Joshua, the Man & the Book #13 January 16, 2018

These are the kings that the People of Israel defeated and whose land they took on the east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, with the whole eastern side of the Arabah Valley.  Joshua 12:1

eastofJordan

Chapter 12 of Joshua at first glance seems to be the least enticing for it is primarily a detailed list of all the kings that were conquered by the children of Israel.  The names are difficult to pronounce and for most of us, it’s a turn-the-page moment.  However a few verses down there is a subtle but very important message.  Come with me to verse 6:

Moses the servant of God and the people of Israel defeated them and Moses the servant of God gave this land as an inheritance to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh.

So why is this important?

Back in Numbers 32 there is the account of the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh to inherit the land east of the Jordan.  They approached Moses with their request, explaining that they had great herds of livestock and the land on the east side was perfect for their needs.

Moses responded with a rebuke. ‘Do you mean that you are going to leave the fighting that’s ahead to your brothers while you settle down here? Why would you even think of letting the people of Israel down, demoralizing them just as they’re about to move into the land God gave them? ‘ vs. 6-7

The LORD had promised the land of Israel to ALL the tribes of Israel so what is at issue here is that two and a half tribes are opting out of their inheritance!  They were called to cross over the Jordan and take possession of the Land but Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh wanted to stop just short of fulfilling the will of God.

Think of it.  They’d been through forty years in the desert, faced battles and hardships, all for the purpose of taking possession of God’s gift to them. And now when it’s in their sight, they draw back and want to stop short of fully obeying the LORD.

In the end Moses granted their request on condition that they fight with their brothers to take the land and if they did, they would be allowed to go back across the Jordan to the area they fancied.

This account is one of the most stark displays of following God…but not quite; going so far but falling short of the goal.  It is a sobering example of how we can make a commitment to follow the Lord and then put the brakes on, so to speak, when His will takes us in a direction we don’t want to go.  The consequences are never pretty.

Fast forward several hundred years to the first century of the Common Era.  The Gadarenes – and presumably some of the tribe of Reuben and Manasseh with them –  appear again, in the very same location, but instead of raising livestock, they are raising – of all things – pigs! (Matthew 8) The most abominable animal to the Jews!  From wealthy and prosperous forefathers who settled just short of the Promised Land has descended generations who over time were reduced to raising pigs.  The implication is profound.

We are too easily moved by appearances and/or rational arguments instead of keeping as our highest priority the revealed will of the Lord God of Israel in His Word.

Whenever we compromise or rationalize our commitment to the LORD, the result will always be the same, sooner or later.  The land on the east side of the Jordan looked so good but to settle there was in conflict with the will of the Holy One of Israel and the descendants of the two and a half tribes suffered the consequences.

It’s a profound lesson too often missed as it’s tucked away in the midst of a list of kings whose names elude us.  How important it is to pay attention and search for the treasures of wisdom, even when they are semi-hidden in the Word of God.

Application:

God did not hide the failings of His people from us when He gave us the Torah and the Prophets. Their successes and their failures are clearly demonstrated so that we might learn from both.  When did they enjoy success? When they obeyed the word of the LORD. When did they fail? When they failed to obey the word of the Lord.

Let the wise take heed.

 

 

Joshua, the Man & the Book #12 January 9, 2018

Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one time, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. Joshua 10:42

Joshua was a great man, a strategic military leader yet the Scripture makes clear that the victories of Israel over rival kings and kingdoms was not due to Joshua’s expertise but rather ‘because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel’. Do you realize there is a message encoded in that verse that applies to all of us?

Joshuabattle

Life has its battles. We all face struggles at one time or another in various ways and for various reasons. Our tendency is to withdraw into ourselves and exert undue energy trying to figure out the solutions ourselves, too often forgetting to seek the wisdom and guidance of the LORD Who knows far more than we do about the situation!  He understands us when we don’t understand ourselves; He knows what is going on in the lives of others who may be part of our ‘dilemma’.  And He – and only He – sees the true picture.  We see only a part.

David as well as Joshua set the example for us in how many times during his life, the scripture tells us: ‘And David inquired of the LORD.’

Having served Moses for some 37 years, Joshua had learned the lesson well that to achieve victory in any area of life, the wisdom and guidance of the LORD must be sought after.  It is written that after Moses would leave the tabernacle, Joshua would linger there in the presence of the LORD. The testimony of Moses’ life loomed large and powerfully in Joshua’s consciousness as he assumed the leadership of Israel and led the nation into battle over and over again.

In Joshua 11 we read, ‘A huge army went to war with Israel’. (vs. 4-5)  Israel went to battle with a promise of victory for God had said He would give them the land.  How long did it take?

How long is a long time?? – a long time! –  years!

As we apply this principle to our lives today, sometimes God will call us to battle something for a long, long time; as a matter of fact, the spiritual battle within us to become godly lasts a lifetime until we reach our eternal promised land.

And so: How did Joshua know what to do??

In v15 & 23: God instructed Moses; Moses instructed Joshua; then Joshua instructed God’s people!  In v23 we learn the result: After a long time of battle, God gave Israel rest!

The story can be summarized in 4 simple truths:

1. God commanded the Israelites to conquer Canaan. The battle was God ordained for the glory of God.  So are ours.

2. God’s instructions were passed on from generation to generation. God’s message did not change as it was passed on from one generation to the next. The Word of God must never be altered! Joshua and the 3 million Israelites could have ignored what God said to Moses, whom they never met, but they did not; they trusted and obeyed.  It is our responsibility to teach our children and grandchildren to seek the LORD, to trust His Word and to obey Him.

3. As the Israelites obeyed God, victory was given by God.  As we obey, victory is also ours.

4. God gave rest to His people. To walk through life with the peace of God that sustains us through good days and bad is a wonderful thing.

When difficulties or trials come our way, we are given opportunity to follow the example of our forefathers: to turn to the LORD for wisdom and guidance, to conquer evil with good (for, as the saying goes, two wrongs never make one right!) and to recognize that it is the LORD, the God of Israel, who equips us to overcome fear with faith in His everlasting kindness and mercies.

Application:

Joshua led the children of Israel in battles against an impressive number of kings and armies. They consistently won when they sought the LORD and His direction and then obeyed what He told them to do.

It is no different for us. Whatever ‘battle’ or hardship we face, the LORD has promised that He is always with us, that He never forsakes us, that He is aware of every detail of our life and that His love compels Him to respond to those who seek Him.

Let us then go to Him confidently, like Joshua, and enter into His abiding peace.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is fixed on You.. Isaiah 26:3

 

Joshua, the Man & the Book #11 January 2, 2018

My warmest wishes to all of you for health and blessing in 2018.   Let’s continue our study in Joshua, shall we?

A few short months ago, a complete Solar Eclipse across the United States of America captured our attention.  For the first time in many years, the path of the moon’s shadow passed through the entire Continental United States.  It was a scene of unimaginable beauty as the Moon completely blocked the Sun and daytime turned into twilight and the Sun’s corona shimmered in the darkened sky.

An even greater feat is recorded in the book of Joshua, The Day The Sun Stood Still.  This  is one of the greatest miracles God performed.

sunstill

I trust you remember from last week’s lesson that the city of Gibeon was under siege from five Kings of the surrounding area, kings who had full knowledge of what Israel had done to Jericho and Ai.  As the battles continued and Israel pressed her way into the land of Canaan, these kings became aware that the Gibeonites had made an alliance with Joshua. Since Gibeon was a great city, they decided they should take it to keep Joshua and the Israelites out of their midst. Therefore the Gibeonites developed a deceptive plan to ‘save their own hides’ out of fear of Joshua and the Israelites.

Remember that Joshua and the elders made covenant with the Gibeonites without asking God – a big mistake.  God could have responded to this situation in one of two ways:  God could have allowed the Gibeonites to fight this battle all by themselves to punish them for deceiving Joshua and the Israelites. Or He could have told Joshua: “You got yourself into this mess, now you can get yourself out,”  But being the gracious and compassionate God that He is, He did neither.  Do you know that God can take our dumbest mistakes, our most foolish decisions, and our ill-advised plans and work them out in ways that bring Glory and Honor to Him?

Facing their dilemma the men of Gibeah appealed to Joshua for assistance.  The Lord encouraged Joshua and Israel to fight this battle. He exhorted them not to fear, and promised them victory.

Joshua realized it was the will of God for him to have victory in the battle and sure enough, God intervened.  The day was just beginning to dawn when they swiftly launched their attack. The enemy was taken totally by surprise and frantically began to flee.

Not only was it a miracle that the gigantic hailstones fell on the enemy, it was also a miracle that the hailstones DID NOT FALL on the children of Israel. Thus, Joshua and his soldiers were dramatically reminded of God’s great concern for them. They were prevailing over their enemies because of the mighty intervention of God on their behalf – but they were running out of daylight. Joshua was convinced he needed to finish the job while the momentum was so greatly in his favor.

Joshua cried out to God, asking that the sun stand still – and God again demonstrated his concern for Joshua and his men by granting that request. God made the Sun stand still for about one day. So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. “And there has been no day like that, before it or after it that the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.”

We know that the earth orbits around the sun not the other way around but Joshua did not understand that during his day and age. So what exactly happened that day?

What are the laws of nature? They are simply processes which God has set into motion — and because he is Sovereign he can ALTER – SUSPEND – REVERSE – CIRCUMVENT – OR EVEN CANCEL THOSE PROCESSES ANYTIME HE SO DESIRES.

That’s what a MIRACLE is – it is when some usual pattern of nature is changed or interrupted due to God’s personal intervention. It is not reasonable to think God would allow himself to be a prisoner of the very processes which He, himself, has created.

Hailstorms were about to get in league with Joshua. The Sun stopping in its tracks was about to take place. The Moon altered its pattern for God’s plan. All of these things in themselves could be touted as natural disasters but God used nature to work out His purposes in His time frame.

What looked like a storm was deliverance and what looked like the world stopping was actually a victory.  God is never on our time frame!

Application:

Is there anything too hard for God? The answer is an unequivocal ‘NO’.  If what you need or what you are praying for is LESS radical than changing the orbit of the earth, you can be assured that God is well able and willing to be to you a ‘very present help in trouble.’

He has never failed anyone and He won’t start with you!