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Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before haelohim. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says Yahweh elohe Israel:
“Now therefore revere Yahweh, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away elohim that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve Yahweh. Now if you are unwilling to serve Yahweh, choose this day whom you will serve, whether elohim your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or elohe of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve Yahweh.”
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake Yahweh to serve other elohim; for it is Yahweh elohinu who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and Yahweh drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve Yahweh, for he is elohinu.”
This is the Track 2 optional Old Testament reading selection to be read aloud on the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 16], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. If chosen, it will be accompanied by a singing of Psalm 34, which has the lyric, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.” Those readings will precede the Epistle reading from Ephesians, where Paul wrote, “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” All will fall in line with the Gospel reading from John, where Jesus said to his disciples, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”
I wrote about this reading selection and posted my views on my website, back in 2018. That was the last time these specific verses came up in the lectionary cycle. Those views can be found on this website by clicking on this link. I stand behind those views today, as the content has not changed; so, I welcome all to read what I wrote then and compare that to the new additional views I offer now.
It should be noted that in 2018 I was not focused on the errors of English translation that have had an effect on the minds of Christians to stay away from calling Yahweh by his ‘proper’ name. By calling His “Lord” one is always prone to think of Yahweh as some external entity, who one is so far below that one could never know Yahweh personally. It is vital to realize the prevalence of “Yahweh” in the Old Testament texts, which must be seen as the relationship all Christians must have in their lives, which is the same closeness the first Israelites of Moses and now Joshua had.
I also was not focused as much on making clear the mistranslation of “elohim,” which is routinely a transformation of the plural word stating “gods,” into an upper case presentation as “God.” This is not the truth and refusing to understand the concept of “gods” under Yahweh keeps Christians from becoming true saints. Again, seeing a ‘double name of God,’ as “Lord God,” reduces the truth to an externalization of Yahweh, making Jesus be non-existent in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus was the “Word” that has always been with Yahweh and the “Word” is what created an “elohim” in man. Joshua speaks loudly about that here, as he points out the difference between the “elohim” of dead “gods” worshipped by pagans and Gentiles. All external “gods” are dead. Only Yahweh lives; and, He lives in those who marry their souls to His Spirit. That is the true definition of an “elohim,” but that definition can never be realized when the truth is masked as some lie stating “God.”
First of all, one must see the parallel of Joshua convening a gathering of “all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel” to the shindig Solomon called to Jerusalem for the opening of his building of stone. Shechem was the first ‘capital’ of the people of Israel, in the hill country of the area assigned to the Tribe of Ephraim. After Solomon’s death, a meeting was held at Shechem, when ten tribes decided to secede from the kingdom that named Solomon’s son to take his throne. Shechem was where Yahweh confirmed His covenant with Abraham; and, it was considered the most sacred land in Joshua’s Israel. Conversely, David had taken Jebus, a stronghold of the Jebusites, who had never been conquered by Joshua and who held a treaty that was relative to the tomb of Abraham and Sarah [and Isaac and Jacob]. So, Shechem’s convention must be seen as an equal in importance to the one Solomon convened, if not much greater.
In the selected verses there are eight forms of “elohim” present. The first is “haelohim,” which actually translates as “these gods.” When this is seen to be preceded by the Hebrew word “lip̄·nê,” a form of “panim” or “faces,” the meaning relates to those who were true Israelites, as wearers of the “faces of elohim.” When the marriage vows [those inscribed on the stone tablets within the Ark] includes as the first agreement, “Thou shall wear no other face of a god before Yahweh,” that vow made all the true Israelites become elohim, as the wives of Yahweh that were made holy by His presence within their souls. Thus, Joshua called all who were indeed elohim to a meeting that discussed the resting of the tabernacle and the Ark in one central location, amid all the tribes. It was the Ark that they took with them to defeat all their enemies when they entered the land that was promised only to elohim.
When we read that Joshua said, “Thus says Yahweh elohe Israel,” that says Joshua was speaking as Yahweh, because like Jesus said, “The Father is within me and I in the Father,” Joshua was equally one with Yahweh. Just as Nathan spoke to David and told him what Yahweh said about building him a house, Nathan could have also said, “Thus says Yahweh elohe Israel.” The meaning of those three words says, “Yahweh’s wives Who Retain God [as elohim].” All humans, being souls entrapped in matter, are feminine in essence, making both males and females whose souls are married to Yahweh be His wives [a.k.a.: saints]. Thus, the “children of Yahweh” are the “Sons of God” [again, with no human gender reflected in “Sons”].
In verse fourteen stating [NRSV], “Now therefore revere Yahweh, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness,” the word translated as “revere” actually means “fear.” This is another agreement of divine marriage, such that the only fear one can possess is that of Yahweh, which is a focus on losing Yahweh after marriage. All fear should be motivations for commitment and fidelity. The service of a wife to Yahweh comes through sincerity and truth, which daily produces all the proof necessary for faithfulness. Thus, when Joshua stated that, he was like Paul making a personal statement of knowledge that he knew equally applied to all whose souls were possessed by Yahweh; and, that knowledge came from the sacrificing of all former “gods” [“elohim”] that ancestors served [those who originally left Egypt with Moses], which included themselves [self-egos].
It was then that Joshua said the placement of the Ark in Shechem demanded that everyone leave the Ark behind, in the care of Levitical priests [to whom Shechem would be made their city-state], which meant their souls would have to stop depending on the presence of Yahweh on the Ark as a visual motivation to stay true to one’s marriage vows [which they memorized]. The visual presence of a pillar of smoke outside the tabernacle would no longer make them feel the external presence of Yahweh close by. To that, Joshua told them [as Yahweh speaking through him ], “Now if you are unwilling to serve Yahweh, choose this day whom you will serve, whether elohim your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or elohe of the Amorites in whose land you are living.” That meant they would either remain a Yahweh elohim Israelite, through each’s individual marriage of their souls to Yahweh, or they would become Gentiles and wayward, no longer related to those who were elohim.
Joshua then added, “as for me and my household, we will serve Yahweh.” In that lies the truth of a “house of Yahweh.” Joshua was saying that the tabernacle was from then on to be a ceremonial place for Yahweh to assist the priests of Israel and the school of prophets. The presence of the tabernacle in Shechem was for guiding the whole of Israel, in the same way that a heart controls the blood flow throughout a whole body of flesh. Still, that body now extended to the reaches of the lands of the twelve tribes, because the Mind of Yahweh would be centered in the tabernacle, but the blood of Yahweh would be wherever His elohim wives flowed. Where there bodies of flesh had become mobile tabernacle of Yahweh, there too would be where Yahweh resided within. Thus, it did not matter if the Ark was kept in Shechem, or Kiriath-jearim, or the City of David, as long as it was readily portable, to be moved when Yahweh told His High Priest where to take it [when the smoke cleared]. What mattered was the people’s souls being married to Yahweh, so they were all houses of Yahweh wherever they went.
The true elohim of Yahweh heard Joshua state his commitment to serve Yahweh, regardless of where the Ark rested, so they replied to Yahweh’s voice from Joshua, saying “Far be it from us that we should forsake Yahweh to serve other elohim; for it is Yahweh elohinu who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight.” In that, “Yahweh elihnu” means “Yahweh is ours as elohim.” That becomes a statement that they all had the fear of losing Yahweh within their souls, due to their souls having married Yahweh. The divine marriage of their ancestors had taught them to equally long for the same marriage of soul to Spirit.
When the people spoke to Yahweh about “the house of slavery” that was the life of a soul in Egypt, it is important to realize that the “other elohim” of their ancestors meant they left behind souls that were married to lesser gods, such as all the addictions to a world that is very sinful. The “gods” of lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, wrath and envy were the foci of the marriage vows to Yahweh. Worship to those “gods” must be left behind, because Yahweh said, “I am a jealous God,” who will not accept infidelity. Thus, the “house” built by Solomon was one dedicated to his addiction to the lesser gods like those the Egyptian pharaohs built houses for. The servitude of a soul married to Yahweh also makes one a slave, through willful submission to Yahweh’s Will. However, the difference is a willing sacrifice that makes slavery come with the promise of eternal life after death, versus the slavery that comes with the wish it would all end, only to find death brings on the repeating of sinful addiction through reincarnation.
When the Israelites told Joshua, “We also will serve Yahweh, for he is elohinu,” the meaning here is “Yahweh is our marriage partner that makes us elohim.” Because of leaders like Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, the people had been shown the miracles of those empowered by self-sacrifice in service to Yahweh. Seeing those signs made them fearful of losing that presence, so they willingly submitted their lives to service to the marriage vows. Such due diligence brings about the proposal of marriage to those who serve Yahweh as His bridesmaids; and, those who always keep their lamps filled with the oil of truth will find their souls also married to Yahweh and able to produce miracles of their own. Therefore, the words of Yahweh through Joshua made all the Israelites present reconfirm their wedding vows with Yahweh. He was their Husband in divine marriage.
As an optional reading that is opposite the reading of Solomon’s grandiose meeting to dedicate the monument he constructed for his own kingship, as a place to bury the Ark and forever turn the Israelites away from Yahweh, it is important to grasp the necessity of one’s soul making a personal commitment to marry Yahweh and die of self-ego and self-will. Solomon is the anthesis of that commitment, as Solomon reflects the “elohe of the Amorites,” with his Egyptian wife [one of many, many to come, plus concubines] advising him of other elohim to bring into his new temple. Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters,” and Yahweh is the only master that counts, when a soul’s eternal life is at stake.
As a reading selection to be read aloud on the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry to Yahweh should already be well underway, the lesson here is to put up or shut up. Yahweh said through Joshua, as I paraphrase, “Nobody tells you to marry Yahweh. Yahweh did not tell Solomon his wish for the fruit that took Adam and Eve away from Eden was a bad idea. One’s soul has been given to one’s body of dead flesh, free to have and to hold until death do you part. Once that marriage has been consummated when the umbilical cord to one’s mother has been cut, one is free to find whatever and whoever one’s soul wants to marry, be it the deadly sins, the Satan who offers wisdom and riches, or to Yahweh, who offers a soul eternal life. The choice is yours, and Joshua said that clearly. Ministry with some pretend god, one of the elohim who are not Yahweh, makes one nothing more than a hired hand [a slave to some boss that one is afraid to piss off and get fired] or a false shepherd [a thief who leads souls away from Yahweh]. Solomon was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, like so many who dress regularly in priestly garb, only to sell lies as truth. Joshua was a true priest of Yahweh, who becomes the icon that those who wish to marry Yahweh must become. That icon is Jesus resurrected in one’s fleshy body.