JOSHUA 24:1-2, 14-18
Upon the death of Moses, leadership of the people of Israel was handed over to Joshua. In the years to come, he would lead Israel to claim the Promised Land from the Canaanites, as well as serving as their prophet.
In chapter eight, the people of Israel gather at Shechem, to proclaim their allegiance to Yahweh. Today’s reading occurs at the end of Joshua’s life. He calls upon all the people of Israel to recommit themselves to the covenant they had made years ago at this place.
- The first two verses tell us that Joshua called this meeting of all the people of Israel.
- In the verses omitted from this reading (vv. 3-13), Joshua recounts the history of Israel, reminding them of everything that God has done for them.
- Verse 14 starts with “Now therefore…”. It is Joshua’s way of saying “Look. Because God did all this for you, you need to:
- Serve him in sincerity
- Put away all those other [false] gods”
- Verse 15 is Joshua’s stake in the ground. He says that now is the time to decide who they will serve. He’s gonna chose Yahweh.
- The happy ending is the last paragraph. The people all vow to put away the Canaanite gods and serve the Lord.
It is a good thing for all of us to do; to review God’s blessings, and resolve to serve Him better. Many churches provide opportunities for their members to recommit their lives to the Lord. Some do this during the altar call, and others through a more formal rededication liturgy. We can also do this individually. Whichever way you chose, consider doing this.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I know many Christians who put God first in their lives. But, I also know people, both Christian and non-believers, who have allowed other things to become their main focus. There are those who are obsessed with managing their finances. Some love shopping to the point that they overload their homes with seldom-used goods. Others allow sports or other activities to totally occupy their thoughts and minds. For many, it seems, there is no room left for God. Joshua calls us all to step back and review our priorities. Where does God appear in our list of priorities? How do we show this in our actions?
We have been studying the book of Ephesians since July 11th. Today’s reading is the last passage we will read from this book. Paul wants to close his letter with some sage advice on how to live one’s life as a Christian. He leaves his readers with a clever analogy in order to make this point memorable.
- Paul is going to tell us how to be strong. He reminds us that God is our source of power; we need to tap into this power. (v. 10)
- Paul tells us that the strength we need is like a suit of armor. He lists the parts of armor that a Roman soldier would wear. Then, for each piece of armor, he lists the Christian’s equivalent. I will list the Christian armor below. (v. 11)
- But first, he describes the enemy. They aren’t opposing warriors, as a Roman soldier would face, they are “the wiles of the devil”, “cosmic powers of darkness” and “spiritual forces of evil”. (v. 12) Let’s discuss these in The Takeaway.
- Our armor consists of:
- Truth and righteousness (v. 14)
- Proclaiming the gospel of peace (v. 15)
- Faith (v. 16)
- The word of God (v. 17)
- Above all, we must pray for each other, including our spiritual leaders. (vv. 18-20)
So, what exactly are “the wiles of the devil”, “cosmic powers of darkness” and “spiritual forces of evil”? I believe that the force of evil is very real and present in our daily lives. The devil is too cunning to appear in red, with a forked tail and horns. I believe that evil presents itself in those around us, and in very subtle and surprising ways. I have seen evil actions in friends, relatives, & acquaintances. I’ve seen it in business, politics, and even in religious authorities. All of these have used God and the bible to win over our confidence. As a Christian, it is my responsibility to use the life-actions and words of Jesus as a benchmark, to test the words and actions of those around me. If I see a few “red flags” pop up, on goes my armor!
When I think of arming myself for battle, I think of using
- A bulletproof vest
- A helmet
- A machine gun
- A 9mm handgun
Paul’s list looks nothing like this! Maybe that’s the point. As Christians, our response requires us to set aside our natural human inclinations, and respond in a Christ-like way. What would that be? Review Jesus’ response to violence and hostility. Review Paul’s list of “armor” above. This is how God expects his children to respond. (I never said it would be easy!)
For the past few weeks, we have been studying the sixth chapter of John; we have been exploring the meaning of the gift of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. A few times, there has been an overlap of verses from the week before. Today’s reading begins with the last three verses of last week. This helps us to remember where we left off. This week, we will focus on the reactions of those who heard these words.
As with the second reading, this will be last week for this subject. Next week, we return to studying the gospel of Mark.
- Jesus tells us that we must “eat his flesh and drink his blood”. If we do, we will abide in him, and will live forever. We are also given the location of this discourse, Capernaum. This is a lakeside village, not far from his hometown of Nazareth. (vv. 56-59)
- His disciples have a hard time swallowing this teaching. “Who can accept it” is sort of like “What am I supposed to do with this information?” John wrote this many years later, so his readers were familiar with the Lord’s Supper. But Jesus’ disciples didn’t know about the Eucharist. This might have sounded a little cannibalistic to them. For sure, it was weird and unsettling. Please note that “disciples” means all of Jesus’ followers; Jesus’ apostles are called “the twelve” here. (v. 60)
- Jesus then challenged them to think outside “the flesh”, and think in terms of spiritual matters. No, Jesus is not talking about them consuming a chunk of his arm or leg. He’s talking about a spiritual meal—consuming his teaching, his presence, and his life. (vv. 61-63)
- Jesus is aware that many cannot stomach this lesson. He knows that many will fall away, including the apostle who will betray him. It is all part of his Father’s master plan. (vv. 64-65)
- Many leave. Jesus turns to the apostles, and asks if they will also leave him. (vv. 66-67)
- Peter speaks for the twelve (or at least eleven of them). “We’re staying. You have the words of eternal life.” (v. 68)
- Peter says “We have come to believe…”, which indicates that it has taken them time to come to this conclusion. (v. 69)
- Verses 70 & 71 are not included in today’s reading. It mentions that Judas Iscariot will be the one of the twelve to betray Jesus.
There are several reactions to Jesus’ difficult lesson. Some left him at this point, while others recommitted their lives to following him. One remained silent, and betrayed him later.
Jesus’ teachings are fairly simple, but they are not easy. If you’re in doubt, just take a second look at today’s second reading. If you need more, read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). These teachings often run the opposite direction from modern human wisdom. Many see these teachings as foolish & irrelevant, and reject them. Others claim Jesus, but live their lives according to few of his teachings. There are some who do their best to embrace all of them, knowing they will stumble along the way.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Where do you fall on this spectrum? Jesus calls us to be his disciples in this time and place. We all have a part to play. We will all stumble and fall. But we know that we are forgiven. We must run the good race, knowing that the Holy Spirit is there to guide us.