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Category: Joshua

Rahab on my mind

Rahab. From harlot to heroine. From a name that you wouldn’t want to mention at a dinner party to a name referenced in the genealogy of our Lord. After reading Joshua 6 this morning I can’t get Rahab off my mind.

Joshua 6 recounts the fall of Jericho. As the Isrealites are busy sacking the city, they are also faithful to ensure that Rahab and her family are spared. Here’s how it reads:

“But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. … But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive.”

An entire city was destroyed but special care was taken to ensure that Rahab was not harmed. Not only was Rahab saved from destruction but also her father and mother and brothers and ALL who belonged to her. Her entire family was saved. But why? For that I need to reflect on what I read last week in Joshua 2.

Rahab heard how God had revealed Himself

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.”
Joshua 2:9–10

Rahab had heard about the God of Israel and how He had revealed Himself through His mighty acts as He lead His people out of bondage in Egypt and into the promised land. Rahab had ears to hear these things. But she didn’t just listen and hear.

Rahab believed what God revealed about Himself

“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.”
Joshua 2:11

Based on how God had revealed Himself, Rahab fears the God of Israel and acknowledges Him as the God of heaven and earth. God always reveals enough of Himself that we might respond by faith.

Rahab responds to what she believes about God

“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
Joshua 2:12–13

Rahab heard how the God of Israel had acted mightily on behalf of the Israelites as He lead them out of Egypt and how He conquered opposing kings. She believes that the God of Israel is the God of heaven and earth and will surely deliver Jericho into the hands of the Israelites. In light of this, Rahab realizes she has a big problem and needs a solution. She needs to be saved. And so, she does something simple and yet very profound; she asks. She makes her request known to the Israelite spies.

What’s especially interesting to me here is that although Rahab has only been exposed to the revelation of God’s power and might on behalf of His people, her appeal is for mercy and grace. She has no other hope. And of course, she is not disappointed.

My thoughts

As I consider this story of Rahab, I realize that as sensational as it is, it’s also pretty typical and not that different than my own story. Like Rahab, I found myself in a situation where I had fallen short of God’s glory and in response to the revelation of the truth of who God is, realized that I was bound for destruction. By God’s grace, I had ears to hear the truth and a soft heart to receive and believe that truth. Like Rahab, I responded by appealing to God for His mercy and He was faithful to hear my cry and to save me. All by faith. All a gift. All for His glory.

Now, like Rahab, may I be as faithful as she was to intercede on behalf of my entire extended family in the hope that they all might be saved.

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” Titus 3:5

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Because the Lord

It could be very easy for the casual reader or even the most astute military historian to come to the conclusion that Joshua was a wise, strategic, and successful leader. A mighty man that knew how to win a battle. But then you come across a reminder like this,

And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. – Joshua 10:42

Yes, Joshua acted in obedience and walked by faith but, any success that was realized was a direct result of a sovereign God acting on behalf of His people for His own glory. Amazing things can happen when God’s people respond in obedience to their Lord but we are to redirect all the glory and praise to the God that equips and empowers His people for good works. We are to give thanks to the God who fulfills His good and pleasing will.

How often have you been watching a post-game interview with an athlete who, when asked about their victory, gives all praise and glory to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? How often do you, after closing a successful business deal or enjoying some other form of success either at home or at work, thank God for granting you success and praising Him for His presence in your life (even in the seemingly mundane things)?

What a challenge it is to ensure that the adoring fans around you (whether it’s your co-workers or children) walk away with greater adoration for your God as opposed for you.

The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the LORD.
Proverbs 21:31

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

 

Counsel from the Lord

I was reading Joshua 9 this morning about how Joshua and the other leaders were deceived into making a covenant with the Gibeonites. As a reader, there was a very specific point where it became very clear that things probably weren’t going to turn out very well. Here’s how the verse that tipped me off read,

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. – Joshua 9:14-15

The minute I read “but did not ask counsel from the LORD” I thought, oh oh. Here we go.

Now, the Gibeonites were very clever and had gone to great lengths to pull off their deception. The outfitted and equipped themselves so that it looked as though there were sojourners from far away and that they had traveled for many days and miles. Surely, these guys put on an Oscar-worthy performance. But the bigger problem is that the Israelites did not seek God’s counsel. They felt confident in their own wisdom, discernment, and decision-making abilities. They evaluated the situation using their physical eyes by checking the provisions of the Gibeonites but didn’t ask God to provide them with spiritual eyes with which to see. They walked by sight and not by faith.

Rather than taking pot shots at the Israelites or armchair quarterbacking the situation, I must consider how often I make decisions or take action without first seeking the counsel of the Lord. How often have I had to live with a less than ideal outcome because I acted too hastily without appealing to God for wisdom and discernment? Without studying His word for instruction and allowing it to be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path? Without following the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he attempted to lead me into truth? Without waiting patiently for the Lord and allowing Him to hear my cry?

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Psalm 73:24

All the words of the law

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them. – Joshua 8:34-35

Forgive me for not establishing context and for not delving into interpretation here but instead, allow me to dive right into the applications that came to mind as I read this verse today.

Spending time reading God’s word on a daily basis can be a challenge. Some are able to overcome the challenges and hindrances to spending time with their nose in a Bible while others do not. Oftentimes, we overcome the challenge by reading a short devotional. Usually these devotionals take the form of a single Bible verse, a short commentary of that verse or perhaps an illustration used to reinforce an associated point, and then a short prayer. Other times we overcome the barriers to spending time in God’s word by reading a psalm, a proverb or one of a number of verses that we’ve found to be especially encouraging and uplifting.

First of all, let me say that I am not critical of any of those approaches to conquering the challenge of spending regular time in God’s word. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16 that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”. Exposing yourself to scripture is a good thing. But while reading a daily devotional might be good, perhaps it’s not the best you can do. Maybe it’s like taking supplements to ensure your body receives the nutrients it needs as opposed to eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet of fresh, organic, whole food. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few drops of Vitamin D every day but how much better is it to spend some time outside in the warmth of the sun?

What I like about what Joshua did after defeating Ai was that he read all the words of the law. Both the blessings and the curses. He didn’t filter the content. He didn’t just read the blessings so that everyone would feel good about themselves. He read all the words. For some reason this really stood out to me today. Again, if all scripture is inspired by God, shouldn’t we ensure that we are taking in a well-balanced diet of it? Jeremiah said,

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. – Jeremiah 15:16

Joshua didn’t read the curses because he was angry or wanted to discourage the people. He did it because it is helpful for the people to hear all of God’s words. God’s words are useful and they are most useful and helpful to us if they are heard, believed, and obeyed.

So, whether you are someone that is still trying to figure out how to work daily time in God’s word in to your schedule, someone that reads an ‘Our Daily Bread’ devotional every day, or whether you attend a church that only offers up inspirational scripture verses that you commonly find stitched onto throw pillows and refuses to teach the whole counsel of God, I encourage you to take steps to expose yourself to all of God’s word. You can start by praying that God will give you a hunger, thirst, and desire for His word. You can follow that with action and just start spending time with His word until you learn to love it and delight in it.

Strong and courageous

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 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. 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. 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 wherever you go. 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. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:1-9

After Moses’ death, God commissions Joshua to assume a position of leadership and lead the people of Israel in to the promised land. God is pretty explicit. He tells Joshua:

  • Get up and go over the Jordan with all the people into the land I’m giving you
  • Every place your foot touches I have given to you just as I promised
  • No one will be able to stand before you as long as you live
  • I’ll be with you just as I was with Moses
  • I will not leave you or forsake you

As a reader of this section of scripture in the year 2012, this seems like enough for me. If God said those things to me, I’d like to think I’d be ready to go. I’d like to think that by the time God got to the point about never leaving me or forsaking me that I would already have one foot in the Jordan. Surely Joshua has even more reason to be ready for action. After all, he was a faithful assistant to Moses all those years. He’s trained up and ready to go. Plus, it’s been clear for quite some time what the succession plan would be, right? Then why, in the first nine verses does God need to command and encourage Joshua to “be strong and courageous” three different times?

The short answers is I don’t know. But could it perhaps have to do with the fact that although God had promised the land to them and despite the fact that God would be with them and not forsake them, they were sure to still encounter resistance? That they were guaranteed to be opposed? That they would still need to contend for that which was promised?

Could the exhortation to be strong and courageous have to do with the fact that although Joshua had been commanded to go and receive the promise, he didn’t have visibility into all the details of what awaited him? That he would need to still walk by faith and trust that the loving and faithful God that lead them out of Egypt would continue to show up?

Could it be that Joshua’s previous experience as an assistant to Moses or as a brave spy sent into the land or as a faithful follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would have no bearing on the outcome of what he had been called to do? That Joshua would instead need to place his full confidence in the God that has called him to this task at this time?

If Joshua was called to be strong and courageous to answer God’s call and to respond in obedience, what about me? How can I become strong and courageous? Maybe the answer is in this section of the verse referenced above:

“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 wherever you go. 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. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Practically speaking, if I want to develop a boldness and courage like Joshua, I need to:

  • Meditate on God’s word day and night – we know that God’s word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God is equipped for every good work. Regular time studying and meditating on God’s word equips you to do that which God has called you to do. It reminds of past evidence of God’s faithfulness. It leads you down paths of righteousness.
  • Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth – this doesn’t mean you should never share God’s word or quote scripture. It means that you have spent so much time meditating on God’s word that scripture is hanging on your lips at all times. That the word of Christ dwells in you richly such that at any time you might admonish those around you with wisdom. That you are equipped to combat the enemy with scripture just as Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness.
  • Be careful to do according to all that is written in it – James encouraged us to not just be hearers of the word but also doers of the word. As a believer who, by God’s grace, has been given ears to hear and believe God’s word, I need to respond to it and take action. And this action needs to be not by my own might or power but by the Holy Spirit. The same power that raised Christ from the grave is available to me, that I might obey God’s word and walk according to the truth that has been revealed.

Thank you Lord that my “success” is not defined from the world’s perspective. Thank you that my “success” is not dependent on my own abilities or my ability to obey your word. Thank you that any “success” I enjoy is simply a result of your grace and your presence with me. Thank you that, in You, I am more than a conqueror. Thank you for your word and for the Holy Spirit that leads me and guides me into all truth. I pray that you would grant me the strength and courage required for me to bring you glory. Amen.

Unable to stand

WARNING: This will be a long, rambling, and perhaps disjointed post as I simply do a stream-of-consciousness brain dump of my thoughts regarding Joshua 7. But that’s what a personal journal should be, right?

In Joshua 7, the Israelites are coming off the high of having defeated Jericho. Next up, the town of Ai. After sending out some spies and determining that defeating Ai would be a cake walk, they send out a limited number of fighting men who then proceed to get whooped and chased back to camp. Joshua responds by tearing his clothes, falling on the ground, throwing dust all over himself, and wondering why God lead them across the Jordan only to be destroyed. It is then that God speaks and tells Joshua to stop feeling sorry for himself and that the reason they were routed at Ai was because Israel had sinned against God by taking some of the devoted things (things that were not devoted to destruction but rather were to be placed in the Lord’s treasury) from their conquest at Jericho.

There’s a few things that I think when reading through this account. The first thing is, the Israelites battle against Ai was planned and executed without seeking the counsel or blessing of the Lord. Was it because they were over confident after bringing the walls down at Jericho with ease? Was it because the number of fighting men at Ai were few? Regardless of the reason, the Israelites marched into that battle in their own power, strength, and wisdom which in hindsight, proved to not be enough.

Later in the chapter, we learn that it is Achan that was responsible for perpetrating the sin against God. And yet, even though it was an isolated action by one person, God holds all of Israel responsible. The consequences of Achan’s sin were felt by the whole tribe of Israel, not just Achan himself. My Study Bible notes point out the fact that Israel is a covenant community and consequently, there is corporate responsibility for the actions of the individual members of that community. This is an interesting concept to consider in light of my local church body and my own community and family of faith within which I operate.

It’s also interesting for me to see the progression of events that lead to Achan sinning against God and Israel. Here is Achan’s confession:

And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

(Joshua 7:20-21 ESV)

Here’s what I see regarding how Achan found himself in trouble:

  • He saw – It’s hard to fault Achan for taking the time to notice all of this beautiful treasure. After all, it was probably more than most men would earn in a lifetime. It’s a good reminder that the eyes of man are never satisfied and that I need to be careful about what I allow to hold my gaze.
  • He coveted – This is a temptation that I struggle with. The problem with Achan is that when he saw the beautiful cloak, and the silver and gold, he didn’t think about how those things could be used to glorify God. He thought about how those things could benefit him. He didn’t look at them and acknowledge that all of the spoil belonged to God but rather, he saw an opportunity for himself. My prayer is that I would always trust in God’s provision and never covet that which He has decided to either keep for Himself or to provide for someone else.
  • He took – Up until this point, Achan struggled with the temptation to sin. Once he took, it had erupted into full-blown sin. I’m very grateful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit who will always lead me and guide me into all truth. The problem is, will I always obey? I can just imagine how things might have turned out for Achan if, when he found himself coveting these things, he cried out to God and confessed his feelings and asked for wisdom. I believe God, in His mercy, would have helped Achan overcome and resist the temptation to sin.

The big takeaway for me is the fact that the Lord explained to Joshua that, because of their sin, the people of Israel could not stand before their enemies. Apparently, unconfessed sin and unrepentant hearts are in a position of broken fellowship with God and consequently, are cut off from their power source. There is a vulnerability that persists until sin is confessed and atoned for. Since I desire to be able to stand before my enemies and not be destroyed by them, I will ask the Lord to search my heart and know me. To reveal any offensive ways that might be in me so that I can confess to Him and receive His forgiveness and be cleansed from all unrighteousness. And praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ who has offered a once-for-all sacrifice to pay the debt of my sin for if He had not done so, God the Father would be just in taking me outside the camp and having me stoned to death and consumed with fire. By grace, through faith alone. That is the truth.

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