Today’s Bible verses from the Book of Joshua are all about waiting patiently for God–not trying to rush things based on our timetable, but trusting in His timing instead. (Talk about timing–I needed to reread this one, too!!)
26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.”
1 Kings 16:34
34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
Joshua had destroyed Jericho according to the will of God, as a symbol of what happens to people who practice unrepentant wickedness–it was one of the first sites in Canaan that was cleansed of sin in this way. Afterwards, he pronounces this curse on anybody who would try to rebuild Jericho as the great walled city it had once been, so as to keep the site dedicated to God.
But, inevitably, after a time, the Israelites forgot this as they forgot God, and in 1 Kings we see Hiel of Bethel rebuilding Jericho’s walls, paying for the sin of rebuilding a wicked city just as Joshua had decreed. (This all happened within the reign of King Ahab, who did nearly as much wickedness as the citizens of Jericho had.)
This is not a particularly comforting pair of Scriptures to read, but it makes an important point: God is Almighty, and has power even over the most powerful of men. When we act against Him, we will face consequences, stemming from divine discipline. Hiel’s sons die not because God worked an act of vengeance or evil, but because God disciplined Hiel for grasping at power. (Note: Joshua’s curse is not merely something spoken by man, but something coming from God, since Joshua led the “cleansing force” of the Israelites through Canaan to reclaim the land for God.)
So, when we purposefully do things that are against God, we should not then wonder why distressing things begin to happen in our own lives. This is not God being evil, because that is impossible; it is God disciplining us for going against Him, much as a parent disciplines a child for breaking rules. Sometimes God has to do fairly drastic things to get our attention, because we’re so bent on having our own way, but it is ultimately for our betterment, and for our realignment with God.
“The fifth lot came out for the tribe of Asher, clan by clan. 25 Their territory included: Helkath, Hali, Beten, Acshaph, 26 Allammelech, Amad and Mishal. On the west the boundary touched Carmel and Shihor Libnath. 27 It then turned east toward Beth Dagon, touched Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtah El, and went north to Beth Emek and Neiel, passing Cabul on the left. 28 It went to Abdon, Rehob, Hammon and Kanah, as far as Greater Sidon. 29 The boundary then turned back toward Ramah and went to the fortified city of Tyre, turned toward Hosah and came out at the sea in the region of Aczib, 30 Ummah, Aphek and Rehob. There were twenty-two towns and their villages. 31 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Asher, clan by clan.”
This section of Joshua is one of many “land allotment statements,” dividing up the Promised Land (ancient Canaan, which covers present-day Israel, Jordan, Palestine, etc.) between the 12 tribes of Israel. After Joshua’s last precise military victory in the Promised Land, he sets about this business as quickly as possible, since Asher and the other eight and a half tribes are still waiting on their allotment west of the Jordan River. (The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh had already received their allotment east of the Jordan when Moses was still alive.)
I can imagine that the members of the waiting tribes might have felt a bit indignant and even left out as they watched the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh settle their land. “Why have they gotten their allotment already?” they might have asked. “Haven’t we been faithful, too? Haven’t we fought enough for Joshua, and he’s just NOW getting around to giving us our land?” There had already been tensions enough on the trip to the Promised Land, and indeed Joshua might have had to fend off still more nasty rumors and accusations as he conquered the Promised Land piece by piece.
The point here is that now they are getting the reward promised them so long ago. As the Lord had promised, so had He done–He had rescued them from enslavement in Egypt, helped Moses lead them on, and had helped Joshua claim the land. Now the Israelites would have a land to call their own instead of having to be a nomadic people.
We, too, might get a bit impatient with God when we don’t receive the blessings we think we’ve earned. Maybe we’re having to wait too long for a new job to come around; maybe we’re waiting on that special someone to show up in our lives, and keep getting our hopes dashed. Maybe we’re experiencing setbacks or facing a layoff at work; we might even be facing serious illness or family crisis. In times when we think God has forgotten to bless us, we have to remember that we are being cared for, and God will bless us when the time is right. This part of the Book of Joshua is about patience being rewarded at long last; we have to maintain that patience longer than we like sometimes, but God will come through for us, too.