BEST DECISION EVER: TAGGING ALONG

INTRODUCTION

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. Others we make spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives are intertwined with ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? For better or worse?

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the one good decision that some people in the Bible made that changed the course of their life for the better. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word I hope we’ll all take comfort, courage, and hope in the fact that, despite the mess we’re presently faced with, we can still turn things around. A lousy past or dismal present doesn’t have to give us the same future. By God’s grace, our future and life can be changed for the better…if we only make the right decision today. May God help us do that on a daily basis!

TAGGING ALONG

The Israelites were not too long ago delivered from a lifetime of bondage in Egypt. They were now in the desert, making their way towards Mount Sinai where they were to rendezvous with God. After Sinai they would resume their journey to their ultimate destination, the Promised Land called Canaan.

Anyways, I’m really getting ahead of myself. The Israelites were probably two or three million strong. Their caravan had to have been really humongous. And their campsites had to have struck awe and wonder at the sheer number of people involved. If I was an enemy bystander I’d think twice before attacking this huge number of people!

Anyways, the Amalekites weren’t similarly inclined. They found the Israelites encamped at a place called Rephidim and figured they were easy pickings. So they attacked the Israelites and, of course, the Israelites had to respond and defend themselves. So Moses told Joshua, his lead General, what to do.

Exodus 17:9-13,  And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.”  (10)  So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  (11)  And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.  (12)  But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.  (13)  So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

In a very real way, Israel won the war because of Moses’ uplifted hands. Thank the Lord for Aaron and Hur who held up his hands and enabled the Israelite victory!

How different the war would have ended if Moses hadn’t brought Aaron and Hur along! If they hadn’t held up Moses’s hands, Israel would have lost the war. Moses couldn’t hold up his hands all day by himself! He needed help. And that’s where Aaron and Hur came in. So a large part of the credit for the battle’s victory went to Aaron and Hur.

Did Moses know in advance how long the battle would last? Did he have any idea that it’d last the whole day? Did he know that it wasn’t going to be enough to hold the rod of God in his hand? That he’d have to hold the rod up until the battle’s end to accomplish the battle’s victory? Did he know he was going to need Aaron’s and Hur’s help to hold up his hands? I don’t know. But Moses’ decision to bring these two guys along was, to that point in time, his best decision ever. Israel would have been decimated and vanquished had it not been for Aaron and Hur!

Sometimes we make decisions that, at the moment, seem rather inconsequential. Moses could have gone up the hill by himself and left Aaron and Hur in the camp to take care of things for him. But, rather wisely and with foresight, he decided to let Aaron and Hur tag along. And, in hindsight, we learn that the decision we made as a matter of no consequence turned out to be a momentous, life-changing decision.

Brethren, don’t ever underestimate the importance of any decision you make! The little stuff can end up being a really really big deal!

ONE BAD DECISION: A GOOD IDEA GONE AWRY

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. But, if you’re like me, we make many of our decisions spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but also for the many others whose lives are intertwined with  ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? Sometimes a single decision will change us for the better. And sometimes a single decision will change us for the worse.

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the singular decision that some people in the Bible made that changed their lives forever…for the worse. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word it’ll give us reason to stop and think about both the long-term and short-term ramifications of the decisions we make. Lots of forethought and prayer, I’m convinced, will save us from the pain and regret of a hastily-made decision for the worse.

A GOOD IDEA GONE AWRY

We all have good ideas. Sometimes they really are good. Other times, they just seem good to us at the time, but really they’re not. The hardest part to understand or accept is the fact that SOMETIMES GOOD IDEAS CAN HAVE TOTALLY UNFORESEEN, REALLY BAD, CONSEQUENCES. Here’s a case in point.

The Israelites have journeyed out of 400 years of bondage and slavery in Egypt. They’ve trudged wearily through the hot desert sands and finally arrived at a place called Kadesh-barnea. It’s the last desert town. Beyond it lay Canaan, the land of promise. It was their destination and home. Excitement was in the air as the travel-weary Israelites finally got within sight of home.

Moses, the leader of the Israelites, called for a nation-wide assembly. You’ve finally come to the land of promise. This is the land that the Lord your God has promised you. It’s yours. And it rightfully belongs to  you. Unfortunately, there are people living in this land. The natives aren’t going to hand over their lands and vineyards to you. You’re going to have to take it from them. This means war. But don’t be fearful or disheartened. We’ve got a huge fighting force here. With God on our side and with your prayers, we’re going to go in and take possession of the land, one acre at a time, one city at a time, one step at a time. With God’s help we will take possession of the land!

It really was a rousing speech. You’d think the Israelites would be all pumped up and ready to launch their invasion. In hindsight, that’s what they should have done right away. God had given the marching order. The battle cry had been sounded. It was time to go in and fight and take possession of the land.

But the fearful and unbelieving have a way of making things more difficult and complicated. They have a way of making themselves heard. They weren’t convinced that the war was going to be a piece of cake. They had an idea. And, quite honestly, at first sound, the idea was a really good one. It made perfect sense. Whoa, Nelly. Let’s not be so hasty and get ourselves into something we don’t know anything about. We have no idea what lies ahead of us. We don’t know where the enemies are or how strong their city walls or forts are. Let’s send a scouting party out so that they can spy out the land, know the terrain, know the enemy’s strongholds, strengths, and weaknesses. We don’t have cameras. But at least they can draw us a map and show us where we need to attack. Let them see what’s ahead of us so that we’ll know where and when to start our invasion (Deuteronomy 1:22).

The idea made good military sense. Joshua used it when he launched his invasion of Canaan forty years later. Every nation under the sun, even to this very day, reconnoiters the land before launching an invasion or attack. That’s how things are done. That’s how wars are fought. And won.

The only problem was, that’s not what God told them to do. Yes, it may have been a good idea. But GOOD IDEAS AREN’T REALLY GOOD WHEN THEY CONTRADICT OR DISOBEY GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS. God’s instructions were, Go and take possession of the land. Don’t be scared or intimidated by the enemy. I will give the enemy and their lands into your hands (Deuteronomy 1:20-21).

Moses should have listened to God. But, unfortunately, He listened to the fearful and unbelieving. So twelve spies were chosen and sent to scout out the land.

After forty days of reconnoitering the land, the spies came back with a mixed report. We went to the land where you sent us. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s some of its fruit.  (28)  But the people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak there.  (29)  The Amalekites live in the Negev. The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountain region. And the Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and all along the Jordan River  (Numbers 13:27-29).

Turned out, the land itself was good. But the people in it weren’t. They were militaristic and militarily equipped. They lived in walled cities. Impregnable fortresses more like it. The land was well populated with many different races of people. And worse of all, the giants, the sons of Anak, lived there.

Naturally, the news was dismal and it caused quite a ruckus among the people. Joshua and Caleb tried to calm the people and get them to focus on the God who would lead them into battle and to the victory. But nothing doing. The fear and unbelief of a minority spread like wildfire until it consumed the entire nation.

Numbers 13:30-33  tells the story. Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.”  (31)  But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!”  (32)  So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall.  (33)  We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.”

Long story short, the Israelites refused to go to battle. The Lord punished them by making them spend forty years wandering aimlessly in the desert until an entire generation of murmuring, fearful, unbelieving Israelites perished in the desert sands.

So what began with a good idea ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people, if not a million or more, over a forty-year span of aimless, senseless desert travel. I dare say, they lost more people in the desert than they would have had they obeyed the Lord and launched an immediate invasion. The desert—not the war nor Israel’s enemies—ended up killing the great majority of the Israelites.

So you’ve got a good idea, huh? As long as it agrees with God’s ideas, that’s mighty fine and dandy. But you’d better make sure first before you follow through on what you think is the best or the right thing to do. Learn from the Israelites, dear friends. IF GOD TELLS YOU TO DO SOMETHING, THEN DO IT. DON’T LET YOUR BRIGHT IDEAS, OR ANYONE ELSE’S FOR THAT MATTER, FOOL YOU INTO DISOBEYING GOD. GOOD IDEAS CAN GET YOU KILLED IF YOU DON’T LISTEN TO GOD AND OBEY HIM. In this sad and tragic way, what parades as a really good idea is anything but good for you. A GOOD IDEA THAT INSPIRES FEAR, UNBELIEF, AND DISOBEDIENCE IS REALLY A BAD IDEA. Any dead Israelite buried in the sand will tell you that.

ONE BAD DECISION: DEATH BY GREED

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. But, if you’re like me, we make many of our decisions spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but also for the many others whose lives are intertwined with  ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? Sometimes a single decision will change us for the better. And sometimes a single decision will change us for the worse.

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the singular decision that some people in the Bible made that changed their lives forever…for the worse. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word it’ll give us reason to stop and think about both the long-term and short-term ramifications of the decisions we make. Lots of forethought and prayer, I’m convinced, will save us from the pain and regret of a hastily-made decision for the worse.

DEATH BY GREED

The forty long years of desert travels have ended. The Israelites have entered the Promised Land. They’ve begun their war of conquest and possession of Canaan land. Jericho has fallen. Next up was the small city of Ai. It wasn’t anywhere near as big as Jericho, so Joshua sent a token force to take the city. To their utter shock and dismay, the small army of Ai routed the Israelites in battle! The Israelites couldn’t believe it! What in the world was going on? Joshua, the General of the Army, was so disheartened by the disaster that he went boo hooing into God’s presence for an explanation.

Turned out, somebody in the army messed up. The rule was, after all the city’s inhabitants were killed, the Israelites could confiscate the spoils of war for themselves. The only exception was the gold and silver, as well as vessels of brass and iron: all these belonged to the Lord and were to be deposited in the Tabernacle Treasury.

While the small Israelite force was busy going house-to-house in combat, one of their soldiers named Achan spotted the spoils of war that were just too enticing for him to pass up. He somehow managed to stop fighting long enough to carry away for himself a splendid Babylonian robe, along with 200 silver shekels and a wedge of gold. Weighted down, he resumed the war. That’s when the invasion started falling apart and the army of Ai started getting the upper hand. The Israelites sounded retreat and they marched back to camp forlornly and ashamed.

Achan hid the forbidden spoils of war in his tent. He knew full well that he had disobeyed the Lord’s orders. Achan coveted and took what rightfully belonged to the Lord. He’d stolen from God. And for this sin, the Israelite army and nation suffered a humiliating national defeat. You can read about it for yourself in Joshua 7.

Well, Achan hid his sin. But God brought it to light. YOU HIDE NOTHING FROM GOD. Achan was eventually discovered as the guilty culprit and the reason for the national defeat. He fessed up. But the confession would not diminish or lighten his sentence. He and his entire family—his wife and children—and everything he possessed, including his flocks and livestock, even his tents, clothes, furniture, and all; were brought to the Valley of Achor. And there the congregation of Israel stoned them to death, Joshua 7:24-26.

Of all the story pictures in the Bible, this one burns brightest and most vividly in my mind. I can picture the scene as Joshua passed judgment. How Achan must have begged and pled for mercy—if not for himself, then for his family. How his wife must have cried and looked frightfully in her husband’s eyes, and screamed, Achan, help me! Don’t let them hurt the children! I can hear the cries of the children as the reality of what was about to happen to them sank in. I can see them struggling and resisting as they were escorted to the Valley. I can see all the animals herded into the valley and all of Achan’s possessions thrown down around him. I can see Achan holding his wife and children close to his body, trying to shield them from the inevitable stones that were soon to fall upon them all. I can hear their cries of anguish and pain as the stones hit their bodies. I can hear the cries of the animals. I can see the blood flowing into the ground. What a terrible way to die! All because Achan was greedy!

If we reckoned the value of the stolen silver and gold by today’s standards, reckoning $32/ounce of silver and $1,665/ounce of gold; a shekel being ½ ounce; then 200 silver shekels and the wedge of gold that Achan stole for himself was worth almost $45,000 in today’s currency. Was it worth it, Achan? You lost your life—you got your wife and children killed—in the most painful and gruesome of ways. For what? $45,000. And you never even got a chance to spend it or enjoy it! Was it worth it? The treasure of wealth that you acquired was not worth the treasure of life and family that you lost. One quick, spontaneous decision made in the heat of battle cost Achan his life and that of his entire family. He died regretting his decision.

Friends, watch what decisions you make spontaneously without deliberation or forethought. WHEN YOU’RE BEING CARNAL, FLESHLY, DISOBEDIENT, OR SINFUL; THAT’S NOT THE TIME TO BE MAKING DECISIONS. Decisions made in this state produce heartache, regret, and sometimes, literally, death as in Achan’s case. James 1:14-15,  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  (15)  Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Learn from Achan’s death. Stay out of the Valley of Achor. Get rid of covetousness and greed. You’ll live longer and you’ll be a lot happier without greed. Just ask Achan. From beyond the grave he’ll tell you…No amount of money is worth losing your life or your family. They’re your greatest treasure. Don’t let greed rob you of your treasure. Your life. Your soul.