Monday, August 12, 2013

Joshua's Battles (part 5)

It is said that when the kings of the people that were occupying the promised land came out to do battle against Joshua and Israel, that their armies “were as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (11:4b).  Quite naturally, the use of this language would have been meant to evoke thoughts of the Creator God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  To each of those individuals, the covenant God promised to give them descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore, so the fact that kings and armies were coming out against Israel, in great numbers and with those numbers reported in this way (imagining that the word would have spread among the people of Israel in this same way), should not have been a cause for panic. 

Rather, it would have been a reminder of the promises of their faithful and powerful God.  Because He is reported to have not failed, up to that point, to bring any of His great promises to pass, there would thus be no reason to be faithless in the face of this multitudinous enemy.  Yes, the words of the Divine catalog, as the whole of the narrative is crafted to hang together, are carefully chosen to remind and reveal and demonstrate the covenant faithfulness of the Creator God. 

In the midst of that reliance upon their God’s faithful power, as it had been demonstrated through plagues, deliverance from Egypt, the splitting of a sea, pillars of cloud and manna from heaven, water from a rock, and more, there was the ongoing realization that the campaign would be long and the battles would be numerous.  Eventually however, there was another realization that the land would eventually be handed over and given to the saints of God, Israel, His covenant people, with His power exercised through His people.  Indeed, as one reaches the end of the book of Joshua, one reads that “the Lord gave Israel all the land He had solemnly promised to their ancestors, and they conquered it and lived in it” (21:43). 

Again, the opportunity is taken to point to the Creator God’s promises and His power to perform according to His promises in order to bring about His own purposes.  Such is the constant refrain of the Scriptures, always pointing to the actions of the God of Israel, which should prompt praise and worship of the gracious, righteous, and redeeming God on the part of the believer, along with a desire to be fitted into His plans by the working of His Spirit within, rather than causing those that call upon His name to turn inward in consideration of what things to avoid so as to be able to live as one ought to live.  The life of the Christian is an outward spirituality---always expressing itself in action that shows that Jesus indeed is Lord and that the land indeed has been conquered.  It is much more than a personal, private matter of faith and conscience.  

Continuing on in Joshua, the reader finds that “The Lord made them secure” (21:44a).  Why is it that He did this?  It is said that He did so “in fulfillment of all He had solemnly promised their ancestors” (21:44b).  Here is yet another signpost that directs the believer to further realize the basis upon which he or she lives and serves, which is the power and faithfulness of the God that is revealed in Scripture and in the person of Jesus, that has and will bring all of His promises to pass, with the Resurrection the evidence of and great seal upon those promises  It is a constant looking away from self, with that gaze directed towards the Creator God for the purpose of fitting within His purposes for the renewal and redemption of His creation.  

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