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Perfectly Imperfect

In Joshua 1:3 we read: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.” Herein, we find the verbs, “you will tread” and “I have given” in quick succession.

Now, the Hebrew language is less concerned with tense (when the action occurred) than it is with aspect. Aspect refers to the type of action. What do I mean by type of action? In short, whether an action has been completed or whether it has not yet been completed. Complete or incomplete. Finished or yet to be finished. This is the question around which the Hebrew verbal system pivots. The “perfect” aspect denotes completed action while the “imperfect” aspect denotes incomplete action. In our verse, “you will tread” is in the imperfect aspect while “I have given” is in the perfect aspect. In other words, the fact that God has given the children of Israel their Promised Land is a done deal. That transaction has been signed, sealed and delivered. It is a completed action. However, the treading of their feet upon that land has not yet been completed. That action is still in progress—and requires their direct cooperation. It is incomplete in nature. We must take note here of an extremely important fact. In order for the Israelites to enjoy what God had already done—He had given them the Promised Land—they had to do their part by going out into that land and actively possessing it.

We find this principle—God having already done something but us needing still to do something in order to enjoy the something that He has already done—throughout Scripture. Consider salvation. The work is complete: Jesus gave His life up for us and then rose again from the dead. However, we must recognise His sacrifice and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour before we can partake in the victory that He has already won. We can apply this same principle to every promise in Scripture. God has promised to provide for us: “The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (Psalm 34:10). God has promised to heal us: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:2-4). God has promised to protect us: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12). So, the promises made by God are sure—just as sure as His promise to the Israelites in Joshua 1:3 was sure—but we are required to engage in certain activities before those promises can materialise. What are we to do? What is required of us?

The Analogy

I would like to break up what the Lord requires of us into spiritual activities and practical activities. Both are fundamental. The story of the battle of Jericho creates a great analogy in this respect. We can read the story in Joshua chapter 6. In fact, at the beginning of this chapter we again see an example of perfect and imperfect verbs placed side-by-side. In verse 2 we read: “And the Lord said to Joshua: ‘See! I have given Jericho into your hand”. Then, in verse 3, the Lord commands: “You shall march around the city”. Here, we find the completed promise—“I have given Jericho into your hand”—alongside the action required from the Israelites and still to be completed by them: “You shall march around the city”. Now, let us look at the story. The Israelite army is commanded—together with the priests bearing the ark—to march around the city of Jericho once a day for six days. On the seventh day, they are instructed to march around the city seven times before shouting with a great shout. As they shout, the Lord causes the walls of Jericho to come crumbling down, upon which the Israeli soldiers invade the city. Let us consider what the marching and the invading represent.

Our Spiritual Role

I would like to compare the marching around the city to the spiritual part that God requires us to play in our breakthrough. This spiritual part is not complicated. What is it? Prayer! Like the inhabitants of Jericho would have watched the soldiers marching around the city and not understood the impact that this apparently energy-withering, time-wasting action was having, so the world considers our prayers to be a waste of time. We know better, however. Just as God told the Israelites, “March!” and they marched. So, the Lord commands us, “Pray!” and we pray. If those Israelites had not marched as instructed around the city, the walls would not have crumbled. Likewise, if we do not pray, we will also not experience breakthrough. Why? The power lies in our obedience rather than in our understanding. The connection between the marching of the Israelites and the walls crumbling is not apparent to us. The link was forged by the Almighty. Similarly, we cannot see the link between prayer and answered prayer. Yet, the link is most certainly there. God commands prayer and when we pray, we see results. Scripture is littered with instructions—and encouragement—regarding prayer: Do not be anxious but present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6-7); ask, believe and you shall receive (Mark 11:24); call to God and He will answer you (Jeremiah 33:3); be joyful in hope and faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12). Consequently, prayer is a fundamental part that we must play in our own deliverance, just as marching around Jericho was a fundamental part that the Israelites played in conquering Jericho.

Our Practical Role

Regarding the practical role that we are required to play, what does this involve? In the Jericho story, once the walls came crashing down, the soldiers were required to advance. They had to charge into the city with their weapons and fight. “Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” is what we read in Joshua 6:20b. Physical effort was demanded from the Israelites before they could partake in the victory promised by the Lord. Likewise with us, there are practical steps that we are required to take in our breakthrough. Are you praying for provision? Ensure you are managing your finances correctly, using all the talents the Lord has given you, working hard, hustling for business while still acting with integrity and also, giving to those in need. Are you praying for healing? Ensure you are looking after your body—exercise, eating habits and the like—and doing what your doctor prescribes. Sometimes, in your prayer time, the Lord will instruct you to take specific steps of action. Take those steps. However, Scripture is full of directives and words of wisdom when it comes to living our everyday lives. Apply these instructions and guidelines as you continue praying for breakthrough.

Prayer and Action

Now, in the story of Jericho, the spiritual part—marching around the city—and practical part—invading the city—did not occur concurrently but one after the other. Usually, these two activities run simultaneously, until the promise is fulfilled. We need to be praying and taking practical steps on a daily basis. There are situations when we cannot do anything but pray until the breakthrough comes. However, most often, we embark on both activities simultaneously, the spiritual and the practical. They are equally important. God needs our prayers and He also needs our deeds. If we study the lives of the Old Testament prophets and also, Jesus and His disciples, they were all people of prayer and action. Jesus prayed and acted. Elijah prayed and acted. The Apostles Peter, John and Paul prayed and acted. This is the winning formula and what the Lord requires from us.

A Question

My question to you today is this. Are you praying and acting? Have you slacked in one area or the other or possibly, both? Perhaps you are a man or woman of action but your prayer life is non-existent. You have started relying on your own abilities, rather than the Lord. This will only carry you so far and then disaster will strike. Perhaps you are a warrior in the prayer closet but outside it, you shrink back from taking the steps you know need to be taken. Perhaps you feel insignificant or unqualified. Perhaps you are simply afraid—afraid of the unknown or afraid of failure. Dear friend, we need to be both praying and acting. Commit to brushing up where needed. The Lord has great need of you and He is with you. God said to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). His message to you is the same. Be bold and courageous. You have been anointed and appointed for such a time as this!

With love, Tamryn.


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