Snapshots: Day 136

Snapshots: Day 136

The Snapshot: “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:15) Testimony to the end! Again, as we saw, Joshua calls the people to himself and he reminds them of their history (24:2-13) and challenges them to keep following the Lord (24:14) reminding them that their calling was to forsake the world around them, the idol-worshiping of their neighbours. There are always two options – do what the rest of the world are doing, or do what God calls you to, two very different lives. So he challenges them to choose which path they will follow. That is always the call of the Christian leader to his people, but with it comes the personal testimony – whatever anyone else does, we’re going to stick with the Lord. Leaders challenge, provoke and testify. Do it.

Further Consideration: Perhaps we take for granting the preaching and teaching that goes on every week in church, but it is foundational to the Christian life. The apostle Paul wrote words that many of us are so familiar with: All Scripture is … useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16), so familiar sometimes that we tend to forget what it is saying. The Bible is not for entertainment, it is for teaching and when we let it do that we will find that sometimes it ‘rebukes’ us, scolds us for the what we have been doing or what we have been thinking. It corrects us, shows us what should be, it trains, instructs, shows us how life can be, and in all these things it shows us there are two ways to live – God’s way found in the Bible or the way of the world, a way of self-centred godlessness – and we have to choose.

Nice, happy platitudes, nice pious thoughts, little heart-warming homilies, are not what build the Christian and the Christian community, but words which, although they may comfort, support and encourage, will always have a slight edge to them as they call us to action, to bring change, to bring commitment, to reaffirm our faithfulness.

And that is what Joshua was now doing: if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.” (v.15) “Really,” he is saying, “really, is that what you want, you want to be like our ancestors and the people that used to live here who had no knowledge of the Living God, the Maker of the Universe who miraculously delivered us from Egypt, and so instead made little wooden or metal idols and pretended that these inanimate objects were alive and, even more, had the power to change this world of ours? Really, you think God set us free and has provided for us this Land, so you want to follow idols? Are you out of your minds (implied)? You can do that if you want but me and my family, we’re going to stick with the living God!

(As we have come near the end of Joshua we will pause up for a while and return here later)

Snapshots: Day 135

Snapshots: Day 135

The Snapshot: “Joshua, by then a very old man… said to them: “I am very old.” (Josh 23:1,2) You never need to tell an old person that they are old, they know it already. Old age doesn’t creep up on you quietly, it makes you aware of it. Joshua calls the nation to him, fulfilling his leadership role he calls them to go on following the Lord (23:6-8), warning them of the perils of disobedience (23:12,13), reminding them of God’s faithfulness and discipline (23:14-16). It is the role of an elder (the wise leader), the Pastor (the shepherd of the flock), the overseer (the protector), and it continues right into old age.  He is being faithful to his calling right to the end and as such he challenges each of us as we grow older, will I keep going to the end, able to echo Paul? (2 Tim 4:7)

Further Consideration: The temptations along that way that the enemy uses include, as we’ve noted previously, to bring discouragement but there are more things that he focuses on. When we are younger, he tells us that our job is all-important and we shouldn’t feel bad about short-changing our family in respect of time, the business needs me. But as we get older we start feeling the aches and pains and get tired more easily and so say the Lord doesn’t need me, other people don’t need me, and in these various ways he undermines our self-esteem, our very relationship with the Lord even.

To make it worse he points out the young people around us who are full of energy and we find ourselves looking at them with a measure of envy. But the truth is that we can’t turn the clock back, we are what we are and we need to confess it with thanks – yes thanks that He has brought us to this point, whatever it is, however old you are and however limited you might feel you are, but you are still the person He called all that time back, His love for you has not diminished and He is blessed you have remained faithful through the ups and downs of life, through the struggles and turmoils that life in the fallen world brings.

But look at Joshua now. Listen to what he says. He reminds his people what they have been through, what the Lord has done for them (v.3-5). There are people around us who need encouraging by being reminded of what the Lord has done for them. Looking back and reminiscing is good if it stirs thankfulness, praise and worship; let it do that. Encourage others by doing that with them. He challenges them to remain strong and remain faithful and obedient. We all need that and need to encourage one another to do that. Just because we start feeling older doesn’t mean to say stop needing that, stop doing that. Until the day we leave this world, we can continue to stir up one another. As the writer to the Hebrews said, let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Heb 10:24) and let’s not stop doing it.

Snapshots: Day 134

Snapshots: Day 134

The Snapshot: “they said to them: “The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this?” (Josh 22:16) This is all about accountability to the body. Collectively, we as the body of Christ, the Church, are to be a testimony to one another to help keep one another on the right track (which is why the trend to stop going to church is so dangerous!) James understood this (Jas 5:19,20) with a reference to drawing back the one who wanders from the truth and save them.  Pray for the prodigals, don’t criticize them, pray for them, love them, love them, be there for them, always with arms of welcome (Lk 15:20). But yes, let’s keep tabs on one another; we need it.

Further Consideration: This was a strange situation. Reuben and Gad had returned to their land to the east of the Jordan after the conquest of the land, but then they appeared to do something terrible – they build at altar at the Jordan. The rest of Israel jumped to the conclusion that they were setting up their own false religion, to offer sacrifices on an unauthorized altar. How easy it is to jump to wrong conclusions.

Israel sent a deputation led by Phineas (Josh 22:13,14) with ten leaders to confront them and they challenged them. The answer is heartwarming. Far from wanting to divide off from the rest of the nation, this altar was not for sacrifice but for testimony (22:27) to all future generations. Their fear was that being on the other side of the Jordan valley, separated off from the rest of the nation, there was the danger in the days to come that first of all the rest of Israel might disclaim them (22:24,25). Similarly their own descendants might similarly forget and so this altar was to be a call to them as well to remember their past. (22:28) It was to be a testimony to both sides.

As we said above, how easy it is to jump to wrong conclusions. The modern classic illustration of this is in sending e-mails where it is impossible to sense the tone of voice of the sender. But it can be many other times as well, when people can jump to wrong conclusions about your intent or your motivation. Very often we can, as psychologists say, reflect what we feel and see it in the other person, attributing a wrong intent. I have had it – painfully – people attributing criticism when I was simply writing principles of truth, not intending to ‘aim’ it in any direction. We respond like this when we are feeling defensive, unsure of ourselves, unsure of our own identities and thus we attribute the same things to others. The only way to prevent this happening is to determine that you will see the best in others, you will only attribute good to them, or if there is bad, there is a cause that needs your love. Try it and see what a difference it makes.

Snapshots: Day 133

Snapshots: Day 133

The Snapshot: “For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites.” (Josh 22:3) Loyalty and faithfulness. The tribes who had wanted to stay east of Jordan (see No. 96 & Num 32) had come and helped the others and fought and helped them take the land. Now it was time to go and take their own inheritance in the east. But instructions follow – be yourselves but remember you are still Israelites, God’s people. Live like it! There are times when we need to be ourselves but that is never to be at the cost of the body of Christ. Reclaiming ourselves means becoming more the person God has designed and called us to be. Faithfulness trumps individuality and selfishness.

Further Consideration: The struggle, for the Christian, is always between being yourself and being a member of the body of Christ. As an individual, if you are like me, you crave for time and space, for peace and an opportunity to be refreshed, to do what you as a person do. But then there is a world out there that God loves and, even more, there is the church, God’s people, the family of God, the body of which I am a part.

It is a body in need and there are those I can care for and encourage and pray for, but then I am part of this body that serves and so I have given myself to being a servant within it that calls on my time, calls on my energy and calls me to pray; I am no longer just mine. But that is healthy for self-centredness can generate so many wrong thoughts and feelings. Ah, and there is another reason; I need to be with this body, recognising its presence and being part of it, for I need feeding, challenging, instructing, by them; I dare not exist just on my own for it is so easy to lose perspective, fall of the rails and be less than I am called to be.

We were never designed to be alone and when we come to Christ we find an existence, an identity that lifts us and makes us something so much more than we were when we were alone. The Reubenites and Gadites (Num 22:1) had clearly been prosperous, they “had very large herds and flocks,” and the land to the east of the Jordan was just right for them and it was natural to want to stay there but they gave up that right to fight alongside their brothers.

But now it was time to return and pick up their inheritance, back there to the east, but it was a land closer to outsiders and as such they needed the ongoing support and protection of their own people, they needed to remember they were still the people of God, even if living some distance away, and if they were to preserve their identity there, they needed to remember and hold fast to God. So do we in our parts of ‘the land’?

Snapshots: Day 132

Snapshots: Day 132

The Snapshot: “the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors.” (Josh 21:43) An amazing – and very surprising description! Yes, the Land has been taken but there are still pockets of the old inhabitants still there. So, yes, the Lord’s will, described in those early days of Exodus to Moses has been fulfilled. But it is a challenging analogy. When we come to Christ there is a new ‘land’ to be taken, a new life to be lived, having left the old one (Egypt, the place of slavery) behind. And as we go in to take this new ‘land’ that Christ has earned for us and the Spirit empowers us to take, there is much from the past to be considered dead, much to be put to death (see Rom 6:11-13, Col 3:5,8,9, Eph 4:22-32), the battle for a godly & righteous ‘land’.

Further Consideration: This is God who, in this fallen world, tolerates imperfection in us. The fact that Israel had not cleared out every single Canaanite from the Land did not mean that the plan of God was thwarted, it just means (as we’ve seen again and again) He realistically works with the imperfect and incomplete.

It is an amazing challenge both for those atheists who foolishly say that God is harsh and vindictive, and those legalists who say that God is holy and therefore judges all wrongdoing. Well, for the latter group, that is true but He does it through the Cross; Jesus has taken the punishment for every wrong deed. If he hadn’t, not one of us could stand, everyone one of us would be living in fear, waiting for the hand of destruction to fall on us.

And so Israel ‘possess’ the land but there are still pockets of the old inhabitants around and the Lord knew this and said He would leave them as a challenge to Israel to test them. Every time Israel fell into disobedience, these enemies rose up and attacked them. It was a funny form of discipline, it wasn’t God hitting Israel with a big stick, but God allowing Israel to be disciplined by their own failure to deal with their enemies outright.

Now this is where it starts getting painful because this is what happens when we come to Christ. When we are saved, we are perfect in God’s eyes as far as our eternal destiny is concerned but the depth of our conversion, if I may put it like that, will determine the practicalities of our future lives here on earth. If we are half-hearted about our commitment, about our obedience, and do not put to death the deeds of self, they will eventually turn and bite us, they will cause us pain when they come out into the open and be seen for what they are. Unredeemed anger and its causes is a good example. If we don’t let the Lord work deeply in us, then anger (for whatever its unresolved cause) will flare up, cause upset, hurt and so on, and we will feel the pain. A Warning.

Snapshots: Day 131

Snapshots: Day 131

The Snapshot: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge.” (Josh 20:2) This is civilization in the making, the people of God in the making. This is the recognition of the Lord God of Israel that mankind struggles with sin in its various forms. The ‘cities of refuge’ were first a recognition that upsets happen and in the midst of upset things get said and then done that shouldn’t, even death, then regret. But that is only one side of the story. The other side is the onlookers, the family whose loved one has been killed. An eye of an eye, a life for a life!!!! Not when it was an accident. Killer, flee to a safe place to give them time to cool down! This is the God who seeks to cool tempers, bring peace, prevent further conflict, then and now.

Further Consideration: I am always amazed that the Law of God is not only full of practical care but also the grace and mercy of the Lord. It reveals to us a God who not only understands us but recognizes and provides for our failures. On Day 110 we considered Deut 21:1 “If someone is found slain…. and it is not known who the killer was…” which again was a recognition of sin in the people and yet which also provided a way for that to be recognised, acknowledged and dealt with appropriately.

The cities of refuge were a similar provision recognizing that in this fallen world, men act badly towards each other and if that wasn’t bad enough they might accidentally end up killing each other – but it was an accident, it was not intentional. But this provision cares for those on both sides of this. On the one side the family of the dead person are likely to be very upset, so much so that they seek revenge, they seek to take the law into their own hands, i.e. they seek the kill the other antagonist. But it was an accident and the Lord wants to both protect him and keep the other side from doing something that drags them down and become guilty of what would then be murder. Thus there were these cities of refuge.

When the fleeing man reached the city, he was to explain to the city elders what had happened and if they accept his story they are to give him protection (20:4) but then there is to be a trial in the city where the case is properly examined (20:6) and if found innocent he can stay on there. Thus both sides are saved from worse ongoing conflict and feud.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” (Mt 5:9) and that simple beatitude undergirds so much of the intent of God for His people. How many times in the epistles do we find in the opening, “Grace and peace to you”? Peace and harmony are to be foundation stones for our lives that flow from the grace and truth that Jesus brought (Jn 1:14) and which also go to make up that foundation. When we blow it and disharmony occurs, how can we heal the breach?

Snapshots: Day 130

Snapshots: Day 130

The Snapshot: “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.” (Josh 15:19) Caleb’s daughter is just settling down to married life and comes back and makes this request of her father who has oversight of this part of the land. The Message Version expands on it: “When she arrived… Caleb asked her, “What would you like?” She said, “Give me a marriage gift. You’ve given me desert land; Now give me pools of water!” Smart girl. Yes, the land is great but to flourish we need water, lots of it! Sensitive children of God realise their new life is great but there is yet more to come – we need water, we need the Holy Spirit, in abundance, we need to be immersed in Him, filled with Him, if we are to flourish. Ask and you will receive (Lk 11:13). How many live thirsty lives because they don’t ask, “Give me a blessing … give me also springs of water”? (Jn 7:38,39)

Further Consideration: Wisdom sometimes comes from unlikely sources. Here we are focusing on the ‘big people’ like Joshua and Caleb and then suddenly up pops Caleb’s daughter, ‘a chip of the old block’ as the saying goes, and she comes and makes this seemingly simple request. Caleb is a leader in Judah and so her land is in the south. Apart from the (Mediterranean) coastal plain much of Israel is hilly. The further south you go the lower the rainfall tends to be and to the far south of course is desert. Thus in the records, wells and springs are important sources of water in the land. The different between the two is that a well was man-made and tended to need to have water drawn by rope and bucket, while springs tended to be natural, mostly constant (except in drought times) outpourings of regular supply. She is looking for living water as against well water (ponder on the difference in Jesus’ talk with the Samaritan woman – Jn 4).

Recognising and rewarding the importunity (this demanding entreaty) we see, “So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.” (v.19b) Two lots of water, one possibly lower down and more accessible and the other higher up, maybe accessibly to herds of sheep on the hillsides. A double blessing. Now of course Jesus spoke of such pictures, for example, whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4:14) and “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (Jn 7:38 – referring to the Spirit). So, upper and lower springs? Just to ponder on – upper, in the head, revelation in the mind, lower, in the heart signifying the thrust of life. Does the Holy Spirit bring you regular revelation, does He bring you regular life that bubbles up in you, or are we missing out in our inheritance and need to ask for Him to come with releasing?