April 2020

Jericho’s wall dweller – Rahab

Rahab lived a colourful life as one of only a handful of Jericho residents who God spared when He destroyed the city. She lived approximately 1425-1350 BC as a resident of Jericho which was one of the oldest cities of that era with a population of approximately 2500. Her home was incorporated into the structure of the main outer city wall.

Jericho’s wall dweller - RahabIt all began when “Joshua sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’ And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there” (Joshua 2:1). As the story goes in the book of Joshua, Rahab hid the spies under cover on the roof that evening. Meanwhile, the king of Jericho had heard about the spies and sent men to Rahab’s house to hunt them down. But Rahab lied to them about how she had sent the spies away. So off they went on a wild goose chase in search of the spies.

Rahab explains to the spies that she had “heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites… whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath (Jos 2:10-11).

Fear had rightly ignited faith within Rahab. She understood that persisting in unbelief would only end in certain death by the hands of Israel’s army. Her mixed fear of the Lord and Israel’s army motivated her to do something that no one else in Jericho had thought of – negotiate. That night Rahab made a deal with Israel’s spies that in return for her hiding them and later helping them to escape, they in turn would spare her and her family when Israel attacked Jericho. “Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall” (Jos 2:15).

God orchestrated Israel’s most unusual victory over Jericho. Israel’s priests and people marched around Jericho exactly as the Lord had instructed for a week. On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, then “the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown… and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, …and they captured the city” (Joshua 6:20).

All except the section of the wall where Rahab lived fell.  The “spies went in and brought out Rahab and …all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. 24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it” (Joshua 6:23-24). Rahab lived in Israel for the remainder of her life.

According to James 2:25, “was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” James’ point is this, Rahab combined her belief that Israel’s God was the only one true God (Jos 2:11) with her actions by assisting Israel’s spies. Her belief motivated action. That is a sign of true faith which also qualified Rahab to be included in the list of faith heroes of Hebrews 11:31.

Rahab stands out as a monument to God’s indiscriminate grace. The same mercy that stepped into a prostitute’s life, transforming her to become an ancestor of Christ, is still available today. Rahab’s story is one of courage rising above fear, of faith in action, and determination in never turning back to her old life.

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Privileged but unpopular – Ezekiel

The name Ezekiel means “strengthened by God,” and as we shall see, Ezekiel’s life was a testimony to God’s strength and provision. He grew up in Jerusalem and served as a priest at the temple. He was also part of the second group of captives taken to live in Babylon. There he became a prophet of God. His ministry period was between approximately 593 to 570 B.C. with his name appearing nowhere else in the Bible other than his own book.

Privileged but unpopular - EzekielThroughout his prophetic ministry, the Lord spoke through Ezekiel communicating His desire to be known by His people. Approximately 70 times Ezekiel records the Lord saying, “and they shall know that I am the Lord.” This is amongst the greatest truths for all people, from all cultures, and from all times to realise, the Lord God Almighty wants to be known! He has not hidden Himself from mankind. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…” (John 1:14), “no one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). 

Ezekiel experienced things of God that few others had or could even imagine. By our way of thinking, the Lord took Ezekiel through some bizarre and extreme events in life. Through every extremity, the Lord was faithful and honoured His Word. Here are just a few of the many highlights:

  • Ezekiel had the rarest of experiences. As he testified, “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (Eze 1:1).
  • The Lord sent Ezekiel “to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me” (Eze 2:3),
    “and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house, they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Eze 2:4-5). Regardless of Israel’s hateful reception of Ezekiel, he was to speak God’s Word.
  • The Lord informed Ezekiel that He was about to take the life of his wife, which God did. However, God also instructed Ezekiel, “you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead” (Eze 24:16-17).
  • Ezekiel ministered under the highest accountability imaginable to the Lord. “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand” (Eze 33:8).
  • The vision of the valley of dry bones is bursting with certainty of hope, promising the Lord shall breath new life into His people. The Lord God said “…when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD” (Eze 37:13-14).

Against all the odds, and despite a nation in opposition to him, Ezekiel faithfully delivered the Word of the Lord. His God given tenacious character inspired obedient loyalty to His Lord. His prophecies stretch over millennia, many already fulfilled, but the best is yet to come, when every future prophecy shall literally come into being. Ezekiel stands as a powerful motivating example for us today. The Lord of Lords is worthy of nothing less than our all, our everything, every day of our lives. May God make our lives a testimony to His sovereign grace.

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A victim of grace – Mephibosheth

Due to his brief appearance in Scripture, Mephibosheth is often overlooked. However, his life calls attention to the goodness of God. While grace allows us all to live, some lives are so profoundly stamped by God’s grace that the impressions are inescapable. The Lord unmistakably imprinted His grace upon the life of Mephibosheth.

A victim of grace – MephiboshethWhile there were two cousins with the name Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 21:7-8), it’s Jonathan’s son that gets our attention today. At the age of 5, Mephibosheth’s father (Jonathan), and grandfather (Saul) were both killed in battle. “When the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his (Mephibosheth’s) nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame” (2 Samuel 4:4). It should be noted that Jonathan had been a close friend with the soon to be King David

Some years later, “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went… So David reigned over all Israel, and administered justice and equity to all his people” (2Sa 8:14-15). There came a day, when King David summoned a man by the name of Ziba, who used to be a servant of King Saul. The question was put to him, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet” (2Sa 9:3). David promptly had Mephibosheth brought from Lo-debar where he was living.

2 Samuel 9:6-7 tells of the occasion. “Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage… 7 And David said to him, ‘Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather, and you shall eat at my table always.’”

“All that belonged to Saul and to all his house,” David gifted to Mephibosheth (2Sa 9:9). King David also assigned Ziba, with his son’s and servants, to farm the land gifted to Mephibosheth as his servants. Although we don’t read of Mrs Mephibosheth, he did have a young son by the name of Mica, who was also included in David’s blessing. “So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table” (2Sa 9:13).

Grace, by nature, gifts people with blessings that they neither deserve nor see coming. David deliberately showed kindness to Mephibosheth as an extension of the “kindness of God” (2Sa 9:3). Therefore, it was God who oversaw and orchestrated the implementation of such amazing kindness into the life of Mephibosheth. Through David, God administered what would have been unimagined kindness upon Mephibosheth. Likewise, God’s grace can flow through our lives to others because of Christ.

Paul explained the love of Christ to the Corinthians this way. The life changing exchange of our sin for Christ’s righteousness is not to be kept to yourself. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was …entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us…” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

Just as we see God’s grace in Mephibosheth’s life, so believer’s experience God’s grace in Christ. God wants us, like David, to deliver His grace into the lives of others. I encourage you to live out God’s loving grace. Allow others to receive Christ’s blessings and for God to get the glory.

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Until death do us part – Uriah

Loyalty is amongst the most valued qualities of a person and goes a long way to building lasting and quality relationships. Uriah the Hittite was such a man, loyal to the point of costing him his life. The name Uriah means “the Lord is my light.” He lived approximately 1040-995 BC and was born in the land of the Hittites, modern-day Turkey and Syria. Although his life was cut short by our way of thinking, he favourably left his place in the history of Israel.

Until death do us part - UriahIt seems likely that Uriah migrated to Israel as a young man and joined David’s group of 400 fighting men at the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1-5). Uriah advanced in David’s army and was recognised as one of 37 great men (2Sa 23:39).  

By the time of 2 Samuel chapter 11, David had been crowned King of Israel, Uriah had married Bathsheba, and they lived in Jerusalem, close to the royal palace. 2 Samuel chapter 11 unfolds the admirable character of Uriah and the worst downfall in King David’s life. Israel was scarred, and the royal household of King David was never the same again.

It happened this way, as is often the case when people fail to see sin which is about to reap havoc. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab…” with Israel’s army, and “they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch… he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful” (2Sa 11:1-2). Well, instead of doing the wise thing by walking away, David yielded to temptation, changing not only his life, but the life of the nation.

While loyal Uriah was off fighting the King’s battles, David searched out the woman he had seen bathing, it was Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. David, like so many before and after, gave in to desire, taking what was not his to have. He committed adultery with Bathsheba. Shortly after, Bathsheba sent word to David, “I am pregnant.” (2Sa 11:5). Again, David faced choices, and again he chose wrong.

David ordered Uriah to return home from battle in the hope of Uriah sleeping with Bathsheba, and thinking the baby was his. “But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants” (2Sa 11:9). Uriah’s internal decision-making process was driven by values, not by desires.

David asked Uriah why? To which Uriah replied, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? …I will not do this thing” (2Sa 11:11). Uriah was compelled by spiritual and moral integrity. So, King David ordered Uriah back to the battle, to the “forefront of the hardest fighting” (2Sa 11:15), where “some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died” (2Sa 11:17).

Uriah lived by high values, by loyalty to God and to King. He did the right things, because they were the right things to do, putting God and others before self. So significant was Uriah, that Matthew recorded him in Jesus’ genealogy, “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah” (Mat 1:6), even though Solomon was not the child of David’s adultery with Bathsheba (2Sa 12:15-23).

The challenging example left to us by Uriah is to live right and leave the outcome to God. God’s purposes are larger and more focused than ours. What we view as tragic, God can transform into blessing.

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Biblical heroes and villains

Many of us know people of such influence that they are indelibly burnt into our memories. These people caused permanent change either directly or indirectly. They were key in forming our character and directing our values by either positive or negative input. These are either our heroes or our villains.

Biblical heroes and villainsThe same is true of biblical characters. We learn much from both the evil people as we do from the righteous. While God’s Word is God’s story, He employs the lives of real people from beggars to kings and queens in providing the human faces to His truths. Ultimately, the Bible reveals God’s Son, Jesus who “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). While all other Bible characters fall under Jesus, I want to consider a few in the coming weeks which I hope will enrich us.

One such man was Malachi, who lived between 500 to 425 BC, approximately. He was the last prophetic voice for the Lord in the Old Testament period. Four hundred years of divine silence followed Malachi until John the Baptist emerged preparing the way for Christ (Mal 3:1; Jn 1:19-23). Courageous passion for God marked Malachi’s ministry, delivering hard hitting appeals for God’s people to return to their Lord in humble obedience.

The Lord begins Malachi’s ministry by reminding Israel of His love for them, only to get a sarcastic challenge in return. “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2). Israel had sunk to an all-time low, where they felt entitled to judge God based on their fleshly appetites for sinful living. Unless God approved of their sin, they wanted nothing of Him.

Going to the root of Israel’s problem, Malachi hit the spiritual nail on the head. “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honour to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings” (Malachi 2:1-2). Israel’s people had been following the corrupt priesthood in their downward spiral of defiant living, making a joke of God’s law. Hosea 4:8-9 sums up the priest’s attitudes perfectly; “They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. 9 And it shall be like people, like priest…”

Malachi also delivered Scripture’s most definitive statement on marriage through a rapid-fire series of rebukes (Mal 2:10-16). He fearlessly confronted Israel’s marital hypocrisy; “the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Malachi 2:13-14). He presents five positive characteristics defining marriage through a negative format for a nation gone haywire. Marriage is a Sanctuary Relationship, a Faith Relationship, a Companion Relationship, a Covenant Relationship, and a New Identity Relationship.

While the fruit of Malachi’s life continues to this day, there was a revival among some of the Jews, who turned and feared the name of the Lord. “The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name” (Malachi 3:16).

Malachi was God’s man for his time and culture, just as we are in our time and our culture. May we follow his example; proclaiming God’s love, God’s holiness, and God’s call to receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

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