Joshua 8:30-35: Remembering the Law

Read: Joshua 8:30-35

After the battle of Ai, Joshua and the people of Israel set a time for remembering the law. Joshua built an altar from a large, uncut stone as the law instructed them to do (Exodus 20:24-25) and made sacrifices to the God. He also and wrote a copy of the law on it. After writing the law on the stone, he read the law aloud – every command, every blessing, and every curse. Joshua and the people were meticulous to follow the law in the procedure they did, they copied the law onto the stone, and they also read the whole thing allowed. The book Joshua goes the extra length, emphasizing the fact that Joshua read all of it in detail and that all heard it: men, women, children, and even foreigners living among them.

The people of God had seen what even a little bit of sin could do to them, and the time of remembering was a necessary thing to remember that God wanted their complete obedience to the law. Another time the entire law was read allowed in the presence of the people is found in Nehemiah 9. Here, the people of God remember the law and confess their sins to God. The law is read aloud. They recount God acting mightily among their ancestors during the days of Moses and Joshua and yet Israel still was stubborn and would not obey God. But they also recall God’s mercy and patience with Israel and they plead for it yet again (Nehemiah 9:32).

The New Testament explains that the law was given to make those who had it aware of their sin (Romans 3:20, Romans 7:7). It gives knowledge to what is sin and becomes a “tutor” or “schoolmaster” in the sense that it leads one to Christ and realizes that one must be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). Paul continues to argue that there is no difference between Greeks or Jews, slave or free, male or female – the condition is all the same. When Joshua read the law, it was in the presence of everyone for the highest of the high to the lowest of the low. And there were even foreigners living among them. For Christians, remember the law makes one all the more aware of sin and how desperately one needs God’s grace, just as it did during the days of Joshua and the days of Nehemiah. Often times the law is overlooked in the scriptures, but reading through the law and hearing it is a good practice. If one’s heart is open to correction, it should have the same effect on Christians today as it has had on the people of God through all ages!

Lord, use your law to lead me back to you!

Joshua 8:1-29: Getting Back in the Game

Read: Joshua 8:1-29

Israel had just suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the people of Ai. They were presumptuous  about God working on their behalf and attacked the city without seeking God. When they suffered a defeat, Joshua was dejected and sought God. They then found Achan who had had kept something forbidden by the ban. Joshua and Israel then dealt decisively with the sin. God told Joshua to not be “dismayed” – that is defeated and broken. Joshua picked himself up and God told him to take Ai as he had Jericho. They used ambush tactics, but God gave Joshua a command: to raise his javelin toward Ai. At this, Joshua did as God commanded and Ai fell and all its inhabitants fell under the ban, just as Jericho did.

Even though Israel had sin among it, they dealt with the sin and felt its remorse. After this though, Israel got right with God and got back on the track of doing as God commanded them to do. A similar story of one failing but getting a second chance happened with Peter. Peter denied Jesus three times, even after saying that he would never do such a thing. And when Peter did deny Jesus, he remembered what Jesus had spoken to him concerning this and wept bitterly. Without a doubt, Peter felt like an athlete who had been ejected from the game and felt like his career was over (John 18:25-27, Luke 22:62). But quite the contrary was true. Even though Peter had denied Jesus, Jesus was not finished with Peter. In fact, this gave Jesus and opportunity to model one of the things he had taught Peter: love and forgiveness. Jesus, after Peter denied him three times, asks Peter if he loved him three times. Peter in all cases answers that he does indeed love Jesus. Jesus in response to these answers commands Peter then to “Tend his lambs”, “Feed his sheep”, and “Tend his sheep”. Jesus was metaphorically telling Peter to not feel down in the dumps, but get back in the game and do what he had been commissioned to do (John 21:15-23). God was telling Joshua to not feel down in the dumps, but get back to the business of carrying out God’s commands and leading the people of Israel in the commands of God.

The command to follow Jesus went out to the original disciples at the beginning of his ministry and at the end of his ministry on earth. Like Peter though, faltering in one’s walk with God does not cast him or her out of God’s presence forever. What God wanted from Israel and Joshua was not a prideful heart that denied what they did, rather a contrite heart and a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17), and Joshua had this. God does not give up on people; rather people give up on God. But when one does falter, one need only confess it to God and God is faithful to restore (1 John 1:9) and give someone a second chance. And one can continue to walk in the ways of God all the more, following his commands!

Lord, help me not to wallow in the mire, but get back to following you after I fall!

Joshua 7: The Weight of Sin

Read: Joshua 7

Achan went down in history has the man that disobeyed the ban that God had given Israel concerning the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:17-21). He kept for himself some of the things that he was not supposed to keep, and this ended up costing the life of him, his family, and all he owned. Among the things were gold, silver, and the “mantle of Shinar” – perhaps an elaborate robe of Babylonian origin. The significance of the robe is not explained, but it was perhaps a mantle used by priests during the occult worship of the Canaanite gods. Achan’s misdeeds caused the death of some of the men who went up to take Ai as well. When the spies went out from the Israelite camp, they came back confident that it would only take part of the men to take Ai. They apparently assumed that God was working in their favor when they took the city of Jericho, but he was not with them when they sent men to Ai. Instead of a complete route like they had seen at Jericho, the men were sent high-tailing it back to the Israelite camp. That, and God did not hold just one person accountable for the sins of Achan, rather the whole nation. The gravity of the ban was made apparent by how God dealt with Jericho, but Achan for some reason did not take it seriously and fell to the temptation God had warned them against in light of the ban. In response to this, Israel destroyed Achan in the Valley of Achor which was named after Achan and Achan’s name came to synonymous with the word “trouble” in the Hebrew language.

It is difficult for modern readers of Joshua to fully understand why God would “burn” against an entire nation because of one man’s sins. Achan’s sin seems rather private, but the effects of sin are hardly ever contained to an individual. Sin has a ripple effect that touches all areas of a person’s life and community. God wanted Israel to understand this, and even more so consider what would happen if even a little sin were allowed to germinate and take root among the people of Israel. James 1:13-15 describes sin in these terms – temptation gives rise to lust, lust gives birth to sin, and sin leads to death. Romans 5:12 describes how sin entered the world through one man and spread to every other man. Sin is like a disease: a small infection usually is harmless, but unless the infection is treated immediately, it can grow and become untreatable or even fatal. Jesus talks about maiming one’s self when something causes one to stumble in Matthew 18:7-8 and Matthew 5:29-30. The point here is that a small part can drag down the whole of an individual or even a corporate body.

Sin is as serious an issue today as it was for the Israelites. Christians can learn many things from the Israelites concerning sin and its implications. God was doing mighty works among them – so much so it seems they were getting pretentious about how God was going to act. But the sins of a one man brought God’s action to a screeching halt and instead Israel was humiliated and Joshua was grieved by this. God told Joshua to act decisively and deliberately concerning sin and he purged sin from Israel. Rather than assume that God will work mightily, Christians ought to be humble and seek God’s face at every turn. And in this humility, Christians should also remember to constantly confess sin and purge sin from their own lives to that it does not have a chance to germinate and spread like a ravenous disease. God is faithful to forgive sin and cleanse one from unrighteousness!

Lord, I am a sinner! Please forgive me and cleanse me from unrighteousness!

Joshua 6-17-26: The Ban

Read: Joshua 6:17-26

Joshua 6 lists the Jericho as one of the cities that was under “the ban” translated from the Hebrew word “חרם” (pronounced “herem”). Cities under the ban were things devoted to destruction – that is every living thing in the city: men, women, young, old, sheep, oxen, and donkeys alike. The purpose for this destruction was so that Israel would not be tempted to be as the people living in the city under the ban, worshiping pagan gods. Joshua then cursed the city, saying that the one who tries to rebuild the city will lose his first and last born. This was later fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34 during the time of Elisha when Heil attempted to rebuild the city of Jericho. The ban sets the stage for the next chapter when one Israelite disobeys the ban and keeps some of the plunders for himself and would lead to their defeat against the city of Ai (Joshua 7:1).

Some ethicists have called into question the goodness of God in relationship to God telling the Israelites on this and other occasions to utterly destroy the people of a city. Some have even gone as far as to allege that this is God advocating genocide. What these allegations fail to take into account is that God is acting in justice against the cities. Deuteronomy 13:13-18 talks about conditions of cities turning to serve pagan gods – such cities commit “abominations” against God – perhaps the strongest word used to describe sins that are the most abhorrent morally and such acts were used in the idol worship of false gods. The Canaanite people are listed among those who were under the ban (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Archaeological evidence has shown that idol worship of many ancient Canaanite cities included child sacrifices, sexual indecencies, and other horrific occult practices that those who worshiped such gods did to appease these gods. God wanted the people of Israel to not only shun such acts, but not even be tempted by such acts. The act of destroying the cities as such was in part God’s judgment and a way of showing the gravity of abominable sin. God abhors such behaviors and wants his people to realize the weight of them. If anything, it shows that God does not tolerate abominable sins.

What is certain though, is that all of sinned (Romans 3:23). And what else is also certain is that the reality of the matter is that all people are effectively under the ban because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). God does not delight in the demise of the wicked, but would rather they repent and turn to God (Ezekiel 33:11), as Rahab the harlot did. God can redeem those who do repent and humble themselves before him. He made a way for everyone to have the ban removed by every person trusting God to save them through Jesus!  The appropriate response of every person alive is to realize that they are sinners, repent, and believe that God can and will save those who call on his name!

Lord, I don’t want to be under the ban, rather under your grace and mercy!

Joshua 6:11-16,20-25,27: Following God’s Instructions

Read: Joshua 6:11-16,20-25,27

God had exalted Joshua in the midst of all the peoples of Israel and all the Canaanites, had experienced the very presence of God, had received commandments of God, and then he had given the specifics of the commandments for taking the city. So Joshua and the people marched around the city once for 6 days then on the seventh day they marched seven. After the trumpets were sounded, they shouted and the walls of Jericho collapsed and the people took the city. Only Rahab the harlot and her family were saved. The resounding victory of the Israelites was in part due to the fact that the Israelites were obedient to God’s instructions not deviating from them to the left or to the right (Joshua 17). It was God who did the fighting on behalf of Israel. Because Joshua was obedient to God’s commandments, he was exalted even more so in the land of Canaan.

In the discourse in the early chapters of Proverbs, Proverbs asserts that fear of Lord (that is faith in God) is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Later, in Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs asserts that when one trusts in God with all their heart, that he directs one’s path. Joshua and the people had done this for taking the city, and God gave it to them – that is following God’s work to a tee. When Proverbs talks about “all”, it is all in inclusive with everything not in part or even most. In following God’s instructions, and not deviating to the left or to the right, the outcome will be as God promises.

God’s will for Christians is no different for the people today than it was for people of the Old Testament. God wants Christians to trust him wholeheartedly and live according to his commandments. God’s plan for redeeming the people of the world through Jesus involves people being obedient to the commands first and foremost love God and love others and then be about the work of making disciples of all nations, teaching others to obey the commandments that God gives. The ones that God will exalt are the ones who will submit to his will and obey him (James 4:6-10).

Lord, your ways are best! Help me to obey without deviating to the left or to the right.

Joshua 6:6-7,10: Delivering God’s Commands

Read: Joshua 6:6-7,10

Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, had been appointed by God and Moses in the presence of all the people. He had already seen God work mightily through himself and Moses and had experienced the presence of God first hand. In light of this, Joshua was submitted to God and was serving God. When it came time to take Jericho, God gave him specific instructions on what to do. Joshua then delivers the instructions to the Israelites, telling them what God had instructed. He did not change the instructions, rather gave them just as he received them.

The commands of God are something that should be taken and given without deviation or alteration to the plans. When God commissioned Joshua, he told Joshua to not deviate from the commandments of God by going to the left or the right (Joshua 1:7) which is echoed from general commands given to everyone (Deuteronomy 5:32, Deuteronomy 12:32, Deuteronomy 28:14). Later, Joshua is commended for doing just as the Lord had commanded (Joshua 11:5). Joshua’s commitment to doing just as God had instructed was in part what made in a great leader under God. For this to be possible, Joshua was not at liberty to alter God’s commandments for his own purposes or for person gain, and so he gave the commands as he received them from God.

For Christian, the same sort commitment Joshua had to following the commands of God exists, but there are those who do want to teach something contrary to what God delivered to the apostles and what is recorded in the Bible. Paul says that there will come a time when people will want accumulate teachers for themselves so they might have their ears “tickled” with what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). This sort of ear tickling comes in all sorts of forms and fashions, but it is all because people want to do things according to their own desires rather than do things according to the commands of God. Christians therefore should first know what God commands. Joshua received commandments from Moses through the book of the law and directly from God. Christians have the Bible to tell them what God commands. Second, Christians should faithfully teach the commands just as God gave them. Jesus said in the Great Commission that the disciples should make disciples and teach them to obey what Jesus commanded them to do. The same goes out to Christians today who received the commands to make disciples and teach them to obey what Jesus commanded. And finally, Christians must faithfully do just as God commands (this will be discussed next time). The job of Christians is to know and deliver the commands of Christ without changing or altering the commands!

Lord, help me to know what you say and teach others to know it just as you said it!

Joshua 6:1-5: Receiving God’s Commands

Read: Joshua 6:1-5

Joshua in the previous chapter had encountered the presence of God when he met the commander of the Lord’s army outside of Jericho. The text does not say whether or not that the man was God incarnate himself, but regardless of that, Joshua responded in humility, asking of the man what he should do. Some scholars think of the last part of Chapter 5 as an introduction to chapter 6, which is where Joshua receives explicit instructions from God. It is likely that Joshua was planning a military strategy when he was looking on to Jericho, but God had other plans. Jericho had heard of the works that God was doing on behalf of the Israelites, so they sealed the city so that none went in and none went out. God gives Joshua specific instructions to march around the city once one time per day for six days, then on the seventh day, march around the city seven times. Then seven priests would blow seven rams horns. Then the people would shout and the walls would fall.

As a leader, Joshua was a conduit through which God gave his instructions. He had been recognized by God, by Moses, and all the people. God had made Joshua mighty in the sight of the people and in sight of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 31:7-8, Joshua 1:1-9, Joshua 3:7). The people had accepted Joshua as their leader too (Joshua 1:10-18). The instructions that God gave Joshua were not an orthodox military strategy. Hebrews 11:30 calls the actions of Joshua and the people of Israel an act of faith – that is they believed that God would act according to the way he said he would. Rather than act according to his own plans, he listened to what God had to say and obeyed the commands.

Christian leaders and followers alike are like Joshua in the sense that they sometimes receive commands from God to give to the people of God. And sometimes, the plans that God gives do not make sense according to conventional wisdom, but nevertheless require faith to believe and act upon. Faith, however, is not blindly doing something with no good reason to do it. God had acted mightily on behalf of the Israelites and had exalted Joshua in their sites. Joshua was obviously anointed by God and God was using Joshua. Joshua had seen God act mightily through Moses on numerous occasions and was seeing God act through him. What this does require on the part of the Christian leader is humility and reverence towards God. And when God does speak, the one whose heart it tuned towards God will know and can act accordingly!

Lord, humble my heart so I can hear you speak and act accordingly.

Joshua 5:1-12: The Next Generation

Read: Joshua 5:1-12: The Next Generation

The prior generation that had left Israel had by this time all died off. In the desert, they had not circumcised their sons. In response to this, God commanded Joshua to have them make flint knives and circumcise their sons. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant made between Abraham and God. God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations and that they would inherit the land of Canaan (Genesis 17, Exodus 3:17). The generation that died in the desert had faltered in their faith in the desert, and because of this, they were not allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:32-34, Numbers 26:64-65). After they were finished with the circumcision, they ate food from the land, and the manna that God had been providing stopped (Exodus 16). God had provided the manna to the obstinate generation, but the new generation was the one who would inherit the land of Canaan and would eat of its produce.

The renewal of the sign of the covenant and the cessation of manna both point to a key transition in the history of Israel. The generation that had left Egypt had passed away, and God renewed his fervor with the new generation of Joshua, who had committed themselves to God. Manna was a blessing from God, but it ceased because the promise was being revealed. Jesus points out that manna, although was from God, still was not enough to grant them life, as the generation that left Egypt had died even though they ate manna. Jesus calls himself the “bread of life”, a metaphor speaking about the means to eternal life, saying that he who eats this bread will never die (John 6:49). Likewise, the sign of the covenant, circumcision, was just a sign. Paul points out that the reality of the matter is that circumcision is an outward maker of something more spiritually significant, and all those who have faith are the ones who are heirs to the promise (Romans 4) and that it was really not a matter of circumcision of uncircumcision, rather a matter of obedience (1 Corinthians 7:9). Paul quotes in Romans 4:17 from Genesis 17:4: God would make Abraham the father of many nations. The ultimate manifestation of this is revealed in Revelation 7:9 when there is a multitude from every tribe, tongue and nation worshipping before God.

The mighty works of God caused the hearts of the kings of the kingdoms of Canaan to melt and the spirit of their armies to fade. They realized that they were no match for an army whose God could part the waters of the Jordan and the Red Sea. The deeds of God had been declared and they were afraid. For those who oppose God, the same is true. The enemies of God fear God because of the mighty works he can do. God’s calling to his people is a calling to obedience – that is to follow the commandments of God by circumcising one’s heart as Paul calls it, alluding to the generation that chose to follow God (Romans 2:29, Deuteronomy 30:6). God is going to accomplish his mission one way or another and the call he gives is a call to obedience. Christians therefore have two options:

  1. Be obstinate like the generation in the desert and let the blessings pass to a future generation who is willing to obey God.
  2. Submit to God and obey him. These are the ones who get to see God work mightily in their generation toward the achievement of the grand vision of a person from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping before God!

God wants his people to choose to submit and obey.

Lord, I want to be a part of your mission! Help me to obey you in all I do!

Joshua 3: Exaltation

Read: Joshua 3

Joshua had already received his commission from God and Moses before all the people of Israel. He had been commanded to be bold and courageous and be obedient to the law of God. The people had recognized Joshua as the successor to Moses. With this in mind, Joshua’s leadership was about to be put to the test. In light of this, God promises to exalt Joshua as the leader as God exalted Moses as the leader of the people. Joshua gives specific instructions to the priest concerning what to do with the Ark of the Covenant as they went down to the Jordan. God says that the miracle that he was about to perform would serve as a reminder to them that God was among them and would dispose of the inhabitants of Canaan. The priest did exactly as they were instructed to do, and the Jordan River was stopped so that the Israelites were able to cross.

The crossing of the Jordan was certainly reminiscent of crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 14. Joshua 4:23 likens the crossing of the Red Sea to the crossing of the Jordan River. The mighty work of God at the Red Sea was remembered for generations to come and it also cemented Moses’ position as leader in the minds of the people that left Egypt, although they did at times forget. What the Red Sea crossing did for Moses the crossing of the Jordan did for Joshua: establishing God’s role as the Mighty One and Joshua as his emissary. God also exalted Solomon in much the same manner as he did Moses and Joshua when Solomon became leader (1 Chronicles 29:25). Ultimately, though, the one who was exalted above all others was Jesus (Acts 19:17, Philippians 1:2, Philippians 2:9-11, Hebrews 2:8-9). Jesus was already God (as if he needed anymore exalting!) but Jesus set aside his glory and became a man, humbling himself to the point of death on the cross. Jesus was completely obedient to the will of the Father while he was on earth. After Jesus accomplished this task, God exalted him above all others.

The exaltations of Moses, Joshua, Solomon, and Jesus by God all came with a demand for submission to God and obedience to God. It is for this reason that Jesus talks about humility in light of exaltation. Jesus says that the ones who want to be the greatest in the kingdom of God must be humble as a servant – that is become completely submitted to the will of the God as Jesus did (Mark 1042-45). God cannot use a person who is not obedient to his will to accomplish his mission. Nor can God use a person that seeks his or her own will over God’s. The ones that God exalts in his kingdom are the ones who are willing to do what God asks. These are the people who God lifts up to lead and inspire others to do great things in accordance to the will and purposes of God.

Lord, help me be completely obedient to you so I can be effective in accomplishing your mission!

Joshua 2:1-24: Difficult Decisions

Read: Joshua 2:1-24

Rahab was a prostitute that lived on the walls of Jericho that allowed the men from Israel to “lodge” at her home. She somehow found out that they were from Israel, and apparently this fact leaked and reached the ears of the king. Rahab was faced with a difficult decision: expose the spies that had come into Jericho and face certain retribution from God or hide the spies from her own king and face possible retribution from her own king. She chose the latter, but in doing so had to make a decision to deceive her king. Rahab and all that were in Jericho and the surrounding area had heard about the awesomeness of God and what God had done for the Israelites in the desert and at the Red Sea. After lying about their presence, she strikes a deal with the spies asking for favor when Israel attacks the city in exchange for hiding them. She honors her side as the Israelites honor theirs (Joshua 6:17,23,25).

Some, however, may question whether or not Rahab was right in lying about the spies or not. The Bible does command the people of God to submit to governments. Governments that exist are established by God and the ones in authority are God’s servants for good. One that rebels against them brings judgment on themselves (Romans 13:1-7). But one has to realize though that the ultimate authority for government is God – that is even those one authority are still subject God’s authority. Sometimes, men in positions of authority make commands that run contrary to the commands of God. In these cases, one has to ask, does one obey man or does one obey God? On two occasions the disciples were brought before the authorities and told not to preach about Jesus. On both occasions, the disciples said that they must obey God rather than man, and they did so (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:27-32). Rahab, like the disciples, recognized the authority of God over the authority of man and acted. What is even more interesting is the redemption of Rahab. James 2:25 and Hebrews 11:31 cite her actions as evidence for her faith in God. By all counts, Rahab would not be considered a “good” person because of her occupation and the fact that she lied, but when Rahab is remembered in the scriptures, she is remembered as a woman of faith. And if that wasn’t enough, Rahab is also mentioned in Matthew 1:5 as one of the ancestors of Jesus himself. Rehab is not the only person in the Bible who was faced with difficult decisions. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel all had to consider the consequences of worshipping God. They chose to continue to worship God and were thrown into a fiery furnace because of it (Daniel 2-3). The Egyptian midwives lied about having babies and were blessed by God because they protected the babies (Exodous 1:15-21). The Pharisees attempted to corner Jesus about healing on the Sabbath in John 7, and Jesus said it was better to do good on the Sabbath than be legalistic about it.

In any case, Rahab’s actions do not make lying right — the Bible is clear that lying is a sin. But there are certainly occasions when one has to make a difficult choice, and in some cases the choice is not clear, as it may require one to seemingly commit sin in order to maintain faith and have obedience in God. In any case, the acts of Rahab were courageous and did maintain her faith in God because of her deeds. When faced with difficult decisions, Christians have to consider the circumstances and act, and sometimes there is not a whole lot of time to mull over and weigh the options. In such circumstances it is certainly best to side with God and seek him above all else!

Lord, help to make tough decisions when they come!

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