Monday, July 24, 2017

Year 7, Day 205: Joshua 20

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I’ve spoken about the cities of refuge at great length.  Understand that the cities of refuge are not a place for guilty people to go and find salvation.  The cities of refuge are for people who accidentally kill someone to find salvation.  There is no way to avoid punishment of execution for the person who premeditates the death of another person.

Naturally, it makes sense in a chapter to put things into perspective.  In this chapter, we are talking about physical punishment as physical consequence.  Regardless of anything said in these kinds of chapters, there is no implication on spiritual salvation.  God forgives the truly repentant. It is entirely possible for a person to find spiritual salvation and rest eternally with God even as they suffer the physical consequences of their actions.

The reason that this is important is because the distinction between spiritual consequence and physical consequence helps us look at justice in life.  If we confuse spiritual and physical consequence, then we are always worrying and fretting over capital punishment.  We worry and fret over death sentences for criminals who intentionally commit murder. 

God’s Word, however, does not spend time worrying and fretting.  If a person dies accidentally at the hands of another – farming accident, construction accident, some other kind of accident – the city of refuge was there to protect them until the case could be heard by the community and the unintentionality declared.  On the other hand, if a person died from the intent of another person, they were executed and the city of refuge is of no help.  The person who committed the crime goes before God, who determines the spiritual consequences of the person’s life.  It’s a very cut and dry process.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Year 7, Day 204: Joshua 19

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In today’s reading, we have the rest of the allotments.  I use the word allotment intentionally.  In each case, the Bible is quite clear to say that the lot fell to such-and such tribe.

I think this is a great point to draw out of the text after yesterday.  Remember that these tribes are the ones who didn’t go out and claim the land they wanted.  Instead, they had to be told by Joshua to get out, measure the land, and then come back.  As a result, they do get land.  However, it isn’t necessarily the land of their choosing.  This is the land of allotment.  They get an inheritance, but the get what randomness brings their way.

It is important to remember that they do get an allotment.  They did fight hard.  They did earn their land.  But they did not go out and claim it.  In fact, notice that we have a special note to say that the people of Dan had more fighting to do even after the allotment was given out!  They even lost their land for a time being.

Put this in contrast to Joshua, who gets that for which he asked.  Or Caleb or Othniel or the people east of Jordan or Judah or the people of Joseph.  They get their choice because they are proactive about going out and getting it.

What we can conclude is that there are many ways to go about our obedience to God.  Much of what I conclude today ties in with how I ended yesterday.  We can be proactive in our faithful obedience and be in a position to meet our desires.  On the other hand, we can be followers and obey when challenged or shamed into action.  We do get a reward for obedience, but it may not be a reward of our choosing.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Year 7, Day 203: Joshua 18

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In Joshua 18, we have a very interesting beginning.  Judah, Josephs’ two sons, and the tribes east of the Jordan have all received their land.  The other tribes, however, haven’t gone out and taken up residence.  Joshua needs to come and tell them what to do.  He must come and light a fire underneath them.

I find this highly interesting.  These people just fought for the land.  They had brothers die for possession of it.  They have been wandering through the desert for forty years just to get to this point.  Everything should be pointing to them going out and taking ownership of the land.  Yet, this isn’t the case.  Joshua has to come to them, tell them what to do, and encourage them to get out to work.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here.  There are leaders who, like Joshua, can lead large groups of people.  There are also independent people who, like the tribes of Josephs sons, may not want to lead large groups, but they are certainly capable of going out and doing what is necessary all on their own.  Then there is a great swath of people in the rest of the world.  They are content doing as they are told.  They will buy into the grand schemes of leaders, but they will wait and do as they are told rather than going out and getting it for themselves.

When I read this chapter, I think that in the end there is grace for all three types of people.  Certainly, the leaders in Joshua, Caleb, and Judah are praised.  The independent tribes of Joseph are likewise praised.  The tribes who sit back are initially chastised, but the end well.  They do what they are told.  They follow through with someone else’s plan.  In the end, although they don’t start well, they finish well and receive their inheritance.

Life is about determining what kind of person you want to be.  Are you a leader?  Then go lead!  Are you an independent type?  Determine what God asks of you and go do it?  Are you a follower?  Make sure you buy into God’s plan and then get to it!  The kkey is not sitting back and doing nothing.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Year 7, Day 202: Joshua 17

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In Joshua 17 we continue with the allotment of the land for the people of Joseph.  Notice how many times throughout this chapter that we hear about the need to drive the Canaanites out.  This should take us back to the message that we had yesterday.

Today, though, let’s talk about why it is Joseph we hear at this point.  Remember that Joseph was the second youngest son.  Yet we hear about the allotment of Joseph’s land second to Judah, whom we heard about two days ago.  Joshua is being elevated here.

There is a reason we hear about Judah first.  The kings of Israel will come through Judah.  Christ will come through Judah.  Judah is often elevated among the sons, especially in lists like this.

Joseph is being elevated here as a memory of the faithfulness of Joseph in Egypt.  Remember that it is through Joseph’s hand that his sons were saved.  In fact, it is through Joseph’s hand that all of Egypt and the neighboring regions were brought through the famine.  The faithfulness of Joseph is absolutely being honored as the people get into the Promised Land.

This really cements home one of the overarching themes of Joshua.  Othniel was faithful because of Caleb’s example.  Caleb and Joshua are faithful because of Moses’ example.  The Hebrew people in Egypt can be faithful because of the faithful example of Joseph.  The book of Joshua is all about lifting up stories of faithfulness to God and watching them sprout and evoke a faithful response in others.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Year 7, Day 201: Joshua 16

Theological Commentary: Click Here

The division of the land for Joseph’s son’s will occupy the next two days.  We’ll focus on Joseph tomorrow.  Today, I’d like to talk about the way that this chapter ends.  The people of Joseph are granted land.  The possess it, occupy it, and subdue it.  Notice, however, that they don’t occupy it completely.  There are still pockets of Canaanites that they cannot root out.

Whether they can’t root them out because it is hard work or because the people of Joseph aren’t committed to doing the job to its fullest extent we cannot know.  What we can know going forward is that this is a very important reality.  Those Canaanites who are left cause trouble to the Hebrew people from now until the Babylonian occupation.  They band together and plague them in a military sense.  They marry the sons and daughters of the Hebrew people and bring their foreign gods among them.  They teach the Hebrew people to behave in ways that are not pleasing to God.  The fact that these Canaanite people are left behind is bad news.

I’ve toyed with the thoughts of this passage and things like it for several years now.  It seems far too easy to take passages like these and make them about building walls.  It’s far too easy to take a passage like this and talk about why we should be building walls and keeping other people out.  It’s easy to take passages like this and pave the way for genocide, racial turbulence, class systems, etc.

I don’t think that is God’s point here.  I believe that these passages are more about the need to fulfill God’s will and to be obedient than to destroy the people around us who are sinful.  After all, does not Jesus Himself assert that the one who is without sin can cast the first stone?

Remember that these Canaanites were being obliterated at God’s will as God’s judgment.  They weren’t being obliterated because they were Canaanites and not Hebrew, they were being obliterated because they brought themselves under God’s wrath.  God ordered their destruction.  The reason that these Canaanites will cause so much trouble in the future isn’t because they are any worse sinners than the rest of the world.  They will cause trouble because God’s will was not carried out.

What I can learn here is that it is vital to obey God.  When He desires a task to get done, we need to focus on accomplishing it and listening to Him.  It isn’t about doing it well enough to where we are satisfied.  It is about obeying Him and listening to Him.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Year 7, Day 200: Joshua 15

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Today we meet Othniel, whom we’ll meet again in the first chapter of judges.  While we’ll study this story more deeply then, we can note one thing right here about this story.  Once more we see the repetition of a reoccurring theme.  Caleb’s faith inspires Othniel.

While we don’t know for certain that Othniel was a mentee of Caleb, we can certainly see that Othniel was in good hands.  Caleb is given an allotment of land in Judah.  He immediately sets out to conquest the land.  He does so in relatively short order.  He defeats a popular group of sons and then sets his will against the other inhabitants of his inheritance.

However, notice that Caleb does not do this alone.  He offers part of his inheritance – as well as a daughter – for the person who continues the work.  In other words, he wants to have a son in law who has seen his prowess and desires to imitate it.  He wants to have people living within his inheritance who are like him and who have the same kind of values. 

This is the same principle at work that we saw with Moses and Joshua.  Moses brought Joshua close to him because he was teachable and shared a common desire as Moses.  Caleb and Othniel are no different.

What I think is neat is that as the Hebrew nation sets up we see example after example of mentoring.  We see example after example of people looking for commonalities and then investing in them for the next generation.  Caleb’s work with Othniel directly affects the first judge of Israel and his ability to be used by God to protect his people.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Year 7, Day 199: Joshua 14

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Do you hear the support for the thoughts that I gave yesterday regarding the age of Joshua?  Today we learn that Caleb was 45 when he was a spy.  We know that they wandered the wilderness for forty years.  In this chapter he asserts that he is 45.  This helps us to understand that the opening of the last chapter wasn’t to tell us that a great time period had passed or that Joshua had been sitting around after conquering the easy parts of the land.  Caleb – and likely Joshua as well – were already advanced in years when they got to the Promised Land!

Having said that, there are two more points that I would like to discuss with you today.  First of all, there is the issue of Caleb’s reward.  What I really like about this is that it shows the proper order of things.  Caleb was indeed faithful when he was one of the spies.  He is promised a reward.  But, he doesn’t fret about the reward until after the work is largely done.  Caleb fights in the army with the rest of the people until the tribes of the Transjordan are dismissed.  At that point, Caleb turns his mind to his reward.

So often we get our mind to the payoff that we forget about the work at hand.  I do this all the time with projects around the house.  I get far more interested in what the end result will be that I become frustrated with the level and intensity of the work to get to the end result.  I’m willing to bet that most of our jobs are that way, too.  We get focused on life will be after we’ve completed a certain task that we forget to enjoy the task and do our best at it.  This is human nature.  It’s not anything to be ashamed of – we all do it.  But it is something about which we should be aware and then resist against.

Second, do you hear the last words of this passage?  The land had rest from war.  God did bring his people into a time of peace.  God honored his covenant.  He is faithful.  Here we have a beautiful counterpoint to the major theme of obedience in Joshua.  Again and again we’ve seen Joshua’s obedience.  What we see here is that God is faithful to Joshua and the people.  Obedience and seeing God’s faithfulness go hand-in-hand.

That doesn’t mean that we always get our way.  You’ll notice that being the richest and most powerful people in the world are not synonymous goals with faithfulness to God.  However, God is faithful to our needs.  He is faithful to His promises.  In the things that really matter, God is absolutely faithful.