The Ascension Of Christ: April 28th 2021

Joshua 13:1-14:15

Joshua was now incredibly old. He had wandered around in the desert for forty years under Moses’ leadership before he was finally allowed to lead the Israelites into the promised land. God pointed out that there were still large areas of land to be taken over (v.1). The Israelites had not yet faced one of their toughest adversaries – the Philistines. God said that he himself would drive out another tribe, the Sidonians (v.6) on behalf of the Israelites.

The captured land was all fairly divided among the tribes of Israel. The Levites, from whom the priests came, did not receive an allocation of farmland to pass down their generations. God was their inheritance (v.32). They were given ‘towns to live in, with pasture-lands for their flocks and herds’ (14:4).

Caleb had been one of the original twelve spies forty-five years ago sent into the promised land and had set his heart on living in Hebron. Moses had sworn to Caleb that this area would be his inheritance. It is wonderful that Caleb, at the age of eighty-five, still had his middle-aged ambition to conquer Hebron and he had kept his mind and body fit to achieve his dream: ‘I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then’ (v.11). Even though it was populated by giants, the Anakites, living in large and fortified cities he was confident that with the Lord helping him: ‘I will drive them out just as he said’ (v.12). He demanded that his inheritance should be delivered to him: ‘Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day’ (v.12). This shows we should never give up chasing our Godly dreams. With God’s help, we can do anything. We can finish our lives still full of character and strength and power. We should never retire from the work of God. There is always more territory to wrestle from the enemy. With God on our side, who can stand against us?

Joshua was true to Moses’ word. He blessed Caleb and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. Caleb had been a tremendously faithful assistant to both Moses and Joshua. With a small army of Calebs, imagine what good we could do in the world. Hebron has belonged to his descendants ever since ‘because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly’ (v.14). It is no good being wishy-washy lukewarm followers of the Lord. God wants dynamic, wholehearted followers who always put his righteous ways at the top of their agenda.

Luke 24:36-53

Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you’ (v.36). We can only find true peace when we know that Jesus is present in our heart as our Lord and guide.

The disciples were able to physically touch Jesus. He was fully alive even though he could mysteriously appear and disappear and still bore the marks of his crucifixion. He had flesh and bones and ate ‘a piece of broiled fish’ (v.42). Interestingly, Jesus said: ‘A ghost does not have flesh and bones’. He did not say, ‘There is no such thing as ghosts’. So we have Jesus himself confirming what humans have long experienced. Spirits of deceased people can occasionally haunt people and locations. Not only are there ghosts, Fortea (p.89) states that ‘the souls of the condemned can possess someone in exactly the same way as a demon’. They insist that they are deceased human beings even when commanded, in the name of Jesus, to tell the truth.

Jesus confirmed that he was written about in the Old Testament in ‘the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’ (v.44). He opened the minds of the disciples so that ‘they could understand the scriptures’ (v.45). Every day, we should pray to God, before our Bible study, for him to open our minds and teach us the deeper meaning of the Word of God.

The disciples must preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations, starting in Jerusalem (v.47). They were instructed to stay in the city until they received the Holy Spirit: ‘until you have been clothed with power from on high (v.49). Once we have been baptized and have prayed for the Holy Spirit to give us a full measure of all of his gifts, pressed down, shaken and overflowing in our lives, we can demonstrate this same power from on high.

Jesus ascended into heaven near Bethany. He was taken up into heaven while he was blessing his disciples. ‘They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy’ (v.52). The disciples obediently remained in the city, praising God continually at the temple. They had witnessed awesome sites and soon it would be time for them to be empowered to spread the gospel to the rest of the world, willingly suffering persecution and death to share the message of salvation with us all.

Psalm 52:1-9

It is not wise to boast of evil. We should guard what comes out of our mouths: ‘Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?’ Boasting is not necessary. We should give God all the glory for the great things he has done in our life.

Our tongue is the most powerful organ in our body and can be used for good or deceitful evil, ‘Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor’ (v.2).

Many people these days ‘love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth’ (v.3).

God will bring deceitful, wealthy boasters to ruin, particularly those who grow strong at the expense of others.

If we trust in God’s unfailing love, we will flourish like a fruitful olive tree. Instead of boasting of ‘our own’ achievements, we should praise God ‘for ever for what you have done’ (v.9). We place our hope in the very good name of Jesus; the name that is above all other names. I praise Jesus, in the presence of his saints, for his life, teaching, death and resurrection. Thanks be to God.

Image: Sharon Mollerus, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Resurrection / The Road to Emmaus: April 27th 2021

Joshua 11:1-12:24

All the Northern kings came together to fight the invading Israelites. They joined forces at Merom (v.5).

God told Joshua not to be afraid because, by the next day, they would all be handed over to Israel, slain (v.6). Joshua was instructed to burn their chariots and hamstring their horses after their defeat. This meant cutting the large tendon on the back of the horses’ knees, which made them unusable for warfare. Sounds horrible but this is a fight for survival. This may have been a test from God because horses and chariots would have been very useful when invading the promised land. Perhaps, the Israelites had no experience of chariot warfare or God still wanted them to walk into battle, completely dependent on him.

Joshua obeyed God completely and none of his enemies survived. ‘He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots’ (v.9). God hardened the hearts of the enemies of Israel to keep waging war against Israel so that they might be eliminated completely (v.20). Only the sneaky Gibeonites had managed to make a peace treaty through their subterfuge. Joshua wiped out the enemies of God as Jesus wiped out the demons that he encountered. Both sets of enemies would have quaked at their names. Joshua means exactly the same as the name Jesus: ‘the Lord saves’. Joshua worked with God to conquer all the Israelites’ enemies during the time that he led them. Jesus conquered all of humankind’s past, present and future enemies through his death on the cross.

Joshua destroyed the race of giants from the hill country, the Anakites (v.21). The Anakites were descendants of the mysterious Nephilim. The Nephilim may have been genetically engineered as part of a demonic plan. It has long been debated as to whether demons can have sex with people. Traditionally, a ‘male’ demon, an incubus, develops an obsession with a young woman and oppresses her, visiting her in the night to rape her and jealously attacking any male human who tries to have a relationship with her (see the book of Tobit). Meanwhile, the ‘female’ equivalent, the succubus, visits men at night to have sex with them. Demons can’t create new life / eggs or sperm themselves so what is the point? Many people think this was the first attempt at IVF and that the incubus and succubus are the same creature and can morph from one to another. The ‘female’ succubus harvests sperm from men, the sperm then has it’s DNA manipulated before it is used to inseminate a human woman, by the same demon changing into an incubus. The result is a human woman becoming pregnant with demonically manipulated sperm. The resultant child has strange powers and is loyal to and controlled by the fallen angels. These progeny were of great height and strength – the Nephilim. This is why God wanted them wiped out as they were demon-worshipping abominations. They were present both before and after the flood, because the demons simply engineered more of them after the first generation were drowned.

‘Joshua took the whole land’. ‘Then the land had rest from war’ (v.23).

Luke 24:1-35

The women visited the tomb on the first day of the week (our Sunday) to anoint Jesus’ body. This is why Christians rest and worship on Sunday (and not on the Old Testament Sabbath / Saturday). The stone was rolled away from the tomb and the body had gone. Two angels ‘in clothes that gleamed like lightning’ (v.4) reminded the shocked women that Jesus had said he would rise on the third day.

‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ (v.5). Jesus had achieved the greatest ever victory over the devil when his death on the cross wiped out our sin, making us righteous before God and opening the gates of heaven so we may have eternal life. Now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he had been raised from the dead and death had been defeated forever.

The apostles did not believe them. Not because they were women but ‘because their words seemed to them like nonsense’ (v.11). Here we can clearly see that James is not Jesus’s actual brother. Mary, the mother of James in verse 10 is ‘Mary of Clopas’. Mary was an extremely common name. Mary, the Mother of Jesus / God, remained a virgin for her entire life. She had been dedicated to the temple as a vocational virgin at a very young age. Being a virgin was her job.

It was wonderful that Peter, the human leader of the church, should be so excited by the women’s reports that he alone got up and ran to the tomb (v.12). He saw the strips of linen lying by themselves – which may, according to legend, be still with us today as the Turin shroud. Jesus’ image was burnt onto them by intense UV as he was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘The only known explanation for the formation of the image is an intense burst of vacuum ultraviolet radiation (equivalent to the output of 14,000 excimer lasers) emitted from every three-dimensional point of the body in the Shroud’ https://www.simplycatholic.com/shroud-of-turin-evidence-of-jesus-resurrection/.

Jesus joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus but ‘they were kept from recognising him’ (v.16). God can prevent people from recognising Jesus and his works and he can also harden people’s hearts so they choose not to come to him. This is a mystery. If we have not been given the gift of faith we should pray to receive it after first making a decision to ‘believe’ the gospel. Belief comes first and then we tell people about it – stepping out in faith. Then our faith will grow. ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.’ The spirit of unbelief is rife at the moment. Look at how people have denied Covid. We should bind this spirit, in the name of Jesus, and pray that our ugly, hardened, unbelieving heart can transfigure into a beautiful, childlike, trusting one. ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).

The two disciples were treated to the greatest scripture lesson of all time as Jesus, ‘explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself’ (v.27). It caused their hearts to burn within them as he ‘opened the scriptures to them’ (v.32). We should get just as excited at reading our Bibles on a daily basis as the word of God cuts into our life like a double-edged sword. I got so excited recently when I realised that Jesus himself frequently appeared in the Old Testament (these appearances are called Christophanies). Jesus not only created Adam and Eve in his image, giving them life by breathing into Adam’s nostrils, he loved to spend time with them and walk with them in the cool of the evening. He lovingly clothed them with garments of skin after their fall. The first animals to die in Eden had to shed their blood to cover man’s sins. Now, with his own death, Jesus restored Adam and Eve back to their right relationship with God by washing away their sin with his precious blood.

The Emmaus disciples still did not recognise Jesus until ‘he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them’ (v.30). They got up and rushed back to tell the disciples. When we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we encounter Jesus in the breaking of bread. We should rush to tell others when we have finally recognised Jesus and our eyes have been opened.

Psalm 51:10-19

This is King David’s penitential prayer after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. David was truly penitent for this terrible sins. He acknowledged his iniquity and so still qualified as a man who pleased God. We too can be forgiven, no matter what sins we have committed, if we humbly renounce them and repent.

We should pray that God should purify our heart and renew our spirit (v.10). By praying in tongues on a daily basis, the Holy Spirit will edify us. He will build us up, strengthen us and make us steadfast (resolutely firm and unwavering).

It would be disastrous if God were to cast us from our presence or take his Holy Spirit from us. God can restore to us the joy of his salvation and will sustain us, through our willing spirit (v.12). When we visit a Pentecostal church we can witness to the joy of salvation. It is fitting for us to praise God joyfully ever day of our lives.

In return for all that God has done for us, we need to teach people who do not yet know him his ways. Sinners will turn back to him (v.13). Our songs will sing of his righteousness because Jesus bought our salvation, he paid for our guilt, through the sacrifice of his perfect and holy blood.

When we pray in the Spirit, we can more effectively declare our praise for God. God is close to the broken hearted. He sometimes lets our spirit become broken, humble and contrite so that we will turn to him and become stronger and more effective at being his witnesses throughout society. God works for the good for all that love him.

Image: National Library of Wales, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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