Joshua 24

Vs. 1, “Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.”  Some biblical scholars believe this another perspective or continuation of our previous chapter.  Shechem held significance for this is where Abram built an altar for the LORD when he arrived to the Promised Land (Genesis 12:7).  Joshua becomes the LORD’s mouthpiece as he addresses the Israelites directly (vs. 2-13).  It’s interesting to see how reviewing our history is so important to living out our present and future.  Now that Israel remembers all that God has done for them, how will they respond?  I love how Joshua challenges all of Israel to actually respond to the LORD (vs. 14-15).  With one voice, they give a resounding positive response (vs. 16-24).  The chapter and book closes with the burial of Joshua, burial of Eleazar and the burial of Joseph’s bones (vs. 28-33).  Question: Will Israel remain faithful?  Stay tuned as we continue you our journey through the Bible!

Regarding application…Letting Go.  Vs. 23, “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”  Making a decision to follow God is more than just a verbal affirmation.  If you are serious about walking with God, than you must learn to let go.  Question: Are you holding onto anything?  When I first became a Christian, secular music was a huge love of mine.  Everything about it mesmerized me: the lyrics, the beat, the mood, etc.  But in my heart, I knew I needed to let this “idol” go.  I threw away all my tape cassettes (yes, I’m old) when I was 16 years old.  Take time today to consider the idols you may be holding onto.  Will you let it go?

Joshua 23

Vs. 1, “After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years.”  We now come to Joshua’s farewell speech.  Just as Moses gathered Israel to share his imparting words at the end of Deuteronomy, so does Joshua in his old age.  There is something special about the last words people share with us.  It’s wonderful to see the glory and credit given to the LORD because He was the one who brought them through the desert (vs. 3).  Joshua was an ideal model for all those who would step into leadership after him.  He was a military commander, but also a spiritual leader.  Joshua knew that the task ahead wasn’t going to be an easy one, which is why he exhorted the people to not ally themselves with the remaining Canaanites (vs. 7, 12).  I appreciate how Joshua spoke truth in love when it came to not trivializing the consequences if they turned from the LORD (vs. 15-16).  It takes a strong and courageous person to live a life that does not conform to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:1-2).  This is the idea that Joshua is trying to impart one last time to the Israelites.

Regarding application…Secret to Success.  Vs. 6, “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.”  Question: What was Joshua’s secret to success?  Joshua revered the Book of the Law!  Joshua’s devotion to God’s word led him into a deeper relationship with the LORD.  Question: It’s that’s basic?  Yup!  Certainly there is an element of faith and a transforming of our hearts through the Spirit of God.  But I believe we make this walk with God much more confusing than it should be.  Working alongside and serving the church, I have seen many people try to operate “outside of the box” with newfound methods and ways of doing ministry.  While I appreciate the creative ideas, sometimes there is much wisdom to keeping it basic.  The secret to success is that good foundation.  For example, when I wrestled back in my junior high/high school days, my coach would always encourage us to perfect a couple of good moves: have one good takedown, have one good escape.  While we will learn more moves, if we can perfect the basics we will find much success in wrestling.  Likewise, let us keep our firm foundation in His word!

Joshua 22

Vs. 4, “Now that the LORD your God has given your brothers rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan.”  The eastern tribes (Rueben, Gad and ½ tribe of Manasseh) have fulfilled their duty (Numbers 23) by helping Israel defeat the Canaanites in the Promised Land (vs. 1-8).  Now it was their time to return to their families.  I love how Joshua exhorted them to spiritually keep their hearts turned to the LORD (vs. 5).  But this happy ending comes with a bit of drama!  The eastern tribes decide to erect an imposing alter (vs. 10).  Question: Why would they do this?  It wasn’t to offer sacrifices to a pagan God, but it was setup as a memorial to remind the coming generations that they are all Israelites (vs. 24-29).  The drama was created because the western tribes had no idea why the eastern tribes would do such a thing.  It’s important to note that they were ready to go to war (vs. 11-12) over this!  This issues begs the question: Were the Eastern tribes out of God’s will in the first place for not wanting to enter the Promised Land?  There are differing views among biblical scholars.  This can bring up issues like God’s sovereign will vs. His permissive will.  Some will point to this incident in our chapter as a case in point why this was not a wise choice.  The Eastern tribes took matter into their own hands by erecting an altar in the first place.  Regardless of how we can interpret this, we must trust in God’s sovereign control.

Regarding application…Conflict Resolution.  Vs. 30, “When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased.”  Jesus told us, “Blessed are the peacemakers”  Matthew 5:9.  One of the things that really impresses me is the fact that the western tribes sent Phinehas the High Priest as well as the ten of the chief men from each tribe as a delegation (vs. 13-14).  They could have easily jumped to conclusions and rushed in to attack the eastern tribes.  This is a stark lesson for how we deal with conflict today.  We are emotional beings and are often too quick to assume the worst without taking the time to investigate an action of another.  17th century Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, stated, “Peace is such a precious jewel that I would give anything for it but truth.”  Question: Are there any conflicts in your life today?  Take time to pray that you would love and sacrifice to bring a peaceful resolution to any conflicts in your life.

Joshua 21

Vs. 3, “So, as the LORD had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance.”  We now come to the allotment of the Levites.  Question: Who were the Levites?  They were set apart by God from the tribe of Levi to help administer to the sacrificial offerings.  The tribe of Levi was the only tribe that stood up with Moses when he saw the idolatrous golden calf (Exodus 32:25-29).  The Levites were broken up into three groups plus one: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (sons of Levi) and then the line of Aaron (they would serve in the priestly mode).  It was now their turn to claim the promises of God.  Though they would not possess any specific land, the LORD would spread them out to administer to His people in all the tribes.  The Levites and Priesthood played a role much like Pastors, Missionaries, etc. of today.

Regarding application…Faithful Father.  Vs. 45, “Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”  Question: Is there something in your life that you are worried about?  I was thinking about our consumerist society and being bombarded by all these companies that their products are the best.  Most companies and retail stores want to give us peace of mind by offering “money-back” guarantees.  If the product fails in its promise, we can return it hassle-free.  Unlike worldly products, when the Lord offers His products of love and promises, there is no caveat “money-back” return policy.  Question: Why?  Because God never makes a faulty product!  I know when we put our faith in God, there will be times of questioning and doubt.  That is why we must root ourselves in His word to constantly remind us of our faithful Father.  Take time today to let go of a specific worry in your life.

Joshua 20

Vs. 2, “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses.”  The LORD Himself now instructs Joshua to follow up with what He already instructed Moses (Deuteronomy 19, Numbers 35) to do: designate cities of refuge.  Question: What was the purpose of these cities of refuge?  If someone were killed, there was a system in place where the next kinsman (relative) was to avenge his brother or relative.  However, there were instances of unintentional deaths and these cities of refuge were setup to protect those who unfortunately fell in this category.  For example, Deuteronomy (19:5-6) shares quite a vivid example of someone cutting down a tree with another, and as swings his ax, it accidently flies off the handle and kills the other person.  In our courtrooms today, they would call this negligent homicide.  The guilty party would present their case at the town gate for consideration of protection (vs. 4).  Essentially, this was prison in a lesser degree.  I really appreciate that these laws of protection were also given to the foreigner living among them (vs. 9).

Regarding application…Receiving Pardon.  Vs. 6, “He is to stay in that city until he has stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then he may go back to his own home in the town from which he fled.”  It’s interesting to note that if the current high priest died, amnesty would be offered to all those who sought protection at these cities of refuge.  The death of the high priest would cover over the sins of these people who unintentionally killed another.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4).  But Jesus pardon of sins (forgiveness) is far more comprehensive!  As believers, we all have been pardoned by the death of our high priest in Jesus!  Question: Is there anyone in your life that you can pardon?  We are challenged in this life to give the love of Christ as it was given to us.  Take time to thank the Lord for His pardon and reach out in forgiveness to another this week!

Joshua 19

Vs. 49, “When they had finished dividing the land into its allotted portions, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun an inheritance among them.”  This is a long chapter that chronicles the remaining six tribes and their allotment.  The allotment of Simeon (vs. 1-9) is an interesting one, for all their area would be within the borders of Judah’s allotment.  This would seem to fulfill Jacob’s prophecy concerning Simeon (Genesis 49:5-7) for eventually they would be incorporated into Judah’s tribe or some would scatter into Ephraim and Manasseh (II Chronicles 15:9).  The tribes of Zebulun (vs. 10-16), Issachar (vs. 17-23) and Naphtali (vs. 32-39) all would become the region of Galilee where Jesus would do the majority of His ministry.  The tribe of Asher (vs. 24-31) holds a special place because I am hoping to call my future son, Asher!  The tribe of Dan’s allotment (vs. 40-48) was small and eventually they migrated north. And lastly, Joshua would finally receive his special inheritance (vs. 49-51) just as Caleb did (Joshua 14:6-15).

Regarding application…Faithful Promises!  Question: Why all these intricate details?  God is in the details and this helps prove Israel’s official claim of ownership.  It also shows the world both present and future that this land belongs to Israel.  Certainly, over the centuries and even present time, there has been huge contention regarding the continued ownership of the Promised Land.  Some will vehemently claim this is God’s land and Israel becoming an official nation in 1948 is fulfilling God’s biblical prophecies.  Others claim it is more symbolic and that the New Testament church is the Israel of today.  Regardless of how we may interpret Scripture, the underlying truth is God is faithful with His promises!  As we begin the new week, consider a promise of God that you can begin your week.  For me, I love Romans 8:39, “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Joshua 18

Vs. 2, “but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance.”  Joshua continues to show his strong leadership by ensuring to motivate and encourage the rest of the tribes to action (vs. 3-5).  They basically send out surveyors (vs. 4) to scope the land and determine the best areas to settle in.  Upon their return, Joshua takes their report and cast lots to allocate the seven pieces of land (vs. 6-10).  I’m sure each tribe waited in eager anticipation!  It’s also notable that they moved the tabernacle to Shiloh located in Ephraim to be the center of worship and administration (vs. 1).  The latter half of our chapter records the allotment to the tribe of Benjamin (vs. 11-28).  Certainly, God’s hand was in the selection of Benjamin and the location which would also include Jerusalem (vs. 28).

Regarding application…Take Action.  Vs. 3, “So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?”  Question: What were the seven tribes doing all this time?  Were they acting out in disobedience?  Were they just standing around with their hands in their pockets?  Scholars are split on whether or not this question was rhetoric or flavored with accusation.  Regardless of the intent, the seven other tribes needed to take action.   Question: Have you ever procrastinated?  Have you ever just been confused about what to do next?  Thankfully, the seven other tribes did not falter or leave.  They trusted that Joshua would help them.  Question: Is there anything in your life right now that requires you to take action?  Perhaps there is something in your careers, family, or church that needs more attention.  Take time to pray and seek the Lord’s direction today!

Joshua 17

Vs. 1, “This was the allotment for the tribe of Manasseh as Joseph’s firstborn, that is, for Makir, Manasseh’s firstborn. Makir was the ancestor of the Gileadites, who had received Gilead and Bashan because the Makirites were great soldiers.”  Yesterday’s chapter opened up the accounts of how Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh would receive a portion of the Promised Land.  You may recall that half of the tribe of Manasseh elected to live on the east side of the Jordan (vs. 1-2) and the rest would claim their land west (vs. 3-12).  We are reminded of Moses’ promise (Numbers 27) to Zolephehad’s daughters of receiving their inheritance since there were no sons (vs. 3-6).  Like the Ephraimites in chapter 16, we see the people of Manasseh subject the stubborn Canaanites to forced labor rather than drive them out (vs. 13).

Regarding application…Complaining.  Vs. 16, “The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”  Question: Why did Ephraim and Manasseh complain?  They allowed their pride to get the best of them (vs. 14).  From their mindset: they were the double-portion of Joseph among Israel’s tribes!  Why shouldn’t they receive preferential treatment?  Yet, other tribes were also swelling in abundance, but you don’t see them complaining.   I like Joshua’s response (vs. 17-18) and I’m paraphrasing, “if you don’t like it, do something about it.”  They were acting like spoiled children who wanted everything just given to them.  Question: Are there things in your life right now that you are complaining about?  In the bigger picture of life, we should be far more thankful!

Joshua 16

Vs. 1, “The allotment for Joseph began at the Jordan of Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, and went up from there through the desert into the hill country of Bethel.”  You may recall that Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim were officially adopted by Jacob/Israel (Genesis 48) in order to bless Joseph with a double-portion when the land was to be allocated.   Question: Why was Joseph given a double-portion?  Reuben (Jacob’s oldest son) should have received it, but his sins (Genesis 49:4) forfeited his right.  Certainly, most of us will recall Joseph’s plight into slavery to Egypt and his grace and love extended to his family during the famine.  In this chapter, we see the details to the allotment given to Ephraim who was given the first-born blessing, though he was younger than his brother Manasseh.  Notable Ephraimites were Joshua (Joshua 19:50), Samuel (I Samuel 1:1), and Jeroboam I (I Kings 12:25).

Regarding application…Compromising.  Vs. 10, “They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.”  Question: Why didn’t the Ephraimites drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer?  Some biblical scholars note that it was simply out of greed.  By ensuring the Canaanites are put to work, this would result in material gain.  Question: What’s the big deal?  Not only was this direct disobedience (Deuteronomy 20:16) to driving out the nations, but these same Canaanites would rise up against them as the years progressed during the times of Judges.  Brothers and sisters, we must exercise wisdom when it comes to determining if something is worth compromising over.  One thing that really comes to mind is the compromising we make over relationships.  With good intentions, people will make compromises about their future spouse.  Sadly, those compromises (not a Christian, alcoholic, gambler, sexually promiscuous, etc.) can come back and destroy that marriage.  Let us prayerfully consider what is in our life that could be a stumbling block that we should get rid of.

Joshua 15

Vs. 1, “The allotment for the tribe of Judah, clan by clan, extended down to the territory of Edom, to the Desert of Zin in the extreme south.”  Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and his mother was Leah.  The tribe of Judah would produce King David and ultimately Jesus!  The tribe of Judah would possess the largest allocated land.   Judah would need to be large and strong, for they would be surrounded by enemies on each side (Moabites on the East, Edomites on the south, Amalekites on the southwest and the Philistines on the west).  The intricate details of the distribution of the land show us that God’s hand of providence was upon them.  It’s interesting to note that Jerusalem was still inhabited by another people: the Jebusites (vs. 63).  It wouldn’t be until King David, that Jerusalem would be conquered.  And lastly, lodged in between, is the story of Othniel (vs. 13-19) who would step up and help defeat those at Kiriath Sepher (vs. 16).  Joshua would reward his relative Othniel (the first judge for Israel) and give his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.

Regarding application…Seek and Ye Shall Find.  Vs. 19, “She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.”  They say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  Acsah (Caleb’s daughter) would follow in the footsteps of her father (Joshua 14:12) and boldly ask for special favor.  Because she sought, her request was granted.  Now, certainly that doesn’t apply to all things in life.  But, if Caleb an earthly father would grant his daughter special favor, how much more will our Heavenly Father give (Luke 11:9-13)?  Question: Was do you seek in your life?  Is God granting your request?  As we grow and mature in our spiritual lives, His desires become our desires.  Take time today to actively seek what God wants in your life.