Joshua – Final Reflections

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Well, faithful readers, I realized that we started this venture into the book of Joshua back in June. If you’ve hung in with me that long, thank you. 

We come now to a very difficult aspect of God’s plan to understand. That little piece of land that we now call Israel, has long been the land God told Abraham he would inherit. The land was promised, thus the Promised Land. 

 

Early on, when Joseph brought the family to Egypt to survive the famine, they stayed over 400 years. God provided the way for them to return. However, in that time, other people groups had come in and inhabited the land, Canaanites, Amorites, and all the other “ites.” These were idol worshipers, not God-fearing people, not one-God believers.

God determined that Joshua be the commander to conquer the land and God would be with them. That sounds noble. Sure enough, God gave the instructions to march around Jericho and with a shout,

… the walls collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

And somehow that sounds  noble, until we consider what happened.

They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, and donkeys. Joshua 6:21

I picture women running and screaming, children crying, men grabbing their swords, and animals making frantic bleating and roaring sounds, not to mention blood everywhere. It makes “taking the city” not seem quite so noble.

In our post-Jesus world, we find it difficult to understand this kind of a command. No wonder that God urged Joshua to “be strong and courageous.”

There would come a time, centuries later, when they stayed in a disobedient attitude for too long and were exiled from their precious land into Babylonia.

Still, God chose these people, fickle though they were at times, to be the ones to carry His laws and His love to all the world. They must understand God’s power, His omnipotence, His demand to worship no other gods, even as they rested in His provisions for them.

We would do well to grasp more of His Sovereignty ourselves. (Notice the word reign in that word.) Unless we behold and obey Him, we too could fall into self-centered life-styles, shifting attitudes of disobedience, failing to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and failing to love our neighbors as ourselves—the essence of God’s Ten Commandments, which Jesus repeated.

Joshua would end up following God’s command and continued taking over other towns and cities with God’s help until they were finally able to establish twelve areas for the twelve tribes. You will find all of that in the latter chapters of Joshua.

Joshua died at age 110. 

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua 24:31

Well done, good and faithful servant.

~ Joyce ~

 

Joshua – Day Seven

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At last—day seven! The armed men and priests have walked around Jericho for six days. (See “Joshua – Keep Walking“) Now, the day they have been waiting for arrives.

They get up at daybreak to be ready for their longer day, the day of triumph.

Last week, we tried to imagine what might be their thoughts as they marched from day one to day six. This week, let’s ponder what the people of Jericho might have been thinking. 

“What are those people doing, marching around our city? Man the walls. Weapons ready. Protect the city!”

“Is that it? Are they just going to walk and leave?” “Here they come again.” “All they know how to do is walk and blow those noisy horns.”

By day seven, “It’s them again. They’ll just march around and be gone. Go on with your work.”

However, on day seven, they march a second time and a third time. The people of Jericho begin to realize that this is not just “once around and be gone.” They likely are getting more worried with every trip around. “What are they up to?”

             

The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! Only Rahab and all in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. Joshua 6:16-17

I’ve wondered before whether all the marching of so many feet for hours each day, and the seven-time trip on day seven, would surely shake up the earth around the walls, a unique physical thing the Lord used. No matter how the Lord did it, the people were faithful and gave that final SHOUT!

… the wall collapsed. So every man charged straight in and took the city. Joshua 6:20b

The people had been faithful to follow God’s directions even if it seemed strange and lengthy. Then, on cue, just as he said, they had victory with a SHOUT!

In our day, I think of the office worker who has faithfully behaved in such a way that his fellow worker knows he is a believer. He even mentions a verse now and then that helps his friend along the way or tells of an experience when he felt God’s direction. Then one day (shout), the friend asks a faith question that opens the way for a full witness!

Or here’s the parents who have agonized over the behavior of their teenager. A counselor gives them advice that seems useless, but they try, praying as they go. They don’t see immediate results. It’s like they are walking in the same circles getting nowhere, but they stay the course faithfully, then (shout), the Lord opens a door of great improvement!

Perhaps your challenge is with yourself. Do that thing which he has laid on your heart. As we said last week, keep walking, stay faithful. Your day to shout victory will come!

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Joshua – New ways

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 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 – Be Strong and Courageous

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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 ~

 

 

The Twelve Disciples

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 Seeking His Heart

Perhaps when you were young, you learned the little tune that named the twelve disciples. If not, or if you’ve forgotten it, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us a list, pretty much in the same order. 

Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus; Simon the zealot and Judas Iscariot. Matthew 10:2-4

By far, the one we hear about most is Simon whom Jesus later names Peter. I’ve already written several blogs about this very dynamic character who tops the list. While he doesn’t always show himself to be the “rock,” he certainly is a work in progress. 

When Jesus walked on the water, Peter said,

“Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28 

Rather adventurous, right?

Then there was the time when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter speaks for the group,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 

Well done, Peter! The very basis of our faith! Or as Jesus said,

“…on this rock I will build my church…” Matthew 16:18 

But then, Jesus began to explain to them that he must suffer many things at the hands of the Jerusalem leaders, be killed, and on the third day be raised again. 

Peter pops back with,

“Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Matthew 16:22

His audacious boldness has gone too far. Jesus smacks back with,

“Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23

       

Six days later, Jesus takes the inner circle of Peter, James and John up the mountain where he is transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah appear as well. Not knowing what to say in these truly awe inspiring moments, Peter feels compelled to say something—anything.

“Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:4

God Himself intervenes through a cloud of bright light.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him! Matthew 17:5

In a study about gifts, I learned a powerful lesson; when taken to the extreme, our gifts can become a negative. 

We hear the voice of this bold disciple other times as well, but through the questions he asks and the denials he makes, this pebble of a man becomes the rock Jesus destined him to be.

Eventually, Peter is a faithful leader and the preacher who brought thousands to the Lord.

Whether we’re quiet or bold in personality, may we, like Peter, learn and grow through the rough edges of life to be what God has called us to be.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

David, on the Run!

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When someone throws a spear at you while you’re quietly playing the harp for him, you know it’s time to run. (See, Watch Out, David!)

Saul decides to send men to David’s house to watch and then kill him the next morning. Saul’s daughter, Michal, who is also David’s wife, finds out about the plan. She warns David,

“If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” I Samuel 19:11

Micah lets David down through the window and off he goes to begin a lengthy time of escape.

David runs to Samuel, the prophet, who first anointed him to be the next king, but David is far away from being king. When Saul discovers David’s whereabouts, he sends men to pursue him.

David finds Jonathan, Saul’s son. They have become friends, but Jonathan can’t believe his father would be so cruel as to pursue David. Later, when Saul throws a spear at Jonathan, he realizes his father has gone mad. He continues to pledge friendship to David.

David escapes to a priest at Nod and receives bread and the spear that belonged to Goliath. He flees to Gath, but becomes suspect of the the king there, so off to the cave of Adullam. David’s prayer is found in Psalm 142 where he pleads with God for help.

“I cry to you Lord; you are my refuge.” Psalm 142:5

He is able to gather a motley crew of men around him.

All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader, about four hundred men. I Samuel 22:2

The prophet Gad tells David to go back to Judah, so David flees to the forest of Hereth.

Meanwhile, Saul discovers that David has been to the priest at Nod and sends for the priest. All eighty-five priests come and are chastised for rebelling against Saul. They defend David which sends Saul into a tailspin.  He demands that his men kill all the priests. When they refuse, Saul commands Doeg the Edomite to do the dirty work plus kill the whole town of Nod.

One son of a priest escapes and tells David what has happened. David promises protection. Meanwhile, he discovers that the Philistines are about to overtake the town of Keilah. He inquires of the Lord if he should go into battle for them and receives word to go.

As you can see, David is on the run, but he continues to show signs of leadership. He is resourceful and discerning; he attracts an army of men, continues to defend his people, and seeks God’s strength and purpose in his life.

There’s more running to do, but let’s think about our own running. Maybe not from an enemy, but we often do a lot of running here and there, accomplishing tasks, pleasing people, keeping schedules, tending to messes and on and on.

What lessons can we learn as we go? Lessons of resourcefulness and discernment? Opportunities to seek God’s guidance and further purposes in our lives?

Grow us, Lord—even when we’re on the run.

~ Joyce ~

Sowing Seeds

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I’ve had sowing seeds on my mind since the blog two week’s ago when Jesus talked of sowing and reaping. (4 – A Teachable Moment.)

I ran into an old friend at a funeral home the other day. He asked me about my writing and my books which then prompted him to tell me about a writers’ group he had started. He wondered if I could speak to his group sometime.

He shared something of the nature of the group and their goals. I told him I’d be glad to speak to the group.

He said one reason for starting this group was to find people who would have a common interest and enjoy being together. But the underlying goal was to develop enough trust in the members that he could begin sharing his faith. I thought, “Wow!”

Then he said he had another group of men who like to fish and he had formed a fishing group of sorts—with the same goal in mind—to sow seeds and reap believers. Double Wow!

Then this week, we were at a 50th wedding celebration and sat with a bubbly woman we knew and her quiet husband. She mentioned, in passing, that he had had two heart attacks. When she had to leave for a phone call, I tried to engage this quiet man in conversation.

I asked how his health was now and he said he was back to playing senior men’s baseball since his surgery five years ago.

That opened up a flow of stories from this quiet retired preacher. He’s in two or three leagues that play several times a week. Many don’t know the Lord. He feels like this is his new ministry in retirement. He plays with them, gets to know them, and they trust him. This leads the way for witnessing opportunities and several have come to the Lord through this man’s care.

These are unique ways of engaging people in things they love and sharing the love of God with them. It occurred to me that, while starting these marvelous ministry groups is wonderful, some people can’t add one more thing to their plate. But wouldn’t it be great to have that same ministry outlook with the groups of people in which we’re already engaged?

As Jesus told the disciples in our thoughts about sowing and reaping…

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

As we have just celebrated Easter, what pleasing goals these would be to the Christ of the cross who paid it all for us.

~ Joyce ~

Worn-Out Lady

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Do you ever feel worn to a frazzle? Coming and going with way too much activity. Or responsibilities reaching mountainous heights?

I think back to when I was younger. I would grab my little girl by the hand and hoist my eighteen-month old on my hip and out the door we’d go to some activity at church.

I taught the youth on Sunday night and directed the children’s choir on Wednesday night, while supporting my Minister of Music husband in a myriad of other activities. Of course, there’s groceries, meals, cleaning, and the list goes on.

Maybe you’re into raising older children, working outside the home, plus community, church and home responsibilities.

Or you may be where I am now—old! Dealing with health issues for myself and for an aging mother and still, after all these years, trying to reduce added activities—all worthy—but asking, Lord, what’s the ones YOU want me to do?

Maybe you’re caring for a loved one and having caregiver fatigue.

This week, our unnamed woman, is probably a young. I’m guessing 24-ish. She’s likely single and definitely suffering from the fatigue of caring for her own physical needs. Her disease causes non-stop bleeding.

One week a month is do-able, but ongoing for years is quite another thing. Even worse is the fact that she would be considered religiously unclean. According to the Mosaic law, others could not lie on a bed where she has been or sit where she sat or touch anything she has touched. She is unclean. Almost like a leper!

She’s spent what money she has on seeing many doctors through the years, but instead of improving, she’s getting worse.

Without a name, we call her “the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.” Let’s name her Martha. Martha means lady. This woman was more “lady” than she wanted to be.

…[she] had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Mark 5:25

Therefore, no one wanted to be around her. It seems she’s been abandoned by her own family. Perhaps the only reason she can manage to move through this crowd is because they don’t know her.

She’s obviously heard of Jesus and the miraculous way he has healed many people. “Martha” figures…

“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Mark 5:28

Jesus can heal us in many ways. It may not be a bleeding disease, but if we suffer from fatigue of any kind, we can seek our Lord’s healing power. We must pursue Him with diligence as Martha did. Reaching out, seeking His will, touching His presence. May it be so for us all.

Next week—the results.

~ Joyce ~

Points of View – Healing the Paralytic

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A family attends a wedding. The teenage daughter sees a fairy tale wedding with a handsome groom and beautiful bride in a Cinderella gown. The middle school brother eyes the snacks and cake. The mother notices all the special touches and the well organized work in putting it all together.

The dad wonders, “How much did all this cost?”

We all have our points of view about things—this includes the synoptic Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

For instance, let’s look at the healing of the paralytic man. The man can’t walk, so four friends carry him to Jesus for healing. The problem is they can’t get in the crowded house where Jesus is teaching. The friends are so determined that they carry his pallet up the side steps to the roof and let him down through the roof right to Jesus. 

Jesus notices the faith of the friends to go to all this trouble and says,

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Listen to the thoughts of the teachers of the law as they watch this startling scene unfold.

“Why does he [Jesus] talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 5:7

Knowing these thoughts, Jesus says, 

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘You sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that  you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, I tell you get up, take your mat and go home.” Mark 2:8-12

When the paralytic does exactly that, the crowd is totally amazed, and we hear no further comment from the teachers of the law. 

Now here’s the point of view from each of the writers: Mark is from Galilee where this event takes place. Flat roofs are made with mats of branches spread across wood crossbeams. On top of the mats is a thick layer of clay packed down with a stone roller. Hence,

…they made an opening above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat… Mark 2:4 

Luke, on the other hand, is from Greek territory and is primarily writing to Gentiles. Their roofs are generally made of tiles. In order to make sense to his readers, Luke describes the scene this way;

…they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd… Luke 5:19

As for Matthew, the lowering of the mat from the roof was not of particular interest to him. He is more concerned with the other parts of the story, so he doesn’t even mention the roof!

This is one of many incidents where it is helpful for us to read each account because we might learn fresh perspectives from each one. I will relate a few more in coming weeks. I hope you enjoy.

~ Joyce ~

 

Nehemiah – Obstacles

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  Seeking His Heart

Nehemiah rallied the wall-building troops with persuasive voice and authoritative demeanor. They divided up the work load and rebuilt side by side, neighbor next to neighbor. Even some from near-by towns came to join the project. 

As always, Satan reached out to overtake the good like a prowling lion. The obstacles began through three antagonists, one north of Judah, a second east of Judah, and a third trouble maker south of Judah, all who came to mock and ridicule.

But Nehemiah stood up to them.

“The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:20

The work began, priests and merchants, goldsmiths and commoners all reconstructing together. Once again, the antagonists complained and ridiculed vowing to join together in war against Jerusalem.

Nehemiah got word of their plan. Not to be undone, he posted guards day and night around the workmen. Each workman kept sword, spear, or bow with him at all times. Nehemiah prayed with them and stood by them. He reminded the workers—

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

The workers stayed alert and continued their work, but later, instead of trouble from without, trouble started brewing from within. A famine, due to lack of grain, had set up a series of challenges. 

“We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy grain.” Nehemiah 5:3

“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields.” Nehemiah 5:4

They complained that their fellow Jews had caused them to—

“…subject our sons and daughters to slavery.” Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah again met the obstacle directly. He called together the nobles and officials who had caused this situation and pointed out their lack of integrity. Their guilt was obvious.

They kept quiet for they could find nothing to say. Nehemiah 5:8

Nehemiah followed through by committing them to better practices.

These were only some of Nehemiah’s obstacles, but each time he dealt with them head on.

What a great lesson for us. We all deal with obstacles, things that set us back in some way. A wayward child who is plunging head long into dangerous territory; a health issue that is dragging us down, an aggravating kink in a major project, a gnawing flaw in a relationship. Name your issue.

Have you prayed about it? Have you grabbed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? Have you dealt with it head on? That would be Nehemiah’s strategy—not a bad idea!

~ Joyce ~