They burnt [Jericho] with fire, and all that was in it. Only they put the silver, the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron into the treasury of Yahweh’s house. But Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all that she had, Joshua saved alive. She lives in the middle of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. (Joshua 6:24,25)
And not only did she live “in the middle of Israel,” she lives forevermore “in the middle” of the family-line of the King of Heaven, Jesus the Christ. It’s actually well worth seeing her name in that vaunted lineup:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was RAHAB, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. (Matthew 1)
Rahab even merits a mention in the “hall of fame of faith” – alongside others like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses – in Hebrews 11: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute RAHAB, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”
But, for our own purposes, what had Rahab actually done? What can we take to heart from her short narrative within the scriptures? Simply this: That on a particular day of her life, a day like any other, she saw the power of God and believed it was her only salvation to trust herself to His purposes. When those spies showed up, she abandoned her old life and entrusted her entire future life to the hand of a God whose power was amply evident by His actions.
That is also precisely the call on your life today: To abandon everything to the movements of this same God; to His eternal changeless, real-time purposes in your midst. How glorious to be of actual use to the God who once saved Rahab!
“We have no business to be living subnormal, unhealthy, anaemic spiritual lives and call them Christian. They are sub-Christian. Our greatest difficulty is not antichristianity, but this sub-Christianity. It takes the facts of Christ’s life – his life, his death, his resurrection – but not the living fact of Christ. To take the first three and miss this is, I repeat, the supreme tragedy in present-day Christian living.”
E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road
"We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are expert in the crafty presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love, and to grow up in every way into Christ, the head. For it is from the head that the whole body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love." Ephesians 4:14-16
Now there's a perfect picture of what we’re aiming for! You and I are not meant to be helpless children anymore; we’re meant to mature and grow up…into Jesus. Into Jesus! And this isn’t some generic “grow up” Paul is talking about. No, the Greek word he uses means to “bring up to manhood” (sorry, ladies!) with all the power and weight involved in that wording. And how will we grow up into the fullness of that phrase?
“For it is from the head that the whole body, as a harmonious structure knit together by the joints with which it is provided, grows by the proper functioning of individual parts to its full maturity in love.” Can you see that picture in your mind’s eye? It’s like in so many children’s movies where the characters get a set of grown-up clothes and then, by stacking themselves, working all together, defeat the bad guys by looking like a terrifying giant. But, in the arrangement of the Body of Christ, Jesus is the head of our big unwieldy, put-together, tottering giant! And how’s He working to make it a “harmonious structure”? By teaching us, as Paul writes in the beginning of Ephesians 4, to “make it your aim to be at one in the Spirit, and you will inevitably be at peace with one another”!
Amen and Amen.
“Indeed, it is important for us to realize that words like ‘Catholic,’ ‘Protestant,’ and ‘Evangelical’ have become so ambiguous as to be virtually meaningless. Nor is mere union of the denominations our primary need if we are to have renewal. The movement we need is a movement in depth, and if it is deep enough the problem of unity will take care of itself.”
Elton Trueblood, The Company of the Committed
Paul, to the crowd at Lystra:
"We are here to tell you good news — that you should turn from these meaningless things to the living God! He is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. In generations gone by he allowed all nations to go on in their own ways — not that he left men without evidence of himself. For he has shown kindnesses to you; he has sent you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, giving you food and happiness to your hearts’ content.” from Acts 14
In thinking about this chapter, and in the midst of reading and rereading this passionate heart-cry from Paul and Barnabas, I was most moved, most grabbed, by one of their initial statements to the people: “We are here to tell you good news — that you should turn from these meaningless things to the living God!” The word that’s used here for “meaningless things” – ματαίων: “vanities” – is the same exact word used for the Greek translation of the book of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless, meaningless!” or “Vanity of vanities!” Standing amidst a great crowd of people who have built their whole lives around the Roman ways of life and worship, Paul and Barnabas are courageous enough, maybe crazy enough, to say, “All that you know is meaningless; what we are offering is LIFE.”
What gives them the courage and the audacity to speak of this complete contrast: Meaninglessness vs. Life?
The fact that, as human beings like us, they have lived amidst the contrast, been observant of the contrast, formed opinions regarding the contrast, believed one way about one side of the contrast, and then pushed all their chips in on the life found only in the Living God. They are not 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, 80/20 or 90/10. They are “here to tell you good news – that you should turn (literally turn: meaning repent) from these meaningless things to the living God!” Friends, it’s only with our back to the world’s meaningless things that we can meaningfully, wholeheartedly, face Jesus.
Is that us?
Remember: He asks for nothing for which He doesn't Himself provide. If we sense any sort of lack today, we need only ask.
“[The Early Church] realized with a kind of dazed happiness that now that they believed in the focused God, they were reconciled with the purpose and will of God, and the spiritual resources of heaven flowed into their ordinary lives.”
J.B. Phillips, Good News
James Tissot, The Exhortation to the Apostles
“The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure. He is all love, and those who trust Him need never know anything but that love. He is just indeed and He will not condone sin; but through the blood of the everlasting covenant He is able to act toward us exactly as if we had never sinned. Toward the trusting sons of men His mercy will always triumph over justice. The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul. He is not sensitive or selfish nor temperamental. What He is today we shall find Him tomorrow and the next day and the next year. He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy. He expects of us only what He has Himself first supplied. He is quick to mark every simple effort to please Him, and just as quick to overlook imperfections when He knows we meant to do His will. He loves us for ourselves and values our love more than galaxies of new created worlds.”
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous
"…As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is true because I do not live to please myself but to do the will of the Father who sent me. You may say that I am bearing witness about myself, that therefore what I say about myself has no value, but I would remind you that there is one who witnesses about me and I know that his witness about me is absolutely true…" (John 5:30b-32)
In this translation (Phillips), as well as in the NIV, verse 30 speaks of “seeking the will” as being synonymous with living “to please.” Which I love, by the way! Because not only is the good pleasure of the Father a more attractive target than His big mysterious will, not only is it so much more personal, as it was between Jesus and Him, but I also think it ties beautifully with Jesus’ assertion in verse 31 – that the Father is His “absolutely true” witness. After all, what exactly - two of the three times that the Father testified audibly to Jesus from Heaven - did He say of Him? “This is my beloved Son; in Him I am well-pleased.” Do you see it? For both Jesus and the Father, pleasure is witness and witness is pleasure. How wonderful!
“God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
“All of your men of war shall march around the city, going around the city once. You shall do this six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day, you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up, every man straight in front of him.” (Joshua 6:3-5)
Imagine if you yourself were an Israelite “man of war” who’d been born in the last forty years of wandering aimlessly around the wilderness. Your whole upbringing has moved toward this very week of days; your training in the arts of war has been honed for this exact laying of siege. Now imagine - from your own individual perspective - exactly what your orders are for the week of battle ahead of you: “Walk around this city one time. Do that for six days. On the seventh, shout. You will then have won...”
How absolutely stunning is the way that Yahweh takes the means and ends out of His people’s hands so that all that’s left is His power and glory. The relative ease with which these people will soon possess this city should be such a wonderful encouragement to us who’ve received some similarly wild commands:
“As you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give. Don’t take any gold, silver, or brass in your money belts. Take no bag for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food. Into whatever city or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy; and stay there until you go on. As you enter into the household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come on it, but if it isn’t worthy, let your peace return to you. Whoever doesn’t receive you, nor hear your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet. Most certainly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and in their synagogues they will scourge you. Yes, and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations. But when they deliver you up, don’t be anxious how or what you will say, for it will be given you in that hour what you will say. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10)
If Jesus says to do these things, we are meant to be doing these things. If He says they’re perfectly possible, they are, no doubt, perfectly possible.
"Jesus is willing and longing as the Crucified One to keep you in perfect peace. This is a wonderful fact, and it is the secret of joy unspeakable. And this is also the secret of Holiness. Instead of indwelling sin, an indwelling Christ conquering it; instead of indwelling sin, the indwelling life and light and love of the blessed Son of God. He is the secret of holiness."
Andrew Murray, Jesus Himself
For the world is becoming full of impostors—men who will not admit that Jesus the Christ really became man. Now this is the very spirit of deceit and is anti-Christ. Take care of yourselves; don’t throw away all the labour that has been spent on you, but persevere till God gives you your reward. (2 John 1:7,8)
In the Greek, that last sentence is interesting because, right in the middle, John changes the voice from 1st Person Plural - "The things we have accomplished" - to the 2nd Person Plural - "a full reward you all might receive." And that's one of the things that I find so remarkable about being part of the Family of God: that we together are accomplishing the work of the Kingdom in this generation, and yet that I, that you, are each individually getting to personally soak up all the rewards on offer.
And why does this matter? Because our collective-yet-individual, subjective, personal experience of Him turns the words of verse 7 on their head:
“For the world will become full of truth-tellers – men and women who will prove that Jesus the Christ really became man. Now this is the very spirit of truth and is pro-Christ.”
How absolutely wonderful that our lives may prove the truth of His life!
"A man ought to know that it is not easy for him to have a fixed principle, if he does not daily say the same things, and hear the same things, and at the same time apply them to life."
Philippians 2:12-18 with some notes in italics -
So then, my dearest friends, as you have always followed my advice — and that not only when I was present to give it — so now that I am far away be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. I can’t begin to guess how many times I’ve heard that “work out your salvation” without the proper and unignorable ending of Paul’s thought: “For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” And what’s that 'purpose' for which He’s living in us and making use of us?
Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place. For you hold in your hands the very word of life. Thus can you give me something to be proud of in the day of Christ, for I shall know then that I did not spend my energy in vain. Yes, and if it should happen that my life-blood is, so to speak, poured out upon the sacrifice and offering which your faith means to God, then I can still be very happy, and I can share my happiness with you all. I should like to feel that you could be glad about this too, and could share with me the happiness I speak of. As Paul evaluates the worth of his life – and as we are exhorted to: “Do all [we] have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that [we] may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place” – what is the crux of this whole paragraph for our daily lives? These words: λόγον ζωῆς ἐπέχοντες – “holding forth the word of life (“logos” – The Word – Jesus!)” Our lives must bring forth LIFE, not just some metaphorical 'idea' of life; we must bring Jesus, the Word Incarnate, who is Himself Life!
The hope, the joy, the peace, the adventure, the overcoming, the LIFE that we see in the Early Church are all actually the exact terms of your own new-birthright reality in Jesus. Any perceived deficiency between what you read on the pages of the Book of Acts and your own actual experience of life-in-Christ is where He would love to have you simply surrender. He would love to inhabit that "experience gap," to do again - in you - what He once did in Peter, or John, or Paul.
What do you say?
Among the large number who had become believers there was complete agreement of heart and soul. Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own but everything was common property to all... (Acts 4:32)
When we read those words, even though they sound like an echoing of the spirit of Acts 2:42-47, they probably frighten us a little, as modern western believers. In this translation, the all-and-nothing character of the Fellowship really comes across in the language: “there was complete agreement”; “Not one of them claimed any of his possessions; “everything was common property to all.” Yet before we become afraid of what we see here, or self-conscious of what we’re not yet willing to part with, or, even, get carried away into thoughts of some sort of Soviet-style collectivization, it’s the language of Luke’s original words that should actually form our view for what’s happening here.
This is the first part of Acts 4:32 directly from the Greek: “And the multitude, having believed, were in heart and soul one…”
The miracle of this verse is not the outward action of sharing between the believers; the miracle is that a multitude of people, by believing in the Risen Jesus, are, by Him, made one. A M U L T I T U D E become one. That is Jesus’ work, as the only Head of this one Body. The activities of unity are a natural outflow of the reality of unity. It’s not terribly difficult – is it? – to share with yourself? And that’s how this Body was learning to view itself, as one very heterogeneous fellowship that found its one life in the one Savior, Jesus. And isn’t that what we want to see in our day too?
"We know that the true child of God does not sin, he is in the charge of God’s own Son and the evil one must keep his distance. We know that we ourselves are children of God, and we also know that the world around us is under the power of the evil one. We know too that the Son of God has actually come to this world, and has shown us the way to know the one who is true. We know that our real life is in the true one, and in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the real God and this is real, eternal life. But be on your guard, my dear children, against every false god!" 1 John 5:18-21
I've been really moved this week in how, concluding this letter, John wants so clearly to form some final conclusions in his friends' hearts and minds. It's not quite as clear in the English here, but, in the Greek, he keeps using the same strong word, a verb in the Perfect Indicative Active - οἴδαμεν, "we know" - to get everyone on the same strong page of knowing... and affirming.
So, friends, I'll put this passage to you this way:
Do we know that the true child of God does not sin, for he is in the charge of God’s own Son and the evil one must keep his distance?
Do we know that we ourselves are children of God, and that the world around us is under the power of the evil one?
Do we know that the Son of God has actually come to this world, and has shown us the way to know the one who is true?
Do we know that our real life is in the true one, and in His Son Jesus Christ; and that this is the real God and that this is real, eternal life?
Well then – John must’ve smiled in writing out that last sentence – of course you wouldn’t want any false god, would you? For we’ve got the true, the real, the One who is life, forevermore, eternally - YES! - thank you, Jesus!
As is clear from the title of this post, pay special attention to the level of "newness" that's on offer as we follow Jesus:
“The new revelation of God in Jesus Christ, the new way of approach to the Infinite Father manifested in the appearance of the Son, had created for the primitive Christians a new life and had illumined them with a new light. It gave them a new insight into the relations between God and man, and a fresh manifestation of the bonds uniting our Father in Heaven with His children on earth. It made them see with new vividness the way of God’s salvation and the duties which God required of man.”
Thomas M. Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries
"The test of the genuineness of our love for God's family lies in this question - do we love God himself and do we obey his commands? For loving God means obeying his commands, and these commands of his are not burdensome, for God's 'heredity' within us will always conquer the world outside us." 1 John 5:2-4
I'm sure you've noticed this before, but it seems to me that we tend to have a negative, uncomprehending view of "obedience" - negative, because we think of it as legalistic, and uncomprehending, because we understand obedience only in the context of the Old Covenant, not the New. Let me make it as simple as possible, and echoing of John.
Under the Old Covenant, the entirety of the message from God to His people was, "You must obey," and they failed at every turn.
Under the New Covenant, and because of the glorious work of Jesus, both by His life and His now living inside us, the new message is, "Now you can obey."
Philippians 2:13 - "For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose." Like John said, "God's 'heredity' within us will always conquer the world outside us" - the work of obedience, under this New Covenant, is Jesus' work. Our work is to set our will on His... and surrender.
“It really wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this faith, this direct reaching out to touch the reality of God, and to depend upon it, is an absolute essential for the Christian life. 'Without faith it is impossible to please him,' said the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. I don’t think that is meant to be a threat so much as a plain statement of fact. We don’t really begin to live our lives with God until we exercise this faculty which God has implanted in all of us, which the New Testament calls 'faith.' Have we got the courage to break through our habitual ways of thinking and believe like the centurion, simply and directly, in the power of God?”
J.B. Phillips, Good News
"Yes, we love him because he first loved us. If a man says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love the brother before his eyes how can he love the one beyond his sight?" 1 John 4:19,20
I love how explicit John is in the end of verse 20. In essence, the person standing in front of you - who you can see - is the exact test for your love for God - who you can't see. And this is not some dress-rehearsal; every day is the real thing.
Friends, shall we love with a reckless abandon this day? Remember: It's all aimed at Him!
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood in front of him with his sword drawn in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our enemies?”
He said, “No; but I have come now as commander of Yahweh’s army.”
Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and asked him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”
The prince of Yahweh’s army said to Joshua, “Take your shoes off of your feet; for the place on which you stand is holy.” Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13-15)
As you finish reading those words, and picturing that moment, may I give you a direct challenge? (I’m going to assume you said ‘yes,’ and go ahead and give it.)
If the presence of the Commander of Yahweh’s army, the Prince of Heaven, is sufficient to sanctify the ground around Him, how are you meant to be living as one who’s indwelt with His very life? Do you really think that your schedule, your busy life, your current challenge at work, your social life, can in any way compete with His power and glory? Do you really believe that the fullness of the “life, and life to the full” life that He proclaims in John 10:10 is properly captured by a single hour of “worship” each week?
I’m beginning to think there may be more for you and me!
Today, you must worship Him. You must worship Him with delight and abandon. As you go to work, to school, to meetings, to hangouts with friends, you are one who goes in the Way and Presence of the Prince and Commander of Yahweh’s army. Your whole life is spent on the holy ground of Jesus. Let’s make our whole lives a joyous act of worshipping Him... today.
Remember: It does us no earthly or heavenly good to disbelieve, or only half-believe, these things we say we believe.