• Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book Review: “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom

    “You are my hiding place and my shield;
        I hope in your word. “

    Psalm 119:114 (NRSV)

    In choosing which book to review for our theme “Trusting God when He’s silent”,  The Hiding Place  seemed the ideal choice for me.  

    The Hiding Place was written in 1971 by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. It is Corrie’s personal memoir of her life growing up in Holland and her family’s involvement in helping persecuted Jews find refuge from the tyranny of the Nazis, who had occupied her country during the Second World War.

    Corrie’s personal account of trusting and relying on God through the horror of the Nazi occupation, as well as the brutality and despair of imprisonment and a German concentration camp, is a true reflection of the power of God to shine a light in even the darkest places of human suffering. It is a testimony that God is with us in the silence and does not fail us nor forsake us. 

    The plot of The Hiding Place

    Cornelia, otherwise known as Corrie, begins her true account in January 1937 in Haarlem, Holland, in the childhood home she shares with her sister Betsie and their elderly father, Casper.  The mood is festive, as the family watchmaking business is celebrating its 100th birthday. The entire village is participating in the festivities that will take place in the little in-house watch shop.  

    The birthday party takes a rather somber turn however, when Corrie’s brother Willem brings a Jewish man, who has recently fled from Germany after being attacked on a street corner in Munich.

    Corrie continues her narration by reminiscing on past incidents she had experienced while growing up in the narrow house that the family nicknamed the Beje.  One such memory she shares is of her trepidation of her first day of school. Understanding her fears, her father read aloud Psalm 119, where God provides a hiding place for His children (Psalm 119:114).  

    Corrie and her sister Betsie reach adulthood and lead a quiet but happy life as spinsters in their childhood home under the loving guidance of their father. The daily routine of the three occupants of the Beje provide them with the same comfort as the familiar ticking of the many clocks that surround them. However, their tranquil regularity is forever disturbed when the Nazis invade Holland in May 1940.  

    Life in occupied Holland takes on a sinister turn. However, the most alarming element of the Nazi occupation is the persecution of the Jews. After witnessing the Nazis ransacking a Jewish shop across from the Beje, the ten Booms begin to offer persecuted Jews asylum in their home, until they can be safely re-located to the countryside.   

    Thus, begins the family’s involvement in the Underground movement, an illegal resistance network system that helps Jews escape the tyranny of Nazi persecution.   Corrie becomes the head of the Beje branch.  

    However, on February 28th 1944, the ten Boom’s participation in the Underground movement comes to an abrupt end. Exposed as national traitors, the family faces extreme peril at the hands of the Gestapo.

    As they enter the darkest chapter of their lives, the ten Booms need to rely on the goodness of God and seek refuge in the spiritual hiding place He offers them.

    The meaning behind the title The Hiding Place

    Casper ten Boom’s reading of Psalm 119 provides an eloquent introduction to the meaning behind the title of this epic book. God is our spiritual hiding place, our refuge in times of trouble.

    Corrie is confronted with this during her time in a German concentration camp, in particular through her sister Betsie, who always chooses to keep her eyes on God, regardless of how appalling their circumstances are.

    Additionally, the hiding place refers to the safe house of the Beje that the ten Booms create for persecuted Jews; in particular, the secret room they use to hide their jewish contemporaries in during Gestapo raids.

    My reaction to reading The Hiding Place

    This book is admittedly a somber read, but it entails important information that every Christian, or anyone seeking Christ, should be aware of. 

    We live in a world that is just as broken and unjust as the Nazi occupied Holland described in this true account. Acts that transgress the decency of humanity occur unfortunately every day.  

    The Hiding Place is a necessary reminder that God is at work even in the darkest of situations, though we may not see it. He is with us as we fight the things that threaten to hurt us; He will never fail us nor forsake us.  

    However, on our part, we need to believe that God can make a way where we see no way. We need to put our faith and trust in Him and keep our eyes on Him, and not on our circumstances. We too, can take refuge in God as our own hiding place. By doing so, we can experience hope and encouragement under even the worst circumstances.  

    This book also encourages us to show compassion for those who seek to hurt and destroy us, especially when they do not know the love and mercy of Christ. Knowing that we cannot reach this level of love on our own, The Hiding Place describes how God meets us where we are; He bring us to a place of peace and ultimately, forgiveness – the latter of which is a constant theme of this book.  

    While reading The Hiding Place, your faith is tested – how can God have allowed such travesties to occur? And yet it shows such wondrous examples of God’s love for His children.  If you didn’t believe in signs, wonders, and miracles before reading this book, you will by the time you turn the last page. 

    Would l recommend The Hiding Place?

    I would highly recommend The Hiding Place for anyone, who is struggling with adversity and feels like God is not hearing their pleading and their prayers. This book will assure you that not only does God hear you, He is right there with you in your situation and is guiding you through it. 

    Put your faith and trust in God, and let Him be your refuge – your hiding place – while He works everything out for your good. 

    Where can l purchase The Hiding Place?

    You can purchase The Hiding Place through Amazon.com,  Goodreads, Christianbook.com, or inquire at your local book store. 

    What else has Corrie ten Boom written?

    Corrie ten Boom has written several faith-inspiring books such as Tramp for the Lord , In my Father’s House,  and  Marching Orders for the End Battle: Getting Ready for Christ’s Return

    I have also read Defeated Enemies, which l particularly enjoyed and can highly recommend. 

    Where can l learn more about Corrie ten Boom and her family?

    It is possible to visit the ten Boom house in the Netherlands, which has been transformed into a museum. For more information on guided tours, visit the museum’s website at Corre ten Boom House

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Partnering with God to live a victorious life

    Part Two: Living God’s Word – Applying Joshua 6 to everyday life 

    Last week, we finished an extended Part One of our Bible commentary on Joshua 6. We discovered how the Israelites penetrated the impregnable walls of the city of Jericho and thereby took over the city from the hands of their enemies, the Canaanites (Joshua 6: 20).

    Although they were outmatched in military experience and weaponry, the Israelites had an ace up their sleeves that assured them victory before the battle had even begun – the blessings and favor of God.

    The Israelites knew that God had promised them the land of Canaan as part of their inheritance. However, they also knew that the land was occupied by their enemies, who owned the land. In order to come into the fulfillment of the plans that God had laid out for them, they needed to trust God, obey, have faith, and praise Him before they saw victory.

    Now that we have studied Joshua 6, let us explore how we can take the lessons of this phenomenal Bible chapter and apply them to live a victorious life full of faith, praise, and fellowship with God.

    Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

    See with the eyes of faith

    “For we walk by faith, not by sight”

    2 Corinthians 5:7

    Before the Israelites approached the formidable walls of Jericho, the Bible states that Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, was by the city (Joshua 5:13).

    Looking over the arid plains to the formidable fortress walls of Jericho, one wonders what Joshua was thinking. For to the human eyes, Jericho could not be compromised – especially not by a nation of former slaves with no military experience and inferior resources.

    However, God encouraged Joshua to look at his situation with eyes of faith. He himself came to speak to Joshua – what is known as a theophany – who proclaimed that Jericho had already been given into the Israelite’s hands (Joshua 5:13-15, Joshua 6:2).

    By God’s spirit, the walls of Jericho would fall down, but Joshua not only had to believe it for himself, he had to convince the entire Israeli nation to believe it too. They had to see the walls of Jericho flattened to the ground by faith, before they saw it with their human eyes.

    This is exactly what happened:

    “By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.”

    Hebrews 11:30

    As a modern translation of this principle, living a victorious Christian life not only means to have faith that God exists and that He loves us. It also means that we need to believe that God can make all things work out for our good – especially when the odds look like they are against us. We need to see with eyes of faith.

    God does not think like the world does. He is not bound by the expectations of society, nor is He motivated by likes on Instagram or thumbs ups on Facebook. God always has the final say in our lives – not people, not bad breaks, and not adversity.

    So, the next time you face a difficult situation, don’t worry about how it’s going to work out. Don’t spend sleepless nights trying to figure out a solution. Like God promised the Israelites a favorable outcome with Jericho, so He is promising you a favorable outcome to your dilemma. However, you need to accept that promise and believe it will come to pass – you need to see with eyes of faith.

    The power of the believer’s weapons

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

    2 Corinthians 10:4

    The battle the Israelites faced as they stood in front of the walls of Jericho was not a physical one. If so, they would have failed dismally in penetrating the impregnable walls of the fortress city. They were former slaves, who had spent the last 40 years wandering the desert; their lack of military expertise would have cost them their lives at the hands of the Canaanites, who were seasoned warriors and armed to the teeth in weaponry.

    No, this battle against the Canaanites was a spiritual one. Therefore, in order to incur a spiritual victory, the Israelites had to engage in spiritual warfare.

    The warfare we face today is also spiritual: sickness, financial struggles, marital discord, just to name a few.

    They are brought on by an enemy – the devil – who wants to see us live a life of defeat and misery.

    “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

    John 10:10

    However, God wants us to live a victorious life, full of joy and fulfilment. Look at the second part of this Bible verse:

    “I came that they may have life,  and have it abundantly.”

    John 10:10

    God provided the Israelites with spiritual weapons to fight, and we can use these same weapons to live out the blessings and promises that God puts in our hearts.

    Let’s explore what these weapons are and how we can wield them:

    Faith

    We talked in the previous section about seeing with eyes of faith. Joshua and the Israelites acted in faith by following God’s plan to walk around the walls of Jericho for 7 days.

    As a further step to seeing, God wants us to step out in faith. This means that we follow a course of action with the belief that God is going to make things right, even if we aren’t sure how the end is actually going to pan out.

    Instead of fretting and plotting our own course through the landmine of troubles in your life, hand over your situation to God today. God is faithful: If you reflect on past problems, did they not all work out in the end? That was not the result of luck or coincidence – that was the favor of God in your life.

    Therefore, put your faith in Him again – if He’s helped you once, He will do it again!

    Courage

    Often in life, situations arise that can daunt us. People can say things that can make us feel threatened or afraid. The pain of past experiences makes us fearful of stepping out of our comfort zones.

    As they walked around the walls of Jericho, the Israelites had to gather their courage. They had a prime view of the defense fortifications of the walls, including a 28 ft stone tower. The Canaanite giants were kitted out in weapons and were probably within distance to launch offensives from the safety of the parapets. However, the Israelites just kept on marching, because they knew that God had their back.

    When faced with adversity, we too need to confront the problem with courage and confidence that God is with us. He will not allow us to face a difficult situation on our own. In fact, He goes with us.

    One particular Bible verse that gives me courage is Deuteronomy 31:6:

    “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”

    Obedience

    Listening to God and fulfilling His instructions is not always an easy thing to do for us. God has given us free will, and as humans we are accustomed to being in charge of making our own decisions in our everyday lives.

    However, God is omnipresent: He can see situations from multiple perspectives simultaneously and is not hindered by space or time. So, when He asks us for example, to wait, or to not follow a certain path, He is only doing it out of  concern for us.

    Obeying God doesn’t always mean it makes sense to us.

    The Israelites didn’t likely understand why they had to walk around for 6 days around the walls of Jericho – in silence. However, they did it. When God told them to shout on the 7th day, well they did that too. And what happened? The walls of Jericho came tumbling down!

    God knows what is best for us. So, the next time God asks you to do something and you don’t understand the point of it, just remember that He is asking you to trust Him. Put your human reasoning behind you and just try obeying Him. You will be amazed at how things turn out bigger and better than you thought they could ever be!

    Endurance

    Do you know the excitement you feel, when you start a new project or even a new diet? You’re full of enthusiasm and can almost reach out and grab that positive future picture you have of yourself.

    However, as time goes on, the project ends up consuming all of your free time, and the lack of significant progress frustrates you. Eating green salads for every meal becomes monotonous; you start fantasizing about eating carbs again. You begin to doubt whether you have what it takes to keep going to realize your goals.

    Can you imagine how the Israelites felt walking around the formidable walls of Jericho for 7 days, especially when it didn’t make any sense to them? I wonder if some of them got up on day 4 and thought, “Do l really have to spend my day walking around those blasted walls, getting jeered at by my enemies, who are obviously stronger and bigger than us? I mean, what’s the point? Everyone knows the walls can’t be breached.”

    And yet, the Israelites continued to get up every day for 7 days and walked around the walls of Jericho. They endured through their adversity and their endurance paid off.

    What would have happened if the Israelites had stopped walking on day 6? They would never have known that their victory was waiting for them the next day.

    Be like the Israelites: Keep on persisting when you don’t see a change in your situation, keep on enduring when you feel like giving up. You never know, you might be on day 6 of your own walk. Endure through it and walk into day 7, where your breakthrough is waiting for you!

    Praise

    This particular weapon is something that God has been especially putting on my heart this year.  He has been teaching me the importance of praising Him before l see a breakthrough in my convalescence with depression and burnout. Why? Because He wants me to remember that He is greater than illness, or any problem on this earth, for that matter.

    ”Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

    1 John 4.4

    After 6 days of walking in silence, God asked the Israelites to give one almighty shout on the 7th day, as they stood positioned in front of the walls of Jericho. So, as the low bellowing sound of a single ram’s horn reverberated throughout the Israelite formation, the children of God raised their voices in praise – and the walls of Jericho fell down.

    By praising God during the midst of your current strife, you’re showing Him that your focus is on Him and not on your problem. It tells Him that you trust Him to make a way for you where you see no way. It shows God your faith.

    There are other situations in the Bible where people praised God before they saw a breakthrough in their situation.

    In 2 Chronicles 20:22, the combined armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir turned on each other, when King Jehoshaphat of Judah appointed singers to praise and worship God.

    In Acts 16:25-32, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in prison. In response, God brought about an earthquake that shook the foundations of their confinement, released captives from their chains, and brought a Philippian jailor to Christ.


    If you too are looking for a breakthrough, l can only recommend that you lift your hearts, voices, and hands and praise the Lord, the One who makes all things possible and that no spirit, might, or power can stand against!

    I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
        I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
     I will be glad and exult in you;
        I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

    Psalm 9:1-2

    Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

    Tear down strongholds

    “Now Jericho was shut up inside and out because of the Israelites; no one came out and no one went in.”

    Joshua 6:1

    When the Canaanites first discovered that an attempt was being made to besiege them, they shut themselves in – physically and spiritually.

    Firstly, they positioned themselves behind a physical stronghold – the fortified walls of Jericho – so that the Israelites could not compromise their position.

    Secondly, they set up a spiritual stronghold of pride in their hearts, refusing to repent for their idolatry and adamantly refusing to accept Yahweh as their one true God.

    So, what exactly is a spiritual stronghold and how does it apply to us today?

    A stronghold can mean two things. It can be a fortified place to take refuge in whilst under duress. In  Psalm 27:1, David makes us aware of the importance of making God the stronghold of our lives in times of adversity:

    The Lord is my light and my salvation;
        whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
        of whom shall I be afraid?”

    However, a spiritual stronghold can also be a mindset, philosophy, or opinion that goes against the knowledge of God.

    As we mentioned earlier in our section on seeing with eyes of faith, the warfare we wage today is spiritual. And although we have an enemy who wants to see us live a life of defeat and fear, we can’t always give him the blame for everything that goes wrong in our lives. There are times when our mindsets, more explicitly, our thinking or belief systems, can also cause problems in our lives.

    So, how can our mindsets cause us problems?

    First of all, strongholds find their origins in pride. We are all prone to it.

    Furthermore, we can make life difficult for ourselves when we prioritize the things of this world over God’s values. This includes pursuing materialism, giving too much importance to our appearance, or even seeking to further ourselves instead of helping others.

    As long as we continue to follow such thought patterns, we are erecting spiritual strongholds in our mind that prevent the truth of God to come in.

    Paul accentuates the need to tear down such strongholds and make ourselves obedient to the will of Christ in 2 Corinthians.

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

    2 Corinthians 10:4-5

    Therefore, in order to be able to hear God more clearly and fulfil His wonderful plans for your life, try looking inside yourself today: See where there are any mindsets that you are insisting on pursuing that go against God’s Word. 

    Photo by Micheile Henderson @micheile010 // Visual Stories [nl] on Unsplash

    Seek God’s voice in the silence

     “Be still, and know that I am God!
        I am exalted among the nations,
        I am exalted in the earth.”

    Psalm 46:10

    The world we live in is a busy one. As soon as the alarm goes off, it is a race to get out the door, pack the kids in the car for the school run and rush off to work for that first meeting. When we try to put aside time to spend with God, we get distracted by our phones or by the nagging mental to-do list that we need to work through.

    As a consequence, God’s voice gets drowned out through the noise and hectic of our lives.

    The Scriptures say that the voice of God is small and still. Elijah the prophet experienced this firsthand (1 Kings 19:12 (KJV)).

    Therefore, in order to hear God, we need to find a quiet moment of the day and slow our minds down in order to receive His Word.

    “For God alone my soul waits in silence,
        for my hope is from him.”

    Psalm 62:5

    The Israelites knew the importance of seeking God’s presence in the silence. While they marched around the walls of Jericho, they literally didn’t say a word – not even the children in tow.

    Instead, they used that time of marching to keep they eyes on God, listen to the trumpet fanfare that represented His voice, and seek His presence.

    So, how can we develop our own cone of silence to hear God’s voice?

    Set aside time in the day for God

    God time is also known as “quiet time”. Therefore, block out a specific amount of time in the day to spend with God and guard that time preciously. During this time, put your phone away, disconnect the house phone and encourage a quiet atmosphere around you.

    Let other people in your household know that this is your time with God and that they should not bother you during it. You can also encourage the entire family to use that time for their own “quiet time” – even the children. Everyone can go to their own designated area of the house and develop that routine of spending time with God.

    Alternately, you could get up 30 minutes before the rest of your family does, or have your “quiet time” after everyone goes to bed.

    Create a peaceful space

    In order to promote a feeling of stillness and quiet, make your space peaceful and tranquil. That could mean setting up some big cushions on the floor or lighting a few candles. Make your designated space a haven that you look forward to going to every day to be with God.

    Prepare yourself for God’s voice

    Get yourself mentally prepared to hear God’s voice by playing some worship music. Also, read some verses from your Bible.

    By doing this, you slowly lay aside the hectic of the day and prepare yourself mentally and spiritually to receive God’s voice.

    Pray

    Prayer is communicating with God. For me personally, l talk to God like l would to my own biological father – simply and directly.

    l always start my time with God by expressing my gratitude to Him for all the good things He has done for me that day or that week. Following that, l praise God for the many ways He is good – His mercy, His grace, His understanding of my weaknesses, to name a few.

    “Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
        and his courts with praise.
        Give thanks to him, bless his name.”

    Psalm 100:4

    Write down what God tells you

    Have a pen and a journal on hand and write down what God speaks to you about.

    How do you know when God speaks to you? It’s like a sudden idea that pops into your head, or a spontaneous flow of thoughts. They are great, encouraging, and beyond what you would have thought of on your own.

    Read back regularly what you have written down and most importantly, act upon it! These are in part the plans and promises that God has blessed you with. He wants you to live them out!

    Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

    Give God your first fruits – the importance of tithing

    “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”

    1 Chronicles 29:14

    In ancient times, God proclaimed laws to the Israelites through Moses. These decrees became known as the Mosaic Law.

    These decrees were designed to give God’s children revelation of who He was, how to worship and honor Him, and live in a manner that was pleasing to Him. However, the laws had also been written to protect them and set them apart from other nations.

    One of these laws was the law of tithing. According to the Old Testament, God required His people to set aside the choicest agricultural produce of the new harvest – the “first fruits”.  

    Why the first fruits of the harvest?

    Gold or other forms of currency were not given as offerings, as it was about giving God the first and best of the agricultural fruit from the promised land of Canaan, the inheritance given by God to the Canaanites.  

    “The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.”

    Exodus 34:26

    The amount of their produce that the Israelites were required to set aside for tithing purposes was 10%.

    “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.”

    Deuteronomy 14:22 (NIV)

    In fact, the word “tithe” derives from an Old English word to mean “a tenth”.

    Is tithing still relevant today?

    There is dispute amongst Christians today, as to whether tithing is still relevant according to the covenant of the New Testament.

    However, Jesus states the following:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”

    Matthew 5:17-18

    The New Testament doesn’t command us to tithe, as was the case in the Old Testament. Instead, we are encouraged to be “cheerful givers”.

    “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

    2 Corinthians 9:7

    Tithing for us today is done with our finances – we are no longer required to offer animal sacrifices and many of us don’t earn our living through agriculture.

    Giving a financial offering is an act of gratitude towards God – a thank you for all He has done for us. The more we grow in our faith walk, the more we want to show God our appreciation for His salvation, His provision, His mercy, and His grace.

    With increased revelation of God, tithing becomes less of a duty and takes on a quality of joy. You honestly become happy at the prospect of giving back a part of what belongs to God in the first place.

    For me personally, l know that everything l have in my life – my home, my loving husband,  my little one-eared pussycat, the food that l eat and the clothes that l wear – are through the grace of God. By tithing, l show Him how much His love and provision mean to me.

    One reason people tend to tithe is because they believe God will bless them over and abundantly for their sacrifice.

    I personally believe that God does honor our offerings:

    “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”

    Malachi 3:10

    This promise of abundance is repeated in the New Testament:

    “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

    Luke 6:38

    That being said, l believe that tithing is best approached from a position of gratitude and not entitlement (Luke 18:9-14). Tithe because you love God and you want to show Him that – not because you want something in return from Him.

    How much do l tithe?

    This is a good question. As we have already established, under the Mosaic Law, the amount of offering was pre-determined at 10%

    However, since we have a new covenant with Jesus, the New Testament does not specify an amount. Instead, we are encouraged to give with our whole heart.

    “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    Matthew 6:21

    What does this mean? Whether we give 10% or any other amount, is not so important as showing God our heart to honor Him.

    Consider the following Bible verse, where Jesus watched people tithing:

    “He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

    Mark 12:41-44

    Although the poor widow tithed less than her wealthier contemporaries, her sacrifice cost her more to make, as it was literally the only money she had. And yet, she gave it all to God.

    Now, no one is saying you must give your entire next month’s paycheck as a tithe. But if you do, seek God in prayer and then do it with a heart of love for Him. The same goes for any amount of money you offer. Remember it’s not about the amount, it’s about the heart.

    My former pastor used to say about tithing, “Give an amount that hurts a little to part with.” I have remembered these words of advice every time l tithe, because it is that point of discomfort, like the widow experienced, that makes my financial gift a worthy sacrifice to God.

    To whom do l tithe?

    I think it’s good to give your tithe to your church. After all, it is the place that gives you spiritual nourishment, and it’s where you have experienced good fellowship.

    Churches need funds to keep running. The flyers and pamphlets they give out, the communion bread and wine (or sometimes it’s grape juice!), the cleaning of the church and the monthly electricity bill all need to be paid for.

    Tithing to your church does require trust, as you don’t have a direct say in how the funds are being used. However, as a giver, your commitment is to honor God. The church’s commitment is to use the funds you give in a responsible fashion to promote the spreading of God’s Word.

    Therefore, give your tithe to your church in faith. If you want to give financially to an additional ministry, then you can always make the decision to make another offering in that direction.

    If you haven’t yet found a church, then l suggest you give your tithe to a ministry that is dedicated to bringing others to a knowledge of Christ.

    Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

    Partner-up with God

    “God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    1 Corinthinans 1:9

    When Jesus chose His son to be the bearer of our sins, it was so that we would enjoy eternal fellowship with Him.

    God performs many good works, but He chooses to perform them through us. So, in order to do that, He needs us to partner-up with Him.

    God’s military plan to bring down the walls of Jericho was contingent upon the willingness of the Israelites to carry out His instructions. He didn’t need them to show the surrounding nations His might and power; nevertheless He wanted His children to be the vessels through which the enemies of God would bow down in awe and acceptance of Him.

    Also, God doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves during times of trouble. Just as He helped the Israelites with His favor, so God helps us today, if we call on Him for help.

    God offers you a partnership – it’s up to you whether you take it or not.

    God has great plans for your life, and He also has great plans that He needs people to carry out for Him here on earth – but He won’t force you to live all these out if you don’t want to.

    That being said, if you have the chance to live a more fulfilled life than what you are living at the moment, if you have the opportunity to be a source of hope and encouragement to others who are suffering, wouldn’t you want to partner-up with the One, who can make all that possible?

    Partnering with God is like being one half of a ballroom dance couple – one person needs to take the lead. In order to live a life of victory and fulfillment as a Christian, let God lead you as you dance through life together. Seek Him in prayer, listen to what He tells you, and put that guidance into action.

    I assure you, if you work together with God from today, He will open doors that no man can shut and make your future paths direct and straight.

    In order to partner-up with God fully, we need to surrender ourselves to Him. Let us discuss this in our last section.

    Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

    Accept Jesus’ gift of salvation

    “Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

    Romans 10:9-10

    Being a Christian is more than going to church or praying. It is more than trying to live a moral life and giving regular donations to the poor. All those things are important, but these things aren’t what make us Christians.

    God isn’t religion – He is a relationship.

    This relationship is made possible through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross of Calvary. Before His crucifixion, we were all condemned to be eternally separated from God, as we as humans are sinful and God cannot be near sin.

    However, Jesus willingly came to earth and died for our sins.

    “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    2 Corinthians 5:21

    Jesus’ blood that was spilled was the ransom He paid for our transgressions – past, present, and future. It is this gift of salvation that enables us to enter into a relationship with God.

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

    John 3:16

    Here’s another verse that further proclaims this:

    “And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.”

    1 John 4:14

    God wants to be in a relationship with you today. He loves you and considers you His precious child.

    In order to enter into this relationship, all you need to do is accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.

    There is no complicated ritual involved: All you need to do is ask God out loud for forgiveness of your sins, acknowledge Him as your Savior, and ask Him to enter into your heart.

    “God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

    God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”

    1 John 4:15-16

    In order to make it easier for you, l have prepared a prayer that you can speak over yourself; it includes the necessities you need to declare in order to be saved.

    What is important, is that you speak these words with faith, for it is by grace that you are saved, not by works.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—  not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    Ephesians 2:8-9

    If you have been unsure for a while, whether you want to give God a chance, make the decision for Him today. I promise you, your life will change so much for the better!

    By being in a relationship with God, you will experience peace, know joy, and have revelation over your life in ways you never can imagine. Most importantly, you will know what it truly feels like to be unconditionally loved.

    Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

    This concludes Part Two of our Bible Study on Joshua 6 – Living God’s Word.

    If you have been enjoying the series so far, we hope that you can join us for our upcoming third and final part of our Bible study – Studying God’s Word.

    Until then, l wish you peace, joy, and an abundance of God’s blessings.

    Sources:

    bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)” 

    enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho” 

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

    ligonier.org, „Why Did God Command the Children of Israel to Kill Every Man, Woman, and Child in the Promised Land?”

    biblehub.com, „1 Kings 16:34“

    churchofjesuschrist.org, „Joshua 1-24”

    answersingenesis.org, “The Walls of Jericho”

    focusmagazine.org, „Devoted Things”

    compellingtruth.org, „Why did God give the Mosaic Law? What is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?“

    rccg.org, „First fruit offering“

    biblestudytools.com, „First fruits“

    openbible.info, „Tithe In The New Testament”

    compellingtruth.org, “What does the Bible say about spiritual strongholds?”

    gotquestions.org, “Spiritual strongholds – what is the biblical view?”

    christianity.com, “What Is a Tithe? – Meaning and Importance of Tithing in the Bible”

    biblestudytools.com, „Tithing in the Bible“

    ryanhart.org, “27 Inspiring Bible Verses About Tithing and Offerings”

    crosswalk.com, “Tithing in the Bible – Is Tithing for the New Testament Believer?”

    gospelweb.net, “Partnership with God”

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part 1.3: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6

    Victory, first fruits, judgement, and salvation –  The occupation of Jericho



    Part 1.3: Understanding God’s Word – Bible commentary on Joshua 6

    Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 6:21-27)

    In our previous instalment of our Bible study on Joshua 6, we learned that the Israelites were preparing to launch at attack on the fortified city of Jericho in Canaan. God had assured them victory at this first point of their three-part military plan to conquer the land (Joshua 6:2), whose occupation God had promised to them as their inheritance (Genesis 5:18-21).

     And yet to the human eye, the odds were severely stacked against the Israelite’s favor. Not only was Jericho considered impregnable, but the Canaanites were experienced warriors with an expanse of military resources at their disposal. The Israelites were former slaves, with no military experience, who had been wandering the desert for 40 years.

    However, God makes a way, where there is no way. He had a plan to thwart the military expertise and reinforcements of the Canaanites. However, in order to realize this plan, the Israelites were to obey God, trust Him, have faith, and praise Him with a great shout at the imposing walls of Jericho, before their victory was even realized.

    All this they did and as God promised, the walls of Jericho fell, and they were able to charge into the city and capture it (Joshua 6:5).

    “By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.”

    Hebrews 11.30 (NRSV)

    However, although victorious, the Israelites still had work to do in Jericho, if they were to maintain their strategic advantage and take the land God had promised them from the hands of their enemies.

    God exacts His judgement on Jericho

    What the Israelites did after taking over Jericho was in accordance to the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 13:12-18:

    „If you hear it said about one of the towns that the Lord your God is giving you to live in,  that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known,  then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you, you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword.  All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.  Do not let anything devoted to destruction stick to your hand, so that the Lord may turn from his fierce anger and show you compassion, and in his compassion multiply you, as he swore to your ancestors,  if you obey the voice of the Lord your God by keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.

    The Mosaic Law had been provided to the Israelites by God to give them revelation of who He was, how to worship and honor Him, and live in a manner that was pleasing to Him. However, it had also been written to protect them and set them apart from other nations.

    God wanted the law to teach His people and others that He was mighty, holy, and to be feared. For that reason, there were ironclad decrees in place for anyone or anything that violated the holiness of God and the sanctity of His ways.

    This was especially the case for anyone or anything that had been set aside as being “devoted”. Devoted has two meanings: The ancient Hebrew noun cherem translates devoted as a “devoted thing” – a pleasing offering to God. The verb charam on the other hand, means “devoted to destruction”, God’s judgement.

    Because the Canaanites had indulged in wicked practices and had refused to devote (cherem) themselves to God, He declared them to be devoted (charam) to divine judgement. Canaan was God’s property to do with according to His will. God had made His decision and Jericho, with its inhabitants, buildings, and resources was doomed for destruction.

    Let’s us look at the ways that God instructed the Israelites to carry out his divine judgement on the Canaanites – the devoted.

    God commanded the Israelites to destroy every living creature in Jericho

    Prior to causing the walls of Jericho to fall down, God specifically instructed the Israelites to destroy every living thing that lived within the refuge of the fortress city walls in His name.

    “The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.”

    Joshua 6:17 

    Why would a God, who is supposed to be merciful, demand that the Israelites execute His death sentence on the people of Canaan?

    If you notice in the above verse, the word “devoted” is expressed. God had a reason for hardening His heart towards the welfare of the Canaanites.

    God punished the Canaanites for their spiritual disobedience

    The slaughtering of the inhabitants of Jericho admittedly raises some challenging issues for Christians and non-Christians alike.

    The fact is, God cannot be in the presence of sinners. And the Canaanites were sinners, who kept idols and followed practices such as child sacrifices and sacred prostitution that were an abomination to God. Hence, God exacted a punishment for their spiritual disobedience. And this meant death.

    As we mentioned earlier, the Mosaic Law had specific instructions for any violation of the Holiness of God. Observe the following decrees:

    “No human beings who have been devoted to destruction can be ransomed; they shall be put to death.”

    Leviticus 27:29

    Exodus 22:20 provides further confirmation of this:

    “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction.”

    The presence of the Canaanites also posed to spiritually sully the Israelite’s faith. The Israelite’s were God’s chosen people – His children. Thus, in order to sanctify them and maintain their spiritual virtue, God needed to eradicate the Canaanite threat. Hence, he made them devoted (charam).

    Burn the city and curse it

    God demanded that the Israelites burn the city. This was to not only ascertain the complete destruction of the city, but to also offer a burnt sacrifice (charam) to God.

    “All of its spoil you shall gather into its public square; then burn the town and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall remain a perpetual ruin, never to be rebuilt.”

    Deuteronomy 13:16

    Furthermore, Jericho wasn’t supposed to re-built (Joshua 6:26): On God’s instructions, Joshua laid a curse on any man who tried to re-build the city.  Hence, a spiritual cleansing was necessary to prevent revenants from returning and resurrecting the city – which actually  happened when Hiel the Bethelite attempted to resurrect Jericho, most likely under the patronage of King Ahab (1 Kings 16:34).

    The Israelites were to stay away from the property of the Canaanites

    God specifically instructed the Israelites to keep their hands off any idols or any other objects that God had declared as accursed (Joshua 6:18). They were devoted artefacts and were meant to be destroyed. God knew that having such objects in their possession would taint the purity of the Israelites.

    Additionally, according to the Law, God would turn His anger upon anyone who violated this specific request: They in turn would be devoted.

    This is exactly what happened.

    Following the victory at Jericho, 3000 Israelites were sent to attack the city of Ai. However, they were forced to retreat by the inferior numbers of the men of Ai, who slaughtered 36 Israelites in the process (Joshua 1:5).

    It was an unnecessary loss, but one that occurred because one of the Israelites Achan had stolen a devoted object during the destruction of Jericho. By this act, he had caused God to remove His compassion and instead, incur His judgement (Joshua 7:11-13).

    Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

    Was it necessary for God to incur such merciless wrath on Jericho?

    It is true that the fate of the Canaanites at Jericho was harsh, but there were unique times in the Bible when God did this, for example with He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23-25).

    Moreover, the Canaanites were not only shut-in physically behind the city walls, their hearts were closed to God. Not at any point did the Canaanites consider surrendering to the Israelites, nor did they sound a parley. There weren’t even any deserters.

    In fact, the Canaanites were well prepared for a siege. The attack on the city took place around harvest time (Joshua 3:15) and within the walls was a spring to provide water for the inhabitants. There was no way that they were going to budge.

    If the Canaanites had repented, there may have been a chance that God could have spared their lives. After all, He spared those of Rahab and her family (Joshua 6:23). God always offers each of us a chance to enter into a relationship with Him – but it is up to us to take it.

    God didn’t want the Canaanites to become a future threat to the Israelites

    Whereas we have a limited perspective of our lives, God’s perspective supersedes ours. And He knew that if the Israelites didn’t clean up the city of Jericho when they claimed it, then the threat was real that any Canaanites could return to challenge their conquest of Canaan. This actually happened, as the Israelites spared the lives of a minority of the Canaanites, thinking that they might prove useful as servants.

    Instead of focusing on the wrath of God in this situation, it is important to remember that God is indeed good. Remember that He sacrificed His one and only son, in order that we may know Salvation and enjoy a loving relationship with God for all eternity. The biblical accounts that declare His love, mercy, and grace far outnumber God’s acts of judgement.

    Additionally, God offers to save anyone who comes to Him and repent (Romans 10:13). Only one person in the entire city of Jericho was prepared to open her heart for God – the prostitute Rahab.

    Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

    Rahab’s salvation paves the way for our own redemption

    Just as God commanded that the Israelites destroy Jericho in its entirety, so He also reminded them to honor their promise to Rahab and spare her life and the lives of her family (Joshua 6:17).

    Rahab had faithfully followed the instructions of the two Israelites by binding a scarlet cord to the window of her house. When the Israelites entered the city to kill the inhabitants, the cord at the window was a sign for them to spare the inhabitants of the people who were inside.

    Rahab’s house was built against the north side of the city wall, so there is postulation as to whether that part of the wall remained intact or if the wall somehow fell outwards.  Scientists claim that the entire wall construction consisted of an inner and an outer stone retaining wall, with Rahab’s house being part of a mud wall that had been constructed on top of the outer wall.

    Whatever the case may be, Rahab and her family survived the fall of the wall and the Israelites brought them out of the city and set them outside their camp. They were saved not only by Rahab’s kindness, but by her faith.

    “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.”

    Hebrews 11:31

    Rahab’s salvation and ultimate survival had a more consequential effect on the Israeli nation than anyone at the time could ever have imagined. Rahab secured the line of David when she married Salmon and had a son Boaz, who was David’s grandfather. Jesus was born out of David’s genealogy, which is why He is sometimes referred to as “the son of David”. 

    Therefore, Rahab’s salvation made it possible for us to know redemption from our sins through Jesus.

    The importance of giving God your first fruits

    Earlier in this Bible study, we discussed the difference between cherem and charam – the devoted things.

    Whereas the Canaanites had been set aside as charam – to be destroyed – God required that the treasures of Jericho be devoted to him as cherem – a pleasing offering. This offering was called the first fruits. Hence, the Israelites had to set aside all the gold, silver, and iron and bronze vessels and dedicate them to God’s treasury.

    “But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”

    Joshua 6:19

    This decree of offering first fruits is established again in the Book of Leviticus:

    Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.”

    Leviticus 23:10

    So, where does the term “first fruits” actually come from?

    It derives from providing God with the choicest agricultural produce that your harvest brought in. It was about giving God the first and best of your blessings, as everything was created by Him and belongs to Him.

    “The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.”

    Exodus 34:26

    Many of us know this as tithing, which we are encouraged to do in the New Testament, for example in Matthew 5:17-20 and 2 Corinthians 9:7.

    Although the city of Jericho had been given into the Israelite’s hands, it was not theirs to benefit from the riches of the spoils of war. God did not want them to use what belonged to Him to further themselves. God had enabled their victory and all the honor and glory belonged to Him.

    By giving the first fruits of Jericho to God, the Israelites would remember that it was not by their might nor power that Jericho had fallen into their hands, but by God’s spirit.

    “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

    Zechariah 4:6

    Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

    This concludes the final part of our Bible commentary on Joshua 6. We hope you enjoyed reading our extended 3-part analysis of this fascinating Bible chapter.

    Next week, we will be moving on to Part Two – “Living God’s Word” of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6.

    If you would like to know how you can apply the lessons of Joshua 6 to your everyday life, then feel free to join us for our next instalment, which is coming soon.

    Until then, stay be blessed my friends.

    Sources:

    bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)” 

    enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho” 

    thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?” 

    christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”  

    desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan” 

    gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?” 

    thejc.com, “What is Pesach?” 

    ligonier.org, „Why Did God Command the Children of Israel to Kill Every Man, Woman, and Child in the Promised Land?”

    biblehub.com, „1 Kings 16:34“

    churchofjesuschrist.org, „Joshua 1-24”

    answersingenesis.org, “The Walls of Jericho”

    focusmagazine.org, „Devoted Things”

    compellingtruth.org, „Why did God give the Mosaic Law? What is the purpose of the Mosaic Law?“

    rccg.org, „First fruit offering“

    biblestudytools.com, „First fruits“

    openbible.info, „Tithe In The New Testament”

  • Devotionals

    Take a breath, and allow God to make a change

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Thought of the day: 

    Instead of procrastinating, l need to take a breath and allow God to make changes in my life. He will make all things work together for my good. 

    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

    Romans 8:28  (NRSV) 

    This past month, l have known little peace. It feels like one thing after another is changing in the lives of my husband and l. Each day brings something new to deal with, and l feel like my head is spinning uncontrollably in an effort to keep up.  

    I understand that God is leading us through a series of transitions in order to bring us into a higher understanding of Him, as well as bring us closer to fulfilling the dreams that He has put in our hearts.  

    However, this month, l have been too pre-occupied with the here and now, with the challenges that are confronting us. l have not been able to think about the future benefits that our transitional period will make possible for us.  

    Yesterday afternoon, l went out to my garden with my little one-eared pussycat to catch the last rays of sun for the day. The wind was blowing gently in my face, and l drank in the tranquility and stillness that my green oasis always gives me.  

    I watched my pussycat stretch out on the grass and close his eyes contentedly; above him, a few doves had landed on the neighbor’s roof and were drinking from a rain pipe. People across the road were laughing as they hugged each other goodbye.  Everyone in my direct vicinity was at peace and allowing things to happen as they came – except for me. How could this be? 

    Then, l felt like God told me to take a breath – just take a breath and allow Him to make the changes in our lives that He wanted to make. He loves us and will make all things work together for our good. I need not be afraid, for we were safe with Him.   

    So, l did what God asked me to do – l took a breath, breathed out, and gave Him permission to do what He needed to do in our lives. 

    When l woke up this morning, l felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I had been holding on so tightly to what God wants to change, that l had failed to see that He had been holding on tightly to me this entire time. By handing my pain over to Him, He had given me peace and renewed my faith. 

    Prayer: 

    Loving Father, thank you that You always meet us in the midst of our insecurities. Forgive us when a lack of faith makes us hold onto things that You want to change in us. Teach us to let go and trust in You, for You make all things come together for our good. Amen. 

    Delve deeper: 

    Are you resisting changes that God is making in your life? Do you crave peace during this period of transition? Spend time with God in prayer, and ask Him to help you let go of what you’re holding tightly on to. Trust that all things will work together for your good because He loves you.  

    This devotional was published on the 2nd October 2019 on PresbyCan Daily Devotional.

    About the author:

    Madeline Twooney is a Christian writer and blogger. She has written articles for SheLovesConverge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.comChristianity.com, and YMI Magazine.

    In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance Special Effects Makeup artist, and she loves dancing to Sister Sledge and Stevie Wonder whilst cooking. Madeline is British but lives in Germany with her husband and their one-eared pussycat. You can contact Madeline at madelinetwooney@gmail.com or tweet her at @MTwooney