Joshua 5-8, Psalm 66
We all have to decide precisely whose orders we are following. In the post-World War II Nuremberg trials, the defense made by the Nazi war criminals was, "we were just following orders". That did not go well for them. They were executed for their crimes against humanity. Though on an earthly basis our sins are not as egregious as the Nazi war criminals, we often adopt the societal view in rationalizing our own sin, saying, "everyone does that". When things go wrong in our lives, a common problem is rather than looking inwardly as to what we might have done wrong, we look outwardly, either at others or towards God and blame them or Him. So often we get away for long periods of time with our sin, somehow mistaking God's patience for apathy. The one thing that every member of every congregation, and for that matter, every member of society shares is we all stand before God on equal footing as sinners. In fact, the only thing that separates us is whether or not we have accepted God's offer of grace and mercy, through the atonement of our sins offered by Jesus on the cross.
We see the response of Joshua after the stinging defeat against Ai in Joshua 7:6-7, "Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, "Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all-to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan!" We see in Joshua's response the right attitude but the wrong question. We see God's response in Joshua 7:10-12, "So the Lord said to Joshua: "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them...Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you." God will not peacefully coexist or compromise with sin, or accursed things. It is abhorrent to Him. When Jesus addressed the church of Ephesus in the book of Revelation, we read in Revelation 2:5, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent." Once Joshua removes the sin from the camp, and goes on to lead the troops into a successful defeat of Ai, we see him renew the covenant of God with the people in Joshua 8:34-35, "And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them."
We often respond like Joshua when unexpected trouble strikes. We often ask why, or to blame God for the tragedy or problem which we are encountering. We scream: "Why me?", "I don't deserve this!" "Why are You doing this to me?" The more difficult response must come from a position of submission and surrender, rather than confrontation, "What am I to learn from this situation?" Perhaps, we need to change something in our own lives due to sin or faulty logic. Perhaps it is neither, but God simply wants to bring us to a place to depend more on Him. We must all ask ourselves the question when we approach God in prayer, do we simply launch our complaints and requests at Him? Or do we actually wait for a response in prayer, or perhaps from His Word. Once God reveals His will in our lives, like Joshua did, we should move swiftly to remove the accursed things from our own camps. Our attitude should always be one of submission to One so much greater than ourselves. This with the realization that we actually deserve nothing, not even our next breath, but for the mercy, grace, and patience of our Almighty God, we would all be hopeless. Thank you, Jesus. May we never forget what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: