In my previous blog I noted that in reading the Psalms recently that the theme of the mighty acts of God caught my attention. I wanted to examine that further in biblical history, which is why I turned to the book of Joshua. We know that the greatest and mightiest act of God is the salvation of His people through Jesus Christ. I'm turning back to history to look at the lesser mighty acts so that I may gaze more intently at the one great work of God.
In Joshua 5:13-15, a man with drawn sword appears before Joshua. Joshua asks if he is for Israel or for his enemies and the man replies "Neither." Though Israel was given the Law and had a covenantal relationship with God, it appears just from this episode that God had bigger plans than just Israel. Though God had ordered the Israelites to drive out the many peoples from "the land" it was not because the Israelites were inherently more valuable and worthy than the non-Israelites. What I mean is that the Israelites were not "right" in the sight of God of their own accord so that they had an earned righteousness before God. I think Joshua immediately understood in his spirit because his reaction was to fall with his face to the ground and worship. The holiness of God comes before any special regard God has for one people or person over another. In Verse 15, the man says "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." From reading this passage, I was able to grasp something of the healing (or perhaps deep soul satisfaction) that comes through this type of direct encounter and worship of our holy God. God's glory and beauty can flood the soul so that we are instantly transformed in our hearts and minds to want nothing and no one but God Himself. Of course this is easier said than done!
Joshua 15 -
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"
15 The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
There are many events in Joshua that I know are weighty and significant that for now I can't possibly begin to articulate. The major stumbling block is the slaughter of many peoples to gain possession of the land as commanded by God. The only way to read this is to understand that everyone is condemned and facing God's wrath apart from those who have received mercy. The merciless destruction of "all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded" clashes with present day sensibilities. (No doubt that the peoples of the land - about to be slaughtered - were filthy and sickened by worshipping created beings. ) Then there is the case of Achan who disobeyed God's command not to take any of the accursed objects when taking over Jericho. The scene enfolds very dramatically (worth a blog of its own) where God identifies in succession the particular tribe, the clan, the family, then man by man until Achan is identified and Joshua and whole of Israel is satisfied to know the reason for their defeat at Ai.
19 Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me."
20 Achan replied, "It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath."
Achan's cry could have been my cry, and in fact my heart went out to him because he knew he had committed an evil act and was about to face judgment. Again, there is no mercy, at least in terms of consequences. Achan and his entire household (sons, daughters, animals) were stoned to death and then burned. God states in verse 15: 15 He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!
A disgraceful thing in Israel¬Achan polluted Israel and it points to the impossible standards of God's holiness. (Note: We know that Jesus Christ is our mediator.)
There are 2 covenants at work all throughout the Old Testament - the one God made with Abraham and the other covenant dealing with the land through Moses. Here in Joshua, Israel is in the world of the latter covenant where if Israel obeys, God blesses; if Israel disobeys, God will bring curses - and where Israel is being tutored in the knowledge of God's holiness. Yet, the far greater covenant, the one made with Abraham, is here too. I see it in the response of "neither" by the commander of the army of the LORD to Joshua's question "Are you for us or for our enemies?" And God is dealing with the peoples of this time within the boundaries of blessings and curses of this particular world and is not referring to eternal consequences. Who knows what really happened to Achan in the eternal sense? Even Moses faced judgment when he couldn't cross over to the other side of the Jordan River, and we know that Moses will be in heaven!
Ok, have to go now but on an entirely separate subject, I would like to acknowledge that I know that the CB community has been experiencing trials and testing. I say this because I do care. I hope CB will continue to offer a place for someone like me who is just on the periphery and contributes a blog here and there. It is critical for the people of God to pursue peace in so far as we're able and to speak the truth in love. I struggle with this daily. God bless you all!