Psalm 98; Joshua 19:40-21:8; Luke 17:1-10

Psalm 98: This psalm is clearly a hymn–a new song–to be sung by Israel gathered together with the implication it was written to celebrate a victory. What’s key is that it acknowledges it is God’s victory, not Israel’s: “The LORD made known His victory, / before the nations’ eyes He revealed His bounty,” (2) that is visible to all the nations around Israel: “All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” (3b).

The victory is not only visible to other people, but to all creation: “Shout out to the LORD, all the earth. / Burst forth in glad song and hymn.” (4)  And all creation joins in with the orchestra (lyre, trumpets and ram’s horn are mentioned) that surely accompanied this hymn: “Let the sea and its fullness thunder, /… Let the rivers clap hands, / let the mountains together sing gladly.” (7,8) It’s as if they join the orchestra as the percussion section.

Once again, I’m struck by the unity between humankind and the natural world that’s expressed here. There is no sense that men dominate creation; rather, we are integral to it. Alas, we have certainly done our best to destroy that unity as we have exploited natural resources (not to mention other races) down through history. That is hardly the stewardship God asked of Adam.

Joshua 19:40-21:8: Having overseen the division of the land among the tribes, the tribes in return give Joshua, “by command of the Lord gave him the town that he asked for, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim; he rebuilt the town, and settled in it.” (19:50) Thus,  Joshua retires from leadership.

That’s quite a contrast to Moses’ exit from the stage: his last long speech reiterating the commandments; the Song of Moses (Deut. 32); the formal transfer of leadership to Joshua; Moses’ final blessing of the people (Deut. 33); the last longing glimpse of Canaan from the mountaintop; his death and burial (Deut. 34).

Joshua asks for a ruined town, restores it, and settles down. This is not the last we hear of Joshua; there is still some work to do and a speech to make. But Joshua, organized and clearly not the prophetic visionary that Moses was, is an example of how God uses people who are willing to simply go out and do God’s work without fanfare.

Moses was God’s perfect man to lead an unruly mob out of Egypt and into the wilderness, keeping order by force.  Joshua is God’s perfect man to organize a new nation, lead an army, allocate resources, and set up processes such as the Cities of Refuge that will serve the people well for many years to come. Kingdom work requires visionaries like and it requires insightful leadership and administrators willing to rebuild their own town.

Luke 17:1-10: This section of Luke seems to be a compilation of his additional notes about Jesus’ sayings that he took down from his sources.

These sayings are not connected to weighty parables; they are just reminders of the quotidian duties of Christ-followers: Don’t be a stumbling block to others; be willing to rebuke those who sin (something we are awfully loathe to do in our litigious culture); forgive those who repent; forgive others times seven.

And following Joshua’s example, we must work effectively as we are commanded, but don’t expect a reward. Or even a “thank you.” After all, “Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” (17:10)  This is the gritty day-to-day work of being a Christ-follower.

But so often we are tempted by the applause of the crowd that tricks us into believing we are special, the exception and then believing we can just randomly sit down at the Master’s table as an equal. As usual, it boils down to the question of who is in charge of our lives? That eternal existential question: Am I really willing to abandon my ego and really let Jesus run my life?

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