Month: September 2017

Do you see the hand of your God? (Joshua 24)

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Do you see the hand of your God? In chapter 24, Joshua gathers the nation again and through him God speaks recounting the story of His people’s journey to the present and shot through the whole narrative God keeps pointing to Himself and what He did for His people.

Sixteen times God says; “I….” in only 12 verses of chapter 24! God is taking a highlighter as it were and pointing out a myriad of times and ways that it was God Himself who was acting lovingly, protectively, providing, caring, always faithful to His promises to His people. Joshua points out to God’s people;

  • How God called Abraham out of God’s own sovereign free will
  • How God gave Abraham a miracle promised son to his barren wife
  • How God gave that son a line of sons to fulfill God’s covenant promise to Abraham
  • How God provided land for those sons
  • How God sent Moses to deliver His people from Egypt
  • How God delivered His people by dealing with the super power Egypt
  • How God miraculously divided the Red Sea for His people’s deliverance
  • How God answered the panicked cry of His people when Egypt pursued them
  • How God showed who He really was through His powerful dealings with Egypt
  • How God brought His people through the Wilderness protecting & providing for them
  • How God gave victory to His people over the Amorites
  • How God destroyed their enemies before them, God was their protection
  • How God delivered them from the hand of Balaam
  • How God took His people into the Promised Land & gave them victory over all people
  • How God fought their battles for them in miraculous ways (using hornets one time)
  • How God gave His people a land they hadn’t laboured for, cities they didn’t build, farms full of produce they didn’t plant or cultivate…

Pause.
Do you see the hand of your God in your life?

God is good, all the time, God is good. You might not always see it, understand it, feel it, but it is true. God is at work in your life in a myriad of ways, always has been and always will be. God is faithful, even when we are unfaithful, He cannot be unfaithful, its just not possible, it’s not who He is.

Brother, sister; if you don’t recognise how your life is saturated with the activity of God, then you won’t thank God, and you won’t respond to His love for you with love for Him and worship of Him…

So pause.

Consider daily, thank God daily for small things worship Him and devote yourself again and again to loving Him & serving Him only in all of life.

God renews the covenant with His people in chapter 24, calls them to respond to His goodness towards them, urging them to love Him only and to forsake anything that would seek to rob them of their faith and love for God.

Joshua warns the people of the sinfulness of the human heart to wander away from God, to be unfaithful, and yet declares that for Him and His household they will serve God (Joshua 24:15).

And Israel served God all the days of Joshua (great leader!) and all the days of the other elders of Israel who served alongside Joshua and outlived him and who knew, who remembered all that God had done for His people. Remembering, recognising God’s hand in our lives is so vital to a life that honours God. So, pause, recognise, remember…

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We need reminding… (Joshua 23)

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After a long time had passed, as Joshua is close to the end of his life he gathers all of Israel and speaks to the leadership of the nation in a way that is very reminiscent of Moses’s Deuteronomy sermon in the last moments of his leadership (see the whole book of Deuteronomy but especially chapters 29-33.

Joshua re-iterates very similar words to those of Moses, as their leader he calls them to remember three things;

  1. To remember what God has done for them (vs3,9-10, especially vs14)
  2. To remember what God requires of them (vs6-8, 11-13) to do and not do
  3. To remember the warning of God’s jealous wrath should they turn away from God in compromise and idolatry (vs15-16)

The call to remember is a repeated refrain in the Old Testament, passage after passage points back to the covenant with Abraham, the actions of God for His people to deliver them from Egypt, the covenant and commandments given to Moses, the sin and unbelief in the wilderness, God’s punishment on that generation, God’s faithfulness to ‘every word’ of His promises to His people in giving them the Promised Land and fighting for them…… As you read on in the OT, the refrain goes on and on, through the prophets and God’s various mouthpieces and even into the NT with books like Hebrews having a definite call to remember in them.

Why?

Well we so easily forget. More than this, remembering God’s faithfulness to us in the past (past faith) is the foundation we need to have faith in the present with all its challenges and its the foundation we need to have faith for the future we can not yet see.

Remembering, recounting, telling and re-telling the ‘God-stories’ of our lives, reading the ‘God-stories’ of Scripture are so vital to our faith.

I want to urge you to remember how God has worked in your life (starting with what Jesus did on the cross for you) and spend time thanking God again.

Remember things you can and have thanked God for and let the memory of those God-stories fuel your faith again for the present and the future.

Lastly, remember that warnings are no good to us unless we are warned by them. God promises to deal with the compromise and sin of Israel, the breaking of covenant (vs15-16). We live under a new covenant of grace but sin is still an offence to our Holy Father. We will never be punished for our sin because Jesus was crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-6) but we can miss the life and the nearness and blessing of God that He wanted us to experience.

Is there any ongoing sin in your life that you know you need to repent of?
I urge you to repent & to turn from it, to seek out help if you need help.

 

Assumptions, heart motives & wrong conclusions (Joshua 22)

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Way back in Deuteronomy 3 it’s recorded that Moses gave the Reubenites, Gadites & the half-tribe of Manasseh the inheritance they had asked for East of the Jordan river on condition that they would help the other tribes to take possession of the Promised Land.

Now in Joshua 22, these tribes go to Joshua and request that since they have upheld their part of the agreement, they ask Joshua to allow them to go and take possession the land allotted to them East of the Jordan river.

In vs10 of chapter 22 we learn that on returning to this land God had given them, they built a large altar. This action enraged all the other tribes and caused them to gather the whole army of Israel to make war against them. They felt that this was idolatry, worshipping in a wrong way, worshipping false God’s even and so jumped into action to stop them!

The crux of the matter is expressed in vs16-18. The rest of Israel felt this was a breach of the covenant with God (vs16), a turning away from God (vs18) and a rebellion that would cause God’s wrath to burn against the whole people of Israel (vs18).

In vs21 the 2.5 Eastern tribes speak and essentially say; “No, no. no….that’s not it, you’ve not understood our motives!” I paraphrase but they go on essentially saying; “We serve God alone, there is no rebellion here, we did this so that our children would know our heritage, know that although this river divides us we are one people, God’s people!”

Phineas the priest and the leadership of Israel are appeased, they saw their motive and believed the what they had heard and the crisis was averted.

One moment they were sure this was blasphemy and ready to strike them down, the next they now see these actions as worship and there is peace and harmony.

What happened?

It is all too easy to see someone else’s actions and assume their heart motives.
It is almost impossible to turn off as we are all “meaning makers” but it can get us to totally misread a situation, a person or a group thinking if we assume we know what the heart motives are/have been.

Praise God that in Joshua 22 they spoke before they fought in battle! Otherwise the outcome might have been so different. Let’s learn from this and be slow to attribute to others what we assume their motives are when we see something perplexing, let’s rather ask, let’s invest in our relationships to check what the motives are and let’s believe one another when we share our intentions/motives.

Not one word… (Joshua 21:43-45)

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Caleb’s request to allow him to go and take possession of the land (Joshua 14) allotted to him sets off a succession whereby all of the tribes enter into their God-apportioned inheritance over an extended period of time (this is covered in Joshua 15-21).

The summary statement at the end of this section reads as follows;

Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45)

God was faithful to every word, to every promise He had made, everyone of them came to pass.  These people entered into the land God promised, God did fight for them, protect them and now provided for them with this good land.  Scripture says, ‘God gave them rest on every side’ (vs44).

God’s word is clear, God is faithful, God can be trusted, God will do what God has promised to do.  When God utters promises/commands – the words God speaks will accomplish what God intended for them to do (see Isaiah 55:10-11).

What can you and I learn from this summary about how God treated Israel?

What significance can this have on your life?

Is there anything you know God has promised to you personally?  

Are you still trusting God?

God is worthy of our trust.

 

Faith & Patience Inherits Promises (Joshua 14)

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Caleb is one of the true heroes of the faith. His story is recorded mostly in Numbers 13-14, the moment in Israel’s history where God promised to give them the Promised Land and Moses sent 12 spies into the land to survey it and 10 came back with a bad report, a fear-filled report that made the ‘heart of the people melt’ in faith eroding fear. On that day two of the spies had a different spirit, they believed God at His word and were willing to follow God fully (Numbers 14:24 & 32:12). Their names were Joshua & Caleb.

Because of their faith, God promised that they would be the only two of that whole generation who would actually enter the Promised Land and that they would receive the inheritance God had always planned to bless them with. Here now in Joshua 14, Caleb approaches Joshua and asks that he be given his inheritance that God promised to him.

Caleb has waited patiently for 45yrs for this moment! Caleb, held on to to his faith, remained steadfast in his belief in God even when circumstances must have caused him to wonder and doubt. His whole generation passed away in the Wilderness – they never entered into all that God has planned to give them. But Caleb remained full of faith and he says to Joshua in this moment as an 85yr old man;

“And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. 12 So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” (Joshua 14:10-12)

What an inspiring burst of faith and confidence in God. The book of Hebrews urges us to imitate people like Caleb;

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11)

Is there something God has promised to you which is seemingly not happening, seems delayed, you know God said it, but you don’t see any evidence of it on the horizon?

Friend, I assure you, if God truly said it to you, promised it in His word, you might have to wait half your life, but God is faithful, never doubt that. Psalm 22:4-5 in the NIV translation says this of David’s ancestors;

In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. 5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

God will not change, God cannot be unfaithful (2 Timothy 2:13), let’s be like Caleb, let’s patiently wait trusting in God because we believe that He is faithful to His promises.

Fighting for your inheritance (Joshua 11)

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Looking back,  Hebrews 6:12 says that we are to imitate those who through faith and patience inherited the promises.  God often promises things to us, God has good things to do through us and in us, God wants to bless us in our marriages, families, businesses, friendships, church…

However, often there are battles to fiight between our present reality and that which God intends for us.  Israel had been give this Promised Land by God and yet reading chapters like Joshua 10&11, you realise they really had to overcome numerous and very real enemies first.

Overcoming wasn’t easy, it didn’t happen overnight, it required faith in who God is and what He had promised to do, it required a continual reliance on God who was faithful to keep speaking and guiding, and it also required patience at times.

Then Joshua 11:23 says;

“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.”

Joshua successfully lead God’s people into the promises God had made to them.  They took possession of the whole land God gave them and then God gave them rest from war.

But it didn’t come easily; rather it came on the back of God speaking and Israel in most of these moments, responding to God’s word with obedience.

What battles are before you to fight now?

Don’t lack courage, but respond to challenge with faith & obedience.

 

The Sun stands still! But why so much bloodshed? (Joshua 10)

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Not even one chapter after the Israelites made the mistake of making peace with the Gibeonites and they are calling out for military help (vs6)!  I can imagine Joshua sighing but to his credit he makes good on his promise and rushes to their aid against the five  Amorite kings who have rallied against them and Israel.

Joshua isn’t making any mistakes this time and it’s recorded that he heard God speaking/guiding him (vs8) “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands”.

Joshua and his men are winning the battle as God intervenes and throws the foreign armies into panic (vs10) and rained down large hailstones on them (vs11) that killed more men than the Israelites did by the sword.

God is faithful, He does what He says He will do, He can be trusted!

Then Joshua speaks to God, and then speaks to the sun and moon telling them to stop in their places (vs12-13).  What incredible boldness, and more incredibly God honours His leader’s faith and the sun and moon do stop in the sky with Scripture recording; “there has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.” (vs14)

God is all powerful, and God loves it when we put our faith in Him.

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.” W.Cowper

“Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.”  W. S. Bowd

The rest of the chapter records the various victories summarised in vs40;

“So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel commanded.”

How is this ok?  Why is there wholesale slaughter of the various indigenous Canaanite population in order to allow the people of Israel to occupy their land and God through Scripture seems to be ok with it?

What follows is an attempt to make sense of these questions:

  1. God gave a unique command to His people through Moses as they inhabited the Promised Land.  They were to devote the people to Canaan to complete destruction.  God set out laws for warfare through Moses, in which God distinguished between battles fought against cities outside the Promised Land (Deut. 20:10–15) and those fought against cities inside the land (Deut. 20:16–18).  It is only the latter case that requires Israel to spare no one.
  2. God is judging the Canaanite people through Israel, God’s agent.  Since all people are sinners, all are rightly subject to God’s judgment.  The Scriptures give a moral rationale for the removal of the Canaanites, seeing it as divine judgment for their iniquities (Deuteronomy 9:5).
  3. God’s judgements through Israel, announce the moral nature of God to the whole world for their instruction.  In ways that are not entirely clear, the faithful will participate with God in carrying out the final judgment on the earth (1 Cor. 6:2; cf. Ps. 149:6–7), and Israel’s bringing of judgment on the Canaanites foreshadows that great responsibility.
  4. God’s judgment allows no double standard: he did not base his choice of Israel on any merit of theirs (Deuteronomy 7:6–9), and God calls them to embrace his love faithfully. Unfaithfulness will lead to judgment upon Israel itself, whether at the level of the individual (Ex. 22:20) or the whole people (Josh. 7:11–12; Mal. 4:6; cf. Lev. 18:28). This cannot be called “ethnic cleansing,” since the treatment is just, regardless of ethnicity.
  5. God’s people are called to be a set-apart for Him, a holy people. Deuteronomy 7:3-11 makes it clear that God wants His people to be holy, to not be lead astray by those around them but that God will destroy those who hate Him (vs10).
  6. Finally, even though the laws about destroying the Canaanites are stated in an uncompromising and unconditional way the way Israel applied those laws apparently made room for some of the Canaanites to surrender and survive, particularly if they professed faith in the one true God (Rahab and her whole family; the Gibeonites are examples of this). This means that the appearance of implacability in these laws is just that, an appearance, and there is an implied allowance for exceptions. This is another point showing that, strictly speaking, the command given to Israel is nothing like “ethnic cleansing,” since ethnicity itself is not the reason for the action but lack or rejection of faith in the God of Israel is the issue.

This was a unique time, a unique command, Scripture doesn’t endorse genocide and ethnic cleansing which are indeed evil. This unique part of Israel’s mission is not repeated and no people today have any right to use them as a warrant to support injustice and evil.

(This post is based loosely on the ESV Study Bible’s notes covering this topic.)