Advent, Advent Devotional, Christmas, Promised Hope

Next Gen Faith

JOSHUA; JUDGES

NARRATIVE

A new generation was born in the desert. And though they had never known Egypt, they carried its weight. They bore its pain. It was an ache that lingered long and thwarted their faith. A faith that dried up in the desert.

On the bank of the Jordan River God began again.

In response to God, Joshua told the people to consecrate themselves and prepare to see the LORD do amazing things among them.

Carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the priests stepped into the swollen Jordan River. As their toes felt the water, it stopped flowing, piling in a heap. And reminiscent of a story they had heard their fathers tell, they too crossed a river on dry land. The promised soil betwixt their toes.

Amazing things among you.

The men who walked out of Egypt had been circumcised according to the covenant, but those born in the wilderness had not. A visible reminder of their disobedience. So, with knives in hand, every male was branded into the covenant community.

Then the LORD said to Joshua, Today, I have removed the disgrace of Egypt from you. God removed the lingering ache of shame that had kept them in bondage.

Amazing things among you.

Before they moved forward, they looked back to remember their deliverance. Their Deliverer. The first Passover in the promised land was the first Passover in a long time. The day after Passover, the people ate from the produce of the promised land. The provisional manna was gone.

Amazing things among you.

As Joshua headed toward the city of Jericho he saw a man standing in the road with sword drawn. With whom do you stand? Me or my enemies?

Neither. But as the commander of the army of the LORD, I have come…Take off your sandals, for the place where You are standing is holy.

God was giving this new generation experiences reminiscent of the stories they’d heard their fathers tell; experiences they could call their own. He was re-establishing His covenant with the promised people, the people through whom the Hope of the world had been promised.

Just beyond the wall of Jericho was the land of the promise. But the walls stood tall.  And the strength of men would not be the weapon of choice for this battle.

With little more than priestly fanfare, the walls of Jericho tumbled.

The Lord continued with His amazing things among them. He gave the land into the hands of His people. After seven years of conquest, Joshua divided the land among the tribes of Jacob — Israel. Each tribe received its own piece of the promise. This outrageous promise God made to Abraham five hundred years earlier, found its home in Canaan. Finally.

Joshua, forever following in the footstep of his mentor, called for a final meeting among the tribes to prepare them for the future. Their future without him. A future in which they would be tempted to turn their back on the LORD God and serve other gods. Joshua pled with them to remain faithful to the LORD. They promised. And they kept their promises all the days that Joshua lived. Joshua was laid to rest in the soil that had been denied Moses. At peace in the hill country of Ephraim, in the northern part of Canaan.

And then a new generation arose. A generation who did not know the LORD.

In one generation, the best of times deteriorated into the worst of times. The people bowed to Baal and the LORD’s anger burned against them. He gave judges to rule over them, to save them. To save them from themselves. Back and forth the pendulum swung. They were in, they were out. Hearts untethered from the One who loved them.

Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Their eyes were dark. Their hearts were dark.

Hope seemed lost in the dark.

REFLECTION

Can you imagine? Walking through a swollen river on dry land? Miraculous manna that never once failed? And still complaining? Forgetting?

Of course I can. While I’ve never crossed a river with dry feet, I have forgotten plenty. In an attempt to write a list of a thousand little gifts for which I am thankful, I got stuck before I reached two hundred.

Forgetting. Always forgetting God’s faithfulness. His kindness. His mercy.

It’s easy to see how a generation could fail to pass on a faith that would last.

PRAYER

Father, thank you for moving in the dark. Toward us through the dark. It’s assuring to know that the promise that began in the dark of Eden, would not end in the dark of Canaan. It gives me great hope to know that in my darkest days —this world’s darkest days — Your hope still shines bright. Father, I pray that Your hope shines brightly through me. Amen.

WORSHIP

Christmas. The season of gift giving.

Making our lists and checking them twice can make us crazy. Frazzled. Anything but the silent and calm the season promises.

So today, let’s make a new list. A list of twenty-five things for which we are grateful. Amazing things. People, places, things — both secret and known — recognized as gifts from God. Gratitude is not reserved for November’s table.

Gratitude is remembering. And remembering grows our faith. A faith that we hand off to a new generation.

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