Sunday, April 18, 2010

project 4:4: the prodigal weeks, week 10

Sometimes I set ridiculous goals and fail.  And sometimes I set normal, achievable goals and still fall miserably short.  On Sunday, I told Shane that I was going to finish the month of March in the Daily Bible because, of course, I am still woefully behind.  I hadn't made any progress toward that goal until Thursday, and I'm still a good ways off, but at least I feel good about the effort.

Most days I eat my lunch at my desk whether I bring it from home our run out to one of the many convenient restaurants in the River Market district.  Usually there's some decent company and conversation going on in the workroom to accompany my digestion, and on days when we're not visiting the quacketeria (as my boss calls it), the internet provides all the lunchtime entertainment one could ever need.  But the fatal flaw in having lunch in my work space is that inevitably, I find myself doing work during my lunch.  Most days I assume I've spent no more time working during a break than I've spent off-task during the rest of my day and call it even.  But some days, I want to reclaim lunch.  Such was the case on Thursday.

So at 12:15, I gathered my sandwich and fruit and leftover salad from the fridge, loaded up my sunglasses and my Daily Bible, and headed for the charming little library garden.  I sat on a bench, enjoyed the beauty of creation and a perfect-ish lunch while reading about the total annihilation of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  If you're going to read about the complete destruction of several cities and scads of people, you might as well have an enjoyable setting and good food to ease the sting.

The time I spent reading today brought me to the end of another week's worth of reading.  This chunk covered the last bits of Deuteronomy and the first seventeen chapters of Joshua.  So.  Much.  Happens.  I'm not sure how I'll fit all this action into one post.

Moses, our constant companion and spiritual leader since week three of this reading, is gathered to his people.  I end up feeling so sad for him, that he doesn't get to enter the Promised Land because he hit a rock, that he endures all the wandering and the grumbling and the gritty work of covenants and reconciliation and doesn't experience the glorious victories that God brings about for the Israelites because they're keeping their end of the covenant for once.  But just as Moses shared a face-to-face relationship with God in life, it appears that God was with him in his death, and Moses claimed the victory and received his reward for his service as God's mouthpiece.  Well done, Moses.

Joshua, son of Nun (and subject of one of the worst Biblical puns), is commissioned to lead the people in their conquest of the Promised Land.  Several times in the week's reading Joshua is told by Moses and by God to "be strong and courageous . . ."  If I were Joshua, I think I would have begun to get a complex that the Lord thought I was weak and cowardly.  Probably, the point is that conquering the inhabitants of the land is a monumental task that will only be accomplished through divine intervention, and Joshua, as their leader, is going to have to bravely trust in God's deliverance in the face of many enemies and seemingly impossible battles to set an encouraging example for the people, and he does. 

I like Joshua.  He's a leader who doesn't seem to falter.  From the time that he spied out the land forty years ago and spoke up with Caleb about God's ability to hand it over to them to his obedience in carrying out God's conquering plan to his farewell address that is nothing short of a throwdown to current and future Israelites, Joshua stays impressively true to God's purpose, only once slipping a bit when he is fooled into making the treaty with the Gibeonites.  Don't misunderstand me, I like a Bible character with some flaws, and it's often encouraging to me that God uses His flawed creation to accomplish His plans and I'm also not trying to say that Joshua is perfect, but I also get a lot of satisfaction from encountering this guy who seems to be able to live a consistently faithful, obedient life.  He's someone of whom much is required, who steps up with God's help and accomplishes great things.  Good for you, Joshua (Incidentally, my favorite brother is named Joshua, and I think in this respect, my Joshua has much in common with Bible Joshua.)

I sometimes forget about God parting the Jordan until I'm reading Joshua.  It doesn't get the high profile treatment that Charlton Heston's Red Sea parting gets.  But it's kind of awesome that God gives these folks a reminder miracle, a clear, undeniable sign of His presence and constancy and intervention.  If God cares so deeply that their feet don't get wet getting to the Promised Land that he will stop the flow of a river at flood stage, what confidence those Israelites should have about their upcoming conquest.  Unrelated to the rest of this paragraph, but next up chronologically, why hadn't they been circumcising people on the way (Joshua 5)?  Was it just so God could "roll away the reproach of Egypt" in one fell swoop?   

The Sunday that this reading was scheduled to occur, we had a Jericho sermon, and the French Peas' classic, "Keep Walking" marched through my head nonstop, just as surely as the Larry the Cucumber and his pals marched around the walls of Jericho.  It's funny because I know several songs about falling walls in Jericho, but clearly the Veggie Tales version is the catchiest.  What a kick-off to the Conquest Tour of Canaan that the Israelites are embarking upon!  A little marching, a little trumpeting, and some appropriately timed shouting, and God delivers the city into their hands.  What a wake up call to the inhabitants of the land.  The God of all creation isn't playing by your rules.

And then there's Rahab (spoiler alert:  she's going to become an ancestor of some very famous Israelites.  And Jesus.) who recognizes God by his miraculous deliverance of the Israelites and throws her lot with them by protecting Joshua's spies.  Of an entire city, only her family is spared from the total destruction of Jericho, and her salvation will help me through wrapping my head around all those other folks who are not spared.

And Achan.  Oh, Achan, you Israelites were doing so well.  Renewed covenant and circumcision and obedient marching led to your first amazing victory, and instead of trusting that God meant business about the rest of his Jericho-conquering instructions, you got greedy, an act that cost thirty-six of your brothers their lives and dealt a blow to the budding reputation of your people as a nation protected by the one true God.  And for your disobedience, your entire family was destroyed also.  Your legacy is a cautionary tale. 

In the face of the Ai defeat, Joshua proves himself as a Godly leader once again by prostrating himself before the Lord and begging for a return of His favor.  He follows God's instructions to the letter to flush out Achan's deceit, carries out his punishment, and learns military strategy from the God of Angel Armies (which is one of my favorite names for God and how Eugene Peterson translates "Lord Almighty") to successfully overtake Ai.  And Joshua continues to rely on God as the Savior, who sends hailstones on their enemies and makes the sun stand still in the sky.  That blows my mind.  Joshua 10:14 is perfect:  "There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man.  Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!"  Surely.  So the nation of Israel is granted victory after victory against all comers, and the land is divided among the remaining tribes, and there's at least a whole day's worth of reading that's listing all the cities and towns and villages allotted to each tribe, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I skimmed it in my sunshine-y reading garden.

Do you remember Caleb, imaginary Bible scholar?  God does, and this faithful man, one of only two from a previous rebellious generation who enters this Promised Land, receives the land promised him forty years earlier as a reward for his confidence in God's power and protection.  Good on ya, Caleb.

And though by now I've read a few days past the technical end of week 10 and am ready to start talking about Joshua's farewell address, I'll end this post, so I can get back to my reading, and perhaps one day be on track again.


  1. One of the things that is really easy to fall into when reading through the whole OT is to feel like the events are happening back to back to back, and it's easy to assume that the actual life and practice of Israel measured up to the Law in some sort of real way. What both the text and historical evidence tells us is that the vast majority of the time, it did not. The circumcision bit that you mention is a good example of this. Another is the Year of Jubilee which you read about and were no doubt completely inspired by back in the Pentateuch, but which, I am sad to say does not appear to have ever been celebrated by Israel. One that you're probably already figuring out is that even though Joshua makes it seem like the land is pretty well cleaned out of ___ites, Judges will begin by listing all the areas that remain unconquered, and Jerusalem will remain a Canaanite stronghold until the time of David's reign.
    Two thoughts on this phenomenon:
    1. It really reveals the humanity of these people (Israel). They continually screw up, and very very rarely (if ever) do that actually live up to their calling. They can't even get foundational things like circumcision down despite 40 years in the wilderness. They can't utterly destroy their enemies even when God has commanded it and is doing most of the fighting for them. They are a fairly miserable bunch of screw ups, and even the heroes suffer major flaws (Joshua notwithstanding).
    2. They kept passing down those ideals that they never lived up to. Just about the time that I loose all my respect for ancient Israel as a people, I remember that they're the very ones who are passing on these stories and who are copying down these books. At a time when every king in the world was erasing all of his mistakes out of the history books and building monuments exaggerating his glory and accomplishments, this small, seemingly insignificant nation was writing down their national ideals alongside all the ways that they failed to live up to them. What I'm saying is this, Israel never stopped proclaiming the truth of God's word and they never stopped admitting that they didn't measure up to it.

    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  2. You'll be proud to know that I just put my new ultra fancy, ultra handy Logos Bible software to work doing an analysis of the Hebrew phrase "Yaweh Saba" which Peterson translates "God of angel armies" and which we usually see as "LORD of hosts." Translating it as "LORD Almighty" is a terrible idea, since we have another Hebrew expression for God Almighty (El Shadai). The NIV is less literally accurate than The Message on this one. Not Inspired Version for sure!

  3. Mother of Jew Lover and Bible GeekApril 22, 2010 at 8:37 PM

    I so admire your ability to reflect on all that heavy reading. AND, I'm wondering why Josh is your favorite borther--hope it's not because Shane has been keeping up with his reading!

  4. Well, Joshua is my favorite brother. So of course Ellen would say the same thing because she wants to be just like me.

  5. The girls said that if Uncle Josh was Aunt Ellen's favorite, Uncle Shane would need to be mine so everything would be fair and right with the world and no one would be left out. But I think it's funnier to be like the dad on Wizards--I love you all equally, just not at the same time! jk

  6. I can't believe that this post was up for over five days without someone commenting on the whole favorite brother thing. I thought Shane was way more self-centered and paranoid than that. Now I'm seeing him in a whole new light. Maybe he's my favorite brother, after all.


what do you think?