Category Archives: Joshua

Joshua 20-21: Our refuge

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In biblical times, the Israelites were instructed by God to set up cities of refuge for a specific purpose.  They offered protection to anyone who accidentally committed a crime, which normally carried the sentence of death.  Intentionally committed crimes were settled using  “an eye for an eye” principle. The sentence was carried out by the avenger of blood (nearest living relative). 

Accidental killings were to be handled differently. The person responsible for the killing was to immediately flee to a city of refuge where he could present his case to the elders of the city. If his explanation was judged satisfactory, he would be admitted to the city and given provisions and a place to stay. He (or she) would be protected in the city from the avenger of blood. If he left the safety of the city for any reason, he was fair game to the avenger of blood. Under the instructions provided in the Torah (Numbers 35), the person had to remain in the city until the high priest died. The guilty person could then return home relieved of his guilt and be safe from any reprisals.

If we fast forward to the time of Jesus Christ, we can see how this ancient practice was instituted by God as a way of modeling the concept of salvation, which He would offer to the whole human race.  Salvation from what?  Romans 3:23 and 6::23 offer a sobering statements: everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection and the wages for this sin is death.  Romans 6:23 goes on to say, God offers a gift (a place of refuge) in the person of his son Jesus Christ.  Anyone who accepts this gift will experience forgiveness and have eternal life.

Jesus Christ is a sinner’s city of refuge.

  • Jesus was divinely appointed as were the cities of refuge
  • Jesus, from the cross proclaimed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” ( Luke 23:34). This statement validates humanity’s guilt as accidental or involuntary manslaughter granting us access to a place of refuge.
  • In Christ the guilty can find safe haven
  • The way to Christ must be clearly revealed just as the roads were leading to the cities of refuge back in the time of Joshua.
  • Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 7, 8, 9). His death and resurrection have set us free from the penalty of our sin
  • Since Jesus is God’s Son, then God will be the avenger of blood to all who have not found refuge in Jesus

There are two more points to be made found in Joshua chapter 21.  After the cities of refuge were established by the Levites (Israel’s priests), God gave the Israelites rest on every side (v44).  The second point: None of the Lord’s promises to Israel failed, every one was fulfilled (v45).

We can find refuge in the person of Jesus.  When we enter his refuge we can experience rest on every side and begin to enjoy the promises of God; not one of them will ever fail.

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Joshua 16-19: Possess your inheritance

photoshop-2845779_960_720Joshua chapters 16-19 go into great detail of how the tribes of Israel received their inheritance beginning with Caleb (from the tribe of Judah) and ending with Joshua (from the tribe of Ephraim). Lots were cast before God’s presence in the tabernacle in Shiloh (Joshua 18:6). Casting lots for land distribution involved God in the process. Today’s equivalent would be casting dice or picking a slip of paper out of a hat with a choice written on it. How many of us today would attribute the casting of lots to divine providence?

Joshua 16

Ephraim is given land before Manasseh even though the latter was the oldest child. This follows the order of Jacob’s blessing pronounced on Joseph two sons is found in Genesis 48. Jacob (old in years and blind) knowingly reverses his hands placed on the heads of his grandsons by Joseph and blesses Ephraim first. Jacob said, “his younger bother will become greater than he.”

Joshua 17

This chapter chronicles the land given to Manasseh, which includes the daughters of Zelophehad. Back in Numbers 27:1-11, the inheritance of Zelophehad is in jeopardy because he has no sons, only daughters. Zelophehad appealed to Moses to grant his daughters their father’s inheritance. God instructed Moses to honor their request.

“Do we as Christians lack the boldness, assurance and confidence to lay hold of God’s provisions?” D.R. Davis

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

The opposite of bold faith is complacency.  We find complacency clearly demonstrated by Israelites when they fail to completely possess the land, allowing the Canaanites to remain.  The Canaanites worship of Baal would become a cancer to the Israelites and eventually cost them their inherited land.

Should Christians be complainers if, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Joshua 18

A fair amount of grumbling and complaining occurred as the land was being distributed by the casting of lots. It became necessary to have the lots cast before God’s presence in the tabernacle.  Joshua exhorts the remaining seven tribes to stop procrastinating and possess their inheritance.

Joshua 19

The last allotment taken was for Joshua. He received the town, Timnath Serah, which is what he asked for.

Judges 2:4, “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua…”

The territory dispersed began with Caleb and ended with Joshua, two of the twelve spies who gave a good report when the Israelites spied out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13-14). The remaining spies gave bad reports.  The same pattern continued after the Israelites entered the promised land and possessed it.

Christians are not perfect and need to go about the business of giving a positive report to the dying world around them. True believers will one day receive their inheritance. In the meantime they should not see themselves as the “elite,” rather, humbly live out their lives in a manner pleasing to God.

Joshua 13-15: Live by faith

Joshua chapters 13-15 begin an account detailing of how the land of Canaan was to be divided among the 13 tribes of Israel (Joseph received a double portion). Each of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh are counted as a tribe. Though this material may seem dull to the modern reader it chronicles the fulfillment of Israelite inheritance.

Inheritance – biblical inheritance in the literal sense is a possession or piece of property that is linked to the promises of God (i.e. Promised Land). It’s transcendent meaning holds that God himself is our inheritance.

Levites – the tribe of priests didn’t receive a swath of territory like the other tribes. Instead they received cities, which included the surrounding pasture lands. The Levites received the sacrifice offerings brought by the other tribes to the Lord. God was to be their inheritance. The twelve cities they received were scattered throughout the new land of Israel (see Joshua 21).

While Joshua chapters 1-12 chronicle God’s great victories fighting for Israel, much of the land still needed to be taken.  God himself would continue to fight for Israel if they remained faithful and followed his instructions. The areas yet to be secured included some of the coastland occupied by the Philistines, and areas to the north and south of the lands already conquered.

When the Israelites began to enjoy the Promised Land, they made compromises to speed the process along, permitting people who served other gods to live among them as slaves.  Ironically this would lead to the Israel’s undoing.  They would become slaves to idolatry and eventually to the Canaanites.  The book of Judges chronicles this.

Like the Israelites, how many of us have proved faithful to God in times of great crisis (during the storms of life) only to lose our resolve to remain faithful in the little everyday things?  Faith prizes the gifts god God gives us. Great faith sees beyond the gift and remains faithful to God who gave it.

saint-2356564_960_720Caleb stands out as an example of how Israel’s tribes ought to be living out their conquest of Canaan. He remained faithful to God.  He wanted the complete portion God promised. His faith wouldn’t let him make compromises.  At age 85, he set out to claim the land promised to him.  The same land his feet trod 45 years earlier when he and 11 other Israelites first spied out the land of Canaan under Moses’ leadership (See Numbers 13).  He approached Joshua and said, “Give me the land God promised through Moses.” It didn’t matter to him that the land was occupied by giants.  Caleb’s faith in God allowed him to conquer the land.

Our faith in God can sustain us.  Great faith remembers what God has done and is grateful.  Even today, Jesus is preparing an inheritance for those who are his faithful followers.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  John 14:1-3 NLT

Joshua 11-12: Battle fear with faith

chariot-1151742_960_720As we walk through the book of Joshua, Chapter 11 validates God’s decision to appoint Joshua to be the leader of the people of Israel and secure the Promised Land.  After Israelite victories over the Canaanite factions in central and southern Canaan, war again appears on the horizon.  Jabin, king of Hazor, is furious and filled with hatred.  He gathers the northern Canaanite kings together to form a massive coalition army intending to rid the land of the Israelites once and for all.

Hazor was a massive city of some 200 acres compared to Jericho which was less than 10 acres.  Hazor was located on a main trade route, which runs from Syria to Egypt.  The Canaanite army had a massive numerical and technological edge, yet the power of God shines brightly (Deuteronomy 20:1). Josephus, a Jewish historian, records the size of the force facing Joshua is 300,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 20,000 chariots.

“The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel.”” Joshua 11:6

To engage the enemy, Joshua has to march his army for five days over difficult terrain.  When he arrives he finds the enemy forces bogged down in a now flooded plain. Joshua attacks.  Any tactical advantage Jabin planned to use was washed away by a flood. Joshua routes the Canaanite army, pursuing remnants of the fleeing enemy to the east and west.  The war was not over however.  Joshua reassembles his army and attacks the northern cities, decimating them.  

We need to remember the Bible gives us a condensed account of this war. In reality the war with the Canaanites lasted a long time (Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22).  The war included a battle against the Anakites to the south, the “incredible hulks of the land of Canaan.” (D.R. Davis). These were the same giants that discouraged ten of the twelve Israelite spies some forty years earlier.  “Who can stand against them”, they asked, shaking with fear.

Though the descendants of Anakin were defeated by Joshua, a few of them remained in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath and Ashdod. David would later fight Goliath from hailed from Gath.

The listing of conquered kings in chapter 12 appears to be a boring account, but it demonstrates in detail the complete fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21).

What can be learned from this scripture passage?  When you face giant problems, don’t focus on how big they are, instead focus on your faith. Rob fear of its victory.  And when you pray remember to give God detailed praise for all the blessings He has bestowed on you.

 

Joshua 10: A very long day

asteroids-1017666_960_720By now the Israelites have demonstrated a pattern of military success.  Jericho and Ai were conquered.  They entered into a treaty with five Gibeonite cities.  Why was the Canaanite king Adoni Zadek so upset with the Gibeonite treaty (v2)? The security of his city was being threatened. Strategically the Israelites controlled a swath of land through the center of the Canaan, splitting the land in two .

Adoni Zadek seeks to quell his fury by attacking the Gibeonites.  He talks four other Canaanite kings into leaving their fortified cities and camp out in the open to fight against the Gibeonites (v7). Rather than let the Gibeonites pay for their earlier deception, Joshua honors the treaty and marches his troops all night over difficult terrain to engage the Canaanites in battle (v9).  The Israelites and the Gibeonites fight all five northern kings in open terrain rather than in secure fortified cities.

God is the warrior here.  He proclaims he has given the enemy into Joshua’s hands.  God throws the enemy into a panic when the battle begins and then sends great stones from heaven down upon the fleeing armies (10, 11).

The miracle of prayer – Joshua prays with great faith asking God to cause the sun and moon to stand still. It should be noted that the sun and moon were principle deities of the Canaanites and any disturbance in their orbits or times would cause fear and panic among them. God listens to Joshua’s prayer and fights for Israel.  The extended day enables the five northern kings to be completely defeated (v13, 14).

Lest we consider the account of the long day of Joshua to be a fable, one has to consider that the Inca’s, Aztec’s, Babylonian’s, Persian’s, Chinese and other ancient cultures make mention of singular long day event.  Did the earth stop spinning?  No. More likely the earth was tilted several degrees on it’s axis making one day longer than all the others.

The Israelite army marches south and six more towns (v28).  When Joshua and his army return home to Gilgal, they have effectively quelled any major threats from the surrounding countryside but they have yet to completely occupy all the land of Canaan (see Judges chapter 1).

After reading this account in Joshua chapter 10, one has to be puzzled as to why a loving God would instruct his people to kill all the Canaanites in their battles.  It’s certainly not because the Israelites were faultless or more spiritual than the Canaanites, they were far from perfect.  They did worship the living God.  When the Israelites turned their backs on Him they often paid of severe price, even.  This very land would be taken from them many centuries later.  On the other hand, the Canaanite pagan worship practices were very dark.  Their worship demeaned and degraded human life, which included child sacrifice and sexual exploitation of older children.

Today, Jesus Christ is the advocate of those who follow his teaching.  I am reminded of a saying I once heard, “God and you are always a majority” not matter what the odds are.

[For] If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31