March 31, 2017
A Table of Lessons for April
Joshua 1, Lk. 15
Josh. 2, Heb. 3
There has been much discussion over the author and date of the book of Joshua, but competent scholars believe the evidence points to the time of Joshua as the date, and Joshua himself as the author. 5:1 shows it was written by someone who participated in the events, and, since Joshua served Moses, who carefully chronicled the events of the Exodus, there is good reason to believe Joshua learned and followed his practice.
The purpose of the book is twofold. First, it is an historical account of the conquest of Canaan. Thus, it fits into the history of Israel, which occupies the books of Genesis through Esther. Second, like the other history books, it is also a theology text book. In this case, its theological purpose is to show the absolute faithfulness of God, in contrast to the vacillating faith, and lapses of it, in the Hebrews. As in the wilderness, the weak and fearful Hebrews must be coaxed and coddled every step of the way, and we often wonder why God bothered with them. The answer is, because He is faithful. He is not like us. He is great and strong, and He is pure and good. He never leaves a promise unfulfilled. And He is kind and merciful. He is patient and loving. In short, He is everything the Hebrews are not, and they are everything He is not. If He is kind and merciful to them, we can also expect Him to be kind and merciful to us. If He keeps His promise to Abraham, even though the Hebrews do not deserve it, we can expect His to keep His promises to us, even though we do not deserve it. In Joshua, we see God faithfully keeping His promise to Abraham, and continuing to work toward His ultimate purpose of bringing all things together under Christ Jesus. When ever we see the falterings and failures of Israel, and the steadfastness of God that never fails or falters, we must always see it in light of God’s purpose, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10), and “That we should be [exist] to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12).
Verses 1-9 give God’s charge to Joshua, which my father, The Rev’d. Robert R Campbell, explained as follows.
Be strong and courageous (6). “I will be with thee” (5).
Be careful to obey (7). “I will never leave nor forsake thee” (5).
Meditate upon, and do the law (8). You will prosper and have success (8).
Be not afraid or dismayed (9) “God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (9).
Verses 10- 15 record Joshua’s instructions to the officers of the people. These would be the captains and elders established by Moses. They are to have the people prepare rations for the march (11), and the tribes who have settled the eastern side of the Jordan valley will accompany the others as they march into Canaan (12-15).
In 16-18, the people pledge to follow Joshua as they followed Moses, which they do. Unfortunately, as they didn’t follow Moses very well, their obedience to Joshua will also be far less than perfect.
Chapter two tells the well-known story of the Canaanite Rahab. It has caused much controversy over the generations because Rahab is a harlot and a liar, yet is rewarded. The Canaanite religion had priests and priestesses, and the worship of their gods included sexual relations with them. Rahab was probably sold into that bondage by her family, who would have considered having a priestess in the family a great honour. Thus, the simple words of verse 2, “And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, speaks of a life of sorrow and illustrates the depth of corruption of the Canaanite culture.
Her story also shows the greatness of God’s grace. It transcends national and ethnic boundaries, and forgives the sins of all who seek truly Him. Rahab is saved from the destruction of Jericho (Josh 6:25). More importantly, she converts to the Jewish faith and becomes a partaker of the grace of God. She marries Salmon of the tribe of Judah (Mt. 1:5). They have a son named Boaz, who also marries a Gentile convert to Judaism, and is an ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Josh. 3, Lk. 16
Josh. 4, Heb. 4
We know from chapter 2 verse 6 that it is harvest time, for Rahab has flax drying on her roof in Jericho. There are fords that cross the Jordan near Jericho, used by people for thousands of years. Even our Lord used them on His final journey to Jerusalem and the cross (Mk. 10:1, 46). But, at harvest time, the rains in the mountains north of Galilee flood into the Jordan and make the river overflow its banks (3:15). In other words, it is impossible to cross the river at the fords during harvest time. This fact is firmly impressed upon the minds of the Hebrews during their three-day encampment on its banks. Even the spies of chapter two probably went south along the river and crossed by boat on the still waters of the Dead Sea. Verse 1records Israel’s move to the Jordan. Verse 2 says after being encamped there for three days Joshua begins to prepare the people for the crossing. 3-13 are the Lord’s orders to Joshua and the people about how they will cross. He will send the priests and the Ark into the water, which will miraculously become dry like the Red Sea (23). The rest of the people will follow. There will be walls of water on their northern and southern sides, which would quickly drown them if the Lord should stop holding them back. So the first miracle in Canaan is their safe entrance through the river bed. Joshua 3:14-17 records the crossing.
Verses 1-18 continue the record of the crossing, and belong with 3:14-17. It happens just as God said. “All the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan” (3:17). When the priests carried the Ark to the Canaan side, “the waters of the Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before” (4:18). What a frightening, thunderous crashing must have accompanied the pent up water’s return to its place. It would have been like the bursting of a huge dam, with all the waters of the lake behind it crashing down the river bed before it. If you have ever stood beside a large dam when its spillways are opened after a time of being closed, you have some idea of the impressive sight Israel is allowed to witness, that they may know what God has done to let them pass safely over Jordan.
It has been a long and difficult journey. It was marked by 400 years of slavery, 40 years in the wilderness, and many hard and terrible lessons. But now, at last Israel is in Canaan.
The chapter closes with pillars placed conspicuously, where future generations will enquire about their origin and meaning (19-24). The answer to their question is given in verses 22-24, and crossing the Jordan will be remembered down through the ages.
Josh. 5, Lk. 17:1-19
Josh. 6:1-11, Heb. 5
Joshua 5 deals with three events. First is the circumcision of those not circumcised in the wilderness. For some reason, in spite of God’s continuing provision and grace, Israel grew lax about this sacrament of the Old Testament. They must return to the full demands and details of the Law, especially since the Passover time had arrived, and only the circumcised could lawfully partake.
Second, in verses 11 and 12, the manna ends. The people will now eat the bounty of the Promised Land (11). They will enjoy the provisions of their new home. From the wilderness to this time, they had miraculously eaten the manna. Form this time onward they eat what their new home gives.
Third (13-15) Joshua meets the Captain of the Lord’s host. Joshua is near Jericho. Some believe he is there to observe the city walls and formulate a plan of attack. Others speculate he is there to pray. Actually, his mission probably comprises much planning and much prayer. The planning probably convinced Joshua of the city’s strength and the necessity of a long, siege, which would cost much time and try the patience of the Hebrew people. But God has other plans. The Captain of the host of the Lord is none other than Christ Himself. He has come to lead His people in the coming battle. Joshua, realising His identity, falls to his face and worships Him, asking, “what saith my Lord unto his servant?”
In the command to remove his shoes, Joshua is given assurance that he is in the Divine presence, just as Moses was assured in his call to deliver the Hebrews. The connection and meaning obviously confirm Joshua’s calling and mission, and promise that God will be with him as He was with Moses.
Our Lord Christ proceeds to give Israel’s orders and battle plan to Joshua (1-5). Jericho is “straitly shut up.” Its massive gates are closed, and its seemingly impenetrable walls surround it. It appears to be completely unassailable.
The Lord’s orders would to make no sense. March around the city and blow trumpets? Hardly the way most armies win wars. That is the point. This battle will not be won by Joshua’s strategy or Israel’s fighting skills. God will win this battle for Israel. In the process, He will strike fear into the hearts of all His enemies in Canaan, and inspire courage and faith in the Hebrews.
It must have been a terrifying parade, for the people of Jericho. A vast column of armed soldiers led it. They were followed by seven priests blowing trumpets of ram’s horns. The Ark of the Covenant followed them, signifying God’s Law and Promises to Israel. There seem to have been seven more trumpeting priests following the Ark, who are, in turn, followed by throngs of the Hebrew people. They march around the city in silence, save for the trumpets’ sound, and when they have circled Jericho, they all return to their camp.
Josh. 6:12-27, Lk. 17:20-37
Josh. 7:1-15, Heb 6
The Hebrews continue to circle Jericho for six days, and it is easy to wonder how the people of Jericho react. Do its warriors and people lose some of their fear each day, and maybe even begin to jeer and taunt the Hebrews? If they do they might find cause for concern when, on the seventh day, Israel circles the city seven times, and instead of returning to the camp, forms a ring around the city and faces it. The trumpets are silent now, and Joshua addresses the people (16,17). He reminds them that the spoils of the city belong to God, and the people are to take nothing for themselves. Now the trumpets sound, and the people shout.
The result is known to most of the world’s population. The city walls crumble, and the Hebrews take the city. Only Rahab and her people are saved from the annihilation. “[S]o the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was noised throughout all the country.”
The Hebrews must be sorely tempted by the sight of the wealth of Jericho. They were told not to take anything for themselves because it all belongs to God. Thus everything is burned except a few things to go in the Tabernacle. But who would know if you took a small gold statue or a few coins? Achan could not stand the temptation. He took something for himself, and his sin will have terrible consequences for him and his people very soon, though, as yet, no one knows about it but him and God.
Joshua sends scouts to Ai (aay eye), near Bethel and about 10 miles west of Jericho (2). Since it was a small town, the scouts recommend only two or three thousand soldiers be sent to take it (3). Three thousand were sent, and expected to return in triumph. Instead they were repulsed and chased by the warriors of Ai, losing thirty-six men in what should have been an easy victory. Why had this happened? For one thing, it was a military blunder. Always send more soldiers than necessary. If you think you need three thousand, send six thousand. In this case, why did not the whole people of Israel go? Second, and the more important, we find that God knows the sin of Achan, and will not give Israel any more victories until he is dealt with (10-13).
Many are surprised at the punishment to be suffered by the guilty man. Few see the several opportunities he is given to repent before he is found out. The Lord will call out the tribe of the guilty man. One family of the tribe will be called out. Then, one household of that family will be called out. Out that household, the people will come forward, man by man. Surely Achan is able to see that the all knowing God is gradually pointing him out as the guilty one. Surely, at every narrowing of the search, he has a chance to confess and beg mercy from the Father of All Mercies. But he does not, therefore, he will die in his sin.
Josh. 7:16- 26, Lk. 18:1-30
Josh. 8:1-31, Heb. 7
We see Joshua calling all the tribes together, then singling out the tribe of Judah. From Judah, he calls out the family of Zarhites. Finally, it comes down to Achan. At this point, the opportunity to repent is gone, nor does it seem to occur to Achan to repent. His confession seems only an admission. His only sorrow seems to be getting caught. He seems to think his admission, and the return of the silver and gold is enough. It is not. Had his confession been sincere and real, God may have had mercy on him. But this new generation must learn, as every generation must, that God’s word is as immutable as He, and that the wages of sin is death. Otherwise, they will fall away from God into cultural and spiritual decay very, very quickly. They are enjoying the benefits of the Covenant: they must also bear its curses. Thus, Achan, his family, and his possessions meet their end (24-26). Let us hope that their arrival at God’s Heavenly throne was a much happier meeting.
God reassures Joshua that He is with him (1). He must have needed that assurance after the grizzly and distasteful affair of Achan. Joshua is told to take all the warriors of Israel (1, 3), rather than a small force, and take Ai.
This time he uses a common military ruse. He fakes a rout, knowing the enemy will pursue. But he has 5,000 warriors waiting in a hidden place near Bethel. It seems another force, of about 30,000 men were also hidden near the city. The main body of the army leads the pursuing Canaanites away from the city. Once the Ai army is away, the ambush force goes into the city and begins to burn it. The men of Ai see the smoke from their burning city, they attempt to fight the Hebrews they have been chasing (20), but the force that entered the city now joins the battle (22) and the Ai army is defeated.
Josh. 8:30-35, Lk 18:31-43
Josh. 9, Heb. 8
Now Israel builds the altar required by God in Deuteronomy 27 and 31, and which, in many ways replicates the ceremony at Sinai. With the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal in the background, the people gather before the altar, with the elders and officers in front facing the altar. The Ark of the Covenant is solemnly carried to its place, and the priests and Levites stand beside it. The sacrifices are offered, and Joshua moves between the Ark and the people to read from the books of Moses. He reads, “all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings” (34). “There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel” (35). This ceremony remembers, and gives thanks for God’s calling care and guidance of Israel from Abraham, through the Exodus and wilderness, the Jordan, and the recent victories. But most of all, it is a pledge of allegiance to God. It is an affirmation of the corporate identity of Israel as the people of God, and a pledge to be and do what God’s people should. It is a pledge to be His Covenant people.
Some of the Canaanites intend to band together to repel the Israelites (2). Rather than join them, the Gibeonites try to make peace with Israel, a league (6). Gibeon is about 30 miles by road from Gilgal, but the Gibeonites pretend to be from “a very far country” (9). “They did work wilily” (4) seems to mean they use witchcraft, as well as deceit, to empower their desires.
Israel makes a tragic mistake. Her leaders do not take counsel at the mouth of the Lord (14). They do not seek God’s guidance, therefore, they believe the Gibeonites’ lies.
The first result of the Israeli/Gibeonite agreement is the damage to the trust the Israelites have in their leaders (18). Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes. Hopefully, we learn from them, and actually become better for them. But the confidence of others, damaged by our mistakes, often never returns. The second result is the reduction of the Gibeonites to the status of bond servants (23).
Josh 10:1-14, Lk. 19:1-22
Josh 10:15-27, Heb. 9
Joshua 10:1-14 and 15-27
The combined force of the Canaanites mobilses for battle. Rather than attacking Israel, they move against the Gibeonites, intending to force them into their army, or destroy them for siding with Israel. Either way, other Canaanite tribes will be more inclined to join the combined Canaanite force, making a Hebrew conquest of the land humanly impossible.
Receiving a desperate call for help from the Gibeonites, the army of Israel makes a forced night march from Gilgal to defeat the Canaanites at Gibeon. It is during this battle that the famous miracle occurs when “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (Josh 10:13).
Joshua 10:28-43, Lk 19:23-48
Josh 22:1-20, Hebrews 10
After a brief return to Gilgal, Israel advances to the city of Libnah, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, conquering Makkeda on the way. After subduing Libnah, they travel south about 6 miles to conquer Lachish. The army of Horam, king of Gezer, who has come to help Lachish is also defeated. Eglon is a few miles southwest of Lachish, on a main road that leads to Gaza.
Hebron is about 20 miles due east of Lachish. But Israel probably took the road northeast to Maresha and went south east from there to Hebron, a journey of about 23 miles. Now the Israelites turn south west again to conquer Debir. As chapter 10 closes, Israel is in control of southern Canaan. It has not conquered every city or area. Gath, future home of the famous warrior, Goliath, still remains a Cannanitie stronghold, and will be a continuous threat to Israel. But it is no exageration for verse 41 to claim Hebrew ownership of the land from Kadesh barnea south of the Dead Sea, to Gibeon, north of Jerusalem, to the Gaza coast on the west.
We come now to the closing chapters of Joshua. The conquest of the Promised Land is almost complete. Small enclaves of Canaanites still exist, and they will become major problems for Israel in the future. But the military/economic power in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean belongs to the people of Israel. The entire nation is gathered at Shiloh, about 20 miles north of Jerusalem. Here plans are laid for the settlement of Canaan by the Hebrews, and the tribes who were granted land east of the Jordan are blessed by Joshua and released to their own lands.
Josh. 22:21-34 , Lk. 20
Josh. 23, Heb. 11
The eastern tribes are moving to their allotted lands on the eastern side of the Jordan. On the way they build an altar. Modern readers are often confused at the reaction to this altar. They are accustomed to people starting and closing churches at will, or changing churches at will, with no theological justification or ecclesiastical oversight. But God has never intended such a system to exist, not in the Old Testament Israel; not in the New Testament Church. The opposition to this altar is based on Deuteronomy 12:1-14. It is very similar to the one in the Tabernacle, and the other tribes are concerned that the builders plan to establish their own Tabernacle and worship system apart from the one God has established. Such a system would be worse than counterfeit. It would be heresy and idolatry, even if its people worship God and keep every other law of the Tabernacle. It would also divide Israel, making it essentially two nations rather than one people.
The eastern tribes assert that they have no intention of doing such evil. They say they are concerned that a division between them and the western tribes would come from the west (24, 25). The altar is a memorial and a testimony to both sides, that, though some dwell on the eastern side of the Jordan, they are one people and one faith with those on the western side.
Chapters 23 conveys the first of Joshua’s two farewell addresses. Joshua, now very advanced in years, calls the tribes together. He then calls for the elders, judges, and officers to come before him. In the presence of all, he addresses the nation through its leaders It is primarily an encouragement to continue to conquer Canaan (5), and to refrain from joining the evil and idolatry of the remaining Canaanites (13). Though Joshua is one hundred and ten years old now, and Israel has had rest from all her enemies for a “long time” (1), there are still Canaanites in the land, and the Israelites seem content to allow them to stay. They are slow to learn. They do not remember Baal Peor. They do not think the remaining Canaanites pose any threat or problem to them. Nor do they believe their lack of total obedience to God will carry any major consequences.
We are very much like them, aren’t we? We think we can offer partial obedience to God without consequences. We think the little bit of disobedience we allow to live within us is harmless, and we will never pay for it. After all, Christ died to forgive us from all sin.
Let Israel serve as our example. We will see in the book of Judges that the Canaanites became snares and traps to the Hebrews. Their wanton indulgence of the flesh, their sexual idolatry, and spiritual adultery enticed Israel like flame draws moths. A little compromise here, led to a bigger compromise there, until there was hardly any Godliness left in Israel.
Thus, Joshua’s words make two important points. First, “keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (6). This is also the first point of Hebrew identity and life. It's the most important thing. It is stated differently in verse 8. There, Joshua says, “cleave unto the Lord.” When our Lord was asked what is the great Commandment, He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” God is first. If we ever get that right everything else will naturally fall into place. If we love God first, we will not follow false gods or false doctrines. If we love God first, we will live in perfect peace and harmony with all people and with God. We will make no idols. We will not take His name in vain. We will remember the Sabbath. We will honor our fathers and our mothers. We will not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, not bear false witness, not covet. It is only because we do not love God first, that we covet and steal and murder. It is because we have made idols of our own will and our own desires that we do these things.
The second point is stated well in verse 16. “When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.” This point contains two to sub points. First, it assumes that Israel will not complete the conquest of Canaan. Rather than driving the Canaanites out of the land, Israel will allow them to remain. Second, it assumes the Hebrew people will adopt Canaanite habits, dress, and even religion. Thus, Israel will be drawn into the sins of the Canaanites. As we know, this is exactly what happened to Israel. And as we also know, Israel paid dearly for it.
Josh 24:1-18, Lk.21
Josh 24:19-33, Heb 12
Joshua gathers the tribes a second time and they present themselves before God (1). God, through him, recounts His call and blessing of Israel from Abraham to their present day (2-13). This reminds the people that God has been faithful in the Covenant, and that He has done good unto Israel.
Verse 14 begins to call the Israelites to be faithful also. They are to abhor the gods of the other nations, and serve only the Lord. If this seems evil (burdensome) to them, let them consider those who lived before the flood of Noah.