March 21st, 2010


Mar 22: Deut 32-34; Ps 91
Mar 23: Josh 1-4
Mar 24: Josh 5-8
Mar 25: Josh 9-11
Mar 26: Josh 12-15
Mar 27: Josh 16-18
Mar 28: Josh 19-21
Mar 29: Josh 22-24



·         Joshua certainly has devotional highlights, from Yahweh’s charge to Joshua in chapter one (see devotions) to Joshua’s farewell address in chapter 23 – “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” 

·         There are also the great miracles, like the crossing of the Jordan (ch. 3) and the fall of Jericho (ch. 6). 

·         In addition, you will read ten rather laborious chapters (13-22) with land boundaries and city assignments.  Don’t expect a great deal of devotional insight those days!

·         The hardest part of Joshua to deal with is the killing.  This is a war chronicle, and I for one hope Hollywood never makes a movie out of this book.  If it did, I probably wouldn’t watch it. Why?  When Israel took Canaan, they were instructed by God to kill every man, woman, boy, and girl (of every age) and even all the animals.  No one and nothing was to be left alive.  That’s disturbing to us, and it should be.  Here are a few thoughts to process as you wrestle with this gory section of the Bible –

o   As your footnotes or study Bible notes will probably tell you, what’s going on here is described by the Hebrew word herem (holy war), and based on a verb, haram, which means to totally destroy.  That which is destroyed is done so as an offering to God.  Whether we understand it or like it, it is seen as an act of devotion to Yahweh.

o   This is one of many places where we can’t judge the morality of what’s happening by 21st century standards.  The concept of herem was practiced by other societies in this time period.  Although obviously no one wanted it to happen to them, people of that time didn’t question it as a legitimate way to wage war.

o   The Israelites are executing divine judgment on people whose sin can no longer be tolerated.  (In Genesis 15:6, God told Abraham generations before that he could not yet inherit the land because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”  Their idea of ‘worship’ including offering their own children in ritual sacrifices.  This culture had to be fully extinguished.)

o   Without herem, warfare becomes about creating an empire and/or acquiring slaves and booty – in becomes about lust and greed.  (See examples in Joshua 7 and 1 Samuel 15:9.)

o   I know all the above, but this aspect of the Bible still troubles me.  My role is not to explain God or defend the Bible.  I choose to trust God’s justice and goodness even if I don’t understand.



In my sermon on Sunday, I told the story of a boy who once told his mother (a friend of Cori Thompson’s), “When I grow up I want to be a pastor.”

“Why?” asked his mother.

“Because you only have to read one book.”

God agrees.  He tells Joshua (1:8), “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

As I said Sunday, pastoral ministry (like so much else in life) is both complicated and simple.  It is complicated because of the pastor’s own weaknesses, blind spots, and unique gifts constantly interacting with a very human bunch of church members, all of whom “see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  We all have a lot to know and learn.

But it is simple when we remember to keep coming back to the Book.  Of course, our human nature is prone to interpret the Bible through our own prejudices, experiences, and selfish motivations and desires.  So even keeping a focus on the Book can be complicated.

But I trust that Book.  There are certainly parts of it I don’t “get” (see notes on Joshua), but I don’t have to understand all of it to receive it as God’s Word – to speak it, ponder it, and obey it.  The Bible gets the benefit of my doubt.


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