Moses has died and it is Joshua's turn to lead the Israelites. This book continues the story of the conquest from the point at which Deuteronomy left off. Israel is poised on the east bank of the Jordan River. The military superpowers who had been players in the action...Hittites, Babylonians, and Egyptians, no longer had a significant presence. Instead, the Israelites would confront a number of independent city states or grouping of states. Canaanite culture was thriving at this time. There were many temples, shrines and pagan altars that could become stumbling blocks for God’s people. Here are some things to think about as we move forward and watch God fulfill His promise to Abraham. Joshua has been empowered by God and commissioned to replace Moses. He stood ready to complete Moses' work...establishing Israel, a second generation of former slaves, in the promised land. Joshua would make many attempts to keep Israel on the straight and narrow path of worshiping God and God alone. Joshua would make every attempt to hold Israel accountable to fulfilling their part of the covenant with God. As you read watch for God's unwavering resolution and intervention in helping the Israelites defeat the idolatrous Canaanites. The consequences of disobedience are on full display in chapter seven. Chapter eight brings another chance to renew their covenant promises. God had called His people to obey Him and reflect on His character. And picture the joy of the Israelites as they finally stood on the ground of the promised land. Celebrate with them as the manna disappears and they begin to eat the produce of the land. Talk about sensory overload!
There are some themes to be aware of as you read the Book of Joshua. There is the theme of God as the great warrior. God is a warrior who rescues His people from their enemies. Think about this. God's people are still at war today, but now the war is an even more dangerous confrontation. We are at war against evil itself. When we get to the book of Ephesians, we will see the powerful spiritual weapons God has given us. But we enter this battle confident that Christ has already won the final battle. Another theme is God's faithfulness. The second half of this book highlights God's faithfulness to His promises. As Israel took possession of the land, the ancient promise to Abraham became concrete reality. God is a promise keeper and we as Christians today have been given great and precious promises, every one of which has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Joshua is all about the covenant promise of land. God had repeatedly promised the land of Canaan to His people; first Abraham, then Isaac, and then Jacob. Generations of Israelites had heard the promise and now, nearly 500 years after the promise to Abraham, God was fulfilling His promise. He always keeps His promises, but as we see here it doesn’t always happen right away. The Book of Joshua emphasizes that the conquest of Canaan was a direct fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. We also see that because God was demonstrating his faithfulness to Israel, He expected them to be faithful to Him as well. Their possession of the land was dependent on their obedience to the covenant they had made with the Lord. In fact, we see that Israel's success is because of Joshua's obedience to the Lord’s commands. Once the land was conquered God would give His people rest. There would be no more fighting, and they could be about the business of living in the land flowing with milk and honey and worshiping the Lord.
It doesn't take long after the 30 days of mourning for Moses for the Lord to begin moving His people toward Canaan. Several times God reminds Joshua that He will go with him. Joshua is to be strong and of good courage because God is leading the charge. Joshua is to be obedient...and God will be God. Things work out so much better when we let God be God. Right away we see the respect shown to Joshua. The two and a half tribes who would settle on the east side of the Jordan River were intentional in telling Joshua they would obey him like they had Moses. God has a couple of things yet for His people be ready to enter the land. The Israelite men who had left Egypt were all circumcised, but they all died in the desert wandering. The men who were born in the wilderness had not yet been circumcised. That was part of covenant obedience. The Lord instructed Joshua to make flint knives and circumcise all the sons of the men who had died.
Joshua sent spies to check out Jericho. And they went to a place where news would be available, a prostitute's house. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute, yet her story is one of the more inspiring in the Bible. Her actions in sheltering and hiding the Israelite spies demonstrated her faith in Israel's God that is praised in the New Testament. (Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25) The word used here for prostitute was for a common prostitute and not one who was part of pagan worship. She may have been put in that role due to the death of her husband or the needs of her Impoverished family. Out of all the people in Jericho, Rahab was the only one who reached out to the one true living God. And in return, He saved her and her family. Rahab is one of four women who are named in Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1. She was the mother of Boaz who married Ruth, the great grandmother of King David. Even though the spies' mission was to be secret, the news of their presence in Jericho traveled fast. Rahab acknowledged the residents of the city were so terrified of Israel's God their hearts were melting like wax out of fear. Yet only Rahab sought God out. While she lied to the men of Jericho who came looking for the spies, Rahab did the best she could to protect the men sent by Joshua. And she uses God's personal name, Yahweh which indicates she may well have come to faith in the living God at some point.
That she and her family lived in the city wall spoke volumes. It would have been an extremely humble dwelling...just the spot for a poor prostitute, and God's grace. The spies gave her a scarlet cord to mark her house. When the Israelites came to destroy the city that would tell these men where to find Rahab and her family so they could save them from destruction.
Now the Israelites were ready to cross the Jordan River. They were instructed to sanctify themselves. This would mean a separation from things that were unclean or common. The Book of Joshua emphasizes the idea of holiness and we see that here. God gave Joshua instructions which he passed along to the Israelites. Again, we see the power of God. The priests are instructed to take the ark of the covenant and lead the people across the River. As soon as the priests' feet touched the waters of the Jordan the water stood still, separated like the Red Sea. God was exalting Joshua as He did Moses. It would make it much easier to lead the people. This happened in the spring when the Jordan was at flood stage. And God stopped the water. Some translations say the water stopped in a heap. To help the Israelites remember this momentous occasion God instructed one representative from each tribe to take a stone out of the dry riverbed where the priests were standing and make a monument. They would be memorial stones to remind God's people of His miraculous act.
The Israelites set up camp at Gilgal which became their base of operations for the next six years as they went about the business of conquering the land God gave them. The next phase of Israel's journey was underway. As promised God would go before them, leading and paving the way. He goes before us as well, leading and guiding us. It happens when we read His word, which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.