Yesterday I said the reason that I turned off the comments when I was back on Blogger, was because God had told me to do so in a “stern and shocking way.” In fact, He did more than tell me to turn off the comments, He pretty much told me to stop with all the accepted and prevalent ways Christians today are seeking to “market” their work: joining all the groups to cross promote, the blog writing, the cultivation of friendships for the purpose (if we’re honest) of selling our work as we help to sell theirs — all of it human systems, human effort, human personality and human strength.
This was, as I said, back in 2007, and the main event actually predated the moment I chose to stop the comments by several months. Even before then I’d been wrestling with it all, and He kept telling me what I was to do, but I kept ignoring Him. But finally He got a little more dramatic and that got my attention.
No, I didn’t “hear” His voice speaking to me in my office. Nor did a stranger email or show up on my doorstep with “a word from the Lord” for me. Rather it was one of those times when the Bible falls open and your eyes are drawn to a relevant passage.
Until then, I thought that sort of thing was only one step above asking God for help, then opening the Bible with closed eyes and pointing to something on the page, then looking to see what He has “told” you.
No, He wants us in Bible Class learning His word from a man with the gift of pastor-teacher, day in and day out so we can build a reservoir of doctrinal principles, concepts and verses in our souls. It is from this reservoir that the Holy Spirit draws His counsel. He can’t counsel us with doctrine or concepts we haven’t learned. (Unless we happen to be in Bible class learning the material and He very forcefully says, “PAY ATTENTION! THIS IS FOR YOU!!!”)
But this just goes to show you can’t put God in a box, though for the record, I was not using the Open-and-Point method. Instead as I said, I’d been wrestling with the problems that come from trying to join groups of Christians with diverse views on what exactly is the Gospel, or the Christian life, or the Christian’s purpose, or the manner in which that purpose is to be carried out. You’re supposed to be encouraging them, helping to sell their books and yet, you might just think some — even much — of what they have to say is heresy. Then what?
And as much as you take exception to their books, they are just as unimpressed with yours. So… what is this all about? Much is made of tolerating all views, but that doesn’t really line up with the Word of God, which often warns us to avoid people with views that do not line up with Scripture. (David’s example as stated in Psalm 101:3 is perhaps the most forceful on this matter — “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes. I HATE the work of those who fall away” — though the Apostles John and Paul both warn about men coming with false teaching. 2Jn 1:10, 2 Ti 3 and 6)
But even as I was conflicted in this area, I guess I just kept thinking… no, wanting to do it myself — even though He’d been trying to tell me otherwise for a long time. After all, wasn’t that the lesson from the purchase and subsequent publication of the Legends of the Guardian King?
But, as I said, the world is relentless, and so is my sin nature and everyone was doing it, so I continued to suffer and struggle and ask for guidance. Even as He continued to give me all sorts of verses and principles showing me what I was to do.
So one day in March I was sitting on the couch, fretting about all this, my Bible on the coffee table. It’s old, falling apart and has a tendency to slide around. Seeking the passage in Isaiah about not going down to Egypt for help, I picked it up and started to open it, but somehow it slid out of my hands onto the table, opening itself to Joshua 8 — which is the section on the conquest of Ai.
That was just after the Israelites were entering the Promised land. Having already taken Jericho, they had moved on to Ai, which seemed a far easier conquest than their first city. Yet they failed on their first attempt, all because, it turned out, one man in the camp of about 2 million had disobeyed God’s command not to take anything from that which He had banned in Jericho.
I know that the OT stories are also illustrations of New Testament truths, and that all those Amalekite cities represented the world and its ways, so when I saw where I was, a chill ran up my spine.
The story starts in Joshua 2:24, 25: “Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “see, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its kings and the valiant warriors.”
It goes on to detail the Israelites marching around the city once a day for six days. Then, on the seventh day…
(vs 15) …they rose early at the dawning of the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on that day they marched around the city seven times.
And it came about that at the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.
And the city shall be under the ban (cherem – not redeemable, deserving of utter destruction: all must die); and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.
But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, lest you covet them and take some of the things under the ban, so you would make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.”
… (vs 21) And they utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.
As I said, like Egypt, Jericho represents the World — its treasures, its ways its power… God’s people were not to take anything from the world to enhance their lives or build their fortunes.
They followed His commands to the letter in the conquest of Jericho — except for one man, Achan, who secretly stole a Babylonian robe, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold from the city and hid them in his tent. This is brought out in chapter 7 as they set out to take the next city, Ai.
Since Ai was sparsely defended, the men who spied it out recommended Joshua send only a couple thousand Israelites to take it. To everyone’s dismay, this group was soundly driven back, routed even, 36 of their number slain. When Joshua went to the Lord about it, he was told what had happened (Josh 7:10 – 15):
So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?
“Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things.
“Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.
“Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.”
‘In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man.
‘It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.'”
So Joshua did as he commanded and Achan was found out. He confessed his sin, and revealed where he had hidden the stolen goods as recorded in Josh 7:24,25
Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor.
Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.
This is pretty severe, even offensive to today’s sensibilities… But it illustrates the displeasure God has with His people when they disobey His specific instructions, and especially when they seek to use the ‘things of the world,’ to gain what He has promised to give them.