March 17, 2015

Joshua - The People of Israel had been landless for nearly five hundred years...The transition from being landless slaves to landholding free men and women was huge...  

For most modern readers of Joshua, the toughest barrier to embracing this story as sacred is the military strategy of “holy war... Massacre and destruction, “No survivors” is the recurrent refrain...Canaanite culture was a snake pit of child sacrifice and sacred prostitution, practices ruthlessly devoted to using the most innocent and vulnerable members of the community (babies and virgins) to manipulate God and gods for gain...

What we often consider to be the subject of religion - ideas, truths, prayers, promises, beliefs--are never permitted to have a life of their own apart from particular persons and actual places... 

God’s great love and purposes for us are worked out in the messes, storms and sins, blue skies, daily work and dreams of our common lives, working with us as we are and not as we should be...

Joshua lays a firm foundation for a life that is grounded.
 
Joshua 1-2
After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant:
“Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel... It’s all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul... Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it... Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”

Then Joshua gave orders to the people’s leaders: “Go through the camp and give this order to the people: ‘Pack your bags. In three days you will cross this Jordan River to enter and take the land God, your God, is giving you to possess.’”...

Joshua son of Nun secretly sent out from Shittim two men as spies: “Go. Look over the land. Check out Jericho.” They left and arrived at the house of a harlot named Rahab and stayed there.  The king of Jericho was told, “We’ve just learned that men arrived tonight to spy out the land. They’re from the People of Israel.”  The king of Jericho sent word to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you to stay the night in your house. They’re spies; they’ve come to spy out the whole country.”
The woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, two men did come to me, but I didn’t know where they’d come from. At dark, when the gate was about to be shut, the men left. But I have no idea where they went. Hurry up! Chase them—you can still catch them!” (She had actually taken them up on the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax that were spread out for her on the roof.) So the men set chase down the Jordan road toward the fords. As soon as they were gone, the gate was shut.

Before the spies were down for the night, the woman came up to them on the roof and said, “I know that God has given you the land. We’re all afraid. Everyone in the country feels hopeless. We heard how God dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you left Egypt, and what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan,... We heard it and our hearts sank. We all had the wind knocked out of us. And all because of you, you and God, your God, God of the heavens above and God of the earth below.

“Now promise me by God. I showed you mercy; now show my family mercy. And give me some tangible proof, a guarantee of life for my father and mother, my brothers and sisters—everyone connected with my family. Save our souls from death!”  “Our lives for yours!” said the men. “But don’t tell anyone our business. When God turns this land over to us, we’ll do right by you in loyal mercy.”  She lowered them down out a window with a rope because her house was on the city wall to the outside. She told them, “Run for the hills so your pursuers won’t find you. Hide out for three days and give your pursuers time to return. Then get on your way.”

The men told her, “In order to keep this oath you made us swear, here is what you must do: Hang this red rope out the window through which you let us down and gather your entire family with you in your house—father, mother, brothers, and sisters. Anyone who goes out the doors of your house into the street and is killed, it’s his own fault—we aren’t responsible. But for everyone within the house we take full responsibility. If anyone lays a hand on one of them, it’s our fault. But if you tell anyone of our business here, the oath you made us swear is canceled—we’re no longer responsible.”  She said, “If that’s what you say, that’s the way it is,” and sent them off. They left and she hung the red rope out the window....

The men headed back. They came down out of the hills, crossed the river, and returned to Joshua son of Nun and reported all their experiences. They told Joshua, “Yes! God has given the whole country to us. Everybody there is in a state of panic because of us.”

Galatians 6 -  Live creatively friends.  If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself.  You might be needing forgiveness before the day is out.  Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed.  Share their burdens and so complete Christ’s law.  If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.  

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life...

What a person plants, he will harvest.  The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others--ignoring God!--harvests a crop of weeds!  But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.  

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good...every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

The people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ’s suffering and death.  All their talk about the law is gas...

For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but  the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ.  Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate.  

Can’t your see the central issue in all this?  It is not what you and I do---It is what God is doing and he is creating something totally new, a free life!

Quite frankly, I don’t want to be bothered anymore by these disputes.  I have far more important things to do-- the serious living of this faith.