Thursday, August 19, 2010

Marathon walk

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joshua 22:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul." Joshua 22:5

I love Joshua's ability to deliver inspiring and challenging benedictions (like Joshua 1:6-9). In today's reading he is dismissing part of the army to return home. Years earlier they had been enlisted to fight alongside their other-tribe brothers and help conquer the part of Canaan that was west of the Jordan.

Now the battle is done and they're allowed to rejoin their families. So Joshua sends them home with a challenge — one that can spur us on as well.

1. He begins by telling them to heed (do, observe, keep, obey) the commandments and instructions Moses gave them.

We don't have the ceremonial law to obey. Nor do we seek to earn a place in heaven by the way we live. But we do still have reasons to live by the standards God has set. I can think of at least two: 1] God's ways of living are the way life and we work best. Living by the principles set out in Jesus' teachings are heeding the "Use and Care Manual" of life. 2] Living this way pleases the Person who took the fall for our sins. We love Him for that, and want to live in a way that delights Him.

2. "Love the Lord your God..." Joshua tells the people. It's a reminder that this is a lifestyle arising out of a relationship built on love. And it's a relationship with no less than deity.

3. "Walk in His ways..." Walking gets us from here to there, not quickly but surely. A walk describes a lifestyle for the distance.

Joshua's command that the people walk in God's ways implies they had a choice. There were other ways they could choose to take. It reminds me of Jesus' advice to choose a certain road in life — not necessarily the one most traveled.

4. "Hold fast to Him... " - NKJV; "Cling to and unite with Him" - Amplified; "Embrace Him" - Message. This part of Joshua's commission tells us that this is an intentional, will-based relationship on our part. The phrase "cling to" reminds us of the description of marriage from Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall come united and cleave to his wife..." NASB. It is a relationship to pursue, nourish and guard.

5. "Serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul" - NKJV; "your very life" - Amplified; "serve him with everything you are and have" - Message. This means no holding back, no keeping some other plan in reserve in case this one doesn't work out. It's total commitment to God. "The way to life — to God! — is vigorous and requires total attention." Matthew 7:14 - Message.

I ask myself, am I up for this challenge? Are you?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live this way: choosing to walk in Your ways, choosing YOU, and investing all I am and have in this choice. Amen.

MORE: Why?

You may be asking yourself, why would I choose to live a life so constricted by standards not of my own making. Such choices reflect on what we believe is the purpose of life.

Mennonite writer Katie Funk Wiebe tells of the day she discovered that purpose. This happened during the time when, as a young woman of 20, she was renting a room in a seniors convalescent home:

"One Saturday morning I walked into the large, sunny reading room hoping there would be someone there to help me wile away the time. It was empty. With nothing better to do I rummaged through some untidy shelves of books and papers. There I found it — the book that was to change my life....

It turned out to be a volume of daily devotional readings and so, much in the same manner as I had often sought a penny fortune in a slot machine, I turned to September 1, to read what was written for this day. The words of a Scripture leaped from a page to arrest me: "You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16 RSV). The introductory paragraph began:
'Continually restate to yourself what the purpose of your life is. The destined end of man is not happiness nor health, but holiness.'
 These were the intensely right words for me. Here was the answer to my problem. I had lacked purpose to my life and this book which I held in my hand was telling me what the purpose of life was...."
(The devotional book from which Katie Funk Wiebe was reading, was Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest, the September 1st reading).

Quoted from "A Pilgrimage in Books" first published in Christian Living, April 1962 from the book The Voice of a Writer, pp. 43-44.

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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