Wednesday, 26 March 2014

(86) March 27: Joshua 16-18 & Luke 5:1-16

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 we’re told about Israel’s taking of the land.

To ponder:
Although the second youngest son, Joseph was second to Judah in importance (Gen 49v22-26). So the allotment given his tribe comes next, divided between his two sons (the two half-tribes). Benjamin’s might follow simply because their territory comes between that of Judah and Joseph (18v11). Again, we see the allocation is done by lot, and that potentially contentious allocation is detailed (17v3-6).
            What stands out however, is Israel’s failure to fully take the land. Ephraim didn’t “dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer” who remained amongst them doing forced labour. Likewise, Manasseh were unable to occupy certain towns, and when stronger could also only subject the Canaanites there to labour. Moreover, when the people of Joseph requested more land because they were so numerous, they held back from taking the land Joshua said they could have because the Canaanites had “iron chariots.” So the continual taking of the land is put very much down to Joshua’s faith and courage rather than the peoples’. He responds that Ephraim and Mannaseh are “numerous and very powerful,” and “will have” this extra land, encouraging them that they “can drive” the Canaanites out.
One thinks of Christ sending out of his disciples or Paul’s encouragement of Timothy that God did not “give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim 1v7). As our future inheritance is essentially “the earth” (Matt 5v5), an equivalent work to Israel driving out the nations and doing this fully is our work in evangelism and in ensuring the church is completely rid of the beliefs and behaviour of the world. Whether church leaders like Timothy or not, in God’s strength we are all called to be ambitious in this, giving ourselves unreservedly to it. And as we face an increasingly secular culture, we should not shrink back as the Israelites did, but recognize that God will build his church nevertheless.
            Chapter 18 begins with Israel gathered at Shiloh and setting up the Tent of Meeting there. This is the first specified “place of God’s name” – as Deuteronomy put it. In that context, we’re told “the country was brought under” Israel’s control. The picture then is of Israel finally settling with a degree of stability and peace, and God’s presence firmly in the heart of the land, rather than roaming. How much more stable, once Christ, the ultimate place of God’s presence sat down at his Father’s side. It signalled that his work was completed, and all he promised certain (Heb 1v3).
             This is not however the case for Israel. Joshua displays some frustration that seven tribes have still not received the land God “has given” them. So he asks the people to appoint three men from each tribe to survey and describe the land. Joshua will then allocate it by lot “in the presence of the LORD” at Shiloh. Throughout then, we are reminded that because we also tend towards faithlessness and fear, being slow to act and quick to leave the work of the kingdom only partially done, we need Christian leaders to keep us to the tasks mentioned above, not just encouraging us, but sometimes directing and organizing us. But we should note too, that things should not be this way. Rather, as Joshua would have preferred, we can take the initiative - to the delight of our leaders!

Praying it home:
Thank God that for the leaders he has given you and the church in general, to keep you to your task. Pray that you would not shrink back or be slow to serve, but delight your leaders by being forthright in evangelism and ministry within your church.

Thinking further:
None today.

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