January 28, 2010

A Memorial to God's Faithfulness: Joshua 4

1 And it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying: 2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.’”

4 Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; 5 and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, 6 that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

8 And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. 9 Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.

10 So the priests who bore the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua; and the people hurried and crossed over. 11 Then it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over, that the ark of the Lord and the priests crossed over in the presence of the people. 12 And the men of Reuben, the men of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them. 13 About forty thousand prepared for war crossed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho. 14 On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they had feared Moses, all the days of his life.

15 Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, 16 “Command the priests who bear the ark of the Testimony to come up from the Jordan.” 17 Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” 18 And it came to pass, when the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet touched the dry land, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks as before.

19 Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. 21 Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; 23 for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
—Joshua 4:1-24
Shara and I used to live in the Washington, D.C., area. I worked downtown on 17th Street NW, a block from Lafayette Park. In that park are five large statues: President Andrew Jackson, plus statues of four foreign Revolutionary War heroes: the Marquis de Lafayette, Comte de Rochambeau, Tadeusz Kościuszko of Poland, and Baron von Steuben of Prussia. The statues are there are memorials, placed there to remind us of some of the key people in our history who helped us become the nation we are today.

Of course, there are other memorials in the area, too—the Washington Monument; Jefferson, Linkoln, and Roosevelt memorials; the WWII and Vietnam War memorials, and, across the Patomac River, the memorial to the flag-raisers of Iwo Jima.

Several years ago, we were in Honolulu and went to Pearl Harbor, where we saw the memorial to the heroes of the sunken ship, the Arizona. It was a very moving experience to be taken out to the memorial built above the sunken ship and quietly contemplate the events that led to its destruction and the death of so many crew members. We were both very moved, and to this day the memorial, and the events it represents, remain in our minds.

We can sometimes forget events of the past. To help His people remember the works He has done for them, the Lord commanded that certain memorials be erected to remind the people throughout the future generations of His miracles and His special care for them.

The Lord knows how important it is for the people to remember His works. For example, in Deuteronomy 6:10-12, He tells the Israelites: “10 ‘So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, 11 houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full— 12 then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.’”

We find in the Old Testament histories, in fact, that many times the people of Israel are told not to forget all God had done for them, by the Lord Himself, as well as by Moses, Joshua, and the prophets.

Look at Joshua 4:7 for a moment. The meaning of the Hebrew word for" memorial" in verse 7 is literally “to remember” or “rememberance.” Memorials have frequently played an important role in biblical history—memorials like this pile of stones, altars, the ark of the covenant—and memorials consisting of special holy days and celebrations or rituals recalling an act of God, such as the Passover celebration. In Exodus 12, for example, we read that at the foot of Mt. Sinai Moses built an altar of stones to commemorate God’s covenant with Israel (Exodus 12:14). Now in Joshua 4 we see God command his people to erect a memorial so they and their children would remember that God brought the people of Israel into the land promised to them over the dry Jordan River bed.

Notice that according to verse one, “when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan,” that the Lord gave more specific instructions. According to these verses, twelve men (chosen earlier; see Joshua 3:12) were to go back to where the priests were standing in the middle of the river, holding the ark. Each man was to pick up a large rock or stone from the middle of the Jordan and carry it to the side of the river where Israel would camp in the land of Canaan.

Notice there are four reasons that are given for this:

It is to be a time of remembering what God has done

“And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever” (v. 7). First, the memorial stones were to be a reminder of their own personal experience. Notice that in verse 6 that this memorial will cause the children to ask; “What do these stones mean to you?” These stones are first of all to be a reminder those who were present of their personal experience, what they saw, heard and felt. To paraphrase, “Tell your story, Keep a clear memory of what God did for you. Keep on telling your stories so that you never lose your own sense of awe and wonder of what God has done in your life.”

I want you to consider with me: What kind of memorials do we have in our lives? We all have memorials in our lives, no not a monument of stones, but one built of memories. There are memories of places, places that trigger memories just as the memorial stones in Gilgal. There are some significant places in your life that bring back memories. One of my memories is the dedication of the church we grew in as young Christians in Roanoke, Virginia. In the early days of that congregation, they met in a renovated open-air a pavilion. They enclosed the sides and end walls, added electricity and plumbing, and then filled the auditorium not with fancy pews, but with metal chairs (about 800 of them purchased on sale at Kmart!). The congregation gave heavily to missions and did not spend major funds on a building, until they could do so and keep giving heavily to missions.

I will always remember those metal chairs. When I picture them, to me they are a reminder of the church’s devotion to missions giving above all else.

We also have other memorials in our memories. There are memories of people God has used in our lives. For me, many of these are the people who encouraged me when I was wrestling with giving up a career and going to seminary. There are memories of experiences, of God’s answers to prayer and of God’s marvelous hand of provision. I remember in seminary how God always provided for our needs. We learned some valuable lessons about faith. Most lessons in faith are not something you can be taught, it is something that you must experience to truly understand. Those days in seminary and God’s constant provision for our family are memorials in my memory of His faithfulness and love.

There are also mementos of the past. If you were to come into my office and look around you would see miscellaneous objects that are reminders to me of life experiences—a picture of the family, a picture of our daughter Alicia making her first parachute jump, photos from places we visit, pieces of artwork by a friend who teaches in the art department at Grace College, a picture of the one of the major building campus buildings, which consumed a lot of my work time for the two years it was under construction.

No doubt when you look around your home, you find similar memorials. Each of those objects triggers memories of what happened then, of the things that God did, and of things you experienced; some are experiences that have changed your life; others are memorials to warm memories you always want to remember.

The point is that God knows how we think and that is the reason that he instructs Joshua to build a memorial. So that each time the Israelites saw it they would be reminded that they had not crossed the Jordan on their own ability, their own strength but because of God.

To understand what God was trying to teach His children Israel, spend some time thinking through your memorial stones, let them draw you closer to God and remind you of His faithfulness.

The Memorial stones were to serve as a basis of sharing faith with their children (vv. 6-7)

In two places in this chapter, parents are reminded of their responsibility for the communication of God’s Word and his calling on their children, generation to generation. First in verses 6-7, the Lord tells Joshua to tell the people “that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’” And we find it again in verses 21-23: “Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: ‘When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, “What are these stones?” 22 then you shall let your children know, saying, “Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land”; 23 for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over.’”

As with other memorials in the Old Testament, the intention of the memorial was to provoke questioning especially from future generations.

We need to remember that our faith is never more than one generation away from extinction. Just think about our own country. We have drifted away from our Christian foundation in just the last couple of generations. We need to tell each generation about the eternal life God offers to anyone who believes and the great things God has done for us and the rest of His people.

Many of the memorials in the Old Testament served a specific purpose. God warned Israel not to let the environment of the pagan society that surrounded them dictate their values. This pile of stones was a memorial to that; a reminder of God the father, the caregiver, and the performer of miracles, had provided for His people the way to enter the land He had promised to them.

The memorial stones were to be a signpost to a lost world (24)

“. . . 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

It has always been God’s plan that the whole world should “know” that He is the only living God. Not only was the crossing of the Jordan a stirring event for Israel, but it was also a terrifying event for all the people living in the land of Canaan.

It was not only a time for remembering an act that God had performed, but also:

It was a time of renewal of personal commitments (8)

They obeyed the word of God; they picked up the stones and carried them to their place of encampment on the western bank of the Jordan River.

Note that the meaning of verse 9 is widely debated among biblical commentators: “Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.” It seems that while the men were carrying their stones back to the shore that Joshua personally picked up another twelve stones and built a memorial in the very center of the riverbed, as a personal act of worship. For Joshua this was a very private act and also representative of a pivotal point in his walk with God.

Once the twelve men have carried twelve stones to the shore of Canaan, and after Joshua has built his altar in the middle of the river, Joshua commanded the priests to finished crossing the river with the Ark of the Covenant. The moment that the feet of the priests touched the other side, the wall of water that had piled up 15 miles back up the river came crashing back into place.

Not only was it a time of renewing personal commitment but also:

It also was a time of a new beginning (19-20)

It is significant that this happened on the tenth day of the first month; this is exactly 40 years to the day since Israel marched out of Egypt. They had completed their journey back from slavery to a new beginning . . settling in the land that God had singled out to give them.

Leaving the edge of the river, the Israelites went to a place called Gilgal to make their camp. Gilgal was “on the eastern border of Jericho (verse 19), and the name means “the reproach has been rolled away.” Forty years of spiritual defeat and failure have been rolled away—the past is behind them, and God has been faithful to His promise It was the dawn of a great new beginning in a new land. The days of sullen refusal to respond to God under Moses were gone, complaining was ended, hopeless wandering in the wilderness was behind them.

They were now a people with a powerful new sense of purpose, determined to take new territory with God.

We should be able to look back and see those monumental occasions which standout as times in which God has changed our directions and give us new hope and a new sense of purpose.

The monument built with those twelve stones was to serve as a visible reminder of the faithfulness of God. It was also a silent monument to the special day on which the people of God boldly placed their feet in the surging, rushing current of the Jordan, confident that God would see them to safety on the other side.

Perhaps we, too, can remember a monument, a pile of stones, a memorial to a time when we by an act of bold faith we decided to abandon ourselves to God and step out into the unknown to take new territory for Him—to step into the waters of the flooding river in faith that God will take us across.

January 20, 2010

Crossing the Jordan River: Joshua 3:1-17


In our study of the initial chapters of the book of Joshua, we are in the final days of one of the great “sagas” found in God’s word: the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and their journey to the land God had given them.

The study of the exodus and the entrance into the promised land is valuable not only for its history and seeing God work in the lives of His people, but also is valuable for us in learning how the people of God responded appropriately, as well as inappropriately, to His guidance and care.

In Egypt, we see God stopping at nothing to gain the release of His people while reminding all creation that He is the creator and sustainer of all that exists. At the Sea of Reeds, we are reminded that God can make a way when there seems to be no way. In the wilderness, we read that God provides all the necessities of life. When the people came to Sinai, God revealed Himself, His standards for living as His people, and established His laws. Through the pages of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, we can track the steps of these people, and in doing so we can see God’s hand of direction and care all along the way.

The people coming out of Egypt were headed for the promised land, but a big change of direction came at Kadesh-Barnea. That is where 12 men were sent to spy out the land, and two of the 12, Joshua and Caleb, reported, “We can take the land.” The other 10 spies, however, reported that the inhabitants of the land are too strong and would defeat them. So the people complained and refused to enter the land at that time. Therefore God turned them out into the wilderness. Everyone older than 20 when this took place died in the wilderness over the next 40 years of wandering, except the two faithful spies—Joshua and Caleb. (See Numbers 13 and 14).

We should take note that disobedience can make God angry. In fact, God’s initial reaction to their disobedience was to “strike them all dead.” After Moses interceded for the people, God agreed to let all the adults over 20 years old to die naturally in the wilderness. Numbers 33 gives a bird’s eye view of the wilderness wanderings. The book of Deuteronomy gives a more complete picture. At the end of that book, 40 years have passed, the generation that refused to enter the land had all died, and Moses died after getting a glimpse of the land but not having entered it.

While Moses was a good leader, he could never quite get the people of Israel to the “finish line.” Moses died with the knowledge that the Children of Israel were still on the wrong side of Jordan. And then, with Moses gone, God chooses Joshua to lead the people. In chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Joshua, we read the account of God getting them ready to cross Jordan.

That brings us to Joshua chapter 3:

1 Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. 2 So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp; 3 and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.”

5 And Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 6 Then Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.

7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.’”

9 So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God.” 10 And Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites: 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. 12 Now therefore, take for yourselves 12 men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.”

14 So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), 16 that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.
—Joshua 3:1-17


Can you imagine what it was like to stand on the “wrong side of Jordan” and look into the land which God had promised? Can you imagine the anticipation, all of the stories of God’s faithfulness in the past and His promises for the future? But here is a catch: Did they now have enough faith to follow God into the promised land? They would not get there if they did not step out and cross the Jordan River.

The metaphor is obvious: it takes faith to follow God’s leading in our lives, especially when there are obstacles in our way. Like the Israelites, we are called on to step out into the waters, sometimes when we don’t see how the waters—that is, the obstacles—will be dried and we are able to cross. But when we do step out to cross our Jordan, we can know that we might see and do and go in ways we had never thought possible.

I am sure many of the people wondered how they were going to get across the Jordan. The situation was reminiscent of their flight from Egypt, but no one present at this time, except for Joshua & Caleb, had actually experienced the exodus and saw the parting of the Sea of Reeds, the pillars of cloud and fire leading the people, and many of the other acts of God caring for the people as they were in the wilderness.

The situation in Joshua three also is reminiscent of the people’s decision 40 years before, after the first 12 spies returned from spying in the land. In Joshua two we read about the spies being sent into the land, where they were housed and protected by Rahab, who helped them to escape. Forty years before, 12 spies had entered the land, 10 of whom returned and reported that the people in the land were giants, sure to defeat the Israelites if they tried to take the land. But now the two spies Joshua sent into the land, reported “They are fainthearted; the Lord has delivered the land to us” (2:24).

The Lord gave Joshua four specific instructions about crossing the Jordan River. We must remember these principles when we face obstacles in our lives.

Wait for God before stepping out (3:2-3)

The Israelites were on the east bank of the Jordan, about five miles north of the Dead Sea. They undoubtedly were anxious to cross the Jordan. But there was a problem. In the dry season, the Jordan is about 100 yards wide, shallow, and easy to cross. But this was the rainy season, and during the rainy season the Jordan in this area was up to a mile side, with deep, sticky mud and wide, marshy banks. It was one thing for the two spies to wade and swim across the river, but not for a group of a million or more people. The options were simple: either wait until the dry season, or do the impossible.

We can trust God to lead us (4)

Joshua’s instructions to the people were clearly anticipating the impossible, the direct intervention of the Lord to make it possible for all the people to cross the swollen river. When you see the Ark move, he told them, move out and follow it. It must have been a bit confusing for the people, because no one had explained how the river was going to be passable. Joshua had an answer for them, however: Move out and follow the ark, because you’ve not traveled this way before.

As the people of Israel were to find out as they stepped out to cross the river, we can trust God even in times when we are facing something we know we can’t handle ourselves. That is the great analogy in this passage: We can trust God to lead us when we know He wants us to act, even when we do not see clearly the path before us.

Sanctify (purify) yourselves for the Lord (5)

“And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’” (verse 5). Joshua was referring to spiritual cleansing, which was represented through ceremonial washing by the Israelites, tabernacle sacrifices, and which represents confession and repentance for us. This purification process is analogous to our own spiritual walk: the need for confession of sins, repentance, and faith as we step out to follow our Lord and seek to do His will.

There is a time to step into the water (8, 14-16)

“You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan’” (verse 8).

“So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho.”

Notice when God parted the water. It was not before the priests stepped out into the water, but after they took that first step. The lesson we understand from this passage is simply that we can trust God to lead us, to handle the obstacles when we want to do His will, and perhaps not all the obstacles will be removed at the time we step out in faith.

There is a time when, knowing God’s will, that you are called on to step out even before you clearly see obstacles in your way. All you know is to pray, which is where we should turn first. And when you step out, maybe all you will know is that you remember the people on the banks of the Jordan. And you will remember that you can trust Jesus to bring you through and remove the obstacles in the path. And maybe you won’t know much more than it is God’s will for you to abandon all selfishness and step out into the waters with pure motives.

And finally, remember Jesus defeated death, probably the scariest river any human being contemplates. If we can trust Him in this great promise, surely we can trust Him with all the other rivers we will be called upon to cross.

Ordinary People: Joshua 2


1 Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.”

4 Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5 And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” 6 (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) 7 Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.

8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, 13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”

14 So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”

15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.” 17 So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. 19 So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.” 21 Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.

22 They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them. 23 So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them. 24 And they said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.”
—Joshua 2:1-24


God has a way of working through very ordinary and unlikely people.

Consider the two spies, for instance. Who were they? Nobody knows. They remain anonymous. They were ordinary people and had nothing that set them apart from anyone else.

The same was true of Rahab. There was nothing remarkable about her life. Her occupation was slightly irregular perhaps, but other than that she lived a life that was nothing short of mundane. She certainly doesn't appear to be someone that God would desire to have in His kingdom. Not from our perspective at least.

Rahab, in fact, was a very unlikely choice, because in the Israelite mind she had three strikes against her:

Rahab was a Canaanite, not an Israelite. The Canaanites were the enemy. According to God's own command they were to be driven from the land. Yet here is one of the enemy showing kindness and compassion to the Israeli spies. From the example of Rahab, we can know that we are treading on dangerous ground when we start labeling people because they belong to a certain class of people.

Rahab was a woman. Women were not equal in this culture—indeed, in most cultures throughout history. I should observe here that this is not and never has been God's attitude toward women. In this case, God worked through a person named Rahab, who just happened to be a woman, which tells us that God doesn't play favorites. God can work through anyone, even the ordinary and unlikely.

She was a prostitute. This was a rather unusual occupation for one whom the Lord would call upon to assist His people. . . . and it makes us a bit squeamish to talk about it. In reading Joshua 2, have you ever wondered about God's judgment? Why would God choose a prostitute? God did it to teach us something about His own character. A part of His character that is difficult for some of us to accept. It doesn't bother us that Rahab was a Canaanite, and it doesn't bother us that she was a woman. But the idea of God working through a prostitute can make us a little uncomfortable. God sees potential in everyone, and not just in those who see themselves as the "religious elite," but even those from whom we may turn away.

There are a couple of lessons here that speak to us on a very personal level.

God has more Grace than His people have

Have you ever asked yourself whether God really can forgive you for something you did? When I consider a question like this, I immediately think of the prodigal son. After spending his inheritance, he hit bottom; he lived in a pigpen and survived on what little food he could wrestle away from the pigs. That is a parable about grace, forgiveness, and acceptance—all qualities of God.

Many Christians are struggling with guilt and broken dreams. The story of how God used Rahab, a prostitute, offers a renewed hope. God will use each of us in his kingdom. Also remember the reaction of the prodigal son’s older brother—he rejected him. Consider Rahab for a moment. She was a Canaanite, a woman, and a prostitute. She would not have been welcomed into the Israelite camp; God’s people would have shunned her. Even when others may not offer grace and acceptance, God does, because God has more grace than most people . . . and he wants us to be like Him.

It is a sin to play favorites

James (2:1) warns us not to favor the rich over the poor. The same warning applies to playing favorites between any groups of people. Just because a person belongs to a certain economic group (rich or poor), is of a different racial origin, is male or female, tall or short, fat or thin, handsome or ugly, doesn't mean God cannot still use them. God has a way of working through the most ordinary and unlikely people. But the question still remains:

Why did God choose Rahab rather than someone “more respectable”?

Rahab knew the power of God

The home of Rahab was a good choice for the spies, because the sight of men entering the home of a harlot would not attract much attention.

What the spies found when they entered her home, however, must have surprised them. They found a woman who knew that the Israelite God was the only true God. Throughout Canaan, people knew of the Israelites wandering in the desert. And they had heard how God protected them and led them. Rahab had taken what she learned about the Israelites to heart and came to know and have faith in the Israelite God. In His graciousness, God had changed Rahab and revealed Himself to her.

For us, Rahab is an illustration of the power of God, who transforms the lives of those who come to Him in faith. God changes people with His power and His grace.

Rahab had to courage to take risks

She had to make a quick decision. She had heard about the Israelites, and now there were two of them in her house. The king wanted to capture them, but she did not hesitate to hide them on the roof of her house, and in so doing put her own life in jeopardy. There was a code in the region back then called Hammurabi’s Code. It specified that: “If felons are banded together in a prostitute’s house and she does not inform the palace, that prostitute shall be put to death.” Representatives of the king came to her house and asked her if the Israelite spies were there, and the spies were hidden on her roof. If they were found by the king's men, Rahab would have been put to death for hiding them.

She had hidden them well, too. They were under the stalks of flax drying on the roof. Flax was harvested by being pulled up, dried, and then soaked for 2-3 weeks in a container or pool of water. Bacteria grew and separated the fibers on the outside from the pulp on the inside of the stems. After the time of soaking, the flax would be laid out to dry, usually on a rooftop or another sunny place. The flax could be piled up a few feet high and was turned every day or two until it was dry. Because of the bacteria, it was quite a smelly process. Verse 6 tells us Rahab hid the men in the drying flax. It probably was not comfortable for the spies, but it was smelly enough and unpleasant enough that the men sent from the king probably would not have looked in the flax had they searched for the spies.

Rahab believed in the power of God

When Rahab tells the spies about the effect Israel has on the citizens of Jericho, she reveals what it is that sets her apart from the rest. Why would she risk her life to save these two men who were enemies of the Canaanites? She recognized that these men weren't just from another country, they were God's people:

8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9 and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
—Joshua 2:8-11

Rahab realized that this was no ordinary nation with another ordinary god carved out of wood or stone. As she put it so well, ". . . for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath."

What kind of risks do we take for God? What kind of risks would we be willing to take? God is all-powerful; we can trust Him to be faithful. He asks us to be like Him—faithful, righteous, defending others; even taking risks. I think God wants us to be a people who have the courage to take some risks, trusting in His power and His promises.

Israel was creating widespread panic, not because of their great military strength, but because God was with them. Isn't it amazing? This supposedly ungodly, unregenerate prostitute was able to believe in God because she had heard about His power. She had not seen it for herself, she had only heard about it, and believed. Christians need to be the first to acknowledge God's power in the world.

Rahab had an active faith

James points out Rahab's faith to us: “. . . was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? (James 2:25). In Hebrews 11—the chapter that commends the heroes of the faith—we find Rahab’s name alongside of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David.

Isn’t it interesting that God chose a person whose lifestyle was abhorrent, but whose faith was alive and active. When it comes to being useful in God's kingdom, God is more concerned with whether our faith is active, than whether we have made all the correct choices. The crux of the story is that God seems to want us to have the courage to take risks for Him, no matter how imperfectly we have lived. I would not have picked Rahab as an example of faith, but God did. She acknowledged Him for Who He is—the God of power Who chose a people to be His and to represent Him to mankind.

And now, the rest of the story . . .

When the Israelites took the city of Jericho, Rahab and her family were safe. The story is in Joshua 6, which tells us that after Israel conquered the land, Rahab and her family lived peacefully among the Israelites. Rahab’s place in the history of our faith offers a surprising irony . . . in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5), we find the name Rahab. Among her direct descendants are David, King of Israel, and Joseph, the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus.

God certainly uses ordinary people.

January 17, 2010

Compromise and Its Consequences: Judges 1:1-2:5


Introduction


In our study through the book of Joshua, we have been following the Israelites as they arrived at and then entered the promised land. Moses had brought them out of Egypt, and Joshua, Moses' successor, led them into the new land and led them in starting to conquer the land. And under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites began to take control of the land from the Canaanites and other peoples who were there.

As the book of Judges opens, the tribes are starting to take over the land that God had provided, to rid the land of its pagan and evil inhabitants, and to establish the land as their own. But they did not follow through, preferring instead to try to take the land on their own terms. As they compromised the plans of God, however, they began to experience problems
problems that had been predicted a half-century earlier (Exodus 23:32-33):

31 And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

The book of Judges shows the results of not following the instructions of God; how Israel did turn to the gods of the Canaanites, and how they consequently never experienced all of the blessings God had promised.

A forgotten promise

Judges chapter 1 outlines what happened shortly after they got to their new land and began to conquer it. Remember the vow of the people in Joshua 24:16-24):

16 So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.”
21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord!”
22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!”
23 “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!”

We read in the first verse of the book of Judges that the people did indeed get off to a good start: they asked the Lord for guidance: “Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?” (v. 1); that is, “who should take the lead.” We don’t know how they sought the Lord’s guidance on this, but there was a clear answer from Him: “Judah shall go up” (v. 2). Notice also in verse 2 that God gave them a guarantee of victory: “Indeed, I have delivered the land into his (Judah’s) hand." Note the past tense; the victory was already won; God had already determined the outcome, and all the people needed to do was to conquer the land according to God's instructions: none of the peoples in the land were to remain. They were to be driven out.

I can't help but be reminded of the fact that wherever God leads us, He enables us to succeed.
Each of us has experienced the leading of God. It can be a feeling or a message we discern. Or it may come from a scripture passage, giving us direction for the clear path to take or the decision to make. It is good to know that from the very beginning of God’s relationship with His people, He always has enabled us to do what He directs us to do. He does not ask us to do the impossible. He does not promise us a future that He hasn’t already enabled for us.

So Judah assumes the lead in obedience to the word of God, first asking the assistance from the tribe of Simeon and promising assistance to Simeon when it becomes time to rid its portion of the land from its evil inhabitants.


Justice for Adoni-Bezek

The portion assigned to Judah included an area or city-state called Bezek, governed by a king called Adoni-Bezek (literally, “The Lord of Bezek”).
Adoni-Bezek’s was well known throughout the land for his cruelty to the kings of the peoples he and his army defeated. He cut off the thumbs and toes of the kings he captured—70 in all, according to him—and forced them to scramble under his table for crumbs in order to eat and survive. Why thumbs and big toes? Adoni-Bezek meant it as an object lesson to any monarch who may ever consider warring against him. Cutting off the thumbs and big toes of his enemies guaranteed Adoni-Bezek compete and irreversible domination. The kings could no longer grasp a sword or a spear or shield in battle without thumbs. And while they could walk without their big toes, the could not run swiftly.

So Judah’s treatment of Adoni-Bezek was not only a kind of justice—the same treatment for him as he had given others—but also a warning to the rest of the peoples inhabiting the land. So far, the Israelites were off to a good start, obeying their Lord and beginning to rid the land of its evil inhabitants and their false gods.

Failure to follow God’s plan

We see starting in verse 19 the problems begin to develop as the people failed to follow through faithfully the plan God had put before them: "So the LORD was with Judah. And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron.
"

There is a mountain range that runs north/south just west of the Dead Sea and Jordan River. To the west of those mountains, stretching clear to the Mediterranean Sea is a wide plain, called here the lowlands. This area consisted mostly of fertile farmlands, and through it, along the coast, ran the the highway by the sea, the major trade route along the coast from Egypt to Phoenicia, Aram, and other nations north and northeast of Israel. The lowland region and its vital trade route were well defended; as we read in verse 19, by an army or military garrison with chariots. These may have been Philistines, or, also likely, Egyptian forces there to defend the vital trade route through the territory.

The hesitation of the tribe of Judah to conquer the lowlands is the first clue we have of the compromises that would plague Israel for the rest of its existence.
As we know from the text, each tribe was given a territory with clear instructions from God to drive out the people who were living there. Judah’s failure to do so was just the start of the failure of all the tribes to follow the command of God to rid the land of its evil inhabitants:

Verse
21—the tribe of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but chose to live in their midst instead.

Verses 22-26—the tribe of Joseph defeated Bethel but spared at least one of the inhabitants and his family, who established another city in the land.


Verse 27—the tribe of Manassah failed to drive out the people from throughout its inheritance, but instead yielded to the Canaanites’ determination to defend their lands.
Manassah allowed them to stay in return for paying tribute (a tax).

Verse 29—Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites from its portion of the land, but allowed the Canaanites to remain and live among them.


Verse 30—Zebulun put the Canaanites under tribute rather than driving them out.


Verse 31—Asher . . . verse 33—Naphtali . . . verse 34—Dan . . . all of them allowed the inhabitants to stay and live among them,
in defiance of God’s instructions and in spite of God’s promise that He had already delivered these peoples into the Israelites’ hands.

Verse 34 gives us an important indication of the extent to which the Israelites yielded to the people inhabiting the land: the Amorites kept the people of Dan from inhabiting the fertile valleys of their inheritance and forced them to live in the mountains.


What happened? Perhaps they grew weary of the effort. Perhaps they forgot God’s promise that He had already delivered the people of the land to the Israelites. Maybe the Israelites faith and commitment to God had weakened.
Who knows? But what we do know is that in the end, because of the disobedience that began shortly after then entered the land, described in Judges 1, the Israelites never did occupy the land God had given over to them. They compromised, and so they failed to possess all that God had already given to them.

The Israelites entered the land as conquerors, with all the power and the promise of God that the land was theirs for the taking, but they settled in among those who had rejected God and whose culture would eventually lead to their destruction.


And God was not pleased

We read in chapter 2 that the Angel of the Lord visited the people with a message, reminding
them that God had kept His promise, but that they had broken their covenant with Him. As a result, the Angel of the Lord tells them, God will no longer drive out the inhabitants before the Israelites.

And as we study through the book of Judges, we will read about cycle after cycle of obedience and disobedience, faithfulness and unfaithfulness, sin and repentance.


The people of Israel have shown us that faith and commitment that is half-hearted are not enough.
The story of Israel occupying the land only in part is a lesson for us, that we cannot compromise on our faith; that we must not follow our Lord only in part.

God had already defeated the enemy, and the land was already as good as conquered. He promised them their full inheritance, but by compromising—by looking at the obstacles rather than the promises—they accepted only part of what God had for them.


And what would this mean long-term to the Israelites? We can read in verse 10 the beginning of what would be many centuries of repeating cycles of sin and repentance: "When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. The repeating cycles of sin and repentance that started with that generation eventually would lead to the conquering of Israel by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, as God's chosen people strayed further and further into sin and rebellion.


Conclusion

The book of Judges is a record of real history.
And for us it also is a metaphor.

When we compromise on a promise or principle from God, we open ourselves up to the influence and domination of sin.
When we compromise, we deny the power of our Lord. He has already conquered the sin that tempts us, yet we may yield to temptation. He has already rescued us, but we can act like we are of the world and not of the kingdom. He has empowered us, yet we may see ourselves as weak and powerless. He has given us victory, yet we may feel defeated and despondent.

So what does our Lord expect us us? The answer is pretty straightforward: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We are of His kingdom and we have been given the ability to conform to the new life and the new powers He has given us.

Finally, let me observe that the book of Judges may seem depressing because of Israel’s repeated disobedience and rebellion against their Lord. But in the midst of the repeating cycles of sin and repentance, we also will find in the pages of the book of Judges that the story of Israel's troubles also is the story of repentance and God’s unending grace.

God Is Faithful: Joshua 1:1-9

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Background

Joshua was chosen by both God and Moses to complete the work of leading Israel into the promised land. God had made a promise over 400 years earlier that he had reserved for Abraham and his descendants the land between the Nile and Euphrates Rivers, from Lebanon in the north to the sea in the south.


As events unfolded, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, went to Egypt with his family during a great famine. There were about 70 people in Jacob’s family at that time. They begin to multiply. The Egyptians became afraid of them and enslaved them. The taskmasters make their work hard, they cried out to God but God’s promise seemed far away. Finally, God sent them a deliverer, Moses, who, under the hand of God brought them out of Egypt.

Moses also brought to the Israelites the laws of God, conveyed to him as he spoke with God, as if face to face.
Yet even Moses grew discouraged with the people. They constantly seemed to fall into unbelief and disobedience toward God, even to the point of wanting to stone Moses and return to Egypt.

The Israelites reached the edge of the promised land, only to again fall back into a weak and doubting faith that God would give them victory and deliver the land to them. As a consequence, the people spent 40 more years wandering in the wilderness.


Not everyone that day lost their faith. Two men stood on the promise of God, saying “…Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it (Numbers 13:30).” These two were Joshua and Caleb.


How do you suppose those two must have felt during the next 40 years? They spent 40 years, still waiting on the promise of God, yet I don’t believe they were willing to give up, for they knew that God would make good on His promise. One of my favorite hymns is "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." The chorus reads:


Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

This great hymn of the church was written by Thomas Chisholm. He didn’t write this hymn because something great, or even miraculous, had happened in his life. He wrote it because as he looked back over his life, he learned to see the great faithfulness of God. At age 75, he wrote these words:"My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness."

After all this time, the children of Israel were about to once again experience God’s faithfulness in delivering them into their land.
Joshua tells of the fulfillment of the promise to possess the promised land through His power, and the nation crossed over Jordan and took possession of the land

The key verse of this passage is Joshua 1:3: “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses”
This is the theme and purpose of the Book: the history of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan in fulfillment of God’s promises for the people of Israel.

Remember that Abraham never really possessed the country to which he was sent.
The only piece of ground he owned was a burial plot (Genesis 23). However, Abraham left his descendants the legacy of God’s promises that would make them the eventual heirs of all of Canaan.

The key concept of the book of Joshua is possession through conflict by the power of God
. For the Christian, the same concept appears in Ephesians 6:12: we battle against enemies who would prevent us from possessing all the spiritual blessings We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and we must realistically face the fact of our enemies and strengthen ourselves by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-18).

The point is that Israel owned the land before they possessed it—its ownership was unconditional, but possession was conditional upon faith and obedience.
And so today, conflict and conquest by faith go with laying hold of that which we already have in Christ; the experience of our blessings in Christ comes through faith in the midst of conflict.

We find in the opening verses of the book of Joshua that God appointed Joshua to take Moses’ place in leading the people.
In this passage, Joshua 1:1-9, we see that God gave Joshua three assurances. They helped Joshua—and they can help us—in receiving our inherited promise as well.

God is faithful: He always fulfills His promises (1-4)

More than 400 years before, God promised the land to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 15:18-21; 17:8), and as Joshua and the Israelites stood ready to enter the land,
the promise of God was still real and genuine.

Here we also find in Joshua chapter one that God spoke to Joshua and told him that “Moses My servant is dead.” Then He tells him to arise, or get up, and cross over Jordan to the land that He is giving them. Moses had passed away, but that did not mean that the plans of God were dead as well. It reminds me of the words that are on John Wesley’s tombstone: “God buries His workmen, but His work goes on.”

Our Lord reminds Joshua of a very important truth that we, too, need to be reminded of—His work depends on Him, and not us. Just because Moses had died, did not mean that the work and promise of God would not be fulfilled.
Always remember that it is in the very nature or character of God to fulfill all His promises.

God is faithful: He is always with us (5, 9)


Israel knew that God had been with Moses. Moses’ face literally shone with the glory that came from being in the presence of God so much that he wore a veil to cover it. There was no doubt that Joshua now had a heavy responsibility laid on his shoulders. To be the leader of over one or two million people would certainly be a difficult job. It would not be easy for Joshua. He must have remembered that even though the people knew God was with Moses, they had resisted and spoke out against Moses.

Note that God reassured Joshua twice, not just once but twice, that He would be with him, giving him that assurance in verse 5 and again in verse 9. I note two characteristics of God's assurances here: the strength of His assurance and the scope of His assurance.


The strength of God’s assurance
: In verse 5, God promises not to leave him (some versions, not to“fail” him). The word is “to be feeble, to relax or slack off.” It means He will always be vigilant and attentive, keeping His promise and His people at the center of His attention. God also promises not to forsake him (some versions, “leave”). It means to neglect or turn loose . . . in other words, He will never decide to not fulfill His promises to us.

The scope of God’s assurance:
In verse 9, God tells Joshua that He will be with him “wherever you go.” Literally, it means wherever Joshua steps, God will be present. I could paraphrase verses. 5 and 9 something like this: “Regardless of what you are going though, regardless of your circumstances, I’m not going to take My eye off you, I’ve bound you to Me, and every step of your life, I’ll be there.”

That’s why the people of Israel could count on receiving the inheritance God promised—not because of who they were, but because of who God is.
We can know we will receive our inheritance for the same reason—because of who God is, not because of who we are.

God expects us to respond in faith (6, 8-9)

In verse 6, God tells Joshua to be strong (rigid and hard) and courageous (brave and established), to observe or keep the law of God.

Yes, God’s faithfulness is seen in His promises and His presence. And in return God expected Joshua to walk in His word, to make His principles the priority in his life.
And we can know that God has not changed. He expected Joshua to be diligent in His law, He expects us to be diligent in our manner of thinking and living as well.

Our Lord uses three symbols to emphasize the diligence He expected. First, He told Joshua not to turn from the right or the left regarding His word; in other words, not to deviate in the least from His word. Second, He told Joshua not to
let it depart from out of his mouth; in other words, he should do the word and speak the word. And third, He told Joshua to mediate on His word day and night: God’s commands were to be the guiding focus of his life so that he constantly would do what God desired of him to do.

The promises of blessing and prosperity were contingent upon the people's faithfulness to His principles, as they are today.
In our western orientation, we often misunderstand the concepts of biblical prosperity. The word prosperous here means to have insight, to literally prosper in our knowledge of God and our relationship with God, and has nothing to do with material prosperity. Those who seize on the words "prosper" and "prosperity" in the Bible as promises of wealth and riches for the faithful Christian simply misrepresent what is meant in the original Hebrew.

The prosperity in store for the Christian has to do with greater insight and knowledge of God and His character, to "prosper" in knowledge of, faith in, and relationship with God, and this
is directly connected to knowing and doing His word.