Archive for the ‘Joshua 3-5’ Category

Miracles, Actual and Perceived   1 comment

River Jordan 1890

Above:  The River Jordan, 1890

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-02716


The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 4:1-13 (Thursday)

Joshua 4:14-24 (Friday)

Psalm 32 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 5:6-15 (Friday)


Rejoice in Yahweh and be glad, you just,

and shout for joy, all you upright of heart!

–Psalm 32:11, Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible (1966)


The theme of the power of God unites these days’ assigned readings.

The composite reading from Joshua 4, continuing directly from chapter 3, tells of the crossing of the Israelites into Canaan, the Promised Land.  Parallelism is evident, for one reads of a parting of the waters in Exodus 14 and in Joshua 3 and 4.  Each instance of such a parting has a natural explanation.  In Exodus 14:21 the author refers to

a strong east wind

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985).

The miracle of the Exodus from Egypt is therefore not the parting of the Sea of Reeds, but the liberation of the Hebrew slaves by the figurative hand of God.  J. Alberto Soggin, in Joshua:  A Commentary (1972), informs me that occasional earthquakes in Jordan valley cause walls of limestone to collapse, thereby forming natural dams which hold back water until the water forces its way through them.  Soggin provides three documented examples–in 1267, 1906, and 1927.  The miracle in Joshua 3 and 4, therefore, is that the Israelites ceased their wandering and entered the Promised Land.

The mighty power of God, in whom the just should rejoice and be glad, is of the essence in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5.  Via the power of God the just can withstand persecutions and other afflictions.  Through the power of God one can live confidently and faithfully.  By means of the power of God, who has initiated the process of reconciliation with human beings, we can make peace with others and with God.

This process of reconciliation requires us to abandon our slave mentalities.  The majority of Israelites who left Egypt remained slaves in their minds.  They were free yet did not think as free people.  Each of us is a slave to one thing or another if he or she chooses to be.  For many people the chosen master is a grudge or a set of resentments.  Seeking to correct injustice is positive, for it improves society.  However, nursing a grudge distracts a person from his or her purpose in God.  Many of us in Homo sapiens sapiens need first to make peace with ourselves, for, until we do that, we cannot be at peace with other people and with God.  Others of us have, fortunately, arrived at that spiritual place already.

To forgive oneself for being weak and sinful is essential.  To be at ease with one’s inadequacy and God’s sufficiency is crucial if one is to find peace with oneself.  Then one will have an easier time forgiving others for the same weak and sinful state.  This forgiveness might not happen immediately or quickly, but that is fine.  Sometimes one needs to let go, let God, and notice in the fullness of time that one’s anger has faded significantly, if not gone away completely.  When one realizes that this is the case, one has evidence of a miracle.








Adapted from this post:


The Presence of God, Part III   1 comment


Above:  Women at the Empty Tombby Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 3:1-17

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Matthew 28:1-10


Some Related Posts:

Joshua 3:

Matthew 28:


I shall not die, but live,

and declare the works of the LORD.

–Psalm 118:17, Book of Common Worship (1993)


The presence of God is evident in more than one way–perhaps in as many ways as there are circumstances in which it is evident.  In the assigned narratives for today we have two of them–the Ark of the Covenant and an empty tomb.  And, in the lections in general, we have the presence of God in a third way–in texts, but only when the Holy Spirit speaks to us through them.

I recall a story which Donald Armentrout told.  The pastor of a small, independent congregation in Tennessee retold the Easter story one Easter Sunday morning.  He paraphrased the angel in Matthew 28:6:

He ain’t here.

That, Armentrout said, was an excellent summary of the Easter story.

Jesus is not in the tomb.  Jesus is, however, among us, so to speak, in each other.  When we help others–the least of his brothers and sisters–we do it for Jesus if we are Christians.  Likewise, when we refuse to help others–the least of his brothers and sisters–we refuse to do something for Jesus if we are Christians.  Thus not caring about others is more than merely lacking empathy for them.  May we care for each other actively and as effectively as possible, for that is a great spiritual duty.

In whom, O reader, will you see Jesus today?  You cannot do everything; nobody can.  But you can do your part.  The other person can be a means by which God speaks to you, just as you can be a vehicle of grace to him or her.  That divine, blessed exchange is a beautiful thing.









Adapted from this post:


Posted January 19, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Joshua 3-5, Matthew 28, Psalm 118

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Joshua and Acts, Part III: Ideals, Reality, and Influence   1 comment


Above:  The Conversion of St. Paul, by Luca Giordano


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 3:1-7 (June 28)

Joshua 4:1-24 (June 29)

Psalm 130 (Morning–June 28)

Psalm 56 (Morning–June 29)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–June 28)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening–June 29)

Acts 9:1-22 (June 28)

Acts 9:23-43 (June 29)


Some Related Posts:

Joshua 3:

Acts 9:

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (January 25):

“Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?”:


One of the themes present in the Book of Joshua yet developed more fully elsewhere in the Jewish Bible is the dissonance between the ideal and reality.  The ideal was very much on display at the crossing of the River Jordan.  The journey is a generation had ended yet the hardest work lay ahead.  For the moment, however, the news was happy.

When the ideal and the real differ one can harmonize the two by changing one of them to match the other.  God offered Saul of Tarsus an opportunity to embrace a new reality and sent human helpers, including Ananias and Barnabas.  Peter, once a man rarely capable of choosing the right words, became a great Apostle.  The time and effort which Jesus had invented in him paid off.

Interdependence is human reality, as is total dependence on God.  God is the source of everything.  And we need each other to succeed.  I, as a Gentile, owe much to St. Paul, who relied upon others, including Ananias and Barnabas.  Their reach extends to the present day.  How far will your influence, O reader, reach into the future?








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Before and After   1 comment


Above:  The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Image Source = FranzMayerstainedglass



Joshua 5:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Joshua,

Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.

And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Psalm 32 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me,;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said,

I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,

and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful

offer prayer to you;

at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters

shall not teach them.

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,

else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying,

This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.

So Jesus told them this parable:

There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands’”‘ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

The Collect:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A:

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B:

2 Corinthians 5:

Luke 15:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:



These are readings about new beginnings in God.  Happy and blessed are the forgiven, Psalm 32 says.  In Joshua 5 the Israelites celebrate the first Passover in the Promised Land.  Jesus, in Luke 15, tells a story about a wastrel son, his resentful brother, and a loving father.  I choose to focus on the parable in Luke.

Sometimes familiarity breeds reading on autopilot.  So let us read the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Let us really read it.  A rebellious younger brother insults his father and wastes his share of the inheritance.  Then he comes to his senses after he hits bottom.  So he returns home and throws himself on his father’s mercy.  The father, who has been looking for his son’s return, welcomes him home and throws a great party for the occasion.  All is forgiven.  Yet the dutiful older brother  wonders why he never got a party.  And this brother imagines what his younger sibling might have done with all that money.

Before the younger brother was a fool; now he is sensible.  Before the older brother was resentful.  But is still that way after his father pleads with him at the end?  The story ends without resolving that question.  Now the younger brother can be what he is supposed to be, but what about the older brother?

How does this story relate to you, O reader?






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Great Blessings Come With Great Obligations   1 comment

Above: The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Joshua 3:7-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The LORD said to Joshua,

This day, for the first time, I will exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they shall know that I will be with you as I was with Moses.  For your part, command the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant as follows:  When you reach the edge of the waters of the Jordan, make a halt in the Jordan.

And Joshua said to the Israelites,

Come closer and listen to the words of the LORD your God.  By this,

Joshua continued,

you shall know that a living God is among you, and that He will dispossess for you the Canannites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites:  the Ark of the Covenant of the Sovereign of all the earth is advancing before you into the Jordan.  Now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe.  When the feet of the priests bearing the Ark of the LORD, the Sovereign of all the earth, come to rest in the waters of the Jordan–the water coming from upstream–will be cut off and will stand in a single heap.

When the people set out from their encampment to cross the Jordan, the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant were at the head of the people.  Now the Jordan keeps flowing over its entire bed throughout the harvest season.   But as soon as the bearers of the Ark reached the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the Ark dipped into the water at its edge, the waters coming down from upstream piled up in a single head a great way off, at Adam, the town next to Zarethan; and those flowing away downstream to the Sea of the Arabah (the Dead Sea) ran out completely.  The priests who bore the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant stood on dry land exactly in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel crossed over on dry land, until the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan.

Psalm 114 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):


When Israel came out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,

2 Judah became God’s sanctuary

and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea beheld it and fled;

Jordan turned and went back.

The mountains skipped like rams,

and the little hills like young sheep.

What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?

O Jordan, that you turned back?

You mountains, that you skipped like rams?

you little hills like young sheep?

7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Matthew 18:21-19:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Peter approached him [Jesus] with the question,

Master, if my brother goes on wronging me how often should I forgive him?  Would seven times be enough?

Jesus replied,

No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!  For the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants.  When he had started calling in his accounts, a man was brought to him who owed him millions of pounds.  As he had no means of repaying the debt, his master gave orders for him to be sold as a slave, and his wife and children and all his possessions as well, and the money to be paid over.  At this the servant fell on his knees before his master.  ’Oh, be patient with me!’ he cried, ‘and I will pay you back every penny!’  Then his master was moved with pity for him, set him free and cancelled his debt.

But when this same servant had left his master’s presence, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a few shillings.  He grabbed him and seized him by the throat, crying, ‘Pay up what you owe me!’  At this his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and implored him, ‘Oh, be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’  But he refused and went out and had him put in prison until he should repay the debt.

When the other fellow-servants saw what had happened, they were horrified and went and told their master the whole incident.  This his master called him in.

‘You wicked servant!’ he said.  ’Didn’t I cancel all that debt when you begged me to do so?  Oughtn’t you to have taken pity on your fellow-servant as I, your master, took pity on you?’  And his master in anger handed him over to the jailers till he should repay the whole debt.  This is how my Heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

When Jesus had finished talking on these matters, he left Galilee and went on to the district of Judea on the far side of the Jordan.


The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.

Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.  Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise.  In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism.  In it we are buried with Christ in his death.  By it we share in his resurrection.  Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

At the following words, the Celebrant touches the water.

Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior.

To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), pages 306-307

There is symmetry in the story of the Israelites.  They leave Egypt (and slavery) through parted waters and enter the promised land in the same way.  Each time God goes in front of them.  In the case of the reading from Joshua, the Ark of Covenant, an object of great mystical power, went before them.

At this moment I cannot help but recall a classic line from the Spider-Man background story.  His wise Uncle Ben said that with great power comes great responsibility.  Likewise there is a Biblical principle that with great blessing comes the responsibility to be a light to the nations, to serve God and to bring others to God.  Being chosen should never become an occasion of hubris.

And so, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, prophets excoriate society for neglecting the poor, usually widows and orphans.  The proper sacrifice to God, they say, is not superficial fasting and other meaningless shows of insincere religion, but caring for each other in practical ways.  (See Isaiah 58:1-12, for example.)

This principle resides at the heart of the reading from Matthew.  As I wrote in yesterday’s devotion, Matthew 18 speaks of the coexistence of mercy and judgment with God.  And the parable in 18:23-35 is consistent with this, from the Sermon on the Mount:

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get….

–Matthew 7:1-2 (Revised Standard Version)

These can be difficult passages to digest.  At least they are for me.  I want God to forgive, not judge.  But God does both.  I choose to engage the Scriptures and to digest them, including the principle that I must forgive (something I can do only by grace) if I am to receive forgiveness.  This particular parable comes to my mind frequently, pushing me to extend graciousness to many people.

The first servant has somehow accumulated a debt he has no chance of paying back.  Yet this master takes pity on him and forgives the entire debt.  Nevertheless, this servant has a man who owes him a far smaller debt thrown into debtor’s prison.  (Aside:  I have never grasped the principle of debtor’s prison.  If someone cannot pay when a free man or woman, how can he or she pay when in prison?)  The master then treats the first servant the same way he (the servant) acted toward his (the servant’s) debtor.  This is poetic justice.

If we cannot forgive just yet, we can confess this sin to God and seek grace to reach that point.  This is a beginning, at least.  And I believe that God responds favorably to such requests.  We are weak, but God is strong.  At any given moment, especially when we die, may we be in the good graces of God, obeying divine guidance.  We will never achieve entire sanctification in this lifetime, but we can make progress, by grace.  But we must cooperate with God.

The waters of baptism mark outwardly new life in God and in the community of the Church.  Among the baptismal questions in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer is this:

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

The answer is,

I will, with God’s help.  (page 305)

We are all weak; may we be gracious toward one another, with God’s help.  This is our common vocation:  to foster goodwill, to love each other as ourselves, and to seek the best for each other.  Society will improve when more of us live this way.








Adapted from this post: