Monday, April 12, 2010


Joshua 22-24

After having divided the land, in chapter 22 the Israelites and Joshua say good-bye to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who have taken their land on the east side of the Jordan. They had promised to participate in the conquest, and they had done so and returned home with Joshua's blessing, and admonition to keep the law of the LORD. As those tribes leave Israel, they stopped and "built an imposing altar there by the Jordan." When the rest of the Israelites heard this, they prepared to go to war against them. They sent Phinehas the priest to talk to them, along with a delegation of leaders for each remaining tribe, to ask how they could "break faith with the God of Israel...[and] turn away from the LORD." They responded that they hadn't built the altar out of rebellion and had no intention of using it for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but to act "as a witness between us and you and the generations that follow." So Phinehas and the others returned and praised God. "And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God."

In chapter 23, Joshua prepares "to go the way of all the earth," and calls the leaders of Israel together for farewells and admonitions, telling them to "obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left." Then, in chapter 24, he assemled "all the tribes of Israel at Shechem" and they renewed the covenant. Joshua recites for the Israelites the litany of the children of Abraham, how the LORD brought them out of bondages, how they wandered in the desert and how he had led them in the conquest and given them the promised land. He implores them to "fear the LORD and serve him with all fathfulness." He tells them they must choose who they will serve, but "as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." The people cried that they would also serve the LORD, and when Joshua warned that they would fail and he would not "forgive your rebellion and your sin," they still cried that they would serve the LORD, at which point Joshua said that they were witnesses against themselves, and they agreed. Then Joshua "drew up for them decrees and laws...and recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God." Joshua died at 110 years old and was buried in his inheritance at Timnath Serah, and Joseph's bones were buried at Shechem, and Eleazet diead and was buried at Gibeah.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • I've read the story of the the altar ("A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God") a couple of times, and apparently it's either tougher to follow than it looks, or I'm even denser than I think I am, or I still haven't read it carefully enough, because I can't really explain what's happening there. I understand, I think, what the Israelites are upset about - they're inferring that the altar is going to be used for sacrifices where it shouldn't be, or possibly even to gods that are not the LORD. The logic behind the "witness," however, hasn't quite penetrated yet. I'll try again tomorrow, I think. For now, this is just another of the myriad passages that I don't quite get.
  • The passing of Joshua is a significant milestone in the history of the Israelites. For the first time since the LORD brought Moses to them to lead them out of Egypt, they do not have a prophet over all the tribes. There are ramifications to come.

Proverbs 23:1-18

"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD." As is the case with so many of the proverbs, that's a lot easier said than done. We find it easy to be jealous of those who succumb to temptation, seeing only the pleasure of the temptation. We resent our consciences, and the rules that cause us to refrain from experiences which we would find physically pleasing. In the long run, I think, we can look back and be pleased that we've resisted, satisfied that we've done the right thing in God's eyes. Even that, though, can be little consolation, because we recognize how much and how often we've not done the right things.

Proverbs 23

1 When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,

2 and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.

3 Do not crave his delicacies,
for that food is deceptive.

4 Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
have the wisdom to show restraint.

5 Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

6 Do not eat the food of a stingy man,
do not crave his delicacies;

7 for he is the kind of man
who is always thinking about the cost.
"Eat and drink," he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.

8 You will vomit up the little you have eaten
and will have wasted your compliments.

9 Do not speak to a fool,
for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.

10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,

11 for their Defender is strong;
he will take up their case against you.

12 Apply your heart to instruction
and your ears to words of knowledge.

13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.

14 Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death.

15 My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad;

16 my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.

18 There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.

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