April 21, 2015

The Last Word

Joshua 7:1–8:35, 2 Corinthians 10:1–8, Psalm 49:1–20

In the Old Testament narrative, the Israelites were entering the Promised Land. Just after the victory at Jericho, Joshua moved his army to conquer the next enemy city, but they were soundly defeated. The Scripture says “their hearts melted like water.”

On those days when it seems I have no spiritual power and my heart melts like water, I could blame the enemy who wants to defeat my confidence in God. However, I could also blame myself and need to ask the Lord to search my heart. What happened to the army of Joshua instructs me . . .

The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things (spoils of war that God told them to destroy); they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. (Joshua 7:10–12)

Though a process of elimination, Joshua found out who had sinned against God and rendered the army powerless against their enemy. His name was Achan and his confession actually glorified God . . .

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did . . .”  (Joshua 7:19–20)

Achan suffered the extreme penalty for his sin. He died along with everyone in his family. God is serious about sin and its wages has always meant death. Thankfully, the NT tells the world that Jesus Christ has suffered that death in our place. God’s Son took my punishment for sin. God declares that all who put their faith in Him will not perish.

As a Christian, I still fight my enemy and need to defeat evil and put it utterly out of my life. Instead of swords, my battle is a different kind of struggle: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10:3–6)

I’m not destroying physical cities or other people, but the sin that wants to drag me down. I’m also battling with the devil who tells me lies in an effort to turn me from God. Some lies are easy to discern; others not so much.

The psalmist offers one solution to one of those battles. Satan suggests that I need to heap up financial wealth and if I don’t, then I cannot truly enjoy life or be secure. He wants me to envy the rich and make success my goal. God says otherwise. His value system has nothing to do with money. He promises to take care of those who trust Him. For this, the psalmist says . . .

Be not afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases. For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him. For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself— his soul will go to the generation of his fathers, who will never again see light. Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish. (Psalm 49:16–20)

Today I had some spoils of war in my tent that needed tossing. Today I pulled down one of those strongholds. It wasn’t about money, at least not this time. My enemy has been routed, but I’m certain this is not the last I will hear from him. I’m also certain that he does not have the last word — that belongs to Jesus Christ. 

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