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God’s Word for You

Joshua 8:30-35 Thanksgiving

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, November 22, 2018

The book of Joshua is known primarily for three events: The crossing of the Jordan when Israel entered the promised land, the fall of Jericho, and the confirmation passage: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15). Quite a bit of the book of Joshua reminds me of a church council meeting: the land is divided up very exactly, there’s a lot of arithmetic and accounting, there is the process of making sure certain cities are given to certain tribes, and so forth. But then there are the battles. After the fall of Jericho, Joshua won a very important victory against the city of Ai, and the word of God for our consideration for this Thanksgiving devotion is the Thanksgiving carried out by Joshua after this victory.

    30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel,  31 as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the LORD burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written.  33 All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the LORD, facing those who carried it—the priests, who were Levites. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.
    34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law.  35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them. (NIV 1978)

Joshua made fellowship offerings after this victory. God’s people offered their thanks to God, and at the same time they consumed a vast communal feast together made largely from the plunder of the city of Ai—as the Lord permitted, by saying to them, “You may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves” (Joshua 8:2). We can say a couple of things about this feast. Nobody ate turkey for that Thanksgiving (turkeys are indigenous to America), but everybody in Israel ate a very large, very satisfying meal to give glory to God.

Joshua’s immediate impulse after this victory was to worship God. There were several excellent reasons for this.

  1. By turning immediately to worship, Joshua reminded the people of Israel that their victories in the promised land were God’s doing, not man’s. Joshua remembered that the reason for their 40 years of wandering came about because the people lost their focus on God’s providence and grace. They did not trust God because they did not give God the full credit for what he did among them.
  2. By turning immediately to worship, Joshua threw his enemies off-balance, since they expected that a victorious army would celebrate with drinking, pillaging, and other revelry that was common among the other armies of their day.
  3. By turning immediately to worship, Joshua focused the attention of Israel on the commands and threats the Lord had made. He did not leave this up to anyone else to take care of. He was the leader of the nation, and he led spiritually as well as militarily, just as Moses had led them.
  4. By turning immediately to worship, Joshua made certain that parents were explaining their faith to their children, and that masters had to explain what was happening to their servants, and so on. No one in the nation could fail to understand God’s promises and mercy.
  5. Finally, by turning immediately to worship, Joshua also sent a powerful message to God’s enemies in the surrounding territories. The God of Israel had given them the victory over Jericho, the most powerful city in Canaan. The God of Israel had given them victory over Ai, the next most powerful city in Canaan. And now the Israelites were turning toward another city in Canaan…

When we stop to thank the Lord for everything he has done, it is not just a message between Christian and Savior. It is also a message for the people who are around us, who make a big show of “being thankful,” but who have no object for their thankfulness. We are not merely thankful for the things we have, the people we love, the successes we enjoy. We are thankful to God our Heavenly Father, the source of all goodness, for his gifts, and especially to Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, through whom God’s gifts have come to us.

  • For everything we have received, let us thank the Lord.
  • For the spiritual blessings of faith, forgiveness, and protection from dangers seen and unseen, let us thank the Lord.
  • For every physical blessing, in matters of health, family, and personal welfare, let us thank the Lord.
  • For every material blessing, in matters including clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, land, animals, and everything we own, let us thank the Lord.
  • For every blessing of Christian service, opportunities to volunteer or to be called into public and private ministries, using our gifts for God’s kingdom, let us thank the Lord.
  • For the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in our hearts and in our very flesh as his temple, let us be daily mindful and eternally thankful.

Let us pray:

Holy Father, send nothing but good to us every day. Enable us to see your goodness, give thanks for all you give, and serve you always; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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