joshua

Joshua 10, Jeremiah 4

Today, read Joshua 10 and Jeremiah 4.

This devotional is about Joshua 10.

In Joshua 9 the Gibonites saved their own lives by deceiving the Israelites and making a peace covenant with them. Here in chapter 10, their neighbors were ticked and decided to attack Gibeon in retaliation for the peace they had made with Israel (vv. 1-5). The agreement Joshua made with the Gibeonites was made under false pretenses. It protected them from being attacked by Israel but it in no way formed a NATO-like alliance that said Israel would come to their aid of they were attacked by others.

Nevertheless, when they were attacked, they sent word to Joshua asking for help (v. 6b). Joshua and his army did help even though they were under no obligation to do anything. So this was an act of kindness, a blessing conferred on the Gibeonites far beyond what they deserved or should have expected based on their agreement with Israel. God’s people did far more than they had to and God blessed their gracious act of deliverance and used it to defeat five kings at the same time (vv. 16-21) instead of attacking those cities individually.

What interests me in this passage is how magnanimous Joshua and his nation were. Instead of being bitter about the deception of Gibeonites and taking pleasure in their demise as if it were cosmic payback, Joshua came to their aid. He did not hide behind the technicalities of their covenant; he abided by the spirit of it which was that the Gibeonites would be protected. In other words, God’s people went beyond what was required to do something generous and kind.

So many people today do only what is expected. Or, worse, many people will do less than what is expected if they think they can get away with it. Doing more than what you’re required to do and expected to do is gracious and, because it comes from grace, it is pleasing to God. God rewarded the kindness of his people toward the Gibeonites with a greater victory. Is there any area in your life where you’re doing only what is required or less? What might God do in your life if you put more effort and did more than what is expected or required in the areas where you’ve made commitments to others?

Joshua 7, Jeremiah 1

Our scheduled Bible readings for today are Joshua 7 and Jeremiah 1.

This devotional is about Joshua 7 and originally came from my 66in16 devotional series

It really didn’t take very long, did it, before Israel’s great victory over Jericho gave way to a crushing defeat in Ai (vv. 2-5). God’s people lost all the confidence they had gained in Jericho (v. 5c) and Joshua questioned God’s wisdom (vv. 6-9). But the real culprit was Achan’s sin (v. 1). Once God revealed the true issue (vv. 10-11), he also affirmed that there would be no further conquest until the sin issue was removed (v. 12).

God could have revealed Achan’s name and made it easy for Joshua and the Israelites; instead, the Lord systematically led Joshua through the people, “tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family” (v. 14). My belief is that Achan could have come forward at any point and ended the interrogation, but he intended to keep his sin secret and hope that he would not be revealed. That’s often our tendency, too, isn’t it? Keep quiet and hope for the best.

My assumption, too, is that if Achan had confessed, there would have been mercy for his family and maybe for him. I base this assumption on Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” If only we would listen to the conviction of the spirit and the voice of our guilty conscience and come forward when we sin instead of trying to get away with it. Not only would we receive God’s offer of mercy, we could, perhaps, spare others the misery of our sin. One thing’s for sure: if we would voluntarily confess our sin instead of waiting until we were caught, it would be a lot easier to forsake the sin before it became a habit.

Unfortunately, Achan tried to cover his sin but God was not deceived. But notice that, when he was identified, Joshua said to him, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me” (v. 19). We hide our sins for various reasons: we fear the consequences of confession and/or we love the pleasure of our sin so much that we keep it a secret so that we can return to it. What may not factor into our thinking, however, is the glory of God. Is God glorified when we sin in private, keep it hidden, and pretend to be the good people of God on the outside? Of course not. But that’s not our instinct; our instinct is to believe that the outward appearance of godliness is better for God and for us than it is to admit our failings and fall upon the mercy and grace of God. Even when caught, however, the best way for Achan to glorify God was not to lie and continue to try to cover his sin; instead, the best thing to do was to own up to his disobedience, which he did in verses 20-12.

I wonder what would have happened in Achan’s life if he had come forward sooner—either when his conscience convicted him or when Joshua began working his way through the people. What about in our lives? Is there a sin that you’re hiding? Have you ever considered that God’s blessing might be withheld from your family or from our church or from something else because of the disobedience that you are trying to cover? Has it ever occurred to you that, having sinned, the best way to glorify God now is to come forward voluntarily to the appropriate person—the government, your spouse, your elders—make a full confession and ask God to glorify himself either in mercy or in punishment? If the Lord is convicting you of something right now, take the opportunity you have today to give glory to God. Confess your sin and fall on the mercy of God.

Joshua 5:1-6:5, Isaiah 65

Here are today’s readings Joshua 5:1-6:5 and Isaiah 65.

This devotional is about Joshua 5:13-14.

Israel has just entered the Promised Land. It is time for the current generation to take the covenant sign of Abraham (vv. 2-9). This “rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you” (v. 9a) separating them forever from the uncircumcised Egyptians as a people belonging to God. They also celebrated the Passover (vv. 10-11) which also identified them with God’s deliverance from Egypt.

Then, in verse 13, we are told that “Joshua was near Jericho.” What was he doing there? A little scouting, perhaps? We don’t know but we do know that he had battle on this mind. God had already revealed that this would be the first city attacked in the Promised Land; now God revealed to Joshua the method Israel would use to win (vv. 2-5). Before he knew he was talking to the Lord, Joshua asked the soldier in front of him, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (v. 13) The Lord’s answer is quite curious: “Neither” (v. 14 a).

Note something important here: the “commander of the army of the LORD” was Jesus himself. We know that because “Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence” (v. 14), something mere angels never allowed. We also know this is Jesus because verse 15 says, “The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Again, mere angels--powerful and wonderful though they are--do not deserve worship and veneration; only God himself does.

Now then, how could Jesus say that he was on “neither” side in verse 14? These were God’s chosen people, after all. They were the recipients of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants, God’s Law, and the promises of God’s blessing. This was their land which God had promised them! How could the LORD then say that he was not on their side?

The answer is that God is on his own side and Israel benefited from being on his side by grace. Their success in taking the land was dependent on them living obediently to God’s commands, starting with the command to attack Jericho as Jesus directed them to in chapter 6:2-5. God would not fight for them if they tried to attack using conventional means; only the crazy form of “attack” described in 6:1-5 would do because only that method would show the supernatural power of God.

“Is God on our side?” is really the wrong question. The question is, “Are we on God’s side?” Our success at anything in this life can come only by the grace of God, his unearned favor. Also “success” only matters as God defines it, not anyone else.

Think about this the next time you sing or hear, “God bless America.” Of course we want God to bless America but is America blessing God? That’s using the word “blessing” in two different ways, I grant you. The first, “God bless America” is a petition for God’s favor on America (“God shed his grace on thee” and all that). My formulation, “Is America blessing God” is using the word “blessing” in the sense of “thanking and praising God through faith and obedience.”

Are you on the Lord’s side?

Joshua 3, Isaiah 63

Today, read Joshua 3 and Isaiah 63.

This devotional is about Joshua 3.

In this short chapter, Israel began crossing over the Jordan River into the promised land. Similar to the way in which he parted the Red Sea for the parents of these Israelites, God miraculously stopped the flow of the Jordan River (v. 16) so that this generation was able to cross into the promised land “on dry ground” (v. 17).

There were two purposes for this miracle. First, this miracle demonstrated to God’s people that Joshua was His appointed leader. Verse 7 says, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.’” This miracle gave Joshua the authority to lead.

The second purpose for this Jordan-stopping miracle was to show Israel that God was with them and would drive out the Canaanites. Verse 10 says, “Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.’”

One act of God, then, taught his people two important lessons--that God was with them and that they should follow Joshua. God used a miracle in this case; however, he often accomplishes these kinds of purposes by acting in even non-miraculous ways. Have you seen the Lord working in your life? Has it happened recently? Did it give you a sense of confidence to remind you that you are in Christ and that God is providing for and caring fo you?

Joshua 2, Isaiah 62

Today’s OT18 readings are Joshua 2 and Isaiah 62.

This devotional is about Joshua 2

Prostitution is always a sin. Always.

In biblical times, however, some women had few other choices. If a girl’s father died before she was given in marriage or a woman’s husband died or divorced her and she was not able to remarry, she may very well have felt it was her only other choice besides starve.* Take away God and his commands and a Gentile like Rahab may have felt that prostituition was her only option.

Yet Rahab, the prostitute, had extraordinary faith. She had more faith than the generation of Israelites who died in the desert and more than her fellow citizens in Jericho. She heard about what God had done for Israel and she believed (vv. 9-13). Her faith was so strong that she was willing to put her neck on the line for Israel’s spies (vv. 4-7, 15). God rewarded her faith not only by saving her life (next chapter) but also by including her in the ancestral line of Jesus Messiah (Matt 1:5a).

One lesson here is that God saves sinners. You knew that, and so did I, but we are more comfortable seeing that truth applied to “respectable sins” not stigmatic sins like prostitution. While some sins are more acceptable to us than other sins are, they are all wicked in God’s sight and deserving of divine punishment. It is no more difficult for God to save a prostitute than it is for him to save an idolator, a drunk, or someone eaten alive by envy. In fact, because we tend to look down on sins like prostitution, God’s great mercy causes him to save more of “those type of people” than others who are more accepted and acceptable to us.

Keep this in mind when you meet someone who seems like a hardened sinner. It may seem to you like a waste of time to share the gospel with someone like that but people “like that” are eternal souls who will spend eternity somewhere. Given that God can save anyone and likes to choose those who are disfavored in human society, you may find more success reaching out to drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes. Don’t sensor (or silence) yourself just because you have already decided whether or not God would “bother” saving that person. Instead, look for people who are caught in lives of sin and seek to introduce them to Jesus.

*This, by the way, is why polygamy was allowed in the Old Testament. Men died in war or farming accidents or just because women live longer so there were always more eligible women around than bachelors who could marry them. Commanding a man’s brother to marry his widowed sister-in-law or having her marry another man is a better option than starvation or prostitution. Still, the faith of Ruth and the command to allow gleaners which God used to sustain her and Naomi demonstates that there were more options for women than prostitution.

Joshua 1, Isaiah 61

Today, read Joshua 1 and Isaiah 61.

This devotional is about Joshua 1.

Joshua’s mission was not easy, but it was easy to understand: Take the Land! “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (v. 1-3).

To accomplish this mission, he did not need a stack of thick procedural manuals or a complicated plan. All he had to do was believe God and start attacking.

Yet, despite the simplicity of his mission, God commanded him to be a godly man as well as a faithful military leader. Verse 7 says, “...Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left.” To be faithful to God’s commands and obedient to God’s word, Joshua needed to be in word daily. Verse 8, therefore, says, “ Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; 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.” Joshua’s success as Israel’s leader was dependent on him becoming a faithful and obedient student of God’s word. As he learned and lived God’s word, God promised to make him successful.

The success God promised if Joshua was faithful was not a magic spell that reading the Word gave him. Instead, it was the fulfillment of the promises God had made in his word. Those promises for Joshua and for all of Israel were the blessings that would result from loving the Lord God. It was the cultivation of godliness, then, that Joshua needed foremost. He was a busy man leading all of Israel into warfare but he was never to be too busy to read God’s word and grow in his faith.

I know that you are busy raising a family, building a career or a business, learning a new skill or obtaining a degree. But do you make time each day to cultivate your walk with God? “Success” and “blessing” are different for us than they were for Joshua but God still promises blessing for learning and obeying his Word. James 1:25 says, “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” Whatever else you’ve got going on in your life, make time to walk with God. Read his word daily, pray as Jesus taught us to pray, worship weekly with us on Sunday and fellowship around the Word with your small group, too. These are the ways in which God administers his grace to us for our growth in Him. We must be obedient to what we learn, of course, but learning it is what leads to obedience. As Joshua 1:8 said, “...meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.”

Don’t let a busy life be an excuse not to walk with God.

Joshua 24, Acts 4, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 24, Acts 4, Jeremiah 13, Matthew 27. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 24.

After seeing all the disobedience and devastation that happened in Israel during the wilderness wandering, I think having success in Canaan would have been very satisfying for Joshua. Yes, there was the painful defeat at Ai and the bad decision regarding the Gibeonites, but for the most part there was victory and prosperity after. God kept his promises to Israel and Joshua saw those promises kept and, in fact, was used by the Lord to lead Israel to those promises. Here is a man who served God with his life and lived a long time (v. 29), seeing God work throughout his lifetime (vv. 5-10) but watching the best of times in the last part of his life (vv. 11-13) . Before his death, he used his status to exhort Israel once again to serve the Lord and remain faithful to him (vv. 14-15, 19-20). God’s people affirmed their desire to serve the Lord and re-committed to following him (vv. 16-18, 21-28). Verse 31 summarized what the results of Joshua’s leadership was like: “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.” The past was amazing and the future seemed bright. What a way to go out of this world and into eternity.

God’s will for Jeremiah was not so happy and satisfying. Those idols that Joshua warned about (v. 23) were a perennial threat to Israel. In Jeremiah 13, which we read today, God was running out of patience with Israel’s idolatry (v. 10). He therefore spoke through Jeremiah to warn Judah of coming captivity (vv. 24-25). It was the message God’s people needed, but doing God’s will seems like a lot more fun if you were Joshua than if you were Jeremiah.

The lives of these two men and the glimpse we had today into their ministries reminds us that spiritual success is not really measured by visible results. Given the outcome of their lives, we would be tempted to consider Joshua an incredible leader, a grand slam success. We would also tend to think Jeremiah was a strikeout, an abject failure. Yet both men were successful spiritually because they did the will of God during their lives. Let the stories of these two men encourage you today; if your service to God is fruitful, give thanks and glory to God for his blessing on your faithful work. If your service to God is not as fruitful but you’ve been faithful to what he’s called us to do, commit your work and its outcome to him and keep serving faithfully. Rewards await the faithful servant, not the one who wins the biggest victories in this life.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 23, Acts 3, Jeremiah 12, Matthew 26

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 23, Acts 3, Jeremiah 12, Matthew 26. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 23.

People are social creatures and that means we are drawn to conform to whatever the people around us are doing. Part of our desire to conform is social acceptance. This gives us comfort because we feel like we belong; we blend in to feel accepted. The other part of our desire to conform is called “social proof.” This means that, if enough people are doing something, we feel confident that it is the right thing to do. 

As Joshua neared the end of his life, he was concerned about the social affect of other nations on Israel’s worship of God. In verse 6, he urged the people to be obedient and dedicated to God’s law. In verse 7, he warned them not to “associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.” He knew that associating with these nations would cause them to reject the Lord and turn to idols. Verses 12-13 spelled out the consequences that would follow if they “intermarry with them and associate with them… they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.” Israel’s history played out exactly as Joshua warned that it would. Their example reminds us to be careful about our associations. While we should not isolate ourselves from unbelievers, we also should not be too comfortable among them. Their beliefs, their lifestyles, and their outlook will create social pressure for us to turn away from obedience to the Lord. Our natural, human desire to be accepted will wage war against the desire to become holy like God is. And the “social proof” aspect will tempt us to minimize the differences between God’s will for us and the lifestyles of those around us.

Isolation is not the will of God for us because the Lord wants us to love unbelievers and use our social influence to gain a hearing for the gospel. But the Bible reminds us not to love the world, either, because it is corrosive to spiritual growth. This passage warns and reminds us to be careful about how we are being influenced by those around us who do not know the Lord.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 22, Acts 2, Jeremiah 11, Matthew 25

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 22, Acts 2, Jeremiah 11, Matthew 25. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 22.

With a “job well done” and a “thanks for your service,” Joshua dismissed the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh to return to the other side of the Jordan River (vv. 1-4). His parting instruction was, “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” (v. 5). 

Just before they crossed the Jordan river, they built what verse 10 calls “an imposing altar.” The rest of Israel saw this as an act of war (v. 12), assuming that it was built to be used for sacrifices (vv. 15-19). It is unclear from the passage if the rest of Israel saw this as an altar of idolatry or if they thought it was one of convenience. In other words, did these 2 1/2 tribes build this to sacrifice to Israel’s God there instead of traveling to wherever the Tabernacle was? Or did they built it for idolatry? Either way would have been disobedient to God’s commands; due to all their bad experience disobeying the Lord (vv. 17, 20), the rest of the Israelites were incensed at the disobedience of the 2 1/2 Transjordan tribes. Their actual intentions for the altar were easily explained (vv. 29-31) and their explanation was accepted before any violence was used (vv. 32-34). But this story demonstrates how unwise actions—even ones that are motivated by good desires to honor the Lord—can be misunderstood. These 2 1/2 tribes could have informed Joshua of their intentions to build before leaving to return home. Of, if they decided to do this spontaneously after leaving Joshua, they could have built something else instead of an altar to honor God. 

What are some things believers do with good motives that are unwise? Share your ideas about this below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 20–21, Acts 1, Jeremiah 10, Matthew 24

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 20–21, Acts 1, Jeremiah 10, Matthew 24. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 21-22.

How patient are you on a scale of 1-100? Even if you gave yourself a 100 (meaning: incredibly patient), none of us can compare in patience to God. God is so patient that he cannot be rated on a scale of any kind. One of the deep lessons we learn reading scripture is that God’s patience, while not infinite, is on a level that none of us can even understand. He promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the promised land called Canaan. Today’s passage records the fulfillment of that promise: 

Joshua 21:43-43: “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 between Genesis 12 and Joshua 21, hundreds of years have passed. Abraham’s family grew large, as God had promised that they would, but they spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt then wandered in the desert for 40 years more. Millions of Jewish people were born, lived, and died before God kept his promise in Joshua 21. Clearly, God was in no hurry to make good on his promise, but he was not lazy about keeping it either. A look at the long timeline of scripture reveals that God usually takes much longer—generations, even—than we would expect to keep his promises. Yet, he did keep them in his time. 

Why does God wait so long? Faith. Each generation that heard of God’s promises and put their hope in the fulfillment of those promises had to exercise faith. They had the choice to reject God’s word and his promises or to believe that God would keep his promise….eventually. Even the people who saw the fulfillment of these promises here in Joshua 21 had to exercise faith; they had to obey what God said, whether that involved marching around Jericho or attacking other cities through more conventional means of warfare. Though the fulfillment was in their grasp, only the obedience that comes from faith could bring God’s word from promise to fulfillment.

God remains as patient as ever when it comes to keeping his promises. Jesus promised to return “soon” (Rev 22:12), yet thousands of years have passed since he made that promise. 2 Peter 3:8-9 told us that this might be the case: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The challenge for us is faith; to continue trusting in God, clinging to his promises, even though the fulfillment might not come in our lifetime. God has a different conception of time than we do and his fulfillments take generations, sometimes, to become true. But today’s passage shows us that God never forgets his commitments; he keeps every one but in his time and in his way.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of o

Joshua 16–17, Psalm 148, Jeremiah 8, Matthew 22

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 16–17, Psalm 148, Jeremiah 8, Matthew 22. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 16-17.

OK, so these can be tough chapters to read, with names like “Ataroth” (16:2), “Mikmethath” (16:6), and others. Also, since these chapters are describing the allotments of land for the tribes of Israel, it is tough to visualize what we are reading unless you have an old map of Israel handy.

So, don’t worry about all that stuff and, instead, notice this: 

  • “They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor” (16:10).

…and…

  • “Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely” (17:12-13). 

At the end of chapter 17, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph’s sons) began complaining to Joshua. “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly” (v. 14). They wanted to reapportion the land of Israel within the existing borders. In other words, they wanted to take land away from neighboring tribes. Joshua was all for them having more land, but not at the expense of other Israelites. Instead, in verse 15, Joshua told them to enter the forests of the Perizzites and Rephaites, start clear-cutting, and defeat these people when they came out to defend their land. When I read the response of Joseph’s descendants in verse 16, it is difficult for me to hear anything but a whiny tone of voice: “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron…” But Joshua stood firm; they get no more land from their original allotment. If they want more land, go and take it from these other Canaanites. Although he conceded in verse 18 that “they have chariots fitted with iron” and “they are strong” he maintained that “you can drive them out.”

History repeats. Their fathers failed to take the land because they thought the Canaanites were too big, too strong, too entrenched to defeat. In other words, they were cowed by what they saw instead of trusting in the faithfulness of God’s promises. Though the next generation did receive the land, they too were cowed by those around them. They got their land but not nearly as much as God wanted them to have. Why? Because they did not act as if they believed God’s promises. If they had trusted God, they could have had more land and could have utterly defeated the Canaanites. Instead, they chose through cowardice and unbelief to settle for less than what God wanted to give them. 

How often do we settle for low-level living? Do we believe that Jesus has all authority as he claimed in Matthew 28:19? If so, why don’t we go make disciples of all the nations as he commanded us to do? Do we believe that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us (2 Pet 1:3)? Then why do we let sinful habits remain in us instead of driving them out? The answer is that these things are not automatic. God’s promises are true but they are only activated by faith. And faith is not just an inner belief; it is an inner conviction that produces outward actions that demonstrate true trust in God. Where in our lives are we refusing to receive all the God has promised to us in Christ? Let’s take encouragement from Joshua’s confidence in these chapters and live by faith in that area today.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 9, Psalms 140–141, Jeremiah 3, Matthew 17

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 9, Psalms 140–141, Jeremiah 3, Matthew 17. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 9.

What would you do if your country was being attacked by a ruthless band of vagabonds who, despite their limited means, were winning their battles with seemingly supernatural help? 

That’s the question that the Gibeonites were asking themselves during Joshua’s conquest of Canaan; their answer is recorded here in Joshua 9. I think my answer would have been unconditional surrender: “Take us over; we’re all yours. Please be merciful to us.” The Gibeonites, however, didn’t try this. It seems impossible, but perhaps they had heard about the instructions God gave in Deuteronomy 7:1-2: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.” [https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%207&version=NIV]. That last sentence, “Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy” doesn’t seem to leave any room for surrender. Again, is it possible that the Gibeonites had heard about these instructions? It seems unlikely, but given how much they (vv. 9-10) Rahab (Josh 2:9-11) knew about God and his work on behalf of Israel, maybe word about God’s instructions had spread, too, along with these reports. Regardless, the Gibeonites resorted to deception. They concocted a story about being from a “distant country” (v. 6, 9) and backed it up with costumes and props that would support their story (vv. 4-5, 11-13). 

Their plan worked and Israel entered into a treaty with the Gibeonite without even knowing where they were from (v. 15, 19). Verse 14 notes that, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” In other words, they trusted the information from their 5 senses enough that they did not look to the Lord for insight and wisdom. Note the contrast between Joshua 7, which we read on Monday, and today’s passage in Joshua 9. In Joshua 7, Israel was defeated by Ai, and Joshua started praying (7:6-9) but God told him to stop praying and start rooting sin out of the camp (vv. 10-12). I take this to mean that Joshua should have known there was a sin problem since God had promised to defeat Israel’s enemies and had done so—miraculously so—in Jericho. Joshua and the elders of Israel were asking God why when they should have been asking him, “Who sinned?” Now here in Joshua 9 they are being tempted to depart from God’s clear instructions and yet they do not think to ask God but instead to follow what seemed reasonable. You and I face this kind of temptation, too. We know what God has said but we think the option in front of us is some kind of exception to God’s clear word. We are putting ourselves at risk. At the very least we risk making an unwise decision; often we are making a sinful decision, one that will cause us great pain later.

In this case, the Gibeonites saved their skin through this deception (vv. 16-18). This was not the most damaging outcome that could have happened, but it did cause the leadership to lose some credibility (v. 18c). My question about this passage is: Did Israel really need to honor this treaty? The Gibeonites were completely dishonest; their argument for the treaty was a total lie and they sold their lie with deception. Doesn’t their dishonesty invalidate the agreement? 

I think it probably would have been permissible morally to break their treaty. However, Israel’s leaders were at fault here, too. They could have investigated the claims of the Gibeonites more thoroughly and they could and should have sought guidance from the Lord. Given that Israel agreed to this—foolishly—it may have been permissible morally, but it was probably not the godly response. Joshua’s statement in verse 20: “This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them” was, at last, a godly way to look at the situation. Psalm 15:4b says that a godly person “keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind.” This is why Jesus cautioned us not to take oaths at all (Matt 5:33-37). 

Are there any promises you’ve made that you should live up to, even though you made them foolishly and they will be more costly than you expected to fulfill? Let his passage inform your life; be careful about what you commit to do but, if you do commit to do something, make sure you do it. This is an approach that honors our Lord.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 7, Psalms 137–138, Jeremiah 1, Matthew 15

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 7, Psalms 137–138, Jeremiah 1, Matthew 15. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read  Joshua 7.

It really didn’t take very long, did it, before Israel’s great victory over Jericho gave way to a crushing defeat in Ai (vv. 2-5). God’s people lost all the confidence they had gained in Jericho (v. 5c) and Joshua questioned God’s wisdom (vv. 6-9). But the real culprit was Achan’s sin (v. 1). Once God revealed the true issue (vv. 10-11), he also affirmed that there would be no further conquest until the sin issue was removed (v. 12).

God could have revealed Achan’s name and made it easy for Joshua and the Israelites; instead, the Lord systematically led Joshua through the people, “tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family” (v. 14). My belief is that Achan could have come forward at any point and ended the interrogation, but he intended to keep his sin secret and hope that he would not be revealed. That’s often our tendency, too, isn’t it? Keep quiet and hope for the best.

My assumption, too, is that if Achan had confessed, there would have been mercy for his family and maybe for him. I base this assumption on Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” If only we would listen to the conviction of the spirit and the voice of our guilty conscience and come forward when we sin instead of trying to get away with it. Not only would we receive God’s offer of mercy, we could, perhaps, spare others the misery of our sin. One thing’s for sure: if we would voluntarily confess our sin instead of waiting until we were caught, it would be a lot easier to forsake the sin before it became a habit.

Unfortunately, Achan tried to cover his sin but God was not deceived. But notice that, when he was identified, Joshua said to him, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me” (v. 19). We hide our sins for various reasons: we fear the consequences of confession and/or we love the pleasure of our sin so much that we keep it a secret so that we can return to it. What may not factor into our thinking, however, is the glory of God. Is God glorified when we sin in private, keep it hidden, and pretend to be the good people of God on the outside? Of course not. But that’s not our instinct; our instinct is to believe that the outward appearance of godliness is better for God and for us than it is to admit our failings and fall upon the mercy and grace of God. Even when caught, however, the best way for Achan to glorify God was not to lie and continue to try to cover his sin; instead, the best thing to do was to own up to his disobedience, which he did in verses 20-12. 

I wonder what would have happened in Achan’s life if he had come forward sooner—either when his conscience convicted him or when Joshua began working his way through the people. What about in our lives? Is there a sin that you’re hiding? Have you ever considered that God’s blessing might be withheld from your family or from our church or from something else because of the disobedience that you are trying to cover? Has it ever occurred to you that, having sinned, the best way to glorify God now is to come forward voluntarily to the appropriate person—the government, your spouse, your elders—make a full confession and ask God to glorify himself either in mercy or in punishment? If the Lord is convicting you of something right now, take the opportunity you have today to give glory to God. Confess your sin and fall on the mercy of God. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 5:1–6:5, Psalms 132–134, Isaiah 65, Matthew 13

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 5:1–6:5, Psalms 132–134, Isaiah 65, Matthew 13. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 5:1–6:5.

For decades God had provided manna for his people to eat in the desert. For most of the people in this generation, that was all they knew. Six days a week manna was waiting for them in the morning; on the sixth day, they gathered enough to feed them for the Sabbath as well. I wonder if it ever occurred to the younger adults in Israel that the manna would stop some day? Or, if they did ever think about that, if they thought it would continue until they had conquered some territory and were settled? Regardless of what they expected, the manna stopped when they entered the promised land. They ate a Passover meal and the manna was no more (v. 12).

Yet God was not done caring for his people. The crazy instructions that the Lord gave to Joshua about how to conquer Jericho is proof of that. Instead of laying siege to this fortified city or doing a frontal assault, God just told them to march around it. Day after day for one whole week, they played ring-around-the-rosies with it. On day 7, they did that seven times and, boom, the walls of Jericho sang “we all fall down.” This strategy was designed to show Israel that God was in control of their conquest and that their victories were due to him fighting on their behalf. There would be more traditional battles in the future, ones where God’s people would use conventional weapons and warfare to take cities. But this conquest of Jericho was to show them that it was God’s might, God’s power, God’s promises that would give them the land, not their military prowess.

Isn’t the Christian life just this way? We look for God to provide for us and make it easy. Sometimes he does to show us that he is with us. But, more often, God calls us to trust his promises and cultivate the land ourselves. God commands us to claim his power but show it by doing battle with our will, our sin nature. We get deeply disappointed with God for not causing holiness to descend into our lives like manna. We are thankful when he gives victory in our lives one day, but then calls us to do battle ourselves in faith that he is fighting with us and for us. Israel’s failure to get everything God promised them was a failure of faith. Instead of learning the lessons of the manna and Jericho and boldly taking the rest of the land, God’s people became too satisfied too soon. Don’t allow a complacent attitude to keep you from striving, from growing strong in Christ. Although this passage has to do with miraculous food and miraculous military victory, God works in the same way in all domains in life. Trust that the God who provided for Israel miraculously until they could reap his provision providentially will provide providentially for you, too, if you work at your life in faith. Trust that he’ll be there to provide supernaturally when you need him to, but that he’s already providing what you need through his divine providence. Claim all this by faith and do the hard work of daily Bible study, daily prayer, daily fighting the sinful impulses of the flesh, daily working hard at your profession and your relationships.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Joshua 2, Psalms 123–125, Isaiah 62, Matthew 10

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 2, Psalms 123–125, Isaiah 62, Matthew 10. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Joshua 2.

So much is different this time from the first time the Israelites sent spies into the promised land. The first time, twelve men were sent to be spies—one from each tribe (Num 13:2). This time only two were sent (v. 1). Instead of looking at the land exhaustively (Num 13:17, 21-22), they were told to “look over the land… especially Jericho” (v. 2b), so their task was to survey but with a particular focus on one city. Instead of having to investigate the people, the land, the towns, the soil, and the trees (Num 13:18-20), this time they seemed to be looking more strategically. Another difference was that this time the spies found an ally, although an unlikely one—a prostitute named Rahab (v. 1). Verse 1 says they entered her house “and stayed there.” I suppose that was a strategic decision; a house like hers frequently had men coming and going so maybe they decided it would be easier to avoid detection this way. Regardless of what they may have thought, they were spotted and their mission and lives were jeopardized (vv. 2-3). While some have faulted Rahab for lying, the scriptures never suggest that she sinned; in fact, she is heralded for her faith and was protected from the death that her questioners received for their unbelief (Heb 11:31). But above everything else that happened in this passage, Rahab provided the insight that Israel needed to move forward in faith. In verse 9 she said, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” Later she said it again: “…our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you…” (v. 11). Out of all the things they learned in their survey trip, this seems to have made the biggest impression on the spies. When they gave their report to Joshua, they used her own words to express their confidence: “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us,” (v. 24). Both Rahab and the spies understood that this was going to be a spiritual victory; as she put it: “…for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (v. 11). It was not Israel’s military might, superior weaponry, or ingenious tactics that would give them victory. It was the power of God and their faith (this time) in the promises he made to them.

But isn’t it interesting how God provided them with reassurance through the mouth of Rahab? God could have found fault, I suppose, with them sending spies in the first place. There’s no indication that he directed Joshua to send them. His command was clear as were his promises of victory, so the very act of sending spies could be seen as an act of unbelief. Instead of rebuking them, however, God gave them Rahab and her words of faith as the final boost they needed. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been ready to do the right thing morally in your life or the wise thing scripturally in your life and, just as you’re about to move forward, God provides just a little bit of reassurance that, yes, he’s in this decision? How gracious of the Lord to confirm his word; how merciful he was to spare a sinful woman like Rahab when she believed in him and acted accordingly. I hope this passage gives you some confidence today as you go out to live for him.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.