For Israel, it was a new beginning. They were leaving the wilderness. That was their past. They were entering the promised land. This was God’s future. For God’s future, there is God’s command, ‘Be strong’, and there is God’s promise, ‘the Lord your God is with you’. We wonder what the future holds. We wonder how it will all work out. God says, ‘Don’t be frightened. I will be with you wherever you go’ (1:9). The story of Rahab is summarized in Hebrews 11:31, ‘By faith… she gave a friendly welcome to the spies’. A friendly welcome: What an important thing this is! She spoke the word of encouragement, ‘I know the Lord has given you this land’ (2:9). ‘Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’ (3:5). ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth’ (John 17:17). Together with the command, there is the prayer. We are called to set ourselves apart for God. We can only do this when we look to the Lord for His strength. We receive His strength through His Word. We give ourselves to the Lord. He gives His promise to us: ‘the Lord will do wonders among you’. His promise of blessing is no guarantee of an easy time. In the promised land, there would be problems, and there would be God’s promise: ‘as I was with Moses, so I will be with you’ (3:7). There would be conflict – and victory: ‘the living God is among you… He will without fail drive out from before you…’ (3:10). We look beyond Joshua to Jesus, ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). In Him, we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).
‘These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever’ (4:7). When, in the future, the question was asked, ‘What do these stones mean?’(4:6), Israel would remember what the Lord had done for them (4:23). Knowing that ‘the hand of the Lord is mighty’, they would be strengthened to face their difficulties with confidence in God. Rejoicing in what the Lord has done, ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes’, they would learn to ‘fear the Lord their God for ever’ (4:24; Psalm 118:23). Israel remembered. We must remember. When you’re going through a hard time, don’t forget to remember! God has been good to you. He has blessed you. When God seems so far away, remember, and pray that, once again, ‘times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord’ (Acts 3:19). ‘The Commander of the Lord’s army’ came to Joshua (5:13-15). Christ comes to us. He calls us to worship. He equips us for battle. ‘The walls came tumbling down’: What a mighty work of God this was! It was ‘the Lord’ who gave Jericho into the hands of His people (6:16). His victory was received by faith: ‘By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days’ (Hebrews 11:30). Notice that the declaration of victory comes before the obedience of faith (6:2,16). We start out from victory. We do not achieve the victory by our own faith. The victory is given to us by the Lord. Faith simply receives the blessing already promised to us by the Lord. Faith expresses itself in obedience. Believing God’s promise, they obeyed His command, and the blessing followed. They walked ‘by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7) – ‘It shall be done’, not ‘It can’t be done’.
‘The people of Israel broke faith with regard to the devoted things’. The sin was Achan’s, yet it affected the whole people of Israel: ‘the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel’ (7:1). Sin is like infection. It spreads! What kind of effect do your actions have on other people? The victory was given by the Lord: ‘I have given into your hand…’ (8:1). Believing the Lord’s promise, ‘the Lord your God will give it into your hand’ (8:7), we act upon His command: ‘Do what the Lord has commanded’ (8:8). God’s work is to be done in God’s way, believing the promise and obeying the command (8:18), with God’s Word at the centre. We need the whole Word of God, ‘all that is written…’. In this, we learn from Joshua: ‘He did not leave out one word from everything Moses had commanded’. We need ‘the blessing and the curse’, the strong warnings as well as the precious promises (8:34-35). The Gibeonites ‘acted with cunning’ (9:4). The Israelites were easily deceived. They ‘did not ask direction from the Lord’ (9:14). The Gibeonites brought trouble to Israel (10:3-5). Through the grace of God, the Gibeonites’ ‘curse’ could become a ‘blessing’. Working at ‘the place’ of worship, they could come to know and love the Person who is worshipped (9:23,27; Psalm 84:4). God gives the promise. Believing His promise, we obey His command, pressing on to victory (10:25; 11:6). This is God’s way of victory: ‘go in to take possession of the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess’ (1:11). ‘The Lord God of Israel fought for Israel’ (10:42). The victory does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord who fights for us. Through ‘the obedience of faith’ (Romans 1:5), believing God’s promise, we obey His command, the Lord’s victory becomes a living reality in our lives.
God has given the land to Israel. Still, there was the challenge: ‘there is still very much land to be possessed’ (13:1). ‘God… has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing’. Now, we must ‘lead a life worthy of His calling’ (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1). ‘Give me also springs of water’ (15:19). Trusting in the Lord’s promise, ‘the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him’, we receive His blessing – ‘rivers of living water’ (Luke 11:13; John 7:38-39). Compromise is a poor substitute for obedience. Fail to obey God, and you may have to live with the consequences of your disobedience: ‘they did not drive out the Canaanites… so the Canaanites have dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day (16:10). Settling for anything less than God’s very best will surely lead us far from Him and His blessing: ‘He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). ‘How long will you be slack to go in and take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?’ (18:3). God has given us so much: ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness’. How much are we giving ourselves to Him? – ‘Make every effort to add to your faith… If you do this you will never fail; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:3-11).
Israel’s story is a human story. It is also the Lord’s Story (21:43-45). We fail God. He never fails us (2 Timothy 2:13). Sin threatens to overwhelm us. The Lord comes to us with His promise of deliverance and victory (Romans 7:21-25; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Our spiritual progress is so slow: ‘little by little’(Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22-24). God does not lose patience with us (Psalm 103:8-13). He never stops loving us! Joshua had heard God’s Word (1:8). Now, he speaks God’s Word to the people (22:5). To those who ‘have obeyed’ Him, God says, ‘Keep on obeying Me’. This is the way of blessing (22:1-6). Together with God’s promise of blessing, we need His warning against rebellion: ‘Do not rebel against the Lord’ (22:19). Why does God warn us against the dangers of ‘rebellion against the Lord’ (22:16)? It is because He wants us to say with heart and voice: ‘Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord’ (22:29). The pattern of Joshua’s teaching, ‘This is what the Lord has done’ (23:3-5) ‘Therefore’ ‘This is what you must do’ (23:6-8), is similar to Paul’s approach in Romans and Ephesians. In Romans 1-11 and Ephesians 1-3, Paul grounds his readers in the truth of the Gospel. In Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 4:1, he says, ‘Therefore’. Here are the practical implications. In the light of all that the Lord has done for you, this is how you must live for Him. For Israel, this was a momentous decision: a definite, public commitment to the Lord (24:24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua’s preaching. What God has done for Israel (24:2-13) is followed by ‘Therefore…’ (24:14). Make your own commitment to the Lord: ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. Pray that others will also say, ‘We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him’ (24:15,24). Let us serve the Lord.