We began with prayer and a reminder that we are reading the stories of how Israel became a nation. Pastor Pries noted that the reference to Iron comes from a later time. These passages do not show up in our regular lectionary, in part because the lectionary serves to unite Christians in proclamation that follows a certain rhythm in the church year, and of course because we have such a hard time understanding these stories in our contemporary context.
Vicar Jason provided this summary of our session as I was not able to be at the Bible Study: We questioned what would burn when these ancient cities made of rock and stone were set ablaze. How do we understand war in the name of God? We can often question whether some of these stories might contain some amount of allegory. In our post-modern era of religious plurality, it is difficult to claim this scripture as relevant. Yet, we do hold that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the New Testament God is revealed in Jesus Christ. We seek comfort in the questions and the mystery of faith. How is this scripture useful for us? Those in need of God’s protection could find here an example that God is faithful to the promise to protect us from enemies.
The Canaanites worship another god, and this seems to imply that the God of Israel has no problem making them ‘dedicated for destruction.’ One of the themes in Joshua and in the Old Testament is that disobedience to God carries consequences. Obedience makes sense to us, even when some of the details of the story do not.
When the Kings west of the Jordan heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites, they didn’t want to face them. The first thing the Lord told Joshua to do is to circumcise all of the men. It seems that whereas all the men going to live in Egypt had been circumcised, they had dropped the practice while they were in Egypt. So the Lord reinstated it before the fight for Jericho. The Lord said sharpen your flint knives and do the deed to all male Israelites. Then they celebrated the Passover at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho.
Then the Lord did an amazing thing. He told Joshua to have the priests carry the arc of the covenant around the outside of the walls of Jericho along with 7 men playing their trumpets for 6 days. They were followed by armed men. On the 7th day of doing this, the armed men were told to shout after they had circled the city and the walls collapsed and the city surrendered to the Israelites. They were told to go into the city and get Rahab, the prostitute and her family as they were to be spared. Everyone else was to be killed and they put the gold and silver they captured into the Lord’s treasury. The Lord said the city should not be rebuilt and the Lord was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land.
Today we read and discussed Joshua 4, which details how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and how the river parted for them as the priests carried to Arc of the Covenant across it. It detailed how Joshua deployed the priests to carry stones from the middle of the Jordan to convey the idea of the crossing for the future.
Jason led today and started off with a discussion of how grandparents had told stories to us and maybe how reticent they were. A number of us contributed stories about the stories told us by our grandparents, usually grandfathers. Many noted how reticent they were to tell these stories. Bill says thinking that sin entered by Adam for all of us and one sinless person, Jesus, took it away from all of us. It seems preposterous just like the Jordan parting for Joshua. But that is what faith is about, to find meaning in these words from the Bible. We want proof of things spiritual. People who say science destroyed their belief in God don’t know science. Religions like people grow by forgetting. Most profound ethical or moral foundations are those that are acted upon. When a major breakthrough occurred in science there would be enthusiasm but in religion there is distress. Is it the religious organizations that cause all the problems in the world? The Doge of Venice who supplied the ships for the crusades said it was for the glory of God and 10% for him. Eldon asked what happens in revisions. Look at the revisions made by Mohammad in his revision that became the Koran written well over 1,000 years after these stories of Abraham and Joshua. So that the people may know that god was with them and guided them. In what circumstance do you feel closest to God? A few answers were provided. Several mentioned music as the time when they feel closest to God.
We are grateful to Jason who led the Bible study this morning. After Moses’ death, Joshua was named the leader of the people and was given permission to lead the people out of the wilderness to the land promised to Abraham. So Joshua sent two men as spies to find out how hard it was going to be to take Jericho. Of course, the men found a prostitute that they could stay with. There seems to be a history of these people of Israel consorting with prostitutes as they went on their ways. The spies came back to Joshua and told about how they could overcome the people.
The God promised them they would prosper if they followed him. this is really Calvinism and it raises the question of whether there is a real god but yet the people from Abraham on down have prospered and always attribute it to their God. These nomads who have traveled many miles through many territories always land on their feet, displace the people who had used the land before they came, and at the end come away with more flocks, herds, slaves, and wives and a larger entourage.
A comment was made that Jews and Mormons have a lot in common. Their ways have helps that that identify the people and serve as guides for the people. Did Jesus really tear the fabric of this whole people apart with his talk of helping the poor and saying it would be difficult for a rich person to enter His kingdom?
It was noted that Rahab was listed as one of the ancestors of Jesus. It appears that the men were doing something besides user her house as a hideout!!!
The Lost Boys met on Christmas morning and read Jude, the whole book. (at least one chapter) It is an interesting book in which Jude starts with the statement that he is a slave to Jesus Christ. He then tells the story of the people of Israel in a somewhat off-beat manner. He has some memorable phrases such as “Fight with all you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.” Then he goes on with the history. He warns of false prophets, who appear he says beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. No difference between some people tat that time and some people today. At another point, he talks of these false prophets who are warts on your love feasts as you worship and eat together. “They’re giving you a black eye — carousing shamelessly, grabbing every that isn’t nailed down.” these words are from the Message interpretation of the Bible. He finishes by urging the believers to have faith in Jesus Christ and Him only. the rock of our faith.