Joshua 1-5: Preparing to Enter the Promised Land.

January 6, 2014.

Daily Reading: Joshua 1-5.

Background.

The book of Joshua picks up right were the book of Deuteronomy leaves off. Moses has recently died (for God had told him that he was not to enter into the promised land because of the waters of Meribah, see Numbers 20) and Joshua, who was an apprentice to Moses, is left in charge of the children of Israel. At the end of Deuteronomy 34, the visual exchange of command from Moses to Joshua is recorded. Now, Joshua (one of the two spies who had faith that the children of Israel could take the promised land though the hand of God, see Numbers 13-14) had the task of leading the children of Israel in to the promised land. Forty years prior to this time, Moses had tried to take the children of Israel into the land, but ten of the twelve spies who were sent into the land came back afraid of the people who inhabited it, for they did not think they could overtake them. Joshua now stood poised to try for a second time, and this time they would enter. The first part of the book of Joshua details the conquest of Cannan and the last part deals with dividing up the inheritance of the land.

Highlights and Key Concepts.

Chapter 1

Be Strong and Courageous: Three times in the first nine verses of the opening of the book of Joshua, the Lord tells him to be strong and courageous; He follows the last encouragement with “do not be frightened or be dismayed.” Then the people repeat these words of encouragement back to Joshua at the end of the chapter. It would seem that this is a very important point that God wants to get across. Perhaps it is so emphasized because the reason that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years instead of entering into the promised land after leaving Egypt was because they were afraid of the inhabitants of the land. They did not trust in God that He would lead them to disposes the unrighteous in the land, but looked to their own strength (or lack thereof) and were afraid. Now Joshua stands before the people, trying to live up to the grand example that Moses set forth, ready to once again attempt to enter into the promised land. He was most likely very intimidated and frightened. God wants Joshua to know that He is with him, and that through Him, all things are possible. Joshua, or the people, need not fear the inhabitants of the land, for God was with them. They were to be strong and courageous. Paul echoes this sentiment in Romans 8 where he encourages the church there that if God is for them, then nothing could stand against them (see Romans 8:26-39). God is there for His people, and we need not be afraid of what man can do to us if the Lord is on our side. Even if we are pushed to death, we worship a Savior that overcame death, and in the end we will enter into His rest.

Chapter 2

Rahab’s Legacy: The overall story told in the second chapter of Joshua is about Rahab’s decision to hide the spies from Israel who had entered the promised land to see if they could take it (much like the twelve spies that went in the first time 40 years prior, see Numbers 13-14). When they entered Jericho, however, their presence was made known to the King, and he sent word to Rahab to inquire where the spies were. Because she had developed faith in the God of Israel though the stories that had been told of His great power and Him leading the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, Rehab met the spies with peace and took them into her house. Then she hid them when the messengers from the King came and provided a way of escape back to their camp. Because of her actions, she is commended in the “hall of faith,” as Hebrews 11 is often called, (see Hebrews 11:31) and is said to have been justified in the book of James (see James 2:25).

But notice that Rahab was saved by her actions, through her faith. One cannot separate the two, just as in the rest of the people mentioned in the “hall of faith.” Each person justified by faith through an action. It follows a formula: By faith so-and-so [action verb]. “By faith Able offered.” “By faith Abraham obeyed.” By faith Rahab gave friendly welcome to the spies. Through her faith, she acted righteously in welcoming the spies and sending them out another way. In the same way we can leave our legacy of faith though the actions that are produced by our faith. Actions without faith will not justify, for we are justified through faith (see Romans 5:1); Faith without actions will not justify, for it would be a dead faith (see James 2:24, 26). We cannot separate the two, for one cannot exist (and be right in the sight of God) without the other. Faith justifies us through our actions, but we are ultimately saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:5-9). The confusion has been over the definitions of “saved”, “justified” and “required”. All parts are required (and thus, in a sense, save us), needed for justification, but the justification come from God’s grace, through our faith and the subsequent actions due to that faith (obedience), and not from our own doing (see Titus 3:4-7). Rahab demonstrates this concept as she is saved when Jericho falls, but only because she does what the spies tell her to by tying a scarlet cord in the window of her house in the wall. Did this “earn” her salvation? No. Had she not done it would she have been saved? No (see.v. 17-20). Thus it was required, but it did not “earn” her salvation (see Romans 6:1-11, Titus 3:4-6 and I Peter 3:21).

Chapter 3

The Sign of Moses: In the first chapter of Joshua, God makes it clear that He is going to be with Joshua just as He was with His servant Moses. In this chapter, He does this by giving the same sign that He gave through Moses in the parting of the Red Sea. This miracle was one of the signs that was most identified with Moses and the people, for not only showed the awesome power of God, but also saved the children of Israel from the pursuing Egyptian army and marked a distinct point at which they were truly free from their slavery. Now, Moses has passed and most of the people who had actually seen the parting of the Red Sea were gone. But the event lived on in stories. Knowing the stories, the parting of the Jordan in this chapter so that the people passed over on dry ground identified Joshua with Moses, in that God was with Him just as He was with Moses. This visual may have been used to solidify this concept.

Chapter 4

The Importance of a Memorial: This chapter is dedicated to the memorial that God had Joshua set up after passing through the Jordan river on dry ground. When they passed through, God directed Joshua to have 12 men, one from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, take a stone (that was apparently rather large, carrying it on their shoulders) from the area where the priest with the ark of the covenant stood so that they could set up a memorial to remember this day. The purpose of the memorial was a teaching tool, for God said “when your children ask what the stones mean, then tell them  about the day where the Jordan was parted.” We as human begins are not always the best at remembering what has happened in our past. The children of Israel were no exception to this rule, as they often forgot how God had brought them out of Egypt and provided for them in the wilderness as soon as trouble came (it’s not that they actually forgot what happened, but rather didn’t think about it in the moment of trouble, but rather complained and feared that they would not be delivered). It may be for this reason that God had Joshua set up the memorial, so that when the children asked about it, the people would remember to tell the story. The passover was another memorial kept as a way of remembering the exodus from Egypt. In our age, the Lord’s Supper has been instituted by Christ (see Mark 14:22-25) as a remembrance of Christ death (also see I Corinthians 11:23-26), much like the memorial that was set up in Gilgal discussed in this passage.

Chapter 5

Getting Back to the Fundamentals: Much of this chapter is dedicated to the circumcision of Israel and keeping the passover. It is interesting that the children of Israel did not seem to adhere to all parts of the law while wandering in the wilderness for these 40 years, as we see that at least they did not circumcise their children on the eighth day as is directed in Leviticus 12:3. Perhaps there was not a good way to do this in the wilderness, though the text does not mention why they did not circumcise but just states that they didn’t. Regardless of the reason, it would seem that this was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, as He mentions that He had taken away their reproach of Egypt after they were circumcised (v. 9). Then the people kept the passover, which was the memorial that was set up by God when He brought them out of the land of Egypt 40 years prior. It seems that an important aspect of entering into the promised land and beginning the task of dispossessing the inhabitants of the land was for the children of Israel to get back to the basics of God’s will. To make a practical application, if we want to improve our spiritual lives and become like those of great faith that we look up to, often we need to get back to the fundamentals of our faith and purity. When we start from the bottom, working on things such praying more and winning small battles with the things we struggle most with, then we truly can cause a great improvement in the long run.

Summaries, Lessons and Connections.

Chapter 1

v. 1-9: God is commissioning Joshua to lead His people, taking over Moses’ position after his death. A phrase that is repeated several times is “be strong and courageous.” God is letting Joshua know that just as He was with Moses, so He will be with Him, so long as Joshua and the people abided in the Law that had been given through Moses, not turning to the right or to the left. This is echoing what is said in Deuteronomy 5:32 after the Ten Commandments are given.

v. 10-15: Joshua then addresses the people, specifically the men prepared for war, to tell them to prepare to pass over the Jordan to take the land that had been promised to the by the Almighty. The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had already asked for their portion of the inheritance on the other side of the Jordan river and their request was granted so long as they agreed that the men of war from these tribes would still pass over with their brothers and fight with them to dispossess the land (see Numbers 32:20-28).

v. 16-18: The people respond with their allegiance, just as they were with Moses (though they did often complain and murmur against Moses). They even agree that any who disobey should be put to death. This overwhelming vocal recognition of compliance is somewhat of a theme throughout the book.

Chapter 2

v. 1-7: Just as spies were sent out in Numbers 13-14 to spy out the land of Cannan, two spies were sent out again here by Joshua. But this time the people of the land recognized them and the King of Jericho sent messengers to obtain them. Rahab was faithful in that she took the spies in and hid them from the messengers. Her faith is commended in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25. See note above.

v. 8-14: Rahab expresses to the spies why she hid them and was protecting them. The stories about what the Lord had done for His people to lead them out of Egypt with many signs had spread throughout the land, and a dread had come upon the people. Rahab knew that the Lord was mighty and that He had given the land in to the hands of the children of Israel (she had more faith in God than the people did 40 years prior). She makes a request that she and her family be spared when the Israelites come in to take Jericho, a request that was granted.

v. 15-21: There was a stipulation on the request of salvation, and that was that Rahab had to tie a scarlet cord in her window and then only the people who stayed inside her house would be saved. The deal was made void for anyone who left the house or if she told anyone of the spies business.

v. 22-24: Unlike the 10 spies in Numbers 13-14, these two spies came back with a good report, seeing that the Lord had put a fear of the Israelites in the inhabitants of the land. They knew that through God, they could take the land.

Chapter 3

v. 1-6: See note above about the sign of Moses. The time had come for the men of war to cross over the Jordan river, and the ark of the covenant was to go first. The ark contained the staff of Aaron, a jar of manna and the two tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written. It held much significance and power for the children of Israel and would often be taken into war (see I Samuel 4). Note that the people were to consecrate, or devote, themselves the night before they crossed the Jordan.

v. 7-13: To show that God was with Joshua as He was with Moses, when the feet of the priest who were carrying the ark were submerged in the water of the Jordan, the water would be halted so that the people could pass over. This was a sign that the Lord was giving to the people that they would know that God was with them and that He would be with them as they dispossessed the inhabitants of the promised land.

v. 14-17: The sign was fulfilled, and all the people passed over on dry ground as the priest stood firmly with the ark in the midst of the Jordan.

Chapter 4

v. 1-7: When the people had crossed, God tells Joshua to take 12 men to carry 12 large stones from the place in the midst of the Jordan where the priest stood on dry ground so that they could set them up on the other side as a memorial. When their children asked about the stones, the people could relate to them how God had stopped the waters of the Jordan in a great sign to show that He was with them as they entered into the promised land.

v. 8-18: The 12 stones were taken and the priest stood in place until all the people had crossed. About 40,000 men armed for war passed over quickly to the plains of Jericho and Joshua was exalted in the sight of the people through God’s sign. After everyone had passed, then the priests who were bearing the ark came out of the Jordan that the water returned to its normal flow.

v. 19-24: Being the tenth day of the first month, the Israelites camped in Gilgal, setting up the memorial of the 12 stones just as God had commanded them to do, so that they might always remember what the Lord had done for them with the Jordan (just as He had done with the Red Sea).

Chapter 5

v. 1: The people of the promised land feared when they heard Israel was upon them.

v. 2-9: Since the children of Israel had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, it seems that they had not circumcised their children in that time. This was rectified after the passing over the Jordan as Joshua directed the Israelites to make knives of flint and circumcise every male. After the circumcision and healing process, the Lord said that He had taken away the reproach of Egypt from them. See note above.

v. 10-12: See Exodus 12 for the institution of the passover. It was the 14th day of the first month as the Israelites dwelt in the plains of Jericho, and thus they kept the Passover, eating of the fruit of the land of Canaan.

v. 13-15: Just before the battle of Jericho (see next chapter), the commander of the Lord’s army appears to Joshua to show that the Lord was prepared for battle. Some have proposed that this commander was God, perhaps even the pre-incarnate Christ, for when Joshua falls down to worship him, he accepts the worship. Angels do not accept this worship (see Revelation 22:8-9). The commander also makes the same statement that God makes to Moses through the burning bush (see Exodus 3:1-6). In the passage concerning the burning bush, the Lord is first referred to as an angel, but then He is referenced as God.

Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 1-2.

Be strong and courageous.

-Walter

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