Tag Archives: promised land

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 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

Joshua 8: Seek God first

cross-2981216__340Once the issue of Achan’s thievery is dealt with, God turns from his fierce anger and promises victory over Ai. He instructs Joshua to take the whole army into battle, which included setting up an ambush.

When the victory over Ai is secured, Joshua sets up an altar to God. The word of God is read to the people of Israel and they rededicate themselves to God. Serving and obeying God became more importance than success on the battlefield.

Centuries later Jesus offered these words,

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT

Joshua 5: The land that was promised

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After 40 years of talking about it, the Israelites were finally in the Promised Land.  To celebrate, they renewed their covenant with God and prepared for the new life awaiting them.  No longer desert nomads, they would become farmers and shepherds in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.”  Joshua 5:11 NIV

Their daily supply of manna suddenly stopped falling to the ground and the river Jordan once again raged at their backs.  They couldn’t retreat to the desert.  What they needed now was complete trust and obedience in God, their deliverer.  Thankfully, Joshua appeared to be connected to Him just like Moses was.   This thought seemed to put the people at ease.

Meanwhile, the people living in Jericho looked down with fear at the sight of 2 million Israelites covering the countryside.  Would their massive city walls be enough to protect them?  They had the living God on their side.  Jericho’s army shut themselves tight inside the fortified city and waited.  A showdown loomed…

“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”” Joshua 5:13 NLT

Joshua 4: Twelve Stones

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After the Israelites crossed the Jordan river, Joshua commanded the people to carry 12 large stones up out of the river and pile them up on the shore as a memorial.  Then, when someone asks, “What do these 12 stones mean?” tell them how the Lord cut off the flow of the Jordan and let the Israelites cross over into the promised land.

This event occurred on the 10th day of the first month of the Jewish calendar (Joshua 4:19) marking the end of the Exodus (the date 40 years earlier the people of Israel left Egypt (Exodus 12:3)).  The message: God will finish the work He starts.

Followers of Jesus celebrate communion, “Do this in remembrance of me,” to remind us what God has done for us through his Son.  The cross of Christ demonstrates God can accomplish the impossible in our lives if we will let Him.

And like the people of Israel we must be ready to tell those who ask us, “what is the reason for the hope that lies within you?” 1 Peter 3:15.

 

 

Joshua 3: Crossing the Jordan

water-872016_960_720For people of God, the Jordan River carries heavy symbolism.  If you are a churchgoer, take a quick peek in your hymnal.  You will find songs revealing the Jordan as a symbol of death.  Crossing the Jordan and reaching the Promised Land meant  entering the gates of heaven.

Some time after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, baptism took the meaning of dying to your old self (upon immersion) and being raised to new life found in Christ (being drawn back up out of the water).

In Joshua chapter three we read the people of Israel needed to sanctify themselves before they could cross the Jordan River.  For this ancient people it involved devoting themselves completely to God and worshiping him.  God was about to perform a miracle and he wanted their undivided attention.

“Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”” Joshua 3:5

Unlike the Red Sea crossing found in the book of Exodus, crossing the Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land required an act of faith on their part–especially by the priests.  God wasn’t going to stop the flow of the Jordan River at flood stage until their feet were in the water.  The priests, however, didn’t go into the water alone.  God was with them in the form of the ark of the covenant, which they carried.

“The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”  Joshua 3:17

Some thoughts for those who know God through his son Jesus:

  • God sometimes performs miracles at the most extreme times, often only after we step out in faith
  • How many miracles have we missed because we failed to take that first step of faith?
  • Every person passed by the ark (containing the Word of God) as they traveled through the dry riverbed. Much as every person today must encounter God to pass from death to everlasting life.
  • God will accomplish the impossible in our lives if we will trust Him.

 

 

God’s man Joshua

IMG_0640Joshua is a remarkable, heroic Old Testament Bible character worthy of our admiration.  He did what Moses could not do; lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land which God gave to them.

Joshua had a servant’s heart.  He was an assistant to Moses since his youth, serving him in Egypt, during the desert wandering and leading men into battle.  He never married or had children, dedicating his life to serving God.

“Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua…” Joshua 24:31

The book of Joshua opens with the death of Moses, and concludes with the death of Joshua. In between we find a person worthy of our study.  For Christians, there’s a host of parallels between Joshua leading the children of Israel and Jesus leading the body of believers in Him to our promised inheritance.  For starters, the name Joshua means Jehovah is salvation, and the equivalent name in Greek is Jesus.  Taking the name one step further, we read in Joshua 1:1 that Joshua is the son of Nun.  The word “Nun” means eternal or perpetual, no doubt underscoring him as a type of Christ.

Join me as I journey  through the book of Joshua.