January 13, 2014.
After some prayer and counsel with friends, I have decided to change up the format of these post a little bit. Instead of doing it in two sections, “highlights and key concepts” and “Summaries, Lessons and Connections”, I have decided to combine the two into one “Concepts and Connections” section where practical lessons are drawn from the text. I believe this is what will be most beneficial as it will help relate the bible to our lives. I am still going to make the connections of the stories to the bigger picture of the bible and the grand scheme of life, and the post will not be so bulky which will make them easier to read. If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know! It may take me a while to get this format down to what I am trying to convey, so bear with me. I hope this helps in your study, as I also hope it gives me a little more free time to write other devotional post more like the style of last year’s devotionals. May the Lord be with us as we journey this road together.
Daily Reading: Joshua 6-10.
Background: Joshua 1-5.
Concepts and Connections.
Obeying the word of the Lord: “See I have given Jericho into your hand.” When the children of Israel came to the plains of Jericho, they laid a siege attack against the fortified city of Jericho, so that no one came in or went out of the city. The Lord said the words above to Joshua before giving him very detailed instructions about how to conquer Jericho: Have all the mighty men of Israel march around the city once a day for six days in silence, with the seven priest with seven trumpet who went before the ark of the covenant leading the way. Then on the seventh day, have the mighty men of Israel march around the city seven times, and upon completion, blow a long blast of the trumpets and have the people make a great shout, and the wall will fall down flat. If you were Joshua with an army for war, how would these instructions sound to you? They would probably at the very least seem very strange. As far as we know, Joshua didn’t balk at the Lord’s instructions, but simply followed them exactly how he had been told to do. And the wall fell down flat.
The Lord’s ways and our ways are not the same, for His thoughts are above our thoughts (see Isaiah 55:8-9). When God told Joshua to do this to take the city, Joshua did it. Did marching around the city earn the people the victory? No. It was the Lord who gave them the victory. Would the walls have fallen down flat if they had not obeyed the voice of the Lord? No, as can be seen in the next chapter with the sin of Achan. This is an example of how salvation works. The Lord offers salvation, we do not earn it, just as the men of Israel didn’t earn the victory simply by marching around the city. But we do have to obey the voice of the Lord in order to accept His gift, just as the men of Israel had to obey the command in order to gain the victory. When the Lord asks us to do something in a certain way, we need not sit back and question Him before we do it, rather we should simply obey. The theology and reasoning behind the command can indeed come through deep study of His word, but this study should not reveal that obedience to the command wasn’t necessary in the first place (see John 14:15-24).
When sin effects the people around you: When the Lord gave Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, He gave specific instructions to not take of any of the spoil of Jericho for themselves, but rather devote it to the Lord (see Joshua 6:18). Achan, son of Camri of the tribe of Judah, disobeyed this command, having taken some of the devoted things for himself. Achan’s sin did not only affect him, but it affected the whole congregation of Israel, just as Joshua said it would in 6:18. Unaware of Achan’s sin, Joshua sent men to Ai, a smaller city than Jericho, to take what the Israelites considered would be an easy battle, especially after destroying Jericho. But it was not so, for the Lord was not with them due to the reproach that Achan had set on the people. It is interesting to note that when Joshua fell on his face to ask why the Lord had done such a thing, the Lord said that Israel had sinned. The sin of Achan went well beyond himself and even his family. All of Israel was affected. For his sin, he and his family were stone and burned with fire in order to take away the reproach of Israel. We need to be mindful when we sin, for often our sins do not only affect us, but also those around us, perhaps without us even knowing. We have the responsibility as Christians to not cause our brother to stumble (see Romans 14:21) and to look out for one another. Let us learn from Achan’s mistake.
Getting back on the right foot: After the reproach that was brought on Israel by Achan was taken care of, the children of Israel were getting back on track with the Almighty. They return to Ai and set up an ambush against the city, and when the time comes, the Lord gives the city into their hand just as he did with Jericho. After taking the city, Joshua renews the covenant with the Lord by building an alter to God just as Moses had done when he lead the people. After writing a copy of the Law on the stones of the alter, Joshua read the Law in the presence of all the people, the blessing and the curse (see Deuteronomy 30:19). It was important for the people, even after defeating Ai, to return to God and continue in His law and will. When we are stepping back into the will of the Lord, it is important to make a firm commitment in our decision and walk in step with the spirit.
Always seek the Lord’s counsel before making a major decision: We often read this section as the Gibeonite deception, almost giving much credit to the cunning ways of the Gibeonites in effort to make a covenant with the Israelites. However, the deception should have never worked. In verse 14, we see where the Israelites went wrong: they did not seek counsel from the Lord. Yes, it is true that the Gibeonites worked out a clever plan, but it was not God who was fool, but the children of Israel, and more specifically the leaders of the children of Israel. It is interesting to note here that even though it was a transgression to make a covanent with any of the peoples of the land they were entering, since they had made an oath with the Gibeonites, Josuah did not kill them when he found out their deception, but rather let them live because of his covenant. Had they taken counsel with the Lord before making the decision to make a covenant with the Gibeonites, however, they would have known their craftiness and the deception would have never taken place. Learning from this example, we should always remember to seek counsel from the Lord before making life decisions, especially those that have a great impact on the direction our lives take, such as marriage and career choice. Though we should not limit His counsel to what we would consider “big” decision, because sometimes a small decision will have a huge impact on our lives and our future. We should rather be in continual counsel with the Lord through our prayer lives, allowing Him to guide us alongside Him.
When the Lord fights for you: Twice in this section does the phrase “the Lord fought for Israel” appear, attributing their success in driving out the inhabitants of the land to the Lord God Almighty. There is even and account here of the Lord sending hailstones on the enemies of the Israelites, so much so that more of them were killed via the hailstones than by the sword of the Israelites. Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still, and He did so, to help the Israelites take the Amorites. It should not be taken lightly when the Lord fights for you. This is why the words of the apostle Paul are so powerful in Romans 8:31, when he says “if God is for us, who can be against us?” The Lord is on the side of His people and we should take comfort in this knowledge.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 3-5.
Let the Lord be your strength.