Skip to main content

What is your Bethel?

The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel, and the Lord was with them. And the house of Joseph scouted out Bethel. (Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” And he showed them the way into the city. And they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. And the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city and called its name Luz. That is its name to this day.
JUDGES 1:22-25 

I have been thinking about success recently. What is success? How does it look like? That is partly because of change in personal circumstances. I am now just moved into this new pastoral role, a radical departure from my previous economic role in government. The other reason is that we have been hearing a lot of success from national leaders. Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to make a success of Brexit. What does that really mean? President Donald Trump wants to make America great again. How do we measure that?

The passage above is a helpful place to start. The context is that Joshua has died, so the people of God have come before God and asked for direction on the way forward. God has directed Judah to lead the assault and He has promised them that He will be with them as they seek full possession of Canaan. The first wave has been led by Judah and Simeon mainly focusing on the South and central parts. Now the House of Joseph is leading a new push for central and north starting at Bethel.  Bethel is a strategically town north of Jerusalem that if taken could potential open up the whole northern hill country as far as the Jezreel Valley to possible occupation by Israel. It is also spiritually important to Israel because it is Bethel, the “city of God”. Israel wants Bethel and the good news is that God is still with them.

Joseph swings into action with great military tactics. They win the battle decisively but sadly it seems to have been done though spiritual compromise. When they say to the man, “we will deal kindly with you”, literally it means, “we will demonstrate covenant loyalty with you”. This was forbidden by God and later on He will indict them for it at Bocchim.  What is interesting is that to casual reader it seems like Joseph has done nothing wrong. What is wrong with striking a deal to win war? Is this really any different from what Joshua did with Rahab?

In fact what they had done is very different from what Joshua did at Jericho. The man of Luz that the House of Joseph is helping is no Rahab. She later on became an Israelite and is one of the ancestors of Jesus. The man of Luz that the House of Joseph has let go is a diehard Canaanite! In fact instead of destroying Luz as they were supposed to do, the city has just moved to another location. Joseph’s compromise as led to a new city that now stands as a symbol of defiance against God.

Compromise always wears a friendly face. It seems so innocent and common place. Sometimes it even looks kind / tolerant”. To the world, Joseph deserves applause for achieving success! But in God’s book, the victory at Bethel represents a tragic failure because they have compromised terribly. What may look success may be a complete failure to God. It is possible to display all the marks of success as individuals, organisation or country and yet be failures in the eyes of God. Bethel is a warning to all of us not to rely on our own common sense but to look to God and to be clear what God centred success is!

Series Posts:

Who is your Simeon? (Judges 1:1-3)
What is your iron chariot? (Judges 1:19)


Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2017

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I am what I am by Gloria Gaynor

Beverly Knight closed the opening ceremony of the Paralympics with what has been dubbed the signature tune of the Paralympics. I had no idea Ms Knight is still in the singing business. And clearly going by the raving reviews she will continue to be around. One media source says her performance was so electric that "there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen as she sang the lyrics to the song and people even watching at home felt the passion in her words" . The song was Gloria Gaynor's I am what I am . Clearly not written by Gloria Gaynor but certainly musically owned and popularized by her. It opens triumphantly: I am what I am / I am my own special creation / So come take a look / Give me the hook or the ovation / It's my world that I want to have a little pride in / My world and it's not a place I have to hide in / Life's not worth a damn till you can say I am what I am The words “I am what I am” echo over ten times in the song. A bold declaration that she

Workers for Your Joy (A Review)

Workers for your Joy (WFYJ) is about what Christ calls leaders in his church to be and do, particularly the teaching office in the church (i.e. pastor or elder).  It presents a biblical vision of leadership by going through the fifteen qualifications of elders listed 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The central question Mathis is basically asking is – how should we pastor or lead the church in light of these qualifications? The target audience of the book seems to be those who are in the early stages of pastoral ministry. The book was part of the seminary syllabus at Bethlehem. However, the author does explicitly state that the book is also meant to be of use to church members in considering what Christ expects of leadership in the local church.   Mathis has written this book because he believes leadership has fallen on hard times. The church in the west and the society around us has become increasingly discontent with being led due to the high-profile cases that have sprung about leadership.

I Am Mother

I think it is true to say that the Netflix film I Am Mother is one the most disturbing movies I have watched for a long time. The film is set in a near future. Human life has been wiped out. An artificial intelligence (AI) called Mother is living inside a bunker where thousands of embroyos are stored. It selects an embryo and initiates a program to grow a baby within 24 hours. The AI then goes on to raise the child as its mother over the next few years.  After 16 years, the girl, who now goes by the name of Daughter (Clara Rugaard) is a teenager. She has never been outside because Mother has told her that the air is toxic. Her time is spend being home schooled in science and ethics so that she can become a perfect human being. The bond between Daughter and Mother is unusually strong. To our surprise there does not appear to be any mental or pyschological trauma of having a machine as her mother.  The strength of the bond between man and machine is tested when a nameless Woman (Hilary