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The northern nation of Israel was defeated by Assyria and all of the citizens were carried away and forced to live in other countries. Foreign people were then brought into the land and settled in their homes. The destruction was so complete that people still talk about the “lost tribes” of Israel when referring to this nation. This unusual passage is the explanation of Scripture itself.

 

Word:  2 Kings 17

This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the Lord their God…. They had followed the practices of the pagan nations … .as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced. The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the Lord their God. They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city. 10 They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree. 11 They offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, just like the nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the Lord’s anger. 12 Yes, they worshiped idols, despite the Lord’s specific and repeated warnings.

13 Again and again the Lord had sent his prophets and seers to warn both Israel and Judah: “Turn from all your evil ways. Obey my commands and decrees—the entire law that I commanded your ancestors to obey, and that I gave you through my servants the prophets.”

14 But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God. 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the Lord’s command not to imitate them.

16 They rejected all the commands of the Lord their God and made two calves from metal. They set up an Asherah pole and worshiped Baal and all the forces of heaven. 17 They even sacrificed their own sons and daughters in the fire. They consulted fortune-tellers and practiced sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the Lord’s anger.

18 Because the Lord was very angry with Israel, he swept them away from his presence.

As a nation, they completely forgot!  They forgot Moses and Joshua. They forgot Samuel and David. They forgot Sinai, and they forgot Jericho.  And they had filled the place of those things forgotten with what they saw around them.

They saw big, wealthy nations who worshipped “all the forces of heaven”—nature, science, material things!  They saw powerful nations who sacrificed their sons and daughters—seeking success, control, prestige!  They turned to the occult, giving preference to karma and zen and crystals and auras.  They practiced sorcery—deception, calling things true that are false, and calling false things true!

And they sold themselves to evil—were addicted to it, enslaved by it, and profited from it. These were the worthless idols and sinful practices that brought the nation to a place where the King of All Nations could not tolerate them any longer. He swept them away from his presence.

What should we as a nation do so that we do not forget what the King of All Nations has done for us?  What do those of us do who remember?

 

Prayer:  Lord, what have we forgotten?  Restore our memory of all that you have done for us. Restore our memory of all the words your prophets and priests have spoken to us for you.  Do not let us be deceived by what we see around us, by nations who believe in wealth or raw power or revenge or other gods.  Help us to recognize evil, Father, and deliver us from it.  Do not sweep us away, but continue to show us mercy until we remember!  AMEN.

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King Solomon’s wisdom made him world renown, but unfortunately, his son and successor Rehoboam did not inherit his father’s gift.

Words:  1 Kings 12:1-20 (abridged)(NLT)              

Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king. The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

Rehoboam replied, “Give me three days to think this over. Then come back for my answer.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?”

The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”

10 The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! 11 Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!”

15 So the king paid no attention to the people. This turn of events was the will of the Lord, for it fulfilled the Lord’s message to Jeroboam . . . .

 

To whom do those who want to lead the nation listen?  All leaders have those who want to influence them, to guide their decisions. These people are sometimes more influential than the leaders themselves because they work behind the scenes and often do not really have to answer to the public.  Knowing who these people are may make a difference in whom you want to choose as a national leader.

While it would be easy to say—and this text probably implies that it was so—that the big mistake was listening to the young advisors instead of the older ones, I really believe the bigger mistake that Rehoboam made is that he “paid no attention to the people.”  Disrespect is a tell-tale sign of a broken relationship. Paying no attention to the people and speaking “harshly” to them betrayed this new young ruler’s distant, self-serving heart. He paid for his disrespect by losing most of what he was trying to grab.

Lookout for the potential leader who disrespects the people and speaks harshly.

Prayer:  O Lord, it is hard for us to know who has the ear of our leaders.  So much is done in secret and hidden behind smokescreens. Be our protector. Give us leaders, Sovereign Lord, who respect the will of your people and who speak the truth, but speak kindly to us.  AMEN

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This passage is very long, so I have abridged it for this reading, but I recommend you read the whole chapter for the full image.

Word:  Ezekiel 27 (abridged) (NLT)

27 Then this message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, sing a funeral song for Tyre, that mighty gateway to the sea, the trading center of the world. Give Tyre this message from the Sovereign Lord:

“You boasted, O Tyre,
    ‘My beauty is perfect!’
You extended your boundaries into the sea.
    Your builders made your beauty perfect.
You were like a great ship
    built of the finest cypress from Senir.
They took a cedar from Lebanon
    to make a mast for you.
They carved your oars
    from the oaks of Bashan.
Your deck of pine from the coasts of Cyprus
    was inlaid with ivory.
Your sails were made of Egypt’s finest linen,
    and they flew as a banner above you.
You stood beneath blue and purple awnings
    made bright with dyes from the coasts of Elishah.
Your oarsmen came from Sidon and Arvad;
    your helmsmen were skilled men from Tyre itself.
Wise old craftsmen from Gebal did the caulking.
    Ships from every land came with goods to barter for your trade.

10 “Men from distant Persia, Lydia, and Libya served in your great army. They hung their shields and helmets on your walls, giving you great honor. 12 “Tarshish sent merchants to buy your wares in exchange for silver, iron, tin, and lead. 13 Merchants from Greece, Tubal, and Meshech brought slaves and articles of bronze to trade with you. . . .16 “Syria sent merchants to buy your rich variety of goods. They traded turquoise, purple dyes, embroidery, fine linen, and jewelry of coral and rubies. 17 Judah and Israel traded for your wares, offering wheat from Minnith, figs, honey, olive oil, and balm.

18 “Damascus sent merchants to buy your rich variety of goods . . . . 21 The Arabians and the princes of Kedar sent merchants to trade lambs and rams and male goats in exchange for your goods. . . .25 The ships of Tarshish were your ocean caravans. Your island warehouse was filled to the brim!

26 “But look! Your oarsmen
    have taken you into stormy seas!
A mighty eastern gale
    has wrecked you in the heart of the sea!
27 Everything is lost—
    your riches and wares,
your sailors and pilots,
    your ship builders, merchants, and warriors.
On the day of your ruin,
    everyone on board sinks into the depths of the sea.
28 Your cities by the sea tremble
    as your pilots cry out in terror.
29 All the oarsmen abandon their ships;
    the sailors and pilots stand on the shore.
30 They cry aloud over you
    and weep bitterly.
They throw dust on their heads
    and roll in ashes.
31 They shave their heads in grief for you
    and dress themselves in burlap.
They weep for you with bitter anguish
    and deep mourning.
32 As they wail and mourn over you,
    they sing this sad funeral song:
‘Was there ever such a city as Tyre,
    now silent at the bottom of the sea?
33 The merchandise you traded
    satisfied the desires of many nations.
Kings at the ends of the earth
    were enriched by your trade.
34 Now you are a wrecked ship,
    broken at the bottom of the sea.
All your merchandise and crew
    have gone down with you.

Have you heard the expression “the ship of state?”  It’s a pretty metaphor made famous by Plato to describe the governing body of a nation.  Tyre was a port city whose history went back a thousand years before Abram. Tyre traded with the world and had great wealth.

But during the time of Ezekiel, Tyre had suffered in wars with first the Egyptians, then the Assyrians, and now (about 573 BC) with the Chaldeans. It would continue to exist by paying tribute to its conquerors until 332 BC when Alexander the Great laid siege to it, conquered it, then razed it, literally tossing the stones of Tyre into the sea.

Tyre was a successful business. It used its wealth to secure its borders, then later to buy its freedom. Finally though, in spite of its amazing history, in spite of its citizens’ extreme patriotism, in spite of what its loss meant to its trading partners, the ship of state was destroyed because its “oarsmen have taken you into stormy seas.”

It’s important to know that neither warriors nor wealth, neither patriotism nor global status, that nothing is enough to keep the sheep of state afloat when those who row take it in the wrong direction. No ship of state is too valuable to fail! And when a nation sinks into history, it leaves all its wealth and business acumen, its military prowess and political clout behind—all of it 

 

Prayer: Father, You are King of all Nations. The life of every nation is in your hands, just as the life of every person. You give and you take away. Give us perspective, Father, and teach us that no kingdom is eternal except your kingdom!  Amen.

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King David served his nation well until the day he died. Before his death, David designated his son Solomon to take the throne. In this text, Solomon faces the choice of what he needs most as he assumes power and authority.

Word:  1 Kings 3:5-14 (NLT)

That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

 

Some leaders were older when chosen—like Moses and Joshua. We expect older people to have more experience, more information, bigger networks, and more confidence. But God often called younger people to be leaders, people like Queen Esther, Daniel, Josiah, and Solomon.  Perhaps a person’s age is one of those external factors like height that people tend to use as something upon which to base their leadership choices, while God is still more concerned about a person’s heart.

How many fairy tales hinge on the fairy godmother or the genii giving someone three wishes! As children we would always try to figure out how to turn three wishes into an infinite number of wishes by wishing that all our wishes would come true.  Most of those fairy tales end with a disastrous moral lesson to be careful for what one wishes.

This story of young Solomon is quite different. He has already inherited the throne. He has the wealth of his father as well as power over a consolidated nation.  He has absolute authority. For what could he ask God that he did not already have?  More wealth, more power, more fame?

Instead Solomon asked for an understanding heart, so that he could know the difference between right and wrong to govern the nation fairly—with justice.

Solomon was already wise!  He recognized that God had honored his father’s faithfulness, and that even his own existence was by the grace and mercy of God.  He certainly knew the story of his father David’s adultery and murder, but also of his penance and punishment when confronted with his sin. He could have been that child who died as a result of David’s sin—but he wasn’t.

Solomon was many things at the commencement of his reign, but he was not arrogant or conceited; rather, he recognized that God had placed him on the throne to judge between right and wrong—and for that he needed a greater portion of wisdom as do all national leaders.

Seek leaders, young or old, who know that their task is to judge right from wrong and who seek greater wisdom in order accomplish this task—and who seek it from God.

 

Prayer:  We have leaders who seek power. We have leaders who ask for authority. People want to be leaders who are arrogant and conceited, thinking they are wise—wiser than everyone, even You! Protect our nation from these kinds of leaders. Give us leaders who have understanding hearts, who want to know the difference between right and wrong, and who know they can only govern if you have given them wisdom.  Amen.

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Word:   Psalm 101 (NLT)

A psalm of David.

I will sing of your love and justice, Lord.
    I will praise you with songs.
I will be careful to live a blameless life—
    when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity
    in my own home.
I will refuse to look at
    anything vile and vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
    I will have nothing to do with them.
I will reject perverse ideas
    and stay away from every evil.
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
    I will not endure conceit and pride.

I will search for faithful people
    to be my companions.
Only those who are above reproach
    will be allowed to serve me.
I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house,
    and liars will not stay in my presence.
My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked
    and free the city of the Lord from their grip.

 

David was chosen to be the leader of his nation because of his heart, not his experience, not his policies, not his looks.  Because judging a person’s heart is so very difficult, we need some hints, some clues as to what God really looks for in the heart of a national leader.

These are words from the heart of the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). If a nation could find such a leader, look what would disappear from government: crooks, perversions, slander, conceit and pride, even deceit and lies would disappear because this person after God’s own heart would see his/her daily task as freeing the city from the grip of the wicked.

Prayer: Before I blame others and accuse them of having flawed hearts, I pray that you will heal my heart of the damage my own will has done to it. Forgive me for not filling my heart with your words to protect my soul and to keep from damaging those around me.  Then forgiven, I pray for the nation and those who would lead us. Show us people whose daily task will be to free our cities from wickedness.  Show us people whose hearts are yours!  Amen.

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Words:   1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NLT)

16 Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”

So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”

“Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.”Next Jesse summoned Shimea,[a] but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on.

 

After rejecting him as King, God gave the nation exactly the kind of man that they wanted–an impressive man named Saul.  He was the son of a wealthy, influential family, and he was what we would call today “presidential!”  He was head and shoulders taller than anyone else and handsome! Did you know that in American presidential elections, the vast majority of elected presidents have been markedly taller than the average male of their same birth year.  Scholars who study such facts speculate that it has to do with the appearance of health and dominance.  Saul turned out to be a terrible king.

Even God’s prophet Samuel needed to be reminded that a “presidential look” has nothing to do with what God sees in a person. “The Lord looks at the heart.”

Our ubiquitous media make it almost impossible to avoid judging candidates by their appearances: their hair, their ties—or no ties–, their ears, their weight, and certainly their height.  Many believe that Richard Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election because of how he looked in the first televised presidential debate.

But it is hard to look at a person’s heart! These proverbs may teach us what it means to look at a person’s heart more as God does:

Proverbs 3:1       –   Store my [God’s] commands in your heart.

Proverbs 3:5       –  Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Proverbs 11:20  –  The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity.

Proverbs 15:7  –    The lips of the wise give good advice; the heart of a fool has none to give.

 

And, finally, Jesus said,

Luke 6:45   –         A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Luke 12:34 –       Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Matthew 15:18,19 –    But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.

 

Prayer: Give us your eyes, Father, so that we might see the hearts of those who desire to lead us. Deliver us from outward appearances and false impressions, but show us what is true, so that we can choose as you would choose.  Amen.

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Word:  I Samuel 8:1-9 (NLT)

As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel.Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

After Moses and Joshua, God gave the nation strong national leaders to judge them and to deliver them from their enemies.  Some of these judges were outstanding, but others were very flawed. As the nation entrenched itself in the land and grew more comfortable with itself, people began to look around at the really successful nations around them who all had kings—not judges.  Judges began to seem like a relic from an earlier time when the nation’s leadership had a more spiritual tone.  As a more mature nation, international security and posture seemed more important. God-appointed judges seemed a bit parochial or provincial, and besides, there was an immediate power vacuum since Judge Samuel’s sons were so corrupt.

What the nation had forgotten is that their judges were appointed by their King!  Yes, they already had a king.  Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord, was their king and had been since the moment they had become a nation (Numbers 23:21), so their desire for a king was in every way a rebellion against their current King.

So who is the King of our nation?  Who is the Sovereign Lord of all nations?  What would a nation do which was in rebellion and trying to overthrow their Sovereign King?  Are we still—or were we ever—one nation, under God?

PrayerFather, you are the King of all nations and the Lord of ours, whether we know it or not. Open our hearts to the reality of your sovereignty and let that guide us in our national and political activities. Keep us from either desiring to lead ourselves or looking around for godless leaders or leadership styles. You are our King. Amen

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Habakkuk spoke to the nation during a time of threat and invasion by the current superpower, the Chaldeans, thus the language of war.

Word:  Habakkuk 3 (abridged) (NLT)

This prayer was sung by the prophet Habakkuk:

I have heard all about you, Lord.
    I am filled with awe by your amazing works.
In this time of our deep need,
    help us again as you did in years gone by.
And in your anger,
    remember your mercy.

I see God moving . . . .

His brilliant splendor fills the heavens,
    and the earth is filled with his praise.
His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise.
    Rays of light flash from his hands,
    where his awesome power is hidden.
Pestilence marches before him;
    plague follows close behind.
When he stops, the earth shakes.
    When he looks, the nations tremble.
He shatters the everlasting mountains
    and levels the eternal hills.
    He is the Eternal One!

Was it in anger, Lord, that you struck the rivers
    and parted the sea?
Were you displeased with them?
    No, you were sending your chariots of salvation!
You brandished your bow
    and your quiver of arrows.
    You split open the earth with flowing rivers.
10 The mountains watched and trembled.
    Onward swept the raging waters.
The mighty deep cried out,
    lifting its hands in submission.
11 The sun and moon stood still in the sky
    as your brilliant arrows flew
    and your glittering spear flashed.

16 I trembled inside when I heard this;
    my lips quivered with fear.
My legs gave way beneath me,
    and I shook in terror.
I will wait quietly for the coming day
    when disaster will strike the people who invade us.
17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.

This song was sung at a time of national desperation! Though not entirely conquered, Habakkuk’s nation was subjected to partial destruction, deportations, and a puppet government. The future of the nation looked bleak.  Habakkuk turns to the only Power he has ever heard of who had ever been victorious in the face of such a dominant enemy.

But even though Habakkuk knows of the Lord’s great victories of the past, there is absolutely no evidence that he will intervene in the current battle. All Habakkuk can do is to “wait quietly for the coming day.”

How do we hope when security is threatened? How do we hope when the economy is bad and the poor are unemployed? How do we hope when society is disillusioned and distrustful? How do we hope when those who govern cheat or disappoint?

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

 

PrayerLord of the nations, we confess that we walk by sight most of the time—and that is scary. We see trouble and despair, we see poverty and illness, we see injustice and bigotry, and we are afraid. Give us greater faith in your sovereignty, O Lord, so that we can know where our security and salvation lie. When we are on the edge, Father, make us surefooted, not by our own strength, but by yours–not because we can control chaos or expect our leaders to, but because You can—and will. Amen

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The first national leader of ancient Israel Moses shepherded the emerging nation on a forty-year journey, but Moses’s most trusted assistant Joshua was destined to lead the people to their final destination. In these passages, notice the actions and attitude of a great leader when the time to transition to his successor comes. Also take note of his last message to the new leader.

WORD:  Deuteronomy 3: 21-28; 31:1-8; Joshua 1:1-9 (Abridged) (NLT)

 At that time I [Moses] gave Joshua this charge: ‘You have seen for yourself everything the Lord your God has done to these two kings. He will do the same to all the kingdoms on the west side of the Jordan. 22 Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.’

23 “At that time I [Moses] pleaded with the Lord and said, 24 ‘O Sovereign Lord, you have only begun to show your greatness and the strength of your hand to me, your servant. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as you do? 25 Please let me cross the Jordan to see the wonderful land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon mountains.’

26 “ . . . . ‘That’s enough!’ he declared. ‘Speak of it no more. 27 But go up to Pisgah Peak, and look over the land in every direction. Take a good look, but you may not cross the Jordan River. 28 Instead, commission Joshua and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead the people across the Jordan. He will give them all the land you now see before you as their possession.’

31 When Moses had finished giving these instructions to all the people of Israel, he said, “I am now 120 years old, and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan River.’ But the Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. . . . Joshua will lead you across the river, just as the Lord promised.

Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Joshua 1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people . . . .No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Moses had been the sole leader of ancient Israel for forty years. In the name of God, he had challenged the ruler of Egypt and won freedom for his people. He had delivered to this new nation their new law, written by the finger of God. He had listened to their complaints and suffered merciless personal attack for years. After all of this, he, however, could not achieve the primary goal for the nation, that is, returning to, reclaiming, and resettling the land their forefathers had left four hundred years earlier.  Moses had to relinquish his position and authority just at the moment when the goal was in sight, a moment that tests the true character of all national leaders.

Rather than grasping power, Moses graciously prepares his people for transition, appoints his successor early, then prepares both the people and Joshua for his absence.

To both the people and Joshua, he gave the Book of Instructions, which we recognize as Deuteronomy, and to both over and over again, he says, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged.” He reminded Joshua that his success depended on his submission, not his use of power.

Joshua became a great leader of ancient Israel because he never forgot Moses’ words, “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” He was never alone at the top. The buck did not stop on his desk.

Prayer:  Sovereign Lord, bless our nation with rulers who are strong and courageous, who will not be afraid or discouraged because they believe that You are their Leader. Teach us to depend on you and to submit to your instruction all the days of our lives, and when the day of transition comes, help us not to be afraid. Amen

 

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Word:  from Isaiah 8 (abridged) (NLT)

 11 The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, 12 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. 13 Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. 14     He will keep you safe.

. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

19 Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead?

20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. 21 They will go from one place to another, weary and hungry. And because they are hungry, they will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven 22 and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.  (NLT)

 

During elections or times of national tension, everyone seems to be telling everyone how to think! Persuasion bleeds over into defamation; rational arguments become disingenuous distortions of the truth. All parties have their polls to tell us how everyone else is thinking.  Turning to our national sources of information becomes hopeless.

The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.  Isaiah was directing his audience, not to a political alternative, but rather to God for their truth.

If you are afraid of what could happen, choose carefully where you seek comfort. Don’t create or believe every conspiracy theory. Don’t shudder at the dire consequences that talking heads predict; rather,  look to God’s instructions and teachings and ask God for guidance.  Exchange the polls for prayer; choose to fear God rather than the opposing candidate.

And how do you know which you have chosen?  Isaiah says that the people who ignore the Word of God will rage and curse their king and their God. They will look up to heaven and down at the earth, but wherever they look, there will be trouble and anguish and dark despair.

Don’t despair; look to God’s teachings and instructions.

 

Prayer:  O Father, we are surrounded by voices of despair and contradiction.  We struggle to know whom to believe, so we often believe things that aren’t true. Turn our hearts to you so that we can walk in the light of truth and not be afraid.  Teach us to trust your word above every other message. AMEN

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