Thursday, January 07, 2010

Re-Reading History

God has a way of bringing change through my life and thoughts like the leaves of Autumn on the mountainsides of the valley I once called home. The leaves on those trees are in the final throes of death, yet this passing fills the landscape with such extravagant beauty that the smoky, backyard funeral pyres, and damp open burials on the forest floor never enter my mind. All I see is a mystical panorama drawing my senses out of anything ordinary. So too are my thoughts in the throes of death as the Father sweeps over my days like an inexorable passing of one season into the next. He walks me through green pastures, along quiet brooks, and smoky, desperate valleys, all the while showing me the constancy of His way through all of it.
This may all sound somewhat melodramatic, but it has been true that as I move along with the Father I find that the view is never static, and it seems that every situation that I come across, or truth that He teaches me is like removing another piece of my rubble that has blocked me from seeing who He really is. When these moments happen the emotions inside of me mirror the wonder I feel while drinking in the sweeping colors of my most beloved season.
Currently my Father is doing this to me on so many levels. Not the challenges that I spoke of in the last post, but rather tantalizing little revelations that draw me along to search for more.
Today it came as I was reading a very familiar passage of scripture; the kind you can just skim by because you think you know it so well. Joshua 1 has been on our radar ever since someone gave it to us as a prophetic word regarding who we are, and where God wants to take us. I have heard so many preachers teaching from this passage that I was becoming dull to what it was saying. I was not allowing any more layers to be peeled back. This morning I noticed something I hadn't before. It has changed how I see the phrase "Be strong and very courageous".
I had always taken this to be either some kind of a general piece of solid advice, or a specific command regarding the battles that were to come. Joshua surely needed to be strong and courageous to face the foes and divine strategies that were ahead of him, but there is something else here that I missed before.

Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4"From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. 5"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6"Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7"Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
In the first command God assures Joshua that he will accomplish what God is sending him out to do, because He says that (vs6) "you shall give". This doesn't leave any room for doubt when one considers Who is saying it. The key I found was in what God says in verse 7. He reiterates the command to be strong and courageous with the modifier 'very', and opens it with the word 'Only'. The only is there as a qualifier to the previous statement. It means that the previous statement is absolutely resolved on the condition that the second part is carried out. The second part is not about how to fell the mighty men of the lands of Canaan, but rather it is a statement of how to stay in relationship with God. It really piqued me today when I read that. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous about being in relationship with Him!
For some reason I think that part of me is being resuscitated from too many Valium™ Jesus portrayals, and smiling blond Jesus' in fields with kids on His arms. I am awaking to the fact that as C.S. Lewis so aptly put it,"He is not a tame lion.". To enter into a relationship with the living God is a fearful thing. The Israelites knew this because they saw the smoke, and fire. They heard the fearsome thunderings. Joshua knew it because he was there for all of this, and was spared any of our watered down portrayals of the Lord of Hosts. God was calling him closer and He knew that Joshua would need strength and courage to face this, and He also knew that apart from relationship with Him none of the above listed promises would ever become reality.
Let's not forget that the apostle John laid his head on Jesus' breast at the last supper, and yet he completely collapsed at the site of the resurrected Lord of all glory. Jesus told him the same thing He told Joshua,"Fear not". We are welcome in His presence, but if we can easily traipse in without a thought of who we are standing before then perhaps we are truly only visiting an imaginary friend. Hearing the words "Fear not" should be our awe, wonder and joy as we commune with the Eternal I AM.

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