August 8—Judgement for the Oppressed
Read Deuteronomy 24
Psalm 103:6 declares, “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.” And in Isaiah 1:16–17 Jehovah commands his people, “Cease to do evil…learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Deuteronomy 24 is a list of laws instituted to protect the poor and the oppressed in Israel.
Consistent with that theme, verses 1–4 regulate divorce and remarriage, protecting women whose husbands carelessly put them away. The very need for such a law proved “the perverseness of that nation, which could not be restrained from dissolving a most sacred and inviolable tie. Meanwhile the [Pharisees] improperly concluded from their impunity that that was lawful, which God did not punish because of the hardness of their hearts; whereas they ought rather to have considered, agreeably to the answer of Christ, that man is not at liberty to separate those whom God hath joined together” (Calvin). Many Christians today demonstrate the same perverseness and hardness of heart regarding the sanctity of holy marriage. Are you convicted of the Bible’s teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage?
Sing or pray Psalter #125.
August 9–Does God Care About Oxen?
Read Deuteronomy 25
Does God care about oxen? Yes, so much so that in Deuteronomy 25:4 he commands: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” But the apostle Paul extends the principle of that command—the laborer deserves his wages (Luke 10:7)—to ministers of the gospel. “Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” (1 Cor. 9:9b–11).
Paul’s application of the law regarding oxen is instructive not only regarding your pastor—“Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14)—it also teaches us how to approach all the O.T. civil and ceremonial laws, many of which may seem bizarre and fastidious to us. When considering a particular O.T. command, ask yourself, “What principle is at the heart of this law, and how does that principle still apply in my life?”
Sing or pray Psalter #40.
August 10—A Peculiar People
Read Deuteronomy 26
We considered yesterday that although the Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws are no longer binding on God’s people, the principles that they set still apply to the Christian life. There was another reason Jehovah gave his people the commands that he did: he had chosen them to be his peculiar people. He wanted them to live differently from the wicked nations around them. Israel was to be set apart, holy: “And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments; and to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken” (vv. 18–19).
Those who strive to keep God’s commandments still look different from the world. Do we live in such a way that it’s clear to those around us that we are Jehovah’s peculiar people, who have been separated from sin and unto God?
Sing or pray Psalter #323.
August 11—All the People Say “Amen”
Read Deuteronomy 27
Moses had already ordered the ceremony that was to take place on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal after Israel entered Canaan (Deut. 11). Now he lists the blessings and curses that the Levites were to read in the narrow valley that separated the two mountains, a location that acted as a natural amphitheater. Six tribes were to stand on verdant Mt. Gerizim, the mountain that represented blessing; the other six on arid Mt. Ebal, which represented cursing. Though they had heard the law before, in this ceremony Israel was given opportunity to humbly, formally consider the repercussions of obedience and disobedience. And lest any thought he might escape the curse by avoiding incest, bestiality, or some other gross sin, the reading included this statement: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (v. 26). To that all the people were to say, “Amen.”
The tribes that would stand on Mt. Gerizim were descendants of Leah and Rachel, free women, not children of their bondmaids. In Christ, Abraham’s seed, we too are children of the freewoman Sarah (see Gal. 4). “We are delivered from the law…that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6).
Sing or pray Psalter #83.
August 12—All These Curses
Read Deuteronomy 28
Deuteronomy 28 continues with the list of blessings God’s people would experience when they walked in obedience. Then Moses lists a remarkable number of curses that God would send upon the Israelites if they refused to keep his commandments. And what terrible curses they are! It’s striking to read this chapter knowing that even this lengthy list of terrible curses did not deter Israel from breaking God’s law over and over and over again. Even though God’s people haven’t entered Canaan yet, Moses even foretells their captivity.
How do we compare to Old Testament Israel? Consider with me the list of sins at the end of Romans 1: unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whispering, back-biting, insolence, pride, boasting, inventing evil things, disobedience to parents, foolishness, covenant-breaking, lack of natural affection, ruthlessness, and lack of mercy. Those who do such things, scripture declares, hate God. And, though they know God’s judgement, “that they which commit such things are worthy of death,” they not only do the same, but they also take pleasure in the sins of others. Is the threat of eternal hell enough to dissuade you and me from breaking God’s law?
Sing or pray Psalter #123.
August 13—The Incomprehensible Searcher of Hearts
Read Deuteronomy 29
Deuteronomy 29:18ff describe the man who turns away from Jehovah to serve idols. Like all sin, his sin originates in his proud heart. Jehovah vows he will punish that man by sending all the curses Moses had listed upon him. If the sinner didn’t experience all those curses in this life, he would in eternity, for Jehovah would “blot out his name from under heaven,” separating him, a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction, unto evil (vv. 20–21). Do we vainly imagine that there are things in our hearts that God doesn’t see or will excuse?
We are unable by searching to find out God unto perfection (Job 11:7), for, as Deuteronomy 29:29a declares, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” But though our God is infinite and incomprehensible, he is knowable, for he has chosen to reveal himself. “Those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.” Why has he revealed himself? “That we may do all the words of this law.” Do our lives show forth the praise of him who has formed us for himself? (Is. 43:21)
Sing or pray Psalter #212.
August 14—Choose Life
Read Deuteronomy 30
Jehovah had foretold his people’s disobedience and their subsequent captivity. Now in Deuteronomy 30 he predicts their repentance, his compassion, and their return. He promises that he will circumcise their hearts (v. 6). This “circumcision of Christ” is the work of his Spirit and distinguishes the true Israel of God: “he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart…” (Col. 2:11, Rom 2:29).
Moses then emphasizes the accessibility of God’s law. Unlike the gods of heathen, who were shrouded in superstition and capriciousness, Jehovah had clearly revealed his will and the rewards of obedience (life) and disobedience (death). But does Moses imply that the Israelites are capable in and of themselves of keeping the law? After all, he enjoins them to “choose life.” No. Moses points to Christ and the work of his Spirit (see John 5:46). So Paul rightly applies this passage to the gospel, “the word of faith, which we preach” (Rom 10:8). Does the grace of Christ, which reconciles you freely to God through the forgiveness of your sins, also instill in you the obedience of righteousness?
Sing or pray Psalter #109.
August 15—Trust Not in Man
Read Deuteronomy 31
Moses formally appoints Joshua as his successor in the first verses of Deuteronomy 31. He knows well the great burden of leading God’s people, and so he twice encourages Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage…” (vv. 7 and 23).
Although their leader and mediator was now a different man, the Israelites would continue their journey and enter the promised land, for the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises do not depend on the men whom he appoints. The word that goes forth out of his mouth always accomplishes what he pleases, for the work belongs to him and to his Christ (Isa. 55:11). People of God, let’s not place our trust in pastors or teachers, authors, or speakers. No matter how gifted or godly the leaders that God gives us may be, all are sinners and “go the way of all the earth” (1 Kings 2:2). It was Christ who was crucified for us and in whose name we were baptized (1 Cor. 1:13). He is the One who will be with his people always, even unto the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).
Sing or pray Psalter #400.
August 16—The Word and Song
Read Deuteronomy 32
In Deuteronomy 30 Moses emphasized how near God’s word was to his people. How often would all the people hear that word? Once every seven years (Deut. 31:10–11). How much more accessible is God’s word to us, who have multiple Bibles in our homes (and even on our phones), the indwelling Holy Spirit, and faithful preaching twice every seven days! “If the ancient people were left without excuse, unless they kept in the right way…our stupidity must be worthy of double and triple condemnation, if we do not make progress in the Gospel, wherein God has opened all the treasures of His wisdom, as far as is sufficient for salvation” (Calvin).
How would God ensure that his people would not forget his word? Moses taught them a song, a song that would “testify against them as a witness,” a song that would not “be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed.” Most of Deuteronomy 32 is that song. Words put to music are better remembered. What songs do you teach your children? Young people, what songs fill your heads and come off your lips? You’ll remember those songs! What will they testify about you?
Sing or pray Psalter #241.
August 17—Happy Israel
Read Deuteronomy 33
God appoints leaders among his people equip them, minister to them, and edify them (Eph. 4:12–13). Moses was such a leader. He understood and meekly modeled this teaching of our Lord: “Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:43–44). It’s fitting, then, that the final thing that Moses does before he dies is pronounce a blessing over God’s people. After addressing each of the twelve tribes directly, he addresses the nation as a whole, referring to them as “Jeshurun,” the dear people of Jehovah. “None is like unto your God, Jehovah,” Moses declared. “He surrounds you with his care. His protection of you is eternal and all-encompassing, above—‘who rideth upon the heaven in thy help’—and below—‘underneath are the everlasting arms.’” But all the blessings Jehovah rains upon his elect pale in comparison to the blessing of salvation. And so Moses ends with this exclamation, “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord!” (v. 29).
Does the knowledge of your salvation fill you with such surpassing joy?
Sing or pray Psalter #393.
August 18—By Faith Moses
Read Deuteronomy 34
Throughout scripture, Moses is associated with the law. But “the law of Moses” could justify no one, including Moses himself (Acts 13:39). As Hebrews 11 teaches, it was by faith that Moses chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:24–28). By faith he also considered the reproach of Christ more valuable than any earthly treasures. Though Moses never entered the land of Canaan, God’s just chastisement for his sin, by faith he received the greater, heavenly reward that he sought.
Moses died on Mt. Nebo and was buried there. Interestingly, Jude 1:9 notes that Michael the archangel disputed with the devil about his body. Calvin notes, “Although the cause of its concealment is not stated, still it appears to have been God’s intention to prevent superstition; for it was usual with the Jews, and it is a custom for which Christ reproves them, to kill the prophets, and then to pay reverence to their tombs (Luke 11:47). It would have, therefore, been probable that, in order to blot out the recollection of their ingratitude, they would have paid superstitious veneration to the holy prophet, and so have carried his corpse into the land, from which the sentence of God had excluded it. Timely precaution, then, was taken, lest in their inconsiderate zeal the people should attempt to subvert the decree of heaven.”
Sing or pray Psalter #27.
August 19—Israel’s Blessed Security
Read Psalm 91
In Psalm 90:1 Moses declared, “Lord, thou hast been in our dwelling place…” Psalm 91 speaks of the blessed security of those that dwell in that “secret place of the Most High.” Jehovah was his people’s shadow from the heat of the wilderness and the fortress to whom they ran when under attack. He saved them from the traps of their enemies and from “the noisome pestilence,” that is, deadly or destructive disease. In recalling Jehovah’s great goodness to Israel, the prophet Isaiah would write, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Is. 63:9).
Psalm 91 doesn’t teach that no harm will ever come to God’s people. Rather, it teaches that Jehovah is always with his people in trouble (v. 15). Just as God delivered the Israelites from bondage, sustained them in the wilderness, and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey, so he has redeemed us, will shepherd us through this valley of tears, and will usher us into the heavenly Canaan. Do you rely on him so entirely that you “have no doubt but he will…make whatever evils he sends upon me…turn out to my advantage”? (HC, LD 9).
Sing or pray Psalter #163.
August 20—Day and Night
Read Joshua 1
In Joshua 1 Jehovah repeatedly encourages Joshua with the same words Moses twice used in Deut. 31. To Joshua belongs the daunting task of leading Israel into the promised land and engaging in battle “seven nations greater and mightier than thou” (Deut. 7:1). What will ensure his success? Not the size of his army; not his own military expertise: only his obedience of God’s law. He had to be strong and courageous to “observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.” And what would ensure his obedience? Continual meditation: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
Fellow Christian, we are daily engaged in an epic battle against “the rulers of the darkness of this world” and “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). Do you ready yourself to fight with regular mediation on God’s word?
Sing or pray Psalter #71.
August 21—By Faith Rahab
Read Joshua 2
Forty years earlier, Joshua had been one of the twelve spies whom Moses had sent to Canaan. Along with Caleb, he had given a faithful report: “The land…is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us” (Num. 14:7-8). Now, like Moses before him, Joshua sends spies to Canaan, but he sends only two, and he directs them to a specific city: Jericho.
There the spies encounter a prostitute named Rahab. The question inevitably arises: Was Rahab’s lie justified? No. As is common throughout scripture, this historical narrative includes no moral commentary. Elsewhere God’s word teaches, “He that speaketh lies shall perish,” and “A righteous man hateth lying” (Prov. 19:9 and 13:5). Lying is a deed of the old man, which we must put off (Col. 3:9–10). Rahab was not justified by her works—not by lying, nor by hiding the spies—but by faith. Her faith, a gift of God, compelled her to receive the spies with peace and make this confession, “The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (v. 11).
Sing or pray Psalter #112.
August 22—Go After It
Read Joshua 3
After the spies return, Joshua orders the people to relocate to the swollen banks of the Jordan River. Once the entire camp has relocated, “the officers” instruct them regarding their crossing: when they see the priests bearing the ark, they are to reverently “go after it.” That’s it. At a later time, Joshua will explain what will happen when the priests enter Jordan, but first all he says is, “Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (v. 5). Israel had to follow in faith, for they had “not passed this way heretofore” (v. 4). Likewise, we know not what will be on the morrow. Let’s follow the Lord in faith, as Israel did.
Later, Joshua details the miracle that Jehovah will perform. This parting of the waters of Jordan serves as an earnest of their possession of the land. “And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites…” (v. 10). We’ve also been given an earnest of our salvation: Christ’s Holy Spirit. By that Spirit we walk by faith, not by sight, and confess, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me” (Ps. 138:8a).
Sing or pray Psalter #307.
August 23 – What Mean These Stones?
Read Joshua 4
In Joshua 3:12, Joshua had commanded that each of the twelve tribes select a man. In Joshua 4 we discover why. These twelve men would each carry a stone from the riverbed to its bank. There they would use the stones to erect a monument, a sign that God himself commanded. The monument would attest to Jehovah’s faithfulness in parting the Jordan River, though the stones themselves could not speak: that would be the duty of the parents. Joshua also set up a corresponding monument of in the middle of the riverbed. The instruction of the children may have gone like this: “Dad, what is that tower of stones?” “Well, son, do you see the those few stones over there, in the middle of the Jordan?” “Yes, I think so.” “Those stones are the top of a monument that’s identical to this one. At that spot the priests stood with the ark of the covenant while the rest of us crossed over on dry land.”
This instruction of the children had a two-fold purpose (v. 24). First, “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty.” And second, “That ye might fear the Lord your God forever.”
Sing or pray Psalter #212.
August 24—The Covenant Renewed and a Christophony
Read Joshua 5
We read in Joshua 4:19 that the people “came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month.” Immediately Jehovah commands Joshua that all the males who had been born in the wilderness must be circumcised. Though God had threatened that “the uncircumcised man child…shall be cut off from his people,” Israel had without excuse neglected this sign of the covenant (Gen. 17:14). With this renewal of the covenant, Jehovah rolled off his people the disgrace of their sin, and in commemoration the place was named Gilgal, which means “rolling off.” Several days later, on the fourteenth day of the first month, the covenant now renewed, Israel celebrated their first Passover in the promised land.
Joshua, mindful that war would soon commence, slips away from the festivities to survey Jericho. Suddenly he sees a man before him with his sword drawn. Joshua, ready to fight if necessary, asks, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The man replies, “Neither. As captain of Jehovah’s hosts am I come.” This is no angel, but Christ himself. Echoing Jehovah’s command to Moses at the burning bush, he commands Joshua to remove his shoes. Joshua obeys. What message does the Lord bring to his servant? That, tomorrow.
Sing or pray Psalter #61.
August 25—The Battle of Jericho
Read Joshua 6
Joshua 6 begins with a parenthetical statement, as it were: “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.” Hebrews 11:31 describes the inhabitants of the city as “them that believed not.” So they were not permitted to dwell in the land of rest, but perished.
The captain of the Lord’s host instructed Joshua regarding the battle with Jericho. Israel’s remarkable victory would clearly demonstrate that “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people” (Ps. 3:8). Matthew Henry succinctly summarizes the battle this way: “Wherever the ark went, the people attended it. God’s ministers, by the trumpet of the everlasting gospel, which proclaims liberty and victory, must encourage the followers of Christ in their spiritual warfare. As promised deliverances must be expected in God’s way, so they must be expected in his time. At last the people were to shout: they did so, and the walls fell. This was a shout of faith; they believed the walls of Jericho would fall. It was a shout of prayer; they cry to Heaven for help, and help came.”
Sing or pray Psalter #5.
August 26—Lust, Sin, Death
Read Joshua 7
Joshua 7:1 contains a spoiler alert: Jehovah was angry with Israel, for one of them—a man named Achan—had trespassed, taking from Jericho that which God had reserved for himself alone. Achan’s sin is typical of all sin. It began as lust in his heart. That lust was fueled by his eyes. “When I saw,” Achan confessed, “then I coveted” (v. 21). Immediately those things that Achan thought would give him pleasure burdened his conscience: he furtively dug a hole beneath his tent and buried them there, evidently resolving to enjoy them after some time had passed. Achan’s sin affected many. The family members who were complicit in his crime died with him, thirty-six men who were oblivious to his trespass died in battle with Ai, and all the nation of Israel suffered reproach, along with the great name of Jehovah God.
In summary, sin begins as lust. That lust is fueled by the eyes. The sin brought forth burdens the soul, affects many, even some who know nothing about it, and brings reproach upon the people of God and the name of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Are we conscious of these things when we’re tempted to sin?
Sing or pray Psalter #325.
August 27—The Ambush and an Altar
Read Joshua 8
Israel dealt with Achan’s sin, and Jehovah turned from his fierce anger. Now Israel must engage Ai in battle again, but they are fearful. Knowing this, Jehovah graciously commands an attack by way of ambush, rather than a full-front assault, and, as further incentive, he promises his people the spoil. Inevitably the question arises, “Is an ambush consistent with Jehovah’s righteous character?” Calvin comments that this question “originates in gross ignorance…Those are considered the best commanders who accomplish more by art and counsel than by mere violence…If war, then, is lawful, it is beyond all controversy that the usual methods of conquering may be lawfully employed.” Joshua obediently demonstrates that he trusts in God, not his own skill as a warrior, as he stands with his spear upraised for the duration of the conquest.
Then Joshua obeys the command to build and altar and read the law at the feet of Mts. Ebal and Gerizim (see Deut. 11 and 27). Why must the altar be constructed of unhewn stones? Some conjecture that “the hand and industry of men” corrupt the worship of God. Calvin states that “the divine intention simply was to prohibit the perpetuity of altars.” Why didn’t God want this altar to last? Because he would shortly have all men worship him on the one altar in Jerusalem, the altar that pointed to the one sacrifice of our Lord.
Sing or pray Psalter #43.
August 28—Lean Not on Your Own Understanding
Read Joshua 9
The high priest in Israel wore in the breastplate the Urim and Thummim, which were used to determine God’s will. When Moses publicly confirmed Joshua as his successor, Jehovah had said, “[Joshua] shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in…” (Num. 27:21). In stark contrast to that declaration, Joshus 9:14 states, “And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.” The evidence that the Gibeonites presented seemed consistent with their story, so Joshua and the princes made a league with them without consulting Jehovah through the high priest.
What decision(s) do you face at present? Have you gone to Jehovah in prayer about it? Have you consulted his faithful guide, the holy scriptures? Do so, and do not follow the roads signs of your own sight, your own intellect, or evidence presented by the world.
Sing or pray Psalter #232.
August 29—Jehovah’s Victory
Read Joshua 10
Commentator Matthew Henry perceptively applies the first verse of Joshua 10 this way: “When sinners leave the service of Satan and the friendship of the world, that they make peace with God and join Israel, they must not marvel if the world hate them, if their former friends become foes. By such methods Satan discourages many who are convinced of their danger, and almost persuaded to be Christians, but fear the cross. These things should quicken us to apply to God for protection, help, and deliverance.”
Jehovah assured Joshua that he would have the victory over the five kings even before he went fight. (v. 8). Calvin notes, “Notice that Joshua did not abuse the divine promise by making it an excuse for sluggishness.” We’ve also been assured that we have the victory over the devil, the world, and our sinful selves. That victory has been won for us by Christ, who enlists of all creation on his side. That doctrine should not make us careless and profane, but compel us to exert ourselves with greater zeal. Is that the thankful way in which you live the Christian life?
Sing or pray Psalter #264.
August 30—War and Rest
Read Joshua 11
Jehovah had given his people great victories at Jericho and Ai and over the five kings. Those conquests served to encourage them, for an even greater conflict with a confederacy of kings from northern Canaan loomed. This enemy was “as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many” (v. 4). Jehovah again encourages Joshua and assures him of the victory. (Do you look to him daily for the same assurance?) In some of their conflicts, Jehovah gave his people the victory almost immediately. Against other enemies, they “made war a long time” (v. 18). Either way, God was on their side, and even the duration of the fight served his people’s good. He fulfilled the promise recorded in Deut. 7:22: “And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little…”
“And the land rested from war” (v. 23). “It ended not in a peace with the Canaanites, that was forbidden, but in a peace from them. There is a rest, a rest from war, remaining for the people of God, into which they shall enter, when their warfare is accomplished” (Henry).
Sing or pray Psalter #121.
August 31—Destroy the Canaanites
Read Joshua 12
Joshua 12 summarizes Israel’s battles. It first mentions Sihon and Og, the mighty kings that Israel defeated before entering Canaan, and then lists 31 kings whose ruled west of the Jordan River. Let’s remind ourselves why God used his people to execute judgment on these kings and their subjects. The Canaanites reveled in sexual immorality (see Lev 18). They practiced every abomination that Jehovah hates, including child sacrifice (see Deut. 12:29-32). With the exception of Gibeon, they did not seek to make peace with God’s people but furiously came against them in battle, “for it was of the Lord to harden their hearts” (Josh. 11:20). “It now appears how perfectly consistent the two things are. The Lord commanded Moses to destroy the nations whom he had doomed to destruction; and he accordingly opened a way for his own decree when he hardened the reprobate…The will of God…must be regarded as the principal cause” (Calvin).
How fruitful Canaan must have been, for 31 kingdoms to cluster there! Yet today Palestine is desert country. That’s a testimony, too, to the truth of Jehovah’s word. He had vowed that if Israel forsook his covenant, he would cast them also out of the land and make it desolate (See Deut. 29:23ff).
Sing or pray Psalter #392.
September 1—An Inheritance Reserved
Read Joshua 13
The book of Joshua consists of four sections. Chapters 1–5 record the crossing of the Jordan and entrance into Canaan. Chapters 6–12 record Israel’s battles with the Canaanites. The third section, which lists the division of the land, begins in chapter 13. (The final two chapters of the book comprise the fourth section and record Joshua’s final words and death.) Joshua is old, and much of the land must still be conquered. Still, Jehovah commands that the land be allotted among the tribes, which “must therefore have been to them an earnest of certain possession so as to keep them always in readiness for it” (Calvin).
Our Lord told us that he must go away to prepare our place in Father’s house (John 14:1–3). As certainly as he has gone away, so certainly will he come again. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident…” and “wherefore we labour…” (2 Cor. 5:1-9).
Sing or pray Psalter #214.
September 2—Caleb’s Inheritance
Read Joshua 14
By lot Jehovah God himself assigned each of the tribes their inheritance. Similarly, he’s assigned you and I our lots in this earthly life and in his heavenly kingdom. Are we content with our portions? They’ve been allotted to us “by the only wise and righteous God,” who “knows what is best for us, and all we have is more than we deserve” (Matthew Henry).
Caleb’s inheritance had been promised him years before. When the ten faithless spies had declared, “The people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there,” Caleb objected, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:28, 30). Now, at long last, he is rewarded for his steadfast trust in Jehovah. Though an old man, he would shortly fight and defeat the Anakim in the confidence that just as God had preserved him in the wilderness, so he would be faithful to give him the mountain he had promised for his possession.
Sing or pray Psalter #30.
Read Joshua 15
As a child, I enjoyed looking at the glossy, colorful maps in the back of my Bible, but reading the description of each tribe’s portion and trying to picture its location is rather difficult. Consider, however, what it would be like to be among those waiting to learn where their inheritance would be. They were realizing the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise to Abraham: “And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession…” (Gen. 17:8). How glad you and I are to arrive home at the end of a long, tiring trip! For centuries Abraham’s children had been living as strangers, slaves, and wilderness wanderers, but soon they would all have a place to call home! Can you imagine their excitement? Their delight pictures in a small way the joy that we will experience when we arrive at our eternal home. Are our hearts filled with longing for that home?
Sing or pray Psalter #247.
September 4—So Shalt Thou Dwell Within the Land
Read Joshua 16
Joshua 16 ends with this sad commentary on the tribe of Ephraim: “And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute.” The verse is strikingly like the final verse of the previous chapter: “As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day” (see also Josh. 17:12–13). God’s people deliberately disobeyed his command to “utterly destroy…the Canaanites…and the Jebusites” (Deut. 20:17). As Jehovah predicted, those Canaanites taught them “to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods” (v. 18). And, consequently, Israel would also experience God’s judgement.
God’s people had to trust and obey to inherit the land. Again and again they fail to do those things. Their failure highlights their need for the One would not only trust Jehovah perfectly and keep his law, but fulfill it. He is the only way to enter the heavenly Canaan, there to dwell forever.
Sing or pray Psalter #100.
Sept. 5—The Daughters of Zelophehad Rewarded
Read Joshua 17
In Numbers 27 the daughters of Zelophehad requested of Moses the portion of the land of Canaan that would have belonged to their father, who had died without a son. Now their persistence and patience are rewarded, and they are given an inheritance among the tribe of Manasseh, to which they belonged. Matthew Henry, so adept at finding allegories in the scripture, comments, “Those who take care in the wilderness of this world, to make sure to themselves a place in the inheritance of the saints in light, will have the comfort of it in the other world; while those who neglect it now, will lose it forever. Lord, teach us here to believe and obey, and give us an inheritance among thy saints, in glory everlasting” (Henry).
As you journey through the wilderness of this world, do you take care to lay up your treasures in the heavenly inheritance that awaits?
Sing or pray Psalter #203.
September 6—The Violent Take it by Force
Read Joshua 18
Most of the Israelites had been living in tents all their lives. Now, they’ve each been assigned a place to call home. But some must still fight to conquer their allotted portion, so they put it off. Joshua reproves their lethargy.
In Matthew 11:12 our Lord Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” That text teaches that the elect do not receive the grace that has been given them with lethargy but with “vehement impetuosity.” “Let us also learn from these words, what is the true nature and operation of faith. It leads men not only to give cold and indifferent assent when God speaks, but to cherish warm affection towards Him, and to rush forward as it were with a violent struggle” (Calvin). To the lukewarm church at Laodecia the Lord commanded, “Be zealous…and repent” (Rev. 3:19). Do we heed that command?
Sing or pray Psalter #71.
September 7—Joshua’s Inheritance
Read Joshua 19
Caleb was not the only faithful spy that Moses sent out. Joshua, too, had given a faithful report, and now, at long last, he also receives his inheritance. Though he was their God-appointed leader, Joshua waited until all the tribes had received their portion before he requested his own inheritance. And even then, Joshua requested a humble portion for himself. His lack of both ambition and covetousness serves as an example for all of us who are leaders, from parents to pastors. We must seek the common good of those we serve before our own private advantage.
Joshua was not the only one who set forth such an example. “Our Lord Jesus came and dwelt on earth, not in pomp but poverty, providing rest for man, yet himself not having where to lay his head; for Christ pleased not himself. Nor would he enter upon his inheritance, till by his obedience to death he secured the eternal inheritance for all his people; nor will he account his own glory completed, till every ransomed sinner is put in possession of his heavenly rest” (Henry).
Sing or pray Psalter #305.