Reflections: Today’s readings again focus on the subject of leadership. The psalmist (Ethan) speaks about the leader God anointed to lead the people. A man after God’s own heart King David, the first and greatest king of Israel. David’s success was because God’s hand was with him, and God went before him. And we see expressed here, the 3rd major covenant God made with His people in the Davidic Covenant (the first two covenants being the Noachic Covenant and the Covenant with Abraham). In this covenant God promised that King David would begin a line of royalty that would last forever. An everlasting kingdom that would be fulfilled in the Jesus the Messiah, the King of all kings. Though David failed in his life, God’s covenant with him and by application with us will never fail.
Then in Joshua 3-4, we see the newly appointed leader Joshua leading the people through the Jordan. And for this moment God told Joshua that the river would stand in a heap, as a sign that God was with Joshua just like He was with Moses. Notice the similarity between the Israelites being led through the Red Sea by Moses, and now the Jordan River by Joshua. God wanted the people to know He was with Joshua just as much as He was with Moses. As they made this historic crossing in route to taking the Promised Land, Joshua took the 12 stones and gave them to the 12 leaders of the twelve tribes, and set them up at Gilgal as reminder of God’s faithfulness. The 12 stones were to be a reminder to the Israelites in future generations that God was their rock and they could count on him through the leadership He had provided in Joshua and the 12 leaders, one from each tribe.
Also notice the role of the Ark of Covenant. The people were to follow it at a distance, as it was a symbol of God’s presence. And the priests were to carry the Ark, as a sign that God was leading the people. When the Ark moved, they moved. When the Ark stopped, they stopped. What a great reminder to us today not to get ahead of where God is moving. It reminds us to take time and ask God where He wants us to move rather than stepping out in presumption. The great need today is for leaders who are willing to stop and listen to God’s Voice, rather than acting out of anxiety or conformity to the people. A leader who waits on God’s voice is invaluable to the Church.
Finally, along similar lines Jesus is preparing the disciples for leadership in the early church. He points out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who do one thing and then say another. This is the leaven that taints the whole dough. A leader who says one thing and then does another corrupts the whole church. That is why character is so important. Jesus also warns the disciples that there will be lots of pressure for them to conform, but just as the Israelites had to wait on God to move, God will give the disciples the words to say when they are persecuted.
Notice there is no “prosperity gospel” here, but Jesus is warning the disciples that as He is persecuted so will they! But in this He gives them the precious promise that God will be with them, and even knows the number of hairs on their head.
We have the much debated verse about those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. I have read many theories on what the means, but the one that makes the most sense is that a person who resists the Holy Spirit, specifically as God’s Word calls them to repentance and trusting in Christ, will not be forgiven. Why? Because it is only as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and need for Christ that we can come to faith. Without the power of the Holy Spirit it is all foolishness to us. God desires all of us to be saved, but if we reject Him by rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work, God will allow us to do that!
Where is God calling you to acknowledge Him in public? Where are you tempted to conform to the world versus being transformed by God’s power and the power of the Spirit to become more like Christ? Take some time to be still and wait on God. As He leads you, follow Him into the Promised Land He has for you as His son or daughter. As we have trusted in His promises in Christ, we are part of His Family and the everlasting covenant He has made through His Son.
19 Once you spoke in a vision,
to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
I have raised up a young man from among the people.
20 I have found David my servant;
with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
21 My hand will sustain him;
surely my arm will strengthen him.
22 The enemy will not get the better of him;
the wicked will not oppress him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down his adversaries.
24 My faithful love will be with him,
and through my name his horn will be exalted.
25 I will set his hand over the sea,
his right hand over the rivers.
26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, the Rock my Savior.’
27 And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
28 I will maintain my love to him forever,
and my covenant with him will never fail.
29 I will establish his line forever,
his throne as long as the heavens endure.
4 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight. ”4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. 9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.10 Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the Lord had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over, 11 and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the Lord and the priests came to the other side while the people watched. 12 The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, ready for battle, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them. 13 About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the Lord to the plains of Jericho for war.14 That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses. 15 Then the Lord said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant law to come up out of the Jordan.”17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.”18 And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.19 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God. ”
Warnings and Encouragements
12 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
“I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you,” says the Lord God, “and you became mine.” Ezekiel 16:8
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10
We are blessed and have received a wonderful covenant with the God of Abraham. We are called by God’s mercy for his people. What a beautiful blessing in Jesus’ name. Amen.