Monday, February 22, 2016

"As the LORD fought for Israel ..."

Day #54

Scripture Reading:  Joshua 6-10 ...

Joshua 6-10 may be difficult for some to read and even more difficult for some to understand.  How could God order Joshua and Israel to march into a land that was not theirs and kill men, women and children?  Some today point to things like this to explain why they don't believe in the God of the Bible, Israel's God.  Such savage behavior cannot be the work of the same God who sent Jesus into the world to save all who believe in Him!  What most people fail to understand, however, is that all people deserve God’s just judgment against sin.  The idea that “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner” does not have the support of historical reality!  Sin is a deadly plague that has infected all of humanity and there is no cure apart from that which God Himself provides.

As I have pointed out previously, the only way to approach the Bible is to ask yourself what each passage tells you about the God whom we worship, the Creator of all things.  Because the entire Bible is the Word of God, only by looking at what each part reveals about God's character do you get a complete picture of God Himself.  And only when you understand God's character will you understand why He had to send His own Son to save people like you and me.  We are born in sin, spiritually dead, and unless God gives us life we will perish in the same state.  Without the plan of salvation revealed in the Bible, God’s Word, mankind is utterly and completely without hope.  That’s why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is GOOD NEWS!!

Many people today want to believe that people are basically "good" and therefore unworthy of judgment.  Most people refuse to believe in a God who would judge mankind so harshly.  Yet, we have already witnessed the total destruction of the entire human race, except for Noah and his family, in the flood.  So now we see Israel's army entering the promised land, the land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants centuries before, and destroying entire cities ... because God told them to do so.  Speaking through Moses, God had told Israel that their enemies were destroyed not because Israel was righteous, but because of GOD’s righteousness and holiness.  Israel was spared only because of God’s grace and His decision to set His love on these people and to bring from them the promised Savior.  Even most of them would ultimately face His just judgment.

The fall of Jericho illustrates both God’s judgment against sin and His grace to His chosen people.  Israel needed to learn a lesson that all who believe in God today must learn:  dependence on God.  Who could have planned the strategy that Joshua and the people of Israel used against Jericho?  March around the city, blow trumpets and shout, and the walls will come down.  Then utterly defeat the city and take all you want ... well, almost all you want.  God gave them an amazing victory that would surely encourage them as this wandering nation entered a land promised to their forefathers hundreds of years earlier, when it was only Jacob and his family.  Certainly, this was a great beginning to their campaign to take the land as their own.  But their jubilation was short-lived.

The little city of Ai was next on their agenda, and a plan was made to take only three thousand men to defeat the city.  Surprise!  They were defeated and thirty-six men were killed.  Their response?  “The hearts of the people melted and became like water” (7:5).  What had happened?  Even Joshua cried out to the Lord, asking why God had brought them into this land if this is what was going to happen!  God’s response, however, was clear and concise:  “Stand up!  What are you doing down on your face?  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant ... THAT is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies ...  I will not be with you any more unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction” (7:10-12).

After investigating God’s charge, Achan was found to have taken some of the spoils.  Once again the punishment was swift:  Israel stoned Achan and his family.  Then Joshua and the army went up against Ai a second time and defeated them, for the LORD was with them.  Even here you see the king of Ai being hung on a tree and left there until evening.  How do we reconcile these things with the picture of God in the New Testament; the God of love and grace and mercy??  The killing continued as Israel moved into the land of Canaan, God even “stopping the sun” so that Israel could defeat their enemies.  Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Be strong and courageous.  This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight” (10:25).  Then Joshua killed the five kings of the armies they were fighting and hung them on trees until evening, celebrating the victory God had given them.

If you are thinking how horrible all of this is and finding it difficult to understand how God could condone these things, it is because you do not yet understand or accept the perfect holiness of God, His just anger against sin and sinners, or His righteous judgment.  God’s love for those whom He has chosen is amazing only when you believe that “the wages of sin is death, BUT the GIFT of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Apart from the grace of God, His undeserved favor, you and I and all people would face God’s just judgment.  The message being proclaimed today that “God’s loves everybody” and that He accepts the religious acts of those who reject His offer of salvation through faith in His Son is a lie from Satan himself! 

We live in what the Bible calls the “day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2).  God is the same God today that He was in the days of Joshua.  The only difference is that God is being patient today, waiting for His plan to reach its fulfillment, calling His chosen people to Himself through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is only one way to avoid God’s judgment.  Jesus says, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

God offers forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus today!  Confess your sin, believe in Jesus and rejoice in God’s amazing love and grace!!

"Father, I acknowledge that You are right when You judge and that it is only by Your grace that anyone can stand before You and not perish.  Continue Your work in me, that I may testify to Your greatness and be an instrument in Your hands to offer life to those who remain in the darkness of sin and death.  Thank you for saving me, through Your Son Jesus Christ, to whom be praise now and forever.  Amen"

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