While we need to be physically apart right now, we can still grow together as we grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus. Beginning Thursday, March 19, we will be posting daily devotions from the book of Joshua. So often when we think about the book of Joshua the first thing that comes to mind are the epic battles. To be sure Joshua is filled with many battles but the purpose of the book is much deeper than simply who Joshua and the Israelites defeated in battle. Instead we see God fulfilling the promise He made Abraham centuries earlier to give his descendants the land of Canaan. We see God lovingly providing for His people even though they had done nothing to deserve His love and provision. We see God in all His holiness.
So what does that mean for us today? At First Baptist, we too are on a journey. No we are not out to conquer a land promised to our ancestors. Instead we are on a journey to possess the promise of God’s presence in our individual lives and in our community. You see we all have areas of our lives that we have not completely handed over to God so that He can transform us into a clearer image of Jesus. Yet, for us to truly experience God’s promise we have to turn over every area of our lives to Him so that He can mold us and make us into whom He desires for us to be. Join us as we seek to possess God’s promise for every area of our lives!
“Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence” Joshua 5:14b Joshua had encountered the mysterious commander of the Lord’s army. He had questioned him as to his allegiance – was this mysterious man for Israel or for her enemies. The stranger’s response revealed both his identity and that God does not take sides. Now Joshua suddenly realizes that he is standing in the presence of God’s messenger. He is experiencing a divine encounter with God himself. Certainly he remembered Moses’ stories about his encounter with God at the burning bush. Certainly Moses shared with him about God’s command to remove his sandals as Moses was on holy ground. Most assuredly, Joshua must have realized that this was his “burning bush” experience. Knowing all of this, Joshua did the only thing he knew to do. He fell on his face in reverence and worship. He need not probe the man any longer for any details of his allegiance – in fact, none of those questions really mattered now. Now the only thing that mattered was that Joshua was encountering God and the only proper response was to worship. Worship is a uniquely God thing. We only really encounter God when we are worshipping Him – regardless of whether we are in church, in personal Bible study, or sitting on the porch. The key to our ability to encounter God is that we must find ourselves face down in reverence and submission to God in worship. Don’t misunderstand me; our physical position has less to do with worship than the condition of our hearts. Yet, the unique thing about worship is that while we really only encounter God when we are worshipping Him, we must also remember that whenever we encounter Him the only fitting response is more worship. Throughout Scripture whenever someone encounters God the only fitting and appropriate response is to bow down in worship. And yes, this is absolutely circular reasoning. You see, we were created to worship God. Thus, when we worship Him we encounter Him more fully which in turn leads us to worship Him more, and the cycle continues. We were created and called to live lives of worship. If you are not encountering God on a daily basis, let me encourage you to take a few minutes and examine your worship. Because if you are worshipping God, you can rest assured that He will lead you to encounter Him in an amazing and life-changing way.
“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ ‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’” Joshua 5:13-14a There will be a special place in heaven for my wife Adrienne. She puts up with so much stuff being my wife; not to even mention all the stuff she puts up with by being a pastor’s wife. One of my particularly favorite means of messing with her is to sneak up on her and scare the daylights out of her. This is not really all that difficult since I have a knack for sneaking up on people. Even though it is not very difficult, I still derive a great sense of personal pleasure out of seeing how high I can make her jump. She, on the other hand, does not enjoy my antics nearly as much. The context of the verse above is that Joshua was walking around Jericho when all of a sudden a man appears before him with drawn sword. This is a bit amazing. After all Joshua was a seasoned, veteran warrior by this point in his life. And the only way that a warrior can become a veteran warrior is to not be snuck up on very often. Yet, the reality was that this man with drawn sword simply appeared before him and the Hebrew suggests that the man took Joshua by surprise. Joshua sees the man before him and seeks to find out where his loyalties lie. Is this warrior for Israel or for the Canannites? Whose side is this man on? The man reveals both his identity as the commander of the army of the Lord, and he also reveals that Joshua was not even asking the right question. Joshua wanted to know whose side the man was on when in truth he was not on any side. The implication for us is that so often we want to know whose side God is on related to anything from politics to sports to a question in a church business meeting. The reality is that God is on His own side and that is all. We must stop throwing around ideas about which side God is on as though we were all kindergarten children fighting over a best friend. Instead, we must begin asking the simple question about who is on God’s side. If we are on God’s side then we never need worry about anyone or anything sneaking up on us because we can know that we are on the same side as God. Whose side are you on?
“The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.” Joshua 5:12 God had miraculously provided for Israel during their wandering in the desert. Daily manna appeared as dew in the morning so that the Israelites would have food since obviously there is not much food in the desert. God’s provision was absolutely astounding, yet it was only for a season. God never promised the Israelites to provide them with manna – He had only promised to provide for them. By fulfilling His promise to give them this good land – this Promised Land – He was doing just that. The miraculous provision of manna was to be replaced by the common and ordinary fruit of a land that was to be given to them miraculously. So often God provides for us in miraculous ways. He does something that is beyond comprehension and we revel in the beauty of His love for us. Yet, later when the miraculous ceases we tend to believe that God has abandoned us or that we have done something wrong. All of God’s miraculous blessings are only for a season. God has promised to provide for us, but He has not promised how He will do so. Whether you find yourself in a time of miraculous provision or in a time of ordinary fruit, remember that God is above your circumstance. Both the manna and the fruit of the Promised Land were equally provided by a loving God – one just seemed to be more inexplicable than the other.
“On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.” Joshua 5:10-11 The renewal and reaffirmation of God’s covenant with Israel was timed in God’s providence to allow the Israelites to celebrate the feast of Passover. According to the Mosaic law those who participate in the Passover celebration must have been circumcised. Thus, the circumcision of the entire nation allowed the entire nation to participate in the great event. To understand implications of this event, you must understand that the Passover celebration marked the first Passover in Egypt. The final great plague of the death of the first born was coming to Egypt. Only those who had spread the blood of a Passover lamb over the posts and lentils of their door and remained indoors would be safe. Symbolically, the Passover reminded the Israelites of their exodus from Egypt. Yet, on this day the Passover took on a new significance. Formerly, it had reminded the people of their exodus from slavery. Now it would remind them of their entrance into God’s promise. As Christ-followers many things take on a new meaning and significance after we enter a personal relationship with Jesus. People take on a new significance as we realize that each person is one for whom Christ died. Love takes on a new meaning as we realize that the ultimate expression of love is found in the giving of ourselves, even to the point of death. Worship takes on a new meaning as we realize that only Jesus Christ is truly worthy of our worship. Relationship with God forces us to redefine and reexamine everything in our lives. What has that redefining and reexamination changed in your life?
“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.” Joshua 5:9 The thing that I enjoy doing more than anything else is trout fishing in Colorado. There are a lot of reasons for my love of trout fishing. I love the scenery. There is nothing greater than standing in a mountain stream or river fishing for trout that will be dinner in a few hours while taking breaks to simply stand in awe of the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Another reason is that trout fishing in Colorado has always been a family event for me. Some of my most precious memories are trout fishing with my father, or my wife, or my children. So often trout fishing has combined my favorite thing with my favorite people. One of the interesting things about trout fishing is that I can take you to specific fishing holes and tell you stories about fish that we have caught there or funny stories about falling in the ice cold water. My father and I can sit and talk about the details of the rivers we fish even though we are hundreds of miles away from the river. The Israelites had a funny thing about naming places after special events that happened there. In Hebrew the word Gilgal sounds like the Hebrew word for “roll.” The place was named for the spiritual impact that that place had upon the Israelites. It was at that place that the Israelites were circumcised and their covenant with God was renewed and reaffirmed. This renewing and reaffirming would silence the reproach or mockery of Egypt who had questioned the power and might of Israel’s God since to Egypt it appeared as though Israel’s God was strong enough to deliver Israel from Egypt but not strong enough to actually provide them with a place to live. To the Egyptians it looked like God had delivered Israel from slavery to homelessness. But now the mockery would end. The covenant was reaffirmed in the land that God had promised to the Israelites. No longer would the name of God be mocked because of the disobedience of His children. We have a similar reality today. Often the name of Jesus is mocked by those who look at the lives of His followers and see no difference from the lives of the rest of the world. Let’s be honest. The divorce rate inside the church is roughly the same as that of the world. The rate of those using pornography is the same. The rate of pre-marital and extra-marital sexual relationships is the same. The financial condition is the same. What is it that separates us from the world? Have our lives really been radically transformed by the gospel? Are people who encounter you praising God because of your life or are they mocking Him?
“At that time the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.’” Joshua 5:2 The nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan. God had protected them and paved the way for them by the dramatic miracle of the crossing to the point that the Canaanite kings were melting in fear of the God of Israel. It would seem to be the perfect time to make an assault on the first city that stood in the way of Israel actually possessing the land God had promised to their ancestors. It would make all the sense in the world to strike while the iron was hot and to take full advantage of the fear that gripped the Canaanite kings. It would make perfect sense – except for the fact that it was not God’s plan. God was not concerned with military strategy. He was not concerned with the element of surprise. He was concerned with His relationship with the people of Israel. He was concerned that they were focused on His covenant with them. He was concerned that they were His people. You see, as the following verses indicate none were circumcised during the wandering in the wilderness. The covenant that God made with Abraham was sealed with the covenant sign of circumcision. Be sure to remember that circumcision was not the covenant; rather it was the visible sign of the covenant. It was an outward sign of an inward commitment and relationship. The fact that no one was circumcised during the wilderness wanderings can be interpreted many ways, but all of those ways lead to a common conclusion that by circumcising the people God was in essence renewing and reaffirming His covenant with Israel. The punishment that they had endured due to the disobedience of the previous generation was now over. The covenant was now renewed and reaffirmed. The past was gone and a new time had arrived. Are you ready for a new time in your life? Are you ready to let go of your past mistakes and move into a new day? Certainly, Israel was ready. They had wandered in the desert for 40 years. They were God’s covenant people, yet they were disobedient and their disobedience had consequences. They were still God’s covenant people but the consequence of their disobedience was that the blessing of their relationship with God was largely suspended for an entire generation. How about you? Have you entered into a relationship with Jesus only to falter in your fellowship with Him? If this is you, then this passage should provide you with great hope! You can surrender your heart to Him again. He is faithful and just and will receive you again when you confess your sin and return to Him. What’s holding you back?
“Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.” Joshua 5:1 God’s miracles do not only impact us. This verse serves as a transition from the crossing of the Jordan to the circumcision of the people. God had miraculously caused the waters of the Jordan to stop flowing so that the entire nation of Israel could cross over as on dry ground. Obviously this miracle allowed the Israelites to enter the Promised Land but this miracles impact extended far beyond the Jordan River. The kings of all the people were so frightened by God’s display of power that their hearts melted away with fear. As the fear of the Israelites increased, the kings courage to face them in battle plummeted. God’s miracle was allowed the Israelites to enter into God’s promise, but it ripples extended to melting away the courage of those who currently occupied the land. God does amazing and miraculous things in our lives all the time. So often I believe that we fail to let these miraculous things have their full impact because we tend to keep those things hidden in our hearts and individual lives. We fail to see that the ripples of God’s hand in our lives is designed to extend far beyond our lives. We simply take God’s blessing and hide it away and prevent others from receiving the encouragement of knowing that God is really at work in the lives of other people. Perhaps we think that others are too busy. Perhaps we think that they don’t really want to be bothered by what is going on in our lives. Whatever the reason, we must realize that we are called to share our testimony of God’s hand in our lives. What has God done in your life recently? Who needs to hear about it? You see, the story is about God’s hand not about your life.
“He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:24 When we began to pray about coming to Mountain View, I remember praying and laying out before God all the things that would need to happen for us to be able to make the move. I guess that I wanted to be sure that He knew about all the dominoes that had to fall in the right direction to make the move possible – as though He didn’t already know them even better than I did. I consistently told Him that I would go joyfully to First Baptist if that was His plan and that I would continue waiting just as joyfully if that was His plan. My primary concern was that I heard from Him clearly. It was literally staggering as almost immediately, God began to knock down each of those dominoes in a way that exceeded every measure that I had laid before Him. So why do I tell you this? The answer is simple. Each of us have times in our lives when God shows Himself to be strong and powerful. He intends that we remember these times to give is strength and courage for those times when we cannot clearly see His hand at work. But these times are not exclusively for our benefit. Instead, they are for us to share with all those He has placed in our sphere of influence. These stories are meant to provide them with hope and encouragement. They are meant to point people to our loving Father. My children will probably never really remember living in some of the places God has lead us. Whether they remember is not as important to me as that they understand the great and mighty way that God made it possible for us to be here. They will not remember it, but they will know the stories well enough to understand it. God had just finished a dramatic miracle in the sight of all Israel. The miracle was over and the waters of the Jordan had returned to normal. The blessing of the miracle was that it could be remembered and could still provide the people with inspiration of having seen God work so mightily on their behalf. Close your eyes for a moment and think back to one of those times when God truly showed Himself mighty on your behalf. Have you shared that testimony with anyone recently?
“”And the priest came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.” Joshua 4:18 In October 2005, I was attending my first doctoral seminar at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. While I won’t go into details, it should suffice it to say that I was going though a very difficult time in my life spiritually and in ministry. Simply put, I had forgotten why I was doing what I was doing. One evening after class I went to go and get dinner and managed to lock myself out of my room – yes, this is an ongoing testimony to my brilliance (or lack thereof). Needless to say I was a little ticked off at myself. So since I couldn’t do anything until security arrived I sat down on the ground outside my car and ate my dinner. While I was sitting there about three deer walked out into a little meadow about 100 yards away. As I sat there watching them, I had one of the most pivitoal encounters with Christ that I have ever experienced. I didn’t want that moment to end. I actually cried when the security guard showed up to unlock my room. And yes, my crying did kinda freak that guy out a little – ok, well alot. I tell you that story because I want you to understand that I know what it is to be on a spiritual mountaintop. In my case it was that I had heard God so incredibly clearly. I wanted more than anything to stay there and continue to hear Him, but the reality was that I could not be who God had called me to be on the mountaintop. God had done a mighty thing for Israel. He had caused the waters of the Jordan river to stand still. In my book this would certainly qualify as a mountaintop experience. Yet, Israel was not called to stand on the bank of the Jordan forever. They were called to take possession of the Promised Land. They could not take possession of the Promised Land and stand on the bank at the same time. The miracle was for their benefit, but it was not their final destination. Don’t get lost on the mountaintop because your calling is to minister in the valley.
“The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, armed, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them. About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the Lord to the plains of Jericho for war.” Joshua 4:12-13 God had revealed His hand mightily to the Israelites by providing for them a way to cross the Jordan on dry ground. None in this generation – other than Caleb and Joshua – had witnessed anything like this. It certainly would have been easy to become lost in the moment. Yet, the miracle was only God’s means of opening the door to the Promised Land. The simple reality was that there were peoples already in the land who believed that the land was really theirs – after all they had lived there for generations. God had shown Himself mighty, but the reality was that once they crossed the Jordan the daunting task of taking control of the land remained. There was no guarantee that there was not an army from Jericho sitting on the other side of the Jordan just waiting for them. God had blessed them, but there was still work to be done. We can all go back in time to incredible events in our lives where God showed Himself mighty. We would be both foolish and arrogant to forget those times in our lives, but we must also remember that there is still work to be done. Despite the current crazy times, at First Baptist we have been blessed with an incredible last few years. Many of our prayers have been answered and others are being answered, yet the simple reality remains that if God desires to do exceedingly, abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine (as Scripture declares) then there remains work to be done. We cannot forget the past but we must also remember that it was through God’s hand in our past that He was preparing us for our future.