Thursday, February 25, 2016

"Fear the LORD ... and serve Him!"

Day #57

Scripture Reading:  Joshua 21 - 24 ...

GOD says that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5).  We think of jealousy being a bad thing, but God's jealousy is different.  God alone is worthy of love, praise and worship, and when people reject the one, true God and give their worship to other "gods," God's wrath comes – always ... sooner or later.  More and more I am feeling like a prophet, being compelled to speak what I wish were not true:  that God's wrath and coming judgment will soon descend upon our nation and perhaps soon on the nations of the earth.  We worry about terrorism, and rightly so, but those who worship the false gods of religion, power and all kinds of materialism will discover that GOD cannot be mocked ... God WILL NOT be mocked.  When political leaders and preachers take the name of "God" in vain, He does not hold them guiltless.

Joshua 21-24 reveals two things very clearly:  God keeps His promises to those who are His and He is to be feared.  As Joshua nears the end of his life he testifies to the faithfulness of God, saying, "Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled" (21:25).  Joshua had been a slave in Egypt.  He had seen God deliver His people from Egypt through the plagues.  He had walked through the Red Sea on dry ground with all the tribes of Israel.  He had walked beside Moses as they followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night for forty years!  He had seen God provide food and water for the entire nation through the manna and by other means.  So now his final testimony to the leaders of Israel includes these words:

"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" (23:14).  

Think of the truth of that statement and ask yourself if YOU can say that.  If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ you can and should be able and willing to testify to the same truth.  We fail God at times, but He never fails us!!  His love is perfect and His faithfulness is steadfast.  Having said that, Joshua warns Israel that God will bring all the evil He has threatened upon them if they violate the covenant God has made with them.  If they turn away from Him the LORD's anger will burn against them and they will quickly perish from the land He had given them.

When the tribes on the western side of the Jordan thought the tribes on the east were setting up an altar to worship God the way they wanted to, rather than how God had told them to, they were afraid that God would once again judge ALL of Israel for the sins of some, as He had done before.  They feared the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  They were willing to go to war against their brothers if it meant avoiding God's wrath.  They said, “If you rebel against the LORD today, tomorrow He will be angry with the whole community of Israel” (22:18).  They understood God’s “jealousy” and desired to be obedient to His instructions and commands.

As we have seen so many times before, obedience brings God’s blessings, while disobedience brings God’s discipline or judgment.  We cannot save ourselves through our obedience, but where there is no desire to obey God, to worship and honor Him, to submit to Him, there is no relationship and judgment is sure to follow.  The writer of Hebrews quotes the Psalmist when he writes, “the Lord disciplines those He loves” (Hebrews 12:6).  If you are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit will convict you of your sin and you will be moved to confess and repent.  The freedom Jesus came to give us leads to joyful obedience as we willingly and cheerfully submit to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, few seem to care about devotion to the God who has revealed Himself throughout history as our Creator, and who has revealed the one way to approach Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  If you were God ... what would YOU do?  Oh, God is love!  Yes, and that's why He sent Jesus to bear His WRATH against the sins of those who believe.  All those who believe in Jesus will be SAVED ... from what?  From God’s wrath, His judgment.  How quickly people pick and choose what they want to believe about God, and how quickly people turn to other gods or mix the worship of the one true God with the worship of gods made in the image of men.

Listen carefully to Joshua's challenge to the people:  "Now fear the LORD and serve Him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD" (24:14-15).  
The people said they would serve the LORD ("I AM") ... but they didn't ... and judgment soon followed.  God has not changed.  He is still the “jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).  Jesus didn’t abolish the commandments; He fulfilled them.  As His followers, we are called and empowered by His Spirit to be like Him.

People all over the world have turned away from God and think nothing of it ... but God does.  For nearly 2,000 years God has been holding out His hand, offering forgiveness and salvation to those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ, who enter into covenant with their Creator by faith in Him alone.  Have you found your refuge in Him?  Have you been convicted of your sin?  Have you heard His voice?  Have you come to Him?  He calls us to surrender our lives to the One who gave His life for us and to find hope, joy and peace in Him.  May His Spirit open your heart and mind to the truth of God's Word and make you an ambassador of His kingdom today and every day, for He alone is worthy to be worshiped!

"Lord God Almighty, You alone are worthy of our worship and our praise.  You are to be feared ... and yet, through faith in Your Son, Jesus, fear is replaced by love.  Oh, amazing grace!  Thank You for Your faithfulness in keeping every promise you have ever made.  The future is glorious for those whose hope is in You!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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