Day 354: Hebrews 11-13; By Faith (Israel's Hall of Fame)

Keeping in mind that the whole of this book was written as an encouragement to those believers who were facing persecution, especially from the Jews, and to those who were believers but may have been backsliding into Judaism.  With that in mind, there isn’t much else to say that isn’t eloquently spoken about in chapters 11 and 12.  So, I encourage you to read them again and remember all that we have covered over the last year.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.  By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.  By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.  Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.  By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.  By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.  By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.  By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of GideonBarakSamsonJephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”



Day 187: Proverbs 17-19; The Wisdom in Repetition

As I was reading through today’s Proverbs I actually caught myself thinking that this reading was getting a bit monotonous.  I’m pretty sure that some of the things that we read today were things that we read yesterday, or multiple other days.  In fact, there are a great many of the proverbs in the three chapters that we read today that are somewhat repeated from yesterday and days past.  I started to think to myself “why would Solomon repeat things multiple times?”  I definitely had to catch myself here because I think that I was starting to get a bad attitude around them.  Suddenly though, I wast struck but the wisdom in repeating these wise sayings… it isn’t about the vast amount of different wise sayings as much as it is about the wisdom found in the sayings that are there.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Photo Credit: www.faclan.org

The Dead Sea Scrolls
Photo Credit: www.faclan.org

I also realized that there are many examples of repetition in the Bible as well.  There are also many reasons for the repetition we find in Scripture!  Part of it, probably the main reason actually, comes from the Hebrew culture and their writing.  Hebrew writing has no punctuation.  If you read it in the original writing, or look at the dead sea scrolls, there really is very little break in the lines of writing at all.  This means that there are no symbols for adding emphasis like the exclamation point… and certainly no little smiley/frown faces to communicate emotions.  What this means for us, is that when things are repeated, especially when they are repeated in succession, there is a great deal of emphasis that is meant to be heard in it.  Think in Isaiah 6 or Revelation 4 when the Angels are singing “Holy Holy Holy” about the Lord.  This isn’t because they are stuttering or something, neither is it because of some sort of a lack of creativity on the part of the writer.  It is the repetition of the words that makes them powerful in the Hebrew language!  If you were to put it in today’s texting language, God is HOLY! =)

We’ve actually encountered the this type of repetition in Scripture many times in the past.  Think all the way back to Genesis, with the 2 creation narratives that we read.  One was most specific towards the details while the other was more focused on the human aspect, yet both were very geared towards the point that it was indeed God that created all things.  If you think ahead towards Abraham and the many times that the covenant was reaffirmed, we see the emphasis on the covenantal relationship that defines Israel, all which begins with God as well.  We see this with Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the giving of the Law, Joshua, and many many more throughout the history of Israel.  I have written more about this in another blog that I occasionally write in  as well.  It is an article called ‘Pete and Repeat.’  Feel free to check it out!

So today, and in the coming days, as you are reading these proverbs and one sounds familiar, take a moment to think about where you heard it before.  Maybe go back and look for it in the previous days’ readings.  Solomon is repeating these for a reason, not simply because he can’t think of anything else to say.  Perhaps these repeated sections will touch you in a special way today… perhaps they are things that we all need to hear again and again that we may better live our lives bringing honor and glory to God.



Day 102: 1 Kings 16-18; Enter Elijah

English: Ahab was king of Israel and the son a...

English: Ahab was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the Kings of Israel are Evil.  One after another, the do worse and worse things.  Scripture even says that some of these kings did so much worse that all the others before them.  Today we come to Ahab, who fits that profile and then some.  He “did evil in the sight of the Lord,more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam.”  Israel has walked away from God continually from the time of the Northern Kingdom’s inception.  Now they are worshiping the Baals as well as Asherah, following in the ways of the nations around them, just as Moses warned before they entered into the promised land.

Interjected into the story of Ahab becoming king and ruling is the little known story of Hiel, the man that rebuild the city of Jericho.  Scripture tells us this story in 1 quick verse:

“In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”  1 Kings 16:34

The word of the Lord to which this verse refers is back in Joshua 6:26, when Joshua say the very words which come true for Hiel:

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
    lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
    shall he set up its gates.”

Enter Elijah, the most famous prophet without a book to call his own.  Elijah enters this scene in much the same way that Moses enters the scene over 400 years earlier.  Israel was enslaved by Egypt then and is enslaved by foreign gods and sin now.  Once Elijah says his piece to Ahab he goes out into the wilderness where God provides for him bread and meat, much like the mana and quail from Israel’s wilderness experience.  After this wilderness experience, like that of Israel and of King David (and later Jesus as well), Elijah emerges and begins to do the work of the Lord in a land permeated by evil.

The Prophets of Baal Defeated Photo Credit: http://102grow.blogspot.com/2011/03/god-hears-us-2.html

The Prophets of Baal Defeated
Photo Credit: http://102grow.blogspot.com/2011/03/god-hears-us-2.html

The story of the challenge between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is probably a familiar one to those who attended Sunday School as a child.  It can also be a popular story to preach from in churches, but I think that this story, when read in the context in which we find it in today’s reading helps to bring out a great deal more of the depth of meaning that is taking place here.  In the land of Israel, there really hasn’t been any sort of following of God over the course of the last 50+ years or so.  We can look as far back as Solomon’s reign to see that the kings have turned away from the Lord and are following after idols.  By this point the grip of idolatry is very strong on this nation.  Yet even here, God does not abandon His people and leave them in their apostasy.  God sends his prophet and challenges the evil that is present.  Again, as we talk about pretty much every day, God remains faithful even when the people clearly are not.  Yesterday it was covenant faithfulness with the kings of Judah, today God will not simply surrender His people to the Baals or Asherah goddesses or any other idols.

God does not shrink away when we sin.  He is not threatened when we turn away or doubt.  God is not put off by our questions.  He does not turn away when we do not live for Him.  No, God challenges the status quo and the idols that we may have.  God doesn’t let the things of this world take His people away while just idly standing by helplessly.  Today we read that through Elijah, God takes on the gods of Baal in front of all, inviting it to show its power for all to see.  Obviously Baal doesn’t show up because it has no real power.  But God shows up in a very real way, sending an all consuming fire that eats up the sacrifice, the water, and even the rocks on which it is placed.  God’s power is almighty; nothing can stand before Him.

Do not live in the fear that you may have angered the Lord.  Do not live in the lie that you have walked away too far or that you have done something that is unforgivable.  God did not abandon the people of Israel and He will not abandon you ether.  God is faithful.  He is Loving.  He is Jealous for His people.  He is quick to forgive.  If you are wandering, listen for His voice… He IS calling you back and He IS ready to fight for you.



Day 94: 2 Samuel 21-22; David's Song of Deliverance

If the whole of David’s life were to be summed up into a single phrase, it would arguably be “God is always Faithful.”  Therefore, if we could sum up David’s song 2 Samuel 22, it would be something akin to “God is Great.  God is always Faithful.  Thanks be to God for His Faithfulness.”  Neither of these summaries do justice to the incredible story that is the story of King David’s life, nor the abundant providential faithfulness that God shows time and again throughout David’s years.  They also don’t do justice to the beautiful song that David has written here.  I hope that these two summaries can give us a starting place for thinking about today’s reading and reflecting on David’s life as he enters into is waning years.

Before we get more into the song though, there are some other things that should be mentioned here.  Our reading starts with a famine in the land due to Saul’s unfaithfulness to a long standing covenant with the Gibeonites.  This agreement goes all the way back to Joshua 9 when Joshua is deceived by a group of people pretending to be from a distant land.  This happened during Joshua’s southern campaign, but this is the first and only time we hear about Saul’s actions.  What is interesting about this, I think, is the direct impact this breach of the covenant has on the land, literally the land of Israel.  David seeks after God and the Lord reveals to him the atrocity that has taken place here.  Sometimes I think that we don’t put much stock in agreements that we make anymore.  We have politicians that promise us the world and deliver next to nothing.  Large companies promise great things while delivering shoddy workmanship.  Everything comes with small print…  I wonder what this world would be like if we saw the outwardly direct impact that these breaches have on the world by way of famine, disease, war, etc?  I certainly wouldn’t wish this on us… but it might get a few people’s attention.

We see some of the signs of David’s aging and frailty in chapter 21.  David is in battle and he grows weary?  This isn’t the mighty warrior that we remember from our readings over the last 2 weeks.  David is aging, yet the Lord remains faithful to him in his twilight years.  Other great warriors rise up to defend Israel against what seems like a whole army of giants that come out of the philistines.  There’s even another one named Goliath.  You’d think they’d of avoided that name after what happened to the last one.  However, no matter what their names or what their size, they are no match for the God of Israel.  We once again see God’s faithfulness in action providing for and defending the people of Israel at every turn.

Finally, let us turn our attention once again to the song of David.  As a worship leader, I often struggle to listen to music, especially Christian music, without wanting to hear the lyrics.  I often focus on things like who is this song about, or who are we singing to, or what are the theological overtones of this song.  I think a lot about music, especially worship music, because of the incredible impact that it can have on our lives and on our beliefs as well.  Sadly, there are many “worship songs” out there that really have much more to do with us, the supposed worshiper, than on God who should be the one who is worshiped.  While this could probably be debated a great deal (and I would love to talk about it more), I want to direct our attention back to that of the song of David here in 2 Samuel 22.

David starts out the song with 11 attributes of God right in a row, praising God for who God is.  He then spends the equivalent of 2 lines talking about his own calling out to the Lord and 4 lines referring to why he called out to the Lord, followed by 34 lines of song about the Lord’s answer.  The song continues much in this fashion, focusing more on who God is and the work of God than on the actions of himself.  For David, whether it be safety from Saul or defeat of his enemies, all these things are works of the Lord, faithfulness of God almighty.  For David, everything begins and ends with God.  There is no middle ground here.  We’ll see this more in the Psalms when we get there.  However, for David, as we see here in the twilight of his life, the Lord’s anointed one is giving all honor, all glory, all praise, and all credit to the only one due it: The God of Israel; the God of His fathers, the Holy One and only True God.  May it be so in our lives as we reflect each day on God’s faithfulness to us as well.



Day 89: 2 Samuel 8-11; David's Victories and Kindness

For many people, readers, historians, and scholars, this is largely considered to be the “Golden Age” of Israel.  The Lord gave David success in everything he did.  As we have talked about so many times this really has to do with the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel.  If you remember back to the end of Leviticus, when we talked about the blessings and curses section of the Covenant, you’ll recall what God said he would do for the people of Israel if they were to follow Him.

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely.  I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.  I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you.  You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.”

Thus far, if you were to think back over the story of the people of Israel, we have seen ample examples of what it means when the people disobey God.  We saw it in the Judges Cycle and earlier with Joshua’s leadership in the conquest of Canaan.  In these times we have seen both the good and the bad, a lot of the bad.  But in all of this, God has been faithful to the people of Israel.

Today we are seeing the rewards.  There is no back and forth here… no cycle… David is following after God with everything he is, holding nothing back and God, true as He always is to the covenant, is blessing the socks off of them.  As I said, Israel is in their golden age.  Their boarders are expanding.  Their enemies are subdued.  Almost nothing can shake them…

Almost nothing… Like all people though, David is human, and as we read at the end of today, he is not exempt from sin… a sin which we will talk more about tomorrow.

There is one other narrative that is present in today’s reading, that of David and Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth.  David promises Jonathan toward the end of Jonathan’s life that he would be kind to his offspring.  The reason that they made this pact though is because it was customary back then for a new royal house to remove the family of the old house.  This would ensure that the people would follow the new king.  This is why Mephibosheth fell at the feet of the king and offered to be his servant.  David’s reaction to Mephibosheth was completely the opposite of what would have been expected.  But David is true to his word and exalts Jonathan’s son, providing for an outcast as if he was royalty which, also is him following after and honoring the Law of God.



Day 69: Judges 1-3; The Judges Cycle

I don’t want to put anyone off by this post, but I think that the set up for the book of Judges is very important to understanding the narratives (some of them quite graphic) in the book of Judges.  There is a great deal that we can learn from these narratives, but once again I want to encourage you to remember that, in all of them, the main character, the primary mover… is God.  Stories about mighty men and heroes of old are great, but it is first and foremost important to understand that these are stories about God.

So, as we begin our journey into the book of Judges, and really the whole rest of the narratives of the Old Testament, I would like you to once again call to memory the covenant that we have been talking about.  There are different parts of the covenant… and there was a chart that looked like this:

Suzerian/Vassal Covenant Structure

 

So what we have read here in Judges 1-3 talks about how Israel did not follow the Lord.  A new generation grew up that did not know of Joshua or the Law of the Lord as Judges 2 tells us.  Remember back to Deuteronomy 6?  The Shema?

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

There were very specific instructions to what?  “teach them diligently to your children…”  Clearly this got missed in the previous generation for one reason or another.  So a whole new generation of Israelites grows up not knowing the Law.  And what happens?  Exactly what God said was going to happen.  They would begin to worship other gods.  Judges 2 says,

“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals.  And they abandoned theLord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.”

In Judges 3 we see the writer use the word “whored” or “prostituted” as a way of describing the people of Israel actions against the Lord to other gods.  We talked in the book of Numbersabout the imagery of Israel as the Bride of God and the wedding metaphor that plays in here.  The nation of Israel, that has committed itself to the Lord in a covenant relationship, forsakes that covenant and follows after other gods.  This is a direct violation of the 2nd commandment too, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…”

Interestingly, we just talked about this in my Hebrew class.  This second commandment has a very distinct implication that is used throughout the Old Testament to describe the effect that other gods would have on them.  That word “serve” is a word that we would normally use as a way of saying that we subject ourselves to something.  However, the form in the Hebrew text is a causative passive tense.  In other words, the command would read something akin to: “You shall not bow down to them or be made to serve them…”  The implication here is that the people wouldn’t just go after these gods, but that they would be acted on from outside forces… One could even say they would be enticed or seduced by these other gods.  Of course they still have to own the decision, but the warning is clear: Do not have idols because they will draw you away from God.  And this is exactly what see too isn’t it?  The Golden Calf was one example, the sin of Achan is one example, and now we’re into Judges, a book full of examples.  Just wait until we get into the kings…

Finally, I just want to take a moment to talk about the “cycle” of Judges.  Here is a graph from one of my Old Testament classes at Kuyper College with Dr. Kroeze that sums it up pretty nicely:

judges cycle

We’ll see this cycle played out over and over again in the coming days with a variety of judges, some familiar and some not.  What is important to note, as I said in the beginning, is to pay attention to what God is doing here.  Remember the covenant, at the end, where it talks about what will happen if the people disobey?  Yes… this is what is coming through in this.  The people of Israel are in a continual cycle of following God, not following God, receiving the punishment that was told in the covenant, repenting, and starting all over again.  Why does this matter?  It tells us something about God…

In all of this, God remains faithful to both ends of the covenant, upholding the whole thing despite Israel’s repeated failures.  God never leave them in their sin and disobedience, but rather empowers someone to come forward and deliver His people from their enemies.  This is true in our lives as well.  While I don’t necessarily think that God directly punishes us every time we disobey Him, this cycle does some somewhat familiar doesn’t it?

And yet even here the focus is not necessarily on sin… but how God rescues His people time after time from their sin.  Which is true, or should be true, in our lives as well… we turn our focus from the sin the we commit to the savior that washed it all away!

 



Day 68: Joshua 22-24; Choose Whom You Will Serve

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

These are some of the famous last words of Joshua.  Like Moses, as he is preparing to die, he calls the people of Israel together and they rehash the covenant again.  The people of Israel are reminded of all the great deeds of the Lord, of who they are and whose they are.  They are reminded that they came from one man who was called out of a distant land.  They are reminded that all that they are and all that they have become is not because of them, but because of God… only because of God.

This particular passage rings with the overtones of election, of predestination, and echos of the adoption.  It is, as you have probably guessed already, a foreshadowing… the whole covenant is a foreshadowing because it is fulfilled in Christ.  Joshua says in effect, “you are God’s people because God chose you, guided you, protected you, sustained you, walked with you, fought for you, and now has given you peace.  You have scene the work of the Lord, and you have seen the other gods around you.  So choose this day whom you will serve.”

Joshua also reiterates the notion of the blessings and curses of following or not following the covenant.  The people say “we will follow God.”  Joshua replies that your profession here is a witness against yourselves.  I wonder if this isn’t part of why we have the practice of profession of faith.  Does that too serve as a public witness against us, that we have publicly chosen to follow God?  I don’t necessarily know that there is a correlation there, but it seems pretty strong.

As we ended yesterday, so we will end again today.  God has been faithful.  The first 6 books of the Old Testament are, at the very least, a testament to the nature of the character of God and His abundant faithfulness and providence.  All of what has happened to the people of Israel since the very beginning has been ordained and directed by God Himself.  Whether it be sustenance during a time of famine, protection in the wilderness, the powers against the Egyptian gods, the giving of the Law, or the conquest of a people much larger and stronger than them in Canaan, all of this has happened because of God.  If there is a life lesson here, it is that nothing happens apart from the knowledge and sustaining power of the Father.  He has ordained our days from beginning to end and He will watch over us and work His will in our lives each and every day.  We have seen it and continue to see it.  So the question for us is the same:

WHOM WILL YOU SERVE?



Day 67: Joshua 19-21; Conquest of Canaan: The Inheritance (Part 2)

“Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.  Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

And so it is done.  The inheritance of the land has been divided up and the people have gone to take possession of it.  Each tribe has received their lot, their cities, and their promise.  I don’t know if you caught it, but even in this there was some trouble with the natives when the tribe of Dan went to take their possession.  However, even then, God was faithful and the usurpers were wiped out and the land possessed.

We read in here too, according to the law that we had read in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, that the people set up “cities of refuge” for people to flee to.  These were safe-havens for Hebrews and Gentiles alike, in which people that were accused of something could flee to as a way of protecting themselves.  They could stay there until the due process of law had taken its course at which time the person would either be found guilty or innocent.  If they were innocent, they could stay in the city.  If they were guilty… well… not so much.  They would be stoned in the valley outside of the city that was usually reserved for trash, waist of all sorts, and other assorted things of an unclean nature.

Also, according to the Law, the Levites who did not receive an inheritance (because God is their inheritance) were given towns to dwell in.  Remember with me that the Levites were chosen for service at the Tabernacle, service to the priests and to the worship of God.  This is a direct result of their response to Moses during the Golden Calf incident when we are told, they were the only ones that stood up for the Lord.  They, therefore, were not given land, but cities in which they could dwell and pastures in which they could graze their flocks.

This returns us again to the verse we began with.  This is not necessarily a passage of Scripture that we read and see God very clearly acting.  Yet, in the Bible, God is the primary actor, the primary character… always at work in the world, which is why this last verse is so important:

“Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.  Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

It was not the people of Israel who made their own peace, it was the Lord that gave the land to them, it was the Lord that gave them what He promised, it was the Lord that gave them rest on every side and peace in their time.  It was the Lord that had given all their enemies into their hands… and it was the Lord that completely fulfilled all of His promises to the people of Israel.  It all begins, happens, and ends with God.



Day 66: Joshua 15-18; Conquest of Canaan: The Inheritance (Part 1)

Today’s reading is not necessarily a thrilling one, I know… lots of names of cities and demarcation of boarders.  Here, for the third day in a row, is a map from Visual Unit that might give you some idea as to what the allotment of the land looked like.

Plan for the Promised Land

 

This map shows some of the cities that are used in the descriptions we read in these chapters.

There are, however, multiple parts of this reading that talk about how “the Israelites did not drive them out” and “they lived among them as forced labor.”  I want to point these sections out to you today and tomorrow because these people that Israel allows to dwell among them against the expressed command of God, are the people that continue to cause trouble for them throughout the whole of Israel’s future.  From the Philistines to the Canaanites that are left among them, we will meet these people again and again in the time of the judges and in the time of the Kings as well.  Here are some notable groups still living among them:

15:63 – “the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.”  These will not be vanquished until the time of King David.

16:10 – “ However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.”  These would also remain here until the time of King David.  We also see at the end of chapter 17 that the people of Ephriam and Manasseh do not go down and take care of these peoples because they are afraid of them.  It is hard to believe that, after all they have accomplished, they are afraid of a anyone at all.

While I would hesitate to condense this down into some pithy moral teaching, I think it is important to note here that the people of God did a great deal of work and followed the Lord in this whole time of conquest.  However, they didn’t finish the job.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the people of God were content to live in the hill country, which was much more like living in the wilderness, rather than going down and taking the land that God had given to them.  How sad it is that, really, the total conquest of Canaan is more than 100 years off yet.  God is faithful to His people though, even though this oversight will cost them repeatedly for many years to come.  Oh what things they could have avoided if they had just finished the task.  I wonder what this says to us though?  I think to myself right now, what things has God called me to in my life that I have only done a halfway job of?  I wonder what life would be like if I pursued them until they were finished?



Day 65: Joshua 11-14; Conquest of Canaan: The Northern Campaign

So continues the saga of the conquest of Canaan.  After defeating the southern kings, Joshua returns to Gilgal and then starts off on the northern front.  This map, from Bible Mapper shows pretty well the conquest of the northern Canaan.

ConquestOfCanaanNorthernCampaign_1_thumb

Joshua and the people of Israel, with the Lord fighting for them, are able to defeat the united armies of the North.  All the kings that joined together against the people of Israel are vanquished in one battle.  Joshua takes their cities and destroys them, and they pass into the list we read of the conquests of Moses and Joshua.  This map from glenacres.org show briefly the whole of the conquest of the Promised Land.

Conquest of Canaan

There is a troubling part in today’s reading that I am not entirely sure about.  God comes to Joshua and says that there is still land to be conquered.  Then God goes on to say that He will drive them out.  The next thing we hear is that the land is being divided up.  God’s statement is somewhat ambiguous in that He speaks like He has been speaking when the people of Israel were conquering Canaan, and they the people don’t follow and, what we’ll find out fairly soon, the rest of the Canaanites don’t get removed from the land and continue to live among the people of Israel.  This is something that was expressly forbidden.  God knew that if there were people left, they would draw the people of Israel away from Him… it confuses me as to why they are left and allowed to stay.

However, this is what happens and will be the subject of many narratives to come from Judges through the time of the Kings and beyond.  In the mean time, the land receives rest from war and the people of God receive their inheritance.  God has once again shown Himself to be faithful and true to His word, even if the fulfillment of the promise take over 400 years.  God has grown the people of Israel from 1 man and his wife to a nation easily numbering over a million men, women, and children, and given them a bountiful, plentiful land in which to dwell as His people.