JOSHUA 9:3-10:43 | LUKE 16:19-17:10 | PSALM 83:1-18 | PROVERBS 13:4
The chapter starts out with an account of how some natives of the land scheme for survival when they become aware of the approaching Israelites. These people are called Gibeonites and they come to Joshua as if they have come from afar and ask to live among them. Soon, larger groups of Gibeonites join them and it then becomes clear that these are actually people from a neighboring kingdom who are slowly assimilating themselves among the Israelites.
When Joshua becomes aware of this, he is obviously displeased at being duped by the Gibeonites who had secured a peace treaty of sorts with the people of Israel deceitfully. Nonetheless, Joshua allows the Gibeonites to remain with them and gives to them the occupations of woodcutter and water carrier.
But as crafty as the Gibeonites were in their ways of survival and in transforming themselves into allies with the Israelites, they were despised by the other neighboring kingdoms in Canaan. And so, we learn of five kingdoms that join forces with the view to make battle with the people of Gibeon. And what does Gibeon do? They send word to their brothers-cum-comrades, the Israelites to ask for help! And help does come to them from Israel. Joshua takes his men, and they go up to the hill-country to meet these armies who have beseiged Gibeon. And they are triumphant.
Israel decimates the five kingdoms, but only with some divine help. Joshua asks the Lord for continued daylight so as to continue and complete the battle. And so God allows the sun to stand still for an entire day. This was nothing short of a miracle—the kind that defies logic and reason, but then if one believes in miracles of the most extraordinary kind like the parting of the Red Sea and the staying of the River Jordan, not to mention the many amazing miracles that occurred in Egypt and throughout the long exodus of the people of Israel, then this latest miracle of the sun standing still for an entire day is yet another miracle to behold.
And so, the five Amorite kings are captured and killed, and several other areas conquered. This is what the text says about Joshua’s domination and establishment of the Israelites in the land of Canaan: 40 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41 Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. 42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.
Turning next to our reading in Luke, we hear of the story of Lazarus and the rich man. It is a sad story of a rich man who paid no attention to Lazarus, the beggar, who sat outside the gates to his house. But in the afterlife, when he finds himself burning up in the depths of hellfire, he cries out to Abraham—with whom Lazarus appears to be seated—for a drop of water, but alas, he is denied.
He further goes on to plead that Lazarus be sent down as an emissary from Heaven to warn his family about Hades, but to this, Abraham says: ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’
This, unfortunately, was the state of affairs of the people of the day. The people of Israel knew their history and were acutely aware of the miracles performed by Moses, their leader, and the wondrous history of their exodus during which time God himself spoke to them. And yet, so cynical have they now become that even the raising of the dead that Jesus himself performs on many an occasion is viewed with non-belief and even callous dismissal. Abraham is right—if they didn’t believe Moses and now Jesus himself, who is to say that they would have believed Lazarus if he were to come down from heaven to tell them about the kingdom of God?
Changing topics now, Jesus speaks to the act of forgiveness. He says: “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
This is what the Lord commands, and therefore this is what we must aspire to. It is, of course, easier to grant forgiveness when it is asked of you; however, how much greater is it to grant it even before the person asks it of you– is that feasible? And if it is never asked for, do you then have no obligation to forgive? I don’t know, but it is probably better to err on the side of forgiveness regardless of whether it is sought.
David’s Psalm for the day is one is which he recounts the history of God’s faithfulness to his people, the children of Israel, right from the time of Abraham and Lot, to the days of Joshua’s conquest of the Midianites and the Assyrians. David, the warrior-king, is calling out to the God of his fathers in his own hour of need as he most likely faces the ill will of an advancing enemy. As always, he is passionate in his prayer for help and support from the Lord, and says of his enemies:
17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
may they perish in disgrace.
18 Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD—
that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.
Finally, our one verse from the book of Proverbs for today is one that is worthy of reflection:
4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.