A lot of good true stories are repeated. Ancient stories along with stories we hear today can be passed down to the next generation for teaching points, encouragement, and to be a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness. This is exactly what took place just before Joshua made a covenant with the Israelites and sent them away, each to his own piece of Promised Land.
Joshua retold God’s Story starting with Abraham’s father. He highlighted key elements of their unique history and reemphasized God’s faithfulness, power and compassion. Joshua mentioned Balaam who had been sent to curse the Israelites. Quoting God, Joshua says, “…but I would not listen to him. Instead, I made Balaam bless you, and so I rescued you from Balak.” God reminded the Israelites, through Joshua, that it was He who had provided victory after victory and in gratitude, the people responded saying they would serve and obey the Lord. Later the prophet Micah also encouraged the people of his lifetime by retelling the account of the Lord’s blessings through Balaam and Balak.
One reason why I am writing this book is to remember God’s blessings. By working through God’s Story of blessings and retelling stories of how He blessed our family time after time, I am blessed all over again.
On our first Easter among an unreached people of China, the town’s eight foreigners rode through the quiet pre-dawn with the desire to pray and worship the Redeemer on a mountaintop as the sun rose. Isaiah, five years old, excitedly raced past Sophie and slipping on a stone bridge, he gashed his head open when he fell backwards. Russ applied pressure to Isaiah’s wound and used my jacket to absorb the bleeding, and we went on with worshipping our Lord. In time, and with the help of our neighbor, a nurse, Isaiah’s head grew back together. He did not suffer any ongoing damage; his scar became a physical reminder to me of God’s goodness. How good it is for us to reflect on God’s faithful blessings and refresh our vow to honor Him.
Joshua 24:10 NLT
After initial conquests had been made, Joshua commended those who had chosen to settle on the east side of the Jordan for their faithful service and told them they could return to their homes. Before they journeyed on, he urged them to continue to love the Lord, walk in His ways, obey His commands, hold fast to Him and to serve Him completely. So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.
Later a bit of a misunderstanding took place among the clans and when reconciliation was reached the tribes of Israel experience the joy of peace-filled unity. And the people of Israel blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and the people of Gad were settled.
What a blessing it is for families to live at peace with each other! Even though it often takes work to understand and to be understood, it is so worth it to live in a restored relationship. Jesus expounds on this peace-making theme in His public teaching that took place on a mountain, saying that those who work for peace will be blessed. Years later a 13th-century Catholic saint named Francis begins his well-known prayer with: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.” Our greatest need is peace with God and perhaps the greatest gift we can give is peace in our relationships.
Joshua 22:6; 33b ESV
Joshua’s main role at this point in history was to divide territories for all the tribes and clans of Israel. This division was accomplished by casting lots and recognizing which tribes were big enough to completely take over the new land. Dividing up the Promised Land was not always a clear-cut easy job for God’s leader and, at times, Joshua’s decisions were questioned.
The descendants of Joseph came to Joshua and asked, “Why have you given us only one portion of land as our homeland when the Lord has blessed us with so many people?” Joshua reassessed, gave more territory to Joseph’s tribe and encouraged them that even though the Canaanites were strong and had chariots of iron, Joseph’s descendants could drive them out.
Good, godly leadership is not easy to come by. God told Joshua often to be brave and I believe that this encouraged him. We can then see in the life of Joshua how he encouraged others to be brave too. God, we pray for our leaders today. May those that are in authority take the time to seek You for wisdom and to lead with integrity. I pray that when it is our time to lead (in big and little ways) we would do the same. Thank You God for being our good Leader. Amen.
Joshua 17:14b NLT
Caleb was one mighty octogenarian. He received his portion of land and began to drive out the inhabitants who did not honor God. This took strength, bravery, wisdom and trust that God was on his side. Caleb offered his daughter in marriage to the man who was able to capture a certain city within his new domain. When she arrived to set up her new home her dad Caleb asked her what it was she wanted.
Can you imagine how challenging simple day-to-day living would be without access to water? At times when we lived in various places there would be days without the convenience of electricity. Even in countries which are considered to be developed, when a major storm hits, power outages can be experienced and often the extended community steps in to offer help. But when there is not access to water, life takes on a whole new level of challenge. Caleb’s daughter, Achsah, got the special favor she asked for: water.
Sometimes we go without because we do not ask. Other times we are like Caleb, the ones who are in the position to extend the blessing. Around the world today people still have the need to receive clean water. The good news is there are many opportunities to be involved with well drilling projects. Let’s be part of the solution!
P.S. It makes me so happy that a portion of the proceeds from The Blessing Book (the Devotional as well as the Study Guide) are given to Living Water International, a Christian well-drilling ministry that provides water for life in Jesus’ name. Thank you for blessing others around the world with the gift of water and the opportunity to demonstrate the love of God.
Joshua 15:19 HCSB
A whole lot of land had been conquered by Joshua and the Israelites as God fought battle after battle for them. At this point in the Story, Caleb, a brave, honest man, was eighty-five years old and just as strong as ever. Back in the day, when Moses sent him and Joshua to Canaan as part of a twelve-man scouting party, Moses recognized Caleb’s integrity and promised a specific portion of the Promised Land to him. Caleb was to receive this inheritance because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly. Now the time was right for Caleb to remind Joshua of the promise that Moses had made over four decades earlier.
Both Joshua and Caleb must have felt the building excitement as this particular promise was about to be reality. They had waited an additional forty-five years since they first spied out the good, plentiful land that flowed with milk and honey. I can picture Joshua hugging his loyal friend, memories flooding through their minds of grape clusters so big it took two men to carry, of large fortified cities and of enemies big and strong. A younger Joshua and Caleb sought to rally the people when they returned from their forty-day exploration. “We can do this! God has promised the land to us! Don’t be afraid, for God is with us and we will swallow those people up!” But sadly, the Israelites gave into fear and listened to the whiney report from the other ten leaders instead. It took forty years for all of the non-trusting people to die as they wandered in the desert. Now Joshua, following God, was leading successful military campaigns with Caleb at his side and a new generation was experiencing the promises of God fulfilled. Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance.
Joshua 14:13 NIV
It was time for the baton to be passed. Excitement builds when this is done during a middle school track meet or at the Olympic level for we know that the outcome of a good hard run race often comes down to a flawless passing of the baton. Our family had pioneered the mission work with an unreached tribe in China near the border of Burma. For many years prayer, language study, meeting people, sharing truth and a whole lot of life was lived as this group went from no known believers to young churches starting up to worship God in their own language. God’s Kingdom expanded. We sensed we completed our contribution and those we trained were ready to grip the baton and run their leg of this great race.
Before he died, Moses passed on his ministry baton. Joshua was God’s newly assigned leader for His people and several times God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. The first eight chapters of the book named after him, are packed with action. With the Promised Land before him, Joshua sent in two spies who were helped by Rahab. Then with the ark of the covenant leading the way, the Israelites crossed the dry Jordan River. The Israelites set up stones as a memorial, all the men were circumcised, and the Passover was celebrated. Finally, the fortified city of Jericho was captured with a march and a shout. Joshua erected an altar for offerings to the Lord and the entire nation of Israel gathered expectantly on both sides of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. They faced the Levitical priests who carried it and waited for the priests to bless the people of Israel. Afterward, Joshua read aloud all the words of the law—the blessings as well as the curses—according to all that is written in the book of the law.
That is a lot of information to take in, and just imagine if we were there living it all out; our journals would be filled with one amazing act of God after the next! Yet in our own lives God intervenes, blesses, guides, provides and so much more, for us, His children. God, saying, “thanks” does not feel like enough for all that You do for us. The very air that we breathe is a gift, a blessing from You. Your nearness comforts, Your strength gives us strength, Your Presence guides us. Please accept our sacrifice of thanksgiving. With deep gratitude may we run strong and pass the baton of faith to those who will run after us. Amen.
P.S. Great joy is mine to pass on this update from one who has gripped the baton and is running strong. “As of October 2015, we have completed 50% of the New Testament and have published the following Scripture portions: Luke (2011), Acts (2013), and a booklet including 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, and James (2015). We have early drafts of most of the rest of the New Testament. The SD church is using the published portions for teaching and study at church gatherings and for personal Bible reading. We often hear reports that the SD believers are eager to receive more of the Scriptures. Keep praying for us toward that end—that we would speedily complete the New Testament for the glory of Christ!”
Joshua 8:33b-34 HCSB