Joshua |”The Commander”

“This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down.” . . .“Agreed,” [Rahab] replied.  “Let is be as you say.”  So she sent [the spies] away and they departed.  And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. (2:17, 21)

Joshua led the Israelites through the Jordan into the promised land.  As long as they followed the counsel of the Commander of the Lord, they were successful, defeating their enemies and establishing themselves in the promised land.  Their enemies trembled before them; those who feared the Lord made covenants and were spared.  Rahab, a Gentile prostitute living in Jericho,  was protected by the red cord tied to her window as a pledge of deliverance given to her and her family by the two spies she had hidden from death.  When all the nations had been subdued, Joshua had the people swear an oath to serve only the Lord, leaving behind the gods of the nations around them.

 “The Scarlet Cord”

A thin red cord dangles between heaven and earth,

Binding the prostitute to God’s people.

Trumpets blast, fears rise, walls crumble,

But the oath holds fast.

Led by the Commander of the Lord, through the baptism of the Jordan,

Victory follows those who trust.

Armies scatter, kings tremble, adversaries are destroyed.

Who can stand against the arm of the Lord?

Choose this day who you will serve.

Bind your heart with the holy cord of redemption.

Build an altar with the stones of remembrance and sacrifice

To the one who fulfills his promises.

The painting is from Mindi Oaten’s “Garden of Grace Collection.” The writing is by Elaine Knudtson

Deuteronomy | “A Prophets Plea”

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (31:6)

Deuteronomy is Moses’s farewell address to the Israelites as he transfers power to Joshua just before he dies.  Excluded from the promised land, he reflects on God’s call and provision as he led the people out of bondage to the edge of the promised land.  The importance and blessing of keeping the covenant is set in contrast to the curse that will follow disobedience.  His impassioned plea is accompanied with a reminder of the faithfulness and love of God towards his people in all circumstances.  God allows Moses to see the promised land from the mountain top before he dies, completing his mission from Egypt to Canaan.  

“Moses Reflects”

I stand at a distance on the edge of the promised land.

How long until my people squander their inheritance?

The promise is great.

I remember our failings.

I fear their future.

Which face shall they see?

Will you shelter them in your arms with a blessing;

Or execute justice with a curse?

430 years in Egypt erased the memory of Canaan.

Exile tamed them through trials, signs, wonders, and fearsome power.

The law chastised.

The word spoke through fire.

I saw your glory pass over and met you face to face.

It is not our righteousness

but the wickedness of nations that opens the land before us.

Lest we take credit for victory,

Remind us of the sacrifice.

God’s faithfulness supplants our doubt.

Seek out a remnant to give voice to resistance.

Let your power rest on those who trust in you.

My mission complete,

We shall meet again on the Mount of Transfiguration.

The painting is from Mindi Oaten’s “Garden of Grace Collection.” The writing is by Elaine Knudtson

Numbers | “The Rock in the Wilderness”

And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness for forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the Lord had disappeared. (Numbers 32:13)

Numbers follows the Israelites from Mount Sinai to the border of Canaan. The account of wilderness wanderings is replete with numerous cycles of testing, judgment, and redemption.  Their precarious existence in the desert contrasts with the distorted memory of the bounty of Egypt.  Moses bears the brunt of their bitterness and complaints, standing as an intermediary between God and the people.  He appoints 12 spies to investigate Canaan.  While the potential of the land exceeds expectations, the challenge of the conquest paralyzes their resolve.  Only Caleb and Joshua contradict the narrative by reminding the people of God’s deliverance in the past.  Overruled by doubt and cowardice, the Israelites turn back towards the wilderness after an aborted attempt to do battle on their own strength.  Condemned to remain in the desert until all the original exiles over 20 have died, they begin 40 years of wandering.  Even Moses is excluded from entering the promised land because he did not trust God to pour out living water from the rock.  As his ministry draws to a close, authority transitions away from Moses to Joshua, God’s chosen successor.  Through all the wilderness years, God remained faithful to his people despite their faith-less-ness.

“A Rock in the Wilderness”

In the wilderness, slavery’s sting vanishes in the mirage of nostalgia.

Under the cloud of God’s now but not yet,

Psalms of thanksgiving transpose into dissonance.

Wanderers complain about the present, idealize the past, and doubt the future.

Immobilized by cynicism and fear,

They turn back from the promised land,

forgetting God’s deliverance and grace.

Striking the living rock, Moses incurs God’s wrath along with his people.

As the healing waters flow, the journey comes to an end

And he glimpses the promised lands.

This is taken from the “Garden of Grace” collection: painting by Mindi Oaten; writing by Elaine Knudtson