291.) Joshua 11

June 14, 2010

Map for Joshua’s northern campaign:  the country comes together, piece by piece.

Joshua 11   (NRSV)

The United Kings of Northern Canaan Defeated

When King Jabin of Hazor heard of this, he sent to King Jobab of Madon, to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph, 2and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, 3to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. 4They came out, with all their troops, a great army, in number like the sand on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5All these kings joined their forces, and came and camped together at the waters of Merom, to fight with Israel.

6And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will hand over all of them, slain, to Israel; you shall hamstring their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.”

7So Joshua came suddenly upon them with all his fighting force, by the waters of Merom, and fell upon them. 8And the Lord handed them over to Israel, who attacked them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the valley of Mizpeh. They struck them down, until they had left no one remaining. 9And Joshua did to them as the Lord commanded him; he hamstrung their horses, and burned their chariots with fire.

10Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and struck its king down with the sword. Before that time Hazor was the head of all those kingdoms. 11And they put to the sword all who were in it, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed, and he burned Hazor with fire.

“The Burning of Hazor” by Avi Katz

12And all the towns of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took, and struck them with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. 13But Israel burned none of the towns that stood on mounds except Hazor, which Joshua did burn. 14All the spoil of these towns, and the livestock, the Israelites took for their booty; but all the people they struck down with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed. 15As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.

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Music:

Now the Israelites have their own land!  They have fought for it, yes, but they also know that it is a gift from God for themselves and their descendants.  The alternate national anthem for the United States puts those very thoughts to music.  School children sing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

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Summary of Joshua’s Conquests

16So Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland, 17from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He took all their kings, struck them down, and put them to death. 18Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.  (note:  some scholars say about seven years) 19There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all were taken in battle. 20For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

21At that time Joshua came and wiped out the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their towns. 22None of the Anakim was left in the land of the Israelites; some remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod. 23So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments.

And the land had rest from war.

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“The Gift Outright”
by Robert Frost

(Perhaps you remember watching it on television:  the old poet wrapped up in heavy coat and scarf, reciting this poem from memory at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration.)

The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people.  She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
map of the northern campaign.    http://www.easyenglish.info/bible-commentary/joshua11-12map.jpg
Katz.     http://www.avikatz.net/bible/joshua/joshua11-burning.jpg
Robert Frost and John F. Kennedy.    http://alumniconnections.com/olc/filelib/HAA/cpages/215/Library/Images/Robert%20Frost%20at%20JFK%20inauguration.jpg

290.) Joshua 10

June 11, 2010

“Joshua speaks to the sun” by Salvador Dali (1964)

Joshua 10   (NRSV)

The Sun Stands Still

photo of the sun by the Hubble Space Telescope

When King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2he became greatly frightened, because Gibeon was a large city, like one of the royal cities, and was larger than Ai, and all its men were warriors. 3So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent a message to King Hoham of Hebron, to King Piram of Jarmuth, to King Japhia of Lachish, and to King Debir of Eglon, saying, 4“Come up and help me, and let us attack Gibeon; for it has made peace with Joshua and with the Israelites.”

5Then the five kings of the Amorites—the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon—gathered their forces, and went up with all their armies and camped against Gibeon, and made war against it.

6And the Gibeonites sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us; for all the kings of the Amorites who live in the hill country are gathered against us.”

7So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the fighting force with him, all the mighty warriors. 8The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have handed them over to you; not one of them shall stand before you.”

9So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who inflicted a great slaughter on them at Gibeon, chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11As they fled before Israel, while they were going down the slope of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down huge stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the Israelites killed with the sword.

“The Lord hurled large hailstones down on them.”  –  by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

12On the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”

“Joshua Stops the Sun” by Rafael, 1518 (The Rafael Loggia, Vatican)

13And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in mid-heaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel.

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Music:

“Cannons”  by Phil Wickham. “The moon and the stars declare who you are . . . “

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from Joshua, by Jerome F.D. Creach:

At stake in our interpretation of this text is nothing less than our view of God’s role in history and nature.  This does not mean that the details of Joshua 10:1-14 must be taken as historical in order to be faithful to Scriptures.  In fact, we must recognize that the notion of the sun standing still is not as unique as verse 14 indicates.  There is a very similar story in the Iliad (II.412) in which Agamemnon prays that the sun would not set until the Achaeans won their battle.  Hence, Joshua’s authors are using battle imagery and descriptive language known in other traditions, and from that point one might conclude that the story is not historical.  Nevertheless, that point should not end discussion of the larger issue, God’s involvement in human affairs.  Historicity may not have been the real issue for the author of this story, either.  He is, after all, drawing information from an ancient source; he is not claiming to have seen the sun stand still.  Rather, his main concern was that God could and did intervene within history for Israel.

Herein lies the main issue for modern Christians.  This author, like all biblical writers, thought of history and nature as parts of the created order that God controlled.  He conceived humans as part of nature and therefore subject to the movements of history over which God was master.  The modern view of things has radically changed these relationships so that humans are separate from nature, and humans shape history.  This worldview encourages an understanding of God as one who allows the world to run by natural law and of humans as those who move and shape history.  Joshua 10:1-14 calls the church to wrestle with this arrogant understanding of humanity.  For indeed the church claims that there was a day like no other, namely the day of the resurrection of the Lord (Acts 2:29-36).  That day was not brought about by human will or plan but by the act of God on behalf of broken humanity.

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15Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

Five Kings Defeated

16Meanwhile, these five kings fled and hid themselves in the cave at Makkedah.

“Five kings had hidden in the cave.” — by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

17And it was told Joshua, “The five kings have been found, hidden in the cave at Makkedah.” 18Joshua said, “Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and set men by it to guard them; 19but do not stay there yourselves; pursue your enemies, and attack them from the rear. Do not let them enter their towns, for the Lord your God has given them into your hand.”

20When Joshua and the Israelites had finished inflicting a very great slaughter on them, until they were wiped out, and when the survivors had entered into the fortified towns, 21all the people returned safe to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah; no one dared to speak against any of the Israelites.

22Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.” 23They did so, and brought the five kings out to him from the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24When they brought the kings out to Joshua, Joshua summoned all the Israelites, and said to the chiefs of the warriors who had gone with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” Then they came near and put their feet on their necks.

25And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous; for thus the Lord will do to all the enemies against whom you fight.” 26Afterward Joshua struck them down and put them to death, and he hung them on five trees. And they hung on the trees until evening.

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Habakkuk 3:11-13 (New International Version)

Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.

In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations.

You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
Selah

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27At sunset Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves; they set large stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day.

28Joshua took Makkedah on that day, and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword; he utterly destroyed every person in it; he left no one remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.

Southern Cities Conquered

29Then Joshua passed on from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah, and fought against Libnah. 30The Lord gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel; and he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left no one remaining in it; and he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

31Next Joshua passed on from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish, and laid siege to it, and assaulted it. 32The Lord gave Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he took it on the second day, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it, as he had done to Libnah. 33Then King Horam of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua struck him and his people, leaving him no survivors.

34From Lachish Joshua passed on with all Israel to Eglon; and they laid siege to it, and assaulted it; 35and they took it that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword; and every person in it he utterly destroyed that day, as he had done to Lachish.

36Then Joshua went up with all Israel from Eglon to Hebron; they assaulted it, 37and took it, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it; he left no one remaining, just as he had done to Eglon, and utterly destroyed it with every person in it.

38Then Joshua, with all Israel, turned back to Debir and assaulted it, 39and he took it with its king and all its towns; they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person in it; he left no one remaining; just as he had done to Hebron, and, as he had done to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and its king.

40So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left no one remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded. 41And Joshua defeated them from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, as far as Gibeon. 42Joshua took all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.

43Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Dali.   http://membres.multimania.fr/eikon26/1Theb/Jos_01_24_Jos_inCanaan/source/19.htm
Hubble photograph of the sun.    http://www.rise.org.au/info/Res/sun/image001.gif
Tzarfati.    http://www.biblical-art.com/artist_artwork.asp?id_artist=2096&alt=2&pagenum=1
Rafael.    http://www.christusrex.org/www1/stanzas/L39-Joshua.jpg
history book.    http://www.clipartguide.com/_small/1386-0804-0812-1544.jpg
sun and moon.    http://www.universaluv.com/universalUV%20website/Paintings/Sun%20&%20Moon.jpg
map of Joshua’s southern campaign.    http://www.betemunah.org/city_files/image017.jpg

289.) Joshua 9

June 10, 2010

More tricks today!

Joshua 9   (NRSV)

The Gibeonites Save Themselves by Trickery

Now when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon—the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites—heard of this, 2they gathered together with one accord to fight Joshua and Israel.

3But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4they on their part acted with cunning: they went and prepared provisions, and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, 5with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes; and all their provisions were dry and moldy. 6They went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the Israelites, “We have come from a far country; so now make a treaty with us.”

7But the Israelites said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a treaty with you?”

“Perhaps you live near us.” — by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

8They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.”

And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?”

9They said to him, “Your servants have come from a very far country, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard a report of him, of all that he did in Egypt, 10and of all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, King Sihon of Heshbon, and King Og of Bashan who lived in Ashtaroth. 11So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey; go to meet them, and say to them, “We are your servants; come now, make a treaty with us.”’ 12Here is our bread; it was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey, on the day we set out to come to you, but now, see, it is dry and moldy; 13these wineskins were new when we filled them, and see, they are burst; and these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.”

14So the leaders partook of their provisions, and did not ask direction from the Lord.

It seems to take us a long time to learn the lesson that neglect of prayer always leads to trouble, and destroys the spirit of discernment.  Neglect of prayer always suggests pride in our own judgment, which is fatal.  Satan as an angel of light is so plausible.  The foolish virgins so resembled those who were wide.  The tares sown in the field are so similar to the wheat.  The voice of the hireling sounds very like the voice of the shepherd.

How can we ever match Satan and his subtle ways?  Listen to me.  Never, never, NEVER trust your own judgment in anything.  When common sense says that a course is right, lift your heart to God, for the path of faith and the path of blessing may be in a direction completely opposite to that which you call common sense.  When voices tell you that action is urgent, that something must be done immediately, refer everything to the tribunal of heaven.  Then if you are still in doubt, dare to stand still.  Be strong enough and brave enough to dare to stand and wait on God, for none of them that wait on Him shall ever be ashamed.  Take it, all of it, to the Lord in prayer.

–from Victorious Christian Living:  Studies in the Book of Joshua
by Alan Redpath

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15And Joshua made peace with them, guaranteeing their lives by a treaty; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.

16But when three days had passed after they had made a treaty with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and were living among them. 17So the Israelites set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. 18But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders.

19But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we must not touch them. 20This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that wrath may not come upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” 21The leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, as the leaders had decided concerning them.

22Joshua summoned them, and said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ while in fact you are living among us? 23Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall always be slaves, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.”

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Psalm 84:10 (New International Version)

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

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24They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you; so we were in great fear for our lives because of you, and did this thing. 25And now we are in your hand: do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.”

26This is what he did for them: he saved them from the Israelites; and they did not kill them. 27But on that day Joshua made them hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to continue to this day, in the place that he should choose.

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Music:

Selah does a hauntingly beautiful version of the traditional folksong  “I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger.”  This song reminds me of the clever / deceitful ruse used by the Gibeonites, and the long road the Israelites had already traveled to be “just going over Jordan.”

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
rabbit in magic hat.    http://www.magicmasters.com/store/customer/images/Magic-0101.gif
Tzarfati.    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tanach/albom/pictures/26.htm
oops.    http://www.faithandfacts.com/wp-content/uploads/oops.jpg
church at Las Palmas, San Isidro, Mexico.  Photograph by Lori Cannon.    http://w3.gorge.net/cannon/insidechurch.jpg

288.) Joshua 8

June 9, 2010

After an unsuccessful encounter with Ai, Joshua sought the Lord’s guidance. The next attack worked — by means of a ruse. Homer tells of a similar trick with the Trojan Horse. Both Joshua and Odysseus achieved military success and burned their enemies’ cities.

Joshua 8   (NRSV)

Ai Captured and Destroyed

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed; take all the fighting men with you, and go up now to Ai. See, I have handed over to you the king of Ai with his people, his city, and his land. 2You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king; only its spoil and its livestock you may take as booty for yourselves. Set an ambush against the city, behind it.”

3So Joshua and all the fighting men set out to go up against Ai.

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Music:

As a church organist for more than 30 years, I am saddened when I think that so many young people in our churches are no longer familiar with some of the great hymns of the faith.  Here is one of the classics that never fails to inspire me:   “Onward, Christian Soldiers”  is sung here by a group which many DWELLING readers love — Libera.

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Joshua chose thirty thousand warriors and sent them out by night 4with the command, “You shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it; do not go very far from the city, but all of you stay alert. 5I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. When they come out against us, as before, we shall flee from them. 6They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city; for they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, as before.’ While we flee from them, 7you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city; for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8And when you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire, doing as the Lord has ordered; see, I have commanded you.”

9So Joshua sent them out; and they went to the place of ambush, and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai; but Joshua spent that night in the camp.

10In the morning Joshua rose early and mustered the people, and went up, with the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11All the fighting men who were with him went up, and drew near before the city, and camped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. 12Taking about five thousand men, he set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley.

14When the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the inhabitants of the city, hurried out early in the morning to the meeting place facing the Arabah to meet Israel in battle; but he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15And Joshua and all Israel made a pretense of being beaten before them, and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. 17There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel; they left the city open, and pursued Israel.

18Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the sword that is in your hand toward Ai; for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the sword that was in his hand toward the city.

When the Mormons moved out West in the mid-1800′s, they came upon these unusually shaped trees and were reminded of the story of Joshua holding up his sword in this passage. So they named them “Joshua trees.” This photograph was taken by Andrew Chasteen at Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California.

19As soon as he stretched out his hand, the troops in ambush rose quickly out of their place and rushed forward. They entered the city, took it, and at once set the city on fire.

20So when the men of Ai looked back, the smoke of the city was rising to the sky.

“The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of their city rising into the sky.” — by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

They had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. 21When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was rising, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22And the others came out from the city against them; so they were surrounded by Israelites, some on one side, and some on the other; and Israel struck them down until no one was left who survived or escaped. 23But the king of Ai was taken alive and brought to Joshua.

24When Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and when all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of the sword. 25The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai. 26For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the sword, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their booty, according to the word of the Lord that he had issued to Joshua.

28So Joshua burned Ai, and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. 29And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, threw it down at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.

Joshua Renews the Covenant

The amphitheater provided by the valley between the two mountains is utterly natural and very resonant.

30Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, “an altar of unhewn stones, on which no iron tool has been used”; and they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed offerings of well-being. 32And there, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.

33All Israel, alien as well as citizen, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark in front of the levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel.

34And afterward he read all the words of the law, blessings and curses, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the aliens who resided among them.

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So now we, as readers and hearers of the Word of the Lord in this book, know that Joshua is doing just what he was instructed to do in chapter 1 — to “act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you.”  He has led the people to take possession of the land for God.  They have erected an altar and given offerings.  Then they wrote out the law in permanent, visible form, and stood while it was read aloud to them.   Surely a day to remember!

This short but significant passage also reminds us that Joshua’s most important duty was not to engage in warfare and conquest, but to lead Israel in faithfulness and obedience to God.  It is a common temptation for Christians to believe that WHAT WE DO for God is more important than WHO WE ARE for God. Let us not be so busy getting good things done that we forget to “make every effort to enter that rest,” as we recently read in Hebrews 4, and be transformed by the refreshing, renewing presence of our Lord.

Your thoughts?

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Trojan Horse.     http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_TflM1a5ATJQ/Sw5NeVEIPkI/AAAAAAAABVI/ZPA-fOWIRE0/s1600/troy+trojan+horse.jpg
Chasteen.    http://www.climbing.com/photo/image/jtree-andychasteen08/joshua-tree-andychasteen08.jpg
Tzarfati.    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tanach/albom/pictures/23.htm
Mts. Ebal and Gerizim.    http://www.bibletrack.com/notes/image/Ebal-Gerizim.jpg
Who are you?     http://www.fraserjohnson.co.uk/images/20080602114104_who-are-you.jpg

287.) Joshua 7

June 8, 2010

“Achan is stoned to death” –  by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)

Joshua 7   (NRSV)

The Sin of Achan and Its Punishment

But the Israelites broke faith in regard to the devoted things: Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the Lord burned against the Israelites.

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Music:

It may take a little mental re-arranging, but I bet you can apply this song to our chapter today!  Olivia Newton-John and “Hopelessly Devoted.”

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2Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai.

3Then they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Not all the people need go up; about two or three thousand men should go up and attack Ai. Since they are so few, do not make the whole people toil up there.” 4So about three thousand of the people went up there; and they fled before the men of Ai. 5The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them, chasing them from outside the gate as far as Shebarim and killing them on the slope. The hearts of the people melted and turned to water.

6Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the ground on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7Joshua said, “Ah, Lord God! Why have you brought this people across the Jordan at all, to hand us over to the Amorites so as to destroy us? Would that we had been content to settle beyond the Jordan! 8O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has turned their backs to their enemies! 9The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will you do for your great name?”

1 Kings 8:41-42 (New Living Translation)

“In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name,  for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm.”

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10The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face? 11Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I imposed on them. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have acted deceitfully, and they have put them among their own belongings. 12Therefore the Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they turn their backs to their enemies, because they have become a thing devoted for destruction themselves. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13Proceed to sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “There are devoted things among you, O Israel; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.”

14‘In the morning therefore you shall come forward tribe by tribe. The tribe that the Lord takes shall come near by clans, the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households, and the household that the Lord takes shall come near one by one. 15And the one who is taken as having the devoted things shall be burned with fire, together with all that he has, for having transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and for having done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”

16So Joshua rose early in the morning, and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17He brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken; and he brought near the clan of the Zerahites, family by family, and Zabdi was taken. 18And he brought near his household one by one, and Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.

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from Joshua, by Jerome F.D. Creach:

At the heart of Achan’s struggle is a problem with human autonomy or, rather, a false sense of human autonomy.  The idea that some human actions are actually stealing from God is based on the belief that humans are ultimately dependent on the Lord for their existence and that a certain portion of life or possessions should be given to God as confession of that fact.  Denying that creator-creature relationship is the root of sin.  Or, as Soren Kierkegaard so aptly wrote, the sense of human adequacy is the primary barrier to genuine faith.  Whether expressed as confidence in science, moral progress, or military might, the human feeling of self-reliance distances a person from his or her creator.  Achan was someone who acted as though human power had won a battle and thus denied his dependence on God.

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19Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make confession to him. Tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”

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What does it really mean to give God “glory”?

Let’s begin with the very basic concept of giving glory to God.  1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” The word “glory” comes from the Greek word (doxa), and it means thought or opinion; it relates to one’s view of or judgment about a thing. In other words, when I “do all to the glory of God,” I am to live in such a way that people have a right opinion, right thoughts, and a proper perspective of God!

But let’s take it a step further.  We need to understand that it is impossible for us to give “glory to God” apart from having a relationship with Him.  Remember that Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD”!

To give God glory means to give others a right opinion about Him in “whatsoever ye do.” In order to do that, we must “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7).  Therefore, if any of us at present are walking “in darkness,” the only way back to a life that gives glory to God is to “confess our sins” (1 John 1:9).  This is exactly what Joshua expressed to Achan when he confronted him about the sin which Achan had both committed and concealed. He said, “My son, GIVE, I pray thee, GLORY to the Lord God of Israel, and MAKE CONFESSION UNTO HIM” (Joshua 7:19).  If you are not right with God, you can begin again to “give…glory to the Lord” when you “make confession unto him.”

from “Brother Smallwood’s Devotional Blog”
http://davidsmallwood.blogspot.com/2010/02/for-his-names-sake.html

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20And Achan answered Joshua, “It is true; I am the one who sinned against the Lord God of Israel. This is what I did: 21when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. They now lie hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Deuteronomy 5:19 (New International Version)

“You shall not steal.”

Deuteronomy 5:21 (New International Version)

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

How clearly this story shows us the irrationality of the unregenerate human heart!  Achan stole a beautiful robe:  Where would he wear it?  If he went out in it and his neighbors said, “Hey, Achan, what a nice robe!  Where did you get it?” — what could he say?  And he stole all that silver and a gold bar.  Where did he think he would spend it?  And did he think no one would notice and wonder?  How very foolish.  How very tragic.

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22So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and there it was, hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23They took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites; and they spread them out before the Lord.

24Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan son of Zerah, with the silver, the mantle, and the bar of gold, with his sons and daughters, with his oxen, donkeys, and sheep, and his tent and all that he had; and they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord is bringing trouble on you today.”

“Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks.” — by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

And all Israel stoned him to death; they burned them with fire, cast stones on them, 26and raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore that place to this day is called the Valley of Achor.

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from Joshua, by Jerome F.D. Creach:

The sins of one family member affected every other member, especially in the case of the head of the household, who embodied the values and actions of the entire group.  This becomes clear when we recognize that Achan’s sin is a negative parallel to Rahab’s right action.  When Joshua 7:15 says that the guilty one, “together with all that he has,” shall be destroyed,  it uses a phrase identical to the one that describes Rahab’s family in 6:25.  Rahab’s act of harboring the spies preserves her family, while Achan’s faithless deed dooms his.  Her righteousness was extended to her household, just as Achan’s disobedience caused his entire family to be implicated in his crime.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Dore.    http://ftp.xiphos.org/sword/modules/genbook/rawgenbook/dorewoodcuts/images/dore_06_josh07_achan_is_stoned_to_death.jpg
Yahweh.    http://media.photobucket.com/image/yahweh%252Bin%20English/Frank4YAHWEH/IAmYahweh-1.jpg
We’re Number 1!    http://media.point2.com/p2a/htmltext/47b6/fc41/4060/5894e06ba15e008797e4/original.jpg
“Glory to God” banner (First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, IL).    http://www.firstpreswheaton.org/images/glorybannerw.jpg
Achan hiding his loot.    http://www.godsacres.org/img.Achan.jpg
Tzarfati.    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tanach/albom/pictures/20.htm
statue of people holding hands.    http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com/statue_museum_fragment_232565_l.jpg

286.) Joshua 6

June 7, 2010

by Philip Ratner (Dennis and Philip Ratner Museum, Bethesda, Maryland)

Joshua 6   (NRSV)

Jericho Taken and Destroyed

Now Jericho was shut up inside and out because of the Israelites; no one came out and no one went in.

2The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers. 3You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days, 4with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. 5When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and all the people shall charge straight ahead.”

6So Joshua son of Nun summoned the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and have seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark of the Lord.” 7To the people he said, “Go forward and march around the city; have the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.”

“Go forward and march around the city”  –  by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

8As Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9And the armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets; the rear guard came after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10To the people Joshua gave this command: “You shall not shout or let your voice be heard, nor shall you utter a word, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11So the ark of the Lord went around the city, circling it once; and they came into the camp, and spent the night in the camp.

12Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord passed on, blowing the trumpets continually. The armed men went before them, and the rear guard came after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14On the second day they marched around the city once and then returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

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Such a ridiculous plan, really, to take a fortified city!

March around it in silence for six days.  March around it seven times on the seventh day.  Then yell!  One can hardly imagine what the Israelites were thinking as they followed the Lord’s instructions and marched around that city over and over and over again.

What seemingly meaningless, repetitive thing is God requiring of you now?  Could it be that while you are patiently persevering, He is preparing for your current obstacle to fall at your feet, to the glory of His name?  “Be strong and courageous” and wait obediently for your seventh day!

James 1:12 (New International Version)

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

–from Tozer on the Holy Spirit:

According to the Scriptures, patience—the ability to wait—is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The human, natural side of us does not like to wait for anything.  But the great God Almighty, who has all of eternity to accomplish His purposes, can afford to wait,  In our creature impatience we are prone to cry out, “O God, how long?  How long?”

And God replies, in effect, “Why are you in such a hurry?  We have an eternity stretching before us.”

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15On the seventh day they rose early, at dawn, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city. 17The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live because she hid the messengers we sent.

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Rahab had a past, but God gave her a future.

Hebrews 11:31 (New Living Translation)

It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

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18As for you, keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it. 19But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”

20So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat;

“When the trumpets sounded, and the people shouted, the walls collapsed” — by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. 21Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.

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Hebrews 11:30 (New Living Translation)

It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.

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22Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house, and bring the woman out of it and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23So the young men who had been spies went in and brought Rahab out, along with her father, her mother, her brothers, and all who belonged to her—they brought all her kindred out—and set them outside the camp of Israel. 24They burned down the city, and everything in it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. 25But Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, Joshua spared. Her family has lived in Israel ever since. For she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

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“devoted to destruction”

verse 17:  The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.

Nothing is to be left alive.  The city itself is to be burned.  The complete destruction of the city indicates that Jericho is to be like a whole burnt offering, completely destroyed as a gift to God.  Such an offering would acknowledge that God won the battle.

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26Joshua then pronounced this oath, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be anyone who tries to build this city—this Jericho! At the cost of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest he shall set up its gates!”

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Jericho is the world’s lowest city (more than 1,000 feet below sea level), and also appears to be the oldest (with evidence of settlement dating back to 9000 BCE).  Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of over 20 successive settlements of the city.

When the city of Jericho was rebuilt years later, the curse was fulfilled:

1 Kings 16:34 (New International Version)

In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

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27So the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land.

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Music:

“Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”  arranged by Moses Hogan and sung by the Nathaniel Dett Chorale.

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The visiting bishop asks little Johnny during Sunday School class, “Who broke down the walls of Jericho?”

Little Johnny replies, “I dunno, but it wasn’t me!”

The bishop, taken aback by Johnny’s lack of basic Bible knowledge, goes to the Director of Christian Education and relates the whole incident.

The director replies, “I know Little Johnny and his whole family very well and can vouch for them.  If Little Johnny said that he did not do it, then I am satisfied that it is the truth.”

Even more appalled, the bishop goes to the pastor and relates the whole story.

After listening the pastor replies, “I can’t see why you are making such a big issue out of this.  We’ll just get three quotes and fix the wall!”

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Ratner.    http://www.ratnermuseum.com/includes/images/photos/heroes/hero_1.jpg
Tzarfati.    http://biblical-art.com/artist_artwork.asp?id_artist=2096&alt=2&pagenum=1
tall walls of Jericho.     http://i.ytimg.com/vi/U3vNEh0wjRs/0.jpg
woman with a veil.     http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_LzOx_MVcFqU/Rzv05RDKM8I/AAAAAAAAAO0/qu9BBvLz6sk/s320/woman%2Bwith%2Bviel.jpg
walls of Jericho falling.    http://www.reformation.org/en-walls-of-jericho.jpg
walls of ancient Jericho.    http://howardbloom.net/jericho_wall_color.jpg
guy laughing.    http://www.edupics.com/laughing-t11665.jpg

285.) Joshua 5

June 4, 2010

“The Commander of the Lord’s Army” by Stephen Bautista

Joshua 5   (NRSV)

The New Generation Circumcised

When all the kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted, and there was no longer any spirit in them, because of the Israelites.

2At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites a second time.” 3So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath-haaraloth.

God had instituted the rite of circumcision to be the seal of the covenant which he graciously had made with Abraham (Genesis 17).  But the outward form of circumcision was of no avail without a circumcision of the heart — a pure heart wholly devoted to God.

Romans 2:25-29 (New International Version)

Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.

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4This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the warriors, had died during the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt. 5Although all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people born on the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6For the Israelites traveled forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the warriors who came out of Egypt, perished, not having listened to the voice of the Lord. To them the Lord swore that he would not let them see the land that he had sworn to their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.

7So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way. 8When the circumcising of all the nation was done, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed.

9The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

The Passover at Gilgal

10While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. 11On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Imagine how interesting it was for this generation — raised in the desert on manna and quail, plus meat and milk from their flocks — now to have fresh produce from the gardens and fields of Canaan!  I am glad for them!

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Joshua’s Vision

“A man standing in front of him”  –  by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

13Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?”

14He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, “What do you command your servant, my lord?”

15The commander of the army of the Lord said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.

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Good for you, Joshua!

John 12:26  (NRSV)

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

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Music:

Some Christian interpreters have reasoned that the heavenly figure was Christ, because, as Wesley put it, “a created angel dared not receive” Joshua’s worship.  Was he neither man nor angel, but the pre-incarnate Christ?  Perhaps what matters more to us is that Jesus himself does stand before us, asking us to follow him.  May our response be like Joshua’s — worship and obedience.

“In Christ Alone”  by Brian Littrell.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Bautista.    http://www.stephenbautista.com/Images/artsministry/commander.jpg
heart.    http://www.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/4893665/2/istockphoto_4893665-rose-petal-heart.jpg
milk and honey.    http://sonsdiary.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/milkandhoney.jpg
fruits and vegetables.    http://files.myopera.com/lambchop777/blog/fruits-and-vegetables-3.jpg
Tzarfati.    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tanach/albom/pictures/11.htm
award ribbon.    http://www.css.to/images/award_ribbon.gif

284.) Joshua 4

June 3, 2010

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  –  1 Peter 2:4-5

Joshua 4   (NRSV)

Twelve Stones Set Up at Gilgal

When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: 2“Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’”

4Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. 5Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, 6so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”

“They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan” — by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

8The Israelites did as Joshua commanded. They took up twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord told Joshua, carried them over with them to the place where they camped, and laid them down there. 9(Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.)

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I have dear friends who have a lovely cottage on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  When you walk out the back door, across the lawn, and to the waterline, you will find rocks much like those in the picture above — red and blue and gray and beige — some large enough to sit on while you dangle your feet in the always-very-cold water.  Inside the house, on a shelf by the kitchen table, is a clear glass jar with smaller rocks that have been brought in from the shore.

I have never asked my friends, but I wonder if these rocks are their own “stones of remembrance.”  Does each stone have a story to tell, of births or adoptions, of homes or travels, of aching loss or joyful peace of heart, of the Lord’s voice in their ear and his hand on their shoulder?  Perhaps these stones remind them that words in the Bible can sometimes change from merely ink on paper to life’s most meaningful reality!  Do they smile when they gaze at these stones and remember with the psalmist that “God is my rock, in whom I take refuge”?

If it is so, and it would not surprise me if it is, then that simple shelf in their kitchen is an altar of worship to the Lord.

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10The priests who bore the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan, until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. The people crossed over in haste. 11As soon as all the people had finished crossing over, the ark of the Lord, and the priests, crossed over in front of the people. 12The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the Israelites, as Moses had ordered them. 13About forty thousand armed for war crossed over before the Lord to the plains of Jericho for battle.

14On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him, as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.

15The Lord said to Joshua, 16“Command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, to come up out of the Jordan.”

17Joshua therefore commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.”

18When the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord came up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet touched dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.

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Music:

“Down to the River to Pray”  sung by Alison Krauss.

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19The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.

20Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, 21saying to the Israelites, “When your children ask their parents in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’ 23For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, 24so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

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from Whispers of His Power, by Amy Carmichael:

TWO HEAPS OF STONES

One heap of stones was covered over by the waters of this river; the other heap was set up in the open for all to see.

Have you ever passed through some new experience of the power and the love of your Lord?  It helps if you write the date beside the verse in your Bible which helped you, or write a word or two of reminder in a private notebook, lest you forget.  That note will be like the heap of stones set up in the river.  Nobody will see it but your God and you.  It is a private heap.

But don’t forget the other heap, which wasn’t private.  “Your children will ask . . .” (verse 21).  The children you look after, the sick you tend, the people you meet, will notice something that will make them ask questions.  Take them into your confidence.  Tell them what has been done for you, not long ago, but perhaps an hour or two ago, or yesterday, or last week.

Set up your heaps of stones to the glory of your Lord, so that all will see that He is indeed a God of Deliverances, a splendid, loving, joy-giving Lord whom to serve is the greatest joy in all the world.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
stone pillar.   http://www.panhala.net/Archive/seek%20patience.jpg
stones on the shoreline of Lake Superior.    http://image02.webshots.com/2/7/31/42/41473142eQcvVk_fs.jpg
Tzarfati.    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tanach/albom/pictures/12.htm
pile of stones.   http://www.explorecrete.com/crete-pictures/Samaria-gorge/fullsize/19-samaria065_fs.jpg

283.) Joshua 3

June 2, 2010

Joshua 3   (NRSV)

Israel Crosses the Jordan

Early in the morning Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites, and they came to the Jordan. They camped there before crossing over. 2At the end of three days the officers went through the camp 3and commanded the people, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place. Follow it, 4so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, a distance of about two thousand cubits; do not come any nearer to it.”

5Then Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

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Joshua 3:5 (English Standard Version)

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”

  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
    Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
  2. Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee;
    Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
  3. Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee;
    Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
  4. Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise;
    Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  5. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine;
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  6. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store;
    Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.

written by Frances R. Havergal, 1874

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6To the priests Joshua said, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass on in front of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went in front of the people.

7The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. 8You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’”

9Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.” 10Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: 11the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan.

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The Living God.  The Lord of All the Earth.

These names for God help us “to see Him big,” as Tozer puts it.  The Lord has power to act on Israel’s (and our) behalf; the Lord will do good things, great things for them (and us).  The Lord is sovereign over the universe (and over our own lives).  When we truly believe that God is in fact that great, then we can truly trust God to do what is right for us, to “fulfill His purposes for me,” as Psalm 138:8 says.  God has  irrevocably shown us that He infinitely loves us, when He put Jesus on the cross for our sakes.  There is no need to be afraid:  Be strong and courageous in our strong and mighty God!

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12So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

14When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. 15Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water,

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“You can’t test courage cautiously.”
–Annie Dillard

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16the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

“The priests stood firm on dry ground” — by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

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Music:

Crossing the Jordan River has become a metaphor for traveling from earthly life to everlasting life, for leaving the wandering of human toil to go to the Promised Land of peace and rest.   The old spiritual “Deep River” speaks to our longing for that eternal home.  This beautiful arrangement is by Norman Luboff.

Deep River, my home is over Jordan.
Deep River, Lord, I want to cross over into campground.
Oh, don’t you want to go to that Gospel feast,
that Promised Land where all is peace.
Deep River, Lord, I want to cross over into campground.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
crossing the Jordan.    http://vanwessem.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/crossing-the-jordan_t_nv.jpg
Consecration.    http://revonwheels.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/consecration.jpg
names for God.    http://www.artfromthesoul.com/MiracleDay/Names-for-Card-L.jpg
Nin quote.    http://www.maverickfitnesscoach.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/courage-maverickfitnesscoach.com-for-fat-loss-300×299.jpg
Tzarfati.    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tanach/albom/pictures/08.htm

282.) Joshua 2

June 1, 2010

The red sash hanging from Rahab’s window reminds us of the red blood of Passover in Exodus 12 –”While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses:  each family must choose a lamb for a sacrifice.  They must slaughter the lamb and take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the door frames of the houses.”

Joshua 2   (NRSV)

Rahab and the Spies

2Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there.

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1 Peter 4:8 –
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

The hooker with the heart of gold . . .

is a literary archetype:  a woman who sells sex for cash but is internally a good person.  Besides Rahab in the Bible, we have Aldonza in Man of LaMancha — Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind — Bianca in Othello — Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire — Nancy from Oliver Twist — Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke — Sofya Marmeladov from Crime and Punishment — Vivian in Pretty Woman — and many others.  In the musical Les Miserables, Fantine is our golden-hearted girl.  Here is her song, “I Dreamed a Dream.”


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2The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.”

4But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” 6She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof.

7So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

8Before they went to sleep, she came up to them on the roof 9and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. 10For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. 12Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith 13that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”

14The men said to her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the Lord gives us the land.”

15Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the outer side of the city wall and she resided within the wall itself. 16She said to them, “Go toward the hill country, so that the pursuers may not come upon you. Hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers have returned; then afterward you may go your way.”

17The men said to her, “We will be released from this oath that you have made us swear to you 18if we invade the land and you do not tie this crimson cord in the window through which you let us down, and you do not gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your family. 19If any of you go out of the doors of your house into the street, they shall be responsible for their own death, and we shall be innocent; but if a hand is laid upon any who are with you in the house, we shall bear the responsibility for their death. 20But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be released from this oath that you made us swear to you.”

21She said, “According to your words, so be it.” She sent them away and they departed. Then she tied the crimson cord in the window.

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Matthew 1:1-6 (New International Version)

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.

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22They departed and went into the hill country and stayed there three days, until the pursuers returned. The pursuers had searched all along the way and found nothing. 23Then the two men came down again from the hill country. They crossed over, came to Joshua son of Nun, and told him all that had happened to them. 24They said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.”

“The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands” — by Israeli artist Nurit Tzarfati

Quite a different report than the one the ten spies brought back to Moses at Kadesh-barnea!  This has the true ring of faith, and may have reminded Joshua of his own words many years ago:

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.  Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:7-9).

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
red sash on window.     http://gbcdecatur.org/files/Rahab.jpg
gold heart necklace.    http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/images/heartgold.jpg
Rahab hides the spies under the flax.    http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/StandardBibleStoryReadersBook5/images/scan0014-1.jpg
the spies escape with Rahab’s help.     http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_7l8fOTWriwo/S2st20kwsnI/AAAAAAAAAr8/WAuMeB3kcK4/s320/P00055_Rahab_and_the_two_spies-787×751.jpg
Mary and Jesus in decorative Christmas lights.    http://christmaslightsheaven.com.au/images/mary&Baby_jesus-CH0757_R1.jpg
Tzarfati.  http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/tanach/albom/pictures/rahav7.htm

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