This week our class studied Deuteronomy (the last book in the Pentateuch!) as well as Joshua. We are all feeling the heaviness of the workload, but it’s SO worth it! Studying and applying the Word is absolutely life-changing.
The purpose of Deuteronomy was to remind the Israelites of what God had done for them despite their failings, to remind them of the law, and to renew the covenant, before they enter the Promised Land:
10 So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…21 He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. 20 Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.
Their obedience was to be out of love for Him, not because they would expect blessings in return. Yes, obedience was a requirement for them to enter into all the blessings God had for them, but if they thought they had earned it, they would cease to acknowledge the glory of God’s goodness and instead become prideful in themselves. He warns against this in the previous chapter:
4 When the Lord your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, “It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to occupy this land”; it is rather because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you…
6 Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place.
What a humbling verse, both for the Israelites and believers today! God shows everyone unconditional love because of who He is, not because of anything we have done. We can’t even be righteous on our own – it’s Christ who makes us righteous to begin with. We are therefore without any excuse in becoming self-righteous or judgmental.
Then God reiterates His unconditional love to them:
…yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe.
God chose them because He’s God. He proved Himself faithful over and over to His promises. He didn’t choose them because they were special, but just because he “set his heart” on it and because He had this grand plan of redeeming all of mankind through them. The Israelites didn’t have to be anyone else or do anything more to receive His love and blessings.
Enter the Book of Joshua, the most epic of books so far, in my opinion.
So the Israelites had just been wandering the desert for forty years. Although the Bible doesn’t share much of what went down there, you can imagine that God was teaching them how to trust Him as their faithful King who would always provide for them. Their parents’ generation had died off because they proved unwilling to trust God (which is why they were punished to wandering in the first place), but this generation was, in general, obedient to God.
Upon entering the Promised Land, God leads the Israelites through miracle after miracle, victory after victory. God had appealed to their love in Deuteronomy as the motivation to obey. And they did. Thus, they were exalted by God:
[The spies] said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.”
On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him, as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.
So the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land.
I don’t think the Israelites or Joshua were exactly seeking glory for themselves – it was just the natural result of humility before God. The Israelites didn’t even realize they were feared by the inhabitants of the land until they met Rahab, a Canaanite in the land they were seeking to destroy, told them.
To read about the Israelites in their glory days is so inspiring. This is what God intends for everyone because it’s through a completely obedient people that He is most glorified. And His glorification leads to more and more people committing their lives to Him.
This leads to another amazing theme of Joshua: God gloriously defeated strongholds to make His glory known to everyone. All the Israelites had to do was obey, while God gave the victory:
For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.
The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded a human voice; for the Lord fought for Israel.
Joshua took all these kings and their land at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.
God gave the Israelites battle strategies that no other king could come up with nor accomplish because they were indeed supernatural. He fought for Israel, both for their blessing and for Him to glorify Himself.
This revelation of God wanting to glorify Himself has helped me stop worrying so much about major obstacles I see in my life and in the lives of those around me. God is so set on glorifying Himself, both for my good and for the world’s, that I can just let God do the thing that He loves. I’ve learned this before, but coming to that revelation myself was what I needed for it to become an actual heart belief of mine.
Finally, in the last chapter of Joshua, God reminded the Israelites just how much He blessed them, over and beyond what they could ever claim credit for earning themselves:
When you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I handed them over to you. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove out before you the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant.
14 “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness;
God was sure to remind the Israelites that it wasn’t because of them or their righteousness that God drove out the nations or blessed them, but so His character and nature would be made known. He’s not some egotistical show-off, but He knows that if we begin to worship ourselves or anything else other than Him, it results in slavery, pain, and death. We become a slave to the things we look to for our value, love and affection like: our physical appearance, praise/attention from man, having a lot of talent or skill in something, having a lot of material wealth, being “right,” being smart, being popular, being powerful, food, sleep, alcohol, etc.
Reading the first few books of the Bible has really opened my eyes to see God’s worth, His holiness, His control, His power, and His glorious love. God’s love really is enough. And I think I’m starting to accept that He is all I need. I can rest in that and be content, and not think I need anything more…that just leads to dissatisfaction, depression and restlessness.
And I don’t ever want to forget about where God has brought me, the things He has set me free from, and the waywardness of my human nature, because it reminds me of how amazing God is. It’s just like when I remember good times with friends and family, it stirs up positive emotions. Remembering what God has done for me fills me with affection for Him and satisfies my soul!