Sunday 6th October – Psalm 26
1 Declare me innocent, O Lord,
because I do what is right
and trust you completely.
2 Examine me and test me, Lord;
judge my desires and thoughts.
3 Your constant love is my guide;
your faithfulness always leads me.
4 I do not keep company with worthless people;
I have nothing to do with hypocrites.
5 I hate the company of the evil
and avoid the wicked.
6 Lord, I wash my hands to show that I am innocent
and march in worship around your altar.
7 I sing a hymn of thanksgiving
and tell of all your wonderful deeds.
8 I love the house where you live, O Lord,
the place where your glory dwells.
9 Do not destroy me with the sinners;
spare me from the fate of murderers—
10 those who do evil all the time
and are always ready to take bribes.
11 As for me, I do what is right;
be merciful to me and save me!
12 I am safe from all dangers;
in the assembly of his people I praise the Lord.
The opening of this Psalm in the NIV is poor. It translates it as “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have led a blameless life”. What? No, that is not what David is saying and we could refer to his own words for proof in Psalm 51 – “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me”. The word in Hebrew means completeness or integrity and the ESV translates it better as “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity and have trusted in the Lord without wavering”.
At the back of his integrity is his faith and trust in God and it is that faith that makes him steady in his life as he says that he has lived in reliance on God’s faithfulness. The writer to the Hebrews in Chapter 11, speaks of faith this way, “without faith it is impossible to please God”. It is because he trusts God in his integrity that he doesn’t deviate in the ways of men about him whom he lists as the deceitful, the hypocrites, evildoers, the wicked. He speaks of his praise of God, telling of his wonderful deeds and his love of the dwelling place of God (v8).
Faith in God does not mean a sinless perfection but a trust in him to save us as sinners. Martin Luther said in a much-quoted phrase that we are ‘’simul Justus et peccator’, at the same time ‘justified and sinners’. In our relationships with our husbands or wives we may often see our frequent failures, but we continually believe in their love for us and our love for them. David pleads “don’t take away my soul along with sinners” in v9 – in other words, ‘don’t divorce me, please stand by your covenant with me’ – and this is always in our prayers of confession in the name of Christ.
A Prayer. Almighty God have mercy on us in all our sins, hold us fast and increase our faith that we may live in integrity to the end of our lives. Amen.
READINGS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as www.biblegateway.com or an app such as YouVersion
Monday Joshua 10:16-43
With the routing of the armies of the five cities we find that the Kings had escaped by fleeing to a cave at Makkedah. Joshua commanded his men to block the mouth of the cave and they would see to those Kings later. When the army returned safely to Joshua and the camp at Makkedah, Joshua had the cave opened and the five Kings brought out. Their destiny was going to be assured because of their conspiracy to crush and defeat God’s people. We need to remember that such a plan if it succeeded would have crushed God’s plan for the salvation of the world! It was yet another attempt like Egypt under Pharoah, or like the Amalekites in the wilderness, to stamp out this people. The old Testament story is that, that stemming from Abraham, God was going to bring blessing to the world through him and his progeny, the future Israelite people. This people was being shaped as his chosen vessel (as a womb even) prepared to bring forth his Son at the right time to be our Redeemer. Every attempt to snuff them out was a Devilish attempt to stop that happening. God would not allow that.
Before the execution of these Kings, Joshua had them lie down and for the leaders of the Israelites to come and put their feet on the necks of the defeated Kings as a sign for them to see that God had defeated their enemies and that would continue to be the case if obeyed him. The exposing of the bodies on the poles was another sign of their victory.
Step back for a moment and picture Jesus on the cross and the taunts of the enemies – it appeared to be the Devil’s triumph over him but at the last it is the empty cross that becomes the future symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ. He is not dead but is risen!
Christian people often have verses of scripture hung on their walls as a reminder of who they are and of their victory in Christ over all their enemies.
The chapter closes with a list of more Kings all in the Southern part of the country showing a successful campaign before the Northern Kings are turned to.
Tuesday Joshua Chapter 11 to Chapter 12
In Chapter 11 we come to a great battle mainly in the North at the Waters of the Merom where the Israelite army marched straight at them, defeated them, and pursued the stragglers to Greater Sidon. The hamstringing of the horses and the burning of the chariots was to put them out of military use. The chariots were the tanks of ancient armies, putting them out of action also meant that they couldn’t be used by any future group nor by the Israelites themselves showing that their victories were not to come about by militaristic developments but through God’s power.
The rest of the Chapter details a sweeping up operation against other groups and minor Kings and by v23 the author says, “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war”. (11:23).
Chapter 12 gives a list of the Kings and the areas which the Israelites conquered. The campaign was won …. but minor scuffles would continue.
From the spiritual point of view when we become followers of Jesus and commit our lives to him we know we are on the victory side but we will have battles to face to bring to bring the various parts of our lives under his control for there are many areas where our lives still operate in worldly ways. There may come times when we think we have overcome and are victorious Christian people and it’s in those situations that we have to beware – “let him who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall”(1 Cor 10:12). There is no terminus in this life for our struggle against sin. The apostle Paul speaks of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection and goes on to say, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. (Philippians 3:12)
Wednesday Chapter 13 to Chapter 17
From Chapter 13 a great deal of the following chapters are about the partitioning of the land between the different tribes. There are interesting snippets in these chapters and If you are good at pronouncing difficult names by all means look at them but I don’t propose for us to read down these chapters day by day.
- One interesting thing to note is that the tribe of Levi is not given an area of the land as an inheritance but only towns to live in and that is because as 18:7 says, “the priestly service of the Lord is their inheritance”. They carried the ark of the covenant, they served at the tent of meeting and they were to be given towns with surrounding pasture scattered throughout the land given voluntarily by different tribes, “The LORD commanded through Moses that you give us towns to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock.” So, as the LORD had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance: (Joshua 21:2-3)
- Caleb who was the other faithful spy, along with Joshua, who encouraged the people to go forward to conquer the land was given Hebron (Joshua 14:6-15)
- Another thing of judicial interest was the establishment of six Cities of Refuge (Joshua 20) which were places that an accused person could flee to for protection against avenging groups until a proper trial could be had.
- Finally we should note that in spite of the victorious campaign whereby the people took the promised land nevertheless there were some Canaanites who were never fully dislodged ( 15:63 and 16:10) and continued to live among the Israelites, this would constitute a danger for the people in the future who would be tempted to learn and practice the heathen ways of the old inhabitants. For example, the people up until now had been nomadic travellers, now, as the settled in the land, they became an agrarian people, so how could they get the best out of their fields? They would ask the people who lived there before and they would tell them about the fertility practices and prayers to the gods (Baals) of the land. That’s what happened and the God who delivered them out of captivity, just became one of a number.
Thursday Joshua Chapter 18 – Chapter 22
In Chapter 18 we have the setting up of the tent of meeting which was where the ark of the Covenant was and which was the centre for the worship of the people. It rested originally at Shiloh although eventually was installed in the Temple built by Solomon. Because seven of the tribes had still to receive their inheritance Joshua sent out men to map the country (18:4-8) and when they returned, lots were drawn at the entrance of the tent of meeting and the remaining tribes were allocated their shares in the land. Some bigger tribes received more and lesser ones less.
If you remember, before the crossing of the Jordan, the tribes of Rueben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh had conquered land on the Eastern side of the Jordan but they crossed over with the rest of the people to assist them in conquering the land. Now they were allowed to return to the land to the East with thanks that they had not deserted the rest of the people but had helped them in their campaign (22v3-4). They returned but with a warning that they should not imagine themselves different from the rest of the people nor stop fearing the Lord (v5)
However an incident arose which caused a bit of a crisis. They built an imposing altar near the border (the Jordan) between them. Phineas, the son of Eleazar, the priest, was sent with 10 leaders of the Israelite tribes and challenged them with being separatists building a new altar and thus breaking faith with God who appointed only the place where the ark was situated as the central place for worship. The two and a half tribes immediately pleaded their innocence and argued that they had built it as a permanent reminder to their future descendants that they were not separate from the other tribes but remained part of the body and still worshippers only of God the Lord (22:24-27)
Phineas and the leaders returned assured and the altar was named “A Witness between us that the Lord is God”. God’s people be they Old or New Testament people need to hold to one God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, any deviation from this would show a rift in what God makes.
Friday Joshua Chapter 23 – Chapter 24:15
Joshua knows he is coming to the end of his life and he wants to give a resume of the history of God’s acts in connection with his people which he does here, not just going back to the Exodus but much further back to the time of Abraham’s father, Terah, and their origins as worshippers of other gods in a land far away, beyond the Euphrates, the land of the Sumerians and their gods, among which were An, Enlil, Enki, Inanna and others who you can find out about online.
Joshua then reminds them of their travel down to Egypt during the time of Joseph and their ensuing captivity under Pharoah before God brought them out. Then he reminded them of their wilderness wanderings and struggles with other powers before crossing the Jordan and entering the land promised to Abraham to be the home for his descendants. We know, as New Testament people, that this people and this land was to be the womb in which God’s Son would be born – the Messiah for the world.
Christian people also need to remember our roots and not be beguiled into thinking of ourselves as Scots, or Europeans, or Westerners, or whatever. Our roots are in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and in Jesus Christ, we are not to descend into modern day ‘Sumerians’ worshipping the multiple gods of the people round about us.
This is what Joshua challenges the people with and in verses 14 and 15 he tells them to settle their minds and make their commitment as to who they are going to serve – “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” This challenge remains for everyone now as then. Do we agree?
Saturday Joshua 24:16-33
Joshua gave out the challenge, “Choose this day whom you will serve?” and the people answered his challenge with a resounding declaration that they would serve the Lord – “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods” (v16). But what did Joshua replay? “You are not able to serve the Lord your God. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins” (v20). Was this a cynical old man giving vent to his frustration with a people who had been difficult to lead? No. What he was telling the people was that the covenant they had with Almighty God included curses as well as blessings and they should remember this along with their own weakness of heart. It was prophetic in that the subsequent books in the Old Testament tell conclusively of the failure of the people to live up to the covenant obligations. It’s not for nothing that the response to oath taking in some courts is, “I do. So help me God”. We always need to acknowledge that without God’s help we cannot keep our promises but are inherently deceivers ready to say anything that gives us something.
Joshua says “you are witnesses against yourselves” (v22) and he reaffirmed the decrees and laws that God had given them in the wilderness wanderings and set up a stone saying that it would be a witness against them if they were untrue to their word. We still continue to have signs as reminders of things, duties, that we have committed ourselves to.
The close of the book finishes with the death of Joshua and his burial at Timnath Serah also mentioning the burial of the bones of Joseph which had been carried up from Egypt according to his instructions and which were laid to rest at Shechem. The book closes with the statement that Israel served the Lord during all of Joshua’s days and the elders who outlived him.
Let us close the reading of this book with an excerpt from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. It is the time of Mr Valiant-for-Truth’s death.
“I am going to my Father’s; and though with great difficulty I have got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who will now be my rewarder. When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the river-side, into which as he went, he said, “Death, where is thy sting?” And as he went down deeper, he said, “Grave, where is thy victory?” So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.’ Would to God that would be all our Epitaphs when the final day for us comes.