March 26, 2015

Joshua 22-24 Then Joshua called together the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. He said: “You have carried out everything Moses the servant of God commanded you, and you have obediently done everything I have commanded you. All this time and right down to this very day you have not abandoned your brothers; you’ve shouldered the task laid on you by God, your God. And now God, your God, has given rest to your brothers just as he promised them. You’re now free to go back to your homes, the country of your inheritance that Moses the servant of God gave you on the other side of the Jordan. Only this: Be vigilant in keeping the Commandment and The Revelation that Moses the servant of God laid on you: Love God, your God, walk in all his ways, do what he’s commanded, embrace him, serve him with everything you are and have.”

Then Joshua blessed them and sent them on their way.... 

The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the People of Israel at Shiloh in the land of Canaan to return to Gilead, the land of their possession, which they had taken under the command of Moses as ordered by God.  They arrived at Geliloth on the Jordan (touching on Canaanite land). There the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar on the banks of the Jordan—a huge altar!...

When the People of Israel heard this, the entire congregation mustered at Shiloh to go to war against them. They sent Phinehas son of Eleazar the priest to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Accompanying him were ten chiefs, one chief for each of the ten tribes, each the head of his ancestral family. They represented the military divisions of Israel.  They went to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh and spoke to them: “The entire congregation of God wants to know: What is this violation against the God of Israel that you have committed, turning your back on God and building your own altar—a blatant act of rebellion against God?... 

The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the tribes of Israel:  The God of Gods is God, The God of Gods is God!  “He knows and he’ll let Israel know if this is a rebellious betrayal of God. And if it is, don’t bother saving us. If we built ourselves an altar in rebellion against God, if we did it to present on it Whole-Burnt-Offerings or Grain-Offerings or to enact there sacrificial Peace-Offerings, let God decide.  But that’s not it. We did it because we cared. We were anxious lest someday your children should say to our children, ‘You’re not connected with God, the God of Israel! God made the Jordan a boundary between us and you... We built this altar as a witness between us and you and our children coming after us, a witness to the Altar where we worship God in his Sacred Dwelling.... Rebelling against or turning our backs on God is the last thing on our minds right now. We never dreamed of building an altar for Whole-Burnt-Offerings or Grain-Offerings to rival the Altar of our God in front of his Sacred Dwelling.”

Phinehas the priest, all the heads of the congregation, and the heads of the military divisions of Israel who were also with him heard what the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had to say. They were satisfied.

A long time later, after God had given Israel rest from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was a venerable old man, Joshua called all Israel together—elders, chiefs, judges, and officers. Then he spoke to them:

“I’m an old man. I’ve lived a long time. You have seen everything that God has done to these nations because of you. He did it because he’s God, your God. He fought for you.  Stay alert:... Now, stay strong and steady. Obediently do everything written in the Book of The Revelation of Moses—don’t miss a detail. Don’t get mixed up with the nations that are still around. Don’t so much as speak the names of their gods or swear by them. And by all means don’t worship or pray to them. Hold tight to God, your God, just as you’ve done up to now...

Now, vigilantly guard your souls: Love God, your God. Because if you wander off and start taking up with these remaining nations still among you (intermarry, say, and have other dealings with them), know for certain that God, your God, will not get rid of these nations for you. They’ll be nothing but trouble to you...

As you can see, I’m about to go the way we all end up going. Know this with all your heart, with everything in you, that not one detail has failed of all the good things God, your God, promised you. It has all happened. Nothing’s left undone—not so much as a word.  But just as sure as everything good that God, your God, has promised has come true, so also God will bring to pass every bad thing until there’s nothing left of you in this good land that God has given you. If you leave the path of the Covenant of God, your God, that he commanded you, go off and serve and worship other gods, God’s anger will blaze out against you. In no time at all there’ll be nothing left of you, no sign that you’ve ever been in this good land he gave you.”

Joshua called together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He called in the elders, chiefs, judges, and officers. They presented themselves before God. Then Joshua addressed all the people:

This is what God, the God of Israel, says: A long time ago your ancestors, Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor, lived to the east of the River Euphrates. They worshiped other gods. I took your ancestor Abraham from the far side of The River. I led him all over the land of Canaan and multiplied his descendants. I gave him Isaac. Then I gave Isaac Jacob and Esau. I let Esau have the mountains of Seir as home, but Jacob and his sons ended up in Egypt. I sent Moses and Aaron. I hit Egypt hard with plagues and then led you out of there. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt. You came to the sea, the Egyptians in hot pursuit with chariots and cavalry, to the very edge of the Red Sea!  Then they cried out for help to God. He put a cloud between you and the Egyptians and then let the sea loose on them. It drowned them.  You watched the whole thing with your own eyes, what I did to Egypt. And then you lived in the wilderness for a long time. I brought you to the country of the Amorites,... I fought for you and you took their land. I destroyed them for you. Then Balak made his appearance. He was the king of Moab.... I saved you from him...You then crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The Jericho leaders ganged up on you... but I turned them over to you....I handed you a land for which you did not work, towns you did not build. And here you are now living in them and eating from vineyards and olive groves you did not plant.

So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship God.  If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.”

The people answered, “We’d never forsake God! Never! We’d never leave God to worship other gods.  God is our God! He brought up our ancestors from Egypt and from slave conditions. He did all those great signs while we watched. He has kept his eye on us all along the roads we’ve traveled and among the nations we’ve passed through. Just for us he drove out all the nations, Amorites and all, who lived in the land.   Count us in: We too are going to worship God. He’s our God.”...

And so Joshua addressed the people: “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen God for yourselves—to worship him.”  And they said, “We are witnesses.”...

Joshua completed a Covenant for the people that day there at Shechem. He made it official, spelling it out in detail. Joshua wrote out all the directions and regulations into the Book of The Revelation of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up under the oak that was in the holy place of God...Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his own place of inheritance.

After all this, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of God, died. He was 110 years old. They buried him in the land of his inheritance at Timnath Serah in the mountains of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash....

Joseph’s bones, which the People of Israel had brought from Egypt, they buried in Shechem in the plot of ground that Jacob had purchased from the sons of Hamor (who was the father of Shechem)... 

Eleazar son of Aaron died. They buried him at Gibeah, which had been allotted to his son Phinehas in the mountains of Ephraim.

Mark 6:1-6:29 - Jesus left and returned to his hometown.  His disciples came along.  On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place.  He made a real hit, impressing everyone.  “We had no idea he was this good...how did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”  But in the next breath they were cutting him down:  “He’s just a carpenter---Mary’s boy...who does he think he is?”  They tripped over how little they knew about him and fell, sprawling.  And they never got any further.  Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown..”  Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there-- he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all.  He couldn’t get over their stubbornness.  He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.  

Jesus called the 12 to him, and sent them out in pairs.  He gave them authority and power to deal with the evil opposition.  He sent them off with these instructions:  “Don’t think you need extra equipment for this.  You are the equipment.  No special appeals for funds.  Keep it simple.  And no luxury inns.  Get a modest place and be content there until you leave.  If you’re not welcomed, not listened to, quietly withdraw.  Don’t make a scene.  Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”  Then they were on the road.  They preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent demons packing;  they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits.  

King Herod heard of all this, for by this time the name of Jesus was on everyone’s lips.  He said, “This has to be John the Baptist come back from the dead---that’s why he is able to work miracles!”...

Herod was the one who had ordered the arrest of John, put him in chains, and sent him to prison at the nagging of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias “adultery...

Convinced that John was a holy man, Herod gave John special treatment.  Whenever he listened to John, Herod was miserable with guilt, and yet, he couldn’t stay away.  Something in John kept pulling him back.  

But a portentous day arrived when Herod threw a birthday party , inviting all the brass and bluebloods in Galilee.  Herodias’s daughter entered the banquet hall and danced for the guests.  She dazzled  Herod and his guests so the king told her she could ask for anything and he would give it to her...

Carried away, he kept on, “I swear, I’ll split my kingdom with you if you say so!”  The daughter asked her mother what to ask for at which time Herodias informed her to ask for the head of John --which the daughter excitedly did.  That sobered the king up fast. But unwilling to lose face with his guests, he caved in and let her have her way by having an executioner cut off John’s head...When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and got the body and gave it a decent burial.