When the sun appeared, Joshua checked the depression and again it was full. He drank the water, and all that day he prayed in the cave and thought about suffering. The prophet Isaiah described the servant who was to suffer:
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I am pleased; I will put my spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.
Joshua considered the difference in tone between the words of Isaiah and those of Solomon. They reflected Joshua’s own mixed reactions to unrighteousness and injustice. On the one hand, he wanted to punish evil and utterly destroy it with harsh and heavy judgment, but on the other he felt compassion toward those trapped in sin, and wished to protect and nurture them in righteousness.
He identified within himself both the wrath of Solomon’s Anointed One and the mildness of Isaiah’s servant. The prophet described the servant further:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of as all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth he was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
Joshua shuddered with foreboding. He was unsure what it meant to be the Anointed One, and he was completely uncertain what it meant to be like the servant who suffered.
One day followed another and each day Joshua drank water, prayed, and tried to understand the work God had given him and how he would accomplish it.
You might wish to open your Bible to Deuteronomy chapters 6-8
On the twelfth day, as Joshua was drinking his water, he noticed a scrap lying in the back corner of the cave. He went into the dark corner and pulled the scrap out of the dust; it was a small piece of parchment. Evidently, someone used this cave and had left the parchment behind.
Joshua took it to the front of the cave where there was light. He read a few words and immediately recognized the passage from the books of Moses. It concerned the children of Israel in the desert. He read the short fragment all the way through; then he read it again. He read it a third time. After that Joshua read the parchment several times a day.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Truly, as his teacher said, this was the foundation of the entire law of God. Every ethical precept depended on this principle: ‘Love God’ along with the companion principle, ‘Love your neighbor.’ Joshua reflected on his duty to love God and to help all Israel to love God.
As Joshua contemplated love of God and man, the face of Miriam of Bethany suddenly burst into his mind. He smiled and was happy as he remembered his special love. He had been so focused on things of God that he had not thought of Miriam in days.
However, his joy turned to bitter sadness as Joshua realized he could not marry her. His work was so great and so dangerous that there would be no place for a wife, nor would it be fair to ask a wife to undertake such a burden. He would have to do his work alone; marriage was out of the question. A bit of the suffering became real.
He continued reading the parchment.
Be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Fear the Lord your God, serve him only.
When God came to Israel in Egypt, they were nothing but slaves; they had nothing and were nothing. But God delivered Israel from slavery and led them into the desert in order to prepare them for a land of their own. Once settled in their own land, they did forget God and didn’t serve him only. Joshua must restore true worship of God.
We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders – great and terrible – on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household.
Now, Joshua must deal with Rome which held Israel in bondage as Egypt did many generations ago. How was he to do it? With Egypt, God used signs and wonders. Perhaps, that was the approach. Miraculous power would both demonstrate God’s superiority over Rome and gather the people of Israel to the cause of the messianic kingdom.
But as Joshua continued, he read, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.’ The story of Massah was not in the parchment, but he remembered it. Israel was camped in the desert at Rephidim. There was no water there, and the people were thirsty and complained against Moses accusing him of murdering them all with thirst.
Moses answered, ‘Why do you put the Lord to the test?’
God provided water from the rocks, and Moses called the place Massah because the people tested the Lord by questioning, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ Israel faces the same problem today, thought Joshua. People wonder, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ and they show they do not believe he is because they do not trust him.
Joshua realized that, even though God performed marvelous wonders in Egypt to secure Israel’s release from slavery, they did not trust him to provide for them in the desert. They whined, complained, and accused at the first difficulty.
Joshua concluded that signs and wonders were not effective for leading people. They do not ensure trust and loyalty.
He read from the fragment:
Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey.
The children of God should express trust and obedience. As the son of God in the desert, Israel repeatedly failed at both. Joshua was now the son of God in the desert, and he would not fail.The story continues next time. If you are not subscribed to the blog, you may wish to subscribe now to receive the rest of the story.
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