others and reflect glory back to God. It may sound unfair, but we need to remember that Jesus walked this path already. His temptation in the wilderness was to seek the blessing early and to take the glory for Himself. He chose to save His blessing for after His resurrection – out of obedience and trust in God, and patient love for us. God holds back those blessings sometimes because we are not yet ready to receive them in a way that will truly bring us closer to Him, or perhaps because we can be a greater blessing ourselves by going without for the present and receiving only later.

Paul brings this all back to a common question: Do you trust God? Do you believe that He is good? Do you believe He will come through, even if you cannot see how? That is the essence of what faith and hope are, for we cannot hope for that which we already have. Do you believe God is the real deal, or are you stuck believing you are on the wrong end of a bait and switch?

What promises has God given and followed through with you?

How has God blessed you beyond your expectations?

What are you waiting for from God right now?

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7 Godly Sins? – the Lust of God 


7 Godly Sins? – the Lust of God

If God intends on being party to every marriage, is it Lust?

Song of Solomon 7

Expressions of Praise

How graceful are your feet in sandals,

O queenly maiden!

Your rounded thighs are like jewels,

the work of a master hand.

Your navel is a rounded bowl

that never lacks mixed wine.

Your belly is a heap of wheat,

encircled with lilies.

Your two breasts are like two fawns,

twins of a gazelle.

Your neck is like an ivory tower.

Your eyes are pools in Heshbon,

by the gate of Bath-rabbim.

Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,

overlooking Damascus.

Your head crowns you like Carmel,

and your flowing locks are like purple;

a king is held captive in the tresses.

How fair and pleasant you are,

O loved one, delectable maiden!

You are stately as a palm tree,

and your breasts are like its clusters.

I say I will climb the palm tree

and lay hold of its branches.

O may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,

and the scent of your breath like apples,

and your kisses like the best wine

that goes down smoothly,

gliding over lips and teeth.

I am my beloved’s,

and his desire is for me.

Come, my beloved,

let us go forth into the fields,

and lodge in the villages;

let us go out early to the vineyards,

and see whether the vines have budded,

whether the grape blossoms have opened

and the pomegranates are in bloom.

There I will give you my love.

The mandrakes give forth fragrance,

and over our doors are all choice fruits,

new as well as old,

which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.

1 Peter 1:3-9

A Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

One cannot consider a connection between God and lust without looking at Song of Solomon. It may not be the only example of lust, nor the worst example of it… but it is one of the longest and most spiritually approved instances of physical attraction. There is no way around it. Song of Solomon is a strange book to be in the Holy Bible.

The root of this peculiarity comes from its inclusion as scripture as we understand it. By and large, since the time of the [Reformation] we have expected scripture to be historically accurate accounts of God’s work in creation and words of praise or prayers dedicated to Him. In the case of Proverbs, they may be short teachings related to worshipping and following God. There is another kind of ancient literature as well though: allegory.

Allegory is when you write or speak about one thing and use it as a comparison to something else. C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia in part as an allegory of the Christian faith. It does not matter if the stories are true or not. It only shows the relationship of the values being presented. Another biblical example is the book of Job. While we, by today’s standards would expect Job to be at least based upon a historical event. However, prior to the Reformation it was acceptable to use allegory as a means of communicating truth.

Song of Solomon was included into the Old Testament cannon because it served as an allegory to the kind of deeply personal and intimate love of God. That is to say, if a man and woman can desire one another this much, God can desire us even more. That really does not settle the weirdness though, unless we get it through our heads that allegory shows connection between two normally unlike things.

The word “love” itself falls prey to this instance all the time. We say we love our romantic partners. We love or children. We love pizza. If love meant the same thing in all three of these categories it would be criminal. So yes, God loves us like Song of Solomon describes, in terms of passion and desire, but not in the same way.

What then, does that have to do with His involvement in marriage? Well, first, let’s be honest and admit that marriages always involve more than just two people. If it were not so, there would be no such thing as mother-in-laws, and particular relationship created by marriage involving an outside person. Friends and family are all involved. Sometimes children are involved.

God becomes involved in marriages as a benefactor, or perhaps more simply as the Father of both bride and groom. He has expectations for both of them and gifts for both of them as well. 1 Peter tells us about an inheritance He is hoping to give us in that. He does not have a sexual agenda for us Himself, and His only contributions to sex are for our benefit, not His. Again, (think allegory) God does not want to be our mate. He wants to be our Lord, which is an entirely different relationship. The alternative of course is to have a marriage without His involvement. There is a long history of people who cast aside their families and friends to get married, and sometimes it works out for them in the end – particularly if they have unhealthy family systems. However, if God is a blessing to you, why would you not want to share Him with your spouse?

How is God involved in your marriage?

In what ways do you want God to be more involved?

7 Godly Sins? – the Greed of God


7 Godly Sins? – the Greed of God

If God insists his followers pay tithes and offerings for His approval, is it Greed?

Psalm 16

Song of Trust and Security in God

A Miktam of David.

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

I have no good apart from you.”

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,

in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;

their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out

or take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;

in the night also my heart instructs me.

I keep the Lord always before me;

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;

my body also rests secure.

For you do not give me up to Sheol,

or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm;

for love is strong as death,

passion fierce as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

a raging flame.

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If one offered for love

all the wealth of one’s house,

it would be utterly scorned.

David, in Psalm 16 again, begins with a comment, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” While he undoubtedly is referring to a mixture of his moral attributes as well as the blessings he enjoys, this could also be interpreted to refer to financial and material “goods” as well. Or could it? Does that even make sense to claim that we own or possess nothing but God? Do we even own or possess God to begin with? But wait, look at that verse again. It does not claim that we own nothing but God, nor does it claim we own God. He claims he has no (good thing) that exists apart from God. In other words, while he may own things, everything he has was given to him originally by God. Whether it be food, land, money, or even spiritual blessings, David knows everything he has is a gift from God.

This creates in him a spirit of gratitude, which he expresses in this psalm (and many others). He claims he would never trade the true gift: the love of God, for any possession or blessing. He knew the true value of that love. So did his son Solomon, albeit from a different perspective. While David spent much of his life as a poor man, his son Solomon was one of the wealthiest kings of his era. He found out the hard way that wealth is no replacement for love. Real love, whether it be between lovers or between God and humankind, cannot be bought.

Why then, does God ask for material offerings and tithes? Not for His sake. He has no need of money. It is for our sake. We are made to serve something, and if we do not serve God, will give our lives away to something that love us less and will not take care of us. Indeed, Jesus perhaps put it the most plainly in His teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 7:19-24

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Greed is essentially the sin of a life lived in the service of money. God commands tithes and offerings to be used to take care of those who work specifically for him, to provide for their food and shelter… and also to provide for the poor, the traveling foreigner, the orphan, and the widow. Tithes and offerings do not show God’s greed, but instead show the way He teaches us the generosity He embodies towards us all.

What do you give on a regular basis, and to whom do you give it?

Where do you see the generosity of God most?

How do you reflect that generosity of God?

7 Godly Sins? – the Pride of God


7 Godly Sins? – the Pride of God

If God expects His followers to dedicate their lives to worshipping and praying to Him, is it Pride?

1 Corinthians 15:1-111

The Resurrection of Christ

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Egos are perhaps the hungriest, neediest things in existence, psychologically speaking. Or perhaps more accurately it is the “id” that is the hungry entity and the ego struggling to feed it. There are two kinds of pride: (1) The kind that needs to have active attention to feel worthy, and (2) The kind that needs the passive attention of being needed by another – often supporting someone actively in the spotlight. We probably all fall into one of these two categories at one time or another, and this pride finds itself at the root of much suffering that goes on in the world.

Pride may not be the thing that pushes us to murder, rape, robbery, or other very visible crimes, but these things do not usually happen overnight, and it is often pride that keeps us from asking for help when we need it. Whether we are struggling with some other kind of temptation or sin ourselves or being held back by the need to help someone else without asking for help ourselves. This problem of codependency is another form of pride working its way into our life.

Let us look at God then, to determine whether or not He has a problem with pride.

Does God need all the attention? In the Old Testament, and in Genesis in particular, God did not have a temple or priests. In fact, after Adam and Eve, (who may have lived 900 years of the scripture is read literally there) 4 generations passed before people even began to “call upon the name of the Lord.2 So, for at least the first century of humanity , God did not seem to have a pride problem or a need to be involved.

If we survey the years between then and Abraham, we see God judging the earth and punishing creation with a great flood, saving only Nosh and his family, but they are not judged for not following Him. Indeed, they were all invited into that salvation. The world was judged because of the violence that fallen humanity had brought into it. By the time we get to Abraham, where much of that violence had reawakened, in a world where kings were worshipped as gods, it makes me wonder why God only picked one small family to worship Him instead of a whole nation or the whole world. Even then, the only real practice of worship that He asked of them was a few one-time sacrifices, the greatest of which was the sacrifice of Abraham’s own son Isaac which God called off a the last minute.

God does not need to be the center of attention all the time, nor does He ask for that. In the 10 commandments, He asked for one day out of seven, not every day for our attention and affection. Many of His commands were not for His benefit, but for the benefit of the poor, the orphans, the foreigners, and the widows. When we take into consideration these laws and compare them with the New Testament, where God comes to earth in the flesh as Jesus Christ, it reveals something else about Him. The Almighty, who could command obedience from the entire world, but chooses to ask it only of those willing to follow Him. However, He does not try to save the world by Himself either. He always, from the very beginning, invites others to partner with Him in the work of caring for creation.

So God is neither prideful, nor codependent in His work in the world. What is more, the effect He has on others is such that it does not make them prideful or codependent either. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he took no credit for Himself, but gave God the credit He was due – not because God demanded it from Him, but because Paul gave it gratefully in response to the work God had done in his life. God’s humility is contagious and spreads to those around Him.

  1. (Cp Mk 16:9–20)
  2. “At that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord.” – Genesis 4:26

7 Godly Sins? – the Gluttony of God


7 Godly Sins? – the Gluttony of God

If God allows anyone to go hungry unnecessarily but has plenty to eat Himself, is it Gluttony?

Psalm 16

Song of Trust and Security in God

A Miktam of David.

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

I have no good apart from you.”

As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,

in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;

their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out

or take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;

in the night also my heart instructs me.

I keep the Lord always before me;

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;

my body also rests secure.

For you do not give me up to Sheol,

or let your faithful one see the Pit.

You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Before addressing the sin of gluttony pertaining to God, we probably have to back up and ask if God Himself even eats at all. The Bible doesn’t exactly say other than we know Jesus ate while He was here on earth. Much of the promises of a heavenly banquet do not come from images of heaven, either in the prophets or Revelation, but from the parables of Jesus, often initiated with the phrase “the Kingdom of Heaven is like…”. That phrase “is like” signifies the introduction of a simile: a logical comparison between two separate things. Similes typically focus on one main similarity while the other details between the two things may differ entirely. So, when Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding feast, we usually focus on the existence of a bride and groom and celebration of their union…not what kind of food they serve as the uniting factor between the wedding and God’s kingdom.

It is doubtful whether God needs to eat at all, and if He did, the One who spoke creation into existence would not need anyone to cook for Him. So to speak of God as a glutton, someone constantly consuming to fill an empty void inside is to completely misunderstand Who God is. Scripture shows God to be just the opposite. He is the One Who gives. Pagan gods demand sacrifices to consume. Our God gives of Himself and provides for us to eat rather than focusing on Himself. It is Jesus Christ who said,

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

God does not take food away from the hungry to feed Himself. He gives of Himself to feed the hungry. He teaches His people to do the same. Why are their people starving to death every day? Because we do not follow God’s example. We steal food from the poor every day.

What? Steal food? Surely that is too harsh.

I think not. My small hometown in Illinois has struggled to keep a grocery store over the last few decades. Not only is it difficult to keep people with vehicles from traveling to other cities where bigger stores sell greater variety, the food trucks themselves refuse to even come into town, out of their way, if they are not guaranteed a minimum payment – something that often exceeds what the people are able to purchase. Those who have money simply go elsewhere, but those who cannot afford to drive to the nearest city go without. Imagine that on a global scale where entire nations in Africa would love to purchase beef from Texas, but cannot outbid European or wealthier Asian countries. The availability of the food goes where the money is, and where there is no surplus of wealth, the people go hungry.

The situation might be remedied if everyone worked for free and made sure every other person had food without payment. That kind of global socialism though would mean that you would likely have no choices in what you ate or how much you were given – something that would apall most western-minded people. We want our choices and we want to go back for seconds. That, my friends is the spirit of gluttony at work in us, not in God, who provides land, plants, and animals to the entire world. It is our choices that make some go hungry.

Paul, in writing to the Christians at Colossae encourages them with these commands:

Colossians 4:2-5

Further Instructions

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should.

Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.

For Paul, who knew what it meant to go hungry and to have limited food options, the focus was on gratitude, contentment, and sharing. Words and deeds were opportunities to either reflect the selfless giving of Jesus Christ or the self-centered nature of sin. He commended the early Christians to be examples of the love of God, not examples of gluttony in our world today.

How do you show your gratitude for the life God has given you?

What luxury would be hardest for you to give up?

Who can you bless by giving to or sharing with them today?

7 Godly Sins? – the Sloth of God


7 Godly Sins? – the Sloth of God

If God lets tragedies and disasters happen which He could have prevented, is it Sloth?

Joshua 3:1-17

Israel Crosses the Jordan

Early in the morning Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites, and they came to the Jordan. They camped there before crossing over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place. Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, a distance of about two thousand cubits; do not come any nearer to it.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” To the priests Joshua said, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass on in front of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went in front of the people.

The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’ ” Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.” Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

There is a short comic strip that will ruin The Lord of the Rings for you with one glance. Whether you are a fan of the book or movies, it doesn’t matter. Despite Tolkien’s beautiful language and powerful imagination, some people have pointed out the major plot hole that the stories could have been 2 and ¾ books/movies shorter if they had just called the eagles to fly them over Mount Doom to begin with, instead of waiting until the very end. Here is a short video that explains why that would not work:

We can laugh and joke about ideas like this, but many have taken this same situation and applied it to God and His relationship to people in in our world. If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He just do all the work for us and save us from danger, toil, and snares. Wouldn’t he be considered slothful or lazy if He did not?

God wiped out the entire Egyptian army in one fell swoop. Why then did He make the Israelites carry His ark and fight their way into and through the Promised Land? These are valid questions…Good questions even. But they do not offer the complete picture. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves is it easier to give a man a fish and feed him for a day or to teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime? Most would say just feeding him is easier. Easier is not the same as better though, and the easier path often ends up being the path of sloth in the end.

It might be easier for parents to feed children through feeding tubes, keeping them locked in rooms, safe and secure from the world. Most would call that abuse though, not the kind of love that goes the extra mile. It is harder to let them go and grow, making their own decisions, and gradually allowing them to join in the work of the entire family. That is what I believe God is trying to do with us.

It means allowing us the freedom to try, even though God could always do better Himself. It is not because He desperately needs us to help Him. Rather I think it is that we desperately need to be a part of His work in this world to give our lives purpose. Even Jesus called the disciples to do things He could have easily done Himself. Here he asks them to go tell people about his resurrection, right before He planned on visiting them and showing them Himself. There is no logical necessity of the act from the perspective of just spreading the news about the resurrection. Jesus Himself was much more credible. But I think it was important for the growth and development of the disciples themselves.

Matthew 28:1-101

The Resurrection of Jesus

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Pointing our finger at the laziness of God regarding tragedy and disasters is a bit of a cop out if we are unable or unwilling to do anything to prevent or bring healing to them ourselves, and looking for sloth in God usually only exposes it in ourselves.

What is one thing you wish God would do for you today?

What have you done about that situation yourself?

What is one thing that God wishes you would do today?

  1. (Mk 16:1–8; Lk 24:1–12; Jn 20:1–10)

7 Godly Sins? – the Envy of God


7 Godly Sins? – the Envy of God

If God punishes people for believing in a different God, is it Envy?

Exodus 15:1-181

The Song of Moses

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my might,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The Lord is a warrior;

the Lord is his name.

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;

his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

The floods covered them;

they went down into the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power—

your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.

In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;

you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.

At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,

the floods stood up in a heap;

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

You stretched out your right hand,

the earth swallowed them.

“In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed;

you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

The peoples heard, they trembled;

pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia.

Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;

trembling seized the leaders of Moab;

all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away.

Terror and dread fell upon them;

by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone

until your people, O Lord, passed by,

until the people whom you acquired passed by.

You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession,

the place, O Lord, that you made your abode,

the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.

The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

Like many sins, love is often misconstrued as sin, and vice versa. Envy is one of those sins which is particularly susceptible to this misperception.

Looking at words or even watching actions from afar is often not enough to tell whether love is true or not. I can understand how someone could take a look at the 10 commandments and see envy present in God. After all, the first two commandments are about worshipping Him and Him alone. How could that not be envious?

Furthermore, the whole account of the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt is like one giant example of God punishing people for not following Him, both from the Egyptians as well as among the Hebrew people themselves. Moses sings about this in his song that retells their experience escaping Egypt.

What exactly does it mean to belong to a God?

According to the Baal worship in Canaan, which was actually a collection of regional gods worshipped in similar ways, sacrifices were made in worship ceremonies. Most of these sacrifices were of grain or livestock. This was not unlike the sacrifices the Hebrews would offer YHWH. These sacrifices show that the Baal’s favor must be bought with regular offerings.

After the sacrifices the community would engage in sexual acts as a depiction of this God, and sometimes goddess of fertility. While I’m sure there were some that enjoyed this part of the service, I’m also sure that not everyone was their of their own choice. Young boys and girls were likely initiated into this practice against their will, the same way the are trafficked all over the world today.

In some cases, it was even worse. Gods like Dagon and Molech often demanded child sacrifices, burned along with their food offerings. Over time it would be understood by the people that everything they had, their bodies, and even their lives belonged to that God. They were slaves of a hungry, envious God.

YHWH was different though. He did not ask to have his favor earned ever. He asked only for gratitude for what He had already done. He forbade all human sacrifices and community sexual exploits. God’s laws were set up not so He would possess us, but so that His people would choose him each day.

Let’s look at those first two commandments from another perspective.

If a parent tells their children not to get into cars with strangers, we all understand that as a desire to keep the children safe, not to prevent them from possibly going home and being adopted by someone richer and/or more loving. We applaud that act and call it good parenting. Does that make them jealous of the affection of their children. Not necessarily. Or if a person sees children caught in an abusive situation or being neglected and wants to help them out by getting custody of them, does that make them envious? Not necessarily. In some cases it might be envy that is motivating the would-be caregivers, but often it is compassion instead.

I expect it is the term “caregiver” that makes the difference between envy and love. Is your God providing care or just asking for your devotion. Is your God demanding payment for services rendered, or merely looking for gratitude. This is what set God apart from all others in the Old Testament and it is what set Jesus apart from all the false teachers and messiahs in the New Testament as well.

What does your God ask of you?

What does your God provide for you?

  1. (Ex 14:13–14; Ps 78:12–14)