Our firm foundation

The Wise and Foolish Builders

When I first read this verse, I thought I should have traded with BJ! It would have been more appropriate for a builder who is very concerned about the foundation of the homes he builds to write on this topic! So, here goes with the analogy and the non-builder in me! I know there are many different types of foundations based on the type of soil, ground, climate, and geographical location.  Some homes have basements, others do not.  I only have familiarity with the poured cement foundation for a home with a basement.  As I think about the type of foundation for homes here in Central Illinois, I always picture the big open hole in the ground that looks so massive. A truck arrives and pours gravel all over the bottom of this hole.  Massive molds are delivered and set up in this big hole in the ground and supported with wood beams or big metal supports.   Then, the cement trucks arrive and pour the cement into the molds. These molds hold the cement in place until it is firm, dry and solid.  It seems to sit for a bit of time to become rock solid. In my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to watch this process take place twice. It is so interesting to me that those cement walls form together perfectly. The perfectly formed walls outline the edge of the house and in the end, hold the weight of the entire house, with all the wood, brick, furniture, people, etc. These walls have to be so firm and so perfect or the house would collapse. I think of homes in the south near coastlines. They are oftentimes built of huge cinder blocks and then the deck or upper floors extend out of the sand with wood beams supporting them. While the cinder blocks seem very solid, it would make me a bit nervous to have these beams in the sand support the upper deck of my house especially with the ever-present threat of hurricanes.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In today’s verse, we read about building our foundation on rock and not building it on sand that could slip away or be washed away. This analogy to a home is easy for us to make. It paints a vivid picture of how to build our personal homes. Obviously, we want to build our faith foundations on God, his word, his teachings and his way of living. He points out the solid rock he can be and is for us. However, we have to do our part. We have to believe in his word and follow it. We have to read it. We have to build our lives on it. We have to build our walls on this foundation. Even when the weight of the world is heavy upon us, he won’t let us down.  We are strong and have to rely on him in tough times.

One more easy-to-relate to story came to mind when reading today’s verse: The Three Little Pigs. We all know this story. The wolf comes along to try to get the first pig, shouting: “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.” He does. Why, because the first home is built of straw.   It happens again to the second pig, who’s home is built of sticks.   “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.”   The story highlights that the first two pigs were lazy in their preparation. They hastily built their homes so they could sing and dance all day. The third pig spent considerable time on his own house. He wanted to be safe and even let the other two pigs in when their homes had been destroyed. When the wolf comes across the third pig’s home built of brick, he again says: “I will huff and puff and blow your house down.” The wolf does not succeed. The firm foundation and walls are too strong. The brick protected the pigs from harm. I think of God as these brick walls and our foundation. No matter how harsh the wind and the world is, he protects us, and we need to build our faith in him. We also need to take time to continue to solidify our foundation by being in the word.  We have to use this firm foundation in God to survive the storms. He is there for us. He is our Rock and our Salvation.   You can sing “The Church is one Foundation” in your head all day like I did after writing this post!

 

Psalm 90

 

 

Fasting

Fasting. When you hear the word today, what does it mean to you? What images does it conjure up in your head? Dieting? Cleansing? Detox? If we take dieting in today’s world, we think of restricting our food intake to conserve calories with the ultimate goal of losing weight. We often hear people talking about the need for “dieting” to fit into clothes or just to be healthier. January New Year’s resolutions often include “going on a diet”.   Lately, we also hear more and more about “cleaning”.  The 3-day juice cleanse. The 21-day detox kit. Drink these shakes to “cleanse” to a healthier you. To take it to the next level, there are infomercials on specific cleanse routines. People sharing their testimonial about how successful their cleansing was and how much weight they lost. You get it. We all get it. It’s everywhere.

Our verses today are Matthew 6:16-18:

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

If we go back to biblical times, fasting was common. It was often attributed to people who were very sad, or in deep distress. They “put on sackcloth and covered themselves in ashes”. It was a ritual viewed as humbling the soul and doing all to give focus to God. People were so upset, they didn’t eat. They didn’t have time to eat nor was it on their list of priorities for the day. They needed to be focused on prayer.

The other fasting in the bible had to do with very significant events. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his journey into the land to share his word. Moses fasted for 40 days before going up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. As I prepared to write this post and researched fasting vs. dieting, I altered my prior view of fasting to giving up something you like. I think of it more of how people give up sweets or diet coke or chocolate during Lent, not completely starve without food or water.

In today’s message, Jesus teaches us how to fast the “correct” way. He does not want it to be a public display of “hey look at me, I’m on a diet (fasting)”. He doesn’t want us to fast for attention. He suggests if we are to fast, we must do it in secret or quietly. We don’t need to put ashes on or even sackcloth. He suggests we are clean when we decide to fast or give something up. It seems as if he does think fasting draws our attention to prayer, to being close to God. If we give something up, and we are in the word with God, we have an opportunity to truly listen to what he may be telling us or sharing with us during our prayer time. He suggests that we will hear his word if we are silent and away from others to avoid distraction. We will enjoy his “reward”.

I am not exactly sure what I am going to do about fasting after reading and studying these verses.  Maybe I should rethink Lent next year? I am open to your ideas too! I do walk away thinking more about how he directs us to be close to him in prayer. Just as he tells us not to serve just for attention or to give just to say we gave, we shouldn’t fast for the wrong reasons.  Another lesson for us on how to listen to God and to give him our undivided attention as we pray.

Psalm 78

Love For Enemies

When I first heard we were going to be focusing on the Sermon on the Mount, breaking it down by topic, my reaction was oh no, I hope I don’t have to write on the “the Big D”. Luckily, my name fell next to Love For Enemies. May I start off with a big shout out to Holly for her post on “the Big D”. Great job. Not a fun topic, for you, for me, and for a lot of people unfortunately!

As I move on to my topic, Love For Enemies, I can easily relate and have honestly worked diligently on improving my focus over the years. In particular, I had two very telling examples of how to move past the anger, resentment and hatred. Today’s reading gives us good insight into how God expects us to handle our relationships with all people, even if they appear to be enemies. Not easy, but he instructs us:

Matthew 5: 43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

As we look at what is written, God is with a crowd of people. He wants to convey a message and to possibly correct some past teachings the Jews may still be following. He tells us not to hate our enemies, but to pray for them just as God does for each and every one of us, as we are all sinners. He shows us two extremes in this teaching:  Sun, glorious sun (if we ever see it here in Bloomington?), still rises on those who are good and those who are evil, and the opposite, rain, still falls on good and evil. My interpretation is that is does not matter if you are good or evil, God loves you and we are to be disciples of God, act like God, love our neighbors, and “be perfect”. His statement about “must be perfect” really hit home. No one is perfect, meaning no one is only good without any evil, and therefore we cannot condemn someone who has done evil against us, but must pause and offer pray for them.

In my world, luckily I have only had two “enemies” or people who very much distressed me. It took years for me to overcome the anger and bitterness. It took my minister father sitting down with me on many occasions asking how my forgiveness was coming along, and he would explain how his forgiveness was coming along for this same person. We would talk about how we were going to get to forgiveness first before we moved to “love”. In my lifetime, my dad has never had an enemy, never met a stranger, rarely said a harsh word and is a very kind individual. I was so thankful that he admitted he himself was struggling with my situation. He helped me understand that forgiveness and love for enemies doesn’t happen over night and that is ok.  As time progressed, we both came to a point of forgiveness for this person.   We prayed for the healing of our “enemy” and now can both talk about the goodness that came out of a deeply distressful situation.

For my second round through this process, I was on my own (although my dad knew about it). As distress hit me hard again, I was in disbelief. How could this individual claim to be my friend and yet be so super deceitful? This person turned into an enemy and wanted to cause me harm. How could she go behind my back? She really wanted to get ahead. Once I started to realize her errant ways, I started to feel sorry for her. That was how she wanted to live her life? I truly prayed for her to return to the person I once knew. I prayed for her to return to her strong faith she once displayed. I also understood it was part of God’s plan for me. In the end, I’m better off in the place I’m in. God was watching over me and I’m happier now. What else can I offer up than thanking God for his goodness and continuing to pray for her?

In both this situations, God worked in interesting ways. First, he gave me the gift of my father’s guidance. Second, he showed me that he doesn’t expect us to always respond in the first five minutes and be perfect, although that would be the best approach.  He knows we aren’t perfect. He knows we sin. He knows human nature might take us down the path of anger, bitterness and hurt. However, he loves us, all of us. He expects the same in return for all our friends, neighbors and enemies. Enemies can exist in our lives every day. There are enemies in other countries causing harm here in the US or elsewhere. Political enemies exist and cause havoc to our surroundings. We have to expect we will continue to confront enemies in our lives. We also have to continue to pray for them. Pray for their healing and hope they find God’s word.  We must show love.

As I spend one more minute on my personal situations, the other part of my learning is how much easier it is to pray for my enemies than it is to be angry.  I had to learn the hard way to just move on, no holding grudges.  Anger harms me internally more than it harms them.  Flip the situation into prayer.  If I start to go down the path of becoming angry over either of these situations, I try to say a quick prayer.  I can’t say I’m ready for another deeply distressing situation, however, I am now more prepared for how God expects me to act.

Let us all show some extra love today, even to those who might be difficult to love!

Psalm 66

Praise Him!

David’s Song of Praise

2 Samuel 22

When I started to read this chapter in 2 Samuel, I thought I made a mistake as it reads like one of our many Psalms. Isn’t it interesting to have this chapter in the middle of this complex and sometimes graphic book?  It seems to me that most of 2 Samuel (and 1 Samuel too) has been about David’s story of continuous reign over more people and more land.  I found this chapter captured my attention enough to reread it several times. David must have been down on his knees praising God for all he had been given and the protection God offered him. David’s reign continued. He was full of Thanksgiving and demonstrated a grateful heart. He made a list of all the reasons to offer praise as he walks through all God had done for him lately. He gave examples of God’s actions and then he again praised him. Let’s walk through the outline of this song together:

God is the Rock, the Shelter:The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer;
3 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield[a] and the horn[b] of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—

God heard his cries in time of need: “In my distress, I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.

God appeared like a storm when needed: He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared[d] on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark[e] rain clouds in the sky.

God protected him: “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.

God showed him the light at the end of a tunnel: You, Lord, are my lamp;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.

God is perfect: As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.

God carried him through his battles: “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!

As I was making this outline, it became clear that God could walk through our lives in this same manner. Do we believe he is our rock, our stronghold? Do we always call on him in time of need? He will protect us. He gives us hope during times of despair. He is perfect and carries us through our own battles, big or small. David certainly exalted God. He was thankful that God protected him in time of need and gave him the tools to succeed including strength. We can learn from this lesson and make our own outline of praise for God.  As Jillian stated on Monday “sometimes the details of our human lives are graphic, our truth isn’t always Easter white. ” We should offer praise and thanksgiving.

If you did not hear enough praise, we then turn to Psalm 54.

David called for God: Save me, O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
listen to the words of my mouth.

God helped fend off evil: Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.

God helped free David from his foes: I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.
You have delivered me from all my troubles,
and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

Let us remember to be filled with praise for God through our everyday lives. Alleluia. Christ has Risen!

Was it worth it?

2 Samuel 10

We continue today’s story of David by understanding his desire to be loyal. As is written: And David said, “I will deal loyally[a] with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me.” His motive appears to be right with the culture of their time and continues to show he is serving God loyally, allowing God to guide his actions.  Just as Jillian showed us on Monday in her post:  “David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15. We also saw in yesterday’s story, David showed compassion to Jonathan’s family.  He showed grace to Mephibosheth by welcoming him into his home.   He is performing God’s will.  However, in today’s story, the word on the street within the Ammonite community showed a high level of mistrust of David’s actions. The people did not believe that David was being loyal when he sent his servants. They distrusted his actions based on all the prior deaths and takeovers. Hanun listened to and believed in his people and made David’s servants feel as if they were traitors: “ So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away.”, all because he listened to the word of his people and thought David’s were sent to spy.   How embarrassing (and odd!). The servants weren’t even allowed back into their country or city. This one act by Ammon of distrust then leads to more war, to more people dying and to David gaining more land and reigning over more people. He did not send his servants to force this type of outcome. He was trying to be a good neighbor. What would have happened if Hanun would have accepted this act of kindness?  In the end, was it worth it?

It is interesting to think about this story in today’s world. Someone from another town, or company, or neighborhood, or church or even country tries to extend a helping hand or offer a comforting word, and there is a slight bit of doubt in the true intent of the action.  A leader or a popular person might listen to their “people”.  Then what happens?  Do you then catch yourself wondering if you listen to your friends or do you genuinely believe in someone being loyal or above board off the bat? Are you trusting them or not? If you have even the slightest bit of mistrust, it could lead to negative action.  You don’t sincerely accept their actions.  You might tell someone what you heard and thus spread a rumor or gossip.  What transpires from there could have a snowball effect, especially with social media. Is it worth it?

My takeaway from today’s story is to try to accept people’s actions as being sincere and genuine unless proven otherwise. If someone extends a helping hand, take it.  If someone extends words of support or empathy, take their actions for what they are. Don’t overanalyze or second guess that individual. Above all else, don’t retaliate but harming the person who has extended a helping hand or kind word!   It truly is not worth it!

Spoiler alert:  David is about to change…..and it won’t be worth it!

Psalm 42

Joy Comes in the Morning

In Samuel, we have been reading about many people in conflict, Conflicts that have escalated. Conflicts where God steps in and says enough is enough, ending someone’s life. We have read about massive battles which ends in loss of life. We have also read about the end of friendships.  Jillian’s recap on Monday was so helpful to remind us of the Saul/Samuel/David/Jonathan intertwined story.  Rachel recapped yesterday’s reading with the Saul reaching the end of his rope and asking Samuel to rise from the dead to help him.  Today’s reading in 1 Samuel 29 is no exception to conflict and confusion. In today’s reading, David comes to help yet is sent away.

But the commanders of the Philistines were angry with him. And the commanders of the Philistines said to him, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For how could this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Would it not be with the heads of the men here? Is not this David, of whom they sing to one another in dances,

‘Saul has struck down his thousands,
    and David his ten thousands’?”

It’s been a lot of heavy reading around Samuel, Saul and David.  Then, we have the chance to read Psalm 30.   The title is uplifting: Joy Comes with the Morning. A Psalm of David.

The Philistines appear angry in today’s verse. Maybe they are overworked and underpaid. Maybe they are just downright worn out. Maybe they were still in mourning over Samuel dying. Maybe they are starting to mistrust everyone’s intent. Maybe they just want all the fighting and wars to be over?

Sometimes our days may seem like mini battles or wars. Maybe we are just downright tired. Maybe we don’t know what to do next to solve a certain problem. I know sometimes at night, I lay there and pray. I think about what I’m asking God to help me solve or overcome or have more patience with in my days. I might drift off and then in the morning “joy” comes. I feel relieved for some reason. Ready to tackle the day or ready to work harder at resolving a situation. It just seems as if God lifts my problems overnight or at least eases my burden. In our readings today, it certainly seems as if God is trying to lift up David. Let us be glad!

10Hear O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Wishing you all a “joyful” morning.

David and Goliath

1 Samuel 17, Psalm 18

This past week, I heard a sermon by Pastor Lanny Westphal entitled “Mission Impossible”.  He started with “do you remember” the old TV show prior to the Mission Impossible movies? The show started with the phrase “should you choose to accept this Mission…..”.

Mission Impossible Theme Song

The title and theme are so relevant to today’s verse in 1 Samuel 17. David’s mission did seem impossible!  Here he was with the Israelites, looking down into the Valley of Elah, ready to enter the camp of the Philistines on the other side of the valley.

 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six[a] cubits[b] and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels[c] of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.”

If you read the footnote, it says a cubit is 18 inches.  So Goliath of Gath was over 9 feet tall.  That’s huge even in today’s world!  The description continues to scare us with the helmet and armor and spear and shield.  I can hear the booming voice of this giant.  Then, within the Israelite camp, David is the one who want to take on the giant.

32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

David showed conviction, courage and purpose. He was going to take on the giant. He knew the Lord would be with him. But Saul doubted him because of his youth, immaturity, inexperience and most likely his size.

And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.”

Saul and David continue to banter until Saul reluctantly allows him to go.

37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

We then read on to hear Saul trying to arm David by cloaking him with all kinds of gear:   armor, a helmet, and a sword. However, David did not need all this extra battle gear. He went with his slingshot and 5 flat stones. He felt confident with what he knew.   As we continue Goliath “disdained him”. I’m sure he thought who is this “kid” they have sent, almost thinking it was disrespectful of the Israelites.

Then, out of nowhere comes the stone, hits Goliath in the forehead and down he goes.

Mission Possible. Mission Accomplished.

Saul doubted David, but David stood tall. I think about this story in so many different ways. Do we charge forth and take on our giants, whether that be at work, or a sickness or a person who is standing in our way?  Do we feel confident as we go?  Do we arm our children when they want to take on their giants? Do we boost there confidence or hold them back, doubting their abilities because we don’t want them to get hurt?  Are we asking God to stand with us when we go to battle?

Do you choose to take on missions that seem impossible or only those that seem possible? What mission are you going to tackle this week? What is your Goliath? With God behind you, you can be courageous and take on the world.

Be gracious to me, O Lord

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord—how long?

As I started reading 1 Samuel 5, I knew right away it would be a hard chapter to write on. As I turned to Psalm 6, it certainly fit the circumstances of my life at the moment. I thought to myself “is this my mother’s prayer right now?” Unfortunately, my mom is not in good health. She has had Parkinson’s for over 18 years and has fared extremely well thanks to an excellent physician and just being a healthy person. She has always handled her condition with grace, never complaining nor wanting to discuss it, just dealing with the cards she has been dealt.  However, in the last few months, the tide has turned. She and my dad (who is 10 years older than she is) visited at Christmas. When I asked them to come, they hesitated and it took them two weeks to say yes. When they arrived, I knew why. Her health was starting to fail. She really needed assistance to walk, get dressed, administer her medicine and just monitor what was going on. I had a few moments of frustration during the visit thinking to myself “why did they come, what if she falls (which she did several times), they should not have come, this is too much”.  In the end, after realizing we had to monitor her at all times due to falling, we did have a good visit and I tried my best to make it a happy holiday for all, knowing this was the last trip to Illinois.

Once back at home, she did not recover well from the trip and continued to go so far downhill including a stay in the hospital. After a few days, she was moved to rehab center and will be there for quite some time. Some days are good, some days she can’t talk to me because her mind is not right. It is difficult to hear and see this strong person becoming so feeble and lose her mind.

As I read this verse in Psalm 4, it made me think of her. Is she thinking this same thought? Is she ready to go be with her mother and grandmother, both wonderful people? Is she crying out in pain and agony? Our family has always been full of faith: when it’s your time, God will call you. We have not feared death. I see that in my dad now too. He’s letting it all play out.

After I wrote this original draft over the weekend, I did talk to her a few times this week. Luckily, she has been having better days. She is thinking more clearly and almost begging me to “get her out” of there. She obviously is not ready to go to heaven. She may be wondering ‘what is God intending in this rehab place”, but deep down, she’s not ready to go anywhere but home.  I hope the Lord has mercy on her as we aren’t ready for her to go either.  May God help my mom and my dad have peace and comfort this week.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord—how long?

 

The Lord Controls Wise and Foolish People

Proverbs 21

Proverbs 21 is full of short bursts of information for us to consider.  As I read through the chapter several times, three particular verses stood out:

1 In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
that he channels toward all who please him..

5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty.

21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love
finds life, prosperity[a] and honor.

In this introductory statement, God talks to us about leadership. “Kings” or people of different levels of leadership will exist. No matter who the “kings” are in our life, God is calling the shots. He is trying to promote good leadership, following his plan. He is working on the outcome, directing the various leaders. If a person has power, how will God try to work through the heart with actions? I don’t know that we always see that positive outcome in the short term but we have to trust that he is in charge of the long term.

I like verse 5 because I am a planner (and yes, I know a few of you out there are planners too!). Plan ahead. Planning serves us well. We can’t plan for everything in our days or our lives, but plan what you can and it will help you be prepared for whatever might come your way. I know if I plan for the week, at least I have some idea of what’s ahead. It might change or more might be added but it helps get a handle on daily life. This message reinforces the benefit of being thoughtful. If we take the time to think through situations and listen for God’s message about our plans, it will serve him well and pleases him. He also sends the message that if you operate on the fly or “shoot from the hip”, in the end you will fail or at the very least, you will be behind.

Verse 21 is my favorite and very needed this week. If you pursue the right path, if you are a good person, in the end you will be fulfilled. Look for ways to follow the righteous path and your will have a good life. Sometimes do you feel though that the good people get the short straw? Or they aren’t selected for a team or for a new role? We have to have patience. It doesn’t always show in the short run, but in this verse, we see the long term view. If things don’t go our way at times, in the end, God is showing us that will prevail.

What I liked about this verse was how it relates to the next few verses in Proverbs: “Thirty Sayings of the Wise”. Should be a good week of reading for us!

Deception

Joshua 9. Proverbs 9.

On December 1st last year, I posted on “Harsh Words”. Betrayal. Trial. Denial. Today, we add another harsh word: Deception. What comes to mind when you think of the word deception? Have you ever been deceived? I imagine the answer is yes. I can think of a number of instances of deception in my life, some very harmful. I could get worked up just thinking about one particular deceptive friendship (or so I thought it was a friendship.)

In the case of today’s story, it’s an interesting twist. The strategy of deception was used so that the Gibeonites would not be attacked. They heard what Joshua and the Israelites had done to other cities, Jordan and Ai, and people. Instead of joining with the larger forces and Kings west of the Jordan (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites) to fight the Israelites, they decided to use a plan of deception. They weighed the option of joining, fighting and possibly failing, and they went into submissive mode, acting as if they had nothing, even their bread was rotten, “dry and moldy”. Woe is me (us). They went right into the Israelite camp and pretended they were something they were not. They lied about where they came from, saying they were from far away when they were not. They wanted a treaty so as not to be killed. The Gibeonites decided living as servants was a better life than not living at all. An interesting strategy.

How many times in life do we see people act a certain way to get attention or recognition, either positive or negative but just to get people to take notice and validate who they are? Do you know people who exaggerate the truth, outlive their incomes, flaunt their clothes, jewelry or travel, talk about themselves constantly, all to get attention or to get ahead?  The people who will say whatever they think others want to hear? Do you know people who pull the “Woe is me” card to gather either money or sympathy or attention or “likes” on social media? Trickery.

I love the way Joshua handles the situation when he finds out he has been deceived: “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us? 2”  

He calls them out. Do you feel like calling people out sometimes? Why did you exaggerate or not tell the truth about your whereabouts? Hopefully a lesson I have taught my kids, but one of them in particular had to learn the hard way (see the image at the top of this post for how I felt!).  Is it really worth not telling the truth and trying to deceive me? I always find out. To me, it’s best to tell the truth, be real, even if you may not receive favor or if you may get in trouble or if you won’t get ahead at work.  If you deceive someone, then when does it stop?  You have to continue to play games.

It would have been interesting to see if Joshua would have had mercy on the Gibeonites if they had arrived, saying “we are here, don’t kill us, we want to have a treaty, what can we do?“ Rather they presented themselves as being in great need and traveling from far away. Joshua did not kill them but his punishment was harsh. You are now under a curse: You will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”

Some of the Gibeonites might have been ok living like servants rather than dying in a battle with the other great armies. However, a better strategy could have been telling the truth. Would they have been allowed to live differently?

As we carry out our daily lives, this lesson is a good reminder to be real. Be yourself. Don’t lead people down false paths.  Don’t “dress to impress”. Don’t use the “woe is me” card. Don’t worry about “likes”. Do your best at work by being honest with thoughts and actions. God loves you just the way you are and so do we!