(Before continuing the study, I wanted to give you an update on my friend, Bill Fiege, who underwent open heart surgery yesterday. I’ve been told the operation was successful and now begins the long process of healing. Several have responded to my request that you pray for him and i wanted you to know what has taken place, as well as thank you for your prayers. One of the really valuable outcomes of my effort in the “blog” has been getting “connected” with friends like you. Let’s continue praying for each other. Stay close to Christ! ~don)
Living here on the beautiful North Carolina Coast, we’re also just a couple miles away from one of the largest military bases in the world, home of the brave, the proud, the few, Marine Camp Lejeune. Daily we hear the choppers overhead, and can see the jets streak across the sky at the edge of the ocean on their training flights. The big, lumbering armored truck convoys are a common site, transporting young recruits to and fro on maneuvers. And sometimes there is the sound of thunderous weapons pounding some practice target not too far from here. Almost daily we see the young marines, some of America’s brightest, bravest, and strongest. We often have occasions to meet them in the grocery stores, our church, and out on the beach when they have time for a break. They are well trained. Well supplied. Disciplined, and willing to “lay their lives on the line” for our country.
They have also learned to follow orders. They have a chain of command, and each Marine is conditioned to carry out his (or her) assignment. Without debating or hesitating. Everyone who’s ever served in the military knows how essential it is that the troops stand as one, united, under the direction of the Commander in Chief. They are under orders. Every Marine knows orders are to be obeyed.
When I’ve been considering the dramatic events leading up to the now famous “Battle of Jericho,” I’m certain Joshua spent a lot of time in deep thought. And prayer. As it began to be clear what was going to be expected of him, that would have made anyone with any sense stop and think. And sweat bullets. And pray. We aren’t certain of all that occurred before the battle, but we’re told Joshua was given some very clear instructions. Since I’ve never heard God speak out loud to me, I don’t know how Joshua received this information. But however it came, it certainly was burned into his consciousness. It has been engraved in the history and hearts of the Jewish nation.
It is also a model which we can adopt for our own challenges and difficulties and adapt to our situations. It is clear to me that what we’re examining is both a Command and a promise.
Let’s examine this a bit more closely. Even if I forgot almost every rule of grammar Mrs. Latta tried to teach me in high school, I still understand the “imperative mode.” The way that first sentence is constructed makes it clear this isn’t a question, or a suggestion. It is a command. Among other things, Joshua is ordered to:
“BE STRONG.” Now that sounds good. But, given the circumstances, doesn’t it also sound next to impossible? You got any suggestions? Doesn’t it sound like a good idea to think about what kind of “strength” we’re considering here, and where it can be obtained? When I’m already worried out of my mind over terrible circumstances, (real or imagined), perhaps looking for a place to hide, knowing my weakness is no match for the monsters I may have to face. . . you’re telling me to “Be Strong?”
Do you suppose I could be pardoned if I replied: “Surely, you jest!”
“BE OF GOOD COURAGE.” Yeah. Right! With my knobby knees knocking together, Joshua is told that no whining is allowed. No growling and grumbling under your breath. He’s not told simply to have courage, grit his teeth grimly, grin and bear it. Like a good soldier. Oh, no! More is required. He’s told to be of GOOD courage. God loves a CHEERFUL giver. Not just a “giver.” A CHEERFUL giver. . . one who actually enjoys giving and does more than is required of him.
As I reflect on ideas such as this, and view the way the Apostle Paul (especially, Paul) stacks adjectives one on top of the other attempting to describe the abundance of God’s mercy, I become even more convinced that God expects more from us than just “getting by.” Just barely meeting expectations which are not too stringent or demanding. In fact, it appears quite clearly to me in this situation and many other places, that He expects of us a quality of conduct which will forever elude us. The standard He sets is so high it is forever out of our reach . . . unless something else is factored into the equation.
“BE NOT AFRAID.” Right again. As my teeth chatter. That’s sort of like you putting a wiffle ball bat in my hands in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two men out and everything is on the line and sending me out to face Roger Clemens or some other flamethrower who hurls high heat at batter! No pressure, you understand. Just get in there and get a hit. And win the game! When you have a few minutes, look up the story of the time Gideon was singled out for service. He was sneaking around, hiding, grinding grain in a clandestine manner when out of nowhere popped an angel greeting him “Hello, you man of valor!” Check out how many times God called cowards, turned them into brave warriors, and won significant battles against all odds.
Something which sometimes seems to me to escape us is that God really knows the truth about all of us. He sees through us, our braggadocio, our pretenses, and overlooks our weakness. He sees us. . . not just for what we are. . . but for what we may become through His Grace.
“NEITHER BE THOU DISMAYED.” The situation already sounded about as bad as it could get. But this looks even worse. When I think of “dismayed,” for some reason I picture in my mind a glob of something that’s been slammed against the wall, slid down to the floor slowly, and lies there now. Quivering, perhaps. But totally flattened and destined to stay there. Or, I think of Humpty Dumpty of nursery rhyme fame. Once he fell off that wall, we could all safely say: “That egg won’t ever be hatched into a little chicken, and you sure can’t use it in an omelet.” That’s how I visualize being “dismayed.”
Now, if you take the words of that command seriously, Joshua’s situation sounds pretty dire. That’s a classic understatement if I ever uttered one! All the things God commands him NOT to do, are the very natural, understandable reactions of any normal person to such a situation as the son of Nun had at hand.
Have you ever really been ‘between a rock and a hard place?” Ambushed? Surrounded? Impossible demands placed upon you? No way out? At your wit’s end, and the end of your rope and wondering what to do? Your situation seems to be totally lost? You have no resources?
Do you wonder at such times what God’s orders might be for you?