JOSHUA 5:1-7:15 | LUKE 15:1-32 | PSALM 81:1-16 | PROVERBS 13:1
Joshua is now in charge, and he goes about the business of preparing to enter the city of Jericho after crossing the river Jordan. God continues to speak directly to Joshua as he did with Moses, and Joshua is quick to take instruction on everything he is told: from circumcising the young men, to celebrating the Passover, to paying heed to the commander-like angel who instructs Joshua in strategy for the fall of Jericho.
It is a fascinating account of how the walls of that city come crashing down without the lifting of a single hand! They come crashing down when the armies of Israel simply march around the city seven times and shout in one accord the praises of the Living God. If you ever doubted the power of the spoken word, here’s proof that it is as potent as a sword!
But there is trouble not far away. The sin of Achan in keeping for himself some of the “devoted things”—which most likely are idols from the city of Jericho—causes their downfall. The armies of Israel are not able to overcome the other surrounding cities, and God very matter-of-factly tells Joshua that he will no longer go with them because of the sin that has been committed within the camp.
And so, it is now to be seen how this might be resolved, but the bottom-line is this: idolatry has been strictly forbidden of the children of Israel, and when they choose to willfully forget this one directive, they then lead themselves down the path of destruction. Time and again, we have seen this, and yet, they are slow to learning their lessons.
Turning next to our reading in Luke, we find Jesus engaged in teaching the people about the Kingdom of God. The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin serve to make the point that there is great value even in the smallest of numbers, nay, even in one person who repents and comes into the fold. There is great value in the lowliest and smallest of these, and it is cause for great rejoicing in Heaven even when it is only one person who is saved, Jesus says. The pomp and circumstance applies to the one sole sinner as it would for a large group—what a concept!
To further support this, Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son: it is cause for the greatest of rejoicings when the son who had turned away from his father’s house returns to his father. This is a powerful story of repentance, but even more so of amazing grace and forgiveness.
The prodigal son had already determined that he would return to his father and with a contrite spirit seek his father’s forgiveness. He says to himself, 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
But do you see what really happens? The son is still a ways off when his father sees him approaching and has such great compassion on him that he runs out to greet the son. The account says, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
And what else does the father do? He says: ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
That is amazing grace… how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me… Yes, the son does go on to voice his great remorse and asks for his father’s pardon, but what great love and what great mercy the father shows to the son in embracing him even before the son has a chance to say anything at all! That is God’s reaction every time a person turns to him. He pardons without condition; he pardons without restraint.
And how sweet is this pardon—it is beyond comprehension! It cannot be human, nay, it must be divine! And this is the story of the prodigal son that Jesus tells the people. How different from what they had learned and what they knew—these were radical teachings, indeed!
Our Psalm for the day is one in which David recounts the history of his people from the days of old, even from the very beginning when God first established a covenant with his ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is not uncommon to therefore refer to his God as the God of Abraham or the God of Jacob.
This was the God of his fathers who talked with them and walked with them, and was as real as the fire in the burning bush, the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night that traversed with them through the desert for forty years from their exodus out of Egypt into Canaan’s promised land. This was the same God today that David called his own, and adopting a tone of remorse at how many times the children of Israel had forgotten all the blessings that had poured forth from God’s hand, David pens these lines as if he were God’s mouthpiece to Israel:
13 “If my people would but listen to me,
if Israel would follow my ways,
14 how quickly would I subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.“
This was indeed an amazing God who could do just that—satisfy you with honey from the rock. Honey, mind you, not just plain water! And if you think getting water out of a rock is amazing enough, the exaggerated metaphor of getting honey out of a rock serves to make the point that this was a God who would provide for all your needs—and then some.
This was a God who would give to you the most beautiful of things, and what’s more, out of virtually nothing would this God provide for all of your needs!
Finally, our one verse for the day from the book of Proverbs is as follows:
1 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.
Ironically, it would take a wise son to understand and apply even this verse to heart!
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.