Joshua, the Man & the Book #15 January 30, 2018

In chapters 15-19, Joshua along with Eleazar the priest and the elders of the tribes apportion to each tribe the land which is to be theirs.  As chapter 20 opens, we read:

Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there  20:1-2


What were these cities of refuge?

According to the Torah, in the the case of deliberate murder, the Law permitted the Avenger of Blood to exact punishment, essentially a life for a life. But to guard against a miscarriage of justice, Cities of Refuge were designed to provide Divine protection for the manslayer, making a clear distinction between premeditated murder and unintentional manslaughter.

There were six cities of refuge, based on the geography of the area. To be of any use, a city of refuge had to be accessible. For this reason, three were placed on either side of the river Jordan. There were good roads leading to each city, which provided the easy access for all of Israel.

A man’s blood could be shed in two ways – on purpose or by accident. If someone was killed on purpose, it was murder. But not all men kill with intent. What was to be done for them?

To guard against a miscarriage of justice, Cities of Refuge were established where the accused could flee so that his case may be properly considered free from the emotionalism surrounding the death of the person in question. So the accused manslayer had to stand before the tribunal of the people. By doing this, two principles were achieved:

  1. The accused’s life was not put at risk by the arbitrary actions of the avenger of blood. The question of intent could be decided in an impartial court, so that the interests of the slain man’s family could also be safeguarded, for the cities of refuge were never intended to harbor murderers. But even if the manslayer was found innocent of the crime and was vindicated he did not get off completely. He had to stay within the city of refuge for the rest of the life of the high priest. The other way was if he died himself.
  2. If the avenger of blood were to defy the law and take the manslayer’s life either inside the city of refuge, or outside it after the high priest’s death, then he would himself become a murderer. But if the avenger of blood found the manslayer outside the city of refuge before the high priest’s death, and took his life, then the dead man had brought about his own downfall, and the case was closed.

The provisions made for the innocent manslayer does have a spiritual significance.

Look at Numbers chapter 35 and verses 32 to 33.

And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest. 33 So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. (Numbers 35:32-33)

It is saying in verse 33 that blood will defile the land. Whenever blood was shed, the sin which had contributed to the man’s death, and was represented by his blood, was absorbed by the land which was defiled as a consequence.

Whenever life was violently terminated, even accidentally, the law had particular requirements so as to demonstrate a spiritual principle. God wanted to show that sin also leads to death. So the Torah’s treatment of a life terminated by another can show that in a similar way sin can also terminate a life. As a result, some sort of  compensation or amends was needed for the death.

A killer put himself on the side of sin, by killing someone. For even if he had killed someone accidentally, he has still taken someone’s life which is strictly the prerogative of sin. He had put a man to death, which normally only sin can do. So his actions had made him “sin” even if only accidentally.

The manslayer was to stay within the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. This concept indicates that the high priest represented all who sought refuge, and bore the iniquity of the spilled blood to his own grave. By doing this he released the manslayer from the burden of accountability.

This is appropriate for two reasons:

1. The high priest was head of the tribe of Levi. All the cities of refuge were Levitical cities. The activities of the cities of refuge therefore came under his responsibility.

2.Even more importantly, the high priest, as spiritual leader, represented purity and freedom from sin. One of his roles was to atone for innocently shed blood.


It is not difficult to recognize God’s redemptive plan in the account of the cities of refuge. While the LORD does distinguish between premeditated, deliberate sin and sins of weakness, keep in mind that SIN is SIN, and there must be repentance, forgiveness and atonement.  Since all mankind has sinned how comforting it is to know that in our times of falling short, He Whose mercies are new every morning, awaits our repentance that He might forgive us and restore our relationship with Him.

He also expects that we set our minds and hearts to learn from our failures and not continue to repeat them.



Joshua, the Man & the Book #14 January 23, 2018

Joshua continues the mission he was given by God through Moses to grant to each tribe of Israel and inheritance of land.  In Chapter 13, he grants to Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh the territory they requested from Moses on the east side of the Jordan. Chapter 14 continues the narrative of distributing the land among the tribes.

These are the inheritances that the people of Israel received in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel gave them to inherit. Their inheritance was by lot, just as the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses for the nine and one-half tribes.  Joshua 14:1-2

When the tribe of Judah approached Joshua, Caleb presented his request on their behalf. Remember that years earlier, it was these two – Joshua and Caleb – who were the only two among the twelve spies that Moses sent to spy out the land, who gave a good report to Moses.  So Joshua and Caleb are old friends, distinguished by their wholehearted devotion to the Holy One of Israel.

And Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenitzzite, said to him [Joshua], You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-Barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to spy out the land and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses swore to me on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as He said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old.  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.  So 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.’  The Joshua blessed him and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.  Joshua 14: 1b-12


God identified three things about Caleb that distinguished him from the crowd and explains God’s blessings on him, three things that speak to us all these centuries later.

First, Caleb saw opportunities where others saw problems.

Joshua and Caleb saw the same facts in the Promise Land as the Ten other spies. But they came to an altogether different conclusion because they saw it from a different perspective.

The ten spies saw good things that they wanted but the Bible clearly teaches us that these ten spies were not pleasing to the Lord.  Why? Because the main things they saw were obstacles and problems. They saw giants in the land. Were they there? Yes. Did Caleb see these problems? Yes he did.

The difference was in their attitude. Caleb understood the challenges.  Yes, there are enemies. Yes, they are formidable. If we were in this by ourselves, it would be too much for us. But the deciding factor is not how big the giants are.  The deciding factor is God!

If you leave Him out, then you may very well agree with the ten spies. But Caleb saw something in the equation that the 10 spies ignored. He saw God’s involvement. God had already told them through Moses that He had given them the land. That alone should settle the matter.

Secondly, Caleb followed the LORD when others did not.

Caleb’s faith at Kadesh Barnea stood in contrast to the others. He was a person who could stand in faith when surrounded by unbelief, a man who can stand by his convictions regardless of what those around him were doing.

In our democracy, there is a tendency to validate things by majority vote. At Kadesh Barnea the majority certainly voted wrong, and it cost them dearly.  Majority agreement doesn’t necessarily make something right. You cannot define morality by popular vote. Morality is not something that shifts with the tide of society. Right and wrong is rooted in the nature of the eternal God Who does not change (Mal. 3:6). You either take what God has declared in His word or you are a ship adrift in a raging sea of chaos.

Decades earlier, God had said this about Caleb: “But My servant, Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Notice how Caleb’s choices affected his posterity. The decisions you and I make today, will affect our tomorrows and even that of our children and grandchildren.

Notice three things God says here about Caleb.  He was God’s servant which means he didn’t live life for himself but for God. He had a ‘different spirit’ – while the majority rebelled against God, he remained faithful.  And Caleb ‘followed the Lord fully’ – Caleb was radically committed to God.

Thirdly, Caleb finished well and left a godly legacy to his descendants.

It is one thing to start out with zeal, with spurts of excitement and consecration. It’s another thing to consistently and faithfully follow the Lord throughout life. That means we follow Him when it’s difficult, when we’re tired and when there are other things we would rather do.

All of Caleb’s generation died in the wilderness because of their sin and unbelief. But Caleb kept plodding on.  I can envision him encouraging them to trust the Lord just like he did at Kadesh Barnea. Some days his lips were dry and cracked. Some days his feet hurt. His journey was no easier than the man beside him. But he was not complaining. He continued to trust God to fulfill His promises to him.  His journey was longer than he had hoped it would be; but he kept walking and he kept trusting God Whom he knew to be faithful.


How do you handle it when God doesn’t answer your prayers as quickly as you wish He would? Do you keep going? Keep walking? Keep serving Him?

How do you handle it when those around you speak words of unbelief, doubt and discouragement? Does your faith remain strong? Are you able to withstand negativity around you without succumbing to it?

Let us, like Caleb, remember always that we are the LORD’s servants, that the only reasonable option in life is to ‘follow Him fully’ in light of the manifold blessings He has given us and let us end well, like Caleb, leaving a godly inheritance of holy and righteous living to our children and grandchildren.





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


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.


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?


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.


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.


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!


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!