for Proper 16 - Ordinary 21 Sunday


for Proper 16 - Ordinary 21 Sunday

(paired to the Gospel)

Aug. 24, 2003

by Philip W. Gilman


Josh. 24: [1--2, 4b,c, 5c-6a, 13--14, 20, 23][suggested]


Whether the Hebrew Genesis account was meant to be science or not, it was certainly meant to convey statements of faith.[1]  It would be worth your while to review the brief outline of the Exodus story (2-13[2]).  Whether the Joshua narrative was meant to be history or not, it is certainly meant to be symbolic of the faith journey.  With that in mind, study verses 1-24 (at least).


Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Schechem... and they presented themselves before God. (1a,d)  First, consider the symbolic meaning that Shechem[3] held for the author and original audience.  The place name is found 41 times[4] in the KJV, and the hearers of the story would recall those persons and actions associated with the city after, as well as before, the time of Joshua.


Now ponder the significance of the phrase, they presented themselves before God.  Besides at Mt. Sinai, where had the entire Israelite community assembled in YHWH's presence?  What was the purpose, and what was the outcome?  When we read beyond v.18, we discover the basic reason for God's later negative dealings with the people.  It all has to do with YHWH's definition of "sin": not following the directions Joshua proclaims in verses14, 20 and 23.


Then Joshua said to all the people, AThus said the LORD, the God of Israel: In olden times, your forefathers-- Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor-- lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods. (2)  Do not be distracted by the list of officials in v.1.  The text twice refers to everyone: all the tribes of Israel and all the people.  Nobody is omitted here, regardless of gender, age, station in the community, wealth, physical or mental condition, skin color or sexual orientation.  All such categories are man-made for purposes of identification, which implies inclusion and exclusion.  The lesson from God's Word is that YHWH includes everybody and excludes no-one, based on such classifications.


Whom does God exclude, then?  Joshua says this: Terah... Abraham and... Nahor... worshiped other gods.  In conjunction with verses14, 20 and 23, the Church should understand what "sin" is, according to God.  And why the Apostle Paul makes an example of Abraham, whose actions certainly were not perfect.


I gave Esau the hill country of Seir as his possession, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. (4b,c)  Notice that it was Esau-- progenitor of today's Arabs and Palestinians-- who remains in the land that YHWH had given them, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.  Think about that a while.  Previously, Jacob had followed YHWH's leading, as the Psalmist later limned:

·        They cry out, and the LORD hears,

                and saves them from all their troubles. (Psa. 34: 18)

Instead, he and his eleven sons took matters in their own hands.  It was their voluntary decision to turn away from YHWH's promises and to go down to Egypt.


I freed you-- I freed your fathers-- from Egypt (5c-6a).  [A]ll the tribes of Israel-- that is, all those chosen, delivered, saved by God's grace (Eph. 2: 8; see also Rom. 4: 16)-- have been set free by YHWH's action (not by any merit or good deeds or repentance of their own) from the slavery to sin that "Egypt" stands for.  Yet much of the Church refuses to accept this powerful, merciful gift from God, and choose to remain in "Egypt", dwelling in and dwelling on "sin".


I have given you a land for which you did not labor and towns which you did not build, and you have settled in them; you are enjoying vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant. (13)  Think about it, Christian.  You are not in "Egypt"; you are no longer in slavery to sin.  In Christ Jesus, you have been set free, through God's gift of faith, from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8: 1-4).


ANow, therefore, revere the LORD and serve [God] with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.A (14)  One of the primary ways by which to revere the LORD and to serve the LORD is to believe, accept in faith, live and preach the full and free deliverance and liberation from sin that God has given to us.


@If you forsake the LORD and serve alien gods, [YHWH] will turn and deal harshly with you and make an end of you, after having been gracious to you.@ (20)  What is the lesson of Jacob and his eleven sons?  Listen to the Word of God, Christian.  Have you been saved, liberated, set free by Christ?  AThen put away the alien gods that you have among you and direct your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.@ (23)  Accept and live your salvation.


Psalm 34: [14-]-22 (15--23, TNK)[suggested]

·        Shun evil and do good,

                seek amity and pursue it. (15)

There are many Christians in the Church who ignore and violate this command.  Are they following the way Joshua (the same name in Hebrew as Jesus) prescribed?


·        The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;

                those crushed in spirit [God] delivers. (19)

Do those who file captious charges against other Christians minister after the fashion of YHWH?  What did Paul tell the Corinthians?  And what of those who threaten schism if they do not get their own way (as compared to Jesus' Way)?


·        Though the misfortunes of the righteous be many,

                the LORD will save [one] from them all (20).

Who's prerogative is it to determine what is righteous?  Does that fall to the Church's elders and commanders, magistrates and officers; (Josh. 24: 1b-c) bishops and deacons, seminary professors, theologians and pastors?  To the individual believer?  Or does that right belong solely to the LORD?  May Christians do what is righteous in their own eyes, even when it is contrary to the Will of God?  Is that the proper manner by which to revere the LORD and serve [God] with undivided loyalty; or is it the way of the gods that your forefathers served?


·        One misfortune is the deathblow of the wicked; [but]

                the foes of the righteous shall be ruined. (22)

Are you listening to YHWH, Christian?  Do you still insist on pursuing your own way?  If so, then go right ahead.  But realize that your "slings and arrows"[5] bring only slight and momentary hurt, because

·        The LORD redeems the life of His servants;

                all who take refuge in [Her] shall not be ruined. (23)

Christian, are you beset by the attacks of others?  Yes, you will be pained, even crushed.  But remain among the righteous:

·        They cry out, and the LORD hears,

                and saves them from all their troubles. (18)


Ephesians 6: 10--20


So stand your ground, with truth a belt round your waist, and uprightness a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to quench the burning arrows of the Evil One.  And then you must take salvation as your helmet and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God. (14-17)


·        The LORD redeems the life of His servants;

                all who take refuge in [Her] shall not be ruined.


John 6: 56--69


After hearing it, many of his followers said, >This is intolerable language.  How could anyone accept it?= (60)  The Evangelist is either being very kind, or bitterly sarcastic, when he writes, his followers.  It is patent from their attitude and words that they are his followers in body only, not in heart, mind and soul.  They hear God's Gospel and refuse to accept it.


Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, >Does this disturb you?> (61)  One does not need to suppose that Jesus was clairvoyant or omniscient, because the attitude and words of his followers made it quite obvious that they preferred to remain followers of the way of the gods that [their] forefathers served.  And so He asks a rhetorical question, which not only divulges Jesus' humorous bent, but also His satiric wit.


>It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.= (61)  And there are those in the Church today who still do not believe.  Indeed, the Gospel of God's total and free deliverance from sin is intolerable language to many, for it takes away their "freedom" to control and have power over others.  The Apostle Paul has words to say about the proper, or righteous, use of the freedom given to us in Christ Jesus.  I commend his instruction to all the tribes of Israel.  Listen, pay heed to the message that Joshua said to all the people.


·        Shun evil and do good,

                seek amity and pursue it.

[S]pread the gospel of peace.

·        AThus said the LORD, the God of Israel: I freed you-- I freed your fathers-- from EgyptA.  A[Now] put away the alien gods that you have among you and direct your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.@ 

[S]pread the gospel of peace.

·        The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,

                [God's] ears attentive to their cry. (Psa. 34: 16)

[S]pread the gospel of peace.

[1]  Sarna, Nahum M.: Understanding Genesis, The Heritage of Biblical Israel; New York:

    Schocken Books, 1966, p.3.  If you have not read this book, get it!

[2]  Verses 4-13 are not read at any time in the Rev. Comm. Lectionary.

[3]  7927 [person and place name] = 7926. shekem; from H7925; the neck (between the shoulders)

    as the place of burdens; fig. the spur of a hill:-- back, portion, shoulder.  (Strong's)

[4]  Shechem (place) KJV:  Gen. 12: 6 (Sichem),  35: 4,  37: 12-14;  Josh 17: 7,  20: 7,  21: 21,  24: 1,

    25, 32;  Judg 8: 31,  9: 1-3, 6-7, 18, 20, 23-26, 31, 34, 39, 41, 46-47, 49, 57,  21: 19;  1Ki 12: 1, 25;

    1Chr 6: 67,  7: 28;  2 Chr 10: 1;  Psa 60: 6,  108: 7;  Jer 41: 5.

[5]  Shakespeare; "Hamlet".