Reflections on Joshua

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on Matthew and Mark.

I freely admit that keeping up with reading at least four chapters of  the Bible a day is hard. However, I’m learning so much that the effort is definitely worth it. That said, in future years I’ll try to bite off a little less so that I can chew it more thoroughly.

In July, I completed the books of Joshua, Psalms, Isaiah and Matthew. At month’s end I was in Judges, Acts, Jeremiah and Mark. Since I get more and more long-winded each month, I shall tackle Joshua, Matthew and Mark each in its own post.

Joshua

I’d say that the story recounted in this book can be summarised in these verses:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

—Joshua 21:43-45

It is the story of a faithful God who does what He had promised centuries earlier. But a lot takes place and is recorded that we can learn from and be encouraged today (Rom15:4).

For some reason, I’ve always pictured Joshua as a fearless warrior. I may have been wrong. In chapter 1, he is told to be strong and courageous 4 times—thrice by God (v6, v7, v9) and once by the people (v18). To those we have to add previous exhortations in Deuteronomy 1:38, 3:28, 31:7, 31:23. God knew that he needed the encouragement, and gave it often. What kindness!

In chapter 2, we encounter Rahab and her big lie, which has undoubtedly been the cause for many Bible studies overrunning their time limit. At this point she was being herself, a sinner. Her lie did protect the spies, but most certainly God would have protected them without it. Just read the rest of the book to see how many times God intervened on the Israelites’ behalf.

Why did God choose to make the people cross the Jordan at the possibly worst time, when it was in flood (3:15)? So that they would know that the living God was among them (3:10). They most likely had no idea how the crossing was going to happen until it happened. Talk of walking in faith!

Why didn’t God just flatten Jericho on day 1 instead of making the people march around it for 7? It was a chance for the inhabitants of the city to repent, as well as a test of Israel’s obedience. The destruction of Jericho (and the entire conquest of Canaan) prefigures the final judgment, when those in rebellion to God will be destroyed. Some will be saved, like Rahab and all who were under her roof, but many will perish. As Jude says, we should snatch those who are perishing from the fire (Jude 23).

In chapter 7, we read of the only defeat in the entire book. The Israelites had become complacent (v 3), and didn’t pray until after the fact. One of the greatest threat to God’s people is their own sin, and not something external. Again, there is a chance of repentance offered (vv 16-18), but it isn’t taken up.

Funny how God uses the previous defeat to work out a victory. He gives Joshua an elaborate battle plan (v8), which includes the army fleeing from Ai as they’d done before. Just as with Jericho, it wasn’t the Israelite army’s great prowess on the battle field that won them the victory, but God Himself (v1). They did have to get out and fight, though.

The Israelites were taken in by the Gibeonites, since they failed to discern deception. They were good with frontal attacks, but hadn’t got subtler methods sorted out. Plus, I wonder, had they ever seen mouldy bread and patched wineskins, in light of Deut 29:5-6?

And now, in conclusion, my very own original and personal observations.

In 5:13-15, Joshua has an encounter with the ‘commander of the army of the Lord’. Another instance of God strengthening his faith, no doubt!

But who was this commander, really? I guess there’s two main options: an angel or God. I’m with those who consider him to be a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Why? Well, in verse 14 when Joshua falls on his face in worship, he isn’t told to get up, unlike in Revelation 19:10 and 22:9. In the next verse, Joshua is told to remove his sandals, just as Moses was back in Exodus 3:5 when Moses met God.

Even though Rahab and her family were saved, they still passed through the judgment. They weren’t taken out of Jericho before the Israelites came marching round. We too may have to pass through fiery times, but come out on the other end victorious in Christ. In chapter 6:23-25, we see the first inclusion into God’s covenant people of those who weren’t descendants of Abraham.

You know something is important when it’s repeated. We encounter both Zelophehad’s daughters and Joseph’s bones for the third and last time in Joshua.

Joshua in his farewell address tells the people pretty much what Moses told them decades earlier: there are two paths in front of you. Pick the one that leads to Yahweh. And that’s the same message for us today.

Source: The Proclamation Trust, D A Carson, Wayne Grudem