Contradiction in God?

Silly question, right? Do any of us know any genuine Christians who would affirm that there might be contradictions in God? I don’t. With that in mind, consider the following:

First, here are two passages of scripture that seem to say the God wants every human being to come to repentance and belief in Christ. At least that’s the prevalent belief across most of the Christian church.

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires ALL people (men) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Tim 2:3

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance.” – 2 Pet 3:9

Now consider the following passages that say very clearly that God personally causes ‘some’ to believe lies, and/or consciously blinds the eyes and hearts of ‘some’ so that they would NOT believe.

“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” – 2 Thess 2:11-12

He (God) has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart
,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.” – John 12:40 quotes Isaiah 6:10

If it is true that God desires that ‘all’ men, without exception, be saved, and at the same time the same God causes ‘some’ to believe a lie and blinds ‘some’ to the truth, so that they will NOT believe, we could logically conclude that

A. God can and will act contrary to his nature / desires.

B. God doesn’t always get what he wants.

C. We have, in some way, misunderstood the text of 1 Tim 2:3 and/or 2 Pet 3:9.

If A or B is true, then C might be false, an outcome we would prefer. We don’t like to be told we haven’t correctly interpreted the Bible.

If A or B is false, then C just might be true, and we have indeed misinterpreted 1 Tim 2:3 and/or 2 Pet 3:9.

That brings up the final question for now, “IF we have misinterpreted either passage, how have we erred?

I suggest that we very well might have erred in interpreting “ALL” in these texts to mean every human being without exception. It could be that “ALL” means, in both cases, all kinds of people, i.e. rich men, poor men, leaders/rulers, ordinary folk, Jews and Gentiles.

I further suggest that if we define “ALL” to mean all kinds of people, our high and loft view of God’s power and immutability remains intact, and there is NO contradiction in God. After all, he IS GOD.

Food for thought. . . yours? The lines are open.

7 Metaphors for the Word of God

1. The Word of God is a sword that pierces (Hebrews 4:12).

2. The Word of God is a mirror that reveals (James 1:23).

3. The Word of God is a seed that germinates (1 Peter 1:23).

4. The Word of God is milk that nourishes (1 Peter 2, 3).

5. The Word of God is a lamp that shines (Psalm 119:105).

6. The Word of God is a fire that consumes (Jeremiah 23:29).

7. The Word of God is a hammer that shatters (Jeremiah 23:29).

These 7 ‘The Word of God is…’ statements were the main points of Dr. Steven Lawson’s presentation at the 2015 Shepherd’s Conference hosted by John MacArthur at The Masters Seminary in Santa Clara, California. I leave it to you to examine the passages of scripture annotated with the ‘7 metaphors’. Dr. Lawson’s presentation included much more scripture and I encourage you to watch his entire presentation.

This year’s conference was devoted to the inerrancy of Scripture. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Domain of Truth blog has done us a favor and provided links to both the General Session videos and audio from the breakout sessions:

Inerrancy Summit Main Sessions

Inerrancy Summit Breakout Seminars

Enjoy!

Young Earth Creationism, Faith, and a Few Random Thoughts

The teaching of young earth creationism (YEC) to Christian kids in homeschooled environments causes many of them to doubt or lose their faith, especially if YEC is taught as being foundational to our faith. The blog posited that YEC was taught as a primary ‘salvation’ issue – that Heaven or Hell depends on it.

That was the major theme of a ‘Christian’ blog post I found recently. I actually joined the discussion. I learned some amazing things!

Part of the initial post discussed a research project in 1997 that was conducted by a half dozen PhDs of various sorts to study the age of the earth. It seems they were proponents of YEC and resourced other YEC proponents in their study. Because they didn’t use resources ‘outside’ the YEC camp, their work was just a lot of circular reasoning. That caused a young lady to begin to doubt her faith and she has never recovered.

There were other accounts in the comments section saying the same thing; that the teaching of YEC cause some to doubt/lose their faith, nearly all because of having been taught in a homeschooled environment that believing in YEC was a salvation/gospel issue, as if one could lose his/her faith if they didn’t believe in YEC. .

While I can understand why exposure to ‘Evolution as fact’ in school/college venues might cause some doubt (and it does), I couldn’t understand why exposure to YEC would cause anyone to doubt their faith. At the same time, I assumed that the subject of young people doubting/losing their faith might be an important one to address in response.

Therefore, I initially responded that I didn’t think that genuine faith would never tossed out the window, that one having doubts would not completely abandon their faith; because it was a gift from God and whom God saves He keeps by his power. That was considered off topic and one of those nasty Calvinism things.

I decided to bring it down a level and suggest that there might be an issue of not being solidly grounded in the faith once professed for these young people who doubt/abandon their faith. That lack of grounding. might come from a lack of individual Bible reading/study, or having sat under good Bible teaching. Well, That idea completely flabbergasted the site host, who thought the things I was suggesting as causes for doubting one’s faith were ‘works-based’ It took awhile to process that one! How else do we become stronger in our faith without being immersed in sound Biblically teaching?

After a couple more back-and-forth exchanges I think I finally got it – the prevailing ‘theology’ of the majority of this particular group of bloggers. They seem to be into the ‘just me and Jesus – don’t really need anything else’ demographic that is rather large these days. We just need our ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus and we can dispense with old dead guys/creeds/ and the foundational truths that we’ve been told are significant for our spiritual growth and maturity. Focusing on our ‘relationship’ is not works based like studying the Bible and therefore it’s the ‘relationship’ that’s ‘ real faith.

I never did get to the point of suggesting that I don’t know of any advocates of young earth creationism that would tell anyone that their very salvation depended on believing in a young earth, including the founders of Answers In Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. What I did suggest, to no avail, was that the bigger issue at stake is the inerrancy and authority of scripture, and that the young v. old earth debate really points to that bigger issue. I did that while presenting the main issues that were addressed during the rise of the fundamentalist movement in America in the early 20th century, which had already been soundly bashed (fundamentalisms). That didn’t go well, maybe because believing in a young earth as essential for salvation wasn’t on the list.

So here I sit on a Sunday morning, still wondering just how far the ‘me and Jesus’ mantra has spread and just how badly young believers today have been deceived by other ‘Christians’ and are victims of very real ‘spiritual abuse’. How does any believer end up in the ‘me and Jesus is all we need’ camp? Maybe I’m just getting old, but for a lot of years now, my ‘relationship’ with my Savior has deepened through being immersed in His written word, and just believing it’s true going in. There are other things that have also helped deepen the relationship – studying church history and the creeds and thoughts of dead guys (and some living), but those are only secondary to being personally immersed in the written word.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Tim 3:16-17

If I don’t believe in the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of scripture, I might as well toss my faith out the door. Wasn’t the first lie that the serpent told Eve “Did God really say……?”

So much for Sunday morning thoughts. This was more for my own clarity than trying to actually teach anyone anything. I had to wade through over a hundred comments that were all over the map, but mostly bashing fundamentalism, homeschooling, John Calvin and anyone who says that that when and how God created our planet impacts our ‘salvation theology’ (although they wouldn’t use the word ‘theology’ – too many syllables and who needs it?)

Thanks for being patient in reading my ramblings. If you have any thoughts, please share. If you are reading and from the above referenced blog site, feel free to share, but not if you are just importing your ‘bashing’. Intelligent, thoughtful discussion is always welcome here.

The Berean Principle and/or The Voices in our Heads

“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11(ESV)

In the above passage, a group of believing Jews in the town of Berea were commended for their practice of listening to the preaching of the Apostle Paul and them examining what he said under the light of the Scriptures they had available to them, to see if what Paul had spoken was true. In other words, for these Berean Jews the written scriptures were the final arbiter of what was true and what was not, when it came to listening to preaching.

What I don’t see anywhere in the New Testament is any instance of, or license to listen to little voices in our heads. We do however, hear some evangelical leaders tell us we can, and even need to recognize God’s still small voice when he speaks to us, because he still communicates to his people with whisperings and through the natural senses in ways unique to them individually.

This phenomena doesn’t come to us just from some of the ‘interesting’ folks on TBN and God TV, it also comes from some notable and popular evangelicals. It is not my intent here to get into ‘names’, but only to ask, "Why?"

I’m not asking however, why the ‘pseudo-prophets’, self proclaimed ‘Apostles’, and even the prominent evangelicals personally justify the practice of listening to little voices in our heads, I know their reasons, including the alleged scriptural support from passages of scripture taken out of the context of the Bible. What I am asking is "Why listen to and trust little voices in our heads, period.

OK, this is where I need to shift into the 1st personal singular so nobody ‘feels’ judged (I’m learning). Here goes.

How can I ever be absolutely, positively, 100% certain that that ‘still small voice’ IS God, even after I’ve followed all of the ‘training manuals’ from the Christian bookstores and/or CD’s and DVD’s I can buy from TBN and God TV? I don’t know about you, but I know I just can’t, and here’s why.

Although I am a blood bought, adopted into the family, child of God, there still remains in me a heart that can be very deceitful, sinful desires and passions, as well as ‘itching ears’. There’s scripture that tells me all of that, but I won’t quote them here, because someone might think I think I know it all or ‘feel’ judged. (1st personal singular – remember?)

So. . .because I can’t ever be absolutely, positively, 100% certain that that ‘still small voice’ IS God, I would still need to apply the Berean Principle and check it out in the Scriptures. And if I still need to do that, why not just forget about little voices in my head and take everything straight to the source?

But that’s just me and somewhat of a DUHHHHHHH moment indeed. If you have somehow reached a state of heart and mind that is somehow completely pure and immune to deception (you have perfect voice recognition software installed in your brain housing group, good on ya!

______________

Food for thought early on a Thursday morning (in Colorado that is). Have a great day and please don’t feel judged.

“Part 3 of The Bible gets a 4 star review”

Author: Donna Sundblad, Atlanta Bible Study Examiner

Part 3 of the History Channel‘s The Bible aired on March 17 with the prophet Jeremiah warning Israel’s King Zedekiah about the coming siege of Jerusalem by Babylonians. Jeremiah’s warnings go unheeded and he delivers a final message to Zedekiah. “Surrender to Nebuchadnezzar or die. God is bringing disaster.”

The biblical account of this historical time explains that Zedekiah was placed on the throne as king by Nebuchadnezzar, after King Jehoiachin was taken captive and brought to Babylon. As the television miniseries fast forwarded through the remainder of the Old Testament and into the New Testament account of the birth of Jesus and the start of his ministry on earth they did a good job.

“In the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against Jerusalem with his entire army. They laid siege to the city and built a siege wall against it all around. The city was under siege until King Zedekiah’s eleventh year” (2 Kings 25:1-2 HCSB)

The prophet Daniel

The Bible offered a realistic portrayal of the massive Babylonian army camped outside the walls of Jerusalem. No one escapes the city and after 18 months the Israelites start to starve. The TV miniseries showed the Babylonians shooting fiery arrows over the wall and King Zedkiah turning to the prophet Jeremiah for help. The prophet tells the king to “repent and all will be well. God will save us.” Then almost in the same breath he says, “You’re too late,” and the scene moves to a battering ram at the gates. Jerusalem is destroyed and the temple is plundered and burned to the ground. The Jewish people flee including a man named Daniel who is taken captive. This works for the miniseries for the sake of time constraints, but in actuality he was taken captive to Babylon when Jehoiachin was deported.

“Nebuchadnezzar deported Jehoiachin to Babylon. Also, he took the king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the leading men of the land into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon” (2 Kings 25:15)

The Daniel in episode 3 of The History Channel’s the Bible looked old compared to Daniel of the Bible who was taken captive as a youth (Daniel 1:3). The condensing of events is understandable for TV, but in actuality Daniel was in captivity about three years before he was to be “evaluated” by the king. The miniseries did a good job of showing Daniel’s visionary powers, and how Nebuchadnezzar grows to trust him after none of the other wise men, sorcerers, or seers could tell him his dream. Daniel not only tells him his dream, but what it means. Of course in the Bible more than one dream is interpreted, but the miniseries did a great job with the condensed version.

A large gold statue is constructed and everyone is expected to bow to it. When the music is played all the people bow except three Jewish men who remain standing. This was a powerful scene that created a strong visual of the faith they lived. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar, “They will only worship God.” An angry Nebuchadnezzar vows that he will “make them bow.”

The scene of the fiery furnace left a little to be desired but overall the producers got the idea across when Daniel’s friends do not burn in the fierce flames and a fourth “man” appears in the fire with arms outstretched. His friends are not harmed and the miracle unites the people. They reaffirm their trust in God.

Daniel and the lions’ den

Cyrus, King of Persia conquers Babylon without a fight, and Daniel finds favor in his sight. Others who serve the new king are jealous of Daniel, and develop a plot. They know the only way to bring Daniel down is his God. The men flatter the king and trick him into creating a law that forbids the people to pray for a month. They know Daniel will not abide by this man-made law, and it will mean his life. Daniel goes up to his room, puts on his prayer shawl, faces east, and prays. Through lattice work in the room, his enemies witness the breaking of the law and Daniel is arrested and thrown into the lions’ den.

Cyrus does not sleep and asks for the door to be open. In the miniseries this happens the same night, but in the biblical account he waits until the following morning because it is the law. Daniel is found unharmed. Cyrus calls for Daniel to come out and says, “God is with you. You’re God is real. Your God has saved you. Your people will return to Jerusalem. Sadly they no longer have a temple to worship him.”

The Jews get to return to Jerusalem, but Daniel stays in Babylon. He says, “I fear for their future. I saw a great beast. It had great iron teeth and it devoured the whole world, but I saw one … this isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.” The narrative was a nice lead in to the New Testament.

Birth of Jesus

The miniseries featured flash scenes covering the next 500 years including information from extra-biblical texts. This worked as a segue to the New Testament times where Mary and Joseph are introduced through a modern day lens as Joseph thinks about how pretty Mary’s eyes as they gather in worship. Romans crash in and Joseph tells Mary to go back to her Father’s house. On the way she hears a voice. A burgundy-caped angel says, “The Lord is with you. Don’t be afraid. You will soon give birth to a son. He will be the son of the most high. The Holy Spirit will move in you. Don’t be afraid.”

By the time Joseph and Mary are shown next, he sees she’s is pregnant. She explains it is the work of God, but Joseph grows angry and says, “I thought I knew you.” When she explains that it is God’s child, he says, “Mary God doesn’t do this to people like us,” but an angel tells him, “Joseph son of David, be at peace. Take Mary as your wife. She is pure. The child she carries is from God.”

Joseph returns to Mary, where a crowd is surrounding her and calling her “whore.” Joseph shouts, “I believe her and I will still take her as my wife if she will have me.” This is much different than the biblical account where Joseph learns of Mary’s pregnancy but it does get the story across.

The miniseries depicts Mary and Joseph alone against the world, as the birth of the king of the Jews is announced in the heavens. Wise men quote scripture, “a scepter will rise out of Israel.” Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem and are caught in a fierce rain storm as she goes into labor and they can’t find a place to stay.

Herod

While the Bible doesn’t name the wise men, tradition names them: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The miniseries cuts to the astrologer Balthasar as he stands before Herod. He asks, “What can you tell me of the new king?”

Herod is portrayed as a crazy, self-indulgent King disturbed by this inquiry. “King of the Jews? Did you not come here to see Herod, King of the Jews. Then who is claiming to be king.”

Balthasar answers, “No one. He is not born yet. Surely your scribes have received the prophecy.” He returns to his companions and they follow the star as Herod goes into a tirade. This scene is rushed as Herod learns through the Scribes that the king will be born in Bethlehem. He sends his troops to kill all the babies in Bethlehem before Jesus is born.

“Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity” (Micah 5:2)

In the biblical account, Herod doesn’t order the babies killed until he realizes the wise men are not returning to tell him where he can find the baby. In fact, in the Bible, when the wise men come to Jesus and Mary they are in a house and he is referred to as a “child” not a baby. This is why Herod’s order is to kill the baby boys two years and under.

In the miniseries, Joseph has a nightmare. He sees all the babies in Bethlehem being killed. “We have to leave now,” he says to Mary. “I can’t explain. Just trust me.”

Return to Galilee

After Herod dies, the people sense an opportunity to win their freedom, but the Roman response is brutal. The uprising is crushed and in Galilee alone, 2,000 people are crucified. In the scene where Joseph and Mary return to Galilee, Jesus looks to be about four or five years old. They come upon victims of crucifixion. Joseph reminds Mary that they must trust in God’s plan.

John the Baptist

At the River Jordan crowds flock to John the Baptist in the desert. Some people call him the Messiah, the Redeemer of the Jews, and the anointed by God, but he makes it clear “There is one to come, greater than me. I’m just a voice in the wilderness preparing the way.”

Jesus walks on the scene and tells John, “John what you are doing is right. Baptize me.” Following his baptism, Jesus goes into the wilderness. For 40 days his spirit is tested, preparing him for the challenges to come. He walks like he is about to faint, then collapses with labored breathing. A snake slithers up beside him. Jesus trembles. A black robed Satan walks up to him, and Jesus stands. Satan tempts Jesus, but Jesus resists Satan’s temptations and gets ready for his ministry which will be without John the Baptist who has been arrested.

Jesus returns to his home region and goes to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. His mission begins here with Peter, a fisherman. When Peter asks, “What are we going to do?” Jesus answers, “Change the world.”

John the Baptist beheaded

John the Baptist continues to preach in prison. This part of the miniseries is quite different from the biblical account, but it ends with the prophet losing his head.

The History Channel’s The Bible part 3 overall did a good job of depicting biblical events within the time constraints needed for a project of this magnitude. While the miniseries is very good, it is important to remember it is not a replacement for actually reading God’s Word.

 

Donna Sundblad has read through the Bible more than 20 times in her life, but reading the Bible isn’t enough. In 2 Timothy, 2:15 we are told to “study.” Study involves many aspects including a look at the original …

_____________

My thoughts:

I’m stll enjoying engaging in discussions around the miniseries. Not a bad review, but still glaringly MIA (Missing In Action) is the story of redemption! I had hoped that the angel who told Jesus’ earthly dad Joseph would have included the rather important statement concerning the child in Mary’s womb “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I was disappointed that the demonstration of the Trinity at Jesus’ baptism was omitted. to me that would have been something NOT to leave out. On the other hand, since the miniseries has in no way attempted to teach any actual doctrine in the first three segments, perhaps I should be complementing the miniseries on its consistency.

Also, I don’t remember hearing in this episode Jesus’ words recorded in the NT at the beginning of his ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”, which is perhaps the best demonstration of the Trinity in the NT, if not the entire Bible.

Lastly (not really, but enough for now), the allegedly episode ending climactic answer to Peter’s question about what they would do, “Change the world.” is nowhere in scripture and probably sets the stage for Jesus’ ministry being portrayed mainly as a the ‘social gospel’ so prevalent in today’s liberal minded evangelical climate. Rick warren is undoubtedly proud of the miniseries and his own contribution as a technical;/spiritual advisor for the project.

According to the Apostle Paul,

    “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)

The miniseries still has a couple of more episodes, but my hopes that it will get to the MIA plan of redemption are becoming dim.

First Thoughts about The History Channel Series ‘The Bible’

Yesterday evening I watched the first installment of THC’s The Bible and came away with mixed feelings. Which feelings are relevant or accurate is anyone’s guess at this point and depends on the perspective from which a person watches the epic tale. I watched it from the perspective of a person who has read the source document multiple times in different translations, as well as one who has engaged is serious Bible study more than just occasionally. I was therefore interested in both literal Biblical accuracy and the faithfulness of the stories that would be told to the text and context of the Bible.

I realized that I might need to immediately adjust my expectations as well as my opinion when at the very beginning viewers were provided this disclaimer:

“This program is an adaptation of Bible stories that changed our world. It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book.”

One review I read called that a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Perhaps it was and perhaps it wasn’t. It might just have been an honest goal, considering that inspiring thousands (if not millions) of viewers to pick up a bible and actually read it was also a goal, according to an interview I read. However, I would expect someone who ends up reading the Bible might end up with an often repeated thought running through his/her brain that sounds something like: “Well, that‘s a bit different than that TV series I saw!"

I found myself numerous times thinking "Well, that part is not in the book!" as I watched the first segment. The most notable instance was undoubtedly when the ‘destroying angels who wreaked havoc in Sodom went all ‘ninja’ with two edged swords and left numerous bloody dead bodies lying in the city street.

I have to admit that the scene in Sodom was as I expected it would be when they portrayed the men of Sodom clamoring at Lot’s door demanding to be handed the angels, but didn’t mention their stated purpose in wanting to have sex with them, at least according to every Bible translation I’ve read. I cannot however stand in judgment on the saga’s producers concerning their motive in leaving out those details, although I have ‘ratings related’ suspicions.

As usual with these sorts of things, I was also asking the question “What about the gospel?” as I watched the stories from the books of Genesis and Exodus and knowing that all 66 books of the Bible have to do ultimately with Jesus Christ, the savior of God’s people, either prophetically in the Old testament or literally in the New Testament. That aspect was missing in this segment, but the series is just beginning. Perhaps when the series nears its end in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior, that connection will be emphasized and viewers will be further encouraged to read the Bible for themselves.

Sadly, I have doubts that the ‘gospel connection’ will be communicated to the many viewers who will watch the entire series. Roma Downey stated that her favorite character in the entire series is Mary, the mother of Jesus, whom she portrays. That’s of course understandable, since she is a devout Catholic.

Without passing judgment at this juncture, I will say that the saga will undoubtedly open a lot of doors for discussion, which could in turn lead to talking about spiritual matters, which could lead to a clear presentation of the gospel, It’s also a more fitting film as a backdrop for preaching a sermon than many others used in today’s movie based sermons that seem to permeate the evangelical landscape. Green Lantern, anyone?

If you think ‘permeate’ is too strong a word, just Goggle something like ‘movie based sermons’ and see what it generates.

I’ll let it rest for now and keep watching.

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #12

Eisegesis is the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one’s own ideas, reading into the text. Eisegesis isn’t always a bad, because one’s own ideas might be a reasonable interpretation, or logical and otherwise biblically sound inference.

The Passage

“. . . choose this day whom you will serve. . .”– Joshua 24:15

Faced with all of the ‘things’ in our lives we can give greater importance to than humbly serving God, Joshua’s command to the Israelites certainly has relevance for us today! The list of ‘things’ is rather long and includes everything from great salaries and careers, to sports and entertainment, to cars, boats and other expensive ‘toys’. Even our most valued relationships can appear on that list.

We ask those to whom we share the gospel to choose between serving God and man with that passage in mind. ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’ is often used to prove inherent ;free will;, since we assume that the command itself necessitates the natural ability to choose between wholeheartedly serving God and all the other things we ‘serve’. After all, wasn’t that what Joshua was telling the Israelites to do, choose between the one true God and other false gods?

What’s the rest of the story?

Joshua 24 begins with his summoning the tribes of Israel to Shechem, along with the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel, to present themselves before God (v.1). When they had all gathered together, Joshua presents a ‘Thus saith the Lord” history lesson in which God speaks to the people in the first person, reminding them of all he had done for them, from calling and blessing Abraham to crossing the Jordan and inheriting the land (vv.2-13).

Joshua then speaks directly to the people and says:

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” (v.14)

Joshua did in fact challenge the gathered Israelites to serve the Lord, telling them to put away the false gods of their fathers. Then notice our passage in its natural context:

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (v.15)

Since throughout their wanderings, the Israelites are on record as having frequently returning to the false gods of their fathers, Joshua tells them to choose between a previous set of false gods and the gods of the peoples with whom they now dwelt,

The people responded:

“Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (vv.16-18)

Then we have in vv. 19-23 an interesting conclusion:

“But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (vv.19-20)

 

Joshua, in what sounds like a chiding manner, tells them ‘You can’t do it!’, pointing out their inability and insufficiency of themselves to perform service acceptable to God.

And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” (v. 21)

Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” (v.22)

And they (the people) said, “We are witnesses.” (v.23)

Joshua told them, in effect, ‘I think that’s gonna come back to bite ya, for sure’, yet they still promised.

If we have read the rest of the Old Testament, we know that the Israelites indeed failed to keep their promise, in spite of warnings from prophets, deliverance from enemies by judges and kings, and even in spite of hard bondage. In fact there was a period of several hundred years when there was no prophet in the land. God ceased speaking to his chosen people and left them to their own desires.

What’s the point?

If we use Joshua’s ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ command as a reminder to check for idols we have not abused the text. However, if we use Joshua’s command as proof of man’s natural ability to choose Christ, are we being faithful to the original context? And speaking of the original context, it is in that context, ‘the rest of the story’ as Paul Harvey would say that we find the bigger lesson.

The short episode in Joshua, chapter 24, near the end of Josha’s life, after deliverance from bondage in Egypt, desert wanderings, entering the promised land, miracles and fierce battles is part of a grand pageant that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation! It’s the story of the creation, fall and redemption of the people of God – a people created for the glory of His Name who by way of the first Adam fell into such darkness and depravity that they became the objects of the creator’s wrath.

The Apostle Paul provides an excellent summary:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1-8)

So here’s the point. While we certainly ought to take to heart lessons from scripture that apply to us today, we need to pay attention to ‘the rest of the story’!

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