HARBOR LIGHT #2: HOLY SPIRIT AND OTHER COUNSELORS – 10%
Nothing can take the place of getting into God’s Word ourselves. But what if we are new to the Bible and have little experience in testing inner impressions against Scripture? This is when it is helpful to know Godly Christians who live the Word. If we know someone like this, we need to ask them to be our spiritual mentor. The Word tells us, “Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14 KJV).
The First Counselor is Holy Spirit
The first counselor we have is the Holy Spirit in our heart. The question is, “What does our heart tell us?” The Psalmist writes, “I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel . . . .” (Ps. 73:23-24). “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (Ps. 119.24).
Again, we see the Word as our main counselor. When the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the Word, they bring peace to our heart, and we know we are on the right track.
Still, there is a need for other counselors. Even mature Christians continually need confirmation from others in Christ’s one body to help solidify decisions of guidance. The Bible tells us we should seek confirmation in order to let every matter be established by the testimony of two or more witnesses (see Matt. 18:16). God honors these requests for confirmation to make a wise decision. This is all a part of asking God for His wisdom in the matter and then not second-guessing it when He gives it; yet, we are not to test God.
Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ words to not put the Lord to a foolish test (see Matt. 4:7 and Luke 4:12). This can be likened to asking God to cause a blue car to drive by next if we should do such and such, or like the lady who altered her drive to work to avoid passing her favorite bakery. She accidentally forgot one morning, approached the bakery and prayed, “Lord, it’s up to you . . . if you want me to have any of those delicious goodies, create a parking place for me directly in front of the bakery.” Sure enough, on the eighth time around the block, there it was!
Godly Counselors can be God’s Vessel to Bring His Guidance to Us
Marlene waited for God’s voice of confirmation. She had her first harbor light–God’s Word. But, her initial attempts at finding a publisher failed and she found it hard to finish her task. Well-meaning friends only discouraged her more. Next, a leader at a writer’s retreat which she had not planned to attend, said, “God chose you. As you abide in him, your life will bring forth fruit.” Marlene knew in her heart God was speaking directly to her through this speaker. She was challenged to make a goal of completing her book in one year, which she did.
Followers of Christ can be God’s vessel to bring His word to us. For those at the river’s edge, the officers, God’s messengers, relayed the words of guidance to the people. After the three days were complete, they went into all the Israelite’s camps and commanded them, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it” (Josh. 3:3). The ark of the covenant contained the Ten Commandments on the tablets God gave Moses and the people, and it represented His presence. In the wilderness, the people followed the cloud that went before them. Now, they were to follow His Word.
“Keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it,” (Josh. 3:4) the officers told the people. They had to wait still longer until they could visibly see the ark before taking one step. If they got too close and touched the ark, they would die. We have to be ever so careful not to be hasty. Running ahead of God can be fatal. It is a serious matter. If He is not in a situation, we can lose everything: finances, friends, family, and freedom. Haste truly does make waste (see Prov. 21:5).
This point of haste cannot be overemphasized. This is what God personally explained to Joshua, Chapter 1:3-4 . Satan is constantly attempting to side-track us from our divine destiny by distracting us with “things” on the right and left-hand sides. These temptations of hasty major purchases such as a new house, a new car, more of this and more of that–time-consuming “toys” take our minds away from pursuing God’s purpose for our lives. Major changes in life are always necessary, but only with prayer, patience, and rational research processes do they bring peace. Wise King Solomon gives God’s wisdom, “The plans of the mind and orderly thinking belong to man, but from the Lord comes the [wise] answer of the tongue” (Prov. 16:1 Amplified, emphasis mine).
Satan uses three areas to tempt us: the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, then he says, “You deserve it. Do it now!” This do it now urgency is no less than being pursued by the Egyptians who pursued the Israelites crossing on the dry ground of the Red Sea.
This is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13).
Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days, the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people. When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it. Joshua 3:1-4
Joshua Must Be Guided by Jehovah Rohi
Joshua and the second generation of the children of Israel finally came to the time of crossing the Jordan River to possess the land God had given them. In order to do so, they still had a vital lesson to learn. As we have seen, their parent’s choice to follow their own ways resulted in their own death. Now that Moses was dead, Joshua’s challenge was to teach them a whole new way–how to follow the Lord and be guided in paths of righteousness (see Ps. 23:3). What was he going to do?
Joshua and the Israelites could be compared to the “cast sheep.” They were at a critical time where they were unable to survive without the help of their Shepherd. They desperately needed to be guided. They needed a miracle to get across the river at flood stage. If they had been able to do this in their own strength, the previous generation would have done it. Likewise, in our lifetime, we have many rivers to cross that require a God-sized miracle.
Only through experience, do we learn to hear the Shepherd’s voice more distinctly and to follow His will as He goes before us (see John 10:4). Three lights show the way: His Word, the Holy Spirit’s nudging in our heart which includes counsel of Godly Christian friends, and circumstances.
These can be easily remembered as three harbor lights. For our purposes, the ship is our life, and the harbor lights are three specific guiding points we must be aware of for every decision we make. If we, as pilot of our own ship, disregard these lights our ship will crash.
Lighthouses, or harbor lights, are landmarks for sailors, serving as big street signs for the ocean, and all are different, depending upon what their harbor is like. The lighthouse purpose is to keep boats and ships from running ashore or crashing into rocks. Each one has its own distinct signature light, allowing the ship’s pilot to pinpoint where he is on the map by the particular signature lights.
We are the Pilot of Our Ship as it is Guided by Our Captain
Before we look at the harbor lights, we need to understand what it takes to be a maritime pilot, because that is who we are. He is “a person who is qualified to assist the master of a ship to navigate when entering or leaving a port. He guides the vessel through traffic, rocks, reefs, shoals and narrow channels to its destination.”19
“The first step to becoming a pilot is to first be a professional mariner with drive and determination. There is no direct path. There are no ‘pilot’ schools or any training system that takes a totally unfamiliar person off the street and turns them into a maritime pilot.”20 The only way to learn is by gaining knowledge through experience–having been placed in a situation of need to know. In Oregon, only individuals who have hands-on knowledge of currents, tides, soundings, bearings and distances of shoals, rocks, bars, points of landings, lights and fog signals are allowed to direct large vessels on certain waters of the state.21
The next requirement of a pilot is to trust in the captain (our master, Jehovah-Rohi) completely. Kathleen’s father had been a pilot. She was flooded with memories when she entered a ship. The captain welcomed her, and then turned his attention to the pilot. She said, “Their immediate trust in each other was evident. The captain is always in charge of his ship . . . . A trusting relationship is critical to a successful docking.”22
The final attributes of a good pilot are summarized by what Kathleen says of her father. “I learned much from his lifestyle: patience, a matching love of water, respect for weather, and listening skills. Dad was never in a hurry . . . the pilot’s work is never routine.”23
Likewise, following Jesus is never routine when we are willing to risk all we have to follow. A disciple of Jesus Christ must leave behind old familiar ways, the ruts going around the same old mountain, pulling up anchor and embarking into the unknown, uncharted waters. The only way to know which way to go is to listen to the master captain’s voice. He promises us, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (Isa. 30:21). “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isa: 43:2).
We are Guided by three Harbor Lights
The value of pilots is realized when they judge an approach correctly, anticipate accurately and react effectively. One particular harbor has three lighthouses that guide to a safe docking in a narrow channel. The lining up of these three harbor lights, over time, reveals God’s will and our Shepherd’s guidance:
HARBOR LIGHT #1: THE WORD – 80%
The Lord spoke to Joshua. He initiated the conversation, as He always does. Joshua listened, as he always did:
Be strong and courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. -Joshua 1: 7-8
God can do whatever He wants to do–by speaking as He did in the Old Testament, or sending an angel to give encouragement or instructions; however, the main way He speaks is to “cause our thoughts to become agreeable to His will” (Prov. 16:3 Amplified). Of course, this is when we have committed and trusted our works wholly to Him. His voice comes to our minds, as a still, small voice.
The problem lies in deciphering other voices. One is the loud voice of “self.” Another is the demanding, urgent voice of the Evil One. The only way to discern which voice we are hearing is by searching whether it contradicts Scripture, and waiting to see if the other lights line up, giving us freedom to act on the intuition or impression we think we have heard from God.
It has been said that God speaks from His Word to us in our everyday need for guidance at the rate of 80%, 10% by the counsel of the Holy Spirit and Godly counselors, and 10% through circumstances. Experience proves this true.
Many times though, problems of knowing God’s will lie in not knowing what the Bible says. The ideal would be to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but how many have? It is also not always wise to take a Scripture out of context, by pulling one out that speaks to our need.24 However, this is a way God speaks to us today. The Bible is “God’s effort to reveal Himself to humanity.”25 Jesus is alive, and He can get His Word and will to us however He desires, especially if we are seriously seeking and asking Him to speak to us. Even Billy Graham says he can open his Bible anywhere and God will show him something.
Marlene was Guided by The Word
The Lord spoke clearly to Marlene and guided her from the pages of her Bible. She was writing a book, and was halfway through. She kept procrastinating until she was discouraged, doubting her ability to write it. Satan taunted her, “And what makes you think you can find a publisher if you get it finished?”
One spring day, she sat down beside a stream, “God please speak to me,” she prayed. The wind blew the pages of her Bible to 2 Corinthians 8:10-11: “I want to suggest that you finish what you started to do . . . . Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equaled by your realistic action now.”26
What happened to Marlene is the quickening of the Word. Webster’s dictionary defines it as, “to cause to burn more intensely; to cause to be enlivened; to come to life.” When we are using the B-E-A-R Facts of Faith, B-elieving God will speak, E-xpecting Him to speak, A-sking in faith that He will, we will R-eceive His word to us. Remember, Jesus tells us, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).
When it was time to cross the river, Joshua and all the Israelites rose early in the morning, and “set out from Shittim, and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over” (Josh. 1:1). What were they going to do? “Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God'” (Josh. 3:9).
Rising early with the Lord comes before getting to the river’s edge. Lodging there with Him comes before passing over. Removing ourselves from past endeavors has to come before arriving somewhere better. The only way to get there is by scheduling God’s Word as number one priority in our day; thus, our life.
After three days, Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (Josh. 3:5). Consecrate means “to devote irrevocably to the worship of God by a solemn ceremony.”27 It is hearing the Word of the Lord that brings this devotion and commitment to obey–leaving all self interest to follow Him. With consecration brings a cleansing from the Word where our heart’s desire is to ask and, “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:24).
ENDNOTES 19. http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/BMP/becoming_a_pilot.shtml (accessed April 18, 2006). 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid. 22. http://www.atlanticpilotage.com/main/content/newsarticle03.htm (accessed April 18, 2006). 23. Ibid. 24. Every Christian needs to learn to study and correctly handle the Word of Truth (see 2 Tim. 2:15). For the new student of the Bible, Halley’s Bible Handbook is a must. It was the first Bible help published (1973) and has been a best seller since. Dr. Halley’s goal was to help Christians to not only know about the Bible, but to get to know the God of the Bible. Anne Graham Lotz teaches one of the best ways to read, study, and apply a passage of Scripture in order to know what God is speaking to us personally. Her method is outlined in The Vision of His Glory workbook of the seven-session video series of the Book of Revelation-only one of her many studies available. 25. Halley, Henry Hampton, Halley’s Bible Handbook, (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000), p.11. 26. Marlene Bagnull, Write His Answer (ACW Press, Phoenix, AZ, 1999), p.120. 27. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary-Eleventh Edition, (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Springfield, MA 2003), p. 265.
Today’s lesson brings us to Joshua’s story. We’ve already seen how Jacob, as a shepherd working with his father-in-law, worked with Laban for twenty years before he moved on. In that regard, he was like sheep. If Laban had been easy to work for, Jacob could have become a creature of habit and stayed there his whole life, but that was not God’s plan.
Phillip Keller grew up in East Africa where he made his livelihood as a sheep owner and sheep rancher. In his classic book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, he describes the way of sheep, “If left to themselves they will follow the same trails until they become ruts; graze the same hills until they turn to desert wastes; pollute their own ground until it is corrupt with disease and parasites. Many of the world’s finest sheep ranges have been ruined beyond repair by over-grazing, poor management and indifferent or ignorant sheep owners.” 13
“Because of the behavior of sheep and their preference for certain favored spots, these well-worn areas become quickly infested with parasites of all kinds. In a short time a whole flock can thus become infected with worms, nematodes and scab. The final upshot is that both land and owner are ruined while the sheep become thin, wasted and sickly.”14 Therefore:
Sheep Must Be Kept On the Move
Sheep cannot be allowed to stay on the same ground too long. Keller says, “There must be a pre-determined plan of action, a deliberate, planned rotation from one grazing ground to another in line with right and proper principles of sound management . . . . No other single aspect of the ranch operations commanded more of my careful attention than this moving of the sheep. It literally dominated all my decisions . . . . The success I enjoyed in sheep ranching must be attributed to this care in managing my flock.”15
The moving of the sheep can be from every day to every week. Depending upon the lay of the land, some shepherds set up a base camp and fan out from it in wide circles in a clover leaf pattern, covering new pasture every day. That allows them to return to camp at night.16 Other shepherds may need to lead their flocks through valleys in order to get to the high country.
“The annual trek through the valley is the only way for the sheep to escape the barren, dry ground that has been parched by the summer sun or abused by overgrazing. The valley is the only way of escape from the relentless heat of the lowlands.”17
The valley is a place of danger and fear to the sheep. They are most vulnerable here to their predators, but the valley grows the richest, most nourishing grass beside clear water streams. It is the only way to those who choose to follow the Shepherd to the high country.
“The Lord is my shepherd . . . .” (Ps. 23:1). He is. He can do no less than to guide. It is who He is.
“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3). Paths of righteousness are always on the move, “having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will . . .” (Eph. 1:11). This plan is his best plan for our lives that we have to choose to follow to the high country. Other paths are always available that take little effort to follow.
If we are following Jehovah-Rohi and not straying, we will be growing spiritually. “On the move” is mentally and spiritually, not necessarily physically-but many times, that too. He is the Good Shepherd. He leads only in good ways that lead to good outcomes even though it may not seem that way at the time. His ways bring glory to only Him (not us) in the final analysis.
It is in the valley that my Shepherd “leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23: 2-4). Every threat becomes only a fearful shadow of the real thing, and the threat of death never becomes a reality before its time.
From Jacob to Moses to Joshua & Caleb
Jacob’s descendants, living in the lush land of Goshen, did not understand that the valley is the only way to the high country. After exactly 430 years, over ten generations, they most likely lost sight of the big picture, and some probably did not even know of God’s promise to Jacob, that He guided them to Egypt and would guide them back home with he leadership of Moses and Joshua.
Meanwhile, their journey meant bondage before getting back.
A new pharaoh grew fearful of the Israelites because, despite their bondage, they were growing in greater numbers than the Egyptians. He did not know about Joseph who was now deceased.
He ordered the slaughter of all baby boys. Moses’ mother hid him in a basket in the river Nile, saving his life when he was a baby. The daughter of Pharaoh found him and raised him as her own. When Moses learned he was an Israelite and ran from Egypt, after killing the Egyptian, he learned shepherding from his father-in-law in the backside of the desert.
After one oppressive pharaoh died and another took his place, the Israelites groaned in their slavery, crying for help. “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob” (Exod. 3:7). God saw their affliction and heard their misery.
Meanwhile, Moses saw the burning bush and turned aside to see the sight. God spoke to him, “I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . . .” (Exod. 3:8).
“I see your future purposes and designs, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Caleb & You”
In other words, God could have said to Moses, “I will do this through you, my shepherd. As their Great Shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi, I have had it all prearranged. I had a plan from the very beginning for your life and theirs. I see your future purposes and designs. I told Jacob to go with his sons to Egypt. If I’d allowed them to stay in Canaan, their descendants would have intermarried with the idolatrous people then in the land. I’ve had to have a pure nation, one with unity of purpose and one strong enough to take possession of the high country I am now bringing you to. And from this nation will be born The Deliverer, My Son.”
This is the background to the greatest deliverance in all history. It is also the background to the saddest mass suicide of all time–when the older generation of approximately six-hundred thousand men (not counting women and children)18 chose to die in the wilderness (see Exod. 12:36). They witnessed God open the Red Sea for them to walk over on dry land. Yet, they refused to believe God would help them take possession of His best plan for their lives.
They chose to go in circles, retracing their familiar steps around the same mountain for forty years, rather than reaching forth into the unknown. The Good Shepherd knew them, but they chose to not know Him. Only Joshua and Caleb knew their God when they came to the Jordan River’s edge, as they shepherded the younger generation across.
How did they get across? When they finally got to Jordan what did they do? Joshua records his words of faith, “Come near; listen to the words of the Lord your God . . . . Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will surely drive out from before you the Canaanites . . . .” (Josh. 3:9-10 Amplified).
They stopped. For three whole days, they prepared themselves for a holy purpose. They listened to God’s Word. When they came to the brink of the waters . . . they stood still. Surely Joshua reminded the people not to depend upon how they felt, but on God’s promise to bring them in. He reminded them how God continually led them in the wilderness: God’s presence was visibly with them in a cloud by day that shielded them from the hot sun and in a pillar of fire by night to show the way. Joshua demonstrated lessons in faith, and that they could depend upon the Lord to be with them now as He had been in the past-twenty-four hours a day.
And now, he would teach them how to follow the Lord, and that they could depend upon the Shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi, to guide them continually through fears of the unknown. He taught them to trust God to do His work through them to take possession of the Promised Land–His best plan for their lives–given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and now, to us.