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 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.

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