Tag Archives: warfare

Isaiah 20-22; 1 Corinthians 2

One of my kids is caring for animals at a nearby farm this week. She loves animals and has always had a dreamer’s impression of what farm life would be like–harmonious, lovely, routine. But this week with hot and humid summer temperatures, buzzing flies, and work that leaves her sweaty, tired and achy has shown her a different perspective. She comes to my car dirty, disheveled, smelly, exhausted. The next day, she awakens with aches as her body remembers. Anne of Green Gables meets The Hunger Games, and the arena doesn’t seem anything like you imagined when you’re finally in it.

When I read through Isaiah 20-22, instead of consuming words while I drink my coffee, I step into the horror. In my NLT, each section begins with a subtitle “A message about …” and a city is listed. In A message about Egypt and Ethiopia:

Then the Lord said, “My servant Isaiah has been walking around naked and barefoot for the last three years. This is a sign—a symbol of the terrible troubles I will bring upon Egypt and Ethiopia. For the king of Assyria will take away the Egyptians and Ethiopians as prisoners. He will make them walk naked and barefoot, both young and old, their buttocks bared, to the shame of Egypt. Then the Philistines will be thrown into panic, for they counted on the power of Ethiopia and boasted of their allies in Egypt! They will say, ‘If this can happen to Egypt, what chance do we have? We were counting on Egypt to protect us from the king of Assyria.’” (Isaiah 20:3-6, NLT)

Or in A message about Babylon:

My stomach aches and burns with pain. Sharp pangs of anguish are upon me, like those of a woman in labor. I grow faint when I hear what God is planning; I am too afraid to look. My mind reels and my heart races. I longed for evening to come, but now I am terrified of the dark.

Look! They are preparing a great feast. They are spreading rugs for people to sit on. Everyone is eating and drinking.
But quick! Grab your shields and prepare for battle. You are being attacked! (Isaiah 21:3-5, NLT)

In A Message about Jerusalem:

You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.
    You store up water in the lower pool.
10 You survey the houses and tear some down
    for stone to strengthen the walls.
11 Between the city walls, you build a reservoir
    for water from the old pool.
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
    You never considered the One who planned this long ago
.

12 At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
    called you to weep and mourn.
He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins
    and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse.
13 But instead, you dance and play;
    you slaughter cattle and kill sheep.
    You feast on meat and drink wine.
You say, “Let’s feast and drink,
    for tomorrow we die!” (Isaiah 22:9-13, NLT, emphasis added)

In the New Testament, Paul’s words begin with the subheading Paul’s Message of Wisdom. These readings, all messages to the reader.

Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8, NLT, emphasis added)

I reflect on these readings and the underscoring of God’s sovereignty and plan. And like farm life, it’s more comfortable to read about war, choices, nations from the ease of my couch than it is to personalize a message. What if I stood before God’s judgment? What if I didn’t ask for help from the One who planned all this long ago? What if I didn’t understand?

13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?”

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:13-16, NLT)

Lord, I don’t want to do life apart from you. I’m thankful for reminders that you are sovereign and you desire true relationship with me. Your word puts it out there for me–warning, wisdom, guidance, truth. You make known what you want. Help me to understand.

Courtney (66books365)

Leave a comment

Filed under 5 day reading plan, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Uncategorized

Joel 1-3, Matthew 10

Over the years as I’ve read through the Bible, I saw hints of Jesus in the Old Testament. Today’s pairing of Joel and Matthew 10 remind me of Revelation, whether that was intended or not. In Joel, there is scarcity, darkness, mourning, and fire.

Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the Lord is upon us. It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again.

Fire burns in front of them, and flames follow after them. Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. Behind them is nothing but desolation; not one thing escapes. They look like horses; they charge forward like warhorses. Look at them as they leap along the mountaintops. Listen to the noise they make—like the rumbling of chariots, like the roar of fire sweeping across a field of stubble, or like a mighty army moving into battle. (Joel 1:1b-5, NLT)

An army moves in like a flood over the land, consuming. Earth quaking, heavens trembling, the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars no longer shine. It reads like the trailer to End Times.

The Lord is at the head of the column. He leads them with a shout. This is his mighty army, and they follow his orders. The day of the Lord is an awesome, terrible thing. Who can possibly survive? 12 That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. 13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. (Joel 2:11-13, NLT)

In Matthew, Jesus prepares The Twelve. He doesn’t speak of a simple task. In fact, this mission comes with risk, and he is clear about it.

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-22, NLT)

26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:26-28, NLT)

These passages from both readings show me a mighty Lord. Focused. Authoritative. Clear.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39, NLT)

In the preparing, in the warning, there is an underlying message of turning to the Lord. Of following him. In the hindsight of history, I can wonder why Adam and Eve would ever question God in the garden–why they would make such a grave error of choice, and yet, every day that choice is offered to me: am I going to follow Jesus or not?

Lord, you told the disciples to go out and tell your people that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Help me to keep that focus as I live my life.

Courtney (66books365)

Leave a comment

Filed under 5 day reading plan, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan

2 Kings 18; Philemon; Hosea 11; Psalms 132-134

I wrote this quote down on a scrap paper yesterday, “It’s impossible to find out who you are while living in the best case scenario.” I love living in the best-case scenario. I love periods of calm and predictability–they feel safe. While I certainly enjoy periods of calm, I know I can’t put my faith or security in them: they don’t last.

I watch through the pages of 2 Kings as Hezekiah moves with confidence in his reign. I note: he was twenty-five when he first started reigning; he did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight; he removed shrines and idols; and,

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute. (2 Kings 18:5-7, NLT, emphasis added)

I think on Hezekiah’s refusal to pay tribute to Assyria. Years later, an army would arrive at border towns and threaten Hezekiah. That’s the thing about enemies, you can appease them by meeting their demands or choose not to, but either way, they are still an enemy.

“This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? 20 Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Who are you counting on, that you have rebelled against me? (2 Kings 18:19b-20, NLT)

When an enemy threatens the doorstep, Lord, I want my trust in you to “make (me) so confident.”

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. (Philemon 4-7, NLT)

Lord, help me to love in action and to live with an abundant perspective, to offer generously because of my faith in You and because I understand and experience all the good things I have in You. It is so very important that I focus on the Lord and know who I am in Him. This knowledge will affect my decisions and bring out who I am outside of the best case scenario.

Lord, I cannot trust changing times. I cannot trust the impulsive whims of war or peace from a dissatisfied and greedy enemy. However, I can trust in You–Way, Truth, Life. You are my strength. You are my refuge. You are my hope. Oh, help me to understand and experience all I have in You.

Courtney (66books365)

1 Comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan

Judges 20; Acts 24; Jeremiah 34; Psalm 5, 6

There were losses on the battlefield that day.

11 So all the Israelites were completely united, and they gathered together to attack the town.

12 The Israelites sent messengers to the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What a terrible thing has been done among you! 13 Give up those evil men, those troublemakers from Gibeah, so we can execute them and purge Israel of this evil.”

But the people of Benjamin would not listen. 14 Instead, they came from their towns and gathered at Gibeah to fight the Israelites. (Judges 20:11-14, NLT)

There were tears and the need for confirmation, assurance.

22 But the Israelites encouraged each other and took their positions again at the same place they had fought the previous day. 23 For they had gone up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the Lord until evening. They had asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?”

And the Lord had said, “Go out and fight against them.” (Judges 20:22-23, NLT)

There was victory, yes. But make no mistake, this was warfare. And at its heart is sin.

A woman is raped and murdered: The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, “My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead.” (Judges 20:4-5, NLT)

A community turns its back on its word: This message came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah made a covenant with the people, proclaiming freedom for the slaves. He had ordered all the people to free their Hebrew slaves—both men and women. No one was to keep a fellow Judean in bondage. 10 The officials and all the people had obeyed the king’s command, 11 but later they changed their minds. They took back the men and women they had freed, forcing them to be slaves again. (Jeremiah 34:8-11, NLT)

Hatred targets another, hunts him down with accusation: We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes. Furthermore, he was trying to desecrate the Temple when we arrested him. You can find out the truth of our accusations by examining him yourself.” Then the other Jews chimed in, declaring that everything Tertullus said was true. (Acts 24:5-9, NLT)

Personal gain turns a blind eye to justice: 27 After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison. (Acts 24:27, NLT)

Lord, I am increasingly aware of the very real spiritual battle cloaked in human flesh. In loss, in injustice, in accusation and power struggles, help me to keep a kingdom focus. Help me to remember the real enemy.

14 “But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. 15 I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people. (Acts 24:14-16, NLT)

My enemies cannot speak a truthful word.
    Their deepest desire is to destroy others.
Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
    Their tongues are filled with flattery.
10 O God, declare them guilty.
    Let them be caught in their own traps.
Drive them away because of their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
    that all who love your name may be filled with joy.
12 For you bless the godly, O Lord;
    you surround them with your shield of love. (Psalm 5:9-12, NLT)

Go away, all you who do evil,
    for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord will answer my prayer.
10 May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified.
    May they suddenly turn back in shame. (Psalm 6:8-10, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

Leave a comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan

Joshua 11; Psalm 144; Jeremiah 5; Matthew 19

What does warfare look like? A plain pulsing with enemies armed for battle.

All these kings came out to fight. Their combined armies formed a vast horde. And with all their horses and chariots, they covered the landscape like the sand on the seashore. The kings joined forces and established their camp around the water near Merom to fight against Israel. (Joshua 11:4-5, NLT)

Deep waters pummeling and pulling down to steal one’s very breath.

Reach down from heaven and rescue me;
    rescue me from deep waters,
    from the power of my enemies.
Their mouths are full of lies;
    they swear to tell the truth, but they lie instead. (Psalm 144:7-8, NLT)

And maybe warfare doesn’t look like a field of foes or an undertow force sucking and dragging–maybe it looks like apathy, satiety, lust. Maybe it’s not an army without, but an enemy within.

For their rebellion is great,
    and their sins are many.

“How can I pardon you?
    For even your children have turned from me.
They have sworn by gods that are not gods at all!
    I fed my people until they were full.
But they thanked me by committing adultery
    and lining up at the brothels.
They are well-fed, lusty stallions,
    each neighing for his neighbor’s wife.
Should I not punish them for this?” says the Lord.
    “Should I not avenge myself against such a nation? (Jeremiah 5:6b-9, NLT)

When face to face with Jesus, he will shed light upon the things one truly values.

20 “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Matthew 19:20-22, NLT)

My strength is in Christ; the victory is the Lord’s.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them. By this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel as dead men. Then you must cripple their horses and burn their chariots.”

So Joshua and all his fighting men traveled to the water near Merom and attacked suddenly. And the Lord gave them victory over their enemies. (Joshua 11:6-8, NLT)

Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.

He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me. (Psalm 144:1-2, NLT)

Listen, you foolish and senseless people,
    with eyes that do not see
    and ears that do not hear.
22 Have you no respect for me?
    Why don’t you tremble in my presence?
I, the Lord, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline
    as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross.
The waves may toss and roar,
    but they can never pass the boundaries I set.

23 But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.
    They have turned away and abandoned me.
24 They do not say from the heart,
    ‘Let us live in awe of the Lord our God,
for he gives us rain each spring and fall,
    assuring us of a harvest when the time is right.’
25 Your wickedness has deprived you of these wonderful blessings.
    Your sin has robbed you of all these good things. (Jeremiah 5:21-25, NLT)

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24 I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26, NLT)

Obedience to God and following Christ, letting go of strongholds and seeking with a whole heart … The walk with Christ is not easy–it is war, a war for my heart and soul. Do I recognize the battlefield?

Lord, you came to set me free, to give me a new heart, to give me victory in you. You value my whole heart, and I want my life to honor and celebrate you, with full expression and joy of my heart. Thank you for caring enough (so much!) about me to promise me you’ll never forsake me.

Courtney (66books365)

1 Comment

Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan