How much more will we rejoice in heaven (Joshua 21:43; Revelation 21:1-5)

Joshua 21:43

What a wonderful day it must have been when Israel settled Canaan. “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there.” (Joshua 21:43) Yet Canaan was only a foretaste of a greater land. There remains a more blissful land for the people of God. We call this land heaven, or, to use the Apostle John’s terminology in the Book of Revelation, the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-5).

Many Christians do not think about their celestial homeland as much as they ought. Some Christians even talk about heaven as if it is some boring place, where a bunch of chubby babies sit on clouds playing little harps or where a bad worship service goes on ad nauseum. The Bible presents a dramatically different portrayal of heaven. While our present minds cannot fully comprehend the glories of heaven, the Bible gives us ample fuel to imagine it.

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We all long for home (Joshua 10:43)

Joshua 10:43

Deep down in the recesses of the human psyche we long for a better home. The broken relationships, the societal strife, our own emotional turmoil, and our estrangement from our Creator well up in our hearts a longing for home.

The Bible often captures this longing for home with the word “land”. In Joshua 10:43, it says, “Thus the LORD gave Israel all the land he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it and settled there.”

Notice the dynamic. Though Israel had to take possession of the land and settle it, ultimately the LORD gave Israel this land.

Israel could not have taken that land on her own. The former occupants of that land possessed greater strength and might than Israel. Neither could Israel say she was morally superior to those who formerly occupied it (see Deuteronomy 9:4). Israel received her long-awaited home purely as an act of God’s grace.  

We do not come home, spiritually speaking, by trying to find our own way home. We may need to enter into our home through repentance and trusting in the gracious provision God has given us in his Son, Jesus Christ, but ultimately our homecoming comes as an act of God’s grace. We can no more make a home for ourselves than the prodigal son could make a habitable home for himself by taking his father’s inheritance and going off to a far-off country. When we go off trying to make a home for ourselves, we end up like he did: homeless.

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Do not fear, let the Lord fight for you today (Joshua 10:8)

Joshua 10:8

The Lord says to Joshua in Joshua 10:8, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” It was the Lord’s way of saying, “Yes, this is of me. March on, and do not be afraid. Victory is mine.”

When we trust in the God who is always faithful, we know we are never left to fight on our own. The battles we face in life are great; sometimes there are even casualties. Yet, we need not fear, for God fights for us. Not even death can cut us off from the faithful promises of God. He has given us his Son to secure our victory once and for all.

I remember many years ago late one Sunday night watching Charles Stanley on TV. I cannot remember what text he was preaching on, but it was about letting the Lord fight your battles. The aged Charles Stanley, speaking from years of experience, said: “I have never needed to fight my battles on my own. I never needed to force things to happen. Every time, I let the Lord fight my battles, and every time victory came, though sometimes not how I expected.” When we trust in the faithfulness of God, it changes the way we live. It changes the ways we fight our battles. He will provide exactly what you need – maybe not what you think you need – but what you need at the right time.

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What will you do when you hear about what God has done? (Joshua 10:6-8)

Joshua 10:6-8

We respond to the things we hear. News of spy balloons covertly flying over the US will create a different response than the news that the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. One will require the US Military to deploy weaponized jets, the other will lead to either celebration or consternation in your household depending on what team you were rooting for.

In the Book of Joshua, the Hebrew verbs translated “hear” has special significance. In Joshua 9:3, “the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai…” In Joshua 10:1, “Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai […] as he had done to Jericho and its king […].”

Both the Gibeonites and Adoni-zedek heard similar things, but each responded differently. The Gibeonites beg for mercy and ask Israel to make peace with them (Joshua 9:3). Adoni-zedek makes an alliance with other kings and rises up against Israel (Joshua 10:1). The Gibeonites were shown abundant mercy, but the military alliance of Adoni-zedek was destroyed.

We see something similar happening in the gospel accounts of Jesus. When people hear of Jesus healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sin, stilling storms, and more, they either come to him looking for favor or they rise up in opposition against him (see Mark 2 for some examples).  

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Do not be afraid of doing the God-honoring thing, even if it hurts (Joshua 9)

Joshua 9

The Gibeonites were lying tricksters. When they heard that the army of Israel had conquered the lands of Jericho and Ai, they feared the same fate would befall them. So, they put worn out sacks on their donkeys. They took old wineskins with holes mended with patches. They put patched sandals on and worn-out clothing. They left their food out till their bread was hard and crumbly. They set out like vagabonds and came to Israel, saying, “Please make peace with us. We have heard about how you conquered other nations. Please, we are coming to you as servants, please spare us and make with us a covenant of peace.” (See Joshua 9)

Joshua knew, technically speaking, Moses told them not to make a covenant with the people in the land the Lord was giving them. However, they were permitted to make a covenant with people outside that land. So, Joshua asked them, “Where did you come from?” They answered, “a very distant country.” They even took their old, hard bread and put it in the hands of Israel’s leaders, saying, “This was fresh out of the oven when we left; now it crumbles in your hand.” So, Israel made a covenant with them.

It did not take long before Israel came to Gibeon and found out they were not from so “very distant a country.” What would you have done, if you found out that the people you made an agreement with only days earlier made it under false pretenses? Would you rip up the contract?

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We all need redemption, and the Lord provides it (Ruth 4:14-15)

Ruth 4:14-15

We all need redemption. We sense it in our bones. We hear the hurtful words that leave our mouths and we know how much more we think of ourselves compared to our thoughts of God. Many of us think that we can earn our redemption by trying harder or outdoing our negatives by trying to produce more positives. The Bible, on the other hand, presents our redemption as a mysterious gift that came in a mysterious way.

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No matter your blunders, God can still redeem you (Ruth 3:1-15)

Ruth 3:1-15

Our faith does not grow in a straight upward diagonal. I often wish it did. Most of the time, our faith grows more like the ups, downs, and spirals of a roller coaster. We think we have it figured out, but then that old fallen nature pokes up its head once again. We become like Naomi, seeing God’s plan, but wanting to run ahead of it, wanting to accomplish it in our own wisdom and power instead of God’s.

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We Know Who Holds the Pen (Ruth 2:17-23)

Ruth 2:17-23

Story tellers tell stories in certain ways for certain reasons. The Bible is no exception. When the narrator of Ruth tells the reader, “Now Naomi had a relative of her husband’s, a worthy man of the clam of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz,” before Ruth tells Naomi, her mother-in-law, where she gleaned the food she brought back, he is making a point.

The reader is given a piece of information that Ruth, at that moment, was unaware of. According to the Levitical law, she found great favor in the field of the one man who could redeem both her and her mother-in-law from dire straits (Ruth 2:1). Her good fortune went well beyond the ephah of barley she brought home.

When Ruth tells her mother-in-law, “Boaz,” is the man whose field she gleaned in, her mother-in-law breaks out in praise. Naomi realized what happened, and we the reader do to. God was providentially working in Naomi’s and Ruth’s lives in ways they never could have comprehended before.

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Reflect your Redeemer like Boaz (Ruth 2:4-23)

Ruth 2:4-23

Do you want to hear a joke? What was Boaz before Ruth? Give up? Ruthless.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Boaz was neither ruthless before nor after he met Ruth. At a time when many had turned away from the Lord (Ruth 1:1), Boaz reflected his Redeemer.

The first thing we see Boaz doing in the Book of Ruth is blessing his workers. We have a God who never ceases to bless us. Who could you bless today?

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Forget not the sun rises in the morning (Ruth 2:1-4)

Ruth 2:1-4

Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth arrive in Bethlehem widowed and impoverished. They both lost everything in Moab and came back to Bethlehem broke.

Ruth gets up one morning and asks her mother-in-law, “Let me go to the fields and glean…?” By “glean” she was referring to a certain provision in the law of Moses for the poor and the foreigner in the land (see Leviticus 19:9). Ruth, being of the industrious type, was saying, “Well there is no use starving to death, let me see what I can do.” However, being a Moabite in a land she had not known before with laws she did not fully understand, she asks her mother-in-law for the assurance that these strange Israelite laws might actually work.

Her mother-in-law says, “Go.” Where does Ruth end up? The original Hebrew literally translates, “A happenstance happened to her to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz.”

The narrator sets up irony here. In the eyes of Ruth, she just happened to wonder into this field. But, in reality, God placed her there. As one commentator put it, “…In the jumbled patchwork of subdivided property, she just happened to find the piece of farmland belonging to Boaz, the very individual” who could redeem her deceased husband’s land back to her. This was not by chance; this was of the Lord.

In the seemingly jumbled patchwork of our lives God is more involved that you and I presently know. We spend much of our lives groping in the dark, trying to find our way. We make plans that sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. We think our lives will go this way, but then things change; people die, businesses close, pandemics happen. However, in it all, God is doing things we at best have only begun to perceive.

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