What a feast we have before us in our FDR today!
Our journey through Joshua is nearly complete and here, near the end of his life, Joshua gathers the Israelite leaders together for a final few words. He could have waxed lyrical about his role in the times spent wandering the desert, bringing down the walls of Jericho, getting hoodwinked by the Gibeonites or the shenanigans involving rocks falling from the sky… ahhhh, good times, remember when we did all that? Only he doesn’t… Instead he points to God and reminds the people that it is God who fought for them (Josh 23:3). He urges them in light of this knowledge to stay strong, to be obedient, to be singularly focussed on serving Him. In fact he says the same thing to them at least twice… and he warns them of the consequences if they transgress. Perhaps he knows their hearts (and himself) too well?
Indeed if we were to read on into Judges we would find that things slip south pretty quickly and eventually, the very thing he warns them of comes true and the land that they currently possess is taken away. Praise God that the narrative arc of salvation history doesn’t stop there! God enacts his rescue plan for his wayward people, through Jesus.
Which brings us to the opening of Acts….
At the start of this book, we see Jesus ascend into heaven and he promises the Holy Spirit which will empower them to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Now the disciples return and take the strange step of seeking suitable nominations and casting lots to find someone to fill Judas’ place (who apart from betraying Jesus, meets a rather icky end). Why was this so important? Well, there must be something important in having 12 apostles – it harkens back to the 12 tribes of Israel, a completeness which is echoed throughout God’s word.
What I also find interesting is the qualifications of those who would be considered as a suitable replacement for Judas. Specifically they had to be a first-eye witness to Jesus and have accompanied him through his ministry years. And while this is key, there is also something else, a hint that the call depends on the heart of the nominated (v24). I try not to read too much into the casting of lots as the example of all decision making – however under the circumstances this is done without pretence or suggestion that this is they way all decisions will be made into the future.
What shall we do with our scriptures today? First of all, let us give thanks for Jesus, our risen King who sends his spirit to guide and strengthen us. Secondly, let us consider our hearts before him – as Joshua did and no doubt as Matthias, Barsabbas and the early Christians did. May our hearts be renewed daily to pursue Christ more wholly and more completely. Finally, let us look forward to a heavenly future where God brings all things new and we are reunited with Christ our saviour.