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God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24 - Joshua 5-8: The Next Generation Obeys (Almost)

Today’s Reading: Joshua 5-8

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God punishes all who do not obey Him.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The kings west of the Jordan cowered because God protected Israel.
Joshua circumcised the men at Gilgal. Israel ate grain from Canaan. The manna stopped. Israel was home.
God ordered the destruction of Jericho. Israel circumvented Jericho once for six days and seven times the seventh day. The walls fell and Israel destroyed everything except Rahab and her family.
Israel attacked Ai but lost. God had removed his protection because Achan took booty from Jericho. His entire household was stoned and buried.
Israel attacked Ai again and defeated it. Joshua built an altar and wrote the entire law on it.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

This generation is now "separate and apart" from its predecessor.

The generation that left Egypt never had true faith in God's abilities. They did not obey God's commands. In fact, they did not even circumcise their boys, the one sign that a person was a descendant of Abraham. The irony of their lack of faith is that God gave them all of the signs they would ever need and yet they did not obey God.
This generation is different. They will trust in God's abilities. They will circumcise their young and prove to God they are willing to obey Him. Each generation must choose to obey God on their own instead of relying on the faith of the former generation. Because this generation is willing to walk by faith and not by signs, God ends the gift of manna and allows Israel to eat of their land's produce.
Sometimes I see this in churches. Faith grows and wanes depending on the people in each congregation. One generation's lack of faith becomes the example for the next generation's massive growth of faith. The Chinese have an old proverb, "Wealth does not sustain beyond three generations." A corollary of this could be "Faith does not sustain beyond three generations."

The story of Jericho is about the people of Israel being willing to obey God, not a technical white paper on how to destroy a walled city.

What is lost in most critiques of the Bible and apologetics courses which spring up to combat such critiques is the true purpose of the Bible. It is not a science textbook, though there are scientific truths found within it. It is not a health pamphlet, though there are health truths found within it. It is not a primer on warfare, though there is war found within it. The Bible is a sourcebook on faith—leading a person to a closer relationship to the god of creation. The holes in the story which we, a culture strong on science and weak on faith, find lacking are due to our preconceived assumptions on what the Bible should and shouldn't include and not the Bible's limitations. The stories in the books of the history if the Jews have certain foci which are meant to lead a person to faith in the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The focus of the story of Jericho is that God gave the people specific instructions and they obeyed without complaining. It carries on the theme from the previous chapter where God separates the new generation from the old. The older generation might have complained that their feet would have gotten tired with all of that walking or that it was a silly thing to walk around a city. This generation simply obeyed. God can set things right when His Chosen People obey His orders.

The story of Achan/Ai shows how the sins of one person can lead to the downfall of an entire nation.

This story seems odd to us. Why would God take away His Protection from Israel because one man, Achan, disobeyed? God called the Israelites to be a people wholly devoted to Him (holy) and Achan disregarded His commands and took control of his situation over God, which is sin. Because of him the entire people of God were no longer a holy nation. So God removed His Protection. This is why Achan's entire family and possessions were destroyed—they had to purge the camp of evil to return God's Protection. The sin of one person can spoil an entire congregation. Thank Jesus for the grace that prevents a sinner from being executed today because of his sin!

Joshua writes the entire Law on the altar stones to show Israel they defeated their enemies because of God's Protection and not their own skill.

Joshua is the leader of the Israelites. He has ultimate authority, almost as a king. Yet when they have a great military battle and utterly defeat their enemy Joshua doesn't stand before the people to cry out his own majesty. He bends down at an altar made of rough stone and writes down the Law of Moses. He will show everyone, native Israelite, foreigner, young, and old that he, Joshua, leader of the crusading army, is only a servant. God can set things right on the earth when His Chosen Leaders remind everyone that they have no authority or greatness apart from God.

Be strong and courageous!

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