The Book of Joshua

March 23, 2019

Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for March 24, 2019

It has happened at last. The Israelites have stormed the land of Canaan and have taken it over, or, let’s say have occupied large parts of it. Moses is dead, and his assistant, Joshua, is leading the people. Joshua first sent out two spies to reconnoiter the land. The intelligence services of the land got wind of the two spies and searched for them. The spies escaped capture by the help of a harlot by the name Rahab to whom they promised safety after Israel took the land. She was to hang a scarlet cord in her window to identify her house to the attackers so they don’t attack it.

The crossing of the Jordan River was dramatic. Joshua commanded the priests who carried the ark of the covenant to walk into the river to cross it. It was the season of the year when the Jordan is in flood. There was water all over the place. But as soon as the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the covenant touched the inside of the river bed, a spectacle happened—the water stopped flowing one side while the other side continued on, thereby leaving a river bed crossable on foot. It was God leading the campaign really. If it was not for His hand, there would have been no success for the Israelites.

Joshua conducted three military campaigns. The first was the central campaign. This saw the demolition of Jericho, a well-barricaded city enclosed by two walls with a room-sized gap between them. The outer wall was six feet thick and the inner one was twelve feet thick. Both walls crumbled to the ground on their own accord and the Israelites charged in and took the city.

The Southern campaign was next. In this one, Joshua defeated a coalition of five kings. During the campaign, there came a day when the Israelites were almost vanquishing their enemies when darkness came creeping in. That would give the enemy time to regroup and rearm in the night and fight on when day broke. Joshua prayed to God for the sun to stand still so that daylight would continue on, so the battle would continue. The sun did stand still, and the Israelites defeated their enemies.

The Northern campaign was next. This was against a coalition that the Bible says formed a vast horde to take on the Israelites. Joshua made a surprise attack and defeated the whole lot of them. There were still pockets of resistance in many locations of the entire land but overall the land was taken over. Joshua apportioned out to each tribe land according to the size of the tribe. By the time of Joshua’s death, there were still large parts of land that the Israelites had not conquered (Joshua13:1 – 6).

The book of Joshua is a testimony to the faithfulness of God. He keeps His promises. He promised to fight for Israel and give them the land of Canaan, and He did. But disobedience delayed their taking of the land. Rebellion leads to forfeiture of blessing, and obedience makes possible the appropriation of the same. Enjoyment of God’s blessing perpetually is contingent upon continued obedience to God. Now, enjoy reading Judges.

Lent: Embracing the Grace of Repentance …continued

(article by Rev. Canon Phil Ashey)

Lent is a time to embrace the grace of repentance. “Repent” is the first word of Jesus’ proclamation of the Good News and his announcement of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God! (Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17). Jesus described his mission as a doctor to the soul-sick, to call sinners (all of us) to repentance (Luke 5:32). In the parable of the Prodigal, Jesus described the impact of one sinner repenting as heavenly rejoicing among the Angels of God (Luke 15:10).  What a wonderful way to enter into the joy of the LORD this Lent!

But the Bible says even more about the power of repentance. Preaching a baptism of repentance, John the Baptist likened repentance to a powerful call that, like an ax edge, cuts all the way to the root of sin (Luke 3:3, 7-14). Repentance can bring restoration to an individual (Jeremiah 15:19) and healing to a whole nation (2 Chron. 7:14). On Pentecost day, 3,000 people responded to Peter’s invitation to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin with the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-41). Paul described the power of repentance to the Corinthians in this way: 

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.” (2 Cor. 7:10).

Imagine what it would be like, this Lent, to allow God to give you a vision for what your life and ministry could be, without regrets, through repentance?

Here is what St. Clement has to add from his reading of the Bible about repentance:

“…[God] has confirmed his desire that repentance should be open to every one of his beloved…  My brothers, do let us have a little humility; let us forget our self-assertion and braggadocio and stupid quarreling, and do what the Bible tells us instead…” 

Repent. Is this not the point of our Lenten observance, to repent and return to Jesus? What would such repentance look like? St. Clement begins to paint the picture to those earliest Christians in Corinth.

How may we make such haste to embrace eagerly the gift of repentance?

 There are other means of grace, spiritual disciplines that will lead us to that Godly sorrow that leads to repentance—and which together will return us to Jesus. In The Spirit of the Disciplines (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), Dallas Willard describes these disciplines positively and negatively. The classic disciplines of abstinence include solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, and sacrifice. These are the typical disciplines we may think of at Lent, as they all involve “giving up” something (time, talent, treasure, TV, chocolate.)

But repenting and returning to Jesus is not simply a matter of turning away. True repentance always involves turning TO.  The Prodigal in Luke 15, not only turned away from the pig-sty but turned his face toward home where his recklessly loving father was waiting to forgive him, embrace him and welcome him home. There are positive disciplines which go hand-in-hand with repentance, disciplines of engagement. These classic disciplines include study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession and submission. Have you considered making this Lent a time to add one or more of these disciplines into your walk with Jesus, that you may repent and return to him?

May the grace and the power of repentance turn each of us back to Jesus in a deeper way this Lent. And may we never forget the purpose for which we repent and return to the Lord in ever deepening ways, “…to have the great God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ a constant presence in our mind, crowding out every false idea or destructive image, all misinformation about God, and every crooked inference or belief.”[1]

Every thought, every word, every relationship, every breath captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Let us repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

[1] Dallas Willard, The Renovation of the Heart (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002:112)

(The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council).

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