We hear again about the end of Joshua’s life. Him and the elders who outlived him were what held the nation in relationship with God.
It is interesting how our memories can affect those around us. Family traditions spring from memories. Family feuds grow out of memories. Service and dedication can be passed down as family traits because of memories. And faith in God is often born out of memories.
Memories can also fade and lose their grip on us over time. The horrors of war become dulled to those who didn’t experience it firsthand. The great depression affected how the generation of the time lived their lives but lost its power over the next. Miracles witnessed leave a lasting mark on the one who experienced it but not as deeply on those who only hear the stories.
I did a memory record once with my maternal grandmother. One of my favorite stories was of her father bringing their first car home. In her story she told of how in the time of the first automobiles people didn’t need a license to drive. All they needed was the finances to afford a car. When her family’s first car arrived at their gate, her father was driving it. She opened the gate to let him through and he proceeded to run into the gate post nearly missing her. I don’t know why this story stuck in my mind or in hers but it was fun to share it with her.
My maternal grandmother shared something even more special with me over my lifetime and that was her faith. She passed that faith onto her children and her children’s children. Hers was a faith lived out every day. She was a quiet woman who loved and cared for those around her as best as she could. She was NOT without her faults but ALL her children KNEW she loved the Lord with all her heart.
In our reading today we hear how Joshua and the elders who experienced the great miracles affected the nation around them. Their memories kept the peoples’ faith strong. But when they died those memories lost the power they once had.
Joshua’s generation clung to God because they had both good and bad memories that bound them there. They had watched as the generation before them rebelled against God. They saw God bless the people AND curse them. They watched their parents die as a consequence of their sin. And they saw the victories brought by God as their enemies lay at their feet. They stood on the two mountains as the blessings and curses were read over Israel. They witnessed both firsthand.
They didn’t keep God’s directives perfectly. In fact, their sins set the ground work for the next generation’s falling away. If they had cleared the land as God had instructed them to the temptations wouldn’t have been there for the next generation. But even with their faults they still loved the Lord and followed Him.
I’m sure they tried to pass this love for God onto their children. They spoke of all the events they had lived through. They trained their children in the Laws given by God through Moses. I’m wondering if they spoke more of the miracles or the lessons from failure. Did their stories of the Red Sea parting sound more like fairy tales or fact? Did they share the contrast between the two battles fought on the frontier of the Promised Land; the first a major defeat and the second a miracle of victory? Did the stories of mana every morning evoke wonder or ho hum.
Maybe it is the fact that the next generation lived in ease. God gave them rest from their enemies. They weren’t wandering through the wilderness any longer. They were living in plenty. I’m sure they had their daily struggles but nothing that was so taxing that it took the concentration of the whole nation to deal with it.
I’m reminded of an object lesson the Holy Spirit shared with me when I was living in Virginia. I grew up living on the west coast of the United States; Northern California, Southern Washington then Southern Oregon. Our forests and landscapes are filled with conifer trees. Pine trees, Douglas fir trees, Redwood trees, Spruce trees. Trees that keep their needles and are green all year long. When I moved to Tennessee and Virginia the majority of the trees there are deciduous. They shed their leaves every year in a glorious cascade of fall colors. In winter you have a landscape filled with bare branches. They look cold and dead. Mind you, we have deciduous trees on the west coast too but they are outnumbered vastly by the conifers.
While I was driving for work one day I was looking around at the foliage of the landscape. I was feeling a little homesick and commented on this feeling to God. I told Him that I missed my pine trees. Immediately the Spirit spoke to my spirit and reminded me that there were indeed pine trees in the landscape where I was looking, I just couldn’t see them through the other trees around them. He told me that this is how I behave in life. It was a summer day when I made this observation. Everything was pretty and green. The conifers were lost in all the abundant green of the land. I had to be consciously looking for them to see them. They were always there but I didn’t always notice them right away. In the winter they stood out and my eyes immediately went to them when.
This is how I would treat God. When things were going good I wasn’t searching for His presence. He was always there but I had to take time to notice Him. When things were not so good I was constantly drawn to Him because He was the only thing showing life around me at the time. He never moved during the seasons. He never changed either. Only my need to fix my eyes on Him did. My desperation caused me to search and my situation made His promise of protection my lifeline.
I have since been reminded to seek Him in the good times too. I have started looking for the “finger prints” of God over the years. I LOVE seeing how He has drawn me to Him in both good and bad times. The blessings that came out of SO MANY lessons leave me speechless! Because I KNOW that He is there through ANY season I can appreciate the season that I am in that much deeper. I can rejoice in the plenty and see that it came through His hands. I can be assured in the lean times that I am not forgotten because I have seen His goodness and how He has kept His promises. I will forever be thankful for this lesson.
This is a lesson Israel is just beginning to learn. It will be a hard one for them but one that will eventually carry them into a place where their faith in God is able to stand through the storms. My prayer for them today is that they will recognize their Messiah has already come and done the work that they so valiantly struggle to do on their own. Jesus is the promise they are waiting for. He is calling out to His people to see Him. My bible tells me that one day many of them will. And I’m CERTAIN He will be rejoicing when they do.
Father God, thank You that You have made Yourself known in my life in both good times and bad. Thank You that I have parents who introduced me to You. Thank You for the legacy of my grandmother who taught her daughter to love You. I don’t know how many generation this legacy goes back but thank You for each of them. I PRAY that legacy doesn’t end with my children. I cling to Your promises on this one as You said that if I raise them up in Your ways that when they are old they will not depart from it. I leave this, once again, in Your hands.
Holy Spirit, thank You for reminding me of our past conversations. You even brought this one back to me through the picture my father painted after hearing my story. It caught my attention just the other day. Thank You for all the reminders that keep me looking for You every day.