SOAP Journal – 17 July 2017 (Joshua 24:31)

Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel.

Joshua 24:31

Joshua’s final address to the Israelites is in chapters 23-24. In his final address, he reminds the Israelites of the things they have seen God do in their midst and calls them to make a choice: serve God or serve someone else. Joshua asserts that he and his house will serve the LORD and the leaders of the Israelites echo that intent. Then verse 31 happens.

The sad implication of saying that Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua is that the Israelites who came after did not serve the LORD. Knowing that the book of Judges is next and knowing what that book contains, I know full well that the Israelites did not continue to serve God. There is a rather famous saying that “The price of peace is eternal vigilance.” And the Israelites failed to pay this price. They grew complacent and wandered away from the LORD by slow degrees, eventually finding themselves in the place where every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25).

The same, I think, is true in the life of believers. We come to the LORD and He gives us victory over things and our lives settle into peaceful patterns. And we grow complacent. Another famous saying has it that to secure the peace is to prepare for war. We do not consistently do this. We do not secure the peace in our lives by preparing for the next attack from our enemies — the worldly outlook, the devil and his minions, and our own carnal desires — and that is why we fail.

The other issue is that those who had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel followed God. There is a tendency to forget. Whether it is one generation dismissing the testimony of their forebears or individual believers forgetting the goodness of the LORD in our own lives, we lose sight of the mighty things that God has done and may be tempted to think that God cannot handle the problem we are facing. We fail to “Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry!” We fail to trust that God can handle anything that comes at us and to be prepared for the things we know are coming — temptation and trial and difficulty.

Father, please forgive my forgetfulness. I would not forget if I would regularly call to mind the great things that You have done in my life and in the lives of those I know. Please work in me to develop a character that wears ruts in my mind where Your great deeds are concerned. May I rehearse them in my mind and continually call them to remembrance so that I might always be ready to trust You. Please also work a spiritual vigilance in me, that I might be always prepared for the inevitable attacks of my enemies — the world’s way of thinking, the devil and his minions, and my own lusts. Thank You for being my help and my safety and for being faithful to me despite my faithlessness.

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SOAP Journal – 14 July 2017 (Joshua 23:8)

But you are to cling to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.

Joshua 23:8

This morning’s verse is part of Joshua’s farewell address to the Israelites. It is during this address that Joshua will give the Israelites the choice of whom they will serve: the LORD Who has performed miracles in their midst or the false gods of the peoples living in the Promised Land. That is the most often quoted passage in this book, I think, and there are teachings in abundance on the concept. Before Joshua puts the decision to them, he tells them which choice they should make and which they should not make.

The but at the beginning of this verse links it to what preceded, setting this verse up in contrast to what has just been said. Joshua previously told the Israelites to be very firm … to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses. Since that statement agrees with this morning’s verse, it is not what this verse is contrasting. Joshua follows up his exhortation to keep and do the law with warnings not to mix and mingle with the nations still left in the Promised Land or to engage in the same worship as them.

Instead, Joshua tells the Israelites that they are to cling to the LORD [their] GodCling is one of those Bible Words that gets my ears tingling and my curiosity piqued. So I looked it up in the concordance. And it turns out that the verb used is the same verb used to describe how a husband and wife are supposed to relate to one another. The man is to be joined to his wife, and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Joshua is telling the Israelites that they are, to paraphrase a bit, be married to God.

In the Modern Westernized World (MWW), marriage has fallen into disrepute. I saw a movie trailer that seemed to be advertising a movie about marriage being an obsolete concept. While the MWW has lost respect for just about everything — especially marriage — there are places where people marry and stay that way; where the vows of not parting until death separates them are held sacred and kept. It was to a culture of this type that Joshua said that they were to hold fast to God in basically the same way a husband holds fast to his wife.

As a husband, that is some powerful imagery. This imagery not only gives me an idea of what I should want things to be like, but the verb has as another potential meaning (not in the way it is used in this verse, but as it is used elsewhere) of pursuing closely. The concepts bound up in this word choice are evocative. I am given the idea that I should hold fast to God; that I should be coming to Him with my rough days and with my summary of what happened today. I should seek out His presence and His company. And, as is the case with the relationship between husband and wife, there is a way that I can pursue Him to which He will respond and many ways to pursue Him to which He will not respond. Just as my wife receives certain actions and words as gestures of love, so, too, does God receive certain actions and words in that way. Just as my wife may perceive things that I think are acts of love as nothing really worth noting, so, too, does God.

There is a key difference — one of many — between God and my wife. God knows my intent. My wife does not always know what I am on about. God can see, as plain as day, that my words or actions are prompted by love for Him and He understands that my attempts to properly communicate that love will often be clumsy. This does not mean that He leaves me that way, but that He comprehends.

Joshua’s exhortation to the Israelites is to cling to the LORD. The same exhortation comes to me this morning. Things have been rough in many ways in recent times and I have not heeded this instruction as I should. I need to cling to the LORD [my] God. I need to yearn for Him in a fashion similar to (but not exactly the same as) the yearning I have for my wife.

Father, thank You for loving me and seeing my feeble love for You and my sad attempts at expressing that love. Please stoke the fires of love both for You and for my wife (since both are on my mind after this morning’s time) and help me to express that love in ways that can be received by the beloved.

SOAP Journal – 13 July 2017 (Joshua 22:5)

Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Joshua 22:5

After the Promised Land was parceled out, Joshua summoned the 2½ tribes that settled in the land of Gilead on the opposite side of the Jordan from the rest of the Israelites and releases them from service. They had promised to go to war alongside their brethren and the land was now solidly in the control of the Israelites. There was still conquering to do, but the war was over for a time. Joshua tells the 2½ tribes that they have served faithfully and discharges them with a blessing and a warning. This morning’s verse is the substance of that warning.

In the New Testament (NT), believers are warned not to forsake the gathering together of the brethren (Hebrews 10:25). The 2½ tribes looked to be doing exactly that. And Joshua’s exhortation to the 2½ tribes contains, I think, part of the reason why fellowship is strongly encouraged.

Joshua warns the 2½ tribes to be very careful to observe the commandment and the law … to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When Paul writes similar exhortations to the NT believers, it is usually phrased without the very included. He might emphasize a point, but I cannot recall an instance in which Paul added an emphasis word. The reason for the emphasis is, I think, in the verses preceding Hebrews 10:25. Hebrews 10:23-24 says Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds …. The idea there is that fellowship; being in the company of others who believe as you do and follow the same God you do gives all involved the opportunity to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.

If the 2½ tribes had remained with their fellow Israelites and not had a river dividing them, then the near civil war that follows hard on the heels of the 2½ tribes heading home would never have happened. Moreover, the river between them leads later to slow division as deep as language. All of the Israelites should speak the same language, but those in Gilead began to develop a dialect that divided them from their brethren.

Where all of this leads, for me, is to the place where I am reminded that I need regular fellowship with brothers in Christ. I may not live next door to them (although I might) and it may require planning (I do not like to plan), but I need regular time spent with those who have my Savior in common so we can stimulate one another to love and good deeds and so that we help ease the burden and ratchet the intensity of effort down from being very careful to simply being careful. Maybe I will still need to be very careful, but it is still a simpler thing than trying to go it alone.

Thank You, Father, that You have placed us in Your family and that we can support one another and bear one another’s burdens and make walking with You even less laborious. Please give me a willingness and a desire to work at fellowship.

SOAP Journal – 12 July 2017 (Joshua 21:45)

Not a word from every good word which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

Joshua 21:45

This verse rounds out the account of the division of the land by lots. There are bits and pieces of interesting information squirreled in among the names of cities and descriptions of borders — the summary account of Caleb taking possession of the land God promised him, the ten daughters of a man of Manasseh receiving their promised inheritance, notes about the Jebusites and Canaanites being put to forced labor instead of being driven from the land, the allotment of the cities of refuge — but this verse caught my attention. I read it in the NASB rendering Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. and found that I was impacted by it, but the literal translation footnoted is what I have quoted for today’s verse.

First, I find it interesting that the writer of this book points out that it is the good word or the good promises on which God followed through. There are other promises in The Bible. There are promises that undesirable outcomes derive from faithless and disobedient actions. We might think of those as bad promises. They are still promises, but we do not view them as good.

Second, not one … failed. God has made many promises throughout the scriptures and the author of this book notes that not one of the good words God spoke to the Israelites failed. Not one. I do not make nearly as many promises as God makes in His Word and I fail on far too many of them. God makes bevies of promises and not one fails. He makes good on every one.

The principle that I can take from this is that every promise God has made to me will also come to pass. Not one promise that God has made will fail. And this invites me to one of the most difficult tasks I can undertake: to trust. Neither this world nor the people in it inspire me with much reason to trust and my life experience has reinforced the notion that trust is a precious commodity to be doled out sparingly. This verse and its principle and the implications that come along for the ride invite me to trust God; to take Him at His Word. Many years ago, Shanghai Noon hit theaters and the princess (Lucy Liu) says to the man who has come to rescue her (Jackie Chan) “That which you have promised, you must perform.” This quote often comes back to me when I read about how I can trust God and His promises, because what He has promised, He will perform.

 

Father, thank You for Your promises. Thank You that You are trustworthy. Please teach me to trust.

SOAP Journal – 11 July 2017 (Joshua 14:6)

Then the sons of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know the word which the LORD spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea.”

Joshua 14:6

As the Israelites are allotting the land, parceling it out, Caleb decides to come talk to Joshua before things get rolling along and the promise made by God through Moses to Caleb is forgotten. God had made a promise to Caleb 45 years prior that Caleb would be given all the land that he had spied out. Interestingly, the land that Caleb claims is giant-infested hill country. The next chapter recounts Caleb driving out the giants and inspiring others to do the same, but the land he claims is, when he claims it, filled with Anakim. This 85-year-old man lays claim to land that he will have to drive giants out of if he wants to live on it.

There are a couple of times that Caleb makes statements that remind me that he is not presuming upon God. He says  the LORD has let me live (v 10) as pertains to the time between the promise and its fulfillment and he says perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken. (v 12) as pertains to the actual fulfillment of the promise. Caleb counted the land as his, because God had promised it to him. Whether or not Caleb, himself, would be able to possess that land or it would be something his children inherited did not seem to trouble him. God let him live long enough to see the conquest of the Promised Land and the land that had been promised to him, personally, was ripe for the plucking. Caleb knew that the land was his, because God had promised it. Caleb knew that the giants were leaving, because God had promised the land to Caleb. Would Caleb be the one to drive them out? Maybe. Caleb does not seem to presume that God is going to use him (Caleb) to drive the Anakim out.

The other thing I note is that Caleb is rather bold about this. Caleb does not mince words or act like he is asking for something. He speaks to Joshua about the promise made by God through Moses and does so with full confidence and expectation that Joshua will make good on it. James will write later that the person who prays should not do so doubting. If I am coming to God to ask Him to fulfill a promise He has made to me, I can do so with full confidence that God will perform that which He has promised. If I doubt, then I call into question that character of the One Who made the promise, i.e. God.

This gives two pieces of application for me. (1) I should never presume upon God. There is no guarantee that God will do things that way that I think He ought to do them. In point of fact, He more often does things in a way I had not considered. (2) I can have full confidence that God will make good on His promises and I should seek after those promises as if they are guaranteed — which they are. God will make good on His promises and He will do so in the time and manner that He chooses.

Father, thank You that Your promises are sure. Please teach me to approach You boldly, as Caleb approached Joshua, to seek after those promises.

SOAP Journal – 10 July 2017 (Joshua 12:7-24)

Now these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the sons of Israel defeated beyond the Jordan toward the west, from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon even as far as Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir; and Joshua gave it to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their divisions, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, on the slopes, and in the wilderness, and in the Negev; the Hittite, the Amorite and the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite … in all, thirty-one kings.

Joshua 12:7-24

Chapter 12 is a recounting of the victories of the conquest of the Promised Land. This recounting is in summary form, which makes sense as the detail is included earlier in the book and in other books. The first 6 verses summarize the victories led by Moses before the Israelites crossed the Jordan. Verses 7-24 — this morning’s passage — summarize the victories won under Joshua’s command.

What caught my attention is the number of kings defeated. I am no numerologist and cannot say whether or not 31 has any special significance in its own right, but it is the number of days in the longest months on the calendar. It is almost as if God is saying that there is victory to be won every day. And the next chapter begins with God telling an old Joshua that there is still a lot of land left to conquer. No matter how much victory is in my past, there are still more victories yet to be won.

The Promised Land is viewed metaphorically in many ways. The way that I view it, the Promised Land is my self. What I want to conquer and have dominion over is my own mind and heart and all … in short, my self. To take possession of my self, control must be wrested from various little despots like wrong ways of thinking and sins over which I am not yet victorious. And there always seems to be some other petty tyrant in my life doing its level best to ruin all the good work that God has already accomplished.

July has, for me, gotten off to a rocky start. It is not that there has been much defeat, but rather that there have been a few seemingly small victories. God already conquered a Jericho in my life in the form of anger. He has conquered many other areas, as well. But there are still giants in the land and there are still little tyrants in my heart and mind waging war with God and with me. They will be defeated, but I am glad of the reminder that there are always the victories whose stories are told and the victories that only really show up in summarized fashion. Some are worth recounting in their entirety. Others deserve only a footnote. But all are victories and worthy of some note.

Father, thank You that the victories are Yours and therefore the battles are also Yours. Please continue to lead me through the battles in my life to take possession of my Promised Land: me.

SOAP Journal – 30 June 2017 (Joshua 11:21-22)

Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained. 

Joshua 11:21-22

The Anakim, I know from other reading, are a lineage that produced giants. Whether this was simply genetic  or if there was something supernatural going on is up for debate, but these were people of unusual size. Goliath is mentioned as a giant (I think he was one of the Rephaim, though, and not one of the Anakim) and his given dimensions place him over 9 feet tall. These Anakim were not pushovers. This is the Israelites fighting the first string warriors. And dominating.

The key to this dominance is God fighting on behalf of the Israelites. But that was yesterday’s focal point. This morning, I find myself noting the order in which God took the Israelites through the conquest. He began them with a spectacular victory over Jericho that put the fear of God into the people in the land. Ai came next, after a hiccough involving Achan taking things that were God’s. Then it was an unbroken string of victories with God in constant communication with Joshua about when it was acceptable to step out onto the battlefield. God rounds things out with the extermination of the Anakim from the Promised Land.

I find this interesting, because I wonder if a similar pattern might be a principle in my own life. God won a spectacular victory in my life early on by bringing my anger under control and He has been making steady inroads on all the areas in my life that need to be conquered in order to conform me to the image of His Son. But there are giants. There are battles that seem so daunting that I am mot sure I have enough in the W column to be comfortable walking into that battle. I have had too many Achan times in my life when I got things all out of order and was soundly defeated (times that left me aching – yes, the pun is terrible and I love it). Too much in the L column to feel ready to face down the giants in my life. And maybe that is the pattern God works with. Maybe He works me through battling smaller challenges up to the giants in the land.

Father, thank You for winning victories in my life and for continuing to conform me to the image of Your Son. I know that there is still much to be done and I trust that You will complete the work so hat I can stand blameless in Your presence one day. Please continue to conquer more of my life and bring it into obedience to Christ.