The Difficulty of Moses Handing Leadership Over to Joshua

In this read through of Deuteronomy one thing that is standing out to me is Moses’ role in handing things over to Joshua. Here is a man who desperately wants to enter the promised land, but cannot. God tells him in Dt 3:28, “charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.”

History is full of bloody transitions of power. Successions do not always go over well. Turn to 1 Samuel and see the way that Saul takes the news that there will be another king. As remarkably peaceful as the transitions of power in the United States have been for over 200 years, there are still accounts of outgoing presidents (and staff) being less than gracious in the way they leave the White House for the next administration.

So this must be tough for Moses. He not only cannot go to the promised land, his job until then is to train the one who will go. But how important a job is that? It is hard to look beyond our own experiences and lifetime and look ahead to future generations. What are we doing to prepare the way for those who will come next? What world are we leaving to them? What ministries are we passing along? We like to be involved and be active, but there are times when we need to shift our focus on the future, rather than our our immediate circumstances.

If you are looking for a bit more introduction and recap as you read Deuteronomy, you may enjoy going back to this article from June 2012.

So much has already happened in the first few books of the Bible and it is very easy to get lost or confused with all the people, travel, city names, the people groups that end with -ites. Due to that, don’t hesitate to flip back through your Bible or use online tools to be reminded of who’s who.

Quarter Two, Week Three

Is it just me or have the last couple weeks flown by? We’ve already finished up both Joshua and Mark and now we begin Judges and Galatians.

I’ll just make one tip as we get into these readings. Galatians is a letter, and how many letters do you read spread out over a week? Answer: none. We don’t typically read letters in parts, so I’d encourage you to take your time with Judges, but when it comes to Galatians, try to read it in one sitting. It’s not that long, so don’t worry. If you do I think you’ll get a good sense of Paul’s intent and purpose in writing this to the churches in Galatia.

If you have questions throughout this week, send them my way!

Week in Review, Quarter 2, Week 2

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still

The following verses are the most well-known of the book of Joshua:

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:14-15

We’re missing out if we think this statement is only for a past time, a time of Joshua. We still today have foreign gods, idols that seek to take a place in our lives that only God should occupy. To be a disciple of Christ and follow him is a choice that is for God, and by necessity is then a choice against other gods. It is a choice that excludes possibilities from our life. We are to turn from those lesser things in this world, the false gods and idols. We must stop worshiping them or worshiping self and make a stand for God.

Joshua reminds the people before this statement of who their God is and all that he has done. Having read Mark we’ve been reminded of who God is and we see him most clearly in Jesus Christ. We know what he has done for us. God has done it all. Jesus Christ died the death we deserve so that we may be with him. Christ tells us as well what marks the life of a disciple. A life of sacrifice, death to self, service, witness, love of neighbor, and obedience to the will of the Father.

In response to God’s good news and his invitation to follow Christ, will we cast off the false gods of the land in which we dwell serve the Lord?


What They Didn’t Know 40 Years Ago

Joshua brings us back to the edge of the promised land, just like 40 years prior. Having been one of the twelve that spied out the promised land then, he now is the one sending two spies to investigate, especially the city of Jericho. How amazing then is it that they hear these words from Rahab in chapter two:

I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

The spies return, only with the help of Rahab who has had also saved them from their enemies, and they bring the message that the people melt away because of Israel. It must have been a bit humbling to hear greater conviction in the ability of God to deliver the land to Israel from the mouth of a prostitute than from the God’s own people a generation ago. At that point, the Israelites were overwhelmed with fear at the size and strength of the people and the spies (not including Joshua and Caleb) convince the people to act on that fear.

As this was happening in the Israelite camp, as they were figuring out a plan B so they wouldn’t have to match up against the supposed giants of Canaan against whom they thought they were no match, the Canaanites were melting away in fear. Israel couldn’t trust that their God, who had already done so much for them, would take them to the land he promised. But Israel’s enemies could. They knew of God’s power and were frightened.

Fear was the appropriate response, but only for one of the groups. For those who should have put their trust in the Lord, there was no need to fear.

Now Israel approach the Jordan and Jericho, the promised land, probably wishing they had heard from Rahab 40 years earlier.


I was waiting to pick up some pizzas yesterday afternoon and saw part of an interview with Lebron James. Having just won an NBA championship, he was wearing a shirt with the big, bold words that read: EARNED NOT GIVEN. For those who do not follow sports much, Jams is saying that the ring he won is not undermined because he won it after joining other superstars at the Miami Heat. He still can boast in his achievement since he doesn’t think it was just handed to him.

Earned, not given, is truly a desire of all men and women. We want to achieve and boast in what we do. But the reverse is true in what matters most of all. In Joshua we are going to see Israel receive a land that they have not earned. They should all put on shirts that say, GIVEN NOT EARNED, and wear them proudly. Moses had reminded them of this and looking back on their history they must know that to be true. The Promised Land is not a reward for their efforts, but a gracious gift of God.

Thousands of years later the story hasn’t changed. As we read another gospel and get into the letters in the New Testament, the truth is that God’s grace is given, not earned. What is most important in life is received. It is our relationship with God. We must be reconciled to him, and we could never do that by our own strength nor could never earn the love he gives us. If you ever see those EARNED NOT GIVEN shirts around, remember that when it really counts, the reverse is true. God’s grace is given, not earned.

(Maybe we should make shirts?)

What Would You Do? Joshua and Caleb Edition

The Israelites were LOST for 40 years.

The judgment on the Israelites for their fear and disobedience in regards to entering the promised land was that they’d wander in the desert for forty years. No one of that generation would see that abundant land, none but Caleb and Joshua. Instead it would be for the next generation to take possession of it for themselves. We read through this wandering in the second half of Numbers, watching how the old guard makes way for the new.

This may be a bit of review of last week, but this question came to mind this morning in a small group Bible study I’m in: What would you have said to the people to convince them to follow God and go into the promised land? If you were Caleb and Joshua, the two spies who trusted God’s provision, what would you have said to the people? How could you have tried to help Israel avoid the wandering we see in this week’s readings?

I think the way we answer that will also help us to know how to speak to fear in our own lives. How do we encourage trust in God in the face of fear? How do we follow when the road seems hard? These are the questions for Israel, and they are questions for today. I’d love to hear in the comments or via email what you would say if you were Caleb or Joshua.