Friday, 21 March 2014

(81) March 22: Joshua 4-6 & Luke 2:1-24

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

To discover:­­
As you read note what God displays about himself.

To ponder:
The echoes of Exodus continue. After passing through the Jordan twelve stones (representing the twelve tribes) are taken from the middle of the river as a “sign” to future generations of what the LORD did. It is stressed “everything” is done as God commanded. 40,000 cross ready for “war,” with the tribes due to settle east of the Jordan in the front. After all are safe, the priests follow from the middle of the river where they were standing with the ark, and the waters return. This must have been astonishing to witness and clearly no coincidence. By this means God “exalts” Joshua, who is then “revered” like Moses. God also shows his power to “the peoples of the earth” and moves this generation of Israelites to fear him. Immediately we then read that “the hearts” of the Canaanite kings sank. No doubt this helped them to yield more quickly to Israel. God’s defeat of evil in the hearts of his people now serves as a witness to others of his power (1 Pet 2v12).
            Just as Israel left Egypt after the previous generation were circumcised and celebrated the Passover, so this generation do both, demonstrating that the goal of their salvation from Egypt has been reached. This is also seen the following day when the people first eat the “produce” of the land and find God’s provision of manna stopped.
By being circumcised Israel keep the covenant with Abraham, affirming it is being fulfilled, and ensuring all are right with God before looking to him to fight for them. By declaring this “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” God declared it marked Israel as finally free and even purified from their time in Egypt, ready for their new life in the land. Baptism marks a similar dying of the old self and coming alive as a new creation (Col 2v9-15, 2 Cor 5v17).
The people are camped just east of Jericho at Gilgal. As Joshua goes near the city, he mysteriously meets an angelic “commander of the army of the LORD.” In repeating God’s words to Moses at the burning bush, it seems he represents the presence of God himself. This would have reassured Joshua greatly that God fights for him. And the theme of assurance runs through the next chapter as God declares he “has” delivered Jericho to him.
The seven day encirclement may hint of the days of creation, signifying that the land is just that for God’s special people. For six days the armed men march round once, with seven priests following in front of the ark, representing God’s presence. On the seventh day they do this seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets, and ending with a long blast and a shout from the people that topples the walls. God had instructed Israel previously to sound trumpets on entering battle so that he remembers and rescues them (Num 10v9). And the “shout” was probably a cry of victory (Num 23:21, Jos 6v16). It is that easy for God to defeat his enemies.
The detail stresses God’s instructions were carried out, and Jericho devoted to him: the people killed, the valuable items put in God’s treasury and the city and all else in it burned. Only Rahab and her family are saved. Initially they are put outside the camp as ceremonially unclean, but then live “among the Israelites.” 6v25 signals that the book was written in her lifetime.
Joshua’s curse displays the absolute nature of God’s judgement. Jericho could be used for inhabitation (18:21), but not be properly re-established as it once was (1 Kgs 16v34).

Praying it home:
Thank God that we are new creations in Christ. Pray that you would trust God always to fight for you against the world, the flesh and the devil.

Thinking further:
The appearance of the “commander of the army of the LORD” is intriguing. Elsewhere we see that there is some sort of correspondence between what goes on in the angelic realm and the affairs of nations on earth. Indeed, in Daniel 10v12-14 the word “prince” is the same as “commander” here. However, this individual looked so like a man that Joshua simply quizzed him. Yet hearing who he was, he revered him as one should God. Moreover, the instruction to take off his sandals suggests Joshua is as close to God as Moses was when at the burning bush. The “man” may therefore be “the angel of the LORD,” or even the pre-incarnate Christ. Whatever, by taking the form he did with drawn sword and describing himself as the “commander” of God’s armies, he is reassuring Joshua that God fights for him.

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