We are starting a new stream today: The Nation. We begin in Joshua and will end the year in Esther. The theme for the reading today is obedience. We are reading from the New International Version.
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The nation of Israel was ‘called to be’ during Abraham ca. 500 years earlier than what we read today. They were ‘called to freedom’ 80 years prior when God called Moses. We might say that they have been in gestation for these centuries, went through birth pains during the slavery, Exodus, and wilderness years (in Moses’ life). But they are born and begin to explore their realized home during the Book of Joshua. The Nation is born. Most people remember the feeling right after graduating High School. It’s exciting, though they are not sure what about. The future looks huge, though no one is certain what lies ahead. One thing is for sure to most conscious 17-19-years-old people is that the former way of thinking and living is not going to work any longer and that one better get things in gear and rolling because … “I can’t stay HERE – not anymore!” That is what Joshua and the Israelites were coming into mentally and geographically. It’s time to move and never return. Would they assume all the land that God ordained for them? Well, that would happen in David’s lifetime – 1000 years after Abraham. Hey, until Jesus returns, things take more time than we all wish they did, don’t they?.
1 – God’s monologue to Joshua is epochal. It affects history as it is a main “bend in the road”. Israel as a people, a land, a culture, and world entity would never be the same. Even today, some of the most spirited discussions on the floor of the U.N. include pointed references to, you guessed it, Israel and The Jews. Moses spent 40 years wistfully longing to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. And yet he only brought them to the edge of it. Here Joshua will champion the entry -in THREE DAYS! No more leaning on Moses either. God and Joshua will continue their direct communication w/o Moses-the-mentor. And unlike the prior centuries wherein every place they were residing they were destined to leave, here “every place they set foot…God will give them”. And the gift was permanent. Oh my! God would be with them during this invincible campaign. And they were to proceed with all the confidence of God. Though three of the tribes were to reside east of the Jordan, nonetheless they were to be fully involved in ‘crossing the Jordan’. Reuben, Gad and Manasseh were all in.
2 – A prostitute enters the stage, front and center. She shows loyalty to Israel, astute thinking, keen skills and resourceful behavior. But why her? Consequently we look at this with our 20 centuries of kindred Christianity and it seems completely garish for a woman of ill repute to be so integrally involved. She’s even needed for God’s plan to play out…Huh?! And she comes to be listed among the giants of our faith! (Hebrews 11:31) What is this? Why is this so? The spies need to scout and tour Jericho before it is smashed. For starters, God cannot employ someone with Lot’s attitude; Lot wants ungodly cities to be preserved (Gen. 19-20). He can’t use “the mayor” of Jericho to host the spies. He might set an ambush on them. Really, the mayor wants to hold his job and facilitating spies who will be complicit in decimating his city is not how that’s accomplished. So there’s Rahab who is n’ere a stranger to practically everyone in Jericho. She has “spent the night” with them all. She knows the dirt on them all. So she more than likely hates them all. If they all get killed, it’s no skin off her nose. She’s joining Israel. Jericho and the region is a culture destined to go down. Rahab preveniently knows this and her monologue to the spies reveals as such. It’s astonishing. The Israelites are coming and nothing can stop a force that is fueled by the God of heaven and earth. We just read of her advice to the spies to hide in the hills while she sends the Jericho posse in the other direction. Interesting that they thought she was helping protect Jericho but she is really coordinating for the place to be flattened. In this she saves her family, assists Joshua (who she’s never met!); this Joshua whose name means “Savior” – whose same name is pronounced “Jesus” centuries later. This Rahab goes on to marry the Israelite Salmon; who is listed in the lineage of Christ Jesus; Matthew 1:5. We might say “blunder girl” becomes “brilliant lady” becomes “Lover of Israel” becomes “legendary” …simply for assessing the truths of her day and jumping in on God’s plan. We can learn much from her who was, once upon a time, a ‘woman of the night’.
3 & 4 – Crossing the Jordan is a mini-Moses-like miracle. He had his Exodus through the Red Sea and Joshua had his Crossing at the Jordan. And the people eternally revered Joshua for this. God told Joshua it would be this way and it all needed to happen. So to start that process officers went through the Israelite camp and roused the people telling them to rise, pack, and follow the Ark of the Covenant. Excitement was in the air. The oldest of the people were 40 (and under). They were the youngins’ born right after the Exodus and they had no recollection of Egypt. God couldn’t take a population to the promised land who were constantly longing/bemoaning/wistfully musing about life back in Egypt. Only Joshua, who was fit as a fiddle at 85, had any memories of life along the Nile. Joshua leads the charge with a vibrant speech that we can almost see Mel Gibson, Dennis Quaid, or Anthony Hopkins doing with fervor. They would cross to the Promised Land ->and it was happening ASAP. So let’s follow Joshua, the leaders, the priests right into the riv- what?! Through the river? over the river? under the ri–? What in heaven’s name is going on? What is going to happen? and how?! If your mind needs a boost in envisioning this situation from 1406 B.C. look up “Raging Jordan River” or “Jordan River at flood stage” on YouTube. Ask yourself if YOU would cross this. Uh, no one is getting across this, not without trauma anyway. But then Joshua 3:16 talks of the water “piled in a heap” upstream. What happened north in Zarethan was an earthquake and a land slide that 100% stopped the Jordan by damming it up. So the river, back here near Jericho, went down as they entered it. And simultaneously as the fording made headway the water went down to a trickle then nothing until the Israelites crossed completely. If I were a priest at the bottom of the river bed it just may cross my mind, “hey when does this water resume?…” The matter of the memorial stones is vital. They needed to remember this day. What do we do to remember our important days. Wedding anniversary, birthdays, Christ’s birth, remembering to be thankful for the harvest each Autumn – these are the obvious ones. Do we remember when we surrendered to Jesus? We take communion regularly so we will remember Christ’s body and blood poured out. When did our big breakthrough with our Savior happen? Do you remember yours? When did you crossover into something new that forever changed your life for the good? Do you remember? How do you remember? Joshua told them to stack a stone monument so that they would always remember and remember to teach their children. To forget this would start the death of the nation. Let’s not forget what AIDS is. It isn’t a ravaging blistering scourge. It’s a weak virus that quietly enters one’s system and erases the immune system by wiping out the memory pathologically. So the body forgets that a disease has been encountered prior (the immune system; memory is erased) and the same disease comes back again and again until it is mortal. Don’t forget what God has done for us. Remember.
5 – Without getting medical or uncomfortably specific, it was time to deal with a matter that began with Abraham and needed to resume. All the males needed to be circumcised prior to going on in to Jericho and further. This was a reminder that we were to live to God. Ones procreation ethic, loins, love, love life, and family were sacred matters just as one’s faith is. ‘Notice that all swear words are either theological or sexual. No one can be theologically true while being sexually reckless. Israelites were now regents in a land and to be a light to the nations. Consequently there were sex cults that had been operating in most all Canaanite cities and villages, polytheism was rampant, practices among the other cultures were wholly putrid. Men were obviously uncircumcised and human life was hardly distinguishable from the wild animals patterns of living. Sometimes the animals were more faithful than humans in ‘mating for life’. However the Hebrews were to be distinctively different from the pagans that they were to be displacing and obliterating as the LORD commanded them. They were not to entertain sex cults. For this, circumcision also reminded them and was God’s command to remain upon His people. First Passover in the Promised Land and first meal in the Promised Land had to taste good after eating Triscuits only for 40 years. WOW. And it was dinner for 2million at that. As the fall of Jericho is looming, God encourages Joshua with a theophany that puts Joshua facedown. Was it God? Joshua saw ‘a man’ at first. But then he identifies himself and the news is overwhelming. Some say it was a pre-Christ appearance. My husband thinks it was Michael the Archangel. Look it up and read all the articles you want. I won’t argue with my husband; ah, such a wife I am. 🙋😀
6 – Jericho was sealed up and the citizens were in a full catatonic fright.. As you read this again, did it strike you why they walk around Jericho for six days, then seven times on the seventh day? Hey, the orders of God don’t even need to make sense. When do kids start the incessant “why?why?why?” campaign? At 3?4?5? I don’t know when but it is a tiresome phase. Eventually kids (if unchecked) think that if they don’t understand the commands of their elders then they don’t have to obey their elders. This is wrong and the tendency must be broken swiftly. Obeying prior to clarification is part of discipleship. God tells us and takes us through many things throughout our lives. And many of these experiences make sense to us much later in life. Don’t fret the delay. Just obey now, we’ll understand all things in time. The Israelites were learning to just obey as they are walking around Jericho 13 times and not talking. What were the people of Jericho learning? Who knows, but you can be sure that the Canaanites’ latrines of the city were full to the brim. They were likely realizing ‘time’s up!’ Jericho is routed, every living thing is destroyed along with the Canaanite religious items. The metals, however were to be preserved. Jericho was never to be rebuilt – also God’s orders. To this day it hasn’t. Archaeologists have found that this civilization was the latest on top of many other civilizations built on top of at least ten others. And btw, Jericho is the world’s oldest city – rather remains of a city. And for what it’s worth, Damascus is the world’s oldest inhabited city. In case anyone is wondering how Jericho collapsed, God did it through shaking the region. Just as an earthquake caused the landslide that dammed the river so they could cross, the same happens in the leveling of Jericho. Not to belabor the science of all this, seismologists, geologists, archaeologists in collaboration have confirmed that these two events occurred as recorded and the Earth Science studies concur the same. The timing is as miraculous as anything! Joshua is a now a man of renown. The Lord was with him. As you dream and listen for what God has for you, KNOW that God is with you. What else does any of us need to hear? God is with us, so proceed with boldness.