Feelings Change, God Doesn’t

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How quickly things change. Shortly after the greatest delivery they could imagine in which the very walls of a strong city had crumbled before them, the people now questioned God’s motives. Even their ordained leader lay on his face asking God, “Why did you bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?”

After forty years of wandering the people had finally crossed the Jordan. God did a great miracle by stopping the river, during flood stage. This boosted the morale of Israel and demoralized the enemy. The enemy had already expressed fear of Israel and their God in the words of Rahab the harlot: “When we heard of [your conquests] our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God of heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11).

Their first campaign had been Jericho, one of the strongest defended cities of ancient Canaan. Rather than humanly besieging the city, they marched around the city once a day for six days then retired to their camp. On the seventh they walked around the city seven times blowing trumpets and shouting. Siege work was so difficult that it often took years to subdue a well defended and supplied city. A perimeter would be set up to keep out supplies and starve the city into either submission or a weakened state, for a costly assault. Not this time. God handed the city to Israel in a week. But how quickly people change when the situation changes.

Before assaulting their next target, Ai, Israel got proud. Spies reported they had no need of the whole people, only two or three thousand were needed. This force was dispatched but was quickly routed by the enemy. Now rather than asking what had prompted God’s punishment, they longed to be back on the other side of the Jordan (Joshua 7:7). We do the same thing in our own lives today.

We get wrapped up in situations and allow the moment to dictate our faith and feelings about God. When things go well, we feel warmly about God and his love for us. When things go wrong we quickly question God’s love and forget all the good things. God’s response to Joshua is something we need to hear, “Stand up! What are you doing on your face? Israel has sinned . . .” (Joshua 7:10f). Yes, it would be good if God would speak to us in this way and I don’t doubt that he can and that with some he does, but he can also speak to us through this story and his words to Joshua.

When the situations around us turn bad it is acceptable for people of faith to question our conduct and wonder if God is punishing us. If we find something, the situation can lead us to repentance.  The problem comes when we doubt God’s love and wallow in self-pity. Scripture tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8). Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 8:38f that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Even when he punishes us it is as sons being corrected. God is not vindictive to his children; everything done is for their good—everything done is for our good. When you see the world pressing in, remember that his love will not falter and He will be there. He will permit things in your life to rebuke, to correct, to teach, or strengthen you. Rather than falling on your face in fear and trembling, fall on your face in awe that God loves and will never leave you. Keep in mind that you have something they did not have. You have God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, who came and died for you t rise again. Such apocalyptic love is all consuming and unwavering—never changing faltering. Rest in it and thank him for it. Express your love to him in the darkest moments and remind yourself of the good things He has done.

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