Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Joshua: lessons in strength and courage

Joshua. The next chapter in the history of the Israelites. Moses has died and their new leader, Joshua, must now lead the people into the Promise Land. Joshua was a man who must step into big shoes as he led the Israelites into battle and settle the Promised Land. As I read and studied Joshua, I realized that this book is about faithfulness to God, obedience to His calling despite our fears and reservations. There are many lessons and miracles, reminders and encouragements in the book of Joshua which can demonstrate this themes. Reminders to be strong and courageous are mentioned throughout the book of Joshua. Lessons that anyone can be used by God for His purpose when there is faith. And the conscious and sincere choice to serve God.

First, the phrase “be strong and courageous” repeats many times in Joshua. In Joshua 1:6-7, God is speaking to Joshua as he takes up his new role. “Be strong and courageous because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous.” In His first instructions, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous twice. God is telling Joshua to be strong and courageous because the Israelites had proven to be a difficult people to govern. Joshua needed to be a man of action. To be alert and prompt and ready to act when the occasion called for it. The phrase is repeated again in Joshua 1:18 and 10:25. The reminder to be strong and courageous served as a point to remember that the Israelites successes were not due to their own strength or their leader’s wise actions but their faithfulness. What lesson can God’s instructions to Joshua be for us? When God calls us for His purpose and wherever it may take us in the world, He calls us to be strong and courageous. To be alert, prompt and ready to act when it is needed. When we are faithful to God and in His promise to go before us, He will give us the strength and courage we need to get the job done.

Second, Rahab is only mentioned in the second chapter but her part in this story has a lasting impact. Joshua has sent two spies into Jericho. When they were there, they stayed at the house of Rahab, a prostitute. Rahab hid the men on her roof to save them from the king. When it is safe, Rahab pleads with the spies to spare her and her family when the Israelites destroy the city. She has heard of the Lord’s power. The men agree and gave her specific instructions to stay inside during the siege. After the Fall of Jericho (Joshua 6), Joshua spared Rahab and her family. This could be in the end of her story but it is not. She is mentioned again in Matthew 1:5 as the mother of Boaz, making her the great great grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. She is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:31, as by her faith she welcomes the spies and spared her life. In fact, she is one of two women mentioned in Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame. She is considered righteous in James 2:25 as she demonstrated her faith by hiding the spies. One single action placed Rahab among the faithful and becomes an ancestor of two important men in two religious faiths: King David in Judaism and Jesus Christ in Christianity. God remembered her because of her faith and not her profession. Even the lowest people of society can be chosen by God to do great things.

Lastly, Joshua 24:15 is a powerful verse. It is a verse which states that everyone has a choice. The verse is: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Chapter 24 is Joshua’s last instructions to the Israelites. His final words for the people. In verse 15, he is firm: make a choice. Everyone must choose. Everyone comes face to face with the decision to serve and follow God. We do not have the power to compel anyone to worship and follow God. Service to God should be sincere, free and a willing allegiance of the heart. Joshua pledges that he and his household will remain faithful. As a follower of God, I take this to heart as I will teach my children about God and His glorious presence, His power and majesty. I hope that through my instructions and my life, my children will follow the Lord as well. But it is a choice they will have to make themselves as well. Following God is a deeply personal commitment which cannot and should not be dictated by another. You aren’t born a Christian. You may have been raised in a Christian home. However, you must make the conscious choice to follow Him.

In conclusion, the book of Joshua is the story of the Israelites as they take possession of the Promised Land. They finally made it but they had work to do. It is a book about strength and courage when our fears tells us to run. But by faith, God will prove the way to get the job done. With the story of Rahab, we see a great faith in God. She trusted God to keep her and her family from the destruction of Jericho. He rewards her faithfulness by making her an ancestor of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What can God accomplish in our lives if we have the faith of Rahab? The book of Joshua is also a reminder that fellowship with God is a conscious choice. It is an active relationship in which God wants us to interact with Him. By faith, we can have strength and courage from a loving relationship with the Creator of the Universe. How cool is that?