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“And the Lord said to Joshua…You shall march around the city…This you shall do for six days. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times……all the people shall shout with a great shout then the wall of the city will fall flat.”  Joshua 6: 4,5

“And he said to the people…..You shall not shout or make or make any noise with your voice, not shall a word proceed out of your mouth until the day I say to you shout!”  Joshua 6:10

There are two famous sayings by two people who are prized for their wisdom in these modern times.  First, reportedly Albert Einstein said:  “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” (I say reportedly because there is quite a bit of discussion about whether or not Einstein actually said this or not).  Second, Thomas Edison is reported to have said: “I have not failed, I have found 1000 ways that don’t work.” (Again some renditions are 5,000 or even 10,000 attempts until he was able to finally invent the light bulb).

So which one is correct?  Which one describes how I am to be?  I do what seems to be the same thing again and again, hoping for success but it doesn’t seem to come; am I not insane to keep trying?  But what if I’m giving up too soon?  Would I be now typing in the dark or at best by candlelight if Edison had stopped at number 500?  For Benjamin Franklin said:  “Energy and persistence conquer all things”

Imagine you’re one of the Israelites.  You have just come from the wilderness.  The older generation, the one that first left Egypt has passed away before coming to the promised land.  Why? They wouldn’t obey God.  But you’ve heard about God.  You’ve also heard about Joshua.  He was Moses right hand man.  So now you’ve come into the promised land; the land dripping with milk and honey, the land that God has sworn to give to you and what stands before you?  A huge obstacle.  A mighty fortress city whose walls are six to eight feet thick and they have several layers of walls.  You can’t settle in the promised land with that fortress blocking your way.

Now back to Joshua.  Moses has died and been buried.  That means Joshua is in charge.  Joshua will have a plan.  Yes Joshua! Let’s hear your plan.  Right! We’re going to storm the city; right?  We’re going to lay siege to the city for months and starve them, right?

March?  March around the city?  March around the city and then sneak attack, right?  March around the city as a diversion while some sneak over the walls, then we attack; right?  Go home? Go Home!!!!  We march around the city and then come back to camp?????

But this is Joshua; so you can imagine the first day; people are probably completely behind him.  “If Joshua says go; WE GO!” shout the Israelites; except they can’t shout or make a sound around the city.  Tromp, tromp, tromp, go all the people.  “Are they looking down on us from the walls?” some think.  “Bet their quaking in their sandals !”, others think.  Then back to camp.  “Well that was different!”, some think to themselves. But this is Joshua; he knows what he’s doing.

Day two:  Now we attack, right?  They’re in trouble now, right?  March? Again? Silently?  Are you sure; Joshua?  But hey this is Joshua, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Day three – six:  What?!?!?! March Again!?!?!?!  Did Joshua get hit on the head???? This is crazy!!!!???? Can’t we get Moses back or someone else?  Same thing day after day is nuts!!!!  I can imagine these could have been thoughts that some would have had following Joshua; especially with our society’s demand for instant action.

Day seven:  Let me guess; we get to March!!!!!  Oh and seven times around today; Oh JOY!!!!  But today is not the same and there is another difference besides the number of times they go around the city.  At the end of the seventh time, Joshua will give a signal.  Mighty horns will blast and all the people will shout as loud as they can.  Imagine the dismay inside and outside the city; as the walls came crashing down.

One can imagine that on day three through six some thought that what they were doing was insane.  They could not see how the marching around was making any impact.  In the book of Joshua, chapter 6, there is no indication that Joshua told the entire plan to the people ahead of time.  Might there have been some frustration?  Might there have been a feeling like we’re just wasting time?  I feel like I’m hitting my head against the wall (or at least wish I were because then I’d be doing something). And if there was not any grumbling or complaining the reason there was not is they knew they were not executing Joshua’s plan.  They were executing God’s plan.

You and I have been praying.  Maybe we have felt a calling.  Maybe we feel that we have been told that we’re heading for a “promised land” but today seems frustratingly just like yesterday and the day before.  We think we’re going insane because we’re doing the same thing and praying for a different outcome.  The first, days, months, years, maybe even more; we had that sense of persistence.  We say to ourselves:  “Well it may have been 300 days but that just brings us one day closer!”  But we’re tired.  The world wants us to quit.  If we don’t quit, the world calls us crazy.

If it’s our plan alone, our family’s plan, our boss’s plan, any human plan; maybe we need to rethink.  So we pray in the Name of Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit will reveal to us whether the calling is God’s or our own.  If it be Our Heavenly Father’s, dear brothers and sisters, be patient, be persistent, know that you and I are not crazy.  We are led.  We are chosen.  We are blessed.  And we are Loved by the Creator of the Universe; the omnipotent and omniscient God.  Through Him, we will destroy all walls the world puts in our path.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we admit we live in a world that wants instant answers, immediate return for our actions.  Yet You have shown us again and again how faithful patience and persistence will lead us along the path that You have chosen for us as well as to the destination You have in store.  Please pour out Your Strength upon us so that we can resist the temptation to turn from Your Plan to go after our own.  Through the Holy Spirit, give us peace in our souls to rely upon You and You only.  That in our persistence and patience, we will live lives of praise to Your Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“But the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him”  1Samuel 16:7

“So the last will be first and the first last”  Matthew 20:16

Practically all of us have been there.  The quintessential example is the playground or school recess sporting game.  There is a group around and normally two people, captains of some sort, get to pick who is on their teams.  And the agony for those to be chosen begins. Though sometimes the situation may not be so immediate but still very personal.  You may be waiting for the phone call that says you got the job or the new position.  The email that says yes I want to meet with you.  It is that basic of human desires; to be wanted for something; to not be the left over, someone has to take him or her person.

Yet, especially in the story of the anointing of David by Samuel, there is also a story that sometimes gets overlooked.  The story of the chooser and how he (and we) make our decisions.  Because by the very nature of the process; there are more choosies than there are choosers.  With that angst that those waiting to be chosen go through, the assumption is that the ones doing the choosing have the easy, stress free part of the process.  After all they’ve already been picked haven’t they?

So why is Samuel at first so reluctant to go see Jesse, the family from which the new king would be chosen.  Well he feared for his life for one thing.  You see, Samuel had chosen before, at least from the human perspective.  God had told Samuel that he would meet Saul and would anoint him as the first king of the Israelite people.  Samuel did as God commanded but because Saul strayed from God’s instruction through Samuel, Saul’s reign did not turn out so good.  And Samuel now believed if Saul found out that he was going to find a new king, that Saul would have him killed.  Secondly, Saul did not turn out to be a successful choice.  Now Samuel was at it again.  He was finding it difficult to put his heart into this second search for a king having experienced the failure of the first choice.

Samuel acquiesces to God’s command and goes to see Jesse, whom God has revealed has a son who will be the next king.  Saul was described as the handsomest man in all of Israel and also significantly taller than any other man.  So using that as starting point, it was natural that when Samuel was introduced to Jesse’s first son, Eliab, who was tall and very handsome, that Samuel again thought: “this must be the one.”  Yet God in effect tells Samuel:  “been there, done that and it didn’t work”.  For God tells Samuel to not trust his eyes to determine who should be chosen.  God wants this king to be successful.  For that success to happen, it will not be based on the external, what the eye can see; but on the internal, what the heart can feel.  Left to his own wisdom, his own measurements upon which to make his choice; Samuel would have chosen wrongly. Thank God for His intervention.

Fast forward to today.  You and I make choices about people all the time.  It may not be about who will be a king but, nevertheless, they can have amazing and/or devastating consequences.   Some choices are momentous:  Who am I going to date or marry? Who am I going to hire or promote?  Some seem more trivial:  Who am I going to eat lunch with? Whose phone call do I return first or at all.  Yet again understand, all of these decisions have consequences.  In the bestselling book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, he describes how we, often unconsciously as well as almost instantaneously, make snap decisions using things like a person’s height  and overall attractiveness; their ethnicity, color of their hair, the pitch of their voice; all outward characteristics that tell us little or nothing about their heart within.  One of the saddest aspects to this is we tend to use characteristics which the person has little to no control over versus things like their character; their capacity to love; internal things which will make the greatest difference.

I am most certain I would have chosen Eliab.  Also, I doubt I would have chosen the same path as the landowner in Jesus’ parable as told to us in Matthew.  Who promises all the same reward although some seem to have been with Him longer than others.  So when I am the chooser, what am I to do?  To be the fairest, the wisest, the chooser with the greatest chance of success; I must do as Samuel did; and listen to God.  Ergo first, I must go to God in prayer.  I/we must ask God to help us to overcome our worldly processes of choosing and ask for His perfect guidance, understanding that He has a plan in play in our choices.  I/we must think beyond how easy our choice will make things for us versus how much overall good will our choice outcome be to those who are chosen.  We must put aside our beliefs in our own wisdom; our own ability to play God and turn to the one who is the One True God to lead us.  It is then and only then will we find the confidence to say this one and not that one; yes to you but no to you and know that we are doing this in the love and trust of the One whose choices are always perfect.  The One who chose His Only Begotten Son, to come to our earthly existence and to give His life for our transgressions.  The One who has chosen Mercy and Forgiveness over Judgement and Separation.  I’m fairly certain, I would not have chosen so wisely.  Thank God that He did and does.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing us.  We know, Dear Father, that we are also faced with making choices about others each day.  Give us the wisdom, Everlasting Father, to turn to You first for Your counsel and Your wisdom.  Through the Holy Spirit, give us Your Eyes to see as You do, into the heart and not primarily the physical.  Grant that we would make our decisions in concert with Your Plan and Your Will, not relying on ourselves.  That the choices that we make would be a testimony to our love, worship and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen

“So David restrained his servants with these words and did not allow them to rise against Saul.”  Samuel 24:7

“So they answered and said before the king: ‘That Daniel, who is one of the captives of Judah does not show due regard for you……..but makes his petitions three times a day’.”  Daniel 6:13

“Then Mary said to the angel: ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  Luke 1:34

Three people.  Three people in vastly different times and circumstances.  Three people, in vastly different times and circumstances, but each facing the very real possibility of impending death.  Three people to whom the world would shout:  “Stop You Fool!  If you continue you will be destroyed”.

David was the enemy of the King Saul of Israel.  David had done nothing wrong.  In fact David had won great victories for Saul and had always shown great loyalty to Saul.  However, that did not keep Saul from becoming extremely jealous of David.  The people were shouting praises to David louder than their praises for Saul.  Saul could not stand that, nor allow it to continue.  David must die.  David ran, Saul pursued.  Then it seemed that God had delivered Saul into David’s hands; at least that is what David’s men thought.  For Saul had entered a cave by himself where David and his men were hiding.  It would have been so easy to sneak up and kill Saul, which is exactly what David’s men wanted him to do.  I’m sure they thought David a fool and perhaps themselves fools for following him we he wouldn’t do it.  But Saul was not a king raised up by himself or the people.  Saul had been anointed king by God’s prophet Samuel.  And who God had anointed to be king, David could not destroy.  So he kept hiding, only cutting off a corner of Saul’s robe, while he lie resting, to show that David was no threat to Saul.

Daniel was in trouble.  His enemies, again jealous of his success had made a plot against him.  They tricked the king into making a decree that no one could pray or petition any other god but him for thirty days.  These men knew Daniel and how devout Daniel was to God Almighty.  He would not disobey or act unfaithful to his heavenly King at the orders of an earthly king.  The world would scream: “it’s only 30 days, you can go that long without praying!”  Daniel knew from whence his strength came and knelt in his room, with the doors closed and prayed to God.  He was still discovered and now was to be tossed into a den of hungry lions.

Mary had a choice to make.  She was already engaged.  Engaged to a good man.  The man had a skill, knew a trade.  He would be able to provide for her.  Yet here was an angel saying that she was to become pregnant before ever marrying the man.  And here was the dilemma, you see she would not be able to hide the pregnancy from him.  Her fiance would or at least should suspect that she had been unfaithful.  The punishment in her day was far, far different than how the world looks at that behavior today.  Mary was facing complete and utter banishment at the very least, and quite probably death by stoning.  The world would cry out: “Don’t be a fool, tell the angel, he has the wrong woman!  Find another!”  Mary responds: “let it be according to your word.”

Three people.  In the world’s eyes, three fools.  The world would say that they each needed to have their head examined.  And based on that examination the world would say that there behavior was self destructive and that each was delusional.  The world would have them committed to an institution for their own good.  The world would seem right.  Truth would be though, the world would be completely and utterly wrong.

Destroyed?  Hardly, for in sparing Saul and being faithful to God, David would not only survive but end up being the greatest earthly king Israel was to ever have.  Daniel would survive the lions den when an angel came and shut the big cats mouths.  When the king saw Daniel’s miraculous survival, he ordered Daniel’s accusers cast into the lions den along with their families where they all perished.  Not only that but the king decreed that all his kingdom should honor and live in fear of Almighty God.  Finally, we know that Mary was not banished or killed.  Joseph is told that Mary has not been unfaithful to him with another man and is carrying the Savior of the World.  Mary will be revered as the most blessed woman ever.

The world gives a lot of advice.  Stores are filled with self help books, tapes and videos.  If we are to believe them; they know exactly what we should be doing, thinking and saying, as well as those things we should avoid.  Put our money here, get this degree there, use this vitamin supplement now, wear these clothes for success and this exercise machine will effortlessly make you look fabulous.  Faith in a higher power?  Admitting that I am broken, a sinner in need of a savior?  Follow an obscure person who lived long ago and lasted barely three years?  Sounds foolish to the world.

When we look in the mirror, we can see David or Daniel or Mary looking back at us.  We know that we are being called by God Almighty to do amazing things.  We are ordinary people with whom God wants to accomplish extraordinary things.  The world tells us; don’t do it.   The world advises us to turn Him down.  Following God will only make us look foolish when we inevitably fail.  Thank God we have His resource; the bible.  The bible, where we can see countless times where it is the wisdom of the world that becomes foolish and fools are the ones who follow it.  It is the ones who, through faith, overcome the failure of earthly foolishness to succeed through God’s wisdom.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, the world cries out against You and against Your followers.  The world tells us we are fools to follow You and we will be destroyed.  Give us Your strength, Most Merciful Father, to stand up to the world’s foolishness and faithfully follow where you would have us go.  In that living a life of triumph, through Your blessings, we might truly praise Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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