The fear factor is powerful. The Canaanites heard of all that the LORD had done for Israel, and their hearts melted, it would be a factor in their defeat. One wonders if instead of melting hearts they would have had turning hearts – if only they would have (like Rahab) turned to the LORD now, or even earlier in their history, when their consciences must have gripped them in all the evil they were practicing.
God had Joshua make knives, but it’s interesting that instead of the knives being used on the enemies first, God commanded Joshua to use the knives on himself and on those who were serving with him – in circumcision. This would be symbolic of the covenant the Jews had with the LORD, and of the cutting away of the flesh. Today God doesn’t use knives He uses His Word in order to circumcise our hearts (Romans 2:29). God wants us to use His word in the secret and sensitive places.
Warren Wiersbe, “The new generation had not received the mark of the covenant (Genesis 17), so this ritual was a reaffirmation of their relationship with God. Circumcision symbolizes putting off what belongs to the sinful flesh (Romans 8:13; Colossians 2:11–12) and devoting the heart wholly to the Lord (Deuteuronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4).”
God is on the move on behalf of His people. He’s rolling away the reproach of homelessness (Gilgal means “wheel or rolling”). The people ate of the fruit of the land, no more manna (I have mixed emotions on that one). It all happened in the time of the passover – definitely a new beginning.
I’ve always loved this section of Jesus appearing to Joshua as the people are on the brink of the Promised Land. Joshua doesn’t know who it is (this theophany) but he asks that question, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” Jesus loves everyone, so His simple response is:
Joshua 5:14-15 (NKJV) “‘…No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?’ Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”
Warren Wiersbe, “Joshua met Jesus Christ and learned that the Lord already had a plan for taking Jericho. All Joshua had to do was obey and remember that he was on “holy ground.” From that time, whenever Joshua took off his shoes, it reminded him that he was second in command. That was the secret of his victory (2 Chronicles 20:15).”
God appeared to Moses with similar instructions (Exodus 3:5).
The battle plan to conquer Jericho didn’t make much sense from a military perspective, but God wanted to clearly demonstrate to Israel that obedience to Him would be the key to victory. His ways are not our ways, they’re infinitely higher. There will be many times in life when we don’t understand God’s direction – we must simply trust and obey. If we do, we will see victories in life.
The first-fruits belong to God. By giving to Him first, off the top, the best of the best, the fat of the firstborn, we remind ourselves that it’s all from Him and it all belongs to Him. This was supposed to be the case in the conquering of the Promised Land as well – the spoil of Jericho belonged to God. We read God’s clear command in:
Joshua 6:18-19 (NKJV) “And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.”
But Achan disobeyed, thinking he could get away with his secret sin, and brought defeat to the entire nation…a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).
Warren Wiersbe, “We never sin alone. God sees His people as one, so the sin of Achan was the sin of the whole nation. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12–27) One man’s sin caused the death of thirty-six soldiers. Sin ultimately brings defeat. The secret of success is knowing and obeying God’s Word (Joshua 1:8), and Achan knew that. But he deliberately disobeyed God and brought defeat to the army, disgrace to the Lord, and dismay to his commander. Joshua started looking back instead of looking ahead (Joshua 7:7)!”
Disobedience leads to defeat which can easily lead to doubt and discouragement. It’s hard to read Joshua’s words:
Joshua 7:7b (NKJV) “…Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan!”
May we never be content to live on the wrong side of the Jordan, wandering through life. God commanded Joshua to get up and deal with the sin within, in order to win. (Joshua 7:12)
Warren Wiersbe, “These parables are Christ’s defense of His ministry, explaining why He fellowshipped with sinners and even ate with them.”
Christians need to be careful to avoid two extremes. On one hand there are those who live in a Christian bubble. They only interact with Christians, do business with Christians, talk to Christians, and over time the only people they know, are those who are saved. How can we be lights in the world, or salt on the earth, or fishers of men if we stay within our Christian bubble?
The other extreme is worldly trouble. Some Christians make the mistake of getting too close to the edge. In their attempt to win the lost they compromise and rather than pulling them “up,” their worldly friends pull them “down” (which is easier to do). Jesus told us in John 17 that we are to be in the world, but not of the world. It’s okay for the boat to be in the water, we just don’t want too much water in the boat (we’ll sink).
I love the fact that Jesus was friends with sinners. In Luke 14 Jesus ate with the “saints,” but in Luke 15 He ate with sinners – even tax collectors (they were considered the worst). I have to search my heart, “Do I only interact with Christians? What about all the lost and hurting people out there, am I afraid to ‘contaminate’ myself by getting too close? May it never be, after all, I’m the chief of all sinners! (1 Timothy 1:15)”
How ugly the heart of a legalistic Pharisee and how contrary to God they are. Pastor Sandy Adams said, “The Pharisees looked down their noses at the sinners who Jesus loved. They lived to draw distinctions that would keep people out of the Kingdom. Jesus lived to build bridges that would woo them in.”
In Luke 15 we have three Parables. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.
Some would say that the shepherd is representative of Jesus, leaving the 99 sheep safe-and-sound to go looking for that one which has strayed.
The lost coin is a story of how the Holy Spirit searches diligently for the valuable drachma (silver coin) – for everyone is infinitely valuable to God, and the Holy Spirit is gathering a bride for Christ.
The parable of the Prodigal Son, might more aptly be called, the Parable of the Forgiving Father. The younger son asks for his inheritance NOW! In that culture this would be a terrible thing to do, it’s as if he was saying to his dad, “You’re as good as dead to me.” But the father obliged, sold half his estate, gave his son the wealth, and his son swiftly traveled to the city and blew it all on prodigal (wasteful) living.
In this parable the Father didn’t go looking for His son, He no-doubt prayed and waited (we must all be led by God). His son proceeded to eat, drink, and be merry, spending his father’s hard-earned money on girls and apparently even prostitutes. We don’t know how long it was, but eventually there was a famine in the land and the son sank so low, that he would have gladly eaten pig-food, if only he could. But then, he came to himself (Luke 15:17). He decided to go home, reasoning that he could at least be a servant. The parable reveals that our heavenly Father will forgive anyone who returns to Him, He will even run to them, embrace them, and celebrate. It brings joy in heaven, in the presence of the angels, and in the heart of God, and it should’ve brought joy to the religious leaders (the older brother) but tragically it didn’t – selfish self-righteousness will do that to you every time.
This Psalm was probably written in a time of special celebration, perhaps it was a Passover celebration, but it may have coincided with a time when Israel was not doing all that well as a nation, maybe even in the middle of discipline.
The Psalm begins with the volume cranked up – to sing aloud, to make a joyful shout to God (Psalm 81:1). This would be accompanied with the timbrel, the harp, the lute, the trumpet. It was a day established while still in Egypt (Psalm 81:5) so it seems to point to the Passover.
God removed their burden, God set them free, He tested and sustained them in the wilderness, gave them the law and was willing to fill them with the fulness of life.
But then things went south.
Psalms 81:11-12 (NKJV) “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.”
Warren Wiersbe, “Had they obeyed, they would have experienced victory instead of defeat, fullness instead of emptiness, and the best instead of the worst. They could have looked back with rejoicing, but instead they had to remember with regret.”
I don’t know about you, but I need these constant reminders – if I would only seek the Lord to know and do His will – He will take care of me and my family, defeat our enemies, feed us with the finest wheat, with honey from the rock, and there, right there in that proper place of obedience wherein God satisfies us (Psalm 81:16)
Of course, this applies to those children whose father was wise; we see it repeatedly in the Proverbs, don’t we? Children, listen to the instruction of your parents who love you.
A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a wild child won’t be directed or corrected. It’s usually because they think mom and dad are square, out of touch, the child thinks he knows better than his parents. If only he’d listen.
Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
“God, help our children to grow up…to their need to heed instruction.”
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.