Not a Fairy Tale

A Survey of the Land

Joshua 17-18

Fairy tales don’t have settings. Sure, technically the setting would include in the forest or at the castle or under the sea but we don’t REALLY know where the stories took place. City? Country? Even continent? We aren’t told. Believe it or not, Cinderella’s castle wasn’t actually in Orlando. Fairy tales don’t have detailed settings; because, fairy tales aren’t real.

But, the Israelites occupying the Promised Land, as well as SO MANY other events of the Bible, those are stories with a setting, a lot of very specific and detailed settings to be exact. For the last couple of days, and for the next few days, our Joshua Bible reading has and will include a good bit of geography from ancient Israel. Some of these places actually still exist in the exact same location, today! And others have been lost through the years. Just for fun I looked up the “Stone of Bohan son of Reuben” which is just one of several landmarks listed as part of the northern boundary of Judah’s inheritance (Joshua 15:6). Sure enough, no one knows where that stone is today or what significance it held, but it meant something to the people of their day. The writer of Joshua didn’t give GPS coordinates, but he gave all the information needed for the tribes to find and settle their land, and he left enough clues for us to retrace and map out who got what.

This was their new home. The land promised to them by God. The home they had been anticipating for hundreds of years, and fighting for the last 4-5 years. It was better than a fairy tale or dream – this was a real true event. Real people in a real land receiving their real inheritance from a very real God.

I enjoy Bill Schlegel’s Satellite Bible Atlas which offers a historical geography of the Bible. Every major Bible event is mapped out, with dates and commentary. And, this post would have been available sooner today, but I was having too much fun watching videos Schlegel created which include further photos and videos of the REAL land of Israel. They really help the Bible lands come to life. I encourage you to see for yourself at Satellite Bible Atlas and accompanying videos. As an associate professor in Israel for 25 years Schlegel knows the area very well.

One day I plan to visit the Holy Land, either before or after Jesus returns. Until then, it’s exciting to take some video field trips and learn more about the land God gave His children. Real people in real places. God’s promises are true.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here Joshua 17-18 and Psalm 70-72

In Suffering – surrounded by enemies

Psalm 69

We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.

Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!

But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).

Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.

Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).

Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.

There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.

Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep singing. Keep glorifying. Keep thanking.

The enemy surrounds but they don’t win in the end. Our God saves.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 15-16 and Psalm 69

If God Wrote Birthday Cards

Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

When I first read today’s passage and the opening verse of Joshua 13 I chuckled out loud thinking how inappropriate we would deem this opening remark, if it had come from anyone other than God. The verse says, “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.'” (Joshua 13:1 NIV). Who wouldn’t love to open a Hallmark greeting card that says , “You are VERY old, and there are lots of things you haven’t been able to accomplish yet “? Thanks, God. I can always count on you for telling the truth. I am now ready to just curl up and die.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I am sure that is not what God was saying.

Sadly, we have become a culture that doesn’t honor the aged. We all want to be told how young we are, or look or act. We love to have others in awe of how much we have accomplished already in our few short years of life thus far. We sell products that will fix that devastating gray hair and wrinkles so you can look like you did 20 years ago so no one will ever have to know just how old you really are.

Joshua was there as a young aide to Moses when the 10 Commandments were given and the people were told that if they followed the commandments and feared the Lord they would be blessed. They would be able to cross the Jordan, increase greatly, prosper in the Promised Land and enjoy long life (Deuteronomy 6, specifically verse 2 for long life). Getting old is a blessing. And VERY old, a double blessing! “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.” (Deuteronomy 6:24 NIV). When God told Joshua he was VERY OLD, this was definitely not a put-down as some would read it today. It was a compliment to Joshua and a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

We would do well to regain a thankfulness for every day we are “kept alive”, rather than constantly trying to turn back the clock. As well as, looking up to those who have been kept alive longer.

Job 12:12 — Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Proverbs 16:31 —Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Remember too, that God was not saying this to Joshua in the final verse, final chapter of Joshua’s life. We are still in chapter 13 and Joshua won’t be dead and gone until chapter 24 (at the ripe old age of 110). Yes, a lot of the ACTION of the book of Joshua, as well as the life of Joshua has been completed by chapter 13…but God is certainly NOT done putting Joshua to work! Biblehub.com gives a timeline of Joshua’s life and they suggest that Joshua will live 24 more years from this point. We can’t give away everything that is yet to be done in the rest of Joshua’s life and book, but God has a lot more direction and guidance to give to His servant Joshua and Joshua does it. Just a few verses down from God’s VERY OLD comment, we read how God says HE himself will continue the work of driving out the inhabitants of the Promised Land, and He wants Joshua to “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.” (Joshua 13:6 NIV). It doesn’t help to have taken the land, if no one will be there to justly divide it and distribute it. Even though Joshua’s work at the thrilling battle front just may be winding down, there is still a lot of important work to be done. Going from the front lines to the desk job isn’t a demotion. Your ministry may look different through the years. Be thankful for the long life and listen to see what He wants you to do next!

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” (Psalm 68:19-20)

If God helps you escape death today, praise Him for it and be thankful for yet another day to dig in His Word, to serve Him and watch Him carry your burdens.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

Creating a Nation

Psalm 65-66 and Joshua 11-12

Joshua and the Israelites are getting things done and cleaning up Canaan land. Piece by piece, city by city, town by town, they are accepting their inheritance – the Promised Land that God has been preparing for them the past 430 years.

Beginning with the promise made to Abraham, the old man with no offspring, that if he followed God he would be made into the father of a great nation that would occupy the land. The promise was passed down to Isaac his miracle child, and given again to Isaac’s son Jacob, the father of 12 sons/tribes. It was these brothers that were saved by Joseph when he brought his family to Egypt to survive the famine in their land. A new pharaoh brought the Israelites into slavery and for the next few generations their numbers continued to grow in Egypt. Then Moses entered the scene with the 10 Plagues and “Let My People Go”.

This hasn’t been the easy way to grow a nation. But, God doesn’t have to go the easy route. He was not just creating any nation, but creating a holy nation that called on Him and relied on Him and followed Him.

In Joshua 11:15-16a it is recorded, “As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses. So Joshua took this entire land…”

The work passed on to the next generation and the promise passed on to the next generation. And here they were, back in the land where Abraham had pitched his tent. They were seeing the fulfillment of so many years of waiting and watching to see how God would make His promises come true. They had seen the waters of the Jordan stop flowing at flood stage so they could cross into this land. They had felt the ground shake when the walls of Jericho came down. They had witnessed the sun standing still! This was not a usual way to create a nation, because they did not have a usual God!

I love that this same awe of God is found about 200 years later in the writings of David. David is still writing about when God “turned the sea into dry land” (Psalm 66:6), as well as His majestic creation, His forgiveness, His care through rain and crops, and His “awesome deeds of righteousness” (Psalm 65:5).

I especially love a passage from yesterday’s Psalm reading – Psalm 62:11-12

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard;

that you, O God, are strong,

and that you, O Lord, are loving.

Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

We serve a strong and loving God who rewards his faithful children. It is not enough for God to just be powerful (that could be scary). It is not enough for God to just be loving (that is also scary if you consider a loving but powerless God). But a loving and powerful God is the one I want to follow. He will have good things for His children and the strength to deliver them. Just as He delivered in mighty ways for the children of Israel as they entered the Promised Land under the outstretched arm of Joshua, God is now preparing the fulfillment of all His promises in the Coming Kingdom of God which will be ushered in at the return of His Son Jesus. And that is an event you don’t want to miss.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 11-12 and Psalm 65-66

Friend or Foe?

Don’t be Deceived!

Joshua 9-10

The lessons for us today just keep coming in the book of Joshua! In the last few days we’ve learned from Joshua: arm yourself daily with God’s word for strength and courage and success; God’s will, way and day leads to victory; and stop blaming God when we ought to be dealing with the sin amongst us which will then help us to overcome defeat.

Today we learn valuable intel on how to distinguish friend from foe, how to guard oneself from being deceived, and the all important how to get more hours added to your day. The answer to all three – Ask God. Don’t try to do it on your own. Trust His way and His understanding and His power, not your own.

The Canaanite neighbors have heard how Joshua and the Israelites have destroyed Jericho and Ai (on the second attempt). Some are ready to fight. Others find it easier to deceive. The sly Gibeonites, who live just over the next hill, came to Joshua. Pretending to have just made a long journey from a far off country, with worn-out clothes and old food, they convince the Israelite leaders to make a peace treaty with them. Three days later the Israelites learn they have been tricked. They have just signed a treaty protecting the lives of those who should have been their next targets.

What went wrong? They had been so careful. They had even tasted the Gibeonites’ stale bread! All their senses and intuition and prior knowledge told them this was safe and trustworthy and reliable and in their best interest. Scripture tells us, “The men of Israel sampled their provisions, but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9:14 NIV).

I believe it is even harder today to distinguish friend from foe. Satan would love to have the world believe that what and who is actually an enemy of God is harmless, trustworthy or far-off. When actually this danger is at our doorstep, dressed in a disguise. And, since it looks good and convincing and seems to make sense Christians take the bait and sign the peace treaty and align themselves with the enemy. Because they did not inquire of the Lord.

Deception abounds on so many fronts. Who is God? Who is Jesus? What happens when you die? What is the value of a life? Who really has your best interest in mind? Who can be trusted? Who is on God’s side? And who is not?

God knows. And He wants to reveal the answers to you. Ask Him – not your own heart. Seek His wisdom – not man’s. Read His word. Spend time in prayer. Listen – to the Lord. Don’t sign the treaty without His okay.

Our reading in Psalms includes many great verses that would have been great refrigerator verses for the Israelites at that time – if only they had refrigerators.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock, and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1

“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:7-8

Don’t be deceived. Trust God alone.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 9-10 and Psalm 62-64

Dealing with Sin

Joshua 7-8

Yesterday we got to see the thrill of victory, even if it didn’t come as expected or immediately, an incredible victory was given to those who did it God’s way. And the walls came a-tumblin’ down at the battle of Jericho.

Today’s lesson is in the agony of defeat – and what happens when we don’t do it God’s way.

The story of Achan and Ai rarely makes it into anyone’s Top 10 stories of the Old Testament. I don’t believe it has a VeggieTales episode or children’s Sunday School song devoted to it. We much prefer talking about victory and Jericho than sin and Achan. But when we don’t talk about it, it’s so much easier to fall into the pit ourselves.

With their confidence bolstered from the impressive win at Jericho, the Israelites send a small delegation to bring down the little town of Ai. But, instead they are met with strong resistance and lose 36 men in their forced retreat.

Even strong and courageous Joshua crumbles at the news. Defeated, already. Why God? Where were you? Why were we even trying to follow you? What will people say of us now?

Doubting and blaming God comes so naturally. It’s often the first response to tragedy and difficulty. But, God was not impressed with Joshua’s line of thinking. I love God’s answer (perhaps I love it a little less when it is directed toward me, though).

Joshua 7:10-12 (NIV)

The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

We were having such a good pity party while pointing the finger at God. But, He will have none of it. Israel has sinned. They have violated God’s covenant. They have brought this upon themselves. And they won’t see victory again unless they destroy what has led them into sinning against God.

It is powerful to remember how the sins of one affects so many. My sins have the power to destroy not just me. My sin has tentacles that reach out to negatively impact and harm and destroy those closest to me – my family, as well as my church and my community and even sometimes my nation.

So it was with Achan when his greed led him to steal a few of the treasures of Jericho, just for himself. But as he hid them in his family’s tent, he was utterly destroying their chance for blessing as well. Even the 36 Israelites who died fleeing from Ai would not have perished if God had been blessing their mission. The devastating effects of this sin could have continued to snowball if the sin and the sinner were not revealed and dealt with quickly.

Of course, every tragedy suffered in your country is not a direct result of your own personal sin. But when we turn to blaming God we would be wise to check ourselves first. Perhaps He would tell us, too – “Stand up! _________ has sinned.” Perhaps blessings and victory are being withheld because there is sin in your life, your family, your church, your community, your nation that must be dealt with. Can we trace the defeats of our nation to the sins of our nation? It is easy to think like Achan, that we can hide sin and it will only affect us. But, we are wrong. Sin is serious and it has serious long-reaching effects on many. What are we trying to hide that has led us into sin? It is time to dig it up and destroy it. When we deal with sin, we can have another chance at victory.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 7-8 and Psalm 59-61

Wait for it…Wait for it…

God’s Will and Way and Day

Joshua 5-6

Today’s reading includes one of the top 10 stories of the Old Testament – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. And the walls came a-tumbling down!

I love reading the Biblical account of this event. Imagine the army and priests given their marching orders – to March! That’s all, just march around the city once. There will be priests carrying the ark of the covenant and 7 priests blowing trumpets and armed men ahead and behind. And all you have to do is march around the city once and return to camp.

And day 2 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 3 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 4 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 5 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

And day 6 – go back and march around the city once with the ark, the priests, the 7 trumpets and the armed men.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. This is not how battles are typically won. Are the people of Jericho laughing yet? They had been scared of the stories they had heard of a powerful God who saved His people from Egypt. But, this doesn’t look too threatening on day 6.

Wait for It…Wait for It…

And just keep up with your marching orders. God’s Will. His Way. And in His timing. Salvation could be right around the corner. Any day now. Don’t give up following God’s way when it seems you aren’t seeing results – yet. Day 7 is coming! Marching, Marching, Marching. His Will. His Way. His Day.

It is also exciting reading of the archeological evidence discovered at the site of old Jericho. The only place where archeologists have found all the walls fell down – outward. Also found were storage jars full of grain that had been burned along with the rest of the city – showing that the city was destroyed during harvest season (as recorded in the Bible) and not following a long siege. Just as the Bible records, the walls of Jericho fell, the city was thoroughly burned and then abandoned for a long time.

The God of Joshua and the God of the Battle of Jericho is still the God of today. His army tactics can be surprising. We have never seen a war won this way before. But because we know the final outcome, we know who reigns victoriously in the end, we will keep following His marching orders. His Will. His Way. His Day.

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway hereJoshua 5-6 and Psalm 56-58

Just So You Know

Joshua 3-4 & Psalm 53-55

Yesterday, Makayla wrote about God’s plan and how perfectly Jesus accepted and fulfilled his part in allowing his body to be sacrificed and overcome by death – for 3 days. And she challenged us to consider how we will each respond, how will we play our part in the unfolding of God’s plan and His will. For each generation, and indeed each individual throughout history has the opportunity to choose how they will respond. Some have chosen very wisely.

Since January first our Old Testament reading has been in one of the first 5 books of the Bible – the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses. We have seen God’s plan unfold from His spectacular creation, the beginnings of life, to the the flood, the rainbow, and the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We saw how God provided for every generation including food during famine and a miraculous family reunion for Jacob and Joseph. And that was all just in the book of Genesis. Next came 4 books and 120 years of God leading and protecting His people through His man Moses – from the basket in the river to the Pharaoh’s palace, from Moses’ stumbling speech at the burning bush to the far side (the safe side) of the Red Sea, from the gift of the Ten Commandments to that wretched Golden Calf, from the mountaintop to the tabernacle God has shown His faithfulness and how He deserves to be followed. He led the Israelites right to the door of the Promised Land, but then ten of the twelve spies chickened out and the people forfeited their chance to be led by God into the land flowing with milk and honey. Instead, that generation would die in the next 40 years as they were wandering in the desert wilderness. Meanwhile, their children were growing up, preparing to wear their dead parents’ sandals (the same ones God made sure didn’t wear out) into the good land promised to the grandchildren of Abraham. Every generation, every individual gets to choose their response to God and His faithfulness.

So, here we are reading the first book of the Old Testament books of History – the book of Joshua. Moses has just died and the reigns of leadership have been passed on to the man who has been Moses’ sidekick for years. Before Moses’ death he had written out the early history of God’s people and God’s laws so that Joshua and those who would follow would know and remember. Moses and God had instilled into Joshua the need to return daily (day and night) to God’s Word as recorded by Moses: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9 NIV)

This, too, is the key to our response. Stay daily in God’s Word (all 66 books now – what a treasure trove). The world is still a scary place, just as the 12 spies discovered. And, without a daily dose of God’s Word it is easy to lose sight of God’s provision and lose the strength and courage that comes only from a solid foundation in God’s power and promise.

As Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land it is still the land of giants and fortified cities that had scared away the generation that came before him. But, armed with God’s Word he has the courage to go with God. And God does not disappoint. The first obstacle is the Jordan River at flood stage. Not a problem. Once the feet of the priests touch the water’s edge the waters stop flowing and the people walk across on dry ground. God has Joshua select one man from each tribe to carry out a rock from the middle of the Jordan and these 12 stones are erected to form a monument to God’s miraculous provision, so they can remember and tell the next generation.

It is part of our response to His goodness. Remember. And tell the next generation. I have never seen that pile of rock. But I have seen God at work in my life and at work in the generations before me. And, I have a great gift that lasts longer than the greatest pile of rock – God’s Word. It has been given that I might know the Almighty Father and what He has done. Without it, my memory fails me, and I am fearful. Without it, I lose my courage in a scary world of giants. But, with it, I am armed with strength and courage that only God can – and has – provided. In a scary world – turn to His Word daily.

In our Bible reading today we also have a portion of the Psalms written by David. It reminds us everyone won’t have a wise response to courageously step out and follow God’s plan in a scary world. Every generation also has the fools who say in their hearts that there is no God. (Psalm 53:1) The noise of evil can be loud and distracting and scary, but like David and Joshua and Jesus and every generation and individual we have a choice who we listen to and how we respond. Be in His Word and follow His Way. He knows the way into the Promised Land and He knows how to do the impossible. There is no obstacle too great for our God. Arm yourself with His Word daily. Remember. And tell the next generation.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Joshua 3-4 and Psalm 53-55

Renewal

 Joshua 22-24

Joshua 24 15 b NASB

Chapter 22 sees the return of the Eastern tribes to their allotted land across the Jordan river, after helping the rest of the tribes of Israel conquer the remainder of the Promised Land.  Verses 1-4 says, “Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, ‘You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now -to this very day – you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan.'”

 

I see a  parallel here between the Israelites serving God faithfully and being rewarded with their home in the Promised Land, and our own lives being measured, with the reward being a place in the Kingdom.

 

Verse 5 then says, “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.” Soon after, the Eastern tribes set up an altar to God along the Jordan River as a reminder to the Western tribes that they worship the same God.  But the Western tribes were alarmed that they may have actually set up an altar to other false Gods.

 

Thankfully, at this time, they had not set up altars to other gods.  But maybe we have.  We are going through tough times in our world right now.  For most of us, this is the first time we have gone through really tough times.  Even though our country is and has been at war many times in our lifetimes, and even though the United States has endured terror attacks and financial low points, for the most part, we have had it easy.  Probably no one reading this lived through the Great Depression.  This isn’t to say that we have not endured tough times individually for any number of reasons, but for the most part, we have all lived charmed lives.  And that my friends, is poisonous.  When times are good, we don’t feel the need to turn to God.  When we hear about the Kingdom of God in church, and how we should be looking forward to it, we think, “I’ve got it pretty good right now, why would I want that to change to something else?” And yes, we allow things like careers, hobbies, future vacation plans, possessions, even our spouses and children, to become idols in our lives, taking our focus and gratitude away from our Heavenly Father.

 

We often look at all of those wonderful things as blessings from God, and certainly they may be!  But He doesn’t bless us in order for us to turn our backs on Him and others.  Instead, He blesses us and then expects us to be grateful every minute of the day for those great blessings, and in turn take the opportunity to bless someone else, as He has blessed us.  Our blessings should make us outward focused, but instead it is far too easy to allow them to keep us inward focused, and then allow those blessings to distance us from God.  We think that we did something ourselves to earn the blessings, or convince ourselves that we deserve this or that.  Wrong attitude.  Any blessing, including each breath you are taking as you read this, is solely a result of the grace of God.  We deserve nothing, due to our sin nature.

 

As we endure this Pandemic crisis, which means different negative effects for so many people, some of which are terrible to think about, I hope that if you have not yearned for the Kingdom of God before now, that you are finally doing so now.  In the Kingdom, there will be no pandemics, no viruses.  There will be no fear and no anxiety.  There will be no sickness and no death!  Praise God.   That is something to be yearned for.  That is something to be excited for.

 

With so much extra free time right now for so many of us, this is a perfect opportunity to rededicate our lives to Christ and to reconnect to God.  Will you do that?  Are you trusting Him right now?  You should be.  He keeps His promises.  As Joshua is about to die, in chapter 23, verse 14 he says, “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” That holds true today folks.  But read the next two verses as well.  Those also hold true today.

 

So what will you do?  Here is what Joshua decided he would do:  24: 14-15  “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

 

If you are choosing to make a renewal or re-dedication of your life today, I celebrate with you, but I also encourage you to mark the occasion in some way.  This period of difficulty and uncertainty will pass.  (And yes, that is a very good thing, but only as long as we are changed.)  So we need a reminder of the commitment we are making, and a reminder that God was with us through this, because as things get easier, we tend to return to our old ways.  So, make a note to yourself on your mirror, or change your smart phone wallpaper, or even stack some rocks up in your front yard, just like the Israelites did to remember things.  Just do something so that the renewal isn’t short lived.

 

Encouraging verse of the day:

Psalm 118:14

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

 

Greg Landry

 

You can read or listen to today’s Bible passage at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+22-24&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin a new week and a new book of the Bible as we jump into Judges 1-2 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Refuge

Joshua 19-21

Joshua 21 45 NIV

Chapter 20 instructed the Israelites to set aside six cities as Cities of Refuge that were to be used to protect an individual from retribution if they had accidentally killed someone.  The High Priest would hear their case, and allow them to be protected within one of the cities if it was clear that they fit the criteria.  This system will be reflected later when Jesus, our own High Priest, stands up to defend us and protect us from a punishment that we are due.  God is so good to have provided refuge for His people so long ago, and for all of us today.

 

Chapter 21 ends with, “So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands.  Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

 

In addition to the refuge that God has provided, we see here that He is a promise-keeper as well.  So much of Joshua contains the details of the land areas that were given to each tribe, which seems kind of boring.  But this meant everything to the people of that time, and to modern Israelites today.  This not only shows that God keeps His promises, but also shows that this particular area is INDEED set aside for the nation of Israel forever.  The Promised Land doesn’t have an expiration date.  And neither does God’s love and care for all of His people, including you.

 

I hope you can take comfort in knowing that God keeps his promises, He cares for His people, and that includes you.  He provides a place of refuge for us today, in His arms, and has set aside a Promised Land of refuge for us in the future, the Kingdom.

 

 

Encouraging verse of the day:

 

1 John 4:16

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

 

Greg Landry

 

You can read or listen to today’s Bible passage at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+19-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Joshua with chapters 22-24 on our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

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