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.)

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.

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.