Aaaah, technology…

Gotta love it.

I have been having Internet difficulty for weeks now, and boy is it frustrating. As soon as I get my mind right and have a few minutes to myself, it goes out. And you know what? I get infuriated, like I’d never lived without it before. SMH.

The same thing goes for computer speed and having my cell phone. You would think I didn’t live for two decades before having the privilege of using those items regularly. When I first began using the Internet regularly back in 1999 as a college freshman, it tended to run rather slowly and I really had no idea what I was doing. Now, if a page doesn’t load in 1.2 seconds, I get super annoyed. And don’t let me forget my cell phone somewhere. It hardly has no apps on it but I still experience some type of withdrawal when it’s out of my presence.

As for life otherwise, I am now 23 weeks pregnant, sufficiently past the halfway point, and I am just impatiently waiting until June. I can’t wait to see this little girl. I dreamed of her looking exactly like my son when he was first born. Mind you, my son and daughter looked almost identical at birth, but my son had a head full of shiny, smooth black hair, and my daughter’s head was as bald and shiny as a brand new penny. Maybe I am assuming this little girl will have hair because of the old wives’ tale that the more heartburn you have, the more likely your baby will have hair. And this baby has been giving me heartburn, nausea, acid reflux, and every other digestive problem one can fathom. I still have days where I have ZERO energy, and most days my entire body feels arthritic (to the capacity that I can imagine what having arthritis feels like). Luckily my family has been super helpful. On my birth board the ladies were discussing whether or not they are entitled to a push present from their partners once they have given birth. If Matt gets me something, fine. If not, his presence and support during this pregnancy is push gift enough. (Well, I think I would like a cheese steak hoagie with EXTRA pepper sauce after the delivery, but that is all).

My son, who at first was not thrilled at the prospect of having another little sister, has completely come around and now appreciates his position as his Gramma’s only grandson. Interestingly enough, the baby responds to him more than anyone else. Her movements are becoming more frequent and more vigorous, and when he puts his hand or arm on my belly, she throws jabs and kicks more than she does when my husband or daughter to do the same thing. I’m just excited to get to our life as a five-some. It’s been excellent as a four-some; I can only imagine it will be better with a new little person to share it all with.

My sweet, hard-working husband, who I love more and more everyday for, if nothing else, his unyielding devotion to us and making sure that we are not only taken care of but enjoy our lives, treated us to a mid-winter break at the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth several weeks ago. It wasn’t one of my favorite destinations–I thought it would be much bigger; I got angry with some of the unruly children there whose parents were letting them run free with NO supervision; and our room was cold, even after we turned the heat up to 90. Oh, and let me not forget that unlike every other waterpark we have EVER visited, we were only allowed to swim in the water on the day we arrived, or we would have to pay extra for passes for the next day. Each and every time we have gone to a waterpark before, passes for the day you check in and the next day are included.

Major plus–the breakfast. Of course my appetite is unmatched right now. I definitely appreciated the hearty omelet I ate at the restaurant inside the lodge.

Regardless, I enjoyed the trip. I was with my family, and my kids had a great time. My discomfort was not a factor. I always have a good time with them. Always. And my husband, after watching me drool over a Reese’s Cup commercial, walked through about half the lodge trying to find a vending machine that sold them, and when he couldn’t, came back with a Kit-Kat. Now THAT’S devotion.

Speaking of devotion, my heart was heavy upon learning of the passing of Maurice White, the founding member of one of the best bands EVER… Earth, Wind and Fire. After a battle with Parkinson’s disease that forced him to stop touring and performing with the band, Mr. White passed away at the age of 74. BUT, he left behind some AMAZING music. I will only post a few of my favorites before I move on…

Shining Star

That’s the Way of the World

September

Love’s Holiday

Devotion

Okay, I can go on, but I will stop there. Simply put, every song this band made was unifying, energetic, heartfelt and amazing. How I wish music today could resemble even one minute of an EWF song.

In our study of the Bible, Joshua was extremely devoted. To God first and the people of Israel and his job as a servant-leader (servant of God, leader of the people). But as we saw in Chapter Thirteen, Joshua has gotten old and certainly some of the abilities that enabled him to be such an astute warrior are beginning to diminish. When that chapter wrapped up, God was telling Joshua He would drive out the remaining enemies, and the land on the east of the Jordan was divided up among the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh, per the agreement.

Now in Chapter Fourteen it is time to divide up the land between the remaining tribe, with the exception of the Levites, who receive no inheritance. It is at this time that Caleb approaches and reminds the people of a promise made to him and given to him by God through Moses. As a reward for his faithfulness, he is promised a share of the land. Recall that only Joshua and Caleb returned with a good report when they, along with 10 other Israelites, were sent out to spy out the land. Joshua in turn gives Caleb Hebron as his inheritance. Of note is Caleb’s age–he explains that he was forty-five when he first went to explore Canaan, and he is now eighty-five. A whole FORTY YEARS has passed! That’s what I always try to remind myself when I read the Bible–the concept of time is not always clear. The Word moves from one event to the next without giving the reader a clear picture of how much time has elapsed between events. Picking up on clues such as this has allowed people to understand just how long some of these events actually took.

Now that the work has been accomplished, the land is allowed a rest from war.

Chapter Fifteen begins with a description of the boundaries that outlined the land given to the tribe of Judah. We find out that there are still some native Canaanites in the land now inhabited by Caleb, and he drives out “the three Anakites–Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, sons of Anak” (v. 14). He promises to give his daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who is able to drive out the people living in Debir, formerly called Kiriath Sepher. (Remember that Caleb is 85. He is getting a tad old to do much fighting himself, although in the previous chapter he said his strength was the same as it was forty years ago). Interestingly enough, Caleb’s own brother Othniel is the one who is victorious, and he does take his niece Aksah as his wife (BLECCH). Caleb shows his fatherly love for his daughter when she approaches him after her marriage and asks for springs of water, which he gives her.

The chapter ends with a detailed record of the clans of Judah and their accompanying towns/cities, and by informing us readers that Judah was unable to drive out the Jebusites who were living in Jerusalem.

My discussion of Chapter Sixteen will be brief–it outlines the land given to Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph. The Ephraimites did not drive out the Canaanites who were living in Gezer. Chapter Seventeen elaborates on the arrangement of the land. The Manassites also were unable to completely drive out the Canaanites living in their land, although they do subject them to forced labor.

The descendants of Joseph are not pleased with their land. At this point, I have to wonder how the land was divided, and it is my assumption that Joshua is somehow receiving direction from the Lord as to how to allot the land. The descriptions of the boundaries consist of very specific detail. Regardless, Joseph approaches Joshua and basically says that given their numbers, they should have been given more land. Joshua gives them an option: If they can go up into the forest and remove from that land the Perizzites and Rephaites.

Now, Joshua has given them a solution to their problem, but they show an extraordinary lack of faith. Number one, they feel that even that additional land is not sufficient. Number two, they are afraid of the people who live there, who have “chariots fitted with iron” (v. 16). Joshua reassures them of their ability to clear the people off the land.

In Chapter Eighteen we get a glimpse of part of the division process. The entire assembly of Israel is gathered at Shiloh, where they have set up the tent of meeting. Now, Shiloh is more than just the name of one of Angelina’s and Brad’s beautiful children. Shiloh has significance in the Bible. It appears in the Old Testament almost three dozen times. It apparently is located in Palestine.

Large Map of New Testament Israel (First Century AD)

(Map borrowed from http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/shiloh.html)

I know it’s difficult to see but if you can locate Mt. Gerizim on the map, you can look beneath it and see Shiloh 🙂

There is still land to be conquered, and Joshua asks the tribes what is their holdup on claiming their land? He instructs them to appoint three leaders from each tribe who will go forth into the remaining land, take a survey of it and make a written description that will be submitted to Joshua. The land is to be divided into seven parts. Joshua will take the descriptions and cast lots for the remaining seven parcels of land–in presence (and under the guidance) of God, of course. Again, Joshua reminds the Israelites that the Levites are not to receive an inheritance, and the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already secured their land to the east of the Jordan.

The chapter concludes with the assignment of land to the tribe of Benjamin, when the first lot cast goes to them. The clans of Benjamin are also listed here, and that takes us to chapter nineteen.

The land divisions are concluded in this chapter, in the following order:

Simeon

Zebulun

Issachar

Asher

Naphtali

Dan

Joshua

Now that the land has been divided, the first order of business in chapter twenty is to establish cities of refuge. The idea of cities of refuge was first introduced by God to Moses way back in Numbers. There were to be six cities of refuge. Individuals who unintentionally committed acts of murder could flee to those cities for protection from vengeance of family members. They could stay there until the death of the high priest that presided over their trial. After the high priest of the time died, they were allowed to return to their home. However, if the unintentional perpetrator returned to his home town before the death of the high priest, his protection was not guaranteed. Any person who wanted to kill them was free to do so.

In chapter twenty-one the Levites are given towns as according to the words of Moses. This chapter provides details and names that I will not repeat here. There are towns in each of the tribal lands. As was prescribed previously by Moses, the Levites are given forty-eight towns and pasturelands. We are reminded at the end of the chapter that everything God has promised the Israelites thus far has come to fruition (vv. 43-45):

So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled”.

Now that the land has been conquered and divided, Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have fulfilled their duties to help their fellow Israelites clean up Canaan and are now allowed to go back to the eastern side of the Jordan in chapter twenty-two. Before they depart, Joshua reminds them to keep God’s commandments and the laws given them by Moses.Joshua sends them home with a blessing (v. 8):

Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites”.

When the tribes return, they build an altar by the Jordan that is described in the NIV version of the Bible as “imposing” in verse 10. Sounds like a nice gesture, right? Apparently it is inappropriate. The size was not the problem. The problem had to do with the functions of an altar. An altar is a place where people could offer sacrifices. The issue was that in Israelite society, not just anyone could offer just any old sacrifice. Remember those many redundant rules and regulations given to the Levites in Leviticus?

News somehow travels to the west Jordan tribes, and apparently before they even consulted Joshua they decided to act against Reuben, Gad and 1/2 Manasseh. They view the altar as an alignment with pagan gods, a sign of disobedience against God, and their fire is not misplaced. The Israelites send Phinehas, son of Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, over there to investigate. With him are ten of the chief men of Israel, each representing one tribe. Basically, they give Reuben and Co. the what for (vv. 16-20):

The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! And are you now turning away from the Lord?

‘If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”
They are definitely concerned for their brethren who appear to be turning from the Lord, as we Christians should be today–we should show judgment-free concern for our brothers and sisters who seem to be backsliding. Unfortunately, too many of us want to be the first one to spread some juicy gossip or have the scoop to think about what really might be going on with our brothers and sisters in trouble. I told the kids in Sunday school this past week about an incident that very well could have run me from the church had I let it–when I came back to church after being out for awhile, newly pregnant out of wedlock. One of the older women, who should have known better, made a very snide remark basically insinuating that since I was unmarried and pregnant I had no place in the church–or God’s kingdom.
Luckily I knew that woman had no business telling me that and I responded with an even nastier remark (one of the kids referred to it as a “clapback”, LOL). Now, I wouldn’t handle that the same way if it were to happen now. But I was ten years younger, not as strong in Christ, and definitely more fiery in the wrong ways.
That particular woman is still a member of the church but due to health reasons and because she takes care of others, not as often. She has never brought up her nasty comment and neither have I. I don’t care now, just as I didn’t then, but I did take it to heart in a certain way–that I would never say anything to another person that might keep them from coming back to God’s house. It is not my decision to decide who is worthy of being in that church and who is not. It is not even up to the pastor. It is our job as Christians to recognize that we are all imperfect, flawed beings and that church is exactly where we need to go.
But I digress.
The western Israelites have misjudged the intentions of the eastern Israelites with regard to their altar. They did not build it to align with pagan gods, as they fervently explain. Instead, they did so to show solidarity with God and their fellow Israelites. They take full responsibility for the altar, and even proclaim that if God has found them to be disobedient that they ought not be spared that day. However, they built the altar so that their future descendants would know they were God’s people. They recognize there is a boundary between themselves and the other Israelites and want to show that they do have a share in the Lord. The altar is not for burnt offerings or sacrifices. It is just a reminder, a witness. They have (at that time at least) no intentions of rebelling against God.
Their explanation is deemed acceptable by Phinehas and his ten comrades. They take their good report back to the remaining Israelites, and they all worship God together. The altar is named “A Witness Between Us–That the Lord Is Good”.

This passage reminds me of how careful we have to be when it comes to assumptions. Imagine if the western Israelites hadn’t taken the time to allow Phinehas to investigate? No doubt they were probably getting their arms ready to go take the easterners out. Things are not always what they seem, and in situations where we do not have all the facts, we have to be careful not to make hasty assumptions that may ruin someone’s life.

I know it seems to be a stretch, but several things in these past few passages have struck me in terms of how they relate to gossiping within the church. I make it a point to stay away from gossip in my church. People tend to tell me things about themselves, which is fine. I don’t repeat them. But you know what bugs me? If I am having a problem, I would think I should be able to go to one of my brothers or sisters and confide in them and get advice without having to worry about it being spread around the church, don’t you think? One of the major benefits of fellowshiping with other saints, in my humble opinion, is the opportunity to discuss our issues and learn from one another. We learn from each other how to handle worldly problems the Godly way. The advice and wisdom of older saints is especially valuable. It is a crying shame that there are some saints that we cannot trust in our churches.

As for people that gossip a lot, I find that they are the ones with the most skeletons in their closet. (Shrugs).

A long time has passed and now Joshua has grown old. Israel has been blessed with a time of peace. Here in chapter twenty-three Joshua summons all Israel to him for a farewell message. The whole thing is important, but there are some key elements. Joshua reminds the people that they have seen what it is God can do. They have beheld His love, His power and attentiveness; they know for a fact that when God makes promises, He keeps them. This portion of Joshua’s speech, in my humble opinion, is key (vv. 6-8):

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now”.

The very future of Israel depends on this. ALL THEY HAVE TO DO is be obedient to the Lord, but as we know, historically us human folk have a problem with obedience. Look no further than Adam. Or for good measure, look at us now! I can even talk about myself. Believe it or not, I am not always obedient and it’s not because I don’t know any better. I do things I know good and well I shouldn’t do and have to go to God for forgiveness. Why is that though??

This human flesh is going to be a lifelong struggle that will only be conquered when we die and, for those of us who are believers, are given our glorified bodies that will be free of the destruction and decay brought by sin. Can you even imagine that? Can you imagine not having sinful thoughts? Can you imagine not getting angry??? I can’t.

Joshua reminds the people that God has driven out powerful nations from before them, and this is followed by another warning of what will happen if the Israelites decide to go the way of idolatry (vv. 12-13):

But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you”.

Joshua humbly announces that he knows his time is short and that he is about to “go the way of all the earth” (v. 14). He reminds them again that God has kept His promises, He has been faithful. God will continue to be faithful and keep His promises… it is up to them to keep up their share of the bargain.

“But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you” (vv. 15-16).

In chapter twenty-four, the concluding chapter of this great book of Joshua, the covenant is renewed at Shechem before Joshua dies. The entire congregation of Israel assembles at Shechem, where the elders, leaders, judges and officials present themselves before God. Joshua reminds the people of their victorious history at the hands of God. Joshua tells the people to choose whom they will serve this very day (v. 15):

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose yourselves this day who you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”.

I put that last part in Italics because it is my favorite.

It is a strong statement. Consider that Joshua is about to die. He is making that declaration of behalf of a household he is about to leave behind. That to me speaks of preparation and teaching. Joshua must be confident that his household will continue to serve the Lord because he has taught them to do just that. It reminds me that as Christian parents, we have a responsibility to educate our children in terms of academics AND in the ways of the Lord. I am confident that my two current children will continue to love God even if they fall off, and my husband and I will continue our Christian education of our kids with our third baby.

This world makes it hard to serve the Lord. There are many roadblocks. Older saints often remark as to how in the past, nothing was open on Sunday, that society in general accepted that Sunday was reserved for church and family time. Now the stores are always open, the movies are open, restaurants are open, and some kids even have sports that hold practices on Sundays (my kids will not be allowed to practice on Sundays). Christians have to make a conscious, daily decision to serve the Lord in spite of.

Right now, coming off their victories and in the midst of peace the people readily agree that they will not forsake the Lord for any other gods. Yet it is safe to say that when people become complacent and satisfied, when things are going their way, it is easy to let God slip to the back burners of our overly stimulated minds. It’s interesting that people easily come to God for help when they are struggling. Look at the state people are in when they first join the church or rededicate their lives to Christ. It’s typically when they have gotten in over their heads with worldly life issues. As soon as God works it out on their behalf, they go right back to the behaviors that got them messed over in the first place. So it’s no surprise that the Israelites willingly proclaim total faith to God right now. They are coming off a spiritual high associated with their good standing.

Now that they have done so, Joshua issues them yet another warning, letting them know that God will not forgive their rebellion and sins. If they forsake God for other gods, all bets are off. The Israelites again declare their faith to God, and Joshua gives in: “….You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord” (v. 22). He then goes on to tell the people that they must throw away the foreign gods among them and completely submit their hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel. The people agree, and the covenant is reaffirmed. Joshua records the events in the Book of the Law of God, then takes a large stone and sets it up under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. The stone will serve as a witness to the people of their agreement. The people are then dismissed.

Joshua, son of Nun, a story of courage, strength, strategy and faith, dies at the age of 110 and is buried. The Bible tells us that “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel” (v. 31). This underscores the importance of true Godly leadership (unlike what we see in our clown car of American presidential candidates, unfortunately) and unwavering faith. Look at how Israel benefited from Godly leadership. The correct tone was set from the top and the benefits trickled down. It is my opinion that during this time of peace and prosperity, people were held accountable for their behavior, they were treated fairly, and they adhered to the laws of God. Because of that, life was good. I cannot imagine that in this society. Here we are coming up on yet another presidential election and boy am I nervous. I am not “blown away” by a single candidate at this point. All I know is that I am super unimpressed by the Republicans with the slight exception of Rubio. I know he bombed out on one of the debates, but I’m more interested in their plans, their track records, etc., and the others almost scare me. I know Christians in some instance tend to automatically identify with the Republican party, which in ways claims to be the morally superior party–except they are not. I do not like their blaring hypocrisy. I too am against abortion. I think our vets ought to have all the opportunities in the world. I am not for same-sex marriage. But what I have seen is the Republicans attack and cut programs that help poor people. So it’s okay to be against abortion but they don’t want to take care of the excess kids that may come as a result? And vote against bills to help vets? And this latest fiasco in terms of Obama nominating a Supreme Court replacement for the departed Scalia–it was okay for Reagan, their poster boy, to nominate a Supreme Court judge in his last year, but not the Black guy? SMH.

It is an agonizing decision to have to make, as it will affect me and my kids. What bothers me is the debates I have gotten into with some staunchly Republican acquaintances who bemoan the moochers of American society, the mythical welfare queen for example. Yet those same people have never done their research to see that social programs that make up that kind of welfare only account for eleven percent of our national budget. Where does the highest amount of American dollars go? Military expenditures, of course. A simple Google search or college course can go a long way. And how much does the welfare queen programs cost each taxpayer, about thirty bucks? I understand that there may be fraud. Find me one program, government or private, that has ZERO fraud. I’ll wait. But just because there is fraud does not mean that safety net ought not be there for people who need it. I have no problem paying an extra thirty bucks so some kid, elderly person, disabled person or veteran can eat. I don’t mind paying extra tax dollars so some family doesn’t go bankrupt if one of the primary wage earners gets ill and needs medical care. THAT, in my humble opinion, is a more Godly way of thinking than continuing to penalize the poorest and most vulnerable Americans.

Now I am off my soapbox. I had to get that off my chest.

At the conclusion of the chapter, Eleazar the priest, son of Aaron, also dies.

PRAYERFULLY my Internet access situation will be taken care of soon, but I don’t know. I am getting eaten alive by student loan payments and some things are considered luxuries at this point. In the meantime I will try to update my blog as often as I can from my mothers’ home or perhaps from our library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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