Joshua 1:1-9: Courage and Obedience

Read Joshua 1:1-9

The first 9 verses of Joshua record God’s command to Joshua concerning what God would do with the Israelites. Moses had died and Joshua succeeded him as the leader of Israel. God charges Joshua and the people to cross the Jordan and go into the Promised Land. The land, as described by God here, stretched the length from the Hittite territory in the North to the Negev in the South, from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Euphrates in the East. This occupation, however, was not fully realized until the time of David. The command given to Joshua is rather intriguing – it is not a command to go in conquering the land, rather a command first to be strong and courageous and second to obey the commandments that God had given them in the book of the Law. The one who was going to do the taking and giving was God. And in this courage and obedience, God was going to go with them wherever they go.

Moses encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous when he was handing over the leadership to Joshua before he died (Deuteronomy 31:6-8) and David said the same thing before he died to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:20). The commission to Joshua to be strong and courageous is antithetical to being fearful and shrinking back. 40 years earlier, the Israelites were looking to go into the land after leaving Egypt. They sent in 12 spies and the spies came back. 10 of the 12 spies saw the task as impossible, and wanted to go back. Caleb and Joshua believed they could enter the land and take it. The result was devastating for that generation. Of the ones who left Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua were allowed to enter the land (Numbers 13, Numbers 14).

The promise that God would be with his people is found in Matthew 28:20 at the end of the Great Commission. Hebrews 13:5-6 quotes this on the context of love of money. The author also quotes from Psalm 118:6 that speaks of God as being a helper and asks what man can do to them. The surety of God’s presence in the life of the believer is reason enough to be strong and be courageous. At the same time, one should also obey the commandments too. The connection with courage and obedience is clear, and these qualities are what are needed to lead the people of God. The focus here is not on performing great deeds for God, rather focusing on being obedient to what God wants. It is God who does the taking and giving!

God, help me to courageous and obedient and leave the fighting up to you!

Ecclesiastes 12:8-14: The End of The Matter

Read: Ecclesiastes 12:8-14

The Preacher ends where Proverbs starts off – the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7 says that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Preacher, after having searched things out and evaluated his entire life accordingly, concludes that all is vanity and that the lot of main is to fear God and keep his commandments. He Preacher sought to gather wisdom and arrange it in a fashion for his readers to understand, and writes his treatise as if it where the ultimate manifesto on the subject matter concerning life. He shifts from third person to first person, warning his “son” to beware of anything beyond what he has read in the Preacher’s writings here. The Preacher warns that there is no end to the making of books and much study is tiresome. But nevertheless, the Preacher does commend wisdom calling it a “goad” – that is something worn by cattle to prod them on. In the case of wisdom, it is to live skillfully in accordance with God’s commands, because God brings action into judgment.

The Preacher already encouraged his reader to fear God (Ecclesiastes 5:7, Ecclesiastes 8:12). The Preacher in his conclusion echoes what the Law had already spoken in Deuteronomy 10:12. When the Old Testament talks about fearing God, it is not talking about being afraid of God in the sense that one is afraid of something that is scary, rather being fearful of God is realizing one’s place before God and responding appropriately to that knowledge. The appropriate response is obedience as the Preacher points out and what God requires. Deuteronomy 10:12 says that God’s people should love him and serve with all their heart soul. Jesus declared that this was the greatest commandment on which the law and the prophets were suspended like a weight on a rope (Matthew 23:37-40) and says that obedience is how one shows live for God (John 14:15). What is certainly true throughout the whole of scripture and is the bedrock of all that one does in life is to love and fear God, and one does this by keeping his commandments.

One’s relationship with God begins at the point of salvation where one follows Jesus’ command to repent from one’s sin and another to believe the gospel (Mark 1:15, John 12:50). After this, a believer receives the Holy Spirit and with the help of the Holy Spirit embarks on a life that pursues godliness by following the commands of Christ. The Preacher learned this lesson the hard way, but people need not do this – they can learn what brings the most fulfillment by hearing the gospel, believing it, and living it!

Lord, help me to fear you and keep your commandments!

Ecclesiastes 11:3-6: Do What Is Certain

Read: Ecclesiastes 11:3-6

Perhaps the only thing that is certain in the world is uncertainty, so the Preacher thinks. The Preacher looks at those that read the signs and try and act according to them. There are those that watch the wind and watch the clouds wait for the opportune time to act according to what they see and interpret. The Preacher thinks this is foolishness, and a person should rather act upon that which is more certain sowing seeds “in the morning” – that is in due time when the time for sowing a particular seed is right. The Preacher suggests this is better because no one knows the mystery of God. Nobody knows when the wind will blow or not blow among other things. And basing one’s actions upon such things is just as uncertain. This isn’t the first time that the Preacher asserts the mystery of the workings of God. The Preacher says that God has set man’s heart on eternity, yet man cannot conceive or understand the works of God (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Ecclesiastes 8:17). Job, after God showed his majesty, repented that he had spoken of things too wonderful to comprehend and repents (Job 42:1-6).

Christians are no less susceptible to musing about the unknown. Here are two biblical examples:

  • The time and date of Jesus’ return. There have been many failed prophecies over the year concerning the exact date of Jesus’ return. But this is no surprise, because Jesus himself said that no one knows the date and time of his return (Matthew 24:36).
  • God’s judgment and mercy is often called into question by any number of people. Paul argues in Romans 9:3-23 that God has the right to act for his purposes, and is not unjust in doing so. Paul by way of analogy says that people cannot question God in this manner any more than a lump of clay can question a potter. The potter can make a vessel for one purpose or another in the same way God acts for one purpose or another.

Isaiah 55:8-9 declares that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than mans. The schemes and works of God are as the sky is to the earth – much higher. This is no excuse to be intellectually lazy in grappling with tough issues and trying to know God better. What it does require, however, is a dose of humility to accept the fact that there are going to be some issues that will not be resolved as Job did. Christians have been hashing out issues since the early church and there does not seem to be any reprieve from this. Rather than get caught up in these debates though, one would do well do what is more certain such as believe in Jesus, love God, love others and make disciples. There can be little debate and uncertainty about these things!

Lord, help me to do the things I know that are certain!

John 13:1-20, John 13:34-35

Read: John 13:1-20, John 13:34-35

Jesus loved his disciples very much — there can be no mistake about this. One of his purposes while on earth was to teach the disciples how to love as he loved, and in a meaningful way, Jesus demonstrates this love by washing their feet. Jesus, being master and lord, takes on the role of a servant and washes the feet of all the disciples, even Judas who Jesus knew would betray him and who Jesus knew that the devil was already working in Judas’ heart. The work of washing feet was reserved for the lowliest of servants. In New Testament times, people principally wore open toed shoes that walked on dusty streets covered with all sorts of unclean things. This stuff would inevitably cover one’s feet. When going into a person’s house, a servant would usually be there to wash the guests feet as they entered the home. Jesus was demonstrating how the disciples were to love one another in a very tangible fashion.

In the midst of this, Peter insists that Jesus not wash his feet, as Peter did not fully understand the meaning of the what Jesus was doing. Jesus tells him that unless Jesus washes his feet, he has nothing to do with him. Peter, wanting everything to do with Jesus, insists on a bath. Jesus says that Peter is not in need of a bath because he is already clean. Judas was not clean though as he was about to betray Jesus. Jesus instructs the disciples that they should wash one another’s feet. In a manner of speaking Jesus was saying that they should love one another as he loved them. Jesus then quotes from Psalm 41:9 speaking of a friend who eats bread with him will betray him. Jesus knew that the betrayal was coming, but he mentions it so that they would know that Jesus said it to be so and that they would believe for this reason.

Paul exhorts Christians to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus in Philippians 2:1-8. Paul describes Jesus as one who was equal with God, but did hold onto this equality. Instead, he, being master of the universe, becomes a man, then a servant, then a death-row inmate all in sacrificial humility and obedience to God. This attitude of mutual submission to one another is the attitude that all Christians should have. Jesus notes that in John 13:35 that in this way people would know that they are his disciples. In other words, the mark of a Christian is love for other Christians, even when some people are difficult to love as Judas certainly was. Christians have Christ’s example and can live according to it.

Lord, you’re commandment is for us to love one another.

Help me to love others and others to love me so many can see this and give glory to you!