Synopsis Joshua 8:8-19 4/22/2018
Joshua finished positioning the army near Ai in two camps. The main body camped north of Ai. He positioned the second camp to the west, where it was hidden from view. The second camp was prepared to ambush. Joshua was with the main camp.
Ai’s king led his army in an early morning assault on Joshua and the main camp. Joshua led the main body in feigned retreat until all of the soldiers had left the fortified city of Ai in order to give chase.
Once the last soldier had left the city, Joshua gave a signal for the ambush. The second camp rushed into the city and began to burn it.
Things Are Often Not What They Seem
The attack on Ai is remarkably different than the attack on Jericho. What they have in common is that God gave Joshua the plan for both. But at Jericho, there was this extraordinary miracle of God’s providence. The people of Jericho watched in terrorized wonder as the Israelite army seemingly did nothing for six days. And then God acted in an awesome display of power over the natural elements.
Yet at Ai, the battle was won simply by relying on the poor thinking of the king of Ai. God exposed the king through a trick – a “ruse de geurre.” And the king fell for the trick. No awesome display of power, just a reliance on the overconfidence and over aggressiveness of a self-important man.
God Will Not Stop You From Believing a Lie
I am the judge of my own circumstances. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be deceived. But it does mean that I decide what I believe. This isn’t necessarily a privilege. It’s an obligation – a responsibility. God built me that way. He built all of us that way.
God does not require me or anyone else to believe anything in particular. But, of course, life has a way of proving out what’s really worthy of my belief. But no matter what I might conclude, he respects my conclusions even when it’s obvious to everyone but me that I am clearly wrong.
Of course, this does not mean that he will bend heaven and earth just to support my error.
“Make the heart of this people sluggish, dull their ears and close their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and their heart understand, and they turn and be healed” Isaiah 6:10
Synopsis Joshua 7:24-8:7 4/21/2018
Joshua condemned Achan to death. He was executed in the valley of Achor.
Joshua then received a word from God concerning the renewed attack on Ai. The attack was to be an ambush from behind. The Israelite warriors were given permission to loot the city after it was taken.
Joshua conveyed the battle plan to the leaders of the army and positioned the men for the attack.
Leadership, Followership and Interpretation
It’s the hearing from God that qualifies someone to lead. The exodus story and Joshua’s story are about faith – about trusting in God literally and completely. God said to go. God led them out. God provided food. God provided water. God protected them from adversaries. It is entirely a project of faith in God; a learning to trust. It was a way of following.
As the leader, Joshua committed to only what he had confidently heard. He patterned his leadership on Moses – who committed what he had heard from God. What was not from God, was not a part of either man’s effective leadership.
Only What He Sees His Father Doing
I live in a world that searches for originality, as though this were the mark of authenticity. If I’m not a self-made man then I must be some kind of banal sheep. The super-egoic drive for significance demands I resist conforming to the will of any other for fear that I will somehow lose who I authentically am. The irony of life lived, I suppose, is that it’s only in following the Creator that I become the most original and authentic version of myself..
“Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also” John 5:19
Synopsis Joshua 7:14-23 4/20/2018
Joshua organized the tribes of Israel. He explained a process by which God would show where, within the tribes, was the offense against God – so that it could be removed.
The process involved choosing from amongst the tribal leaders to identify which tribe was harboring the offense. Presumably using the Urim and Thummim, the tribe of Judah was selected. This process went on until Achan was identified as the offender.
Achan confessed to stealing against the ban – meaning he took plunder that had been banned. His story was verified. Messengers were sent who discovered the illegal plunder and the evidence brought before the Lord.
Secret Things Will Be Made Known
There is the knowledge that nothing is hidden from God. And there is the experience that nothing is hidden from God. They are not the same.
You Are the Man
It’s a lofty platitude that I say, “God is all-knowing”. There is nothing He does not know. In fact, a person could go so far as to say that the reason something is knowable is because it is first known by God.
And this is true.
But it is another thing to feel exposed and vulnerable because He knows everything. It’s the sudden realization that nothing of my heart has ever been hidden from God.
In that moment I want to be like Adam – who hid himself from God. Or, I want to be like David, who suppressed the guilt and shame of his sin, persuading himself that his sins did not really matter much in the grand scheme of things.
Sometimes people say that religion – especially the universal tradition – is all about the imposition of guilt and shame. But a little experience suggests that there’s plenty of both stored up in each human heart.
The real question is: am I willing to deal with this openly until my darkness is resolved? Or, will I pretend there is no darkness and live a life ever afraid of the light.
“Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes” Psalms 51:6
Synopsis Joshua 7:4-13 4/19/2018
Joshua sent 3,000 men to attack the city of Ai. But the soldiers lost the battle to Ai’s forces and 36 Israelites died.
Joshua and the leaders of Israel grieved the loss and lamented before the Lord at the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord then spoke to Joshua informing him that the reason for the loss in battle was because Israel had sinned against the ban at Jericho.
God told Joshua that Israel could not stand before it’s enemies as long as unrighteousness remained in their midst.
God’s Protection Depends on Israelite Righteousness
“If the Israelites cannot stand up to their enemies, but must turn their back to them, it is because they are under the ban.”
In taking the banned objects, Achan joined himself to the ban. He became part of what was banned. So, the requirements of the ban reflected back on the thief. And somewhoat vicariously to the entire nation. Thrity-six men died needlessly in the failed attack on Ai. Joshua worried that news of the loss would embolden other cities to either resist Israel with more determination or to possibly attack the Israelites before they were settled. The loss made Joshua and all Israel feel vulnerable.
It’s the Little Unimportant Things
The justifications I use for my moral failures – for my sins, are completely lame. I know it. Yet, time and again, I justify my moral failings. “This bit of the law doesn’t really matter,” I tell myself. Don’t want to become overzealous or “legalistic”.
In Jesus’ parable, the priest left the half-dead man by the roadside where he lay until a Samaritan picked him up. He justified the decision. It wasn’t that big of a deal.
I have tasted enough regret to know that justifying the evil and repressing the truth won’t solve any problems. Eventually the small things catch up to us. The little episodes grow up to become epics.
“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” Luke 16:10
Synopsis Joshua 6:21-7:3 4/18/2018
The warriors destroyed every living thing at Jericho except for Rahab and her family. She, and her family, were placed outside the camp of Israel.
The Israelites then burned the city of Jericho saving only the items of gold, silver and bronze for the treasury. Joshua then imposed a curse upon anyone who attempted to re-establish the city. However, secretly, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah had violated the ban by stealing goods against the order.
Joshua sent spies to reconnoiter Ai, the next city to be targeted. They reported than only a small force would be required to overcome the small city.
Jericho was an unmitigated success – a total victory. The Israelites rejoiced in the fall of the city. They celebrated. It seemed that everything was right and good.
Yet in the midst of this overwhelming success, there was corruption. It’s strange. Only a few weeks before, the Israelites had miraculously crossed the Jordan on dry ground. They had just celebrated the first Passover – ever. They had just renewed the covenant through circumcision. And yet, at the first opportunity to steal booty, the impure motive shows up.
Show Me the Hidden Faults
I talk like I would have done differently than Achan. And I’d really like to believe that I would. More generally, I’d like to believe that I’m above temptation. But I’m old enough to know how weak I can be – and how impure my motives are.
It’s the mixture of the impurity that’s so strange. It’s not that I’m not interested in God. It’s not a sham faith. This way of givenness hasn’t been without cost. Yet a part of me remains unfree. My motives remain suspect and tainted. The good news is that this is normal.
The revealing starts the healing.
I can work with that which I see. It’s when my motives remain hidden even from myself that, like a blind man, I stumble in darkness unknowing. So blessed is the person who is allowed to see his own faults.
“Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my thoughts. See if there is a wicked path in me; lead me along an ancient path” Psalms 139:23
Synopsis Joshua 6:11-20 4/17/2018
Joshua executed the plan that the Lord had laid out concerning the siege of Jericho. He also declared everything in the city of Jericho to be “under the ban”. This meant nothing from the city could be kept as personal loot by the warriors and none of the people, except Rahab and her family, were to be left alive. It also meant that all silver, gold and bronze items were to be given to the treasury.
As the Israelites completed the seventh lap, the priests’ horns blew and all the warriors shouted . The walls of Jericho fell down and the city was attacked and destroyed.
What’s Impossible with God?
The Israelites learned that nothing is impossible with God. They were further encouraged to trust God absolutely because of this extraordinary victory.
As a result of Jericho, the peoples who occupied the Promised Land came to realize that no system of defense could protect them against the power of God. If they chose to remain in the land, they would remain vulnerable to the power of God as it was discharged through His chosen people.
Power and Righteousness
Jericho: It’s a great story of triumph. It might even make a great super-hero movie. But what does any of this have to do with my life today?
The power of God is perfected through me when I have the freedom to agree with Him.
The problem for me is that I think I’m already free – and I’m pretty sure I’m usually right. It’s insidious and dangerous; I’m subconsciously praying, “my will be done” – not “Thy will be done”. I don’t even realize that I’m doing it. In my natural human tendency I want to use power for my own purposes. In arrogance, I’m even willing to ask God to show force in order to accomplish my will. I can be so unjustifiably confident I understand and value things rightly – I frighten myself.
The disciples once asked Jesus if they should destroy a Samaritan village with fire in reprisal for refusing to allow Jesus to spend the night – because he was a Jew.
Jesus rebuked them.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 2Cor 12:9
Synopsis Joshua 6:2-10 4/16/2018
God spoke to Joshua concerning Jericho. He gave him the plan for the siege battle. For six days the Israelite army was to circle the city wall. On each of these days, the warriors were to march once around. At the head of the formation were seven priests with horns. These marched before the Ark of the Covenant.
On the seventh day, the entire formation was to repeat the process of the previous six days. However, on the seventh day, they were to march around the city walls seven times. In all of this, the Israelite warriors were to remain silent. Then, on the seventh day, at the completion of the seventh lap, the seven priests were to blow their horns in a mighty blast as a signal for all the warriors to shout.
In It But Not In Charge
They had to do something. The Israelites had assignments. They had to march around the city walls. They had to be quiet. They had to obey. They had to obey in simplicity – simple obedience. As military strategy goes, none of it made much sense.
War is a skill. War is an art. The conduct of war is the stuff of professionals. And walking around a besieged city behind some priests and a golden box isn’t the way one general would tell another general to get things done.
Jesus In Charge
So the Israelite’s find themselves in it, but not in charge.
It’s the same for you. Though all nature hinges on predictable process – you’re path to freedom in Christ will beguile every effort you make to influence your path.
Yet, it’s still about victory. If your purpose is to follow Him without reservation, then every road, every response will lead to victory. You can’t imagine how He’s going to do it. So let go –
He’s in charge.
But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Matt 20:25-26
Synopsis Joshua 5:7-6:1 4/15/2018
God told Joshua to call the place of circumcision “Gilgal”.
While the Israelites camped at Gilgal, they celebrated the first Passover. The next day, the manna ceased after 40 years and the people began eating from the produce of the land.
Joshua had a strange encounter with “one who was facing him, drawn sword in hand”. The commander of the army of the Lord identified himself and told Joshua to remove his sandals because the ground in that place was holy.
The First Day Without Manna
It was probably exciting for the Israelites; The first Passover celebration followed by the end of the manna. The Israelites now had to eat from the produce of the land. It was the harvest, so there was plenty to eat.
I’m trying to imagine a generation of 40 years-old people who had basically never eaten anything but manna their entire lives. Some of the Israelites, born in the exodus and who never experienced slavery in Egypt, were already old enough to be grandparents. The trust for God’s provision was suddenly different. No more collecting the daily quota of manna. More effort was necessary.
The Israelites were now required to work fields and manage their food supply for themselves. More effort indeed, but greater variety and satisfaction. A growing up of sorts.
God was now providing the children of Israel according to the promise.
Growing Up in Christ
There is an inexplicable joy when a new child comes into a family. Whether it’s a child born to natural parents or whether it’s a new Christian who enters into community, new life is filled with the anticipation of what might be.
As wonderful as that is, encountering someone who has grown deeply into their potential – someone who has matured and who is satisfied with their life – is consoling. Invariably maturity like this comes as a result of challenges met and difficulties overcome.
As I look out the window I notice it’s a dreary day. Persevere.
“But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties are trained by practice to discern good and evil.” Heb 5:14
Synopsis Joshua 4:22-5:6 4/14/2018
After building the stone memorial commemorating the crossing of the Jordan on dry ground, Joshua reminded the people to use the memorial as a testimony. They should, he directed, use the monument to inform all the people throughout the world that the God of Israel was mighty.
Upon realizing that Israel had begun the invasion into the land, all the peoples who lived there previously were dispirited. They were in dread of Israel.
At Gilgal, God directed Joshua to have all the uncircumcised people amongst the Israelites circumcised with flint knives.
Circumcision in the Promised Land
Circumcision means separating a token of flesh as a sign of my commitment to God. It isn’t something the Israelites invented for themselves. It was part of the covenant that God gave to the Israelites through the patriarch Abraham.
The constant movement of the exodus made circumcision in the desert an impossibility. The plain of Jericho gave a moment of rest. No uncertainty of moving. Time for healing. Time for entering fully into the covenant before entering fully into the promise.
Circumcision in the Heart
Circumcision of the heart means separating from the things that keep me from doing the entire will of God.
So, my call, my purpose, my telos, my reason for being, my meaningfulness, my happiness – all these are contingent on my willingness to separate from those things that keep me from doing the will of God. The false self. The mask. The super-ego. All these things I find in my heart.
No one can cut these away without my willing to allow it.
One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; his praise is not from human beings but from God” Rom 2:28-29
Synopsis Joshua 4:-21 4/13/2018
Joshua had led the Israelites across the Jordan. Once they had safely passed, the Ark of the Covenant moved to the front of the Israelite formation. The warriors from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh protected the assembly while the other tribes brought all their worldly possession into the new land.
That night, the Israelites made camp at Gilgal in the plains of Jericho.
Faithfulness of the Eastern Tribes
The warriors from Reuben, Gad and Manasseh were faithful to their word and to the community. That’s good. But it wasn’t like they did something over and above what they had negotiated. They did what they promised to do. They were faithful in helping Joshua and the remaining tribes clear the land for occupation.
Faithfulness in the Quiet
This is the way it works. God doesn’t seem to need the extraordinary from us in order to fashion a heroic life. But, He needs commitment. We need commitment. We need to be committed.
Entering into the possibility of your life doesn’t require you to invent some extraordinary goal that you must achieve. It requires that you meet the challenge of this moment. God can work with that.
“if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land” 2Chron 7:14