What Happened to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh

Joshua 22:30-34(NKJV) 30Now when Phinehas the priest and the rulers of the congregation, the heads of the £divisions of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the children of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them. 31Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the children of Manasseh, “This day we perceive that the Lord is among us, because you have not committed this treachery against the Lord. Now you have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord.” 32And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the rulers, returned from the children of Reuben and the children of Gad, from the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33So the thing pleased the children of Israel, and the children of Israel blessed God; they spoke no more of going against them in battle, to destroy the land where the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt. 34The children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar, Witness, “For it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”

This week we have been looking at the 2 ½ tribes of Israel that chose to settle on the east bank of the Jordan river. We have been looking at this in light of the thought that God wants this to be a year of favor for his people. We have seen that favor given by God can bring great benefit to the people of God. We also know that favor with those to whom we are called to preach will result in more people being saved. The thing we want to see this week is that the place of the greatest favor is the center of the will of God.

The 2 ½ tribes who settled east of Jordan did so because this land was more pleasing to their flesh than the land on the west side of the river. They went across the river with their army and helped the rest of Israel obtain their possession in Canaan, the understood Promised Land, but they did not want to live there. I believe that many Christians today want to see the will of God come to pass in the earth but they do not want to live in the center of God’s will. They do not want to sacrifice comfort or pleasure to see the will of God accomplished. I believe this is a dangerous place to live.

In today’s scripture we see that Reuben, Gad and Manasseh explained the construction of the replica altar to the rest of Israel by saying they just wanted it to be an altar of remembrance. They were afraid that the rest of Israel would forget that they were part of the covenant people. There is no rebuke in this chapter. Their explanation is accepted and they are allowed to keep this altar. However, I believe that what happens to them is a warning to those of us who would rather live on the fringes of the will of God than make the full commitment to be in the center of God’s will.

What role did the 2 ½ tribes play in the subsequent history of Israel? I have tried to find them in the scriptural account and I cannot. They are mentioned in Judges and there are some individuals with those names mentioned in the Old Testament, but I see no mighty deeds by Reuben, Gad or Manasseh. I have found no mighty warriors or prophets from these tribes, although there was a prophet called Gad. There is no mention of great events happening in their territory. It is possible that I may have missed something, but I think it is safe to say that they were not major players in what happens in Israel.

It seems that Reuben, Gad and Manasseh simply fade out of the record. They became a non-factor in the destiny of Israel. I do not want that to be my legacy. I want the devil to know I was here and breathe a sigh of relief when I leave. When I stand before the Lord, I want to hear “Well done.” not, “What did you do again?” When we choose to live on the fringes of the will of God, we become a non-factor in the Kingdom. We may live comfortable lives or we may not, but we will not fulfill the destiny God has for us in the earth.

What was the problem with their choice to stay on the east side of Jordan? They pointed it out themselves in the 25th verse. They say God made the Jordan a border between them and the rest of Israel. The truth is, they are the ones who made the border, not God. The result was the same. There was a division between them, the rest of the people of God and the perfect will of God. This border created some weaknesses that the enemy eventually exploited.

Reuben, Gad and Manasseh gradually lost their identity with the rest of Israel. They were still covenant people, but the separation caused them to develop a somewhat different lifestyle than those in Canaan. I cannot give chapter and verse to support this conclusion, but I can point to human nature. It is always the case that when part of a group is separated from the whole, they will develop differently than the whole. I believe this must have been the case with Reuben, Gad and Manasseh or they would not have faded from the record.

As a pastor, I have seen this pattern over and over again. People who are involved in church and committed to the whole purpose of God are different in their Christian walk than those who simply come on Sunday and try to “live a good life.” Often, they just do not see the necessity to walk in the holiness and commitment that the rest of the church does. The result is usually compromise and further separation. That is the legacy of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.

The 2 ½ tribes were cut off from the presence of God. In the Old Testament, the presence of God dwelt in the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was first in the Tabernacle and eventually in the Temple in Jerusalem. It was not on the east side of Jordan. The altar that Reuben, Gad and Manasseh built on the east side of Jordan was called a “replica” of the altar of the Lord, but it did not have the presence of God.

We might point out that the presence of God no longer dwells in an earthly temple but in the hearts of men. This is very true. However, the manifestation of God’s presence is strongest in the center of his will. When we choose to live on the fringes of Christianity, we will never experience the manifestation of God’s presence in its fullness. When we are separated from this manifestation, we gradually lose the sense of his presence and the affect that it has in our lives. I believe this is a major problem. Without the manifested presence of God Christianity devolves into nothing more than a religious system. (2 Tim 3:5)

Finally, Israel’s choice left them with no separation between them and the enemy. It was just too easy for the enemy to infiltrate them. There was too much contact with the cultures that were opposed to the destiny of the people of God. Eventually this led to so much compromise that they were no longer a viable factor in fulfilling that destiny.

I believe this is what happens to us when we are not fully committed to the will of God. We find ourselves with no border between the enemy and us. We are too close to the culture of the world and we allow compromise to rob of us of what the Lord has for us. Sin is all around us and it is getting more and more accepted in our culture. We are foolish to think we can straddle the line between the kingdom of God and the world. We need to have a definite border between the world and us. I believe the best way to keep that border in tact is to be sold out for God and for his will and destiny.

Do not be like Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. Do not settle for life on the other side of Jordan. Do not settle for living as close to the world as possible without sin. It is a dangerous place to be. As the saying goes, “If you play around a slippery river bank you will eventually fall in.”

Instead, give all you have for the Lord. Sell out to the fullness of his will and presence. Do not ask how far you can go before you are out of the will of God. Ask instead how to find the center of the will of God. Commit to pleasing him not to just trying not to displease him. The benefits, including favor, are worth the commitment.

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Take Heed That You Do all the Commandments

Joshua 22:1-5(NKJV) 1Then Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh,  2and said to them: “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you. 3You have not left your brethren these many days, up to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God. 4And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brethren, as He promised them; now therefore, return and go to your tents and to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” 

In yesterday’s post we looked at the 2 ½ tribes of Israel who chose to receive their inheritance on the east bank of the Jordan River. This was part of the inheritance God had given to Abraham, but not the Promised Land proper. It was within the will of God, but not the center of the will of God. It was a land that appealed to this groups flesh because it suited the lifestyle they had chosen. We find that God allowed them to settle there as long as they sent their warriors into Canaan and helped the rest of the Israelites obtain their possession as well.

This was not something God directed them to do. It was something God allowed them to do. They were willing to help others take the land of destiny, but they did not want to live in the land themselves. They were willing to go as far as they had to go in order to stay in God’s good graces but not to dwell in the place of his presence. I am concerned that this is the stance of too much of the church today.

There is no indication that God rebuked Rueben, Gad and Manasseh for their choice. I have talked with some who speak of certain behaviors that are appealing to their flesh and they say, “It does not say in the bible that I cannot do this.” That may be true, but there is another question we need to ask. Does this behavior lead me closer to the center of God’s will or make me more vulnerable to falling into sin. Does this behavior help me grow in God or does it keep me at my current level.

I believe there are some things that we can learn from the 2 ½ tribes that chose not to go into Canaan. In today’s scripture we see that Joshua commends Rueben, Gad and Manasseh for keeping their promise. However, in verse 5 we see that he gives them a warning. He tells them to make sure they keep the commandments of God and follow the covenant with all their heart. He did not feel the need to give this kind of warning to those who stayed in Canaan. I believe this points to a potential problem that Joshua could see in the future of these tribes.

We must remember that we are not without opposition in the world. There is a real devil and he has a real agenda for the world. He hates the people of God and is constantly working to destroy them. The farther you are from the will of God the more vulnerable you become to the enemy. Joshua knew this. Rueben, Gad and Manasseh were not currently in sin. They had done what they said they would do. The problem is that what they said they would do was not the fullness of what God wanted them to do. It was not sin, but it was not full pursuit of God’s purposes either.

As we follow the tribes on the east bank of the river, we see some problems that arise almost immediately. In Joshua 22:10-29 we read about an incident that happens not long after Rueben, Gad and Manasseh return to the east bank. As the rest of Israel looks across the river, they see an altar being built. Altars are very important to Israel. There is only one altar God has authorized for the offering of sacrifices and that is the altar that is part of the tabernacle. To offer sacrifices anywhere else breaks the covenant and brings judgment on all of Israel not just the offending tribes. The Israelites on the west bank of Jordan mobilize for war against Rueben, Gad and Manasseh. They have seen the curse of disobedience to the covenant and they are not going to allow it now.

There are two things I want to point out here. First, the fact that part of Israel chose to live outside of the center of God’s will caused strife. There was a lack of communication between the two groups and this caused misunderstanding. In verse 25, those on the east side say that God has made the Jordan a border between the two groups. This is not true. They made the Jordan a border between themselves and the rest of Israel. It was God’s will for them to be with the tribes in Canaan. They chose to settle on the east side of the river.

Whenever one group wants to go farther with God than another there will be strife. There will be mixed goals, lack of communication and misunderstandings. Eventually there will be a problem. This is what happens between these two groups of Israelites. Neither one was actually in sin, but if they had all been on the west side of the river this would not have been a problem.

Second, it is important to see that compromise affects the whole group. We need to understand that when we choose to live a life that is less than sold out to the total will and destiny of God it will affect more than just our own lives. It will affect our family. If we have children, we will influence them to follow our example. It will affect the church as a whole because we are a body and what touches one member touches all. We need to look beyond ourselves when we think of how much we want to give to the Lord.

We also find in Joshua 22:25 the motivations for building this second altar. They do not intend to offer sacrifices upon it. They are afraid that the rest of Israel will forget them and cut them off from the altar on the west side of Jordan. Their motivation was fear. Any time we are not in the center of the will of God we are more open to fear. Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space. They will cancel each other out.

In verse 19, those who live on the west bank say to Rueben, Gad and Manasseh, “If the land where you are is so unclean that it requires an altar, then move over here where the land is clean. You don’t have to stay on that side of the river.” I would encourage any in the body of Christ who are living outside the center of God’s will to come in! You do not have to live in an unclean land. You may not be in sin, but there is more for you than what you have.

Rueben, Gad and Manasseh did not intend to sin where this altar was concerned. They intended to cross the river and offer sacrifices just as the rest of Israel did. It was only to be an altar of remembrance. The Lord directed Israel to build many such altars. However, what might happen in the future? The altar was there. It was a temptation to the east bank tribes to sin. It was closer and easier to get to than the altar in Canaan. Would they begin to think that their altar was just as good? Would they ever choose to compromise and offer just one sacrifice. There is no record they did, but they put themselves in a place of temptation needlessly.

Finally, they put themselves in a situation where there was no border between themselves and the enemy. The Jordan was not to be a border between Rueben, Gad and Manasseh and the rest of Israel. It was a border between Israel and the enemy. By living on the east bank of the river, they were more vulnerable to attack. Why live in place that makes us more vulnerable to the enemy.

I want to encourage those of us who are children of God in Christ to go all the way into God’s will and destiny. The more we stay on the fringes the more we risk falling into sin and coming under the attack of the enemy. Commit wholly to the Lord’s will for your life. It may seem harder. It may require some sacrifice of the flesh. In the end it will result in a life lived to its fullest capacity. Do not settle for less than God’s best for you.

What happened to Rueben, Gad and Manasseh? We will find out tomorrow.

This Side of the Jordan

Numbers 32:1-5(NKJV) 1Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock,  2the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying,  3“Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Shebam, Nebo, and Beon,  4the country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.”  5Therefore they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.”

In our study of favor, we have found that the Lord gave favor to the Israelite women so that when they asked the Egyptian women for gold, silver and clothing they gave their treasure to the Israelites. There was no reason for them to do this except for a sovereign move of God. By this “force of favor”, they spoiled Egypt by taking their goods.

Taking plunder from an enemy was a way to demonstrate an overwhelming or full victory. In Romans 8 Paul says that he is more than a conqueror through the love of God. This term can mean to win an overwhelming victory. In a sense, this is what Israel did to Egypt. It could be said that we are able to win overwhelming victory over the kingdom of darkness. One factor in winning such a victory is the same favor of God that Israel enjoyed in Egypt.

This has always been available to the church. We read about it in Acts chapter 2.

Acts 2:46-47(NKJV) 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,  47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

I believe God is telling his church that it is time to believe for and expect this favor in our lives and ministries. I believe this favor needs to extend to our personal and financial life so that the things we need to do the work of the ministry will be available to us. I also believe this favor is even more valuable in terms of those to whom we will preach the gospel. God can give favor and receptivity to those who need salvation. We need to expect him to do just that.

A major factor in walking in God’s favor is to be where God is. We cannot expect the favor of God if we refuse to walk in the will of God. There is a story in the bible that I believe reveals some important things about this principle. When the children of Israel were finally ready to enter the Promised Land, there were two and ½ tribes that had a different idea. In today’s scripture, we see what they wanted to do. The tribes of Rueben and Gad, later joined by the half tribe of Manasseh, had already settled on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

This territory was part of the inheritance of Israel, but it was not considered the Promised Land proper. That was on the west side of the Jordan River in the territory known as Canaan. The land on the east side of the river was good land for grazing cattle. The people of these three and ½ tribes happened to be keepers of cattle and they had already begun to settle down in this region. They requested of Moses that they be allowed to claim their inheritance on the east side of Jordan where they had already begun to be established.

Moses tells them that they cannot do so if they will not cross over the river and help the rest of Israel win their inheritance. They say they will send their fighting men over the Jordan with the rest of Israel and fight for their inheritance. Moses agrees to this proposal and gives them this land east of Jordan for their inheritance.

When the time comes for Joshua to lead the people of Israel over Jordan, he reminds the people of Rueben, Gad and Manasseh of their promise. They readily agree to send their army over the Jordan while leaving their herds, their families and their cities on the east bank. They will then return once all Israel has its inheritance.

All of this seems to perfectly fine to all concerned. The 2 ½ tribes are doing their part and they will have their inheritance. The rest of Israel will have their inheritance with the aid of those who inherit on the east side of the river. The land east of the Jordan might be thought of as within the will of God but not in the center of the will of God since it was not really part of Canaan.

In Romans 12 we see something interesting.

Romans 12:2(NKJV) 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Although I believe one way to look at this verse is that the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect for each individual, I think there is also a truth to the fact that we can walk in varying levels of God’s will. I believe all of us know that there have been times in our lives when we have chosen to do what God wants us to do, but not wholly. We are in what might be called the permissive will of God, but not in the center of God’s will for our lives.

In this place, God is able to deal with us. We are not in sin per se. We are living as Christians but we are not striving to fulfill our full destiny in God. We tend to do only what we need to do in order to feel that we are good people and securely on our way to heaven. This is where the 2 ½ tribes decided to settle. They chose to stay on the east side of Jordan even though destiny was on the west side. They were still God’s people. They still loved God. They were willing to help others go into the Promised Land; they just did not have any desire to go in themselves.

I believe this is a real problem in the church today. It seems that more and more people are willing to live right, at least to a degree. They will rejoice when they hear of God moving in other places. They may be willing to support the ministry of God financially. However, they just do not seem to have a drive to go all the way for the Lord. They want to live good lives and enjoy the benefits of being the people of God. They want to do enough to stay saved but not enough to risk their personal comfort of lifestyle.

What was it about the east side of Jordan that was so appealing? We see that it was a land that suited their lifestyle and how they had chosen to make their living. It was appealing to their flesh. Too often today, the church is settling for what is appealing to the flesh and not the center of God’s will. Too often, we are willing to go far enough in our commitment to feel that we have fulfilled our obligation but not go the extra mile to step into the fullness of destiny.

We also see that it was neither God nor Moses that suggested this course of action. It was what the 2 ½ tribes wanted. It was acceptable to God. There is no indication that they were rebuked for settling on the east side of Jordan, but it was not something God had told them to do. It was a “good idea” but not a “God idea.”

I believe we need to take stock of how much we are settling for good ideas that appeal to the flesh and God ideas that will bring us into the fullness of His will. I do not think it is enough to just “miss hell and make heaven.” Not only that, we will find that the favor God wants to give us is found in the center of God’s will not on the fringes.

There were some consequences to Rueben, Gad and Manasseh’s choice. Join me tomorrow for more.

More Than Conquerors

Romans 8:37(NKJV) 37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

As we begin 2013, I have been looking at the idea of favor. I believe God wants his people to believe for favor during this year. We started by looking at Exodus 3 and Exodus 12, verses in which the Lord told his people to ask their slave masters to give them gold, silver, and clothing. There was no reason for them to do such a thing, but the Egyptians did it anyway. There can only be one explanation. God gave the Israelites favor with the Egyptians. The bible tells us that by this favor the Israelites plundered the Egyptians.

This term “plunder” is very important in the warfare of the day. You might defeat an enemy but the way you proved your victory was complete was by taking from them whatever you might have needed or wanted. I believe there is a New Testament equivalent to the idea of plunder.

In today’s verse, Paul says that we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus who loved us. If we look at the context of the verse, we see that Paul is talking about some very difficult things that he had gone through in the service of the Lord. What does he mean by “more than a conqueror?” One interpretation of this phrase means to win overwhelming victories. That is exactly the idea behind plunder in the Old Testament.

If you won a marginal victory, the enemy you fought was still a threat. His economy was still intact. His army may have been defeated but not destroyed. He could still come against you in the future and the next battle might not go your way. The only way to be sure that the defeated foe would not turn the tables on you was to win an overwhelming victory. This was proven and enhanced by the taking of plunder.

If you took plunder from the enemy, you hurt his economy. You hindered his ability to make war. Depending on the amount of plunder taken, you might destroy the enemy as a nation. In either case, the taking of plunder proved to the enemy that they were at your mercy. If they tried to rise against you again, you would simply come and take the rest of what they had.

This may seem cruel, but there were no civilized rules of engagement. The only protection that you had from a sworn enemy was to be stronger than they were and, if war came, to be sure that you won overwhelming victory. Your enemy would do no less.

This is why God instructed the Israelites to ask for spoil from their neighbors. I want to point out again that the vehicle God used to accomplish this was the women of Israel. The bible says that Israel plundered Egypt and they did it by their women. Could anything have sent a clearer message to Egypt in that day than to be plundered by women? Of course, we know that Pharaoh did not heed the message and paid the price for his mistake.

The other factor in plundering Egypt was the force that I believe God wants to release in the church during 2013. That is the force of favor. The bible says that God gave Israel favor with the Egyptian women and by that favor, they plundered Egypt. By the power of God, they won a victory. By the favor of God, they took plunder or won an overwhelming victory.

I want to tie this to Romans 8. Paul says that in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ. To what things is he referring? He is talking about some major battles he has faced. He is talking about hunger and shipwreck. He is talking about persecution and various kinds of danger. However, in these terrible things Paul says he is winning overwhelming victories. It could be said that Paul is taking plunder from the devil.

How is Paul taking this plunder? I believe we can conclude that one way he is taking this plunder is the same way Israel took plunder from the Egyptians. God has given him favor with certain people and this favor has caused him to be more than a conqueror. If you read the story of Paul’s life you will find this to be true.

We conquer the sin nature by receiving the benefit of victory won by the power of God. Jesus was crucified by the devil. However, that was not the end of the story. The bible tells us that Jesus “cast off” the powers of darkness and “made an open show” of the devil. These terms indicate a battle won by the power of God. We received this victory as our own and were born again. However, there is more to our salvation than simply “missing hell and making heaven.”

God wants us to walk in victory. God wants us to partake of the benefits of our covenant promises. God also wants us to “spoil the enemy” and take plunder from the kingdom of darkness. I believe that one of the things that will enable us to do that is an increase of favor.

What kind of plunder does God want us to have? I believe part of it involves the wealth of this world.

Proverbs 13:22(NKJV) 22    A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,      But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

Who are the righteous that the wealth of the sinner is laid up for? I believe it is the church. God always wants to provide for the needs of his children, so a certain amount of this wealth can and should go there. The main focus of this idea is for wealth to come into the hands of the church to meet the spiritual emotional and physical needs of people. By giving his people favor in relationships, business and myriad other areas, I believe the Lord wants to release this wealth to his church for the preaching of the Gospel.

There is an even more important way to view this “plunder.”

Matthew 16:18(NKJV) 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. What plunder lies behind those gates? Men, women, boys and girls lie behind those gates and God wants them set free. The real plunder God wants to give is a harvest of souls for his Kingdom.

There is more to winning this plunder than just walking in favor. However, I believe God is highlighting favor in my heart. I believe God wants us to believe that he can and will move in such a way that we will have favor where we need it. We need to believe we will have favor to release the resources we need to do the work God has called us to do. I believe he also wants to release favor in the hearts of people so that they will receive the message of the gospel.

Let us win some overwhelming victories in the Lord. Let us take hold by faith of the favor that comes from God and take some plunder from the kingdom of darkness. This evil kingdom has taken enough from us. I believe now is the time to turn the tables and I believe favor is a major key.

Favor With God and Man

Acts 2:46-47(NKJV) 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

This week we have been looking at the concept of favor as a force to benefit the people of God and help them build the Kingdom of God. We began by looking at the children of Israel during their deliverance from Egypt. The bible tells us that the Lord gave the Israelite women favor with the Egyptian women so that when they asked them for gold, silver and clothing, the Egyptian women simply gave them what they asked for. They did not do this because they were afraid of the Israelites. They did it because God had moved on them in such a way that they had deep goodwill towards Israel. God gave Israel favor with the Egyptian women.

I believe we need this same force at work for the church today. I also believe that it has always been part of what God has done for the church. In today’s scripture we see that the first church began with favor. The bible tells us they had favor with both God and man. The result was that the Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved. I believe we can and should expect the same in our day.

There is something we need to understand about the kind of favor I am talking about. It is not necessarily favor with leadership. In Egypt, the children of Israel did not have favor with the government or the Pharaoh. They had favor with the women who were approached by the Israelite women. The government was completely antagonistic toward Israel. We find that this is often the case when we are talking about God given favor.

We can see many examples of this in the bible. One of my favorite stories is the account of the prophet Elijah and his encounter with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. When we read the story, we see that Elijah had favor with the people. They listened to him and followed him. Yet he had no favor at all with the King and even less with Queen Jezebel. She made a vow to kill him.

In the life of David we see the people crying, “Saul killed his thousands and David his ten thousands.” The people loved and favored David. In the end, they would make him their king. Saul, who was king, hated David and sought to kill him. The favor of God was so strong in David’s life that Saul’s own son Jonathan loved David and made a blood covenant with him. He protected David at his and his father’s expense.

The point I am making is that we need to understand that God given favor does not always mean things will be easy. Usually it involves the disfavor of those who may be in charge. It is with people that God will give us favor. Sometimes it is with many people and sometimes it may be with one key person. Earlier in the week, I mentioned Rahab the harlot. The whole city of Jericho was at war with the Israelites, but God gave them favor with one woman who had a house in a key place. Because of her, the two Israelite spies were able to escape back to their lines with information that helped defeat Jericho.

We see this in an even greater measure in the New Testament. In the life of Jesus, we see that the political and especially the religious leaders were constantly coming against Jesus. They were always plotting and often attempting to kill him. At the same time, we read that multitudes followed him, were healed by him and taught by him. He had favor with people but strong opposition from established institutions.

A question might be asked about the crowd in Jerusalem who cried out “Crucify him, crucify him.”, when he was offered to them for release. Was not this the “people” who were opposing him? No, that was the crowd that was opposing him. There is a difference between a crowd and people in general. The established authorities controlled the crowd. In addition, a crowd has a different mentality than people individually. The multitudes that followed Jesus were people not just a crowd. Some were there simply for what they could get from him and some were there because they believed in him, but they were people joined together to follow him. God gave Jesus favor with these people.

In today’s verse, we see this pattern repeated with the church. The believers in Acts 2 were hiding in the upper room because the authorities had just crucified their leader. They were not a “favored” group in Jerusalem. However, once the Holy Spirit fell on them and empowered them the bible tells us that they had favor with both God and man. With what men did they have favor?

They did not have favor with the Jewish counsel because they were repeatedly arrested, beaten and threatened by them. They did not have favor with Rome since we know that they were ultimately persecuted by Rome. May suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Empire. With whom did they have favor? They had favor with the everyday people. They had favor with those to whom they preached. How do we know this? We know these were the people because God was adding them to the church on a daily basis.

I believe we need to realize that God wants to give us favor in 2013. I believe he wants to give us favor in our personal lives so that we can prosper. I believe that the Lord wants to give us the favor that the early church had so that people can be added to the church in great numbers. I also believe we need to understand that favor often accompanies persecution.

This is a bit of a strange thing to consider but it is the pattern we see throughout the bible. Why is it important for us to understand this? I believe if we do not realize that this is the scriptural pattern we may be deceived by what we see happening around us. We may see an increase in opposition by the governmental and religious authorities against biblical Christianity. We will certainly continue to see cultural rejection of biblical truth in favor of increasingly sinful activity. I do not believe righteousness is going to become the “in thing” in our society.

We could interpret this to mean that the church is in retreat or worse that God is not involved in helping us. The truth as highlighted by bible history is very different. The kinds of opposition we see today have always been accompanied by a wave of favor with common people. In times of great opposition, we see God giving favor with multitudes as in the ministry of Jesus and with key individuals as in the case of Rahab and the battle of Jericho.

I believe this is a day when we will see the same pattern released in the earth. In the early days of Christ’s church, we see that there was persecution and opposition from the established powers. At the same time, there was great favor with the people that resulted in a great revival. Throughout the New Testament, we read of those who gave favor to Jesus, the apostles, and especially to Paul. Given where we started this study, I find it interesting that we often read how wealthy women favored the people of God.

I am not saying we should believe for persecution or opposition from the government or religious establishment. On the contrary, I believe we should believe for favor there as well when we need it. I am saying that the historical pattern suggests that this will not often be what we see. I am saying that we must not be discouraged if we see the opposite of favor from those places. God will give us favor with whom and when we need it. God will give us favor so that we will “not go out empty handed” and so that we can “add to the church daily” those who are coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I believe 2017 is to be a year of great favor to those who will trust God for it.

Favor Defined

Exodus 3:20-22(NKJV) 20So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. 21And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

Yesterday we saw how the Lord gave favor to the children of Israel so that the Egyptians simply gave them silver, Gold and clothing when they asked for them. Favor became a weapon in the hands of Israel by which they plundered Egypt when it was defeated by the power of God. I believe that the Lord wants to use this same weapon for the church in 2013. Part of this equation is favor with God, called grace in the New Testament. However, the word favor in the bible most often points to God given favor with people.

To understand what this means, we must remember that we are not talking about favor won by intimidation or power. In the Exodus account, we find in chapter 12 that the Israelite women had gone to the Egyptian woman long before the fatal last plague had come upon Egypt. They did not give to the Israelite women because they were afraid. They gave to them because they wanted to give. God had moved upon the hearts of the Egyptians so that they went against logic and their own best interests to “favor” the interests of the Israelites. This is a sovereign work of God.

What is favor exactly? The English definition is interesting. It has a number of components. Favor means something done or granted out of goodwill rather than justice or for payment. It also means to be friendly or well disposed toward someone or to regard them with good will. Finally, it means to show excessive kindness or unfair partiality or to give preferential treatment.

This was not how the Egyptians should have seen the Israelite women. The bible says that each woman went to her neighbor and asked for her neighbor’s treasure. The Israelites were slaves. There is no reason for the Egyptians to give them anything. The Egyptian women should have looked down upon them. Yet the Egyptians simply said, “Yes, of course we will give you Gold and silver. Would you like these fine clothes as well?” I have to wonder how they explained this to their husbands!

What happened? Somehow, the spirit of the lord moved upon the Egyptian woman and they simply felt goodwill towards the Israelites. They had an overwhelming desire to be friendly towards them. They felt compelled to give them what they asked for without any sense of obligation and not as payment for anything. They showed unfair partiality and gave preferential treatment to the Israelites. Why did they do this? The only answer is that God gave Israel favor with the Egyptians.

The Hebrew word used here has some interesting connotations as well. It means Graciousness, kindness or beauty. The root means to bow to an inferior. God moved upon the Egyptian women so that they saw through the eyes of kindness and graciousness when they saw the Israelite women. Instead of ugliness and slavery, they saw something beautiful. They even responded to the Israelites as they might respond to their superiors even though the Israelites were inferior to everyone in Egypt because they were slaves. What is the explanation for this? There can be only one. God caused the Egyptian women to see the Israelites in a way that made no sense naturally. God gave them favor.

Finally, the Greek word used in the New Testament for favor is usually translated grace. However, there are instances when the bible is speaking of favor with men and in those cases; it is translated “favor.” The implication found in the Greek word is that which is due to grace or the token or proof of grace. The tokens of favor in the Exodus story are the gold, silver and clothing the Egyptian woman gave the Israelite women. God had given the Israelites favor and the Egyptian’s gifts were the evidence of that favor.

We live in a world that is increasingly unfavorable to the church. Our culture is opposed to godliness. Many in our government seek to eliminate the voice of Godly people from the political discussion. The intentions of the founding fathers of the United States to keep any one religion from controlling the state have been perverted into a campaign to remove religion from public life entirely. Those in the minority who want to believe in no God have won court case after court case demanding that any religious expression be removed from public sites.

Though all religion has been under attack, no group has been so marginalized in America as the born again Christian Church. We are portrayed as intolerant backward and hateful because we believe in the absolutes of the Bible. Our Bible has been removed from schools and our Christian heritage has been removed from our history books. Other religions are studied and praised for their cultural strengths but the Judeo-Christian heritage of America is being systematically removed from our schools and our culture.

How can we combat this trend? I believe that we need to continue to stand for what is right. I believe we need to vote according to our conscience and continue to preach the Word of God in public. I believe we need to stand for our rights as Americans and as Christians. However, I do not believe this will be enough.

I believe that the Lord is saying to me that 2013 is to be a year of supernatural favor for the church. It is impossible I know but I believe we can look at the story in Exodus and see that God can do what is impossible. They Israelites were slaves with no standing in Egyptian society. They worshipped a God foreign to the Egyptians and one who actively opposed all that their religion stood for. In the midst of this intolerable situation, God gave Israel favor with the Egyptians. I do not understand it but it happened and the Israelites left Egypt carrying the wealth of Egypt because of it.

God wants to give us favor in 2013. How did the Israelites obtain this favor with the Egyptians? In obedience to God, they asked for it. I am not sure what that will mean to us this year, but I believe God is saying we must expect to see the favor he has promised. When the Lord shows us a direction, we need to ask for favor. This may mean approaching people with requests such as a raise in pay or a better job. It may mean applying for things we should not be able to get. It may mean other things entirely. I believe we will know when we see them and when we do, if we obey God, he will give us favor where we need it and blessing will be the result.

I believe this is a blessing God wants to use for the church in 2013. It seems impossible given the climate of the world today. However, that is just the kind of challenge God loves to overcome. Pray for favor. Expect favor. Obey the direction of the Lord even when it seems outrageous. God will back you up and you will “not go out empty handed.”

Favor

(We are traveling again, this time in Kenya for the next two months.  It is hard to get time to write and sometimes harder to get internet access to post.  To save time I like to go back to some of the things I have done in the past.  I think this is one of my favorite topics.  Keep us in prayer as we exercise the privilege of ministering to the pastors and leaders in Kenya.)

Exodus 3:20-22(NKJV) 20So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. 21And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

As I was praying about what God might be saying to our church for the year 2013, I felt the Lord continually impressing me with the word favor. My first reaction was to look up scriptures relating to favor with God. I found that there were not many. There is another word that more fully describes favor with God and that is the word grace. Although I believe grace is part of what the Lord is emphasizing, that was not the word the Lord was impressing on my heart. The word was favor.

As I looked up scriptures on favor, I found that most of them did not deal with having favor with God, but with the Lord giving his people favor with man. As I struggled with exactly where the Lord was leading me with this, I went back to the emphasis he had given me for the last two years. On Monday, I wrote some about the journey of Israel and, in type and shadow the church, from Egyptian bondage to destiny in Canaan. One scripture in particular connected this journey with the idea of favor. That scripture was the one quoted above.

Exodus 3 is a very famous chapter. This chapter details Moses’ burning bush encounter with God. Moses had been in exile from Egypt for forty years. His attempts to help Israel had ended in disaster but now the Lord is about to send him back to Egypt in order to deliver Israel by God’s power and not his own. Among other things, this chapter highlights much of what the Lord is giving to Moses to equip him for the task. The list is impressive. God gives Moses:

· An encounter with God.
· The revelation of what God will do.
· Identification of who Moses is in the plan.
· The revelation to give the people as to who God is.
· A plan of God as to how to proceed.
· A promise of the power of God made available.

Verse 20 is a powerful statement of how God is going to move on Israel’s behalf. “So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.” To me, this list of things God gives Moses and this statement of how God is going to judge Egypt should be followed by a great “Amen!” and be the end of the chapter. However, it is not.

The next two verses do not look like they are as important as the ones preceding them. Yet it is with this statement that God ends his equipping of Moses. He is going to give the people of Israel favor with the Egyptians. The Lord places this on the same level as all of the other things on this list. In fact, it is by favor that they will plunder Egypt.

The idea of plunder is very important in bible days. If a nation is conquered by another nation, the conquerors have the right to take whatever they want from the conquered. If there is no plunder, the victory is not complete. Plunder was how conquest was paid for. A truly powerful nation grew rich because it took from those it defeated. That is just the way it was. If Israel was to conquer Egypt completely, there had to be plunder.

I find it interesting that Israel obtained its deliverance from Egypt by the power of God. However, Israel plundered Egypt by obtaining favor from the Egyptians themselves. There are some interesting things about this favor.

First, it came through the women. Each woman went to her neighbor and asked her to give some gold, silver and clothing. Had the men gone it might be said that they obtained this plunder by intimidation. However, women intimidated no one. Although Egypt was defeated by the power of Israel’s God, the things they obtained from Egypt were given freely from the Egyptian women to the Israelite women. This is important to show that it is not by the power of Israel that they plundered Egypt but by favor that comes from the Lord.

Second, they put the gold, silver and clothing on their children. This was not about selfishness. This was about providing for their families and the future. This also showed their children that God was able to provide in the midst of impossible circumstances. This plunder was the legacy that Israel took out of Egypt.

I want to point out something here. Israel was not being unfair to Egypt by taking these things. Abraham was the richest man in the east. His descendants were also wealthy. They came to Egypt because of famine not because they were poor. They had the resources to buy what they needed. Joseph brought them to Egypt because that is where the food was and so he could better protect them. They did not come to Egypt empty handed.

While in Egypt, everything was taken from the Israelites. They lost their goods, their freedom and all opportunity for the future. The things that Israel took from the Egyptians repaid what had been taken from Israel. This was fair and just.

Let me draw your attention once more to the fact that this came because God gave Israel favor with the Egyptians. They simply asked and the Egyptians gave them what they asked for. In Exodus 12 we see the fulfillment of the promise in Exodus 3.

Exodus 12:35-36(NKJV) 35Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. 36And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

Notice the past tense here. This scripture is taken from the part of the story just before Israel leaves. The plagues had come and Egypt was ready to let Israel go because the people feared they would all be dead if they did not. However, the past tense in these verses indicates that this did not happen because of the plagues. We do not know exactly where in the process the Israelite women went to the Egyptian women, but it was no at the end after the death of Egypt’s first born. This is important to show that the favor God granted was not because of the fear Egypt eventually had of Israel.

I do not believe the Egyptian women had any idea why they granted the requests of their slaves. It defies logic that they would give the Israelites so much of their treasure, but they did. God moved on them in such a way that they favored the Israelites and willingly gave them whatever they asked for. Favor became a powerful weapon in Israel’s arsenal. I believe God wants to make it a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the church this year.

What is favor exactly? Come back tomorrow and we will see.