March 19, 2016

Joshua 3-5 -  
Joshua was up early and on his way from Shittim with all the People of Israel with him. He arrived at the Jordan and camped before crossing over. After three days, leaders went through the camp and gave out orders to the people: “When you see the Covenant-Chest of God, your God, carried by the Levitical priests, start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile—be sure now to keep your distance!—and you’ll see clearly the route to take. You’ve never been on this road before.” Then Joshua addressed the people: “Sanctify yourselves. Tomorrow God will work miracle-wonders among you.”...

God said to Joshua, “This very day I will begin to make you great in the eyes of all Israel. They’ll see for themselves that I’m with you in the same way that I was with Moses. You will command the priests who are carrying the Chest of the Covenant: ‘When you come to the edge of the Jordan’s waters, stand there on the river bank.’”

Then Joshua addressed the People of Israel: “Attention! Listen to what God, your God, has to say....  Look at what’s before you: the Chest of the Covenant. Think of it—the Master of the entire earth is crossing the Jordan as you watch. Now take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the Chest of God, Master of all the earth, touch the Jordan’s water, the flow of water will be stopped—the water coming from upstream will pile up in a heap.”  And that’s what happened.... The river went dry all the way down to the Arabah Sea (the Salt Sea). And the people crossed, facing Jericho.  And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot.

When the whole nation was finally across, God spoke to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, a man from each tribe, and tell them, ‘From right here, the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests are standing firm, take twelve stones. Carry them across with you and set them down in the place where you camp tonight.’”

Joshua called out the twelve men whom he selected from the People of Israel, one man from each tribe. Joshua directed them, “Cross to the middle of the Jordan and take your place in front of the Chest of God, your God. Each of you heft a stone to your shoulder, a stone for each of the tribes of the People of Israel, so you’ll have something later to mark the occasion. When your children ask you, ‘What are these stones to you?’ you’ll say, ‘The flow of the Jordan was stopped in front of the Chest of the Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan—stopped in its tracks. These stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel.’”...

The priests carrying the Chest continued standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything God had instructed Joshua to tell the people to do was done (confirming what Moses had instructed Joshua). The people crossed; no one dawdled. When the crossing of all the people was complete, they watched as the Chest of the Covenant and the priests crossed over.... All told, about forty thousand armed soldiers crossed over before God to the plains of Jericho, ready for battle.
God made Joshua great that day in the sight of all Israel. They were in awe of him just as they had been in awe of Moses all his life.... 

The priests carrying God’s Chest of the Covenant came up from the middle of the Jordan. As soon as the soles of the priests’ feet touched dry land, the Jordan’s waters resumed their flow within the banks, just as before.  The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. They set up camp at The Gilgal (The Circle) to the east of Jericho....  “Yes, God, your God, dried up the Jordan’s waters for you until you had crossed, just as God, your God, did at the Red Sea, which had dried up before us until we had crossed. This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God’s rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always.”

When all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and the Canaanite kings along the seacoast heard how God had stopped the Jordan River before the People of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts sank; the courage drained out of them just thinking about the People of Israel.  At that time God said to Joshua, “Make stone knives and circumcise the People of Israel a second time.” ... When they had completed the circumcising of the whole nation, they stayed where they were in camp until they were healed....

The People of Israel continued to camp at The Gilgal. They celebrated the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the plains of Jericho.  Right away, the day after the Passover, they started eating the produce of that country, unraised bread and roasted grain. And then no more manna; the manna stopped. As soon as they started eating food grown in the land, there was no more manna for the People of Israel. That year they ate from the crops of Canaan.

And then this, while Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, “Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies’?”  He said, “Neither. I’m commander of God’s army. I’ve just arrived.” Joshua fell, face to the ground, and worshiped. He asked, “What orders does my Master have for his servant?”  God’s army commander ordered Joshua, “Take your sandals off your feet. The place you are standing is holy.”  Joshua did it.

Mark - 
Mark wastes no time in getting down to business - a single-sentence introduction and not a digression to be found from beginning to end....The sooner he gets the message out, the better off we’ll be, for the message is good, incredibly good;  God is here, and he is on our side....That God is here right now, and on our side, actively seeking to help us in the way we most need help---this qualifies as news.

Mark 1:1-1:20 -  
The good news of Jesus Christ---the Message!--begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah...John, the Baptizer, appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life change that leads to forgiveness of sins...As he preached, he said, “The real action comes next.  The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life.  I am baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life.  His baptism-- a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit--will change you from the inside out.”... The moment Jesus came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him.  Along with the Spirit, a voice:  “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”  At once, the Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild for 40 wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan.  Wild animals were his companions and angels took care of him.

After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the message of God: “Times up!  God’s kingdom is here.  Change your life and believe the Message.”  Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net fishing...Jesus said to them, “Come with me.  I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you.  I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.”  They didn’t ask questions.  They dropped their nets and followed.  A dozen yards down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee...Right off, he made the same offer.  Immediately they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands and followed.