JOSHUA 24:1-33 | LUKE 21:1-28 | PSALM 89:38-52 | PROVERBS 13:20-23
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Joshua is now an old man of a 110 years, and he calls for a meeting of the leaders and judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. The meeting place is Shechem, the place that Joseph’s remains were brought back from Egypt and buried. It was actually a tract of land that Jacob, aka, Israel, Joseph’s father had once purchased, and it is here that Joshua summons the people to have this meeting.
The purpose of the meeting is to give unto the people what the Lord has commanded Joshua to tell them: their history and a renewal of the covenant that God had made with their forefathers.
And so, Joshua begins from the very beginning. He tells them of how this man called Abraham who once lived “beyond the Euphrates river,” which is modern-day Iraq, was befriended by God one hot summer day. A covenant was made with Abraham to make him a father of many nations, and in his old-age, his wife Sarah, 90 years old at the time conceives and bears a son and they call him Isaac—meaning ‘laughter’, because Sarah had first laughed when her husband Abraham told her that they would have a son.
After Isaac’s birth, Abraham’s faith is tested when he is asked to sacrifice his one and only son, and when he passes this test, God continues to bless Abraham and his descendants. Isaac marries Rebekah who bears him twin boys: Jacob and Esau, Jacob being the second-born. While Esau proves to be a man of shallow temperament who is quick to sell his inheritance to his brother for a bowl of stew, Jacob gets the lion’s share of his father’s blessing, and goes on to become the father of twelve sons—the twelve who are the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel, and from whom the entire Jewish race has originated.
Jacob and Rachel build a home together and raise their eleven boys, the last of which is Joseph, the apple of his father’s eye. But Joseph’s ten brothers scheme to be rid of him and do the unthinkable: they sell him into slavery in Egypt. Jacob is devastated, but God does not forget the covenant that he has made to him to bless him and prosper him, and in the most amazing of circumstances, it so happens that God is with Joseph through the most horrific of ordeals and raises him up to become an influential official within Pharaoh’s kingdom.
And in an even more amazing series of events, it is because of his station that Joseph is able to come to the aid of his brothers and family, and there is in time, a great reunion. Jacob and Rachel, and Joseph’s eleven brothers (Benjamin, the youngest of Joseph’s sons is born after Joseph’s disappearance) come to be with Joseph and make Egypt their adopted homeland thanks in no small measure to Joseph’s largess.
But Joseph eventually passes on and the native Egyptians forget who these Jewish people living amongst them are, and over time, the Jewish aliens in Egypt are reduced to slaves. They spill their blood, sweat and tears in building the great pyramids and the many architectural marvels of ancient Egypt, and the years roll by.
And then one day, God looks to see the state of these people—descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and takes pity on them. These were the people with whose ancestors was the great covenant made, but here they were wasting away in slavery. And so, God raises up Moses—a Hebrew child who had been raised as an Egyptian prince—to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt back to their homeland, nay, the “promised land”. Moses is the leader of these brow-beaten Israelites, and in a most miraculous series of happenstances, Moses leads this great exodus out of Egypt.
For forty years, Moses serves as God’s mouthpiece and holds together the children of Israel even as he leads them forward to the land of Canaan. But Moses breathes his last before he can lead them through the promised land, and the baton is now passed on to Joshua. Joshua then completes the great mission of bringing the people into this land flowing with milk and honey, and in undertaking the grave responsibility of distributing the land among the twelve tribes. The people are now completely settled, and Joshua is near the end of his life.
It is now that he gathers all the people together and says this to them: 14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
And so the great covenant that was first established with Abraham, and then renewed with Isaac and Jacob, is now renewed in this place called Shechem: the Lord God would continue to honor the promise made to their forefathers and to flourish them in this new land, which was now to be their homeland. This is the final message that Joshua delivers to the children of Israel before he breathes his last.
Next, turning to our study of the book of Luke, we see Jesus continuing in his ministry of teaching, preaching and healing. There is the story of the poor widow who gives in the Temple the only thing she has, i.e., her last coin. Jesus makes an example of her to all the self-righteous folks of the day. He then goes on to speak to the matter of the end-times, and as mysterious as all this may seem, we are left with only what Jesus has said, and it is up to us to discern the days that we live in to wonder if these might perhaps be the end times indeed.
Jesus says this: 25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Changing gears again, we see that our Psalm for the day is a continuation of a long one from the one we read yesterday. In this part of the psalm, David is pleading to God to be his help and refuge. Not unlike many of us in our dark hour, David, the great poet-king of Isarel says:
46 How long, LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how fleeting is my life.
For what futility you have created all humanity!
48 Who can live and not see death,
or who can escape the power of the grave?
49 Lord, where is your former great love,
which in your faithfulness you swore to David?
Finally, we have four verses for our reading from the book of Proverbs, but the one that I wish to present here is this one:
20 Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.