From Survival to Cultivation

Scripture Focus: Joshua 5.10-12
10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan. 

Reflection: From Survival to Cultivation
By John Tillman

Migrants carry their world through the world. Everything precious to their lives and future is strapped to them in a backpack or a duffel bag. They often carry large amounts of cash or precious items to use for bribes and to survive on the way. I barely trust plastic grocery bags to make it from the store to my car, but migrants travel thousands of miles carrying water, food, and necessities in these bags.

After the first Passover, Israel left Egypt with considerably more than backpacks, duffle bags, and plastic grocery sacks. They had flocks and herds and wealth. Their encampment was carefully organized with strict cleanliness and purity rules. They built the Tabernacle, a magnificent mobile garden of Eden that moved around the desert with them like a mirage.

But no matter how organized or clean a migrant camp is, it is still a migrant camp. There is no planting or harvesting. There is no cultivation. There is only surviving.

At their first Passover in the promised land the people ate food from the land. They tasted the fruit of the promise. They had previously been sustained by manna, the miraculous provision of Heaven. Now they would rely on a different miracle—cultivation. They began the process of going from survival mode to cultivation mode.

Cultivation is just as miraculous as manna. We plant and water, but it is still the Lord who makes things grow. The one in whom we trust is the same one who provided manna in the wilderness.

Cultivation has a different responsibility. Manna could not be saved or shared. They gathered only for themselves. In survival mode, nothing lasts until tomorrow.

Shifting from survival to cultivation, we both save and share. Cultivation creates bounty and resources intended to bless the community and invest in the future.

There is no shame in being migrants. The Lord sustains them—often through us. (Deuteronomy 10.18-19; 24.14, 17; 27.19) But God’s calling and promise are to cultivation. (Micah 4.4) It is through cultivation of faith that we have plenty to share with those in survival mode.

Are you in survival mode or cultivation mode? 

Do you pray only in crisis? Or do you plant prayers, allowing them to grow roots and sprout?
Do you forge scriptures into weapons to fight others? Or do you form scripture into a plowshare, dragging its blades through the soil of your heart, casting out stones and weeds?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.” — Psalm 12.5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 5-6.5 (Listen 7:25
Colossians 2 (Listen  3:27)

Tuesday’s Readings
Joshua 6.6-6.27 (Listen 4:47), Colossians 3 (Listen  3:09)

Read more about Jericho’s Wall
God isn’t interested in destroying people we call our enemies

Read more about Over Jordan
When we cross over the Jordan with Christ, the land has no enemies to be defeated.

Jericho’s Wall

Joshua 5.13-14
Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

Reflection: Jericho’s Wall
By John Tillman

If you ask most Christians how the inhabitants of Jericho responded to Israel and their silent marching around the city, most will probably say they taunted them and that the point of the story is that the Israelites demonstrated faith by following God’s strange plan despite being made fun of. This is a complete fabrication. There is no textual evidence to suggest that the Israelites were teased or taunted at all by Jericho.  

Scripture doesn’t shy away from a great taunt. The scriptures are full of them. God himself delivers sharply barbed taunts. Even Jesus gently taunts Nicodemus. But no taunts are recorded here.

Jericho wasn’t in a taunting mood. They were terrified. No matter how funny the French Peas are in a Veggie Tales video, the reality is that scripture tells us multiple times how terrified everyone in Canaan was of Israel, but it never tells us once that they taunted Israel or made any comment about God’s plan of marching around the city.

It’s not difficult to see why Jericho was terrified. This gigantic group of former slaves destroyed the entire army of Egypt—the world-wide superpower of its day. Today, this would be comparable to the United States military being wiped out by an opponent. Then this same group traveled through the desert completely destroying any king or nation that stood up to them. Then, these desert-crossing, dangerous, religious fanatics show up at Jericho’s border, crossing the river without permission and in a miraculous fashion.

One possible reason for our extremely poor handling of scripture, in this case, is that, when teaching children, we are so uncomfortable with the idea of God ordering the Israelites to wipe out an entire city, we need a distraction. “Perseverance amidst taunting” is a kinder-gentler lesson to teach children. 

This erroneous reading of scripture turns the power dynamic upside down allowing us to feel “persecuted” like the Israelites and justified in destroying our enemies.

But God isn’t interested in destroying people we call our enemies. If the commander of the Lord’s army was not on Joshua’s side, we can rest assured that the commander of the Lord’s army is not on “our” side today. Especially if we define our side so narrowly as to exclude those outside of something so meaningless and trivial as a political party.

The lesson of Jericho’s wall is not that God’s plans are weird, and people will make fun of us, but we should follow God anyway. The lesson of Jericho’s wall is that it is God who initiates judgment, not us. The lesson is that we don’t deserve what God has given us and that if we are unfaithful, we too will face God’s wrath and no wall will stand in its way.

*Tomorrow, as the United States marks its independence, may we be reminded of our utter dependence on God and that our true citizenship is in the new Heaven and the New Earth to come. 

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, for in his holy Name we put our trust.
Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in your. — Psalm 33.20-22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 5-6.5 (Listen – 2:38) 
Psalm 132-134 (Listen – 2:42)

Tomorrow’s Readings
Joshua 6.6-27 (Listen – 4:47) 
Psalm 135-136 (Listen – 3:53)

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Readers’ Choice Submissions

It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions about The Park Forum, or to make suggestions of posts via email, contact John Tillman at

Read more about Over Jordan
When we cross over the Jordan with Christ, the land has no enemies to be defeated. It has no cities to march around and no battles to be fought. 

Read more about Prayer for Enemies
How quickly do we celebrate our enemies’ sufferings? Should we, rather, pray for them instead?