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.

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.

Sometimes God promotes you

Joshua 3: 7 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.

God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, it’s true.  As Christians it is natural to defer honor and glory to God.  In fact, this is how we should be living.  We should give honor to Him with our lives.  We should seek to direct all the attention towards Him.  And while this type of mentality is good, we need to realize this: sometimes God promotes you.

Here in Joshua 3:7, the Lord says to Joshua: I will exalt you.  He tells him that He wants the people to know that Joshua was the new main guy.  He was the new head cheese, so to speak.  And the words that God uses are uncharacteristic of the humble Christian way.  He doesn’t say anything here about Joshua giving God glory.  He doesn’t instruct Him at this juncture to turn all eyes upon God.  He doesn’t tell Him to make sure that God alone is exalted.  No, the Lord tells him – I want to exalt you, Joshua.

This is a peculiar thought to me.  I look at my ministry calling, as a pastor, humbly.  I fully recognize that the work that God is doing is, well… the work that God is doing.  It isn’t about me.  I shy away from the spotlight or the compliments.  I want to avoid pride like a kid avoids spinach.  But this passage today has left me thinking.  While the success of the ministry is entirely dependent upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit, I might need to look at the fact that God chose me. As I see in Joshua 3 today, sometimes God promotes you.  Sometimes He chooses to lift us up.  He does it because He wants people to see that He is with us.  This isn’t something that we should resist or avoid.  Rather I should recognize when it is Him (not others) lifting me up and thank Him for it.  He must know what He is doing, so my role is to go along with His plan.

So two Israelis go into a prostitute’s house…

Joshua 2:1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

Good for Joshua sending spies into the land to check out what they would be facing.  I’m not so sure about the spies.  As I was reading this today, it struck me funny – an odd funny really.  It says here that Joshua sent spies into the land and told them to look over Jericho.  I would expect the next sentence to read, “so they secretly went into Jericho and spied out all the land.”  But it doesn’t say that at all.  Instead, it says that they went and entered the house of a prostitute.  This sounds like the making of a really bad joke: so two Israelis go into a prostitute’s house…   Now I had to ask myself if these guys actually did the job they were supposed to do or, ahem… got sidetracked.

So I thought about it for a while, trying to figure out what two Israeli dudes were doing at a prostitute’s house in Jericho.  Were they really doing undercover work? (No pun intended)  Finally I came to the conclusion that they actually did keep to the task they were assigned.  After all, if they would have done business with Rahab, God surely would have struck them dead or something.  Or at least He would have told Joshua, who would have called them on it.  But neither of those things happened.  Rather, Rahab the prostitute gave them all the information they needed to know.  She hid them at her house and helped them escape.

Isn’t it just like God to use the most unlikely people? The thing is, it’s actually the most brilliant hiding spot possible in the whole town.  If the two foreigners were to have come into town and gone to the market, they would have been noticed.  If they would have tried to stay at a hotel, someone would have caught on.  If they started interviewing people on the streets, they surely would have been arrested.  But instead, it just looked like a couple of foreigners strolling into town looking to do a little “business” with the local prostitute.  No one suspected anything wrong with that.  And because of that, they were able to find out all they needed to know.  Because of that, they were able to escape.  All because God had them go to an unlikely refuge.

I guess the lesson today is this: don’t underestimate what God can do with anyone or any place.  He will use the least likely for His glory.  He will show up in places you least expect Him.  He’s been doing it for thousands of years and yet we still expect Him to conform to our “box.”  He’s an outside the box God, so be prepared to be amazed by how He works!

The ingredients of courage

Joshua 1:6-9 6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 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. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; 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. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

People who really love to cook have discovered the joy of creating.  It is more than eating to them, it is an art form.  Whether it is a new experimental dish or one that is tried and true, they can make it to perfection with a touch of personality.  Most of these people don’t follow recipes in cookbooks either.   They add a little of this and a little of that until the flavor rises to their expectations.  It is a skill, one that I do not possess.  I can make a mean Mac N Cheese, though… from the box.

But a dish is only as good as the sum of its ingredients.  If you leave out an important ingredient, your dish will be doomed.  Just ask the baker who forgot the salt or the chef who forgot the seasoning.  Failing to use all the correct ingredients creates a flop.  Those vanilla cookies might taste like vanilla, but vanilla bricks probably wasn’t what you were going for.  My wife and I were recently watching a baking contest (sounds exciting, huh?) and one of the guys forgot to add the shortening.  Result: the cake tasted awful.   Ingredients are what make up the whole.

Apparently courage has ingredients, too.  Here in Joshua 1, God tells Joshua to have courage.  Now if I were Joshua, I would be pretty stoked about this whole talk with God.  Basically God tells him, “you can’t fail, because I’m going to make it happen.”  These are words that will make any Christian giddy.  He basically says, “I said I would do it, now I am going to use you to do it.”  I love it!  He doesn’t have to be terrified or discouraged, because the Lord promised him that He would be there wherever he would go.  It’s interesting that God would even mention these words terrify and discourage.  Maybe He knew it was inevitable that those things would be thrown Joshua’s way.  But He gave him the heads up not to worry; instead be strong and courageous.    The real source of this courage comes from knowing that God is going to be right there pulling it off with you. It comes from knowing that you are in the center of God’s will walking out the promise that He gave you.  So God infused Joshua with courage that day.  That’s the first ingredient.

There’s another ingredient, however, that is often overlooked.  That ingredient is following the commands of the Lord.  You see, Joshua was promised the victory.  He was told by God that He was going to be successful.  But God also instructed Him to do what he was told.  “Don’t turn to the right or to the left,” God said.  “Obey my words and my law that I gave to Moses.”  It was when Joshua did those things that he was promised success.  It was upon that condition that he was promised success wherever he would go.  If he would have chosen not to follow the Lord’s commands, he would have been  foolish to have courage facing the battles that lied ahead. Both ingredients, obedience and God’s promises, were required for this courage.

The same is required of us today.  We are foolish to take courage in the Lord’s promises if we are unwilling to do our part.  We cannot say, “Lord hand me the victory while I take a nap.”  In the same way, we cannot follow the 10 commandments and expect the Lord to give us everything we think we want.  Instead, we need to seek Him and ask what His promises are for us.  In order to have real confident courage, we need both.  These are the ingredients of courage that God gave to Joshua that day.  Try them out for yourself and see how it tastes.