Friday, 28 March 2014

(88) March 29: Joshua 21-22 & Luke 6:1-26

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note in what ways we are being told God’s promises have been fulfilled.

To ponder:
The Levitical towns are now requested from the allocation team at Shiloh, according to God’s command in Numbers 35. They are divided between the descendents of Levi’s three sons (Num 3v17). However, there are four groups, as the Kohathite clans are split between the priests (descended from Aaron) and the others. The varying number for each group may reflect variances in population, so the inheritance is proportionate. However, the total of forty eight reflects an even spread amongst the twelve tribes, and on both sides of the Jordan. The primacy of the priests is seen in their being chosen first. It is noted that one of their cities is taken from Caleb’s inheritance.
            Again, all is done “as the LORD commanded Moses.” This is key in considering the conclusion at this point in the book (21v43-45). Israel had kept the covenant and so God had fulfilled his promises. Joshua had been careful to keep God’s law, and so been prosperous and successful (1v7-8). Indeed, it is stressed God had given “all” the land he had sworn to give, granting rest on “every” side, with “not one” of Israel’s enemies standing against her, and “not one” of God’s promises failing. Reading this, later Israel would be reminded of the need for them to obey too, if the land is to be kept. And we also can be encouraged: God will keep his word to us if we continue in obedient faith (Col 1v21-23).
            The focus of the remainder of the book is on Joshua’s final speeches. The first is to the two and a half tribes granted land east of the Jordan. They are commended for doing “all” Moses commanded and not “deserting” their brothers, but helping them take the land. So they are told to go home with Joshua’s blessing and their possessions which testify to God’s blessing. Joshua also exhorts them straight from Deuteronomy to carefully keep God’s commands (22v5).
But their willingness to do so is immediately questioned. In breach of God’s command that there should be no altar except at the place of his dwelling (currently Shiloh), they build an altar at Geliloth. This was serious as it would fragment the nation and potentially lead to a distorted religion. The remaining ten tribes rise up to make war on them, but first send a delegation of representatives with the High Priest’s son. They express why they are so concerned: The act will cause God’s wrath to break out against the whole nation, as with the plague after Israel’s immorality with the Moabite women (Num 25) or Israel’s defeat after Achan kept plunder for himself (Jos 7). Phinehas was particularly aware of this, having executed God’s judgement on one of the men in Moab (Num 25v7).
Once more, this whole event would remind later generations how necessary obedience was. However, in this case God was being honoured. The two and a half tribes appeal to God who “knows,” calling on him to call them to account if they had done wrong. They had actually acted out of concern that the nation would be divided by the river, with those on the west rejecting those on the east and causing then to “stop fearing the LORD.” So the altar was to be merely a “witness” to future generations that those on the east have a “share in the LORD,” that the LORD is their God too and so they “will worship the LORD at his sanctuary.” Their act is commended, affirming God’s people are free to initiate their own helps to remembering God, even if not prescribed in scripture, and provided they do not become a law.
Praying it home:
Thank God for how fully and faithfully he always keeps his promises. Pray for wisdom on how you can establish family traditions to help your family remember the Lord.

Thinking further:
21v43-45 make clear that Abraham’s descendents had now become God’s people (Israel) enjoying God’s place (Canaan), obeying God’s rule (the law) and under God’s ruler (Joshua). So God’s purpose of bringing blessing to the earth was being fulfilled as the surrounding nations could see that the LORD is God. They seem all set to be the kingdom God had promised and desired – but provided they continue to obey!

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