Updated: Jan 30
When I was a child, I was a Cub Scout. For a short time I was a Boy Scout. I quit scouting because it did not seem like fun, and I preferred to watch what was on television on the night of the week that our troop meetings were scheduled.
I was thirteen and without any close adult guidance, so I took the lazy way out.
In hind sight, I can say I wish I had kept going, but knowing what I know now, I probably did the right thing … for the wrong reasons. Scouting was not cool when I was in high school, and the last thing I needed was another reason to be deemed uncool.
Still, the oaths taken by all scouts, boys, girls, cubs and brownies, include the promises, “to love God,” “to serve God,” and “to do my duty to God.”
The motto for both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is “Be prepared.”
When I heard that motto, I figured it meant scouts were prepared to start fires with flint rocks, pitch tents, treat snake bites, whittle chains out of blocks of pine, cook on Coleman camping equipment, and how to spot old ladies needing help crossing streets.
The Scouts have merit badges that are awarded for many fields of preparedness. Still, their motto leaves it open to meaning anything and everything that one can find worthwhile to be prepared to encounter.
Be prepared … for everything.
All of the readings today address that state of preparedness, in the sense that our preparation must be towards death. Jesus said, “You know neither the day nor the hour,” when death will arrive to escort your soul to Heaven. So, be prepared at all times.
In the Old Testament reading from the Book of Joshua, we might not realize that when Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, his time on this earth was almost up. Chapter 24 is considered (according to the article on Wikipedia) to be part of Joshua’s “farewell” to the Israelites. Joshua was preparing them for their continued life as God’s people, after Joshua would be dead and gone.
That Wikipedia article also draws attention to some parallels between Moses and Joshua, where both presented farewell speeches to the Israelites, and both parted waters before crossing the children of Israel – out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. The point is also made that the Israelites celebrated the Passover upon entry into their new land, whereas they celebrated the first Passover before departing Egypt.
The article does not discuss how those parallels can indicate a repetition of holiness; but instead leads one to assume that Jewish tradition might be made up, as a fictional recreation of Moses in the man named Joshua. However, it can all be explained as God using all of His devoted servants in the same manner.
The aspect of the Law being brought down to the Israelites by Moses, at Mount Horeb, is then paralleled to this account of Joshua making up a covenant, statutes and ordinances for the Israelites to agree to and follow. Joshua did that at Shechem. There is a difference between the two events, even if the two are quite similar.
It is important to understand that Shechem was seen as a most holy place in Canaan. To call the tribes of Israel to Shechem is then a statement of the holiness of God delivering on a promise, after having met in the shadow of the Mountain of God, agreeing to follow the LORD’s servant to that place promised.
Prior to this farewell warning by Joshua, not to forget to only worship the One God – YAHWEH – the land of Israel had been subdued by warfare. Once conquered by force, the land was divided amongst the tribes. God had given His blessing for all those victories, and now it was time to renew the agreement that had led the Israelites to that point.
Joshua pointed out that the Israelites came from a lineage that worshiped more than one god. Abraham was originally from Sumer, a polytheistic society, which was the culture that spread to Babylon and Assyria. Joshua called that the polytheism of the Amorites. Additionally, the Israelites (those who originally left Egypt) had come from a polytheistic land, Egypt, such that their ancestors themselves knew of many gods who were worshiped. Jacob’s wife Rachel had stolen her father’s “household idols,” which were of gods lesser than YAHWEH (the roots of Ba’als) because Rachel believed those gods would protect them.
How many of these do you pray to each day?
There was no doubt that many gods were known and worshiped many places. Joshua admitted that. However, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Israelites, were not chosen by the One God, the LORD, YAHWEH, because God liked how stiff their necks got when things didn’t go their way.
They were not special human beings. Only if they agreed to serve the One God, and no other, doing everything that had been drawn up for them to learn and act upon, would they then receive a special blessing from God. God blesses all His priests who serve him and only him.
It then becomes important to repeat what Joshua told the Israelites, as it has not faded with time. The same applies today, just as it did then. “You cannot serve the LORD,” which is best stated as, “If you cannot serve the LORD, as you have committed to serve only Him,” then you need to understand that “He is a holy God.”
If God were not holy, then it would be okay to serve more than one god. However, “He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”
That is not a threat, it is a promise. It is a Law of physics, just as Boy Scouts know: Face a burning campfire on a cold winter night and your face will become so warm it burns; but turn away from the fire and the cold air will soon turn that burning face into frozen cheeks. Thus, turning away from God (sinning) will consume you and do you harm (self-inflicted pain that God will not prevent), after you were fine facing God (not sinning).
You also have to realize that Jesus did not come to be another God. There can only be One God in this religion passed to the Israelites. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit of that One God, willfully acting as commanded by that God whose Spirit resided within Jesus’ human body. Thus, God did not come as Jesus, making God in Heaven and God on earth, which becomes two Gods. That would make Joshua seem like a liar, and lead some to think it would be okay to forget all about that vengeful, harming, consuming God, since Jesus was such a loving God.
In the reading from Matthew, we hear Jesus tell the parable of the ten bridesmaids, where five were not good scouts, having run out of lamp oil. They were not prepared. After they went to the market to buy some more oil, by the time they got back they were left behind. They cried out, “Lord, lord, open to us.” In response, God said, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”
The moral of that parable is the same as what Joshua told all the people of Israel, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Be prepared at all times. Do not be caught worshiping more than One God.
The five unprepared bridesmaids thought all they had to do was ask the five ‘good scout’ bridesmaids, who had prepared and brought oil with them, to forgive their lack of preparedness, and to give oil to them – as if they had mistaken the teachings of Jesus, seeing Jesus as God on earth. Jesus’ parable of the bridesmaids, in effect, says, “Be like me. Be always prepared, because only the One God knows when He will come for His children.”
This same warning is given by Paul, as an encouragement to all Christians who were filled by the Holy Spirit. He told them not to lose their faith and become fearful because other Christians were becoming martyrs all around them. Paul told them that facing death was part of the course. Those saints had all died long before they were martyred, giving up their egos (selves) so Christ could take over their bodies. As such, anyone who maintained the covenant, statutes and ordinances, because they were filled with the Mind of Christ, if persecuted to death, then those would be raised like Christ was raised.
Paul was encouraging Christians to make sure they we prepared to die for Christ, just as he died for them. They too were bridesmaids with lamps filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, which (like living water) never runs out. Thus, they stayed awake and alert for the door’s opening and their bridegroom’s arrival, ready to attend the wedding banquet at any given moment. They were good scouts.
The five bridesmaids whose lamps went dark, they did not have this eternal fuel that represented the light of Christ. Their “engagement” to Christ was based on the material and physical, not the spiritual. They had to run to the store to buy some more lamp oil, the kind that eventually always runs out. That was a sign of their lack of true commitment, a sign that they worshiped other gods (such as Jesus, the ‘household idol’ version).
It is okay to hang this on the wall as a model for who you should strive to be.
Perhaps, they worshiped the building that represented the LORD’s house, more than Christ, as the LORD. Perhaps, they worshiped how everyone gave them honors as always going to church, or always knowing the right things to say, but they never became a church for Christ themselves, thus never realized the true meaning of the things they said.
It is important for us to realize that the only way any of us can ever fully follow all the agreements made with the One God, and the only way to ever completely adhere to the letter of all the rules and ordinances, is to let God into our hearts. We must die and rise again as Jesus Christ. Only when we gain the same mind that Jesus had can we ever truly worship only one LORD.
If we keep God and Christ external to us, we worship self as a god; and that will keep God from knowing who we are when our end comes.
Moses, Joshua, Jesus, and Paul all said the same thing as David, when he sang, “So that they might put their trust in God, and not forget the deeds of God, but keep his commandments.” We can only have trust in the LORD and never forget His deeds and commandments when we sacrifice ourselves to His will.
Only then will we truly be prepared.
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