24 And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance. 25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21)
It's like the end of "The Empire Strikes Back" or the state of the Colonies before the revolutionary war. Everyone was doing their own thing, scattered, divided, living life from one skirmish to another. Sometimes life seems that way - like we are barely surviving emotionally and spiritually. Is there any hope? There is in the very last verse. That was "those" days, when there was very little mention of God. It sets the stage for what comes next, when we come to our senses and realize how much we need God and one another. God is about to do something big if we remember those things. Keep on reading. Keep on living. Keep on trusting. There is hope. Call out to Him, and ask someone to join you.
31Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lorddid for Israel.
32 As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.
33 And Eleazar the son of Aaron died, and they buried him at Gibeah, the town of Phinehas his son, which had been given him in the hill country of Ephraim.
As Joshua passes off the scene, there is a mixed sense of satisfaction and anticipation. First, there is the anticipation of who and what will come next. When Moses had died, it was spelled out who the next leader would be, but when Joshua dies, and his co-leaders fade away, what will become of Israel? There is this anticipated "but" when we are told that Israel was faithful to God as long as these men lived. But what about after them? Secondly, there is a sense of satisfaction when we read that Joshua finally gets his proper burial in Canaan, hundreds of years after he had requested it at the end of Genesis. His bones became a memorial to God's faithfulness over time. Finally, there is yet another sense of anticipation, as Eleazar - the priestly leader, passes off the scene as well. What will become of the spiritual life of Israel? It all makes for a good read - which of course God intends for us to do: Read His story; ask questions; search for answers; stand in awe of His wisdom and plan. Read on.
9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34) Foreshadowing. Introducing characters, themes, and plots ahead of time. The Bible - one Book made up of many - is full of them. The foundation for Joshua has been laid by his involvement with Moses throughout the last two books. He has been a faithful assistant, general, and example. But he's no Moses. Don't expect him to be. His leadership will be great and consistent, but it's like a new pastor - don't always be comparing him to the old one. Different is okay. Moses has led out; Joshua must lead in. Moses led the complaint deparment; Joshua would lead the conquer department. God had given everything His people needed to move forward, including a solid leader. He will continue to be faithful. The same is true for us. May we be faithful as well.
10 The daughters of Zelophehad did as the Lord commanded Moses,11 for Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married to sons of their father's brothers.12 They were married into the clans of the people of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of their father's clan. 13 These are the commandments and the rules that the Lord commanded through Moses to the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. (Numbers 36)
Sometimes we wish that the Bible spoke more specifically to every decision we need to make in life, like what career path we should choose or which life mate God has for us. But the fact is that God's word, for one Book, tells us so much about the things of life that we should be amazed by the details. As the people of Israel were finally getting ready to go into the Promised Land after forty years of wandering aimlessly, specific details are laid in place concerning the boundaries of the land each tribe would possess, to prevent infighting between the twelve tribes. The small, but very real question of "what if our fathers who inherited the land have passed on and have no sons by which to inherit their portion?" Moses says: "They're right! We need to attend to this detail." The women were not told who to marry, but they were given guidelines. God may not name the person by name, or tell us what company to work for, or select our clothes in the morning, but He does give us all the detailed instructions necessary to live life before Him in the best way possible. We just need to read and obey those instructions.
30“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord.31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it.32 And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord.33 One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” 34 These are the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai. (Leviticus 27)
If you make it far enough through reading Leviticus to get to the last chapter, you end up here, talking about tithes, vows and other things devoted to God. And if you have read this far in this blog to find out how you can "take back your tithe" from your local church with a clear conscience - you can - if you buy it back with 20% interest. The bottom line is that everything belongs to God to begin with, so we cannot "take back" anything, becuase it is not rightfully ours. It is all His, which He has entrusted to us. When we tithe or "faith promise" or give an offering, or whatever we present to God, it is an act of faith, trust and thanksgiving. By wanting it back, are we not demonstrating a lack of faith and gratitude to God? In this passage God was preparing His people for life in the promised land. He wanted them to believe Him and live like they believed Him. He wants the same for His people today. This whole area of giving is one practical way we do. Be thankful. Give generously. Trust Him. Don't wish you had it back.
34Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lordfilled the tabernacle.35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40) Exodus is an event filled account: the personal life of Moses, the plagues on Egypt, the Passover and escape from the land, the crossing of the sea, the giving of the commandments, and all sorts of failures on the part of God's people. The climax of all these is what we find in the closing chapters: the instructions, building, and utilization of the Tabernacle. They were running out of roadsides and seeing less and less familiar territory: how would they know which way to go? The Lord would show them. He would tell them when to stop and go, and which way to go. He would always be there. Today of course, as Paul tells us, we as God's people are the Tabernacle. He has promised to never leave or forsake us. He has given us His Spirit to share with our spirit where and when to go. It works well in congregation, making sure we are all hearing Him correctly. Even if you know where you are going today - work, church, the amusement park, or a chess tournament - you still need to ask: Where and when. Along the way God will bring you to people, at the right place and time, so He can use you in their lives, and them in yours, and at the end of they day you can say: "God has led me all the way."
24And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”26 So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt. (Genesis 50) This final chapter of Genesis begins with the death and burial of Jacob, the one God renamed Israel. In keeping with his father's wishes, Joseph had made sure Jacob was buried in the land of promise. As he prepares for his own departure, he asks his brothers to take his remans there as well, but not just yet. His body was to be a reminder of the hope that they had. Joseph had literally "lived out his dreams" in his lifetime, but there was still a dream he had that was bigger than he was: being together with family in the promised land. As we look at life, and death, may we, like Joseph, dream big dreams, live them out, all the while obeying God, hoping and trusting in him for the bigger dream for our bones: the Resurrection hope found in Christ.