From Insecurity to Worship : Following Joshua’s Example

It seems only fitting and logical to read the books of Exodus and Joshua while living in Egypt; so I am.  It is an amazing experience following Moses and the Israelites from Pithom to Rameses, crossing the Red Sea, thirsting at the waters of Mara, stopping at the twelve springs at Elim,  wandering and meandering towards Mount Sinai, and ending up at Jericho before entering the Promised Land.

We live very close to the Nile River and have visited Alexandria, not so far from the ancient store cities of Pithom and Rameses.  Over Christmas Break we visited the Pyramids at Giza and the temples and tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens in modern day Luxor (ancient Thebes). During Spring Break we will visit the Red Sea, though not in either of the areas that the Israelites likely crossed it, but I am looking forward to staring out across its shores and imagining what it must have been like to walk into that Sea as on dry land.

Before we adopted our children, God sent me to the book of Joshua.  I’ve recently been studying this book again, and have discovered many helpful truths on our road to Red Sea deliverance and healing. Because moving to Egypt has entailed homeschooling and since homeschooling has led to PTSD and major anxiety and panic attacks this year, I have been struggling with how to overcome anxiety in my life.

I have used scripture meditation, soothing music that reminds me to trust God, scripture memory and other means of taking my thoughts captive to soothe my anxious heart.

This week I have been reminded of another way; a lesson Joshua learned on the cusp of entering the Promised Land.  I love that the Bible is alive and that no matter how many times I read the same book within its pages, I still learn.

While reading Joshua 5 and my First 5 (Proverbs 31 Ministries) devotion “The Best Battle Plan” Lisa TerKeurst reminds me that Joshua’s question to the Angel of the Lord’s armies, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” was at the heart of not only his anxiety but mine as well.  She says that Joshua is seeking here, affirmation from God and perhaps even direction for the battle ahead.  What he gets is not that affirmation, but rather a command to remove his sandals and worship. God knows what Joshua actually needed to hear and in His wisdom reminds Joshua of what that is. Through his story, He does that for me too.

This resonates so deeply with my spirit and soothes my soul as I have begun to practice worship when anxiety tries to overtake me.  I already know the answer to Joshua’s question; The Lord is always for me.  I don’t need to ask.  But when doubt surfaces, the answer is not about me, it is about Him.  Worship God, His Spirit says, for in this you will know the answer to every question.

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Temples, Tombs and Ancient Egypt

Our oldest son was here over the Christmas holiday.  While we’ve been living in Egypt for a little over seven months now, we waited for his arrival to make our fist visit to the Giza Pyramids.  After Christmas we headed to Luxor (ancient Thebes) to walk through the history of ancient Egypt.

You cannot imagine the thrill of actually seeing the sphinx up close, the awe of standing next to the 47 meter high pyramids without thinking how very small we are in comparison.

Of course, the awe inspiring structures were contrasted to the ordinariness of those of us milling around snapping photo after photo.  Our guides had us stand at a certain vantage point, stick out our hand at a certain angle, and produced a photo that gave the persective that we were placing our hands atop the pyramid, reminiscent of manipulating photographs for the 4H fair digital projects we’ve done over the years.

As my camel bobbled past the sphinx, one man called out to me in English, knowing I was an American, “I love your money!”  In my head, I thought, “I know you do,” but how ironic that someone had taught him that phrase.  Well, it was the most honest statement I had heard all day!

Seriously though, as we spent four days wandering through the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, the Nobles tombs, Hapshepsut’s Temple, Dendara Temple, the ruins of Amenhotep’s temple and Luxor and Karnak temples, I was struck by how much work it must have taken millions of people (most of whom were not slaves) to complete even just one of the many structures we saw and so many more that we didn’t see.

It was also striking how much of the work of these temples was dedicated to embalming!  Did you know that a single corpse took 70 days to embalm?  Mind you, we were able to see the fetus of one of the ancient Queen that was mummified, proof if it can be believed that this was authentic, that embalming procedures worked.  But while all of this by human standards of accomplishment was impressive, I was left with such a feeling of futility and waste that was growing inside of me, with each step through history we took.

The colors, though faded over time and sometimes damaged by smoke and a massive flood of the Nile River in the late nineteenth century, were surprising: I didn’t expect to see colors on the images carved into temple or tombs walls. On most of these structures, every wall was adorned with carvings painted with bright blues and reds. Almost every ceiling was adorned with blue stars. It is mind-boggling to consider how much time it took without any modern tools to build, decorate and be able to utilize these structures!

As I walked on and on (we took 4 days to explore the many tombs, temples and ruins and didn’t see everything) I began to realize that those ancient people spent their lives bringing immortality (in name only!) to the Pharoahs of Egypt.  Of course, the saving of their organs to be used in the afterlife seems rather silly to us today.  It also strikes me as such a wasteful way to spend so many lives, even if these structures are impressive.  Building massive structures, meant to immortalize the accomplishments of a single pharaoh, did not lead them the afterlife they imagined, but their memories are immortalized in that we still visit and learn about them.

My conclusion: I am privileged to walk through this land, explore these Historical sites, to consider both its Biblical and secular history! So many of these structures are a monument to death, longed for immortality, and bringing glory to human endeavors as evidenced by story after story carved in vivid color upon  stone. I am struck by the fact that while my life here won’t ever be emblazened on stone (glad I am of that) hopefully, I will leave a legacy of faith in my children or others God places in my path here. I am also grateful that someday I will walk not on dirt surrounded by stone monuments, but on the streets of gold, and bow down not to my own or any other human’s glory but to the glory of the King of Kings!