7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
This is one of those instances when I have to choose the NKJV over the NLT. It may be that the NLT renders it a little more accurately, but I really like the way the NKJV paints an image in my mind that we should be strong and courageous for God rather than because of Him. (For a different perspective, check out my entry for Day 16 from 2010!)
Face it, it does take a lot of courage, and personal strength, to stand up for God! At the very least, Christians today are subject to ridicule. All too often, our faith and beliefs make us the target of discrimination and persecution. It's no wonder that so many Christians cave into fear and stand silent. They're terrified that speaking the truth will put them in Dan Cathy's shoes.
(Years from now, people will be asking "who is Dan Cathy?" so, just for the record, he is the CEO of Chik-Fil-A, a fast food chain, who has come under fire for stating his personal belief in what God says about homosexual behavior. To date, the restaurant has never discriminated against gays, whether as customers or as employees. That's irrelevant to those who see God's law as oppressive to personal freedoms.)
It's nothing new, this rage against God's people. Even back before Christ died, before the term "Christian" was invented, back when God's people were pretty much exclusive to the Israelites, there were people who would kill anyone who followed the God of Abraham. And, there were people who would risk their lives to protect His children.
Rahab is the perfect example, and it just so happens, her story is told in the very next chapter of Joshua! Yea for me, I get a double hitter with this one. Most everyone knows who Rahab was. She was a harlot. I'm not sure if that was an esteemed position in her culture or not, but in our culture, the term "whore" would probably be used, and it carries some very negative connotations. It carried the same negativity among the Israelites, too, because God couldn't stand harlotry, physical or spiritual.
Anyway, so the story goes, a couple of Israelites were sent to spy out the land of Jericho. They came to Rahab, who told them how her people were very afraid of the Hebrew's God. The king of Jericho got wind that she was harboring the spies, and sent soldiers from his army to her home, demanding that she turn them over.
But Rahab lied to the soldiers. She had hidden the men on the roof among the flax stalks, and she told the soldiers that she'd been unaware of their identity, and that they had already left, as the gates of the city had closed. She sent the army on a wild goose chase in order to protect God's people, knowing full well that it would mean certain death to her and her family should her own people discover her duplicity.
After the spies had gotten far enough in the wrong direction, she sent the two spies off to the mountains to hide for three days, lowering them from her window (her home, like many others, was built into the wall of Jericho) with a rope. In exchange for her assistance, they instructed her to hang a red cord in her window, and gather her entire family to her home, so that when the children of Israel attacked the city of Jericho, she and her family would be spared.
What bravery! Her courage wasn't because of God, it was for Him! What a beautiful thing! And God rewarded her for her courage. He not only allowed her to live, He gave her a husband from among the tribe of Judah, and included her in the ancestral lineage of King David... She was his great, great grandmother. She was also one of only five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.
Ok, i know this is somewhat out of the blue, but I can't help but bring attention to another current example of someone being courageous for God. At a time when Dan Cathy is the topic of discussion and the target of such hate everywhere, it takes even more courage to speak up. This other fearless for Christ example is the little 16 year old gymnast who has taken the world by storm in the 2012 summer olympics, and I'm going to end this post by quoting what she said, while the whole world watched, right after making history as the first black woman to ever win the Women's Gymnastic All-Around gold medal:
"It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It's kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me."
May we all be so fearless for God.