March 5-11, 2017
“Be strong and courageous.”
As God prepares Joshua to lead Israel, finally, into the Promised Land, He tells him over and over, “Be strong and courageous.”
One would suspect that God was preparing Joshua for what He knew was coming from the people he has been called to lead.
Disobedience. Blame. Rebellion.
It is interesting to observe that the people of Israel will consistently disobey God, and then, in turn, blame its leaders or even God himself. Why is it that mankind often lacks the ability to admit its own failures, accept responsibility for its choices and actions, or to place blame where blame is actually due?
One interesting note in this week’s reading is the requirement of Israel to be circumcised before God will allow them to enter the land He has promised on His oath to deliver. This is in accordance with God’s command in Genesis 17:
“Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Genesis 17:14 (NIV)
This event begs the question: If God had already promised the land – indeed, not to them, but originally to Abraham – and, if God was going before them to defeat their enemies, why would he require the physical act of circumcision?
Understanding this is critical to understanding the nature of covenant throughout Scripture. God consistently rescues and delivers His people, right up to the present day church. Indeed, that is the very definition of grace – providing something for us that we cannot provide for ourselves.
But God does so inside of a covenantal framework: He provides, yet he requires something of His people so that they may demonstrate their faithfulness to His love and kindness. To fail to hold His people to obedience to that covenant would make God inherently unjust, and this principle has deep ramifications for our personal relationship with God today.
Following a time of consecration (preparation), Israel captures and destroys the city of Jericho, only to fall prey to sin and disobedience. Achan takes that which God has forbidden and hides it under his tent. As a result, God punished Israel by allowing them to be routed at Ai.
Joshua is despondent: “If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? (Joshua 7:7-8)”
But God reveals the sin of Achan to Joshua, and in exacting his punishment, God vividly demonstrates the importance and the integrity of His chosen body of people. In God’s eyes, the integrity of the Body (whether Israel or the church) is absolutely critical and must be preserved at all costs. To allow the Body to become corrupted – through disobedience or by outside influences – allows the Body to be destroyed from within.
Thus, God demands that Israel drive out the nations in the Promised Land. Where they fail to do so, He demands that they must not intermarry with those nations. The reasons are quite clear:
“Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.”
Deuteronomy 7:3-4 (NIV)
God is a jealous God. He demands obedience in return for His salvation and favor. But, He also knows exactly how we can be led directly into complete corruption by simple acts of disobedience.
In Judges 1, the writer lists several instances of the failure of Israel’s tribes to drive out the inhabitants of the Promised Land. As we will see next week, Israel will immediately begin to intermarry with them and serve their gods.
No wonder God exhorts Joshua to be strong and courageous. The people he is called to lead are weak, sinful, and hard-hearted.
Aren’t we all?