Pastor Keith's devotional goes through the books of the Bible a chapter at a time. Each day he shares thoughts and insights from a pastor’s perspective that are intended to be encouraging, challenging, and life changing. Here’s how Pastor Keith's daily devotional works best:
Really, it’s as simple as that. Okay, here we go…
Have you ever been faced with a situation where, perhaps even literally, the door was closed on something you wanted to enter into? You know, maybe like a job, a new career, a ministry opportunity, or even a relationship? To gain a little perspective, maybe you've stepped back and tried to look at the big picture; yes, definitely closed tight. So then you got closer and tried all the door and windows; again, everything was without a doubt locked shut. So what if someone came along and said to you, “Hey look, an open door; do you see it? Do you think they would be crazy?
Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. (v.1)
Joshua faced the difficulty of being the Israeli general who had to figure out a way to bust into the walled fortress of the city of Jericho. Now of course, when the inhabitants of the city saw 40,000 men armed for battle under his leadership coming their way, they did everything they knew how to prepare for a long siege, which meant bolting all the doors, barring all the gates, and locking all the windows. They were probably thinking there was no way the Israelites would be able to take the city – and maybe Joshua was despondently thinking that as well; after all, the city was shut tight as a drum.
And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor." (v.2)
Considering that Joshua was staring at a completely closed city full of mighty men of valor who were ready for a battle, you have to wonder how he reacted to the news from God that the city of Jericho had been given into his hands. Note: Here’s where grammar is important; God told them that the city had been given to him; as in, it was a done deal. Now as we know, God gave Joshua a most unusual battle plan, and after a week of marching around the city, he and his army did in fact take the city – just like God had promised him. If you’re looking dejectedly at a closed door in your life, I encourage you to pray to God that if it is his will, he might not only open it for you, but also make it easy for you to enter in by making the walls fall flat down in front of you.
So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. (v.20)
Special Bonus Music: To listen to the classic 1957 version of Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho by Mahalia Jackson on Youtube, CLICK HERE.
Yesterday, we read that the Israelites were told to take bunch of rocks (specifically, twelve in number – one for each of their tribes) to build a memorial that would stand as a sign and reminder to them and their children that God had dried up the Jordan River so they could enter the Promised Land on dry ground. Today, we find God telling them to take up another sign, a sign that everyone passing by wouldn’t be able to see, but one they would never forget because the sign would be with them wherever they went. Hmm, a portable, personal, and very private sign; I wonder what that could be?
At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” (v.2)
The story goes like this: All the Israelites who had lived in Egypt before the Exodus had been circumcised; the problem was that all the children that had been born to them during their forty-year journey through the wilderness had not. As part of their consecration process (Jos 3:5), they were supposed to do whatever necessary to get right with God so as to see the Lord do wonders and have success in taking the Promised Land (Jos 3:5). Now as you remember, circumcision was an essential part of the eternal covenant that God had made with their forefather Abraham (Gen 17:14). If they were to identify with that covenant, then there was no question they all needed to be circumcised. Okay, out came flint knife, all the guys stood in a line, and ouch (!) it was over before they knew it.
And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day." (v.9)
Any guesses as to what would have happened to the Israelites if they hadn’t obeyed God and circumcised their children? Would they still have seen God do wonders among them? Would they have had success in taking the Promised Land? Would the “commander of the army of the LORD” still have appeared and gone before them into battle (Jos 5:13-15)? If you’re looking for God’s favor to be upon you today and into the future, I encourage you to do a spiritual inventory and check to see if there’s anything God has called you to do that you’ve somehow overlooked to do. Once you’ve done that, if you happen to find anything (no, you don’t need to be circumcised – that was only for those under the Abrahamic Covenant), then I suggest you “roll it away” – even if it hurts.
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Tim 2:21)
Do you have anything in your house that a child might take notice of and ask a question about God? How about in your church? Think about it, is there anything in your church sanctuary that might not only catch the attention of a teenager, but also prompt him or her to ask how it pointed to the mighty acts of God? Better yet, if you could only put one thing in your home or church to get someone younger than you to start asking about God, what would it be? I’m guessing most people would think a cross would be the best choice, but what if I told you a pile of rocks might be ever better?
“Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.” (v.3)
Immediately after an army of 40,000 soldiers had walked across the Jordan River to get in position to battle against the city of Jericho, God told Joshua to have the heads of the tribes of Israel take twelve stones out of the riverbed and bring them up to the Promised Land. Hmm, now that was an unusual command, don’t you think? Why would he want them to do that? Actually, it was for the exact same reason God had Moses institute the Passover meal; it was all about nurturing the faith of the next generation.
“When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.” (vs.6-7)
God was exceptionally concerned that the Israelites remembered to pass along the memory of his mighty deeds to their children. From the institution of the Passover meal to give parents an opportunity to tell their children about the Ten Plagues of Egypt and their deliverance from four hundred years of slavery (Ex 12.25-27), to the gathering of a pile of rocks to give them the opportunity to share how God had dried up the Jordan River (so as to allow them to walk into the Promised Land on dry ground), he made sure that they always had a visible sign to prompt a discussion with their curious children about his powerful deeds that would hopefully lead them to coming to know and fear him (v.24). So that totally begs a question, does it not? What visible signs do Christians have to show their children to remind them that God is powerful?
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments. (Psa 78:5-7)
For those watching from the high walls of Jericho, the sight of the Israelites mustering their army for battle on the other side of the Jordan River must have been a bit intimidating; after all, it was a crazy huge army. On the other hand, they probably took great solace in the fact that it would be seriously problematic for an army of that size to cross the raging waters of the Jordan River, especially at that time of year. They were probably taking bets on whether they would build a fleet of boats, build a makeshift bridge, or just swim over. The odds on the number of Israelites that might drown in the crossing must have been high. So how low did their mouths drop when they noticed the Levitical priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant step into the river and, at that very moment - to their shock - the waters of the river completely dried up? Oh, no, it was time to grab a spear or a bow, hunker down, try to stop shaking, and hope for the best!
"And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.” (v.13)
During the Israelite’s forty year exodus, God had performed miracle after miracle both around and among them. From the Ten Plagues of Egypt to the parting of the Red Sea, and from raining down manna from heaven to getting water to come out of a rock, there was absolutely no doubt that the mighty power and majestic presence of the Holy One of Israel was with them. Now, though he really didn’t have to, on the morning of their crossing the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land, God chose to boost the Israelite’s confidence, faith, and resolve by showing them yet one more example of his miraculous power; he was about to dry up the Jordan River so they could walk over on dry ground.
Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan. (v.17)
I like that God provided for his chosen people, so much so, he made it easy for them to follow his clear will; they only had to walk over a dry river bed to get into the Promised Land. So why does it seem that so many Christians today find themselves either with lots of sticky mud on the bottom of their shoes or gasping for breath trying to keep their heads above water? Could it be that we if we want to walk on dry ground that we need to follow the lead of the Israelites by making sure we are consecrated for his purposes, obedient to his Word, and faithful to his calling? If you have [some type] of a river in front of you to cross today, I encourage you not presumptuously plunge head first into its icy waters on your own accord, but rather to humbly and confidently pray and then wait on the Lord to do a wonder right in front of you.
Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (v.5)
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. (v.1)
After the two spies of Israel had snuck into the city of Jericho, of all the places they could have gone, they ended up visiting a brothel and meeting a prostitute named Rahab. Astonishingly, instead of calling 911 to alert Homeland Security, Rahab instead decided to hide them on the roof of her house and then sneak them out of the city when no one was looking. Not only that, but she also told them where and for how long they should hide from the city swat team that was going to be called out to try to apprehend them. Oh my, without a doubt, these spies had fallen into the favor and providence of God.
Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.” (vs.8-9)
While the Israelites were preparing for war on the east side of the Jordan River, they had absolutely no idea that the fear of God had gone before them into Jericho. They were most likely expecting a hard battle against a proud and determined people; how could they have known that they would be fighting a people whose hearts had melted in fear of the Almighty God? Isn’t it great that God still does stuff like this? When we anticipate difficult battles in our lives, we so often stress out and expect the worst, totally forgetting that God is not only on our side, but that [often times] he has gone before us to smooth out a path to victory.
“For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.” (v.10)
The reason hearts had melted in Jericho and the people were freaking out in fear before the army of Israel was because they had heard of all the powerful wonders God had done during their exodus from Egypt. Apparently, they were pretty good at connecting dots; if God could part the Red Sea and defeat two great kings, then how could they possibly stand in his way? Now, you have to think that if those in Jericho had never heard of the miracles of God, then they would have taken a completely different [proud and harsh] attitude towards the Israelites. Which makes you think, doesn’t it; how much have the people around us at work, school, or on the ball field heard of God? Make no mistake about it, the more they hear about God, the more the fear of God will impact their lives. I encourage you today to share the wonders and works of God with those who have never heard so they might put down their pride, repent, and come to believe in his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Rom 10:14)
The Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. (vs.1-2)
After four hundred years of bitter slavery in Egypt, after forty years wandering around in the dusty wilderness of Sinai, and after the death of their beloved leader Moses, it was finally time for the Israelites to rise up and take possession of the Promised Land. To give them confidence that they could actually rip it away from the [at least] seven tribes that dwelt there, God assured them that no man would be able to stand before them, he would be with them as he had been with Moses, and he would never leave or forsake them. Not only that, but he flat out told them that since he had sworn to give them the land they were going to get it; done deal.
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. (v.6)
Hold on a second; did anyone notice the sticky point about the sure promise God gave the Israelites concerning the success of them taking the land as their inheritance? Yes, that’s right; it was contingent upon their doing at least two key things before they went into the land, one of which was to be strong and courageous – something that’s repeated for emphasis four times in this chapter alone. What? Nope, they couldn’t just waltz in and tell everyone to move out; it wasn’t going to be that easy. God’s plan was that they take a mindset of strength and a heart of courage; if they couldn’t do that, there was no way they would be able to fight off the tribes that dwelt there and take their land.
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 good success. (v.8)
The second thing the Israelites had to do was to make sure they gave the Word of God its proper place in their lives. They were charged to have it always in their mouths, be meditating on it day and night, and make sure they did what it said; if they didn’t they wouldn’t be prosperous or successful in taking the Promised Land. All right, here we go: Could it be that is God calling you to rise up and take the land? Of course, he’s not telling anyone to take the Promised Land (the Israelites have already done that), but he does call us to do all sorts of things, from joining a ministry team at church to fighting against and rooting out sin in our lives (something theologians call the mortification of sin). I encourage you today, no matter what God might be calling you to do, to be strong in your faith, devote yourself to the Word of God, and with great courage, rise up to whatever he calls you to do, for him and to his glory.
And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. (Jos 1:16)
People get old; that’s just the way it is; our bodies were not made to last forever. We can try to stay out of the sun, eat right, engage in an exercise program, and go for a yearly physical to check our health, but the bottom line is that sooner or later out bodies, minds, and spirit will naturally wear out. When you wake up one day and realize (if you can still think straight) that you’re way past your prime and you only have a few years left to live, it’s way too late to try to insert God into your life; that event should have happened in your youth.
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” (v.1)
King Solomon gives us a pretty bleak picture of what it’s like to be old. If we interpret his description as poetic allegory, then when we get old our arms tremble, our knees get bent, our balance becomes shaky, we lose our teeth and have a hard time eating, our eyes start going blind, we wake up crazy early in the morning, we lose our strength, and our desire for life fades away. When we’re at that point in life, at the very edge of life, it’s important to have a strong confidence in God, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and the inner strength of the Holy Spirit within us. Oh, and according to Solomon, that all should have started in our youth.
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (vs.13-14)
Though Solomon admittedly and sadly had a dim view of life, that it was all vanity, at least he got the end of the matter correct; we need to fear God and keep his commandments. Confident and concerned that God would bring all of man’s deeds into judgment, he challenged his readers to understand that fear and obedience to God was the whole duty of man. Is that your take on life as well? As you look back on the years of your life, would you say that your focus has been on fearing God and keeping his commandments? I encourage you today to follow the advice of King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, and no matter how old you are, to see it as your duty to fear God and keep his commandments...as an expression of your love and respect for him.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (Rev 20:12)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (Jn 14:15)
As King Solomon looked around his realm he saw things happening that led him to believe that life really had no worthwhile purpose. On the horizon, he observed bread floating on the waters, clouds full of impending rain, and trees falling and resting where they lie; basically, he saw nothing new under the sun. Closer to home, he noticed farmers who were daydreaming as well as diligent ones taking good care of their fields. What difference did it really make? And then his eye happened to land on something that made him think a bit; he turned his attention to, of all things, a mother’s womb.
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. (v.5)
Since there’s not one person on the face of the earth that can truly explain how life, breath, or spirit enters into a newly forming baby in its mother’s womb, then why would we expect that any of us could figure out the works of God he does throughout the universe? Though Solomon had more wisdom than any man who had ever lived on the planet, even he didn’t know how God brought about life. He failed to understand that conception and life are a mystery and a miracle; the work of the Master’s hand – just like everything else in the creation he was observing.
Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. (v.10)
You have to wonder why Solomon, in all his great wisdom, didn’t understand that just as God knit us together in our mother’s womb so that we might have life, (Psa 139:13-16), so also he has created all things, that which we can see and that which we cannot, for his pleasure and glory (Col 116). If Solomon had of come to that conclusion, he would have saved himself a lot of headaches for he would have known that life is not vanity, it’s not striving after the wind, and it’s certainly not futile. I encourage you today to pause and reflect, not only on the glory of the creation that is being declared from both the heavens and the earth day after day (Psa 191-6), but also on the wisdom, eternal plan, power, and glory of the Creator; the longer you do that, the more you'll become convinced that life is good and very much worth pursuing.
I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. (Isa 45:12)
One of my favorite late-fall memories is coming home from high school and chopping wood for our fireplace. There was something special (and manly) about picking up an axe by it’s smooth hickory handle, raising it high above my head, and whipping it down with all my might to split a log of oak. One of the lessons I should have learned from that experience was that the duller the axe blade, the more work it took to split the wood. However, as a teenager, I didn’t mind working harder to split the wood; it was a fun chore. However, now that I’m an adult, I’ve come to the conclusion that blunt iron isn’t fun anymore, and as you would expect, neither is blunt wisdom.
If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed. (v.10)
Think of a time when you put your head down and stubbornly plowed forward on your own strength to try to accomplish a very difficult task. Looking back, can you see that it would have been a lot easier if you had used more of your head rather than your brawn? Ha, King Solomon figured that out thousands of years ago. He observed that if one added godly wisdom to a given measure of effort, the successful accomplishment of the task was more likely to follow. If you find yourself struggling with something really hard in life, and realize that your strength is almost all used up, I suggest you take the counsel of the Apostle James and, with great faith, cry out to God for wisdom so you finally get the victory (Jas 1:5-7).
Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks. (v.18)
Just like sinking roofs and leaky houses, life’s big disappointments and disasters usually don’t happen overnight; they usually take time to develop. To ensure that our houses and lives don’t one day start leaking, we need to make sure we are being diligent in our inspection and maintenance of them. Hmm, do you think that concept applies to our spiritual lives as well? Could it be that if we don’t pay close attention to our spiritual lives that we will one day wake up and find ourselves sunken and all wet? What a shock that would be! I encourage you today to make an inspection of your "spiritual house," fix whatever needs fixing, and then make a plan to keep it in top order.
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. (Prv 6:10-11)
This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. (3a)
King Solomon made an observation about life that we don’t really like to think about. The reason we prefer not to let it cross our minds is because we don’t want it to be true. We're much more comfortable living in a fantasy world where the wicked man’s house gets swept away in a hurricane, but miraculously, the house of the righteous man is left standing, a world where there’s always a dark cloud over the ruined fields of the wicked, but perfect sunshine over the bountiful harvest fields of the righteous, and a world where the wicked experience all sorts of accidents and hardships, but the righteous are so blessed that they don’t even need to buy home, boat, or life insurance. Well, as you might have come to find out the hard way, in the real world good and evil befall both the wicked and the righteous. Considering that we serve a just God, that doesn’t sound quite fair, now does it?
But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. (v.1)
Here’s a news flash: we live not only under the sun, but also under the mercy of the Almighty and Everlasting God. If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge Solomon was right when he wrote that the hearts of children of men are full of evil and that madness is in their hearts while they’re alive (v.3b; see Jer 17:8). Seriously, knowing the depraved bent of man, it’s a wonder that God allows any of us to walk on the earth at all. The [biblical] truth of the matter is that God has ordained all the days of our lives and therefore, it can be said that our very lives are in his hands (Psa 139:16). I’m not sure about you, but I like being in the hands of God.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (v.10)
The Apostle Paul had the same advice for us as King Solomon did; whatever we’re working on, we’re to do it with all our might. (Col 3:22-23). How are you doing with that one? Do you work at your job in a half-hearted manner, loafing around when you can, and/or simply trying to give the appearance that you’re working hard, or do you have the godly mindset that in a way, you’re working for God and therefore putting 100% of your strength and energy into all your tasks? I encourage you today to remember that even though your employer signs your paychecks, it’s really Christ who will give you your ultimate reward.
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters,not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col 3:22-23)