Joshua 7

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Joshua 7 is a heavy read, isn’t it? Right off the bat, in v.1, we see people disobeying God. These people in this place and at this time were in a covenant relationship with God that said, simply, that obedience brought blessing and disobedience brought a curse. 

Joshua sends men ahead to scout what is before them (v.2) and the report comes that there is no great obstacle (v.3). The three thousand men sent forward enter into battle and make a quick retreat (vv.4-5). 

Joshua’s response is one of grief (v.6) and he questions God’s plans to bring them so far yet have them defeated (vv.7-9). Then, in vv.10-15, the reason for their defeat becomes clear. The people have transgressed [the] covenant and taken some of the devoted things, stolen, and lied. This is in direct contravention of what we read in 6.18, and God here is staying true to His Word in saying that this must be punished. 

In vv.16-21 the culprit is found and confession is made. We see the pattern of sin began with looking, then coveting, and finally taking. Punishment is swift and strong, and a warning as to the consequences of sin was witnessed by the people that day.

For you and for me, we are no longer in the same kind of covenantal relationship with God. Our position and our status before God comes only through the work of Jesus on our behalf. Our sin deserves the consequences we see here in Joshua 7, but because Jesus took those consequences Himself on the cross we need not.

For a thought to take into today, I love what David Guzik wrote on this:

“Our position before God is secure in Jesus; but our fellowship with Him is hindered by our own sin (1 John 1:6). 

This fellowship with God is our wellspring of power to live in the Spirit”. 

Joshua 6

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I once heard a sermon all about Joshua 6. Really, it was all about me. I learnt nothing of the text, I learnt nothing of God, nor the Saviour that Scripture testifies to. I learnt that I needed to have endurance, that I needed to keep going, and that if I did, God would give me a great victory. 

I didn’t see in that sermon that God had already given His people the victory (v.2). The people didn’t need to win the battle, God had already done so. I didn’t see that, really, it was God’s power in partnership with man’s participation that is powerful, not a man who believes he can do it all.

I heard all about the endurance and perseverance of the people and their efforts, not of the testing of their faith (v.14).

I heard nothing about the call to the people to avoid the idols and demonic deceptions of Jericho (vv.17-19).

The miraculous conquest was put down to the people, not the wondrous workings of God (v.20). 

I heard nothing about how Rahab was saved by faith (vv.22-23) but that, despite hearing about God just like she had (2.8-11), nobody else responded in faith and were judged for that (v.24). Nothing substantiating an early writing of Joshua due to Rahab still being alive when it was penned (v.25), nor anything about the prophecy of v.26 being fulfilled in 1 Kings 16.34.

Overall, it wasn’t a great sermon. It was ear-tickling and sought to build people up, but fell flat because the true power of Joshua 6 is in the Word of God, isn’t it?

Without the miraculous empowering of those fully submitted and committed to God, Joshua and the gang would have been people walking in circles outside a well fortified city.

Without God’s promise to give them the city, their shouts would not have brought down the walls.

So, if we are looking for inspiration from Joshua 6, let us look to the promises of God that provide for the people of God, not ourselves. 

Joshua 5

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Joshua 5 is a chapter of preparation. In vv.1-9 we see the nations in the paths of God’s people preparing for battle (v.1) and we see Joshua circumsising the sons of Israel a second time. A terrible decision from a military-readiness perspective, but the people were to show faith and trust in God over their own ideas of how to prepare for battle. 

As the preparation continues the people kept the passover (v.10). As they are doing so, God’s provision shifts from manna to the produce of the land. God will always provide for His people, but the method certainly changes from time to time. 

Then, perhaps the most important piece of preparation. Joshua sees an armed man near camp (v.13). Taking his responsibility as leader seriously, Joshua approaches the man and asks whether he is, simply, friend or foe. The man replies with a confusing answer: “No”. He tells Joshua he is the commander of the army of the Lord. Joshua falls down to worship the man, and the man doesn’t stop him from doing so.

Angels never receive worship (Revelation 22.8-9), and the man goes on to say that the place where you are standing is holy. This is almost word-for-word what we see in Exodus 3.4-6, and this leads us to believe that the man is God Himself, God in the person of Jesus. 

Before the battle was undertaken, before plans were drawn up, before anything was done to step into the promises of God given to His people, Joshua and the people had to learn to submit and commit to God Himself: “Take off your sandals…”…And Joshua did so”.

The same is true for you and for me.

Before any challenges are overcome, before we plot a course through life with God at our side, before we step into the promises that God has given us, we must learn to commit to God Himself. We must take Him at His Word, trust that He will guide and provide, and, as Joshua did here, encounter God in the person of Jesus.

Joshua 4

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In Joshua 4 we see instructions (vv.1-7), actions (vv.8-14), more instructions (vv.15-18), and then a justification:

 “The people went up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month and camped in Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. Now Joshua set up in Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken from the Jordan. He told the Israelites, 

“When your children someday ask their fathers, 

‘What do these stones represent?’ 

explain to your children, 

‘Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.’ 

For the LORD your God dried up the water of the Jordan before you while you crossed over. It was just like when the LORD your God dried up the Red Sea before us while we crossed it. He has done this so all the nations of the earth might recognize the LORD’s power and so you might always obey the LORD your God”.

(Joshua 4.19-24, NET)

Why are the people stacking stones up now the river has been crossed? The stones are to stand as a memorial forever (v.7) to God’s supernatural ability to save His people. The stones stand to remind God’s people – and others who see them – that the Lord your God saved His people. The stones stand to remind all who see them that He [did] this so all the nations of the earth might recognise the Lord’s power and so [they] might always obey the Lord your God

The same is true for you. Times where God has shown Himself to be supernaturally strong stand like stones in our memories and minds and move us towards stronger obedience. 

Think about a time when you had no idea how things would turn out, then God intervened so powerfully and evidently to resolve the situation in such a way as to glorify Himself and for your eternal good. 

Think about all the occasions in the Bible where people were hopeless, no idea where to turn, no idea how the situation would ever come to a positive conclusion…and then the Lord steps in and brings something out of nothing.

The stones stood as a visual reminder of a time when God worked supernaturally to save His people. Do we have anything similar in our lives? Do we have a symbol of a time when God worked supernaturally to save His people? How about this:

As those stones stood to inspire future confidence in God’s ability to guide and provide by reminding the people of time when this has been on show so powerfully and evidently, so the cross of Christ stands for us, now. Don’t forget what God has done in your life, even when things feel hopeless or as if they will never resolve positively. Look back, look back to the cross and keep moving forward.

Joshua 3

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Joshua 3 begins with the people on the brink of entering the promised land. They camp before they passed over and the river before them must have looked like an insurmountable obstacle. Joshua knew that entering the land was, first and foremost, a spiritual problem and sends instructions through the camp that “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it” (v.3). The ark goes way ahead (v.4) so the people can clearly see the way, and before the final command to go is given, Joshua is encouraged by the Lord (v.7).

The river that looked so much like an insurmountable obstacle becomes a wonderful opportunity for God to show Himself true to His Word (cf. 1.6, 9). The priests are told, simply, to stand still as soon as their feet touch the water (v.8, 13, 15, 17). The presence of God in the people’s midst would be enough to secure them safe passage over the river. There was no need for ingenious engineering, nor the risking of life and limb crossing a raging river (cf. v.15b). What must have been seen as an insurmountable obstacle was a wonderful opportunity for God to recreate, in part, the events of the Exodus wherein His people are delivered miraculously from old to new (Exodus 14).

The arks is taken, the people set off, the priests stand in the river, and the people pass over as on dry ground (vv.14-17). Obstacle overcome, opportunity taken. Miracle worked, many delivered. 

Whilst it’s great to see God working in the past, what does this event mean for you and for me today? 

The ark, the ultimate symbol of God’s presence with His people (Exodus 25.22), was the means by which this miraculous deliverance occurred. God with His people allowed them to claim His promises, live the life He had prepared for them, and go wherever He called them.

For you and for me, the same is available to us through Jesus.

He is Immanuel (which means, God with us) (Matthew 1.23).

Jesus is the fulfilment now of everything the ark previewed here in Joshua 3.

Our deliverance, our salvation, our entering into the promises of God, our journey from old to new, all of these things are possible only through Jesus.