Joshua 6:1-16, 20 – Seven Times

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

So, Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”

When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So, he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.

Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So, on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!…

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so, everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. (NIV)

Today’s Old Testament lesson is the famous account of the ancient Israelites taking the city of Jericho. The Lord gave the people unusual instructions to march around the city once each day for six days. On the seventh day, they were to proceed around the city seven times and then give a loud shout and the walls would come down. The Israelites followed the command to the letter and, as a result, saw an incredible work of God.

There are two words in this story that are repeated frequently: “seven” and “shout.” Seven priests with seven trumpets march around the city seven times on the seventh day. And the people were to do more than shout on the seventh day – they were to give a great big lung-filled roar together.

The number seven shows up many times in Holy Scripture. Maybe it is God’s favorite number. Whenever we see the number seven, it points to God. For example, the psalmist said:

I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just. (Psalm 119:164, NLT) 

Ancient Israel took this verse literally and seriously by instituting a daily offering every day, seven times a day, of prayer and worship, spacing it out over the course of a twenty-four-hour period. The early church continued the practice, and even today many liturgical traditions still hold to the “Daily Office” which are seven distinct times in the day (and night) of intentionally connecting with God.

In our contemporary religious milieu and fragmented world, methinks we need to re-connect with the number seven. Maybe we would see God do the miraculous if we prayed with the words “seven” and “shout” as our guiding motifs. I wonder what kind of spiritual health would result from committing to intentional times of prayer seven times a day. I am curious if we followed our prayers with a great shout together of confident faith if we would see mighty divine works in ourselves, the church, and the world.

Almighty, ever-living God help us to obey you willingly and promptly. Teach us how to serve you with sincere and upright hearts in every sphere of life through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Genesis 39:1-23 – Lead Us Not into Temptation

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife by Hermine F Schäfer 1964
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife by Hermine F Schäfer, 1964

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So, Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So, the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (NIV)

We learn a great about both God and Joseph in today’s Old Testament lesson: God is the supreme Sovereign over everything, and his providence is the force behind all of events; and, Joseph is morally conscious of his ethical accountability to the God who is always watching.

From a sheer worldly perspective, Joseph was a failure. Yet, from God’s vantage point Joseph was a resounding success because he was mindful of God despite his circumstances. Joseph was faithful in all his mundane workaday duties, which made him able to handle the advances and temptations of Potiphar’s wife.

The seductions of this life are legion. We are tempted at every turn to compromise our conscience or our convictions to either get ahead in life or avoid some difficulty. It would be easy to rationalize our actions, believing that a brief bedroom rodeo would not hurt anyone.  However, sexual infidelity is the opium of unfaithfulness to God. Cheating is cheating, whether we are caught, or not. Whitewashing the picket fence does not hide anything from God.

Seductions come in all sorts of forms: materialism and the allure of new stuff; preoccupation with comfort and painless experiences; shortcuts to job success and upward mobility; the hoarding and whoring of time; and, much more.

For me, an effective counter practice to the seductions of the world is to reclaim and redeem time through keeping the Daily Office (or the Divine Hours) – set times throughout the day in which I stop what I am doing and take a few minutes for Scripture and prayer. This practice reminds me that my life orbits God and centers in the Lord Jesus, and not the other way around.

Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments. (Psalm 119:164, NKJV)

We succumb to seduction whenever our lives are mismanaged, lacking boundaries, and without effective structure. Discovering a rhythm of daily life that works for you is vital to resisting temptation and realizing spiritual development.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, NLT)

May you flourish and thrive with the ethical fruit of righteousness and experience the settled peace of a well-lived life.

Almighty God, blessed Father, Son, and Spirit do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Joshua 6:1-16, 20

            Today’s Old Testament lesson is the famous account of the Israelites taking the city of Jericho.  The LORD gave his people the unusual instructions of marching around the city once each day for six days.  On the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times and then give a loud shout and the walls would come down.  The Israelites followed the command to the letter and, as a result, saw a great work of God.
 
            There are two words in this text that are repeated frequently and stand out:  “seven” and “shout.”  Seven priests with seven trumpets march around the city seven times on the seventh day.  And the people were not just to shout on that seventh day – they were to give a great big ol’ shout together.
 
            The number seven shows up a lot in the Scriptures.  Maybe it is God’s favorite number.  Whenever we see the number seven it is in reference to something God is up to.  The Psalmist makes a reference to seven in Psalm 119:164 and says, “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.”  The ancient Israelites took this verse literally and seriously by instituting a daily offering each and every day of prayer and worship and spaced it out over the course of a twenty-four hour time period.  The early church continued the practice, and even today many liturgical traditions still hold to the “Daily Office” which are seven distinct times in the day (and night) of intentionally connecting with God.
 
            In our contemporary evangelical climate of once-a-day quiet times (if that!) perhaps we need to re-connect with the number seven.  Maybe we would see God do the miraculous if we committed to prayer to the degree that the ancient Israelites were attentive to it, and to meticulously following God’s instructions.  And maybe if we followed our prayers with a great shout together that was a confident expression of faith in God we would see the LORD do mighty works in our lives and in our churches.
            O God, seven times a day I come to you.  Surround my enemies and bring them down so that Your great promises will be fulfilled in and through my life to the glory of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Daily Office of Prayer

 

          

          I think that one of the things the season of Advent does for us is really expose that the trajectory of our daily schedules tend to revolve around, well, me! As believers in Jesus most of us would like to have our everyday center in Christ. But it does not often happen for a host of reasons, not the least for all the many responsibilities we have.

Now, hang with me for a moment. I think one of the great tasks of all churches, ministries, and individual Christians is to be both indigenous and catholic. What I mean, is that we are to live our lives in such a way as to express our faith in ways that are realistic and consistent with the society and culture that we are in, but to do it in such a way that connects us with what Christians of all times and all places have done throughout history and do now all across the world. It is to this last point that we tend to woefully fail and find ourselves living a bifurcated existence with no relation between our faith and our work.

One of the things that has been done throughout church history and can help connect us to Christ each day what is called the “daily office.” This is a routine and rhythm of short prayers throughout the day that center in the life and death of Jesus. Hippolytus, a third century father of the faith, instructed Christians to pray immediately after waking up for God’s presence through the day, at nine in the morning remembering that Christ was nailed on the cross, at noon because of the darkness that fell over the earth, at three in the afternoon to mark the death of Jesus, and before bed to give one’s life over to God.

The idea here is to always have Christ in your mind so that you do not succumb to temptation and live, instead, according to God’s will. No matter where you are, at set times in your day, you can pray in your heart or out loud remembering Jesus and offering yourself to him, pressing the effects of Christ’s redemptive events further and deeper into your heart. Why not give it a try? The only thing to lose here is a few ungodly thoughts and selfish decisions in your day. May you find peace in the coming of Christ.