Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Take Courage

Daily Readings
Proverbs 18 + Joshua 1 + Deuteronomy 30 + Romans 12

Quote of the Day
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Daily Text: Joshua 1:1-9

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying, 2"My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. 3Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. 4From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. 5No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. 8This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. 9I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

Take Courage
Joshua in modern scholarship is based on the theological and historical understandings of Deuteronomy. It, combined with Judges, Samuel and the books of the Kings, provides a consistent viewpoint that was desperately needed when it was written during the exile. That viewpoint is expressed in chapter one in two ways: first the promise to Joshua, in Greek often Jeshua, in English, Jesus, that YHWH will always be with him and to ‘put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them’ [1:6], and second, the need to observe the teaching, the torah, that God through Moses has given the people [1:8]. This was good news, wonderful news, gospel, if you will, to those who were so discouraged in the Babylonian Captivity. This history of the movement across the Jordan River into the land is wrapped up in a theology of the unshakeable promises of God to his people.

The Christian gospels served a similar function after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. The experiences of Joshua have always provided for Christians great hope in the promises of God. How we have identified with them, while at the same time distancing ourselves from the picture of the warring God who is portrayed in its pages.

Finally, God encourages Joshua to stand firm, to be courageous for He will go with him. The message is that fear and dismay portray a lack of faith and God’s people do not need to embrace such timidity. God is with us as he was with the Ephraimite, Joshua. Remember how Jacob blessed Ephraim the younger over Mannasseh the elder in Genesis 48? This is one of the ways that was lived out—Joshua the commander.

Wanted: Joshua
Richard Realf

When God, whose courtlier crowns did wait
The forehead of our Moses, drew
His steps where Pisgah shot up straight
As a Seer’s thought into the blue
Of the immaculate heavens, and fed
The life-long hunger of his eyes
With one swift vision that struck him dead
For awe of its sublimities:--

And we turned instant unto you,
(Calling you Joshua), to complete
the meanings of the paths which grew
so sharp to our unsandaled feet,
I swear we thought the living soul
Of that great prophet wrought afresh
In you, like thunder, to control
To sovereign ends our drooping flesh.

Were not you with us when God clave
The Red Sea, with a blow, in twain?
Were you not of us when he gave
Manna, and quails, and blessed rain?
And those tall pillars which he yoked
For service—did you see them not?
And all the alien blood that soaked
The paths he hewed—is that forgot?

When crested Sinai cracked in flame,
And all the desert round about
Shook with the dreadness of his Name
Whose glory paled the sunlight out;
Did not you tremble with the rest,
When his imperatives blazed forth
Along the tablets, to attest
The Absolute unto the Earth?

Whence—when the Lord smote him hip and thigh
The Hittite and the Amelekite—
Did you draw warrant to deny
To him the issues of the fight?
By what prerogative do you
Defraud the heavens of those results
Which ripened when we overthrew
Hell’s battering rams and catapults?

I think you are not Joshua, but
Aaron art—he whose atheist hands,
Unclean as sin with worldly smut,
Reared, when God lightened o’er the lands,
A poor vain idol, unto which,
Reaching imploring arms, he caught
A curse that burned like molten pitch,
As symbol of his special Thought.

Are your hands lifted toward the sun,
What time our onsets wax and wane?
Do you see troops of angels run
In shining armor o’er the plain?
I know not; but I know, full sooth
No wrath of hell, nor rage of man,
Nor recreant servant of the Truth,
Can balk us of our Canaan.
411 I:129

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