Prayers of the Old Testament
The Prayer of Joshua continued...
Many years ago, a friend of mine gave me a book for my birthday that outlined the habits of successful people. Since I read pretty much anything that’s put in front of me, from shampoo bottles, to cereal boxes, to eighteen hundred page tomes written in the sixteenth century, I read the book within a couple nights.
Still too young to understand or even appreciate what impact forming certain habits might have in life, I took the book more as an intellectual exercise than a roadmap to success or something worthy of emulating, and if you were to ask me today what the habits of successful people were I’d be hard pressed to remember them all.
One habit I endorse, something we ought to become as accustomed to doing as brushing our teeth in the morning, or turning off the lights when we leave the house, is taking counsel with God whenever we have to make a decision, or find ourselves at a crossroads.
When asking God for His opinion and taking counsel with Him becomes habitual and common practice, we automatically eliminate the possibility of finding ourselves headed down the wrong path, or being outside His will.
All good things begin with prayer, and every failure begins with the lack thereof.
When we pray is just as important as that we pray. It’s not as though Joshua didn’t pray at all. He did pray, he even tore his clothes, and put dust on his head, but this was after his army was defeated, after they fled from before the men of Ai, and after his men were slaughtered.
Depending on the difficulty of the journey, and how much opposition we encounter, depending on how off script our plans have gone, eventually most individuals run to God, hoping that He salvage some of what they worked so hard for.
When God is our last resort, when we trust in the arm of the flesh and in our own prowess until we see no way out of the situation but to go before God, we are neither honoring God, nor do we trust in Him.
To a certain extent, the old adage that there are no atheists in foxholes holds true, but as children of God we ought not to wait until we find ourselves in a foxhole to cry out to God. Rather, we must have a relationship and fellowship with Him throughout.
Yes, Joshua did pray. He prayed earnestly, and with tears, he tore his clothes and bowed before the presence of God, but only after the battle had been lost, and a handful of souls had overrun three thousand of his soldiers.
Not only did Joshua pray, the elders of Israel prayed with him, fulfilling one of the prerequisites to corporate prayer, that of being united and as one when we approach God corporately.
Even so, the damage had already been done, the army had been put to flight, and in the words we see Joshua praying, we perceive a hint of doubt when it came to the purpose of God for His people.
‘Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all – to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us?’
Joshua knew full well why God had brought the people over the Jordan, just as he knew that it was not to deliver them into the hand of the Amorites to be destroyed. Joshua was well aware of the promises of God to His people, he was well aware of where God was leading them, but it took one setback, one defeat to make even one such as Joshua murmur, and allow doubt to creep in.
Unfortunately Joshua was not unique when it came to murmuring during difficult situations. We see the selfsame predisposition for murmuring when times got tough in Moses, as well as the people of Israel as a whole.
There are many worthwhile lessons in the Bible when it comes to the things we ought to do, and what we ought to practice, but there are also examples of what not to do, because the Bible was not selective when it came to the lives of the men it highlights.
One of the most refreshing things about the Bible is that it does not attempt to project an image of the men it presents as something more than what they were, but reveals them to us honestly, openly, and with the requisite flaws.
Joshua murmured, and the word of God tells us he murmured. This was not overlooked, brushed under the rug, or dismissed.
This episode in Joshua’s life teaches us how not to approach God, as well as how not to address Him when certain situations arise.
The spirit in which we pray to God is as important as the timing of our prayer, and the fact that we pray.
We can pray in a spirit of rebellion, or in a spirit of criticism, which God will not receive as a sweet smelling sacrifice, because they’re not.
Weak faith produces discouragement; it produces criticism and murmuring whenever we happen upon a rough patch, or when our journey is not as easy as we expected it to be.
It is one thing to ask God why, it is quite another to be argumentative with Him, and speak to Him as though He is at fault.
Joshua knew better, and still he spoke to God as though God had no reason for having allowed Israel to lose the battle against Ai. In His love, wisdom, patience, and longsuffering, God then proceeds to educate Joshua, and reveal to him the last reason why we oftentimes suffer defeats and setbacks, which also happened to be the reason Israel suffered defeat at the hands of a far smaller force.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.