Purge

When God brought Israel into the land He had promised to them, He gave them a directive—clear the land. Not for agricultural reasons, but for spiritual ones. Israel was to either drive out or destroy the peoples in the land and then get rid of their religious garbage. All of it. If they couldn’t get the people out, they were not to make any sort of treaty with them. When it’s broken down like that, it seems pretty simple. And even more so because, as long as they kept fighting and pushing out the previous residents, God was fighting for and with Israel. They had victory in the bag!

But, Israel maybe got tired of fighting. They maybe got complacent. Perhaps they captured enough land to satisfy their current needs. (Should we be surprised that Ephraim and Manasseh—the tribes who complained about not receiving enough land—left a rather large population of Canaanites to live in their inheritance?) Or maybe after the death of Joshua, Israel was suddenly floundering and didn’t know what to do.

It may seem like no big deal. Israel made it to the Promised Land! They had defeated enough of their enemies so that they could occupy the land comfortably and, of those enemies who had not been driven out, they were able to enslave many of them. Good deal, right?

Wrong. By failing to do the one thing God had commanded, Israel pretty much ensured their own failure for generations to come. God knew full well how fickle His people were. He knew that without a strong hand of leadership, they were apt to stray from the Law. Temptation was a deep pit made easy to fall into.

Had Israel managed to purge foreign gods from the land, temptation to stray from God would have been purged right along with them. Nothing God commands is just for the sake of doing it. The command to Israel to clear and clean out the land was for their own good. It would have been to their betterment. They could have lived prosperous and victorious. Instead, because they had turned from God, God turned from them and the battles they fought could no longer be won.

I think we can often be like Israel. We settle for good enough and fail to see the evil seep in from places we didn’t properly take control of. When we settle, our guard goes down and temptation sneaks up on us. Before we know it, we’re like Israel, trying to fight a battle we no longer have the ability to win. When God tells us to put aside our evil ways, it’s not because He wants to be mean, it’s because He wants to protect us.

The more we are able to drive worldly temptations from our lives, the better we are to withstand those temptations. But we don’t have to do all the work on our own. If we choose to fight, God will fight with us and for us and, if God is fighting for us, who or what can stand against us?

Daily Bible reading: Judges 1-2, Luke 7:1-30

A promise kept

I’ve often heard that God can do whatever He wants. He can do anything. There is nothing He cannot do. I will never dispute the omnipotence of God. There is no one or nothing more able than He. But there are a few things that God truly is incapable of.

God cannot lie. It is not in His nature to do so. If He is Truth, there can be no falsehood in Him at all. God cannot hate. Again, if He is Love, there is room for nothing else. So, if God has made a promise, He is unable to break it. It must come to pass.

Israel, as much as they seemed to love wandering in the wilderness or being enslaved by other nations, had a promise from God. They would have their own land. Good land. Prosperous land. And, nearly a half century after they left their bondage in Egypt, they got their land. Every tribe had received their inheritance. They were able to drive their enemies from the land and finally live in peace.

Could they have done this on their own? Most certainly not! They were a fickle nation—impatient with a tendency to be easily swayed away from God even though they were a massive living, breathing, eating, walking miracle. Could God have just pulled them out of Egypt and plopped them in the Promised Land? Probably. But would they have been able to enjoy the land? Would they have had peace within their borders? Would they have learned to trust God?

If you give a kid everything they want without making them work for any of it, what do you get? A spoiled brat! Like Veruca Salt wanting the golden egg now, a kid who has never has to work for a reward isn’t good for much of anything. They’re a bad egg.

But teach a kid to work for reward and they have the opportunity to become successful, valuable members in society. Perhaps this is the same principle God was using in leading Israel from Egypt. Had they made it to Canaan in the two weeks it should have taken them, I doubt they would have been able to take the land. The scouts Moses sent ahead were proof of that.

Instead, it took an entire generation to retrain a nation for victory. God had to wait until the unbelief died off and only the faithful remained. It took 40 years of training and teaching for Israel to finally be ready to take hold of their Promise.

So when it seems as though you’re being led through the wilderness, perhaps it is God trying to train and teach you to take the promise. God doesn’t need a nation of spoiled brats, He needs an army of strong servants.

All of the good promises that the Lord had given Israel came true.

Joshua 21:45 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 21-22, Luke 6:1-26

Work it

I love moments of sarcasm in the Bible. One of the best is when Elijah is on top of Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal for the purpose of calling down rain. When the rain doesn’t come, Elijah taunts the prophets suggesting that their god is on vacation or perhaps relieving himself. Who says the great prophets were boring old men?

In Joshua 17, the tribes of the descendants of Joseph come whining to Joshua that they have not been given an inheritance of land in accordance with their numbers.

The descendants of Joseph came to Joshua and asked, “Why have you given us only one portion of land when the Lord has given us so many people?”

Joshua 17:14 (NLT)

Joshua offers them the hill country. It is both inhabited and forested. They can drive out the inhabitants and go into the forestry industry. They didn’t so much like that idea since it would require more than a little work on their part so they told Joshua that they would be unable to take that land (I’m sure they were hoping for some additional prime property, something move-in ready).

Then Joshua said to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph, “Since you are so large and strong, you will be given more than one portion. The forests of the hill country will be yours as well. Clear as much of the land as you wish and live there. And I am sure you can drive out the Canaanites from the valleys, too, even though they are strong and have iron chariots.

Joshua 17:17-18 (NLT)

Never tell a leader you’re big and strong and then try to convince them you can’t do the work they’ve asked you to do. Joshua would have none of what the descendants of Joseph were trying to hand out. He offered them a prosperous land. If there were tribes living there, surely it wasn’t a horrible place to live. If they had iron chariots, surely the land would be prosperous. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh didn’t want to involve themselves in the work required to take their inheritance.

Sometimes, a blessing looks like work. I don’t think Joshua was trying to be mean when he gave those tribes exactly what they didn’t want. I’m willing to bet that Joshua saw the potential in the hill country—something the descendants of Joseph could not see at the time.

Even though God promised a large portion of prosperous land to Israel, they weren’t able to just walk in and move in. Their blessing took work. A lot of work. After five years across the Jordan River and they had yet to claim everything that God had promised to them.

Don’t despair if what’s before you doesn’t look like a blessing. If a blessing looks like something else at first, work it.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 16-18, Luke 5:1-16

The day the manna stopped

No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.

Joshua 5:12 (NLT)

I wonder if Israel was disappointed or excited when they realised they would no longer be feasting on manna every day? Remember, they had whined to Moses back in the wilderness and God sent them birds—so many birds they got sick of them. How strange a thing it would be to be nourished by the same miraculous thing for 39 years 11 months and then have it stop, never to return.

Did this mean that God would no longer provide for Israel? Of course not!

PROVIDE: to procure beforehand; to get, collect or make ready for future use; to prepare.

Remember way back when Moses send scouts into Canaan to check out the land? They came back with a report that it was a prosperous land flowing with milk and honey. It was a good land, well-able to sustain Israel.

When Israel finally crossed the Jordan River, God’s provision didn’t stop, it merely changed. The manna was necessary to keep His people alive while they wandered in the wilderness waiting for the doubters to die. But now, in the Promised Land, there was abundant supply. They ate from the fruit of the land.

Just because provision doesn’t literally fall from the sky doesn’t mean it’s not there. Sometimes provision looks like work. God gave Israel, the land, but they were still going to have to fight for it. They were still going to have to tend to it. They were still going to have to harvest the fruit from it.

Take a look at your life. Have you been believing God for something? Have you seen your answer? Look again. It may look more like work than a miracle, but it doesn’t mean that God’s hand isn’t in it.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 4-6, Luke 2:1-24

Gone Ahead

Do you ever wonder how much preparation God has done on your behalf? If you’re like me, probably not at all. But what if He has. What if, like with Israel, God has gone ahead of you and prepared something great? What if there is one person, like John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, who has set out before you and made a way where there was no way? What if we really believed that God is for us?

“I know the Lord has given you this land,” [Rahab] told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone is living in terror for we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt…”

Joshua 2:9-10a (NLT)

I tend to forget just how much preparation went into Israel’s settlement in the Promised Land. For 40 years, rumours of their exploits went through the nations, and like any good story, it probably got embellished along the way. By the time these stories reached Jericho, it was no wonder the inhabitants were living in terror.

Israel was a huge nation who had left Egypt and crossed a sea on dry land. They’d been led in the wilderness for a full generation by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They’d been fed with manna that arrived like the dew every morning. They drank sweet water from a rock. They defeated every enemy the Lord set them up against.

While these stories were working fear into the hearts of their enemies, they were building strength and courage in Israel.

I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

This is why, in the previous verse, Israel is reminded to meditated on God’s Word. To study it day and night so that they would be able to obey it and remember it and with it, have success.

The same stands true for us today. God has gone ahead of us—whether we’re aware of it or not. The closer we keep His Word to us, the stronger we’ll be. The more courageous we will be. The more confident we will be in the God who has made plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

The enemy before us is already terrified. They’ve already lost the battle. If we go in confident in the One who sent us and His Word for us, we can’t lose.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 1-3, Luke 1:57-80

Mark it

Have you ever set your mark on something? Of course you have! Even if it was as a kid making sure your name was ever visible on a school book or perhaps your mother marked your backpack for you. No matter who did it or how it was done, it was yours. Marked.

God wanted Israel to mark the Promised Land. Right away. As soon as they entered it. Not when they conquered it—when they arrived in it. He commanded that massive stones be erected and the law written upon them. I imagine this would have been the ancient version of Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon. We were here! This is ours!

I believe that, in the same way the USA marked the moon and Israel would mark Canaan, God wants to make His mark on our hearts. The image that immediately comes to mind is of a row of four tiny lines with another crossing over. Tiny marks of counting. But that isn’t how God wants to mark our hearts. He doesn’t just want to mark us, he wants to leave His mark like the standing stones of Israel. He wants it to be obvious that we belong to Him and no other.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

If I trust God with my entire heart, I’m giving Him a lot more room than just space for ticks to mark the day. I’m giving Him room to set up His marker. The Song of Solomon says I am my beloved’s, and he is mine. When you belong to someone and that person belongs to you, you make it obvious—you wear a ring or get a tattoo.

If we have given Him our hearts, the mark of God on our lives should be obvious.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 26-27, Mark 15:1-26

His plan, His time

Do you ever get tired of waiting for God? Do you pray hoping for an answer right away, but it seems an awful long time coming? Do you need something now, but God needs you to wait?

Sometimes, I believe that God answers our prayers the way we want just to prove a point. That point being that our way isn’t necessarily the best way. Other times, God lets us go ahead on our own, again, to prove the same point. We don’t know best.

Israel tried their way over and over again. I shake my head in wonder at how they could have been so stupid. But then I have to wonder how many times I’ve done the exact same thing.

In Deuteronomy 1:42-46, we get a recap of a select group from the Israelite camp who figured they knew best. Moses had just told them that, because of their disobedience, they would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. I’d be a little peeved, too, if I were on the doorstep of something great and then was told I wouldn’t be able to take part in it. But these guys were going in. Not even a strong warning from Moses would keep them from their purpose. They marched on in. And they were chased right out.

It wasn’t God’s plan. It wasn’t God’s time.

But then, after nearly 40 years had passed, the time was right. God was giving Moses the final instructions on how everything was to go down. We get a recap of all that had happened since their departure from Egypt. The time to go in and fight would soon be at hand and this time there would be no tail-tucking or running involved.

Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.

Deuteronomy 3:22 (NLT)

When the time is right and when the plan is the Lord’s, He goes ahead and sets the battle for us. Notice, though, that just because God was on their side, it didn’t mean that Israel was exempt from fighting. Men were still trained for battle. Blacksmiths still made strong, effective weapons. Armour was worn. Leaders were chosen. Battles were planned. Israel would have to fight for their promise.

God would do His part and deliver on His word, but His people still need to do their part to retrieve it.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 3-4, Mark 11:20-33

Consequences

We all have to live with consequences—both good and bad. To every action there is a reaction. Current culture would have us believe that we need only endure the good consequences. The bad ones, well, there’s always a way out.

What would happen if we changed our view of “bad” consequences? What if, rather than avoiding them or pretending they don’t exist, we learned from them?

All through Numbers (and most of the Old Testament), Israel suffered the consequences of their disobedience. Some would say that God was rather harsh with them. Remember that, because of Moses’ pleading, God was not as harsh as He would have been otherwise. Over and over again, Israel, despite being a living, breathing miracle, rebelled against God.

A group of leaders tried to usurp Moses as leader. The earth swallowed them and their families. The rest of that group burned to a crisp. Ten of the twelve men sent to scout the land returned with the (incorrectly assumed) news that they could not take the Promised Land. As a result, they wouldn’t live to see Israel inhabit the land. A man gathered fire wood on the Sabbath. He was taken outside the camp to be stoned to death.

What did all of these things have in common? They all went against what God had already commanded. God wasn’t being a bully, He was simply living by His word. One would think that, after a punishment or two, that Israel would have taken the hint and repented of their evil ways. Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned our lesson. We refuse to look at the consequences of our actions as our own doing.

Society as a whole has adopted the mentality of victims, much like Israel did as they wandered the wilderness. Rather than accept their fault in the matter and work to avoid similar situations in the future, they wandered aimlessly complaining about their hard life. The reality was that they could have obtained the Promised Land in a matter of months after fleeing Egypt. Their disobedience kept them from the promise.

Take a look at the “bad” things in your life. Are they things that have been done to you or are they a result of your own action (or inaction)? Try to avoid getting defensive right away. Really look at yourself. Now, how much can you change by simply adjusting your attitude and correcting your course?

The “bad” things can often serve as good reminders that we’ve veered off course and need a correction.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 16-17, Mark 6:33-56

One Way

Did you know that God has only one set of standards? He’s not like us where we allow different people to approach in different ways simply because of who they are or where they’re from.

Way back in Numbers when God was giving instructions regarding offerings and sacrifice, He made sure to specify that these rules applied for Israelite and foreigner alike. There was no second set of rules for the foreigner. So long as they were in the camp and chose to abide by the law laid out by the Lord, the same rules applied to them.

There was only one way to forgiveness.

Jesus reiterated the very same idea when he stated:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

John 14:6 (NLT)

There is only one way. When Israel tried to get to God on their own, they failed miserably and were punished for it and were refused entry into the Promised Land. Our Promised Land is Heaven. The only way in is through Jesus. There is no other way. We cannot get to God on or own or by any other way man may try.

God is a one-way God.

But remember, just because there is only one way doesn’t mean it’s a hard way. Jesus paved a one way highway to the Promised Land. All we have to do is get on it.

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 14-15, Mark 6:1-32

Clear it

We’ve seen a lot on the Old Testament how the fulfillment of a promise might look like work. And we see it again in Joshua.

If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves…

Joshua 17:15

When it came down to dividing up the Promised Land for all the tribes of Israel, it seemed some didn’t deem the division fair. When the people of Joseph approached Joshua, the response was simple, if you want more land, make more land. Go clear it an possess it.

Don’t avoid taking possession of what God has promised you just because it might involve some sweat equity. God is no dummy. He knows you’ll have more value for something you’ve worked for.

If you need more land and God presents you with a forest, look on the bright side, you’ve not only got land, but you’ve got the lumber you need to build something great.

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 16-18, Luke 5:1-16