Archive for December, 2014

Joshua 6

Joshua 6 has the battle of Jericho at hand.  Joshua is in the Promised Land camped outside the city, which has a great wall and looks pretty secure. God says “See, I have given Jericho into your hand”.  I’m not sure what Joshua was supposed to see here.  The city was closed and no one was going in or out for days.  It looked pretty much impenetrable.  But God tells Joshua “You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days….On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times….when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat”.

Does that seem like a war plan to you?  Walk around the city for a week and on the last day do it seven times, yell and the walls will fall down?  The lesson here is that God’s ways are not our ways.  Our role is to listen and obey.  God makes the plan and makes it happen.  We simply need to do what He tells us.  Joshua got that, having watched Moses do it for decades.  So that is exactly how Joshua led, telling the people “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout”.   He wanted them to obey God to the letter of His instruction.

So they marched around the city once each day for six days.  “On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times”.  Joshua was clear that “Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent”.  They were going to be careful to keep their word and protect the family of the woman who had saved the spies they had sent earlier.  Beyond that though, the course was destruction.  “All silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord”.  Otherwise everything was to be destroyed.

As they finished the seventh trip around the city on the seventh day, doing exactly what God commanded, “the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat”.  It happened exactly as God had said.  And it happened because the people obeyed and did exactly what they had been instructed.  Obedience brings God’s power to bear.  Joshua makes sure they keep their word to Rahab and tells “the two men who had spied….go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her”.  They had the familiarity and relationship, so they got the nod to protect her and keep their word.  God did an amazing thing for His people as they began their conquest of the Promised Land.  But most of all, God set the stage for Joshua’s leadership as “the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land”.  If there was any doubt at all on whether Joshua was the one to lead, that was gone this day.

Joshua 5

Joshua 5 has Joshua and all God’s people on the other side of the Jordan River in the Promised Land.  And their entry was not unnoticed.  “As soon as all the kings….heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel”.  The mighty leaders of that part of the world were immediately distraught knowing that God’s people once again had accomplished the impossible, and they know it can’t be because of their own ability.  They know their time is short and their spirits are broken.

So what does God tell Joshua to do?  Not what you might expect, but to “circumcise the sons of Israel a second time”.  Not exactly how you would prepare your army of men for battle, eh?  But Joshua does as instructed because honoring and obeying God comes first. The reason for this was that “all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised….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”.  There was unfinished business in getting people right with God and Joshua took care of making sure they were prepared for God’s direction.

The reality is that the promise God had given to all His people back in Egypt was never realized by them.  “It was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised”.  It was their children who had just crossed the Jordan.  It was a new generation.  What’s the second thing Joshua leads the people to do?  “While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover….and the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land….and the manna ceased”.  Big transition.  They had been fed manna and kept alive for 40 years.  Now, they are in their new land and eat of the great food there and the manna is gone.

Joshua has now circumcised all the men, and they have kept the Passover, and he now begins to think about how he will move into the land.  As he comes close to Jericho, he meets a man who says “I am the commander of the army of the Lord”. Joshua knows that he is in the presence of God’s hand.  He asks what he should do and is told to “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy”.  It starts with acknowledging God and who He is.  There wasn’t discussion about strategy or tactics on how to take the Promised Land.  It was about knowing that God is God and putting Him in His place.  That is the secret to His power – to recognize Him as Lord!

Joshua 4

Joshua 4 has the second big water crossing for God’s people – this time the Jordan River.  Did you ever notice how these two events are spoken about differently – parting of the Red Sea versus crossing of the Jordan River.  In the first case, the people were being chased and it seems like it was more of an immediate need.  In the second, they had been camped there waiting for God’s direction for years, and had plenty of time to prepare and plan for the crossing.  Interesting how different words are used to describe a process that was somewhat similar of getting to the other side of a body of water that would be impossible without God’s help.

God does make it clear that this was to be something that be remembered for generations.  “When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua….Take twelve stones….from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly….and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight”.  God wants this to be a lesson of His faithfulness.  He does not want it to be forgotten. But it wasn’t just for the present group of people.  This lesson was to last well into the future.

When your children ask in time to come, What do those stones mean to you?….you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord….So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever”.  God wants us to instruct our children well.  We are to tell His story and remind our kids of God’s action in our lives.  What stones have you placed along your journey as reminders of what God has done, so you can tell your children of His faithfulness?  We all have them.  But unless we make them memorable in some way we will forget to tell the story and point to the God who worked in our life.

This was the first big test for Joshua.  “On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life”.  God showed up and set up his leadership for the future.  The waters stopped when the priests stepped in and got their feet wet.  And the waters flowed as soon as they stepped out.  “And when the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before”.  That is quite a show of power to start Joshua on the right leadership journey.  God made sure that there was no question of how things happened and who led the charge across the waters.

Joshua 3

Joshua 3 has yet another water event as God takes His people across the mighty Jordan River.  Joshua gives some very specific instructions as to how God is going to make this possible.  The priests carrying the ark of the covenant would lead the way and walk into the water.  The rest of the people were to follow, but not too closely.  Scripture tells them to be about ½ mile behind.  But before any action, Joshua tells the people to “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you”.  They’ve been camped a little ways from the Jordan for years, waiting for God’s time to cross.  Now the day is almost here.

Joshua has to be pretty excited.  It’ll be his first big test as a leader. He gets up and hears from God that “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you”.   It’s really the first step in his new role as leader of God’s people.  But there is quite a challenge ahead.  It is flood season, and he is to lead the entire camp across a river that is raging.  At flood stage, the river can swell to a mile wide and up to 150 feet deep.  That is a pretty overwhelming task.  But God tells him exactly how to lead the people through it.

When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan. And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap”.  Can you imagine watching the priests step into the raging waters and then seeing God begin to back up the water so it built up into a ‘heap’ as it continued to flow but was unable to move past them.  The water began to back up about 20 miles upstream which allowed the people time to cross over on dry ground.

This is a big deal obviously, because getting not only the entire people of God across but all their possessions and livestock and the rest would not be a quick trip.  But God was again faithful to His Word.  Scripture tells us “the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan”.  The priests had to demonstrate faith to get things started as they stepped into the water.  It wasn’t until they took that step of faith that God did what He said and backed up the waters.  That is often how faith works.  We need to act and watch what God does as a result!

Joshua 2

Joshua 2 has the familiar story of Rahab, the prostitute who saved two of Joshua’s men that were sent to Jericho to spy on things.  Remember how Moses sent 12 spies to look at the Promised Land and report back.  10 of those returned and said it was too powerful to ever overtake, but two came back and said that God would give it into their hands.  This time, Joshua only sends two spies.  They arrive and the word gets out that they are in town.  The king sends his men to Rahab’s house to capture them, but “the woman had taken the two men and hidden them….she had brought them up to the roof and hid them with the stalks of flax”.

She successfully diverts the king’s men and has them leave the city to chase the spies all the while hiding them safely on her roof.  She tells the men what they needed to know – what the response of the people would be as God’s people entered the land and approached.  She referred to the way God’s people were viewed and the fear they had toward them.  “And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath”.  They knew God was with them.

She wisely uses her place as a bargaining chip to save her family from destruction when God’s people come to destroy the city.  The spies agree and say “Our life for yours even to death”.  She tells them how to escape and be safe and lets them down with a rope through the window of her home that was built into the wall.  “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned”.  They flee and hide and are saved by her wisdom.

The protection was related to Rahab doing this.  “You shall tie this scarlet cord in the window”.  That would be the sign to leave her home and those inside alone.  As long as the cord was hanging in the window and people stayed inside, they would be spared.  The spies return home and “they told him all that had happened to them….Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands”.  This is the exact same thing Joshua and Caleb had told Moses some 40 years earlier.  God has a plan and they will take the Promised Land to be their own.

Joshua 1

Joshua 1 has Moses death in the rear view mirror and a new leader at the helm.  “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people”.  God doesn’t wait long to get the people ready to cross the Jordan once Moses has died.  In fact, they are told to be ready to go in three days time.  Joshua is prepared and ready to lead the charge into the new land.  And God gives him a promise to hang his hat on: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses”.

The truth is that leadership happens when God prepares the way.  For Joshua, God makes it clear that “no man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you”.  Walking with God makes it a pretty unfair situation for anyone else that gets in the way.  Joshua is given some powerful promises here.  “I will not leave you or forsake you….Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them”.  He has been equipped to do the work that God has set before him and is given a promise he knows he can depend on.  He’s seen Moses lead on that very same promise the past 40 years.  It will continue in his life.

There are a few requirements on his part though.  “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success”.  Obedience is the key to turning that promise on.  God does require that we focus on His Word and walk in it.  And He tells Joshua the secret: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it”.  The truth of the matter is that we have to be focused on God’s Word – hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on it day and night.  If we don’t know it we can’t live it.

Why should we do that?  God is clear that obedience is the key to receiving His blessing.  “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success”.  It is the same if/then reality God has given to all those who have led before Joshua.  Follow God’s direction and life goes well.  In fact, you can’t fail.  “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”.  Joshua knows his marching orders – they are to obey and walk with God.  And the rest of the people begin his leadership journey on board as they say “Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you”.  We’ll see how long that lasts……

Deuteronomy 34

Deuteronomy 34 ends the play by play on Moses’ life.  God brings him up to Mount Nebo and “showed him all the land”.  He was able to see the land that God had prepared and was giving His people.  “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there”.  It’s been 40 years in the coming, but the time is finally here and Moses gets one last look at what he’s spent the last 40 years preparing God’s people for – entry to the Promised Land.

And then he dies.  Not a lot of fanfare or activity.  Scripture tells us “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated”.  Now that’s the way to finish strong.  He never lost sight of what God had called him to do.  And he never lost his passion to follow God’s call and lead the people well.  Moses had God’s vision and was filled with His power and he lived that way to the very end.  The people were blessed by it as well – he had impacted each and every one.  So “the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days”.

And then the switch was flipped.  Moses is gone, and Joshua steps up.  Moses had been preparing for this day for some time.  It was not a mystery as to who would take the leadership role.  “Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him”.  Moses had prepared him well.  He instructed the people as to what they should do.  “So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses”.  It wasn’t a difficult transition.  Moses is buried and Joshua is at the helm.

Scripture tells us this about the man we’ve spent months studying.  A big chunk of scripture is dedicated to his life and leadership.  “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face….none like him for all the signs and the wonders….and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds”.  How’s that for a summary of life?  What will God say about you?  We all will leave a legacy.  Will yours look anything like that of Moses?  We create our legacy by how we live.  Moses lived life well for 120 years.  The last forty leading God’s people to this place.  What will your legacy look like based on how you are living life today?

Deuteronomy 33

Deuteronomy 33 has Moses giving his final blessing to the people before He dies.  “This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death”.  He wants one last chance to impact them for his legacy.  He loved these people, stubborn as they were.  And he goes through the list tribe by tribe and gives them the blessing targeted at each one.  They have been together in the wilderness for 40 years now, and Moses knows them well.  And he sends them with his personal blessing to the land God has promised.

Here is the list:

  • Let Reuben live, and not die, but let his men be few
  • Judah: With your hands contend for him, and be a help against his adversaries
  • Levi: They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your law
  • Benjamin: The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety.
  • Joseph: Blessed by the Lord be his land, with the choicest gifts of heaven above
  • Zebulun: Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out
  • Issachar: shall call peoples to their mountain….they draw from the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand
  • Gad: Blessed be he who enlarges Gad
  • Dan: is a lion’s cub that leaps
  • Naphtali: sated with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord
  • Asher: Most blessed of sons be Asher; let him be the favorite of his brothers

Moses shared with each tribe – personal and specific, he lets them know the blessing he is asking on their behalf.

He ends the blessing reminding them of the God they serve.  Check out how he describes the God he has walked with these past 40 years:

  • There is none like God
  • rides through the heavens to your help
  • through the skies in his majesty
  • The eternal God is your dwelling place
  • underneath are the everlasting arms
  • he thrust out the enemy before you
  • Israel lived in safety
  • a land of grain and wine
  • whose heavens drop down dew
  • saved by the Lord
  • the shield of your help
  • the sword of your triumph

What a picture of God.  He is still the same and will be forever.

Moses ends by giving them this promise: “Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs”.  That is how Moses sends them into the land God has prepared.  He’s led them well.  Now he blesses them well.  And he gives them a promise to claim as they go into a land that is new.

Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32 contains the song that God gave Moses to teach the people that they may know and remember how to live as they enter the Promised Land.  After receiving it from God, “Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua the son of Nun”.  And what did it contain?  Words of praise and adoration to the God who has faithfully led the people for over 40 years on their journey.  “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he”.

God is our source of wisdom and hope.  We need to keep our eyes focused on Him, our Rock.  Moses goes on to tell us to “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you”.  We have millenniums of history of God’s faithfulness, and we have plenty of things that have happened in the last 24 hours in our own life of God’s faithfulness and love if we just stop and remember.  We might need to write down some of those markers so we don’t forget, but there is so much to remember about God’s love.

When we lose our way though, God will take action.  “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols….I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend my arrows on them”.  God is not going to turn a blind eye to us putting other things in His place.  He alone is God.  He alone is worthy of our praise.  We must never put anything else in our life as a god or idol.  There is a price to pay for that.  Anything other than God Himself will fall short.  “Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge” is the question people ask when they call upon a god or idol that is not the One True God.  Nothing happens because those gods and idols are nothing more than a piece of wood or iron.

So what does Moses instruct us to do?  “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law”.  We are to learn God’s Word and teach it to our children and then obey it.  It’s that last part that is the hard part – obedience.  But this is high stakes stuff. “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess”.  If we don’t get this right, it impacts our lives.  It is the very source of what happens to us.

Moses is told to climb up Mount Nebo and die on the mountain.  Not a very romantic way to ride off into the sunset after 120 plus years on the earth walking with God.  But he knows it is time and is ready to go meet the Father.  We learn why God will not allow him to enter the Promised Land in detail: “because you broke faith with me….and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people”.  Moses did not keep God exalted and on the Throne before His people, and it cost him the chance to triumphantly lead the people across the Jordan.  Instead God says “you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel”.  What a price to pay for disobedience.  How we live matters!

Deuteronomy 31

Deuteronomy 31 has Moses finishing up his preparation for death and the movement across the Jordan to the Promised Land.  “I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in. The Lord has said to me, You shall not go over this Jordan”.  Moses knows what is not going to happen.  He isn’t making the trip across the river to receive God’s promises.  Yet he didn’t ever stop leading.  It would have been easy for him to just throw up his hands long ago when he was told he could never receive the final gift.  But he never stopped, and to his death he remains focused.

He tells the people to “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you”.  Moses knows God is faithful.  He won’t let them down.  Now he has to transition power.  “Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel….It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed”.  Moses makes sure everyone knows that Joshua is the man in charge.  He makes a very visible transition for all to see.  “Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting….the Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud”.

He then talks to the priests, whose task it is to keep the people walking with God.  “At the end of every seven years….you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing….Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land”.  Moses wants the people reminded that they have to walk in obedience with God.

But Moses and God know that the nature of the people is to walk in their own way.  So Moses is instructed to “write this song and teach it to the people….Put it in their mouths”.  God wants a way for His people to remember His commandments, and a song is how He instructs Moses to prepare them.  Those words come in the next chapter.  For the prediction is this: “when I have brought them into the land….and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant….I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give”.  God knows our hearts.  We are tempted to do the wrong things.  We have to walk with Him in obedience.  There is no other option.

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