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The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
by Dave MillerIn our last lesson, we completed the book of Deuteronomy. Iíd like to make a few comments before we proceed into our next book of the Bible.
Deuteronomy describes what is indispensable to national survival and national health. The book of Deuteronomy comes to a close with the death of Moses. During Mosesí relationship with the nation of Israel, he allowed himself on one occasion to be goaded into disobeying God. The penalty for that was for him to be prevented from entering into the promised land. I donít think that means Moses would not be permitted to enter into heaven. But, during his earthly life, he would be excluded from the promised land. God allowed him to ascend a rather high mountain and from that location to look over into the general vicinity of the land of Palestine. Deuteronomy comes to a close informing us that sometime after that Moses came to the end of his life. He was buried in a valley by God, Himself, in a location that no human being ever knew.
When we turn the page and enter into the book of Joshua, we are treated to the changing of the guard. Joshua, who was the young understudy and future successor of the great Moses, is given the reins of the nation. In Joshua 1:6-9, God commissions Joshua to be the leader that he would need to be to direct and guide the nation under the kingship of God. Three times in those verses God tells him to be strong and courageous. Thatís what leaders need to be told today. Thatís what Christians need to be told. In order for us to be successful and properly to negotiate life, weíre going to have to be strong. Weíre going to have to be courageous. It takes gumption to be faithful to God, to resist the temptations that Satan brings into our lives, to be faithful and aggressive in complying with Godís will and to promote the cause of Christ among other people. Three times God tells him to be strong. Also in those verses Joshua is told he must stick with the Bible. Of course, the Bible only consisted at that point in history of the Pentateuch. God tells him, "Donít go to the left, donít go to the right."
That instruction needs to be given to leaders today. Imagine what greater condition our nation would be in if our legislatures, our President and our governors all accepted this concept: that they must stick with the Bible. If all of their legislation, all of their decisions, both in terms of their own personal lives and in terms of their governing of our nation, were undertaken in harmony with Godís will, imagine how much better off our nation would be and how many of our social ills would be eliminated.
In the first chapter of Joshua, God commissioned Joshua with the responsibility of leading the nation as his predecessor, Moses, had done. As you read through the twenty four chapters of the book of Joshua, the central concept of the book is the military assault and subsequent occupation of the land of Canaan by the nation of Israel. Deuteronomy ended with the people situated on the plains of Moab, east of the Dead Sea and south of the Arnon River. As the book of Joshua opens, they have moved up in a northerly direction and are poised just east of the Jordan River, prepared to cross the Jordan and enter into the promised land. Their first military objective is the city of Jericho. They conquered that city in fine fashion. First they sent spies to assess the situation. Then the military moved in and they basically conquered this city without ever firing a shot. In Joshua 6:2 God had said, "See I have given the city into your hand. Itís yours." There is the grace of God. Is God a loving, compassionate, merciful, gracious, benevolent being? Absolutely! Heís always been that way. God said, "Iím giving you this city, itís yours." Question: Had they taken possession of the city at that point? Had they taken control of it? Had they conquered it? NO.
The offer of Godís grace is always, and must always be, followed by compliance with instructions that God gives. God said, "You take the people, and I want you to go over to the city and I want you to march around the city one time on day one. The second day, I want you to march around it one time again. I want you to do that for six days. March around the city one time each day for six days. On the seventh day I want you to march around the city seven times." The number seven in Hebrew thought is the perfect number, the complete number. It appears many places in the Old Testament, and especially in the book of Revelation which we will study later in the series. "March around seven times on the seventh day. Then I want the priests to blow trumpets on the seventh trip around on the seventh day. Then I want the entire nation to shout."
God is serious about the specifics that He gives us human beings. When God speaks and gives us directives, He expects us to love Him enough to comply. Thatís why Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me you will keep my commandments." He said in John 15:14, "You are my friends if you do whatever I command you." John echoed that in I John 5:3, "This is love for God: that we keep His commands, and His commands are not grievous" (or burdensome). Theyíre not too hard for us to accomplish. Theyíre for our good. In Joshua chapter 6, Joshua takes that information that God has given him, turns to the nation and says, "All right, hereís what we have to do to conquer this city. We have to march around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day we must march around it seven times. The priests must blow their trumpets at the appropriate moment and then the entire nation must shout." Itís interesting that Joshua says, "You are not to shout at any other time on any of the other days. We have to comply exactly with what God tells us to do."
As you read through your Bible, Old and New Testament, you catch glimpses into the nature of God, the character of God, and how He deals with people and bestows His blessings. The spiritual blessing of salvation in the New Testament is no different than any other physical or spiritual blessing that God bestowed upon people throughout human history. God is a gracious God. He offers His blessings, but He always gives words that instruct human beings what they are to do in order for Him to freely bestow His blessings, by His grace, upon those individuals. Someone says, "Well, you are telling me that they had to march around that city and that if they didnít do that, then they would not get the city. Youíre telling me then that God offers His blessings based upon human effort. Therefore, you earn your salvation." No, that doesnít follow at all.
It is true that a person must comply with Godís instructions. But it doesnít follow that when you comply with those instructions that you have earned that blessing. Godís gracious dispensing of His will, of His blessings, is conditional. He requires humans to comply with whatever it is that He has told them to do in connection with that blessing. In Genesis chapters six and seven, God told Noah, "I want you to go out and build this boat. I want you to make it according to these dimensions." He gave height, width and length. He said, "I want the boat made out of gopher wood. I want one window and one door." These are the instructions of God. Would God have accepted Noah and blessed him by preserving him in the ark if he had not complied with the specifications that God had given? Of course the answer to that is, "No".
All through the Bible the gracious God of the universe extends to people His benevolence, His mercy, His kindness. But in order for a person to receive the blessings of God, those blessings are conditional. They hinge upon a personís willingness to open up his or her heart, to accept Godís will and to meet the specifications that are given. God gives Joshua the instructions. Joshua turned around and told the nation, "Hereís what weíre going to have to do to conquer this land. We are going to have to stay right with it. Donít make any adjustments in Godís instructions." The people listened to him and complied. They marched around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh they marched seven times. The priests blew their trumpets. The people shouted at the signal of Joshua. Guess what happened. The walls fell down! The people were able to take the city in short order.
If you were to interview those Israelites, if you were there with your camera crew and your microphone and you began asking Israelites, "Hey, how did you conquer this city?" Do you suppose any of the Israelites would say, "Oh, we did this by our own effort. We earned the conquering of this city"? Not a one of them would have said that. Why? Because thereís not anything about marching around a city that will cause it to be taken militarily. They realized that these pre-conditions of their conquering the city were necessary. They had to comply with them. Yet they required no real meritorious effort on their part. It was not a way to conquer a city. You and I can go out and march around a city all we want. Itís not going to cause the walls to fall down. Thereís nothing in the physics of the situation that caused the walls to fall. It was God dispensing His grace and His kindness conditioned upon obedient human response.
As you read through the book of Joshua, we see this repeated over and over and over. There are a few hitches along the way. In fact, moving to their next military objective, the city of Ai, their efforts to conquer it are frustrated. The reason given is that one of the Israelites in the conquering of Jericho had violated Godís will and had taken from the conquering of the city some of the spoil. In direct violation of Godís will he went and dug a hole under his tent and buried it. His name was Achan. This is in Joshua chapter seven. Once they ferreted out the guilty party and, by the way, stoned him to death, that relieved the situation and they were once again able to be successful militarily. As you read through succeeding chapters, beginning with a southern campaign, they go down into southern Palestine and conquer military objective after military objective and then move up and conquer the northern region of Palestine.
We come to chapter 23 of the book. Joshua is now up in years. They have essentially conquered the land of Canaan. They ultimately failed to complete the job. They left pockets of resistance here and there, a few cities and locations that they didnít fully eliminate. These pockets of resistance would come back to haunt them after Joshua died. God wanted the entire geographical area conquered to the extent that the peoples that were then residing there were completely eliminated. Some have said, "Youíre telling me that the God of the universe called for the utter annihilation, the extermination of men, women and children?" They would say, "What kind of a god would do that? How is that ethically appropriate?" The answer to that question is that the people in this land were so wicked and depraved, their moral degradation was so severe and intense, there was no possibility of retrieving these people and pulling them out of that condition.
In Genesis chapter 18 God had said to Abraham, referring to the land of Canaan, "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." What God meant by that was that evil was spreading, but there was still a chance to reach some of those people. By the time you come to the conquering of the land of Canaan in the book of Joshua, thatís no longer the case. We have a totally evil population. You say, "Well, what about the children?" Notice that if these children were left to be raised in such a wicked, depraved environment, they would become wicked like their parents and grandparents and have no hope of eternity. From Godís prospective this total extermination of the population was actually a benevolent approach to things. You and I think that life is all there is. But God stands back and looks at things from a broader perspective. He realizes that eternity looms out there and where we end up in eternity is far more important than how we leave this life here. Even though these children are innocent, they have no hope if they are left to be raised in this terribly wicked population. In fact, there are even indications of rampant disease, venereal disease, within the population affecting even the poor children.
In Joshua chapter 23, Joshua is old. He assembled the leaders of the nation, the elders, those who were in positions of authority over the people. He assembled all of them together and delivered a farewell address to the leadership of the nation of Israel. In the last chapter of the book, chapter 24, Joshua assembled the entire nation, the leadership as well as the population of the nation. He delivered his farewell address to them before he stepped aside and came to the end of his own life. What a stirring and exciting challenge that Joshua delivered in this farewell address to the nation. In chapter 24 verse 15, he made this startling and yet challenging statement. He said, "Choose you this day whom you will serveÖAs for me and my house we will serve the Lord". The people said, "We will too. We want to do that also." Joshua said, "I donít think you are going to be able to do it. Because Godís not going to put up with this continual, persistent rejection of Godís will. Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves if you fail to do that." They said, "We are witnesses." The book comes to a close informing us that the nation remained faithful throughout the time of Joshua and the elders that were contemporaries of Joshua. Then the book comes to a close.
We turn the page and come to the book of Judges and enter into what one might call "The Dark Ages" of Jewish history. Just as soon as Joshua and the elders of the people who were contemporaries of Joshua had passed from this life, the nation as a whole is plunged into apostasy, which means, departure from Godís will. In Judges chapter 2 you get a quick summary of the entire book of Judges. That chapter records how a cycle repeated itself over and over and over.
A good summary statement of the book is the last chapter, last verse. "Every man did what was right in his own eyes." Doesnít that sound like our own nation? People feel like, "I have my rights. I have the right to believe and do anything I want." For that to be held up as the ultimate consideration of human beings, for people to just decide hereís how I want to live, this is what Iím going to do, the book of Judges shows thatís a product of wickedness. This book heralds a time in the history of a nation in which that nation is going down hill and being plunged into the abyss of depravity and immorality. Thatís the book of Judges. It is replete with bloodshed, stealing, sexual immorality, murder, all sorts of things that are really quite distasteful and show us the extent to which any given civilization can decline and basically turn its back on everything it has stood for in the past.
Chapter two gives us kind of a summary or outline of the book by recording this cycle. Here is the cycle. The people will be in good shape, but they will change. Theyíll be influenced by evil religion, false religion, or other challenges and tests of their faith and their own desires, their own lusts. They will go off into apostasy. Whenever the people would go off into apostasy, God would send against them a foreign military. Where did these groups come from, these ethnic groups that persecuted Godís people when they were in this depraved state? They came from those who were left in the land of Canaan, those that should have been eliminated back in the book of Joshua. The Philistines, the Amorites and a number of ethnic groups are still there. They would rise up and gain some military control and persecute and torment Godís people, placing them under subjugation.
Then would come the next phase after apostasy and persecution. The people would have their fill of that. They would repent and beg God to forgive them and to remove this foreign opposition and hostility that had been brought against them. That is the point at which God would send them a deliverer. The word is translated in our English versions, judge. The book gets its name from that word: Judges. But these figures, as you read through this book, were not so much judicial figures, although they did do some deciding of court cases. Really the Hebrew word shophat, the shophetim, shows the judges were really more military leaders. Their purpose was to alleviate the difficult times that the people were facing because of these foreign oppressors. The purpose of the judge was to throw off the shackles of oppression inflicted against the people by these foreigners. There are a string of these characters in the book of Judges: Jephthah, Barak, Samson, etc. If Samson were living today, he would probably live in Hollywood. He would be on the front of People Magazine. Heíd be making movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He may have had shiny muscles and was touted as a very strong, great man. Yet the book of Judges presents him essentially as just about the weakest man around. His whole life he was led about by his own passions. He made his decisions based upon his own lusts, his illicit desires. When he was old enough he said to his parents, "I like that woman. You get her for me." She was not even an Israelite. She was a pagan Philistine woman. He went from one woman to another throughout his life until finally he got hold of one that did him in. This resulted in his capture and his blinding.
These judge figures are not necessarily paragons of spiritual strength themselves. But that is not the point of the book. The book is not designed to tell us that each one of these judges were good examples for us. The purpose of the judges was to eliminate the shackles of oppression by these foreign invaders. Samson did that. He inflicted heavy casualties against the Philistines. Thatís how God used him. But his own spiritual condition and standing before God would be determined like anyone elseís, based upon how he conducted himself spiritually and the decisions he made in his own life. God was able to use him to accomplish a higher purpose. But he himself lived an inappropriate, unspiritual lifestyle.
That is the theme of the book of Judges. God would send a deliverer. He would throw off the shackles of the oppression that was inflicted by these foreigners, and that would then bring the people back into a condition of peace and security and spirituality. Then that cycle would start all over again. In fact, Judges records this repetitious cycle about every forty to sixty years. Off into apostasy. They are oppressed. They repent. God sends a deliverer. They come back out on top and things are good. But then they circle right back around into apostasy once again.
Itís really a description of how human history goes. The book of Judges is powerful in its application to us today. We need to recognize that if we do not fulfill Godís will, if our nation as a whole goes off into apostasy, weíre going to suffer for it. Godís not going to allow this to go on indefinitely into the future.This item originally appeared in The Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve