“Alas!” To “Aha!”

…oh no… (2 Kings 6:5, 15). 

The words “Oh no!” are actually a single word in the Hebrew language (Hebrew: ‘ahahh) that has been transliterated into English as “Aha!” 

But I think the old English translation is better in this context: ALAS! 

ALAS is usually a painful realization of the situation, not a cry of enlightened discovery. Here are the other times that this Hebrew/English word for ALAS! is used: 

  • Joshua said it after his army was defeated at Ai 
  • Gideon said it after realizing he had been face-to-face with God 
  • Jephtha cried it out after he knew that his daughter would have to be sacrificed
  • King Joram uttered this when he realized his troops and animals had no water in the desert 
  • Jeremiah said this to God after he was called to be a prophet, and after he was asked by God to speak countercultural words (he actually said ALAS! four times!) 
  • Ezekiel also cried out ALAS! four times when God asked him to do or to watch difficult things 
  • Joel cried it out when he saw the Day of the Lord quickly approaching 

(check out the above references by clicking here) 

In all of these ALAS! painful moments, these men were at their wits’ end, at the end of their own abilities—they couldn’t do anything to help themselves. 

In all of these ALAS! moments, they came to just one important realization: Only Yahweh can help me. That realization is truly the AHA! of an enlightened discovery! 

Calling on God turns a painful ALAS! moment into a God-glorifying AHA! moment. God alone can provide where no one else can.

Don’t despair in the ALAS! times, but cry it out loud to the only One who can help you, and then watch to see how He alone will turn your situation into a defining, God-glorifying AHA! testimony. 

God Is The Majority

…all of them were leaders of the Israelites (Numbers 13:3). 

Caleb and Joshua were two of the ten leaders who were sent out to explore the land of Canaan in advance of the Israelites’ crossing the Jordan River.

One of their areas of exploration was Hebron, the city where God first promised this land to Abraham and his descendants. It was here that the explorers saw the giants of Anak. Next, they went to the Valley of Eschol and took a sample of the gigantic-sized fruit. The explorers all experienced the same journey, but they did not all come to the same conclusion.

Ten of the explorer said, “The food is gigantic but so are the people. We cannot defeat them!” (13:26-29)

“Then Caleb silenced” those naysayers and said, “We can do it!” And Joshua joined Caleb in declaring, “Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (13:30; 14:6-9).

The majority rules, right?

No! God did not send them in as a committee to vote on His plan. God had already said, “Take possession of the land”—that wasn’t up for debate or vote!

The naysayers said, “It looks like a good land, but….” 

Caleb and Joshua said, “They look like giants, but….” 

The majority saw the negatives and made excuses. They saw their situation as bigger than God.

The minority saw God as bigger than the giants. God by Himself is always the Majority. Always. My vote doesn’t change a thing. In fact, I don’t even get a vote! My only decision is whether or not to trust God and obey Him. Obedience—faithful, trusting obedience in God’s word—puts me on God’s side.

A mark of a godly leader is one who makes sure he is always on God’s side. 

This is part 48 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Servant Of God

…Joshua, son of Nun, the servant of the Lord… (Joshua 24:29). 

There are not many people in the Bible called “the servant of the Lord”:

  1. Moses
  2. Joshua
  3. David (in the introduction to Psalms 18 and 36)
  4. Jesus (in Isaiah 42 and 49)

In Joshua’s final address to the Israelites, I believe he shares some common themes for anyone who wants to be called a servant of the Lord:

  • A firsthand, personal encounter of God’s miracles (Joshua 23:3; 24:7)
  • Constant recall of God’s provision (23:4; 24:7)
  • Awareness that my doing is only possible because of God’s doing (23:5, 10; 24:12)
  • Obedience to God’s Word (23:6; 24:21)
  • Wholehearted love for God (23:11; 24:23)
  • Reverent fear of God (23:12-13; 24:14, 19-20)
  • Based on what God has already done, trust in His future grace (23:14; 24:24)
  • Choosing to do all of the above every single day (24:15, 18)

All of these principles were fulfilled in the Ultimate Servant of the Lord: Jesus of Nazareth. And that Servant told us that His Spirit would empower us to live like He lived. It’s not impossible to live like this, but the Holy Spirit wants to empower us to live this out. The question is: will we let Him?

Sadly, the were no other leaders that came immediately after Joshua who were called “servant of the Lord.” Israel failed primarily because they violated the the very first principle—they had no first-hand, personal experience of God’s miracles. They lived off the miracles of their parents’ age: it was for them “the Lord your God” and never “the Lord my God” (see Joshua 24:31; Judges 21:25).

May our prayer today be: Heavenly Father, I want to be a legacy leader. Jesus, I want to be a servant of God just like You were. Holy Spirit, I invite you into my life to empower me to live this servant lifestyle every single day. 

Zero Casualties

The whole army then returned safely to Joshua… (Joshua 10:21).

The only time any deaths in battle are mentioned in the whole military campaign of Israel conquering Canaan is at Ai when 36 men died (7:1-5). Other than that, zero casualties.

A massive Israelite army, waging war against huge armies “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (11:4), many of them entrenched in fortified cities, several of the warriors are giants, fighting on terrain that is unfamiliar to them—zero casualties! 

But why should this surprise us?

God doesn’t see masses of people; He sees individuals. He knows how many hairs are on each soldier’s head! He is able to keep alive all His children despite the rigors of warfare.

Total victory. Zero casualties!

The casualties at Ai were due to Israel’s disobedience. The ongoing victories were due to Israel’s total obedience: “As the Lord commanded His servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” (11:15).

“All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fights for Israel” (10:42), with zero casualties!

We wage a spiritual warfare today that is no less rigorous or dangerous than the military campaign the Israelite army fought. God is still able to keep those who are His until He calls them home. 

Missionary John Paton, while surrounded by hostile cannibals, said, “I realized that my life was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.” 

The same is true for you. Don’t fear the enemy. Don’t shrink from the battle. Obey God, and trust Him to bring you safely home to Heaven. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, as he neared the end of his campaign—

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Jesus is able to keep you from falling until He brings you into His Father’s presence—zero casualties!

Sowing Seeds For The Future

Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses. … The Lord commanded through Moses that you give us [Levites] towns to live in… (Joshua 20:2; 21:2).

The Israelite leadership designated 6 cities of refuge and 48 Levitical cities. It was a big responsibility for the leadership of those towns to protect both the innocent person who was being pursued by the avenger of blood, and ensuring that the Levites were taken care of.

There is one city that particularly stands out to me: Hebron.

This city was formally called Kiriath Arba: so named after the biggest, baddest of the Anakite giants who had lived there. This is the strongly-fortified city that was inhabited by not one—but three!—giants that the 85-year-old Caleb defeated (15:13-14).

Hebron became both a city of refuge and a Levitical city. Caleb also secured Debir, which became a Levitical city too (15:15-17; 20:7; 21:11-15). Later on, Hebron would be David’s capital city for seven years until he moved his throne to Jerusalem.

A mark of a godly leader is one who sows the seeds that others will harvest.

What would have happened if Caleb hadn’t defeated those giants?

Or if he wasn’t willing to take on the added responsibilities for fugitives and priests?

Caleb conquered in his lifetime to benefit people for hundreds of years after he was gone!

God still needs these forward-looking, boldly-conquering servant leaders. I want to be a leader like that, and I hope you do too! 

This is part 46 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

God Sees Individuals

After the plague the Lord said to Moses and Eleazer son of Aaron, the priest, “Take a census…” (Numbers 26:1-2).

  • The book of Numbers starts with a census.
  • In the middle of the book, the Israelites sin by distrusting God. 
  • Every one of those adults recorded in the first census—who distrusted God—died.
  • The book of Numbers ends with a census.

“The total number of the men of Israel was 601,730. … Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai [in the first census]…EXCEPT Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun” (vv. 51, 64-65).

God doesn’t see crowds or masses of people; He sees individuals. He knows each individual by name. He knows me and you too. I cannot hide my sin, I cannot use “the crowd“ to justify my disobedience. He sees my heart. He sees my obedience and my disobedience.

God said, “Because they have not followed Me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—not one EXCEPT Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly” (Numbers 32:11-12).

God had a plan for each and every person recorded in that first census. They all could have entered the Promised Land. But all of them sinned and forfeited their opportunity—EXCEPT Caleb and Joshua. 

God has a plan for my life and for your life. Each of us has to choose obedience for ourselves. Despite the sin everyone else around you may be committing, let God say of you, “There is an EXCEPTion!”

Enjoying The Meal

I am so active every day that I need to eat about 2700 calories just to maintain my weight. Eating that often, if I’m not careful, I can just simply put food in my mouth and really not taste it. 

I think most people realize that there is a difference between eating and enjoying their food. Not only is gulping not very pleasurable, but doctors have even found some negative impacts on habitual food-gulpers. Things like: 

  1. Indigestion 
  2. Weight gain 
  3. Disconnection from hunger/full signals 
  4. Increasingly likelihood of unhealthy food choices 

In the same way, there’s a difference between praying and enjoying our time with God (see Mark 6:30-31 and Revelation 3:20).

Just as there are many physical benefits to enjoying healthy food, there are also many spiritual benefits to enjoying our time in God’s Word and God’s presence. This spiritual eating and digestion process is called meditation. 

Allow me to put a couple of thoughts together to show you the value of this spiritual discipline: 

  • The apostle Paul told us, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). 
  • God told Joshua, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; 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” (Joshua 1:8).

So the way we pray continually is to have something healthy to digest. We can feast on God’s Word and then allow the Holy Spirit to extract all of the healthy spiritual nutrients that will allow us to grow and mature. 

David said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Don’t gulp down your meal of the Scripture—taste it. Don’t rush through your prayer time—enjoy it. Keep mulling over what you have read. Keep chewing on it to help the digestion of the good stuff you need to be healthy.

We meditate on the Word of God to learn how to continually commune with the God of the Word. 

Meditating on God’s Word with the Holy Spirit’s help means you will never lack material for praying continually.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Blessing Of A Promise-Keeping God

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Blessing Of A Promise-Keeping God

     I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; or unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; or unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah. … 

     All the purposes of man have been defeated, but not the purposes of God. The promises of man may be broken. Many of them are made to be broken. But the promises of God shall all be fulfilled. He is a promise-maker, but He never was a promise-breaker; He is a promise-keeping God, and every one of His people shall prove it to be so.  

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon

God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through? (Number 23:19)

For the word of God will never fail. (Luke 1:37)

Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. (Joshua 23:14)

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. (Psalm 146:5-6) 

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Our God is a promise-making, promise-keeping God!

The Impossible Prayer

We have been looking at some bold pray-ers in the Bible, but today’s example takes it to a whole new level by praying an “impossible” prayer! Here are 4 valuable lessons we can learn from the prayer of Joshua. 

When this story opens, the city of Gibeon is calling on the Israelites to help them. Five Amorite kings have all ganged up on Gibeon because of the treaty they made with Israel, and they intended to crush them into oblivion! 

Joshua—without any debate, consultation, or hesitation—mobilizes his forces. Notice that there are no half-measures or hedging his bets. Joshua marches out with the entire army, including all of his elite warriors to rescue Gibeon. 

Joshua’s troops marched all night to cover the 21-miles to get to Gibeon by daybreak. Modern-day military experts say that an army can cover about 20-25 miles before they are at the point of total exhaustion, so Joshua took his men right up to this point. But this all-night march surprised the five attacking armies, so much so that the Bible says God threw those enemies into a panic and God even fought for them, raining hailstones down on the Amorites that killed more men than the Israelites did in their attack! 

After an all-night march and an all-day battle, the Amorites are on the run. This is when Joshua prays his “impossible” prayer. He asks God to let the earth stop rotating so that the sun and moon in the sky will give the Israelites enough light to complete their victory!!

AND GOD DOES IT!! 

How could Joshua pray such an “impossible” prayer like this? 

  1. He had already seen God do the “impossible” like drying up the Jordan River and knocking down the supposedly impenetrable walls of Jericho.
  2. God already told Joshua, “I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” Joshua didn’t put an asterisk on God’s word—if God said every enemy would be defeated, that’s what Joshua was claiming. 
  3. Joshua was already moving forward in faith. He wasn’t sitting around waiting for God to do something. He was letting his marching be his praying. 
  4. By publicly praying this “impossible” thing, Joshua was ensuring that God would receive all the glory. The Bible says that Joshua prayed “with all Israel listening.” 

The sun stopped in its tracks in mid-sky; just sat there all day. There’s never been a day like that before or since—God took orders from a human voice! Truly, God fought for Israel (v. 14, The Message).

What about you? Does it feel like your problems are ganging up on you like a bunch of bullies? You, too, can pray an “impossible” prayer like Joshua did—

  1. Get God’s Word—what promise will you stand on? Don’t put any asterisks in there! 
  2. Know God’s peace—God told Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them.” 
  3. Watch God confuse your enemies—when the Israelites showed up God “threw them into confusion,” which literally means He discombobulated them so they couldn’t coordinate their counter-attack on Israel. 
  4. Publicly pray an “impossible” prayer while you fight! Tell others what your “impossible” prayer is so that God gets all the glory.

Join me this Sunday as we learn from another bold pray-er from the pages of Scripture. 

A Warrior For God’s Favor

I love this guy! 

Caleb is a dog. I’m not kidding: his name literally means dog. To be more specific his name actually means a rabid dog. What?! Yeah, but it totally fits his life. 

Caleb first shows up on the scene when the Israelites are getting ready to explore Canaan for the first time. They have just been delivered from Egypt and in about two months have arrived at the border of their promised land. Moses wants to send a representative from each tribe to scout out the land. 

So the first thing we learn about Caleb is that he is a leader of the largest, most powerful tribe in Israel (Numbers 13:1-3, 6). 

After scouting the land for 40 days, these men come back with a report for everyone. Halfway through their report, Caleb interrupts everyone—“We should go take the land right now, for we can certainly do it!” (13:30). Caleb was outspoken for God’s favor. He firmly believed that God was for them. 

Unfortunately, nearly all the other scouts (except Joshua) disagreed with Caleb. They warned that there were giants in the land that would eat them for lunch. In essence, the same people who had seen God deliver them from the Egyptians and part the Red Sea for them now thought that God wasn’t able to defeat giants. This vocal majority turned the entire nation against Moses and wanted to return to Egypt! 

So God promised that none of the adults would enter the promised land, with only two exceptions: Joshua and Caleb. God pointed out that Caleb “has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly” (Numbers 14:24). This is where we first learn that Caleb is rabid. The term rabid means zealous, intense, fanatical, inspired. Caleb is a man who is focused—intensely, wholeheartedly focused—on God. In fact, this word wholehearted is used about Caleb three more times (see Joshua 14: 8, 9, 14). 

Along with the rest of the Israelite community, Caleb wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. He never thought God had forgotten him; he never lost his intense wholeheartedness; he stayed rabid the whole time. He had a trust in God that never diminished. His motto might have been: “God said it; I believe it.” 

After 40 years in the wilderness, and then five more years fighting to claim their promised land, Caleb was still raring to go. He told Joshua, “I am still just as strong as I was 45 years ago. I’m 85 years old and still ready to take on giants. Let me at ‘em!” And he did it! Caleb drove out three giants in order to claim his territory (Judges 1:20).

But Caleb wasn’t done yet. He then used God’s favor to be a blessing to others. The Apostle Paul tell something that Caleb lived out: God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need AND plenty left over to share with others (2 Corinthians 9:8). Without a word of complaint, Caleb gladly accepted not only the responsibility of letting the Levities live in the town he had conquered, but he also took on the added duties of making that city of Hebron a “city of refuge.” In this city, Caleb would keep anyone safe from those seeking their lives until a proper trial could be held. 

Caleb was successful for nearly 90 years because he was convinced that God was for him.

Nothing could distract him from wholeheartedly clinging to God’s favor! 

Caleb was a warrior for God’s favor, and he was a successful warrior because of God’s favor. The same can be said of you IF you will decide to cling to God’s favor wholeheartedly.

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