Hashkama: 17th May 2017: Lessons in Joshua - part 4

Last weekend offered a wake-up call to political leaders around the world, while showing the rest of us that those we think are in control may not be entirely so.  Interestingly, when there is already so much uncertainty in the world, it appears the enemy of God wants to engage in warfare on a cyber scale not experienced before.  The recent cyber-attack has already struck many countries, and continues to spread the globe.  It is causing chaos to Britain’s NHS computer systems, with disruption to patient care and treatment.  It is perhaps a serious distraction aimed at deviating us from our determined course of seeking the Lord.  Whoever the hackers are (the finger is pointing to North Korea), and whatever their intention is, the enemy wants us to take our eyes off the Lord and the path Jesus has set out for us. To engage the enemy before many of the troops are properly prepared for warfare will lead to failure.  Our prayers and warfare is in the heavenly places; but we must pursue all righteousness, readying ourselves for battle by first of all being right with God (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Timothy 6:11; Isaiah 51:1).  Israel possesses the Iron Dome Weapons System. As efficient as that system is, many Jews testify to the fact that it is God’s hand that protects them as He diverts the rockets into the sea; rockets fired at them by the Palestinians seeking Israel’s destruction.  There might even be a glimpse of God’s humour in this ‘act of God’, since the Palestinian and Muslim desire and mantra is to ‘drive the Jews into the sea’.  If the Church, and the British people will put its trust in God, there is no greater help or protection.  You can’t trust the mighty Microsoft or sophisticated technology to keep you safe.  Putting your trust in man will lead to disappointment and failure.  By not continuously updating your technology you become vulnerable to viruses and hackers.  By not walking continuously in the Spirit we open our lives, churches and nation to deception and false gods.  If we turn to Him, we can proclaim with confidence that, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1); and, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him” (Lamentations 3:25).  We need to stay close to the Lord in these uncertain times, with the political debacle in America, political instability and uncertainty in the world, and the stranglehold Islam is applying with increasing pressure in the West.  The world is at war with itself.  In preparation for the end of this age, though it is not viewed that way, China is to revive and rebuild the Silk Road, used in times past by Marco Polo.  It will span some sixty-five countries recreating trading routes of old, overland and sea through central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.  The area it covers will include more than sixty per-cent of the world’s population and thirty per-cent of global GDP; costing many more times that of the US Marshall plan to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.  It is a massive project that will eventually provide a highway for armies to invade tiny Israel.

Joshua 5:10. “The people of Israel encamped at Gilgal, and they performed the Pesaḥ [Passover] on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, at the plains of Jericho.”  On the eve of the Exodus from Egypt, the rite of the paschal sacrifice was preceded by the mass circumcision of the males.  Otherwise they would have remained disqualified from participating in the feast (Exodus 12:42-50).  So, on entering Canaan, after Joshua has circumcised the people, they immediately begin to prepare the paschal lamb.  Circumcision is among the first commands given to Israel as a people; and the rite pointed to them as a nation.  The Exodus from Egypt spoke not only of the liberation of oppressed slaves, but also their calling to become a nation.

If we stop to consider the offering of the paschal lamb through the long period that the Temple stood in Jerusalem, with pilgrims attending from all over the world, we can begin to understand something of Joshua’s Passover.  His Passover celebration was the clearest statement yet of Israel’s ongoing transformation from tribal wilderness nomads to a united nation settled in a homeland.

There is a link between the observance of circumcision and Passover.  Circumcision acts as an identifying mark that links together unrelated individuals to form a community or nation.  That first paschal lamb in Egypt was also about identifying marks, because its blood was applied to mark the homes of God’s people.  Eaten in units of family and clan, this sacrifice – more than any other – spoke of Israel’s nationhood.  These two commandments ushered in the Exodus, since they both pointed to a national identity based upon the recognition of God and obedience to His teaching.  Circumcision and Passover were the ways which gave the people of Israel their redemption from Egyptian slavery.

The Book of Exodus makes the celebration of the paschal sacrifice dependent upon being circumcised, because both observances are expressions of the same religious and national themes (Exodus 12:43-44).  Importantly, the offering of the paschal sacrifice and the observance of circumcision are also the only two positive commandments in the Torah that carry the penalty of spiritual exclusion from the community of Israel for their non-fulfilment.  Anyone who disobeys either of these rites rejects any connection to the destiny of the people of Israel, and is therefore spiritually excluded from their midst.

Israel not only failed to perform the rite of circumcision during thirty-eight years of wandering; they also neglected to celebrate Passover.  The Torah records that the people of Israel did perform the paschal sacrifice during the second year of their exodus, at the foot of Mount Sinai, (Numbers 9:1-5).  Because this Passover section chronologically precedes the census recorded at the beginning of the book of Numbers, it took place “on the first day of the second month of the second year”, it is considered in rabbinic teaching to be out of order.  Rashi comments: “Why didn’t the book begin with this section?  It is because it contains allusions to Israel’s reproach, namely that during the entire forty year period of the people’s sojourn in the wilderness, they performed only this one paschal rite!” (Rashi on Numbers 9.1). The Passover celebration that more than anything else recalled Israel’s election as God’s chosen, was abrogated and forsaken.  Now, Joshua and the people fulfil the rite of circumcision and offer the paschal lamb, not as reluctantly liberated slaves who were forcefully thrust out, but as a mature people who willingly embraced God’s unceasing guidance in the wilderness and now stand ready to mark the dawn of true nationhood with their entry into the land.

Members of God’s Household

Ephesians 2:6. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household.”

Membership in the covenant community is seen as a spiritual thing, dependent on a mark that is not outward but a matter of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16); that is how it should always be.  Jeremiah calls for a membership based on ethical commitment (Jeremiah 4:4) rather than physical mutilation.  However, neither Deuteronomy nor Jeremiah rejected the outward sign of circumcision.  The people wandered off the path in many ways causing Jeremiah to exclaim that his countrymen were no better than Egyptians, Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites (Jeremiah 9:25-26) – peoples who were circumcised yet uncircumcised.  The Judeans, though circumcised outwardly, are uncircumcised in heart.  Paul used the term “mutilation” to describe this outward circumcision unaccompanied by any spiritual change (Philippians 3:2).  If we want to be numbered among the people of God, we must be circumcised of heart.  The circumcision of the flesh is an outward sign that must be accompanied by an inner faith, otherwise it is nothing.  The circumcision of the heart produces outward signs revealing that one’s faith is genuine (James 2:18).

The people of Israel, under Joshua’s leadership, entered Canaan.  The wilderness wandering was now behind them, and having at last reached their destination they would never go back.  God’s involvement with His people, His concern and kindness would remain but it would be concealed, or in the background and not always as obvious as it had been.  The people must face the new challenges in front of them; they must grow and mature by making their own choices, making their mistakes, and learning God in a new way.  The book of Joshua is as much the story of Israel’s spiritual coming of age, as it is a record of their entry into the Promised Land.

The people of God are to guard their hearts and minds against the practices of the land of Egypt which they had been liberated from, and the practices of the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:1-6).  “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23; Philippians 4:7).  There is a list of some twenty examples of prohibited sexual partners, most of which are practised in Britain and much of the West nowadays.  It outlaws promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and the worship of Molokh and all that that included. (see also Deuteronomy 12:29-13:1 and 4:16-20).  Pompeii, a city in Italy known for its sexual immorality appears to have been aware of the Bible and its teaching, before Pompeii was destroyed.  There is a fresco on the Judgment of Solomon, in the House of the Physician, Pompeii, Italy (Art Resource, NY ).[i]  Solomon, in his fallen state sits well in such surroundings.  Even with a knowledge of Israel’s king Solomon, Pompeii suffered swift and unexpected destruction.[ii]  There are arguments for and against Christianity having reached Pompeii.[iii]  It would appear that stories from the Jewish bible were known in the area.  Britain has had the Gospel and knowledge of God for centuries, and is without excuse for its immorality.

Who will you serve?

Joshua 24:15. “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

An interpretation of this verse by an eleventh-century rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Kara, states: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” – up until this point, God had forced you to accept His authority for had you refused Hat at Mount Sinai… then He would have buried you under the mountain!... But now, there is no coercion, so that later you will not be able to defend your conduct by saying, “We had no choice!  We were forced to accept Him as our God!”  Therefore choose for yourselves whom you shall serve.  Will it be the gods that your ancestors from beyond the river worshipped?  If so, there is no shame in that, since your ancestors from beyond the river served them.  If you instead choose to worship the God of Abraham your father then it is an honour to choose your father’s good path.  But know that I and my household will choose nothing but the God of Abraham! (Commentary on Joshua 24:15).  According to Jewish thinking, God had chosen Israel; now, at this new beginning as a liberated people it was down to Israel to choose God.  It is down to the people of Britain to choose the way they want to go.  God has made His mind known – “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).  “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Choices

Britain is at a new beginning, and there are choices to be made.  Will Christians choose life and choose to serve the Living God, or will we continue to allow the infiltration of humanism and false gods into our communion and teaching?  Will the nation of Britain choose to return to its Judaeo-Christian foundation, or will it return to its past pagan gods, and the foreign gods that have invaded our shores in more recent history?  One is a sure foundation; the other will lead to serving a conglomeration of gods, ending in chaos and destruction.  If the good is chosen, it follows that the practices of the Canaanites, many of which are part of British society now, particularly in the sexual realm, must be repented of, and our laws changed to reveal the change of heart taking place, reflecting the biblical mind-set.  There was a warning given for our young people recently that: “Sexual promiscuity makes you liable to twenty-seven sexually transmitted infections, can cause infertility, and increases the likelihood of premature death.”  In an open letter to political parties, leaders of four-thousand criminal barristers are warning of the ticking time-bomb of sex offence cases clogging up the courts.  Unless we turn to God and quit rejecting Him, this situation will become impossible to control, no matter how much money is injected into the justice system.  In the past twenty-five years, the system has been allowed to “degrade” as violent crime rises, and “the system is dealing with a tsunami of highly sensitive sex cases which are set to occupy it for years to come.”  Yet, sexual deviation is being taught as normal behaviour in our schools.  There is the normalisation and promotion of same-sex relationships and transsexualism.  Our children need protection and a safe environment, not this sexual exploitation of the mind and lack of moral and spiritual integrity.  In rejecting God, He has rejected us and given us over to that which we worship and honour.  For those unfamiliar with this concept, read Roman 1:18-31.  The sex tsunami is only one aspect of the nature, character and soul of this fallen nation.  Britain is under judgment, but even in judgment, God is showing us mercy in leading us out of the EU, and lighting up the path for repentance and turning to Him.  Our future is in our hands – “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

There is great opposition to Britain leaving the EU, and the tentacles of opposition cling, like an octopus clings to its prey.  Having deceived the British people into joining the EU, the enemy of God does not want us to be a free people.  Israel persevered under God’s hand, and having been oppressed slaves for centuries, transformed themselves into an autonomous, confident people ready to take their destiny into their own hands.  By putting our trust in Jesus, we can be free – “A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.…” (John 8:35-36).

Joshua 24:22-23.  “You are witnesses for yourselves this day that you have chosen God to serve Him… now remove the alien gods from your midst and incline your hearts to the Lord, God of Israel!”  The Church must likewise clear out all false gods and error from the congregations around the nation.  The nation must take back ground it has surrendered to foreign gods and the no-go areas created by Islam.  British law must replace sharia law, and sharia law courts should be abolished and prohibited in this land.  There are reports of eighty-five sharia courts operating in this country undermining the fundamental principle of one law for all.  Police forces must be strengthened in those areas where sharia has been illegally imposed on society, and also the police must arrest criminals that are raping and maiming people.  The present policy of turning a blind eye to criminals that are of the Muslim religion, letting criminals get away with it, does not instil confidence in the Law of the land or those in office; and is not justice.  If we are serious about taking the nation back, then let’s do it in every area and sphere of life.  Those that do not like and respect Britain’s laws and way of life, and who want to live under sharia law are more suited to live where the Muslim religion and law has been traditionally established, mostly in the Middle East, parts of Africa and Asia.  Will the resolve of the British people be strong enough, and will the politicians have the backbone to make the necessary changes to turn this nation from the path of destruction?  Taking back our nation must mean more than leaving the EU.  Talking about the War on Terror while surrendering our towns and cities to Islam, creating no-go zones within our own borders is ludicrous!  Taking back our nation must mean that the mind-set that allowed this to happen in and to our nation, must change, and it must change quickly.

Live your Life, with God, for God

Joshua 23:6-7. “Strengthen yourselves greatly, to observe and to fulfil all that is written in the book of Moses’ teaching, not to turn aside to the right or to the left.  Do not mingle with these nations that remain with you, do not mention the names of their gods nor swear by them, do not serve them nor bow down to them.”

Joshua 23:11-13. “Be very careful concerning your lives, to love the Lord your God.  For if you turn back and cleave to these nations that remain with you, to marry them and to be part of them and them of you, then you must surely understand that the Lord your God will not continue to drive out these nations from before you.  They shall be for you a trap and a snare, thorns in your sides and barbs in your eyes, until you are lost from upon this good earth that the Lord your God has given you”

Joshua 24:29. “Joshua the servant of God” died at the age of one-hundred-and-ten-years and was buried “in the land of his inheritance”, having achieved all that God called him to do and be.  Overcoming mistakes and set-backs, Joshua and the people overcame.  After the elders that succeeded Joshua had died, a new generation was to take over, but in this transition, no-one is named as Joshua’s successor.  Israel went on to succumb to the Canaan’s polytheistic cults.  The people of Israel forgot their God, just as Joshua had warned, and became intoxicated with the foreign gods around them.  So often we find Christian ministries and churches that begin in the Spirit but deviate into the flesh.  For some, the attraction and sometimes subtle lure of worldly success, fame and finance become intoxicating.  They enter the deception and become world-known ministries and personalities, with earthly riches. They have the pretence of the Spirit, but the power of the demonic.  Being deceived, they go on to deceive.  Commenting on my recent Hashkama articles, a friend said, “At some of the most significant points in their history, the Jews rejected God’s strategic purpose for them.”  This is true in Christianity also when we make the wrong choices, deviating onto a path that appears attractive and has the glow of success, but is not of God, or is not the path the Lord has chosen for us.  “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

The existence of Israel is proof of God’s covenant faithfulness.  God’s love and mercy for His wayward people means that Israel survives through the centuries, and is by God’s hand, a nation and people still.  He will be their God and they will be His people— “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them.  And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.  My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.  And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.” (Ezekiel 37:26-27).

Blessings and shalom,

Malcolm [17.05.2017]

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