Psalm 1-3 B

I grew up thinking I shouldn’t associate with people who were not Christians. (My definition of a ‘Christian’ was someone who regularly attended church and recited a prayer with an adult when they were younger which got them a get-out-of-hell-free card indefinitely). And people who were not Christians also happened to be who I thought the Bible was referring to when it mentioned “sinners”, the “world” and anyone Jesus pointed fingers at, really.

I’m still learning to approach Scripture with fresh eyes and no pre-conceived notions. Today, this verse jumped out to me:

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.” 1:1-3

At first glance, I see this is a warning to stay away from Sinful Unchurched People and bury yourself in Bible studies and groups of other Christians who agree with you. But this doesn’t match up with the gospel, or the way I saw Jesus engage with people. Here’s what I think it’s saying instead:

Seek godly wisdom. It is important to engage in a Christ-like community with other believers. Maybe that’s within a church, maybe it’s not. Be mindful of who and what influence you.

Be intentional with your time around broken people and don’t mindlessly join in. There is definitely a time and a place to remove yourself from sinful people and develop appropriate boundaries. This is not a blanket-statement, but a reminder to use discernment.

Study God’s word every day. It will ground you and guide you so that you can develop spiritual health and maturity and engage with people outside of your belief system.

What verse encouraged you today? Here’s  some insight the Bible Project offers on how the book of Psalms is arranged.

 

-Carly

 

Philemon B

What a strange book. Sometimes I wonder at the selection of Paul’s letters to be included in the Biblical cannon. This little note is rife with power dynamics. Since a huge theme of the Bible is the LORD reforming natural, fallen power dynamics, maybe this book is important.

First off, here’s the dynamic in play: One esteemed upper class guy (Paul), asks another esteemed upper class guy (Philemon), if he can have permission to keep his runaway slave (Onesimus). In their respective social circles, Paul has the upper hand.

“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”

Paul goes on and makes a case that Onesimus should be considered as a peer to them, now, but he still plays by the rules. Then he makes a sort of cheeky move and says,

“If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self.”

All at once, Paul is putting the ball in Philemon’s court, but also setting the stage for compliance. We never get Philemon’s response to this letter. Isn’t that interesting? This request is canon for us and we don’t know what ended up happening to Onesimus!

This little book has probably been used on both sides of the slavery isle. On one hand, it could be said, “slavery is a fact of life, and there is a request for a transaction over this man, his usefulness in conversation”. On the other hand, Paul is pleading for this man to be elevated to their “brotherhood” status.

Anyway, I think the point I tend to glean from this, is that no matter our stations in life: customer service rep, CEO, pastor, instagram influencer, retail associate, receptionist, neurosurgeon, etc. In the Kingdom of God we are brothers and all things must addressed on the basis of love. 

I don’t know what Paul means when he throws out his authority over Philemon “in Christ”, but we can save that nugget for another time.

-Bethany

Joshua 23-24 B

“The people replied, ‘We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord, for he alone is our God.’ ” 24:16 

We always have the best intentions, don’t we? Yet, soon enough, fear creeps in, doubt grows and disobedience occurs.

What is the key to staying faithful to God?

Remembering. These people have first-hand seen God rescue them with big, sweeping miracles. What have you personally experienced in your life that you can look back on in moments of doubt?

Destroying your idols. What do you reach for in your life when you need help or you’re trying to escape? What (or who) do you worship instead of God?

Turn your heart towards God. How do you posture your desires and fears towards God? For me, it’s often prayer or worship (read: singing off-tune songs in my car or kitchen). When I’m feeling shut down, it takes a measure of discipline to direct my attention to God. I’d rather eat, drink, spend money, nap, over-exercise and just overall distract.

Take a minute and reflect on the journey Joshua has been on with God. How do you make a daily choice to serve God?

Tomorrow we jump back in to the New Testament with Philemon.

 

-Carly

 

Joshua 21-22 B

Since Carly cites 21 in her prompt, I will focus on this madness in 22.

The tribes who faithfully conquered the land west of the Jordan are sent home, commended for their faithfulness; and their first move is to build an alter.

“And the sons of Israel heard it said, ‘behold, the sons of Rueben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel.’ When the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh to go up against them in war.” (22:11-12)

Talk about a quickly escalating misunderstanding! This feels way too relatable. We discover the true purpose of this alter is actually smart, God honoring, and important.

“It shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the LORD before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, so that your sons will not say to our sons in the time to come, ‘you have no portion in the LORD’. Therefore we said, it shall also, come about if they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, ‘see the copy of the altar of the LORD which are fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you.'” (22:27-28)

Another smart idea for creating reminders.

It is incredibly important to talk before we fight. I try to make a habit of believing most strife is caused by misunderstandings. Maybe it’s harder to recognize, because we don’t strap on swords and head to the river, but I think we tend to fight by slandering the person we’re misunderstanding. Maybe what we perceive to be an act of division, is really an attempt to keep us on the same team. Interpersonal conflict is the root of all kinds of hardship. We can spare ourselves a lot if we just ask, “what is the meaning of this?” Instead of assuming to know the meaning and getting riled up, rallying troops against an unknowing offender.

Is there someone you need to clear the air with today? Ask the LORD for help in humbling our hearts to anticipate misunderstanding, believing the best in one another.

-Bethany

Joshua 19-20 B

Isn’t it interesting that God makes room for accidents? He has Joshua set apart cities where people can seek refuge if they commit manslaughter. The ultimate accident.

I’d rather him just prevent senseless death from happening, instead of strategizing the aftermath. But I’m thankful for his mercy and the way he advocates for the guilty.

When has God provided refuge for you, in the midst of your sin and mistakes? Of course, we are always extended forgiveness and a fresh start. But sometimes we’re in the thick of it, things have just gone down and we’re overwhelmed. He provides a safe space for us. He invites you to come and sort through what’s happened and what’s next.

Stop and thank God for the times in your life when he’s provided shelter from the storm you’ve created.

 

-Carly

 

Joshua 17-18 B

Carly addressed the inheritance of the daughters of Zelophehad last time.

It may be a bit dry, reading through all these boarder descriptions, but it’s actually remarkable they are included here.

“Do not move the ancient boundary Which your fathers have set.” (Proverbs‬ ‭22:28‬)

Inevitably, people will argue as to what was who’s, as memories fade and debts creep in. In the year of Jubilee, everyone will be expected to forgive debts and return to their original allotment of land. How will people know what belonged to who? His word against mine?

These original boundaries became included in Israel’s Scripture with descriptions of landmarks for such a time as that.

I find it endlessly gracious of the LORD that He included so many reset buttons. He knows our propensity toward chaos, and planned accordingly. Much of what He teaches us, through His word, is how to restore things. Make them right again.

Is there a relationship or circumstance in your life in need of restoration? Speak with the LORD about it, today, and look to what you can do, with His Spirit leading, to set things right.

-Bethany

Joshua 15-16 B

I had one of those days today where I was second-guessing everything I said. Was that rude? Why do I keep gossiping? Did that joke make sense earlier? 

Being an insecure (and self-centered) person has easily been one of the biggest distractions in my life. Over the years, studying the Bible has been my salve for this. When God lives inside you and you obey his voice, you are set apart. He uses your weaknesses and turns them into strengths.

I admire Acsah in these verses:

“From there he went to fight against the people living in the town of Debir (formerly called Kiriath-sepher). Caleb said, ‘I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the one who attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher.’ Othniel, the son of Caleb’s brother Kenaz, was the one who conquered it, so Acsah became Othniel’s wife. When Acsah married Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. As she got down off her donkey, Caleb asked her, ‘What’s the matter?’ She said, ‘Give me another gift. You have already given me land in the Negev; now please give me springs of water, too.’ So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.” 

There’s no way it was socially acceptable for a woman to ask for a something like that. Right? I don’t know, it was her dad, maybe it was fine. I just admired her pluck.

I know quiet people who wish they could speak up, and assertive people who are learning to pipe down. Ultimately, we are all learning to become more Christ-like. To know when it’s okay to ask, and when it’s not.

What’s an aspect of your personality you have seen Christ shape to become more like him? What’s something about you that is unconventional? When have you seen God use it?

I enjoyed Bethany’s insight on how David tied up the loose ends from these chapters later on.

 

-Carly

 

Joshua 13-14 B

“Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully.” (‭‭14:8‬)

Caleb gets his pick of the land because he was one of the only two (Joshua being the other) spies who thought they could take the land forty years earlier. Everyone else had caved to fear.

It’s not difficult to image news being relayed in a way which invokes fear. There is hypothetical doom looming around every corner nowadays. For Israel, it was actual giants which brought this fear. An admittedly intimidating foe, however, was never supposed to hinder the fresh-off-the-Exodus people of Israel. Caleb is honored because of his heart to obey the LORD, even when others were afraid.

I imagine much of human history has felt like the end of the world. The more I learn Middle Eastern history, the more I’m sure people were counting up the fulfilling prophecies and counting down the dreadful days–on a regular basis.

The LORD has somehow kept the world spinning until now. We must trust He will continue to hold off an apocalypse as long as He wants.

As I remain in touch with friends from the refugee camp, my heart aches to hear the injustices they still face (2 years later) and the remaining illusively of stability. It’s exhausting, and can be hard even to stay encouraging. I always come back to counting the blessings and benchmarks which have been met along the way. Until now we can see His hand. He is with us. We cannot despair as long as we know He’s with us.

The second principle I gleaned from these chapters is allotment. Joshua divvied up the land. I can imagine many people side eyeing other tribes, perhaps envying a meadow or a water source.

It’s always good to remember the LORD gives us different allotments and that’s fine. We must be faithful and thankful for what we receive and we can’t judge our lives by what we see others having.

Sometimes I wonder how my life ended up so differently from my sister’s, but I also am happy for their allotments and grateful for my own. Our Creator is wonderfully sovereign about all of it.

What about you? What’s a situation you can decide to not be afraid about? How are you doing with envy? Talk to the LORD about it today and don’t be afraid to be honest! He can fully address the questions we fully ask.

-Bethany

Joshua 11-12 B

I don’t know if it’s because of the recent political climate or my age, but I’ve been tuning in to current events more attentively. Today’s chapters are such a reminder of how much we can rely on God’s power, and how little we can rely on man’s. The nations who conceded to God’s sovereignty and power escaped being destroyed, but the others went down in flames. Quite literally.

“So Joshua took control of the entire land, just as the Lord had instructed Moses. He gave it to the people of Israel as their special possession, dividing the land among the tribes. So the land finally had rest from war.” 11:23

I like that, the idea of the land resting from war. Even the earth tires of our endless bloodshed and strife.

What is it like for you to engage with this text? What verse leaped off the page for you?

 

-Carly

 

Joshua 9-10 B

I gotta say, I like the Gibeonites. They survey the situation and cut their losses. I imagine the king of the city telling its entire population, “Get on your shabby clothes and grab some stale bread; we’re throwing a Hail Mary!”

While in one moment, we are told Joshua took them in before consulting with the LORD, the next moment is the greatest divine intervention ever recorded and it’s for the sake of these Gibeonites we never found out if the LORD planned to save.

They get it:

“Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the LORD your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth.” (9:9-10‬)

Whether this is a line or not, this is the intended effect of hearing about the LORD.

You are powerful, my best chance at life is to be Your servant.

Who knows what the LORD would have said, if He had been consulted. Maybe He was fine not giving their game away. In any case, He is clearly involved in Joshua’s conquest to protect them.

“GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter‬ ‭5:5-7‬)

Gibeon was called a Great city with Mighty men. Still, they didn’t take the road of the other kings and go down swinging, trusting in their might. They become a sort of example of surrender to us.

What battle do you find yourself surrounded by? What would it look like to humbly surrender to the LORD? You can be sure, He will lift up the humble.

-Bethany

Check out Carly’s post on these chapters, too.