If these stones could talk

In rooms that may have seen a lot of action or secrets, one might wonder what the walls would say if they could talk. Since much of what is recorded in the Bible took place outside or in tents, if these walls could talk isn’t really pertinent. But there is something else that was present at pretty much every major biblical event. Stones.

Rocks, not even precious ones, hold great importance in scriptures. Jesus himself is referred to as a stone.

The stone the builders rejects
has become the capstone.

Luke 20:17 (quoting Psalm 118:22) (NIV)

In Joshua 22:10, the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar of stone to stand as a witness to future generations that they worship the Lord.

In Joshua 4:7, Joshua commanded that twelve stones be taken from the middle of the Jordan River that Israel had just crossed. Those stones would become a memorial to Israel for all God has done for His people.

Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:31, took twelves stones to repair the altar of the Lord.

In 1 Samuel 17:40, David selected five smooth stones to take with him into battle against Goliath.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the passover, his followers shouted his praises. The Pharisees, as usual, weren’t impressed and wanted Jesus to silence them. He refused.

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Luke 19:40 (NIV)

I don’t think that Jesus meant every inanimate stone laying on the ground would suddenly find its voice. I believe Jesus was referring to every stone set up as a memorial in God’s name, every stone used in the name of the Lord, every stone that stood as a witness to God’s glory and greatness.

And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.

“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.

Joshua 24:26-27 (NIV)

If we keep silent in our praise, I believe that God truly can make these memorial stones speak out. They have been made witnesses to miracles and wonders—the very things we should be proclaiming at every opportunity.

We may wish to know what the walls of The Oval Office may have to say if they could talk, but we shouldn’t have to wonder what the stones would say. We should be saying it for them.

Read: 2 Samuel 10-12, Luke 19:29-48

As for me and my house

Every person on the planet—whether they realise it or not—has made a choice about God. There are only two ways to decide, but many ways that decision can be made.

  • Ignorance—some people’s choice has been taken out of their hands. By not knowing about God, sadly, their choice is against Him.
  • Misinformation—some people make their choice about God based on hearsay. They don’t really know the truth for themselves and trust in the word of another, whether right or wrong. Again, sadly, many make a choice against God because they believed a single person’s opinion over the actual Word of God.
  • Fact—I  personally know people who have weighed all the facts and still made a choice against God. It is a conscious decision to reject the Lord.
  • Personal desires— some are under the impression that a life lived for God is boring and useless and too costly, so they reject Him.
  • Truth—there are those still, who know and understand the truth of the Word of God and accept it.

No matter what we choose or how our choice is made, we do make the choice and there are consequences either way.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.

Romans 6:23 (NIV)

At the end of his life, Joshua gathered Israel together for one final pep rally. He recounted all that God had done in bringing them out of Egypt and into the land of promise. He closed with this:

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods you forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, of the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:14-15 (NIV)

For Israel, the consequences of rejecting God to serve other gods was dire. Along the way from Egypt to Canaan, He made it pretty clear how things would go for them if they went against Him.

If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make and end of you, after he has been good to you.

Joshua 24:20 (NIV)

Now, we are no longer under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). God is not going to smite us should we refuse His gift of salvation. No, we bring ruin upon ourselves.

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slave, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Romans 6:16 (NIV)

No matter what choice we make, we must be prepared to live (or die) with the consequences. But, so long as there is breath in your lungs, it is never too late to make a declaration like Joshua: But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Read: Joshua 23-24 Luke 6:27-49

Waiting room

Sometimes life, for all it’s hurry, seems like a long stint in a waiting room. When you’re a kid, you wait to grow up. When you grow up, you wait to find the right person to spend the rest of your life with. When you’ve found that person, you wait to start a family. And those are just the big things. We wait for bedtime. We wait for the alarm clock to ring. We wait to start work and we wait to finish work. We wait at lights and stop signs, checkouts and check-ins. And in all that waiting, what are we really doing?

Israel had waited a long time to obtain their promise. When God sent Moses to get them out of Egypt, it should have just been a few weeks at most before their arrival in the land of milk and honey. Instead, it was over forty years. And that was just to get across the river! There was a lot more waiting involved once they crossed over. By this time Joshua, a young man when he was first sent to scout out the land, was old. He’d seen a lot in his day. He’d led Israel into their promise and fought with them to take hold of it. And after all that waiting, Israel still waited.

So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”

Joshua 18:3 (NIV)

Here Israel stood, in their promise. And they stood around waiting to take hold of it. They got exactly what God told them He would give them and still they waited.

This week, Major League Baseball begins a new season. My team is the Toronto Blue Jays. I’ve followed the team all through the off season and have watched as many spring training games as have been aired on television. I know that there were some pretty major trades since the fall. I know some players got healthy, while others will begin the season on the disabled list. I also know that, through the spring, the coaches and trainers have worked with all of the players to make sure that they’re in the best shape they can be, that they know their roles on the team, and know the plan for the team in the season ahead. They’re prepared.

Let’s say that opening day arrives and the Blue Jays take the field at Rogers Centre. Pitcher J. Happ takes the mound and the first Yankee in the lineup steps up to the plate. The Jays stand in the middle of the field as though they have no idea what’s going on.

Joshua must have felt like the manager of such a team. All that time, preparation, and waiting led them to where they were and then they waited while all that time, they could have been taking possession of a fruitful land!

I bet God feels that way with us sometimes. He’s given us everything we need to succeed. We have what we need to see His many promises come to pass. But most of us sit waiting for something to magically happen.

I understand that some people may be waiting for a word from the Lord regarding a specific situation, but that’s no excuse to put everything else on hold. The Bible is our rulebook, playbook, and instruction manual all in one. It has guidelines on how we should live, methods on how we can do it, and practical examples of how others were able to accomplish it.

We can add to all of the waiting we must already endure or we can take Jesus’ lead and go out and take hold of God’s promises for us. The Blue Jays are going to do everything they can to win the World Series this year. They’re not going to wait for it to come to them, because it won’t. It takes hard work, endurance, and determination. The same went for Israel as they took the Promised Land. And the same goes for us if we want to see God move on our behalf.

Read: Joshua 116-18, Luke 5:1-16

Stones

Joshua said to all the people, “This stone has heard everything the Lord said to us. It will be a witness to testify against you if you go back on your word to God.”

Joshua 24:27 (NLT)

It was common in those days to use stones as witnesses of great events (not that they’d be able to testify in a court of law). When God did something great and mighty, Israel would oft erect a large stone. This would serve as a reminder to them as well as to future generations of God’s goodness and mercy. These stones proclaimed God’s greatness to all who saw them.

Upon reading the verse in Joshua, I was reminded of another scripture regarding stones:

Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these [people] keep silent, the stones will cry out [in praise]!”

Luke 19:40 (AMP)

And then I got to thinking—dangerous, I know. Perhaps Jesus wasn’t referring to just any old stones along the road. Perhaps he was referring to all of the witness stones that the Jews had raised up over the years. Perhaps if his followers failed to proclaim his glory, those stones really would cry out their reminders of God’s grace and goodness.

As a male Jew who had spent many hours in the temple, Jesus would have well known of all the stones his ancestors had stood up. As the Son of God, he knew exactly why each and every stone sat where it did. He knew that every stone proudly proclaimed the glory and awesome works of the Father.

If we don’t proclaim the Good News, maybe those old stones will really cry out.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 23-24, Luke 6:27-49

A promise kept

I’ve often heard that God can do whatever He wants. He can do anything. There is nothing He cannot do. I will never dispute the omnipotence of God. There is no one or nothing more able than He. But there are a few things that God truly is incapable of.

God cannot lie. It is not in His nature to do so. If He is Truth, there can be no falsehood in Him at all. God cannot hate. Again, if He is Love, there is room for nothing else. So, if God has made a promise, He is unable to break it. It must come to pass.

Israel, as much as they seemed to love wandering in the wilderness or being enslaved by other nations, had a promise from God. They would have their own land. Good land. Prosperous land. And, nearly a half century after they left their bondage in Egypt, they got their land. Every tribe had received their inheritance. They were able to drive their enemies from the land and finally live in peace.

Could they have done this on their own? Most certainly not! They were a fickle nation—impatient with a tendency to be easily swayed away from God even though they were a massive living, breathing, eating, walking miracle. Could God have just pulled them out of Egypt and plopped them in the Promised Land? Probably. But would they have been able to enjoy the land? Would they have had peace within their borders? Would they have learned to trust God?

If you give a kid everything they want without making them work for any of it, what do you get? A spoiled brat! Like Veruca Salt wanting the golden egg now, a kid who has never has to work for a reward isn’t good for much of anything. They’re a bad egg.

But teach a kid to work for reward and they have the opportunity to become successful, valuable members in society. Perhaps this is the same principle God was using in leading Israel from Egypt. Had they made it to Canaan in the two weeks it should have taken them, I doubt they would have been able to take the land. The scouts Moses sent ahead were proof of that.

Instead, it took an entire generation to retrain a nation for victory. God had to wait until the unbelief died off and only the faithful remained. It took 40 years of training and teaching for Israel to finally be ready to take hold of their Promise.

So when it seems as though you’re being led through the wilderness, perhaps it is God trying to train and teach you to take the promise. God doesn’t need a nation of spoiled brats, He needs an army of strong servants.

All of the good promises that the Lord had given Israel came true.

Joshua 21:45 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 21-22, Luke 6:1-26

It worked

Once all the tribes of Israel had received their inheritance, it was Joshua’s turn. Because of his loyalty and leadership, God said he could have any town he wanted. Any town in all of Israel! There were a lot of towns to choose from. And, it seems, with no hesitation, Joshua chose Timnath-serah. In the hill country. Of Ephraim.

After all the land was divided among the tribes, the Israelites gave a special piece of land to Joshua as his inheritance. For the Lord had said he could have any town he wanted. He chose Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. He rebuilt the town and lived there.

Joshua 19:49-50 (NLT)

Oh, that hill country! Joshua chose to take land and make his permanent home in the land that wasn’t enough for the descendants of Joseph. That had too many trees and too many Canaanites with iron chariots.

I’d like to think that Joshua took that particular spot to prove a point. The tribe of Ephraim wasn’t satisfied there. But Joshua and his family would be. What Ephraim saw as a burden, Joshua would prove to be a blessing.

If God has given you a blessing that requires work, but you refuse to do the work, do you think it will stay in your possession forever? Of all the places Joshua could have taken, he took the place that another tribe had made little of. Joshua was able to see the potential in the problem and decided it would be for him and his own for generations to come.

If you don’t work your blessing, someone else will.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 19-20, Luke 5:17-39

Work it

I love moments of sarcasm in the Bible. One of the best is when Elijah is on top of Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal for the purpose of calling down rain. When the rain doesn’t come, Elijah taunts the prophets suggesting that their god is on vacation or perhaps relieving himself. Who says the great prophets were boring old men?

In Joshua 17, the tribes of the descendants of Joseph come whining to Joshua that they have not been given an inheritance of land in accordance with their numbers.

The descendants of Joseph came to Joshua and asked, “Why have you given us only one portion of land when the Lord has given us so many people?”

Joshua 17:14 (NLT)

Joshua offers them the hill country. It is both inhabited and forested. They can drive out the inhabitants and go into the forestry industry. They didn’t so much like that idea since it would require more than a little work on their part so they told Joshua that they would be unable to take that land (I’m sure they were hoping for some additional prime property, something move-in ready).

Then Joshua said to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph, “Since you are so large and strong, you will be given more than one portion. The forests of the hill country will be yours as well. Clear as much of the land as you wish and live there. And I am sure you can drive out the Canaanites from the valleys, too, even though they are strong and have iron chariots.

Joshua 17:17-18 (NLT)

Never tell a leader you’re big and strong and then try to convince them you can’t do the work they’ve asked you to do. Joshua would have none of what the descendants of Joseph were trying to hand out. He offered them a prosperous land. If there were tribes living there, surely it wasn’t a horrible place to live. If they had iron chariots, surely the land would be prosperous. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh didn’t want to involve themselves in the work required to take their inheritance.

Sometimes, a blessing looks like work. I don’t think Joshua was trying to be mean when he gave those tribes exactly what they didn’t want. I’m willing to bet that Joshua saw the potential in the hill country—something the descendants of Joseph could not see at the time.

Even though God promised a large portion of prosperous land to Israel, they weren’t able to just walk in and move in. Their blessing took work. A lot of work. After five years across the Jordan River and they had yet to claim everything that God had promised to them.

Don’t despair if what’s before you doesn’t look like a blessing. If a blessing looks like something else at first, work it.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 16-18, Luke 5:1-16

Set apart

CONSECRATE: To make or declare to be sacred, by certain ceremonies or rites; to appropriate to sacred uses; to set apart, dedicate, or devote, to the service and worship of God.

When I read this word, I can’t help but take it personally. My name literally means consecrated to God. But you don’t have to be named Elizabeth to be consecrated to God.

…you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)

One translation says we are set aside to be a royal order of priests. Set apart. Consecrated.

But Israel was unfaithful concerning the things set apart for the Lord.*

Joshua 7:1a (NLT)

*The Hebrew term used here refers to the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by completely destroying or by giving them as an offering.

The blood of Jesus as a sacrifice completes our consecration. We belong to God. We are His possession.

In our reading in Joshua today, we see how the selfishness of just one man caused the death of many as well as Israel’s defeat in battle. Because one man withheld what belonged to God, the entire nation suffered.

Since this line of study is so personal to me, I had to ask myself the question of whether or not I’ve been faithful with the thing set apart for the Lord. That thing is my life. Have I been faithful to God with my life? Am I that one person who causes the entire body to suffer loss because of my own selfishness? God, I hope not.

But if I am, if you are, there is still hope! Israel was able to rectify the situation. While the unfaithful man and his family were stoned to death and burned, we have a greater hope. Israel built an altar and offered sacrifices before the Lord. Our sacrifice has already been made. Jesus blood was enough and still is enough to intercede for our unfaithfulness.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

Romans 3:23-25a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 7-8, Luke 2:25-52

Never fail

Sometimes I like to look up words that I hear a lot. In the church, we often hear that God will neither fail nor forsake us. But what the heck does forsake really mean? It’s almost Shakespearean in nature.

FORSAKE: to quit or leave entirely; to desert; to abandon; to depart from; to renounce; to reject; to leave; to withdraw from.

As Moses’ time as leader over Israel is coming to a close, God is giving him a few parting words for Israel and for Joshua—the man who would take Moses’ place.

Be strong and courageous! Do no be afraid of them! The Lord your God will go ahead of you. He will never fail you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

All through the Bible, God tells His people that He will never leave us. He will never abandon us. He will never depart from us. He will never renounce us. He will never reject us. He will never quit us.

So why do we have churches full of people who feel far from God? God is incapable of breaking His Word. He can’t leave us. Could it be that we are the ones who have pulled away from Him?

Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites.

James 4:8 (NLT)

As soon as we turn toward sin, we turn away from God. In order to feel close to God, all we must do it turn to Him. How difficult we have made such a simple thing! There is no great secret to being close to God. Our relationship with Him works the same as our relationship with others—we have to pursue someone in order to have a relationship with them. If we aren’t pursuing God, how can we ever expect to feel close to Him?

Take courage, though! Be strong! God has already gone ahead of us. He may be just out of our line of sight, but it is never, ever too late to catch up. If we make it a priority to pursue Him, He is faithful. He will never fail us.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 31-32, Luke 1:1-23

Praise

As a worship leader, I’m always partial toward scripture that references music. But even if I weren’t a musician, one can’t help but see a correlation between praise and victory.

When they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and the Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.

2 Chronicles 20:22 (ESV)

Remember, too, in Joshua (6:20), that it was a shout of praise that took the city of Jericho down.

When God’s people praise, great things happen. When we recognise God for who and what He is and let the world know, He stands up for us. He fights for us.

For the battle is not yours but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15b (ESV)

Instead of putting on our battle gear, maybe we, as the chosen children of God, should just stand up and praise God for what He has done and what we know He can do.

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.

Exodus 14:14 (NKJV)

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 20-22; John 16:1-15