Nothing Undone (Joshua 11:15)

Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.

Joshua 11:15

The conquest of the Promised Land actually takes years, despite it being truncated into a couple chapters after the initial few battles. It’s like when a sports team has a winning season. The sportscast doesn’t show every game in its entirety once the season is over, the only parts they show are the highlights and the errors. So God, through the writer of Joshua, takes only the highlights and errors of the battles then sums up the rest.

There are some who think that war is wrong. There are bumper stickers around that proclaim, “War is not the answer!” and all I can ever think upon seeing one of those bumper stickers is, “That depends on the question.” I’m not a warmonger. I don’t think that war solves every problem. But history tells me that there are some problems that have been very effectively solved by war. In the case of Israel coming into the Promised Land and going for total war tactics, it’s important to remember Who mandated those tactics.

See, if Israel just decided to kill everyone and burn the cities to the ground, we’d be excused for thinking the nation a bunch of brutes. But Israel did not make that decision. God did. God tells Moses, “Moses, when you get into the Promised Land, you will kill everyone. No one gets left alive. No slaves. No forced labor. None of that mess. Kill them all and let Me sort them out.” Moses makes a note and plans to kill everyone. But Moses is prevented from entering the Promised Land by his unfaithfulness to a different instruction from God. So Moses tells Joshua what God’s strategy is and Joshua makes a note: Kill everyone. There are some who would argue that Joshua didn’t kill everyone; that he let Rahab and her family and all those Gibeonites live. And those folks would be correct. But those folks would also be overlooking the fact that Rahab and the Gibeonites sang pretty much the same tune: “We know your God is going to give this place to you. Your God is God.” That? Right there? That’s faith. Those people—the Gibeonites and Rahab’s family—believed in God. And, as Abraham said a few centuries prior, “Far be it from the judge of all the Earth to destroy the just with the unjust.”

Why is it important that Rahab and the Gibeonites had faith? How does that make Joshua’s obedience any more complete? Well, The Bible says that the just shall live by faith. Ephesians says that we are saved by grace through faith. Faith is the crux of the whole thing. The people living in the Promised Land—Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, all those -ites—had a history with God’s people. Abraham had lived among them, as had Isaac and Jacob. God’s people and God’s ways were not wholly unknown to these folks. I’m sure that Abraham and Isaac both had conversations with the Abimelech who ruled during their time about God and what God wanted and what God was about. The descendants of Lot should have known something about it, seeing as how Lot traveled with Abraham. Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, lived in the land and Esau had been well-acquainted with what God was on about. The people who lived in the land had plenty of reason to have heard of God and His ways. They should have known that the elements of their worship of non-gods were horrific.But they didn’t. They ignored whatever of God’s instruction survived and they ignored teir conscience until it went silent. Except Rahab and the Gibeonites. Somehow, some way they knew that God is God and that He was going to do whatever He said He was going to do. And they also knew that God had promised the land to Israel. The knowledge survived and these folks believed it.

Backing it up just a bit. Does this mean Joshua’s obedience was complete? With regard to how he was to conquer the land: yes. By placing their faith in God, the Gibeonites and Rahab were casting in their lot with Israel. Joshua was not told to destroy those non-Israelites who stood with Israel or he would have had to kill the Egyptians who had come with them and Moses’ children (who were Midianite on their mother’s side) and probably more that I know nothing about.

Great. How do I apply this to my life today? The principle is this: Obey God. If God says it then I need to do it. And I need to complete what He tells me to do. No half-finished obedience. No partial submission. Full submission and complete obedience. Anything less is disobedience.

Strong and Courageous (Joshua 10:25)

Joshua then said to them, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the LORD will do to all your enemies with whom you fight.”

Joshua 10:25

Joshua and Israel made a treaty with the Gibeonites and five kings banded together immediately afterward to attack Gibeon. So Joshua and Israel came and attacked those kings and God laid a whooping down on those kings and their armies. The kings themselves hid in a cave out of which Joshua had them dragged when the fighting was done. Joshua then had the war leaders in Israel place their feet on the necks of those kings and spoke today’s verse while the war leaders had their feet on those kings.

I’m not going to pretend that what Joshua says is some kind of promise to all believers, because that would be taking the verse wildly out of context. But a similar principle is put forth in the New Testament. Paul tells believers that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Israel was in a physical battle while the believer in Christ is fighting a spiritual war. Our enemies are not human beings. Our enemies are our sinful nature that must be put to death daily and a world system that is contrary to God’s will and Law and spiritual foes that will try to tempt us away from faith in God and obedience to Him. Paul also instructs the believer to suit-up for spiritual battle by putting on spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) and standing firm. Another place, the way it is expressed is that the believer should resist the devil and he (the devil) will flee. The culmination of all the verses on spiritual warfare is, to my mind, when the believer is told that the One Who lives in us is greater than the one who is in the world. Ultimately, God can guarantee victory in spiritual war just as Joshua was able to guarantee victory over the people living in the Promised Land and for the same reason. Joshua guaranteed his soldiers victory because of God. Notice that he says that the LORD will be the One Who places enemies beneath their feet. It is God Who grants victory in spiritual warfare, as well.

Does Joshua’s promise extend to me? No. But the principle is extended to every believer with regard to spiritual warfare. God is able to put every spiritual foe beneath our feet; to make every spiritual enemy fall before us. For that to happen, I need to remember the first thing Joshua tells those leaders, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous.” I need to be strong in the LORD and courageous where He tells me to go.

Counsel (Joshua 9:14)

So the men [of Israel] took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD.

Joshua 9:14

The Gibeonites are an interesting group. They live in the land of Canaan when Israel is taking possession of the Promised Land and decide to try making a treaty with Israel. They know, somehow, that Israel will not make treaties with the nations already in the land, so they pretend to be from a far off kingdom. Israel, in the verse that popped this morning, takes things at face value and makes the treaty, not stopping to ask the LORD for input on the matter.

Gibeon would become the next battlefield in taking the land. It is interesting to me that God used this treaty. A bunch of other kings heard about the treaty and came out to kill the Gibeonites and Joshua and Israel end up wiping those kings out. What’s more, the victory is one of the miraculous moments in Israel’s conquest, as Joshua asks God to make the day longer and the sun stops moving through the sky. Much later in Israel’s history, God would raise soldiers for David who would include a Gibeonite (1 Chronicles 12:4). Again, God would use the Gibeonites in helping to rebuild the temple (Nehemiah 3:7 and 7:25). This particular treaty would prove both beneficial and harmful to Israel throughout their history, but the people of Gibeon would not cause Israel to fall away from the LORD. This place of the Gibeonites in Israel’s history makes me wonder if seeking God’s counsel would have changed the outcome. I suspect it might have been much the same.

The people of Gibeon had heard of what God had done on the other side of the Jordan and then heard what had happened at Jericho and Ai and decided that they did not want to fight this God of Israel. They were afraid of God. Proverbs says that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. So these folks were beginning to be wise; beginning to believe. Had Israel asked for God’s input, it’s entirely possible that God would have told the nation to let the Gibeonites be proselytes. But, since Israel did not seek God’s counsel, we’ll never know.

I need to seek God’s counsel. It is possible that things that seem innocuous really are — like the Gibeonites, who never directly cause Israel any problems. It is also possible that there is something sinister lurking where I cannot see it, but God absolutely can. God’s counsel; God’s guidance is necessary if I intend to live a Godly life.

I also need to remember that God is able to work with my mistakes. I have a tendency to beat myself up over the things I’ve done wrong, but God is able to redeem even those things. Once I have confessed my wrong to God, I need to move forward and not flagellate myself with the wrong done. That said, I need to rely on God’s counsel, not on His ability to work despite me ignoring His input.

The past is past and I need to leave it there. Now, I need to seek the counsel of God.

Private Sins (Joshua 7:1)

But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel.

Joshua 7:1

I find the way that this is phrased interesting. The verse begins with the statement that the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully, but proceeds to tell us that Achan … took some of the things under the ban. Having read this story a few times, I know how this ends for Achan. But my thought this morning is how this affects Israel.

See, Joshua catches flak — and rightly — for not praying before attacking the city of Ai. But the defeat and thirty-six deaths are not laid at Joshua’s feet by the scriptures. The fault for the deaths and defeat are laid at Achan’s feet because of his transgression.

This reminds me that there is no such thing as a private sin or a personal sin. If I lie then the other person is proceeding on falsehood and may end up offending another without knowing why. My lies spread discord through every person I lie to. I’m sure that lying seems to be — on its face — a public sin, but what about something that seems private like pornography? If I engage in the sin of pornography, it affects my wife whether I realize it or not. It sets expectations that no real person will ever live up to and changes my perceptions of and satisfaction with my marriage. It creates frustration with things not being as they are in that scripted and fantasized world and that frustration can spill over onto my daughter, my friends, my coworkers … anyone. Frustration is indiscriminate and if I’m not aware of why I’m frustrated, I won’t do anything to fix the situation. Worse, I might not even realize that I’m frustrated and will go about causing hurt and offense until I recognize that I’m frustrated and set things right.

Achan’s sin would cost him not only his life, but the lives of his family. There are some who would look at this and decide that the punishment is unjust, but that determination overlooks something important: Achan’s family knew he had the things he wasn’t supposed to have. These folks are living in tents and packing and unpacking every time they move. Achan’s wife saw the things he stole. His sons very likely saw him take those things from the battlefield. His daughters probably wondered where their dad got the new outfits. No one in Achan’s family said anything about those things. No one called him on his sin. So Achan and his entire family were executed. So, too, my sins, if left unaddressed, will damage; possibly destroy my family.

The NT writers will tell me to examine myself; to look at my life and ferret out the sins that hide in dark corners like roaches. To do that, I must continually seek more and more light to shine into those corners by seeking the Light of the World; the Father of Lights more and more. My sin — no matter how secret I may think it and no matter how contained its fallout may seem to me — affects everyone around me in some way. I need to regularly examine myself; repent of any sins I’ve tried to conceal; shine light into the corners where I would try to hide things.

There are no private sins.

Provision (Joshua 5:12)

The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.

Joshua 5:12

Manna had been God’s miraculous provision of food for Israel when there was no other way for Israel to eat. The wilderness was not fertile and Israel was wandering, not stopping to plant crops and harvest. Once they begin to enter into the Promised Land, the miraculous provision is no longer necessary and God switches to more mundane methods.

As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of my own life. God provides. I’ve never been in want and have even been the means by which God provided for another on occasion. It is humbling and marvelous, but He most often uses the most mundane methods imaginable to provide for His children. He tells me to work, then turns around and blesses my work so that it provides for my needs. This startlingly unmiraculous method of provision lends itself to me thinking that I had more to do with that provision than I really did. The result can be that I think I provided for myself and leave God out of the equation. But that is unfair to the God Who opened doors that should have remained shut (I was not qualified for the job I currently have when I applied for it) and granted favor (the projects I did turned out to be beneficial beyond what I thought they would be) and security (somehow, I kept my job while others did not). Someone once said that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. The quote is often attributed to Einstein, but the internet is not always trustworthy where these things are concerned. Regardless of who said it, it is true. God uses circumstance to guide us and provide for us just as often (if not more often) as He uses the miraculous. Neither is any more or less an exercise of His power — it’s just that one reveals His might while the other reveals His foresight. And, in some ways, it takes more (this is coming from a non-planner) to plan that far in advance and order things such that the desired outcome is achieved than to simply employ power to make something happen spur-of-the-moment. Though Jesus’ words make me think that God even plans out which miracles He’s going to perform — even His spur-of-the-moment actions are planned. That’s foresight.

How to apply this? I think that I need to look for God’s hand in the mundane. God’s provision for Israel didn’t stop at the borders of the Promised Land, He simply provided through the Promised Land. The food that Israel ate at the beginning was not food they had planted or worked for, it was still God’s provision without any input from Israel. Later, they would begin to cultivate the land and plant crops and God would provide not only through the land but also through the labor of the people. God’s provision for me may sometimes require more and other times less of my input. Sometimes His provision may require none of my input at all. I need to listen and be obedient when He instructs as to which is which. And, what is not in this verse but bears note, I need to receive God’s provision with gratitude.

Setting Reminders (Joshua 4:20)

Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.

Joshua 4:20

Israel has just finished crossing the Jordan on dry land and Joshua sets up a pile of twelve stones, exactly as God had instructed him. The point of these stones, we are told elsewhere in the chapter, is to serve as a reminder. These were large river stones, taken from the bed of the Jordan and set up to remind Israel of walking on dry land when they should have been drenched.

In the modern world, I have the ability to set reminders on my computer and my phone and my tablet. I can command any of these devices to alert me to something happening that I want to get to or some event coming up that I need to remember. In the age of technology; when our devices can tell us what is coming, we are without excuse when it comes to remembering dates and events. But there’s something we do not set reminders for, and that is the work that God has accomplished in our lives.

My wife is a journaler; she loves to have time to sit and write in her journal and be able to go back through those journals and be reminded of what God has brought her through. Her journals are her reminders. I, for my part, am a storyteller and will recount the things that God has done whenever given half an excuse to do so. Since more than a few of my stories hinge on the fact that I stand in the presence of those listening to tell the tale, my reminder is often the fact that I am alive. By most reckonings, I should be dead several times over. I walked into rush hour traffic as a toddler and God preserved my life. When I was about two, my mom was set to take me with her to something and the car she was riding in had no car seat so I would’ve been in her lap, but one of her sisters arrived at the last minute and I stayed behind — that car was struck by a motorcycle and the place I would have been seated was more or less cut in half by the bike. I was the driver of a car that flipped and CHP, who recovered the car, looked at the roof and declared that the driver should have had his skull caved in. I was walking to the corner store to get a Coke when someone shouted at me from the back of a vehicle. When I turned, I was looking at a rifle and someone with their features covered. I ran like my life depended on it. Over and over again, God has preserved my life. The fact that I am alive is a reminder to me that God is and that He has plans for me that are not finished yet.

What other reminders can I set up? I need reminders because there will come a day when my daughter will ask me how I know that my God is alive and that He loves me … and her. On that day, I will sit her down and recount to her the tales of how God spared her father’s life over and over again; how He protected a toddler from disaster; how He averted a brush with death by seconds; how He stayed the trigger finger of some punk who wanted to freak someone out; how He held the roof of a car at bay long enough for me to get out of the car. I am quite sure God will have done more by then and I will be able to tell her those stories as well; the accounts of God’s doings in my life — and hers.

In this age of being able to set a reminder for nigh anything we want, I need to stop and ask myself what reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness and mercy I am setting so that I can recount the tales of God’s glorious dealings with His children to the generation to come. Not so I can look back and revel in the glory days, but so I can sit with those who are too young and not yet born and say, “This is a reminder of the time when God ….”

Solid Ground (Joshua 3:17)

And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.

Joshua 3:17

In context, this verse is bout Israel beginning to receive the promises God had made to their ancestors — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob — and enter into the Promised Land. A few things stood out to me.

First, the priests were standing firm on dry ground. To me, this spoke of what it is to follow God and live in obedience to Him. When we live obedient lives to God, we also stand firm and the ground beneath our feet is not slippery or muddy, but is dry and able to support us.

Second, the priests were carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD when they stood on dry ground. The ark was a symbol of God’s presence and was the place where God would meet with the high priest. But it is also a reminder. The ark contains a jar of manna to remind Israel of God’s provision; the rod of Aaron that blossomed to remind Israel of God’s choice (and that God does choose individuals for His work; the tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them to remind Israel of God’s standards. The ark, if I were to seek a parallel in my life, would be similar to my cross. A cross is an obvious thing — big, clunky, ungainly, meant to kill me — and serves as reminder of God’s calling (Jesus tells everyone who follows Him to take up our cross), God’s standards (my cross is meant to put to death my old man), and God’s provision (God provided Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of us all).

Third and last, the priests stood in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed. The priests’ bearing of the ark into the river enabled the entry of the Israelites — God’s chosen people — into the Promised Land. If I bear testimony to what God has done and continues to do then my life; my stand will become an entry point into God’s grace. Not that I do anything, but that others realize that the same God who has saved me wants to save them. All I do is stand witness and the power of God is manifested to bring others into the promises of God.

In summary: An obedient life gives me a firm foundation; dry ground to stand on. Carrying my cross — which is an act of obedience — serves as a reminder of God’s provision (Jesus died on a cross to save us), God’s choice (He chose us), and God’s standard (everyone who wants to live Godly must crucify the old man). My stand in obedience to God may become a point of entry for others to enter into the promises of God; a place where people see Jesus, come to Him, and are saved.

The priests didn’t say a word, but their obedience spoke volumes. Likewise my obedience can speak to others without me ever having to open my mouth — but I should be ready to give a reason for the hope in me to anyone who asks.

Although … (Deuteronomy 34:7)

Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.

Deuteronomy 34:7

Observation number one: The fact that Moses lived to 120 is pretty darn impressive, but the fact that his eye was not dim (no loss of eyesight or intellect) and his vigor unabated (still energetic) borders on the miraculous. But there’s something more here. Moses slides into a group of people that are not often noted: those who have served God and lived with and for Him for a long while and seen the benefits of a relationship with God. Am I talking health and wealth? Not so much, but obedience to God can have health benefits.

For example, Paul instructs believers not to be anxious about anything. Anxiety and stress have given birth to an entire family of health disorders in the modern world. If I am living in obedience, I will not be stressed out and will be less susceptible to those anxiety disorders and stress-related illnesses. Will I be immune and ever-healthy? Unlikely. But the likelihood of catching these particular illnesses decreases.

Another example is in diseases like Alzheimer’s. Some studies indicate that keeping the mind active and alert may help stave off the disease. A life lived with God and constantly looking deeper into Who He is is a life lived with an active mind. Does that mean Christians will never get Alzheimer’s? That would be a ridiculous claim to make. But an active mind is less susceptible, so the likelihood of getting the disease decreases. Not to zero, but decreases, nonetheless.

Will obedience and a life devoted to God stave off all illness and prevent every malady? Absolutely not. Just look at Job.  Will obedience guarantee longevity? Uh, no. Jesus was the single most obedient person ever and He was crucified at around 33 years old. Obedience will not increase my quantity of life one iota, but it will improve my quality of life, viz. my life will be filled with love and joy and peace and kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control … and patience.

How do I apply this? Obey God. It will not stave off every malady — it might even invite some — but it guarantees that the Great Physician will be at my bedside throughout. It will not guarantee me long life — I’m not entirely convinced that longevity is all that desirable when Heaven is the alternative and there have been rather a large number of faithful who have been killed at an early (-ish) age for their faith — but it guarantees that The Life is with me through whatever time I have here. This is not a call to health, but a call to obedience that it may go well with me and that I may live long. I also may not. Which it turns out to be is God’s call.

Things are Hastening (Deuteronomy 32:35)

‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.’

Deuteronomy 32:35

This statement is nestled in the midst of The Song of Moses. Moses teaches this song to Israel as directed by God. This song is more or less a history and future history of Israel. In it, God explains where Israel came from and where Israel will go. This song contains a couple statements that are echoed by NT writers, namely “I will make them jealous with those who are not a people” and “Vengeance is Mine.”

The thought behind this particular verse is that the nations that God uses to discipline Israel will get all full of themselves and think that they were the ones who defeated Israel when it was God’s doing all the time. When that happens; when those nations get a big head, God is the One Who will exact vengeance.

So what does this have to do with me?

The principle that God is keeping tabs on things and that time is always running out (since time is never being added back, except for one or two instances recorded in scripture) lends itself to two bits of application.

One, since vengeance belongs to God and time is running out, I don’t need to think about how others wrong me. If the wrong is worth doing anything about, then God has it handled. If not, then I’m better off letting it go anyway, as God Himself doesn’t think it worthwhile. I’m not sure there’s a great lot of the latter (things about which God is unconcerned), but they could exist and I need to leave room for them. God is going to repay us all. Those of us under grace will be repaid for those things done while walking in the grace of God. Those of us not under grace will be repaid for things done under The Law. Which segues nicely into the second application.

Two, since the impending things are hastening upon folks and God’s vengeance is coming, I need to look for opportunities to tell people about their alternative. Judgment is a given, but grace is the alternative. I admit, I’m not so great about talking to people; not much of an evangelist. But God is able to use even such as me to expound His grace to those who are under condemnation.

In summary, I need to (as the recently popular Disney film soundtrack ear-wormed us) let it go and let others know about the grace of God that is offered to any and all who want it.

The Children Will Hear (Deuteronomy 31:13)

“Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”

Deuteronomy 31:13

In context, this verse follows after Moses commanding everyone to get everyone together and read the book of Deuteronomy every seven years. This book is full to bursting with both blessings and curses based on whether the hearer/reader is obedient or disobedient to what God has commanded.

This verse is among those which give a principle: Teach children about God. My daughter is just over a year old and does not have the history with God that her mother and I have. I have seen miracles and have been the recipient of miracles as well. I have seen the fruit of obedience and I have reaped the harvest of disobedience. I have lived enough with God to tell my daughter that God is faithful to those who love Him.

I used to have a coworker who thought that training  children up as believers was a disservice to them. This coworker thought that children should be raised to be open-minded and decide for themselves. Since we must each decide for ourselves, that much I agreed with. But The Bible tells me to train up my daughter in the way she should go and promises that she will not depart from the right way when she is old if I have properly trained her. The trouble with a term like “train” is that those who want to make a case against training children will immediately fall back to the idea of training an animal and use that analogy for training children. But those same people (and often, Christians, too) are quick to forget that professional athletes train and weight lifters train and workers receive training. To train or be trained is an excellent thing when done properly.

In order to properly train my daughter and any other children God may bless my wife and me with, I need to do what Moses is telling Israel to do: I need to regularly read The Bible to her/them and remind them of the promises attending obedience and disobedience. I need to recount my personal experience with God to her/them — blessings and discipline, miracles and everyday conversations with God, the results of obedience and disobedience.

The children have not known. It is up to those of us who have walked with God and seen His goodness and the fulfillment of His promises — both agreeable and disagreeable since He promises discipline for disobedience — to tell our children (and grandchildren, when I am older) about what we have tasted and seen in our time with God. They will hear and learn to fear the LORD. That is the one part of this promise to which I will lay any claim, because it is echoed throughout scripture. The children will hear and learn to fear the LORD.