Archive for category Faith
As Joshua turns to Judges we about the death of Joshua and the High Priest Eleazar. The book of Judges begins by telling us about the failures of the tribes to complete the conquest of their lands given to them by God.
When Joshua addresses Israel for the final time in his life, he reminds them of what God did for them and then challenges them to live up to that calling. It reminds me of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where the first three chapters present all that God has done for Christians and the last three urge godly living because of the grace God has bestowed.
In Joshua’s final words we find one of the favorite verses to put on household decorations “But as for me, and my household, we will serve the LORD”.
I find the most interesting part of his final words to be the exhortation to put away the idols that their forefathers worshiped in Egypt and before. It tells us that in spite of the calling of Israel by God they never put away the worldly influence of idolatrous religion. This issue will be the main reason for the downfall of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem approximately 800 years later.
The conquering of Canaan by Joshua and Israel means is covered in an overview in these chapters. There are some details covered in the southern campaign since it happens suddenly because 5 kings gathered together to kill the Gibeonites, who made a covenant with Israel, believing them to be traitors of Canaan.
Speaking of the Gibeonites, this event has always struck me funny because I haven’t experienced this culture. In our world if I made an agreement with someone who lied to me to enter the agreement, generally the agreement wouldn’t be binding, but Israel understood their word was binding even though they were lied to.
The conquest of the land seems really short, but remember Joshua and the army of Israel just conquered the armies of Canaan, they didn’t occupy the cities and territories of Canaan right away. In fact, God wanted Israel to destroy the armies out in the open areas so that the cities wouldn’t be destroyed, because God was giving Israel a ready to live in Nation. After conquering the armies, the land was divided by God among the tribes of Israel. Each tribe was expected to occupy their territory and destroy the local populations living there. Israel did not do a good job of this part. Joshua did everything God asked him to do, but individually the tribes lacked leadership and courage to conquer their territories. In fact the tribal area of Dan on maps is different from what God gave them because they were too afraid of confronting the inhabitants of their territory.
The story of Israel’s conquest of Jericho is one of the most well-known from the bible. Marching 7 times around and the walls came tumbling down has been sung by many Christians for a long time, but the part of the story that fascinates me the most is the walking around the city for seven days. I try to picture myself as one of the soldiers, with a sword by my side walking around a fortified city with walls that estimates put between 20 to 40 feet high, and I’m wondering how we are going to get this city. I think it may have been God’s plan to show Israel that they could not conquer the city without His help. Remember the soldiers in Israel were not well-trained or well outfitted by the standards of their day. Their weapon was God, without him they could do nothing, which the story of Ai reminds them.
The destruction of Jericho apparently made Israel overconfident. Their reaction to conquering Ai was to decide on their own what to do, rather than ask God. And since Achan stole some of the things from Jericho, which were dedicated to God, God would not help them until the sin was purged from the Nation. But they didn’t know that because they believed they were strong enough to conquer Ai without God. Just as quickly as overconfidence set in, discouragement set in after 36 men were killed in the first battle with Ai. Joshua asks God why He brought them into the land to kill them, and wishes they could have stayed on the other side of the Jordan. I’m surprised by Joshua’s dramatic swings in attitude, to overconfidence and then to fear and lament. However, it reminds me that I should not be overconfident in my abilities nor afraid to follow God.
When Israel stones Achan and all of his family it suggests to me the family was aware of Achan’s theft and kept silent about it, since the law of Moses forbid Israel from putting to death the children for the sin of the father or vice versa.
After the death of Moses, the Lord speaks to Joshua to encourage him and to remind him that he isn’t the one in charge, God is! God tells Joshua that following the commandments will make Joshua prosperous and successful. That is the purpose for all the commands in scriptures, that we might learn godliness.
The story of Rahab is one of the great examples of God’s love for all. She’s not from Israel, and she’s a prostitute, but her faithful response to God’s spies, brought her salvation from the destruction of Jericho, and her offspring (Jesus) will offer atonement to all the world. The requirement of the scarlet cord in her window to identify her home reminds me of blood of the lamb that had to be put on the door frame that the angel might not kill the firstborn in Egypt and of course the ultimate blood covering, our passover lamb, Christ.
With the circumcision at Gilgal, we learn that Israel was not circumcising their children in the period of wanderings. I’m not sure why, but there isn’t any sign of God’s displeasure that they did not circumcise their children, maybe He instructed them to do so during the wanderings that they could start anew in the promised land.
In this days reading, the main focus is the results that come from following the commands of God or disobeying the commands. God forewarned them about the consequences of their behavior.
God blesses obedience, why? Jesus said that all the laws hang upon the first and second great commandments; to love God, with all of our heart, mind and soul, and the second is to love our neighbor. If then every law hangs upon these preeminent commands, then the purpose of the commandments is to teach the people how to love, which is what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1st Timothy chapter one. In addition, a natural consequence of knowing what is the good, and loving to do is that if I don’t do these things then I am doing things unloving or sinful. That is why Paul writes in Romans chapter seven that he learned what sin is through the law. In other words, when we learn what is right we also learn what is wrong, therefore the choice we make whether to follow the commands or disobey the commands determines whether we are following God or rebelling against God.
In the New Testament, the doctrine of Grace covers our failure to do what is right, however the purpose of Jesus commandments is still the same, to teach us how to love God and love one another. Remember Jesus said you can tell who are his followers by their love for one another (John 13:35). Even in 1st John when John writes about walking in the light and having fellowship with God (chapter 1), walking in the light is about practicing what is right, but when we fail we still have an advocate with the father who covers our sins by his sacrifice.
I am very thankful God stated in 1Tim 4:3-5 that we could eat all foods created to be eaten with thanksgiving. I am thankful to be able to eat lobster, crab, catfish, pork and many other foods that were forbidden for Israel. Though I think I understand why God forbade many of these, there appears to be a greater health risk in eating many if not all of the unclean animals he forbids in the law. However, I think the greater reason for distinguishing between clean and unclean is for Israel to understand there is a distinction God makes between good and bad and those who love God will be Holy as Lev 20:25-26 states.
The prohibition against eating of blood is still a command God expects even Christians to follow. You may wonder why I’m making this distinction between some commands in the law of Moses and others, and that is a good question? If it was simply me making the distinction that would be a problem, however if you read the letter sent from the church in Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit to other churches in Acts 15:23-29 you will notice 4 things that they stated were still requirements from the law; abstain from idolatry, blood, things strangled and sexual immorality.
This is one of the reasons it is good for Christians to understand the law, many of the commandments are still righteous requirements for godly men and women.
Do you know that in the modern nation of Israel today, you cannot get a cheeseburger? There laws prohibit cheese from being put on hamburger because of the commandment that they could not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. I can why Jesus rebuked Israel for adding so many traditions of men to the commandments of God. A simple commandment to not cook a young animal in its mother’s milk, gets transformed into not being able to eat the meat of any animal while also eating the cheese made from any other animals milk. Am I just opposed to this because I don’t want to have my right to eat cheeseburgers taken away? Hopefully not 🙂