Sunday December 30th
It’s been said that life is all about choices. That reminds me of the story of a Frenchman, an Englishman and an American who were exploring the jungle together when they were captured by a fierce tribe.
The tribe’s chief told them, "The bad news is that we're going to kill you, and then we are going to use your skins to build a canoe. The good news is that you each gets to choose how you will die."
The Frenchman said, "I vill take ze poison." The chief gave him some poison; the Frenchman said, "Vive la France!" and drank it.
The Englishman said, "A pistol for me, please." The chief gave him a pistol; the Englishman pointed it at his heart, said, "God save the Queen!" and pulled the trigger.
The American said, "Give me a fork." The chief was puzzled, but he just shrugged and gave him a fork. The American took the fork and started jabbing himself all over – in the stomach, the arms, the legs, the sides, the chest, everywhere. Blood was gushing from every hole.
Finally the chief screamed, "What are you doing?"
The American looked at the chief and said, "Good luck with your canoe, Chief!”
As the book of Joshua comes to a conclusion, there are some important choices that still need to be made.
Chapter 21 wraps up all of the distribution of land among the tribes of Israel, and it ends with these verses:
So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.
That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? God keeps all of His promises to the children of Israel. Of course He does! End of story, right? Well, not exactly!
We are going to take a look at chapters 22 and 23 in just a moment, but first I want to jump to the end of chapter 24, with is actually the end of the book of Joshua. Here are the final verses of the entire story:
29 It came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred and ten years old. 30 And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash.
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.
32 Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons. 33 And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him at Gibeah of Phinehas his son, which was given him in the hill country of Ephraim.
So Joshua, Joseph, and Eleazar have all passed on now, and it’s up to a new generation of Israelites to decide whether they are going to continue to follow God.
Earlier in chapter 24 we can see Joshua stating his famous pledge and challenge in verse 15:
“Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
And then all of the people of Israel replied in verse 18:
“We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
Then Joshua makes this shocking statement in verse 19:
“You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God.”
What a downer! Why would he say something like that? Because Joshua knows these people pretty well. He has led them for many years, first alongside Moses and then on his own. He knows how easily they could turn to disobedience and fall away from following God.
If we go back to Chapter 23 we see something that is called Joshua’s Farewell Address. It could also be called Joshua’s Farewell Warning. Verses 1-3 set the scene:
Now it came about after many days, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies on every side, and Joshua was old, advanced in years, 2 that Joshua called for all Israel, for their elders and their heads and their judges and their officers, and said to them, “I am old, advanced in years. 3 And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the Lord your God is He who has been fighting for you.
Then in verse 14-16 he gives them this solemn reminder:
“Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. 15 It shall come about that just as all the good words which the Lord your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you. 16 When you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you will perish quickly from off the good land which He has given you.”
This is a pretty straightforward message for the people –
Because we have followed the Lord and obeyed His commands, we have been blessed by God and have received the fulfillment of all of His promises. But just remember that if you ever become disobedient to God, you will lose out on His blessings and instead you will have to experience His judgment and His wrath.
In Chapter 22 we find out why Joshua was so stern in his warning, and just how quickly and easily these Israelite tribes could move from peace towards chaos:
10 When they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, a large altar in appearance. 11 And the sons of Israel heard it said, “Behold, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel.” 12 When the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh to go up against them in war.
All of these tribes have labored together and fought together, side by side, to conquer and inherit the Promised Land. But now, as they are ready to start settling into their newly acquired lands, ten of the tribes get all fired up and ready to attack the tribes of Reuben and Gad. And over what? Because those tribes decided to build an altar on the side of the Jordan River that they didn’t own!
Most of us are familiar with Psalm 133:1, which says:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
Well, this situation points out how UN-pleasant it can be when brothers DON’T dwell together in unity!
So then 10 chiefs, one from each of the 10 ticked-off tribes, go to the leaders of Reuben and Gad and they confront them, starting in verse 16:
“Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, ‘What is this unfaithful act which you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away from following the Lord this day, by building yourselves an altar, to rebel against the Lord this day?
Then in verses 17 through 20 they rant about all of the previous sins against God committed by other Israelites.
Their main point can be summarized by verse 18:
If you rebel against the Lord today, He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow.
They use Achan, the guy who hid some forbidden stuff in his tent, as an example of what might happen:
20” Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.’”
Essentially what’s happening here is that these 10 chiefs are jumping to a MAJORLY wrong conclusion about this altar that their brothers have built. They think it’s a sinful act of rebellion against God, and that it’s going to bring God’s wrath down upon ALL of Israel.
However, that’s not at all what this altar is about. And now the tribes of Reuben and Gad get to explain the real reason why they built the altar, starting in verse 22:
“The Mighty One, God, the Lord, the Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion, or if in an unfaithful act against the Lord do not save us this day! 23 If we have built us an altar to turn away from following the Lord, or if to offer a burnt offering or grain offering on it, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, may the Lord Himself require it. 24 But truly we have done this out of concern, for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your sons may say to our sons, “What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 For the Lord has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you sons of Reuben and sons of Gad; you have no portion in the Lord.” So your sons may make our sons stop fearing the Lord.’
This is a very interesting and sincere concern. Remember that these two tribes had preferred settling in the land on the East side of the Jordan. They made a deal with Moses, and then renewed the deal with Joshua, that they would help the other 10 tribes conquer the Promised Land, as long as they could return back to the Eastern land when the fighting was over.
So they did their job as promised and then while they were heading back to their lands, a thought hit them – “What if, later on, the descendants of those other 10 tribes look at our descendants over here on the other side of the Jordan river and decide that our tribes aren’t part of Israel anymore because we are separated by the river?”
Then they go on to explain how this altar was designed to prevent that very problem:
26 “Therefore we said, ‘Let us build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; 27 rather it shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, so that your sons will not say to our sons in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord.”’ 28 Therefore we said, ‘It shall also come about if they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, “See the copy of the altar of the Lord which our fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you.”’ 29 Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away from following the Lord this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God which is before His tabernacle.”
The reason that the sons of Reuben and Gad made this altar was NOT for sacrifices! It was a symbolic altar which was meant to remind their descendants, AND the descendants of the other 10 tribes, that they all worshipped the same God! Plain and simple.
Do you remember the old character named Emily Litella, played by Gilda Radner from the show Saturday Night Live? She was an older woman with a hearing problem who would go off on some completely looney rant based upon incorrect information. Like she would say, “What’s all this fuss about violins on television?”
Then, when she would be confronted with the correct information, (it’s violence, not violins) she would say “Oh, that’s very different.” “Never Mind!”
That’s kind of what the chiefs of the 10 tribes said after hearing the truth about the reason for the altar.
30 So when Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the congregation, even the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them. 31 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the sons of Reuben and to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is in our midst, because you have not committed this unfaithful act against the Lord; now you have delivered the sons of Israel from the hand of the Lord.”
32 Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders returned from the sons of Reuben and from the sons of Gad, from the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the sons of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33 The word pleased the sons of Israel, and the sons of Israel blessed God; and they did not speak of going up against them in war to destroy the land in which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad were living. 34 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad called the altar Witness; “For,” they said, “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God.”
Just as Joshua had predicted, the children of Israel almost blew the entire covenant of the Promised Land before they even had a chance to get settled in. And for what reason?
Jealousy, misunderstanding, jumping to conclusions, being too quick to pick a fight before the facts were fully known, assuming the worst about their brothers.
Are these issues still things that we can fall prey to today? Absolutely yes, because we are no less human than these people were.
Can we AVOID falling into these problems? Absolutely yes, because WE have the advantage of learning from THEIR mistakes!
Look at what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-6
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
And for emphasis, he adds this in verses 11-13:
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
By studying the book of Joshua, we can learn from the example of the mistakes that they made, and we can guard ourselves from making those same mistakes.
Based on the example found in today’s verses, let’s enter 2019 with a renewed determination to avoid judging one another or assuming negative things about each other without finding out all of the facts first.
Do you want to make the coming year one of great blessings? Then listen to these words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve…you only need a heart full of grace and a soul regenerated by love.”
Are you ready to have a great year in 2019? Let’s do this together, by loving and serving one another!
Sunday December 16th
I read a story about an investigative journalist who went to Afghanistan and was shocked to discover that the women in that country were made to walk ten paces behind the men. She asked her guide why that was, and he said, "Because they are considered of lesser status." She was really outraged by this but there was nothing she could do about it so she just finished her assignment and went back home.
Several years later she returned on a new assignment to that same region and was surprised to see that the women were now walking ten paces ahead of the men. She turned to her guide and asked, "What has changed since the last time I was here?" The guide answered, "Land mines."
In exploring the relationship between men and women in God’s Kingdom, we’re going to highlight several significant portions of chapters 15 and 17 of Joshua.
Most of chapters 15 through 19 have to do with dividing up the land among the tribes of Israel, and this includes lengthy descriptions of the borders of each tribe’s territory, which we don’t really need to go over word for word. (Unless you enjoy being completely bored)
What we do want to focus on are two specific passages, one from chapter 15 and one from chapter 17.
Laurie is going to take us through the first passage.
Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; 2 only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly).
The Lord is a man of war;
The Lord is His name.
16 And Caleb said, “The one who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter as a wife.” 17 Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it; so he gave him Achsah his daughter as a wife.
For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth.
2 Corinthians 11:2
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
18 It came about that when she came to him, she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she alighted from the donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” 19 Then she said, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
One more interesting thing about that story is that the whole thing is repeated word for word in Judges Chapter 1 verses 12-15, which isn’t really a surprise because Othniel became one of the judges over Israel after Joshua died.
The next section, from chapter 17, that we want to look at goes from verse 3 through verse 6:
3 However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. 4 They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the command of the Lord he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers. 5 Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan, 6 because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons. And the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh.
The daughters of Zelophehad realized that if they didn’t speak up, the land that should have been their inheritance might get divided up among all of the other families. So just like Achsah in chapter 15, they let their voices be heard, and they claim what is rightfully theirs.
This episode is actually a fulfillment of a promise made by God through Moses in Numbers 27:6-7
6 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 7 “The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them.”
In fact, in verse 8 God added that this didn’t just apply to these daughters, it applied to ALL daughters:
8 Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.’
Now I took the time to count, and I found that the words “son” or “sons” occur 61 times throughout chapters 15-19!
So why are we focusing so much on these two little episodes that involve daughters?
I’ll tell you why. Because Galatians 3:28 reminds us that:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Think about this: Every woman who is a part of this church is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother, somebody’s wife, somebody’s niece, or somebody’s granddaughter. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?
I want to share another quote with you as well. This is actually a quote from me!
It’s from an article in the Press of Atlantic City back on September 22nd, when they interviewed Pastor Josh and me for the 40th anniversary of the church.
The interviewer had asked me how the church had changed over the course of the 40 years. My answer was this:
“There is a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that said 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. That is not true at Praise Tabernacle. I believe that’s a work of God, and that He is pleased by that.”
I want to tell you for certain here this morning that God loves all of His children equally.
It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, Hispanic or Asian, rich or poor, male or female.
God loves His sons and He loves His daughters.
He has an inheritance to give to each one of us – an inheritance of blessings – an inheritance of gifts and talents – an inheritance of callings and ministries.
He wants to give us the upper springs and the lower springs. He wants to give us the fullness of what Jesus Christ purchased for us with His own blood.
Ladies, aren’t you glad today that God has such wonderful blessings to pour out upon the men of this church? Don’t you want to see them walking in the fullness of those blessings?
And men, aren’t you glad today that God has such wonderful blessings to pour out upon the women of this church? Don’t you want to see them walking in the fullness of those blessings?
You see, God has a wonderful plan for this church, and each one of us has a part in seeing that plan fulfilled.
Let’s rejoice today in the fact that God has called ALL of us to fulfill our part in His plan, and that we are called to do it together!
I am a big football and basketball fan and I love cheering for the underdog. Stories about teams that overcame uncountable odds to win, move me to tears. For example how the Eagles won the super bowl at the hands of Nick Foles, a backup quarterback who had almost quit football because of his lack of success.
The bible is full of such amazing death-defying stories. Here in Joshua 11, we see the children of Israel facing combined armies where their number was like sand on an ocean beach. This initially startled them with fear. Yet, as it says in verse 6, God said to Joshua: “Don’t worry about them. This time tomorrow I’ll hand them over to Israel, all dead.”
When God is with us and directing our steps there is nothing too big, or too strong, to overcome, “Nothing is impossible with Him.”
Those who seek first the kingdom will experience massive opposition. Satan will do everything he can to maintain his place in our territory. We must not be moved by whatsoever he throws at us, but only be moved by God. We can trust that God will increase our faith as the mountains around us become bigger.
Key to establishing Christ victory and manifesting the Kingdom of God is here in verse 15. Joshua like Moses did whatever God told him, leaving nothing incomplete.
Diligent leaders are those who complete everything that God commands them no matter the degree of difficulty. Many are those who obey God to an extent but when weary, they lose their drive and don’t finish what they started. We need leaders who will not stop until all the enemies of God are driven out of their land, and then and only then can they rest from war.
As it says in Ecclesiastes "there are times and seasons for everything," but even in times of peace where the battles cease, there is work to be done. Here in Joshua 13, though the "ites" of the land were defeated the children of Israel now needed to inhabit these territories and take claim to their inheritance or these "ites" would return. If we don't establish in the areas of victory, a right foundation, the evil spirits will return seven times worse (Luke 11:46).
Believers who are not discipled in the Word of God and who do not get baptized with the Holy Spirit eventually return to their old ways or become filled with religious demons.
Joshua had become of an old age but his time was not yet complete, the Lord told him that there was still land to take. The older we get and the less time we have on earth the more the urgency to pass on our inheritance to those who are called to receive our mantle and continue our legacy. As long as we have breath we should believe that our borders will broaden meaning our influence will increase, that we will maximize our full potential in Christ Jesus and be able to have God tell us when we leave this age, "well done, good and faithful servant."
God promised Joshua that He will drive out all the forces that would work against the children of Israel as long as he obeyed his commands. We don't want to die and leave any unnecessary burdens to those who will follow us. So we must be diligent to never rest until we have fully accomplished what God has commanded us. If we do want God asked we can rest assure that God will do what He promised.
In Joshua chapter 14 we see the land was distributed in strict accord and with the Lord’s commands.
“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.” To see heaven on earth the land must be given back to God. We drive out the enemies of God by becoming owners of the land. Each child of God using their portion of property according to the Lord’s particular purpose.
Caleb had wholeheartedly followed the Lord but he had to suffer the consequences of the leaders who out of fear refused to cross over, yet while they died out, Caleb lived and remained strong, and now it was his time to finally enjoy what God promised Him.
Some of God’s promises may be on hold because of the disobedience of those around us but if we remain in Christ the opportunity will come back around again. Strength isn’t about age in the Kingdom of God, it is about trust in God and faith to believe despite the obstacles.
Caleb now 80 years old felt just as strong than when he was 40 and went forth and possessed Hebron which was his promised inheritance.
Faith should increase as we advance in age, we should not be retreating, but advancing forward and taking ground. What was lost when we were young and foolish or because of having bad companions can be finally in our reach in our upper age from the lessons we have learned.
Sunday December 2nd
Recently I keep having this same dream over and over again. In the dream I’m surrounded by all of these pregnant women and they all want me to help them deliver their babies. So I asked someone who is prophetic to help me interpret the dream and he said, “It sounds to me like you’re going through a mid-wife crisis!”
In Joshua chapter 10, the people of Israel find themselves surrounded by 5 Kings and their armies:
Now it came about when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had captured Ai, and had utterly destroyed it (just as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king), and that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were within their land, 2 that he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty. 3 Therefore Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent word to Hoham king of Hebron and to Piram king of Jarmuth and to Japhia king of Lachish and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us attack Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua and with the sons of Israel.” 5 So the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered together and went up, they with all their armies, and camped by Gibeon and fought against it.
Sometimes we read passages like this and we don’t see any connection between such a historical record of this upcoming battle and the lives that we live day to day.
But consider this – some days doesn’t it feel like we’re being surrounded by enemies and attacked from all sides!
Look at this sample of verses from the Psalms and see if you can relate to any of them:
Psalm 17:9 - My deadly enemies surround me.
The cords of Sheol (Hell) surrounded me
Many bulls have surrounded me
For dogs have surrounded me
For evils beyond number have surrounded me
The iniquity of my foes surrounds me,
I think that most of us have experienced times when the whole world seemed to be turning against us. Maybe the five kings and their armies who were attacking us included attacks against our family, our finances, our faith, our health, and even our sanity.
As we see how this battle unfolds for Joshua, let’s think about a few lessons that we can learn from HIS battle that we can apply to OUR battle! And we can start with verses 6 and 7:
6 Then the men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, saying, “Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites that live in the hill country have assembled against us.” 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him and all the valiant warriors.
The thing I want you to grasp from those verses is simply this – You might have enemies, but you also have friends! The men of Gibeon were under the same attack as the men of Israel, and they called out to Joshua asking for help. When the forces of darkness seem to be lining up against you, remember that you have brothers and sisters in Christ who are also facing the very same battles. God has given us the gift of fellowship so that we can lean on one another and support one another in the midst of these battles.
But we have even MORE than just each other!
Look what happens next:
8 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly by marching all night from Gilgal. 10 And the Lord confounded them before Israel, and He slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and pursued them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword.
Are you getting this picture? Joshua and his men, along with their allies, are fighting the armies of the five kings. But who is doing the most damage to these enemies? God is! He is raining down huge hailstones on Israel’s enemies!
We have to remember what David declared to Goliath in 1st Samuel 17:46-47
“This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
It’s probably fair to say that God’s ability to aim hailstones at enemy soldiers while avoiding hitting Israelite soldiers is pretty supernatural. But watch what happens next:
12 Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
“O sun, stand still at Gibeon,
And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies.
Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 There was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.
Wait! God did what? Yes, you heard it correctly. God made time stand still so that Joshua could complete his victory in battle before the sun went down!
Do you know that we serve a supernatural God?
Do you know that nothing is impossible for Him?
Jesus assured us of that in Matthew 19:26
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
And do you know what happens to your enemies when you fight back in the supernatural power of the Lord? They run and hide!
Verse 17 says:
It was told Joshua, saying, “The five kings have been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah.”
That’s exactly what James 4:7 says, isn’t it?
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
But Joshua isn’t done yet. And God isn’t done yet. So look at what happens in verses 22-27
22 Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring these five kings out to me from the cave.” 23 They did so, and brought these five kings out to him from the cave: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24 When they brought these kings out to Joshua, Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came near and put their feet on their necks. 25 Joshua then said to them, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the Lord will do to all your enemies with whom you fight.” 26 So afterward Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees; and they hung on the trees until evening. 27 It came about at sunset that Joshua gave a command, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and put large stones over the mouth of the cave, to this very day.
How’s that for an ultimate victory?
Do you remember those verses from the Psalms that we read earlier about being surrounded by our enemies? Well now let’s take a look at these Psalms as well:
All nations surrounded me; In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me; In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees; They were extinguished as a fire of thorns; In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
Do you see the significance of these verses?
It really doesn’t matter whether my enemies surround me or not.
What matters is that I can defeat every one of them in the name and the power of the Lord!
In verse 28-41 we see Joshua winning at least 8 more battles! And then verse 42 summarizes everything that has happened with these words:
“Joshua captured all these kings and their lands at one time, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.”
That’s Joshua’s story. He was victorious because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought his battles for him.
Isn’t that our story too?
Isn’t that what the Apostle Paul is talking about in Ephesians 6:12?
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
So let me ask you a question this morning –
Are you running away in fear from the forces of darkness that are warring against you, or are you causing them to run away from you in fear?
Because that’s what you are able to do if you understand your identity in Christ.
I want you to think about this verse from Romans 8:37
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”
What are “these things” Paul is talking about? These things that we overcome through the power of Jesus?
Paul already told us in verse 35: “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, peril, or sword?”
Can we conquer those challenges? You know that we can!
Can we OVERWHELMINGLY conquer those challenges? You know that we can!
Did Joshua defeat the five kings? You better believe it! And then he defeated eight more kings for good measure!
That’s called an OVERWHLEMING victory!
You see, it’s not enough that your enemies turn and run and hide from you in a cave!
You need to pull them back out of that cave, step on their necks, hang them from a tree, stick them back in the cave, and roll huge boulders over the mouth of the cave!
Then you need to declare to the forces of darkness once and for all – “If you know what’s good for you, you’d better stay in that cave! Because I will no longer be afraid of your attacks!
My God has given me OVERWHELMING victory over you and anything, and I mean ANYTHING you can throw at me!”
People in American culture get there worth from what they do. So when you ask someone how they are doing they usually start talking about what they are doing. As disciples of Christ our worth should not come from what we do but who we are as children of God.
What we do is determined by what He is doing. We cannot expect God to bless what He never led.
In Joshua 9, the Gibeonites pretend to be a people from a far off land, and after a thorough inspection, Joshua and his fellow leaders of Israel find no evidence to say likewise, so they form a covenant not to wipe them out. The key verse is 14 where it says “they didn’t ask God about it.”
One of the biggest lessons we can learn in life is to never assume anything but to ask God about everything.
It was discovered that Joshua and the Israelites were fooled by the people of Gibeon, they were inhabitants of Canaan. They now could not fully obey God’s Word to destroy all the people in the Promised Land for it is against the law to break a covenant.
There is God’s perfect will and then His permissible will. We can either have God’s best or settle for less. When we acknowledge Him at all times we will take hold of all He promised us. When we don’t we compromise and some things cannot be altered, “we have made our bed and now have to lay in it.”
Sunday November 11th
As Joshua and Israelites continued their conquest of the Promised Land, they were heading north, towards the cities of Ai and Bethel.
That made me think how people can be so different depending on whether they come from the Northern or the Southern states.
For example, I heard about a man from up North here who traveled down to Arkansas to check out their famous hot springs.
He decided to ask the girl at the supermarket check-out where to find the best hot springs. He said to her, “I hear that you have a lot of spas around here.”
The girl looked puzzled and said “You heard what?”
The man continued, “They say there are a lot of spas around here. I wanted to see some of them.”
The girl shook her head in confusion and said, “Let me get this straight. You say you’re looking for spas? You mean like secret agents?”
Now the heading over chapter 8 in my Bible says “The Conquest of Ai”.
But wait a minute, wasn’t Ai the place where the Israelites just lost a major battle in Chapter 7?
Yes, that’s true, but today we’re going to talk about how God can help us to turn a defeat into a victory! And we’re going to do it in 4 easy steps!
The first thing we need to recognize is that the defeat of the Israelite army at Ai in Chapter 7 was a direct result of disobedience to God. In that particular case it was the disobedience of one man, Achan, who ignored God’s command by hiding some stolen treasure from Jericho in his tent.
So step Number 1 is going to be this: When we look at areas of our lives where we feel as though we’ve been defeated, we need to ask ourselves, “Have I been disobedient to God in some area of my life?”
Am I gossiping? Am I treating others poorly? Am I allowing my mind and my eyes to focus on things that are displeasing to God? Am I holding back in giving to God what is due unto Him?
And if we discover a situation where we’ve acted in a manner that is contrary to God’s will, then we can simply choose to repent and get that sin out of our lives, the same way that Joshua and the Israelites got rid of Achan.
Oh, and by the way, what did they do with Achan? The KILLED him! And what do we need to do with the sin in our lives? We need to KILL it!
The really good news is that as soon as we get right with God, He is ready to lead us to victory, as we see here in the opening verses of Joshua chapter 8:
Now the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2 You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.”
Notice how God doesn’t dwell on the mistakes of the past. He doesn’t tell Joshua that he’ll have to wait a while before he gets another chance. When we’ve confessed our sins, God is ready to move forward with us. There is no time to waste dwelling on what went wrong – Just learn from it, make it right and move on!
But did you also notice that God showed us the second step of our plan in that last part of verse 2 verse? It’s this – Listen to God’s plan!
God gave Joshua a very specific plan to defeat Ai. He was supposed to set an ambush behind the city.
Now you have to understand this – God’s plans only work if we listen to them!
Do you remember Naaman, the Syrian General from 2nd Kings Chapter 5? God gives him a plan to cure his leprosy, but Naaman almost doesn’t get healed because he doesn’t agree with God’s plan!
Thankfully, Naaman’s servants convince him to do things God’s way and he gets his healing. The point is – if you want to do things your way and stay in defeat, then go ahead. But if you want victory, then be prepared to do things God’s way!
Does Joshua listen to God’s plan? Absolutely!
3 So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. 4 He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready.5 Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. 6 They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us as at the first.’ So we will flee before them. 7 And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” 9 So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.
Joshua sets up the ambush of Ai exactly as God told Him to. In verses 10 through 17 the plan starts to unfold, but notice that is doesn’t start out looking like a victory:
10 Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai. 11 Then all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between him and Ai. 12 And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13 So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley. 14 It came about when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17 So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.
On the surface, this looks like another victory for the King of Ai and another defeat for Joshua. The Israelites are on the run, and the armies of Ai are chasing them.
Step Number 3 is this – Stop worrying about what things look like. If you are obeying God, then trust Him for your ultimate victory!
That’s what the Apostle Paul is talking about in 2nd Corinthians 5:7 when he says:
“We walk by faith, not by sight!”
Because look what happens just when defeat seems near:
18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 The men in ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it, and they quickly set the city on fire. 20 When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai. 22 The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; and they slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped.
Verses 23 -29 tell us that the entire city of Ai was destroyed that day, burned to the ground and reduced to a heap of rubble!
Think about this - that’s what your enemies will look like when you follow God’s plan for your life!
That’s the promise found in Isaiah 54:17
“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper”!
Do you believe that?
So then what’s the fourth step, you might ask?
Let’s look at what Joshua does next:
30 Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron tool; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.32 He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel. 33 All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34 Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.
The 4th step is simply this – Always give all of the Glory to God for the victories that He provides in your life!
Remember that it was God, His promises, and His word, that has won for you every battle that you’ve ever faced.
If we lose sight of that, then we take our eyes off of the very one who will carry us on from victory to victory, from glory to glory.
So let’s review our 4 step path from defeat to victory:
Step 1 - Ask yourself, “Have I been disobedient to God in some area of my life?” If so, repent immediately and get ready to move on
Step 2 - Listen to God’s plan!
Step 3 - Stop worrying about what things look like. Trust God and walk by faith, not by sight!
Step 4 – Give all the Glory, honor and praise to God!
The Christian walk is not supposed to be up and down, in and out, but victory after victory. Why then does God allow His children to experience defeat? It is not God’s desire it comes through disobedience. We either do things His way and taste victory or do not and taste defeat. Just because we are saved does not mean that there are no consequences when making the wrong decisions.
We are to be holy as God is holy, which is only possible through Holy Spirit. As disciples, we are set apart from the ways of the world our life is now hidden in Christ. Everything we do, everything we have is to be dedicated to God. Our old life and everything about it is to be burned. If we continue out of greed to use the things of this world for our personal gain we will be punished.
A man named Achan stole dedicated things from Jericho and it cost Israel humiliating defeat at the hands of Ai. Failure can move one forward if life lessons are learned. So what was the life lessons from Ai?
First of all, we must always acknowledge God before going into battle. No matter how small the situation without God’s wisdom we are bound to fall. No battle is too big for God but without God, no battle is too small in being defeated.
Yesterday’s victory might be today’s defeat if we don’t take the time to make sure our heart and the people we lead is right with God. We must never assume anything. God knows all things and He must be acknowledged for sound judgment to follow.
Defeat should not cause us to give up and head to the sideline it is an opportunity to learn, and grow, where failure actually moves one forward.
As a young football coach around 21 years old and newly saved, I was hanging out with my Jr. High team at the High School game, we were wrestling around, and a teacher who was an Athiest and didn't like me, singled me out and had the Sheriff remove me from the game, it was so humbling. I wasn't allowed to go to another game for the rest of the year.
It is one thing to be persecuted for doing nothing wrong it is another thing to be prosecuted for getting caught for doing wrong. The children of Israel experienced defeat because one person did wrong, but as the saying goes, "one bad apple spoils the bunch." When one player doesn't do what was asked of him or dogs it during practice, the coach makes everyone face punishment because they have to learn to think like a team. As members of the body of Christ, our choices affect the other parts of the body whether for good or bad.
The best way to deal with sin is to repent right away to God and all those that our sin affected, the punishment will then be much less severe. If we do not then God will expose our sin and the punishment will be much more severe as we see through the example of Achan in Joshua 7. If the sin we have committed is stealing then we must return everything we have stolen before we can be made right.
One way that we rob God as it says in Malachi 3 is with our tithes and offerings. Those who bring their tithes and offerings to the storehouse will be blessed. Those who do not will live under a curse. Everything we own must be dedicated to God that which we hold onto as our own becomes the stumbling block or access point in which the enemy can enter in. We can do things in the name of God but if we don't do things in the way of God it will not have His seal of approval. If we put money before God, money has become our God no matter what we do in His name.
Psalms 24:1 says “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness therein.” Romans 8:17 says we are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” With this understanding, we can take claim to an area that God has shown us.
The children of Israel had been promised the land of Canaan and now that they had crossed over Jordan they were to take what was rightfully their own. The problem they now faced was the inhabitants were not just going to bow down and surrender. As Matthew 11:12 says “the kingdom of God suffers violence, but the violent take it by force.” Now since we “wrestle not against flesh and blood” as it says in Ephesians 6:10 we must fight this battle in the spirit in order to enforce the reign of Christ.
Like the walls of Jericho, the land is full of strongholds. Advancing the kingdom of God and spiritual warfare go hand in hand. Mark 3:27 says we cannot enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up and plundering his house.” We must seek God for discernment so we recognize Satan’s devices and then as God gives us the wisdom to identify what we are facing, bind it in the name of Jesus and release the presence and power of God to take its place.
For example, we can identify the spirit of greed in our community and war against it and casino businesses will shut down. But, if we are not ready to replace them with family-friendly entertainment evil will return seven times worse (Matt. 12:45).
God has a strategy to demolish strongholds in a territory but it takes the combined spiritual strength and grace of His leaders together to accomplish such feats. Joshua was instructed to have the fighting men and himself march around the town of Jericho seven times for seven days with the priests blowing horns before the wall would collapse.
We are going to need to be marching together, praising the Lord in one accord before we see the walls in our land come down and the enemies works defeated. It is not an easy task, many have tried, failed, and given up. Yet, what else do we have to give our life too? It is a cause worth dying for. Do we want to face judgment because of the multitudes in the valley of decision that we did not reach because we retreated rather than advanced from the opposition?
As long as God is leading nothing can stand against us. If we are marching forth in the union of God’s Spirit every wall that stands in the way will come tumbling down. Then clothed in our spiritual armor we can go forth and wipe out the Lord’s enemies.
There is a time to be silent and a time to shout both are effective depending on the situation and how the Spirit leads. As the carriers of the ark of the Lord’s presence, every opposing spirit must bend at the beckoning of our command.
We must not settle for any less than seeing every work of darkness completely destroyed in our land. There is no compromising with the world as citizens of the Kingdom of God, no half stepping, it is either all or nothing. We are to be in the world but not of it, we got to trust that the God that saved us will keep us. No excuse will work for stepping back from following through because of how tough things get, or being influenced by the world while we are out doing good, both excuses will end in judgment.
If we just see the Lord’s work through we will earn a great reputation in our land because of the transformation that takes place from the presence of the Lord. People discredit Christianity because in their mind it is all talk. We must prove to them the reality of God through our acts of love and the power of His Spirit.
Sunday October 14th
We talked about last week how Joshua had an encounter with Jesus, but he didn’t know who Jesus was. In the same way, at different times in our lives we have all gone through difficult moments where we didn’t understand that Jesus was right there with us.
The process of Inner Healing allows us to go back to those painful times and re-experience them with a greater understanding, so that we can receive the peace and wholeness that comes by knowing that Jesus was, and is, and always will be with us not matter what we face.
Listen to this explanation from a CBN article on inner healing through prayer:
“If we learned to believe during hurtful life events that we were unworthy, not good enough, others cannot be trusted, etc., or as an abuse victim who feels terror, helplessness, dirty, and shameful, we will go through life interpreting situations through that grid. Therefore, what is needed is mind renewal, a revelation of truth at the core foundational memory level.
We need for the Lord to give us some Heavenly, corrective lenses.”
We believe that the corrective lenses that will release us from the lies of the past will come through God’s word.
As one person put it “Inner Healing Prayer is a way to invite the Spirit of Christ to minister to the inner parts of our person that have been damaged (by past hurtful experiences).”
In that CBN article “Soul Shepherding”, the writer uses this very insightful example of what needs to be done. He says:
“A computer analogy I use is that of typing in an e-mail address; before we can finish typing, the address or a similar address pops up. Why? Because the computer has been previously programmed with that address or a similar address.
In a similar way, when a person is triggered by a current life event, past programming pops up just like the e-mail address and all the pain floods in from earlier life programming or experiences. In these historical memories the person may have experienced being helpless and powerless. They believed they would be hurt if they told anyone. They may feel the emotions of fear and anxiety.
They may believe that they were bad, that it was their fault or that they were dirty and shameful as well as fearful and helpless. Even though in their logical, adult mind they may KNOW these things not to be true, they EXPERIENCE them as true.
The problem is that we go through life reacting and living from the experiential part of our mind. That is why we need a truth encounter in memory with Jesus so His truth can be revealed and expel the lies internalized in these earlier life events.”
In particular, Psalm 46 has proven to be very useful in helping believers to reframe past experiences. This Psalm is broken into three distinct sections. Each section ends with the Hebrew word Selah, which means to take a pause or a break, and maybe to take some time to reflect on what has just been said.
So let’s explore the first 3 verses and then take our first Selah:
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
Those verses certainly describe times of great distress, and yet they remind us that we as believers need to “not fear” because God is our “present help” during our times of trouble. But maybe in our past we didn’t recognize that Jesus was “present” with us in the midst of our pain. So this is what we want to encourage you to do during this Selah (as written in the prayer guide called “Soul Shepherding”)
“Now it’s time to recall a painful memory or struggle and invite Jesus to minister God’s healing power to you. Ask God to help you as you imagine what happened. See yourself as a child or vulnerable person in that situation and deep inside of you today. (The child of your history may be the child in your heart today.) Feel your emotions and needs from that time.
Consider that during that painful situation the risen Christ was present with you in Spirit, but probably this was in ways that you didn’t notice or appreciate. At that time you weren’t able or didn’t know how to put your confidence fully in the Lord and enter into the spiritual reality that God’s kingdom truly is your refuge. God is in the eternal now, where past, present, and future are one, so ask the Lord Jesus to come to you in this memory and show you how he was and is present for you.
Now let’s move to the next section of the Psalm:
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
Think of yourself in the midst of God’s river of healing. Let it wash over your entire being. Listen to these words from “Soul Shepherding” as we take our next Selah:
“Take as much time as you need to be quiet and still before the Lord. You’re offering your painful memory to God as if it were on a movie screen. Look and listen for Jesus there with you, paying attention to any images, thoughts, or sensations that He may bring into your awareness…
Now finally, let’s enter into the final third of the Psalm:
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
In many versions, verse 10 is written as “Be still and know that I am God.”
And to be still, or to cease striving, is harder than it sounds!
One writer declared that “silence is an act of war against the competing voices within us”!
It may help you to calm your thoughts and keep your mind and heart open to God if you start by just asking God to help you to “Be still”.
Sunday October 7th
Joshua 4 and 5
The main focus of Joshua chapter 4 is a memorial sign that God wants the people to establish after crossing the Jordan. We see this in verses 1-3:
Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, 2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’”
And then in verses 6 and 7 Joshua explains to the people what the significance of these stones is:
6 Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”
That’s the value of our testimony! We proclaim the power that God has displayed in our lives – for all to see!
In chapter 5 God asks them to remember another sign:
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.” 3 So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. 5 For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised.
This circumcision was necessary because the old generation of Hebrews that originally came out of Egypt wasn’t going to be allowed to enter into the Promised Land because of all their grumbling and complaining along the way. But in His great mercy and grace, God was raising up a new generation of Israelites to inherit the covenant promises. Keep in mind that God’s real desire was that His people would live with circumcised hearts.
Look at Deuteronomy 30:6 “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.”
Now look at what the Lord pronounces over them in verse 9:
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.
When God says that He has “rolled away the reproach of Egypt”, He is indicating that He has removed their shame and their pain.
This was crucial for them to enter into the fullness of what God had promised to them. And it’s crucial for us as well, which is why we want to ask God for a greater measure of inner healing for our past wounds.
In addition to renewing the circumcision observance, the Israelites also remembered to keep the Passover feast. And an interesting thing happened the very next day:
12 The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.
The fact that the manna ceased was an indication that a new era has begun. God had provided food for the people in the wilderness, but now they would eat of the fruit of the Promised Land. Isn’t that true for us as well?
Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
In a sense, the manna was like milk. God had to hand-feed the people along the way, the same way that a mother feeds her baby. But now God was expecting the people of Israel to be mature enough to gather their own food in the Promised Land.
There is one more interesting encounter at the end of this chapter:
13 Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” 14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” 15 The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
This commander of the Lord’s army is actually considered to be an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. There are several times in the Old Testament when Jesus does that – shows up in the form of a human being.
One reason why we can believe that this was Jesus and not just some angel is that the “captain of the host” allows Joshua to bow down to Him, which is something that angels never allowed people to do.
We also see that Joshua is in the presence of the same God that appeared to Moses in the burning bush. That’s why Joshua is told to “Take off your sandals” - the same thing that Moses was told in Exodus 3:5.
But what’s important for us to realize when it comes to inner healing is this significant point:
Jesus was there with Joshua, but Joshua didn’t know that the Son of God was right there beside him!