This week we come to the close of the book of Joshua and Joshua’s life. But before the death of Joshua, we see him encouraging Israel to remain faithful to God and to serve Him alone. In Chapters 23 and 24, Joshua summons all the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel and reminds them all that God has done for them. It was God who rescued them from slavery and brought them out of Egypt. It was God who performed mighty miracles as they traveled through the wilderness. It was God who fought against their enemies and who gave them possession of the land. God has been faithful to Israel and everything He has promised has come true. Joshua then implores the people to be strong and to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Joshua’s final words to the Israelites may be exactly what we need to hear as well. For like the Israelites, we, too, often need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness, His provision, and His power. We need to remember that whatever we are facing it is God who will rescue us and it is God who will fight our battles. We need to focus our eyes on the One we serve and not allow our circumstances to turn our eyes to the right or to the left. We need to hold tightly to the truth that each and every one of God’s promises will come true. Not a single one will fail! May Joshua’s words encourage us and like him, may we be strong and serve the Lord wholeheartedly.
God is faithful to fulfill His promises. Do we trust Him?
In pages 22 - 30 in the Kingdoms book, we see the fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham over a 1/2 century earlier. For generations in their oral tradition they have heard the stories and about the "promised land." This land of wealth and goodness that God has promised to the descendants of Abraham.
It is the beginning of a fantastic time for the people of God, a time where the scripture says there is rest from war. Where God gives them a bountiful land. A land that already is full of villages and towns, even fortified towns. They will enjoy great harvests, and long periods of peace and great wealth.
But yet as they move in to claim these amazing promises, there are still the signs of the "human condition" that plague both the Israelites and plague us today.
One of the elements of the human condition that I think many of us can relate to, was fear. All of these people (all except Joshua and Caleb that is) were 19 years old or younger when they started their 40 year wondering in the wilderness. God has been tangibly present for the majority of their lives. They have experienced God first hand providing miracles for daily provision & protection, stopping the Jorden river at flood stage, demolishing major walled cities like Jericho without Israel throwing a stone, and providing them tremendous victories over the armies of the land. Yet, for some reason they have not taken full possession of the land. Why? I wonder if it is fear. God has shown up so far, yes, but will He show up and give ME victory over the people in the land I am supposed to fight for? He has saved the armies of Israel, but will He save ME?
They have been given the land. The promise is fulfilled, but they have a role in receiving the promise. For this promise God expects them to be actively involved in its fulfillment. They must drive the current occupants out of the land. God promises that they will have victory, and God says he will be with them, BUT they must do their part and the thoughts of what "could" happen generate fear in their human condition, and I think in ours too.
I wonder how many times in my life I am not able to "fully" enjoy God's promises for me because "fear" enters in to my thinking. I know He offers peace and I know He wants me to experience Joy in my life, but I wonder how many times being anxious about an unknown outcome or uncertain future keeps me from fully experiencing His promises.
Can I truly be safe, can I be content with a life of trusting Him? Is it that simple, just trust Him.
Have a good work ethic, act justly, live generously, show mercy, and walk humbly with Jesus every day and fully trust Him for the outcome.
I wonder if the solution to many of the ills of my human condition is to simply walk close to God each day, grabbing hold of all of the promises He offers, and simply trust Him for the outcome.
Prayer is a powerful thing. We have learned a great deal about prayer this year. However, the power of prayer in this week’s reading is undeniable. Joshua, has led the people into the promised land and now are going village by village and city by city defeating king after king. God is delivering them without much opposition.
This brings us to what might be the boldest prayer in history. Joshua prays that the sun would stand still so the Lord would give the Israelites the victory over the Amorites. The passage says that Joshua says the prayer in sight of the Israelites. So get this, Joshua, God’s chosen leader, prays that the sun and moon would stop so they can continue to be victorious in their war over the promised land.
I cannot tell you how many times in my life I have tried to pray a prayer like this. It often seems that nothing quite as extraordinary happens. In fact there have been some times in my life where it seems like God isn’t listening and I am pleading for his comfort and provision. I often want to get to the end of the lesson I am learning by the fastest means possible. However, God often has other plans for my life. What I often fly right by in this story is the years and years of obedience by Joshua and his people. They have followed God day by day for generations. I often want God to provide me with the reply or answer instantly.
God calls us to obedience first, then he blesses us with his provision. God wants us to actively seek him. If we do this in all we do, we will begin to see our prayer life increase with boldness and power. God is waiting for us to grow into the men and women that God calls us to be. This process is at times frustrating and debilitating but what God is teaching us and showing us is the power we have in and through him.
Be bold in your prayers and pray with the same power of Joshua.
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
Congratulations! You’ve finished the Torah!
Now we turn our attention to a new part of the journey. Moses has died, along with almost all of his peers who left Egypt. A new generation with a new hope has set their sights on the promised land as Joshua rises from the ranks as God’s anointed leader. In this first book of Kingdoms, the reader will experience the conquest of Canaan with all its challenges neutralized by God’s faithful presence and power. Each victory increases the faith of the Israelites while melting the hearts of the inhabitants of these Canaanite city-states.
In this week’s reading I’m struck by the stone memorial built after Israel crosses the Jordan in flood-stage on dry ground. The miraculous crossing was no doubt reminiscent for the people of this generation who had been either children at the time, or being born in the wilderness, had later heard about the incredible story of the Red Sea crossing. But this time, Israel stops and takes the time to build a large stone structure – what we might call a testimony -- to remind them of God’s power, provision, and providence in their lives.
I encourage you to think about the moments in your life where God has honored His promises to you in an undeniable way. Do you remember, or have the layers of busyness and struggle slowly eroded the details? Have you built a testimony that not only reminds you of God’s faithfulness in times of future difficulties, but also testifies to others who might not have otherwise known of God’s works in your life?
Such memorials come in many shapes and sizes. I’ve come across necklaces, plaques, tattoos, songs, paintings, stories, and video testimonies – all of which follow Joshua’s pattern of reminding one that God is at work in one’s life…”an ever-present help,” and a faithful father who will never forsake us. We need to regularly see these reminders from our own experiences, and from others who know and have tasted the goodness of God.
Like Israel, take the time to build memorials – so that when your children, or your friends, or your Life Together family asks – “Why is that necklace so special to you?” or “What does that tattoo mean?” or “What a lovely song, what’s it about?” you can share how God carried you across a river of adversity, and your feet didn’t even get wet.