Choosing the right land

Joshua 14:6-12 6 Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

While verse 12 is the one that stood out to me today, I felt it important to include verse 6-12 so that you can see the context.  This passage is about Caleb.  We haven’t heard much of him since he spied out the land for Moses. On this occasion, he is reminding Joshua of the land that God promised him through Moses 40 years prior.  It was the right timing for this conversation, because Joshua was allocating the land to the different tribes.  I think that the ideal for any tribe would be to get a fertile piece of land that had already been conquered.  This was not the case with 85 year old Caleb’s request.  He was willing to fight for the land.

You see, Caleb understood something critically important.  That is, walking in what God has for you is always a better choice than choosing something different.  But what about when that something different is easier?  What if I can have all I ever wanted right now?  If it isn’t what God has for you, there will be no joy, no peace, and no purpose. So Caleb chose the more difficult route.  He choose to face battle again at 85 years old.  But he was armed with the knowledge that God would come through on His promise.  He knew that he had God on his side.  Having God on your side is like the ultimate trump card.  Regardless of  what “seems” best, we must always weigh what is His best.  If we would choose that land to inherit, we will have made a wise choice.

When I’m an old man

Joshua 13:1 When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.

Here in Joshua 13, the dude was getting old.  Very old – at least that is what God says to him.  Let’s just say this, if the guy who is eternity years old says that you are old, you probably are.  So what happens when you get old?  Does God look for someone else to do the job?  Does He look for someone a little more fit?  Maybe it was time for Joshua to go into the nursing home.  Possibly he should just retire and let someone more capable do the work.

Unfortunately, this type of cultural mentality leaks its way into the church today.  We have people among us who have walked with God the longest.  They have wisdom and maturity that we can only dream of.  They have walked through great battles and have much to teach us.  So we tell them to start a seniors group and go play pinochle or bridge or something.  Just because they retired from their occupation in life, doesn’t mean they should retire from the body of Christ. One should never retire from his/her calling.  We should be available to be used by God everyday that we draw breath here on this earth.

Such is the case with Joshua.  God says to him, “wow, you are getting really old Josh.”  But it doesn’t end there; God has work for him to do.  He still has an assignment.  The grey haired guy has still got it.   So the Lord essentially says, “let’s do this old man.”  Someday when I get very old, I want to hear God say the same thing to me.  I don’t want to sit around waiting for my life to be over. When I’m an old man, I still want to be used by God. When I’m an old man, I want to still give every bit of my life to my Lord and Savior.

When great kings fall

Joshua 12:4 And the territory of Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei.

Today’s chapter was pretty lean when it comes to principles and wisdom that we can take away.  Our tendency might be to skim over a chapter like this and wonder why in the world it was in there.  However, when we read the Word of God, we should ask the Holy Spirit for insight.  We should ask Him to make it come alive to us.  As I was reading today, verse 4 jumped out at me and made me wonder who this Og guy was.  And what was Bashan?   So rather than just skipping over it, I thought I would find out.

What I found was what I suspected: Og was a giant.  The Rephaites were all giants.  These were huge people!  Remember when Joshua and Caleb spied out the land and came back with huge grapes?  Remember how the other spies told Moses that the people in the land were too big for them to beat?  I suspect they were talking about the Rephaites.  The Israelites beat those giants and took their amazingly fertile land.  Bashan was a land with fertile soil.  The produce was amazing and the trees were towers.  It’s like saying “everything is bigger in Texas.”  Well, everything was bigger in Bashan.  So let’s not forget that the short little Israelites took these monsters on and won!

Now, why is this list of kings even in the Bible?   I believe that this chapter in the Bible has purpose.  God does not give us His Word and then give us a bunch of useless parts.  This chapter is a record.  It details the names of defeated kings during the conquest of Israel to enter their promised land.  It is to serve as a reminder to the people.  And while it seems like a list of dead guys to us, it was way more than that to Israel.  We so often remember our failures and forget our victories. We hold onto pain while letting celebration and joy slip away.  We write down our miseries in a journal, but what about our praises?  What about the victories?

I wonder what would happen to our faith if we wrote down every victory God gave us.  Maybe we can call it a victory journal.  We could list the names of the things that God has given us.  We could mention the victories that we have had in Him.  We might even write down the names of the kings that God has conquered in our lives.  Remember the time when He conquered the king of pride?  Remember when He conquered the king of fear?  Remember when He conquered the king of insecurity?  If we just had a record like the Israelites did, we might be encouraged.  We might just remember that we once had giants in the land and that God brought them down.  We might remember that God is on our side and no one can stand against us.

When life is stacked against you

Joshua 11:4-6 4 They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 5 All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight against Israel. 6 The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

At times, life seems to stack against you.  There’s those days that we feel like anything that could go wrong did.  These are the moments when we want to just get back in bed and crawl under the covers. If a day could wake up on the wrong side of the bed, it did.  On days like those, you get behind the slowest car in traffic.  You pick the longest line at the grocery store.  Your coworkers gang up against you.  Your boss assigns you more work than is humanly possible in a day.  You burn your toast and spill your coffee.  You dread going to school because everybody is talking about the thing you did yesterday.  Anybody have a day like that?  It can be a bit overwhelming, exhausting, and wearing on our willpower.  When life seems to stack up against you, living another day seems intimidating.

Joshua had a day that could have very well gone that way.  We see in Joshua 11 that a bunch of different kings got together to take on the Israelites in battle.  This wasn’t just another battle; these kings joined forces in order to destroy the Israelites once and for all.  It says here that their army was huge – like sand on a seashore.  Can you imagine the feeling of this many people coming against you?  It had to be scary, intimidating, and completely unfair.  Being ganged up on stinks!

Then God speaks to Joshua in a way that is both energizing and comforting.  He tells him that Israel will win this fight.  He assures Joshua that He is on their side.  And when the Lord is with you, victory is inevitable.  All Joshua had to do was follow the Lord’s instructions.  So Joshua did what He asked him to and the Lord did the rest. Such is the way of life.  When we are facing obstacles, we first need to go to the Lord and ask Him how He sees the situation.  Then we need to ask Him how we should respond.  From there, all we can do is what He asks of us and trust Him to handle the rest.  It is in that place, you will find peace knowing that God is fighting the battle with you.

The Sun Stands Still

Joshua 10:12-13  12 On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

To me, this is one of the most remarkable supernatural works in the Bible.  In the New Testament, we see Jesus defying nature – things like walking on water and commanding the storm to be still.  In the Old Testament, we see Elijah calling down fire from heaven.  But this one has to be the most ridiculous of all.  Get this, Joshua is busy annihilating the armies of 5 kingdoms.  It is a victorious day to say in the least.  Now when you are having a day like that, who wants it to end?  Those are the days that you want to last forever.

So Joshua does something completely unexpected and out of the norm of the law of nature.  With confidence, he tells the Lord that he wants to make time stand still.   He wants this day to last so that he can wipe out the enemy.  The crazy thing is – it happens.  The sun stands still in the sky.  It does not move farther to the west; it does not set.  In fact, it says in verse 13 that it stayed like that for about a day.  In other words, God gave him an additional 24 hours to fight.  I would assume that if God made the day longer, He also provided strength to the Israelites to keep fighting and winning.

My guess is that this is a prayer that we have all uttered.  We have probably cried out to God for more time in the day only to have Him respond that we should first make more effective use of the time He’s already given us.  What I want to focus on, is not that.  What strikes me with the passage is the courageous faith of Joshua. He has an expectancy that God is going to respond to his request. Geez, sometimes I don’t even have the faith to ask God for measly little things.  I’m gonna chew on this one today.  What would happen if I had the courage of Joshua?  All I know is I would like to find out.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Joshua 9:14-15 14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. 15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”  These are words that you don’t want to hear.  Even more so, you don’t want to say them.  They are words of regret, words that say “I messed that one up pretty good.”  If you do have to say these words, I hope it is because you made a petty mistake.  I hope it is not because you are sitting in the hospital having a major procedure done.  Once upon a time, my daughter put a little yellow ball up her nose.  I have no idea why she did it, except for that it probably seemed like a harmless thing to do at the time.  Getting it out… let’s just say we laughed and she cried.  It wasn’t all that fun.

We humans do some pretty mindless things like the thing that Joshua did here in chapter 9.  The Gibeonites, who are neighbors of the Israelites, come to town disguised as some far off travelers.  They dress up in worn out clothes and even bring some moldy bread with them.   Unfortunately for the Israelites, they hadn’t yet met their new neighbors so they didn’t catch on to the trickery.  Now the Gibeonites had heard about how God was going to wipe out all of Israel’s neighbors, so they devised a plan to save their lives.  If they could just get God’s people to swear on His name to spare them, they would have to stand by it.

So they come riding into town with their fraud.  Joshua is suspect; he isn’t sure if he is buying it.  The Gibeonites don’t crack under the pressure; they just lie some more.  Then it happens – verse 14.  The Israelites use their eyes, ears, and mouths as their guide.  They sample the provisions and wouldn’t you know it, this stuff tastes really old.  They must have traveled far.  But they did not inquire of the Lord.  And therein lies the fatal mistake. They counted on what they could see rather than on what God could see.

How many times do we do the same thing?  We try to make life’s decisions with our eyes and our ears.  Common sense seems like the most logical approach to many of the difficult choices we are faced with.  However, what we really need is to inquire of the Lord.  We need His wisdom.  We need discernment to be able to know the difference between the truth and a lie.  We cannot rely on our capacity to navigate this life, we must rely on His. Inquiring of the Lord eliminates regret and gives us an assurance of the decisions we make.  Learn from Joshua today and don’t make the same mistake he did.

Don’t skip the hard parts

Joshua 8:34-35 34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law.35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.

We live in a culture that thrives on getting all the benefits without any of the hard stuff.  We want the income without having to go to work.  We want the spiritual maturity without the discipline.  We want the sex without the marriage.  We want God’s blessings without having to follow His instructions. This approach will surely lead us to our demise.  If we continue, we will end up with lots of toys and major credit card debt (which we can’t pay off).  We will end up with divorce rates through the ceiling.  We will end up with Christians who know very little about their God.  Oh wait… that stuff has already happened.

What struck me about today’s reading were these two verses at the end of chapter 8.   Joshua had just successfully led the people in a battle victory that completely destroyed the city of Ai.  He concluded the victory by offering a sacrifice to God and reminding the people of the law of God.  Essentially, he didn’t want them to forget this time what God had instructed them to do.  What I found interesting about these verses was not the fact that Joshua read the law to the people, it was the fact that he didn’t leave any parts out.  Now I realize that it seems absurd that he would leave some parts out, but he very well could have.  After this great victory, he could have reminded the people of all the great ways and blessings of the Lord.  He could have encouraged them by reminding them of God’s promises.  But instead, he read it for what it was. He read the parts about the blesses and he read the parts about the curses.  He wanted them to understand the “whole” of God, not just the feel-good stuff.

Yet today we often do just the opposite.  We open the Bible to find a feel-good word.  We talk about God like He is a teddy bear, soft and cuddly.  God is so much more than that.  And while the Bible is full of blessings and encouragements, it also contains the hard stuff that God asks us to do.  You know, those are the parts we like to skip.  I appreciate that Joshua didn’t skip the hard parts.  Instead, he just presented the Word for what it was.  I think we would do ourselves a favor to follow suit.  If we become a people who desire to gorge ourselves on the blessings of God without living the life He calls us to, we will be sadly disappointed.  But worse yet, we will misrepresent the very character and nature of God.  So the next time you want to skip over the hard stuff in the Bible, press on and read through it.  Even though it may not sound fun, it will  bring you life.

What’s your problem, God?

Joshua 7:10-13 10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. 13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.

Here in Joshua 7, we find ourselves shortly after the landslide victory that involved the wall of Jericho crashing down.  God told the Israelites to make sure not to take stuff that wasn’t theirs to take.  But someone did – not cool.  This messed them up real bad.  You see, the next battle wasn’t quite as awesome as the previous one.  It seemed like a sure win, no problem at all.   But they got their rear ends handed to them by a pretty pathetic army.  Joshua’s response is so human in the sense that it is completely fickle.   Truthfully, it reminds me of myself.  He can’t understand why God would abandon them like that.  “What’s your problem God?”

So God says to Joshua, “Dude, what are you doing? Why are you crying about this?”  Then God drops it on him that someone blew it.  Apparently there was a moron in the camp who thought he could steal stuff and hide it from everyone, including God.  But God is a little more perceptive than that and the guy gets caught.  In fact, God outs him in front of the entire nation.  After that, they all have to get right with God all over again.  Do they not remember the recent circumcision ceremony?

All along, the problem was not with God.  The problem was with the people.  We so often want God to do everything for us without the cost. We want the same forbidden things that Achin longed for and still expect God to cover it.  But God is after our hearts.  He is after obedience.  Why?  Because He knows that His instructions are what will bring us life.  If we would just obey, we would discover that.  We can’t fall into that mentality that I can have it all my way and expect God to fulfill my expectation for Him.   He asks us to set aside some things and walk in His ways.  If we aren’t willing to set those things aside, maybe we shouldn’t get frustrated with Him for not fighting our battles.

Walking out the victory

Joshua 6:2-4 2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.

I have a video game I like to play – it’s a baseball one.  I have had it for a while now and while I don’t play it often, it is still fun when I do.  The game isn’t really all that hard now that I have it figured out.  I actually beat the game, won the world series.  So when I go to play it now, I know I am going to win before I start.  Some people would say that is no fun, but somehow it is.  It is a strange thing, knowing you have already won before you start and then playing anyways.  Maybe I do it because there is still enjoyment on the way to victory even though it is inevitable.

In Joshua 6, there was much more than a video game at stake.  Here Joshua is receiving instructions from the Lord on the  battle plan.  God tells Joshua: “you have already won.”  But it doesn’t stop there.  Just because the victory was already his, God wanted him to walk it out.  He told him to march around the city walls.  In fact, it took seven days to see any real evidence that this victory was coming.  All Joshua had to lean on was the Lord’s word to him.  All he could do was obediently walk out what God had told him to do.  Just because the victory was his, didn’t mean that he could just sit back and do nothing.  God asked him to partner in the victory.  God had a part for him to do.

The same is with us today.  We know that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we already have the victory.  Jesus has already won!  But He asks us to walk out that victory.  He asks us to participate in the battle.  It is not so that we can prove ourselves to Him; it is so He can prove Himself to us. As we respond in obedience to Him, He will be faithful to do His part.  He is a faithful God, true to all His promises.  He has delivered us the victory; it is ours to take hold of.   God simply asks us to walk around the walls and watch as He causes them to come crashing down.

What to do on Holy Ground

Joshua 5:13-15 13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”  15 The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

I just couldn’t move on past chapter 5 today.  This passage of scripture has so stuck with me since I read it yesterday.  This situation takes us back even to Exodus 3 and the burning bush when God spoke the same words to Moses.  It was holy moment that would not be forgotten.  And as I read this, I tried to put myself into Joshua’s sandals and imagine what the experience was like.  Here he is, having crossed the Jordan – he is now approaching enemy territory.  A man with a sword drawn appears before him.  Now get this: Joshua walks up to him.  He doesn’t ask him if he is an enemy from a distance.  He walks up to him and THEN asks.

There must have been a sense in Joshua that there was something very different about this man.  His spirit must have resonated with the fact the someone mysterious was standing before him – someone heavenly.  It’s that sense we get when God seems to be in the room.  It’s that place of peace where we know that God is right here, right now.  And Joshua found himself in that place. He was in the presence of heaven.

What strikes me with this exchange is the contrast between what I believe was Joshua’s expectation and the man’s response.  It seems as though Joshua was awaiting some kind of marching orders.  After all, if God was going to send the commander of His army, he must surely be here to tell him what the battle plan is.  So he asks what the message is.  The response, I believe, was unexpected.  In fact it must have been alarming.  This messenger instructs him to remove his sandals because the place where he was standing was holy.  In other words, “you are in the presence of God, so respond to that.”  I can’t help but think that this was no angel at all.  Does an angel really make a place holy with it’s presence?  Or  was this Jesus, the true commander of all heaven and earth?  Certainly His presence would bring holiness to this desert place.

I love Joshua’s response to being told to remove his sandals due to the holiness.  He didn’t ask a whole bunch of questions.  He didn’t wonder, “is that you God?”  It says this: And Joshua did so. He realized that God had chosen him to appear to.  He realized that He was in a real encounter with God.  The response was beautiful, it was a response of awe.  He allowed himself to simply BE… in the presence of God. He allowed himself to take in the holiness of that moment.

What about us?  We live on the other side of the cross, the side where God has made his presence available to us on a regular basis.  It is not a once in a lifetime experience in His presence.  It is an everyday experience if we choose to go there.  But what do we do with that time?  Do we bring our wish lists, our letters to Santa, or our complaints?  Do we talk more than we stand in awe and listen?  I wonder if we ever respond like Joshua did to the presence of God. I wonder if we ever just simply BE in His presence. Where God shows up is holy ground.  So the next time you find yourself in His presence, I challenge you to figuratively take off your sandals and be in awe that He showed up to you.