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Friday, November 21, 2014

Who says stones can't "talk"?

I am always amused by the "posturing" of some when they think they are pretty "hot stuff" and there is no one who can challenge them or give them a run for their money.  It is like they just stand there self-assured, thinking their good looks, money, or massive "status" will somehow make everyone around them just cower and run.  In ancient times, when kingdoms were all the "rage", men rose to places of great prominence and were crowned "king" over regions of lands.  Most of the time, these lands were taken lock, stock, and barrel from those who inhabited them previously.  If anyone survived (or was allowed to survive) in the "taking" of the land, they were usually forced into indentured service to the king.  They provided for his coffers as they lived out their lives under his reign.  Until a stronger "challenger" arose, with bigger or more skilled armies, that king would hold the rule of the land, and his offspring would take over at his death.  Not having lived under this type of monarchy, I don't know all the ins and outs of what it means to those under the king's rule, but one thing is for sure - no one crossed his path without bowing to his "authority".  If anyone challenged it, they could find themselves on the inside of a grave in short order! Even the most "well-established" kingdom doesn't stand a chance when God's armies (and even one of his faithful servants) come on the scene, though!

The Amorite kings west of the Jordan River and the Canaanite kings along the Mediterranean Sea lost their courage and their will to fight, when they heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan River to let Israel go across. (Joshua 5:1 CEV)

The Amorites were descendants of Canaan, son of Ham (better known as the son of Noah). The Canaanite kings were other descendants viewed as "pagan nations" living in the region of what God had declared to be the "Promised Land" for this newer Israelite nation. The Canaanite and Amorite nations were viewed as the most powerful of rulers in all of Palestine.  The peoples occupying the territory west of the Jordan River were getting a little concerned with the news of Israel's advancement into their region.  This is often the case when the news of God's presence begins to spread.  Babylon was one of the primary "regions" of their rule. These band of kings who inhabited the various territories west of Jordan had resided in their regions for quite a while, yet the arrival of ONE band of warriors from a tribe with NO established territory made them sit up and take notice.  Isn't it amazing how God works?  He takes a people known to be wanderers in the desert, appoints men to service in warfare, and then proceeds to challenge those more "established" and "strong" armies with their very presence!  God certainly does have a different way of doing things, doesn't he?

It is quite possible they had heard the previous stories of how God had dried up the waters of the Red Sea so Israel could pass over on dry ground while the huge Egyptian armies had hotly pursued them.  The reputation of these people may have been well-known in the Canaanite regions.  Yet, their wandering around the desert for nearly forty years after such a "formidable" exit from Egypt might have "dulled" the "image" other nations held of them!  It isn't always the case?  Our times of "wandering in the desert", struggling with obedience to even the smallest things, can do a lot to "lower our image" in the eyes of those who might have heard of God's mighty works on our behalf!  Yet, God is faithful - even when we lose our perspective and take a little longer than we should to get from point "A" to point "B" in our lives!

As if to establish the "reputation" of Joshua in the eyes of the nation of Israel, and to ensure the Canaanite nations also knew of God's "reputation", God provides another miracle of "epic proportions" in holding back the Jordan so they could pass over on dry ground.  If the past "reputation" of God's power was diminished in anyone's eyes, it was fresh on their minds now!  I think God uses some pretty awesome displays of his power and grace to "wow" the nations, even if it may not be the "holding back of waters" these days.  If Joshua had any niggling of doubt in his mind of God being "with him" as he led this people into the Canaanite territories, he would have had a huge "infilling" of faith at Jordan.  If the people of Israel doubted their ability to overtake the largely feared tribes in the region, they might just have felt a little less doubt and a whole lot of assurance of God's presence being the "force" which could accomplish huge miracles on their behalf!

As if to reassure Israel of God's presence with them and his care over their lives, he does this miracle on their behalf.  The ways God reminds us of his presence may not always be "epic", but they are there nonetheless.  We just need to acknowledge them!  Maybe this is why Joshua commanded one man from each tribe to pick up a large stone from the middle of the Jordan and create a memorial (a pile of 12 stones) on the Canaanite side of Jordan.  Perhaps he was as much reminding Israel of his power and presence with them as he was establishing a symbol of his presence and power for all those who were looking on. What we should see in this "reminder" is the truth of how God moves on behalf of those willing to take the first steps of obedience toward what he desires in our lives.  Plain and simple, when we finally step out into what he has provided for our lives, we realize the greatness of his power and the provision of his grace on our behalf.  Just sayin!