Joshua, the Man & the Book #19 February 27, 2018

We have now come to the last chapter in the book of Joshua, the servant of Moses and his successor, who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land.  Joshua is 110 years old and close to death as he reviews for the people all that the LORD has done for them and then gives them his final instructions in Joshua, chapter 24.

Now therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.  Joshua 24:14-15

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Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these verses:

‘…fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth…’  Many people have a confused idea about the ‘fear of the LORD’ and ask, Why would God tell us to be afraid of Him?

He doesn’t.

The Hebrew verb yare means “to fear, to respect, to reverence” and the Hebrew noun yirah “usually refers to the ‘fear’ of God as a positive quality. It is a reverence and respect for God founded in love which fears offending Him and wants to live in a manner pleasing to Him out of love for Him. It is a fruit of learning and obeying God’s Word and imparts wisdom to the Bible believer.

Joshua is admonishing the people to maintain an attitude of reverence and respect towards the God who has so lavishly blessed and cared for them.  Is this not an admonishment so needed in our world today?  How often do you hear people use the name of the LORD crudely and carelessly, showing no respect?  How prevalent is it now to mock and scoff at morals and values that our parents and grandparents taught us?  How widespread is a spirit of corruption and debauchery?  Truly our society needs a fresh revelation of the fear of the LORD!

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10).

Joshua added ‘…and serve Him in sincerity and truth…’   Sincerity is the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.  That covers a lot of ground.

To serve the LORD free of pretense completely rules out engaging in prayer, Bible study, financial giving and helping the needy with self-serving motives such as looking good in front of others.  He who truly serves the LORD with sincerity is not concerned with the praise of men, but only the approval of God.

To serve the LORD free of deceit is to avoid being two-faced at all costs.  As has been said, you may fool your fellow man but you never fool God. We can be two-faced with other people but we can also be two-faced towards God by professing our allegiance to His commandments and principles on the one hand yet living in just the opposite way.

To serve the LORD free of hypocrisy is related to the previous comments yet has a nuance of its own.  The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word meaning ‘an actor.’  That’s exactly what a hypocrite is – he pretends to be someone he’s not.  Example: someone who makes a show of his religious practices but is mean and hateful in his relationships.

To serve the LORD in truth is to be real, to be honest, straightforward and without pretense, to be the same person at home that you are in social or work situations,.

We are not perfect; we make mistakes, we sin. To serve the LORD in truth is to be humble enough to acknowledge our weaknesses, repent for our transgressions, make things right in whatever way we can and then pick ourselves up and with God’s help do better tomorrow.

Every human being worships someone or something.  Joshua challenged the people: ‘Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve..’  In reality there are only two choices: you serve yourself or your serve the LORD.

If anything at all – anything – is more important to you than your relationship with the LORD, you are serving yourself in one way or another.  ‘But I love God…’ someone may protest. You probably do – the question is ‘How much?’

Listen to yourself talk.  It’s quite revealing.  The bible says that ‘out of the heart, the mouth speaks.’  Do you realize what that means? Your words reveal who you really are and what you really love the most.  Listen to yourself sometime.  What you talk about the most is what fills your heart the most.

Do you love Him more than your possessions?  Do you love Him more than your opinions, your attitudes, your ideas?  Do you love Him more than your money, your house, your career?

And here’s the biggest question of all?Do you love Him more than you love your own will and getting your own way?

Application:

To serve God in sincerity and truth is not a choice we make just once in our life; it’s a daily choice to be honest with Him, with ourselves and with others; to be real, to be genuine, to put away from ourselves all hypocrisy, compromise and insincerity.

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully?  Psalm 24:3-4

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10

 

 

Joshua, the Man & the Book February 20, 2018

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.  Joshua 23: 6-8

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In the 23rd chapter of Joshua, we read his farewell address to the children of Israel.  Joshua is getting up in years and knows that his days are numbered.

We’ve learned in the past the value of faithfulness.  We are by nature selfish and there is no inherent faithfulness in our lives.  It is a virtue we must learn as we grow.  God, on the other hand is totally faithful and it is His desire that we learn to mirror that character trait in our own lives.  Faithfulness means being reliable, trustworthy, responsible and devoted.

But there is another virtue or character trait that Joshua addresses here.  Steadfastness.

Are faithfulness and steadfastness the same? Not exactly.  Let me put it this way:

Faithfulness is finishing the race well under normal circumstances.

Steadfastness on the other hand is finishing the race well under very difficult circumstances.

Steadfastness is the ability to be fixed in one direction, to be steadily directed and to have an unwavering faith in God in the midst of great trouble and difficulty.  Steadfastness walks hand in hand with determination, with courage and with fortitude.  God wants us to remain steadfast in our faith even if we are under great trial or stress.

This should bring to mind the great martyrs of the centuries – men and women who endured criticism, insults, beatings, tortures, imprisonment and even death for the sake of their faith, people we look up to, admire from afar and applaud their heroism.

Our contemporary culture promotes selfishness, greed and immorality.  The very thought of having to ‘suffer’ for one’s convictions is foreign to many people, in part because so few have convictions worth dying for!

God’s people should and must be different.

In this chapter, Joshua is very old and about to die. He was worried about the future of Israel. Would they continue the work he had started? And given the various lapses into sin that he had witnessed over the years, he had to give them a piece of advice regarding steadfastness in their faith.

He summoned all the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel. When they were all gathered around him, he reminded them of what the Lord has done for them in the past . He also cautioned them that the task of possessing the Land was not yet finished and there were still victories to be won.

And so, he encouraged them to be steadfast and remain focused in one direction because there would be troubles and difficulties ahead, obstacles to overcome and victories to be attained. Aware that he would be leaving them soon, he urged them to remain strong in the faith.

They must not associate with the wickedness around them lest they be influenced into the wrong path.

They must not serve or bow down to the idols of the pagans because the Lord is a jealous God and His anger will burn against them.

They must be steadfast in their faith so that what they have worked for so diligently in the past will not be lost to succeeding generations.

He made eminently clear to them that steadfastness – the determination and commitment to remain faithful in the face of any and every challenge and trial – was the key to dwelling safely and successfully in their promised Land.

It is no different for us. Being steadfast in the faith means we keep on obeying God even if other people are doing differently.

Being steadfast in the faith means we keep on living a holy life even if others are living lives that are immoral and shameless.

Being steadfast in the faith means we continue to walk in the ways of God even when those around us mock or ridicule us for our beliefs.

Being steadfast in the faith means we dare not compromise the clear and revealed Word of God as found in the Scriptures.

Being steadfast in the faith allows for no political correctness nor the fear of what other people will think. Steadfastness concerns itself with what God thinks, not what men think.

Steadfastness – a magnificent and beautiful character trait.

Application:

The ‘People of the Book’ – both Jews and Christians – are finding themselves these days increasingly criticized and marginalized. As secular thinkers promote their hostility towards faith and religious expression, it is incumbent upon us to remain steadfast, unmoved and undeterred by the ungodly forces that would seek to silence us at the very least and do away with us at the very most.

It is the hour for God’s people to do more than be quietly faithful within our own circles, but to have the courage and strength of character to demonstrate a steadfastness in our faith in the face of any kind of attacks that may come against us in the future.

As Joshua admonishes us: But you are to cling to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.  23:8

 

 

 

Joshua, the Man & the Book #17 February 13, 2018

Joshua said to them: You have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you and you have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you.  You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God. And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan. Joshua 22:2-4

We are nearing the end of the book of Joshua but still have a few important lessons to absorb.

At the beginning of his leadership, Joshua had reminded the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh of their promise to fight with their brothers to conquer the Promised Land.  In Joshua 1: 12 – 18, they had promised not only to do so but to even go beyond their original commitment.

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Now the war is over and the land is divided among the tribes so Joshua summoned the two and a half tribes to thank and applaud them for their unselfish allegiance to their brothers and for keeping their promise.  He gave them permission to return to their families which awaited them on the opposite side of the Jordan and added this exhortation:

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the Torah which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.  Joshua 22:5

There are two principles in this chapter of importance in every generation.

Integrity – Among other definitions, Webster describes integrity as “soundness of moral character.” Integrity from a biblical viewpoint has to do with being morally sound. What does that mean? A person with integrity knows what is important to God and consistently lives in light of that knowledge. It involves more than living our values; it involves subscribing to God’s values and with His help learning to conform our conduct to those values. Integrity is like the foundation of a house, if it is unstable, the entire house may come apart when it comes under pressure.

Integrity is not determined by circumstances or based on credentials. It is not to be confused with reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are; your character is who you really are! A good reputation is as good as gold but a person with integrity owns the gold mine. If you take care of your character and become a person of integrity, your reputation will take care of itself.

Integrity has to do with a sense of consistency between a person’s inner values and attitudes and his outward words and actions. It keeps you from being a double-minded person, unstable in all your ways.

A person with integrity can’t be bought, but he/she can be trusted.

The two and a half tribes demonstrated integrity by keeping their promise at personal cost to themselves and their families.  For that, Joshua blessed them and thanked them.

Community – The second part of Joshua’s message to them was a well-placed exhortation. They were about to leave the constant fellowship of the other tribes to settle on the other side of the Jordan.  They would be separated from the larger community of Israel and Joshua wisely foresaw the possibility that separation could bring alienation and assimilation into foreign ways.  He cautioned them to keep their faith alive by staying true to God’s commandments, to hold fast to the God Who had brought them thus far and remain loyal to Him.  Notice he said nothing directly about community – or did he?

Joshua knew that if they would stay true to the God of Israel, they would of necessity remain in good relationship with each other.  They had fought alongside their brothers, they had seen miracles and divine protection, they knew well all that God had done for their forefathers during the forty years in the desert.  If they would just maintain and strengthen their relationship with God and their relationships with each other, Joshua was confident that all would be well with them.

It goes without saying that a person is known by the company he keeps.  Our human relationships – the friends we choose – have a distinct impact on each of our lives.  Do not our parents urge us to stay away from “bad companions”?  So does the scripture!

Application:

Living a successful spiritual life depends on two important things: your personal relationship with God Himself AND your relationships with those around you, particularly your closest associates – family and friends.  Both of these are governed by the two great commandments: you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and resources; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

This is essentially what Joshua was saying to the men of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh.  Love God and take good care of your relationships.

And what he is saying to us, these many centuries later.  Integrity and Community – two pillars of a successful spiritual life.

 

Joshua, the Man & the Book #16 February 6, 2018

If there’s one thing we can learn from God’s dealings with the Israelites, it’s that God is FAITHFUL.

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And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed to come true; all came to pass.  Joshua 21:44-45

After designating forty-eight cities for the tribe of Levi, the parcelization of the Land was complete and Joshua records that the ‘promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel’ all came true; every single one of them.  God cannot deny Himself nor can He violate His own Word.  He is utterly and completely faithful in every way and that, my friends, is one of our greatest sources of strength.

There is a philosophy that is out there that believes in God, but has some messed up opinions on how God works. They believe that God created the everything that you see in 6 days, but then He has left us to our own devices; something like a clock that has been wound up but then is left alone and never tells time.

What exactly do I mean when I say that God is faithful?

Faithfulness means seeing it through till the end. “Seeing what through?“ Whatever you are committed to. Marriage. A friendship. A Career. Lacking the last five yards of anything makes the first ninety-five pointless!”

God is not a 95 yard dasher. He completes the whole thing! He’s faithful to the end!  He always has been and He’s not going to start being UNfaithful with you!

God is faithful to His promises

God promised Abraham – Genesis 17:4 ‘This is My covenant with you. I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.  NLT

So God took this child-less man and was faithful to His promise and during the time of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, Abraham’s descendants numbered 1 – 2 million.

God is faithful to His people

God made an important promise very early in biblical history that He has faithfully kept even to this day! The promise was made to Noah, and Noah’s descendants afterward, and every living creature that was with Noah in the ark. Never again, would God allow there to be a world wide flood. And God has sealed this promise! – sealed with what? A rainbow!

A colored banner that hangs in the sky for all to see. And when does a rainbow usually appear? After a rain! It’s as if God is winking at us reminding us – “hey don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten my promise!”

God’s love for you is HIS promise! That’s why he created you in the first place. You are loved. You will always be loved

Are you getting the picture here? God is COMMITTED to you! He’s not going to stab you in the back. He’s not going to let you down. He’s not going to abandon you. He’s not too busy. He’s not annoyed with your requests. There is NO question about it – He will be there for you – always.

God is faithful to His own Word

This, in part, is what separates God from us. We live in a world of broken promises don’t we? We live in a world where people aren’t true to their word, where talk is cheap. F

Faithfulness is something that separates God from you and me. God has never broken a promise or failed His people!  He meant what He said and He said what He meant.  You can utterly depend on the Word of God.

God’s Word is Supernatural in origin.  It is:

Eternal in duration

Inexpressible in value

Infinite in scope

Regenerative in power

Infallible in authority

Universal in application

Inspired in totality.

It doesn’t get any better than that.  We should read it, absorb it, meditate on it, pray over it and pass it on to others.

Application:

Joshua declared with authority that EVERY promise of God came to pass.  Remember however that it didn’t happen overnight!  We tend to be impatient in this modern society. We want to see the answer yesterday.  The message from Joshua to us this day, right now, is to hold firm in our faith, immovable in our commitment, and uncompromising in our life style for EVERY WORD OF GOD IS SURE.  What God has promised WILL come to pass.

If you’re waiting for the answers to certain prayers, don’t give up.  NEVER underestimate the power of prayer. Leave the timing to Him and busy yourself with hiding His Word in your heart and trusting Him who cannot fail.