GTyiFhMmThe events in this passage occur very near the end of Israel’s 40 year journey through the wilderness. God delivered the children of Israel from Egypt 40 years earlier. It took them 2 years to reach the Jordan River. During that time, the Lord gave them His Law, and taught them about worshiping Him. When they arrived at Jordan, they refused to cross over the river into the Promised Land. Because of their lack of faith and rebellion against God, the Lord sentenced the entire nation to wander in the wilderness until every member of that rebellious generation, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, died. It took 38 years for them all the die.

During that 38 year period, God was faithful to walk with Israel, to feed them with Manna every day, to lead them from place to place, and to protect them from their enemies. God had been faithful to His people.

The Israelites had grown sick and tired of wandering through the wilderness. They were tired of God’s plan. They were tired of the Manna. They were tired of their leader Moses. They were just sick and tired of everything.

In this text, we are told that “they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom,” v. 4. The Israelites were forced to go this way because the Edomites would not grant them permission to cross their land. This forced Israel to walk through a terribly harsh desert area. It was mountainous, rough, and desolate. The people didn’t like it. Verse 4 says “the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.” The word “discouraged,” had the idea of something “being shortened.” Their tempers are short, they are frustrated, and they are out of patience with the whole process of getting to Canaan.

Their frustration over the path they were being forced to walk, brought to the surface other complaints they had in their hearts. In verse 5 they voice several complaints.

They complain that God and Moses brought them out of Egypt just to have them die in the wilderness.
They complain about the lack of food.
They complain about the lack of water.
They complain about the Manna God was sending them every day. (Manna, if you remember, was a miracle meal. It fell on their camp at night. It was plentiful. It was free. It was tasty. It was nutritious. It was a gracious gift from God to feed His hungry people.)


But, despite God’s grace in delivering them from Egypt, despite His generosity in feeding them, and despite His guidance in leading them, they began to murmur and complain. They complained about the leader God gave, and they also lodged their complaint against the Lord.

In response to their complaints, God sent judgment upon Israel in the form of “fiery serpents.” Yet, along with the punishment came the pardon, and this is the magnificent truth that I want you to see today.

This passage is a harsh look at the consequences of sin, but it also illustrates the love and grace of God for the lost. This passage, though ancient, is a vivid illustration of what Jesus did for sinners on the cross.

For Israel this situation quickly degenerated into a hopeless situation. They were being bitten by vicious vipers and many people were dying. There was no treatment for the snake bites. There was no escape from the snakes. They were trapped in hopeless circumstances from which they could not escape.

There is hope for the hopeless.


In this event Israel was guilty of several terrible sins against God.

They Rejected God’s Person – Verse 5 says, “And the people spake against God.” Because they did this, the Lord judged them harshly. Don’t get the idea here that God is a little too sensitive. Don’t think for a moment that God is trigger happy, and just waiting to judge the guilty too quickly and too harshly. God does not wear his feelings on his shoulders.

One thing the people of Israel knew how to do, and knew how to do well, was gripe and complain. That is about all they had done for thirty-eight years. Just listen to the record of their wretched whining found just in the book of Numbers:

“And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD,” Num. 11:1a.

“And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God we had died in this wilderness,” Num. 14:2!

“But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD,” Num. 16:41.

“And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish,” Num. 17:12.

Up till now Israel had been guilty of speaking against their leaders. In this passage we are told they “spake against God.” Instead of talking about other people, they now turn their anger toward their God.

Can you imagine the audacity and the arrogance it took for these puny humans to speak against God? Before God chose them, and before God saved them by His grace, they were nobodies. They were nothing but common slaves in the land of Egypt. Now, they dare to speak against God.

They Rejected God’s Promise – Here is what they said to God, “Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” God had promised the nation of Israel that he would bring them into the Promised Land. They had His word on it. Yet, they looked God straight in the eye and said impudently, arrogantly, blasphemously, “We don’t believe You.” In effect, they called God a liar.

You remember this: every time you doubt the Word of God, you discredit the worth of God. Remember what Paul said? He said, “Let God be true; but every man a liar,” Rom. 3:4.

They Rejected God’s Provision – To add insult to injury, they said, “for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.” God provided them with bread every day. When they needed water, He gave it to them. They lied, and they did not appreciate the things they had received from the hand of the Lord.

Two words in this verse are worth noting.

The word “loatheth,” means “to be disgusted by.” God graciously gave them the Manna from Heaven every day. He used it to keep them fed and healthy. Yet, they looked at God’s gracious provision and they said “that stuff is disgusting.”

The word “light” means “worthless”. They said that the Manna was “worthless!” Manna was far from worthless. While they were in the wilderness this bread was not only their strength, their sustenance, it was their very salvation. Without it, they would have starved to death! Yet, the one thing that gave them life, they renounced.

They Rejected God’s Prophet – Not only did they speak against God, they spoke “against Moses.” If a man rejects God, he’ll reject God’s man. If you fall out with God, you will eventually fall out with the man of God. If you are going to live for God, the world is going to turn on you; people are going to reject you.

If you love Jesus, and you live for Jesus, you will be loathed by the world. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you,” John 15:18-19.

Paul adds this truth: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,” 2 Tim. 3:12.


Because of Israel’s rebellion, God sends judgment upon them in the form of “fiery serpents.”

The Serpents Were Deserved – The serpent, as you know, is a symbol of sin. Satan disguised himself as a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Throughout the Bible the serpent is a symbol of sin, evil, rebellion against God. It is fitting that the Lord should send serpents among the people.

Sin is like a serpent. Sin holds tremendous power over us. If sin is allowed to sink its fangs in your life, it will coil itself around you until it has choked the life right out of you. It will not stop until it has destroyed you and everything you love.

The Serpents Were Dreadful – They are called fiery serpents. I believe they were called fiery because of the intense pain that they could inflict on their victims. These were most likely a type of viper found in the Middle East. The bite of these vipers is said to be immensely painful.

Research on that type of viper reveals the following symptoms from the viper’s bite:

  • Injection of venom initiates a fiery pain at the site of the bite.
  • Swelling begins right away.
  • Discoloration at the sight of the bite varies from white to flaming reds, purples, and dark blues.
  • Victims would experience nausea, vomiting, excruciating stomach pains and cramping.
  • Victims begin to experience extreme thirst
  • The liver and kidneys are damaged from filtering toxins resulting in extreme tenderness in the lower abdominal area, and many times diarrhea sets in.
  • Hemorrhaging occurs in the form of nosebleeds, or bleeding from the mouth or the eyes.
  • The viper’s venom is a hemotoxin, it destroys blood cells and causing bleeding where capillaries are close to the surface. A person usually bleeds to death internally.
  • Quick deaths from a viper’s bite are unusual. Generally the suffering is prolonged for one or two days.

What is the point? The point is, God is trying to teach us here that suffering follows sin just as surely as night follows day.

The Serpents Were Deadly – We are told that “much people of Israel died.” But that’s just like sin isn’t it? Sin thrills, Heb. 11:25b, then sin kills. The Bible says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Eze. 18:20. It also says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,” James 1:14-15. And, “For the wages of sin is death…,” Rom. 6:23a.

Listen again to verse 6, “And many of the people of Israel died.” Now that’s putting it mildly. People are dropping like flies, and dying all over the camp of Israel.

Keep in mind that we are talking about two to four million people in a twelve square mile area. Poisonous serpents are biting them, and they are getting sick and dying.

There was no hospital, and even if there had been, it wouldn’t have been big enough to treat all those who were sick.
There are no doctors, and even if there were, there wouldn’t be enough for all the patients.
There is no anti-venom and no other medicines, and even if there were, there would not be enough to go around.
This is a desperate situation. People are dying everywhere and there seems to be no cure available and there is no help in sight.

What a tragic picture this paints of the lost sinner and his fallen condition. Left to himself, the lost sinner is in a hopeless, helpless condition. He cannot change his situation. He cannot save himself from the poison of sin that flows through his veins.


When you have been bitten by a deadly snake, there are only two things you can do: You can sit and die, or you can get up and do something about it. The Israelites chose to do something about the situation. They took three steps that every person has to take if he is going to be cured of the snake bite of sin, and escape the fiery judgment of hell.

There Was Conviction“Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, ‘We have sinned.’” No matter what else you do, until you get to that point in your life where you are willing to say, “I have sinned,” you will never be saved.

There Was Confession – The people went on to say, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you.” True conviction is always followed by full confession.

There Was Contrition – The people went on to say, “Pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us. So Moses prayed for the people.” The final step is when you realize that your only hope is God.


Incredibly the cure for this serpent problem is not a pill or a potion. The solution is a brass serpent raised up on a pole. There are some precious truths I want you to see in that brass serpent.

There Is A Picture Of Guilt – The serpent symbolizes sin. “Brass,” in the Bible, is a symbol of “judgment.” Being lifted up on a pole pictures a curse, for the Bible says, “Cursed is everyone who hangeth upon a tree,” Gal. 3:13.

Now do you see anything strange here? The cure for the serpent problem took the form of what caused the problem to begin with. It was a serpent that bit them, but it was a serpent that healed them!

“For He hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,”    2 Cor. 5:21.


There Is The Provision Of God – Who came up with a plan like this in the first place? Verse 8 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses.” The plan of salvation is God’s idea, and God’s idea about salvation has never changed. The way people were saved here in the Old Testament is exactly the way people are saved in the New Testament. And, it’s the way people are still saved today.

There Is The Power Of Grace – I want you to see something about this wonderful salvation.

It Was Infallible – Everyone who looked, lived. They didn’t just feel better, they got well. In the Old Testament the Bible says, “look and live.” In the New Testament the Bible says, “believe and be saved.” (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)

It Was Individual – Everyone had to look for themselves. Nobody could look for another person. If you were bitten and wanted to be healed, you had to look for yourself. Anybody could be healed, but not everybody was healed, because not everybody looked.

It Was Instantaneous – The people who looked at that serpent did not have to wait, pray, or pay for this salvation. The moment you looked was the minute you lived.

It Was Invaluable – The healing God provided through that serpent was free, readily available, sufficient, and it would work for anyone. And thus it is with Jesus Christ!

THE CASE OF THE BIG BAD BULLY | 1 Samuel 17:1-54

david-vs-Goliath-comic-imageOne of the unfortunate realities of living is this world is the existence of bullies. There are some people, and we all know who they are in our lives, who enjoy pushing others around. Bullying is not a new phenomenon. Bullies have existed in our world since Cain killed Abel at the dawn of the human race.

While bullying isn’t a new phenomenon, it is a major problem. Children deal with bullies every day at school. Some then come home to a bully in the home. People work with bullies on their jobs. There are bullies among our neighbors. There are bullies in the church. There are bullies out in public. Bullies are everywhere. Bullies inhabit every sphere of our lives.

Bullying is defined as, “the use of threats of coercion to intimidate others. It is the activity of repeated aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, either physically or emotionally.”

It has become a word used to describe “one who uses physical, emotional, or verbal intimidation to gain power over others.”

A bully is someone who uses “physical, emotional, or verbal intimidation to control others.” Do you know any bullies? Are there any bullies here right now? I want you to understand that the bullies we meet in life do not have to be tolerated. They must not be allowed to have their way. Most bullies are cowards! In spite of their threats, bullies can be overcome by people who are willing to stand up for what is right.

This passage is about a bully who was put in his place by a very unlikely young man. In the ancient, familiar story of David and Goliath, we see how all the bullies in our lives can be handled.

  • If you had asked Israel about Goliath, they would have said, “This is a hopeless situation.”
  • If you had asked King Saul, he would have said, “This is hopeless!”
  • If you had asked David, he would have said, “Goliath is a bully, and God is about to deal with him!”

I want to walk through these precious verses today and show you once again that there is Hope for the Hard Cases. So, let’s consider the facts of this hopeless case and consider The Case of the Big, Bad Bully.


In verse 1-4a  Lets look at His Source – Our text says that Goliath was a “Philistine.” The Philistines were one of the Canaanite tribes left over from Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. They were a powerful, warlike people known for their expert skill in metallurgy. They crafted superior armor and weapons of war. They were also pagan idolaters, who worshipped the fish god Dagon.

Verse 4b-7 Describes His Size – According to the first four verses of our text, the Philistines and the Israelites have met on the field of battle. They are preparing to fight a battle for control of the nation, or for a portion of it. Before the skirmish can begin, the Philistines challenge the Israelites to settle the battle using an ancient form of warfare. What they propose is for each side to send out their best warrior. These two warriors will meet between the opposing armies, and they will fight to the death. The army that loses this battle will become the servants of the victors, v. 8-9. Although it seems pretty foolish to us, it was not an uncommon thing for armies to settle their differences in this manner.

The issue here is the warrior the Philistines have chosen to fight for them. His name is Goliath, which means “splendor,” and he was a splendid physical specimen. Goliath was from the city of Gath. Goliath was not an ordinary soldier.

  1. He stood “six cubits and a span.” This means that he was “9’ 9” tall,” verse 4.
  2. He wore copper armor that covered his body from head to toe, verse 5-6.
  3. He wore copper body armor constructed from overlapping copper plates that resembled the scales of a fish. The piece of armor weighed “5,000 shekels,” verse 5, or about “200 pounds.”
  4. He wore “greaves,” or wrappings of copper, which protected his legs, verse 6.
  5. The “target” of copper that hung between his shoulders on the back was a round piece of copper that protected his upper back and held his spear.
  6. His spear is compared to a “weaver’s beam,” verse 7, which means it was several feet long and very thick. The head of his spear weighed “600 shekels of iron,” which is about “25 pounds.”
  7. Walking before Goliath was a soldier who carried another shield to help protect him from any arrows or spears launched by his enemies.

Goliath was a very formidable soldier. No doubt everyone who saw him feared him. No one wanted to face him in battle. He appeared indestructible and unconquerable.

Lets take a look at His Statements in verse 8-10, 16, 23  – Goliath comes out from the Philistine lines and challenges the Israelites to a fight. He mocks them and calls them cowards, v. 8. He demands that they send out a soldier to fight him, v. 8. Goliath does this twice every day for forty days, v. 16. Goliath is a persistent bully who will not give up. He is determined to get what he wants from the Israelites.

Verse 11, 24 speaks to His Success – Verse 11 says when Israel heard the taunts of Goliath, they were “dismayed, and greatly afraid.” The word “dismayed” means “to break down from fear.” The phrase “greatly afraid” suggests they overcome with an “exceeding great terror.” The army of Israel was horror-struck, petrified, panic-stricken, and alarmed! The presence, appearance, and threats of the giant Goliath literally left the soldiers and king of Israel paralyzed with fear.

Goliath possessed all the trademark characteristics of a true bully. He was big. He was intimidating. He was bold. He was persistent. He was out for blood. He wanted to take away the power from God’s people, and wanted total control over them. Goliath achieved his primary goal. He left the people of God intimidated and broken. He held absolute power over Israel and her king!

Are you facing any bullies? Got anything, or anyone, in your life that resembles Goliath? What I am asking is this: are there events, circumstances, or people in your life that leave you paralyzed with fear?

I am thankful that this story doesn’t end with a victorious bully. If we will give our attention to the rest of this story, we might discover an amazing truth. That truth is this: The bully does not have to win! Folk, you can defeat your bully, no matter what, or who it is.


So, Goliath threatens Israel. He mocks them. He challenges them to send out a man to fight him to the death. He does this eighty times over forty days. Each time he does, Israel responds by hiding in fear from an opponent they see as unbeatable. Even their powerful leader, King Saul, doesn’t want to face the giant from Gath. Fear rules the day in Israel.

Things are about to change. A young man named David has arrived on the battlefield. When he shows up, he sees the same giant the rest of the Israelites see. He hears the same taunts. He hears the same challenge. Instead of hiding in fear, David rises to the challenge and he does something about the bully.

What made David different from the rest of the men there? What made him think he could do what no one else thought could be done?

I think the difference between David’s opinion of the situation and the rest of their opinions all came down to perception.

David saw the same events and heard the same things the rest of the people heard, but he perceived things very differently. Let’s take a moment to consider the different perceptions that were active that day.

Verse 25 Show That Some Saw This Bully As An Opponent – When Israel saw and heard Goliath, they said “surely to defy Israel is he come up.” They saw Goliath merely as a threat to their nation. They saw him as a threat to their peace, their prosperity, and their happiness. When this bully stood up, all they could see was him and them. They could not see beyond how they felt about the matter. This is the view of fear!

  • This describes us, doesn’t it? When we face one of life’s bullies, there are times when we forget that the issue is bigger than us. For most, our primary focus is on how things make us feel.
  • In other words, when we face a bully, most of the time we turn our focus inward, and attempt to protect our little kingdom. When we do that, we miss the bigger picture.
  • That bully, no matter the name or face it wears, was sent to help you grow in the Lord.
  • Remember what He said to us in Romans 8:28-30. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
  • No matter how much pain your bully causes in your life, it wasn’t sent to you to destroy you. Your bully thinks it is there for that very reason. Despite what it thinks, it was sent to develop you. It was sent to make you more like Jesus, which was God’s goal in saving you to begin with.
  • Listen to me today, if that bully in your life succeeds in getting your eyes off the Lord, the bully has won! If, however, you can face your bully with your eyes on the Lord, God will use the pain from that problem to help you become more like Jesus.

In Verse 26 David Saw This Bully As An Obstacle – Israel saw Goliath as standing between them and what they wanted. David saw Goliath as standing between God and what God wanted. David said, “…for who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the Living God?” To David, this issue was bigger than Saul. It was bigger than the army of Israel. It was bigger than all of them put together. To David, this issue was about the glory of God. This was the view of faith!

  • For David, Goliath stood as an obstacle between God and His people. Goliath had to go, or Israel would be trapped in fear as they faced a bully they believed they could not defeat.
  • We need that same perspective. When we allow any bully to paralyze us with fear, we are rendered ineffective in the work of the Lord. Fear of your bullies will prevent you from saying what needs to be said. Fear of your bullies will stop you from doing what needs to be done.

Verse 25-30 Tell’s Us David Saw This Bully as an Opportunity – The men around David tell him at least three times, vs. 25, 27, 30, that the man who kills the bully will be rewarded by the king. Verse 25 says “the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel.” So, the man who kills the bully will get lots of money, he will marry the princess, and his family will no longer have to pay taxes.

David is apparently interested in the reward because he asks the men around him to tell him what will be given to the giant slayer twice more, 27, 30. Don’t get the idea that David is motivated by greed. Wealth is always appealing. Marrying a princess probably sounds good to a young man. The thought of not having to pay taxes would make anyone’s heart race with joy. David’s goal is not wealth, position, or power. David is motivated by something far greater. He is motivated by the Glory of God.

If you recall back in 1 Sam. 16, the prophet Samuel came to David’s house and he anointed David to be the next king in Israel. David knew that one day, he was going take Saul’s job. David knew that he was headed to the throne. I believe that David saw Goliath as a steppingstone in that direction. I believe that David looked at Goliath and realized that killing that bully would bring him closer to achieving what God had promised to him.

In verse 29 David, in response to the childish rant of Eliab, asks, “Is there not a cause?” David was the man God had chosen to be the new shepherd in Israel. When the bully Goliath threatened those people, it made David livid. He was angry because that bully was a threat to God’s people, God’s plans, and to God’s glory. In David’s mind, that simply would not stand. That bully had to go!

The sooner we realize that our bullies are an opportunity for God to receive glory from our lives, the sooner will be willing to stand up and face them in His power. He is not glorified when I am paralyzed by fear. He is glorified when I forget about myself, my agenda, my feelings, my wants, and concern myself with His glory alone.

Every bully in our lives is an opportunity for God to get glory from our lives. By the same token, every bully is an opportunity for us to fail. Our duty is to trust Him for the power we need to stand up to the bullies we face.


David is determined to defend Israel and to deliver them from the insults and attacks of the bully Goliath. The remainder of this chapter teaches us how David defeated this bully. The methods he used to defeat that bully will work with any bully you face in your life. Notice how David defeated Goliath.

He Is Defeated by Courage in verse 31-37a – David says that he will fight the giant. When he does, he is brought before the king. Saul doesn’t think David could do it, and he says so, v. 33. But, then again, neither did anyone else. After all, what does a young man who has never been proven on the field of battle know about whipping bullies?

  • David quickly lets Saul and the rest of the men know that he has faced a bully or two in his time. He tells them about two times when bullies attacked his sheep. He tells them about how he killed a lion and bear that were threatening his sheep, v. 34-36a. David tells Saul that he sees no difference between those animals and Goliath, v. 36b. To David, they were all bullies who needed someone to stand up to them, and he was just the man to do it. In verse 37, David states his absolute confidence that just as God gave him victory over the lion and the bear, God would give him victory of the giant. In David’s mind, this is a fixed fight!
  • These verses teach us many truths, but what I want you to see today is this: David succeeded because he was not afraid to face the bullies in his life. That is not to say that David didn’t dread what was coming.

It won’t be easy to face the bullies in your life, but remember this:

  • The Lord has promised to be with you. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Heb. 13:5.
  • The Lord had promised to see you through to the other side. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee,” Isa. 43:2.
  • The Lord has promised to protect you. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD,” Isa.54:17.
  • The Lord has promised to enable you. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” Phil. 4:13.
  • The Lord has promised to give you victory. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us,” Rom. 8:37.
  • The Lord has prepared us for a showdown with our bullies. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” 2 Tim. 1:7.

In verse 37b-40 Goliath He Is Defeated by Conviction – David receives Saul’s blessing, and he prepares to go face the bully. Saul tries to put his armor on David, v. 38-39. David attempted to wear those things, but he realizes that they were not made for him, they were made for Saul. David knew the secret to success wasn’t in the armor of men.

  • David was a shepherd, and he picked up the tools of the shepherd, his shepherd’s bag and his sling, and he went out to meet Goliath. On the way, he stopped by a brook and chose him five small stones. He planned to use those stones as ammunition for his sling. Thus armed, David went to battle.

In verse 41-54 Goliath Is Defeated By Confidence – David walked out to face that bully that day with absolute faith that he would walk back with the victory. Consider the conversation David has with the bully in verses 41-47. David knows what is about to happen. He has his faith in the Lord, and the Lord doesn’t lose!

  • What made this victory possible? It wasn’t David’s ability with a sling! It wasn’t David’s power, or his skill as a warrior! The secret to David’s success and Goliath’s death all came down to one word: faith.

David believed God, and God handed David the victory.




EMPTY BARREL GRADUATE SCHOOL | The Book of 1 Kings 17:8-16

Elijah: Obedience in a Threatening World
Elijah: Obedience in a Threatening World

Elijah holds in his hand a diploma from Dry Brook University. He has trusted God to take care of him even in the most desperate of situations. He trusted God to send the ravens to feed him, and he trusted God to supply his water using the little brook Cherith. He watched as God met his needs day in and day out. He also watched as God allowed his brook, the only source of water he had, to dry up before his eyes. Surely, enduring this kind of trial would count for something! Surely, things would get better for the prophet now!

Yet, when God speaks to Elijah, it is to send him into another difficult situation. You see, the prophet’s training isn’t over just yet. God is creating a man of God! Elijah may have graduated from Dry Brook University, but now he is about to enroll in Empty Barrel Graduate School. At Cherith God broke the prophet’s flesh: He taught Elijah to depend on God. At Zarephath, God will break Elijah’s pride. Here, he will learn that God, not Elijah calls all the shots of life. He will learn that things are never like they appear. He will learn that God can use the humblest of means to train His children for His glory.

Remember, God intends to use this man in a mighty way! When we get to chapter 18, we will see why God put the prophet through such rigorous training. God is building a man of God!

Now, with that in mind, there are times when it seems that our trials come back to back to back to back. That is, it seems that before one trial can end, another begins! When these times come, we may be tempted to question the Lord as to what He is doing. Simply stated, God is getting you in a position where He can use you in a greater way. I will remind you that before He can mold us, He must first melt us! After all, God’s goal for every saint of God is that we be made into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:“, Eph. 4:13.

Therefore, let’s join the prophet Elijah as he continues his training at Empty Barrel Graduate School. There are lessons here that we can glean from as well. These lessons will help us when we face our times of testing.


A. V. 8 The Call – As Elijah sat there beside that dried up brook, it must have felt like he had been abandoned by God. Have you ever felt that way? It is a terrible feeling! However, God had not forgotten about Elijah! God knew exactly where he was. God knew all about that dry brook and God had something else in mind for the man of God!

    • Let me just remind you that the dried brooks of life are merely those things which God uses to move us along in His will.
    • (Ill. There is a lesson here for us, and it is a hard one to swallow! That lesson is this: genuine faith waits for God to reveal His plans. It will sit by a dried up brook forever, even if it means death, waiting on the will of God to be revealed.
    • Friends, this is where we get into trouble! We have this tendency to run ahead of God and take matters into our own hands. Yet, God’s will is that we learn to wait on Him, even when He doesn’t move on our schedule!
    • If your brook is dry this morning, do not fear! God has not forgotten about you. He knows just where you are and when the time is right, you will hear His voice calling you to a fresh arena of service! “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

B. V. 9a The Command – when the Lord does speak to Elijah, He commands him to go to Zarephath. This is a strange command considering the fact that Zarephath is in a Gentile nation. It is country of Jezebel. It is a land of idolaters. It is a wicked place filled with wicked people. Yet, that is exactly where the Lord sends His prophet! To top it off, to get to Zarephath from Cherith will force Elijah to march over 100 miles through territory ruled over by King Ahab, who is looking for Elijah everywhere. It seems like this command of the Lord makes no sense at all! Of course, one of the reason for sending Elijah to Zarephath was to vividly illustrate the impotence of Jezebel’s wrath and power!

    • (Ill. Again, there is a lesson for us in this verse: Often, the life of faith will lead through difficult pathways. Folks, God never promised that this way would be an easy way. Job 14:1; Job 5:7; John 16:33. Yet, that is the path of faith! Yet, even when the command of God makes no sense, faith simply obeys God without regard for the consequences, v. 10! You can see this truth displayed throughout the Bible.
      • Noah and the ark – Gen. 6
      • Abraham and Isaac – Gen. 22
      • Daniel and the 3 Hebrews – Dan. 1

C. V. 9b The Challenge – Notice that again Elijah is told to “dwell there“. He is to go to Zarephath and stay there until he receives new instructions from the mouth of the Lord.

    • However, the real challenge is in what God told the prophet next, “behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” That must have been a serious blow to the pride of the prophet.
    • Instead of God telling Elijah, “I have a widow over there in Zarephath and I want you to go take care of her.” God says, “Elijah, I am sending you to another place of testing where you will have to look to me for all you receive, every day.”
    • For Elijah, Zarephath was a place that would live up to its name. The name Zarephath meanssmelting furnace, or refining“. It refers to the furnace into which metal is placed so that it can be heated up and have any impurities removed. Cherith was the place where Elijah had been cut off and cut down. Zarephath would be the place where he would be refined. It would be here that the last vestiges of Elijah’s pride and self-reliance would be stripped away.
    • (Ill. We are a self-reliant people aren’t we? We always want to believe that we can “handle it” ourselves. We would like to think that we are in control of our lives and that we are calling all the shots. However, when the Lord begins to work in your life to reveal Himself in you more clearly, He will send you to a Zarephath where you have to depend on nothing but Him. When you have been brought to the place where you can lean on nothing but God, He has brought you to the greatest of places that life can afford. For it is in that place that you will learn Who is in control. That is the challenge we all face in our faith life. We all face the challenge of getting to the place where we are trusting God and Him alone for all the needs we have in life! That is where He wants each of us, “The just shall live by faith.” Rom. 1:17.)

D. V. 10-11 The Comfort – When Elijah receives this command, he does not hesitate, he just gets up and goes where God tells him to go. When he arrives at Zarephath, he sees “the” widow picking up sticks.

    • (Ill. There is a lesson here as well. Our God is a God Who works on both ends of the line. Let me illustrate. When Jacob and his sons needed food, God provided a Joseph in Egypt. When the children of Israel sent their spies to Jericho, God gave them a Rahab. When the Jews faced a Haman, God raised them up an Esther. When an Ethiopian Eunuch needed salvation, God sent him a Philip. The point is this: When your time of need arises, rest assured that your Father has already gone ahead to spread the table of provision in your behalf, Phil. 4:19.)

IA Fresh Path


A. V. 12 A Doubt – When Elijah asks the widow for a cake of bread, her fear is brought to the surface. God had already commanded her to care for His prophet, v. 9, but she is trapped is the fear of faithlessness. She has her eyes on the circumstances and not on the God Who controls the circumstances!

    • (Ill This is the place where many people are living this morning! When we look at our problems and our needs, we feel like we are trapped in a hopeless situation. We are guilty of looking at the problem and not at the Provider! As much as Elijah was sent to Zarephath for his benefit, he was also sent for the benefit of this widow. She needed to learn the value of faith in God.
    • My friend, are you trapped in doubt this morning? Does it appear that your situation is hopeless and that you are helpless to do anything about it? The answer lies in looking beyond your problem and getting your eyes on the Provider,
    • (Ill. It must have been a discouragement to Elijah to hear the widow express her lack of faith. If he had focused on first impressions instead of on the word of God, then he might have lapsed into despair. However, he believed God more than he believed even what he saw! Real faith knows that God is greater than what the eye can see. Real faith knows that God can make the impossible possible, Heb. 11:1!)

B. V. 13-14 A Demand – When Elijah hears the widow’s sob story, he makes what appears to be the coldest demand in the Bible. He tells her to go ahead and fix her last supper, but to feed him first! On the surface this appears harsh and cruel, but it was, in fact, a plea for faith and surrender to the will of God.

    1.  Involved Encouragement – “Fear not!” Elijah comforts her heart in this matter. She is told that she can trust God.
    2.  Involved Enlightenment – “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.” She gets a direct word from God concerning her situation. She has God’s word that she will be taken care of.
    3.  Involved Excitement – “Neither the barrel of meal nor the cruse of oil will fail until God sends rain upon the earth. This widow hears the news that she is about to be center stage for a miracle designed to care for God’s man. She is about to be caught up in a manifestation of the power of God.

C. V. 15a A Decision – When this widow heard the word of God, she went and did as Elijah had commanded her. It must have took great faith to use the last little bit of meal she had to prepare bread for a total stranger. Yet she did it by faith!

    • (Ill. This is the place that God wants to bring us all to. He wants His Elijahs and His widows to learn to trust Him in every circumstance, regardless of what outward appearances may suggest.
    • (Ill. God wants us to get to the place where we can give it all away!
  1.  A Fresh Path
  2.  A Fantastic Promise


  • (Ill. The Bible tells us here that until the rains returned to the earth, the meal barrel and the jar of oil did not run out. Every time the widow went to get meal and oil to prepare a meal, there was more to be used. When she decided to bake that cake for Elijah, she traded the certain for the uncertain and received the impossible in return!)
    1.  The Grace Of It – Because this widow took God at His Word and prepared bread for Elijah, God allowed the widow, the widow’s son and Elijah to enjoy plenty while all around them hundreds starved to death.
    2.  The Greatness Of It – For years, until it rained, every meal time was a miracle. He can take the little that is dedicated to Him by faith and multiply it to enormous proportions! (Ill. The 5 loaves and 2 fishes fed a multitude – John 6:5-13.)
    3.  The Glory Of It The glory of this story resides in this fact: that barrel of meal and that cruse of oil were never full! Elijah and the widow were taught to live day by day. Everyday she scraped the bottom of the barrel and everyday there was just enough meal to fix their food. Everyday she watched the last drop of oil drip from that jar, but the next day there was always more. The glory in the story lies in the fact that Elijah and the widow were taught to trust God day by day! As the days passed, their faith was strengthened as they saw the Lord provide!

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A MAN SENT FROM GOD | The Book of 1 Kings 17:1


A Man Sent By God
A Man Sent By God

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. 1 Kings 17:1

The pages of our Bibles are filled with accounts of men that seem larger than life. People like Moses, David, Daniel, Paul and others, all seem to be characters that are so far above the realm of our own experience that we may feel like we can never be like them. However, I’ll let you in on a secret this morning: All of these people were just that: people! The fellow in our text is no different. When I read about the life and ministry of Elijah, I am amazed at his courage and at his power with God. Yet, I am reminded by the Word of God that Elijah “was a man subject to like passion as we are.” (James 5:17) He was just a man who walked in humble obedience before his God.

I am going to begin a series of messages that will focus on the life and ministry of this man named Elijah. We will call this series “Elijah: The Prophet of Courage and Confrontation”. Today, we will focus in on this one verse and talk about “A Man Sent From God.”

  • In this message, I want you to see that God can take a nobody and make a somebody out of him.
  • God can take any life that will be totally yielded to His will and use that life for His glory.
  • It was Henry Varley who said, “It remains to be seen what God will do with a man who gives himself up wholly to Him.” And Moody endeavored to be, under God, that man; and the world did marvel to see how


Lets look at his humanity – We are given an interesting insight into the prophet Elijah in the book of James. “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.“, James 5:17-18.

As one follows the life of Elijah, it becomes clear that he was a mere mortal. He was a man with a fiery temper, who was prone to bouts of depression. He also suffered from loneliness, due to the life of solitude from which he ministered.

The emphasis here is that the Lord is not looking for spiritual giants to use for His glory. He is simply looking for people who will readily obey His Word and follow Him where He leads them. You see, nothing at all is known about Elijah until he steps onto the scene in the presence of king Ahab. He was a nobody from nowhere, but he was handpicked by the Lord God to do His will and to carry His message to a wayward nation.

God doesn’t need the rich, the educated, the intelligent, the beautiful or the movers and shakers of this word to get His work done. (Remember David? 1 Sam. 16:6-7, 12) God has chosen to work through the lives of men and women who will simply yield themselves to the will of God and, who will like Isaiah, say “Here am I, send me!” Isa. 6:8. The bottom line is this: God wants your obedient surrender to His will more than He wants anything else you can give to Him, 1 Sam. 15:22.)


Verse 1 reads “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead,”

There are several statements that speak to the character of Elijah:

First His Name – His very name tells us his testimony. The name Elijah means “My God Is Jehovah“. His name tells us that he had a personal relationship with the God of Heaven.

  • Every time his name was called it was in direct defiance and synonymous with the separation of Idolatry.
  •  He Defied A Foolish Ruler – The king of Israel during the time of Elijah was a little toad of a man named Ahab. According to the Bible, 1 Kings 16:30, 33, Ahab was the wicked king that ever squatted upon the throne of Israel. Besides that, he was married to a wretchedly evil woman named Jezebel. She was the daughter of the king of Zidon. This too was an offense to the Lord, 1 Kings 16:31. Jezebel was from a group of people who were ardent Baal worshipers. And she, along with her husband Ahab, did more to introduce the worship of Baal to the people of Israel than any other ruling family, 1 Kings 16:32. This produced a state of affairs in Israel, where people lost all regard for the commandments of God. This is illustrated by 1 Kings 16:34, where a man named Hiel the Bethelite attempted to rebuild Jericho. This was in direct disobedience to a clear command of God, Josh. 6:26.

Second His Home – This verse tells us that Elijah was from a place called Tishbe. Tishbe means “Stranger” and it was a type of the world.  A stranger is someone who is separated from the culture of that place.

  • In like fashion we ought to be separated from the world. You remember well “love not the world neither the things that are in the world for if ye love the world the love of the Father is not in you.”

Third His Dwelling – in the region known as Gilead. Gilead was a rough, mountainous area known for its high peaks and deep valleys. The very name “Gilead” in its Hebrew form means “raw or rugged.”

  • This was a place where men of valor trained for battle.
  • Elijah was separated unto the Lord.
  • This tells us that Elijah was a backwoods man. When he stepped onto the scene and began his ministry, his methods, his mannerisms and his message were as rough and rugged as the place he called home.
  • Evidently, Elijah’s method of dress was as strange as anything else we know about him, 2 Kings 1:8.

It took a separated man to defy a foolish ruler and denounce a false religion. Yet, it was to this king that God sent the prophet Elijah. Elijah walked right into the presence of king Ahab and delivered the message of the Lord without flinching. He told Ahab that there would be no rain or dew until he said there would be. It took courage to defy the wicked ruler!

When Elijah made his announcement, he was declaring war on Baal. It took great courage to stand up before the chief promoter of that false religion and in effect say, “My God is greater than Baal! And to prove it, God is going to shut off the spigot. There will be no rain until I say so. And, there’s nothing you, Jezebel or Baal can do about it!


Yet again in verse 1 it reads “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand”

While the nation was on their knees bowing to Baal. Elijah stood.

This speaks to His Dependence – By walking into the presence of Ahab and Jezebel in the name of Jehovah, Elijah was demonstrating that in his life and ministry, he was totally dependent upon the Lord. He was not trusting the arm of flesh, but was resting in the everlasting arms by faith.

It declares His Devotion – Note the phrase Elijah used before Whom I stand.” Elijah was standing in the presence of the king of Israel. He was standing in the presence of one of the most powerful men of his time. Yet, Elijah was able to see beyond all the trapping of the throne room of Israel. Elijah knew that he was standing in the presence of God. He knew that here was no need to try and please Ahab. There was no need to soft sell his message and make it more pleasing. There was only one Person in that room who had to be pleased and His name was Jehovah.

  •  Elijah Was A Struggling Man
  •  Elijah Was A Separated Man
  •  Elijah Was A Standing Man


His Assurance Was In The Person Of God – Note that Elijah believed that God was alive. He said, “as the Lord God of Israel liveth.Most of those other folks were living like Jehovah was dead. Sounds like America doesn’t it? We need some people like Elijah who will stand up and say, “You can live like God is dead if you wish, but I am going to live for Him, because He is alive in me.” You see, that was Elijah’s situation. God was living in him and when God lives in you, you just can’t keep Him quiet!

His Assurance Was In The Promise Of God – This man stood before Ahab because he had received a word from God concerning this matter. Elijah had enough sense to know that when God told him something was going to happen, it would happen. My friends, God will never, never, never back away from a single promise he has made to His people. He will not desert you and leave you to flap in the breeze. If He has made a promise to you, it will be fulfilled, Rom. 4:21; Heb. 6:18

His Assurance Was In The Power Of God – He is God all the time, in every situation, regardless of what we face in life. When we are battling sin: He is God! When we have a need: He is God! When we are fighting Satan and his activities: He is God! He is God all the time! Never forget that! What He did for people like Elijah, He can do for you and me. We just have to arrive at the place where we can trust His ability.).

I encourage you today, that where you are this moment, God can use you for His purposes. Whatever baggage you may have, however bad your past may be, or problem you may have this very moment. If you let him, God will take you from misery to ministry. We have this promise from God written by the Apostle Paul to the believers in the Roman Church, “And we know that all things work together for the good for them that love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.”


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CALEB: THE GRAY-HAIRED CONQUEROR | The Book of Joshua 14:6-15

In the Book of Joshua 14:6-15 we find: CALEB: THE GRAY-HAIRED CONQUEROR

Focus on giants -- you stumble; focus on God -- your giants tumble.
Focus on giants — you stumble; focus on God — your giants tumble.

This passage centers on a man called Caleb. Caleb was a part of Israel when they left Egypt. He was there when God divided the waters of the Red Sea. By the way – Israel crossing the Red Sea is a picture of Salvation. Free from bondage and free from Pharaoh. Observing Israel as they journey through the wilderness shows us there is much more to salvation than just being set free. God had a land flowing with milk and honey prepared for them. It would be a land of giants and a land of battles, but it was theirs if they wanted it. Now, as you know – Israel chose to wander in the wilderness. Here’s another great picture of the Christian life. God saves us, and promises us that we can have a life of victory and intense spiritual joy, but rather than claim what is rightfully ours – things like peace, joy, fellowship, power, and the glory of God, we choose to live in a spiritual wilderness, defeated and depressed.

This morning I want to tell you that many Christians are guilty of spiritual window-shopping. Now nothing is wrong with window-shopping! A lot of folks like to do it. Men normally don’t like it.

(III. A fellow said to his wife – “Why do you call it shopping? You never buy anything.” She replied – Well, why do you call it fishing? You never catch anything!”)

As Christians, we need to do more than window-shop with God’s promises, we need to appropriate them. This morning I want us to see what it was that enabled this 85-year-old man to possess that which God had promised him. Caleb pictures the Christian who is willing to pay the price, fight the battles and win the victory that God has waiting for him. In these verses, we are shown how we too can claim our little part of Canaan and walk in victory day by day! Allow me to speak to you for a little while about Caleb: The Gray-haired Conqueror.

I. In the book of Joshua 14:8, 9, 14 we find CALEB’S COMMITMENT

A. Now the first key to Caleb success was that God had all of Caleb that there was! Note the repeated phrase “Wholly followed the Lord.” This is said about Caleb 6 times in the Old Testament. It is a phrase that means “To close the gap.” It is a phrase used by hunters to refer to their closing the gap between themselves and their prey. It refers to the fact that Caleb was committed to keeping the distance between himself and the Lord at a minimum. Every inch, every ounce, every nerve, every fiber of Caleb belonged to God. Now you may think that because you are not a preacher or deacon or SS teacher or whatever, God doesn’t expect to have all of you. Wrong – Wrong – Wrong. God deserves your all. If you’re holding back even a little bit you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Why? If you are saved, you are all His anyway – 1 Cor. 6:19-20!

(III. “Three little girls were talking about their dads. One said, ‘My father is a doctor, and he practices medicine.’ Another said, ‘My dad’s an attorney, and he practices law.’ The third said, ‘My father is a Christian, but he doesn’t practice anymore.’ “There are a lot of Christians like that today.”)

B. Half-hearted Christians are faint-hearted Christians and they never learn to conquer the giants in their lives.

(III. The story is told of a man who rode in his car as it was being towed to be repaired. When they arrived at the repair shop, the tow truck driver told him, “I didn’t think I was going to make it up that big hill.” The man replied, “I didn’t either. That’s why I kept the brakes on so we wouldn’t roll backwards.” To live without total dedication to Christ is the same as trying to go forward and to hold back at the same time.)

(Ill. “A double – minded man is unstable in all his ways,” James 1:8. There is only one way to stand up against the devil and the hordes of hell and that’s to be totally surrendered to Jesus.

C. The man who kneels before God can stand before anybody or anything.

(Ill. D. L. Moody was saved at the age of 19. D. L. Moody heard an evangelist by the name of Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God can do in and through and with and for a man wholly committed to him. D.L. Moody said, “By God’s grace I will be that man!” He was an uncultured, uneducated, untrained shoe salesman but God used him to move 2 continents for Christ. Why? – He was committed! Are you totally sold out to Jesus Christ and Him alone this evening?)

Our commitment to Christ affects all our other relationships. The more devoted we are to Jesus, the more faithful we will be to our church, family, and friends.)

D. All Jesus wants from you is your total commitment. Anything less will keep you from reaching your Canaanland victory.

I. Caleb’s Commitment

II. In the book of Joshua 14:12 we find CALEB’S CONFIDENCE

A. What was it that gave 85 year old Caleb the idea he could be a giant killer? Caleb’s confidence (faith) was in God’s word. Vs. 10 & 12  (III. Deut.1:34-36, “And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD.“)

(Ill. Caleb had seen the Promised Land and for 45 years that vision had burned in his heart as he wandered through the wilderness! While others complained, Caleb looked for a mountain where milk and honey flowed and where the grapes of Eschol grew. He was able to see beyond his circumstances into the promises of the Lord. We need some people who have been cut from that same cloth!)

1. I can see Caleb now climbing that mountain with a sword in one hand and a deed in the other while singing to the top of his lungs,

2. Faith is not positive thinking.

3. Faith is not optimism.

4. Faith is not looking on the bright side.

5. Faith is simply acting on what God says.

 (Ill. Faith is more than saying that you believe; it is acting on what you believe. (III. Heb. 11:1)

I. Caleb’s Commitment

II. Caleb’s Confidence

III. In the book of Joshua we find CALEB’S COURAGE

Commitment led to confidence – confidence to courage. Caleb had to scale 3 great obstacles in his quest for his Canaan.

  1. He Had To Overcome Grasshoppers – Num. 13:33 For Caleb to claim what God had promised he had to go against the majority. (III. Jesus – He was usually alone in everything He did!)
  2. (III. There will always be someone saying that it can’t be done, it’s never been done like that before, we can’t afford it, etc. III. The Disciples and their reaction in John 6). Sometimes you will stand alone, but if you are standing on the Word of God in the will of God, then you were never in better company.
  3. He Had To Overcome Giants – Num. 14:8-9 All of us have giants in our lives. Giants of discouragement, finances, sickness, family, distress, doubt and the truth is – we can’t defeat them ourselves. We have 2 options.

1. We can say look how small we are compared to those giants. This is the outlook of fear! (III. 2 Tim. 1:7)

2. Or look how small those giants are compared to God! This is the uplook of faith! (III. Phil. 4:13; Eph. 3:20; Matt. 28:18) Fighting giants is good for you! (III. Num. 14:9 – Giants are bread)

D. He Had To Overcome Gray Hairs – Josh. 14:10-11 What does this tell us? When God makes a promise, he will give us the strength to see its fulfillment! (III. Never count God, or yourself out. True faith looks beyond the present circumstance and sees the provision of the Almighty!)

E. Caleb experienced what God had promised!

F. He climbed the mountains and he defeated the giants – he claimed his possession.

(Ill. The name of the place Caleb inherited was named Hebron. This means “Fellowship“. Caleb refused to quit until he had obtained everything the Lord has for him! He refused to stop until he had obtained that place of fellowship with God.

Folks, that ought to be our battle cry this morning! We ought to refuse to give up, back up, or shut up or be held up, until we have stood up, lined up, read up, prayed up, confessed up, stored up, spoke up, looked up, and filled up on everything the Lord wants to give His children! We ought to settle for nothing less than that place of perfect fellowship with the Lord our God!)

“Uncle Versie had a problem. There was his best mule down at the bottom of that cistern and no way could he get the mule out of there. He didn’t want her to stay down there and starve to death, so he decided he would get a shovel and cover her up. It would be cruel, but it wouldn’t be as cruel and inhumane as to let Della starve to death in the bottom of that deep cistern. Uncle Versie took a shovelful of dirt and threw it down into the cistern and every time a shovelful of dirt hit old Della, she’d shake the dirt off and stomp it.

“It wasn’t long before Della had shaken off enough dirt and stomped it so that she was high enough to jump out of the cistern.”

We’re like that mule–either our problems will bury us or we can keep trampling them down until we rise above them.)

When somebody says you’re too small like a grasshopper… too many giants…too old…
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HOW TO AMBUSH YOUR AI …..Joshua 8:1-35

Living Victoriously in Difficult Times
Living Victoriously in Difficult Times

Joshua 8:1-35

Chapter 8 finds Israel facing the same city that they faced in chapter 7. The little city of Ai. The first time Israel went up to do battle at Ai, they were defeated by the inhabitants of that city and 36 of their number lost their lives. The reasons for their defeat are many, but the primary reason was that there was sin in their midst that had not been dealt with. That sin caused them to be defeated at Ai. Now, they are back and it was time for Israel to go and face these people in battle once again.

Before we move into these verses this morning, I want to tell you that Ai, in the Bible, is a type of the flesh. The word “Ai” means “a heap of ruins.” That is a good way to describe this flesh in which we live. The first mention of this city is found in the book of Genesis in connection with the life of Abraham, Gen. 12:8; 13:3. The Bible tells us that Abraham pitched his tent “between Bethel and Hai.” Now, the name “Bethel” means, “The house of God.” Isn’t it interesting that many saints have pitched their tents somewhere between the house of God and a heap of ruins? Do you see the connection? You can either live in a place of victory and blessing, or you can live in a place of defeat and misery. You can either have a Bethel kind of life or an Ai experience, which is up to you!

Just like Israel, we often lose battles to our Ai, (this flesh), but through the Lord, we can learn how to ambush our Ai and walk away with the victory in our lives. I don’t know the battles that you are fighting with your flesh, but I do know that you can win the victory.

These verses tell us how. Let’s look together at these verses and learn How To Ambush Your Ai.


Verse 1 gives you A Word About Winning – When the Lord speaks to Joshua, after the death of Achan, God tells him to go to Ai. However, he tells him that things will be different this time. He assures Joshua and Israel of the victory.

It is interesting that the Lord called them to return to the place of their greatest defeat. God knew that they needed to overcome the defeat at Ai before they could move on in the conquest of Canaan. Folks, it’s the same for you and me this morning. How many times have we lost the battle to the flesh? I think the Lord has a word for that this morning! Notice what He told Joshua, “Fear not!” I think that is the Lord’s word to us this morning! To those who have fallen and have lost a battle to the flesh, God says, “Fear not! I am giving you the victory!” I think it is a blessing to know that I do not have to live in defeat as a Christian!

I will remind you once again that the Lord did not save your soul to leave you defeated and beaten by the flesh. He saved you to walk in the victory that He can give to those who will walk in His ways and not in their own ways or in the ways of the world.

Verse 2 gives us A Word About Waiting – Notice that the Lord tells them that they will do to Ai what they did to Jericho, except for the fact that in Ai, they are to take all the spoils for themselves! If Achan would have waited just a few more days, then he could have had all the riches that he could have imagined. Instead, he ran ahead of God and grabbed for himself that which was forbidden by God and as a result, Achan paid the ultimate price.

What a lesson for you and me this morning! We are guilty of the same kind of foolishness aren’t we? If we could just learn to wait on God and let Him lead and bring into our lives the things that need to be there, we would be far better off. Unfortunately, this flesh wants what it wants and it wants it now! It doesn’t want to wait.


Verse 3-17 lets us know that They Had God’s Plan – God told them in exact detail how they were to mount their attack against Ai. They were to lay an ambush for Ai and they would take the city and all its inhabitants.

(Israel had already learned what happens when you do things the Lord’s way. When you fight the battle by following His plan, you cannot fail. They had also learned what happens when they refused to do it God’s way. They learned that failure awaits that person who goes against the will of the Lord.)

Verse 18-23 lets us know They Had God’s Power – Israel fought the battle, but God gave the victory! You see, the first time Israel went to Ai, they went in their own power and they suffered terrible, humiliating defeat. This time they went to battle walking in the power of God and they were victorious.

Again, there is a lesson here for those of us who struggle with this flesh. The battle will not be won by our ability to say “No!” The battle will not be won because we are more powerful than the temptations we face.

Verse 24-26 lets us know They Had God’s Performance – these verses tell us the news that Israel trusted in the Lord and absolutely prevailed over their enemy. God did what He said He would do!

May I remind you that we are serving the very same God that gave Israel the victory? He hasn’t changed one bit! He is still the same God this morning that He always has been and always will be. You can count on God to keep His Word


(At this point in this story, Israel has followed God’s plan and they have achieved the victory. Now, they must maintain their victory. They take two steps that make this a reality for them. In our lives, we can achieve the victory over the flesh!

Verse 27-29 tells us that  Victory Is Preserved By Death – Please notice that they did not leave a single person alive in Ai. No one from the king down to the humblest servant was spared from death in this battle. Joshua knew that this enemy had to be totally eradicated or there would be problems down the road.

The lesson for us this morning is this: Your flesh is still alive and well, but it needs to be put to death!

Verse 30-35 encourages us that Victory Is Preserved By Devotion – Ill. The Context. After the enemy had been eradicated and victory had been preserved, Israel finished by doing what the Lord had told them to do through Moses, Deut. 27:1-28:6. Half of the nation was to stand on Mount Ebal (ih – b AW l) and the other half on Mount Gerizim. The Levites were to stand in the valley between these mountains and were to read the cursings and the blessings. As they read the cursings, the crowd on Mount Ebal was to shout “Amen.” When they read the blessings, the crowd on Mount Gerizim was to shout “Amen.” This exercise was to remind them of what God would bless and of what He would not bless. They were reaffirming their commitment to live by the Word of God every day!

Folks, if we are to ever experience lasting victory over this flesh, then we too must learn to walk in the Word of God. It isn’t enough to fight the war with the flesh and hope to achieve the victory. If we are to win and preserve the victory day by day, then we must learn to live by the Word of God. If God said do it, then do it! If God said don’t do it, then don’t do it. If you have a doubt, then leave it out! Where is your devotion this morning? It needs to be to the Word of God!


God’s Prescription For The Saints

In Joshua 7:1-26 Israel has just been involved in the greatest military conquest in their history. They have just witnessed the tremendous defeat of the city of Jericho and they are still basking in the glow of that great event. But, verse 1 tells us that God was upset with the people. Israel thought that everything was all right. They thought that they were standing on the edge of a great string of victories that would see them conquering the entire land of promise. Yet, what they didn’t know was that there was a problem in the camp. There was one in their midst who was causing a problem for the entire family of God.

May I say that things are still the same today? Folk, we are all members of one body, 1 Cor. 12:27. According to the Bible, 1 Cor. 12:26, when one member of the body has problems, the entire body has problems. You see, your spiritual temperature has a deep effect on the entire body of Christ. You are not an island unto yourself. What you do affects the entire church body. We will see this truth illustrated in this passage this morning.

My desire in preaching this message is that each of you would search your hearts and examine your life this morning. If there is anything in your life that you have hidden away, anything that you think is covered and gone, I want you to get that thing settled with the Lord before you leave this building. You can and this passage tells us how.

My friends, sin causes problems. It causes them for the sinner and for everyone else around them. The fact is, most of us are guilty of being like Achan from time to time. When we allow sin into our lives and when we try to hide our sins and try to cover it up, we bring pain and trouble into our lives. However, these verses tell us that God has a prescription for an Achan heart.


Verse 2-3 Israel Was A Confident People – As I said a moment ago, Israel was still basking in the glow of their victory at Jericho and they looked at Ai and felt like that little town would be no problem for such a great army. Israel was a confident people, but a closer look reveals that their confidence was misplaced. In verse 3, they feel like that just a few of the soldiers are needed to secure a victory in little Ai. These people are guilty of resting on their laurels.

(Ill. Israel did not realize it, but they were living through one of the most dangerous times of life. You see, the time just after a great spiritual victory is a dangerous time. Often, like Israel, we will be over confident and believe that we can handle any battle that comes our way, Pro. 16:18.

(Ill. Now, don’t misunderstand me. Confidence is a good thing as long as one’s confidence is in the right place. When we are walking with our hope and our confidence in the Lord, we will win the victory, but when we are walking with our confidence in the power of our ability and in our flesh, then we are destined to fail!)

Verse 4-5a Israel Was A Conquered People – When Israel went up to Ai in they suffered a terrible defeat and 36 of their number were killed. This must have been very devastating to the Israelites. However, when one takes the time to look more closely at their actions, it is easy to see that they made several mistakes. Mistakes that, I feel, many of us are guilty of making as well.

  1. Nowhere in this passage does it even hint that Joshua and the people of Israel sought the will of God for dealing with Ai. They didn’t even pray about the matter. If they had, God would have revealed the problem before people died. (Ill. How many times are we guilty of jumping ahead of the Lord and His will?
  2. They didn’t take the Ark of the Covenant into the battle. The Ark symbolized the presence and power of God. They went into the battle in their own strength and they failed! (Ill. Again, here is an area where we could all use help. We try to live the Christian life, fight the flesh and the devil in our own power and we fail time after time.
  3. Finally, Israel had their confidence in their own power and not in the Lord. They were not walking by faith, but they were guilty of trusting what they could do. (Ill. How many times have we suffered defeat at the hands of our enemy because we too believed we were able and that we could get the job done.

Verse 5b Israel Was A Confounded People – After their terrible defeat at the hands of Ai, the people of Israel are feeling the same fear that their enemies experienced, Josh. 2:9; 5:1; 6:1. You see, this is one of the problems with sin. It defeats you and leaves you feeling just like a lost man. Nothing is right in the life of a believer while there is sin in his midst!

(Ill. Israel didn’t know at this point what was wrong. All they knew was that they had just suffered their first defeat. Thankfully, God wants His people to have the victory, not the defeat. So, He takes the necessary steps to reveal to the nation of Israel just exactly where the problem lies.


Verse 6-9 Joshua Reacts In Prayer – After the tragedy happens, Joshua finds himself before the Lord in prayer. His prayer is from a broken heart, v. 6. Joshua wonders why Israel was powerless in the battle; the answer wasn’t to blame God, or to dispute His will. The answer was in their own camp!

(Ill. You see, when there is a lack of power in my life, the problem is not with God, nor is it with others, the problem is always with me! The same is true in the church. When there is defeat in the church and souls aren’t being saved and the services are dull and lifeless, we need not blame the Lord! He is doing His part. The problem is always a problem within! This will be dealt with in more detail later on.)

Verse 10-15 God Rehearses The Problem – While Joshua and Israel try to figure out what is happening, God in Heaven already knows and tells Joshua all about it. He tells him that there is sin in the camp of Israel! He tells Joshua that it is this sin that is hindering His power and it is what is bringing about their defeat. He tells Joshua how to discover the guilty party. In these words to Joshua, God gives us some insights into sin, of which we need to take note. Allow me to share with you these seven observations concerning sin and its effects in our lives.

  1. God knows about our sins – v. 11 (Pro. 15:3; Heb. 4:13)
  2. God hates our sins – v. 11 – (Pro. 6:16-19)
  3. God has a plan for our sins – v. 14-15 – (1 John 1:9; Psa. 32:5)
  4. God will punish our sins – v. 15 – (Gal. 6:9)
  5. Sin affects those around us – v. 11-12
  6. Sin hinders God’s work – v. 12 – (Matt. 13:58)
  7. Sin must be dealt with – v. 13 – Either you and I will deal with our sins, or God will deal with them. Either way, they will be handled! – (1 Cor. 11:31)

(Ill. Often, the greatest problems faced by the church come from within and not from without. You see, it’s not the water on the outside of the boat that causes the problem, it’s the water on the inside of the boat that causes trouble! The same is true for the church.


(Ill. In these verses, the wages of sin are put on clear display for all to see, Rom. 6:23.)

Verse 16-18 The Sinner Discovered – Ill. the process that God used to point out Achan. God knew who was guilty, why didn’t He just tell Joshua who they were looking for? In my opinion, He was giving Achan time to repent and to confess his sins. Be that as it may, the finger of God was getting closer and closer and finally landed on Achan.

(Ill. The lesson for us needs to be learned well! God already knows your sins and His finger is getting closer and closer to your life. One day soon, He will point out those things in your life that need to be revealed!

Verse 19-21 The Sin Discussed – (Now that the sin is out in the open it has to be dealt with. Notice the two aspects of this section.)

Verse 19 The Compassion – When Joshua speaks to Achan, he speaks with love in his heart. He knows that Achan is condemned, but Joshua still cares for this man who brought so much trouble to Israel.

(Ill. In this, Joshua is a picture of God. While God hates sin with His entire being, He still loves the sinner, John 3:16.

Verse 20-21 The Confession – In these two verses, Achan finally confesses his sin.

(Ill. Note the progression in Achan’s sin, v. 21. “I saw…I coveted…I took.” This is the same pattern that sin always follows. It was this way in the Garden of Eden, Gen. 3:1-6. It was this way when David sinned with Bathsheba, 2 Sam. 11:1-4. It is and will be this way in nearly any instance of sin you can name. Notice the progression that the Bible speaks of in James – James 1:13-15. You see it and it appeals to your flesh, you want it and you take it. Sin is always the same! Ill. Our reaction to sin should be just like that of Joseph, Gen. 39:12. We are commanded to flee youthful lusts, 2 Tim. 2:22.)

(Ill. Notice this: Achan had things buried in his tent that he could not use! To use them would be to reveal his character to the entire nation of Israel. In other words, Achan sinned and died for nothing! The things he stole were no good to him at all!)

Verse 22-26 The Sinner Destroyed – These verses give us the sad conclusion to this tragic tale. Achan and all that he had were taken out and stones to death by the people of Israel.

How To Make Your Walls Fall Down Flat | Study of Joshua

The Battle of Jericho

Joshua 6:1-21 Israel has finally crossed the Jordan. They have prepared themselves spiritually and they have, thus far, followed God’s orders to the letter. Now, they are ready to begin the conquest of the Promised Land. They are ready to claim for themselves the land that flowed with milk and honey. However, like most things in life that are worth having, it wouldn’t come cheap!

Now, just for a moment, try to put yourself into the shoes of the average Israelite soldier. For most of these men, Jericho was the first city they had ever seen that was surrounded by huge walls. It must have looked like and absolute impossibility to many. However, they listened to the instructions they were given by the Lord and they saw those massive walls fall down flat.

This morning, many in these services may question the fact that we are preaching from a book that is old and that is all about battles and wars. It is my opinion that the book of Joshua is very relevant to today’s Christians. Folk, we are living in days of battle and spiritual struggle. We need to know how to fight. We need to know that our God is able to give the victory. We need to know how to follow Him to that victory. Joshua teaches us those valuable lessons!

Just as Israel faced the formidable walls of Jericho, you and I face walls and obstacles in our lives as well. We need to know how to overcome them as we march towards the victory. This passage holds that answer for us today. Let’s watch Israel conquer Jericho and as we do, let’s let the Lord teach us How To Make Our Walls Fall Don Flat.


Ill. Jericho is known as the oldest city in the world, in Joshua’s day, it was surrounded by a system of two massive stone walls. The outer wall was 6 ft. thick and about 20 ft. high. The inner wall was about 12 ft. thick and was 30 ft. high. Between the walls was a guarded walkway about 15 ft. wide. Israel’s problem was that they had a city to conquer, but there were some extremely huge walls in the way.

As we go through life, we have obstacles that we face as well

We must learn not to look upon our obstacles as dead-ends, but as opportunities for the Lord to work in our lives!

(Ill. The great Apostle Paul had such an obstacle – 2 Cor. 12:7-10 – This attitude is foreign to us this morning. Yet, we must come to realize that the power of God is best revealed in and through us when we are unable to handle life. God is more clearly visible when we are totally out of the picture! In a sense, that is what He did with Israel here. As we will see, He completely removed them from the equation! The victory at Jericho was all God!)


As Joshua and all the men of war stood looking at those walls around that great city, God had a word of comfort for their hearts! Here, God promises Israel the victory before they ever attack Jericho!

He lets them know about the conclusion before they ever enter into their battle!

As we face our obstacles, whatever they may be we can do so with confidence, because we have the Lord’s promises as banners to march under:

1. We Have His Promise That Our Weapons Are Powerful Through God – 2 Cor. 10:4-5.

2. We Have His Promise That all things work together – Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17.

3. We Have His Promise That I can do all things– Phil. 4:13; Eph. 3:20.

4. We Have His Promise to be strong in the Lord and in the power – Eph. 6:10.

5. We Have His Promise that said thank be to God who gives us the victory – 1 Cor. 15:57.

6. We Have His Promise That He will never leave us alone – Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20.

7. We Have His Promise That we don’t have to be troubled because He has prepared a place for us – John 14:1-3.

As we face the walled cities in our lives, we need to learn to believe the Lord, to take Him at His Word and trust Him for our victories! (Rom. 4:21; 2 Cor. 1:20)

I. Israel Had A Problem

II. Israel Had A Promise


Ill. The context. Israel marched around the city in obedience to the Lord and they prevailed! (Ill. The absurdity of the command! Can you imagine how the people in Jericho must have reacted? They saw the armies of Israel approaching their city and they probably thought that they were about to be invaded by the enemy. Then, just as Israel came near the city, they turned and began to march around the walls. I can see those inside Jericho as they ran to see where the Israelites would mount their attack. However, instead of attacking, the soldiers, and the priests merely marched around the city one time. All that was heard was the sound of the ram’s horn trumpets and the pounding of the soldier’s feet upon the ground. This was repeated for 6 days. By this time, the people in Jericho were no doubt mocking and jeering the Israelites. Then on the seventh day, they compassed the city seven times. When they had finished that seventh lap, the priests gave a long blast on the trumpets and the people of Israel shouted with a great shout! It wasn’t the shout of an attacking army, it wasn’t a shout of fear, but it was a shout raised in praise to their God Who had promised them the victory. When the people shouted, the walls fell down flat and Israel ran into the city and utterly destroyed it. Theirs was a great victory!)

You ask why seven times? What’s the significance of seven?

Jacob serving seven years for a bride

Israelites are given over to Midian seven years

Samson’s wife weeping before him seven days

took Solomon seven years to build the temple

just man falleth seven times and riseth up again

seven men appointed to serve the people

In Revelation we find seven angels, seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven horns, seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven plagues, seven spirits, seven eyes, seven lamps, seven thunders, seven heads, seven crowns, seven mountains, seven kings

Seven “I Am”

6:35 I am the bread of life

8:12 I am the light of the world

10:9 I am the door

10:11 I am the good shepherd

11:25 I am the resurrection and the life

14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life

15:1 I am the true vine

Most of all there were The Seven Statements of Jesus from The Cross.

Are You Ready to Conquer Your Canaan | Joshua 5:1-13

The Lord of Host
The Lord of Host

Joshua 5:1-13

Intro: Verse 1 tells us that the heathen nations in Canaan saw the powerful manner in which the Lord brought His children through the Jordan and that they were totally demoralized by these events. It would seem that they were absolutely resigned to their fate. It would appear that this would be the perfect time for Joshua to lead the people forward into the attack. However, instead of commanding His people to go forward into the battle, God commands them to remain at Gilgal and to do several things that, on the surface, appear very strange. It even appears that the things they are required to do puts them at risk before their enemies.

While the ways of the Lord may appear strange to you and me, let me remind you that the ways of the Lord are not our ways, Isa. 55:8-9. You see, God never gets in a hurry! He has the liberty to take His time and do things on His schedule. While the things that happen in this chapter appear strange against the backdrop of impending battle, the truth of the matter is God is simply preparing His army to fight. He has them do some things that may appear odd when preparing for the battle, but may I remind you that God’s people are engaged in battles that go far deeper than the physical realm? In fact, before the battle ever begins in the physical realm, it had already begun in the spiritual realm. God’s battles are spiritual battles. If we expect to fight in these battles and do well, then we must make the right kind of spiritual preparations, 2 Cor. 10:3-5.

You see, we all have battle to fight, and if we expect to overcome and achieve the victory, then we must learn to make the right kind of spiritual preparations.

Israel appeared ready for the battle. They possessed a large army and they faced an enemy that was terrified at their presence. However, God knew that they would never be ready to fight and win the battle until the proper spiritual preparations had been made.

Let me ask you a question. Are you ready to conquer your Canaan? The answer? Only if you are willing to make the right spiritual preparations.

Are You Ready to Conquer Your Canaan?


The first command the Lord gives to Israel is that all the man are to be circumcised. It would seem that all the men who came out of Egypt were circumcised according to the demands of the Abrahamic covenant. They must renew the covenant with the Lord if they wanted His blessings on them and if they wanted to be guaranteed the victory.

The lesson for us is simply this, just as Israel was required to remove from their bodies a piece of flesh as a sign that they were a part of the covenant, so too, we must remove from our lives anything that stands between us and total surrender to the Lord. The Bible is clear that there are times when you and I must engage in spiritual surgery in our lives. (Ill. Col. 3:1-17; 2 Cor. 6:17.)

To the Jew, circumcision was a reminder that they were a “marked people.”

(Ill. Child of God, if you are saved, then you are supposed to live like you are saved!

Are You Ready to Conquer Your Canaan?


At this point, Israel is camped in the heart of enemy territory. After they have been circumcised, every male in the nation of Israel is temporarily disabled and is rendered unable to fight. It took great faith for them to submit to the rite of circumcision! They had to be willing to trust the Lord to protect them until they healed. They were literally sitting ducks for the enemy..

As we move through this life, we face times of testing just like these men in Israel did. They had just come from a great victory and often, that is the time when pride will rise up in us and we will think that we are unstoppable. When those times come in your life and mine, you can be sure that the Lord will allow us to go through a time of testing.

This spiritual truth is taught over and over again in the Word of God. When God’s people aren’t able to take care of themselves, their God is more than able. Note just a few instances where faith in a great God paid amazing dividends.

Noah was protected in the Ark while the rest of humanity perished – Gen. 6-9

Are You Ready to Conquer Your Canaan?


The term “reproach of Egypt” has reference to 2 events during Israel’s wilderness wanderings.

The first is found in Ex. 32:1-12 when the Children of Israel made a golden calf and worshiped it as God.

The other happened at Kadesh-Barnea when the children of Israel displayed unbelief and refused to enter into the Promised Land, Num 14:11-14.

On both occasions, the Lord threatened to destroy the nation of Israel and start fresh with Moses. And, both times Moses interceded with the Lord and reminded Him that He would give the Egyptians a reason to mock God. They would say that He brought them out of Egypt, but could not bring them to Canaan. However, now they are in the land and God has proven that He is well able to bring His people into their possession. Therefore, He tells them that He had rolled that reproach away! In other words, their past was no longer an issue. It was a new day!

In a sense, many of God’s children are still living under the “reproach of Egypt“. You may be living with the shame of things you did before you came to faith in Christ. You may be ashamed of times when you have failed the Lord since you were saved. Either way, you live under the constant stab of self-condemnation.

Are You Ready to Conquer Your Canaan?


In these verses, we find Israel once again keeping the feast of the Passover.

The Passover was a time for the Jews to remember the deliverance of the Lord!

Now that they are in the promised land, they are to celebrate the feast of the Passover. They are to remember the things God did for them in bringing them out of Egypt and in providing for them along the way.

What a lesson for the redeemed people of the Lord! When we face the battles of life, we must remember some of the great things the Lord has done for us in our pasts. We need to remember when:

Verse 11-12 Just as Israel needed to remember the Lord’s commitment to them, they also needed to remember their commitment to Him! You see, for 40 years they had eaten manna every day. However, when they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan, the manna ceased. Surely, Israel was glad that the manna was no more. Now, the Passover reminded Israel that God had brought them out of Egypt, but the manna was constant reminded of what they had left behind in Egypt, Ex. 16:3. You see, it was easy for God to bring His people out of Egypt, but it was hard for God to get Egypt out of His people.

(Ill. Far too many Christians are just like the Israelites. That is, they have an appetite for the things of the world just like Israel did for the things of Egypt.

Are You Ready to Conquer Your Canaan?


The final step in getting ready to conquer your Canaan in learning who is in control. One day, as Joshua was looking over the city of Jericho, he saw a man standing with a drawn sword. Joshua boldly asked the man to identify himself and to state which side he was on! When the man responded, He said that He was the Captain of the Lord’s Host. He told Joshua that He did not come to take sides, but to take over! That is, He was in control of the Lord’s armies in Heaven and in the earth. He told Joshua that He was in charge. General Joshua had just met the Commander in Chief! Joshua’s response is to fall down before Him and to worship Him. This is an indication that Joshua is submitting to the will of the Lord and that he knows Who is in control. You see, before you can have the victory, you must be vanquished. Before you can conquer, you must first be conquered! We must do what Joshua did right here. That is, we must lay down our swords at the feet of the Captain of the Lord’s host.

THE CRY OF LONELINESS | Christian Book Review

Christian Book StoresThe fourth word that Jesus uttered was a word of anguish of loneliness addressed to the Father. It is found in Matthew 27:46 – “At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’”

Max Lucado gives the following account in his book titled No Wonder They Call Him Savior.

“The summer of 1980 in Miami was nothing to smile about. The Florida heat scorched the city during the day and baked it at night. Riots, lootings, and racial tension threatened to snap the frayed emotions of the people. Everything soared: unemployment, inflation, the crime rate, and especially the thermometer. Somewhere in the midst of it all, a Miami Herald reporter captured a story that left the entire Gold Coast breathless.

It was the story of Judith Bucknell. Attractive, young, successful, and dead.

Judith Bucknell was homicide number 106 that year. She was killed on a steamy June 9th evening. Age: 38. Weight: 109 pounds. Stabbed seven times. Strangled.

She kept a diary. Had she not kept this diary perhaps the memory of her would have been buried with her body. But the diary exists; a painful epitaph to a lonely life. The correspondent made this comment about her writings: ‘In her diaries, Judy created a character and a voice. The character is herself, wistful, struggling, weary; the voice is yearning. Judith Bucknell has failed to connect; age 38, many lovers, much love offered, none returned.’

Her struggles weren’t unusual. She worried about getting old, getting fat, getting married, getting pregnant, and getting by. She lived in stylish Coconut Grove (Coconut Grove is where you live if you are lonely but act happy).

Get this book Here…….10% off

Judy was the paragon of the confused human being. Half of her life was fantasy, half was nightmare. Successful as a secretary, but a loser at love. Her diary was replete with entries such as the following:

‘Where are the men with the flowers and champagne and music? Where are the men who call and ask for a genuine, actual date? Where are the men who would like to share more than my bed, my booze, my food. . . . I would like to have in my life, once before I pass through my life, the kind of sexual relationship which is part of a loving relationship.’

She never did.

Judy was not a prostitute. She was not on drugs or on welfare. She never went to jail. She was not a social outcast. She was respectable. She jogged. She hosted parties. She wore designer clothes and had an apartment that overlooked the bay. And she was very lonely.

‘I see people together and I’m so jealous I want to throw up.
What about me! What about me!’

Though surrounded by people, she was on an island. Though she had many acquaintances, she had few friends. Though she had many lovers (fifty-nine in fifty-six months), she had little love.

‘Who is going to love Judy Bucknell?’ the diary continues. ‘I feel so old. Unloved. Unwanted. Abandoned. Used up. I want to cry and sleep forever.’

A clear message came from her aching words. Though her body died on June 9th from the wounds of a knife, her heart had died long before. . . from loneliness.

‘I’m alone,’ she wrote, ‘and I want to share something with somebody.’”

The anguish of loneliness.

It is experienced by the abandoned child. The person who is divorced. The person in the nursing home. Maybe you experience it in the empty home. The empty mailbox. The long days. The longer nights. A one-night stand. A forgotten birthday. No personal emails – just junk and business.

Maybe you have been spared this cruel cry. Oh, you have been homesick or upset a time or two. But despair? Far from it. Suicide? Of course not. Be thankful that it hasn’t knocked at your door … yet. Pray that it never will.

But for many, loneliness is a way of life. The sleepless nights. The lonely bed. The distrust. The fear of tomorrow. The unending hurt. When did it begin? In your childhood? At the divorce? At retirement? At the cemetery? When the kids left home?

Maybe you, like Judy Bucknell, have fooled everyone. No one knows that you are lonely. On the outside you are packaged perfectly. Your smile is quick. Your job is stable. Your clothes are sharp. Your calendar is full. Your talk impressive. But when you look in the mirror, you don’t fool yourself.

Or maybe you don’t try to hide it. Maybe you have always been outside the circle looking in, and everyone knows it. Your conversation is a bit awkward. Your companionship is seldom requested. Your clothes are dull. Your looks are common. Ziggy is your hero and Charlie Brown is your mentor.

Am I striking a chord? If I am, if you sighed in understanding, I have an important message for you. The most gut-wrenching cry of loneliness in history came not from a homicide victim or a prisoner or a widow or a patient. It came from a cross on a hill, from Jesus.

“My God, my God!” he cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?”

Never have words carried so much hurt. Never has anyone been so lonely.

Leviticus 16 is a passage of the Law of Atonement. It describes God’s Law to the Israelites of how to make an offering and sacrifice for the sins of the people. Remember, this is before Jesus comes to be our final sacrifice. It is complicated and ugly. In vs. 21 and 22, after much blood has been shed of animals in sacrifice, a live goat is taken. The high priest lays his hands upon the live goat and confesses the sins of all the people of Israel and transfers them to the head of the live goat. It is then sent away into the wilderness alone with all the sin upon itself. It is alone. It cannot be among the people. It is forsaken. It is cursed by God. The people would be
relieved. God would be appeased.

The temporary sacrifices described in Leviticus 16 are only a shadow of what was to come in Jesus. Hebrews teaches us that these sacrifices could not remove sins. They were only a lesson of what was to come – a lesson of our great need for forgiveness that Jesus alone provides.

Hebrews 10:1-4 – “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Hebrews 7:26-28 – “He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins. The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever.”

And because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, we have this result.

Hebrews 10:19-25– “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one
another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Because of the blood of Jesus – we can come boldly into the presence of God … in relationship. We are not alone. And we are commanded to be together as the body and not neglect that – not to live life alone but together.

We will never have to experience the greatest loneliness – eternal separation from God. But Jesus did. On the cross, a moment came when he was overwhelmed by the loneliness, being forsaken by the Father with whom he had experienced eternal closeness. He was separated from him. But for you and I he willingly endured this. He took all of our sin upon himself and God had to forsake him. He was the true, the only, the final sacrifice for our sin. He seemed to be able to take so much. He took the betrayal without complaint. He endured the trials 3without defending himself. He took so much beating and physical torture before he even came to the cross and was silent. He carried his own instrument of cruel death without complaint. He was crucified and still expressed his concern and care for others. But then something happened that he could not be silent about.

I want to go back to how Max Lucado describes this moment. “And now on Skull’s hill, the sinbearer is again 4191512_largealone. Every lie ever told, every object ever coveted, every promise ever broken is on his shoulders. He is sin. God turns away. The despair is darker than the sky. It is more than Jesus can take. He withstood the beatings and remained strong at the mock trials. He watched in silence as those he loved ran away. He did not retaliate when the insults were hurled nor did he scream when the nails pierced his wrists. But when God turned his head, that was more than he could handle.

‘My God!’

The wail rises from parched lips. The holy heart is broken. The sinbearer screams as he wanders in the cosmic wasteland. Out of the silent sky come the words screamed by all who walk in the desert of loneliness.

‘Why? Why have you forsaken me?’

Why did Jesus do it? Oh, I know, I know. I have heard the official answers. ‘To gratify the law.’ ‘To fulfill prophecy.’ And these answers are right. They are. But there is something more here. Something very compassionate. Something yearning. Something personal. What is it?

I may be wrong, but I keep thinking of the diary. ‘I feel abandoned,’ she wrote. ‘Who is going to love Judith Bucknell?’ And I keep thinking of the parents of the dead child. Or the friend at the hospital bedside. Or the elderly in the nursing home. Or the orphans. Or the cancer ward. I keep thinking of all the people who cast despairing eyes toward the dark heavens and cry, ‘Why?’

And I imagine him. I imagine him listening. I imagine him holding out his nail-pierced hands showing that he who also was once alone, understands.”

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