One of the best Western novels ever written is called Shane. Written in 1949, it has a crisp, clean style that is the mark of a classic. The main character, Shane, is a mysterious stranger who wanders onto the farm of a family in Wyoming Territory in the late 1880’s. The narrator is the eleven-year old son of the family—Bob.
Shane is taken with Bob and his family and stays on to help them settle their homestead. But there is a ruthless rancher who wants to push the homesteaders out and take their land.
Shane is the idealized man: strong and silent…loyal and true…and, of course, independent. He lends Bob a few words of wisdom throughout the book, such as:
“A man who watches what’s going on around him will make his mark.”
“Listen, Bob. A gun is just a tool…A gun is as good—and as bad—as the man who carries it. Remember that.”
“What a man knows isn’t important. It’s what he is that counts.”
There’s a lot to commend about Shane…he is strong and courageous…but where does his strength and courage come from? In the end, Shane disappoints, because his strength and courage are merely human strength and courage.
We mere mortals—we who are not fictional Western heroes—need a strength and courage greater than what we can dig up from within. For that, we turn to the premier passage in the Bible about strength and courage—Joshua 1:1-9.
THE ACCURACY OF GOD’S WORD (9:28)
As we start with this passage, we are going to talk about the accuracy of the Bible. Our first verse has what appears to be an error. So that you can catch it for yourself, let me read Matthew 17:1, which is Matthew’s version of this same passage:
1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (Matthew 17:1)
Now, see if you can find the problem in Luke 9:28—
Luke 9:28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
Matthew and Mark both say “after six days,” instead of eight days as Luke does here (cf. Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2). A Bible critic might jump on that to prove that there’s a error here, but it’s really very simple to explain: Luke includes the day of Jesus’s sayings and also the day of Jesus’s transfiguration, while Matthew and Mark only count the days in-between.
Matthew and Mark are precise—“after six days.” But notice how Luke states it, “it came to pass about eight days after.” He doesn’t claim any sort of precision, in fact, he claims to be imprecise when he says, “about.”
The Bible is a book written in common language—in the language of everyday people. It’s not a calculus textbook—it’s not precise down to the hundredth decimal place (unless it claims to be in a given verse).
Another televangelist has made the news. Jesse Duplantis (DU PLANT TIS), a prosperity gospel preacher (that is, his own prosperity), announced that Jesus has told him to buy a 54 million dollar private jet. Specifically, a Dassault (DAH-SOH) Falcon 7X. He says that God said, “I want you to believe in me for a Falcon 7X.”
Duplantis said, “Jesus Christ wouldn’t be riding a donkey today—he’d be in an airplane flying all over the world.” (https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/evangelist-54m-jet-jesus-riding-donkey-55507538)
Sigh, never mind that he isn’t Jesus. Jesus would fly, but I am sure that he would go on commercial jets so that he could be around people—the sinners whom he came to save—just like he did when he walked the roads of Israel 2,000 years ago.
What does Duplantis do with Jesus’s call to discipleship in passages like the one before us? Does a 54 million dollar jet fit with Jesus’s description of the Christian disciple’s life?