The folly of not waiting on God (Joshua 9)

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Crossing the Jordan was in response to God’s leading, Jericho was a unique one-off God-given strategy, The battle for Ai (round 1) was a mistake made because of not seeking God’s guidance, round two of the battle for Ai – repentance and obedience resulting in victory!  Then,  Gibeonite deception (Chapter 9)…

These Gibeonite guys were crafty!  They heard of the victories at Jericho and Ai and God’s mighty deeds ( in delivering them from Egypt) and quickly summed up the situation and realized; ‘we need to make a covenant!’

Just like these Gibeonite guys, our enemy the devil is crafty, he is the accuser and the deceiver and so we need to enquire of God to avoid being deceived by him.

Scripture says that we must not be unaware of the Devil’s schemes, we must not allow him to outwit us (2 Corinthians 5:11)!

How were they outwitted?

Vs14 says that they; “did not ask counsel from the Lord.”

Folly starts with a head/heart attitude that says; ‘I’ve got this…’  The Israelites got themselves duped because they didn’t enquire of God.

May we, may you take the time each day to enquire after God for all sorts of things in your everyday life.

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Covenant renewed (Joshua 8:30-35)

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After the successful defeat of Ai (Joshua 8:1-29), Joshua renews the special covenant between God and His people publicly reading out the Law to the whole nation. Joshua’s renewal results in Joshua doing all that God had commanded through Moses (see Deuteronomy 27-30) on Mt Ebal.

In Deuteronomy 27-30 God warns and urges Israel to choose life, to choose to love God by obeying all His commandments, and in return God promises to bless them and cause them to inherit all that He had promised to them.

Jericho – God’s guidance, obedience & victory
Ai (round 1) – Self-reliance & disobedience – defeat
Achan’s sin – Sin in the camp, consequences to personal sin
Ai (round 2) – God’s guidance , obedience & victory
Mt Ebal – covenant renewed, worship/thanks & a recommitment to God’s word

The reading of the Law, God’s Word was central to this renewal (as it is in other renewals in Scripture like Ezra’s reading of God’s word recorded in Nehemiah 8).

Friend, nothing will have a more profound effect on our lives than honouring God’s word by reading it, meditating on it & obeying it.

So, decide today to commit yourself to growing in your love for God’s word.
Commit yourself to knowing God’s will (revealed in Scripture) and obeying it.
Choose today to revere God’s words too you even when they ruffle you.

 

Lessons learnt (Joshua 8)

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What is the significant difference in the campaign of Joshua 7 campaign against Ai and the Joshua 8 campaign?

It is noteworthy that in the narrative of Joshua 7 there is no reference to God speaking or Joshua enquiring after God for guidance or strategy for the city of Ai.

God had given clear instructions for Jericho, and their obedience resulted in great victory.

But the pattern is not repeated in Joshua 7 – no guidance from God was sought out.

Aren’t we like this!
We blow hot and cold, one moment asking for help then acting the next moment like we need none!

In Joshua 8, there seems to be a different spirit, a humility in evidence, that no doubt had something to do with the defeat at Ai and the subsequent seeking God for answers, and then God’s revealing the source of their defeat as being the sin of Achan.

The second attempt on Ai proceeds in response to explicit divine instructions (Joshua 8:1-2, 8-9, 18 & 27) which were followed. The passage goes into great detail for a relatively small battle, probably to emphasize that success comes only from following the Lord’s instructions which is in stark contrast to the failure in Joshua 7 as a result of failure to seek God or follow His instructions.

What is God saying to you, to us as a church at this present time?
Are you leaving room, leaving time for God’s specific leading?
Are you obeying what God has told you to do?

Sin is never private (Joshua 7)

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Emotions must have been running high, God’s people had obeyed God even though His battle strategy was weird, and God had caused them to overcome at Jericho, the first victory won.  God had given clear instructions on what to destroy and what could be kept and for what purpose.  Israel’s armies obeyed, except for one man!

In chapter 7 we read how God’s people, buoyed with courage launch themselves at the next challenge as they begin to take possession of the land God gave them.  But surprisingly to them they get routed, sustain losses and are defeated.

Joshua and the elders are shocked!  This wasn’t in their script, they had been on the up, and now this shocking set-back.  What are you up to God?

In this moment of shock and defeat Joshua comes to some wrong conclusions.  We are so prone to this aren’t we!

We look at events before us, what has an hasn’t happened and we draw conclusions with our own limited thinking, conclusions which often are severely lacking in discernment and humility.  We who are finite, limited, who know so little call the omniscient into question.

This is what happened to Joshua.  Joshua lays the blame for the events at Ai at God’s feet, as he in prayer questions God (Joshua 7:7) about why He brought them into this land (a complaint so reminiscent of the complaint his ancestors had made against God in Exodus 16 – 40yrs earlier).

More than this Joshua in his shock tells God how to run the world!  Joshua tells God how what has happened at Ai with this defeat is not good for their public relations with the surrounding nations who will hear of this defeat and will come and defeat Israel (Joshua 7:8-9).

Have you fallen into this trap?

Questioning God, putting God on trial for things you don’t understand?

And yet, Proverbs 9:10 says that wisdom begins with an attitude not with knowledge.  A right reverent fear of God leads one to wisdom and keeps one from folly.

So why did Israel get defeated by such a relatively small army at Ai when they had just had such a great victory at Jericho?

Scripture is abundantly clear, the reason was that there was sin (disobedience) in the camp and this sin angered God (Joshua 7:1).

Oops, in 2017, we don’t like this language being used of God!

When Scripture rubs you up the wrong way, ask yourself why?

Is it not conforming to your little personal perspectives and preferences?

Are you placing yourself as an authority over Scripture judging Scripture?
God is not about to leave Joshua in the dark regarding the source of this defeat.  “Get up!”, God tells Joshua twice – there is sin in the camp, that is why you were defeated, not some malfunction in Me.

More than this, God warns Joshua that He will not tolerate this sin continuing but will remove His presence from them unless something is done quickly (Joshua 7:10-13).

The rest of the chapter deals with how Achan’s sin is revealed, confessed and punished and so the Lord ‘turned from His burning anger’ (Joshua 7:26).

What can we learn from this account?

Sin is never just private.

It is personal, never less than that but it is also more than private.  Our over individualised and ‘self-obsessed’ era of human history battles a little with this concept but Achan’s sin caused the death of 36 other men, husbands, sons, brothers, uncles…  Caused the whole nation to be in a precarious situation.

This is still true today, no sin is ever just private.  Sin has ramifications on others.

Unbelief in a husband or father impacts the whole house and marriage, pornography not only soils the mind of the user, but impacts their view of every female in their lives & perpetuates and pays for the bondage of those being used to create the content…  I could go on and on.

Achan’s sin affected God’s people, took away blessing even.  In our church there have been times remarkably similar to this account when God spoke to us as elders of sin in our church camp that we needed to deal with.

Friend, brother or sister.  We are called to be a Holy people (1 Peter 1:15)!  We are called to love Jesus by obeying His commands (John 14:21).  Let’s take this seriously, let’s see the corporate impact our sin has on others, on the wider church.

And let’s thank Jesus that when we have sinned we have a Saviour, our Mediator, the One who sacrificed Himself in our place for our sin, was punished by God so that we could be forgiven.

“He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus did all this so that we can be forgiven, so that the wrath of God against sin could be taken away from us and from His people.  Thank you Jesus!

So, if there is sin in your life – repent, ask Jesus to forgive you!

And if there is sin in the camp you know about, go to your brother/sister and urge them to repent.

Hearing God (Joshua 6)

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Over my years of pastoral ministry, one of the things that people often battle with is hearing God.  As we read these accounts of God’s people moving into the Promised Land, into their promised inheritance its all too easy to pass over some profound little phrases…

“The Lord said to…” (Joshua 1:1, 3:7, 4:1, 4:15, 5:2, 5:9 &6:2…)

That phrase makes one want to say; “Wait, how?  More information please!”  In my personal experience, despite an absolute rock solid conviction that God does speak, that God wants to speak and wants me to hear Him speak to me/us, despite this, hearing God is not always easy.

And yet all through Scripture, it is assumed as normal for God’s people that we will hear God speaking to us, guiding us, encouraging us, exhorting us…

In our passage today, Joshua calls God’s people to embark on a military strategy that had never been tried before to overtake a city, and has never been tried again successdully either.  The only reason God’s people took this action was that; “The Lord said to Joshua…”

When our personal experience doesn’t match up to the clear testimony of Scripture we are faced with two choices:

  1. Either we adjust our interpretation of Scripture based on our experience of lack thereof (never a good idea)
  2. We call on God, asking Him to align our experience with what we see revealed in Scripture (go for this option!)

Jesus promised that we will hear His voice, we will recognise it as His and so we will be able to follow His leading and guiding (John 10:27).  Sometimes I think the problem is we only start asking God for His help, His voice of guidance when we face a Jericho moment, a large challenge or decision.

But Joshua has been practicing listening to God for years and years prior to this moment.  It was his practice to follow Moses into the Tent of Meeting, to witness God speaking to Moses, and even after Moses left Joshua used to remain the in tent with God (Exodus 33:7-11).  Joshua knew God’s voice by the time he stood before this great first challenge of Jericho as he lead God’s people into their inheritance.

We need to develop a habit of listening to God, waiting on Him in our private lives.  We need to learn this habit in peacetime, when there isn’t an apparent urgent need SO THAT we will be able to hear God when there is…

Why not make Jesus’ promise (John 10:27) your own?

Ask God to speak to you, trust that He will, and obey Him when He does.

And when God speaks, even if it means doing things differently to the way they have always been done, or the way others think you should, decide to obey Him and watch what He will do through your obedience.

Covenant Renewed (Joshua 5)

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When God made His amazing covenant promises to Abraham & his offspring (Genesis 17) God gave them a physical sign of the covenant, from that day ‘every male among you shall be circumcised’ (Genesis 17:10).

God saved His people out of Egypt, lead, loved and provided miraculously for them in the Wilderness but they rebelled, walked away from God, grumbled and didn’t believe God over and over again.  Here in Joshua 5 we see the affects of the breakdown in that ‘Wilderness generation’s” faith in God…

Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. (Joshua 5:5)

Their faith and followership of God had grown lukewarm, was compromised and so things that God had required, signs of the covenant had fallen by the wayside it seems during those wilderness years.

“No matter how long you have traveled in the wrong direction, you can always turn around.” – Nicky Gumbel

The good news is that God is gracious, God gives us fresh starts!  And this is what we read of in Joshua 5, a fresh start for God’s people.  Note how it is God who takes the intiative, God speaks to Joshua instructing him to have the men circumcised, to re-establish the symbol of the covenant between God and His people.

In our era of redemptive history we no longer need to be physically circumcised as is clear from a reading of the New Testament, but this passage can still speak to us today…

Circumcision was a sign, a symbol of the fact that these were God’s special people, His chosen, set-apart ones.

In what ways does God call us to make it evident that we are His people?  

Are there any things we are called to do, not do to make it plain for ourselves and for others that we are His?

How are YOU doing with your followership of God?  If the people in the Wilderness could grow cold in their faith, then it CAN happen to us too.

So, let’s continually stoke our love for God, keep the fire of worship strong and vital in our hearts and lives, and let’s as a result live lives that clearly reflect who’s we are – His alone.

Making Memorials of Faith (Joshua 4)

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Memorial: “Something, especially a structure, established to remind people of a person or event.”

Not all days in our lives are of equal significance.  Some days are not that memorable, others are worthy of reflection.  On the day God’s people finally cross over the Jordan river to enter the Promised Land, with a miraculous show of God’s sovereign power over nature, God instructs them to make a memorial of stones (vs5-7) for their own sake and for the sake of passing on their faith to future generations.

We learn about God, grow in our knowledge and relationship with God experientially.  So, the Psalmist urges us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

This is what God is urging His people to do, to “bank” what they learnt about God in this moment, and to remember it when they face other challenges, when they doubt to remember who God is and what He did for them on this day.

We also can learn about God from the testimony of others.  God tells them to establish this memorial and then when their children ask; “What do these stones mean to you?” (vs6&21) then tell them what God did, what you learnt about God and faith…

The bible as a whole is like a memorial of the testimony of others to us of who God is, what He is like and what He has done for us.  So when we read it, we are like those children asking their parents; “what do these stones mean to you?” as we learn about God from the testimony of others.

God wants to be known, wants us to learn from the testimonies of others and wants us to pass on what we have learnt experientally in our own lives to others.  I encourage you to make memorials of faith, to pause so as to reflect so that you can “bank” what you’ve learnt through various life experiences about God.  A great set of questions to ask is this:

What did I learn about God, myself & others?

Lastly, I urge you to not keep quiet when you have your own little or large Jordan river moments.  I urge you to share with others what you’ve learnt about God, yourself & others regarding faith – so that they can grow in their faith and be encouraged by your experience of God, just as God wanted the next generation to learn from those who passed over into the Promised Land on dry ground because of a miracle of God.