Joshua 5:1-6:5, Isaiah 65

Here are today’s readings Joshua 5:1-6:5 and Isaiah 65.

This devotional is about Joshua 5:13-14.

Israel has just entered the Promised Land. It is time for the current generation to take the covenant sign of Abraham (vv. 2-9). This “rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you” (v. 9a) separating them forever from the uncircumcised Egyptians as a people belonging to God. They also celebrated the Passover (vv. 10-11) which also identified them with God’s deliverance from Egypt.

Then, in verse 13, we are told that “Joshua was near Jericho.” What was he doing there? A little scouting, perhaps? We don’t know but we do know that he had battle on this mind. God had already revealed that this would be the first city attacked in the Promised Land; now God revealed to Joshua the method Israel would use to win (vv. 2-5). Before he knew he was talking to the Lord, Joshua asked the soldier in front of him, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (v. 13) The Lord’s answer is quite curious: “Neither” (v. 14 a).

Note something important here: the “commander of the army of the LORD” was Jesus himself. We know that because “Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence” (v. 14), something mere angels never allowed. We also know this is Jesus because verse 15 says, “The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Again, mere angels–powerful and wonderful though they are–do not deserve worship and veneration; only God himself does.

Now then, how could Jesus say that he was on “neither” side in verse 14? These were God’s chosen people, after all. They were the recipients of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants, God’s Law, and the promises of God’s blessing. This was their land which God had promised them! How could the LORD then say that he was not on their side?

The answer is that God is on his own side and Israel benefited from being on his side by grace. Their success in taking the land was dependent on them living obediently to God’s commands, starting with the command to attack Jericho as Jesus directed them to in chapter 6:2-5. God would not fight for them if they tried to attack using conventional means; only the crazy form of “attack” described in 6:1-5 would do because only that method would show the supernatural power of God.

“Is God on our side?” is really the wrong question. The question is, “Are we on God’s side?” Our success at anything in this life can come only by the grace of God, his unearned favor. Also “success” only matters as God defines it, not anyone else.

Think about this the next time you sing or hear, “God bless America.” Of course we want God to bless America but is America blessing God? That’s using the word “blessing” in two different ways, I grant you. The first, “God bless America” is a petition for God’s favor on America (“God shed his grace on thee” and all that). My formulation, “Is America blessing God” is using the word “blessing” in the sense of “thanking and praising God through faith and obedience.”

Are you on the Lord’s side?

Joshua 3, Isaiah 63

Today, read Joshua 3 and Isaiah 63.

This devotional is about Joshua 3.

In this short chapter, Israel began crossing over the Jordan River into the promised land. Similar to the way in which he parted the Red Sea for the parents of these Israelites, God miraculously stopped the flow of the Jordan River (v. 16) so that this generation was able to cross into the promised land “on dry ground” (v. 17).

There were two purposes for this miracle. First, this miracle demonstrated to God’s people that Joshua was His appointed leader. Verse 7 says, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.’” This miracle gave Joshua the authority to lead.

The second purpose for this Jordan-stopping miracle was to show Israel that God was with them and would drive out the Canaanites. Verse 10 says, “Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.’”

One act of God, then, taught his people two important lessons–that God was with them and that they should follow Joshua. God used a miracle in this case; however, he often accomplishes these kinds of purposes by acting in even non-miraculous ways. Have you seen the Lord working in your life? Has it happened recently? Did it give you a sense of confidence to remind you that you are in Christ and that God is providing for and caring fo you?

Joshua 2, Isaiah 62

Today’s OT18 readings are Joshua 2 and Isaiah 62.

This devotional is about Joshua 2

Prostitution is always a sin. Always.

In biblical times, however, some women had few other choices. If a girl’s father died before she was given in marriage or a woman’s husband died or divorced her and she was not able to remarry, she may very well have felt it was her only other choice besides starve.* Take away God and his commands and a Gentile like Rahab may have felt that prostituition was her only option.

Yet Rahab, the prostitute, had extraordinary faith. She had more faith than the generation of Israelites who died in the desert and more than her fellow citizens in Jericho. She heard about what God had done for Israel and she believed (vv. 9-13). Her faith was so strong that she was willing to put her neck on the line for Israel’s spies (vv. 4-7, 15). God rewarded her faith not only by saving her life (next chapter) but also by including her in the ancestral line of Jesus Messiah (Matt 1:5a).

One lesson here is that God saves sinners. You knew that, and so did I, but we are more comfortable seeing that truth applied to “respectable sins” not stigmatic sins like prostitution. While some sins are more acceptable to us than other sins are, they are all wicked in God’s sight and deserving of divine punishment. It is no more difficult for God to save a prostitute than it is for him to save an idolator, a drunk, or someone eaten alive by envy. In fact, because we tend to look down on sins like prostitution, God’s great mercy causes him to save more of “those type of people” than others who are more accepted and acceptable to us.

Keep this in mind when you meet someone who seems like a hardened sinner. It may seem to you like a waste of time to share the gospel with someone like that but people “like that” are eternal souls who will spend eternity somewhere. Given that God can save anyone and likes to choose those who are disfavored in human society, you may find more success reaching out to drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes. Don’t sensor (or silence) yourself just because you have already decided whether or not God would “bother” saving that person. Instead, look for people who are caught in lives of sin and seek to introduce them to Jesus.

*This, by the way, is why polygamy was allowed in the Old Testament. Men died in war or farming accidents or just because women live longer so there were always more eligible women around than bachelors who could marry them. Commanding a man’s brother to marry his widowed sister-in-law or having her marry another man is a better option than starvation or prostitution. Still, the faith of Ruth and the command to allow gleaners which God used to sustain her and Naomi demonstates that there were more options for women than prostitution.

Joshua 1, Isaiah 61

Today, read Joshua 1 and Isaiah 61.

This devotional is about Joshua 1.

Joshua’s mission was not easy, but it was easy to understand: Take the Land! “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (v. 1-3).

To accomplish this mission, he did not need a stack of thick procedural manuals or a complicated plan. All he had to do was believe God and start attacking.

Yet, despite the simplicity of his mission, God commanded him to be a godly man as well as a faithful military leader. Verse 7 says, “…Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left.” To be faithful to God’s commands and obedient to God’s word, Joshua needed to be in word daily. Verse 8, therefore, says, “ Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua’s success as Israel’s leader was dependent on him becoming a faithful and obedient student of God’s word. As he learned and lived God’s word, God promised to make him successful.

The success God promised if Joshua was faithful was not a magic spell that reading the Word gave him. Instead, it was the fulfillment of the promises God had made in his word. Those promises for Joshua and for all of Israel were the blessings that would result from loving the Lord God. It was the cultivation of godliness, then, that Joshua needed foremost. He was a busy man leading all of Israel into warfare but he was never to be too busy to read God’s word and grow in his faith.

I know that you are busy raising a family, building a career or a business, learning a new skill or obtaining a degree. But do you make time each day to cultivate your walk with God? “Success” and “blessing” are different for us than they were for Joshua but God still promises blessing for learning and obeying his Word. James 1:25 says, “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” Whatever else you’ve got going on in your life, make time to walk with God. Read his word daily, pray as Jesus taught us to pray, worship weekly with us on Sunday and fellowship around the Word with your small group, too. These are the ways in which God administers his grace to us for our growth in Him. We must be obedient to what we learn, of course, but learning it is what leads to obedience. As Joshua 1:8 said, “…meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”

Don’t let a busy life be an excuse not to walk with God.

Joshua 24, Acts 4, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 24, Acts 4, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Joshua 24.

After seeing all the disobedience and devastation that happened in Israel during the wilderness wandering, I think having success in Canaan would have been very satisfying for Joshua. Yes, there was the painful defeat at Ai and the bad decision regarding the Gibeonites, but for the most part there was victory and prosperity after. God kept his promises to Israel and Joshua saw those promises kept and, in fact, was used by the Lord to lead Israel to those promises. Here is a man who served God with his life and lived a long time (v. 29), seeing God work throughout his lifetime (vv. 5-10) but watching the best of times in the last part of his life (vv. 11-13) . Before his death, he used his status to exhort Israel once again to serve the Lord and remain faithful to him (vv. 14-15, 19-20). God’s people affirmed their desire to serve the Lord and re-committed to following him (vv. 16-18, 21-28). Verse 31 summarized what the results of Joshua’s leadership was like: “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.” The past was amazing and the future seemed bright. What a way to go out of this world and into eternity.

God’s will for Jeremiah was not so happy and satisfying. Those idols that Joshua warned about (v. 23) were a perennial threat to Israel. In Jeremiah 13, which we read today, God was running out of patience with Israel’s idolatry (v. 10). He therefore spoke through Jeremiah to warn Judah of coming captivity (vv. 24-25). It was the message God’s people needed, but doing God’s will seems like a lot more fun if you were Joshua than if you were Jeremiah.

The lives of these two men and the glimpse we had today into their ministries reminds us that spiritual success is not really measured by visible results. Given the outcome of their lives, we would be tempted to consider Joshua an incredible leader, a grand slam success. We would also tend to think Jeremiah was a strikeout, an abject failure. Yet both men were successful spiritually because they did the will of God during their lives. Let the stories of these two men encourage you today; if your service to God is fruitful, give thanks and glory to God for his blessing on your faithful work. If your service to God is not as fruitful but you’ve been faithful to what he’s called us to do, commit your work and its outcome to him and keep serving faithfully. Rewards await the faithful servant, not the one who wins the biggest victories in this life.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 23, Acts 3, Jeremiah 12, Matthew 26

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 23, Acts 3, Jeremiah 12, Matthew 26. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Joshua 23.

People are social creatures and that means we are drawn to conform to whatever the people around us are doing. Part of our desire to conform is social acceptance. This gives us comfort because we feel like we belong; we blend in to feel accepted. The other part of our desire to conform is called “social proof.” This means that, if enough people are doing something, we feel confident that it is the right thing to do. 

As Joshua neared the end of his life, he was concerned about the social affect of other nations on Israel’s worship of God. In verse 6, he urged the people to be obedient and dedicated to God’s law. In verse 7, he warned them not to “associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.” He knew that associating with these nations would cause them to reject the Lord and turn to idols. Verses 12-13 spelled out the consequences that would follow if they “intermarry with them and associate with them… they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.” Israel’s history played out exactly as Joshua warned that it would. Their example reminds us to be careful about our associations. While we should not isolate ourselves from unbelievers, we also should not be too comfortable among them. Their beliefs, their lifestyles, and their outlook will create social pressure for us to turn away from obedience to the Lord. Our natural, human desire to be accepted will wage war against the desire to become holy like God is. And the “social proof” aspect will tempt us to minimize the differences between God’s will for us and the lifestyles of those around us.

Isolation is not the will of God for us because the Lord wants us to love unbelievers and use our social influence to gain a hearing for the gospel. But the Bible reminds us not to love the world, either, because it is corrosive to spiritual growth. This passage warns and reminds us to be careful about how we are being influenced by those around us who do not know the Lord.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 22, Acts 2, Jeremiah 11, Matthew 25

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 22, Acts 2, Jeremiah 11, Matthew 25. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Joshua 22.

With a “job well done” and a “thanks for your service,” Joshua dismissed the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh to return to the other side of the Jordan River (vv. 1-4). His parting instruction was, “But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (v. 5). 

Just before they crossed the Jordan river, they built what verse 10 calls “an imposing altar.” The rest of Israel saw this as an act of war (v. 12), assuming that it was built to be used for sacrifices (vv. 15-19). It is unclear from the passage if the rest of Israel saw this as an altar of idolatry or if they thought it was one of convenience. In other words, did these 2 1/2 tribes build this to sacrifice to Israel’s God there instead of traveling to wherever the Tabernacle was? Or did they built it for idolatry? Either way would have been disobedient to God’s commands; due to all their bad experience disobeying the Lord (vv. 17, 20), the rest of the Israelites were incensed at the disobedience of the 2 1/2 Transjordan tribes. Their actual intentions for the altar were easily explained (vv. 29-31) and their explanation was accepted before any violence was used (vv. 32-34). But this story demonstrates how unwise actions—even ones that are motivated by good desires to honor the Lord—can be misunderstood. These 2 1/2 tribes could have informed Joshua of their intentions to build before leaving to return home. Of, if they decided to do this spontaneously after leaving Joshua, they could have built something else instead of an altar to honor God. 

What are some things believers do with good motives that are unwise? Share your ideas about this below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.