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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Summary of a Life Well-lived

Joshua had tri-cultural experience. He spent his childhood in Egypt, lived in the wilderness where he moved forty or more times, entered Canaan where he camped in a number of places before he and his family finally moved into their tribal territory. 

Joshua was hungry for God and lived in Moses’ shadow throughout the wilderness travels. The leadership baton could not have been passed to a better man. Joshua loved the Book of the Law. He began his leadership by obeying God’s Word. He circumcised all those who had not been circumcised in the wilderness. He celebrated the Passover. He met the commander of the army of the Lord. He saw Jericho collapse at the shouts of Israel. He directed Israel to deal decisively with sin and taught them the fear of the Lord. He led Israel in one successful military campaign after another. 
Joshua began his leadership with a high commitment to Bible literacy and ended his leadership position with that same commitment, “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left” (Joshua 23:6). Joshua reviewed Israel’s history beginning with Abraham’s call and promises from God. He completed his history lesson by imploring Israel to throw away their idols and fear and serve the living God. He promises, “If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you” (Joshua 24:20).
The book of Joshua ends with a summary of Joshua’s leadership, “Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).
During Joshua’s tri-cultural experience he saw human behavior at its worst and its best. During his 110 years Joshua developed a rich theology: 
  1. Man is a sinner and needs to be saved from himself
  2. God accepts the substitutionary death of the innocent on behalf of guilty sinners
  3. God is better to man than he deserves
  4. Knowing God’s Word is crucial to the spiritual welfare of His people.
Joshua discovered that a life fed by meditation on the Word of God and led in accordance with the promises of God brought true blessing, fulfilling purpose, and rich reward. At the end of his life, he declares, “Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15). God’s way starts with difficulty and ends with joy (Prov. 4:18), while the way of sinners starts with ease and ends with sorrow (Prov. 14:12). Joshua chose to live in God’s Word and walk in God’s way; what choice will you make?

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 "No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, 'What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?' . . . So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord. That is why we said, 'Let us get ready and build an altar--but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.' On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow . . ." (Joshua 22:24,25b-26).

Most everything in our home was destroyed by fire in 2003. We were able to rescue a few things. The Red Plate survived the fire. It was given to us as a wedding present from Dr. and Mrs. Larry Walker (one of the NIV translation team members). I cannot use that plate without thinking of Dr. Walker. The ugliest quilt in the world (I am not kidding!) which had been stored in a trunk in our attack also survived the fire. One look at that quilt still evokes powerful memories because of the pain associated with it and the lessons I learned about God and myself through it. We all have similar items which provide strong visual reminders of the past.

To commemorate the eighteen months spent with a discipleship group I gave each of the young women in that group a ceramic cup. Each one had to record with a permanent marker their favorite Scripture memory verse (and explain why they chose that particular verse) and sign their name on each other's cup. I wrote Psalm 16:5 which says "O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; you maintain my lot." Ten years from now I want each of them to think of one another as they look at that cup. I want them to remember that they pour out of their cup what they put into their cup. I want them to have a continual reminder that it matters to God what they put into their cup. I want them to remember that only God can meet the deepest longing of their hearts. That cup will ensure that they remember. Visuals have a way of doing that.

The tribe of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar to remind their descendants of whose they are. They called this altar, which would never host a fire or a sacrifice, "A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God." One look upon this altar reminded the viewer that the LORD is God.

We need similar altars and objects in our own lives that remind us of whose we are. Is there an object in your house that, when seen, reminds you to seek the Lord or symbolizes God's work in your life?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Joshua 22:1-24:33
  • Why do the Israelites act so quickly when they hear that their brethren have built a replica altar on the border of Canaan near the Jordan?
  • What reason do they (Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh) give to Israel for the building of this altar?
  • What does this tell you about the people at this time in their history? What had they learned about themselves? About God?
  • What warning does Joshua include in his departing words to Israel?
  • How does Joshua describe Abraham's forefathers? How does he use this story to instruct Israel?
  • How does Joshua describe God?
  • What does the "stone of witness" signify?
  • What was the last instruction Joseph gave to his descendants upon his death in Genesis 50:24-25?
  • Why was his burial in the land of Canaan so important to Joseph?
Turning truth into prayer: Thank the Lord for daily bread, for the reminder that His body was broken so that we might experience forgiveness of sin. Thank Him for running water, which reminds us of the Living Water of Life. Ask the Lord to allow you to set up altars throughout your life to remind you of whose you are.