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Friday, June 8, 2012

A Lesson from the Book of Joshua

(To get this blog going, I'm going to start posting some editorials I wrote a number of years ago in a little paper I had put together.  I pray that you may be blessed in reading them.)

For our morning worship, my wife and I have been reading through the book of Joshua.  Recently, we discovered a very important lesson which I would like to share.

God had given Joshua the assurance, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you…” (Joshua 1:3)  The children of Israel were supposed to expel every heathen nation from the midst of the land He had given to them.  Upon entering the land, Joshua led an army which quickly defeated a number of these Canaanite nations.  God gave them many mighty victories.  Yet we find out later that they didn’t finish the job according to the extent of the land that God described in verse 4.  They had good beginnings, but fell short of what God had promised.  The effect of this was that intermarriage occurred between some of the remaining heathen nations, and idolatry crept into the worship experience of Israel.

We haven’t read yet why they didn’t finish the job.  However, I did do a little scanning ahead and these might be some reasons: they began to loose faith and became fearful, they became satisfied with the land that they had conquered and saw no need to go through the trouble of fighting, they saw some financial or material benefits in allowing some of these nations to remain, or maybe they became friendly with some of the heathen nations.  I imagine it might have been a mixture of all of these reasons.  Whatever the reason, it cost them dearly in the end.  Their compromise resulted in their captivity numerous times.  Ultimately, it led the nation to crucify their Lord and Saviour – Jesus Christ.

We have a lesson to learn from the experience of the Israelite nation.  Though we “wrestle not against flesh and blood,” we are indeed engaged in warfare as certainly as the nation of Israel was.  Our warfare is “against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12, margin)  We are to “cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Like Joshua, we have been given the assurance of a complete victory.  “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you…” (Romans 6:12-14)  “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)  Just as the Israelites were told to drive out all the heathen nations, we are told to drive out “all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” – all our iniquities (see Zechariah 3:4).

At the beginning of our Christian warfare, we may quickly overcome by faith some of our sins.  We may overcome the evils of swearing, drinking and smoking, pornography, stealing, etc., and then stop our warfare.  But having begun, we must go on to perfection.

Paul speaks of a group of people who are resting satisfied with where they are at spiritually, and he tells them to keep moving.  “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…” (Hebrews 6:1)  These were people that “ought to be teachers” but needed to be taught again (Hebrews 5:12)!  They had no experience in the word of righteousness (verse 13, margin).  Paul is telling them to keep going until the work is complete.

Like Israel of old, have we become comfortable with where we are at?  Maybe we have overcome enough sin so that we are respected by others and thought of as “a good Christian.”  Happy with how others see us, we see no need to go through the trouble of waging further war against some “obscure” sins no one notices or even considers to be wrong.

Perhaps we have certain sins that give us some advantage—financial, material, popularity, etc.—which we’d rather not part with.  Or, it might be that we like certain sins and simply don’t want to part company with them.  We’ve become attached to a
particular sin and could not imagine life without it.  

It may be that we’ve lost faith.  We’ve fallen time and time again, and we just can’t see how we can overcome.  Maybe these sins just seem impossible to overcome.

It could be a mixture of all of these reasons.  Whatever the reason may be, if we don’t overcome at every point, the result will be the same.  We will become captive to our sins, and continuing in that captivity we will eventually “crucify to our self the
Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:6)

But that need not be so!  We can learn a lesson from the mistake of ancient Israel.  “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)  Don’t rest satisfied!  With Paul, let’s “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

Don’t lose faith!  Remember the victories you have obtained before.  Read the stories of faith God has recorded, and let His word give you faith (Romans 10:17).  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  The only way to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” is to allow Jesus Christ to cleanse our body temples as He did the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:13-17; Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45, 46).  It is He “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14, emphasis mine)  Let’s not hinder Him in that work!

Blog written by: Lee Folkman

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