THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
Joshua records the consummation of the redemption of Israel out of Egypt. Redemption has two parts: “out of” and “into”. The Law, of which Moses is the representative, could never give a sinful people victory, but Joshua, who is a type of Christ the Savior, could lead God’s people right into the promised land.
In a spiritual sense, the of book of Joshua is in the Old Testament, what the Epistle to the Ephesians is in the New Testament. “The heavenly of the later book is to the Christian what Canaan was to the Israelites--a place of conflict. It is not a type of heaven, but a place of victory and blessing through Divine power.”
The book of Joshua has four main divisions:
1. Ch. 1-12. The conquest
2. Chs. 13-21. The partition of the land.
3. Ch. 22. Internal discord.
4. Chs. 23-24. Joshua’s last counsels and death.
Joshua, God’s chosen leader, was but a man prone like the rest of us to be affected by the clouds of discouragement as they would at times hang low over him. The Lord took special care to offset this by exhorting him to be of good courage, promising to be with him in person under all circumstances, Ch.1: 6-7, 9. The people also promised to stand by Joshua and sought to encourage him by similar words, only be strong and be of a good courage, v.18. One all important thing was enjoined upon him by God and that was that he should mediate day and night in the book of the Law, and not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, vs.7-8. Then his way would be prosperous and God would give him good success.
Before crossing Jordan two men were sent to spy out the land. Their report was very brief and to the point. Instead of looking at the giants, they heard the word of the Lord through Rehab, and that was that the inhabitants had already taken defeat for granted and that the Lord had delivered all the lands into the hands of His people, Ch.2: 24. What a contrast when compared with the former evil report of the ten spies. Rahab had heard of the great victories which he already been granted Israel, v.10, and took definite steps to save herself and her family. She was told to display in her window a line of scarlet thread by which the spies had escaped over the wall of Jericho, v.18. God honored her faith, and by observing the one condition that only those who stayed within her house would be spared, their deliverance came to pass. From this account, we trace the story of redemption. The scarlet thread is a type of the blood of Jesus, which gives full salvation to all who stay under its protection
The day came for the crossing of the Jordan. Chs.3-4 contains the account and emphasizes three things:
1. Ch. 3:8,17. The priests carrying the Ark went before the people and stood still in the midst of Jordan.
2. Ch. 3:3-4, 16-17. The people stepped out in faith and crossed over, keeping their eyes on the Ark as they moved along.
3. Ch. 3:12; 4:2-3, 8-9. By the hands of twelve chosen men twelve stones were taken out of the bed of Jordan and carried to the other shore, and laid down as a memorial. In their place Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, and they are there unto this day.
From these three things we draw the following lesson: Christ our Ark has stepped into the place of judgment for us and waits for everyone to pass over. Those who step out and look unto Him the Author and finisher of our faith arrive in victory on the other side. The stones symbolize our death and resurrection spiritually speaking. Those laid by Joshua speak of our death with Christ, and the twelve carried by the men represent our rising in newness of life and the walk of faith in the land of Canaan. What we accept God will make real.
The miraculous crossing of the Jordan struck terror to the inhabitants of the land. In Ch.5: 1 we are told that their hearts melted, neither was their spirit in them anymore. In order that the faith of Israel is without reproach all the males born in the wilderness were circumcised. Such had been neglected during their years of wandering. Upon arrival in Canaan the manna ceased and the people ate of the old corn of the land. This might be regarded as symbolic of the “milk” and “strong” meat of the Word. The deeper faith walk calls for more maturity than belongs to a babe in Christ. In Ch.5: 13-15, we read about the man with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua saw him standing by Jericho and asked the question, “art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” To his surprise the answer came, “nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.”
Joshua was told to remove his shoes, and he thereupon humbled himself before the new leader.
Jericho was the first place to be conquered in the land of Canaan. The story is well known, Ch.6, and teaches us how that God will fight for those who believe, and trust and obey. Someone has said the lesson it teaches is that spiritual victories are won by means and upon principles utterly foolish and inadequate in the view of human wisdom.
After the great victory over Jericho it would seem that nothing could stand before the conquering Israelites. Ai was the next place to be attacked, and in human wisdom it was decided to send only a small detachment of the army. To their dismay they suffered a crushing defeat, and it was not until they humbled themselves before God that Joshua learned there was sin in the camp, Ch.7: 11. Lots were cast and Achan of the tribe of Judah was taken, and he confessed to having stolen part of the spoils of Jericho in violation of God’s command to the contrary. When the people stoned him and his family, the blessing of God returned and Ai was overthrown, Ch.8: 28.
The story of the deception practiced upon Israel by the Gibeonites is told in Ch.9, and illustrates so clearly how the wisdom of man will lead one astray. God could have guarded them against making a covenant with the Gibeonites but they failed to ask His mind on the matter, v.14. Later it led to a gathering of a number of kings to fight against Gibeon only to be defeated by the victorious Israelites. It was on this occasion that Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still until he had smitten the Amorites. For the space of about one whole day the heavens held still and it is said “there was no day like that before or after it, that the Lord hearkened to the voice of man,” Ch.10: 14. The more the people of the land rose up against Joshua the more they were smitten, so that there were thirty one kings in all who were overthrown, Ch.11: 24.
THE PARTITION OF THE LAND.
In Chs. 13-21 we read of the division of the land among the tribes of Israel. It was by no means fully conquered, but in faith it was counted as good as done, and when the people walked with God no one could stand before them, otherwise they failed.
The two and a half tribes which settled east of the Jordan sent their men over to help fight along with the rest of the Israelites. When much of the fighting was over they returned to their own people. Through erecting an altar on the east bank of the Jordan it was thought they were enticing their people to idolatry, Ch.22: 10,16. This troubled the other Israelites and they felt that an armed force should be sent to set matters straight. After a meeting of Phinehas the priest and ten princes of the people west of the Jordan, with the leading men on the east of Jordan, an explanation of the altar was given, and the incident ended without bloodshed, vs.26-29.
JOSHUA’S LAST COUNSELS AND DEATH.
In Ch.23 we read that Joshua was old and stricken in age he called the leaders of Israel together and told them to be very courageous and that if they would abide by the Word of God that one man among them would chase a thousand, for God would fight for them, vs.6, &10. If, however, they turned away from following the Lord the tide of victory would turn and God would not drive out the enemy from their land, vs.12-13.
When Joshua was 110 years old, he reminded the people of Israel of all the great things God had done for them and for their fathers before them, and then boldly declared his own purposes to be true: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” Ch.24: 15. After that, Joshua passed on to his reward. In closing we are told that the children of Israel “served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that He had done for Israel.” People will follow whatever they are taught, and what they see in their leaders, and it behooves us all to learn to know God aright that we may really lead people in His way.