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Sunday, February 10, 2019

posted Feb 10, 2019, 6:25 PM by Site Administrator

ALL THE WORDS OF THE LAW

 

Joshua 7:1-8:35

Key Verses 8:34,35

 

Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.

 

First, Unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction (7:1-26). In the previous passage, we learned about how the Israel people won the smashing victory and destroyed Jericho. When they marched around the city of Jericho for seven days with the ark of the covenant, at their shout, the wall collapsed and every man went up, straight in, and took the city. It was an amazing victory, a miracle. They experienced the power of God. Now they were confident that they would complete the conquest successfully. But right after this great victory, something unexpected happened. Look at verse 1. But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. Originally, Joshua gave an order that the city and all that was in it were to be devoted to the Lord. He warned them to keep away from the devoted things – all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron – because they were sacred to God and had to go into his treasury. It was the first battle, the representative of all the battles that would follow, like in the case of the firstfruits, or the firstborn son, and devoting the first battle to God meant devoting all the battles to God. Verse 24 of chapter 6 reads: Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into treasury of the Lord’s house. It seemed that the Israel people obeyed God’s command. But there was one person who did not obey – it was Achan, of the tribe of Judah. Because of him, God burned his anger against Israel. 

 

Joshua was not aware of it; he didn't know that God was angry with them. Instead, he was just busy for the conquest. Their next target was the city of Ai. Joshua sent men to spy out Ai. When they returned, they said, Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there. Their report tells us a lot about their mentality. There were 12,000 men and women in Ai. If we include children and youths under 20 years old, there might be about 30,000 or 40,000 people in it. Even though it was small compared to the size of Jericho, certainly, it would take more men than just 2 or 3 thousand soldiers to conquer this city – maybe, what they needed was at least 20,000 or even 30,000 soldiers to secure the victory. But after winning the victory in Jericho by the power of God, they were confident of the conquest, because God was with them. With this confidence, they took a very casual attitude toward the battles, saying, Yeah, God is with us; who can stand against God’s power? They simply said, By faith, we can conquer. At the first battle, they were dead serious; with a fearful and trembling heart, they followed God’s instructions so wholeheartedly. But now, they were not serious at all. They took victories for granted. Not only Achan had a problem, but also, generally most Israel soldiers had a problem. Joshua accepted their suggestion also. The result was not good at all. When about three thousand men went up, they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries, and struck them down on the slopes. God’s army was defeated! The Israel people, the instruments of God’s judgment were routed by the enemies! 

 

Even at the time of such great victory, sin crept into the camp of Israel; as a result, now God's army was defeated. God’s army, which God leads must be invincible, yet, this is how God's army can be destroyed. This is how children of God are destroyed by the enemies. The first man of God Adam was defeated by sin; in the time of Noah, the sons of God were defeated by the world because they let sin come into their community in the matter of their marriage. Later, the Israel people were destroyed completely in the promised land because of sin, and they were sent into exile. Many churches, even after serving great works of God, have been destroyed because they let sin come into their community. The Israel army was strong and powerful, even invincible when they loved God and followed God's instruction wholeheartedly. But when they sinned, when they let sin come into their community, they were defeated. Now we understand the direction God gave Joshua before the conquest, Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Ultimately, all Christians' fight is about obeying God's commands; ultimately, it is against sin. We must be very careful, especially in the time of victory, to obey God's words, to live according to God's will and purpose so that our church may function as God's mighty army continually; we must be alert in spirit so that we may not give sin a chance to come into our life and thereby, we can live a very successful and victorious life as Christians continually.

 

Now, the Israel people were in big trouble. They realized that they could be defeated in the battle, even if God were with them. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water. Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. Joshua cried out, Ah, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan…? O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth.

 

While Joshua was praying, God spoke to him, saying, Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Then, God explained to him the reason why they were defeated, saying, 11Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.

 

Achan took some goods from the battle of Jericho. It seemed a small thing, but God took it very seriously as sinning, stealing, lying, and violating his covenant - giving one's heart to something else than God is the violation of God's covenant. We must take this very seriously. When you give your heart to something other than God, when you give into the desire for the things of this world, you violate God’s covenant. We must not love anything in this world, but God alone. Also God didn't say, one person has sinned, or He has violated my covenant. Instead, he said, They have sinned; they have violated my covenant; they have stolen; they have lied,... indicating that it was not only the problem of one individual Achan, but also the problem of the whole community of Israel. When Jesus saw a demon-possessed boy, he said, O unbelieving and perverse generation,... He saw that the demon-possession of the boy was the product of that generation - all of them were responsible for his problem. We must have the sense of responsibility for the spirituality of our own community. As members of our church, we must protect our church community from sin all together so that none of us may sin; instead, we may grow in purity and innocence in Jesus Christ continually. We must watch out all together.  

 

Look at verse 12. Let's read this verse together:

 

12That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

 

Each expression is really strong and scary. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. Jesus once said, Give to God what is God's; give to Caesar what is Caesar's. It is really right to give to God what is God's; but if we don't give to God what is God's because we covet it and keep it for ourselves, then, we are made liable to destructionin the job matter, in the family matter, and in the conquest matter. Isaiah 40:30,31 reads: Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. These verses suggest that there are many life's challenges for both believers and non-believers. Even young people, full of potential, self-confidence and fighting spirit, collapse and never rise again because of life's challenges and difficulties. But those who put their hope in the Lord, believers, rise above all these challenges, soaring on wings like powerful eagles - that's Christian's victorious life; this is the very kind of life we all desire in God. Yes, when you put your hope in the Lord, you will soar on wings like eagles rising above all challenges and difficulties - your life will be victorious. But, when whatever is devoted to the Lord is among you, you cannot stand against any challenges and difficulties; instead, even at slightest hindrances, accusations, at the loss of job, or failure in your business, or some family problem, you just sink and collapse. There were only 12,000 men and women in the city of Ai, when Israel had 600,000 soldiers, but they were defeated, their hearts melted in fear and became like water. When whatever is devoted to the Lord is among us, we cannot stand against our enemies; when difficulties rise, we don't have any courage or guts or strength to stand against them; we get defeated and destroyed miserably. That's why we must not take anything that is already devoted to the Lord. God says, I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. The only way we can live a powerful life is to give to God what is God's, and do not take it from God. At that time, our conscience is free and we are free to love and pursue God that nothing can stand against us.

 

What are devoted to the LORD? What belongs to God, which we must give to God? One tenth offering belongs to God. It is not ours, but God’s, yet, in our possession – we must give it to God, because it is his. In Deuteronomy 26, we see Moses teaching the Israelites to recite a testimony to the Lord as they bring one tenth offering to the Levites, saying, I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. Firstfruits belong to God. God says in Exodus 34, The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. No one is to appear before me empty-handed. (Exo 34:19,20) Why should they break the neck of the donkey when they do not redeem it? The donkey was already offered to God for his purpose; it was already sacred – holy. Such consecrated things must not be used for mundane purpose any longer. Such consecrated donkey had only two choices – either it is used for God alone all the days of its life, or if not, then, simply destroy it. This explains the instruction, You destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. The seventh day belongs to the Lord. It is a holy-day (Holiday), set apart to the LORD. It is the Lord's day, not ours. Our life belongs to God, because He purchased us from sin and Satan by paying the due price with his Son's precious life blood. We already offered our future to God; we already offered our marriage dream to God. Do not take anything from the devoted things, or you may be made liable to destruction. Remove the sacred portion from your house and heart, and you will be blessed.

 

Look at verse 13. God said to Joshua, Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it. This was God's message for his people Israel; this is God's message for all his people. This is how God’s people are defeated. When the devoted things are found among them, they cannot stand against their enemies; instead, they are defeated and destroyed. This then explains what we hear about – how once zealous Christians attending Bible institution with the desire to serve God become homo-sexuals, how their families are broken to pieces, why there are Christians who commit suicide, and even how the divorce rate is higher among Christians than unbelievers. When devoted things are found in your possessions, you are made liable to destruction. Remove the sacred things from your heart and life. Give to God what is God’s.

 

At this direction, early in the morning, Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken. The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the ZerahitesThe families of the Zerahites came forwardand Zimri was taken. Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan was taken. Joshua said to AchanMy son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.

 

Achan replied, It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath. Joshua found them in Achan’s tent. Then, Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. All the Israel people stoned them and burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, and the valley had been named the Valley of Achor ever since.

This episode is a great warning for all God’s people. When the Israel people had wholehearted devotion, when their hearts and minds were fully dedicated to God’s mission, they were powerful – the River yielded its way to them; the wall could not stand against them. But when they lost such spirit, became complacent and took casual attitude in serving God’s mission, they were weak and powerless. As this kind of spirit spread among them, there came out Achan who even coveted the things that belonged to God, and he caused the entire nation suffer. Now is not the time for us to think about acquiring wealth or fame, but the time we must give our hearts and life to God for his glorious world salvation purpose. Now is the time for us to fight the Lord’s battle wholeheartedly and expand God’s kingdom. Now is the time for us to pray, Your kingdom come. Let’s renew our hearts and refresh our spirit for God’s mission. 

 

SecondTake the whole army with you (8:1-29).Look at verse 1 of chapter 8. The Lord said to Joshua, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged… It was really a discouraging moment – the Israel people failed; they were defeated in the conquest. They were afraid; they lost courage. But God encouraged him, saying, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Sometimes, in serving God’s mission, we experience painful failures – sometimes, we fail in our school work; sometimes, we fail to serve God’s work properly because of our sins; when our sheep whom we have loved so much rebel against us and run away, we are so sad; sometimes, we feel like being knocked out. But God says, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. God wants us to go on, despite our failures, despite our weaknesses; God wants us to keep on doing his work, because he is with us, and because we will really win. 

 

With this, God gave Joshua a new instruction. He said to him, Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai… Originally, the Israelites took the battle with Ai so casually, saying that they would not need to weary the whole army, but send two or three thousand. But God told Joshua to take the whole army. The city of Ai was very small; there were about 12,000 men and women in the city, but still God told Joshua to take the whole army, showing that they must do their best and fight the battle wholeheartedly. They must fight the Lord’s battle very sincerely and wholeheartedly – this is the principle in fighting the Lord’s battle. 

 

Look at verse 2. Let’s read this verse together:

 

You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.

 

At the first battle with Jericho, God commanded the Israel people to devote all things to Him. It was not because he needed any gold or silver, but because in truth, all things belonged to him, and the conquest in the promised land was for God. They should fight for the Lord, and not expect to take anything from it. Jesus said to his disciples the same thing, saying that whoever wants to save his soul will lose it, but whoever loses his life for him and the gospel will save it to eternity. But now from the second battle, God allowed them to take the plunder for themselves. In the war in those days, the plunder was like the soldiers' salary, and it was an important part of their service in the army. Once the principle was established firmly, God blessed them to take care of their practical needs.

 

With this, God said to them, Set an ambush behind the city. Here, we are shocked. This sounds so human, not like God’s style. God’s style is like when you come to the river that is flowing at its flood stage, God orders you, March!But the instruction, Set an ambush behind the city, sounds so human. Why did God need this kind of human tactics? Couldn’t he simply destroy Ai and give the city to the Israel people? Of course, he could! Why then, did he give this kind of tactic to Joshua? At the first battle, the Israel people did not do anything for the battle – they just marched around the city blowing the trumpets; God did all his work – he planned, proceeded and completed it. But now from the battle with Ai, God had the Israel people fight very practically. In the conquest, God did not fight by himself all the way, but He had his people fight – he had them engage into real fight – sword battle with their enemies face to face, using all possible means. God did not want his people weak and powerless like little children hiding behind their fathers; instead, he wanted them to be real men, well experienced in battle, courageous, bold, and very effective. He wanted them to be real warriors who were able to handle any situation, not fake people who always talk about the principle, saying, By faith, but not able to do anything in the real world. They learned the principle through the Jericho battle, and now it was the time for them to put what they learned into practice in serving the conquest, and through this practical battle, all of them would grow up as powerful generals for God’s kingdom work, skillful, wise, brave, and insightful. They would bring glory to God. How proud God will be when he says of them, These are my people.

 

Many people think that the demons will run away if they use the secret power formula, In the name of Jesus. They scream, You demons, come out of this man, I command you in the name of Jesus. But demons are not stupid. The seven sons of Sceva practiced this. One day, the demon answered them, Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you? Then the demon possessed man jumped on them and gave such a beating that these seven sons of Sceva ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:13-16) We must be real warriors for God’s kingdom. We must pioneer God’s kingdom on our campuses by practically participating in the Lord’s battle – fishing, finding one student who wants to study the Bible is a battle – it requires a lot of sweats and persistence; teaching students the Bible is a battle. As we serve them through one to one Bible studies, we somehow figure out how to help them properly. Each case, each student is different. Some students have serious family problem; some students are fearful; some students are like the Samaritan woman, thirsty for human love. Some students are like Levi, smart but so selfish and self-seeking; some students are like the paralytics, so lazy, irresponsive, and not being able to take care of themselves, but relying on others’ help and support all the time, full of complaints. Some people are like Nicodemus – they keep saying, How can it be possible? I don’t get it.They rely on their own righteousness in their religious life or moralistic life. As we serve them with the word of God one on one, often, we feel so limited; sometimes, we are defeated so miserably; sometimes, we are betrayed and ambushed; we develop deep wounds and scars; yet we somehow figure out how to overcome all these problems and lead them to Jesus successfully. With all these students in our hearts, we cry out to God for help; we prepare our Bible study notes carefully; as we keep doing this struggle, we come to understand the nature of the battle we are engaged in, and our understanding of human heart deepens and we learn how to handle the word of God correctly in doing God's work. Often, God opens our eyes to see how to attack the city and capture it – God’s secret mission plan comes to us, and suddenly we can see how to fight the battle. As we go through these battles continually, we grow to be well experienced and powerful soldiers for Christ – reliable and effective men and women of God, real warriors for God’s kingdom workwith huge spiritual biceps and triceps, maybe, with some warrior's scars here and there - dangerous weapons for God, like a sharpened sword and like polished arrows secretly conceals in his quiver. This is God’s vision for each of us.

 

After God’s instruction, Joshua got an idea of how to fight this battle. He set an ambush behind the city so carefully. Then, he himself together with the entire army went out for the battle with Ai, and when the enemies fought, he began to run away from them. Without knowing that it was Joshua’s tactic, the people of Ai chased after them, leaving the city open. The soldiers in ambush rose, entered the city, captured it and set it on fire. When the men of Ai saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, they realized that they were deceived. But it was too late. Joshua turned back and attacked them, and the soldiers of ambush also came out of the city against them. Israel killed all the men of Ai, without leaving a survivor.

 

ThirdAll the words of the law (8:30-35). Look at verses 30 through 34. After winning the victory, Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord. It was according to Moses’ command. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses mentioned about this twice. In Deuteronomy 11:29, Moses said, When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. And in 27:2, he said, When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write on them all the words of this law… Joshua built an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it, they offered to God burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal. Then, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. We see the content of what Joshua read in the book of Deuteronomy, chapters 27 and 28 – the curses if they disobeyed God’s laws and the blessings if they obeyed God’s laws. While Joshua read each curse or each blessing, people responded saying, Amen. It was a solemn ceremony in which all the Israel people renewed their hearts’ decision to live according to God’s word as God’s covenant people. In the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey, they would not live as they desired, but according to God’s words as God’s covenant people. Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:15, See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. Now, through two battle experiences in the promised land, all of them learned that keeping God’s command was the matter of life and death. Joshua copied the words of God onto stones there, and they renewed the covenant with God.

 

Are you God’s people? Then, engrave God’s laws onto your hearts so that you will never forget them; keep them and cherish them. Are you God’s covenant people? Then, what are the terms and conditions of the covenant? Engrave them onto your hearts and keep them so that in all circumstances you may choose God’s will. Then, his promises, his visions will be fulfilled in your life.

 

One Word:Engrave God’s Laws Onto Your Hearts

 

 

Sunday February 3, 2019

posted Feb 3, 2019, 3:38 PM by Site Administrator

THE BATTLE OF JERICHO

 

Joshua 6:1-27

Key Verse 6:20

 

When the trumpet sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.

 

In the previous passage, we learned about how God had prepared them before starting the conquest; after crossing the Jordan River, God commanded Joshua to circumcise the Israelites; He had them celebrate the Passover; and He helped Joshua to serve the conquest with reverence for God. Now everything was ready for the conquest. Jericho was tightly shut up, and no one went out and no one came in. They chose their best strategy. At this God told Joshua, See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. Even before starting the battle, God confirmed with Joshua that the victory was already given to him. How fun it is to fight the battle whose victory is guaranteed. Actually, this is the nature of the war we are engaged in as Christian soldiers. God already has confirmed with us that we will win the victory and eventually, the whole earth will be restored to its original status as the kingdom of God; we will live in the new heaven and the new earth, and God will live among us here on earth. That's how the world history will go. Surely, we belong to the winning team. Sometimes, we experience painful failures; sometimes, we are defeated; sometimes, we feel miserable. But still, we are not discouraged too much, because we know that eventually we win the war and reign with Jesus forever. 

 

In verses 3 through 5, God gave Joshua his special instruction about how they should attack and conquer this city, saying, 3March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in. The battle of Jericho was the first battle they fought in the conquest, and it was done completely by God's way; all other battles were done by Joshua's ideas and strategy, but this battle was done by God's instruction. God's instruction for this battle carries a significant meaning, showing all believers of how we must fight the Lord's battleand win

 

By the way, why did God give them this kind of instruction? He is the LORD Almighty. He could have helped them win the battle in many different ways. Maybe, He could say, Ok, everyone. At my signal, you shout all together; then, the wall of Jericho will collapse, and you go up, every man straight in. But instead, He had them march around the city once a day for six days, and seven laps on the seventh day. Why did he do so? Did he do so to see if they would obey him absolutely or not? Maybe, or maybe not! In the previous passage, we learned how God had prepared them for the battle: He had them circumcise themselves, which meant their heart’s complete determination to live for God; He had them keep the Passover to remember God’s amazing grace upon their life; He cut the food supply, as a result, they could not take anything casually at all – they could not relax because they didn’t have the next meal; they became dead serious and desperate; and there was no turning back for them either, because the River was flowing at flood stage again; the only way was to go, fight, destroy enemies and capture the land. In this way, God boosted up their fighting spirit – they became dead serious and desperate. That’s how God had prepared them for the conquest. This preparation shows that, even if He is Almighty and even if He was going to help them, God still needed them to have that kind of wholehearted and desperate spirit. God’s people must worship God in spirit and truth. Such people are the kind of worshipers God seeks. God can work with such people, and reveal His power and glory through them, because God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. All these preparations show us how we can developthat kind of desperate and wholehearted spirit; then, God can manifest his power and glory in and through us.

 

Now in this Jericho battle, the first battle in the conquest, with such preparation already done, God shows us how God’s people can win the victory by the power of God. 

 

First, “Carry the ark of the covenant and blow the trumpets of ram’s horns. In this instruction, there are two main items: the ark of the covenant and the seven trumpets of ram’s horns. God had them carry the ark during the whole campaign and protect it by placing the guard both in the front and rear. As we learned before, the ark of the covenant represents the word of God. The word of God is the mainweapon we have in fighting the Lord's battleThe Apostle Paul says, Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:17) We must carry the word of God all the time. You have the sword of the Holy Spirit – the powerful weaponWhat should you do with it? Carry it all the time; use it, and protect it with your absolute submission to its authority. 

 

God also told them to have seven priests carry seven trumpets of ram's horn and blow them during the whole campaign. There are two types of trumpets in the Bible - trumpets of silver and trumpets of ram's horn. The silver trumpets sound high and powerful and were used to announce victory; when the Roman army won the victory and came back to Rome, they used the silver trumpets, while people threw flowers on the soldiers marching into the city. But the trumpets of ram's horn, called, shofar sounded low and deep. Such sound was not about victory, but about people’s earnest plea to God for help and mercy. The seven trumpets of ram’s horns refer to our prayer. During this entire military campaign, the seven priests blew the seven trumpets of ram’s horn continually, showing that in fighting the Lord’s battle, we must pray continuallyasking God for his mercy and help. So, in doing God’s work, have these two items all the time – study and teach the word of God diligently, and pray for God’s work unceasingly.

Second, March around the city. God's direction for their specific action was to march around the city. It was the action of specifying the target. Say, “March around the city.” Specify the target. They were going to pioneer all the cities in Canaan, but it did not mean that they would try to capture them all at the same time. Right then, their target was Jericho, very specific and concrete. Circling the city must have taken at least two hours; it was not easy; especially, on the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, spending at least 14 hours, sweating, and pouring their energy wholeheartedly. As they spent their time and energy for the city like this, what they desired had become utmost clear - they wanted this city, Jericho, and by obeying God's instruction, they were asking God to give them that city. They were like sharks; when sharks find their prey, they circle around the target. Serving God’s work does not mean that today you serve homeless people, and tomorrow, you go to a hospital to serve the patients there, and after that, you go to Tijuana in Mexico for a short term mission work. The apostle Paul says, Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. (1 Cor 9:26) God, knowing all his children, calls them to their specific mission: some for homeless people, some for mission work in other countries. And God wants all of them to focus and concentrate on their own specific target. Our mission target is college campuses – we aim on our campus, pour out our time and energy to establish God’s kingdom on our campus. We need to lock in this target in our heart’s and soul’s computer system until it is completely engraved in us - until the school becomes our heart's real desire. How can we lock in our target? March around the city; aim on it - go fishing, serve sheep there. Still, not enough in your heart? Then, do it on the next day again. Still, not enough? Then, do it continually for six days. As you do this day after day spending more time and energy, a real desire for the school begins to rise in your heart; then, as that desire rises and grows in you, on the seventh day, circle around the campus seven laps, showing your complete decisiveness in doing this mission. Through the action of marching around the campus seven times on the seventh day by pouring out all our energy and strength for it, we show God our heart's real desire – we mean it - we claim that this school is what we really desire. The number seven is a complete number – your obedience to God’s will, your desire and struggle to conquer God’s mission field is completeThen, once the target is really locked in in your heart’s and soul’s computer system, then, launch a missile – shout, claiming God’s victory, and the missile can’t miss the target. This is how God’s people can advance God’s kingdom into enemies’ territory. Without this practical efforts, people just vaguely hope; they are just day-dreaming.

 

Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for. In order for faith to be concrete, there should be two things – 1) what you hope for: you must have something you really want—that’s the beginning of having faith; what do you want? What do you want God to do for you? 2) being sure of what you hope for: complete assurance that what you hope for will come true. When we have these two in our hearts firmly, we can say we have faith. How can we have these two so that we can have real faith? That’s what God’s instruction for Jericho battle talks about – when you march around the city in obedience to God’s will, when your obedience to God’s instruction is complete, you can have these two. As you obey God’s instruction, marching around the city once a day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day, you come to have what you really want – your complete obedience to this instruction, your wholehearted struggle to march around the city seven times on the seventh day proves that that’s what you want. As your obedience to God is being complete, you come to possess such complete assurance, absolute confidence in your heart. Jesus says, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Mt 17:20) With this faith, you give a loud shout, claiming God’s victory, and whatever you ask in Jesus’ name will be given to you.

 

Some people, with vague wish, try to serve God’s work; it is like marching around the city one time. But when they experience refusals, failures, and difficulties, they give up. It is like the Israel people after marching around the city one time, seeing that nothing happens, even no cracks on the wall, give up, saying, It does not work. Some people try a little more, two laps or three laps, but give up, because their hearts are not fully determined to serve God’s work to the end – they need to circumcise their hearts; they need to consecrate themselves to God. Some people just march around the city once in a while and they do so continually, not just for seven days, but for years; they stop for a while, and when they feel bored, they try again. Nothing happens because they are not decisive; probably, it is because even if they do not capture the city, their mission target, they have the means to survive in the world – maybe, their successful career or their happy family already has become the meaning and purpose of their life; they are already comforted, so they are not desperate to God; they need to cross the Jordan River; they need to be wholehearted in serving God’s work – remember that, for this, God cut his food supply for them. 

 

Specify your target and lock it in by marching around the city continually; engrave the shape and the character of the land, your target, in your heart’s and soul’s computer system firmly so that wherever you go, whatever you do, whether you sleep or eat, you never forget God’s mission target for you; instead, you carry it in your heart and life all the time – it becomes your heart’s desire; it becomes what you think of all the time; it becomes the bone and flesh of what you are about; it is what you talk about and pursue all the time. Then, it will be given to you, and your life will be very fruitful, glorious and meaningful. You will fulfill God’s mission upon your life and you will be satisfied. Your life will bring glory to God. March around the city seven times on the seventh day; lock in your target, and shout, claiming God’s victory.

 

ThirdWith all the armed men. God also specified that all the armed men should participate in this battle. When Israel had exodus from Egypt, 603,550 men, 20 years old or more, were counted. But all of them except Joshua and Caleb died in the desert due to their unbelief and disobedience to God. Now the new generation rose and were serving in the army, and they were counted 601,730 men. God commanded Joshua that all these soldiers must participate in this campaign. There were many experienced soldiers; but at the same time, there were many newbies who were just recruited; but all of them should participate in this campaign so that they would fight for the Lord together in one mind and heart. God commanded them to serve this conquest all together with the same purpose and vision, with the same struggle of following God's instruction as one army. This oneness in God’s army is very important. When this unity, this oneness is found among God's people, all of them, pursuing the same target, God does his mighty work in and through them. Jesus emphasizes the effectiveness of this oneness, saying, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Mt 18:18,19) This is what the Christian church is about. As the church, we are one army, pursuing the same target, having the same struggle. In fighting the Lord's battle, we fight together - one for all, and all for one! If some people fight for the Lord, but others relax and do not participate, it’s very discouraging. The influence is already bad. Jesus says, He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. (Lk 11:23) That’s why we must pursue the same goal with all others together. Not only experienced and mature shepherds, but also newly growing young disciples! Not only those who have great understanding of the entire Bible, but also new disciples who just recently studied Genesis! Not only those who can serve even 40 Bible studies a week, but also those who can serve 4 Bible studies! We fight all together for God's kingdom work in one mind and heart! This is the secret of winning the victory in serving God’s work.

 

Fourth, Seven days’ march, and on the seventh day seven times. In this whole instruction, the word, seven is repeated continually. Seven days’ march, seven priests blowing the seven trumpets of ram’s horn, and on the seventh day, marching around the city seven times. The number seven means completion. Often, at the beginning of the semester, we see many Christian churches or other Christian organizations on the campus; they want to do God’s work on the campus. College campus is very desirable mission field for any church – indeed a land flowing milk and honey. But in the middle of the semester or one semester later, or one year later, we don’t see them on the campus any longer. Why? Because, as they encountered some difficulties and obstacles, as they see that students are busy with their school work, or that students are not so interested in spiritual things, or that students are so proud and pleasure-seeking, they give up. Simply they do not complete the seven laps, due to some difficulties and challenges, thus showing that they are not the ones who really want it. 

 

But some other people remain, keep doing what God asked them to do on the campus, despite such rejections, failures and losses. Why? Because that’s what they really want – they accepted it as God’s will for them, and they are absolute about establishing God’s kingdom on their campuses. Despite such failures, losses and even pains, they keep struggling to do God’s work on their campuses. So, what happens? Still, nothing happens. So what do they do? They become more desperate, crying and crying asking God for help all the more. They do all they can do, even more, using every flying minute – no longer they go to school when they have time; instead, they make time and use every flying minute to do God’s work. As they seek God’s kingdom work on the campus this way, their hearts and minds are really given to God’s purpose. When you serve God’s work this way, when you are so wholehearted and desperate, you become different people: Your words are different - no longer naïve people, but zealous and spirit-filled people – when you say to your sheepYou must repent, your words carry real authority; when you say to your sheep, Come to our worship service, students follow. Your attitude is different; your spirit is different. Think about the Israelite soldiers, struggling to complete the seven laps, spending about 14 hours, pouring out their time and energy. That’s the struggle we need to make in obedience to God’s calling

 

When your obedience to God’s calling is completewhen your obedience to God’s instruction is complete, there, you become a different people – the ones who serve God in spirit, the ones who serve God wholeheartedlySuch people are the kind of worshipers God seeks, because they follow Him wholeheartedly like Joshua and Caleb – they are the living and God is pleased to be known as the God of such people, the God of the living. God happily reveals his power and his glory through them. When you mean business, God means business as well. At that time, whatever you ask in Jesus’ name will be given to you. This is Jesus’ promise. In fighting the Lord's battle, our prayer must be complete! In fighting the Lord's battle, we must carry the word of God all the time and our reliance on the word of God should be complete! In fighting the Lord's battle, our obedience to God's instruction should be complete! Then, we come to experience the wall of Jericho collapsing in front of us.

 

As you struggle to complete the seven laps, you may not see any sign – no dent or cracks on the wall. Yet, no evidence does not mean that what you do is not effective. Actually, real things are going on in the spiritual world both in God’s camp and in the enemy’s camp. As your obedience to God’s will goes on, God’s army is advancing – God is arranging things such as preparing his sheep to come to your school and miraculously leading them to you. And in the enemies’ campdemons are in big commotion, gathering together and discussing about your case in complete dismay, saying, This guy does not stop; he keeps doing it. What shall we do? The only thing is that such things are not visible yet. When you march around the city continually, at the right time, things will begin to be visible in the physical realm. You simply need to complete the seven laps.

 

FifthDo not say a word. Look at verses 6 and 7. At God’s instruction, Joshua said to the priests, Take up the ark of the covenant and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it. And he ordered the people, Advance! March around the city, with the armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord. He also issued one more instruction for them. Look at verse 10. Let’s read this verse together:

 

But Joshua had commanded the people, Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then, shout!

 

It seemed that Joshua understood the principle of God’s instruction very well. The soldiers’ hearts must be committed to the Lord’s battle. They must be serious and sincere in serving God’s purpose; they needed to build up a real zealous spirit so that God could work in and through them. And engaging in easy and casual talking fellowship with one another can be the worst enemy for the soldiers in the Lord’s battle. Think about how the whole army would be, if, during the march, the soldiers were chit-chatting with one anotherother all the way, chewing gums, talking and laughing – such an army would not look like God’s army; instead, it will look so silly, undisciplined and insincere – such an army cannot do anything. 2 Timothy 2:16 reads: Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. So, Joshua commanded them not to say a word during this entire military campaign. 

 

Sixth, Keep away from the devoted things. So, all the soldiers marched around the city of Jericho, following the ark of the covenant carried by the priests, while the seven priests kept blowing the seven trumpets. No one made any noise, but only the seven trumpets sounded. BoowoooBoowoooo It was an awesome scene. About 600,000 soldiers whose hearts and minds were completely determined to serve God, marched around the city so silently, while their enemies were watching them intently. As they obeyed God’s command and marched around the city day after day, what they desired had become clear; at first, they might wish that, if the city of Jericho was given them, it would be really good; but as they practically marched around the city day after day, as they spent more time for it, their desire for the city became more concrete; the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, maybe, at least spending 14 hours, sweating a lot, pouring out all their strength for it. Through this kind of struggle, it became utmost clear that what they really wanted was this city - in this way, they locked in the city in their soul's computer system. 

 

Meanwhile the people of Jericho were terrified as they saw the entire army of Israel marched around their city silently. At first, they thought that the battle was going to start soon. But the Israel people never raised a war cry, nor shoot an arrow to them. Think about how the people of Jericho felt day after day as they saw the entire army of Israel marching around their city silently. It was really a scary scene. Even though the Israel people did not do anything, the people of Jericho were already terrified, and they already melted in fear. On the seventh day, as the Israel people marched around the city continually, one time, two times, three times, four times, and finally, seven times, the people of Jericho were completely terrified; maybe, their nerve broke down, and some people went crazy, pulling their hair hysterically and screaming. As their obedience to God was complete, the Israel people already won the battle. In their eyes, the wall of Jericho already collapsed. After completing the seven laps on the seventh day, Joshua gave them his order to shout, but at the same time, he issued two orders. One was about Rahab and her family - since she had stood on God's side, and hid the spies Joshua sent, Joshua ordered them that Rahab and her family should be spared. The other order was in regard to the city and all the things in it. He said, The city and all that is in it must be devoted to the LORD... (17). Let's read verses 18 and 19 together:

 

18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.

 

Now Joshua understood the purpose of the battle - it was for the LORD, and all things in the city must be given to God. He was not fighting the battle for Israel or for himself, but for God alone. He warned them not to take anything from the city or from this battle, because everything belonged to the LORD. This is the principle of all our struggles. As we serve God's kingdom work, willing to lose our life for Him and his gospel, He is very concerned about our well-being, our happiness and our names that He exalts us highly even with good titles and positions, so that we may receive honor and respect and fame, even worldwide. But it does not mean that we should seek those things in fighting the LORD's battle. We must remember that this battle is for the Lord, not for our benefits such as titles or positions. All good things must go into His treasury - all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury. 

 

At Joshua's command, they shouted all together, claiming God's victory with full confidence. Then, as they believed, the wall of Jericho collapsed. All people went up, straight in, and took the city. All of people in Jericho were killed, except Rahab and her family, because she had hidden the spies sent by Joshua. The Israel people burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 

 

In the year 2019, let’s do God’s work with the word of God and prayer. Let’s do God’s work all together, not just only those who have time, but all together. Let’s go to campus, day in and day out, until we really engrave it in our hearts so that we can really desire for it. When we do so, nothing will hinder us; nothing can stand against us. And at our battle cry, at our decisive prayer, the wall will collapse, and souls will be saved, and we will establish God’s kingdom there with many dedicated disciples.

 

One Word:March Around The City With The Ark, Blow The Trumpets, And The Wall Of Jericho Will Collapse.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

posted Jan 27, 2019, 2:49 PM by Site Administrator

CIRCUMCISION AT GILGAL

 

Joshua 5:1-15

Key Verse 5:9

 

Then the Lord said to Joshua, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.

 

In the previous passage we learned about how the Israel people crossed the Jordan River. When the priests carried the ark of the covenant, the River yielded its way to the Israel people, and they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. They experienced the power of God. It seemed that now they were ready to fight. But before having them engage in the battle, God had a few more things to do to prepare them for the battle. This passage shows us how we should prepare ourselves to live as Christian soldiers. I pray that we all may be prepared fully for the Lord’s battle through this passage.

 

First, Circumcise the Israelites again (1-9). Look at verse 1. When the kings in Canaan heard about how the Lord dried up the River for the Israelites, and how they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, their hearts melted in fear, and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. They could see very clearly that the God of Israel is the True God. But, instead of surrendering themselves to God and God’s people, they were looking for a way to fight by shutting their doors and gates tightly, or by allying together with other kings. In this situation, God gave Joshua a new instruction. Look at verse 2. It reads: At that time the Lord said to Joshua, Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again. This direction was not easy to understand or obey, because they were already in the enemies’ territory. The enemies were watching every move of the Israelites, and everything was reported to their kings immediately. It was not a good idea that all the soldiers would be in pain while staying in the enemies’ territory. But despite all these reasons, God commanded them to receive circumcision. This explains the importance of circumcision. 

 

Circumcision was the seal of God’s covenant. In Genesis, we see God asking Abraham to circumcise himself and all the males in his household as an evidence of acceptingGod's covenant vision upon his life. When Abraham had his firstborn son, Ishmael, finally his dream had come true, and now his wholehearted struggle was to raise him up well - he wanted to be an exalted father, taking care of Ishmael very well, educating him very well. Being a noble or exalted father was not necessarily bad. But the problem was that, because of this desire, he could not pursue God's great covenant vision.We all have the desire to be a good father or a good mother for our children. We want to make sure that they grow well; we want to make sure that they are amply provided; we struggle to spend time with them. But often, because of this desire, our focus shifts from God to our children; our whole concern becomes our children, while we just go through the motion or doing our minimum duties barely in the church. While Abraham was living that way, God asked him to circumcise as the expression of his acceptance of God’s covenant vision and as the sign of his new dedication to it. Circumcision meant that he would cut off this small citizen's desire to be an exalted father for Ishmael so that he could live as God's covenant person to be the father of many nations. So, those who have circumcision are those who hold onto God's great covenant vision upon their life, instead of pursuing their own desires and plans; through circumcision, people become God's people who live for God according to God's will and purpose. It is indeed proper that God's people are known as the circumcised people. God becomes the God of these people, and they become God's people, and God and they together pursue God’s great vision upon their life. That’s what Christian life is all about.

 

Now God was bringing them into the promised land not so that they would live a trouble free life in their cozy houses, but so that they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the whole world. Before engaging into the battle in the promised land, they must make its purpose very clear – they needed to cut off any humanistic desires from their hearts. The conquest should be for God’s purpose, not for their own small citizen’s dream. So, God commanded them to circumcise themselves.

 

In verses 4 through 8, we see the practical reason why God commanded Joshua to circumcise them. They were the second generation Israelites after Exodus from Egypt. The first generation did receive circumcision in their flesh, but refused to live as God’s covenant people. When things went well, they were thankful and praised God; but whenever difficulties rose, they complained to God's servant Moses and regretted that they had left Egypt; they blamed God for bringing them out of Egypt. One time, they even wanted to choose a leader who would lead them back to Egypt. Simply, despite God's hard work for them and God's great salvation through the Passover and the Red Sea, their hearts were not turned toward God; they did not put their trust in God; they were not interested in God's will for them, but just wanted to have an easy and problem free life. Verse 6 describes this as disobedience to God. It reads: All the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. Among 603,550 people, without counting the Levites, that had experienced Exodus through the Red Sea, only two people, Joshua and Caleb entered the promised land, because they followed their God wholeheartedly. So, did God fail because the Israel people rejected his will upon their life? No, not at all. Verse 7 reads: So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way.

 

The Israel people’s failure is a great warning for us.Even though they had the circumcision in the flesh according to God’s instruction, even though they had worship service, these things did not mean anything when they did not follow God wholeheartedly. We must not say, Since I experienced Exodus from Egypt, I am okay. We must not say, I received the baptism, so I am saved. Instead, after experiencing God's salvation, we must accept God’s will for us and live for God by putting our trust in Him. We must live our life in obedience to God's will and purpose - such people are children of God.Before experiencing God's salvation, we could not live for God because we didn't know God. Instead, we lived a sinful and self-seeking life only to invite God's judgment on us. But now, by God's grace, we have been brought to God, and our eyes are opened to see who our God is - the Creator of heaven and earth. So, now we can love Him, because we know that He has been so good to us. Now as children of God, we can really live for God. Today, let’s circumcise our heart and live as God's covenant people, fathers and mothers of many nations, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. That’s how we can be prepared for the battle for the Lord.

 

Look at verse 9. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Then the Lord said to Joshua, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.

 

When they received the circumcised, God was so happy and shared his testimony, saying, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. After long struggle, finally, God had removed the reproach of Egypt from them through circumcision. The word, reproach means, shame or disgrace. The Israel people were born as slaves and lived as slaves in Egypt; naturally, they picked up the Egyptian way of life, value system, hope and desire. Then, one day, by the power of God, they came out of Egypt and became God's people. But in their real life, they were not like God's people at all; instead of being holy, righteous, and glorious, they were really sinful, selfish, worldly, and materialistic - they were lazy, unfaithful and unthankful. Instead of living as beautiful children of God, so humble, obedient and lovely, they were disobedient, grumbling and selfish. As they had lived in Egypt for four hundred years as slaves, the Egyptian lifestyles, attitude and behaviors had soaked into their bone and marrow; their way of thinking, their value system, their desires were those of Egypt. When God saw them behaving like the Egyptians in their day to day practical lives, not like children of God, He was sad; He was angry; he had deep pain because of that. God had borne the sinful behaviors of sinful people for the past forty years, struggling hard to remove all the residues of Egypt from his people Israel. It took for him just one day to bring out his people Israel from Egypt, but it took for him forty years in the desert to remove Egypt from them. It was God’s lonely and painful battle, and finally, after forty years’ long fight, as they received circumcision at Gilgal, God had rolled away the reproach of Egypt from his children! What glorious day it was! God was happy; He rejoiced. In joy, he proclaimed his victory, saying, Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.

 

This testimony of God makes us check ourselves out. We were born in the world and lived as members of the world, developing worldly value system, lifestyle, hope and desires, for about at least 20 years. Simply, the sin of the world hassoaked into our bone and marrow that we are sinful, worldly and materialistic in thoughts, words and actions naturally. As a result, many people, after accepting Jesus Christ, still live according to their worldly and sinful value system and desires, giving terrible influence to others. They do not act like children of God, but they do exactly they did in the worldtrying to be popular, or even trying to seduce others, flirting with their eyes, looking for girlfriends or boyfriends even in the church - that's the reproach of Egypt, so shameful and wicked. Some people come to church and struggle hard to occupy high positions so that they can exercise authority - they live exactly how the politicians in the world live - that's the reproach of Egypt; because of these people, many churches experience great troubleWhen children of God see the beauty of the daughters of men and marry anyone they choose, it is the reproach of Egypt; even some children of God envy the people of the world for their success. Some people come to church just on Sundays, then, they doggedly pursue a career or success in the world – God’s people doing it is the reproach of Egypt. How much God wants to remove it from us so that we may become like real children of God, holy and righteous, cool and awesome! How much God wishes that we may be truly sanctified in Him! This is the reason why we must fight against our sin, against the sinful lifestyles and cultures of this world. Now we must be rooted and built up in God with unshakable godly value system and hope. We must be really a new people in Jesus Christ. God is working hard to roll away the reproach of Egypt from us – this is what God is doing today in our lives. Today we must make our hearts’ determination to live as children of God. Today is the day we must receive the circumcision of our hearts and roll away the reproach of Egypt from us. When you receive the circumcision of your heart, God will be happy, saying, Today, I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.  

 

Second, Celebrate the Passover (10-12). Look at verse 10. On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. They were already in the enemies’ territory, but there, they celebrated the Passover – one of the Seven Feasts God commanded them to keep every year. In our terms, the Passover was a festival. More practically, they were having a festival in the enemies’ territory! Wow! Our God is really cool and awesome! David sang victoriously in Psalm 23 saying, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. While they had this festival in the enemies’ territory, the enemies could not do anything; simply, the Israelites were untouchable. At the night of the Passover in Egypt, the Israel people experienced the power of the blood of the Passover lamb, and they could leave Egypt, where they had been living as slaves for the past four hundred years, and started a new life in God as free people. The Feast of the Passover was to celebrate God’s deliverance from their slavery. It is very symbolic that right before engaging into the battle in the promised land, they celebrated the Passover. Remembering God’s grace of salvation was the foundation of their new life as soldiers for God’s army.

 

What is the foundation of your new life in Christ? Some people live as disciples of Jesus because such a life of helping needy people is something noble; some others live as Jesus’ disciples because it is very cool to stand before many people and deliver powerful messages; Some people come to church because there, they can enjoy some good fellowship with sincere people; some people do the work of God because of the fear of God’s judgment. All these things cannot be the true foundation for our new life as Christian soldiers. When things do not go very well any longer, when they receive mistreatment or ridicule instead of praise and respect, when the fear of God’s judgment is gone, when what they have desired does not come to them any longer, all these people go away and are not found in the Lord’s army any longer. This kind of foundations cannot withstand the challenges of this world at all; they are too weak to be the foundation for our new life in God. Only God’s grace of salvation, when we remember who we were – terrible sinners deserving God’s judgment, and who we have become – beautiful children of God – only because of God’s grace, out of thanks and heart’s desire, we can live as Jesus’ disciples despite all kinds of difficulties and challenges that we face in our mission life. We are willing to give up all things in the world and live as Jesus’ disciples not so that we can gain anything, but only because we are thankful for his grace upon our lives. Only Jesus Christ is the Rock Foundation for our new life. Let’s remember what God has done for us. Celebrate the Passover.

 

Look at verses 11 and 12. Let’s read these verses together: 

 

11The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.

 

God had been providing for them manna from heaven every day for the past forty years. Now, they were in the enemies’ territory to do God’s work, but from the very next day when they entered the enemies’ territory, God stopped providing food for them! No more food supply for the soldiers in frontier! Wow! That must have been a big issue. The day after the Passover, the Israel people got up early in the morning as usual, went out to gather some manna, but there was nothing! Oh, no! Probably, they were shocked and puzzled. God’s message was utmost clear – they must figure out how to manage their food problem in the battle field by themselvesGod would not give them food any more. In the enemies’ territory, there was only one solution – conquer enemies and get what they needed. God wanted them to be really wholehearted and desperate. In this way, God was building up their fighting spirit. Serve God’s work with such a sense of desperation and wholeheartedness. God seeks such people who worship Him in spirit. And God also wanted them to be independent and self-supportive in the mission field, not like little eaglets sitting in the nest and waiting for the mother eagle and crying for food all the time, but like real eagles soaring on wings, looking for prey, and solving their food problem by themselves. God saw them really capable of such a task!

 

ThirdTake off your sandals (13-15). Look at verse 13. Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. A drawn sword in his hand showed that he was ready to fight. The whole area was in great tension because of the warso no one was outside. But behold! A man was standing in front of the entire army of Israel, with a drawn sword in his hand, ready to fight! Who is he? Probably, the entire army of Israel halted in wonder. Joshua too wondered. He went up to him and asked, Are you for us or for our enemies? Then, the man said, Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come. He was the commander of the Lord’s army – an angel in human form, possibly, the angel Michael. Joshua thought that he was the commander of the Lord’s army in this conquest. But there was another commander of the Lord’s army, showing that this conquest was not only about the physical battle between the Israel people and the Canaanites, but also it was directly related to the spiritual battle between God’s army and Satan’s army. Not only Joshua, a human was involved in this battle, but also, the angel of God was fighting together with him. The physical army of God and the spiritual army of God were fighting together for God’s kingdom purpose. 

 

We work hard to serve God’s kingdom work. Sometimes, we experience great victories and rejoice; sometimes, we experience painful failures and shed tears. But we are not fighting alone, but together with our true commander in chief, Jesus Christ, and God’s angels are fighting together with us in the spiritual realm. We are not alone in this battle.

 

Originally, Joshua asked, Are you for us or for our enemies? Since the angel was the commander of the Lord’s army, it seemed that he should have said, Of course, for you. But his answer was, Neither! What a shocking answer it was! The commander of the Lord’s army was neither for Israel nor for the Canaanites; he was simply neutral! The angel was there to fight, not for the Israel people, but for God. And the Lord’s army was not for Israel, but for God! That’s the message Joshua had to learn as he served God as the commander of the Lord’s army. Probably, Joshua thought that he was going to fight for his nation Israel. To him, the battle was to establish the kingdom of Israel where his people would enjoy success and prosperity generation after generation. For this, he was willing to do anything, determined to fight. Because of his nationalism, he forgot that he was the commander of the Lord’s army, and that the battle was for God, not for Israel. 

 

Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come. This reply must have been very shocking to Joshua. When we think about this prayerfully, we can see that all kinds of humanistic ideas such as racism or nationalism have no place in God. We are here neither for America nor for China; we are here neither for the Republican party nor the Democratic party; we are here neither for English-speaking people nor Spanish-speaking people. As God’s people, as Christians soldiers for Jesus, simply, we are neutral. No need to be concerned about political issues or national issues – let them fight for such things doggedly, but you go and preach the good news of Jesus Christ. When you are asked, Are you for the Caravans or for Trump? You say, Neither! When you are asked, Are you for the Republican party or for the Democratic party? you say, Neither! I am in the Lord’s army! We entrust all such matters in God’s hands; then when election comes, we vote for what we think right, forget about all those things and dedicate ourselves to God’s mission – we live for and die for God’s work. Let’s shout, Neither!

 

At this, Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, What message does my Lord have for his servant? What was the angel’s message for him? Look at verse 15. Let’s read this verse together:

 

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy. And Joshua did so.

 

Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy. When God appeared to Moses from the bush that was on fire in the desert, He told him the same thing, Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Taking off one’s sandals is the expression of showing respect and honor. When you visit someone’s house, especially, someone honorable and respectable, you are very careful not to make any mistakes; you don’t want to behave at random at the house; when our brothers or sisters visit my house, they always take off their shoes. Take off your sandals! This instruction showed Joshua that he must serve the conquest as the leader with reverence and fear before God, not at random. He was the top leader, but it didn’t mean that he would do whatever he wanted; killing those whom he didn’t like, or letting some people whom he had mercy on live; going to the left or to the right when he felt like doing so. He was the top leader, but it didn’t mean that all things including people and materials, were at his disposal. Instead, he must serve the conquest as the top leader with a fearful and trembling heart before God

 

The commander of the Lord’s army showed him the reason, saying, for the place where you are standing is holy.The place where Joshua was standing was the land of Canaan. In the eyes of Joshua, the land was evil where all kinds of wicked and sinful people were living, doing all kinds of wicked things, deserving God’s judgment. But in God’s eyes, it was holy ground where Joshua must show respect and honor in reverence. It was the holy ground where Joshua must serve God’s work with a fearful and trembling heart, taking off his sandals. In what sense was it holy ground? It was the holy ground because it was the place where God had prepared for his people Israel, where God had been working for His kingdom purpose so long. It was the holy ground where God’s purpose was being fulfilled, and where God’s purpose would go on continually. 

 

Some people may serve God’s work because it is fun - Having a sword fight in which your victory is guaranteed is really fun. Some people may serve God’s work so that they can become rich – plundering enemies’ property and occupying someone else’s vineyard brings great delight. Some others may do the work of God because it is fulfilling – you feel good when you teach others saying do this or do that.But now, God asks us to take off our sandals and have reverence in our hearts. God commands us to serve his work with holy fear in our hearts, because the place where we are standing, the place where we are serving his work, our campuses, are holy ground, set apart for God’s purpose. ECC is holy ground where many powerful disciples have been established, and where such glorious work of God will continue. CSULB is holy ground where many great spiritual leaders who will change the world will be established. God has given us his mission to pioneer all the campuses in California. We must serve this will of God not at random or casually, but with reverence in our hearts. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.

 

God was with them; God was going to help them win the conquest. Yet, God had them do all these things – circumcision, Passover, war for the Lord, not for their own agenda such as for their own nation, and then, reverence in the conquest. We see how serious and sincere God was in this conquest – he was carefully proceeding things. This was how God dealt with the conquest and this was how He prepared the Israelites for the conquest. Today, God asks us to do the same things. When we are done with these preparations thoroughly, then, we can withstand all kinds of challenges in serving God’s work, and our mission will go very effectively.Circumcise your heart by getting rid of all human desires from your heart so that you can seek and serve God’s work powerfully. Remember God’s amazing grace upon your life – remember how He sacrificed his only Son Jesus to give you this new life. Fight the Lord’s battle for the Lord alone. And take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.

 

One Word:Today I Have Rolled Away The Reproach Of Egypt

 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

posted Jan 20, 2019, 3:48 PM by Site Administrator

CROSSING THE JORDAN RIVER

 

Joshua 3:1-4:24

Key Verses 3:15,16

 

Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from the upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.

 

First, When you see the ark of the covenant,…follow it (1-6). In the previous passage, we learned about Joshua’s secret spy mission. The spies’ report about Rahab brought him great encouragement and inspiration. Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. The ark of the covenant was the sign of God’s leading and they should follow it.

 

What is the ark of the covenant? It was a chest, made of acacia wood-about 3 and 3/4 feet long and 2 and 1/4 feet wide and high, overlaid with pure gold, both inside and out, with a gold molding around it. It had four gold rings fastened to its four feet, two rings on one side and two rings on the other side, and two poles of acacia wood were inserted into these four rings, and the priests carried the ark on their shoulders with these poles. Its cover was made of pure gold, and was called, the mercy seat. The word, covenant means contract or promise. God commanded Moses to put three items in the ark – the two stone tablets of God’s Ten Commandments, manna in a gold jar, and Aaron’s budded staff. Aaron’s staff was just a dead wooden stick like modern day senior citizen’s cane. But God had it bud, blossom with flowers, and then, produce almonds – it was the sure sign of God’s promise of resurrection – thus representing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the New Testament. (Num 17:8) The two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed represent the Law – the Old Testament; manna, which came down from heaven, and which the Israel people ate in the desert for forty years, represent God’s word – manna teaches us that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut 8:3) Thus, the ark of the covenant represents the Bible – both the Old Testament and the New Testament; actually, the same word for covenant is testament - the ark of the testament, both Old and New. When you see the ark of the covenant, carried by the priests, follow it. 

 

Look at verse 4. Let's read this verse together:

 

Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.

 

Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. The promised land was a new land to them, but the ark of the covenant would be their guide and map, showing them which way to go; as long as they saw where the ark of the covenant was going and followed it, they would have no problem. This illustrates our Christian life very well. Before knowing Jesus, we have lived in the world, with worldly value system, worldly hope and desires, and worldly lifestyle; we were very familiar with things of the world. Only by the grace of God, we have been brought into this new land as believers. Now in this new land as children of God, everything is new; we have never been this way - the value system is new; lifestyle is new; life purpose is new. We are really like the Israel people in a new land. How can we know which way to go, how to live and what to do in this new life as children of God? See the ark of the covenant and the priests carrying it, and follow it. 

 

See means pay attention to. We must pay attention to what the word of God says - read the Bible, study the word of God, meditate on it day and night so that you can really grasp what God is talking about. The world tempts you to see the beautiful things it offers - smart phones, sports cars, promising careers, beautiful family; but don't look at them, but see the word of God - see where it goes, and what God says to you through it. Our flesh also appeals to us to see what it desires - boyfriend or girlfriend, or pleasures, but it is based on our sinful nature; don't follow it. Instead, see what God says in the Bible. When you see the word of God and follow it, you will surely know which way to go, what to do with your life and how to live it as children of God. The word of God is our guide and map for our spiritual life as children of God. As we have this struggle of seeing the word of God and following it, we will come to develop spiritual and heavenly value system, hope and vision, and lifestyle, and we can truly live as children of God. Many people do not know God's will for them because they simply do not study the Bible; simply, they do not see where the ark of the covenant is going. Many others, even though they see where the ark of the covenant is going, do not follow it – as a result, their life does not reflect the life of children of God at allSee the ark of the covenant, and follow it. Then, you will know which way to go, sinceyou have never been this way before.

 

Look at verse 5. Joshua told the people, Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you. The word, consecrate means make clean or set apart. Its meaning was to set themselves apart for God’s purpose. Once they were set apart for God’s purpose, they no longer belonged to themselves or to the world, but to God; they would no longer live as ordinary private citizens of the world, but live as God’s instruments, God’s servants – their life would be offered to God for his purpose fully. The word, consecrate is the exactly same word with holy. In KJV, it is translated as sanctify. They were the second generation of the Israelites. When Israel had crossed the Red Sea 40 years ago, they were children, under 20 years old, and a lot of them were born in the desert during forty years' training. So, they grew up in a believing environment, seeing the pillar of cloud and fire all the time and following its guidance; they had worship service; simply, they were familiar with all God-worship culture. But, growing up in a believing environment or being familiar with God-worship culture did not mean that they were really consecrated to God. Jesus' 11 apostles followed Jesus for three and a half years, but at the last supper, Jesus prayed for them, saying, Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (Jn 17:17) Consecration is a personal matter. Such dedication is personal, and each and every person must make his or her own sincere and consciousdecision to consecrate themselves to God. Right before engaging into the conquest, Joshua ordered the people to consecrate themselves, to set themselves apart to GodHe encouraged them to make their hearts’ personal determination very clear to offer their lives for God’s purpose. 

 

Joshua gave them a clear reason why they had to consecrate themselves to God, saying, For tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you. God was going to do amazing things among them; God was going to launch his mighty power among them; they would experience great miracles. When they experienced God doing amazing things among them, they would shout for joy, completely happy, excited and fascinated; experiencing God's mighty miracles would be really glorious and fantastic. They would see that living as children of God was really fun, action-packed and venturous. But such an exciting life of children of God, such a privilege of experiencing God's mighty miracles was only available for those dedicated people, who had consecrated themselves to God.

 

Many Christians feel bored; they think that Christian life is boring, but they somehow still live as Christians so that they can go to heaven, not hell. They are greatly mistaken.Christian life is not boring, but it is really fantastic, action-packed and dynamic; it is an abundant life; you come to truly enjoy your life to the full. The thing is that such a powerful and glorious Christian life is available only for those who are dedicated to God, those who have consecrated themselves to God. Also, many Christians are fascinated when other Christians share their amazing experiences with God; they too want to experience God that way, but nothing amazing happens in their Christian life; it is because they have not consecrated themselves to God yet. We are Christians, so wemust live as children of God, pursuing His kingdom and dedicating ourselves to God's mission. Then, God's miracles become common in our day to day life, and we come to have so many amazing stories, which God and we together have developed, which will be used for our children's bedtime stories. Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.

 

Second, The water from upstream stopped flowing(7-17). Joshua gave the order to the priests, Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people. Look at verse 15. It reads: Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest… God gave them the order to cross the Jordan River when it was at flood stage! Our God is really cool! God could have chosen a better time when the Jordan River was not at flood stage. But God chose specifically that time and commanded the Israel people to march into the promised land through the water that was flowing at flood stage! This is our God’s style! When our hands are full, when we have so many responsibilities to take care of, God commands us, Charge!When it seems that we are so limited in time and money, God commands us, Charge! Our God is really cool! He wants us to be really brave by faith in Him. When you obey God absolutely, you become really cool, doing so many amazing things beyond your understanding, and your life will be full of ventures and excitement. 

 

So, in obedience to God’s command given through Joshua, the priests took up the ark, and went ahead of people. Then, behold! A great miracle happened! As soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowingHow? The water piled up in a heap all by itself as if there was an invisible dam or wall. At God’s command, the water stood up in a heap! As the water piled up in a heap, there was great sound like waterfalls, a lot of mist coming up from it – it was an awesome event! As the Israel people watched it, the heap of water grew bigger and bigger – 20 feet tall, 30 feet tall, then, soon, 40 feet tall,… It must have taken a lot of time for about more than 2 million Israel people with many children and animals to cross the Jordan River on foot, and during this period of time, the heap of water grew bigger and bigger continually with great sound effect. The entire Israel people crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. 

 

In escaping from Egypt, the Israel people crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, because God made a way through the Red Sea; with God’s power, they walked on dry ground and crossed the Red Sea; but when the Egyptians tried to walk on the same path without God’s power, they drowned in the water. Now, in invasion, again, the Israel people crossed the Jordan River on dry ground with God’s power. Often, as we try to invade into God’s promised land, we face a great barrier. Our difficult financial situation looks like the Jordan River, running at its flood stage; our heavy school load looks like the Jordan River, flowing at its flood stage. The promised land flowing with milk and honey, is right in front of us, but right before that, there is the Jordan River, running at its flood stage; it looks so scary and dangerous. It seems that if we try to cross the River by swimming, we will surely drown. To some people, their passive character or their fear of humans or rejection, is like the Jordan River that keeps them from invading into the promised land. To some people, persecution from their family members is the Jordan River - their family members threaten them so seriously that it seems the water is running at its flood stage. How can we cross the Jordan River and invade into the Promised Land? The book of Joshua is God’s audio-visual presentation through the example of the Israel people, of how we can cross the Jordan River and invade into the Promised Land. What is the secret of crossing the Jordan River? The secret is the ark of the covenant. Even though it was at its flood stage, so scary and dangerous, as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing! 

 

The ark of the covenant is a metaphor for the Bible, the word of God. When we have the words of God, when we march into the Jordan River with the words of God, suddenly, the water that looked so threatening, stops flowing – the water that looked so scary, yields its way to us; when we have the words of God, even the nature stops running its natural way; all things begin to work together to prepare a way for us so that we can do the conquest in the promised land. This is what today's passage is talking about.

 

The Jordan River flowing at its flood stage represents a great barrier or obstacle, or simply, impossibility, so threatening and intimidating. For me, fishing was impossibility; despite my effort in fishing, I could not find any sheep – all students used the same word, “No thanks.” When things went this way for several monthsI was really frustrated; I felt really miserable. When fishing was impossibility, of course establishing a disciple was impossibility too. Then, one day, God’s word touched my heart – God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, based on Mark 12:27. When this word of God was given to me, I was angry at myself who was nothing but a pathetic loser. I said to myself, “How long will you be like this, so miserable? No more!” I slammed my car door and decisively went up to the campus and fished students. That day, I found 5 sheep in about 2 hours – before, in several months, I found no sheep, but then, in 2 hours, I found 5 sheep - and one of them grew as a disciple, now as a great man of God. How did it happen? It happened just naturally – not that I used all my brain to figure out and understand how to say and how to guide, but by God’s grace, he grew, and at the same time, several other disciples grew together – God did it; by God’s power, they grew as disciples. Meanwhile, what did I do? I just studied the Bible, prepared Bible study notes and taught them the word of God diligently. Indeed, what Jesus says is true: “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” (Mar 4:26-27) Often, disciple making seems impossibility – despite our struggles, we fail, and we don’t know how we can do it. But as we struggle to do God’s work, as we teach students the Bible diligently, out of nowhere, disciples begin to grow. So, we have nothing to worry about. Instead, we just dedicate ourselves to God’s work in fishing and Bible studies, and teach them the Bible diligently.

 

Again, here the most important thing is that we carry the words of God. When we have the words of God, suddenly, oppressive people become so kind and gentle, and are willing to help and work for us – they voluntarily offer help and support, in the matter of finding a job or in the matter of school work. When we have the words of God in us, suddenly, many students begin to show positive response to our Bible study invitation. Those who have the words of God can cross the Jordan River on dry ground and invade into the Promised Land. Struggle to have the words of God in you.

 

Look at chater 4, verse 14It reads: That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses. That was the result of this event. This was what God originally had intended – exalting Joshua as his servant, showing that God was with him. (Jos 3:7) This is God’s desire for those who serve him wholeheartedly. Jesus lived for God and even died for God. When his obedience and submission to God’s will was like that, God was so pleased with him that his one single desire was that Jesus might be honored as He Himself was honored. So, God assigned him as the Judge of all. Jesus says, Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (Jn 5:22-23). Many people struggle hard to occupy high positions or great titles in the church, or great degrees in theology, thinking that when they have such things, people will honor and respect them. They are greatly mistaken. True honor comes from God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and serve Him only, and God will exalt you highly and honor follows. Let God prove that you are his servants, and people will honor you.

 

Look at verse 17. Let’s read this verse together:

 

The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

 

How important the job of the priests who carried the ark of the covenantwas! As shepherds and shepherdesses, when we carry the word of God, so many people under our leadership will enjoy the benefit of our struggle, and they too will cross the Jordan River very easily. In the year 2019, in serving the conquest, as a royal priesthood, let’s carry the ark of the covenant on our shoulders. Let’s carry the words of God in our hearts.

 

Third, These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever (4:1-24). Look at verses 1 through 3. When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, God commanded Joshua to choose twelve men among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood. So Joshua called together the twelve men, and commanded them to go and take up twelve stones. What was the purpose of these stones? Look at verses 6 and 7. Let’s read these verses together:

 

6to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' 7tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

 

The stones were to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever, showing what God did for them when they carried the ark of the covenant, how God launched his power for the Israel people and how they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. It was one time event which only these Israel people in Joshua’s time experienced, but God wanted this event known to everyone so that all people who have the desire for God, may learn a lesson, the secret of experiencing God’s power in their life, the secret of overcoming obstacles in serving God’s mission. The secret is carrying the ark of the covenant on the shoulders, that is, carrying the word of God in our hearts.

 

Look at verses 17 and 18. Let’s read these verses together:

 

17So Joshua commanded the priests, Come up out of the Jordan. 18And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.

 

After the entire nation finished crossing the Jordan River, Joshua commanded the priests to come out of the river. When they did so carrying the ark, immediately, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before. Think about a huge heap of water, about 100 yardstall, falling to the ground with big splash! It was amazing, more fantastic than all the blockbuster movies. Now they crossed the Jordan River, and there was no turning back – there was no way back to their old way of life; if anyone tried, he would drown in the River. Now, they had only one choice, that is, go forward, fight, capture the land and take possession of it. Believing in Jesus is like crossing the Jordan River; once you crossed it, God let the water flow again – it flows at its flood stage, and thereby, you have no way to go back. The only way is to go forward, fight, and capture the land.Remember Lot’s wife! By God’s grace, she escaped from God’s judgment. Yet, she yearned for the things she had left in Sodom; she looked back and was destroyed. Remember also the Israelites: They experienced God’s salvation through the blood of the Passover lambs; but all of them collapsed in the desert, except two – Joshua and Caleb, because they looked back, yearning for the life in Egypt. Christian life is like crossing the bridge, and once you crossed it, God burns it behind you, and thereby, there is no turning back! Hebrews 10:39 and 40 reads: “But my righteous will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.””

 

Look at verses 23 and 24. Let’s read these verses together:

 

23For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.

 

Verse 24 describes God’s purpose in performing this miracle in the sight of the Israel people. It was to show that He is powerful and thereby, people might always fear Him. God is powerful! Do you believe this? Then, why does God reveal this to you? So that you may always fear Him! Why is fearing God so important that God did this much, even against the natural law? It is because, when you fear the Lord, you do what He wants you to do absolutely; instead of doing whatever you feel like doing, you carefully obey God’s laws and God’s commands. The fear of God keeps you from sinning. As a result, your life goes in the way God designed, and you avoid all harmful things in this life. When you live that way, good health follows you, long life follows you, and even wealth follows you – I don’t know about this yet, but that’s what the Bible says. (Pro 3:16) Proverb 22:4 reads: Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life. The fear of God is wisdom. 

 

Many people say, “God is almighty. He created the universe in six days!” They even use a difficult term, saying, “I believe that God is Omnipotent!” They enjoy sharp argument with their professors in the classroom in regard to creation and evolution. But they do not live in the fear of God, they do not obey God’s will – there do not have the struggle of denying themselves, they do not know what it means to submit themselves to God. So, even unbelievers despise them. Again, the whole purpose of God in performing this great miracle of crossing the Jordan River on dry ground was that they might fear God, and thereby, obey his commands. God wants us to fear Him so that we can live in obedience to his will and purpose. Fear God, and you will be prosperous.

 

One Word:When You See The Ark Of The Covenant, Follow It.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

posted Jan 13, 2019, 6:55 PM by Site Administrator

6

 

 

GOD IN HEAVEN ABOVE AND ON THE EARTH BELOW

 

Joshua 2:1-24

Key Verse 2:11

 

When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heave above and on earth below. 

 

First, “A secret spy mission” (1). In the previous passage, we learned about God’s instruction for Joshua, the new leader for the conquest. He must be strong and courageous, and be careful to obey all the law of God; then, God would give him every place he would set his foot, and he would be successful in carrying out the conquest in the Promised Land. At this, Joshua was greatly encouraged, and gave an order to the Israelites to get supplies ready. Now in three days they would cross the Jordan River into the land God had promised to give them. But before starting the conquest, Joshua had to do something very important. Verse 1 says that Joshua sent secretly two spies from Shittim. He said to them, “Go, look over the landespecially Jericho.” We understand why he sent the two spies into Jericho. Simply, he had no idea about how the enemies were doing. For the past 40 years, the Israel people had been wandering in the desert, and when they came to the border of Canaan for the conquest,they did not have any information about the land or about their enemies. Joshua wanted to know about how the enemies were doing. In the military strategy, there is a saying, “If you know your enemies, you fight 100 times, and win 100 times.” 

 

Forty years ago, when Israel people camped in the Paran desert, God told Moses to send 12 spies, one from each tribe,to explore the land. So, Moses sent them out; they explored the land for forty days, and returned – in front of the entire assembly of Israel, two of them, Joshua and Caleb brought a good report saying that they must go up and capture the land; but ten other spies brought a bad report, saying that they would not be able to conquer the land – they stirred up the entire assembly and planted the fear of death and destruction in their hearts. At their report, all of the Israel people grumbled, “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” It wasnonsense that God had led them to the land of Canaan only to let them fall by the sword. But once fear was planted, they became out of control. God was angry with them, and commanded them to turn back and set out toward the desert. Because of their unbelief, their entry to the Promised Landwas delayed for forty years; because of their unbelief, none of them, more than 600,000 men who were above 20 years old when they crossed the Red Sea, was allowed to see the Promised Land, except two people – Joshua and Caleb; they all collapsed in the desert. Having a meeting for the entire assembly for the spies’ mission report sounded good; it sounded very democratic, but Joshua saw how some men of unbelief could destroy the whole assembly effectively by spreading the words of unbelief and rebellion. During the past forty years, Joshua must have bitten his tongue many times whenever he thought about this. So, now as he was starting the conquest, and when he was about to send out the spies, he did not gather the meeting at all; he chose two of his best men, most faithful and trustworthy, and secretly sent them into the land for the spy mission

 

The Israel people’s failure is a great lesson for us to heed also. Whenever we open our mouth, we must make efforts to say some words of faith and encouragement, not the words of unbelief and rebellion. Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” Also we learn that we need wisdom and caution in doing Gods work. Being democratic or making everything known to everyone sounds good, but not always beneficial for the church. We need to serve Gods work wisely.

 

Second, “Your God is God in heaven above and onthe earth below” (2-11). So, according to Joshua’s direction, the two spies went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. Maybe, staying at the prostitute’s house was a good tactic for them to be unnoticed. But they did not know that their enemies had been watchingthem all the time, and that there were so many secret agents in the town. Their move into Jericho was reported to the king of Jericho immediately. The king of Jericho sent his policemen to Rahab with this message, “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” Their spy mission was bound to fail. But there was an unexpected factor – it was Rahab the prostitute!Verse 4 says, “But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them.” She hid the two spies! It means that, when she saw them, she recognized them as the Israelite spies. Even though they tried to disguise themselves in words and actions, it must have been obvious that they were the Israelites – maybe, even though they tried to be tough in their words like gangsters, their gentle character as shepherds could not be covered. When Rahab saw them, they were like sheep among the wolves that looked so naïve without noticing that danger was coming moment by moment. So she hid them. She took them up to the roof and hid them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof. When the policemen came, she said to them, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” She acted out very well and sent them away without giving them any chance to search the house. 

 

Humanly speaking, her action was not acceptable. She betrayed her nation. Why did she do so? In verses 8 through 13, she explains why she did so. Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. When she gathered all the facts about what God had done thus far -his deliverance for the Israel people from Egypt, and his miracles - she could see very clearly who God was – to her, the one who had done all these things must be the God in heaven above and on the earth below – the true GodShe concluded with complete confidence that the God of Israel was God in heaven above and on the earth below. It was a great discovery she had, probably, the most important discovery in her life. 

 

In those days, there were many gods in Canaan – Asherah Pole, Baal, Molech,... Also, in every country and nation, there were gods worshiped by people. The Egyptians worshiped Ra, the god of the sun; they also worshiped a god that looked like frogs; they worshiped the Nile River. But, Rahab found that among all the gods, the God of Israel was the one true God in heaven above and on the earth below - all other gods were fake. Through the facts that God had done thus far, her eyes were opened to see who the God of Israel was – she came to acknowledge the God of Israel as one true God. Then, she knew what to do – no matter what, at any cost, she wanted to stand on God’s side. When she realized that the God of Israel was the only true God, then, it was no longer the matter of Israel or Jericho, but the matter of standing on God’s side or not - in her eyes, those who were on God's side were good, and those who were not on God's side were bad. This was what’s going on in her heart. She had been waiting for God’s salvation. She was a prostitute and her social position was very low. Who could imagine that she had harbored in her heart the desire for the God of Israel? But God noticed her. In his eyes, Rahab was so outstanding among all those idol worshiping people in Jericho, like a shining star in the universe. 2 Chronicles 16:9 reads: “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” God sent his messengers of salvation to her in Jericho. What an amazing arrangement it must have been that the two Israelite spies came to her house and stayed there! How happy Rahab was also when she saw the two Israelite spies came into her house! They were God’s angels for her salvation. Even if she had the desire to turn to God, there was no chance. But now she had a chance because of these two spies. Probably, she shouted to herself, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” Then, with all her heart and strength, she stood on the side of Israel, and protected themsafe and secure.

 

The whole world is actually like Jericho – in this world, people live in corruption with the fear of God’s judgment, but holding some kind of vague hope that they would be okay. We can call this world, “A city of corruption.” John Bunyan, in his book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” called this world as “a city of destruction.” In that city, an agonized man, named Christian, sensing the coming of destruction, cried out, “What shall I do?” “What shall I do?” God heard his cry and sent him an evangelist. In this world, it is already destined that there will be judgment – all people on earth already stand condemned; they are doomed. Surely, death is coming to them, and after that, eternal judgment, but still, people hope that they will be okay. With this hope, they shut down all the gates and doors against God. Their only way of salvation is to open their gates and hearts toward God and surrender to God unconditionally, pleading for God’s mercy. All these people must hear what Rahab said: “The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

 

God is the only true God, and thereby, He is the Ultimate Standard above and beyond all human virtues, laws and regulations. He is above patriotism, above family, and above all human standards. Whatever He does is right. One day every tongue will confess that he is God; one day every knee will bow to him. Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose him now. We must choose God above all things.

 

Third, “The scarlet cord” (12-24). Look at verses 12 and 13. After sharing her reasoning with the two spies, Rahab said to them, “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”She was decisive and at the same time, very sincere. Her pleafor salvation was so earnest and clear. The spies responded, saying, “Our lives for your lives! If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.” So she let them down by a rope through the window, with an advice to them to hide themselves in the hills for three days until the policemen returned, and then go on their way. Look at verses 17 and 18. Let’s read these verses together:

 

The men said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house.”

 

Rahab asked them for a sure sign of salvation for her and her family, and they gave her the scarlet cord. When the Israel people marched into the land, and saw this scarlet cord tied in the window of the house, they would not touch the house at all; they would simply pass by it, and everyone in that house would be saved from God’s judgment that was going on through the Israel people. In the book of Exodus, at the Passover night, the sign for salvation for Israel people was the blood of the lamb on the door frames. When the angel of destruction saw the blood, he realized that the punishment had already been carried out on that house, so he simply passed over the house. Thus, everyone in the house was saved from God’s judgment. Here, the blood of the Passover lamb refers to the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross for all peoples on earth. The scarlet cord is also the shadow of the blood of Jesus Christ.

In this dying world, many people are crying out for help like Rahab. We do not belong to this world, but still God sends us into the world so that through us, all those who have been waiting for God’s salvation, may be found and brought back to God. If we go, they have a chance for salvation. On our campuses, actually, we are in secret spy mission; whenever we find those who have been waiting for God’s salvation, those who have faith in God, we help them tie this scarlet cord in the windows of their hearts – they truly experience Jesus’ sin forgiving grace that saves them from eternal condemnation. There might be many things we can try to help them such as offering fellowship, or attracting them with fancy rock music concert, but fundamentally, it is the blood, which Jesus shed on the cross that saves them from sin and death. In the year 2019, let’s pray to find many Rahabs on our campuses. 

 

It is really amazing to notice that among all the people in Jericho, only one person was delivered from God’s judgment, and she was a lowly prostitute. Humanly speaking, she was not qualified for anything good or great, but because of her absolute faith in God, she was chosen to be an example of God’s salvation. Her case shows that God does not see outward appearance, or what kind of job people may have, or races or gender, but only faith in God alone for salvation. In the world, she was lowly, but by faith in God, she became a great woman of God. When she stood on God’s side firmly, she was so awesome and great – she was decisive, powerful, and wise. God blessed her and established a new family for her in Israel. She became the great grandmother of King David. We must live by faith in God. By faith in God, we must stand on God’s side decisively, entrusting our entire life in God’s hands. Then, God will surely bless us.

 

Now, the way of salvation was offered to Rahab - the scarlet cord. The door for her salvation was flung open. But there were two instructions she had to follow for her salvation and the salvation of her family members. They said, "unless you have tied this scarlet cord in the window,..." and "unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house." She had to tie the scarlet cord in the window. Also, as the one who had this good news of salvation, she had to share it with all of her family members; she must inform them of this instruction, and help them follow it absolutely for their own salvation. Then, only then, she and all her family members would be saved; if they ignored this instruction, then, they would be killed, forfeiting salvation bestowed upon them. This is the principle of salvation. As Jesus paid the price of the sin of the world through his death on the cross, the door of salvation is flung open; this salvation is indeed the gift of God freely given to mankind. And God shows us how we can secure it - the instruction of how we can enter it in the Bible, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is near. Repent therefore and believe the good news." The instruction is simple - repent and believe the good news; repent and believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for your sake. As it was good news of salvation for Rahab, so this is the good news of salvation for everyone who has been waiting for God's salvation. They gladly accept this instruction and follow it, repenting of their sins and believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior. But those who ignore this instruction forfeit God's salvation. Also, as those who have this good news of salvation, we have an obligation to tell others about it; we must inform them of this salvation and help them follow the instruction - we must help them repent and turn to God in Jesus Christ. Then, all people who are under our care will be exempt from God's judgment.

 

Look at verse 24. When they returned to Joshua, they told him everything that had happened to them. They concluded their spy mission report, by saying, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Rahab’s faith and decisive turning to God was a great source of inspiration and encouragement to the spies, Joshua and all Israel people. Now,Joshua came to know the enemies inside and out – outwardly, they looked powerful, but Joshua knew they were melting in fear.

 

Outwardly, college students look just fine  they look confident of their life and future; they are sincere in seeking their career dream; they are proud; or it seems that they dont care about their life at all, but just fun and pleasures, having no desire for salvation or eternal life. But when we go into their life just one inch deeper, we come to see totally different people. Basically, they are fearful  fearful of their future, fearful of their health, fearful of death, and even really fearful of eternal judgment. They are sorrowful  sorrowful for theirpast life, sorrowful for present life, sorrowful for their future life, sorrowful for their familyThey are angry and bitter  at themselves, at their parents, at their friends and at the society. They are lonely, even while laughing with their friends, they are lonely even while partying. And they are suffering from the sense of meaninglessness and emptiness; they are suffering from insomnia and depression; and many of them are suicidal. Indeed, they are demons targets; they are demons easy prey; they are demons toys. When we see them outwardly, we are intimidated. But when we see their lost and perishing inner souls, we can be confident of what we do as shepherds and thereby, we can be bold in fishing and teaching them the Bible. The Lord God has surely given the whole land into our hands.

 

One Word:Your God Is God In Heaven Above And OnThe Earth Below

Sunday, January 6, 2019

posted Jan 6, 2019, 9:14 PM by Site Administrator

1

 

BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!

 

Joshua 1:1-18

Key Verse 1:7

 

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

 

First, Get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land… (1-2). Look at verse 1. After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: The book of Joshua starts right after the death of Moses. Moses was a great spiritual leader. He went to Egypt and brought the Israel people out to God; he was their shepherd who carried them in his heart. But God did not let him bring the Israelites into the promised land; instead, God gave this mission to Joshua, the son of Nun. It was because that much was what God had designed for him to do, and the job of bringing them into the promised land belonged to Joshua, whose Greek name was Jesus. Moses served God’s will in his generation, and then, when his mission was over, he fell asleep. 

 

Now God chose Joshua as his successor. What kind of person was he? He was a son of Nun, an Ephramite. This passage describes Moses as the servant of the LORD, and Joshua as Moses’ aide. He was Moses’ aide. He didn't have his own title or position, but Moses' aide. We have a handsome brother, Sam, and he felt so irritated to be called or known as Roberto's brother. Instead, he wanted to be known as Sam. In this way, we all have the desire to live our own life. But Joshua lived as Moses' aide for forty years. When Moses was tired, it was Joshua who ran to Ralphs, bought Redbull energy drink and brought it to him. When Moses needed some copy papers, it was Joshua who ran to Sam's club and bought the box of copy papers. When Moses needed stamps, it was Joshua who ran to the post office and bought them. Joshua did not live his own life, but as a part of Moses' life. How could Joshua live as Moses' aide, not just one or two years but forty long years? He could do so because he was loyal to God; his service to Moses was the expression of his service to God; the fact that God chose Joshua to be the successor of Moses shows that in God's eyes, Joshua was loyal to God; in God's eyes, Joshua was his loyal servant whose heart and life were completely dedicated to him. As Joshua remained faithful and loyal to his servant Moses, God was very pleased to have such a loyal servant - indeed, he was a reliable man of God. God chose him to be the top leader for his people Israel, because in his eyes, he was great.

 

Now after Moses’ death, God spoke to Joshua, Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. God was going to bring them into the promised land. But the problem was, the land was already occupied – the Canaanites were living there; and neither these people would simply yield their homes and vineyards to the Israel people and evacuate, nor God would remove them from the land. Instead, they, the Israel people should go in and take possession of it. By believing in God’s promise that it was already given to them, they must march in, attack and capture the land inch by inch, yard by yard. By faith that God was with them and that God would really help them to win, they must wage a war against the Canaanites, challenge and conquer them. For this purpose, for this mission, they had been trained for the past forty years in the desert, and had been established as soldiers and warriors. This was the purpose of all the training they had been through for the past forty years in the desert. 

 

God commanded Joshua, You and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land... The first step they should take was to cross the Jordan River. The Jordan River was the border line. The river was a clear cut barrier that separated them from their enemies. The enemies felt secure because of thisbarrier, and the Israelites also felt secure because of the same river. So far, they were in the training session in the desert; what they did was to eat manna, spending most of their time in meditating on the word of God and resting; there was the ark of the covenant, and God's presence was there at the center of the camp of Israelalso. There was no challenge, no danger at all. 

 

But once they crossed the Jordan River, everything would change. It would be complete trespassing, and their enemies would not tolerate it at all. The Canaanites would do all things to destroy the invaders, and the Israelites also would have no other choice but charge forward, attack, destroy the enemies and capture the land. Crossing the Jordan River meant the end of their training and the beginning of the conquest; it would be the end of an easy-going life as God's people, and the beginning of their new life aswarriors and soldiers. Once crossed the River, there would be no turning back or retreat. God commanded them, Get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land...

 

One day, in his vision, David heard God the Father saying to God the Son, Jesus. Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. David was so happy and excited, and praised God, prophesying, The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. (Ps 110:2-3) Jesus is ruling in the midst of his enemies until God makes all his enemies a footstool for his feet. In this situation, what are you, Jesus’ believers, his troops, doing? Do you want to live as civilians, enjoying a comfortable life? You are not civilians, but Jesus’ troops, and the Bible says, Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. God commands us, Get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land. In our life, God has been with us, molded us and trained us to become soldiers for Jesus Christ. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.(Eph 2:10) Especially, in the year 2018, God has blessed us to taste the goodness of God’s word and to learn of living on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. God has taught us how to handle the word of God and equipped us with the weapons to attack the enemies. God commands us now to cross the Jordan River and wage war against our enemies so that we can conquer them, and take possession of the land. Let’s pray that in the year 2019, we may advance God’s kingdom massively, establishing 200 disciples. Get ready to cross the Jordan River! 

 

Second, I will give you every place you set your foot (3-5). Look at verse 3. Let’s read this verse together:

 

I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.

 

This was God’s encouraging promise for Joshua and all his soldiers. There might be great challenges; enemies would outnumber them, having more advanced weapons than the Israelites. But no matter what, wherever Joshua set his foot, that place would be given to him. Here, the word, set has the implication of permanence or completion as we say, It’s set!Setting one’s foot in some place is different from just passing by one time; it comes with decision. Setting one’s foot in one place always comes with his or her complete heart’s determination. Once Joshua tried to set his foot in the enemies’ territory, the enemies would not leave him alone to occupy and live in their land; instead, they would try hard to push him back so that he might not set his foot there. Joshua’s struggle was not that he should do everything from scratch to its completion in conquest. Rather, despite all challenges, difficulties and dangers, he simply set his foot in a certain area, then, God would do his work, helping and empowering the soldiers to capture the land. God also said to him, No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. What great encouragement it was for Joshua! God confirmed that He would be with him in this conquest all the days of his life.

 

I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. This is God's promise for all his people. When God's people go out and pioneer God's churches in a new area, all of them without exception come to experience a lot of challenges and difficulties; simply, enemies there do not want anyone to come into their own territory. Once, there were many pastors who tried to serve poor people in an urban area; these poor and isolated people in big cities seemed good target for the gospel. But the problem was that these people were so poor that the pastors could not be paid; so all these pastors had exceptional difficulty financially - they suffered so much that eventually they gave up one by one and two by two until only one pastor was left. This pastor too suffered so much - skipping meals was almost daily practice, no health insurance, his two children cried a lot for hunger, and finally, his wife left him with the children. But this man, even at such pains and difficulties remained there, still taking care of those homeless people. Then, God established a great ministry through this man. We remember Dr. Peter Kim's ministry in Kiev, Ukraine. Many people went to Ukraine as missionaries. But due to financial difficulties and health problems that were related to the Nuclear Plant accident in Chernobyl in 1986, they gave up and went back home, except Dr. Peter Kim. He also suffered a lot financially, and his wife had miscarriage three times. He also thought about going back to Korea. Then, one day God's love that God even sacrificed his son for him touched his heart andhe was determined to lay down his life; simply, he decided to serve God's work and die in that land no matter what. At this, many Ukraine college students were touched, and God blessed him to establish His church in Kiev, Ukraine. When there was a conference in Moscow, Dr. Peter Kim's family brought 60 UkraineCollege students to the conference - in order to attend this conference, they traveled about 30 hours by train. 

 

I will give you every place you set your foot. This is the spiritual principle. God has given us all college campuses as the promised land. It is God's will and desire to establish God's kingdom powerfully on college campuses. But who will establish God's kingdom on college campuses? Only those who set their foot on the campuses despite all challenges and difficulties. Now we struggle hard to set our foot on the college campuses, and our enemies work hard to push us back; we experience a lot of difficulties and challenges, such as, financial difficulties, or lack of time – simply, the tuition is too expensive, or academically, they are too demanding that we don't have much time for God's work. In that way, these days, schools fortify themselves more and more. Sometimes, we are greatly discouraged when several sheep do not show up for Bible study; sometimes, they become rebellious; sometimes, we get bad grades. Surely, there are many difficulties and frustrating moments. But despite all these challenges, we still remain loyal and faithful to God's mission and keep serving college students through the word of God. As we do so, we come to develop some know-hows and figure out how to serve God's work effectively, and God eventually establishes his ministry powerfully through us. God promises, I will never leave you nor forsake you. As he was sending his disciples to the whole world, Jesus said, Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Mt 28:20) So, by believing in God for help, support and provision, we, despite all challenges and difficulties, remain faithful to God's mission to the enddespite all difficulties, we set our foot there with our heart's complete determination, then, God gives that land to us, establishing a powerful ministry through us. In the year 2019, let's pray that we all may be found faithful and loyal to God despite manychallenges in our mission life. 

 

Look at verse 4. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea on the west. 

 

God was going to give the Israelites the promised land. And, God gave Joshua its exact boundary. Their land would be from Lebanon on the North to the Paran desert on the South, where they had been wandering for forty years, from the Mediterranean Sea on the West to the Euphrates River on the East. It was a vast land, covering modern day Jordan, Iraq, and the Northern part of Saudi Arabia - basically, about the half of the whole Middle East. God had really a big plan for Israel. If the Israelites worked hard and captured the whole land, God would give them this much land, then, the world history would have gone in a totally different direction – the nation Israel would not have been a small country amongst many big empires; instead, Israel would have been dominant in the whole Middle East. That’s God’s original plan for Israel. But because the Israel people occupied only a fraction of the promised land, the history has gone based on that also. 

 

This makes us think a lot about how we must live our life as God’s people. God has a great vision for you – you will be the father of many nations; you will be the mother of many nations; God wants to bring his blessing to all people through you. If you work hard and live up to this great vision, the world history will go in that way and your life will be so amazing and great. But if you give up or just live for the fraction of God’s vision only because of some difficulties, then, your life will go that way also. God has a great vision for our church – establishing 50 churches in California. Once this vision is fulfilled, all Californian college students will have a chance to study the Bible, know God and become powerful spiritual leaders. But that’s not all. Once this vision is completed, it will be just the beginning of the real great thing. We will pioneer all 50 states in America, raising up young people as powerful disciples of Jesus through Bible studies. Those churches that recognize what God is doing through us will come to us and we will teach them Genesis so that they can do the same thing. Then, America will be the city on a hill for the whole world once again. Then we can conquer the whole world, sending out missionaries and establishing Shepherds Church in all nations. If we work hard, the history can go that way, and when things go that way, our life will be really great. This is really thrilling. But if we don’t work hard and thereby, fulfill just a fraction of God’s vision on us, then, we will remain as a small church in this hilly billy city Gardena. And we just praise each other saying, You are a great man of God, Your testimony was great! I enjoyed it. Or, we vainly brag about our church, saying, Our church is no ordinary church. If we do not advance powerfully, but just remain as 70 people church, then, eventually, it becomes a family church or community church where people come and enjoy some fun time without any real mission, or vision. Then, about 60 years or 100 years later, the church disappears, without leaving any trace. Which one do you prefer? Of course, the former case. We must strive wholeheartedly to live up to God’s great vision. When we do it, we come to see many great things, and we will be truly happy and satisfied. Let’s give ourselves fully to God’s work so that God’s vision may come true in our life. May God bless us with 200 disciples this year. That will be the real beginning of God’s work in the land.

 

ThirdBe strong and very courageous (6-18). Look at verse 6. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.

 

Be strong and courageous! This was one of the two instructions God issued for Joshua as he was going to lead the Israel people into the promised land. God did not ask him to have the most advanced weapons or special battle skills, but to bestrong and courageousWhy did God give him this instruction? Of course, it was because there would be many challenging moments as he served this conquest. They were completely outnumbered by the enemies. Many Canaanite kingdoms had iron chariots,equivalent to modern day tanks, while all Israel people were foot soldiers. The Canaanites were living in the fortified cities, well organized and protected. Some of them were the descendants of the Nephilims – the gigantic tribe, 9 feet tall like Goliath or the Incredible Hulk. Naturally, Joshua might be terrified when he faced these challengesAlso, some inner conflicts might occur in the camp of Israel as well - maybe, some disagreement among the leaders, or some people may not like his leadership, or some people may have a sin problem; sometimes, they would be routed and casualties would be there - certainly, discouraging situation. But God told him to be strong and courageous no matter what, repeatedly over and over. In verse 6, God said, Be strong and courageous. In verse 7, God said to him, Be strong and very courageous. In verse 9, God said, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged. God never said that there would not be any difficulties. But what God meant was that, despite all these challenges and terrifying moments, Joshua would not be affected by them; instead, he would keep saying, We can do it. God is with us, and he would encourage his people to attack the enemies boldly. 

 

Why should Joshua be strong and courageous? God says, Because you will lead these people to inherit the land,… If Joshua lost his heart and courage due to some challenges and difficulties, then, he would not be able to fight and continue the conquest. So, being strong and courageous was a must for him to lead God's people into the promised land. And it is a must for all God's people serving God's kingdom work. If we are discouraged or terrified because of some failures, or enemies’ attacks, or some challenging or painful moments, then, we cannot function as soldiers for Christ, leaders for the lost souls in the world. Many people are waiting for you to come and help them and lead them to the kingdom of God. You are carrying out a very important mission for God and for God’s people. So, be strong and very courageous no matter what. While bombs fall around us, while missilesbullets and arrows pass right above our heads, we stand firm and do God's work continually. God says, For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. As we serve God’s work, surely, God is with us; he knows what we are doing, and what we have faced, and what we have been going through. Knowing all these, he encourages us, saying, Be strong and very courageous!... Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.

 

Look at verses 7 and 8. Let’s read these verses together:

 

7Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

 

God says, Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you. The other instruction he gave Joshua was to be careful to obey all the law of GodIn the law, God reveals what He desires for us to do and what kind of life we must live – God’s laws reveal God’s will and purpose very well. There are 613 laws in the Old Testament, and all these laws are God’s instructions of what we must do and what we must not do in regard to our relationship with God and with our neighbors – duties and obligations to keep well these relationships. The whole thing of the laws in regard to our relationship with God is to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and God wants us to keep it. Thus comes our struggle to seek God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will above our own things, denying ourselves, submitting ourselves to His will and serving God’s will and purpose. The whole thing of the laws in regard to our relationship with our neighbors is to love them as ourselves, and God wants us to keep it. Thus comes our struggle to not be selfish or self-centered, but be sacrificial, spending our time, money and energy for others. 

 

When we read this passage prayerfully, we can see that the emphasis is on be careful to obey... be careful to do everything written in it. We must be very careful to obey God's words. Many people are so casual about obeying God's words; simply, they assume that they obey God’s laws because they go to church once a week, or because they have not murdered anyone. But keeping God’s laws is far more than that. Some people assume that they do what God wants them to do – in many cases, they just do whatever they feel like doing. Or even some people say, I prayed about it, and I have peace in my heart about it. But often, it is what they desireA prominent man of God said that whenever a decision making time came, he always chose a harder way, and it turned out to be the right way. Jesus' disciples' way is the way of self-denial and cross-taking. We need to be very careful to obey God's laws - God's will and purpose. 

 

God says, Do not turn from it to the right or to the left.Turning to the right or to the left means emphasizing a certain point of God’s words based on their preference or political or national view. Many God believing people have done so. As a result, history shows that in the name of Christ, people have donemany evil. God clearly says, Do not turn from it to the right or to the left.” The word of God is not there to support our political or national view, but it is there to correct us so that we can grow as real citizens of the kingdom of God. Sometimes, Joshua might not understand why God gave him a certain direction; sometimes, the direction might look a little harsh for him to obey - maybe, even against his own human sympathy. But Joshua should not turn from it to the right or to the left; he should not add his own ideas to it; he should not omit anything from it only to suit his own styles; instead, he should stick to what God wanted him to do absolutely.  

 

God says, that you may be successful wherever you go.This is an interesting point: Obeying God’s laws carefully and precisely is directly related to success and prosperity. Joshua was going to have a war against many powerful nations in Canaan. Surely, he wanted to have success in this war; he wanted to win. God showed him the secret way of success - that was to be careful to obey God's laws - not casually, not just assuming, but being very careful to do everything God wanted him to do. His success would be dependent on his struggle to obey God's lawsSo, while he struggled to fight to win the wars, his real struggle was to be careful to obey God’s laws. This is the secret of living a truly successful life in God. Don’t you want to be prosperous in God? Don’t you want to be successful wherever you go? Be careful to obey God's words, God’s will absolutely - do not turn from it to the right or to the left, then, you will be successfulWhat does it mean to be prosperous and successful? It means that you have a good and high-paying job, and at work, you are so recognized and promoted continuously; academically you get good grades, and you have Master’s degree, or Doctoral degree, or you have a very good license; your business goes very well that you become rich; your family life goes very well and your children become successful and prominent in the society; and spiritually you save many souls and establish many disciples.Indeed, you bear good fruit in your life, and many people are blessed because of you. That’s what it means to be prosperous and successful. When your life goes that way, you are so happy. You live as Jesus' disciples according to God's will and purpose; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, but remain in his will no matter what, then, you will bear much fruit in your life as Jesus' disciples, and you become great. This is exactly what Jesus says in the New Testament continually. Jesus himself says, I know that his command leads to eternal life. So, his whole struggle was to do everything God commanded him, even to the point of what to say and how to say it. Jesus says, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. He also says, If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s command and remain in his love. (Jn 15:10) 

 

Again, the emphasis here is to be careful to obey God's laws. It means to obey God's laws precisely, or specifically. Many people say, I believe in Jesus; I love God. With this, they think that they are good Christians - simply, they take their life of faith so casually. Some people after reading the Bible a little, say, I know the Bible. They think that they are God's friends because they go to church every Sunday. But God commands us to be careful to obey all his commands; he commands us to live our life according to his words precisely and specifically. So, what should we do to obey God's words precisely? 

 

God says in verse 88Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it… We mustnot let this Book of the Law depart from our mouth. It does not mean that we should attach the Bible to our mouth; it means that we should talk about the word of God, study the word of God and teach the word of God; simply, it means that the word of God should be the center of all our conversation - simply, we keep talking about the word of God wherever we go and whatever we do. When we gather at the church, we don't talk about worldly or fleshly stuffs, but the word of God - we study and teach the word of God; when we gather at home, instead of just watching the TV, or talking about the stock market, we talk about the word of God. This is possible when our real concern or interest is the word of God. Whatever is stored up in man's heart comes out. So, God says, Meditate on it day and night. We love the word of God more than anything in the world, so we think about it, try to understand it day and night. We eat daily bread; we struggle to write deep and sincere testimony every week. Through all these struggles, we come to grasp what God is really talking about - God's real intention, his heart's real desire in giving such commands and regulations. Then, we can truly obey God's will and purpose - not just religious life, but the real life of obeying God and doing what He wants us to do. That's how we can be very careful to obey God's words - not just casually, not just assuming. When we struggle with the word of God this way, God's promise is ours - Then you will be prosperous and successful. In the new year 2019we pray to do great work of God, establishing 200 disciples; also, we want to get a good job; we want to be successful. These things cannot be done with our own strugglesalone. What we can do is limited. But when we meditate on God’s word day and night and obey His will and purpose carefully, we will be indeed prosperous. Do not let God’s word depart from your mouth. Let’s meditate on the word of God day and nightIn this way, we all will be successful and prosperous - in the job matter, in the school matter, and in the matter of establishing many disciples. Then, we will shout for joy.

 

Look at verses 10 and 11. At God’s instruction, the General Joshua ordered people, saying, “Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.” God was going to help them win the war, yet how come Joshua ordered them to get their supplies ready? It was because, even if God would be with them, it was still they, the Israelites, who would fight in the war. “Get your supplies ready.” As we prepare ourselves for God’s work in the year 2019, we need to get our supplies ready – we need to sharpen our Bible study notes, we need to sharpen our spirit through sincere prayer struggles. During Bible study, John Boos came up with a suggestion to rearrange our Group Bible study time. Now a lot of us go to campus after work, so our time for God’s work is limited. Yet, the problem is, we cannot use Wednesday for God’s work due to our Group Bible study, and on Thursday, since there is Women coworkers have Group Bible study, all the brothers have to watch kids, so, Thursday, we cannot go to campus, and then, Friday testimony meeting is there. So, our time is really limited. One of the most important supplies we need is time. So, we are working on it.

 

Look at verses 12 through 15. But to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua told them to go ahead of all other people in the battle. These two and a half tribes had already secured their own homes and farms and pasturelands on the east side of the Jordan, before they crossed it. So, compared to other Israel tribes, they were called, Trans-Jordan tribes.Joshua told them that they should not settle until all other tribes secured their lands and homes in the promised land; only after that, they would go back to their own homes. Maybe, this would take many years. At this, what was their response? Look at verses 16 through 18. Let’s read these verses together:

 

16Then they answered Joshua, Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!

 

They had absolute obedience to Joshua because he was God’s chosen servant. Indeed, as they said in this passage, they fought inthe front line wholeheartedly, and only after all their brothers and sisters secured their lands and homes in the promised land, did they go back to their own homes.

 

God has given us the promised land – colleges and universities. This promised land is flowing with milk and honey – we will enjoy beautiful vineyards and farms, beautiful churches, powerful disciples, and pure-hearted men and women of God. But only after we capture them. By believing in God’s promise, we must cross the River, go in to the land, set our foot there, and capture it. In the year 2019, let’s capture the land and establish the kingdom of God on our campuses.

 

One Word:God Says, I Will Give You Every Place You Set Your Foot.

 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

posted Dec 30, 2018, 8:08 PM by Site Administrator

 

WALK WHILE YOU HAVE THE LIGHT

 

John 12:31-50

Key Verse 12:35

 

Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.

 

First, “Walk while you have the light” (31-36). Look at verses 31 and 32.  Let’s read these verses together:

 

31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."

 

As the Ruler, God could have forgiven people of their sins freely. But He didn't do that. Instead, He had his Son die on the cross to pay the price of the sin of all peoples on earth. When Jesus died on the cross, it was God who was judging the world for its sin. This shows us God's justice - God is just, and according to this character of God, sin must be punished. God's grace of forgiveness in Jesus Christ does not give us freedom to sin, but it teaches us to say "No" to sin and fight against it. 

 

Jesus says, Now the prince of this world will be driven out. Since Adam's transgression, the devil had been the ruler of the earth; he was the prince of this world. But Jesus saw that this would change through his death on the cross. His death on the cross would be the turning point in human history when the devil's kingdom was defeated and God's kingdom wasestablished in the world. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, God's kingdom was planted in the hearts and lives of his disciples in Israel. That was the beginning of new history of victory and conquest. Since then, God's kingdom has been advancing and the devil has been driven out for the past 2,000 years, and this conquest will go on continually until the devil's kingdom is destroyed completely and God's kingdom covers the whole world. The whole earth will become God's kingdom and it will be given to his people forever. 

 

Jesus also says, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Historically, humans did not like God; even if God had blessed them and loved them, strangely, people didn't like God; they turned their back to God and ran away from God. That's what Adam and Eve did; that's what Noah's people did; that's what even Israel people did. Humans were rebellious; no one was righteous. But Jesus saw that this trend would change when he was lifted up. When he died on the cross, people would come back to God. Why? It was because, there at the cross, people would see how much God loved them despite their willful sins and rebellion; they would see that God was willing to sacrifice his Only Son for their sake; they would see God's intense love for them. There, they see that they are not alone, but God cares for them. Their hearts are touched by God's love. All these people who see God's love for them through Jesus' cross come back to God happily. We felt like we were all alone all the days of our lives and we felt like wounded wolves. We felt like we were abandoned. We yelled, "No one understands me!" But on the cross, we find God’s love for us, the love we cannot even imagine: that God sent His One and Only Son to die on the cross to bring us back to Him; God sacrificed his one and only Son to bring us back to him. When we look at Jesus who was hung on the cross, our hearts are moved until thanks fill our hearts and even our eyes are flooded with tears. So like metals are attracted to a magnet, we are attracted to Jesus who was hung on the cross for us. Knowing his love for us, we are proud to identify ourselves together with him on the cross. So attracted by his love for us, we are willing to say, "Yes, Sir!" at any command he issues. Even if the cross looks so rugged, it comes to us with great fragrance that makes us happy. The cross even sometimes sounds like heavenly music to our ears. Jesus’ death on the cross was not a failure but a focal point of God’s love for us. On the cross, God’s love for us is so well manifested that all men and women are attracted to him and love his cross. Jesus says, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Right before the cross, Jesus was not sad or fatalistic, but full of vision and a sense of victory. In order to acquire all these victories, he boldly took up his cross and fulfilled God’s mission.

 

Look at verse 34. When people heard the message of a kernel of wheat that fell to the ground and died, and the message of Jesus’ cross, they learned how they must live their lives so that they could be truly fruitful. But, instead of accepting the teachings of Jesus, they just brought up some theological issues. Instead of accepting Jesus and his teachings, they just wanted to talk and debate. It was because they did not want to change anything, and they did not want to live like a kernel of wheat that fell to the ground and died. They wanted to remain as their own men. What was Jesus’ response to them? Look at verses 35 and 36. Let’s read these verses together:

 

35Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

 

Jesus did not argue with them; he didn't give them further explanation either. Instead, simply ignoring the questions they brought up, he challenged them to make a decision to accept his teaching right at that moment. Jesus is the light. As the light, Jesus showed them how to live their lives and what to do with their lives. Through Jesus’ teaching of a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, everything became very clear in their eyes. They could see very clearly how they should live their lives – if they loved their own lives and refused to die to themselves, they would remain as a single seed; then even if they secured their lives, they would lose it, becoming so empty and miserable. But if they died to themselves and lived for God’s purpose, like a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, they would produce many seeds, and their life would be really successful. Through Jesus’ teaching, they saw everything clearly about what to do, how to live their lives and what would be the outcome. The light was shining in them. It was indeed the best time for them to make the right judgment and the right decision. It was the best time they should walk, putting what they learned into practice. Now you see everything clearly. Then, just do it! Walk while you have the light!

 

But what will happen if they don’t walk when they can see everything clearly? Jesus says, “Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” Soon, darkness will overtake them. If they don’t make a heart’s decision to live in the way Jesus describes, soon such confidence will be gone, and they will be in confusion again, saying, “I don’t know what God wants me to do.” “I don’t know how I must live my life.” Not only so, then they have to make a decision to do somethingwhen the light is gone from their hearts, when they don’t have any confidence. They will be the ones who walk not in the light, but in the dark. Jesus says, “The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” How horrible it is to walk when you don’t have any confidence! Many students choose their major when they don’t have any confidence about it. Many people even jump into marriage relationship without having any confidence. They are driven by the situation that they have to pay the rent or by their own desire. They really don’t know where they are going. They don’t know that they will be disappointed and will have to choose another major; they don't know that pains and sorrows are waiting for them. They never imagine that they will watch TV 8 hours a day every day. They don’t know that complete emptiness and meaninglessness is waiting for them. They don’t know where they are going even though they are going to hell. They are children of darkness.

 

Many people came to Jesus and heard his message; they understood his message and enjoyed them; they saw everything clearly. Jesus never wanted them to walk in the dark. So he challenged them, saying, “Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” 

 

Jesus says, “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus gave us his teaching of a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies; Jesus showed us how we can live a truly fulfilling and fruit-bearing life. Now the question is: Do you trust in Jesus? Do you trust that what he says is really true? Those who put their trust in Jesus accept his teaching and live by it; they are the ones who walk while Jesus shines his light into them through his words. They are sons and daughters of light. They know where they are going and what they are doing; even if things grow rough and even if they have to lose so many things in this life, they know what they are doing and why they live that kind of life - they are the ones who trust in God; they are children of God, sons and daughters of light; they do not stumble. Do not become children of darkness only because of your mistrust and unbelief in God. Do not become children of darkness by rejecting the light that is shining in you only because of your own worldly desires. God's light is shining in you now; God has made everything clear to you through his words. Put your trust in the light. Walk while you have the light and become sons and daughters of light.

 

Second, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (37-43).Look at verse 37. “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” Jesus performed many miracles that could be done only by the power of God. Jesus changed the foot washing into choice wine; he healed the sick. When he commanded a dead man to come out of his tomb, the dead man rose and came out of the tomb alive. A Bible scholar, named Nicodemus, said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (Jn 3:2) Once a former blind man whose eyes Jesus had opened, said, “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will….If this man were not from God, he could not do anything.” (Jn 9:30-33) It was even obvious to a man born blind that Jesus was the Son of God, because that was the only logical conclusion. But even after seeing all these miracles Jesus had performed, the Jews still would not believe in him. The author John might have wondered a lot, but he solved this mystery in the book of Isaiah. He says in verse 37, “This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

 

This quotation is from Isaiah 53, where the prophet Isaiah prophecies about Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. His message was that God’s One and Only Son would come into the world and be crucified to the cross for sinners. God’s efforts to help and save sinners were revealed to Israel people in their history very clearly. The entire Bible is the love story of God for the fallen mankind. Surely, the arm of the Lord has been revealed to the Jews. But they did not believe this message. They rejected Isaiah, and his message. Isaiah was hurt. He could not understand why people rejected such good news of God’s love for them. He sighed deeply, saying, “Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

 

Now Jesus, the Son of God himself revealed God’s love to the Jews through his words, actions, and miracles. It was obvious that he was from God. But still, the Jews did not believe his message. So, the apostle John cries out, “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom the arm of the Lord has been revealed?” Today, God’s message is the same. God loved the world so much that He sent his One and Only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Still God works hard to find the lost. He sends his servants to them and invites them to the kingdom. His arm of help has been revealed to many people. But still, people reject God’s love. Even if they are dying in their sins, their families are broken for their sins, and they cannot see any hope or vision for their future, still, they refuse to come back to God. Even though God’s judgment is approaching, they don’t care. As Isaiah cried, we cry, “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” They broke God’s heart by sinning, and now they break God’s heart by rejecting Jesus, rejecting God’s love. Even though God has made great efforts to help them and bring them back to himself, they still reject His will and instead, choose to walk in darkness.

 

Why then, couldn’t they believe in Jesus? Look at verse 40. Let’s read this verse together:

 

He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn – and I would heal them.

 

This quotation is from Isaiah 6:10, where God foretold Isaiah the bad response of the Israel people to his message.Despite their worship of God, despite their belief in God, despite their knowledge of the Bible, in God's eyes, the Jews really had serious problems, spiritual health problems - their eyes were blind and their hearts were deadened. God wanted to heal them; that's why he sent his servant. But, the Jews thought that they were okay because they read the Bible and had worship service. Because of their knowledge of the Bible and because of their religious life, they thought that they were already good, and that they were children of God. So, even if God personally sent his servants to them over and over, they did not accept his message. Had they believed in his servant and accepted God's message, God would have healed them, opening their eyes to see everything clearly, and making their hearts soft and tender. Once their eyes were opened, they would see that all their righteousness, righteous acts and deeds, their knowledge of the Bible, were nothing but filthy rags and that they were standing before God as poor, wretched and pitiful sinners. Once their hearts were healed and became soft and tender, then, they would respond to every word of God with a fearful and trembling heart; once they were healed, instead of laughing and being proud, they would mourn, doggedly seeking God's mercy upon them. Then, God would help them, bless them and indeed, the kingdom of God would be theirs. But by relying on their Bible knowledge and their own righteous deeds, they rejected the message served by God's servants. They all rejected God's healing. Now God sent Jesus, His only Son to help them and heal them. But they were not even responsive to his message - they were really blind; their hearts were really deadened. All of them eventually turned out to be enemies of God.  

 

Their failure despite their zeal for the law of God and religious life is a great warning for all ChristiansMany people think that they are okay because they have zeal for God; but that's not all. Still many people think that they are okay as long as they live a moralistic life as Christians. But that's not all either. Even when we do righteous deeds zealously, our hearts can be deadened, and if our hearts are deadened and not responsive to God's word, then all our own righteousness does not mean anything. We must not rely on such things at all - we must not take any credit from what we do for God or what great knowledge of the Bible we have. Instead, while we do all those righteous deeds and while we develop great knowledge of the Bible, we must seek God. We must remember that Jesus said that the poor in spirit are blessed and theirs is the kingdom of God; when you mourn, you will be comforted by God. After doing all the things God asks us to do, we must say, "I am an unworthy servant. I have only done my duties."   

 

Now, the apostle John understood that the Jews did not accept Jesus because their eyes were blind and their hearts were deadened. But the author John goes one step further, seeing their failure from the view of God’s sovereignty, saying, “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their heart,… The Jews failed because of their pride and self-seeking desire, but even their failure served God’s purpose, showing that behind all things, there was God as the Sovereign Ruler. 

 

Look at verses 42 and 43. Now the apostle John talks about some leaders who believed in Jesus. Through his words, actions, and miracles, they could see that Jesus was the Son of God. It was their logical conclusion. But because of their fear that they would be kicked out of their community, they would not confess their faith in Jesus. They were afraid to lose their jobs, their position and their promising future. If they confessed their faith in Jesus even at the cost of losing their jobs, wealth, and promising future in the world, certainly, they would be loved and praised by God. But they loved praise from men more than praise from God. So they remained as Christians in the closet. 

 

This is the conclusion of the Jews’ response to Jesus, the Son of God. They failed terribly; collectively, as a nation, they rejected Jesus, and individually, they loved praise from men, more than praise from God. But the apostle John did not despair because he could see that behind all these things, God was working hard and fulfilling His purpose continually. Today, it seems that the whole world is going against God, and that darkness is prevailing. Wicked people are making many laws that pervert humanity. But we do not despair because we know that even today, God is working hard and fulfilling his world salvation purpose. God is the Sovereign Lord. May God strengthen and bless us that we may love praise from God and serve God’s purpose wholeheartedly. 

 

Third, “His command leads to eternal life” (44-50).Look at verses 44 through 46. Let’s read these verses together: 

 

44Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

 

Here, Jesus talks about “believing in him.” His purpose in coming to the world as a light is that no one who believes in him should stay in darkness. So, when you believe in him, you will not stay in darkness; instead, you will see everything clearly - who you are, what to do, and how to live your life; you can see what God wants you to do; when you believe in him, you will not live in darkness. Then, how come, so many people keep saying, "I don't know what God wants me to do"? When you believe in him, you will not stay in darkness. So, these people have to check out whether they really believe in him or not. The whole thing is whether you believe in him or not. What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Look at verses 47 and 48. Let’s read these verses together:

 

47"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

 

Here, Jesus explains the meaning of believing in him as “hearing his words and keeping them” in verse 47. So the opposite is, “rejecting him and thereby, not accepting his words” in verse 48. Here, we see the connection between believing in Jesus and obeying his words. These are not two, but actually, one. If you believe in Jesus, you do what Jesus says, and obey his commands. When Abraham believed in God’s promise, he obeyed his command, and left his country, his father's house, and went to the place God showed him to go. When Simon Peter believed in Jesus, he obeyed his command, by leaving everything behind and following Jesus as his disciple. Faith is followed by the action of obedience. James says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Ja 2:26) We heard Jesus’ message of a kernel of wheatthat falls to the ground and dies. Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates it will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus shows us that we must live as a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, because that is the only way of a truly successful life in the world. Now, the question is: Do you believe Jesus? Do you believe that what he says is really true? Do you trust him? When people truly believe, their life changes dramatically according to the word of God because they obey God’s word. A selfish man becomes sacrificial, and a sinful man becomes holy. But people say differently; instead of repenting their sins, they say, “We are saved by faith, not by works.” And they do not obey God’s words. It is because in the true sense, they do not believe in Jesus, but just want to enjoy the benefit – a free ticket to heaven. As a result, they stay in darkness. Those who believe in Jesus obey his words and live by them, so they do not stay in darknessBut what will happen to those who just hear his words but do not live accordingly? Jesussays that he will not judge them, because his purpose is not to judge people, but to save them. Then, what will happen to them? There is a judge for them. Jesus says, “that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” They will be condemned at the last day by the very word they heard and understood, but did not keep. Their conscience testifies against them. When we think about this carefully, we can see that, eventually each person stands before God alone. Whether obeying God’s words or not, it’s a matter between God and each person.

 

Look at verses 49 and 50. Let's read these verses together:

 

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.

 

Jesus says, I know that His command leads to eternal life.” This was Jesus' understanding and belief. His understanding about God's command is totally different than thatof many people today. They have an allergic reaction to the word, "command," or "order" or "obedience." They say, "We are free from the law in the New Testament." With this, they refuse any authority above them; instead, they want to serve God however way they feel right. But Jesus was different. Because he understood and believed that God's command would lead to eternal life, his whole struggle was to obey his commands absolutely even to the tedious point of "what to say and how to say it." Even though he was the Son of God, he lived the life of keeping God's command absolutely in detail. Thus, he enjoyed eternal life, zoe - he was powerful and his life was glorious; his life carried such meaning and purpose; he enjoyed truly a fulfilling life. “I know that his command leads to eternal life.” This is Jesus’ understanding of God’s command. What is your understanding of God’s command, God’s will?

 

This is Jesus’ final message for the crowd. He challenged those who just heard and enjoyed his messages, to obey his words so that they might have zoe, eternal life. Jesus says, “I know that his command leads to eternal life.” What we need is not the great knowledge of the Bible, but obedience to his command by faith in Jesus. Then, the command we obey will lead us to eternal life, changing our life completely, and making it truly fulfilling, meaningful and enjoyable. Jesus says, I know that his command leads to eternal life.” Do you believe this?May God bless us to believe in Jesus and obey his command.

 

One Word:His Command Leads To Eternal Life

Sunday, December 16, 2018

posted Dec 17, 2018, 6:48 AM by Site Administrator

7

 

FOR TO US A CHILD IS BORN

 

Isaiah 8:21-9:7

Key Verse 9:6

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

First, To the law and to the testimony (8:19-22).Look at chapter 8, verses 19 and 20. When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? The prophet points out the problem in their practice. When they had some difficulty, when they needed counseling service, they went to mediums and spiritists; that’s terrible for God’s people to do. But that’s their practice. At this, the prophet gives them a clear direction, saying, To the law and to the testimony! The law of God shows God’s people what to do and what not to do, where to go and where not to go, and how to live. The testimony testifies that when they lived according to God’s laws, great things occurred in their lives; the testimony also testifies that, when people did not live according to God’s laws, nothing went very well. The testimony, therefore, supports us to hold onto God’s laws. 

 

Often, people need some advice or instruction; life's challenges are always there, and often people do not know what to do and where to go. At that time, what should we do? The prophet Isaiah shouts, To the law and to the testimony!This means that we must choose to obey God's command; in the time of uncertainty, when there are many choices, when there are many attractive looking things, the prophet Isaiah encourages us to choose to keep God's command and do what God wants us to do, instead of doing what we want to do. What if anyone's teaching is not based on this, or if anyone chooses any other way, what will happen to them? The prophet says, they have no light of dawn - no realenlightenment, no understanding, no real insight, and no real confidence no matter what they do. He says in verse 21, Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land - even if they follow fortune teller's instruction, even if they follow some worldly wisemen's advice, still they have no confidence in what they do; they feel insecure and unsatisfied - so they roam through the land looking for something that will give them real direction, purpose and meaning - college students keep changing their major, and people keep changing their jobs, and even some people keep changing their marriage partners. This kind of life is so hard, burdensome and tiring. The prophet talks about them, saying, When they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their kings and their God. Despite their struggles and searches, when they do not find something that can truly satisfy them, something that can solve their problems really, they begin to blame others, especially, their leaders. Actually, it is their fault that, instead of turning to the law and to the testimony in the time of decision making, they chose to go by some other ways such as fortune teller's instruction, or job market statistics or their sinful desires. But when things don't go very well, they blame others. Husbands blame their wives, and wives their husbands; children blame their parents, and parents blame their neighbors. They blame the political leaders, saying that, because the politicians made terriblelaws, they suffer. Eventually, these people look up to heaven and blame God, saying, Why do you do this to me? Why don't you help me? Then, angrily they say, I will never believe in you. But even if they find someone to blame for all their sufferings and pains in life, it does not mean that things get better. The prophet Isaiah says, in verse 22, Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. When these people check out how their life goes and how the world goes, they cannot see anything positive at all – only distress, darkness and fearful gloom. When theythink about their future, they cannot see any hope or vision for their life. How scary it is that your whole future looks so terrible, and that there is no hope no vision! When people do not turn to the law and to the testimony, they are thrust into utter darkness. This is how people in the world live their lives. Even if their life looks glamourous, don’t be deceived. 

 

Here we see the importance of Isaiah's message: To the law and to the testimony! So many church going people naively say, In the New Testament, in Jesus Christ, we are free from the law, and do whatever they feel like doing. They really don't know what they are saying and doing. As a result, their lives are destroyed - their families are ruined and they are in deep pains and sorrows. Many people cry in someone's shoulder, saying, I don't know why my life is so hard. This is how so many God believing people live their life; it’s all because they have not turned to the law and to the testimony. We are God's people, so we must hold onto God's words and live by them, no matter what others do and say, then, all the blessings God talks about in the Bible will be poured out on us, and we will be overjoyed; otherwise, we give our enemy a chance to mislead us, torture us and destroy us. The prophet Isaiah shouts, To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

 

Second, Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom(9:1-5). Look at verse 1. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan.

 

In chapter 8, the message was heavy – distress, hungry, famished, fearful gloom,… But, when we come to chapter 9, suddenly everything changes. The prophet Isaiah shouts, Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. They were in distress because they had consulted mediums and spiritists, instead of inquiring of God; they had fearful gloom because they had not turned to the law and to the testimony. It was by their faults that their life was going really terrible; it was by their disobedience that their life was being destroyed.

 

Nevertheless (meaning, despite their shortcomings, despite their weaknesses and mistakes, despite theirwrongdoings), there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. This means that they have a second chance for a happy life! How come? It is not because of what they have done, but all because of what God has done. This is the Christmas message. This Christmas message deserves all peoples’ attention. God did something great in the land of Zebulun, in the land of Naphtali about 2,000 years agoand because of that, such great change occurs even in the lives of those who were in distress. This area is located in the northern Israel. This area was called, Galilee of the Gentiles, by the Israel people  so despised; just a ghetto area. Even someone said in the Bible, Can anything good come from this area?In the past God humbled this area. But about 2,000 years ago, God did something great in Galilee and made Galilee glorious and honorable. What happened? Galilee was the very area Jesus served his messianic ministry mostly, teaching the people and calling his first disciples. We never knew about Galilee before. But when we experienced Jesus' grace, suddenly, the name, Galilee falls onto our ears so sweetly like a beautiful poem. All Christians dream about visiting Galilee  the holy land.

 

We messed up; we sinned; as a result, our life was going really terribly – we deserved such terrible life. Nevertheless, a second chance for a wonderful life was given to us, not because of what we had done, but because of what God had done in Galilee 2,000 years ago. Because of that, everything has changed in our life; now we enjoy wonderful life as children of God. ‘Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. Merry Christmas!

 

Look at verses 2 and 3. Let’s read these verses together:

 

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

 

These verses describe people’s condition before God’s grace very well – they were walking in darkness; they were living in the land of the shadow of death. At the same time, these verses describe what great blessings came to us in Jesus Christ. People are gloomy fundamentally, not because they cannot buy enough gifts for Christmas, but because they are walking in darkness, and because they are living in the land of the shadow of death. In darkness without light, people don't know where they are going and what is ahead of them - there is the fear of unknown future, uncertainty and sense of insecurity in their hearts all the timein darkness, their only purpose is to survive - this is the very reason why people are distressed and gloomy. Young people are gloomy and old people are depressed, because they are in darkness. Rich people are gloomy and poor people are gloomy because they don't know what to do with their life and how to live it - no meaning, no purpose and no direction of their life. And the source of this darkness is death. Depression, gloom, fear, sorrow, sense of loneliness, meaninglessness, and emptiness are all elements of death. As long as humans live with death working in them, they are gloomy, depressed and distressed. 

 

But Isaiah shouts that these people have seen a great light! With the light, they can see where to go and what is ahead of them; they see where they are going, and in their life, there is a direction, purpose and meaning. Then, they say, Yes, I can do it. When they see a great light in their life, they can study hard and work hard with a new momentum. A great light has dawned in their hearts. When they see a great light, when a light has dawned on them, the first thing that happens in their life is joy. Before, they were gloomy like Grinch; they looked so serious. But when they have a great light, when light has dawned in their lives, they become bright, smiling a lot, laughing a lot; they become happy people. This is my story; this is your story; and this is the story of all those who accept Jesus Christ. Today, because of what God did in Galilee 2,000 years ago, the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

 

Look at verse 4. Isaiah says, For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Verse 4 starts with the word, For, showing that it explains the reason why and how these people who were in distress come to have such great joy. It’s all because God shattered the yoke that burdened them, the bar across their shoulders and the rod of their oppressors. Here, yoke, barand rod all refer to something that have forced you to do things you didn't want to do - it is sin. People have inborn desire to be holy, righteous and glorious because we were all created in God's image and in God's likeness. But it is sin that is working in us that damages and destroys the image of God and makes us ugly, miserable and sinful. Sin makes us its slaves who do everything it desires. Because of sin, families are broken; because of sin, young and bright people become hobos; because of sin, many teenage girls become single mothers - their life withers even before it blossoms; because of sin, people’s life is really miserable; they are in distress. But God shatters the yoke of sin and sets them free from their sins. Because of this, people can really rejoice; they have a second chance to live their life in a holy and righteous way. An angel told Joseph about Jesus, saying, He will save his people from their sins. When God’s word was given to us, when God’s love became so real to us, we could truly repent and turn away from the things of this world to God; we could give up our sinful life; we could forgive those who had wronged to us. On that day, we could start a new life as children of God. How could we do that? We could do that, because on that day, God shattered the yoke that had burdened us, the bar across our shoulders and the rod of our oppressors.God set us free from our sins, so we could turn to God freely.This freedom from sin is what has brought to us all these blessings – no more gloom for those who were in distress; God has enlarged our territory (we are dreaming about doing great things); God has made us rejoice greatly in Jesus Christ our Lord. Praise God! He set us free from our sins!

 

Look at verse 5. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. Before knowing Jesus, we fought so much, with our parents, with our siblings and with our neighbors and friends - at home, at work, at school and on the streets. When someone scratched our pride, we shouted, Where are my warrior's boots? We wounded so many people and we were wounded so much also - parents wept, children wept, siblings wept, our friends wept, yet, everyone was still angry, ready to fight moreThe whole motto in the world is Survival of the fittest and we have struggled hard to survive, willing to brush others to the wall so that we could climb up the ladder of success in the world. But after experiencing freedom from sin in Jesus, we begin to see everything differently; our perspectives, our hope and desires, our value system all changed that we have no reason to compete with others or fight with anyone. As children of God, we are not here to survive or enjoy some luxury, but we are here to love Jesus and serve His will. So, we do not fight with people in the world. We burn our warrior’s boots in fire; we beat our swords into plowshares and our shields into pruning hooks. (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3) 

 

ThirdFor to us a child is born (6). Look at verse 6. Let’s read this verse together:

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

This verse also starts with For, showing that it explains how such great changes could occur, how freedom from sin came to people. Verse 6 reads, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,… Because of the birth of a child, there will be no more gloom! Because a son was given to us, we experienced freedom from sin. People may say, What?! It doesn’t make sense. But this is true, because this baby is not an ordinary baby. Verse 6 reads, The government will be on his shoulders, indicating that he is king in charge of a kingdom

 

Verse 6b describes who this baby is in detail - Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.But the author does not say, His names are Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Instead, he says, He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, indicating that these are what other people who experienced him would call him. Some people after experiencing him call him Jesus is Wonderful Counselor. There are many bad counselors. Bad counselors talk a lot, but usually, never hitting the head of the nail - so even if you spend a lot of time with them even sometimes, paying a lot of money, eventually you don't get anything. But good counselors don't need to talk too much, but only words that are necessary, and with their advice, things become so simple in your eyes, and you can see everything clearly, knowing what to do and how to do, and what's going to happen. Then, you are so happy and thankful.Jesus is not just a good counselor, but Wonderful Counselor. Think about how He helped you. You were in deep distress with so many complex problems piling up on you; things were so complicated, and it seemed that there was no way out. Then, Jesus, usually, with just one sentence, or even with one phrase, showed you everything clearly. With his counselling service, you instantly solved all your problems and you were overjoyed. What a Wonderful Counselor he is! So, when you have life's challenges, don't follow some worldly wisemen's advice, or your own worldly or sinful desires; instead, come to Jesus, turn to his words, and He will guide you in the best way. 

 

Some other people, after experiencing him, call him “Mighty God.” What did they experience that they call him, “Mighty God”? They must have seen that everything was in his control. Some people call him, Everlasting Father. Wait a minute! Jehovah God is God the Father, and Jesus is God the Son – that’s his main title. But how come they call him, “father? Father is a symbol of provision and protection, coming with stability and dependability. Under a good father, children feel secure and abundant; they think that they are the world's richest people - it is not because they are really rich, but because their father stands ahead of them and blocks all the challenges of life in the world by himself that no danger or threat reaches to his children. Simply, the father is a role model for children, and a manly figure for sonsOur society has a serious father problem, because so many fathers have been unfaithful and unreliable. Many fathers don't care for their families, but do whatever they want to do; they abandon their children for their own pleasures. As a result, many children develop deep wounds and scars, sense of abandonment, sense of worthlessness, and sense of insecurity. These people meet Jesus as their Everlasting Father, their true role model, the symbol of stability and dependability like a rock - strong, faithful and never-changing. When they use the word, “Father” to Jesus, we can see their deep affection on him. When they use the word, “Everlasting,” we can see their complete trust in him, in his faithfulness and in his love for them. They are satisfied. With him, their void is filled, all their wounds and scars are healed, their mistrust is gone. They can happily trust in Jesus. Jesus is our Everlasting Father, our Role Model, our Rock. He never changes; he is always faithful to us. Praise Jesus!

 

Some people, after experiencing Him call Him, Prince of Peace. The person they experienced was such a man of peace that they gave him the name, “Prince of Peace.” This name shows what kind of person Jesus is very well – a man of peace, never threatening, never irritating, always choosing the way of peace. He is the Son of God. But when people rejected him, he did not argue with them; instead, he simply went to other towns. When his believers are too busy-minded and thereby, don’t love him, he stands at the door and knock. He does not force his way, even though his way is right; instead, he knocks and waits until they recognize his voice and open the door for him willingly. This is how Jesus has treated us all this time – Prince of Peace. He has been waiting for us so long. What a beautiful person He is! David sang in Psalm 27, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Ps 27:4) When these people call Jesus, “Prince of Peace,” they must have been really attracted to him – his character, his personality is so beautiful that they love him and seek him.

 

One person being called with these four glorious namesshows that this person is certainly not an ordinary human, but a glorious one. Who can earn this kind of glorious names from those who experience him? No humans can; if anyone earns such glorious titles, then, this person must be God. Jesus is God to be praised. The baby born about 2,000 years ago is our Creator - Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We must worship Him. These four titles are actually people’s testimony about Jesus they experienced. Who is Jesus to you? What is your testimony about him

 

Fourth, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (7). Look at verse 7. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

 

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. His kingdom is a never-ending kingdom -everlasting kingdom. A never-ending kingdom – this is all mankind’s dream; throughout history, people struggled to build such a kingdom. But without any exception, all kingdoms that rose fell. Some kingdoms rose powerfully with good system, but as time went by, they too deteriorated due to inward corruption or/and outward attacks, then, finally they fell and disappeared in dust and ashes. If any kingdom lasts forever, it means that this kingdom is a perfect kingdom with a perfect system that can not only withstand all challenges inwardly and outwardly but also overcome them, being renewed and refreshed continuously – an idealistic kingdom, and all the citizens in this kingdom can enjoy a wonderful life without worry or fear of anything – such a kingdom is Utopia – the fulfillment of all mankind’s dream. Now the prophet Isaiah proclaims that Jesus is the one who builds such a perfect kingdom Utopia that never ends. Jesus is the very one who fulfills all mankind’s dream. His kingdom never ends. Also, it means not that his kingdom stays the same all the time, but that its government increases continuously. 2,000 years ago, Jesus built this kingdom on Calvary in Israel; at that time, it was a tiny kingdom with just a handful of citizens. But since then, it has been increasing continually, and now covering the whole world. According to Daniel’s prophecy, all kingdoms will be gone, and this kingdom will fill the whole earth. All our struggles as shepherds are for this purpose. It is really great to be citizens of this kingdom.

 

Isaiah also says that Jesus establishes and upholds this eternal kingdom with justice and righteousness. The two pillars that support this eternal kingdom of Jesus, calledChristianity are justice and righteousness. Jesus upholds justice from that time on and forever. This shows that Jesus deals with everyone justly in a fair way; there is no favoritism or partiality. So, as long as you do what you are supposed to do, you will be treated justly, nothing to worry about. Jesus upholds justice. Jesus clearly states several times in the Bible that, when he comes again, he will pay everyone according to what each person has done – that’s his way in dealing with everyone – according to what each person has done. Indeed, Jesus is just and fair, upholding justice. But many Christians do not think that way. Instead, they expect great rewards, saying, I will reign with him forever, even when they do not do anything for him. Indeed, Christians are strange. Often, we are discouraged, because despite our yearlong struggle, at the end of the year, we are fruitless. But Jesus upholds justice. It means that if we work hard, he will certainly pay us well, with many disciples. If we don’t have fruit, maybe, we just need to work harder. He will deal with us justly. Nothing to worry about.

 

He also upholds righteousness. Righteousness means right relationship with God, or what is right before God.Jesus does what is right in the sight of God. So he leads us into the path of righteousness. So, we don’t need to worry about anything – what will happen to us if we follow him faithfully. Many people hesitate to be wholehearted to God’s will because of mistrust. They certainly don’t need to do so. Jesus deals with each of us in the righteous way; he will not trick us. 

 

Sometimes, when justice is emphasized, it is cold and scary. But when righteousness kicks in, it is beautiful and complete, because everything, every condition is considered. As citizens of this kingdom, as we live in this kingdom, we are being accustomed to justice and righteousness; we become familiar with justice and righteousness. Then, we ourselves come to exercise justice and righteousness in our life practical life, because that’s how we come to perceive things. That’s how we are growing as real children of God. 

 

 The prophet Isaiah conclusively says, “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Establishing one business is hard – we have to overcome many challenges; establishing a nation is much harder. Then, what about establishing a perfect kingdom that will last forever? It must be really hard; impossible for any human to do. Who can establish such a kingdom that will never end? The LORD Almighty would do it with his exceptional zeal. Despite so many challenges and obstacles, he pursued it, and finally, He accomplished this job by even willing to sacrifice his only Son on the cross. This was his dedication. Now his desire is to increase its government and peace; his plan is to fill the earth with this kingdom. This is what God is doing today. My Father is always at his work to this very day, and we too are working. 

 

One Word:Nevertheless, There Will Be No More Gloom, For To Us A Son Is Given!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

posted Dec 10, 2018, 7:23 PM by Site Administrator

4

 

UNLESS A KERNEL OF WHEAT FALLS TO THE GROUND AND DIES 

John 12:20-30 

Key Verse 12:24 

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 

First, Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies ... (20-24). Look at verse 20. Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast...These Greeks were converts to Judaism. In those days, politically, Rome was dominant, but culturally, Greek culture called Hellenism was dominant in the world – in art, in literature, in construction, and in philosophy. People believed and worshiped the gods of Greek myths. But these Greeks who came to Jerusalem were not satisfied with the endless myths, or human philosophy; they were not just vainly proud of being Greeks either. Instead, when they heard about the God of Israel, they recognized Him as the true God and converted to Judaism. Now, according to the teachings of the Scriptures, they came to Jerusalem to worship God at the Passover Feast, making a long journey, spending a lot of money, time and energy. Probably, they used up all their vacation days for this trip. They were sincere truth seekers. In Jerusalem, everyone was talking about a young Rabbi, named Jesus - his teachings and his miracles, and especially, how he raised Lazarus from the dead. They wanted to see Jesus personally. So they came to him. 

What did Jesus say to them? Look at verse 23. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Jesus is talking about his death on the cross. Jesus is the Word who was with God in the beginning. But when he came into the world, he lived as a human, the Son of Man. But now through his death on the cross, he would reveal his glory as the Son of God, as the Creator God. Dying means you lose everything – your hope and desire in this life. But Jesus did not see it that way; instead, he saw it as the time when he himself would be revealed as the Son of God, because it was his obedience to Gods will.

Our title is children of God. You are the sons of God, the daughters of God. But the question is, How can you reveal your glory as children of God? Some naïve Christians think that they can do so, if they heal all the sick people at Kaiser Permanantehospital; some others think that if they perform great miracles in front of everyone, they will be revealed as real children of God. Out of this idea, they ask God to help them to do so. But Jesus revealed his glory as the Son of God by dying on the cross in obedience to Gods will and purpose. When you obey God really, you will reveal Gods glory; when your obedience is complete, you will be revealed as true sons and daughters of God. When real selective situation rises, instead of backing out, let’s choose to obey God, sayingThe hour has come for me to be glorified.

Look at verse 24. Lets read this verse together: 

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 

Here is a kernel of wheat, a tiny seed. As a single seed, it does not mean anything; it cannot be even snack for a sparrow. But it has a great potential to multiply. From this one tiny seed can we harvest 100 kernels, and when they are planted again, they become 10,000, and then, 1 million, then, 100 million, 10 billion, and this calculation goes on until, soon, we cannot count them any longer. It has such a great potential. But potential is potential. It can come true, and at the same time, it may not come true. When its potential comes true, it is great, but if its potential does not come true, a single seed means nothing. The question is: How can that great potential come true? Jesus shows us the two steps of procedure it needs to go through so that its true potential can be realized. 1) It must fall to the ground, and 2) it must die. 

What Jesus talks here is not about farming, but about each individual. Each of us is like a kernel of wheat, coming with a great potential. God created us in his image, and he commanded us, saying, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it,… rule over,… everything… (Gen 1 :28) Why did God give us such challenging commands? He did so, because He had made us to be capable of such tasks – great creatures that arecapable of fighting against any challenges, conquering them and ruling them. Each of us has such a great potential to be a ruler and conqueror of the world. God commands us to live up to our lifes true potential as he created us to be. When our potential comes true, we become fathers or mothers of many nations; we become a source of blessing; we catch many people for Jesus. When our potential comes true, we become worldwide leaders, and our influence reaches to the ends of the earth; and the whole world will be blessed. But if our potential does not come true, then, as an individual, our existence does not mean that much just like a kernel of wheat; whether we get a good job or not, whether we are fired or not, no one cares; even if we die, no one cares - just one of 7.5 billion people on earth. So, the question is: how we can make our potential come true; how we can live up to our true potential. Through this teaching of a kernel of wheat, Jesus shows us how we can make our potential come true - as a kernel of wheat, each of us must fall to the ground and die, only then you have a chance to live up to your true potential. Just when you go through these two steps of procedure, your potential will be realized, and you bear such great fruit, giving good influence to the whole world. When your life goes that way, it carries real value and real meaningYou will be indeed satisfied with how you live your life; your life will be truly fulfilling. Only these two steps of procedure!

A seed falling to the ground means to be planted, and once it is planted, it does not move around any longer. Before it is planted, it can roll here and there enjoying its freedom; but at that time, it has no chance to bear any fruit. Only after it is planted, it has a chance to produce fruit. And once it is planted, it has only one single direction, that is, to sprout. Otherwise, it decays and is dissolved to the ground. So, once it is planted, sprouting is the matter of life and death. The seed uses all its strength and nutrients to sprout; it does all its best to sprout. And once it sprouts, the old form of a seed is gone, and a new form of a plant is created. The old has gone, and a new one has come. Jesus calls this procedure, dying.

Each person must be planted in one place; it means to accept Gods calling and make true commitment there. Many Christians show a kind of allergic reaction to this idea of making commitment to a church, or to a mission. They want to keep their human freedom continually. So, they enjoy church life for a while, but when they are asked to make real commitment, they move to other church; or when a desirable job offer comes, they just leave the church, and find a new church around their new job. The deciding factor in their lives is not Gods will, or Gods calling or Gods mission, but their job. Trust me: no pastor likes these people. In his book, titled, The purpose driven life, Rick Warren talks about so many people that move from church to church. He calls them, church-hoppers. Even though they go to church, they remain as a single seed, and in their lives, their potential never comes true. When they die physically, their all potential also dies without producing any fruit. In Gods eyes, its complete waste. We must accept Gods calling and be planted in Gods church according to Gods plan and purpose. This is the first step for us to live up to our true potential. This is the first step for us to live a truly successful and fruitful life in God.

 

Now once we are planted, we must go through the second step, that is to die. What does it mean to die? It means to die to ourselves. Before knowing Jesus, we lived according to our own desires and understanding. At that time, how was our life? It was really bad; we were bearing the fruit of death. Now in doing God’s work together with others in the church, our old self should not be presented, but a new person, a child of God. We must die to our old self – our old dreams and desires, our old perspectives and understanding, our old value system and characters. Then, through us people can smell the fragrance of Jesus Christ, not the bad odor of a sinful person. Thus comes Christian’s good struggle. We must die to our sins but live to God so that we may not show any response to our sinful desires, but only to the things of God. We must not fight with people but with God through prayer so that we may live as Israel, not as Jacob. We must not live as our own men, but as shepherds whose hearts and lives are dedicated to the well being of Jesus’ sheep. How can we die to ourselves? By dedicating ourselves to God’s calling, God’s mission really! When a conflicting situation comes, for God’s mission’s sake, use the word, “die” to you, saying, “Ok, I die,” and give in, instead of fighting. Then, a selective situation comes, again you choose to die, giving up.You die to your pride. You die to your style. You die to your perspectives so that in all circumstances, despite all challenging moments, you can still pursue God’s will upon your life. That much you are committed to God’s will and purpose, even willing to die to yourself. Through all these struggles, you come to develop shepherd’s mindset and attitude, shepherd’s perspectives and value system, and shepherd’s characters and lifestyle according to God’s calling. Then, your old self does not exist any longer, but a new person that is for God’s will and purpose in Jesus Christ exists. When you die to yourself, Christ indeed lives in you. True commitment to God’s mission leads us to dying to ourselves. Be a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies so that you can bear great fruit according to God’s plan.

 

Jesus says, I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. When those Greeks wanted his teaching, Jesus did not tell them about divine Bible knowledge or theology; instead, he showed them how they should live their life so that they might live a truly successful life. How should we live our life? Which is the right way to live our life so that we will not have any regret? This is a big question all mankind have. We must not make a mistake in this matter, because life is anonetime transaction, and there is no second chance. At the end of our life, we cannot say, Let me try again, or we should not say, Ah, if I live again... Then, how should we live our life? Jesus today shows us that we must live as a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. If you do so, you will live up to your potential, doing great things and bearing great fruits; you will live a truly successful life. This is the way of life.

 

Second, The man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (25). Look at verse 25. Lets read this verse together:

 

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

 

What does it mean to love his own life? It means to value his own dream or desire and thereby, pursue it, trying to secure it. Jesus says, The man who loves his life will lose it. What is he talking about? Jesus is talking about why people refuse to live as a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. Even if being a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies is the way of life, still, even after understanding this truth, people refuse to live in that way; they struggle in the church for a while, doing some Christian things, but eventually, they fall away, refusing to be really committed to Gods will. When they do so, they come up with many excuses: they talk about theological matter; they talk about the church’s style. But in Jesus eyes, no matter what they say, it is obvious: They do so, because they love their life. They value their dream for success, their dream for romantic relationships, their dream for a happy family; they want to secure such things, even willing to reject Gods will and Gods calling for them. That much is their commitment to their dreams and desires in this life. But Jesus says that they will lose their life. What does it mean to lose ones life? They have valued and pursued their dreams and desires wholeheartedly. They have secured some of them. But at the age of 40, they realize that those things do not carry any value or meaning in their life – their romantic relationships, their great career, even their family carry no meaning and no value. At the age of 50, 60, or 70, when they look back, they realize that they have done nothing in their life. God gave them one life to live and do something great and meaningful, but they have done nothing meaningful in their life; they have simply wasted it; as a result, now their life carries no value; their life is empty and meaningless. Jesus says that if anyone loves his life and thereby, refuses to be a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, that person will lose his life. We must not live our life that way. We must not love our life in this world at all. 

 

Jesus also says, while the man who hates his life in this world will save it for eternal life. What does it mean to hate ones life? Some people, out of complete bitterness, say, I hate my life. Thats not what Jesus is talking about. When a doctor or lawyer gives up his license so that he can go to other country as a missionary, his family members and friends are shocked, saying, Are you crazy? A student after accepting Jesus Christ cut off his relationship with his girlfriend. All his friends were shocked. It seems that in the eyes of others, these people hate their licenses, promising future, and romantic relationships; they are the ones who hate their life. While others value such things, these people value them as nothing. Even the Apostle Paul says that he considers them rubbish. Why do they do so? Its all because they love Jesus and want to do what God wants them to do. As those who love their life are really committed to their dreams and desires for the things of this world such as money, success, relationships and happy family, these people are also really committed to Gods will and Gods purpose that they are willing to give up anything and everything in this life so that they can do what God wants them to do. 

 

Jesus says that these people will keep their life. God gave them this one life, and they have not used it for anything in the world, but for God alone; their life has been used for something really valuable and meaningful – for Gods glory, for Gods kingdom, for Gods name, and for the salvation of many lost people. Then, at the age of 40, 50, 60, as they look back, they see that their life carries real meaning and value, and they are satisfied; their life is truly fulfilling. They have kept their life successfully. It is never anyones desire to lose this one life; we all want to keep our life. Then, we must live as a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. There are only two ways of life. Either you dedicate yourself to your own dreams and desires because you love your life, or you dedicate yourself to God because you love God. Either you live as a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies for God, or you live as a single seed. Either you love your life or you hate your life. What is your choice? We believe in Jesus, so we can understand Jesus words – the way of life has been revealed to us. We are blessed to know it. But when will we really be blessed? When we do it! Be a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. 

 

Jesus says, while the man who hates his life (psuche) in this world will keep it for eternal life (zoe). Here, Jesus uses two words – psuche and zoe – in one sentence. This sentence reveals what zoe is about very well. When this psuche life is truly dedicated to Gods will and purpose that you live as a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies - that much is your commitment to Gods will and purpose -, when your life is used for God really, your psuche life produces great fruit, carrying real value and meaning; at that time, your life is really fulfilling, and when your life goes that way, you are really happy and satisfied. How long? For ever and ever (BBE). Thats what eternal life, zoe is about. This is how we can have eternal life in Jesus Christ – that truly fulfilling and wonderful life all mankind have ever dreamed aboutThe key theme of Johns gospel is zoe, eternal life. Gods purpose in sending Jesus to the world is that, in him, we may have this eternal life, zoe. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (zoe). God wants us to have zoe in Jesus Christ. So far, in Johns gospel, God has shown us what zoe eternal life is about over and over again, in various chapters, in various expressions – zoe is like light shining in darkness, showing us everything clearly of who we are, what to do and how to live our life; zoe, eternal life is like a stream of living water welling up in our hearts; when you have zoe, you will never go hungry and never be thirsty – no longer wandering in the world, but you live for God as a child of God – there is deep peace and rest for your soulzoe is the life of knowing the truth and enjoying freedom in Jesus Christ. And in Johns gospel, God has also shown us how we can get it: you must be born again, you must call your husband and come back to Jesus, you must eat his flesh and drink his blood; you must hold to his teaching; you must believe in him. God has shown us everything in Johns gospel. Yet, still some people wonder about how to have eternal life zoe in JesusThis sentence of Jesus clarifies all these, showing us how we can have eternal life in him – while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If you hate your life in Jesus and thereby, live as a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies for Gods will and purpose, willing to give up anything and everything for God, -making that much of complete dedication to Gods will, you will have zoe – your life will go really wonderfully, being used by God for his purpose completely, and you will be truly happy and satisfied. When you live that kind of Christian life, you will like it. You will have no regret. Do you believe in Jesus? This is what Jesus shows us today. How do you respond?

Third, “Whoever serves me must follow me” (26-30). Look at verse 26. Lets read this verse together: 

 

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 

 

The word, whoever shows that this is applied to everyone who serves him. There is no exception. Also, the word, mustshows that this is absolute. By the way, who is this whoeverwho wants to serve Jesus? It is all believers. It is all Christiansdesire to serve Jesus. By saying, Whoever serves me must follow me, Jesus defines how we must serve him: We must follow him! And there is no other option for anyone; everyone, every Christian must serve him by following him. Some people think that they are serving Jesus because they are deacons or elders in their churches – thats not the way, not by occupying such positions in the church, but by following Jesus. Some people, out of ignorance or after having some bad experience at a church, refuse to come to church for worship service, saying, I attend online worship service. Or some people say, When I earn a lot of money, I will plant many churches. One student said that he revealed Gods glory through attending paintball tournament. It’s good that they have a desire to serve Jesus. Yet, how should they serve him? Not in those ways, but by following him!  Whoever serves me must follow me. There is only one way to serve Jesus, that is, to follow him. 

 

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means to live in the way he lived. It means to walk in his footsteps, doing what he did. What did he do and how did he live his life? Jesus himself lived as a kernel of wheat that fell to the ground and diedsubmitting himself to Godwill and remaining faithful to Gods mission even to the point of death. As a result, he has borne great fruit, even today – we are the fruits of his life. Thats how we must live our lifeSometimes, we reject our familys desire for us; sometimes, we cannot attend our siblings birthday party for the sake of attending worship service absolutely; sometimes, we have to let go of a dream job offer for the sake of holding on to Gods mission; sometimes, we shed tears for the pain of dying to our own desires, plans and styles. But thats how we can follow Jesus. Only those who follow his example, those who walk in his footsteps, living as a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, denying themselves and taking up the cross of mission daily are serving Jesus; they are the ones who follow Jesus.

 

 Jesus gives two promises to those who serve him by following him. He says,