Day 088: Who Are You Mentoring? (Joshua 22-24)

“Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.” Joshua 24:31

We come to the end of Joshua with some grim foreshadowing of what is to come. In chapter 24, Joshua lays out the challenge to the people: choose whom you will serve. And all the people say, “We’ll serve the Lord.” (15-18)

Then Joshua dies, and verse 31 says that the people continued to serve the Lord “all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua.” 

But how many were those days? Based on what we are about to read in Judges, they didn’t last long. And I have to wonder: did Joshua mentor anyone the way Moses mentored him? The first time we hear about Joshua is all the way back in Exodus 17:8-9. He is called Moses’ assistant in Exodus 24:13. He is with Moses on the mountain when Moses receives the Commandments from God (Ex. 32:17). And when Moses speaks to God in the Tent of Meeting, Joshua, “a young man”  stays in the tent even when Moses goes back to the camp (Exodus 33:11).

But if Joshua invested in anyone from the next generation to that extent, we don’t read about it in Scripture. And so while the elders were able to keep Israel on track, we will see in Judges that when that generation dies, Israel goes off the rails in a big way.

Joshua did not pour into someone the way he himself was poured into.

The lesson for me here, both as a middle aged man and as a pastor, is to develop the next generation of disciples. I can look at my church and be content that all the leadership positions are filled. A full choir, no vacancies on any committees, all volunteer teams up and running. A healthy turnout at midweek prayer meeting. Good attendance on Sunday morning.

The problem is, with a few exceptions, they are all people my age or older. What happens when our generation dies out? What happens to the next generation when they grow up and their parents are no longer “making” them go to church?

Where is the next generation of leaders? On our worship team? In our volunteer base? What am I doing to invest? If I can’t point to anyone from the next generation that I am pouring into, then I fear I am making the same mistake as Joshua. And that the church will have the same results as Israel in Judges.

Day 087: Two Joshuas (Joshua 19-21)

49 When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. 50 By command of the Lord they gave him the city that he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he rebuilt the city and settled in it.

51 These are the inheritances that Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the people of Israel distributed by lot at Shiloh before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land. (Joshua 19:49-51)

Joshua is a consummate servant leader. As the two faithful spies from the previous generation, Joshua and Caleb had their pick of the land. As we saw a couple of days ago, Caleb picked one of the toughest places—the hill country where giants still lived. And Joshua, although he could have picked first, picked last. He graciously waited until everyone else’s needs were met, and all the land was conquered, and all the enemies were defeated, before he rested in his inheritance.

How amazing that this Old Testament Joshua (Hebrew for Yahweh Saves) foreshadows the servant heart of our New Testament Joshua! Of course, we know him better as Yeshua, or Jesus. Same name, same heart.

As the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15), Jesus was entitled to first pick. And the truth is, He was already enjoying the Promised Land, in eternal fellowship with the Father and the Spirit.

And yet, Paul tells us in Philippians that Jesus,

... though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)

Like the Old Testament Joshua, Yeshua fought every battle and defeated every enemy. He was crucified so that we could obtain our inheritance. And when the last enemy was defeated, only then did the New Testament Joshua sit down at the right hand of the Father:

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3) 

That’s the kind of leader I will follow. That’s a leader I would give my life to. He waited until I had my inheritance before he claimed His! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Day 086: Take Possession of What’s Promised (Joshua 16-18)

“So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” Joshua 18:3 

If you’ve ever bought a new car, at what point is the car yours? Is it when you sign your name on the dotted line? Is it sixty months later, when you’ve made the last payment? You could make a case for either of those. But most people would say that at that magical moment when the dealer hands you the keys, shakes your hand, and congratulates you on the purchase, you feel like the car is yours. Or if not then, certainly the point at which you get behind the wheel, start it up, and drive away. You hear that giddy voice in your head, This is mine.

Imagine signing all the papers and making all the payments, but never driving the car away from the lot. You would own the car, but you wouldn’t have the car. The car is yours, but you haven’t taken possession of it. And there’s a difference.

In Joshua 18, we find that there are still seven tribes that have not received their inheritance, even though, according to verse 1, “the land lay subdued before them.” Apparently, they had gotten comfortable living as nomads in the lands of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah. Sort of like a thirty-something who still lives in his parents’ basement.

So God rebukes the people through Joshua: I’ve given you this land. How long before you step into it? How long before you take possession?

There are a lot of things in my spiritual life that have been promised to me, but I don’t fully live into them. Romans 8:15 tells me that I’ve received the spirit of adoption as a son by which I can call out,  “Abba! Father!” I have received the right to call the creator of the universe “Daddy” (that’s basically what ‘Abba’ means in Aramaic).  But have I taken possession of this right? Or am I still hesitant to bother God with requests that seem too trivial for Him?

Or how about this one: I have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). That means that I have access to the wisest decision maker, the most discerning counselor, the greatest philosopher that has ever been. But how often do I agonize and hand-wring and sweat over decisions I have to make? I may have it, but have I taken possession?

There are so many things we are promised as children of God! The peace of God (Philippians 4:7)! Abundant life (John 10:10)! Salvation. Power. Comfort. This article from Got Questions lists many, many more of God’s promises to His children, but even then they are only scratching the surface. Paul sums it up in his first letter to the Corinthians:

21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

Beloved, it is time for us as believers to step into the Promised Land! Take possession of the promises.

Day 085: Caleb’s Different Spirit (Joshua 12-15)

“I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” Joshua 14:11-12 ESV

This is one of my favorite scenes in the book of Joshua. Caleb and Joshua are the two oldest people in Israel. They are the last men standing from the generation that came out of Egypt. And Caleb, 85 years old, is still spoiling for a fight!

At the time in his life when most men are comparing brochures for gated retirement communities with golf cart paths, Caleb points to where giants still live and  says, “I want this.”

Caleb is a great mix of “I can do” and “only God can.” He is confident of his own strength, but cognizant of the fact that his success is totally dependent upon God’s good pleasure.

Remember God’s description of Caleb back in Numbers 14:24. God told Moses that Caleb would live to see the promised land, “because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully.”

This morning, I am thankful for the senior adults in my life that have “a different spirit.” The church I pastor is still young enough that many of the pioneers that built the church are still around. There are men and women that can point to the drywall they hung, the tile they grouted, the bathrooms they plumbed. Many of them are as strong now as they were then.  And many of them are still ready for the next fight.

They are the ones that encourage the next generation to believe God’s promises. Because there are still giants in the land and hills to be taken.

Oh, how we need your different spirit!

Day 084: Sovereign Through Our Mistakes (Joshua 9-11)

42 And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. Joshua 10:42

In chapter 9, Joshua gets conned by the Gibeonites, one of the neighboring people groups. They approach Joshua with worn-out clothes and dried-up wineskins, saying, “Make a treaty with us and protect us from our enemies, because we live so far away we’ll never be a threat to you!” And as verse 14 makes clear, Joshua and the other leaders fall for it because they “did not ask counsel from the Lord.”

Oops. This isn’t the first time Joshua makes a decision without inquiring of God first. He did the same thing in yesterday’s reading, when he failed to inquire of the Lord before going up against Ai (see Joshua 7:1-5).

Now, thanks to Joshua’s unforced error, Israel is stuck in a treaty with a group they were supposed to destroy. And it isn’t long before the Gibeonites cash in.

Eventually, the Gibeonites come back to Israel and ask them to make good on their treaty. Seems that five other local kings all want to gang up on Gibeon now for making an alliance with Israel. Joshua honors the treaty, fights the Amorites all day long, prays for God to extend the day so he can finish the job, then traps all five kings in one cave and puts them all to death at once. 

Now, notice how God made the most of Joshua’s mistake.  Follow the sequence:

  • If Gibeon hadn’t deceived Joshua, Joshua wouldn’t have made a treaty with them.
  • If Joshua hadn’t made a treaty with Gibeon, the five Amorite kings wouldn’t have gone against Gibeon.
  • If all five hadn’t been grouped together, Joshua would have had to defeat each one individually, prolonging the conquest and delaying the fulfillment of the promise.

God is sovereign over our mistakes! Obviously, it would have been better for Joshua to check with God before entering into the treaty to begin with. But God has an amazing ability to spin gold from our goofs. Romans 8:28 promises that God causes all things to work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purposes.

Think about your biggest regret. Your worst wrong turn. The season you’re most sorry for. Picture it in your mind. Relive all the anguish you’ve dealt with for making such a bad decision.

Now, whisper two words to yourself:

All things.

Did you do it? Good. Now, whisper two words to God:

Thank You.

Day 083: Aching Israelites, and an Israelite Named Achan (Joshua 5-8)

“When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.” (Joshua 5:8-9)

When I read about the men of Israel getting circumcised when they entered the Promised Land, I have a strong visceral reaction. Sorry, I can’t help it. Circumcision is about taking what is most personal and private and intimate and making it vulnerable and exposed. And that can be super painful (And yes, we’ve dealt with this before on the blog. See Day 017: Guys, We Need to Talk About Genesis 17:23).

So I imagine that Joshua might have met some resistance in the camp when he ordered the men to be circumcised en masse. Bear in mind that at this point, the people had not conquered any of the Canaanites in the land. For what it’s worth, way back in Genesis 34 the sons of Israel themselves had used circumcision as a battle strategy. They had convinced the men of Shechem to be circumcised so they could intermarry with Israel, and then slaughtered them while they were all recovering. So I can imagine that at least a few of the men were saying, “Joshua, wouldn’t it make sense to delay this little procedure until after we’ve conquered our enemies? We don’t want them doing to us what we did to the men of Shechem. It’s just common sense” (And, yes, we’ve talked about this, too. (See Day 052: Was Jubilee Ever Observed?)

Did you know that in God’s eyes, there is no distinction between delayed obedience and immediate disobedience? Joshua was wise enough to realize that there would be no victories in the Promised Land if they did not commit to obedience from the moment they crossed the Jordan. He was one of two people (along with Caleb, whom we will talk about later this week) who understood firsthand the cost of disobedience. So if there were objections voiced to the mass circumcision, they were not entertained. It was not put to a vote.

But now, notice the tenderness of God. While the men were recovering, God protected them from their enemies. And not only did He protect them, He forgave them. On that day, the people were able to put the humiliation and shame of Egypt completely behind them. And when they went to battle against Jericho, God gave them a mighty victory.

Contrast this to what happens two chapters later. In Joshua 7, Israel is humiliated by Ai, a town they thought would be a cakewalk after the mighty Jericho fell. Joshua learns the defeat was due to one man, Achan, who tried to hide some of the things he plundered from Jericho. And until his sin was brought out in the open, Israel couldn’t prevail against her enemies. Achan’s sin affected him, his family, and his family of faith. What he attempted to conceal resulted in their ruin.

Do you see the contrast? The men of Israel laid themselves bare before God, and He protected them and gave them the victory. God guards what we give Him. He who knows our innermost being (Psalm 139) will keep safe what we bring to Him.

On the other hand, Achan tried to conceal something from God. The entire community suffered defeat because of his attempts to keep his sin secret.

What we try to keep from God, God will expose. But what we expose to God, God will keep. We can’t hide anything from Him, but praise God that we can entrust everything to Him.

Day 082: “Very Far Away, at Adam” (Joshua 1-4)

15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. (Joshua 3:15-16)

For the second time in their history, Israel experienced a miraculous water crossing. In Exodus 14, Moses led the people across the Red Sea. A generation later, Joshua led the people across the Jordan. One led the people out of slavery. One led them into promise.

So which crossing required more faith? At first glance, the Red Sea seems like the bigger obstacle. While Joshua 3:15 does note that the Jordan was at flood stage at this time, it’s still just a river, and not a very wide one at that. Compared to the Red Sea, it feels like not as big a deal.

And yet, notice how the directions are different. In Exodus, Moses raised his staff and the waters parted. His instruction to the people was,  “Stand still, and you will see God’s salvation. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent (Exodus 14:13-14).”

But in Joshua 3, the priests had to get their feet wet before they saw the miracle. The soles of their feet had to be in the Jordan before the waters were cut off.  The command wasn’t “Stand still.” It was “Get moving.”

And as you think about which required more faith, consider this as well: Moses had the Egyptian army on his heels. The enemy was behind him, and the people were desperate. They had nothing to lose by going forward. In contrast, Joshua had the walls of Jericho in his sights. This time, the enemy was in front of the people, and they had everything to lose by going forward. Two and a half tribes had already decided things weren’t so bad on this side of the Jordan. What would keep the rest of the tribes from following suit?  

I think it takes more faith to be on the march than it does to be on the run. Complacency is a bigger challenge to walking in faith than desperation. Embracing God’s promises might require more trust than escaping from bondage.  

Now, before we leave this story, let’s consider one more thing: In Joshua 3:16, we read that “the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan.” We don’t know exactly how far away this was, only that it was “very far” upstream. So, given the speed of the current, God must have begun piling up the water WAY in advance, yet He timed it so that the people would see that water dry up the moment the priests set their feet in the river! Even before the people started moving, God had already prepared the way.

And this is true for us as well. What looks like the next step of faith for you is only the most recent in a series of steps for God.

Take one more look at Joshua 3:16 and consider this:

The waters piled up at a city called Adam. At Adam, God began to make the way for the Israelites to cross to the Promised Land.

When did God begin laying the groundwork for the day you would take your first step of faith– the day you trusted Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? Wasn’t it at the point at which Adam experienced the fall that made it necessary?

It was “very far away, at Adam.” That was when God made the way for you to cross over.

Day 081: “Upright One” or “Beloved One”? (Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91)

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
    who rides across the heavens to help you
    and on the clouds in his majesty. (Dt. 33:26)

As Tara-Leigh pointed out, the name Jeshurun is used three times in the Song of Moses (Dt. 32-33) and only one other place in Scripture. Jeshurun means “Upright one,” and it feels out of place when describing Israel, because Israel has been anything but upright.

But here’s the thing. Jeshurun, according to, can also be translated “Beloved One.” In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word is rendered ἠγαπημένος (Agapemenos). Agape is the unconditional love of Christ poured out on us.

The only other place Jeshurun is used outside of Deut. 32-33 is Isaiah 44:1-2:

“But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
This is what the Lord says—
he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.”

So if Jeshurun is “Upright One,” then it does feel ironic when applied to Israel. Because upright describes human behavior, and, well, Israel has behaved very badly at this point.

But if Jeshurun is “Beloved One” then it is more about God’s attitude toward us, and not our behavior toward God. We are beloved by God in spite of our behavior, not because of it. Israel is the agapemenos—the Beloved One, because God formed her. He chose her.

I am Jeshurun! Left to myself, I am so far from upright. But God has pronounced me upright. I am so much less than lovely, God’s heart toward me is only love. Oh my God, I praise you for singing over me!

Day 080: These are Not Hard Things (Deuteronomy 30-31)

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Dt. 30:11-14)

As harsh and horrifying as yesterday’s reading was, today’s reading was just as tender and reassuring. In 30:11, God tells His people through Moses, “Look— these are not hard things. This commandment is not some secret knowledge or some impossible quest. You don’t have to be Nicolas Cage deciphering a secret treasure map, and you don’t have to be Indiana Jones traveling the world to discover what has been lost. No:

The word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

Michael Card, a gifted theologian/songwriter, captured the simple beauty of Deuteronomy 30:14 with this song:

So far, the law has seemed incredibly complex. Random. Harsh. Incomprehensible in places. But actually, has it? Even before there was a law to tell him so, Cain knew killing his brother was wrong (Genesis 4:9-10). Shellfish and mixed fibers aside, much of the law has just been common sense. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might, and things will go well for you (Deut. 6:3-8).

Through Moses, God reassures Israel that “the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and on your heart, so that you can do it.

Leave it to man to muddy it up. Leave it to the Pharisees to take the word out of the mouths of men and make it all about external observances. Leave it to the rabbis to get consumed with gematria, seeing numbers and codes and “deeper meanings” in every character of the plain text.

Leave it to the premillenialists to pile charts and timelines and bestselling books on top of Revelation; obscuring its encouragement and hope, so that the glory of every tribe and tongue and nation gathered before the throne and singing “Worthy is the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9-11) gets Left Behind.

God tells His people on the edge of the Promised Land that the word is near them. It is in their heart and on their lips, that they may obey it.

Centuries later, the apostle John would tell us that the word has been with us from the beginning. It was with God. It was God. The word was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him (John 1:1-2).

And then, as if the word couldn’t be made any nearer, suddenly, it was: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

And even so, yet nearer still:  Christ—the Word—in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) Oh, praise Jesus that we didn’t have to ascend to heaven to get the Word. The Word descended from Heaven and came to us. And lives in us still.

Day 079: Does God Really Delight in the Destruction of His People? (Deuteronomy 28-29)

““All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,” (Deuteronomy 28:45-47 ESV)

I struggle with chapter 28 because it is a threat to my systematic theology. It’s a challenge to my core conviction that every word of the Bible agrees with every other word of the Bible. Here’s what I mean: Deuteronomy 28:63 says,

63 And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 

The issue is that twice in Ezekiel, God says he does not take pleasure in the death of the Israelites:

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:32)
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)

So which is it? God delights in the destruction of rebellious Israel, or God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone?

The NIV Quest Study Bible (online) gives us one possible way to reconcile this. It suggests that, “punishment does not please God in the sense of making him feel good. Rather it pleases him that justice is done.”

Which makes me feel a little better, I guess. But it sounds a little like “God-splaining” (which is like man-splaining, where a guy tries to rationalize and justify something that he shouldn’t have said, only its on God’s behalf).

I hear Tara-Leigh say that verse 63 is typical covenant language that doesn’t reflect the character of God. But if it doesn’t reflect the character of God, then why is it in the Bible? Unlike the book of Job, where anything that seems contrary to God’s character can be written off as coming from a human being that doesn’t speak the truth about God (Job 42:7), we don’t get an easy out in Deuteronomy 28, because these words are coming from God himself, through Moses.

But if I struggle with seeing God’s character in this chapter, I don’t struggle at all with seeing human nature. Because for whatever reason, we are wired to respond to the fear of bad things more than the promise of good things. In the 68 verses of chapter 28, only 14 of them are about the blessings of obedience, compared to 54 dealing with the curses of disobedience. Nearly four times as many!

There’s a reason “judgment house” presentations at churches are so popular at Halloween. There’s a reason why the only sermon most people know from Jonathan Edwards is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Human nature tells us that fear motivates. A recruit in boot camp is trained for battle by a drill sergeant, not by Mister Rogers. Many preachers spend more time on graphic depictions of hell than glorious depictions of heaven.

So while the whole of Scripture is God saying to us, “This is who I am,” Scripture also says to us, “This is who you are.” It is a horrifying thing to turn away from God. The truth of Deuteronomy 28 is that I need constant reminders of the consequences of rejecting God. Because I am a sinful, fallen, forgetful, broken, rebellious child, and sometimes that’s what it takes.

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