We’ve all seen the signs. And we’ve slowed down and gone carefully over the speed bumps to save wear and tear on our car.
We agree, speed bumps are a good thing. They slow down those motorcyclists and the young – or not so young – speeders that would disturb the neighborhood peace.
But speed bumps are for us too. And all speed bumps aren’t made alike. Some can give you a real jolt, some are much lower. But if we’re going a little too fast, we hit the brake quickly. And if we don’t slow down enough for the first one, we do for the second. And the third.
There are other kinds of speed bumps in life that we must pay attention to and go over carefully. Maybe the reason for a particular speed bump is not our problem, but it hinders us. It might be a rule of the state, like having to wear a mask in public during the pandemic. Or income tax laws that are hard to follow. Or regulations that for the dishonest but that hinder everyone else in business activity. Or a medication or something we must do to preserve our health that we would not choose except we see the value in it. There are situations that complicate our lives because of the culture we live in. All kinds of speed bumps that hinder our traveling, where we must slow down and proceed carefully.
How about speed bumps in our spiritual lives? They are there, too. Plenty of them. What do they look like?
Let’s think about some other people who came to speed bumps before us.
How about a man named Job? At the beginning of the account, which he later called a parable, it sounds like everything was going in his favor. Full speed ahead.
Job 1:1–3 1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. 2And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. 3Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East.
But all of a sudden, Job hit the speed bumps. Plenty of them. Very hard speed bumps that really slowed him down, almost to a stop.
Job 1:14–15 14…a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15when the Sabeans raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
And that was only the beginning.
Job 1:16 16While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Job 1:17 17While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Job 1:18–19 18While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Four enormous speed bumps in a row. It was enough to stop anyone.
But Job didn’t stop. He stopped only long enough to—of all things—to worship God!
Job 1:20 20Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.
You remember what he said:
Job 1:21 21And he said: …The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
It was exactly right attitude. This is what stands on record for Job’s account:
Job 1:22 22In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
Now his wife enters the picture.
Job 2:9–10 9Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Her advice: Forget about his integrity and curse God for all his troubles. Curse God and die!
Job replied firmly that such an idea was foolishness! No way would he do such a thing!
10…he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”
Job held on to his character. The final line reads:
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
He would not listen to the counsel of his wife.
Let’s look at another who hit a serious speed bump. His name: Joshua.
Moses had only recently died, and Joshua was still adjusting to his new role as leader of the vast number of people. They were ready for Canaan, but Canaan was not ready for them. The first step according to God’s pre-planned agenda: Conquest.
Joshua 1:1–3 1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2“Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.
First was the advice from God to Joshua:
Joshua 1:5–6 5No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
And there was more: a command to “Be Strong!”
At last the conquest began: Jericho. God was working with them. The record tells us the result: A stunning victory!
Then on to Ai. Nothing could stop them.
Ai was a little place compared to Jericho, what we would call today a “piece of cake.” Not heavily armed. Surely no problem.
Joshua sent men from Jericho to look at Ai, and get advice. The men returned with advice.
Joshua 7:3–4 3And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.” 4So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai.
Three thousand warriors would be plenty!
The Israelites advanced full speed on Ai. Then …
Bump! Hard bump. Utter defeat.
Joshua 7:6–7 6Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan!
Joshua was distressed beyond words. What could be wrong!
We know, given the written record of the event. But Joshua did not know.
First Joshua prayed. God heard, and put it in Joshua’s hands to find the problem and solve it.
Not easy. But when the whole camp was ordered to come tribe by tribe, the tribe of Judah was taken. Then it unraveled, piece by piece.
Let’s read the account from Joshua chapter 7.
Joshua 7:16–26 16So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel by their tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17He brought the clan of Judah, and he took the family of the Zarhites; and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18Then he brought his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
No way to hide from God anyway… if Achan had only thought ahead!
Then came Achan’s full admission:
20And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
Joshua did not leave it even at this point.
22So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver under it. 23And they took them from the midst of the tent, brought them to Joshua and to all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord.
The “treasures” were all laid out for everyone to see. It was a lesson for all.
24Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor.
With real courage Joshua pressed the charge.
25And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. 26Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger.
It was severe and serious judgment on wrongdoing.
We don’t know that their death was by physical stoning. To us, stoning sounds cruel, and God was never cruel in anything He did. When He took lives, it was a quick and merciful method, as when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah:
Luke 17:29 29… on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.
It has been suggested by some scholars that stoning is not the right translation of the Hebrew word used. And the fact that they piled a heap of stones to mark the place is not a sure indication that literal stoning was the means of their death. They used stones to mark memorials at other times, as after the crossing of the Jordan.
Deuteronomy 27:4 4Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime.
But the judgment was severe and final. The conquest continued at god’s command, now with the assurance of victory.
One more speed bump, this time from David. All resolved and all set to build a magnificent house for the Lord his God, David hit a hard speed bump. More like a mountain.
It was his heart’s desire, the longing of his life. His dream at last would be reality. He had talked it over with the Lord, and his spiritual advisor, and all seemed ready for full speed ahead.
Then, bump. Full stop. The Lord said no!
1 Chronicles 28:3 3… God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.’
David was hard hit, but his attitude was total acceptance. Whatever God said, that was it. Fully compliant, fully trusting the outcome with god.
David said it again, afterward, using another simile, so expressive of his complete resignation to God’s will:
2 Samuel 23:5 5… He made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things, and sure: For this is all my salvation, and all my desire, Although he make it not to grow.
Though He make it not to grow.
Bump! Hear David spread it before the Lord.
2 Samuel 7:18–19 18Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 19And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O Lord God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come. Is this the manner of man, O Lord God?
But God had another plan to reveal. A replacement plan. He told David at that time, “I will build you a house.” Could it be?! Hear David’s grateful prayer:
2 Samuel 7:26–28 26So let Your name be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. 27For You, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You. 28“And now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant.
The climax would be David’s descendant, to be the king of the whole Earth. Yes, right from David’s own family. Honor of all honors. The “forever” blessing.
2 Samuel 7:29 29Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for You, O Lord God, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”
There will still be speed bumps ahead, be ready for them. Take them at the right speed and they are harmless. And soon, there will be no more bumps but only blessed, smooth traveling in the Kingdom. That is what we are called to—to share with Christ and all the family.