By Phares Gilchrist
A good Bible study should not just affect our immediate grasp of the subject matter, but should continue to rattle around in our thinking for not just days or weeks, but months and years. Such is the case with the recent study of Joshua in the Thursday women’s Bible study.
I have been taken into a deeper understanding of man’s, and my own, utter fecklessness. It is defined by a lack of initiative or strength of character. It is irresponsible.
You might think this would be depressing. It certainly could be if it were the end of the story. Not that it’s not breathtaking to see the stunning failure of Israel to carry out some simple instructions. Not always easy, but simple to understand. And not breezing by how their failure cast a light on my own deeply imbedded fecklessness. I had read Joshua and Judges earlier in the year on the Read Scripture app. It has well-done, artsy videos that help clarify the details. After our study, I went back and watched the videos again, and reread these books as well as 1 Samuel. No change. Still lots of gruesome killing and feckless behavior.
Achan took plunder from Ai after being specifically told not to do so. Joshua cavalierly agreed to protect the Gibeonites, which left Israel exposed to harm. By not addressing the whole country in battle, the northern tribes grew in power and were able to threaten Israel. In each of these cases, God took what was feckless behavior on the part of Joshua and the rest and used the very failure to set them up for victory. In each of these cases, while God did deliver them, they paid the consequences of their disobedience.
Judges is an entire book devoted to the feckless behavior of those God has given amazing opportunity and calling. I Samuel shows us how Saul repeats the actions of the leaders in Joshua and decides to take matters into his own hands concerning plunder. David also fecklessly runs headstrong into sin.
In focusing on man’s failure, I miss the more salient point: God‘s plan continues its march to fruition in spite of an incredibly shallow and selfish people. And this is still the case. As I scan the landscape in today’s narrative of those following after God, it is a parade of feckless failure in the midst of God’s awesome faithfulness. Mega-church pastor after pastor stepping down for elevating his own view of how things should be handled, usually giving power to himself, and abusing that power when lording it over others, often with a design for sexual or monetary favor, frequently both. Those are the headlines, but they are repeated daily in churches across the country.
The shallow response to this feckless behavior in today’s world would be to throw it over, call it an exercise in futility, and dismiss the entire endeavor as destined to failure. The result of this would be to miss the power of God to come into the mess and redeem it. He is committed to the mess, and has provided the means for redemption.
In the midst of these thoughts on Joshua, I remembered one of my favorite verses in Hebrews. As I went to copy it, I read the verses before, in context. Stunned, I realized I had not been giving it its full context, and that it was related to Joshua:
For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:8-12
Joshua and Judges and 1 Samuel continue to work in me with a living, active, and sharp surgery. It pierces my conscience with my own frailty and need for God’s absolute power and strength in my life. It realigns my thoughts and intentions with those of God. Instead of depressing me, it causes me to want to worship this very good and holy God, who relentlessly pursues me in spite of incredible fecklessness on my part.