Joshua 10:28-43: The God of Israel

Read: Joshua 10:28-43

Joshua and Israel wasted no time after they put the 5 Amorite kings under their feet. They proceeded to conquer seven cities in the southern part of what is now modern day Israel. The book of Joshua does not go into great detail as to how these cities were conquered as it did for Jericho and Ai, because these cities served as the prototype for how Israel was to conquer the rest of the cities in Canaan. The cities were utterly destroyed under “the ban” because of the sinfulness of the people in these cities. The book makes a special note in verse 42 concerning the campaign in the south: the cities were conquered because the Lord fought for Israel. This is the second time in the chapter that the book notes that God fought for Israel (the first is Joshua 10:14). The verse and also in verse 40 place a special emphasis on the fact that the Lord was the God of Israel. In a matter of summary, the verses gives credit to God for the astounding victories Israel had.

Israel by themselves were a people without a land who had been living under the bondage of the Egyptians. The story of deliverance and the story of conquering the land of Canaan make God out to be the hero in the story. The might of kings and armies were no match for God, and the beneficiaries were the people of Israel. When the book of Joshua calls the “Lord” (that is “יהוה” the unspoken name of God) the God of Israel, he is using the word “god” in the general since of the word. The book is in a manner of speaking lifting God above the gods of the other peoples they conquered. The gods of the other people were unable to deliver them even in part from the God of Israel. Without fail, God proved yet again that he was supreme above all others.

The supremacy of God cannot be question. What can be question is whether or not the God of Israel is one’s personal God. When Jesus came to earth, he claimed to have oneness with the Father – that is oneness with God (John 1:1-2, John 10:30, John 8:58). While not everyone accepted this fact, there were many that did. Thomas, who is often noted for his doubt, makes a bold statement of Jesus in John 20:28, call Jesus his “Lord” and his “God”. Thomas was acknowledging Jesus was Yahweh the God of Israel, but even more so that Jesus was his God. Jesus is God, and when one believing this fact. At the same time, one also knows that he or she has faith in the God above all others and that this God can fight on one’s behalf in all things. He is the hero – the one who is mighty and can save one from all things!

Lord, you are the God of Israel and the God of me!

Joshua 5:13-15: Encountering the Presence of God

Read: Joshua 5:13-15

Joshua’s encounter with the “commander of the Lord’s army” is a rather interesting interjection at the end of chapter five. Not all scholars agree about the placement this appearance. Some see the last three verses of chapter 5 as part of chapter 6. Some see these verses as a separate episode to chapter six altogether. But even so, the question still remains: who exactly is this person that appears to Joshua? Some observations can be made about this:

  • Joshua is out looking at Jericho, the city that God captures on Israel’s behalf in chapter 6. Some commentators have suggested that Joshua is scouting a plan here, but someone obviously sent by God comes to him while he is out. The commentators think that this appearance by the man was to draw Joshua’s attention away from trying to capture Jericho by plans conceived by man, and focus Joshua on God who would give him a plan.
  • When Joshua asks if the man is for or against Israel, the commander answers “לאכי” (pronounced “loh kee”) which is rendered “neither” or “no but” in many modern translation to indicate that the man represented something entirely else than what Joshua presumed he did – namely the Lord’s army.
  • The man identifies himself as “שׂר” (pronounced “sar”)which is a general term indicating any number of possible positions of rank such as commander, prince, captain, leader, head, chief, or a ruler of some kind. The man had rank among the army of God.
  • Joshua bows down to him. The man does not disdain Joshua’s reverence as Peter did in Acts 10:26 and the angel who delivered revelations to John (Revelation 19:10).
  • Joshua calls the man “אדני”  (pronounced “adonai”), a name that is spoken in reference to God and is substituted for the unspoken name of God – יהוה – when the scriptures were being read aloud which means “Lord”.
  • The man tells Joshua to remove his sandals because the place he was holy ground. This is reminiscent of Exodus 3:5 when Moses is at the burning bush and God speaks to Moses through the bush. The burning bush was made holy by the presence of God.

What is certain is that whoever the man is, he commanded reverence from Joshua because of who he represented, namely God himself. That and where this man went, the presence of God went also. It is possible that the man was an incarnation of God himself for several reasons: The man receives worship, Joshua calls him “Lord”, and the place his made holy in the presence of the man. What is certain is Joshua realizes that he is in the presence of God and responds appropriately by submitting to the man in reverence and awe. This is the same thing that Isaiah did when he encountered God (Isaiah 6:1-8) and what the disciples did after Peter walked on water (Matthew 14:33).

Witnessing the works and the very presence of God should do the very sort of thing to Christians too: drive them to reverence and awe. Christians should never be puffed up because of what God does on their behalf, but recognize that it is God working and be grateful for it. What is interesting here is that the man does not identify himself as siding with Israel or the Canaanites, rather siding with God. God is the god of those who will have faith in him and obey him no matter what nationality they may be from. God redeemed Rahab the prostitute even though she was a sinner and not of the Israelites and he still does the same for so many others in the world today too. When sinners encounter the majesty and holiness of God, they should be amazed, being filled with awe and wonder. And this drives people to reverence and awe!

Lord, you are amazing! I submit myself 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 7:27-29: Man’s Ways vs. God’s Ways

Read: Ecclesiastes 7:27-29

God created man upright, but men pursue their own schemes, so the Preacher says. These words resonate with what the Preacher had said earlier concerning the issues of righteousness (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Truly righteous people don’t exist, but even those that come close the Preacher thinks are hard to find. He is unable to find righteous people among thousands of people. When God created man, man was in a relationship with God and without sin. But it wasn’t long before man was tempted and fell, and ever since the first sin, men who were created by God to live according to God’s ways, have lived according to their own ways. The Hebrew the word translated “schemes” or “devices” carries with it the idea of a machine, craft, or invention of sort. Rather than use the God-provided devices, man invented his own and uses them.

The Preacher arrived at this conclusion basically by eliminating all number of other things. He was trying to discover why men were not righteous by reasoning from any number possible explanations. As mentioned, he also looked for righteous people and failed to find any. The conclusion he makes is rather simple and rather apparent – man does not follow God, but apparently the Preacher didn’t want to accept the obvious explanation. Paul in his case against all of humanity noted that no one seeks God and that all have turned away (Romans 3:1-20). He quote from the Old Testament verses that say no one seeks God (Psalms 14:1-3, Isaiah 53:1-3). The Jews had the Law and the Gentiles had conscience to tell them this truth (Romans 2:15). There can be no mistake about it. Rather than worship God, man made for themselves other things and pursued those instead, and this has been what the Preacher sees as a fundamental problem of concerning the relationship. Men claim to be wise in their own eyes by inventing folly and following it, which has dire consequences (Romans 1:20-32).

People, then, have basically two options: follow God’s inventions or follow their own inventions. Christians should follow God’s. Following God’s inventions are reasonably easier anyways for a number of reasons. First of all, God’s inventions already exist. One does not have to “reinvent the wheel” so to speak. Second, they are made by a perfect being that has infinitely more wisdom and knowledge than man. Third, God’s inventions are made by the one who made man. It would be reasonable to think that the one who made man knows man better than man knows himself. These are probably just a few of the reasons why it is more prudent to follow God.

Lord, help me to know and follow your ways!

John 14:27-31

Read John 14:27-31

Jesus was leaving the disciples, and he was speaking straight with them. He has said three things up to this point. First he was going to prepare a place for them and would return for them (John 14:1-6). Second, he says that they will be able to do greater things than he has done (John 14:7-15). Third, he promises to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-26). These things Jesus had said to both console them in his absence and to give them a glimpse at what life was going to be like after Jesus left the earth to return to the Father.

Next, Jesus promises peace. Jesus probably says that he gives peace twice to make it emphatic. The Greek word “ειρηνη” translated “peace” is used to describe a state of tranquility and serenity. In the context of nations, this generally means that nations are not at war with other nations, but for believers, it means to be in a state of tranquility in the midst of turmoil. Jesus tells them to not let their hearts be troubled and to not be afraid. What is certain is that the disciples were anything but at peace later on. When Jesus resurrected from the dead, he appears among them in and speaks “peace” to them three times (John 20:19-29) perhaps to remind them of what he told them and to calm their fear, as it is highly unusual to see someone who they knew had died walking around in the same room as them!

In Hebrew thought, “peace” in the form of the word “שׁלום” was and is often used as a greeting. Paul, when opening his letters often would include a declaration of peace to the addressee (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3,  2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Colossians 1:2,  1 Thessalonians 1:2,  2 Thessalonians 1:2, etc.). Peace is used in the context of the gospel (Ephesians 6:15) and used to describe God (Romans 15:33, Romans 16:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 13:20). The case with peace in the context of God is that God is trying to break down areas of possible conflict and dividing walls that should otherwise not divide believers. Ephesians 2:14-19 describe Jesus as tearing down dividing walls and reconciling everyone into one peace with God. As mentioned before, peace for the believers is not freedom from strife, as the world has plenty to offer, but rather an inner peace that comes from knowing God. Paul says that Christians should let their gentle spirits be known to all men, and in anxiety pray to God. In doing so, the peace of God that surpasses understanding – that means it’s incomprehensible – will guard one’s heart and mind (Philippians 4:4-6).

For believers today, the demands for one’s time and energy are great. Not only that, but there are assaults that come from every direction whether in the form of persecution, temptation, or disagreement. It is difficult in most any circumstances to remain gentle and at peace. Rather than creating barriers between oneself and God and oneself and other believers, Paul says that the solution to this problem is making supplication before the father. There is no guarantee that the circumstances will be alleviated or even diminished. What is guaranteed is that the peace of God will guard one’s heart and mind in Christ Jesus – it will bring one back to Jesus who is the peacemaker between God and men!

Lord, help me to remember the source of peace when turmoil of whatever kind comes my way!

John 10:19-42

Read: John 10:19-42

There could not be a clearer declaration of Jesus’ divinity in John 10:30. Here, Jesus says that he and the Father are one. Leading up to this, Jesus had declared that he was the Sheep Door and the Good Shepherd – that is the only and narrow entrance into the sheep fold and also the one who cares for the sheep and searches out the lost sheep. The motif of God as a shepherd is found in the Old Testament (Psalm 23, Jeremiah 31:10, Isaiah 40:10-11, Ezekiel 34:11-2) where he does just these things. The Jews did not know what to make of his words and were divided. Jesus then explains the parabolic message of the metaphors he used to describe himself, and makes the statement that those who believe in him are part of his flock and cannot be snatched away from the Father. By implication, the ones that belong to Jesus also belong to God of they are one and the same, and Jesus makes this very statement.

This is not the first time the Jews wanted to kill Jesus for claiming equality with God. After Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath they sought to kill him for healing on the Sabbath and claiming equality with God (John 5:18) and when Jesus says that he is the great “I Am” (John 8:58-59). Ultimately, this is the reason that the Jewish leaders gave the people for wanting to have him crucified (Matthew 26:63-66). The high priest asks him if he was the Son of God, and Jesus quotes from Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. Hebrews 12:2 likens this to Jesus. The Jews obviously understood this to mean that Jesus was calling himself God, as they explicitly say it, and they want to kill him for it.

Jesus counters with an interesting argument, that if read incorrectly, could generate bad theology concerning people. Jesus argues that the Scriptures call men “gods” from Psalm 82. Psalm 82:1 uses the same word to refer to “rulers” in some translations as it does to most often refer to “God”, namely the word “אלהים” (pronounced, “eloheem”). In the same Psalm 82:6, the word is used to say that these rulers are “gods”, sons of the Most High, but will nevertheless die. This word is also translated “judges” in Exodus 21:6 and Exodus 22:8-9 in some translations. The word, “אלהים” is translated in the Greek Old Testament to “θεος”, the same word used to refer to God in the New Testament. Jesus is arguing that the Psalm calls some men (namely the rulers) “gods” yet they get upset and scream “blasphemy” when Jesus, the one who God sent into the world says that he is the “Son of God”. Jesus then says, if he wasn’t doing the work of God, then don’t believe him. But Jesus then says that he is doing the work of the Father and that through this they can know, even though they do not belief. This is not teaching that people are gods; rather that they are attributed qualities that make them metaphorically “gods” but not necessarily gods. Also, Jesus is not downplaying his own divinity; rather he is saying that they have a double standard. In any case, they still did not like the answer Jesus gave, and sought to arrest him. Jesus escaped them and went beyond the Jordan where John was previously baptizing. Many followed him there and recalled the testimony of John about Jesus, and they believed.

The issues of Jesus divinity has been hotly debated over the years because many have a hard time accepting that God could be a man or man could have been God or understand how God can be both a person and a divine being at the same time. They deny that Jesus was God or fully God, deny that Jesus was a man or fully man, or say that Jesus was some other kind of god but not the same thing as God. The Scriptures, as Jesus said, cannot be broken, and one cannot say Jesus is something else when the scriptures teach that he is God through applying the shepherd motif to Jesus, outright saying that Jesus is one with the Father, that the Father is in him and he is in the Father, saying he is equal to the Father (John 5:18), saying that he was the great “I Am” (John 8:58) and outright saying it in John 1:1. Jesus is God – there can be no mistake about that. Because the power of the Father and the power of Jesus are one, there cannot be anything that separates those who believe in Jesus from God. The assurance of salvation rests not on works, but on believing that Jesus can and will save them – this is only possible if Jesus is God.

Lord, You are God! I know that you and only you can save me for this reason and nothing can undo that!