Job’s Sufferings – Job 1:1-2:13; 42:10-17

JOB 1:1 – 2:13; 42:10-17                                 JOB’S SUFFERING                                                                 Day 20

Job lies outside the STORY line of the Bible leads to Jesus. Based on the names and places in the book, Job probably lived within a few generations of Abraham between Canaan and Mesopotamia. It is in the Bible because of Job’s struggle with God.

In the prologue to Job, we are introduced to a conscientious, God-fearing man blessed with animals, servants, and children. He is described as “the greatest of all the people of the east.” We also glimpse happenings in Heaven, as God uses Job as a challenge to Satan who seems to be claiming that all of Earth is his. God says, “What about Job?” Satan accuses Job of serving God for selfish reasons, that if God were to take away his prosperity and comfort, Job would curse God. God allowed Satan to put Job to the test. In a single day, Job lost his wealth and family. In all this, Job was steadfast. Next, Satan afflicted Job personally. This affliction set the stage for the main part of the book, a dialogue between Job and his friends.

Job and his friends shared a view of life, still common today, that has a grain of truth in it though it isn’t the whole truth about God and life. They believed that if you did right, God would reward you with prosperity; if you sinned against God and fellowman, God would punish you (cf. 4:7-9). Job could not understand why God was afflicting Him, knowing nothing about what God and Satan were doing.

Job’s friends, however, had the answer. To them it was simple. Job had sinned, and if he would repent God would again bless him.

Job knew he was innocent of the things they accused him of, and pointed out that many times wicked people do prosper. He began to question God’s justice in allowing him to suffer so. He got to the point he was saying that if God would come face to face with him to argue the matter, he would show God’s injustice. (Job’s renown “patience” was learned; he did not have it all the way through his trials.)

Eventually, God came to talk with Job. He did not, however, speak of Job’s sinfulness as the friends had. He asked a series of questions about the management of the physical universe. Job could answer none of them. The implication was, “If you can’t tell me how I do these things that are relatively simple, how can you question my moral rule in the world?”

Philip Yancey in Reaching for the Invisible God” (p. 19) writes,

Freud accused the church of teaching only questions that it can answer. Some churches may do that, but God surely does not. In books like Job, Ecclesiastes, and Habakkuk, the Bible poses blunt questions that have no answers.(emphasis added)

What does all this teach us? Job learned to trust God, regardless of what happened. This is the same trust that kept Christians faithful when facing extreme persecution. Trust God no matter what! Easy to say. Not so easy to do. If all we learn from Job is that remaining faithful through trials will give us greater blessings when they are over, we miss the point.

Do not expect God to reward you in this life, though He may. However, he does not guarantee faithfulness to be rewarded now. Trust Him through all trials. You will come to know Him better, as Jesus did in Gethsemane.

Return From Exile – Ezra 1:1-11; 2:68-70; 3:8-13

EZRA 1:1-11; 2:68-70; 3:8-13                                         RETURN FROM EXILE                                                         Day 19

Even from the time of Moses, God had warned that disobedience would cause oppression and even captivity by the nations around them (Deuteronomy 28). In the years prior to their exile, prophets, such as Isaiah and Micah, had warned Judah of their coming affliction, and in the years immediately prior to Babylon’s assault on Jerusalem, Jeremiah warned of their coming fall, as did Habakkuk and Zephaniah. But they did not listen. Tradition says Isaiah was sawn in two. Jeremiah describes how false prophets abused him – and King Jehoiakin cut the scroll Jeremiah sent him into pieces, throwing them into the fire.

Yet, along with warnings of exile was a promise of a return that would exceed their deliverance from Egypt as a monument to the LORD’s faithfulness. Meanwhile, Jeremiah told the people to settle down in Babylon, grow crops, and pray for the well-being of the city of their captivity – for they would prosper as their captors prospered. In captivity, Ezekiel prophesied among the people and Daniel prophesied to the kings of Babylon and of the Medo-Persian conquerors of Babylon.

It was idolatry that sent Judah into captivity. There they learned to serve the LORD God alone. They also had to learn to serve Him without the Temple as the place God dwelt. In captivity they developed the synagogue and the oral traditions that still sustain Judaism in their worship of Yahweh.

Yet, they wept as they longed to return to Jerusalem (see Psalm 137). Ezekiel was a prophet of hope to them. He told of a glorious return when God’s breath would blow upon the dry bones of Israel and make them live again (Ezek. 37:1-14). He also described a glorious Temple from which living water would flow, giving life to the desert and even to the Dead Sea (Ezek. 47:1-12). He spoke of a coming time when Israel and Judah would come from exile, become one nation, and have David as their king who would rule them as their shepherd (Ezek. 37:15-28).

Yet, when they returned to Canaan under Zerubbabel and Ezra, it was not like what the prophets foretold. The Temple was a weak shadow of Solomon’s Temple. The walls of Jerusalem built by Nehemiah were quickly thrown up and totally unable to resist a siege by an attacking army. Further, they were still ruled by foreign powers, first Persia and later the Greeks of Syria and Egypt. For about a century Judean kings ruled, but they were not David’s descendants, the Maccabean kings,168 BC to 63 BC when Rome took control. In Jesus’ day, the Rabbis believed the exile would continue until Messiah came.

Certainly, at the end of the Old Testament, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi all looked to a future Messianic era. In the return, the people were still not faithful to the LORD even though they did not worship idols. There were only a few (relatively speaking) who returned to Canaan. Most Jews (people of Judah) and Israelites (the rest of Israel) were still scattered among the nations.

Had the LORD forgotten His covenant with Abraham? The prophets said He had not. But at the end of the Old Testament, it certainly appeared to many He had, though some still looked for Messiah’s coming.

Next, we look at a non-Abrahamic worshiper of God; then we resume the STORY as the LORD begins to bring it to a faithful climax.

Judah Is Conquered – 2 Kings 25:1-30

2 KINGS 25:1-30                                                  JUDAH IS CONQUERED                                                                       Day 18

What happened with Judah while Israel rapidly went deeper into idolatry? What brought the royal seed of David to the point two were captives in Babylon, one of whom saw his sons killed just before his eyes were put out?

Frankly, Rehoboam’s arrogance at the people’s request for relief from the burdens Solomon imposed on them pointed to a quick loss of his kingdom. Of course, he did lose 10 of the 12 tribes. Had that attitude continued without interruption, Judah would have fallen much sooner. As it was, Judah continued nearly 3 ½ centuries, or more than 100 years after Israel fell.

There were good kings among the 19 descendants of David who served from Rehoboam through Zechariah, the l king. These few good kings of Judah served as sort of a “dam” holding back the flood of idolatry that surrounded both Israel and Judah, a blessing Israel did not share. There was also more stability in Judah, as they had but one dynasty, while in more than 100 fewer years of history, Israel had nine dynasties, two of which lasted three months or less. Toward the end, Judah had two kings that lasted only three months as well, but this was in the time of dissolution when foreign powers set kings on Judah’s throne as they willed.

The “good kings” were Asa, Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah. Each of these destroyed some of the idolatrous shrines. Hezekiah and Josiah each restored the Passover observance. Josiah not only tore down the Baal shrines on the “high places” in Judah, he also went into what had been Israel to destroy the Golden Calf worship (that continued after Israel fell). About the middle of his reign, he began to clear the rubbish from the Temple and found a copy of the Book of the Law. Reading this, he realized they had not been keeping the ordained feast days, and had a great Passover, such as had not been observed since the time of Samuel (2 Chron. 35:18).

After Josiah, though, came the deluge. There was no one after him to point the people in the right way.

Throughout, there were four sources of influence: The Prince (or king), the Priests, the Prophets, and the People themselves. When there was a good Prince, he could influence the Priests and the People. A bad Prince often had bad Prophets, though God sent good Prophets as well. Sometimes, a good Priest would overcome a bad Prince. When the Prince, the Priests, or the People would listen to the true Prophets of God, the nation could be held back from its evil ways.

Hezekiah listened to Isaiah; his son would not. Jeremiah had almost as long a prophetic career as Isaiah. While Josiah heard him, his successors did not. You may remember the story of King Jehoiakim who cut up the scroll brought to him from Jeremiah with his pen knife, throwing the pieces into the fire (Jeremiah 36). Other prophets to Judah included Micah, Nahum, and Habakkuk.

At the end, fear of Babylon led the Princes and the people to trust foreign alliances instead of the Lord. They were not like Hezekiah who prayed to the LORD when the Assyrians besieged Jerusalem and was delivered (2 Kings 19). His descendants from 606–586 BC did not follow his steps – with disastrous results.

 Next we look at the Exile and Return as the STORY of God’s faithfulness continues.

The Northern Kingdom Is Conquered – 2 Kings 17:6-23

2 KINGS 17:6-23                        THE NORTHERN KINGDOM IS CONQUERED                               Day 17

The history of Israel, the northern kingdom, was one of rebellion against the LORD. From Jeroboam, their first king, to Hoseah, the king at the end, they served idols and made images all over their land. Jeroboam made two golden calves and told the people to worship them instead of going to Jerusalem to worship the LORD. From then until the end of that nation, it is said of every king that he walked in the ways of Jeroboam who caused Israel to sin by worshiping the golden calves.

During the 200 years (about) of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, there were 9 different dynasties, or families, of kings and 19 different kings, one of whom reigned but 1 week and another but 1 month. The last king of each dynasty was murdered by his successor, along with all of his family.

There were great prophets that lived and worked in Israel during this time – but neither the kings nor the people would listen to them. Elijah and Elisha prophesied to Ahab and his family. Ahab introduced worship of Baal into Israel and did more evil than all who preceded him. Michaiah was another prophet who rebuked Ahab, and it was he who prophesied Ahab’s death. Jonah, Hosea and Amos prophesied in the days of Jeroboam II (many of these kings had the same or similar names).

All of these spoke strongly against the evils of their day and the departures of the nation and its leaders from worshiping and obeying the LORD. Note: Obeying the LORD was much more than worshiping Him as Moses had taught them. In fact, several of the prophets spoke of hearkening to the voice of God as being more important than the rituals and sacrifices of worship.

Isaiah, though prophesying in Judah, spoke Israel’s arrogance, who at the time was a major threat to Judah:

The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel, and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: “The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” (Isaiah 9:8-10)

This happened after Pul, King of Assyria, broke down the wall of Samaria (Israel was also known as Ephraim or Jacob; Samaria was the capital city). This invasion is related in 2 Kings 15:19. It was only a few years after this arrogant boast of rebuilding stronger and better, that Israel was completely destroyed, not because God willed it – but because they would not return to him after warning on top of warning (See Amos 4:6-12).

Our reading today tells why Israel went into captivity, never to return as Israel. They turned to other gods. They became like the nations they had replaced in Canaan. They created “high places” as shrines to other gods all over the land. They sacrificed their children on those altars. They were totally given to idolatry. (How far can America be from being forsaken by the LORD whom our nation is forsaking?)

Amos spoke of how utterly destroyed Israel would be:

For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth. (Amos 9:9)

 In other words, Israel would be scattered among the nations as dust, and there would be nothing of it left to be identified as “Israel.”

The Kingdom Is Split – 1 Kings 11:42-12:24

1 KINGS 11:42 – 12:24                                       THE KINGDOM IS SPLIT                                                                    Day 16

Under Solomon things were not as they should be in Israel because of the foolish actions of that wise man. He acted more like an Oriental Despot than as a Vassal-King under YAHWEH, the Lord God. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He was also a great builder, not only of the Temple to the LORD, but also of his own home – and shrines to the gods of his foreign wives. He built stables for his large number of horses and accumulated many chariots as well.

This put great demands on his subjects, so much that when he died, the people said to his son, Rehoboam, Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you(1 Kings 12:4). This was when they had gathered for a coronation; instead, they threatened a revolution.

Rehoboam asked the older men what he should do. They said accept what the people said. He then asked the young men; they said tell them:

My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions. (1 Kings 12:10-11)

At this, the 10 tribes of the North left Rehoboam and made Jeroboam their king. Out of faithfulness to the promise He gave to David, God allowed Rehoboam to continue as king over 2 tribes.

Why did the powerful kingdom of David followed by the glorious kingdom of Solomon fail? The fault was Solomon’s. The wisdom God gave him could not keep the nation safe when he turned from God in particulars that Moses had warned against centuries before:

When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)

God put Solomon on the throne, but he did everything God had warned kings not to do – and Israel suffered the consequence.

Solomon Builds The Temple – 1 Kings 3:1-2; 5:1-6:11

1 Kings 3:1-2; 5:1 – 6:11                                   SOLOMON BUILDS THE TEMPLE                                                              Day 15

A temple is where a god lives and meets with his people. On our first day, we noted that the Garden of Eden was like a temple in that God would come there to walk and talk with our first parents. When Israel was in the wilderness after escaping Egypt, one of the first things God had them do was build the Tabernacle, which was a portable Temple. This Tabernacle continued to serve as the only Temple Israel had for nearly half a millennium. As such it was the center of the religious life of the nation.

When King David had secured his throne and his borders, he wanted to build a Temple in Jerusalem, his new capitol city. God told him he would have a son whose throne would endure forever; this son would build a Temple to the LORD.

Near the end of his life, David installed Solomon on his throne. The name Solomon is closely related to shalom, the Hebrew word for peace. David was not allowed to build the Temple because he was a man of war; Solomon, whose name means peaceful, had that honor.

It was a time of peace for Israel. The nations around them were subdued, either paying tribute or making alliances of friendship. With peace came wealth. In his time, Solomon was likely the richest man in the world, and prosperity trickled down to the people.

The Temple itself was not as large as the later Temple in Jerusalem started by Herod the Great and still under construction during the life of Jesus. Nevertheless, it was a magnificent structure that served Judah almost 400 years until it was destroyed by the Babylonians c. 586 B.C.

This was the place of the High Priest, a hereditary position for the sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother and 1st High Priest. It was also the place of corporate worship with daily, weekly, monthly, and annual sacrifices. The people also brought individual sacrifices there to be offered on their behalf. This was also where people would come from all over the nation (and later all over the world) for the great national feast days.

The most holy day of the year was the Day of Atonement, the one day on which the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place to offer atonement for his own sins and the sins of the people. This was offered on “The Mercy Seat” above the Ark of the Covenant and under the wings of the Cherubim stretched completely across the Most Holy Place, which (in Solomon’s Temple) was a cube of 30 feet.

When the woman of Samaria asked Jesus where people should worship, on Mt. Gerazim or in Jerusalem, He pointed to a coming time when worship would not be limited to any geographic place. How could this be? It would be a time when God’s Spirit would live in His people, so they would not need to go to a Temple to worship Him. Instead, we now worship wherever we may be, for Jesus is building His church as a Temple of living stones.

Unfortunately, Solomon, led astray by his many foreign wives, built temples and shrines to their foreign gods as well. This departure led to another sad twist in the STORY of how God is setting things right in the world. We will see how that part of the STORY played out in the next days of this Thirty Day STORY of the Bible.

God’s Covenant With David – 2 Samuel 7:1-29

2 SAMUEL 7:12-29                           GOD’S COVENANT WITH DAVID                                                                          Day 14

Saul showed himself unfit to be Israel’s king; David showed a different spirit.

After Saul died in battle against the Philistines, David mourned Saul and Jonathan and urged Israel to mourn for Saul. He did not rejoice in Saul’s death, though this opened the way for him to become king.

“After this David inquired of the LORD” as to what he should do (2 Sam 2:1). This was characteristic of David as he moved to take up the kingship. God told him to go up to Hebron in Judah. The Judeans came to him there and made him their king.

Meanwhile, Abner (Saul’s general) set Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, up as king over the rest of Israel. A civil war followed with the house of Saul growing weaker and David growing stronger. After a falling out between Abner and Ish-bosheth, Abner defected to David, but was treacherously killed by Joab, David’s cousin and commander. David demoted Joab for what he had done and mourned for Abner’s death. “And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people” (2 Sam 3:36).

After this, all Israel came to David to anoint him as their king (2 Sam 5:3). Now that all Israel accepted David, he turned his attention to external enemies, first taking Jerusalem and the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites. He made his home there, not in Hebron (the main city of Judah at that time) nor in Gibeah, where Saul had made his headquarters. Jerusalem, newly claimed by Israel under David, was neutral in the civil war. David did not treat the northern tribes as vanquished enemies but as equals, and won their allegiance.

When the Philistines came against David, he inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up against the Philistines?” (2 Sam 5:19). When the Philistines came again, he again inquired, “Shall I go up?” This time the LORD told him to circle behind them and attack their rear, which led to a second, greater victory.

The matter of Uzzah dying for touching the ark affected David. He accepted blame for not inquiring of the LORD about this. He continued only after consulting the Book of the Law (2 Chronicles 15:11-15), and had the Levites carry the ark as Moses commanded.

Now, secure in his new capitol, David decided to build a house for the LORD. He informed Nathan, the prophet, of what he intended. Nathan (being a preacher) immediately said go ahead! That night, God spoke to Nathan and sent him to David with another message.

David could not build a temple for God (the reason is in 1 Chronicles 28:3); but God would give David a son who would build a great Temple for Him. Moreover, the LORD said,

I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son…. but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul…. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever. (1 Sam 7:13-16; cf. Luke 2:30-33)

David responded with humility and praise:

Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? ….Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you…. (1 Sam 7:18, 22)

David & Goliath – 1 Samuel 17:12-58

1 SAMUEL 17:12-58                                                   DAVID AND GOLIATH                                                                             Day 13

Israel demanded a king to fight their battles for them. God gave them what they wanted: Saul, son of Kish, who stood head and shoulders above all the people. Such a man should indeed be able to lead them into battle.

Initially, Saul was humble. Soon, however, he showed a different spirit. When Jabesh-Gilead sent to Saul for help against the beseiging Ammonites, Saul responded. He cut his oxen into pieces, and sent them to each tribe, demanding that they come with him to Jabesh to rescue it – under threat of their oxen being cut in pieces. The people responded; Jabesh was rescued; and Saul showed he would rule with threats, not lead with love.

In 3 other recorded incidents, Saul showed he was not fit to be king. First, he impatiently took to himself the function of a priest (1 Sam 13). Result? Samuel warned him his kingdom would not continue. Second, a rash command while routing the Philistine led to confrontation between Saul and Jonathan, his son. Jonathan had unknowingly disobeyed Saul’s order by eating a little honey while chasing the Philistines, which began after Jonathan left camp to do some reconnoitering on his own. He defeated a large group of them with his armorbearer, yet Saul was ready to kill Jonathan for his ignorant “disobedience” to the foolish order not to eat. (1 Sam 14). Third, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites – men, women, children, and even their livestock. Instead, Saul spared King Agag and brought the best of the animals back. When Samuel accused him of disobedience, he made excuses, blaming the people. At this, Samuel told him the LORD had rejected him from being king of Israel (1 Sam 15).

Then David comes into the STORY. Samuel was sent to anoint David as the next king of Israel while he was a shepherd boy in his father’s house (1 Sam 16). Soon after this his encounter with Goliath took place.

Saul and his army were camped across the Valley of Elah from the Philistines. A 9 1/2 foot giant, Goliath, came out challenging Israel to send a man to face him in single combat to decide the battle. Morning and evening, he came out making this challenge for 40 days, terrifying Saul and the army.

Jesse sent David to take a “care package” to his brothers who were with Saul. When David heard the giant’s challenge, he was mortified. Could no one face “this uncircumcised Philistine” who would “defy the armies of the living God”? When the soldiers took David to Saul, he said “Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine!” And he did. And he won – because he went with a giant faith in God.

Saul, had he been a real king, would have met Goliath himself. Instead, he sat in his tent waiting for someone else to do what the people wanted a king to do: fight their battles for them. A young shepherd boy, untrained in battle, but strong in faith and courage did what the king should have done.

The rest of 1 Samuel is a story of tension between David and Saul. David was a humble servant; Saul was a jealous king. David won the hearts of the people; Saul feared David because of his lust for personal adulation. Having a king was not enough. Israel needed the right king if they were to bless the nations.

The Israelites Request A King – 1 Samuel 8:1-22

1 SAMUEL 8:1-22                                              THE ISRAELITES REQUEST A KING                                                                Day 12

Israel demanded a king. Why would they do that? The immediate cause was that in Samuel’s old age he had appointed his sons as judges. These boys were not like their father. They took bribes and abused their position.

A deeper reason may be that they were tired of the insecurities of the period of having judges – a deliverer raised up when they were under the heel of some foreign power, but anarchy until the next judge would be called after they had again fallen into distress. To overcome this, apparently they felt that a king would provide a permanent, strong government and give them someone to “fight our battles for us.”

Additionally, they wanted to be like the other nations. The problem with this was that God had formed Israel to show to the other nations a better way to live. As Moses had said in his farewell after reminding them he had taught them the statutes of the LORD:

Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who when they hear all these staatutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” (Deuteronomy 4:6 – see also day 10 comments.)

By wanting to become like the other nations, Israel was forgetting their role in the STORY.

Samuel was not pleased at this request, but when he prayed to the LORD, he was told, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” Nevertheless, the LORD said to give them what they asked for, but to warn them of what it would mean. So Samuel pointed out that the king would:

·         Set up a standing army by taking their sons to be his charioteers, horsemen and infantry.

·         Require others to be officers, as well as laborers in the fields and in making arms for the army.

·         Take their daughters to work for his establishment as “perfumers and cooks and bakers.”

·         Requisition the best of their fields, vineyards, and orchards.

·         Levy a tithe (tax) on their grain and vineyards for the support of his officers.

·         Impound their male and female servants as well as the strongest of their young men and beasts of burden for his work.

·         Demand a tithe of their flocks.

In doing all these things, the king would make them slaves. This would lead them to cry out against their king as they had cried out against Pharaoh in Egypt and their oppressors in the days of the judges. In other words, having a king would institutionalize oppression; it would not cure it.

They were oppressed when they turned away from God. The cure for their oppression was not a permanent government with a Department of Defense. It was a change of heart so they would habitually walk in the ways of the LORD God. Anything else would fall short, for they would be living without God’s protection.

After Samuel’s warning, though, they insisted:

The people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

So Samuel gave them a king. God gave them what they demanded – but sent leanness into their souls (cf. Psa 106: 15). This alternative to real, redemptive repentance gave a tragic turn to the STORY.

Joshua’s Farewell Speech – Joshua 24:1-33

JOSHUA 24:1-33                                                   JOSHUA’S FAREWELL SPEECH                                                                    Day 11

In the wilderness, God had fed, watered, protected, and led Israel. But the characteristic response of the people was to complain and rebel. Frequently, they wanted to go back to Egypt, which they remembered as a land of plenty of diverse foods instead of their monotonous diet of manna.

Just before they entered Canaan they had an orgy with Moabite women in worship of the Baal of Peor. Their record as servants of God was not good. It was not because of their faithfulness that God gave them the land – but because of God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The STORY is not that they were faithful, but that God is faithful.

In a 7 year campaign, Joshua, the successor to Moses, led Israel to virtually destroy the people living in Canaan, whose iniquity was now full (cf. Genesis 15:16). Their victories, however, were not due to their own prowess, but to God’s fighting for them. Near the end of Joshua’s life, he made two great speeches, one to the leaders of Israel (Joshua 23) and one apparently to the nation (Joshua 24). In these, he recounted what God had done for them in delivering them from Egypt and giving them their new land.

Then he laid a choice before them: Whom will you serve? The gods your fathers served in Mesopotamia before God called Abraham or the LORD? They declared they would serve the LORD. Joshua said to them:

You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God…. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (Joshua 24:19-20)

They insisted, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” And, they did – as long as Joshua lived, and as long as the elders lived who had known Joshua and all the things the LORD had done for Israel. But when that generation died, the STORY took a tragic turn.

In­­­­ the book of Judges, a period of 3 centuries or more, there was an oft repeated cycle (Judges 2:11-23):

·         Rebellion                       (Sin):          people would turn from the LORD to serve other gods.

·         Retribution        (Suffering):         the LORD would punish them by outside nations.

·         Repentance          (Sorrow):          the people would cry out to God for deliverance.

·         Redemption      (Salvation):         the LORD would raise up a deliverer to save His people.

There were 15 deliverers from Othniel to Samuel. These were dark days for Israel. Some of the deliverer-judges were great leaders, such as Deborah (a woman judge), Gideon, and Samuel. Others were scoundrels, such as Abimelech, Jephtha and Samson. All-in-all, the period is characterized in the last 5 chapters of Judges as a time when “there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25; see also 17:6; 18:1; & 19:1). Yet, the little book of Ruth, set probably in the time of Eli (the 14th judge, just before Samuel) lets us know there were still righteous people in Israel in those days of turmoil and rebellion.

When Samuel, the greatest of the judges, was an old man the people approached him to ask for a king. That is the subject of our next reading in the STORY.