Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

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The Story: Week Seven – Day One
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today we begin Chapter Seven. We journey with Israel as they enter into the Promised Land and the events of the conquest of that land. It won’t be an easy journey.

We begin with God speaking to Joshua. Moses has died and Joshua was commissioned to be the leader of Israel in Moses’ place. So God speaks a word of promise to Joshua. He will give them the land. All the territory that He promised to Abraham will be given now to Israel. God will be with Joshua just as He was with Moses.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Those are great words of encouragement. Implied in those encouraging words are the dangers that will raise a need for that encouragement and courage. It will also be a time of testing – of testing the level of Israel’s trust in God and His promises.

The first episode involves preparations for crossing the Jordan and entering the Promised Land. Joshua sends two spies into the land to look over the land (especially Jericho). They stay at the house of Rahab who was a prostitute.

She provides protection for them when the king of Jericho sends men to capture the Israelites spies. She told them that they did come to her but that they also went on their way and left the city. The men left in pursuit of the spies.

Rahab will appear again in the New Testament in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew. She was the mother of Boaz. She becomes part of the line through which the promise of God passes demonstrating again how God works through people (some not even Israelites) to accomplish His salvation.

This episode also points out the impact of God’s Word. Rahab has heard reports. She knows that the Lord has given the land to Israel. She has heard what the Lord did at the Red Sea. She knows what Israel did to Sihon and Og, kings of the Amorites. She confesses that the God of Israel is God in heaven above and on the earth below. As a result of her aid, she and her family will be spared when Jericho is taken.

God has gone ahead of Israel to make preparations for their taking possession of the land. We will see God’s continued work on their behalf in the next few days.

The Story: Week Seven – Day Two
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land is accompanied with God’s mighty works. The waters of the Jordan River are parted and the nation walks across on dry ground. Jericho is given into the hands of the Israelites. The walls of the city collapse when the Israelite army raises a loud shout.

There is also a connection made to the covenant that God had established with Abraham. That connection was circumcision – the sign of the covenant. None of the males of those who enter Canaan have been circumcised. Once they cross the river, they are all then circumcised. They were marked with that sign as the people of God. They were sealed in the covenant.

And, because that happened once they crossed into the Promised Land, it also demonstrates another mighty intervention by God. All the males in Israel (which included all the soldiers) were incapacitated for a period of days. That would have been an opportune time for the king of Jericho to send his army against the Israelites. But he did not.

All of this was done to assure the people that the same God, who delivered them from Egypt with a might hand, is going with them into the Promised Land and give that land and its people into their hands. The battle plan carried out by Joshua was given by God and it was meant to leave no doubt as to who was present fighting for Israel.

At every new chapter in our lives, God works to show us that He is still with us – that He is still fighting for us – shepherding us – caring for us. We need only trust Him at His Word – even when that Word might go against conventional wisdom (like the battle plan for conquering Jericho).

Rest in Him and in His faithfulness.
The Story: Week Seven – Day Three
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It doesn’t take long for Israel’s rebellious nature to come to the surface again. The city of Jericho had been given into their hands. God brought them victory. But His directions for dealing with the spoils of war were not followed by everyone. Achan kept some for himself.

Because of his rebellion, God was not with Israel when they attacked Ai. The Israelite army was routed. God told Joshua that is was because of Achan’s rebellion that they were defeated in battle – that God was not with them in the fight. Achan was put to death for his rebellion.

I don’t pretend to understand all of God’s mind concerning this and the other events that occur during the conquest of the Promised Land. However, because this is a picture of THE Promised Land – of heaven – where sin and its effects will be forever removed – God deals swiftly and immediately with any rebellious activity. There is no place in the Promised Land for rebellion – for lack of trust – for unbelief and following other gods.

Certainly Israel will not be able to live up to that standard. Even on their good days, they will fall short. That’s why all of this also points forward to the One who satisfied all of the requirements of God’s Law. It points forward to Jesus who is the YES to every promise of God.

If Achan’s sin put a barrier between God and Israel – a separation that prevented God from being with Israel in their battles – then his death removed that barrier. In the same way, Jesus’ death removes the barrier that separates us from God. And His resurrection is the guarantee that the victory is complete. The war is over. The enemies of God – sin, death and the devil – have been defeated once and for all. God fought that battle for us and gives us the victory in Christ.

Thanks be to God.
The Story: Week Seven – Day Four
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The reading for today follows Joshua on his campaigns against the cities of the land across the Jordan. I have to admit that some of the descriptions are troubling. All the inhabitants of the cities were put to the sword. No one survived. Joshua’s actions and that of his army could be called ruthless – without compassion or mercy. Such details certainly raise the old question: “How can a God who is love do and condone such behavior and actions?”

Again, part of the explanation for such behavior is that this land of promise points forward to THE land of promise – to heaven – where sin and all of its consequences are removed. Sin will be purged from heaven – from the new heavens and earth. That purging took place on the cross where Jesus died the death that sin deserves and that God’s justice demands.

We see here in Israel’s conquests the evidence of God’s justice poured out on those who worshipped other gods. We see no evidence of His mercy extended to the people who inhabited the land. Justice and mercy are reconciled on the cross where God’s anger against sin is poured out in all of its fury. But it doesn’t fall on those who deserve it. It falls on God’s Son. It falls on Jesus. It’s not me on the cross. It’s the Son of God.

That same reconciliation remains elusive here in these conquests. Is it possible that God was at work in mercy with those who were put to the sword in ways that could not be seen? Is it possible that physical death is not an insurmountable obstacle to God working in mercy? Do these folks fall into the context of what Paul describes in Romans 2-3?

I don’t know. I don’t have any answers for the harsh realities that we see on display at times in the history of God’s people. And I hesitate to draw any conclusions based on the outcome of these events. It’s risky business to draw conclusions without sufficient information. Joshua does what he does because that’s what God commanded him to do. Why God commanded it remains the troubling question. And it remains beyond us to give definitive answers for God’s motivations because that was not revealed to us in its fullness.

The end result is that Israel is now in possession of the land that God swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all of their descendents. When confounded by the unknown, I go to that which is clearly made known. I go to the cross where the justice and mercy of God are both clearly in evidence. I go to Christ who is my life and salvation and leave the rest to God and His care and wisdom.
The Story: Week Seven – Day Five
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Israel has been given rest from their enemies. Joshua is now old and about to die. He reminds the people of all that God has done among them – what He has done to give them the land and bring them peace. The land has been divided among the twelve tribes of Israel.

But there is still work to do. There are still other nations living in the lands allotted to the various tribes of Israel. They still need to be driven out. Joshua speaks God’s promise to them. He will fight for them and drive out those other nations.

Again, God through Joshua recounts all that He did in the past to call Abraham from beyond the River and from worship of other gods to a new land and into a relationship with the one true God. He recounts His work to rescue Israel from their slavery in Egypt – what He did to preserve them through their wanderings – how He drove out the nations before them after they crossed the Jordan River and gave them a home.

In that light, Joshua than calls them to continue to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully. There is no other god like Him. Joshua makes this plea because there are other options. There are the gods their ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites. And there will be others.

But none of those gods have done or can do what the God of Israel has done and promises to continue to do. God has been with them in a physical way from the beginning of their journey out of Egypt and through their settling in the Promised Land.

There is a choice and Joshua makes his choice known. He and his household will serve the Lord – the deliverer – the rescuer – the One who gathers in their midst – who goes before them and follow after them. He has been their help in ages past and He is their hope for years to come.

They look forward in hope. We look back on the object of that hope. Jesus is and remains the YES to every promise of God. He is our hope and our life and salvation.

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