Joshua 24: Who Will You Serve?

Read: Joshua 24

Read: Joshua 24: Joshua is old, and is about to die in chapter 24. He had spent his life witnessing the wonders of God in Egypt, Sinai, and the conquest of Israel – the fulfillment of the promises of God that he had given to the forefathers of the Israelites. Joshua recounts the promises and providences of God in the first 13 verses, then he launches in to an ultimatum for Israel: “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). They had the option to either serve the God that brought them out of Egypt and had given them the land of Canaan, or choose to serve a foreign god. The people of Israel affirm in solemnly in Joshua 24:24 that they will serve God.

While Israel is affirming a commitment to follow God, Joshua reckons that they cannot serve God because he is holy and jealous. In other words, God does not tolerate sin nor does he tolerate the worship of other gods. Joshua makes a stone tablet to remind them of this day so that they will testify against themselves whenever they do turn away from God. The book of Joshua does note that Israel did serve God while Joshua lived, despite a few occasions where they did mess up (Joshua 24:31).

The book of Joshua is the story of a courageous and obedient group of people following a courageous and obedient man, and is packed with timeless truths about obedience and the blessings of obedience, and these timeless truths are reflected in the New Testament as well, even the reckoning to choose what one will serve. Jesus says that man cannot serve two masters, and in particular mentions God and wealth (Matthew 6:19-24). The issue here had to do with where one’s heart was focused. Jesus encouraged people to store up treasure in heaven rather than on earth and to indulge one’s eyes on things that corrupt the body, rather that which fills the body with “light”, that is good things. Christians today have to choose for themselves whom they will serve: the Lord or something else.  God hasn’t changed. He’s still a jealous and holy. And the choice is still clear because of what the Lord has done for those who believe and received the blessings of salvation and have become joint heirs with Christ in the Kingdom of God (Romans 8:17)!

Lord, I choose to serve you!

Joshua 23: Keep On Keeping On

Read: Joshua 23

Joshua was an old man when he gave words to the Israelites. He reminds them of all that God had done for the in driving out the nations so they could possess the land that God had promised their forefathers. As his life was drawing to a close, Joshua wanted to remind them to continue to abide in the law of God – the focus was not to be conquerors per se, rather obey the commandments of God. This is precisely what Josiah commanded Israel to do in Joshua 1:1-9, and he again reminds them here. Joshua also warns the Israel about the consequences of falling away by worshipping other gods or falling into the pagan rituals of these nations. They should remain pure.

Visiting Hebrews 10:18-25 again, this passage talks about how Jesus is the priest and through this unites all Christians in a confession of hope. And in this one can encourage good deeds. But not only this, Hebrews 10:26-39 continues giving warning about what happens when one comes to the knowledge of the truth, but rejects it. And there many even be some that call Jesus “Lord” but are not necessarily believers (Matthew 7:21-22). This warning in Hebrews goes out to those who have heard Jesus, but don’t call on his name.

Having a reminder every now and then to spur one on to good deeds is a good thing, even if one is currently living a life that his honoring and pleasing to God. There is a need for encouragers in the church – in fact Romans 12:8 says that some are gifted spiritually to be encouragers. Christians should receive give and receive the encouragement, which spurs one to keep on keeping on to good deeds and love while remaining blameless as pure before God.

Lord, help to encourage and be encouraged to do what is good and right!

Joshua 22: Memorials and Commands

Read: Joshua 22

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half tribe of Manasseh had all received and inheritance on the east side of the Jordan River. In all that they had done, they had been faithful to obey the commands of God and were commended for doing so. Even more so, they had been made wealthy with the spoils of war for that matter. Joshua blessed them and also gave them a staunch reminder to obey the commands of God. As they went back, the built a huge altar as a commemoration for all that God had done for them. They did this so that the following generation would know. To the tribes on the east side of the Jordan, they saw this and though that they were building an altar to Baal and were ready to go to war over it. But in a council, they were able to explain why the altar was built, all the while proclaiming the greatness of God.

The peoples of Israel living on the east side of the Jordan had great intentions when they were constructing the altar in that they wanted to honor God, and what they did was probably harmless otherwise. The people of the west side of the Jordan, however, saw it has a front to God – outright rebellion against God – thinking it was Baal worship because of what happened in Numbers 25 when Israel came into contact with the Moabites who also lived on the East side of the Jordan. The tribes of the west thought that the tribes of the east were again being seduced by the Moabites. But this was indeed far from the truth and they had to set the record straight. While there is nothing inherently wrong with memorials as the memorial altar that was built, what would set the people apart and from their neighbors and what would be reminder to them was their careful adherence to the commands of God. Israel wanted to remember what God had done for them, but the better way to do this would be to do as the scriptures command: teach the commands of God. Deuteronomy 6 makes this abundantly clear.

For Christians, much the same is true – the word of faith does not come by way of memorials, but by faithfully teaching the things of God from one generation to the next generation. This was what Paul told Timothy to do (2 Timothy 2:2) and the Jesus told the disciples to do (Matthew 28:19-20). There can be no confusion if one is known by what he teaches rather than by what he builds.

Lord, help me remember you by doing what you say and teaching others to do it as well!

Joshua 18:11-19:51: Things To Do

Read: Joshua 18:11-28; Joshua 19

“So they finished dividing the land”, so says the last sentence in chapter 19.  Reading about land allocation to a people that lived 3500 years ago probably would not be the first choice of texts selected from the Bible for a devotion. But understanding why these lists are included in scripture is important. The divisions of the land were meticulously outlined in great detail. These details are included in the chapters to serve not only as a written record of the division of the land, but also to recall what the Lord had given to them as an inheritance. The real hero of the story is God who fought on their behalf and it was God who gave the land to Israel as inheritance (Joshua 21:45, Deuteronomy 20:1-4).

The quest, however, was not complete. Israel still had to oust some of the Canaanite strongholds that were still scattered throughout the land. But for the remaining tribes that hesitated to take hold of their inheritance, they now knew where they would settle once they had expelled the Canaanites.  There was no good reason for the Israelites to wait any longer other than their own disobedience to God’s command to take the land.

For people living 3500 years after Israel entered the land of Canaan, the same truth still holds. Hebrews 11:14-16 relates seeking a country of one’s own to the promise given many years before. Abraham left his country to which he could have returned for a better country – a heavenly one. God is not ashamed to be the God of such people. And even so, Jesus promised a place for his disciples in his Father’s house and he was going to prepare a place for them, and he says he would not have said unless this was indeed true. What has been set before Christians is the promise of eternal life and the inheritance this entails. Like Israel, there is no good reason to be disobedient any more. As Paul put it, to live is Christ, to die is gain, but all the while he was alive, Paul lived for the sake of the gospel so others might have a chance to participate in the inheritance he was waiting to receive (Philippians 1:18-24). The attitude of every Christian should be the same.

Lord, you have shown me what to do. Help me to accomplish the task!

Joshua 18:1-10: What Are You Waiting For?

Read: Joshua 18:1-10

Joshua 17 talked about how the ambitious tribe of Manasseh wanted to receive their inheritances because they perceived themselves as blessed because of their ancestor Joseph. On the other hand, there were some tribes among Israel that had put off receiving their inheritance. God had given the land to them some time before they ever entered into the Promised Land. In response to this, Joshua draws up a plan and divides the land for the remaining 7 tribes, save the Levites who were supposed to receive a portion from the peoples by way of tithes and offerings.

It is easy to criticize people for being overly zealous to receive an inheritance, as Manasseh was. But at the same time, not taking possession of one’s inheritance as one has a standing command to do is no better. Joshua does not say why Israel why the remaining seven tribes were reluctant to take possession. Perhaps they were tired of war. Perhaps they did not want to transition from the nomadic life they had known to one in a permanent fixture. Whatever the reasons they had they were dragging their feet. The language indicates a strong reprimand as being negligent, disobedience by omission.

James 4:17 talks about this state. Often times, many people know what they ought to do and do not do it. The solution to the problem seems simple: do what one ought to do. But at times, complacency sets in and all seems well with one’s life and one gets lazy. Wisdom literature gives many rebukes against being lazy because of the dangers associated with it (Proverbs 10:4, Proverbs 15:19, Proverbs 13:4, Ecclesiastes 9:10). The time that one has upon earth is limited, and time not used cannot be reclaimed.  To make the most of life, one should be ready to obey the commands of God and do them without delay.

Lord, help me to be diligent in my actions, not putting off that which you have told me to do!

Joshua 17: Blessing and Obedience

Read: Joshua 17: Blessing and Obedience

Joshua 17 follows much of the same pattern as Joshua 15 and Joshua 16 – it talks about the dividing of the land for the inheritance of the people and makes some commentary on the particular inheritances. In Chapter 17, Joshua notes three things of interest. First, some of the descendants of Manasseh – one of Joseph’s sons – were able to receive an inheritance along with the sons. Typically, the inheritance was passed to the sons but in case the inheritances was passed to the daughters because there were no sons. Second, the tribe of Manasseh thought of themselves as blessed because they were the descendants of Joseph and also to numerous for the land allotted to them. Joshua said that could conquer the forest country that is part of modern-day Lebanon and take it for their inheritance. Third, it notes that when Israel became “strong enough” they subdued many of the cities and made them forced labor.

The language used in Joshua 17 seems to note a particular urgency of the tribe of Manasseh to receive their inheritance. They had been blessed by God through Joseph, no doubt. And for this reason, they have a particular boldness about them when they come asking for the inheritance for the daughters of Manasseh, citing the episode from Numbers 36 where Moses receive d instruction from God. Likewise, they say they are blessed and to numerous for the allotted inheritance in the hill country, so Joshua instructs them to take the forest land in what is modern-day Lebanon. But even as mighty in number and blessing as they were, they could not drive out a few Canaanite cities. And when they did, they disobeyed the order to drive them out anyways by making the Canaanites vassals. When the Israelites trusted God and obeyed his commands, God did the fighting for them. Apparently, Israel wanted the blessings of God but at the same time stopped obeying him.

The condition of Israel had still exists very much today: people come to God wanting to receive blessings from God but do not want to obey him. God gave the ultimate blessing through Jesus’ death and resurrection – the gift of eternal life by faith. For many, they want to receive this blessing and continue to live life as they did before they received it or receive it and forget about it. The appropriate response, however, should not be one of disobedience. Rather, God’s blessings should compel those who receive them to obey. Christians love God because he loved first (1 John 4:19). The ones who love Jesus show they do this by obeying his commandments. A truly blessed life is one that receives the general blessings of God and the blessings of obedience. This is what God had in mind for Israel and what he still has in mind for all those who follow him now.

Lord, I am most blessed when I obey you! Help me to do just this!

Joshua 12: God’s Hall of Fame

Read: Joshua 12

Chapter 12 is almost a hall of fame recounting the deeds of God on behalf of the Israelites. The first 12 chapters of Joshua were the story of the how Israel entered the land and obeyed God and God is the real hero of the story because he is the one who did all the fighting for Israel – they were more or less along for the ride. Early on, God tells Joshua and the people of Israel to obey and bold and courageous. Throughout the book, God constantly reminds Joshua to not be dismayed and to not be afraid. He then gives Joshua instruction and Joshua relays these to the people. And through all this process of they were able to conquer the land. After having conquered the land, they received the inheritance because of their obedience.

The New Testament has what has been called the “Hall of Fame of Faith” in Hebrews 11. Hebrews walks through the history of Israel citing examples of people who were believed God and followed his commands. Hebrews notes that the world was not worthy of such people. The promise that was revealed was found in the person of Jesus. Hebrews 5:7-9 explains that Jesus came to the earth and fulfilled the law and became salvation for those who obey. Jesus became obedient unto death (Philippians 2:5-8). The obedience of Jesus provided the way to eternal life and the redemption of man – even more feats that God accomplished through those who obey him.

Recounting the feats of God in one’s own life can serve as a means of encouragement to the believer and as evidence for the faith that one has. It also shows the pattern through which God works in his people: a commitment of faith, a reception of instructions, and then execution of instruction in conjunction with the workings of God. At the end of the day, one can really only look back and give God the credit for what was accomplished because the results are often times larger than anything any human being to accomplish. God conquered Canaan for Israel and did countless other deeds through and for people through the ages and is still working through and for his people today!

Lord, help me have the faith and the obedience so you can work mightily through me!

Joshua 11: Obedience and Inheritance

Read: Joshua 11: Obedience and Inheritance

Joshua spends one chapter recounting the conquest of the northern regions of Canaan. The chapter closes giving a summary statement of the conquest: Joshua did as the Lord commanded and Israel received the inheritance that had been promised to them some generations before (Numbers 26:52-55). The chapter constant refers to Joshua as the servant of Moses because Joshua was carrying out commands that Moses had received from the Lord and given to Joshua. And constantly the chapter recounts Joshua doing just as the Lord had commanded Moses. When verse 23 connects the inheritance of the land of Canaan with something that had been repeated over and over namely obedience to the commands of the Lord, it is making a point: the Israelites received the inheritance of Canaan because they were obedient. The previous generation lacked faith and grumbled against God and did not receive the inheritance. Instead, they wandered the wilderness for 40 years until the next generation was ready to conquer the land.

The latter parts of Joshua (Chapters 14-19) talk about the inheritance that each of the tribes of Israel received after the conquest. For the Israelites, there was a separation between real estate and personal possessions. Leviticus 25 makes some interesting remarks concerning land. First, living on the land that God had given the Israelites was connected to their obedience to the law. God says that if they obey his statues they will live securely on the land. Second, the land actually belongs to God and the people living on it are “aliens” sojourning with God. Third, the land was supposed to be permanently possessed by the original grantee, so in the event that the land was land was sold, it was sold with the option to reclaim it later on and there was a guarantee that the land would be returned during the Year of Jubilee. All in all, the land was supposed to be an inheritance given by God to the particular peoples who received it so they could live on it and receive blessings from it as they obeyed the commands of God.

When Christ came, he revealed a better inheritance: the kingdom of God which is everlasting and imperishable (1 Peter 1:4, Matthew 25:34, Ephesians 1:18, Hebrews 9:15). For the Christian then, inheritance is not associated with a piece of real estate on earth; rather an eternal (that is perpetual and everlasting) blessing that comes from being with God. On two occasions, Jesus is asked what a person must do to inherit eternal life:

  • Mark 10:17-22 recounts the story of a wealthy man that came and asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus says to the man, obey the commandments. The man says he had done so since he was a child, but Jesus comes back and tells him that he must sell all that he has and give it to the poor. The man went away sad because he had great wealth. The problem with the man is not that he was a bad person, but that his conception of inheritance and obedience kept him from seeing the better blessing that came from Christ.
  • On another occasion (Luke 10:25-37), a teacher of the law stands up and asks the same question and Jesus asks him what the law says. This man answers according to the scriptures quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and in these things the law is summarized. Jesus tells them to do these things, and he will live. The man wanted to “justify” himself and asked who his neighbor was. Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan – the point being that everyone is one’s neighbor from the most familiar to the complete stranger. In order to love one’s neighbor, one must love everyone without exceptions.

In effect, the means to inheritance is no different from what it was for the Jews. The Jews first believed in God, then followed the commands of God. For Christians the same is true. The difference, however, is that the inheritance is no longer land, rather eternal and imperishable. Hebrews 10:1 notes that the things mentioned in Hebrews 9 were only shadows of things to come, and among those things were the inheritance. Christians, therefore, ought to long for the imperishable, everlasting inheritance. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-29 talk about an imperishable crown that comes from running and winning a race according to the rules. Christians ought to consider how they live their lives in obedience to the commands of Christ so they too, like Israel, will receive an inheritance and be blessed by God because of it!

Lord, help me to do as you say so that I may receive an inheritance too!

Joshua 10:16-27: An Unstoppable Force

Read: Joshua 10:16-27

The five kings that formed an alliance to attack Gibeon had been completely routed because God fought on behalf of the Gibeonites and Israelites. The Israelites pursued the peoples of the five united cities, but in the meantime the kings of the cities tucked tail and went and hid in a cave. Joshua found out about it and trapped them in the cave. After the Israelites had finished pursuing the armies of the Amorites, they returned and Joshua made an example of the kings. He put their necks under their feet as a display of might, then slayed the kings. Joshua told the people what God had told him before: Do not have fear, do not be dismayed, and be strong and courageous (Joshua 10:8, Joshua 8:1, Joshua 1:9).

Once again, Joshua is telling the people what God told him to do, and once again the people of God are following the instructions that God’s leader had given them. The example made by the king served as a reminder to them. The kings were not merely foot soldiers – they were the rulers of their respective towns. The symbolism of placing the kings’ necks under their feet shows that no one can stand in the way of an unstoppable force. In this case, the unstoppable force was the people of God believing in God and obeying his commandments.

When Jesus came to earth, he was humble but at the same time provided ample displays of power to show that he was indeed the Son of God. And when he rose from the grave, he showed that not even death and sin could stop him. God exalted Jesus to so that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord. Interestingly, Jesus’ exaltation was because he of his absolute, unwavering obedience to the will and way of the Father even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-13). Paul encourages believers that they too have the same radical obedience to God’s commands. God can’t be stopped, so people can choose to either get run over by the unstoppable force or run with the unstoppable force. Any person with any sense in their head will choose the latter!

Lord, I want to be part of your unstoppable force!

Joshua 9: Seeking What is Right

Read: Joshua 9

The Gibeonites saw what God had done for Joshua and Israel when they attacked the cities of Ai and Jericho, and they feared them. To keep themselves from being annihilated, they deceived Israel and Joshua signed a pact with them. In all this, the book of Joshua notes that Joshua did not seek the counsel of the Lord. Joshua was not aware at the time that he was being deceived so apparently saw no harm in making a pact with people who he thought were not Canaanites. But later he found out that he had been deceived. Rather than break the pact that he had made with them, he upheld it. But Joshua cursed them, making them serve Israel as laborers. The Gibeonites were allowed to persist among the Israelites for some years to follow.

It is difficult to know what to make of the Gibeonites because their history with Israel is riddle colorful to say the least:

  • Gibeon was the site of a major battle took place at Gibeon. The kings of the south formed a pact and went to war against Gibeon for making a pact with Israel. Israel came to their aid and saved them by the Lord’s help.
  • Saul wanted to destroy Gibeon and sought to do so because of his “zeal” for Israel and Judah. God, however, upheld their plight later on: he cursed Israel with a three year famine because Saul was blood thirsty. David sought to end it, so he asked what they wanted. They wanted to hang the descendants of Saul, so David gave to them 7 of the descendants and the descendants were hanged in Gibeon “before the Lord” and kept the bodies there for some time even though the law said to cut hanged people down before sunset. Interestingly, David had asked them what he could do to “bless” the inheritance of the Lord – that is the land. The Gibeonites left the bodies up for sometimes after that which would “defile” the land (2 Samuel 21:1-10, Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
  • Gibeon was named a Levitical town. The Levites did not receive a portion of land when the land was divided because they were responsible for priestly duties. Instead, they received several cities located throughout Canaan (Joshua 21:17).
  • Gibeon became the location of the tabernacle before the construction of the temple during the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 3:1-15, 1 Chronicles 16:39, 1 Chronicles 21:29).

Gibeon was important because of its connection with the worship of God at the Tabernacle. They also had mercies of God on their side too at points with God upholding their plight after the misdeeds of Saul.  At the same time, they deceived and made peace with them and when they hanged the sons of Saul they did so in what seems to be a vengeful way before God.

It is purely speculative, but the book of Joshua begs the question: what if Joshua would have sought the Lord? It is likely that God would have revealed to Joshua that they were being deceived and Joshua therefore would not have entered into a pact with some of the people Canaan. And rather than have a semi-rogue group of Canaanites living among them, they would have probably destroyed them just as they did the other cities in Canaan and the complications during the days of Saul and David would have never happened. It is important to seek God in all things and this cannot be emphasized enough. In any case, God’s concern is that even after his people make mistakes they attempt to pick of the pieces and make the best of the circumstances by upholding vows and justice – things found in the law – as in the cases of both David and Joshua.

Lord, help me to seek you for what is right and to make right what is wrong!

1 2 3 4 5