Joshua – New ways

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

The children of Israel have built their stone memorial to remember the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. They have settled in Gilgal, which interestingly enough means “circle of stones.”  (See “Joshua – Remembering“)

In addition to encouraging the Israelites, God had in mind to impact the people of this new land.

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might fear the Lord your God. Joshua 4:24

Do you remember how the news of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea had had a powerful effect on Rahab who helped Joshua’s spies? Now to hear this news so close to home would really have the people of Jericho nervous. Not only them—

Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. Joshua 5:1

The young men in the Hebrew camp needed to understand their heritage and be dedicated to bravely defend their sacred duty as God’s chosen people. Those who had been born in the desert had not been circumcised, the mark of every male who was a son of Abraham. This procedure held them down a few days while they healed. New ways.

The people had not celebrated Passover since they were in the desert, another new thing for the younger ones.

Remember that all through the desert, God had provided manna for them, their only food. 

The day after the Passover, they ate some of the produce of the land; unleavened bread and roasted grain. Joshua 5:11

          

Wouldn’t you love to see they’re faces with the first taste? Wouldn’t you like to hear their comments? Did they love it? How did they feel when they realized that their food would no longer fall from heaven? They would have to seek it out, grow it, and harvest it. More new ways.

We’re facing new ways, aren’t we? We’re learning to take our masks every time we go out. We’re conscious of staying six feet apart, sanitizing, and seeing empty waiting rooms at the doctor’s office. New ways often tax us because we like the familiar. 

Let’s admit it, even before the pandemic, we liked our routines and had a struggle at times adjusting to new patterns or life changes. We might move to a new city or struggle with a teenager. Perhaps we find ourselves in the hospital or lose a spouse. We may not like changes at church or feel frustrated with a job.

New ways require patience and perseverance. Hm, sounds like something from Romans.

…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 6:3-5 

~ Joyce ~

  

Joshua – Remembering

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

The tribes of Israel saw the power of God when the Red Sea parted. Now their descendants have seen the parting of the Jordan River at flood stage. (See “Joshua – Crossing the River“)

When monumental things happen in our lives, we want to do something to remember. We may take pictures or videos, give special gifts, write a letter, record it in our journal, or even make a statue of historical happenings—anything to remember this special event.

That’s exactly what God wanted Joshua to do after the children of Israel walked on dry land through the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Each tribe sent a representative to Joshua and he gave them these twelve men instructions from the Lord,

“Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder to serve as a sign among you.” Joshua 4:5-6a

          

These aren’t little rocks to hold in one hand. I imagine we’re talking about stones that are much larger than a basketball! They were to bring the stones to Gilgal, their first settlement when they crossed over the river. 

The four priests remained in the middle of the Jordan until the twelve representatives retrieved their stones and left.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Command the priests carrying the ark of the Testimony to come up out of the Jordan.” No sooner had they set their feet on dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before. Joshua 4:15, 18b

So what’s with the stones? Just as we make our videos, or statues are erected, or gravestones are put in place, we do these things to remember the person or the event or the historical significance. 

Joshua set up the twelve stones and said,

“These will serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:6-7

The Covid-19 virus has certainly been an historic event in our time, affecting our whole country and the whole world for that matter. What will we designate as a remembrance? Pictures of having to look through a glass at our new grandbabies or older loved ones in assisted living facilities? Friendships deepened with those we have helped with grocery shopping, phone calls, or zoom Sunday School lessons?

Have some learned to home school their children? Or have greater appreciation of teachers? Have things around the house benefited from over-due projects?

If I get my book published by the end of the year, that will be my memorial of extra hours available during this time!

If someone asks you about your rock memorial, what do you want them to remember?

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Pause and Reflect

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As we pause with the children of Israel who have now made it to the Jordan River, (See Joshua – Get Ready! Click on BLOG), let us reflect on the journey that these people have traveled for forty long years.

Can you imagine the excitement they must feel as they consecrate themselves for this momentous occasion?  Remember that after Joshua and the spies of his day returned from their journey, the people were frightened and unwilling to go farther into the Promised Land. God told them

“In this desert your bodies will fall, every one of you twenty years old or more … except for Caleb and Joshua. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness.” Numbers 14:29-30, 33

I’m thinking only the ones who had been 5 to 20 years-old would even remember leaving Egypt or the crossing of the Red Sea. These young ones would now have reached the age of 45 to 60. That means those who were now under 45 would have only known the desert.

I imagine that on this night, the grandpas and the fathers would have sat the younger ones down at dinner time to recall the past. I envision them talking about the hard life in Egypt as slaves, the plagues, and Moses’ leadership to bring them out of their bondage.

Then with excitement, they might retell the glory of God’s protection with the pillar of fire by night and the and the pillar of cloud by day. Excitement would build as the story-telling grandfather would speak of Pharaoh’s army storming across the desert behind them and the panic the people felt with a rushing sea in front of them–nowhere to go!

The children might be waiting for the climatic part of the story they had heard so many times, how Moses raised the staff and God parted the waters before them. The father might be nodding his head and getting caught up in the old story as well. He might recall, “And we walked across on dry ground while the waters were held back beside us!”

The patriarch of the family might remind the younger ones, “And now, the land just across this river before us is the very land that God promised us years ago, all the way back to our father Abraham.”

I imagine the fathers would have tears in their eyes as they realized that the promise is finally about to be fulfilled right before their eyes. Perhaps, even the children sense the awesome days that are before them.

We wait with them, reflecting on the wondrous way their lives will soon change. What will it be like? Will they have stone houses to live in? Do the younger ones even know about stone houses? What kind of food will they eat? All they have ever known is manna. This area is already so different from the hot desert. They see green palm trees, grass and a river. They feel cooler temperatures.

What more is in store?

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Get Ready!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

When the spies returned from Jericho, they shared their good news with Joshua. (See Joshua – Rahab’s Pact) They summed it up by saying,

“The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Joshua 2:24

Three days earlier, Joshua, who heeded God’s encouragement to be strong and courageous, had given orders to his officers.

“Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’ “ Joshua 1:11 

The spies had been gone those three days and arrived back to the camp just in time to give their good news and get ready to travel with the camp. God’s timing is always perfect. His finger points us in the right direction when our eyes are watching and our hearts are ready.

So this huge group of people have packed up their things once again, ready to move forward.

When they move to their new location, they camp again fairly close to the Jordan River. The plan is to wait three more days.

Now the officers go through the camp giving another order.

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out and follow it. Then you will know which way to go since you have never been this way before. Joshua 3:3-4a

Why the ark of the covenant? While God is not confined to a box, this “box” had special meaning to the people. It contained the ten commandments, Moses’ rod, and a sample of the manna which represented God’s commands, His protection, and His provision. More than that, it represented the presence of God to these people. 

So, in essence, following the ark of the covenant was like following God. Just to maintain respect and awe for their divine God, they were told to keep a respectable distance from it, about a thousand yards. Imagine ten football fields!

To prepare for this special moment, Joshua tells the people,

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5

“Consecrate” usually meant bathing themselves and preparing themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually for something special. Think of a graduation or a wedding. You take a bath, prepare your garments, think through what is about to take place.

Think of moving forward for something special in your life—a renewed relationship with your spouse, a new job, a new ministry, a witnessing opportunity, even a burial for a loved one. You prepare yourself or consecrate yourself.

For me, right now, it is preparing for the publishing of my book. I edit and ask others to look at it.  I watch videos of teachers giving advice on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing, praying God will give me the next step.

What amazing thing is he ready to do in your life?

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Rahab’s Pact

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Spies have been sent into Jericho to check out the city. (See “Joshua – Spies in the Land“)

The spies have found safe haven with Rahab, a prostitute of all things! She also gives them insight on the view of the Jericho mindset.

“I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” Joshua 2:9

Obviously, this is music to the spies’ ears, a valuable piece of news to share with Joshua and the leaders.

Rahab then makes a pact with the spies.

“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my family.” Joshua 2:12-13

The two spies agree to protect her and her family.

“Our lives for your lives! If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.” Joshua 2:14

They give two conditions on the agreement—she must tie a scarlet cord in her window (to identify her house)and have all her family gathered together in her house when the Israelites enter the land. 

Rahab devises a plan to help the spies return safely. She lets them down with a rope through her window so they won’t have to go through the city gate and advises them to go to the hills so the pursuers will not find them. They should hide there for three days before they attempt to go back to their people.

Then she hangs a scarlet cord in her window in readiness, as they requested.

Joshua gladly welcomes the spies back, hears their story, and gives thanks for their findings.

“The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” Joshua 2:24

God has opened their eyes and encouraged their hearts for the task ahead.

What task does he have ahead for you?

At our old house, I had a neighbor who became a close friend. I had casual friendship with a couple more. Otherwise, I hardly knew any of my neighbors. If I had met some of them out in public, I wouldn’t even know them!

I determined to get to know the neighbors here in our new neighborhood. As people move into the new houses, we take a plate of home-made cookies. I plan to arrange get-togethers soon. You never  know when you might meet a “Rahab” who is just waiting to know more about God.

What is he calling you to do? 

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Spying Out the Land

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 Seeking His Heart

Joshua takes to heart God’s encouraging words. (See “Joshua – Be Strong and Courageous”) 

His first task is to send two spies into Jericho to check things out. (Remember, Joshua himself was a spy years before.) Now this is no easy task. After all, the leaders of Jericho have been made quite aware that thousands of people are camped just across the Jordan River from them.  

Therefore, the first challenge is to even get through the gate of this walled city—unnoticed. Alas, the spies do manage to get in. 

Now very close to the entrance, they find an inn, managed by a woman named Rahab, who quietly takes them in.  She realizes they are Israelites, but doesn’t tell on them. In fact, she protects them and hides them on her roof and covers them with stalks of flax.

      

The king learns of the spies’ presence in Jericho and that they were seen going to Rahab’s, so the king sends soldiers to her house.

“Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” Joshua 2:3

Rahab covers for the spies and sends the messengers on a wild goose chase out of the city.

 What will Rahab do now? Did I mention that Rahab happens to be a prostitute? Does she plan to use her alluring charms on the spies?

Quite the opposite. You see, with her house being located up in the wall, close to the entrance of the city, she hears the talk of those who come and go just below her house. She also hears the talk from those who use her “services.” What did she hear?

“We have heard how the Lord dried up the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.” Joshua 2:10

Perhaps there are other events that she heard about that aren’t mentioned—enough that she realizes that their one God is far more powerful than the many gods of her people. Rahab says,

“…the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Joshua 2:11b

What are the chances that these two men who know nothing of the city, find their way to a receptive, helpful woman to protect them?

Think also about the fact that she has lived all her life in this pagan city, far removed from the God-fearing Israelites. What are the chances of hearing the stories of these people?

While her people are struck with fear, she wants to protect these men and know more about their God.

We never know when someone is ready to hear a message from the Lord and that He is ready to use us. Perhaps we need to be “spying out the land” as well.

Hmm, let’s ponder this prostitute a bit more next week!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Joshua – Be Strong and Courageous

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Moses died at age 150, but before he died, he climbed Mt. Nebo and God showed him a view of the Promised Land. Obviously, the people wept and mourned the passing of their great leader, but he had left them in good hands.

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses. Deuteronomy 34:9

At this point, the people have made their way around the Dead Sea and are near the shore of the Jordan River across from the city of Jericho. Immediately, the Lord gives instructions.

“Now, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” Joshua 1:2-3

Now this was no easy task. It wasn’t like the land was empty and Joshua and his people could just march in and set up their flag. No, tribes of people had come into this land and lived there during the 400 years that Jacob and his descendants had been in Egypt. These tribes of Canaan had formed their cities and their armies along with their many gods.

Just as Jesus told his disciples, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20) so God tells Joshua,

“I will be with you: I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

Then three times, the Lord gives the command, “Be strong and courageous!”

“… because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” Joshua 1:6

The land had been promised to Abraham centuries before.

The second “Be strong and courageous” warns Joshua to be careful to obey the law God had given to Moses.

“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.” Joshua 1:8

The very reason the pagan people of this land must go is because they have been worshiping idols and other gods. It must not be so with God’s people.

The third time, God emphasizes again to Joshua—

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

God has plans for your life and mine, no matter our age or circumstances. He warns us to study His word, meditate on it, obey it, and remember that He will be with us at all times. Then He says even to us, “Be strong and courageous!”

When we are weak, He is our strength. He will bring a song of joy! I love that reminder on one of my tea cups.

      

Perhaps the battle for control of your mind and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Be strong and courageous!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Joshua, the Greatest Preparation

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

We caught a glimpse of Joshua last week and actions God used to prepare this young man for greater challenges ahead. (See Joshua – Preparation) Battles in the desert were few, however, the Amalekites came to fight and Joshua was called on to protect his people.

We also learned that Joshua joined eleven other spies to have a peek at the Promised Land to check it out. This trip whet his appetite. Joshua and Caleb were ready to take the land with the assurance of God’s help, but the other ten spies vetoed the idea, so they ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 more years.

During that time, Joshua became Moses’ right hand man. He watched Moses deal with the people, but more than that, he witnessed Moses’ devotion to God.

When other leaders were told they could come to the foot of Mt. Sinai and no farther, Moses told Joshua to come on up the mountain with him.

      

What was that like to be so deeply in the presence of Almighty God? What sounds did he hear? What smells? What sights? What was the feel of the air? How were Joshua’s emotions affected by the deep presence of God? It gives the true meaning to the word “awesome.” (A word we have horribly trivialized.)

What did the people feel, even at a distance,?

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled in fear. Exodus 2018

After Moses came down from the mountain with Joshua, the people said,

“Speak to us yourself, Moses, and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Exodus 20:19

I have felt my spirit warmed enough by His Spirit that I dedicated myself to a task He ask of me. I have sensed God working in circumstances in my life, but Joshua’s experience with Moses and with God gives new meaning to having a “mountain top” experience.

Even in the tent of meeting, God spoke to Moses with Joshua close by. (Exodus 33:11) I believe these moments in God’s presence provided the greatest preparation Joshua could ever have.

And so it is with us. Our experiences may not be as dramatic as Joshua’s, but the Lord can warm our hearts, give divine direction, and fill us with courage beyond ourselves if we will just walk to the mountain and seek His holy presence.

Are you young? Wondering what work path to follow? The right person to marry? God offers guidance.

Are you knee deep in marriage, dealing with your children, juggling it all with work issues? God can help you sort it out.

Have you lost your spouse? Are you losing your youthful health, wondering about next steps? He’s still there to lead you and bring fulfillment.

Come to the mountain. Drink deeply from the rich source of His presence. Cry out to Him; He’s ready to infuse your life.

~ Joyce ~

Joshua – Preparation

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Recently, I wrote a note to my graduating grandson. I was inspired to encourage him to study the book of Joshua with God’s words as a his motto:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I figured I, too, should familiarize myself with Joshua’s story once again. Who knows, this blog just might be the beginning of a study help for him, so I’ll practice on you. These brave words can apply to our lives as well—be strong!

Joshua’s story actually begins before the book of Joshua. He was a young man during the time when the Red Sea parted, possibly in his twenties. I picture him as being well built, showing signs of leadership, and ready to move forward with aggressive skills. (I’m thinking of my grandson.)

             

We are reminded in Numbers 13:8, that Joshua was one of the twelve spies sent into the land that God had promised Abraham. The spies found the land lush with vegetation, but dominated by large people who made them to feel like grasshoppers in comparison. In other words, they were afraid.

Caleb and Joshua disagreed with the other spies. Caleb and Joshua declared,

“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… the Lord is with us.” Numbers 14:8-9

Unfortunately, it was a 10 to 2 vote. Caleb and Joshua lost. The results? 40 more years, wandering in this desert. Moses told the people that all those above twenty years old would eventually die during those years, but Caleb and Joshua would live. (Numbers 14:26-33)

That gave Joshua plenty of time to prepare for future leadership.

The next time we read of Joshua, the Amalekites were storming toward the Hebrew camp. Moses told Joshua,

“Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” Exodus 17:9

During the battle, Moses held up his staff and as long as the staff was held high, the men were winning the battle, but when his arms grew weary, they began to lose. Aaron and Hur had to help Moses by holding up his arms and eventually, they won the battle. Quite a victory for the people and for Joshua!

Whether we are 18 or 52, we will encounter battles in our lives. To be successful, we too, must lift up our hands to God. When we take our eyes off of Him, we begin to falter. We see only the difficulties ahead. We focus on defeat. We think, “There’s no way I can do this” and we begin to lose the battle. Life lesson? Be strong, but keep your eyes on His power, not your own.

~ Joyce ~

Praising God for Sound

It always amazes me when I think about the fact that we all have two eyes, two ears, one nose and mouth, cheeks and eyebrows, yet each of us has a distinctive look—even twins. Another distinctive is our voices. 

If someone calls from the other room, you know which sister you hear. If a friend calls you on the phone, you know which friend by the voice.

We can tell much by the tone of the voice. He comes in from work and slams his things on the counter. The story of his tough day is biting, sharp, angry, fraught with frustration. We hear it in his tone.

She has pleasant conversation with her friend. The tone is light, warm, giggly.  Daughter comes in from school, animated, a pitch higher; she can’t get the words in quick enough. She aced her test, met the new boy, and got the lead role in the school play!

Whether we’re bitter, sad, questioning, or excited, one can hear it in our tone. It starts from the time we are born. The sounds from baby tell us if he’s hungry, afraid, happy, or mad.

 

And then there is the sound of music. We all have our tastes from country to classical. Sometimes music calms us with gentle serenity. Other times we delight in something bold, loud, triumphant, and exciting.

As I have enjoyed watching the Olympic ice skaters this week, I have been aware of how much the music enhances their programs. The triple-this and quad-that would not be nearly as exciting without the crescendos of the music.

The graceful, artistic  flow over the ice would not have nearly the same depth without the music that matches it. Likewise, rich, energetic music brings us right along with the skater into their final grandiose climaxes.

Do you remember when Joshua and the troops were ready to go into Jericho? Each day they were to march around the city. Imagine how intimidated the people in Jericho must have felt as they heard the pounding of marching feet around their city walls.

On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times… On the seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!” Joshua 6:15-16

Marching, trumpets, and shouts. Then the walls came tumbling down. What a climax!

They often used trumpets in battle and in victory, shofars to call to attention or call to prayer, stringed instruments, tambourines, and voices in worship. Though our instruments and songs are different, we too, use these to lift up our praise to God.

I think about how far we have come from the Gregorian chants of old to the beautiful and powerful texts and tunes of today. It makes me wonder what the music of heaven will be like. Beyond our imagining. No doubt, glorious!

Listen this week for the myriad of sounds around you. Praise Him for sound—even for the sound of quiet.

~ Joyce ~