Archive for January, 2012

Joshua 14

Joshua 14 has more discussion about how Joshua and Moses divvy up the land.  They were passing out the land to the nine and a half tribes that were yet to get theirs.  Moses had already allotted the land on the other side of the Jordan to those who requested it.  Now comes Caleb – one of the two spies Moses had sent out 45 years earlier to see what was there in the Promised Land.  He came back, along with Joshua giving a good report to go and take the land while the other 10 said no.  So now Caleb wants to collect on the promise Moses had made him.

Moses had said “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”.  Moses made a promise and now Joshua is going to deliver.  Caleb is 85 years old – 45 years in the wilderness waiting for this time.  And now he is ready to collect on the promise Moses made.  The key to Caleb’s success?  He wholly followed the Lord.  Not mostly, not partly, but wholly.  Complete obedience to God and His will.  Complete surrender and submission to the Father.  That is an example of faithfulness.  Caleb traveled with the people and is one of the few to still be alive.  God has blessed him indeed.

So he comes to Joshua and wants his inheritance.  His ask was for Hebron and scripture tells us that “Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb”.  God honored his faithfulness – first as a spy and then for 45 years of wandering.  That is a pretty amazing track record.  And the most amazing of all are these words again: “he wholly followed the Lord”.

Do we even know what that means?  How do we wholly follow the Lord?  It begins by being on God’s page and understanding God’s plan.  We have to know what God desires before we can wholly follow.  Once we know what God wants from us – then we have to choose to live that way.  Obedience is a matter of choice.  But wholly following means we follow completely in every area every moment of every day.  It is quite a feat.  Joshua and Caleb were guys who lived that way.  And in far more difficult circumstances than we face.  Are you ready to commit to God at that level?  It is the optimum place to be.  I know it is the desire of my heart!

Joshua 13

Joshua 13 opens with these words: “Now Joshua was old and advanced in years”.  That makes me tired just thinking about it.  Joshua has been extremely busy leading the people since he took over for Moses.  It doesn’t seem like that long, although a  lot of water has gone under the bridge.  He has conquered 31 kings to date, but God says “there remains yet very much land to possess”.  The job is far from complete.  Lots more kings and kingdoms to overtake to complete the move into the Promised Land.

Scripture lists those kings and kingdoms and also gives the answer to Joshua’s old age and limitations.  “I myself will drive them out from before the people of Israel”.  God knows no limitations.  His man on the ground was old and tired, so God says He will just do it Himself.  He isn’t limited by our limitations as people.  He has demonstrated that over and over with the plagues, and more recently the hailstones He used as weapons to wipe out a bunch of the enemy.  God has the tools to make it happen – whether Joshua is able to be part of it or not.

The balance of the chapter is a detailed description of the land to be taken, as well as what has already been taken, and how that should be carved up among the 12 tribes.  It actually is only going to 11 tribes as the Levites were “gave no inheritance”.  They were the keepers of God’s things and were not going to be owners of any property.  But the rest of the tribes have specific areas that are to be their own.  Some still had enemies that needed to be removed, some have been living in their new homeland for a while.  But God is on a steady march to provide the land He promised.  Joshua is still leading the way, although it may be slowing down a bit with his age!

Joshua 12

Joshua 12 lists the kings that were defeated as the people took over the Promised Land.  We need to keep in mind that although God gave the Isrealites this home land – it wasn’t without some effort.  Moses began the process on one side of the Jordan, and Joshua finished the job on the other side.  Here is what scripture records as the victories that were won.

For Moses:

  • Sihon king of the Amorites
  • Og king of Bashan
  • Sihon king of Heshbon

And Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land for a possession to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh”.

For Joshua:

  • the king of Jericho
  • the king of Ai
  • the king of Jerusalem
  • the king of Hebron
  • the king of Jarmuth
  • the king of Lachish
  • the king of Eglon
  • the king of Gezer
  • the king of Debir
  • the king of Geder
  • the king of Hormah
  • the king of Arad
  • the king of Libnah
  • the king of Adullam
  • the king of Makkedah
  • the king of Bethel
  • the king of Tappuah
  • the king of Hepher
  • the king of Aphek
  • the king of Lasharon
  • the king of Madon
  • the king of Hazor
  • the king of Shimron-meron
  • the king of Achshaph
  • the king of Taanach
  • the king of Megiddo
  • the king of Kedesh
  • the king of Jokneam in Carmel
  • the king of Dor in Naphath-dor
  • the king of Goiim in Galilee
  • the king of Tirzah

Joshua wins the contest as he dealt with “in all, thirty-one kings”.

Joshua 11

Joshua 11 has yet another set of kings and armies preparing to do battle with Joshua.  They came together as “a great horde, in number like the sand”.  That is a lot of soldiers to fight.  But Joshua knew the reality that one plus God is still a majority – that is all it takes to win.  The Lord came to Joshua and told him “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them”.  Pretty strong promise from God here. And certainly to this point, God has given Joshua no reason to doubt Him at all.

So Joshua and the warriors head out to do battle, and God “gave them in the hand of Israel”.  God again does the work and fights the battle.   Joshua and the boys are basically in cleanup mode.  They “did not leave any who breathed” – they finished them all off just as they had been told by God.  They took the plunder but killed the people and their leaders.  No partial obedience this time – total and complete to do exactly what God had said.

Scripture paints this picture of the chain of command and what it means to be fully obedient:
–       “the Lord had commanded Moses

–       Moses commanded Joshua

–       so Joshua did”

Scripture goes on to say “he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses”.  Joshua understood the chain of command.  God told Moses – Moses told Joshua – Joshua did exactly what was told to him.  He did it all down to the very last detail.  It was all about obedience. It was all about following God’s commandments.

So what happens?  Joshua captures them all.  He kills them and renders their cities a disaster by burning them.  They fought and captured the Promised Land.  And after all that, he gave the land “for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments”.  Joshua carried out the plan Moses had set forth.  The tribes each received their part of the new land.  But then the good stuff comes: “And the land had rest from war”.  After the obedience came peace.  After they did it God’s way they were able to rest and enjoy.  God gives them rest!

Joshua 10

Joshua 10 is an amazing story of God’s faithfulness to the People of Israel.  A bunch of kings saw what was happening and decided to try and be proactive.  They found out that the Gibeon people had surrendered as slaves to Joshua, so they decided to attack them and punish them for caving in.  They rally together and decide to “strike Gibeon” because it had “made peace with Joshua”.  Bad decision on their part.  I am sure they assumed that Joshua would not respond – these were just slaves after all.  And they had deceived him as well.  But the people of Gibeon cried out “come up to us quickly and save us and help us”.

But God told Joshua that they would not be able to stand against his army.  “So Joshua came….marched up all night….the Lord threw them into a panic….they fled….the Lord threw down large stones from heaven….they died”.  Not necessarily the way to enter a battle.  March the troops all night and face five kingdoms who have united to defeat you.  But that is what faith does. Joshua heard clearly from God that He was going to take care of things, so Joshua just led his fighting men and left the details to God.  And note what happens: “There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword”.  All that marching just to watch God wipe them out.  Can you imagine the scene?  God uses hailstones as a weapon and kills the enemy.  What a sight that must have been.

Then Joshua does something amazing.  He wanted to be sure they finished the job this time – he kept pursing the enemy “until they were wiped out”.  He wasn’t going to make the same mistake they had previously and not complete the job God’s way.  So Joshua says these words: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley”.  Pretty bold request – or actually a command – isn’t it?  If you wonder if Joshua was plugged in to God and what He was up to – check out these results.  “And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord obeyed the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel”.

Joshua was tuned in to God and His power.  God fought for Israel that day. God enabled His people to finish the job when the sun stood still and the moon stopped.  Joshua was faithful to finish the job.  They captured the 5 kings and Joshua brought them out before his leaders.  They “put your feet on the necks of these kings” and then put them to death.  God gave them the victory that day.   Can you imagine the sun standing still?  Oh what a sight that would have been.  From here God sent them throughout the land and they “struck the whole land, the hill country….the lowland….the slopes…..all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel commanded…..and Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time”.  Quite a change from the first battle they faced in the Promised Land when they didn’t do it God’s way.  The difference is pretty simple – obedience.  They sought God and followed His direction.  Good things happen when we live that way.  Big things happen.  The sun can even stop……

Joshua 9

Joshua 9 contains a powerful lesson that we need to pay close attention to.  The word of the victory over the Amorites has spread and the kings of the other countries “heard of this….gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel”.  Isn’t it amazing how people with a common enemy will come together to try and defeat it.  Here we have a half dozen rivals that decide it is in their best interest to gang up and try to deal with Joshua as a group.

All of them, that is, except for the people of Gibeon.  They decide to take a different approach.  They weren’t drawn into the pact between nations to fight God’s people head on.  They decide to “act with cunning” and deceive the Israelites.  So they put on their old clothes, carry some old food from the fridge (ok no fridge but it was dry and crumbly stuff) and they took off to meet Joshua and the nation of Israel where they were.  The intent – to make a covenant with them pretending to be from “a distant country” which was a lie as they lived just up the road a piece.  But they played the part well and came into the camp offering to become servants to Joshua and the folks there.

Seems like a good plan doesn’t it – actually for both sides?  It does on paper – but wait – God had a different plan.  As the Israelites took the Promised Land they were to clean up and get rid of the people that were there.  But Joshua doesn’t do his homework and signs a covenant with the Gibeonites and guarantees their safety.  Where did things go wrong?  Here it is – clear as can be – the leaders “did not ask counsel from the Lord”.  That can probably describe many or most of the bad decisions we make.  When we trust our own judgment and instincts and do what seems right and makes sense – that can be a very poor decision.  Scripture tells us clearly that ‘there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death’.  What seems right is often very wrong.  Joshua experiences this first hand as he is deceived into violating God’s instructions.

So now what? They have signed a covenant to allow these people to be servants and to protect them, but it violates what God had told them to do.  As expected, the people then blame.  “Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders”.  Don’t you just love people.  They praise leaders when things are going well, but instantly turn when times get a bit tough.  Joshua is dealing with the fickle nature of people.  “But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them”.  They stay true to their covenant and don’t make a second mistake by turning on what they had just agreed to.  The lesson here is that we need to seek God continually.  We need to ask before we make decisions, especially decisions that are going to last for a very long time.  Joshua failed here.  Big mistake with a very long set of consequences!

Joshua 8

Joshua 8 records the capture of the city of Ai.  Remember that a bit earlier the army had been defeated by these folks.  But this time, God is on their side.  God tells Joshua to choose “30,000 mighty men….sent them out by night….lie in ambush….remain ready….I and all the people who are with me will approach the city….draw them away….set the city on fire”.  Pretty simple plan – you make it look like it did last time.  Approach and then turn and run like you are retreating.  They saw this not all that long ago.  And of course the fighting men will leave the city and pursue them just like last time.

Only this time the trap will come down and they will enter from the other side and burn the city, as well as ambush these fighters from the side and behind.  Joshua “arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up”.  Gotta love the leadership in this guy.  Up early  – connected with God – and obedient down to the details.  He took the people toward Ai and they turned and fled “pretended to be beaten”.  The decoy worked in real life just like it had on paper – gotta love that.  The fighting men all left town and chased after the people of Israel, and at the same time God instructed Joshua to stretch out the javelin in his hand toward the city.  That is a familiar thing for a leader to do isn’t it?  Remember Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea?  And a few other instances where Moses held up his arms during battle.

Israel struck them down, until there was left none that survived or escaped”.  They came out behind them and from the side, and soon the fleeing people turned and came at them head on too.  As the men of Ai looked back they saw their entire city in flames.  Now that has to take the wind out of your sail.  One of those oh no moments when you realize you forgot something rather important.  That day Joshua and his army took down the entire population of Ai and hanged their king in a tree.  God gave them into their hands.

So what happens as the celebration of victory?  They bury the king in a pile of stones at the gate to the former city.  They build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God.  Joshua “wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses”.  He is just coming off a victory here remember, but Joshua takes the time to write down the most important things yet again so the people do not forget.  And then “he read all the words of the law….there was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly”.  Do you see what happens here?  They just won a big victory and the response is to gather and have Joshua read the entire law to them.  There is no way they are going to be allowed to forget how this happened.  Joshua is going to keep them focused on God.  No option – just God.  How do you celebrate success in your life?  Do you party and make merry, or do you dive into God’s truth and sit in His presence?  He is the author of all things good.  We need to give Him the glory!

Joshua 7

Joshua 7 has a major mistake by the people – well at least one guy.  ” But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things”.  Achan took something that should have been destroyed.  He violated God’s instruction.  So when the army went to take on the next city – Ai – they lost and actually got their rear ends kicked.  God was no long with them.  Joshua is beside himself.  He cannot understand what has gone wrong so he goes before God and hears the bad news.  Someone has violated God’s instruction and God has withheld His power.  Not a good situation. 

Joshua tore his clothes….fell to the earth….put dust on their heads”.  He is seeking God’s answer.  God is pretty direct with Joshua: “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned….stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings….I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you”.  Don’t think God cares about our obedience.  One guy violates God’s instruction, and the entire nation of Israel is paying the price.  This is a big deal.  God has a solution: “he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire” and it isn’t a pleasant one.  Someone has to pay for their sin but at this point Joshua doesn’t know who the guilty party is. 

God tells Joshua to get up early and find out by God’s leading.  He will draw lots and God will lead him to the guilty party.  So Joshua does as instructed and the arrow pointes to Achan.  He calls him out and says “tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me”.  I am sure Achan thought he got away with something.  He had taken some silver and gold and hid them “in the earth inside my tent”.  He thought he had pulled of a score, but God not only knew, he led Joshua straight to him.  If you think for a minute you can fool God, you are sorely misinformed.  God knows always. 

Joshua now has to deal with this problem.  God had told him what that meant – Achan had to die.  Not only him, but his “sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had”.  This is truly cleaning things up.  It was a very painful ending.  “And all Israel stoned him….burned them with fire….raised over him a great heap of stones”.  Sin is not something that God can just tolerate.  This little violation of God’s instruction didn’t get overlooked.  It had to be dealt with.  Only then did “the Lord turned from his burning anger”.  Only then did the nation of Israel get back on God’s good side.  Seem a little harsh?  The wages of sin is death – there is always a severe cost to sin.  The good news for us is that Jesus paid that price if we receive His gift through grace.

Joshua 6

Joshua 6 has the very familiar story of the capture of Jericho.  You remember the story.  The city was in siege – “none went out, and none came in”.  God told Joshua to “march around the city….going around the city once….for six days…..On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times….the priests shall blow the trumpets….all the people shall shout….the wall of the city will fall down flat”.  Can you imagine getting this set of directions?  They have walked with God for forty years in the wilderness. They are now ready to take their land and they have to walk around the city they want once a day for six days, and then seven times the last day before shouting the walls down.  It seems like a rather far fetched approach, doesn’t it? 

But that is exactly what Joshua told the people.  Day one they get up and walk around the city once, and then go back to camp to wait for tomorrow.  Joshua got up early the next morning, and the four after that, to set the stage for their daily walk around Jericho.   The priests were blowing their trumpet, the warriors were leading the march, and they do the routine six days in a row. 

On the seventh day the routine starts the same but contines with seven trips around the city.  This time, Joshua told them that when the priests had blown their trumpets, the people were to “shout, for the Lord has given you the city”.  Joshua doesn’t try and take credit for this.  He keeps God front and center as the leader of this battle.  So they made the seven trips and the priests blew their trumpets and “as soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city”.  No delay, obedience brought down the walls.  They did it God’s way and God did exactly what He said He would.  That is the very character and nature of God.  He never fails. 

There was one exception to the destruction of Jericho.  Remember a few chapters back Rahab the prostitute had protected the two spies Joshua sent in to check things out.  Now they were true to the promises made and “brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her” to safety just as they had promised.  “They burned the city with fire”.  It was complete destruction as God had commanded.  And what was the impact for Joshua?  “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land”.  He has successfully transitioned to replace Moses and those were some very big shoes to fill!

Joshua 5

Joshua 5 continues to move us closer to the entrance into the Promised Land.  After all, they had been walking for 40 years to get to this point and had just crossed the Jordan on dry ground.  Now the kings of their enemies have heard of the crossing, and “their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them”.  They could see it was futile to resist God.  He had the ability to do things they couldn’t even dream about.  Never underestimate the God we serve.  He will do what it takes to fulfill His Word.

But rather than rush in and take over, God has Joshua pause to “circumcise the sons of Israel a second time”.  It isn’t really a second time, but “all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised” so it was time to take care of that before entering the Promised Land.  “It was their children….that Joshua circumcised….when the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed”.  So another minor slow down to the movement into the Promised Land.

Remember how this happened?  “The people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord”.  And now it is time to move in.  They were able to eat their first meal from the new land, “and the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land”.  Can you imagine – no more manna?  After 40 years of this as their diet, they are on to a new thing and beginning to experience the land flowing with milk and honey they had been traveling to get to.

Joshua sees a man with a drawn sword in his hand and approached to see who he is.  “I am the commander of the army of the Lord”.  That is good news – he is on their side.  So Joshua wants to see what his next move should be.  He is expecting some kind of commander instruction.  But he is told to “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy”.  No big plans or strategies yet.  Just get right with God – the holy and almighty that will win this battle for you.  I often wonder how much I miss of what God is telling me because I am on my own agenda and never even think that the first step might be to realize this is a holy place and a holy conversation.  Joshua gets things in the right way immediately.  Sometimes I think we fail to hear God or see Him at work because we don’t put Him in His rightful place in our lives.  You ever struggle with that?  Ever even think about it?

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