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Daily devotional

August 16 – From conquest to covenant

“...and afterward read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.” – Joshua 8:34 Scripture reading: Joshua 8 At first, it may seem that the last verses of Joshua 8 are out of place and don’t belong here. Why the sudden shift from combat and conquest in the first part of the chapter, to covenant and commandments in the last part of the chapter? It is because the detailed account of Ai’s defeat by Israel given to us in the first 29 verses of this chapter establishes the reason why Israel praises God so profusely in the last part of the chapter! This is seen even more clearly when chapters 7 and 8 are viewed as a whole. For remember that in chapter 7, Israel was experiencing the curse of the LORD’s anger because of unconfessed sin. But once that sin is propitiated, in chapter 8, Israel experiences the great blessing of the Lord in its defeat of Ai. So how appropriate for Joshua to take a break from fighting and to gather all of Israel to Mount Ebal in order to give praise and thanksgiving to God. Joshua reminds them of both the promised blessings of God and of the promised curses of God found in the covenant. The covenant renewal in verses 30-35 teaches Israel that their success in the conquest of the Promised Land comes not because of them, but in spite of them. Their success comes not when Palestine is rid of pagans, but when their heart is rid of sin! With Israel, may we too praise our mighty, majestic, and merciful God. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His covenantal faithfulness. Thank Him for sending His Son to be our curse for us. Thank Him for crediting us with Christ’s righteousness. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 15 – The Church in the hands of an angry God

“So the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger.” – Joshua 7:26 Scripture reading: Joshua 7 God’s wrath against sin plays the central role of this chapter. The anger of the LORD is mentioned at the beginning and the end (verse 1 and 26) of this account, with a chilling declaration by God to Israel in between, “Neither will I be with you anymore” (verse 12). This is the opposite of what the Lord had promised in chapter 1:5, “I will be with you. I will not leave you, nor forsake you.” So what has happened? What made the difference between what God promised in chapter 1 and what He now declares in chapter 7? The difference is sin; purposeful, unconfessed sin. God takes sin seriously. In fact, He hates it! We may not, but He does. We may grow accustomed to it, but God does not. Because of sin in their midst, God’s covenant people find themselves in the same situation as the pagans around them: devoted to destruction! They have broken covenant with God and so they are worthy of judgment. “Unless!” Don’t miss the glimmer of grace held out at the end of verse 12, “unless you destroy the accursed from among you.” Here is propitiation, the turning aside of God’s wrath. When Israel identifies and destroys Achan, his family and all his belongings, God’s wrath is turned away and propitiation occurs. This is a foreshadowing of the finished work of Christ; a picture of the Cross of Calvary. The only begotten Son, crushed by the Father, that we could be accepted by Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for propitiation. Confess any and all sin to Him, hiding none. State out loud that your hope, your righteousness, your life is found in Jesus Christ alone. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 14 – The Lord fought the battle of Jericho! – Part 2

“So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpets, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat.” – Joshua 6:20 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:6-27 The ark of the covenant of the LORD once again plays a central role in the Book of Joshua, this time in the defeat of Jericho. Remember that in the Ark, God Himself is represented on earth! For six straight days God – in the presence of the Ark – confronts the unbelievers behind the walls of Jericho. With the priests carrying the Ark, God’s holiness is presented to them. With the soldiers going in front of and behind the Ark, God’s judgment is presented to them. For six days God graciously withheld His judgment. The people behind the wall should have responded to this mighty and majestic God of Israel by surrendering. They should have “come out with their hands up” throwing themselves upon the mercy of Israel’s God. But they hide behind their high wall and strong gates in the vain hope that these earthly things might save them. They love their sin too much. So on the seventh day, after the seventh pass around the city, God unleashes His judgment. The time for mercy is over. The day of grace has passed. These rebellious unbelievers experience how mighty and majestic the true God of all Heaven and Earth really is. Today is still the day of grace for us. Today is the day of salvation. Do not hide behind earthly things. Do not cling to your sin. Come with a submissive heart to the mighty, majestic and merciful God of Heaven and Earth. Confess your sin and trust in Jesus Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask God the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and reveal any vain things upon which you are trusting. Thank God for this day of grace. Thank Him for sending Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 13 – The Lord fought the battle of Jericho! – Part 1

“And the LORD said to Joshua: ‘See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.’” – Joshua 6:2 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:1-5 Joshua has never yet fought a battle like this. How is his army supposed to take this fortified city with its strong gates and thick walls? Build battering rams for the gates? A siege ramp to scale the walls? Or maybe just surround the city and starve them into submission? It looks so hopeless. God tells him: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand!” What an odd thing for the Commander of the LORD’s army to say, because Joshua doesn’t see a defeated Jericho. All he sees is a powerful, fortified city, with strong, locked gates and high, thick walls! Joshua sees an impenetrable fortress that even if his army does succeed in taking, he is going to lose many good men doing it. That is what Joshua “sees.” So the Lord encourages Joshua to look with the eyes of faith and see that it is not him or his army who is going to fight this battle. It is the LORD! Jericho will be taken, but in the way that God determines. And the rest is history. Whatever “battle” you may be facing in life, the Lord calls for you to “See!” Do not dwell on outward appearances. Look instead with the eye of faith to what God can do. Find your hope in how He has promised to care for you, fight for you, love you. Humanly, your situation may seem hopeless, but “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you the eyes of faith. Ask Him to work powerfully even in the midst of your hopeless situation. Ask Him to give you even more grace to find your rest in Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 12 – Judgment begins

“Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” – Joshua 5:15 Scripture reading: Joshua 5:13-15 This second main section of Joshua emphasizes judgment, destruction and death; this troubles many modern readers. Yet, it is a section that rings out with praise to Almighty God! Yes, God is praised even in the destruction of these pagan tribes. Such judgment shocks us today only because we have lost sight of God’s holiness and the sinfulness of sin. Eternal punishment testifies to God’s holiness and how much He hates sin. We prefer a “kinder, gentler” god, one more like a soft and sweet marshmallow who wouldn’t hurt a flea. But that is not the God of Holy Scripture. As Biblical Christians, we are to understand the judgment and destruction seen in Joshua as a foreshadowing of the LORD’s promised final judgment that awaits this earth at the end of time. We must remember how God promises to send to eternal destruction all who reject Him, while He also promises to welcome into eternal glory all who respond to Him in faith and repentance. This is why “the Commander of the LORD’s army” reveals Himself to Joshua, to remind Joshua Who he ultimately serves. This “Commander” is none other than Jesus in pre-incarnate form. He tells Joshua, “The place where you stand is holy.” What makes a place on earth “holy,” but that this “Man” Who is standing there with Joshua is Himself holy! This reminds us that the Lord goes with us too as we go out into the world. Go in His strength and serve your holy God today. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His holiness. Ask Him to reveal to you even more of your own sinfulness. Ask the Lord to help you serve Him with all your heart. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 11 – Covenant renewal

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’” – Joshua 5:9 Scripture reading: Joshua 5:1-12 This passage marks the end of the first main section of the Book of Joshua. From here the wars and battles begin. More significantly for Israel, however, this passage also verifies that her desert wanderings are now done. The divine judgment against that first generation of unbelieving Israel is fulfilled. The final obstacle of the Jordan River has been miraculously overcome and the Promised Land lies before them. But wait! Covenant renewal is needed before covenant blessings can come. Two essential Old Testament memorials that God had given His Church need to be restored: circumcision and Passover. Circumcision was God’s covenantal sign first given to Abraham in order to mark out the people who belonged to the Lord from those who belonged to the world while Passover was God’s memorial meal that testified to God’s redemption of His people from slavery and sin. So these testified to God’s claiming and saving of His chosen people. These truths must be professed by the people before the Promised Land can be enjoyed by the people. In church today you will be confronted by a very close correlation of these same two memorials: the baptismal font reminding you of how God’s mark of possession has also been placed upon you, setting you apart from the world. And the communion table reminds us of the crucified body and shed blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. These truths need to be professed by us before the Promised Land of Glory can ever be enjoyed by us. Suggestions for prayer Dwell on what these twin New Testament memorials mean to you as a follower of Christ. Pray that through His preached Word heard today, your heart, mind and soul would be filled with a greater appreciation for the redemption found in Jesus Christ alone. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 10 – A sign among you

“That this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’” – Joshua 4:6 Scripture reading: Joshua 4 A quick reading of Joshua 4 would have us wonder why a pile of rocks is worthy of our consideration. Why all this fuss about 12 stones? The answer is that because weare all too forgetful concerning spiritual things, we too need “a sign among us,” a memorial testifying of the great and awesome work of Almighty God. Each generation of Israelites, when they walked past this memorial set up along the Jordan River, was to remember how mighty, majestic and merciful their God was. This teaching was to be passed down to each succeeding generation as well, so that all who follow would praise their God aright. God gives His New Testament Church such memorials as well. Tomorrow, as you attend church services, you will undoubtedly see a baptismal font and a communion table at the front of the sanctuary. Most churches will also have a cross displayed, either inside the sanctuary or outside on the front of your building. These are to be “a sign among you.” The water of baptism symbolizes the forgiveness of sin. The bread and the wine testify to how that forgiveness was obtained for us in the spent body and shed blood of our Lord. The cross is not just a mere decoration for the front of the church; it is the throne where the Lamb of God absorbed the wrath of God as our substitute. Because our hearts so easily forget, we too need these memorials to be “a sign among us.” Suggestions for prayer Think deeply about each of these signs among us. Praise God for giving us each of these “memorial stones.” Ask God to strengthen you that you may always remember and never forget what He has done for you in Jesus Christ your Saviour. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 9 – The marvelous miracle

"The waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away." – Joshua 3:16 Scripture reading: Joshua 3:14-17 Three truths need to be seen so that we understand just how marvellous this miracle was. The first is that God brings His people to the Jordan when it is at flood stage (vs. 15)! Humanly speaking this was the worst possible time to try to cross this river. Normally, the Jordan is no more than 90 feet across and the deepest hole only about 12 feet deep. But when the snows in northern Palestine melt, the Jordan becomes a raging torrent that is up to 30 feet deep and three-quarters of a mile across! This torrent is what the people must now cross. The second truth is that this is the torrent that God “rose in a heap very far away” (vs. 16). Imagine what the people witnessed as they watched the ark approach the raging water: as the lead priest enters the water … there is no water for him to enter! The hand of God pushes back the raging torrent so that it stands “in a heap!” Thirdly, and just as amazingly, not only is there no water for the priests to step into, but the muddy river bottom … is not muddy! The people and all their possessions pass over on “dry ground” (vs. 17). With this marvellous miracle, the people are assured that this endeavour of conquering the Promised Land is truly of the Lord. The LORD God Almighty goes before them and will watch over them. As God’s child, let this truth comfort your heart today. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that He is a miracle working God. Praise Him for working the miracle of grace within your own heart. Ask Him for His guidance and blessing in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 8 – The glory of God

“The waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” – Joshua 3:13 Scripture reading: Joshua 3:7-13 In our text, Joshua tells the people of Israel that God is going to do a great miracle among them, but even before that miracle is done, Joshua focuses the attention of the people onto their mighty, majestic and merciful God. In verse 10, Joshua reminds them that “the living God is among you,” but how will the people know that God is really with them and will do for them what He has promised? Once again, it is because the Ark of the Covenant is with them! This ark symbolized God’s might and majesty. The same God who dried up the waters of the Red Sea will also dry up the waters of the Jordan River. This ark also represents God’s mercy, for covering the ark is the mercy seat where once a year the blood of a sacrifice is sprinkled. This sprinkling of blood testified to the principle of substitutionary atonement, how God had ordained that an innocent victim could die in the place of guilty sinners. This mercy seat foreshadowed the Messiah. The faith of the old covenant people was pointed to the day when the new covenant would be sealed in the shed blood of Jesus. So the blood-covered mercy seat is a type and shadow of the great and finished work of Christ. So in the ark, the might, the majesty and the mercy of God is proclaimed. In the ark, the glory of God is revealed. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His glory. Thank Him for opening your eyes to see that He is the living God of all the earth. Thank Him that your salvation is found in the finished work of Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 7 – The ark of the covenant

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.” – Joshua 3:3 Scripture reading: Joshua 3:1-6 In the camp of Israel, the ark represented God Himself residing with His people. The ark was emblematic of God’s promise to never leave them nor forsake them. So wherever the ark was, there God’s people were to be as well. However, the presence of God also comes with a warning. The people must stay at least 2,000 cubits away from the ark (vs. 4). This is over one-half mile away (or just under one kilometre)! This is to teach Israel that they cannot just come and approach God anyway and anytime that they feel like it. No, God sets the rules for how sinners can approach Him. You might think that 2,000 cubits sounds excessive. Wouldn’t 1,000 cubits be good enough? Or 500? No! What a typically human and sinful response! The Lord is never content with our “good enough.” Our fallen hearts always think little of God’s holiness and our own sinfulness. We so easily convince ourselves that we are not as bad as God says we are. The Bible tells us that God is holy, pure and absolutely righteous; and we are not! This is exactly why He had to send His only begotten Son into this world as the Mediator between God’s holiness and us as sinners. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. Through faith in Christ, we are made as holy as God Himself. In Christ we can “go after” God and serve Him with all our heart in this world. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His holiness and majesty. Confess your sin before Him. Ask Him for the leading of His Holy Spirit to draw you closer to your Saviour, and that you may find your rest in Him. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 6 – The profession of a prostitute – Part 2

“And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted: neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” – Joshua 2:11 Scripture reading: Joshua 2:8-24 In verses 10-13, we see that the Holy Spirit has been active in Rahab’s heart, for this pagan prostitute makes three key statements that every believer in the Lord must make. First, in verse 10, Rahab confesses the might of the Lord. She mentions how “the LORD dried up the waters of the Red Sea,” and how the two Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, were “utterly destroyed.” Second, in verse 11, Rahab confesses the majesty of the Lord when she states, “The LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” Third, in verse 12, Rahab confesses the mercy of the Lord. Twice in that verse, she uses the Hebrew word hesed, a word used regularly throughout the Old Testament. Yet, it is a concept that is difficult to put into English. Different English translations use words like lovingkindness, mercy, covenantal faithfulness, and so on. It is important to notice that with her request for divine hesed, Rahab is expressing genuine faith! For true faith is never content with only expressing intellectual truths, such as God being majestic and mighty. Those truths must also reach down and transform the heart. True faith, after confessing truth about God, then seeks to take refuge in God! Rahab not only states correct beliefs, but she also confesses her desperate need. Who else but God the Holy Spirit could have planted such a faith in such an unbeliever? Here is sovereign, divine grace in action. Here is God’s hesed. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His might. Confess His majesty. Thank Him for His mercy. Express your gratitude to Him for the amazing grace that He has shown to you. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 5 – The profession of a prostitute – Part 1

“So went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.” – Joshua 2:1 Scripture reading: Joshua 2:1-7 The late James Montgomery Boice in his commentary on Joshua states, “It is interesting that the first character described for us in this great book of Joshua – other than Joshua himself – is this woman Rahab, and that the first real historical account told us is her account.” This is interesting and important because most Christians would say that Joshua is basically about wars and battles. Even conservative theologians would describe the book as God’s divine judgment against human sin, using the nation of Israel to punish whole people groups because of their rebellion against the LORD. Now it is true that war and judgment play a major role in this book. Yet we must not miss the fact that the Book of Joshua essentially begins, as Boice puts it, with “a story of God’s mercy rather than of His wrath." Think about that. Divine mercy and grace begin this account, not divine wrath and judgment. This must be the presupposition that guides us as we read through this historical record; namely, that yes, our God is holy and just and He will punish sin, but God is also merciful and gracious, long-suffering and filled with lovingkindness. And in this we find our hope! God’s grace is seen today in the blood-stained cross of Calvary. There perfect and full propitiation occurred. Through the instrument of faith, our sin is imputed to Christ and Jesus’ perfect righteousness is imputed to us. The “great exchange.” Trust in Christ and find your hope in Him. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for His mercy and grace. Thank Him that He did not leave you in your sin as you deserved, but that He sent His only Begotten Son “to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 4 – Turning promise into possession

“Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, “Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.” - Joshua 1:11 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:10-18 Finally, God is delivering on His promise made years earlier to Abraham, to give the land of Palestine to Abraham’s descendants. Because “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1), Palestine can be given and taken as God sees fit. Canaan does not belong to the pagan tribes who now reside there any more than it does to the tribes of Israel who will soon reside there. For now, God has decided to give this land as His gift to Israel. Yet the LORD does not just drop this gift into Israel’s lap! Rather, He commands His people to cross over and lay hold of His promise. They are to fight for this land! Work to claim God’s gift. The people are expected to turn promise into possession. Notice the commands given them in verse 11: “prepare provisions,” “cross over,” “go in to possess.” God’s promises often come with expectations. You may have observed this in church today. In the sacraments, God’s great covenantal promise is put before us in picture form. The water of baptism and the bread and wine of communion picture for us the promised salvation of Jesus Christ. Yet, with that promise comes expectations. We must “cross over the Jordan”, as it were, and take possession of the promise. For water, bread and wine do not save. Only Jesus saves! God commands us to respond in repentance and faith to the promise pictured in the sacramental elements, for salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank God for the salvation found in Jesus Christ. Repent of all your sins. Ask the Lord for a greater measure of His Holy Spirit so that you would look in faith to Jesus Christ alone. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 3 – Prophetic foreshadowing

“Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” – Joshua 1:6 Scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:3-5 As we study Joshua, we must remember the Reformed hermeneutical principle of “prophetic foreshadowing”; namely, that throughout the Old Testament God reveals types and shadows of greater spiritual realities. “The Promised Land” is one of these types. In Joshua the people fight for land in Canaan, but this earthly land is only a shadow of the spiritual land of promise that awaits us in Christ. The “inheritance” in our text foreshadows the greater inheritance won by Christ. Peter uses “inheritance” as a kind of theological shorthand for all the spiritual blessings that become ours through faith (1 Peter 1:3-5). The most common foreshadowing found here is Joshua himself as a type of Christ. Not only do they share the same name, Ya-shua in Hebrew, Jesu in Greek, both mean “The Lord saves;” but earlier God had promised Abraham that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12). In Galatians 3:8, the Apostle Paul states that in this promise made to Abraham, God was speaking in Old Testament times of Jesus and “preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand.” Thus, in the conquering of Canaan, God is laying the groundwork for the fulfillment of His promise, first given to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15), that through the line of the woman, One will come Who will crush the serpent’s head. Adam and Eve believed this promise and were saved by faith. So did Abraham and Joshua. May you too look in faith to the long-promised and now revealed Saviour, Jesus the Christ. Suggestions for prayer Ask God, the Holy Spirit, to give you the eyes of faith in order to better see and understand these spiritual truths. Thank the Lord for fulfilling His great promise of redemption. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 2 – Divine assurances

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 Scripture reading: Joshua 1:1-9 Yesterday we were confronted with the sinfulness of sin. Today we are comforted with Divine assurances from our loving God. There are three assurances in our passage. First is God’s Divine Presence. In verses 2 through 4, God commands Joshua to cross over the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land. Israel knew there were hordes of pagans there, some of them giants, all of them living in fortified cities. How could they possibly take this land? Only by trusting in the promise God makes in verse 5, “No man shall be able to stand before you … I will be with you.” With God’s presence this is possible. Without Him there is only failure. Second is God’s Divine Courage. Twice in verses 6 and 7 God commands Joshua “Be strong and of good courage.” Joshua can be this - not by drawing on some inner pool of strength - but because God’s presence is with Joshua and so he has God’s strength and courage! Relying on self will only bring disaster, but relying on the LORD will bring blessing. Third is God’s Divine Success. In verse 8, God promises that by observing “The Book of the Law” there will be “good success.” God gives us His presence and makes us strong and courageous so that we will be people of the Word, doing His will and not our own, as a testimony to the world. Jesus Christ is the fullness of these Divine assurances. Rest in Him today. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to teach you more of Himself. Ask Him to wean you more from yourself. Ask Him to make you “strong and courageous” through faith in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 1 – Introduction

For many churchgoers today, the Old Testament Book of Joshua is only about ancient battles and bloodshed. Sure the walls of Jericho fell down flat, but what does that have to do with me? Liberal church leaders will even condemn the book because it seemingly encourages “ethnic cleansing.” As Reformed Christians, we see a far bigger truth being played out in the pages of this book. These chapters demonstrate well the intense and intimate nature of the process that God used in order to bring about His promised Messiah: how God worked in man and through man in order to save man! We also see in Joshua how our Sovereign God is not only in control of the outcome of individual battles, but how He also determines and guides the rise and fall of every nation on earth. All nations, all kings, right down to every individual, play a role in our Lord’s eternally devised plan to bring about and secure the salvation of His elect people. That is the greater “Story” going on in this book: the sovereign work and almighty action of our God in redeeming His people. From our studies this month, may we learn of how our Redeeming God continues to work out His great plan of salvation in the hearts and lives of His people still today. All came to pass “Not a word failed or any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.” – Joshua 21:45 Scripture reading: Joshua 21:43-45 We begin our study of Joshua with verses that explain why this historical record was written: as a testimony to God’s covenant faithfulness! God is sovereign and “all comes to pass” of everything He ordains, therefore He can be entrusted with our life. We can follow Him in all confidence. Liberal scholars take exception to this. They contend that this book should not be read by us. “Joshua is too gory,” they proclaim. “Here is an Old Testament God of vengeance Who commands the Jews to steal the land that belongs to others and to commit genocide in the process! We demand a ‘kinder and gentler’ God than Who we see here.” We respond by admitting that there is bloodshed in this book, but we read Joshua in the light of the first five books of the Bible. There God reveals Himself as being absolutely holy and morally pure. He created us perfect and He warned us that He hates sin, promising death for anyone who did sin. Thus, the elimination of the pagan tribes of Canaan must be seen by us as God sees it: the holy, moral, and natural outcome of human sin. God’s righteous judgment must be against man’s sinful rebellion. Divine justice. “All came to pass” just as God promised. God will judge our sin as well. Do not ignore this truth! Apart from Jesus Christ, we too are “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” Trust in Jesus, for only in Him is there salvation for our soul. Suggestions for prayer Confess God’s holiness and your sinfulness. Thank Him for this time of grace and for the sending of His Son. Ask Him to give you spiritual eyes to see the great truths found in the Book of Joshua. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

July 31 – The way to victory

“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.” – Joshua 6:20 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:8-21 God’s strategy for defeating Jericho was completely unrealistic. You can’t defeat a city with walls so thick that you can build a house into them, by having a parade around it. Israel was going to look absolutely foolish; it would show that they had no strategy – that they didn’t know what they were doing. Do you recognize the logic of these instructions? What did Israel have to do? In a way, we say, They didn’t have to do anything. You can hardly call that waging war, just marching and shouting. Exactly. God said, Take heart from everything that I have done to show you that I am with you. Believe that I have come to judge My enemies and to give the land to you. The way to victory for Israel was by working out their faith in God’s promises, by following God’s strange strategy. God has promised us victory over the world in the very same way. John wrote, This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (I John 5:4-5) We have to work out our confidence that Jesus is the Son of God by preaching the gospel, taking up our cross and following Him. The world will think we’re fools, but that’s what Jericho thought too, before the walls fell down. Take heart, said Jesus; Ihaveovercometheworld. Suggestions for prayer Thank God that Jesus Christ has overcome the world, that by faith, we already now share in His victory, and when He comes again, we will share fully and eternally in His victory. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 30 – Doing the work of faith

“And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days.’” – Joshua 6:2, 3 Scripture reading: Joshua 6:1-7 Joshua means, salvation is from the LORD. That’s the promise of the gospel, and we receive salvation from the LORD as a free gift simply by believing the promise.The promise is absolutely sure. Our salvation is accomplished by God’s sovereign grace. God has decreed it, and He will do it. The history of salvation recorded in Scripture proves that beyond the shadow of a doubt. In I Corinthians 2:9, Paul makes it very clear that this kind of salvation is absolutely different from every kind of salvation that people have ever invented or imagined. We’re not saved by what we do. God does all the work because God wants all the glory (Ephesians 2:9). But God has work for us to do, by faith. Paul said, Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God Who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12,13). This is how we have to understand the work to which the LORD called Israel, as He gave the city of Jericho into their hands. Marching around the city, no matter how many times, and blowing trumpets, no matter how loudly, couldn’t bring down the walls of Jericho. That was the work of faith. Israel earned nothing, and received everything, by doing what God commanded. God commands us to pray and worship, and to meditate on His Word. We earn nothing, but we receive everything, by doing what He commands. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for the free gift of salvation, and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you a deep sense of thankfulness, and help you to do the work of faith. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 29 – Coming to judge the living and the dead

“…he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped.” – Joshua 5:14a Scripture reading: Joshua 5:13-15 Who is this man with the sword that Joshua met at Jericho? Joshua worshipped Him. And he said to Joshua what the LORD had said to Moses by the burning bush: Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy. This person isn’t a man, or even an angel. It’s the LORD Himself, the Son of God, coming to judge His enemies and to save His people, hundreds of years before He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. This scene foreshadows one that we will see, one day. This is how the Lord Jesus shows Himself to us in Revelation 19: Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems, and He has a name written that no one knows but Himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. Come, Lord Jesus! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Holy Spirit to remember and to fix your hope on the promise of Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead, when your faith in Him will be vindicated, and His enemies will be destroyed forever. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 28 – Humbled by God’s grace

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God Who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them.” – Deuteronomy 7:9-10a Scripture reading: Joshua 5:13-15 God had marked the conquest of Canaan on His calendar long before Israel crossed the Jordan. He told Abraham, Your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs . . . And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the sin of the Amorites is not yet complete.(Genesis 15:13,14) That’s what the commander of the army of the LORD was saying: I’m not here for Israel’s benefit, in the first place, but to carry out God’s righteous judgment because the sin of the Amorites is complete. And this is the gospel for you: in His sovereign grace and His divine wisdom, God has decided to glorify Himself by saving you, even while He judges Canaan. There’s a warning there for Israel, and for us. Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy 7: The LORD your God has chosen you . . . because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers. . . . Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God Who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate Him, by destroying them. . . . You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today. Knowing that we are God’s people by sovereign grace alone should make us humble, thankful, and obedient. Suggestions for prayer Pray that God will never allow you to forget His mercy, or to become proud or thankless, but that you will always walk with Him and with your neighbor in genuine humility. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

Daily devotional

July 27 – Whose side are you on, anyway?

“Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.’” – Joshua 5:13b, 14a Scripture reading: Joshua 5:13-15 The night before the conquest of Jericho, Joshua was alone, and at a certain moment, he was startled by a man standing before him, with his drawn sword in his hand. Joshua asked him, Are you for us, or for our adversaries? The man said, No. It’s a strange answer. He is obviously ready to fight. So he must be for Israel or for Jericho. One or the other. But he says, No; in other words, I’m not on either side. I am the commander of the army of the LORD. It will become very clear that this man is the LORD Himself, and Israel is His people, and they were there to take possession of the land that He had promised them. So why didn’t he say, “I’m on your side, Joshua?” Maybe it sounds strange to say it this way, but we always have to remember that the LORD isn’t on our side. The Bible says in lots of places that God is with us and for us. But, He’s not on our side, in the sense that He takes up our agenda, that He’ll always make sure things always work out the way we want them to. God is sovereign, and He’s working on His agenda. And that’s good news, because His agenda is infinitely more wonderful than ours. He has decided to glorify Himself not by doing what we want Him to do, but by saving us from our sin by grace through faith in Christ. Suggestions for prayer Glorify God for taking you up in His sovereign purpose, so that you receive the indescribable blessing as He vindicates the honor of His Name. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario....

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