Israel Enters the Land
Good morning Christ Church! James is on a study week this week, so he has asked me, Jeff Bagley, to write the midweek devotional. I hope this is food for you this morning.
Last week we took a break from Unfolding Grace to focus on the story of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper as preparation for the death and resurrection of Christ. This week we will be returning to Unfolding Grace. Our passage has skipped over Deuteronomy and to Joshua 1-4.
When we enter our reading, Moses has died, and Joshua has been put in charge of leading the people. The LORD charges Joshua to be strong and courageous. He says, “do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” I know for me, these words are encouraging. I want to put them on a plaque and read them every morning before I go to work. The problem I face is that I don’t always believe them. Just like the people of Israel, I struggle to believe God is powerful, and that he is actually with me.
Thankfully God knows that you and I struggle in this way. He knows that as humans our hearts are prone to doubt his goodness, and his power. As we read through Joshua 1-4 we see God proving to Joshua and the people that he is powerful, and he will do what he says he will do. He already proved this to them in delivering them from out of slavery and carrying them through the wilderness, but as we know, we are prone to forget the power and provision of God.
In Chapter two we see God’s plan evident through multiple aspects. First, the spies are hidden by a gentile woman. Second, her confession about the LORD to the spies is an encouragement to them. As we see in 2:24 when the spies return to Joshua they say, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.” God uses Rahab to protect the spies, and encourage the people of Israel that he is going to do what he said he will do. Again, in chapter three and four God puts his power on display to encourage the children of Israel - he allows them to pass over the Jordan on dry land!
How exactly was this crossing a sign of God’s power? We are told in Joshua 3:15 that the Jordan was overflowing its banks, and yet the LORD tells the people that they will pass over it on dry land! Just imagine you are staring at a violent river, during flood season. The river is about 100 feet across and about 10 feet deep. Crossing it would seem absolutely impossible! The LORD uses this moment to again prove to Israel that he is with them and he is powerful.
Immediately when the priests stepped into the water with the ark, the water was stopped and the priests were standing on dry ground! It was a miracle! The LORD was paving the way for Israel to cross the Jordan into the land he had promised to give them.
After the people get across, they set up twelve stones in remembrance of what the LORD has done, and Joshua tells them why they were set up, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, 'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, 'Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.' For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until it passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
Why can Joshua, and the people of Israel, be strong and courageous? Because they have seen the work of the LORD first hand. But what about their children, and their children’s children? How can they stay strong and courageous? The fact that God tells Joshua to set up stones to help the people remember, means two things.
One, the people are going to forget again. God knows we are prone to forget, and commands us to set reminders up to help us remember his faithfulness! Two, there may be times when there aren’t signs we get to see first hand, but that doesn’t mean God is absent! It means we are to look back to the things that he has set up for us to remember him by.
What does that mean for us today? Ultimately, we find our source of strength in Christ. We are reminded of God’s great love for us through the person and work of Jesus! Christ’s work on the cross was the ultimate symbol God gave to his people to show that He is, from the words of Rahab, “God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Not only did Christ’s work show God’s power, but it was the ultimate means for the salvation of God’s people for all time. Christ’s work on the cross secured us in the promised land for all eternity. It is because we are already secure in Christ, that we can now be strong and courageous.
Why do we struggle to believe that the LORD is mighty and with us?
What are some tangible reminders that the LORD has given us that he is mighty and with us?
What does it look like to be strong and courageous in today’s world?