Joshua 22-24

Joshua 22-24…Serving the Lord.

Joshua 24:15 contains a very well-known verse we often see printed on signs or plaques in the homes of professing Christians:

“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Our call to be servants of the Lord is a theme woven throughout the Old and New Testaments. God sent Moses to the pharaoh thousands of years ago so that the king might release His people to serve Him (Ex. 8:1). Paul in Galatians 1:10 and many other passages refers to himself as a servant of Christ. Few would argue with our Father’s command to serve Him. However, we often forget that the major way in which we serve our Creator is through service to His people. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 20:26, greatness in the kingdom of God belongs to those who serve its citizens. Some Christians do not recognize that service is a means of sanctification. This is unfortunate because service is vital for maturity in Christ, and the arena in which we are called to serve is the local church.

So, if this is a verse you have on display in your house, think first about whether or not you understand it correctly. Next, examine yourself to see if this is something you are actually doing in the context of your local church. If not, repent and begin to serve in your church. Another option would be to take the sign down, because your house may not really be serving the Lord.

Joshua 19-21

Joshua 19-21…Inheritances and cities of refuge.

Within the land of Israel, once it was conquered, there were to be cities established for refuge, as we read in these chapters. The cities were actually included in the Mosaic law (Num. 35:9–15), and they demonstrate the grace of God that was evident even within the Law given at Sinai. In the ancient world, feuds could be a part of everyday life. If you harmed my sister, even by accident, I might do the same to your brother. Then your family might come after my cousin, and so on. In setting up places for refuge from this kind of harm, a powerful check was placed upon blood-feuding and innocent life was protected from harm (Josh. 20).

Theocrats want to establish the penalties of the Mosaic law in society today, but this position is ultimately not tenable because unlike the old covenant, the new covenant community is not a geopolitical entity. That does not mean, however, that lawmakers should not consider the Mosaic code at all when writing legislation. In fact, society as a whole would benefit if the principles in the Law (what we call today “natural law”) were applied more often.

Joshua 16-18

Joshua 16-18…More allotments and inheritances.

Just as Judah received most of the southern region of Canaan, Ephraim and the other half-tribe of Manasseh get most of the central region, with the Jordan on the east and the Mediterranean on the west. The border descriptions are not as precise as those for Judah. Also, no list of cities is given for either tribe, enhancing the difficulty of defining their boundaries. The text appears to draw the southern border of the tribes roughly parallel to but north of the border of Judah; in the space between them, Benjamin and Dan will receive land later. Ephraim’s limits are then spelled out. In this initial survey, its land touches the Jordan and Mediterranean, but later tribal allotments will take away some of its territory and leave it landlocked south of Manasseh, cut off from the river and the sea, and confined to the fruitful hills. However, the tribe apparently does receive some of the cities initially given to Manasseh.

Ephraim did not obey God’s command to drive the Canaanites out. That meant that idol worshiping pagans lived in their midst, and their hearts were soon led astray. We often cannot foresee the negative consequences of disobedience and unbelief in God’s Word. We are certainly called to live in the world, and to develop relationships with those who do not know the Lord. However, these chapters serve as warnings against unbelievers in our communities of fellowship. We want to welcome non-christians to attend, listen, and learn at our weekly gatherings. But, for the sake of God’s glory, and His powerful corporate witness, we cannot allow them to partake in the benefits of fellowship, or let them associate themselves with the body of believers.

Joshua 13-15

Joshua 13-15…Inheritances and allotments.

Caleb’s words to Joshua demonstrate his faith in the Lord’s promises. He begins by reminding Joshua of the terrible day when God condemned the Israelites to 40 years in the wilderness for refusing, based on the spies’ negative report, to enter Canaan. But God promised to bring Caleb into the land and to give it to his descendants (Num. 14:24). Why was Caleb treated differently? Because he ‘ “brought back word to [Moses] as it was in my heart.… I wholly followed the Lord my God.’ ” He trusted God to deal with the mighty cities and the giants the spies saw. In response, Moses, in a vow not recorded elsewhere in Scripture, promised to give Caleb and his descendants the lands he had scouted.

Now, 45 years later, Caleb can attest that God has kept His promise to preserve him through wilderness and war. So gracious has God been to Caleb that he is as strong spiritually at 85 as at 40. That being the case, he asks not for a safe parcel but for the mountain of the Anakim, the giants who so terrified the other spies, leading to the people’s refusal to enter the land. We can assume that Caleb, observing what stress (the spies) laid upon the difficulty of conquering Hebron, a city ruled by the giants … bravely desired to have that city which they called invincible assigned to himself. With God’s help, Caleb says, he will prove their assessment wrong. Joshua is quick to bless his friend and to grant his request, giving him Hebron and the surrounding area.

Joshua 10-12

Joshua 10-12…Various conquests of Israel.

Gibeon was an important city in the days of Joshua, but even its rulers knew from the destruction of Ai and Jericho that they were no match for the Lord. Yet since the other kings of Canaan beyond the Jordan had formed an alliance against the Israelites, they feared the loss of Gibeon’s might and took steps to regain it. So the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon went up against Gibeon to regain the city for the Canaanite inhabitants.

What followed was a great battle between the forces of Joshua and the Canaanites, a battle in which the Lord intervened on behalf of Israel. Having defeated their enemies, Joshua and the Israelites then put their feet on the necks of the defeated kings as a symbol of their utter subjugation and defeat before putting them to death.

The events of this chapter and the rage of the Canaanites against God and His people call to mind Psalm 2 and its description of the kings of the earth warring against the anointed Davidic ruler. That anyone would think he could successfully fight the Almighty is foolish indeed, so the Lord laughs each time the arrogance of mankind displays itself in that manner. God has pledged to give the nations to the son of David as his heritage and the ends of the earth as his possession.

This psalm is fulfilled ultimately in the son of David who is also the only begotten Son of God. Like Joshua, He will put His feet on the necks of His enemies who will all submit to Him whether they want to or not. Some will honor the Son willingly and find refuge in Him, others will be forced into submission with His rod of iron, but all people will bow to the King of kings and Lord of lords (Phil. 2:10).

Joshua 7-9

Joshua 7-9…The sin of Achan, and Joshua renews the covenant.

Achan took some of the spoil of Jericho. In doing so, he clearly showed his love for the world was greater than his love for God. We grow bitter when we worship worldly gain, because it will never satisfy us. As Christians, we should know this because the Bible is clear that we were made to worship God, not idols. However, we are quick to become like the world, especially if we don’t have other believers around us, speaking truth into our lives. Discontent hearts don’t produce fruit, and are evidenced by isolation and bitterness. Sin is deceptive, and idol worship will own you unless you are transparent about your life with other believers in your church. Ever wonder why you don’t produce the kind of spiritual fruit that other Christians do? Maybe worship of the world is keeping you from loving God and others.

Joshua renews the covenant of the Lord with His people. As soon as he got to the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, without delay, and without caring for the unsettled state of Israel, he confirmed the covenant of the Lord. We also should not wait to covenant with God. We don’t need to clean ourselves up before running to Him. In fact, our recognition that we aren’t OK, is what should drive us to Him. We need Him daily, and must see our utter dependence on Christ. It’s OK to know that you’re not OK, as long as you don’t stay there. This is what Christian maturity looks like.

Joshua 4-6

Joshua 4-6…Memorial stones and the fall of Jericho.

The works of the Lord are so worthy of remembrance, and our our hearts are so quick to forget them, that various methods are needed to refresh our memories. God gave orders for preparing this memorial in Joshua 4. It is a healthy spiritual exercise, to look back on your life and give God praise for all of the details. His history includes you, and for that story to also include your rescue from sin and eternal punishment is remarkable.

In toppling Jericho, the Lord commanded His people to eliminate everything, not because Israel was intrinsically holy but because the pagans in Canaan earned it (Gen. 15:12–21). Yet Joshua and the Israelites did not determine their victims. Rather, the Lord directed them to fight a holy war in Canaan limited both in scope and duration. God’s people have never been commanded to slaughter all their enemies on every occasion. Finally, the salvation of Rahab and her household shows that even the holy war against the Canaanites was not absolute. Those willing to turn from sin and serve Yahweh, the true creator God who revealed Himself to Israel, were to be spared.

Joshua 1-3

Joshua 1-3…God commissions Joshua, Rahab hides the spies, and Israel crosses the Jordan.

According to the Lord’s will, Moses appointed Joshua to succeed him in Deuteronomy 31:1–8, and the He came to Joshua after Moses’ death to confirm this selection and urge him to go forth to take the land (Josh. 1:1–9). In commissioning Joshua to possess Canaan, God was simply calling upon him to live out what He had determined before Joshua was born. Since the Lord swore to give Canaan to His people (v. 6; see Gen. 15), Joshua could be sure that he would be victorious in his quest. After all, God keeps His promises, and He promised to be with Joshua and strengthen him wherever he would go (Josh. 1:5, 9).

This pledge of covenant presence is one of the greatest blessings God gives to His people. It is also a promise given to us today through Christ (Heb. 13:5). Still, we should see that it is a promise to be with us and not a promise to keep our lives free from harm, calamity, or suffering. Indeed, we are guaranteed to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but it is likewise certain that our great Shepherd will go through it with us; He will not leave us alone (Ps. 23:4).

Yet God does not promise that we will always feel His presence. Thankfully, our feelings do not determine the truthfulness of His Word, and the Lord is with us whether or not we can feel His presence.

Numbers 25-27

Numbers 25-27…Moab seduces Israel, and Joshua is selected as Moses’ successor.

Israel was enticed to sin by the daughters of Moab and Midian. Friendship with those who draw us in to sin is more dangerous than their enmity. We will become like those with whom we spend the most time. Therefore, we should seek to spend time around those who will help us grow spiritually. When we aren’t intentional about our relationships, it shows we either underestimate sin, or we don’t have an interest in growing. We need to carefully consider this warning in Proverbs 13:20:

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

God appointed Joshua to succeed Moses in Numbers 27. He was a man full of grace. He feared God, hated covetousness, and acted from principle. He had the spirit of leadership, and was prepared to serve those under his care. But, even Joshua wasn’t perfect, and could not save the people from their sins. The perfect servant-leader, Jesus Christ, was the only perfect, acceptable sacrifice, because He lived a sinless, holy life, and laid down his life for our sake. His perfect righteousness is counted as ours if we repent and believe. He was raised from the dead, and we will be as well, if we fight for faith, and seek holiness.