Resting without Regressing

Scripture Focus: Joshua 23.1-2, 11
1After a long time had passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, 2 summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them . . . 11 “So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” 

Student Writers Month:

This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Resting without Regressing
By João Moraes 

Rest is precisely what we need at the end of a hard season. That is what the people of Israel receive from God after long years of battles and turmoil. At the end of his life, Joshua tells the people that it’s time to look back and see “all that the Lord your God has done” for their sake (v. 3). Joshua then moves sharply from encouragements to warnings.

In verse 11, Joshua exhorts them to “attentively guard [their] heart to love the LORD” (my translation). In this season of rest, Joshua is concerned that the people will turn away from the Lord. Now that the battles have stopped, he is afraid that Israel will be influenced by the survivors of the defeated nations and end up trapped.

Seasons of rest lack the sense of urgency that comes with times of crisis. As they expose our vulnerability, crises often force us to an extreme choice. We can either despair or cling hopefully to something. When that ‘something’ is God, our faith is strengthened beyond measure as we hold steadfastly to the Lord and trust His provision. By contrast, in seasons of rest we don’t feel pushed either way, we can relax. But if relaxation means abandoning sanctification, we are passively turning away from God. This makes us vulnerable to traps from the Enemy. When we are not actively seeking the Lord, we are open to all the gods of our era: fame, lust, success, money, etc.

Mid-2021 feels like a time of rest in many places around the world. After more than a year of uncertainties, isolation, and constant deaths as we battled COVID-19, the vaccine finally made its way to a significant number of people. As we remember, empathize, and pray for the several places that are still struggling, we may sigh in relief as we rest from this battle. But Joshua reminds us to question ourselves and stay attentive.

What will I do now that life is going back to normal? How will I continue the practices of prayer and meditation that I developed during isolation? How will I make sure that this season of rest is an opportunity for growth and not a snare for stumbling?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Gracious is the Lord and righteous; our God is full of compassion. — Psalm 116.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Joshua 23 (Listen – 2:31)
Acts 3 (Listen – 3:33)

This Weekend’s Readings
Joshua 24 (Listen– 5:39)Acts 4 (Listen – 5:15)
Judges 1 (Listen – 5:08), Acts 5 (Listen – 6:49)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Hearts God Moves
May God move in our hearts…making his dwelling place with us and shining brightly through us…


Resolving Misunderstanding

Scripture Focus: Joshua 22.21-23
21 Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: 22 “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. 23 If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Resolving Misunderstanding
By Sylvester Ngonga

This chapter’s plotline is captivating and full of suspense. In the backdrop of a concluded military victory, the tribes to the east of river Jordan built a memorial altar even though they knew of Moses’ command to only offer sacrifices at the altar at Shiloh (Leviticus 17.8-9). Fears of betrayal motivate the tribes to the west to attack but not before sending a high-level inquiry delegation to allow the eastern tribes to explain their actions. Will this delicate misunderstanding escalate to a full-blown civil war, or will it be resolved?

Feeling isolated, the eastern tribes intended the altar as a symbol of unity. Unfortunately, the western tribes misinterpreted it as disloyalty. Today, we may not be separated from our brethren by the river Jordan but we are separated by divisive political and religious ideologies which breed fears of betrayal. These fears propel us often to the precipice of civil wars and religious conflicts.

In our isolation, the ever-lurking impulse is to build culturally compliant monuments to express our faith. The divisive nature of competing scriptural interpretations fuels misunderstandings in our perception of God and each other. The eastern tribes, when confronted to explain themselves, appealed to God confidently about their action. Can we do so? Have we simply built memorials or are they altars to the gods of our man-made ideologies?

The gospel should bind us together. Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, was offered up for us once and for all (2 Corinthians 5.21). In our reasonable service, all that is required is to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12.1). Sadly, many today want to hear God without listening to him. We want to worship God in any way that pleases us rather than in unity, spirit and truth (John 4.24). 

This truth of God’s word should help us confront and respond to each other lovingly about misunderstandings regarding God’s holiness. Whenever there is a misunderstanding, our first appeal should be to God, not popular opinion. Understanding our accuser’s perspective helps to shape our reaction.

Both sides were assuming the worst of each other. The eastern tribes assumed that they would be excluded and the rest of Israel assumed that they were rebellious. We must seek  clarification lovingly rather than impute evil motives on others. Our unity in diversity is a tapestry of beauty, and God is pleased when we dwell in harmony (Psalm 133.1)!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name for evermore. — Psalm 86.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle


Today’s Readings
Joshua 22 (Listen – 6:16)
Acts 2 (Listen – 6:35)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Good and Pleasant Unity?
In such a divisive and cynical time, words like “unity” raise eyebrows, hackles, and suspicion.

We Are All Asylum Seekers

Scripture Focus: Joshua 20.2-3
2 “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, 3 so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: We Are All Asylum Seekers

By Erin Newton

No one is immune to mistakes. Split-second reactions, emotional outbursts, or lapses in judgment are issues that plague all our lives. Harm inflicted on another person results in social, relational, or legal consequences.

In Israel, accidental murder still carried guilt, “a life for a life” (Leviticus 24.17-21). Yet, temporary asylum might be found by grasping the altar in the sanctuary or permanently relocating to a city of refuge. The offender was exiled but not completely outside of God’s presence. The contamination from murder was removed to allow restoration of the land from bloodshed. 

If the murderer could safely arrive at one of these six cities, that person would be given shelter and provisions. Protection was ensured although the bloodguilt would still exist. These cities were also the designated lands for the Levites and under their priestly care the murderer would start anew.

The only way the murderer’s guilt could be ransomed was through the death of the high priest. As representative of the nation, it was the only death considered commensurate of such great guilt. Animal sacrifices covered unintentional sins but not the death of a person. God values human life exceedingly. No ordinary lamb could be the equivalent worth of humanity.

We may think this is irrelevant to us, “non-murderers”, yet in our anger, Jesus tells us that we are as guilty as a murderer. We commiserate with Paul; although we want to do good, evil is right there with us (Romans 7.21). We cannot escape the unintentional, harmful actions we commit against one another nor can we avoid the consequences of our impulses. We are in desperate need of amnesty.

Where shall we go to grasp the altar or what place will ensure our protection? How soothing it is to know that our Great High Priest has already died and paid our ransom. How comforting it is to lay down in rest knowing God is our ever-present refuge. We no longer need to spend our lives waiting for someone else to grant us redemption. Christ has already paid the price of our bloodguilt and the ground no longer cries out to condemn us. Today we live in different political systems which means legal consequences will continue to affect us. But our refuge in Christ is eternal.

No one is immune to mistakes, but we can find ransom in the death of Jesus and safety in His care. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at the noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me safely back… God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. — Psalm 55.17

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings

Joshua 20-21 (Listen – 6:38)
Acts 1 (Listen – 3:58)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Jesus, our Restorer
Even in the intensity of his own suffering, Christ healed those Peter attacked and forgave those Peter cursed at.

Trust and Pursue God’s Promises

Scripture Focus: Joshua 17.12-18
12 Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. 13 However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely. 
14 The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly.” 
15 “If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.” 
16 The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” 
17 But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—“You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment 18 but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out.” 

Student Writers Month:

This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Trust and Pursue God’s Promises

By Morgan Fikkert 

At the beginning of The Lion King, Mufasa tells his son Simba, “Everything the light touches is our kingdom.” And when Simba hears this, he responds with a single exclamation of awe: “Whoa…” 

It seems a promise too big to be true. 

God’s covenant with the Israelites that they would inherit the entire land of Canaan was a grand promise.

God doesn’t fulfill his grandiose promises with a flick of a wand. Amazingly, God ordained that He would use His people, the Israelites, to obtain them. And, although they had claimed much of the land, the Israelites still had more to do. 

But the Israelites struggled to believe God’s promise was true. Even after all God had done, the land seemed impossible to fully obtain. Canaan was still inhabited by strong warriors with iron-clad weaponry. And the Canaanites didn’t get the memo from Yahweh that this land belonged to Israel, so they were doing everything they could to withstand the Israelites. 

As a result of their unbelief, the Israelites were quick to disobey God out of a desire for convenience and control. They did not drive the Canaanites out of the land, and this kept them from obtaining God’s promise. It also led to the oppressive forced labor of the Canaanites and, years later, the idolatry of the Israelites

In contrast, Zelophehad’s daughters faithfully sought the land promised to them. They knew God’s promise to them would be forgotten if they didn’t hold Joshua to it.

We, like the Israelites, struggle to believe God’s promises are true. So we sneak in ways to make our lives more comfortable, hoping God will keep his end of the bargain, but not really counting on Him. We hedge our bets. 

But fully trusting in God’s promises gives us the hope, strength, and courage to pursue those promises even when it’s uncomfortable or seemingly impossible. 

How do we fight sin in a culture that celebrates it? We trust in and pursue God’s promises.

How do we fight for justice in the midst of incessant injustice? We trust in and pursue God’s promises.

How do we share the gospel with friends and family who don’t believe? We trust in and pursue God’s promises.

How do we forgive our abusers and oppressors? We trust in and pursue God’s promises.

How do we maintain joy and peace in a world of darkness? We trust in and pursue God’s promises.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. — Psalm 19.14– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Joshua 16-17 (Listen – 5:13)
Psalm 148 (Listen – 1:28)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about Knowing Promises in Part
This promise we may know and fulfill now in part, but then, we will know fully and be fully known.


Bold Obedience

Scripture Focus: Joshua 18.1-3, 8-10
1 The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The country was brought under their control, 2 but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. 
3 So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?

8 As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.” 9 So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. 10 Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Bold Obedience
By Elizabeth Franklin 

“Free bookshelf: must pick up!” As a student, the words “free [anything]” immediately catch my eye. Unfortunately, the words that often follow—“must pick up”—immediately send me back to searching, because my mid-sized vehicle cannot accommodate most furniture. I’m willing to receive it, but I’m hesitant to go and get it!

Seven of the tribes of Israel encountered a similar dilemma as their people were in the process of entering the land that God had promised them. Their problem was not so much the ability to receive the land, but their willingness to go get it. God had accompanied the Israelites through generations of trouble and travel to arrive at this promised land, and now he had enabled them to take possession of it. However, these seven tribes needed some extra prompting to move forward in obedience.

Throughout the Israelites’ history, God had made one thing abundantly clear: “Obey what I have told you, and you will be blessed.” God was guiding them in their identity as his people, but he expected them to be obedient to his direction.

In this case, obedience meant bold action. God had secured the land for them, but they had to physically go and take possession of it. The biblical text does not tell us why these seven tribes hadn’t done so already—perhaps they were afraid, apathetic, or just not paying attention. Whatever the case, their leader had to prompt them to do what God had already instructed. Once they obeyed, though, the land was theirs. God was faithful to what he had promised.

God has secured abundant spiritual blessings for us in Christ. If we are willing to take bold steps forward in obedience, we will receive what he has promised. Just as I am hesitant to pick up furniture that my vehicle can’t accommodate, we can sometimes be hesitant to take hold of the blessings of obedience that God has promised us. If fear, apathy, or a distracted heart is keeping you from acting, perhaps finding encouragement in a trusted friend or leader like Joshua will help prompt you to action. How is God asking you to be obedient today? Does a relationship need to be mended in love and humility? Does a sin need to be confessed? When we seek God’s direction, he will show us the way forward.  

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off in his joy, sells everything he owns and buys the field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.” — Matthew 13.44-45

Today’s Readings
Joshua 18-19 (Listen – 9:59)
Psalm 149-150(Listen – 1:36)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

https://forms.gle/ozM13qvW9ouSWhJS7

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt.

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