God keeps His promises…always

11 05 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THREE : Joshua 23 v. 1 – 24 v. 33; John 3 v. 22 – 36; Psalm 55 v. 12 – 23

Joshua’s Farewell – there follows a gap of some ‘long time’, during which Israel is granted some ‘rest’ from all their enemies. Joshua is quite elderly now and summons all Israel together (leaders, officials etc.). In his farewell speech, Joshua :
i) reminds them that all they have achieved is through God’s empowering / enabling
ii) talks of the land he has allotted to each tribe, and that the Lord will continue to drive out those nations which are still in place, so that they can take possession of the land
iii) urges them to ‘be very strong’ and ‘careful to obey…the Book of the Law of Moses’, not turning from it left or right
iv) implores them not to serve or worship the gods of the surrounding nations
v) reminds them how the Lord’s power enables them to conquer great nations (‘one of you routs a thousand because the Lord your God fights for you’)
vi) warns them that their success will be hindered if they turn away and ally themselves with the peoples of the other nations – God will stop enabling them to conquer, and they will be trapped and will perish
vii) tells them that he is close to dying, so his closing remarks are
‘You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled, not one has failed.’
‘If you violate the covenant, and go and serve other gods, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish…’

Joshua is very keen to keep before them how much God has blessed and been faithful to them, and to remind them of their need to remain pure (holy) in their worship of God alone.

The Covenant Renewed –
the tribes all assemble at Shechem, presenting themselves before God. Then Joshua reminds them of God’s promise to Abraham, all that long time ago, and of His faithfulness through Isaac, Jacob, Esau, Moses and Aaron – crossing the Red Sea and bringing the Israelites into the desert (for a long time). God had enabled them to conquer the Amorites east of the Jordan, and had used Balaam to bless and bless again the Israelites (where he had been instructed to curse them). God had brought them across the Jordan to Jericho, and God had given into their hands all the cities / towns before them.
‘I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out…‘ (referred to in Exodus 23 v. 28)
God has give them land they have not toiled for, cities they, themselves, have not built.
Joshua commands them to ‘fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness’, rejecting the gods of the other nations. They must be careful to choose to worship God alone.
‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’.
The Israelites answer, agreeing with everything Joshua has said and praising God for His faithfulness, and pledging to serve Him.
Joshua says it will not be possible for them to serve God, for God is holy and jealous and will reward any unfaithfulness on their part with disaster and an unhappy end!
The Israelites assert, even more strongly, ‘We will serve the Lord!’
So, having made their choice to serve God only, to throw away foreign gods and ‘yield your hearts to the Lord’, Joshua leads the Israelites in making a covenant, and drawing up decrees and laws, recording them in the Book of God’s Laws, and there, at Shechem, Joshua takes sets up a large stone as a witness to this moment of covenant – the stone ‘has heard all the words the Lord has said. It will be a witness….if you are untrue to your God.’

Every time the covenant is renewed, it is an opportunity for God’s people to reaffirm the choice to follow Him only, and to commit wholeheartedly to serve and obey Him. That’s why renewing the covenant annually, and applying it daily, is so precious to many of us….

Buried in the Promised Land – so, at 110 years old, and with the tribes dispersed across the land, Joshua dies, and is buried. He had been a very faithful leader, and Israel had served God well throughout his lifetime.
The bones of Joseph, which had been brought up from Egypt were buried at Shechem, underlining God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises – the patriarch is laid to rest back in the Promised Land.
Eleazar, the priest, also died and is buried at Gibeah (his son’s allotment).

The end of the book of Joshua, the end of an era, entering the Promised Land, and respectful burials of Joshua, of the bones of Joseph, and of Eleazar, the priest….a new chapter is ready to begin….

John the Baptist’s Testimony – so Jesus and the disciples go into the Judean countryside where Jesus baptises them (and others?) and spends quality time with them.
Meanwhile, John is still baptising, at Aenon. When some of John’s disciples become part of a dispute with a ‘certain Jew’ over an issue to do with ceremonial cleansing (baptism), they go to John and inquire about what Jesus is doing…He is now baptising and people are going over to following Him. Funny to hear them call Jesus, ‘that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan’ !!
John beautifully explains to them how Jesus must ‘become greater’ and he (John) ‘must become less’. The image of John as the bridegroom’s friend is a lovely one; John knows his place – it is to be involved in preparing the groom for the wedding, but then fading into the background as the bride and groom take centre stage, yet filled with joy at the sound of the voice of the groom. ‘That joy is mine’, he says.
John describes Jesus as ‘the one who come from above / from heaven’, the one who is over all.
‘The One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life….’

Powerful (strong and stirring) testimony from John about his own role in preparing for the One who has come from heaven.

‘If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it….but it is you, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship…
But I call to God and the Lord saves me.
He ransoms me unharmed!’





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