Traveling through the Desert

My son and I have been reading through the book of Joshua together.  This book of the Bible begins is a very captivating way.  The first chapters contain espionage, the miraculous dividing of the Jordan River so that the Israelites could walk through on dry ground, and the conquest of the formidable city of Jericho that began with a march and a shout.  There is even an unexpected heroine – a woman who was formerly a harlot and who later became a pivotal person in the lineage of Jesus.  I love these stories and believe every single word is true, no matter how improbable they sound to the modern reader, because they are taken from the Word of God.

If you’ve never read the book of Joshua, or even if you have, I would encourage you to read it.  I think you will find it riveting…that is, until you reach chapter twelve.  This is where the tone shifts and most of the remainder of the book gets a bit dull.  There are seemingly endless lists of names – names of former kings who ruled over the land of Canaan, names of regions and cities, and names of the tribes of Israel who inherited land there.  At least in the first two categories, I find the names largely unpronounceable.  I muster through them as best I can and suspect I mispronounce them differently each time they are repeated.  And that’s when the thought emerges: these lists are boring, they have nothing to do with me, and I think I will close down the remaining Dry, parched desert groundchapters of this book and start reading somewhere else – anywhere else.  Surely God can’t expect me to get anything out of reading this stuff.


However, I do believe that God is not a God of fluff.  You can’t always trust human writers.  Maybe a publisher has told a prospective author that their book cannot be published unless it has so many pages or chapters.  So they throw in extraneous detail.  It would be easy to think that God is doing that in the latter chapters of Joshua or maybe to think that the information was only relevant to another people or another time.  On the contrary, I believe God has given us the whole Bible and expects that we read the whole Bible.  Once I gave a Bible as a gift.  Expecting that it might get tossed aside, I inserted bills of varied amounts within its pages.  I hoped that if it was read, the diligent reader would find the hidden treasure.

Similarly, I believe God inserted some treasure for me to find in the dull chapters of Joshua.  I read through chapter twelve and its long list of foreign kings and their cities.  I admit that it was as dry as the wilderness the Children of Israel marched around in for almost forty years.  My throat was parched and just about when I was going to cry out that I don’t like this trip, I spotted something green.  Oasis in the desertAt first I was going to head right past it, but I rubbed my eyes and looked again and realized there were palm trees, green grass, and a little stream.  An oasis in the desert for weary travelers.


Joshua 13:1 – “Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the Lord said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.”

Then in the next verse, God goes back into listing kings, regions, and cities.  Do you see how I could have missed it?  It struck me that God didn’t tell Joshua that he was old and could just retire from service.  I kind of expected that.  He had done so much for God.  He had come out of Egypt, witnessed the dividing of the Red Sea, gone up with Moses onto Mount Sinai when God gave the Ten Commandments, stayed in the tabernacle as a young man, stood against popular opinion after spying out The Promised Land, lead the fight against the Amelikites, and became the leader of the people after Moses died (just to name a few of his accomplishments). He had a pretty good resume to submit for retirement.  The Bible doesn’t specifically say how old Joshua was at this time.  I have seen guesstimates of at least upper sixties (based on coming out of Egypt, a logical age to be able to be a spy, and wandering for forty years).  Still God had more work for him to do.

This begs a question.  When am I at an age when I can retire from serving the Lord?  Other questions must follow.  When are there no more battles to be fought?  When is there no more work to be done for God?  Yes, my body may not function the way it used to.  My memory may not be as keen as when I was younger.  My financial state may be more limited.  However, God knows my situation at this time in my life.  He knows my limitations.  There is a specific time when He has set my service to be ended – when I reach Heaven.  If I am still on earth, there is a reason He has me here.  My task is to discover what He would have me do today, do it, and keep serving Him until He calls me Home.  I cannot rest on my laurels.  There “remaineth much land to be possessed”!

Psalm 92:14 (NIV) They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.

God will equip me with the skills
To do what He may ask.
It matters not if I am old
He’ll fit me for the task.

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4 thoughts on “Traveling through the Desert

  1. Anna says:

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. I often found it easy to skip over the boring chapters in the Bible that listed names and cities and so on. I stopped doing that in college though when I took a Bible class. I learned a lot in those classes and one thing I learned was how important those names are. I found out that all that boring linage was showing you how perfectly God set up Jesus birth. Jesus had to be born of a certain linage but because of some law or something anyone from the blood line couldn’t be king of Israel (I don’t remember it very well it was a long time ago). Anyway I found that the best way to get through all the “boring” names is to learn how they relate to everything else. They always do! It is really quite fascinating then. I can’t say I don’t still try to avoid the name game when I am reading but I have gotten a lot better at embracing those passages in the Bible and I too have come across those rare gems that you would have missed if you didn’t read it.

    • Heidi says:

      Anna, you are right about the importance of the names and the proof in them that Jesus came at the right time and in the perfect spot in God’s plan. When my mother used to read to my daughter (when she was a little girl), she’d keep her attention by reading through a few names and then making my daughter pick the one that she would want for a name. Some choices were quite hard to make and they’d end up in giggles! I also like to try to get the Hebrew translation for some names. My mother has been a Hebrew scholar for years. Through her I learned a few basics – like Beth means “house of” and El in a name refers to God. It’s like breaking a secret code!

  2. Diana says:

    There is so much depth to the Bible and everything in it, including seemingly insignificant details, has a purpose. I feel overwhelmed, at times, how everything in the Bible is intertwined and how God uses events early on to be significant for His purposes to be fulfilled later. I do enjoy the miraculous things that happened while Joshua was leading the Israelites. He had a boldness of character. I also like in chapter 14 the account of Caleb boldly asking for his portion and his statement that he was as strong at 85 years old as he was at 40 years old. I don’t know anyone that proclaims that these days :). Enjoying your blog, Heidi 🙂

    • Heidi says:

      Diana, we just read that chapter today. Caleb had such faith! He had faith that God could overcome the giants when he returned from spying out the land. His faith didn’t falter 40+ years later when facing the same race of giants. To God, a thousand years are like a day, so forty years makes no difference. I also thought about how it may be easier to talk about fighting the giants when backed by the Israelite army, but in this chapter, there is no mention of the army fighting, just Caleb. I am convinced that he had the right prospective – he wasn’t the one fighting the battle, God was the one. Caleb would be a top choice of a name if I was at an age where I might have another son! 🙂

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