Tag Archives: Joshua

Through the Bible, March 8

Reading: Judges1:1-3:6

Summary: We praise and thank God for effective leaders.  Joshua was just such a man (see Judges 2:7).  But what happens when no good leaders are found to replace the ones who die?  The time of the Judges is a sad answer to that question.  “[T]here arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

Today’s reading sets the stage for this very dark and difficult period of Israel’s history.

Devotional Thought:

Generation Next?

Have you ever heard a saying that begins, “The church is just one generation away from…”?

How does that typically end?  The way I’ve heard it is with “apostasy.”  That is biblically accurate, as far as it goes.

The book of Judges sadly tells of a generation that arose “who did not know the Lord” (Judges 2:10).  In one generation Israel fell from faithfulness.

But wait.

Judges also tells of a generation that “served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua” (Judges 2:7).

Which generation is that?  The one that followed the unfaithful one that died in the wilderness.  They came to the promised land and did what their fathers had failed to do.

So, apparently, the church is not only one generation away from apostasy, it is also one generation from greater vitality and strength and growth and trust and faithfulness.

What happens in the next generation has a lot to do with the present generation.

That’s us.  That’s now.

Through the Bible, March 7

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflection: Today is the scheduled “Catch Up” day for the first week of March (1-7), and so no reading is assigned for today.  Below, though, are some thoughts to consider in light of this past week’s reading.

  1. An issue that rises frequently in a study of the conquest of Canaan is imperialism–that is, one people taking and occupying land that belongs to another people. The conquest was not simply an act of aggression on the part of Israel, rather they become God’s instrument of punishment against these nations for their great wickedness.  See Genesis 15:16, Deuteronomy 7:1-5 and 9:4-6.  As a matter of fact, this is one reason that over 400 years transpired from the time the land was promised until it was occupied.  Any earlier conquest and it would have been premature judgment.
  2. Sometimes Scripture tells us just enough to cause us to want to know much more. Such is the case with the “commander of the army of the Lord” whom Joshua encounters (5:13-15).  Joshua bows down and worships him.  What is more, he tells Joshua to remove his sandals because where he stands is holy.  This has led many to conclude this is an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament. Possibly so.
  3. A well-known Negro spiritual is based on the events of Joshua 6. It is aptly titled, “Joshua Fit de Battle of Jericho.” It speaks to the exceptional faith and leadership of Joshua.

“You may talk about your man o’ Gideon
You may brag about your man o’ Saul
There’s none like good ol’ Joshua
At de battle of Jericho”

The song also makes a wider and appropriate application.

“Yet bold and brave he stood
Salvation in his hand
Go blow them ram horns Joshua cried
‘Cause the devil can’t do you no harm”

And yes, the song very likely spoke strongly to the African American battle against slavery as they looked for those “walls come tumblin’ down.”

Devotional Thought:

Strength and Courage; Courage and Strength

Can you remember a time when you wished you were stronger? An opponent gained the upper hand due to superior strength or work remained undone as the stores of strength dwindled.

At other times strength wasn’t the issue, but courage.  Fear crept in and kept us from doing what we could have and should have done.

How apropos that when it fell to Joshua to lead Israel finally into the promised land that God charged him to be both strong and courageous.  And He didn’t do it just once, but three times (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9, 18).

Joshua knew the people whom he was to lead.  God himself said they were an “obstinate people” (Ex. 32:9). He also knew they were about to embark on a mission unlike anything they had ever done.  For the past 40-plus years they had been traveling through the wilderness.  Yes, there had been the occasional battle to be fought, but now it was a campaign of conquest and occupation.  Not only was it a massive undertaking, it was all brand new.

What is more, their lives were to be led by the law given by Moses which was not be deviated from “to the right hand or to the left” (Josh. 1:7). It was time for courage and strength.

Considering the “present evil age” in which we live, the spiritual warfare in which we’re engaged, the influences and temptations that allure us at every turn, not to mention the ongoing struggle to deny self and carry our own cross, the seeming impossibility of keeping “oneself unstained from the world,” strength and courage are indeed the order of the day (see Gal. 1:4; Eph. 6:12; Matt. 16:24; Jas. 1:27).

Also remembering that He will be with us and never forsake us, and knowing that He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” there is every reason to be strong and very courageous (see Josh. 1:9; Eph. 3:20).

Strength and courage are an unending need. Thank God He gives an unending supply.

Through the Bible, March 6

Reading: Joshua 22-24

Summary: Two important events highlight the critical need for faithfulness as this nation enters a new phase of its existence. First, the tribes settling east of Jordan must remind themselves and their descendants of their rightful place as God’s people (chapter 22). Second is Joshua’s emotionally charged final challenge to Israel.

Devotional Thought:

From Child’s Stories to Faith

Did you attend Bible School as a child?  Did you learn about Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Esau, Joseph, Moses and the Exodus?  How about Kings David and Solomon, or Ahab and Jezebel or Elijah and Elisha? How about Jonah and the whale (?) or Daniel in the lion’s den?

Is that what you think of them? Stories for a child’s Bible class?

Not that that’s unimportant, but there is so much more to it. How much more is demonstrated at the end of Joshua.  A marvelous testament to this great man’s influence and leadership is found in the observation that, “Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).

With that, listen to what followed: “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

Israel went from faithful service to unbelief.  Did you notice what changed?  The faithful generation knew all the work that the Lord had done for Israel, the unfaithful generation did not. Knowing the work that the Lord has done is essential for faith and faithfulness.

Teaching children the great stories of the Bible is paramount. Being reminded and hearing again and learning more about the epic events of Scripture is critical.

What may have started in a children’s Bible class must be revisited and refreshed and deepened and fashioned into the very foundation of a faith that lasts a lifetime.

Through the Bible, March 5

Reading: Joshua 16:1-18:10

Summary: The process for dividing the land among the tribes seems a bit curious as it involved the casting of lots.  This, perhaps, was done in faith believing that God was acting through those lots to provide each tribe their lands (see Prov. 16:33).

Today’s reading is a sampling of this process.  It includes the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.  Chapters 19-21 (not included in our reading) record the other tribes’ allotments including Levi, which did not receive lands as did the others.  Remember, the sons of Joseph are Ephraim and Manasseh.  So while there is no allotment of land for either Levi or Joseph, there was for Joseph’s two sons and so the number of tribes allotted land remains at twelve.

Devotional Thought:

I Love You with Most of My Heart

I mostly love my wife. There’s another woman or two that I love, but I mostly love my wife. Is that OK?

Whether or not it’s OK with you is immaterial.  It’s not OK with my wife because it’s not OK.  It would be wrong.  And just to avoid any confusion, it’s not true either; I love my wife exclusively.

This isn’t a matter of percentages: it is not that as long as the scales tip in my wife’s direction then everything is OK.  It doesn’t work that way.  And we understand that.

It doesn’t work that way with God either.  The Bible talks about devoting our whole heart to God.  It was what Moses had taught the people, and Joshua will also do the same (Deut. 4:29; Josh. 22:5; see also 1 Chron. 28:9; 1 Kings 8:61).  When Jeremiah later prophesied of God’s people returning to Him, it would be with a whole heart (Jer. 24:7).

Did you notice in today’s reading that in possessing the land allotted to them, some of the tribes failed to drive out some of the nations (Josh. 16:10; 17:12-13)? They drove out most of them, but not all.  Is that OK?

In recounting this fact a bit later, it’s said that “they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you” (Judges 2:3).

Mostly obeying God doesn’t work.

The point is not that if our obedience doesn’t achieve absolute perfection that we’ve failed; but rather if we’re satisfied with just obeying most of what God says and are OK with leaving some of it undone, that’s a problem.

Even more so than my wife, God deserves my whole heart.

Through the Bible, March 4

Reading: Joshua 13:1-15:19

Summary: Apparently a number of years have passed as Joshua is now identified as “old and advanced in years” (13:1).

As the land is conquered and its inhabitants driven out–almost to the Lord’s specifications (see Joshua 15:63; 17:12-13)–the tribes begin to settle the land.  Two and half tribes have been given land back on the eastern side of Jordan.  They go to occupy their new homes, while the remaining tribes begin to receive their allotments of land.

Included in this account is the reward of Caleb, who along with Joshua had served as a faithful spy many years previous at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13).

Devotional Thought:

Don’t Dare Follow Your Heart

“Follow your heart.” We’ve all heard it and it’s probably among the worst advice ever given.  Sorry, but it’s true.

The heart is unreliable and can be influenced for wrong.  The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9).

So the Bible also warns to “keep your heart with all vigilance” (Prov. 4:23).  Other translations say to “guard” or “watch over” your heart.

Think about the case of Caleb.  He was one of the two faithful spies when Moses had sent out twelve of them to spy out the promised land (Num. 13).  The ten unfaithful spies “made the heart of the people to melt” (Josh. 14:8).  By contrast, Caleb brought word back to Moses “as it was in my heart…I wholly followed the Lord my God” (Josh. 14:7-8).

Caleb’s heart was one that could be followed because it “wholly followed” the Lord.

You see that’s the point.  Follow the Lord and your heart will be right.  Follow your heart and who knows where you’ll end up.  In this instance Caleb ended up alive and receiving an inheritance from God, the others ended up long dead in the wilderness (Num. 14:36-37).

The only heart that should be followed is the one that has first and fully followed God.

Through the Bible, March 3

Reading: Joshua 9-11

Summary: Divide and Conquer

As the conquest of the land continues Joshua experiences both a bitter failure and an extraordinary success.  His mistake in regard to the Gibeonites mars his record while the incident at Gibeon demonstrates the nearness of God to the commander of His people.

The basic battle plan in Canaan is the ancient, well-worn but effective “divide and conquer.”  The first move of Joshua’s army is across the land defeating numerous kings before first turning south and then to the north.

Devotional Thought:

Flawed Success

How does one measure the success of an individual?

Different people have different answers.  If it is an athlete or coach perhaps it is number of victories or championships.  A CEO may point to his or her company’s bottom line.  A driver might want to draw attention to their safety record, a parent to their children, a business owner to growing sales, a teacher to their students’ academic records.

There are so many different ways to measure success.

How about this one (spoken to Joshua): “He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses” (Josh. 11:15)?

I would suggest there is no greater standard of success than this.

Think about Jesus who repeatedly voiced His conviction to do the Father’s will and not His own (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).  With that in mind, His words from the cross, “It is finished” take on even greater meaning (John 19:30).   He did all that God had sent Him to do.

Where does this leave me?  Am I selective when it comes to doing God’s will?  Do I choose to do what I would like to do?  What is convenient to do?  Only what “makes sense” to me?

As we formulate a picture of “success” for ourselves, a critical component should be to leave undone nothing of all the Lord has commanded.

Through the Bible, March 2

Reading: Joshua 5-8

Summary: Last Preparations, Jericho and Ai

It’s fitting that two events transpire once Israel has crossed Jordan into Canaan: the males are circumcised and the Passover is observed.  Both of these events are primary reminders of the Israelites’ identity, the God whom they serve, and His great feat of liberating them from Egypt.

The first two cities conquered provide valued lessons for these people at the outset of their conquest; Jericho in victory and Ai in defeat.

Devotional Thought:

Same Ol’, Same Ol’

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Can you imagine someone from the ancient near east–that is, biblical times–suddenly being transported into the present day?  The technological advancements, the fast-paced lifestyles, the radically different customs–it would all be mind-boggling.

At the same time, they would also see that some thing have not changed at all.  That’s because they never do and never will.

Take for instance man’s struggle with temptation and sin.  It is no different today than it has ever been since the beginning.

Look at the details of Achan’s sin at Jericho.  When he finally confessed his wrong he said “I saw…I coveted…I took” (Josh. 7:21).  Those are the essential details.  Not what he saw or what he did with it after he took it.  Those fundamental facts of how temptation and sin work remain unchanged with the passing of so many centuries.

Isn’t this exactly how James explains this process?  “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

This is just one evidence of the Bible’s divine origin. No, it may not be able to help you more effectively use your tablet device or help you shave two points off your golf game or give you tips on a better tax strategy.  What it can and does do, is teach every generation and every culture about God, His will, our sin, and how we may, through what God has done, be restored to a right relationship with Him.

Even an ancient story like Jericho, Achan, and Ai teaches me things I need to know to successfully live in a time and place and circumstances so very, very far removed.

Through the Bible, March 1

Reading: Joshua 1-4

Summary: Joshua Commissioned, Jordan Crossed, and Canaan Entered

The time has come.  Joshua receives his charge as the sole leader of Israel to take them across Jordan and to possess this land. Advance spies are sent out secretly (notice the difference between this sending of spies and the previous; see Num. 13-14).  And for the second time the Israelites cross a body of water on dry ground.  They did so entering the wilderness at the Red Sea, and will do so now again as they leave the wilderness to cross Jordan into Canaan–though this event is far less celebrated.

Devotional Thought:

Stay Close

Life can be scary. That’s true in both a terrifying and an exhilarating way.

A new job, a new school, a new town; all of these can be frightening and exciting prospects.  The same is true for getting married or having your first child.  There is so much unknown about them all.  We’ve never done this or been here or had this particular experience before.

It is also true, though, with other kinds of experiences; when you or a dear one is diagnosed with an awful disease.  Or maybe a spouse or close friend dies.  Or perhaps suddenly you are “downsized” and loose your job.  This is all uncharted territory; we’ve never passed this way before and it’s scary.

Such is life.  It often lead us down unfamiliar paths.  Sometimes we choose that course, sometimes it’s thrust upon us.

This was Israel’s experience too.  They were preparing to do what they had never done and go where they had never been as they entered Canaan.  God said, “you have not passed this way before” (Josh. 3:4).

It was because of this that they were instructed to literally follow the priests as they carried the ark of the covenant.

That’s still good advice.

When we find ourselves going places we have never passed before, it is particularly important to follow closely to God; pray, read your Bible, meditate, worship, fellowship with other Christians.  Stay close.

Uncharted territory can be dangerous.  To be certain, Satan will seize every opportunity to distract us and tempt us, especially when we may be unsure of ourselves.

But just as certain, God will go with us and never desert us.  As a familiar saying goes, if He leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it.

So, stay close.

Through the Bible, March Week 1 Introduction

Week 1: Conquest of Canaan

March 1-7

            Finally, finally Abraham’s heirs take possession of the land promised to him and his descendants so many years previous (Gen. 15:16).

For forty years now–since Mt. Sinai–this has been a nation transformed from a massive ethnic group enslaved out of fear for the Egyptians in whose land they had lived.  They now have a law, a religion, a strong leader, and just about everything they need, except for a land of their own.  Up until now they have only known how to be nomads.  That is about to change.

Instead of traveling merely as wanderers–or more recently with a destination in mind–they are now going to move into a land and fight to possess it.  Though they have already fought many nations (Arad, Amor, Moab, etc.) this will be different.  This will be to occupy the land whose inhabitants they battle.

Joshua proves a fit and capable leader to succeed Moses, though, like him, he’s not without fault.

The first two battles (Jericho and Ai) serve as precursors to their future: great victories and bitter defeats.

No wonder so many hymns borrow the imagery of crossing the Jordan into Canaan’s land to convey life’s spiritual journey.

My Delight is the Lord, May 26

Impossible or Not?

May 26, Thursday: God’s People

 Scripture Reading: Joshua 10:1-15

What makes something impossible? Not just improbable, but impossible? It’s true that there are accomplishments that are common place today that at one time were believed to be and touted as impossible. A human being running a mile in under four minutes time was once thought to be beyond human limits. It was also once believed that a heavier-than-air flying machine could not be devised. Not that it was hard to do, but that it could not be done. What happened? Men expanded their knowledge and comprehension. They refined over and again, their efforts. Before long, what had all along been impossible, became possible. Previous limitations had been surpassed. So, “the sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day” (v. 13). Impossible, right? For whom? Does God, who made the earth and sun and everything else, have any limitations? Identifying the “problems” created by the sun standing still, does not keep God from doing what I cannot understand.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What was the status of the Gibeonites? (v. 2)
  • How had the Gibeonites “made peace” with Joshua? (v. 4)
  • What assurance did God give Joshua? (v. 8)
  • What did God use to assist in the battle? (v. 11)