Don’t You Realize?

Samson knew who he was. Even though he was interconnected with the Philistines, he recognized that he was an Israelite from Judah and that his life was dedicated to God. The Lord was with him, and he knew it.

Because of this knowledge, Samson walked in a lot of confidence. He moved about without a lot of fear, even if that was seen as being too brash by those around him.

As a result of his wife being given away and then subsequently killed along with her father, Samson attacked and killed several of the Philistines, provoking them, the Philistines, into coming to look for him amongst the Israelites in the tribe of Judah.

The Israelites knew where he was and they didn’t want to be killed by the Philistines, so they went to get Samson so that they could hand him over to them. They knew Samson’s strength, so they sent an army – 3000 men – to capture him and bring him back and deliver him to the Philistines. They said:

“Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”

Judges 15:11

I think we should learn from this scene. Here are the Israelites with 3000 men coming to take Samson to deliver him to the Philistines. They could have sent those same 3000 men to fight against the Philistines, to throw them off of them. They could have lived as a free people, as they should have. In fact, we know from the story of Samson that the Lord wanted to confront the Philistines, but it would require a certain type of person to do that. Why? Because the others saw the Philistines as their rulers. They had gotten used to the idea of being subject to the Philistines, an idea that was wrong.

But Samson didn’t think in the same way. He didn’t mind provoking the Philistines because the Spirit of the Lord would give him strength. He didn’t mind challenging the status quo, to take on that which is wrong to move it toward becoming what would be right because he was clear that the Lord would use him in the way that the Lord wanted.

Very frequently, we also ask ourself and each other… Don’t you realize?

This can be with a sinful action. Or it could be with a situation that is preventing us from moving toward what we know is best before the Lord. But we are afraid to move out from underneath the situation because we are afraid of what might happen. We ask ourselves… Don’t you realize…? This other thing could happen, and that could be worse.

Or… the other option is that God is with us. The other option is that we could be directly in the will of God and he could be presenting us a situation that would allow us to move beyond what is wrong into what is right. That may very well be the situation that we find ourselves within and instead of asking whether or not we realize what could go wrong, we could instead ask ourselves if we realize what could be set right. Don’t you realize?


History Repeats Itself

Over and over, this same argument comes up. It is even today as it was then.

Today, the Palestinian Arabs, along with much of the rest of the Arab world, lay claim to the same land that the Israelites and Ammonites were arguing over in the time of Jephthah. The Ammonite king asked Jephthah to give them back their land that the Israelites had taken as they came out of Egypt, but the answer from Jephthah was that Yahweh had given the land to them. Why should they give it back?

Even looking on Israeli websites today, there is a harkening back to the story of Abraham and to God (Yahweh’s) promise to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendents, to which Israel lays claim as Yahweh continues his covenant from Abraham to Isaac and Jacob.

There is, inherently, a challenge to the Ammonites when Jephthah replies to the king of the Ammonites. Jephthah says:

“Now since the LORD, the God of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever the LORD our God has given us, we will possess.

Judges 11:23-24

So Jephthah asks the king of the Ammonites: Is your god Chemosh greater? Or is Yahweh greater? The answer is clear. We own the land. Yahweh is greater.

And this is the same argument that is ongoing today.


Natural Consequences

There is a method of discipline for children referred to as natural consequences. Very simply, it means that a child chooses the path that they are on and the adult takes very few, if any, steps to intervene to prevent the consequences that the child will experience. An example could be that a child is told that the stove is on and is hot and the child shouldn’t go to touch it. However, the adult sees that the child is going to go and touch the stove and simply allows them to do it. The adult knows that the child will be burned, but that is the natural consequence of their action. The child experiences the consequence and the adult, knowing that the child is willful and must touch the stove, allows them to do so, thus allowing them to be burned and experience the consequence of not heeding the warning that they were given and taking the action that they were told not to do anyway.

That is essentially the scene that we see between God and the Israelites in Judges 10. The Israelites had been serving the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the foreign false, demonic gods of the peoples around them. They had chosen to serve those gods instead of the one, true God who had saved them and who had promised to be with them.

As the people began to come under attack by those same people, whose other gods the Israelites were serving, they suddenly began to call out to the Lord. They suddenly began to realize the consequences of their sin and asked God to save them, but God tells them that they will receive the natural consequences of their actions:

The Ammonites also crossed the Jordan to fight against Judah, Benjamin and Ephraim; Israel was in great distress. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD, “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.”

The LORD replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble! ”

Judges 10:9-14

So frequently we look to God to save us from the position that we find ourselves in. We, in fact, have been the ones to put ourselves in that position. We have done it to our ownselves. We have chosen our own way and now we blame God, either because he has decided to allow us to experience the consequences of our sin, or even because of the situation itself. But the truth is that we need to obey God’s commandments in the first place so that we do not land in the situation that we find ourselves in, and in that way, we won’t need to experience the consequences of our own actions. Let us instead love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and obey him, and in this way we will find the path that God had intended for us from the beginning. Doing this, we will experience the natural consequences of our obedience, not our rebellion and disobedience.


It is God’s Kingdom

We are frequently very quick to get the order confused. Whose kingdom is this? We answer, of course, that it is God’s kingdom within which we are serving, but we are good at speaking and acting as if it is our own.

In Gideon’s case, he had ripped down his father’s altars and worship to Baal and had led a small band of men against tens of thousands of Midianites, ultimately to route them and then chase the kings to eventually subdue them and lead the Israelites to rule over them. Now Gideon was the clear leader of the people. He was the one that the Lord had raised up for that time and for those people to lead them.

Thankfully, Gideon had his priorities straight, even if the others around him did not. Thankfully, he knew where he had come from, the doubts that he had previously when he repeatedly asked the Lord for confirmation. He knew, and remembered what God had done for him, to bring him to the position that he was in now. And most importantly, he remembered why. He remembered that the Lord did these things because the Israelites were his (the Lord’s) people and it was his name, his reputation, and his glory that were at stake. Not Gideon, God.

And so, having remembered this, Gideon responds appropriately when the people come to him:

The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”
But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.”

Judges 8:22-23

Gideon knows that he is not to be king. There is one king who is to rule over the Israelite people – God himself. There is one who would give the law – God himself. Not Gideon. Not Gideon’s son. God, and him only.

I started by saying that we often forget this lesson, and I believe this is true. As Jesus came, he told us that he has all of the power, all of the authority in heaven and on earth. He is the one who gives the commands from now on. He is king in the kingdom of God. He is ruler over all.

Extending this, we also know that Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is the one who, amongst his people, is the leader. Not a man. Not a pastor. Not a charismatic leader. Jesus, and him only.

So this remains important for us to remember, that it is not our reasoning that should give us instruction and direction. No, it is the reasoning of God, and him only, because he is king and he is the one to rule over all things and all people, the church and one day throughout the entire world.


One Generation

It doesn’t take long. After only one generation, the people of Israel forgot about the Lord. They had received the incredible blessings of the Lord as they moved into the Promised Land, but they forgot the ways of God and fashioned their lives around themselves and what they wanted. They began to look to the nations around them and desired to be accepted by them. Instead of teaching their children about the ways of God, the parents forgot about God, and now the next generation of Israelites know nothing about God and how they came to be where they are now.

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.

Judges 2:10-13

Only one generation. That is all that it takes to forget. One generation that doesn’t teach the next generation, and that next generation walks away from the Lord. Instead, that generation will go on to serve other gods. That other generation will look for something to worship, and they will be easily deceived by others around them. They may even say that they know all about the Lord, when in fact they are completely ignorant of the ways of God.

We see similar symptoms today. We are walking far from God, and it is primarily because we have not taught our children the ways of the Lord. We have preferred the “gods” of wealth, sex, and fame that are found in the culture all around us. Or we have looked for other social causes to give ourselves to that they themselves have become driving forces, other gods themselves. Meanwhile, we have said that we know the Lord…but we don’t want to believe.

Very little has changed from the time of the Israelites entering the Promised Land up to now. But we have a choice that we can make. We can determine that our house will serve the Lord. Will we? Will you?


Me and My House

Joshua is giving his final fairwell address to the nation of Israel, having gathered them from across the entire land. Joshua is warning the people to stay true to the one true God, Yahweh. He recounts for them that their people left the traditions of their fathers, particularly the father of Abraham, who worshiped gods and idols in his house, to follow one God, the God of Israel.

But now, despite their best efforts, there are still people who serve other gods who remain in the Promised Land. They also serve and worship other gods, but Joshua implores the Israelites that they should stay separate from them, that they should not intermarry with them, because by doing so, they will go to their ruin. God will no longer allow the Israelites to stay in the Promised Land. He will no longer protect them, and instead, the Israelites will be driven out of the land that God has given to them.

If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.

Joshua 23:16

So the Promised Land is conditional – conditional upon the idea that they will serve the Lord, and serve him only. The Israelites can have no other gods. They can have no one else before him. He is the one and only. If the Israelites will obey these commandments, then they will stay in the land. If they will not, punishment will rain down upon them and they will be driven out.

We know, of course, that they leave God. They walk away from him. Despite having been given everything, the Israelites betray the Lord and do not continue to serve him. The history of the rest of the Old Testament is the story of the Israelites’ betrayal of the Lord, and in fact, they do come to their ruin. Several nations come to attack and rule over the Israelites, and they win. And the Israelites are scattered to the four corners of the earth. They no longer have access to the Promised Land.

Except there was a prophecy that God would gather his people from the north, the south, the east, and the west and at some point they would return home. And that is exactly what happened. In 1947, the people of Israel returned to nation of Israel, back in the Promised Land, back to Canaan, and this is the root of much of the conflict that we have seen recently in the Middle East. In the same way that there was war many millenia ago as Joshua and the Israelites entered the land, there continues to be war in the land even today.

And that war will only come to peace in one way. Only through the coming of the one true king, and the one true kingdom, Jesus Christ, the king in the kingdom of God. This time is coming, and we must be prepared for our king to come, so we must ask ourselves…

Will we intermarry with the culture around us?

Or will we, in our houses, serve the Lord, and him only?


Levite Inheritance

As the Promised Land was being divided up between the twelve tribes of the Israelites, the Levites were given no land and no inheritance. Instead, the space that they would have would be land and cities within the inheritance of each of the other tribes. Their role would be to live among the other tribes and serve the Lord amongst those others.

Instead of solely providing for themselves by farming, trade, or some other type of work, the Levites would administer the sacrifices and the service and worship to the Lord. Their role would be to help facilitate coming before the Lord for each of the other tribes.

So the Levites would live there amongst them, each of the tribes, but they would also receive their living from them. Those that they would serve would also be those from whom they would live, those from whom they would eat.

In addition, the Levites were given land around the cities where they would live. They were allowed also to have animals that they would graze, so in addition to the work that they had done, they were also allowed to have a way in which they would be able to have animals to supplement their food, to supplement the provision that they were given by the other tribes that they served. Maybe this was from tradition, given that Moses himself herded sheep for his father in-law, or maybe this was from the fact that there would be future times that the other tribes didn’t provide well for the Levites. In any case, both were allowed. They lived from the provision of the other tribes and were also allowed pasture lands around the cities.

But they didn’t have an inheritance of a larger piece of land. They didn’t have space where they would grow or work to become generationally wealthy. No, instead, the inheritance of the Levites was that of the Lord, and so the promise from Moses was that they would be given cities within the midst of the other tribes where they would settle.

Now the family heads of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the other tribal families of Israel at Shiloh in Canaan and said to them, “The LORD commanded through Moses that you give us towns to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock.” So, as the LORD had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance.

Joshua 21:1-3

As we think forward to today, what are the parallels that we see?

The Promised Land is a representation of God’s relationship with the Israelites. God promised the land to Abraham and extended his covenant relationship with the Israelites through the line of Isaac and Jacob, ultimately bringing the nation of Israel into the Promised Land through Moses and with Joshua as we are reading now.

This land, that of Canaan, is given to the Israelites and God remains to be their God and they are to be his people. That is the covenant that God made with his people, and the land remains an earthly representation of that covenant. That is the place where they will live, and that is the place from which the entire earth will know the Lord.

With regard to the Levites, they were the priests before the Lord.

We all are considered to be priests before the Lord. Peter calls us a royal priesthood:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

In the same way, as they worshiped Jesus in heaven, God’s people also sang a song that said:

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.

Revelation 5:10

So there is definitely a parallel here. In the same way that the Levites received the Lord as their inheritance because they were the priests for the people of Israel, we are also called to be priests before our king, Lord Jesus. We have received him as our inheritance. Instead of a promised land, as the Jews received, we have the kingdom of God, and if we find it, we will be able to live within it, depending upon him forever. This is our hope as the shadow of the Levite inheritance shows us the way toward our life in Christ.


Cities of Refuge

God had given Moses a command that he should set up cities where people who had been party to the death of another person should have a place to go so that they could find refuge while they received a fair hearing for what had happened. Another person, presumably connected to the family who experienced the loss through the death of their family member, and referred to as the avenger of blood, may pursue them to the city of refuge, but in that place, the person should not be handed over to the avenger because he or she deserves to have a fair hearing.

Then the LORD said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood. When they flee to one of these cities, they are to stand in the entrance of the city gate and state their case before the elders of that city. Then the elders are to admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them. If the avenger of blood comes in pursuit, the elders must not surrender the fugitive, because the fugitive killed their neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought. They are to stay in that city until they have stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then they may go back to their own home in the town from which they fled.”

Joshua 20:1-6

The assumption was that the death was caused by accident, or unintentionally. This seems to be similar to the idea that a person could sin unintentionally, as we see in Leviticus 4 when God provided the sacrificial system to the Israelites. In these cases, the unintentional sin, or the unintentional death, should have a hearing before the judge. That situation should be understood fully and judged rightly, offering the opportunity for grace and mercy, even if repairations are also in order by the offending party. In any case, the person should not simply be left for the avenger to come and strike down the person’s life.

This does, of course, offer us echoes of our place in God. We have, in God, an avenger of blood because of his desire and requirement for justice for sin. As we sin, both against other people and against God’s commandments and in offense to his holiness and glory, our life is required. Blood is required…and nothing less.

But we also have in God a place of refuge. He has given us himself in Jesus Christ and he has taken our place by shedding his blood for us. Jesus is our refuge from the judgment of God that will come as an avenger. By placing our faith in him, we trust ourselves to God’s grace and mercy in Christ.



As the Israelites come to a pause in their fighting as they have taken over the Promised Land of Canaan, Joshua begins to divide up the land and give it to the individual tribes of Israel. Two of the tribes, the Reubenites and the Gadites, were given land on the eastern side of the Jordan River, yet their armies had crossed over and fought along with the rest of the Israelites so as to help their fellow Israelites conquer the people in Canaan.

In the end, each tribe was given an inheritance of land.

Now these are the areas the Israelites received as an inheritance in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel allotted to them.

Joshua 14:1

Here is an illustration of the land as it was divided up amongst the tribes:

As we often would reading through the Old Testament, we can think of the Promised Land given to the Israelites as both an historical act as well as an indication of things that will come in the future.

The Promised Land meant an inheritance and a place of rest for the Israelites. They had been under a hand of oppression as they were in slavery in Egypt. They had been working for the Egyptians, to build the kingdom of Egypt, but now they were entering a place of rest provided by God, a place that they no longer needed to work for others and the well-being of those others, but instead living within the land that God had given to them.

This is similar to the rest that God gives to us. As we leave the slavery of sin and our desire to be fed by the systems of the world, obeying what it has to say to us, we instead end up moving in the direction of freedom in Christ within the New Covenant that we have through Christ and his blood. In a similar way that the nation of Israel received a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of abundance and provision, we enter a life that we can live to the full in Christ. A life that is a complete blessing because we know him and we are in relationship with God. This is an outworking of the inheritance that we receive through Christ even today.


I will…

I hate those game shows, whether they are surviving, running obstacle courses, or whatever they are doing, where they put people on the show and have them start making predictions about how they are the next great… whatever they say they are going to be. They all say it, and I’m sure they all believe it. And then all but one of them gets embarrassed because they have talked a big game but then there is little that stands behind what they have said.

I don’t know – is it a special kind of person who can stand in front of a camera, in front of a show that will be broadcast to millions of people, and declare that they will do it? I can’t even imagine being willing to allow those words to come out of my mouth. Maybe it is just that type of person that the producers of those shows look for when they are casting the shows. In any case, it is amazing to me.

The truth is that most of the time, when a person declares that they are going to do something, they are probably going to fail, or it will turn out quite differently than what they originally thought. We can describe a vision for what we would like to do, but we can rarely accomplish the vision in precisely the way that we imagine.

On the other hand, we also see these types of predictions throughout the Bible. When they come from God, they come true in precisely the way that he predicts. Here is an example from a time that God made a prediction to Joshua as they fought the people who were in the land of Canaan.

The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

Joshua 11:6

God makes a prediction because he has full knowledge of the past, present, and the future. He has the ability to see all things in all time. And he is the only one who can. The predictions that God makes come true, even if the fulfillment is long in coming, God will bring it to a conclusion.

Another example? How about this one from Isaiah 43 that was even fulfilled within the last 80 years?

But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.

Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth —

everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made. ”

Isaiah 43:1-7

Do you see it? Through Isaiah God is saying that his people, the Israelites, who were scattered throughout the earth as a judgment and punishment for their sin, will be gathered back together once again. That didn’t happen until Israel was brought together again as a nation in 1947.

Of course, I think that this prophecy speaks to more than just the nation of Israel. As the Lord says that he will gather his people from the north, south, east, and west, he is talking about the blessing of God, the new covenant, being available to all nations. Yet it does also speak to the fact that God’s chosen people will be gathered back together again. He will accomplish this. He will do it. And he has done it, even in our lifetime.

We need to know the one who will do these things. We need to know him who keeps his promises. Men will fail, but in God we will succeed if we follow him and do as he calls us to do because his plans will succeed as they always have.