Joshua 15: The unlikely pray-er

Dear church,

“She said to him, ‘Give me a blessing.’” – Joshua 15:19

Caleb knew his daughter wanted something the moment she got off her donkey. She got down to business: “Give me a blessing.” It was a request from a daughter. Men regularly did this kind of thing. But this was the family of God. Caleb agreed. Achsah now had water for her land.

Is there any one of us who is not capable of seeking out blessings from God? The wonderful good news of the Old Testament – and the New – is anyone can come to the Father. The world will tell us Christianity is full of patriarchy. But we know “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In the grand story of salvation, anyone can come to the Father to seek the blessing of eternal life. Our backgrounds and our social standing do not matter.

This relates to our prayers, of course. We may think God does not want to hear from us. We’ve sinned too much. Perhaps he does want us to make changes in our lives. But he also wants us to come to him for help. He always is listening, and he rewards those who persistently seek him out for the blessing.

Please remember: The blessing may take a surprising form! 


Joshua 14: Wholly committed to God

Dear church,

“… because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.” – Joshua 14:14

Caleb was cut from different stuff than other men. Forty-five years earlier, he and Joshua were the only of the twelve spies to insist the people of Israel go forward into the Promised Land (Numbers 13). Ten of the spies made the people quake with fear, thinking the task was impossible. But Caleb spoke up, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). Caleb was a man of unwavering faith in God.

Unfortunately, the people of Israel sided with the ten cowardly spies. But God knew Caleb. “He has a different spirit,” God said at the time, “and has followed me fully” (Numbers 14:24). With the commitment came the reward. Caleb “wholly” followed the Lord (Joshua 14:14).

Disciples of Jesus cannot waver in their commitment. They must root out any impurity in this area of their lives – anything that steers them away from fully following Christ. It is possible to be partially committed to Christ. But that’s not what he asks of us (Matthew 16:24). He wants our full devotion to him and to the things to which he is devoted, like his church and the gospel. 

Other forces – activities and people – will try to make us waver in our commitment. Caleb, however, never lost sight of the end game. He was committed to God over anyone else. 


Joshua 13: Pressing toward obedience

Dear church, 

“There remains yet very much land to possess.” – Joshua 13:1

If you are breathing, you still have some things in your life with Christ that you’ve left undone. You aren’t perfect yet. Surprise, surprise! You might be harboring some seed of bitterness toward a person in your life. You might be engaging in a secret sin, known only to you. You might be living with covetousness or worry consuming your thoughts day to day.

We ought not to forget we’ve already received the “inheritance,” just like the Israelites had when Joshua grew old. A Christian’s inheritance is not a piece of land. We have been born again “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). You already have the inheritance. Eternal life is yours.

But pockets of resistance remain. God will clean these areas up for us, but we still must be obedient to his call on our lives each day. We must listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the clear word of the Bible. A life of obedience doesn’t end when we are born again. Rather, it begins. 

Think about the work that remains undone in your life with Christ. You know this territory better than anyone else. What would God have you do about it today?


Joshua 12: Kingdom humility

Dear church,

“… in all, thirty-one kings.” – Joshua 12:24

No king in Canaan could stand against the kingdom of God. Only one king remained after the conquest was completed, and that king was the God of Israel. When Jesus came, he first preached this: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). This is a call to surrender.

This teaches us something about humility. If I seek to create my own kingdom apart from the kingdom of God, I will be disappointed in the end. Like Rahab and the Gibeonites (Joshua 2; 9), salvation only comes when we pledge our allegiance to God and submit ourselves to his authority. We must see our inherent weakness in light of God’s majesty.

Have you humbled yourself before God? This means recognizing the kingdom you have built is woefully insufficient. We must understand the joy and peace we all want is not something we can build up on our own. We see God is the giver of these things, and instead of shutting the gates to our lives, we throw them open and ask God to come in.

Rid your life of any activity that cannot stand under the reign of God. Be harsh with yourself if you must. You can’t have any “hold-outs” within your life. Surrender completely to him. 


Joshua 11: Obedience takes time

Dear church,

“Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.” – Joshua 11:18

True obedience is not achieved overnight. Yes, we might muster, in a moment, a very strong act of faith in following God’s call on our lives. This should be celebrated. Suddenly, we find ourselves doing something God has been asking us to do for some time. Perhaps we are tithing for the first time, or perhaps we are breaking off relationships that pull us away from God. 

This is obedience. But it is not the end of obedience. Obedience lives primarily in the “follow through.” Day after day, moment after moment, we must continue to say “yes” to God’s commands for our lives. We must continue to believe in God and his plan in a steadfast way, even when things get difficult and even when we continually run into roadblocks. 

The first step is that big moment when you break the inertia and move in the direction of God. The next step is not so glamorous. It’s a small step, where you continue moving in that direction by doing the next thing God has called you to do. The smallest of steps can be the hardest.

For instance, the first step may be to delete the computer apps that show you inappropriate material. The second step is to resist the temptation every day to reinstall them. Sometimes those temptations are brutally hard. But we have help (1 Corinthians 10:13).


Joshua 10: God hears prayer

Dear church, 

“There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.” – Joshua 10:14

One of the first things any disciple of Jesus Christ should do is to learn to pray. Have you learned to do this yet? Our motivation comes when we understand God is a Person. He is a divine Person, a heavenly Person, a Person with no limits – but he is a Person nonetheless. And he wants us to address him as we normally address other persons. He wants us to talk to him.

We would like to say God always grants our wishes and the sun stands still every time we desire it to do so. But, again, God is a Person. And as such, he responds as any rational person would. He knows what’s best for you and for his other children – and the rest of his creation – and he acts accordingly. But this doesn’t mean he doesn’t listen to our heartfelt desires.

And so we must pray to God for an answer. We pour out our hearts to him. And we recognize he may “heed” the voice of his lowly children and act on our behalf. 

Begin by praying with a close eye on God’s will. God is a Person of eternal things, and so these are the things he cares about the most – as evidenced by Jesus’ death on the cross. So pray about eternal things first. The salvation of a soul is a good place to start. After your pray, watch.


Joshua 9: A welcome reception to the mission

Dear church,

“… so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing.” – Joshua 9:24

What was the “thing” the Gibeonites did? They lied, and they took an enormous risk. They risked being wiped out by the Israelites, and they certainly raised the ire of the other Canaanite kingdoms. Their decision surely wasn’t an easy one. After all, the Israelites were in the land to destroy them. The Gibeonites devised a bold move. It was a gamble, and they took it. 

When you share the good news of Jesus Christ, you may meet people like this. These are people who hear about Jesus and don’t want to let it go. They keep coming back to hear more. You can’t keep them away. They would crawl over broken glass to hear still more. These are the ones who have been born again. 

The good news of Jesus Christ oftentimes is met with ambivalence. If you get this response, move on. And wait. If the seed you planted is growing – and the first growth often is invisible – the ambivalence will break out into an insatiable hunger for eternal life. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already” (John 3:18).

True believers will respond to the gospel with a passion for life that matches that of the Gibeonites. You’ll know it when you see it. 


Joshua 8: Repentance and grace

Dear church,

“See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai.” – Joshua 8:1

Everything recorded about the second battle of Ai is built upon the grace of God and the repentance of his people. The people of Israel were not perfect. But the difference between them and the nations around them was they were chosen by God in grace, and they responded by repenting of their sin (Joshua 7). God would not move forward with an unrepentant people.

Repentance is not a one-time event in your walk with Christ. It is something you must continually do. Your lifestyle should be marked in some way by repentance. When the Holy Spirit brings to your attention something in your life that is not Christlike – some way of speaking or thinking – you must turn from it. You may find yourself doing this day by day and moment by moment, constantly repenting and turning back toward God.

In doing so, you may find your experience of God becomes more intimate. You may not even have noticed he wasn’t with you until you repent, and then you see clearly his presence. 

The people of Israel buried two bodies, heaped over with stones, in this story about Ai (Joshua 7:26; 8:29). The first marked their repentance from sin. The second marked God’s victory on their behalf. God always is calling us to repentance. 


Joshua 7: Stewardship of God’s possessions

Dear church,

“… then I coveted them and took them.” – Joshua 7:21

Achan saw the things that were devoted to God, and he coveted and took them. Do you know which things in your life belong to God and which things are yours? If you really figure out the difference, you’ll go far and fast in your efforts to become more like Christ. 

Every good thing belongs to God, and this includes you – “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:17-18). God’s ownership goes even further than that, however. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2).

Everything belongs to God, and he is entitled to do with it as he pleases. So what belongs to you? The answer to this is fairly simple. Your sin belongs to you. In God, there is no “variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). He is pure light and goodness. Your sin is your own.

A disciple of Christ understands his life is to be lived for God. The money in our bank accounts and the children in our homes do not really belong to us. Our bodies don’t even belong to us. They are God’s. And we are to be good stewards of the things of God that are within our care. This should change how we respond to every object or person we encounter today.


Joshua 6: The owner of the mission

Dear church,

“See, I have given Jericho into your hand …” – Joshua 6:2

Don’t ever get overwhelmed by the work of the kingdom of God. This is easier said than done. Some of us desperately want to see more people come to faith in Jesus Christ. Some of us desperately want to see our loved ones turn back toward God. Some of us want to see more of the kingdom of God in our own lives – and less of our sinful selves.

We get overwhelmed when we forget the battle belongs to God. Joshua saw the unsheathed sword of the commander of God’s army (Joshua 5:13-14). That was evidence enough God would fight the battles in the Promised Land. God brought down the walls of Jericho.

The result means we can pursue the mission of Jesus Christ, to seek and to save the lost, with joyfulness. Jesus told the disciple Peter, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The pressure is lifted off you, and the credit for the victory belongs with Jesus Christ.

This does not mean we have nothing to do. We still are called to faithful obedience to the Word of God. God is working through his people. As we obey, we know we have nothing to lose. We need not stress about times when the victory doesn’t seem to come. God still is at work. Our focus is on listening and obeying, no matter how strange the commands may seem.