Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lord, Teach Us To Pray! Part 160

Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Joshua continued...

Because Joshua knew God, and intimately so, he knew that God hadn’t gotten it wrong, that God hadn’t overreacted, but that what had just taken place was warranted and deserved. Having seen the defeat of his three thousand man contingent, Joshua now came before the Lord in humility, waiting on Him to speak.

It is not sin to ask God to clarify something we do not understand. It is however sin to tell God He is mistaken, and what He deemed appropriate is by human standard too harsh.

Joshua 7:7-9, “And Joshua said, ‘Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all – to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?’”

It is human nature to resort to asking why, whenever we do not understand or fully perceive something. Joshua, as faithful, committed, obedient and consistent as he was, was still human and so he came before God with the burning question of why.

Life on this earth is not linear. There are valleys, as well as hills, there are moments of rapturous exaltation as well as moments of unimaginable desperation, there are moments of wondrous victories, as well as moments of unforeseen defeats, and together they make up what we have come to refer to as human existence.

No, Christians are not spared valleys, they are not spared hardships, and they are not spared moments of uncertainty or disquiet. We are human; therefore we will have such moments in life. What God promises, and what separates us from the rest of the world, is that He will be with us throughout our journey, whether on the mountaintop or in the valley, and if need be we can lean on Him, go to Him for comfort, help, peace, and healing.

If we live our lives expecting never having to endure or go through hardships, it’s only a matter of time before we are crushed and disappointed, unable to shake the feeling of somehow being let down.

Upon experiencing victory of any kind, most individuals will act in a predictable and anticipated manner. We’ll smile, we’ll clap a little, perhaps breathe a sigh of relief, and generally show genuine joy.

It is upon experiencing defeat that reactions vary, and do so wildly. When someone suffers a setback or a defeat – especially one on the scale of the one Joshua had just suffered – the reaction of the individual cannot be predicted or anticipated. Some are simply shell-shocked at first, unable to process what just happened, others ignite as though someone just lit their fuse, others scream, others cry, because raw emotion is by its definition unpredictable and erratic.

Defeat, setback, or rejection in any area of life is unpleasant. Seeing as no one likes to lose or be defeated, it is wisdom itself to see if we can somehow avoid or drastically reduce being defeated in life.

What led to Israel’s defeat? What did they do, or didn’t do that warranted their being vanquished by a smaller and less prepared foe?

The first thing both Joshua and Israel failed to do was pray before making the decision to go up and attack Ai.

Although Joshua was usually a man of consistent prayer, when it came to Ai he had a lapse in judgment, a moment of inattentiveness, wherein he did not go before God and ask concerning Ai, but proceeded to take the advice of his spies and sent a contingent to defeat it.

One of the most important lessons we can learn from this period in Joshua’s life is that even when something looks like a guaranteed win, a surefire thing, a slam dunk, or any other overused cliché one might think of, go before God and ask Him anyway. Do not circumvent prayer just because something looks easy, or the way ahead is too obvious to require God’s blessing or direction.

If God’s ways are not our ways, then logic would dictate the path we would choose isn’t necessarily the path He would choose.

Perhaps it was just an oversight on Joshua’s part, or he saw what he thought was a clear victory and decided not to go before God and ask for His blessing. Either way, the absence of prayer, the absence of asking God what it was he must do after the conquest of Jericho, contributed to Israel’s defeat at Ai.

We tend to ask God when it comes to big decisions. We tend to take a few days of fasting, and pray whenever we have to decide on whether or not we’re going to change jobs, or move halfway across the country, or to another continent. When it comes to life changing, life altering decisions, we do pray and seek the face of God until He answers, but when it comes to smaller issues, we have the tendency to bypass prayer as Joshua did, often times with the same results.

Another dangerous practice of many believers is living off the victories of the past, and allowing them to propel us onward without taking the time to inquire of God.

We become so blinded by yesterday’s successes, so enamored with ourselves for having overcome yesterday’s hurtles, that we attempt to take the credit for these things, and willfully pretend as though it was not the hand of God which carried us through.

Because we talk ourselves into believing we did it all on our own, we did it all by ourselves, and we have by default become masters of our destinies and captains of our own ships, we no longer go before God and ask His blessing, because in our estimation the previous victories were all our own doing.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

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