. . . give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11b)
I’ve always admired Joshua and Caleb who followed the Lord “wholeheartedly.” They maintained an unshakeable confidence in God even as all their peers gave way to fear. Because of their rebellion, the Israelite adults rescued out of Egypt never saw the promised land, but their children all became Joshuas and Calebs.
I find myself awed by the generation that crossed the Jordan, single-minded in their devotion to the Lord. Their success in conquering the Promised Land is an astounding miracle because they fought “stronger and more numerous” peoples. Here are some cool spiritual lessons I discovered in reviewing their story:
- They were shaped by and continued to remember the past (See Joshua 22:9-34). Imagine the sobering impact when witnessing the Lord’s discipline of parents or others in the tribe. They would have watched thousands of people die in various rebellions and plagues over the course of forty years. That is quite the motivation to obey! But they also witnessed astounding miracles–the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire and cloud, God’s terrifying visitation at Mt. Sinai, God’s provision of water and manna in the desert, and the wonder that their clothes and sandals never wore out over the course of their journey. Both positive and negative reinforcement strengthened their confidence in Yahweh, solidifying a desert-grown faith that brought such cohesion and unity of purpose their warriors could not be defeated.
Application for today: Do I regularly remember God’s dealings with me in the past, both his discipline, his kindnesses and his miracles? How might the faith-building activity of remembrance prepare me to succeed in the battle at hand today?
- They agreed with and carried out God’s uncompromising standards for moral purity (holiness). Moses had trained them to “purge the evil from among you” and to “show no pity.” This generation did not play with sin like their elders. Nor is any rebellion or complaining recorded about them. When Achan took “coveted things” at Ai and it was discovered, they meted out swift punishment to cleanse the camp of this sin.
Application for today: Do I “show pity” to my besetting sins instead of zealously killing them? Oh my, I’m afraid I make tons of excuses, feel sorry for myself, all the while justifying myself. I moan and sigh. But think about this. If we are passionate about advancing into the Promised Land, do we have time to dilly dally in the wilderness of grumbling, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness or any other besetting sin?
- They understood that victory meant total dependence on God and that this can only be achieved with total obedience. Degree of obedience is correlated to degree of spiritual power. Those forty years in the desert so purified this generation, so ruthlessly weeded out the rebels, that by the time Joshua took them across the Jordan, they had reached the highest pinnacle of any nation to ever live completely dependent on God. Their collective obedience and allegiance to their leader as God’s spokesman, created such powerful unity and trained, disciplined readiness, none of the Canaanite nations could stand against them.
Application for today: How zealous am I to “clean house” in my life, choosing with God’s help to no longer put up with sin? Most certainly to the degree we obey, to that degree we will have power to impact the world around us.
This generation of Israelites did not doubt but walked in absolute confidence that God would give them the land. Joshua’s people maintained a healthy fear of the Lord and no longer grumbled but said, “We will do all you say,” because they knew, deep in their bones, that they had to adhere to God’s way and God’s timing one hundred percent or they would not succeed.
The Vine and the Branches
This reminds me of Jesus’ words, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Obedience is the means to dependence that releases Jesus’ power. Therefore, while humbly aware of my weakness, I have to exert all my will to obey (to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength) so that I can battle evil in myself and the world, knowing I have God one hundred percent behind me to give victory. This is a tough combination to master–dependent humility with warlike aggressive zeal.
In closing, I want to leave you with Deuteronomy 20, a good model for spiritual warfare. Moses and Joshua exhorted the people to not be afraid “when you see . . . an army greater than yours.” In other words, we will always encounter situations that far outmatch our strength and resources. Instead, we are to remember, like the Israelites, our great and mighty God who delivered us in the past. We need the same pep talk they received:
Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory. As for the uncommitted, the fearful, or the fainthearted, Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too. (Deuteronomy 20:3-4, 8b)
There are such great lessons here. I hope you were blessed by our little journey with this mighty generation of ancient Israelites.
Prayer: Lord, grant us the zeal and obedience of this Israelite generation and the ability to conquer new domains with your help!