Whom Will You Serve?

This week we will focus on Joshua 24:15. We had an excerpt of the verse last week, but we observed it as simply closing up Joshua’s speech. I would now like to go a little deeper into the verse itself.

It is a popular Bible verse, and people have it placed on their walls and in their doorways, but we need to examine it in Joshua’s context to show the exact wealth of precision in which he spoke these words. As we look at the verse, we know that it is contained in his final farewell speech, and the battles are concluded. We also know that there are still non-Israelites living in the land as evidenced by the Biblical text. Joshua begins speaking: ” ‘Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.’ Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.’ “

We must remember from our previous study that Joshua listed over 800 years of The LORD’s actions in the history of the people of Israel, and that our passage today is why he gave this history lesson. Joshua instructs the people to fear The LORD, and to faithfully serve Him in sincerity. They are to put away all other gods that might have crept into their lives through their time on the other side of the Jordan River and while they were in captivity in Egypt. He then draws a line in the sand for all to see, and calls for action on the part of each individual person. His clarity is a thing to behold.

In order to fully understand this text we must examine the use of the Hebrew word, רַע, which is translated “evil” here. This word carries with it a sense of opposition in the ancient Hebrew mind. Evil is not simply a thing that exists by itself, but it is opposition to The LORD who is the standard of good. There is no middle ground. We must also see that this is in contrast to family tradition. Joshua says that you must choose between the gods of your fathers on the other side of the Jordan River and The LORD. He follows with you must choose between the gods of the Amorites and The LORD. The final observation is that this was a decision that was not to be put off. He said “today” choose whom you will serve. There is a clear and definitive deadline for this choice.

I believe the ancient Israelites understood Joshua’s words to be something like the following: If you think in your own eyes, mind and heart that it is a bad thing to serve The LORD, than you need to make a choice here. If you think opposing the God who did all of these things over the past 800 years of our history is a good idea, than you need to pick your side. Today, choose whom you will serve. You may choose the God that has done all these things for you. The God that gave you a standard that protects innocent life, the God that tells you to love people, but to stand firm and resolute in His will against wickedness. The God who’s commander is not on your side, not on your enemy’s side, but on His own side and will fight to accomplish His will whether this be for you or against you. You must now make a choice. You can worship other gods like Baal that supposedly takes pleasure in children being sacrificed in horrendous murders for the benefit of getting rain on the crops, or you can choose the God who told Abraham not to kill his son in Genesis 22. You must choose between The LORD and your family traditions, and you must choose between The LORD and what are the important things in the lives of your neighbors. It’s your choice, but, make no mistake, it is a choice that carries significant consequences. As for me? Joshua? I will serve The LORD and I will lead my family to serve Him as well. Make your choice.

The words of Joshua should ring loudly in all of our ears, but most clearly in light of our recent events. Joshua is telling the people to choose to live according to The LORD’s commands that respect life in contrast to life being subjugated and destroyed without legitimate cause. This is our choice today just as much as it was when Joshua spoke these words. I pray that all reading this understand the importance, depth and validity of this choice.

 

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Thanks,

Marc

Joshua 24:15a – “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve. . .”

What has God done for you?

We have almost completed the entire book of Joshua, and have learned a great deal about Joshua, Israel and their relationship to The LORD. Joshua’s leadership of Israel and his faith in God have been inspirational for me and I hope to you as well.

We open the text in chapter 24. Joshua is old and begins his farewell address. Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called up their leaders to stand before the people. This passage will be a bit lengthy, but that’s the whole point as we will discuss in our conclusions below. He begins by speaking for The LORD giving an account of what He has done for them, and we conclude this study on a very popular verse. We begin reading in verse two: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out. Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. And when they cried to the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time. Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand. And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.” Joshua now speaks as himself: “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (ESV)

The scene is a powerful one. Joshua has called all the people together at Shechem. The elders, heads of the people, the judges and the officers of Israel are all presenting themselves before God. Joshua is standing where all can hear him, and begins to speak of The LORD. This is a beautiful picture of what kind of government is blessed by God. It is one that has leaders who present themselves before God with the people at their backs supporting them. All are placed in subjection to Him. Let us not miss this in the reading of this text. It is a very important point. Joshua then speaks about what The LORD has done. He starts all the way back to Abraham’s father, and goes from there. Ok, let’s look at that. The birth of Abraham happened about 2166 BC, and this address is taking place somewhere around 1350 BC. That’s the span of History that Joshua is speaking about. He, in detail, addresses The LORD’s actions in a little over 800 years of their history, and ties that directly into the people. The LORD did this for you, he says. Go through the text here, and see what Joshua listed. The list is long.

When I think about this, I think of God’s providence. I also think, we have a tendency towards thinking of God solely as doing things for us, and this is counter to what we read in the whole of Scripture. We say things like, “I asked Jesus into my heart” instead of “I have placed myself into His heart.” I think there is a big difference here. I believe this is true that we are indwelled with God’s presence as Scripture teaches, but I also think that we sometimes miss the point that it’s not about us. It is about Him. He loves us, yes, but His picture is much larger than ours. He looks from the beginning of time to the end of time, and I think about my meager presence within this vast span of existence of the universe and stand in awe that I am noticed by Him. Then stand in awe that I am not simply noticed, but loved enough for Him to do what He has done for me.

I don’t know everything He has done in the 800 or so years prior to my existence, but I know that He is good. The least I can do is serve him in the brevity of my life. I encourage you to do the same.

To ensure that you receive this study every week, sign up under the American flag on the top right of this site or below on the mobile version. You will then receive weekly written studies written to my brothers and sisters in arms by a brother in arms. The privacy of your email address is important to us and it will never be disseminated. Next, find some people who will hold you accountable for The Program and learn more about the God who created you, loves you and what He says about people who do what we do!

Thanks,

Marc

Joshua 24:15b – “. . . as for me and my house, we will serve The LORD.”

All in… A Study in Joshua

As we begin this week’s study in the latter part of the Biblical book of Joshua, we know that the wars are over, and Joshua is now an old man. He had led the Nation of Israel into the Promised Land, and the people are living within its’ borders. Joshua begins his final address to the Israelites, and we open in Joshua 23:2-13. “I am now old and well advanced in years. And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you. Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The LORD your God will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land, just as the LORD your God promised you. Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you wand make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you.” (ESV)

It is clear that his intentions are to encourage the Israelites to stay true to the LORD. I am struck here by his leadership given in the beginning of what one could call his retirement speech. He simply opens with the fact that he is old and probably won’t be around much longer. He then immediately drives to the point. He immediately drives to the LORD. He doesn’t speak of his success in leading this huge military series of engagements. He speaks of the LORD’s accomplishments. This is true Godly leadership. He turns the focus off of himself, and places it squarely on the shoulders of the LORD where it belongs. The LORD has big shoulders. I think he builds his humility to the LORD in what could be viewed as a comparison. He gives God full credit for winning the battles, and Joshua tells the people it was for them that He did this. However, this is contrasted with Joshua giving the allotments of the land. It is almost as if he is saying: “The LORD did all this for you, and all I did was take care of the smaller matters.” Again a fine example of servant leadership as a servant of the LORD.

He then gives a glimpse of the things to come, but it is conditional. The LORD will finish driving out the remainder of people in the land, if the people cling to Him. This word “cling” is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 describing the relationship between a husband and wife. What is interesting here is Joshua uses this word twice in our text today. He says you should cling to the LORD in verse eight, but also says that you shouldn’t cling to the remnant of the nations that were still in Canaan in verse twelve. I find that Joshua left no room in the middle. This is not a spectrum in his mind. It isn’t 65 percent cling to the LORD and 35 percent cling to the remnant. It was to cling to God or cling to the remnant.

Some people today desire lower percentages of God’s influence in their lives. Some only look for about 15 percent or so, and they are good with taking the rest for what they want. There is a problem with that. It’s math. Some take a higher road and desire 60 percent God’s influence in their lives and the rest is theirs. There is a problem with that as well. There is no percentage system in Joshua’s understanding of being a servant of the LORD. It is simply you are His or your are not His. You follow Him or you follow something or someone else.

I want to encourage you all this week to allow God’s influence in your lives to be total. Let us allow His wishes in our lives to take full and complete precedence over anything else. This doesn’t mean that we are all called to seminary, but it does mean that we are called to listen, obey and serve our God as people who were created by Him. As we do this let us gently lead our brothers and sisters into this understanding as well. If we believe Scripture to be true and love our brothers and sisters it naturally follows.

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Joshua 23:11 – “Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God.”

Thanks,
Marc

Make a Lasting God Shaped Impression on your Children…

We open our text in Joshua 22. The Israelites have been settling in the Land of Canaan, and Joshua summoned the Reubenites, Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh. The war is over and they are about to return to their appointed sections of land on the other side of the Jordan River. It is important to know here that the river separates them from the rest of the tribes of Israel. Joshua, beginning in verse five, gives them a few parting words that we should note. We read: “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” I would say that these are pretty significant parting words.

These tribes begin their journey home and as they arrive at the Canaanite side of the Jordan they build an altar to the LORD. The text makes it clear that it was great altar to behold, and this caused quite an uproar among the people of Israel. They sent Phinehas, who was the son of the Eleazar the Priest, and ten leaders from the clans of Israel. These men brought very strong words with them. They even go as far as saying that the great altar these people built was an act of rebellion against the LORD which we have seen in the book of Joshua is not a small thing. The big picture here is that the people of Israel believed that if anyone rebels against the LORD then all of Israel loses His protection and incurs His wrath. Nobody wanted to receive any of that, and this caused people to get a bit upset.

The Reubenites, Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh had something different in mind when they built it. Their lengthy defense is contained in verses 22-29. They saw the LORD work, they believed in Him and loved Him, but their inheritances were on the other side of the river from the rest of the nation. They feared that their children would grow up and be alienated by the children of the Israelites that were living on the Canaan side of the Jordan River. They were scared that their kids would lose their God, so they took action. This altar was not to be one to sacrifice on, but to be a stone monument as a witness between the people on both sides of the river that they had the same God. It was a witness that the people both sides of the river loved the LORD and worshipped Him and Him alone. This is an extremely powerful thing for me to see as a parent. These people thought about their children, their God and their children’s relationship with their God. They didn’t just stop at thinking about it either, they took action. They built something of stone that would stand for a long, long time to remind them of who the LORD is. They built something solid.

This Scripture is not teaching us to build rock piles in our back yard for our children to see, but it does teach us to take actions now for our children’s understanding of the LORD. It is our job, and if we do not do it they will learn something else from somewhere else. There are some who say that they want their children to find their own way, and they don’t want to influence them. I would say that is about the same as saying you want your child to learn on their own whether they should pull the pin on a hand grenade or not. The results of the lack of knowledge are catastrophic, and we should love our kids more than that. I ask you to consider what you can do to teach your children and your children’s children about God. Was there anyone in your family that left a lasting impression on you as a person of God? Let us consider taking actions to build and preserve our children’s understanding of who He is, what He has done for us, and be grateful for His sovereignty over our lives.

Thanks,
Marc

Joshua 22:34 – “The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, For they said, ‘it is a witness between us that the LORD is God.’ ”

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Bible Verse 01-29-15

I want to apologize for being a bit late on this study. I was hospitalized yesterday for kidney stones and there was a bit too much morphine in my system to publish a study. All is well now, and here we go.

In order to fully understand Joshua 14, our text today, we must remember the spies that were sent into the Land of Canaan under Moses’ leadership. The Great Exodus from Egypt has occurred and the Israelites are in the Wilderness of Paran in Numbers 13. Moses sends twelve men, one from each tribe of Israel to enter Canaan and take a look. Two important men here are Joshua from the Tribe of Ephraim, and Caleb from the Tribe of Judah. The twelve spies go into the land, and bring back some figs, pomegranates, and a cluster of grapes that was so large two men carried it. The problem is the perception of ten of them on the inhabitants of the land. Ten of them say that they can’t win if they battle the inhabitants. After forty days in country they come up with excuses like we saw the “strong” inhabitants of the land, their cities are fortified and very large. They said that the preferred areas of the region are already inhabited, including the hill country, the land by the sea and the land by the Jordan River. This, in my mind, shows their perception of the LORD’s promise here. It is probable that they thought they were just looking for a quaint little village location away from everybody with some nice grape vines, and they didn’t see anything that matched that description. There is a huge problem with that. Their mindsets were not formed in what the LORD spoke, but in what they thought of what the LORD spoke. This is big. As we have gone through Joshua, we have repeatedly brought the LORD’s promises to Abraham and His covenant with him back into light from Genesis 12 and 15 where the iniquity of the people of Canaan would reach a time when they were beyond reconciliation to God. The text teaches that the Israelites were not to simply look for an unoccupied place to sleep in this new land, they were to go into it prepared for war. However, this idea is not unanimous. Two of the spies understood this. Their names were Caleb and Joshua. In Numbers 13:30 we read Caleb telling the rest of the spies to be quiet and said “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are able to overcome it.” The ten spies then begin to give a discourse of defeat. We can’t do it because of this, etc., etc., etc. All of this caused the Congregation of Israel to rebel in Numbers 14, and God’s will was pushed back until more capable men were allowed to serve Him. We read about the fortitude of Joshua and Caleb, in the midst of the people’s rebellion, in Numbers 14. Beginning in verse five: “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to the people of Israel, ‘The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread to us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.’ ” This speech did not win over the congregation and the people revolted against them and against the LORD.

We now fast forward forty-five years and through many, many battles as we open the text in Joshua 14:6. “Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.’ ” Caleb was a man’s man. He was a man who believed that what he was doing was right because he followed the LORD. The rebellion of people did not matter to him. He stood on what was right. He stood firmly with the God of Israel, and if necessary against the people of Israel to do so. We see a reunion between two warriors telling war stories. They fought to influence their own people, but were unwavering in their stand with the LORD even after the people were not convinced. They stand together now at the end of the successful conquest into the land. They were victorious warriors who stood for the LORD.

When I look at this text two main points come to mind. The first point is good leadership is good. Caleb and Joshua stood for the LORD that day when they returned to the people from spying out Canaan. Good leadership is not a job position. It is the desire to influence people for good and effective action towards that end goal. The failure of the Nation of Israel not entering the land forty-five years earlier is not on the shoulders of Joshua and Caleb. It was placed purely and solely on the shoulders of the rebellious people by God, Himself, in Number 14:20-24. Let this encourage us to lead people towards the LORD and not against Him with our words and our actions. The second point is relationships that are born or fostered in struggle are powerful. Think back on what relationships in your life have been strengthened by people taking actions within a struggle. This can be a memory from serving our country in conflict, to a great friend who was there in a time of need.

I want to encourage you today to stand with the LORD and what He says is right just like Joshua and Caleb did so many years ago. I want to encourage you to be that friend to people who are in a struggle. Let us support our brothers and sisters in love and in doing so serve the LORD. Finally, let us take the time to thank them for supporting us.

Joshua 14:11 – “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.”

Thanks,
Marc

God, Freedom and American Sniper

Last night I went with a group of buddies to see the life of Chris Kyle in the movie American Sniper. First of all, I appreciate the movie not focusing on a singular part of Chris’ life, but viewing his military training, combat experience and family life proportionally. The movie portrayed him as a human being who rose to the occasion. It displayed his fortitude in defeating evil, but more importantly for me, it displayed his understanding of evil. I read his book a while ago, and understood this point through it as well. We should all understand this. He was decisive because he was grounded. He framed what he did within the confines of Scripture as a man. He fought for innocent life. He fought for his wife, children, brothers in arms, and for you and me against evil that he knew intimately. This intimacy with evil was driven by all his senses being in action when he was next to it and fighting it. He didn’t just read a book on the topic, he was there. He was ready to stand before his Creator and answer for what he did because he believed what he did was right. I believe this clarity of thought led to his decisiveness in resolving situations that preserve our freedoms as Americans. We should not miss this. Clarity on what is right and wrong contributes greatly to the retention of our God given freedoms.

Moral clarity is a thing that appears to be slipping away taking with it our country’s previous understanding of freedom. The understanding of evil as opposition to what is true, right and noble is sliding down into a pool of political correctness, and it is slipping underneath the waters of confusion because we have influences trying to redefine what is true, right and noble. Freedom, within the confines of the founding documents of our great country, is defined as the unalienable God given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness against the people who would intentionally deprive us of these rights. It was the God of the Bible that our forefathers believed gave these rights, and I believe this as well. We must remember the Declaration of Independence started a war. This war was not a pretty thing, but it achieved a beautiful thing. It achieved a country in which men and women were free to live their lives in peace, as long as they didn’t encroach on another person’s peace. In solidarity, it gave an environment where God given rights were free to exist.

Intentional actions of violence can be viewed in two ways. They can be viewed as good or evil, the opposite of good. These violent actions are either for the preservation of innocent lives, or they are against them. It is a normal response for a human being to not want to see what is needed to accomplish freedom against evil, and we should view this fact in humble gratitude for the men and women of this country that still have an accurate understanding of what freedom really is. I have been a policeman far too long to still believe the fanciful idea that all situations can be resolved peacefully. This should always be the intent, but is not always possible in the real world.

As the movie ended, I was taken back by the silence in the theater. You could have heard a pin drop as people processed what they just saw. It reminded me immediately of being at the the USS Arizona Memorial. No one spoke except a whisper occasionally because of the solemnity of the event. You could see the tears glistening on the cheeks of many in the dimly lit theatre.

I am a proud American Patriot who stands in gratitude and appreciation towards the men and women who carry guns to defend our freedoms. I am also a proud American to have been in that movie theatre last night with many Americans who stood and sat in silence after observing the life of a man who understood exactly what it means to be free from evil. He was great American Patriot that had clarity on what was right and wrong, and knew the cost of freedom. I am grateful to Taya, Chris’ family, and all family members of people who carry guns in defense of freedom for their sacrifices that contribute to our freedoms as Americans.

If this spoke to you please share it.

Thank you from a Grateful American,
Marc Crawford

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