Tag Archives: Israelites

Joshua 10: A very long day

asteroids-1017666_960_720By now the Israelites have demonstrated a pattern of military success.  Jericho and Ai were conquered.  They entered into a treaty with five Gibeonite cities.  Why was the Canaanite king Adoni Zadek so upset with the Gibeonite treaty (v2)? The security of his city was being threatened. Strategically the Israelites controlled a swath of land through the center of the Canaan, splitting the land in two .

Adoni Zadek seeks to quell his fury by attacking the Gibeonites.  He talks four other Canaanite kings into leaving their fortified cities and camp out in the open to fight against the Gibeonites (v7). Rather than let the Gibeonites pay for their earlier deception, Joshua honors the treaty and marches his troops all night over difficult terrain to engage the Canaanites in battle (v9).  The Israelites and the Gibeonites fight all five northern kings in open terrain rather than in secure fortified cities.

God is the warrior here.  He proclaims he has given the enemy into Joshua’s hands.  God throws the enemy into a panic when the battle begins and then sends great stones from heaven down upon the fleeing armies (10, 11).

The miracle of prayer – Joshua prays with great faith asking God to cause the sun and moon to stand still. It should be noted that the sun and moon were principle deities of the Canaanites and any disturbance in their orbits or times would cause fear and panic among them. God listens to Joshua’s prayer and fights for Israel.  The extended day enables the five northern kings to be completely defeated (v13, 14).

Lest we consider the account of the long day of Joshua to be a fable, one has to consider that the Inca’s, Aztec’s, Babylonian’s, Persian’s, Chinese and other ancient cultures make mention of singular long day event.  Did the earth stop spinning?  No. More likely the earth was tilted several degrees on it’s axis making one day longer than all the others.

The Israelite army marches south and six more towns (v28).  When Joshua and his army return home to Gilgal, they have effectively quelled any major threats from the surrounding countryside but they have yet to completely occupy all the land of Canaan (see Judges chapter 1).

After reading this account in Joshua chapter 10, one has to be puzzled as to why a loving God would instruct his people to kill all the Canaanites in their battles.  It’s certainly not because the Israelites were faultless or more spiritual than the Canaanites, they were far from perfect.  They did worship the living God.  When the Israelites turned their backs on Him they often paid of severe price, even.  This very land would be taken from them many centuries later.  On the other hand, the Canaanite pagan worship practices were very dark.  Their worship demeaned and degraded human life, which included child sacrifice and sexual exploitation of older children.

Today, Jesus Christ is the advocate of those who follow his teaching.  I am reminded of a saying I once heard, “God and you are always a majority” not matter what the odds are.

[For] If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

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Joshua 9: the ruse

potion-1860939_960_720Chapter nine of Joshua features the people of Gibeon.  The Israelites have miraculously crossed the Jordan River on dry land and defeated Jericho and Ai.  Word of the mighty works of God (v9) spread to the surrounding Canaanite towns.  A call went out for the Canaanites to set aside their differences and unite militarily.  The Gibeonites ignored the call, fearing they would be the next ones to be wiped out (v24).  They came up with a ruse intending to secure a peace treaty with the Israelites.  

The Gibeonites offer convincing proof that they are from a far off land showing the Israelites their moldy bread, old wine, worn out clothes as proof.  “We have traveled far,” they said.  The Israelites fell for the ruse and swore an oath.  Unknowingly they made a peace treaty with their neighbors.

God was never consulted before they swore an oath to strangers?  When the ruse was exposed, the Gibeonites were not killed but subjected to a life of servitude carrying water and cutting wood in tabernacle service.

How many of us have resorted to a ruse as a means to avoid trouble.  Ruses often become yokes, which we are forced to bear indefinitely.  What is to be gained with a lie draped around one’s neck?

“The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.”  Psalm 145:18 NLT

 

Joshua 8: Seek God first

cross-2981216__340Once the issue of Achan’s thievery is dealt with, God turns from his fierce anger and promises victory over Ai. He instructs Joshua to take the whole army into battle, which included setting up an ambush.

When the victory over Ai is secured, Joshua sets up an altar to God. The word of God is read to the people of Israel and they rededicate themselves to God. Serving and obeying God became more importance than success on the battlefield.

Centuries later Jesus offered these words,

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT

Joshua 7: Devoted things

victorian-2745_960_720Fresh off their victory over Jericho, the Israelites walked through the ruins of the city, marveling over how the mighty walls of Jericho fell as they shouted. Did thoughts such as, “We are God’s chosen no one can stand against us” creep into their heads?

As their pride swelled, trouble followed. Joshua chapter 7 recalls the second battle led by Joshua; one against Ai, which means “the ruin.” They assumed defeating Ai would be a much easier task than the battle of a heavily fortified Jericho. God wasn’t consulted on how the battle against Ai should be fought. As a result, a smaller but sufficient force set out to do battle. They were soundly defeated.

The Israelites were perplexed. Why did God allow this to happen? The hearts of the Israelites melted with fear! If word got out of their defeat, all of Canaan would descend on the Israelites and wipe them out.

As it turns out God was angry with the Israelites.  He revealed the reason for this anger to Joshua. The Israelites were not supposed to take any of the spoils of Jericho for themselves but someone did. Joshua began questioning the people, tribe by tribe, family by family. Achan from the tribe of Judah was the culprit. He buried some of the spoils devoted to God in the dirt under his tent. His words are unforgettable, “I saw them…I coveted them…I took them.” He and his family paid the ultimate price for his disobedience.

“I saw them…I coveted them…I took them.” Joshua 7:21

D. R. Davis shares this insight, “Our problem here is- sinners that we are – we don’t think breaking Yahweh’s covenant is all that big a deal.” We don’t understand the presence of sin and how it affects our relationship with a holy God.

Another thought to consider is the idea of “serpent theology” found in Genesis 3:1. The serpent’s temptation placed the emphasis on the one thing God restricted rather than all the blessings we already hold in our hands.

“Give us this day our daily bread… and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:11, 13

Joshua 5: The land that was promised

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After 40 years of talking about it, the Israelites were finally in the Promised Land.  To celebrate, they renewed their covenant with God and prepared for the new life awaiting them.  No longer desert nomads, they would become farmers and shepherds in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.”  Joshua 5:11 NIV

Their daily supply of manna suddenly stopped falling to the ground and the river Jordan once again raged at their backs.  They couldn’t retreat to the desert.  What they needed now was complete trust and obedience in God, their deliverer.  Thankfully, Joshua appeared to be connected to Him just like Moses was.   This thought seemed to put the people at ease.

Meanwhile, the people living in Jericho looked down with fear at the sight of 2 million Israelites covering the countryside.  Would their massive city walls be enough to protect them?  They had the living God on their side.  Jericho’s army shut themselves tight inside the fortified city and waited.  A showdown loomed…

“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”” Joshua 5:13 NLT

Joshua 3: Crossing the Jordan

water-872016_960_720For people of God, the Jordan River carries heavy symbolism.  If you are a churchgoer, take a quick peek in your hymnal.  You will find songs revealing the Jordan as a symbol of death.  Crossing the Jordan and reaching the Promised Land meant  entering the gates of heaven.

Some time after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, baptism took the meaning of dying to your old self (upon immersion) and being raised to new life found in Christ (being drawn back up out of the water).

In Joshua chapter three we read the people of Israel needed to sanctify themselves before they could cross the Jordan River.  For this ancient people it involved devoting themselves completely to God and worshiping him.  God was about to perform a miracle and he wanted their undivided attention.

“Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”” Joshua 3:5

Unlike the Red Sea crossing found in the book of Exodus, crossing the Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land required an act of faith on their part–especially by the priests.  God wasn’t going to stop the flow of the Jordan River at flood stage until their feet were in the water.  The priests, however, didn’t go into the water alone.  God was with them in the form of the ark of the covenant, which they carried.

“The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”  Joshua 3:17

Some thoughts for those who know God through his son Jesus:

  • God sometimes performs miracles at the most extreme times, often only after we step out in faith
  • How many miracles have we missed because we failed to take that first step of faith?
  • Every person passed by the ark (containing the Word of God) as they traveled through the dry riverbed. Much as every person today must encounter God to pass from death to everlasting life.
  • God will accomplish the impossible in our lives if we will trust Him.

 

 

A Homily on Joshua Chapter 1

Here are my notes on the homily I gave yesterday at an assisted living facility:

The message I want to share with you today comes from the book of Joshua. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Joshua chapter one. In verse seven we find these words, “be strong and very courageous.” These are God’s words to Joshua after the Israelites are devastated by the death of Moses. They all loved Moses. For forty years he led God’s  people. To give you an idea of how well loved he was, turn back one page to Deuteronomy 34:12. “For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

Joshua had some tough shoes to fill. He had to step in to a leadership position and be responsible for well over a million people. The Israelites were surrounded by the Canaanites. It was clear where Joshua was going lead them—into the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. BUT conquering this land was another matter. So many uncertainties lay ahead. How would they get across the Jordan River at flood stage? How would they overcome great walled cities and mighty armies? What about the giants they would have to face?

Are you facing giant obstacles in your life? Maybe your world has recently been turned upside down, having lost someone close to you? God’s words to Joshua apply to us today, “Be strong and courageous!”

You may be saying to yourself my situation is different. How can I possibly be strong and courageous? Look at verse five, “As I [God] was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not leave you or forsake you,” In verse nine God tells Joshua, “I will be with you wherever you go.”  You see, God is not sitting up in heaven dreaming up new ways to make us miserable. He’s not sleeping, nor is he distracted with other matters, leaving us to face our problems alone. God says He is with us every day as we journey through life, especially when we are facing difficult circumstances. You might say God sticks to us like glue!

Faith and obedience are two things that made Joshua a successful leader.  Joshua believed God is who he says he is.  We need to remind ourselves regularly this means God is God and we are not. Complete trust in God makes obedience a joyful, not tedious endeavor.  Obedience for or the Israelites meant being careful to obey God’s law given to Moses. Verse 7 says, “do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” We Christians demonstrate our obedience, by loving God with all our heart, soul and mind AND loving our neighbors as we would ourselves Matthew 22:37.

My Sunday school class is studying the book of Joshua. We have been learning how God worked mighty miracles over the course of Joshua’s life. The only reason the Israelites were able to conquer the Promised Land was because God fought for them. God dammed up the flooded river Jordan so the Israelites could cross on dry ground. He shook the mighty walls of Jericho as the Israelites shouted, causing them to collapse. God even stopped the path of sun and the moon for about a day so the Israelites could defeat their enemies in battle. God did these things for the Joshua and the Israelites because of their faith and obedience. Jesus, our Joshua, will do mighty things in our lives if we have faith and will just trust him to the point of being obedient.

Let me tell you a story of how God intervened in this one little thing in my life. If we are not careful to notice the little things God does for us they can easily be overlooked.

FullSizeRender 2We bought a new puppy a little over a year ago. His name is Brody. He is a crème colored short-legged creature called mini dachshund. One day not too long ago he was in some kind of stomach or intestinal distress. Every hour on the hour he would climb up into my wife’s lap and begin yipping loudly. This went on for several hours; every hour on the hour. You can imagine how stressful this was to Patty and I. After several hours of this, we decided to call the vet and take him in. But before we did we casually prayed God would touch his little body. Have you ever prayed one of those quick nonchalant prayers, “God help __________” (fill in the blank).

Was it silly to pray for a puppy? I don’t think so. I think that God cares about the things we care about. Anyway, we arrived at the vet and I readied myself as we closed in on Body’s yipping time. The time came and went with no yipping. I remember thinking maybe it would happen a few minutes later this time but it didn’t. Several minutes passed until it was time to meet with the vet. She probed and probed and could not find anything wrong with him so she sent us on our way.

Well, I paid the vet bill and caught myself grumbling, if we had waited another hour or two, then a trip to the vet wouldn’t have been necessary and we wouldn’t be out the money. It’s easy to grumble and complain about things that happen to us in life isn’t it.  Well, this time I stopped myself in the middle of my grumbling and thought, Hey, wait a minute, we prayed God would touch little Brody and he did! 

My grumbling almost cost me a chance to recognize God’s handiwork and the fact he does care about me. Folks, let me encourage you to not to be like the world around us and pass off the little things God does in your life as coincidence. Praise God for every little thing he does for you. Count your blessings when you pray. Each time you do you are thanking and praising God!

So, do you believe God still works in the lives of those who love and obey Him? Do you believe God will help you be strong and courageous in times of great difficulty? Look at verse thirteen, God promised the Israelites he would give them rest when they inhabited the Promised Land.

Does life leave you feeling tired?  Do you long for rest? I’ve begun to count down the years until my retirement. I won’t bore you with the exact number. Like most of you I’ve labored long and hard for a lot of years. I’ve worked in a plastics factory, for a packaging and assembly business and in an order fulfillment warehouse. I’ve sat at a desk doing computer work. My most job is with Pearce Church doing anything and everything they need me to do. You know what? I often go home tired and weary. I’m looking forward to the day I don’t have to wake up to an alarm clock anymore. I am looking forward to resting.

Have you found a place of rest in your journey? Do you want to find peace in the midst of your struggles? Let’s look at a couple of scripture passages about peace and rest.

In Matthew chapter 11 Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Hebrews chapter 13 says, “be content with what we have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”

My friends hear the word of the Lord! Be strong and courageous! Have faith and trust God because He is with us—ALWAYS!