The story really has a happy ending for everyone. Joshua has his work cut out for him in his conquests of the land. From the sounds of it, his neighbors are less than thrilled to have the Israelites in their midst. “These kings combined their armies to fight as one against Joshua and the Israelites.”
But before Joshua has to contend with them, the Gibeonites showed up seeking mercy. They certainly didn’t come right out and ask. They feared the Lord and felt like they had to hide their intentions in deception. I have to admit that had they waltzed into Joshua’s presence with a plea of safety, they would probably have been laughed at! Joshua knew what his role was, and befriending close neighbors was not part of it.
You can’t read these words and not be touched by some emotion. This is especially true when we let our minds fully imagine how this prophecy played out in Jesus’ final hours. Just as God orchestrated Israel’s fall to Assyria and Judah’s fall to Babylon, he sent his own son to die for us. God’s plan has always been full of purpose and intention. As mere humans, we are not always capable of understanding.
As I read this passage, I also try to envision what those first hearing the words must have thought. It’s easy for us to look back and see how well the descriptions fit with what we know happened. I understand that some of the imagery might bear resemblance to other heroes of the faith, like Ezekiel or Jeremiah. In what ways was this message helpful to those living in captivity?
Our last reading closed with a couple of those great transition verses. I like 5:25 in particular, “If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” That leads beautifully into what Paul is saying in today’s reading. Right off the bat, Paul gives us an example we’re likely to encounter being in relationship with other believers.
We used this passage in our Celebrate Recovery ministry. It was one of our key verses. It is especially true when you help another with “their” issue, how likely it can be you’ll fall prey to that same issue. That doesn’t mean we don’t help each other. That means we help others equipped by knowing we need to stay strong ourselves. After all, we should all be looking for opportunities to “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
What must Jesus have been feeling? He knew what was coming. It wasn’t going to be pretty, but it was going to be the most beautiful thing he could ever do for those he loved. For us. The time was drawing near. Jesus was human, so he had to be fearful. You know that sick feeling you get when you dread something–that’s what I imagine Jesus was feeling that night. Yet, his love for his friends was stronger.
Jesus’ relationship was secure. God was his Father and he would soon be returning to him. There was no doubt about that. Knowing this truth must have also led to complete and total freedom! Jesus knew who had his back. But he would be leaving his friends behind. Imagine you knew you were going to die, what would you want to tell your friends? Jesus had another lesson left to teach.
There is so much in this passage, probably enough for many
days of reflection. However, looking at the whole picture of Paul’s hardships
will help us in our own walk of faith. In fact, you probably found yourself wondering
(like I did) if this was Paul’s story or your own story. As Christ followers,
we are very likely to encounter these same trials, yet we should also be ready
to call on God’s strength, like Paul, to make it through.
Are you or have you been a church leader? You know firsthand
how people are looking to you for not only leadership but for an example to
follow. Paul’s statement in verse 3 speaks VOLUMES, “We live in such a
way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our
ministry.” That’s a lot of pressure to know that your life is on
display. I, for one, never want anything that I say or do to move people away
from God. And, as a church leader, I have often taken heat from others about
the way God is using me to do ministry. It’s painful. I always seek to please
God first, and hope and pray the people will accept me and be blessed.