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 – Spying Out the Land

Searching His Word
 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 ~

The Pandemic

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

So many have had their say on our current dilemma. I’ll chime in from my little corner of the world.

It seems surreal in a way how within just four weeks so much has changed and changed rapidly. I will say that I have enjoyed the slower pace of life: get up later, stay up longer, no appointments, no running here and there, opportunity to call friends, take walks, contribute to food drives, get projects done, time to read books, and time to edit my own book.

At the same time, my heart goes out to those who have lost their incomes, those who struggle to put food on the table, families who were dysfunctional, now having to cope with each other, frustrated mothers, closed-in children, and on it goes.

My mind has gone to the plagues that God placed on Egypt, when he was preparing the way for the children of Israel to be free. It always brings the question—does God bring bad things on us or does he merely allow them? Does he want to bring death and suffering even to believers who have succumbed to this virus? I don’t think so. 

This virus reminds me of the way of Satan. Silently, stealthily, it moves among us in silence, randomly attacking whomever it pleases, passing it invisibly from one to another. But God can use this condition in remarkable ways.

With these thoughts in mind, I came across a quote by former LSU coach, Dale Brown.  Perhaps you have seen it.

“In a few short months, just like the plagues of Egypt, he has taken away everything we worship. God said, you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down the civic centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down the theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market.”

I might add, you want to worship your school friends, dance lessons, sports practice, play practice, ball games, and all busy activities, I will shut down the schools. You want to worship or substitute the church buildings, programs, and activities for your faith, I will shut down the churches. Have we left even our faith to the busyness of the world? 

Dale Brown concluded his thoughts with,

“Maybe we don’t need a vaccine. Maybe we need to take this time of isolation from the distractions of this world and have a personal revival on the only thing in the world that really matters. And that is to please God.”

         

Jesus said it another way,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” That’s a lot of alls. Also, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

Oh, that we could say with David,

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

~ Joyce ~

David, on the Run!

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

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 ~

Slaying Our Giants

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 Seeking His Heart

At last we see that…

David  triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. I Samuel 17:50

We’re kind of okay with that, knowing the constant threat on the people of Israel, but it’s the next verse that we might find disturbing.

David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. I Samuel 17:51

Now what do we do with that? This has always been a bit troubling to me. I found a new book by Louie Giglio to be helpful. In “Goliath Must Fall,” Giglio relates a story from his youth when he helped with a Christian camp in the summers. A constant problem plagued the camp leaders—poisonous snakes.

       

Every afternoon, several of the helpers went searching for the snakes. They used baseball bats to beat them to death! But that wasn’t the end of the job because, though the snake was dead, its head still had the poisonous venom in it. If people accidentally stepped on the head, they could still be affected by the venom.

How did they protect the campers from stepping on the heads? They had to bury them.

Giglio likens this to David’s dilemma. It wasn’t enough to kill the giant with the sling. At that great distance, the Philistine army might think their hero had just been wounded and come storming to take over David and the Israelite army. When the shepherd boy pulled out the sword, slashed it down on Goliath’s neck, and pulled up the head, he demonstrated dramatically that this giant was indeed dead.

Giglio suggests that we all have giants that plague us. It may not be a trash-talking foe. It may not be the temptation to get drunk or experiment with drugs or have an affair. Oh no, Satan can be far more cunning and deceptive than that. We may wrestle with the “lesser” giants; slight gossiping, demanding to have our way about things or always giving in, arrogance or feeling inadequate.

Satan delights with infiltrating our hearts and messing with our minds. He delights when we spend hours on our cell phones but have no time for prayer and devotions. He smiles when we’re so busy with life that we haven’t thought about witnessing to anyone in months or years. He triumphs when jealousy or bitterness leads to anger and anger leads to rage.

What is the giant in your life? Are you willing to face it? What will it take to bring it down? What will it take to completely overcome? 

I think of one of my life verses—

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

~ Joyce ~

 

 

The Power of the Sling

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

At last, David is down on the plain with his staff in hand along with five smooth stones in his pouch and a sling shot in his other hand, facing the giant man, Goliath. (See Is David Up for the Task?)

Meanwhile, the Philistine with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him.

Goliath sees that this challenger only has a staff. No armor, no sword.

He said to David, “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”

Does David back down? Is he intimidated by the course talk of the giant? Absolutely not! Remember, David has been prepared for this day in so many ways. His faith is beyond strong. Listen to him bravely declaring that faith.

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

Then David lays out for Goliath what is about to happen. 

“This day the Lord will hand you over to me and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.”

Oops, we kind of leave out that part in the children’s version. This isn’t just “trash talk.” David firmly believes that God will have the victory.

“Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by spear or sword that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

         

Goliath moves forward while David runs forward, grabbing one of his stones and flinging it with the sling. With all Goliath’s battle gear, there’s only one small spot for David to aim—Goliath’s forehead.

The stone sank into his forehead and he fell face down on the ground. I Samuel 17:41-49

Mission accomplished and with only one stone!

I found an interesting piece of history in the book of Judges. At one time, the Benjamites were about to be engaged in a battle. They mobilized 26,000 swordsmen from one area and 700 from another. From this huge group,

700 were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. Judges 20:16

I bet that’s a new one for you! Why bring that up? Remember, David was from the tribe of Benjamin. It looks as though sling shooting was a distinguishing skill in the lineage of the Benjamites. (I don’t know if he was left handed though.)

It just reminds me that God is in all the details of preparation. Look for Him in the details of your life.

~ Joyce ~

The Trinity

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

How is Jesus both human and divine? How can God be three in one?

These and other mysteries can leave us befuddled. Let’s just work on the three-in-one today. The trinity, we call it.

We can think of a triangle. Imagine the top point being labeled God the Father; a bottom point being God the Son, and the other bottom point the Holy Spirit—three points of one triangle.

I like this image with the unending circle tying them all together.

Or I’ve heard some explain that I am a person. I am the wife of my husband. At the same time, I’m the daughter of my mother and the mother of my daughter. So I’m a wife, a daughter, and a mother—three roles, but one person.

Or a favorite example I use with children is holding up an egg. I say, “An egg is one object. Yet, it is made up of three parts. You have the shell that protects and holds it all together.” Then I crack it open into a glass.

“Inside you see the bright yellow yoke and the clear, rather transparent white.” I compare Jesus the Son to the the very visible yoke and the Holy Spirit to the white—hard to see, but thick to feel—part of the egg. Three, and yet, one egg.

Our earthly examples can approach the idea of different roles or manifestations of the whole, but let’s face it, the earthly can’t begin to fully declare the glory and holiness of our Almighty God.

So let’s turn to Scripture to see an amazing scene of all three, in one setting.

John the Baptist is down by the Jordan River where he has been preaching repentance and “preparing the way” for the coming Messiah. Jesus, himself, comes into the water for baptism. John protests and declares,

“I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Matthew 3:14

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15

What happens next is a glorious moment of the Three-in-One all in one scene.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

What a powerful way for Jesus to begin his ministry with the assurance of the Spirit and the encouragement of the Father. Three in one.

What a blessing when we have a sense of the Father’s love and approval, encouraging us on, with the movement of the Holy Spirit because of our faith and trust in Jesus our Savior. May you trust Him with your day.

~ Joyce ~