August 20 Devotional (2021)

The book of Joshua contains striking historical records of the personal involvement of the LORD in the battles of Israel for the promised land.

August 20, 2021
Ordinary Time

Today’s Readings:  Joshua 22:10-20 / Essay: On warfare / Romans 13:8-14


A prayer inspired by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who the Church remembers on August 20th

O God, by whose grace thy servant Bernard of Clairvaux, Enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and a shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Invitatory

Come! O Come to the well of God’s Word and meet your Savior; the water He has given will become in you a spring of eternal life. 

Opening Prayer

Lord Jesus, who traveled with the disciples on the road to Emmaus: Be with us on the way, that we may know you in the scriptures, in the breaking of bread, and in the hearts of all whom we meet. Amen. [1]

Hymn

“Trust and Obey”

By John H. Sammis

Lyrics:
1When we walk with the Lord  In the light of His Word,What a glory He sheds on our way;  While we do His good will,  He abides with us still,And with all who will trust and obey.
 Trust and obey,For there’s no other wayTo be happy in Jesus,  But to trust and obey.
2Not a shadow can rise,  Not a cloud in the skies,But His smile quickly drives it away;  Not a doubt or a fear,  Not a sigh or a tear,Can abide while we trust and obey.
3Not a burden we bear,  Not a sorrow we share,But our toil He doth richly repay;  Not a grief or a loss,  Not a frown or a cross,But is blest if we trust and obey.
4But we never can prove  The delights of His love,Until all on the altar we lay;  For the favor He shows,  And the joy He bestows,Are for them who will trust and obey.
5Then in fellowship sweet  We will sit at His feet,Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;  What He says we will do;  Where He sends, we will go,Never fear, only trust and obey. [2]

Morning Prayer

A COLLECT FOR ENDURANCE 

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the Cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.  Amen. [3]

Short Verse

I give you thanks, O God, I give you thanks,* calling upon your Name and declaring all your wonderful deeds.

Psalm 75:1

Morning Reading: Joshua 22:10-20

Concern about loyalty to God

10 And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size. 11 And the people of Israel heard it said, “Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel.” 12 And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.

13 Then the people of Israel sent to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 14 and with him ten chiefs, one from each of the tribal families of Israel, every one of them the head of a family among the clans of Israel. 15 And they came to the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and they said to them, 16 “Thus says the whole congregation of the LORD, ‘What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the LORD by building yourselves an altar this day in rebellion against the LORD? 17 Have we not had enough of the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which there came a plague upon the congregation of the LORD, 18 that you too must turn away this day from following the LORD? And if you too rebel against the LORD today then tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. 19 But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the LORD’s land where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us. Only do not rebel against the LORD or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God. 20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.’”

[7]
[8]

Morning Lesson

The Eastern Tribes’ Altar of Witness

“When the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar near the Jordan River, the rest of Israel feared that these tribes were starting their own religion and rebelling against God. But before beginning an all-out war, Phinehas led a delegation to learn the truth, following the principle taught in Deuteronomy 13:12-18. He was prepared to negotiate rather than fight if a battle was not necessary. When he learned that the altar was for a memorial rather than for pagan sacrifice, war was averted and unity restored.” [4]

“As nations and as individuals, we would benefit from a similar approach to resolving conflicts. Assuming the worst about the intentions of others only brings trouble. Israel averted the threat of civil war by asking before assaulting. Beware of reacting before you hear the whole story.” [5]

“Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh, made an altar for themselves, but it was not a true altar. It merely contained a type and sign of the true altar that was with Jesus [Joshua]. Thus you have no cause to wonder whether or not those people had received the entire knowledge of the Trinity, since they had built neither an entire nor a true altar,” (Origen, Homilies on Joshua). [5]

[9]

Midday Prayer

Blessed Savior, at this hour you hung upon the Cross, stretching out your loving arms: Grant that all the peoples of the earth may look to you and be saved; for your tender mercies’ sake.  Amen. [10]

Short Verse

You see the Trinity, if you see love.”

St Augustine [11]
“The Taking of Jericho” 
(watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)
(source)

Midday Reading: On warfare 

The book of Joshua contains “striking historical records of the personal involvement of the LORD in the battles of Israel for the promised land.” [12] However, it is of utmost importance for readers to “recognize that the specific practices God commanded for the conquest [of the Promised Land] are not commanded for armies of all times.” [13] For this reason, an exploration of warfare is in order.

Satan and Sin Cause Warfare 

“Before the rebellion of Satan, war did not exist. . . . Humanity’s conflict is first vertical, because reprobate man naturally hates the just and holy God, and then horizontal, between people, even between husband and wife (Gn 3:16), who are united as one flesh.” [14]

“The first point that must be made, then, is that wars will continue to flare up between sinful human beings as long as they live in this fallen world, in which Satan is at work. The devil is the original murderer, and he continues to foster hatred and killing. Christ himself declared that there would continue to be wars and rumors of war, and that ‘it is necessary for this to happen’ (Mt 24:6; similar are Mk 13:7; Lk 21:9). Only when he returns in glory to bring this world to its end and fully subjugate Satan will war cease.” [15]

It is for this reason that “every utopian religion or philosophy that has the goal of eliminating all earthly warfare is doomed to fail because it fails to reckon” with fallen human nature “and the ongoing activity of Satan in this world.” [16] 

Christ’s Divine Warfare: Victory Over Sin and Death for Our Salvation 

“The second and crucial point is that divine warfare is God’s means for [delivering] his chosen people.” [17] While, “for the sake of OT Israel, God engaged in temporal and national warfare [ultimately] for the salvation of all believers of both Testaments [across time]… God won the spiritual war through the physical death of Jesus on the cross and his bodily resurrection. Without this divine warfare, mankind would have been doomed to eternity in hell, but God’s warfare enabled Israel to inherit the promised land, and his victory on the cross has made all believers heirs of eternal life in the new heavens and new earth.” [17]

“God may be patient for long periods of time, justice may be delayed, and evildoers may evade their temporal due, but the final day of reckoning will come.” [19]

Just Punishment for Sin 

“A third point is that justified warfare is God’s means to punish evildoers and that such punishment is necessary to curb sin and maintain temporal order. God carries out such punishment not only for the good and stability of societies, but also so that his church can do its proper work of proclaiming the Gospel.” [20]

Any religion or philosophy that teaches absolute, uncompromising pacifism (inaction) can “actually contribute to violence and iniquity by failing to curtail evildoers.” [19] Beginning with St. Augustine, Church thinkers “have posited that war, while terrible in nearly every respect, is not always the worst outcome. Nations have certain responsibilities that might lead to war in order to avoid even worse outcomes or atrocities or injustices being perpetuated” (Anglican priest Fr. Miles Hixon, The Sacramentalists). [21] “St. Augustine himself actually provided us with the phrase ‘Just War’ in his magnum opus, The City of God. He says, ‘But, say they, the wise man will wage just wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars,‘” (Anglican priest Fr. Miles Hixon, The Sacramentalists). [21] St. Augustine continued, “For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing party which compels the wise man to wage just wars; and this wrong-doing, even though it gave rise to no war, would still be matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrong-doing. Let every one, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils, so horrible, so ruthless, acknowledge that this is misery. And if any one either endures or thinks of them without mental pain, this is a more miserable plight still, for he thinks himself happy because he has lost human feeling.” [22]

The process of determining whether circumstances for war qualify as “just” is a far more complex matter. Given humanity’s fallen nature, it is easy to give into the temptation to assign righteousness to, or even claim God’s will over our own rash impulses toward war. (For an in depth examination of this topic, click here for a thorough discussion of “just war” by two Anglican priests.)

The Church’s Warfare Is Spiritual 

We see the long history of divine warfare culminate at the cross in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, who atoned vicariously for the sin and rebellion of the whole world. As he lay dead in the tomb, he appeared vanquished by the devil, who had entered his betrayer, Judas. But on earth’s gladdest day, he rose as the victor, having conquered sin, Satan, and death. Paradoxically, the instrument of his death was his instrument of conquest: ‘Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross’ (Col 2:15). He is the stronger man who has disarmed the strong man— the devil— and plundered the devil’s palace (Lk 11:22) by freeing those the devil had kept in bondage.” [23]

“Through the preaching of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments, lost sinners are transferred from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God. This transfer took place through OT Israel too, as in the cases of the former prostitute Rahab and her family (Josh 6:22–25) and the Gibeonites (Joshua 9), who were spared, incorporated into God’s Israel, and justified before God (Heb 11:31 and James 2:25 affirm this about Rahab). The Gibeonites even became sanctuary servants, cutting wood and drawing water for ‘the house of my [Joshua’s] God’ and ‘for the altar of the LORD’ (Josh 9:23, 27).” [24] 

“The Christian Gospel in Word and Sacrament rescues the perishing from eternal destruction and fortifies them to do [spiritual] battle against the forces of evil within (the sinful flesh) and without (the devil and the world) that assail them. It is necessary for Christians to oppose detestable practices such as idolatry, sexual immorality, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, and occult practices, which correspond to the ancient abominations of the Canaanites. The church rightly prohibits God’s people from engaging in such practices. The church also rightly endeavors to persuade society at large to prohibit such evils, and to do so Christians work peacefully through lawful means, not by violence.” [25]


Eventide Prayer

A COLLECT FOR FAITH 

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake.

Amen. [26]

Short Verse

Though my flesh and heart should waste away,* God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

Psalm 73:26
“And God said ‘Let there be light.’”
By Dana Schmidt
(source)

Eventide Reading: Romans 13:8-14

Put on the armour of light

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Eventide Lesson

Fulfilling the Law Through Love

“Previously, Paul said to pay taxes as owed (v 7 )”; here in verse 8 Paul “speaks of a higher duty— to love others.” [27] “Encouraging the regenerate to do good works,” Paul reminded the Roman Christians of the Ten Commandments (v. 9). For, “one who loves perfectly would fulfill the requirements of God’s Law and be righteous before Him (cf Lk 10:25–28).” [28] While Paul had earlier “excluded that possibility because of our sinfulness (3:20),” here Paul notes that, nevertheless, Christians must still “strive to live according to God’s Law because we have been declared righteous ‘by the mercies of God’ (12:1; cf 1Jn 4:10–11).” [29] “To love is to place another before self; this is to be a ‘living sacrifice’ (12:1).” [30]

Sleep, verse 11, is spiritual inattentiveness. Instead of remaining spiritually asleep, Paul urged the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. “Christ’s death and resurrection have provided salvation, but He will come again and lead us to experience it fully (cf 5:9–10; Heb 9:28).” [31] All Christians should remember that “each day, His second coming is one day closer.” [32]

The night, verse 12, “is life in this word, and especially life under the influence of sin and evil,” the “deeds of [our] sinful nature (cf Gal 5:19–21).” [33] [34] In contrast, the daytime, verse 13, “refers to the presence of Christ’s Kingdom, both in the Church now at hand and fulfilled completely in the age to come.” [35] Paul’s comparison of night and day provides us with a picture “of an approaching dawn. This present age of darkness is passing away; light is dawning.” [36]

The passage closes with Paul’s exhortation to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (v. 14). Here Paul used Baptismal language (Gal 3:27), referring “to living out our Baptism each day.” [37] In Romans 6:3-4 Paul wrote, Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. “The Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” [38] Though “believers still have sinful, fleshly desires that at times lead them astray ( 7: 14– 15 ), but they should not plan to gratify those desires.” [39]

“The requirements and essence of God’s Law have not changed from the OT. The Law shows us how to love others as we have been loved by God in Christ. ‘All have sinned and fall short’ of God’s requirement to love Him and others (3:23). The Gospel calls us to rely on God’s mercy in Christ, which then motivates us to love as we have been loved. The context of Romans assures us that God declares us righteous, not because of our ability to love, but solely because of Christ, who ‘is the end of the law’ (10:4). • Father, You have loved me in Christ and declared me to be Your righteous child. Empower me to love and serve others through Christ. Amen.” [40]

Compline Prayer

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.  Amen. [41]


Devotionals compiled/written by S. P. Rogers

Citations:

[1] Prayers and Thanksgivings. Daily Prayer: a resource of Forward Movement. (2021). https://prayer.forwardmovement.org/prayers_and_thanksgivings.php

[2] Sammis, J. H. (2021). Hymn: Trust and obey. hymnalnet RSS. https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/582

[3] Morning Office, Anglican Church in North America 2019 Book of Common Prayer

http://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/06-Daily-Morning-Prayer-11.21.2019.docx

[4] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). Joshua. In Chronological life application study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 5485). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[5] Ibid. 4

[6] Origen. (2019). Joshua. In Ancient faith study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 772). Nashville: Holman Bible.

[7] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). The Tribes of East Jordan [MAP]. In Chronological life application study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 7659). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[8] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). The Tribes of West Jordan [MAP]. In Chronological life application study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 7662). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[9] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). Profile of Joshua [CHART]. In Chronological life application study Bible (p. 339). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[10] Midday Office, Anglican Church in North America 2019 Book of Common Prayer

http://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/07-Midday-Prayer-11.21.2019.docx

[11] Attempt to grasp Trinity in heart, not mind. Catholic Diocese of Little Rock. (2020, June 5). https://dolr.org/article/attempt-grasp-trinity-heart-not-mind?fbclid=IwAR0hfE_DN7zfOdZRgarjqnZf688bqFPanJm2ctp9SjyvEd3dFG7YBYyg1Ag

[12] A., E. E. (2016). Divine Warfare. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 1723). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[13] A., E. E. (2016). Joshua. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 1657). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[14] A., E. E. (2016). Divine Warfare. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 1723). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[15] Ibid. 14

[16] Ibid. 14

[17] Ibid. 14

[18] Ibid. 14

[19] Ibid. 14

[20] Ibid. 14, P. 1724

[21] Fr. Miles Hixon. (2021). War and Peace. On The Sacramentalists Podcast. Retrieved at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/43-war-and-peace/id1457082281?i=1000513139258

[22] Ibid. 21

[23] A., E. E. (2016). Divine Warfare. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 1724). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[24] Ibid. 23

[25] Ibid. 23

[26] Evening Office, Anglican Church in North America 2019 Book of Common Prayer

http://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/08-Daily-Evening-Prayer-11.21.2019.docx

[27] A., E. E. (2016). Romans. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 8265). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[28] Ibid. 27

[29] Ibid. 27

[30] Ibid. 27

[31] Ibid. 27

[32] Ibid. 27

[33] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). Romans. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1575). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[34] A., E. E. (2016). Romans. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 8265). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[35] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). Romans. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1575). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[36] Ibid. 36

[37] Ibid. 36

[38] A., E. E. (2016). Luther’s Small Catechism. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 78). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[39] A., E. E. (2016). Romans. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 8265). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[40] Ibid. 39

[41] Compline, Anglican Church in North America 2019 Book of Common Prayer

http://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/09-Compline-11.21.2019.docx

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