Monday, May 25, 2015

Joshua 8-12

Last week the Israelites, by faith and obedience destroyed the city of Jericho by marching around the city wall 7 times as God commanded.  On the 7th time around they shouted and the walls came down.  No one was spared except Rahab and her household.  We learned that all the spoils were to go to God, but Achan kept some for himself which angered God.  Because of that sin, God allowed the army of Ai to defeat Israel.  In this week’s study God is ready to bless Israel again and this time the fight against Ai would be different.

Joshua 8:1-29 – Ai Destroyed

God told Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Joshua 8:1.  God told him to take the whole army and attack Ai and He would deliver Ai over to them.  This was very different from the last time they tried to take Ai.  God’s anger had ended.  They were to do to them as they did to Jericho.  This battle would not be as easy as the battle at Jericho.  This would be a test of courage.  There would be more danger and more precautions needed to be taken.  God told Joshua exactly how to fight the battle.  He was to set an ambush and destroy the city completely, but this time they could take all the plunder for themselves (Joshua 8:1-29).  Joshua did as the Lord commanded and defeated Ai.

If you remember the last time Israel tried to take Ai, God let them be defeated because there was sin in the camp.  The spoils of previous battle at Jericho had belonged to God, perhaps because it was the firstfruits of the land captured by Israel.  It was this command that Achan had violated that led to defeat at Ai.  This was God’s punishment on them.  Now He changed their previous defeat into victory.  When we sin and disappoint God, we suffer defeat.  When we confess our sins, God will forgive us and give us victory.

Joshua made a plan for battle, moved his armies into position, and the fight was on.  God commanded Joshua to stretch out his javelin toward Ai.  “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.”Joshua 8:18.  Joshua did as God commanded and Ai was defeated by the power of God.  This is similar to when Moses held out his staff so the Red Sea would open for Israel.  In Joshua’s first battle against the Amalekites, he was victorious as long as Moses held up his hands with his staff.  These were symbols God assigned to show the power of God through His appointed leaders.

The victory over Ai was complete.  All were killed and destroyed.  The people took the spoils of the city for themselves, just as God said they could.  Nothing else is said about further battles in this part of Canaan.  I am sure there were more, but Jericho and Ai were probably the major battles.

When have you obeyed and as a result, God gave you victory?

Believers are in constant warfare with the devil.  God is with us and we can be victorious if we stay faithful to Him.  God will see that we have the victory.  It may not be easy, because we still have to fight the war.  God guided Joshua in the battle to victory, just as He will guide us to victory.  We just have to listen, have faith and do what He says.

Joshua 8:30-35 – Renewed Covenant

Now there was a period of worship.  Joshua built an altar of uncut stones to the Lord on Mt. Ebal.  They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings on it.  Joshua copied the Law of Moses on the stones.  They did just as Moses had commanded them to do in Deut. 27-28.  Half the people stood on Mt. Ebal and the other half stood on Mt. Gerizim with the ark in the middle.  By the ark being in the middle was a sign that God was there in the center of their lives. 

The uncut stones used for the altar were exactly like God had made them – without any added human workmanship.  This shows we can’t add anything to our salvation.  We can’t add or do anything, because salvation is by grace.  Jesus did all the work for us on the cross.

Burnt offerings were given to show that they had given themselves completely to God.  Fellowship offerings were given as a way to say thank you to God.  These offerings are like a picture of Jesus’ death.  Because of His death, we can give ourselves completely to God (burnt offerings); we can have fellowship with God (fellowship offerings).

There Joshua read all the words of the law, the blessings and the curses just like Moses commanded.  The stones with the law were there so the people couldn’t forget them, just as we have the Bible today.  This is God’s Word for us and we should read it often.  In the Deut. passage we saw that all the people agreed and answered with, “Amen”.

This is like it will be someday.  Similar things will happen.  There will be two sides – those who don’t know Jesus as Savior and those who do know Him as Savior.  On that day everyone will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord regardless of which side they chose.  “…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”Phil. 2:10-11.

Which side will you be on?
Have you acknowledged Jesus as Lord of your life?

Principle:  God blesses people who obey Him in faith.

Joshua 9 – Deception of the Gibeonites

When the kings west of the Jordan heard about Joshua and Israel’s victories, they became afraid and came together to make war with Israel.  The people of Gibeon were also afraid, but instead of wanting to make war, they wanted to make friends with Israel.  Their plan was clever.  They loaded their donkeys with worn out sacks and old wineskins.  The men wore patched sandals and old clothes.  They pretended to be messengers sent from far away, but really they were neighbors from about 25 miles away.  They said had heard of the Israel’s God and they came to make a treaty with Joshua.

Joshua and the Israelites believed the Gibeonites and made a peace treaty with them and let them live.  He didn’t ask the Lord if their story was true or what he should do, which was a big mistake.  This was an important decision that Joshua made.  If you remember in Deut. 7, God told Israel not to make agreements with the inhabitants of Canaan.  They were to kill all the people of the land.  We should never make important decisions unless we ask God first.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God…”James 1:5.

Joshua did what he thought was right.  Joshua was not perfect and neither are we.  When we do what we think is right without asking God first, that is call “being wise in our own eyes”.  “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a foolish person than for him.” Prov. 26:12.  God is definitely smarter than we are.  He sees and knows everything.  He wants the best for us and it is wise to seek His guidance before we act.  Heb. 11:6 says that “he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

What dangers are there when we do what we think is right instead of asking God first?
Do you seek God before making decisions, even small ones?
What are some rash decisions you have made?
What were the results?

Soon Israel learned the truth about the Gibeonites and wanted to kill them, but Joshua and the leaders said they had made a treaty and must keep their word.  They had sworn an oath before the Lord (Joshua 9:16-19).  God takes promises seriously and when a promise is made it should be kept.  So Joshua let them live.  They said they had heard of God and really wanted to serve Him.  God knew their hearts and their true thoughts.  So Joshua made them woodcutters and water carriers for the community and the altar of the Lord (Joshua 9:26-27).

The Gibeonites became servants of Israel.  They had lied because they didn’t know the right way to serve God, but God blessed them.  Joshua made a mistake, but God still used that mistake.  He can use our mistakes, too.

Principle:  God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Lessons for us:
Your enemy will surprise you.  (Satan is a master of disguises.)
Don’t assume everything you hear is the truth.
Deception will ultimately be exposed.
Appearances are deceiving.
Seek counsel from God.
Keep your promises.

Joshua 10:1-15 – The Sun Stands Still  

The king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had destroyed Ai and Jericho and that he had made a treaty with Gibeonites.  Gibeon was a big important city with good fighting men.  The king asked the 5 kings of the Amorities to come and help him attack Gibeon.  Gibeonites sent word to Joshua for help.  Joshua sent his entire army.  (Joshua 10:1-7) God again told Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand.  Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”Joshua 10:8.

The Gibeonites went to Joshua for help.  Joshua had made a promise to them and he could not disappoint them now.  Who do you go to in time of trouble?  Joshua’s name means “the Lord is my Savior”.  We have a Savior and we can always go to him when we need help.  He has promised to help and will not disappoint us.

What promises have you made?
Do you keep your promises?        
What about the promises you made to your spouse at your wedding?       

When Joshua arrived, the enemy was taken by surprised.  The Lord kept His promise.  The Lord sent confusion and Israel defeated them.  They, of course fled and as they fled God hurled large hailstones on them from the sky. (Another miracle of God)  This killed more of them than Israel did by their swords. (Joshua 10:9-11)

Joshua didn’t want the enemy to escape.  If night came, they might scatter and find hiding places.  So Joshua called upon God to stop the progress of time.  Joshua prayed to the Lord in the presence of Israel, “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.  So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nations avenged itself on its enemies.”Joshua 10:12-13.  The sun stopped in the sky and didn’t go down for a full day.  “There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man.  Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!” Joshua 10:14.

Here is another miracle that shows God’s awesome power.  God extended the daylight hours so Israel could have a complete victory over the enemy.  God heard Joshua’s prayer to reverse the natural order.  He extended the hours of the day long enough so that Israel could finish the battle. 

God kept His promise of victory for Israel.  God listened to Joshua as he prayed and praised God.  He will keep His promises to you.  He will listen to you.  Praise God in all He is doing in your life and praise Him so others can hear.  That is a great witness for God.

How do you give God the praises He deserves?
Do you praise Him in secret or for others to hear?

Principle:  The Lord’s power is not limited.

Joshua 10:16-43; 11:1-23; 12:1-24 – More Victories  

The 5 kings fled and hid in a cave at Makkedah.  Joshua sent men to guard the cave so the kings could not return to their cities as Joshua and Israel kept pursuing the enemy.  Then the kings were brought to Joshua and killed and then hung on trees.  At evening they were taken down and put in the cave where they had been hiding and large rocks were placed at the mouth of the cave.  Joshua took Makkedah and its king and totally destroyed everyone leaving no survivors. (Joshua 10:16-28)

Principle: We must control, confront and conquer our enemies.

What do you have hidden in your cave?
Do you have some king in your life that needs to be killed?

The evil kings in your heart need to be put to death so they will not rise up to try to destroy you again and again.  These kings may be immorality, impurity, sensuality, lust, idolatry, jealousy, anger, disputes, drunkenness, carousing.  They need to be killed!  We need to pull out those kings and nail them to the cross.  God’s way of victory is through crucifixion.  “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”Rom 6:11.

Joshua continued conquering the cities in southern Canaan.  He conquered Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, and Debir as the Lord handed them over to Israel.  He conquered from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon destroying everything and leaving no survivors as the Lord commanded.  They were all conquered because God of Israel fought for Israel.  Then Joshua and Israel returned to their camp at Gilgal. (Joshua 10:29-43). 

Joshua 11 tells us that word of Israel’s victories spread and now the northern kings wanted a fight with Israel.  These kings joined together to make war, but again the Lord told Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain.”Joshua 11:1-6.  Again, Israel completely destroyed all these cities as the Lord commanded.  Joshua took the entire land and didn’t make treaties.  God had hardened the hearts of these kings to wage war against Israel so He might destroy them totally.  Joshua destroyed the entire land as the Lord directed Moses and gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. (Joshua 11:1-23).

Joshua 12 lists all the kings and territories defeated by Israel.  There were 33 kings defeated.  Moses defeated the 1st 2 kings Sihon and Og.  Joshua defeated 16 kings in the south and 15 kings in the north.

Principle:  We can defeat our enemies by relying on the Lord.

What are the spiritual enemies you are facing?
How much do you obey God’s Word in your daily life?
Do you take God at His Word and believe Him?
When are you tempted to compromise your Christian faith?

Next week we will continue to study more in the book of Joshua.  See you here.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Joshua 5-7

Last week we learned Joshua sent spies to check out the city of Jericho and how Rahab, the prostitute protected them when she hid them from the king’s men.  Then we saw another miracle from God when He stopped the waters of the Jordan so the Israelites could cross into the Promised Land.  Then memorial stones were set up as a remembrance of what God had done and so all peoples of the earth would know His power.

Joshua 5 – Preparing for Victory

All the Amorite kings heard how God dried up the Jordan so Israel could cross and were afraid to face Israel.  (Joshua 5:1)  God told Joshua to make flint knives and circumcise the people.  All the circumcised men had died in the wilderness because of their disobedience so now their children who were born in the wilderness needed to be circumcised.  After they were circumcised they camped until they were healed.  This time of healing would be a blessing and protection from God.  Circumcision symbolizes the cutting off of the old life and replacing it with a new one.  It was the reinstating of God’s covenant with Israel. (Joshua 5:2-9)

Israel trusted God in this time of vulnerability.  They completely depended on God’s protection.  They learned what it meant to trust God through obedience.  We need to recognize our need for God and depend on Him.  He is in control.

Do you trust God in all things?
How do you prepare for victory?
Do you make holiness and worship a priority?

While they were camped, they observed the Passover and ate the first fruits of the Promised Land.  Finally, no more manna.  I am sure they were glad of that.  Manna sustained them in the wilderness, but now they had the fruit of the land.  This was just the beginning of the abundance the land had to offer. (Joshua 5:10-12)

When Joshua was near Jericho, the commander of the Lord’s army appeared to him with a sword.  The commander told Joshua to take off his sandals because he was standing in a holy place.  Joshua fell face down and did as he said.  (Joshua 5:13-15)  

This battle at Jericho would be a battle between the Lord and the Canaanites.  The Lord Himself will win.  God would demonstrate His power.  It is the same today.  Life is an opportunity for God to demonstrate His power.  He is the Commander and He gives us orders.  We are to listen and obey.  He will give us strength and defeat our enemies.

Who is your captain?
Do you listen for His voice?
Do you obey His commands?
How do you look to Him for strength?

Some think the commander is Jesus Himself.  The Old Testament mentions someone thought to be Jesus in Gen. 32 – God or Jesus fought with Jacob, Judges 6 – God visited Gideon, Dan. 3 – When the king put the 3 Jews into the fire, he saw God or Jesus with them.  There are other passages with appearances of “the angel of the Lord”, which is also thought to be Jesus or God Himself.  Jesus declared Himself in John 8:58 to be existent before Abraham.  It is logical that He would be active in the world.

Principle:  God was active in the Old Testament and is active in the world today.

Joshua 6 – Victory at Jericho

The city of Jericho was on lock down.  No one entered and no one left.  They were terrified of the Israelites.  God told Joshua exactly how to capture Jericho.  They were to take the ark and all the armed men and march around the city wall once a day.  The 7 priests were to blow 7 trumpets, but the people were to be silence.  They were to do this for 6 days.  Then on the 7th day they were to march around 7 times with the priest blowing trumpets, but on the 7th time around when the trumpets sounded all the people were to give a loud shout and the walls of Jericho would collapse.  (Joshua 6:1-11)

The people needed to know that God was with them.  They needed to see the ark to help them know He was helping them.  We don’t need to see anything.  We know God keeps His promises and is with us at all times.  We know God is on our side and will fight our battles.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?”Rom 8:31.

The number 7 appears several times in this story.  In the Bible it usually means something is complete or perfect.  God’s plans were perfect for Joshua and the Israelites as they are perfect for us.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jer. 29:11.  (This is my favorite verse.)

The next morning they did exactly what God said.  They didn’t argue.  It probably seemed strange to them as sometimes what God tells us to do seems strange.  God always knows best.  We shouldn’t doubt, but obey His instructions.  On the 7th day they marched around 7 times and on the 7th time when they shouted, the walls came down allowing the army to enter and capture the city.  The entire city was destroyed by the sword and burned.  Only Rahab and her household were spared. (Joshua 6:12-25)

God had already given the city to them and all they had to do was obey (Joshua 6:16).  God has given us victory over our enemies, too.  Our greatest enemy is sin.  Jesus defeated sin and gave us victory when He died on the cross for us.
Why would God kill everyone including women and children?  The civilization in Canaan was completely wicked and they had to be destroyed because they did not repent and turn the God.  Deut. 20:18 tells us they did detestable things in worshiping their gods and would teach the Israelites to do these bad things.  God had to punish them.  We cannot begin to understand God’s ways.  All we know is that His ways are true and just.  Only He is able to judge.

What is your Jericho?
What walls have you put up against God?
How strong is your faith?

Israel was instructed to keep away from their idols or it would bring trouble on them.  All the silver, gold, bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must be put into His treasury.  So they were to give everything to God. (Joshua 6:19)

Joshua pronounced a curse on anyone who tries to rebuild the city of Jericho.  The Lord was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land.  (Joshua 6:26-27) 

The book of Joshua tells us many times that God was with Joshua helping him in everything.  God continued to counsel and direct him as to what to do.  All the inhabitants of the land heard of his wisdom and courage through the power and presence of God.  We need God in everything we do.  We need to seek His counsel, ask Him for wisdom and be faithful and obedient.

Do others see the power of God in your life?
Do they see you as faithful and obedient?

Principle:  God’s power is unleashed when His people are faithful and obedient.

There is no doubt that the wall of Jericho fell by the power of God.  It is hard for some to believe this miracle.  The people trusted that if they did what God said, they would see victory.  They had faith.  We are saved by faith.  It too, is hard to understand.  The walls fell by faith.  Faith should motivate our whole lives.  Let us have the kind of faith that moves us to trust and obey God.  The walls fell because God said they would.  God keeps His promises.

How strong is your faith?
Do you trust God will do what He says?

Lessons from the story of Jericho:
We learn that God keeps His promises. 
We learn God’s ways are different from man’s ways. 
We learn the awesome power of God.
We learn the relation between grace, faith, and obedience.
We learn that trust and obedience brings victory and rewards.

Joshua 7 – Achan’s Sin

 Achan didn’t do as God commanded.  He took some of the spoils of Jericho for himself.  I guess he thought no one would notice.  What was he thinking?  God knows everything.  There is nothing we can keep Him from knowing.  “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”Ecc. 12:14.  “… your sin will find you out.”  - Num. 32:23.  The Lord’s anger burned against Israel (Joshua 7:1-2).  This sin would have a huge effect on what would follow.

Why was God angry with all of Israel?   God viewed the nation as a unit.  There was sin in Israel’s camp and God wouldn’t continue to bless them as long as it was there.  This doesn’t mean Achan was the only one who had sinned, but his sin was a direct disobedience.  Our sin impacts everyone.   God is holy and no sin is a small matter to Him.  He must deal with us and the sin in our lives.

Joshua planned his next attack by sending men to spy out the small town of Ai.  They decided it would take only a few men to defeat this town so they sent 2-3 thousand.  Israel was defeated and 36 Israelites were killed.  This caused Israel to be afraid.  Joshua started to blame God since God had allowed them to be defeated.  Joshua thought other people would hear of this and not think God was great and good.  (Joshua 7:6-9)

Then God told Joshua the real reason they were defeated.  He told him that Israel had sinned by taking some of the valuables found in Jericho when God told them to put them in His treasure.  (Joshua 7:10-12)  God gave instructions and they must be obeyed just as it is important for us to obey God’s instructions in His Word. 

God revealed that Achan was the one who sinned and told Joshua that he must be punished.  Joshua       confronted Achan and he confessed his sin.  Evidence of his sin was found by finding the things he had stolen.  They were sure of his guilt.  Then all of Israel stoned him and his family.  The punishment was severe, but it was a warning to Israel.  They must obey God.  Now the Lord’s anger ended and Israel could expect God to bless them again.  (Joshua 7:13-26)

When have you tried to hide something from God?
What were the results?
Have you repented and asked God for forgiveness?

Lessons from Achan’s sin:
God will expose and punish sin in His timing.
God will punish sin severely.
God gives us examples of His wrath on sinners, so we should walk in fear of God.
God sanctions capital punishment.
Sin cannot be hidden from God.
Our sin can cause trouble for others.
We should confess our sins before we are caught.
We should be aware of covetousness which is idolatry.

Principle:  “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”Luke 8:17

Next week we will continue our study in Joshua.  See you here.

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