Joshua, the Man and the Book #7 November 28, 2017

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout;then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”  Joshua 6:1-7

Jericho

There are many fortifications that exist in the world that have been designed to protect those who are inside from their enemies.  For example, consider the Rock of Gibraltar, located on the southern edge of Spain and the northern coast of Africa.

The British took advantage of the geography by building one of the most famous fortified positions for its time. The eastern face of the Rock of Gibraltar is a sheer cliff face, while the western slope is comparatively less steep but still a formidable position for an invader. Hundred tunnels were carved into the rock and used for communication, for storage maneuvers and cannons. The biggest triumph came during the Great Siege, when the garrison held on for three and a half years and suffered only 333 deaths as a result of military action. Hence, the saying, “solid as the Rock of Gibraltar” is used to describe a place of safety and strong.

Gibraltar

Now, the walls of Jericho that Israel had to conquer loomed large and menacing. They were designed to protect Jericho from invaders. These walls were formidable and structured on a three tiered plan, starting from the bottom with an earthen rampart, or embankment, which ran from ground level, upwards on an incline to a stone retaining wall which stood 12 to 15 feet in height. On top of the stone wall, stood another impregnable wall made of mud-bricks, 6 feet thick, and 20-26 feet high. Together, these two walls combined to form a strong fortification of 32-41 feet high, as high as a 4 story building. Such was the height of the walls of Jericho.

To the Israelite below, just looking at this massive wall seemed overwhelming and impenetrable. The people inside felt well protected and well defended by their huge wall.

However, walls can give false sense of security. You might think that everything is fine, but it really isn’t. Nothing is invincible. All walls and fortifications of men can be easily destroyed and demolished over time. NO walls regardless of how strong these are made of can protect us completely.

Only God can protect us. Only God is our source of peace of mind. Only God is the source of care and freedom. He can break those walls because He is our only wall of security. He can demolish any obstacle that rises against us.

Joshua 6:2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

Rightly understood, the walls around Jericho were not obstacles but opportunities that challenged the Israelites’ faith to trust in the word of the Lord. Walls are not dead ends but favorable circumstances that happen for our good so that we will be liberated from all of our fears.

Joshua 6:3  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.

The power of obedience, regardless of how foolish it may have seemed at the time, gained them the victory.  Imagine, going around in circles for six days and in total silence, no less.  Yet it was the wisdom of God.

Every time we trust God’s wisdom and follow His direction, even when we don’t understand it, we deepen our relationship with God. Obedience to God is not out of duty, nor out of fear or compulsion. We obey God because we truly love Him and we trust Him completely because He knows what is best for us.

What if Joshua did not follow God’s command to march around the city of Jericho six times?  The children of Israel would not have entered the Promised Land.

The greatest tragedy in life is to stand at the edge of our destiny but fail to enter into all that God has planned for us.  Faith that produces obedience takes risks and is rewarded with the manifestation of God’s faithfulness to His promises.

Application:

Are there walls in your life at present that you would like to see demolished? God will bring them down….if you will do as He directs you. Let faith arise, go ahead a take the risk and see what God will do.

 

 

Joshua, the Man and the Book #6 November 21, 2017

Joshua 5 opens with these words:

Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.  At that time, the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel a second time.’ So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them; all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt.  For all the people who came out were cicumcised but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 

Joshua5

God has always desired that his people be set apart, that there be a distinguishing mark upon them, that they be different. When the Hebrews crossed the Jordan to occupy the Promised Land, God marked them by circumcision.  Circumcision was an outward sign of inward obedience. It was a physical act filled with spiritual meaning,  a very important means of marking their identity as the people of God. It revealed the covenant relationship that God had with his people. Joshua set aside a whole day to perform mass circumcision. And God was pleased.

Throughout scripture circumcision is a metaphor for holiness. It is clear from the scriptures that the outward act of circumcision is of no avail without an inner commitment to the Word and the ways of God.

Moses complained that he had “uncircumcised lips” (Ex. 6:12), by which he meant his speech was not fit to participate in God’s program. Jeremiah spoke of uncircumcised ears, that is, ears unfit to hear God’s word. When Israel entered the Promised Land, they were to regard its fruit as uncircumcised for three years, but “In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the LORD” (Lev. 19:24).

Jeremiah issued the call to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts” (Jer. 4:4). A circumcised heart referred to the human intellectual-emotional-spiritual forum, where decisions were made. It was a call to radical spiritual surgery where the spirit was broken before the LORD, the heart was open and humbled, and the will was submissive to God. It provided the true identity of God’s people. It was a way that they would represent God to the world.

God still desires a holy people today. A holy person is not an odd person, but a distinct person. A holy person has a quality about their life that is different from the secular world. Their present lifestyle is not only different from past lifestyles, but is different from the lifestyles of the unbelievers around them. Those circumcised in heart are real, genuine, authentic.

Some people balk at being ‘different’.  Why?

We don’t want to stand out of the crowd. We wear the same style of clothes, we talk similarly, we conform to the in things. What we fear most in life is being different. We have become an assembly line society, terrified of being set apart.

And, furthermore, we don’t like the idea of holiness because, we think, it communicates an attitude and displays actions that have become known as “holier-than-thou.” We disdain a spirituality and behavior that puts one on a pedestal as being better than the rest. We think that holy people live in far away monasteries, separate themselves from any kind of fun and frivolity, and trade in their luxury cars, comfortable homes, and well-paying jobs for a peace corps stint in a third world country. Consequently, we say, “No, thank you” to holiness.

But is that a true picture of holiness?

Holiness, being different, is none of that. Yet it is more than that.

It is thinking differently, living differently, talk differently and love differently.

It means simply that we are dedicated to order our lives according to the Eternal Word of God and strive consistently to conduct ourselves in keeping with His Word.

Application:

Our world today has a desperate need for people who are different. There is a mark about their lives that sets them apart. Living such a way, like circumcision, will not be easy, in fact, at times it will be painful. But it will make a difference iod and learn to walk in His ways.

 

 

Joshua, the Man and the Book #5 November 14, 2017

In Joshua chapter 4, we are presented with one of the climactic events in all of biblical history. The Israelites had waited forty years, but now the time had come. It is a deeply emotional moment as they cross the riverbed of the Jordan, opened for them by the miraculous power of God. Behind them, they leave the tiring decades of meandering around in a barren wilderness and the tragic memories of countless funerals, for an entire generation of their forefathers who did not trust God’s promises died in the desert. Slavery in Egypt and the bare survival of nomadic life are now in the past.

Before them lay a land richer than their dreams, more fruitful than their hopes, and more beautiful than their imagination. God’s utter faithfulness is displayed.

It must have felt surreal to finally stand in Canaan, similar to when you unlock the door to your very first home. You’ve envisioned it, planned for it, imagined what you will do with it…but when you step in that front door, your emotions soar! In like manner, to participate in the fulfillment of the ancient promise to Father Abraham must have been overwhelming.

Their joy had been magnified by recent events. When they arrived at the Jordan, they found it at flood stage, menacing in its speed and dangerous for what it concealed. The river seemed impassible, its crossing impossible.

But God intervened, performing a miracle that paralleled the miracle of the Exodus from Egypt. God rolled back the waters of the Jordan River, just as He had done with the Red Sea. God meant what He had said through Moses years before. Here again, He assured His people that His Word was worthy of their trust.

I imagine there were songs and shouts as God’s people worshiped and exulted in Him. But there was also one important act. After the children of Israel crossed over, God gave Joshua some very specific instructions, recorded in Joshua 4:1-3:

“Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them, ‘Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests’ feet are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.’ “

Joshua did exactly what he was told, sending these 12 men back to the riverbed of the Jordan where they were to bring back 12 stones—stones that were earlier buried, unreachable, but now divinely accessible.

Twelve men hoisted heavy stones to their shoulders from Jordan’s floor and then piled them together in the Promised Land, by God’s command. They were stacked there as a sign, an unmistakable marker at the very place where God had demonstrated His power to overcome any obstacle to His will.

stones

Because stones don’t naturally stack, there would come a day when Israel’s children would ask for an explanation for this phenomenon. Here’s the answer God wants the next generation to know: “Tell them the story,” says God in v. 7, “of how the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.”

Verses 23-24 add, For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.”

This is what happens when the impossible meets the promises of God. Not only Israel but all the nations witness God’s faithfulness.

What do these stones mean?

Seeing that rock pile and hearing the story, the people of Israel would know clearly that they had not crossed Jordan on their own. Those stones cried out, “God did this! By His hand we have forded this river. By His power and faithfulness we have accomplished this!”  It’s all about God and His unfailing goodness and love.

This memorial still speaks. Let it remind us that ‘Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor over it in vain (Ps. 127:1). And that truly it is “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,” says the LORD of hosts. (Zech. 4:6).

Secondly, Joshua told Israel that the stones would serve as a reminder “that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.” (v. 24) Let no one be confused about the purpose of life.  We are here to glorify God and demonstrate His character to the world.

Thirdly, the stones out of the Jordan testified of the willingness of a people to leave what they had known in order to go forward with God, to face challenges to their faith, to step into the water, to believe in what they could not see.

Application:

Between the realization of your spiritual aspirations and today, there are challenges.  You may not yet see how God will answer your prayers and the desires of your heart, but you can stake your life on this truth: God is faithful.

You may not pile a few stones in front of your home.  You may instead have a particular scripture on a plaque in your living room, or highlighted in your personal Bible, or on the homepage of your laptop.  Whatever your ‘pile of stones’ may be, let it always remind you that your life is all about God and His glory; it is about the purpose for which we exist; it is about the challenge to allow the Spirit of God to so change you that His glory may be seen more fully through you.

Joshua, the Man and the Book #4 November 7, 2017

Upon the return of the two spies to the Israelite encampment, they report to Joshua privately all that had happened to them during their brief visit to Jericho and what Rahab had told them about the people.  Joshua’s reaction was: ‘The LORD has given the land into our hands; and all the inhabitants of the land have melted because of us.’  Joshua 2:24  Notice yet another difference between Moses’ sending of twelve spies and Joshua’s sending of two.  When the twelve returned they gave their opinions publicly causing all manner of chaos in the camp.  When Caleb and Pinchas return from Jericho, they go straight to Joshua and speak directly and privately to him. (2:23)

Chapter 3: 1 ‘Joshua arose early the next morning…’ 

Encouraged and affirmed by the report of the spies, the very next morning, Joshua leads the children of Israel from Shittim to the banks of the Jordan, a relatively short journey. At long last the time to enter the Land had come.  Positioned directly opposite Jericho, the people spend the night anticipating the imminent crossing.

Knowing human nature there were most likely some less patient among them who were ready to cross immediately but there was good reason to wait until the next morning. The congregation’s faith was strong.  They expected a miracle from God though they didn’t know exactly what He would do.  Whatever form the miracle took, it would be much more evident in daylight and their faith would be further strengthened. In addition, the Canaanite kings would see or receive eye-witness reports which would deepen their reluctance to fight against Israel.  On a practical level, Joshua being a good military strategist, knew the importance of having the people rested and ready for the crossing of the Jordan.

The three day period set by Joshua had come to an end.  It was time to move. His captains went about the camp announcing to the people, ‘When you see the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD, your God, and the Priests and the Levites carrying it, then you shall move from your place and follow it. But there shall be a distance between yourselves and it – two thousand cubits – do not approach closer to it so that you may know the way in which you should go, for you have not passed this way yesterday or before yesterday.’  Joshua 3:3-4

Joshua3

There are several messages to us embedded in these two verses.

I like the way the MESSAGE Bible renders these same verses: When you see the Covenant-Chest of God, your God, carried by the Levitical priests, start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile – be sure to keep your distance – and you’ll see clearly the route to take.  You’ve never been on this road before.

Joshua is following the principle that guided the children of Israel throughout the desert years.  When the Cloud moved, they moved.  If the Cloud stood still, they stayed where they were.  In this case, when the Ark of the Covenant moves, follow it.  But don’t move until it does!

The underlying message is clear.  As we go through life, we are faced with decisions, sometimes life-altering ones.  To act quickly without seeking the will and direction of our Father, like David did, is more than dangerous; at times it can be deadly as when a group of Israelites went out to battle in opposition to the advice of Moses and were defeated. Numbers 14:39-45

We do not have a visible Cloud or a procession of priests carrying the Ark of the LORD before us today, but we do have what David, Abraham, Esther and other heroes of scripture had.  We have the ability and the privilege of prayer along with the promise of God, If you will seek the LORD your GOD, you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.  Deut. 4:29

God has not gone mute; He speaks today to anyone who will listen.  In the quiet place of devotion and your personal prayer time with Him, ask Him to show you the way to go.  He is after all the ONLY One who knows the future and has promised through Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’  Jeremiah 29:11  God is on your side! He is ready and willing to lead you into the best decisions for you and your family.  Ask and then wait patiently for the answer.  It will come and it will be at just the right moment.  He is never late, and very often He isn’t early either!  But His timing is always perfect.

Our time of waiting for His direction mirrors the admonition of the captains. Keep a proper distance between you and it…

We humans have a natural tendency toward tunnel vision.  We see too narrowly and often fail to grasp the bigger picture.  In the process of waiting for God to answer, we step back a bit and He is able to enlarge our perspective, show us elements of the decision before us that we had not yet seen and lead us to safety on the opposite shore, just as He did with the children of Israel on that day.

Life does not have to be a trial-and-error adventure.  Our God is more eager to fellowship with us than we imagine.  His love is unquenchable and unlimited.  He cares for you every bit as much as He cared for David, Joshua and the children of Israel.

Dare to approach Him, seek His presence, ask Him for His guidance.  Talk to Him as you would to a best friend for He is that and more than that. He speaks to us through inner impressions, thoughts and what I like to call ‘divine appointments’ – those unique times when someone or something comes into your life and you just know the hand of the LORD is in it.

When the Ark moves, move.  When the Ark is still, be still.

What does this say to you this week?  Are you grappling with a decision?  Do you need His guidance?

He’s waiting to give it.  Get alone with Him and ask.  Then listen…