Before I write what I wanted to write a word about the title. It means ‘to tell it how it is’. There are no racial connotations and in fact the earliest form of this expression comes from the Greek philosopher Plutarch (he died around 120BC). Erasmus used it in his writings and the expression came to the UK in the 16th century. It is a statement of the obvious, and in its earlier forms it was to call a fig a fig or call a trough a trough… so enough with the etymology of the phrase and rest assured it is not meant for racist purposes.
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. (Joshua 7:10-13 NIV)
Joshua has taken over from the most famous leader of Israel, Moses. God is with him! In his inauguration in the first chapter the Lord promised to be with Joshua as He was with Moses. Joshua sends out spies to check out the land, I think he learnt his lesson from the previous spying escapade, Joshua only sent out two! A lot less trouble. Joshua goes on to cross the Jordan with the priests stepping into the water and the waters ‘piling up’, and this when they were at full flood! After they cross the Jordan Joshua circumcises the men. You can imagine the scene (don’t imagine too much) but they were there and they would have known they were going to take the land. They were gathered together waiting for the strategy from Joshua, wondering maybe if it was going to be a 4,4,2 or a 2,2,4 formation to smite the enemy. But to their surprise Joshua gets out his knife and asks them to drop their trollies….circumcision? How is this going to win the battle? I’d rather be reminded of the some awesome battle strategy before a fight than have a very sensitive part of the body cut with a knife, and that without anaesthetic and I doubt the blade was sheffield steel. Never the less, this was the Lords direction to consecrate the people for the Lords battle strategy is not that of the world. His way of winning what looks like an impossible battle is to do something extra ordinary! Our human thinking is locked into an us and them mentality, as Joshua approaches Jericho all he can think about is how he can win the battle. It says when he was near Jericho he met a man with a sword, understandably from a natural perspective you would say, are you for us or for them? Meaning whose side are you on? There are only two. It had not computed that the man would say neither! There was a third side he had not considered, the side of The Lord. The battle is the Lords. Too often we want The Lord to be on our side and go before us, which is not bad but how often do we consider the heart and the strategy of The Lord. Joshua is interrupted in his thinking to see that the Lord has a strategy, which is not conventional, but it certainly brought the walls down!
After such success they are riding on a high and they would have been thinking, who can be against us, we are unstoppable. They proceed to act in presumption in going up against Ai, you probably know the story. 36 of them died and it says their hearts melted and became like water. They were so confident after the victory over Jericho they felt like nothing could stop them, they assumed that they could just go. Even thought the larger vision was to occupy the land, the individual steps needed the wisdom of God. This is where they failed to seek the Lord.
Joshua was so upset, he tore his clothes and got on his face before the Lord. I love the Lord’s response, ‘get up, what are you doing on your face?’ He gets to the point and says it how it is. There is no pontificating or speculation about why and how they were defeated. It is simple, Israel has violated the covenant, they have sinned, they have taken the devoted things, they have stolen and they have lied. I can imagine Joshua siting their thinking, could you have dressed up a bit? The Lord is to the point and calls it as it is.
I think there is something in our human nature that doesn’t want to be so confrontational, but actually the confrontation and the direct words of the Lord are what we need. Lets call it as it is. I often think in church circles it can be the emperors new clothes. I will presume you know the story. But there can be voices who make pronouncements and they sound good but actually they are severely lacking. Because of our fear, or our holding of the one who said it in too high a degree of esteem we don’t weigh what was said and think ‘they are spiritual, they must know what they are talking about’. We fail to use the discernment that God has given us and it needs a voice to shout, ‘he hasn’t got any clothes on!’
To say it how it is can be refreshing and cuts to the chase, just as The Lord did with Joshua and Israelites.
the only caveat is, it must be in love…look at my previous post for more on speaking the truth in love!