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Sunday, February 10, 2019

posted Feb 10, 2019, 6:25 PM by Site Administrator

ALL THE WORDS OF THE LAW

 

Joshua 7:1-8:35

Key Verses 8:34,35

 

Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.

 

First, Unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction (7:1-26). In the previous passage, we learned about how the Israel people won the smashing victory and destroyed Jericho. When they marched around the city of Jericho for seven days with the ark of the covenant, at their shout, the wall collapsed and every man went up, straight in, and took the city. It was an amazing victory, a miracle. They experienced the power of God. Now they were confident that they would complete the conquest successfully. But right after this great victory, something unexpected happened. Look at verse 1. But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. Originally, Joshua gave an order that the city and all that was in it were to be devoted to the Lord. He warned them to keep away from the devoted things – all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron – because they were sacred to God and had to go into his treasury. It was the first battle, the representative of all the battles that would follow, like in the case of the firstfruits, or the firstborn son, and devoting the first battle to God meant devoting all the battles to God. Verse 24 of chapter 6 reads: Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into treasury of the Lord’s house. It seemed that the Israel people obeyed God’s command. But there was one person who did not obey – it was Achan, of the tribe of Judah. Because of him, God burned his anger against Israel. 

 

Joshua was not aware of it; he didn't know that God was angry with them. Instead, he was just busy for the conquest. Their next target was the city of Ai. Joshua sent men to spy out Ai. When they returned, they said, Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there. Their report tells us a lot about their mentality. There were 12,000 men and women in Ai. If we include children and youths under 20 years old, there might be about 30,000 or 40,000 people in it. Even though it was small compared to the size of Jericho, certainly, it would take more men than just 2 or 3 thousand soldiers to conquer this city – maybe, what they needed was at least 20,000 or even 30,000 soldiers to secure the victory. But after winning the victory in Jericho by the power of God, they were confident of the conquest, because God was with them. With this confidence, they took a very casual attitude toward the battles, saying, Yeah, God is with us; who can stand against God’s power? They simply said, By faith, we can conquer. At the first battle, they were dead serious; with a fearful and trembling heart, they followed God’s instructions so wholeheartedly. But now, they were not serious at all. They took victories for granted. Not only Achan had a problem, but also, generally most Israel soldiers had a problem. Joshua accepted their suggestion also. The result was not good at all. When about three thousand men went up, they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries, and struck them down on the slopes. God’s army was defeated! The Israel people, the instruments of God’s judgment were routed by the enemies! 

 

Even at the time of such great victory, sin crept into the camp of Israel; as a result, now God's army was defeated. God’s army, which God leads must be invincible, yet, this is how God's army can be destroyed. This is how children of God are destroyed by the enemies. The first man of God Adam was defeated by sin; in the time of Noah, the sons of God were defeated by the world because they let sin come into their community in the matter of their marriage. Later, the Israel people were destroyed completely in the promised land because of sin, and they were sent into exile. Many churches, even after serving great works of God, have been destroyed because they let sin come into their community. The Israel army was strong and powerful, even invincible when they loved God and followed God's instruction wholeheartedly. But when they sinned, when they let sin come into their community, they were defeated. Now we understand the direction God gave Joshua before the conquest, Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Ultimately, all Christians' fight is about obeying God's commands; ultimately, it is against sin. We must be very careful, especially in the time of victory, to obey God's words, to live according to God's will and purpose so that our church may function as God's mighty army continually; we must be alert in spirit so that we may not give sin a chance to come into our life and thereby, we can live a very successful and victorious life as Christians continually.

 

Now, the Israel people were in big trouble. They realized that they could be defeated in the battle, even if God were with them. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water. Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. Joshua cried out, Ah, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan…? O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth.

 

While Joshua was praying, God spoke to him, saying, Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Then, God explained to him the reason why they were defeated, saying, 11Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.

 

Achan took some goods from the battle of Jericho. It seemed a small thing, but God took it very seriously as sinning, stealing, lying, and violating his covenant - giving one's heart to something else than God is the violation of God's covenant. We must take this very seriously. When you give your heart to something other than God, when you give into the desire for the things of this world, you violate God’s covenant. We must not love anything in this world, but God alone. Also God didn't say, one person has sinned, or He has violated my covenant. Instead, he said, They have sinned; they have violated my covenant; they have stolen; they have lied,... indicating that it was not only the problem of one individual Achan, but also the problem of the whole community of Israel. When Jesus saw a demon-possessed boy, he said, O unbelieving and perverse generation,... He saw that the demon-possession of the boy was the product of that generation - all of them were responsible for his problem. We must have the sense of responsibility for the spirituality of our own community. As members of our church, we must protect our church community from sin all together so that none of us may sin; instead, we may grow in purity and innocence in Jesus Christ continually. We must watch out all together.  

 

Look at verse 12. Let's read this verse together:

 

12That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

 

Each expression is really strong and scary. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. Jesus once said, Give to God what is God's; give to Caesar what is Caesar's. It is really right to give to God what is God's; but if we don't give to God what is God's because we covet it and keep it for ourselves, then, we are made liable to destructionin the job matter, in the family matter, and in the conquest matter. Isaiah 40:30,31 reads: Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. These verses suggest that there are many life's challenges for both believers and non-believers. Even young people, full of potential, self-confidence and fighting spirit, collapse and never rise again because of life's challenges and difficulties. But those who put their hope in the Lord, believers, rise above all these challenges, soaring on wings like powerful eagles - that's Christian's victorious life; this is the very kind of life we all desire in God. Yes, when you put your hope in the Lord, you will soar on wings like eagles rising above all challenges and difficulties - your life will be victorious. But, when whatever is devoted to the Lord is among you, you cannot stand against any challenges and difficulties; instead, even at slightest hindrances, accusations, at the loss of job, or failure in your business, or some family problem, you just sink and collapse. There were only 12,000 men and women in the city of Ai, when Israel had 600,000 soldiers, but they were defeated, their hearts melted in fear and became like water. When whatever is devoted to the Lord is among us, we cannot stand against our enemies; when difficulties rise, we don't have any courage or guts or strength to stand against them; we get defeated and destroyed miserably. That's why we must not take anything that is already devoted to the Lord. God says, I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. The only way we can live a powerful life is to give to God what is God's, and do not take it from God. At that time, our conscience is free and we are free to love and pursue God that nothing can stand against us.

 

What are devoted to the LORD? What belongs to God, which we must give to God? One tenth offering belongs to God. It is not ours, but God’s, yet, in our possession – we must give it to God, because it is his. In Deuteronomy 26, we see Moses teaching the Israelites to recite a testimony to the Lord as they bring one tenth offering to the Levites, saying, I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. Firstfruits belong to God. God says in Exodus 34, The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. No one is to appear before me empty-handed. (Exo 34:19,20) Why should they break the neck of the donkey when they do not redeem it? The donkey was already offered to God for his purpose; it was already sacred – holy. Such consecrated things must not be used for mundane purpose any longer. Such consecrated donkey had only two choices – either it is used for God alone all the days of its life, or if not, then, simply destroy it. This explains the instruction, You destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. The seventh day belongs to the Lord. It is a holy-day (Holiday), set apart to the LORD. It is the Lord's day, not ours. Our life belongs to God, because He purchased us from sin and Satan by paying the due price with his Son's precious life blood. We already offered our future to God; we already offered our marriage dream to God. Do not take anything from the devoted things, or you may be made liable to destruction. Remove the sacred portion from your house and heart, and you will be blessed.

 

Look at verse 13. God said to Joshua, Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it. This was God's message for his people Israel; this is God's message for all his people. This is how God’s people are defeated. When the devoted things are found among them, they cannot stand against their enemies; instead, they are defeated and destroyed. This then explains what we hear about – how once zealous Christians attending Bible institution with the desire to serve God become homo-sexuals, how their families are broken to pieces, why there are Christians who commit suicide, and even how the divorce rate is higher among Christians than unbelievers. When devoted things are found in your possessions, you are made liable to destruction. Remove the sacred things from your heart and life. Give to God what is God’s.

 

At this direction, early in the morning, Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken. The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the ZerahitesThe families of the Zerahites came forwardand Zimri was taken. Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan was taken. Joshua said to AchanMy son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.

 

Achan replied, It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath. Joshua found them in Achan’s tent. Then, Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. All the Israel people stoned them and burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, and the valley had been named the Valley of Achor ever since.

This episode is a great warning for all God’s people. When the Israel people had wholehearted devotion, when their hearts and minds were fully dedicated to God’s mission, they were powerful – the River yielded its way to them; the wall could not stand against them. But when they lost such spirit, became complacent and took casual attitude in serving God’s mission, they were weak and powerless. As this kind of spirit spread among them, there came out Achan who even coveted the things that belonged to God, and he caused the entire nation suffer. Now is not the time for us to think about acquiring wealth or fame, but the time we must give our hearts and life to God for his glorious world salvation purpose. Now is the time for us to fight the Lord’s battle wholeheartedly and expand God’s kingdom. Now is the time for us to pray, Your kingdom come. Let’s renew our hearts and refresh our spirit for God’s mission. 

 

SecondTake the whole army with you (8:1-29).Look at verse 1 of chapter 8. The Lord said to Joshua, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged… It was really a discouraging moment – the Israel people failed; they were defeated in the conquest. They were afraid; they lost courage. But God encouraged him, saying, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Sometimes, in serving God’s mission, we experience painful failures – sometimes, we fail in our school work; sometimes, we fail to serve God’s work properly because of our sins; when our sheep whom we have loved so much rebel against us and run away, we are so sad; sometimes, we feel like being knocked out. But God says, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. God wants us to go on, despite our failures, despite our weaknesses; God wants us to keep on doing his work, because he is with us, and because we will really win. 

 

With this, God gave Joshua a new instruction. He said to him, Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai… Originally, the Israelites took the battle with Ai so casually, saying that they would not need to weary the whole army, but send two or three thousand. But God told Joshua to take the whole army. The city of Ai was very small; there were about 12,000 men and women in the city, but still God told Joshua to take the whole army, showing that they must do their best and fight the battle wholeheartedly. They must fight the Lord’s battle very sincerely and wholeheartedly – this is the principle in fighting the Lord’s battle. 

 

Look at verse 2. Let’s read this verse together:

 

You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.

 

At the first battle with Jericho, God commanded the Israel people to devote all things to Him. It was not because he needed any gold or silver, but because in truth, all things belonged to him, and the conquest in the promised land was for God. They should fight for the Lord, and not expect to take anything from it. Jesus said to his disciples the same thing, saying that whoever wants to save his soul will lose it, but whoever loses his life for him and the gospel will save it to eternity. But now from the second battle, God allowed them to take the plunder for themselves. In the war in those days, the plunder was like the soldiers' salary, and it was an important part of their service in the army. Once the principle was established firmly, God blessed them to take care of their practical needs.

 

With this, God said to them, Set an ambush behind the city. Here, we are shocked. This sounds so human, not like God’s style. God’s style is like when you come to the river that is flowing at its flood stage, God orders you, March!But the instruction, Set an ambush behind the city, sounds so human. Why did God need this kind of human tactics? Couldn’t he simply destroy Ai and give the city to the Israel people? Of course, he could! Why then, did he give this kind of tactic to Joshua? At the first battle, the Israel people did not do anything for the battle – they just marched around the city blowing the trumpets; God did all his work – he planned, proceeded and completed it. But now from the battle with Ai, God had the Israel people fight very practically. In the conquest, God did not fight by himself all the way, but He had his people fight – he had them engage into real fight – sword battle with their enemies face to face, using all possible means. God did not want his people weak and powerless like little children hiding behind their fathers; instead, he wanted them to be real men, well experienced in battle, courageous, bold, and very effective. He wanted them to be real warriors who were able to handle any situation, not fake people who always talk about the principle, saying, By faith, but not able to do anything in the real world. They learned the principle through the Jericho battle, and now it was the time for them to put what they learned into practice in serving the conquest, and through this practical battle, all of them would grow up as powerful generals for God’s kingdom work, skillful, wise, brave, and insightful. They would bring glory to God. How proud God will be when he says of them, These are my people.

 

Many people think that the demons will run away if they use the secret power formula, In the name of Jesus. They scream, You demons, come out of this man, I command you in the name of Jesus. But demons are not stupid. The seven sons of Sceva practiced this. One day, the demon answered them, Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you? Then the demon possessed man jumped on them and gave such a beating that these seven sons of Sceva ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:13-16) We must be real warriors for God’s kingdom. We must pioneer God’s kingdom on our campuses by practically participating in the Lord’s battle – fishing, finding one student who wants to study the Bible is a battle – it requires a lot of sweats and persistence; teaching students the Bible is a battle. As we serve them through one to one Bible studies, we somehow figure out how to help them properly. Each case, each student is different. Some students have serious family problem; some students are fearful; some students are like the Samaritan woman, thirsty for human love. Some students are like Levi, smart but so selfish and self-seeking; some students are like the paralytics, so lazy, irresponsive, and not being able to take care of themselves, but relying on others’ help and support all the time, full of complaints. Some people are like Nicodemus – they keep saying, How can it be possible? I don’t get it.They rely on their own righteousness in their religious life or moralistic life. As we serve them with the word of God one on one, often, we feel so limited; sometimes, we are defeated so miserably; sometimes, we are betrayed and ambushed; we develop deep wounds and scars; yet we somehow figure out how to overcome all these problems and lead them to Jesus successfully. With all these students in our hearts, we cry out to God for help; we prepare our Bible study notes carefully; as we keep doing this struggle, we come to understand the nature of the battle we are engaged in, and our understanding of human heart deepens and we learn how to handle the word of God correctly in doing God's work. Often, God opens our eyes to see how to attack the city and capture it – God’s secret mission plan comes to us, and suddenly we can see how to fight the battle. As we go through these battles continually, we grow to be well experienced and powerful soldiers for Christ – reliable and effective men and women of God, real warriors for God’s kingdom workwith huge spiritual biceps and triceps, maybe, with some warrior's scars here and there - dangerous weapons for God, like a sharpened sword and like polished arrows secretly conceals in his quiver. This is God’s vision for each of us.

 

After God’s instruction, Joshua got an idea of how to fight this battle. He set an ambush behind the city so carefully. Then, he himself together with the entire army went out for the battle with Ai, and when the enemies fought, he began to run away from them. Without knowing that it was Joshua’s tactic, the people of Ai chased after them, leaving the city open. The soldiers in ambush rose, entered the city, captured it and set it on fire. When the men of Ai saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, they realized that they were deceived. But it was too late. Joshua turned back and attacked them, and the soldiers of ambush also came out of the city against them. Israel killed all the men of Ai, without leaving a survivor.

 

ThirdAll the words of the law (8:30-35). Look at verses 30 through 34. After winning the victory, Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord. It was according to Moses’ command. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses mentioned about this twice. In Deuteronomy 11:29, Moses said, When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. And in 27:2, he said, When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write on them all the words of this law… Joshua built an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it, they offered to God burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal. Then, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. We see the content of what Joshua read in the book of Deuteronomy, chapters 27 and 28 – the curses if they disobeyed God’s laws and the blessings if they obeyed God’s laws. While Joshua read each curse or each blessing, people responded saying, Amen. It was a solemn ceremony in which all the Israel people renewed their hearts’ decision to live according to God’s word as God’s covenant people. In the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey, they would not live as they desired, but according to God’s words as God’s covenant people. Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:15, See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. Now, through two battle experiences in the promised land, all of them learned that keeping God’s command was the matter of life and death. Joshua copied the words of God onto stones there, and they renewed the covenant with God.

 

Are you God’s people? Then, engrave God’s laws onto your hearts so that you will never forget them; keep them and cherish them. Are you God’s covenant people? Then, what are the terms and conditions of the covenant? Engrave them onto your hearts and keep them so that in all circumstances you may choose God’s will. Then, his promises, his visions will be fulfilled in your life.

 

One Word:Engrave God’s Laws Onto Your Hearts

 

 

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