We’ve covered the Pentateuch and if there’s a takeaway I want to make sure you have, it’s that it’s a corpus of literature, not five individual books.
So often we think of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy as 5 books – but there’s a continuity that carries through each one:
- Genesis: The beginning of creation
- Exodus: Redemption from slavery, consecration for worship
- Leviticus: Holiness to the Lord
- Numbers: Understanding the allotments and order God has given for the Levitical priests
- Deuteronomy: The second law-giving and recap of the Hebrews’ history.
Moving out of the Pentateuch and into a new section, let’s get an overview:
There are 12 Historical Books:
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
The Old Testament Historical books are categorized interestingly:
Theocratic books: God is King
These books are Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.
These three books tell the bigger narrative of what God is doing in spite of man’s sinfulness.
God didn’t want Israel to have a king, but they wanted to be like other nations, they wanted a king. And let’s not be hard on them. We would’ve been the exact same way. Even when the breakdown of the theocracy occurs, they don’t want to worship God.
We already know the theme of Judges: Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Ruth is a beautiful love story about God’s love for man set in the days when the judges were judging, about the kinsman redeemer – the Christ who comes to redeem His people.
Books of the Monarchy:
1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles each have different lenses, and we’ll look at them when we get there
Samuel, the first prophet comes along and says, “this is an evil thing you’re asking,” and there’s great exchanges between Samuel and Yahweh Elohim, and God finally says, “Give them a king. I’ll show them what this is like.”
And of course, right away, Saul is a miserable failure.
David will come as the man after God’s own heart, and it will degrade down and divide the kingdom: Israel in the north, Judah in the south.
And the divided kingdom is a disaster. The in-fighting happening between tribes and cultures, all during the time of the monarchy.
The Restoration Books:
Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
They’re much shorter than the books of the monarchy because they cover less space in time.
Ezra’s the story of a rebuilding, Nehemiah’s the story of a rebuilding, and Esther is a strange, outlier book that doesn’t even mention God.
But for now, we’re moving from the Pentateuch to the first Historical book: Joshua
Joshua יְהוֹשׁוּע ַmeans “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” Think about that just in the chronicle of the storyline: we’re in trouble, we need Yahweh to save.
Joshua is a prototype of Christ to come.
Joshua deals with one very important stage in the fulfillment of God’s great plan to provide salvation for the whole world. The people of Israel had to be settled in the promised land to prepare for the coming of another Joshua: Jesus Christ, who was to live and die in the same land as Savior – not only of Israel, but of the entire human race.
-Donald H. Madvig, “Joshua,”in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 239
The size of the land of Israel is always a shock to people. It’s smaller than the state of Connecticut.When people go there we talk about why:
Why did God choose this people, this land to bring Jesus Messiah?
And when you see the geography of it and the geopolitical background, it makes incredible sense.
Madvig says this little sliver of land is where God was providing salvation through this man named Joshua to go into the promised land. And on this same insignificant piece of real-estate, Jesus is going to come as the ultimate Joshua, the ultimate savior.
There are all sorts of people vying over the land, but I can tell you exactly whose land it is: It’s God’s land.
He made a promise to Abraham about that land, and no matter who occupies it, it’s His.
Boa and Wilkerson add:
Joshua… forges a link between the Pentateuch and the remainder of Israel’s history. Through three military campaigns involving more than thirty enemy armies, the people of Israel learn a crucial lesson under Joshua’s capable leadership: victory comes through faith in God and obedience to His Word, rather than military might or numerical superiority.
-Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 51
2 sections of 12 chapters
- 7 years of conquest
- Final chapters looking at the allotment
God warns: When you go into the land, it’s going to be a fight – but if you do it my way, I’ll be with you and you’ll succeed.
It doesn’t always work out because Israel doesn’t always act faithfully.
And then you’ve got the allotment, which becomes the unraveling at the same time.
The allotment reveals discontent within the tribes. Their land is assigned and they think, “I don’t like my land!”
The Geographic Outline
Another way of looking at it from Talk Thru the Bible:
- Chapters 1-5: the Jordan River
- Chapters 6-7: Canaan, we’re into the Promised Land
- The last section looks at the 12 tribes on both sides.
Joshua, The Man:
Joshua has an early, long, and front-row education to the entire story of Israel.
He’s born a slave in Egypt, experiences the exodus, and is one of the over-20’s who survives to enter the Promised Land.
He’s first mentioned in Exodus 17:9-16 when Moses sends him into battle with Amalek. Moses is holding the staff, his arms are getting tired, they find a rock for him to sit on and then Aaron and Hur hold up his arms, we know this story.
Joshua’s fighting the battle and Moses is leading by example, as others support him.
By Exodus 24:13 he’s referred to as the servant of Moses. In the OT every time you read servant, minister, or priest, those are generally the same term or synonymous terms.
Joshua’s role as Moses’ servant was a position of high honor.
Pencil theology: I think Joshua is a stone’s throw away from Moses when Moses is getting the tablets of the Law of God. I can’t prove it, I just don’t see Joshua right there with him when this happens. But he went up on the mount with Moses.
By Exodus 33:11 Joshua is called a ‘young man.’ Probably, in the OT, he was 30-40, and the Word says he would not depart from the tent. He understands his role.
Fast forward to Judges 2:6-9, we learn that Joshua dies at 110 years of age. We don’t know how old he was when he was Moses’ servant but we can estimate 30’s-40’s, and he becomes the leader after Moses dies.
- Rahab. What’s important to me about Rahab is what she says to the two spies: I’ve heard about what your God has done.
This story is 40 years old, it’s a 40 year old rumor that she believed and accepts entirely, and when the spies show up, she hides them because she still believes it.
- The scarlet cord/thread
- Crossing the Jordan
- The 11 day journey took 40 years. We complain about jetlag. Mark Twain? It took him 3 months to get to Israel by boat.
- Water cut off when the Ark of the Covenant comes, parallels the crossing of the red sea Exodus 14:21
- Memorial stones established for each of the 12 tribes.
- The first Passover will be celebrated, and the end of Manna.
- Joshua’s encounter with the cryptic captain of the Lord’s host (Joshua 5:13) and the clear reference to Christophany/theophany where Christ commands Joshua to remove his sandals (cf. Exodus 3:5)
- Conquering Jericho
Be Strong and Courageous
Deuteronomy 31:23 – Moses spoke these words three times. Once to all the sons of Israel and twice specifically to Joshua.
Why do you tell someone to be strong and courageous? Because they feel weak and afraid.
You don’t tell someone who is strong and courageous to be strong and courageous.
Moving into the book of Joshua, Be Strong and Courageous is repeated five times: Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:9, Joshua 1:18, Joshua 10:25
The last time it’s Joshua telling his warriors to be strong and courageous, affirming the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua.
The Living God is Among You
Joshua 3:10 – When they cross the Jordan and the water is cut off, do you think the guys who were doing this understood the ramifications? Did they go back to what happened at the Red Sea? I don’t know. But, as I often have argued, don’t ask God for a miracle – ask Him for an immovable faith.
When you get a miracle, your faith is contingent on the next one:
He did it before. Why wont He do it again?
I love miracles. I’d love miracles for every one of us, but human nature is that we’ll want another one.
Western Christianity has a problem with this. We either over-spiritualize everything: God told me this, told me that– and we overdo it; or we become functional deists where we say: black and white print, only.
There’s danger in either extreme, but the black and white – the text – is authoritative. Experience is just experiential.
I don’t want to be a functional deist or an over-spiritualized mystic. In our western thinking we’re so organized in the way we look at things through our presuppositions, and we don’t pay attention to what we pay attention to, but I want to tell you:
He’s among you. The Holy Spirit indwells you.
Does He tell you things outside of Scripture? I’d say, more than likely, no. He’s going to show you what Scripture means. He’ll apply Scripture where, before, it was only a book or story you may or may not have believed, but then you begin to understand.
Umberto Casuto wrote an incredible commentary on Genesis. An Italian rabbi who believes the whole story is myth, but it’s unequaled Hebrew scholarship on the first twelve chapters of Genesis. Written by a guy who didn’t believe.
Intelligence does not a Christian make. Knowledge does not a believer make.
The problem we have with the western mindset is either deism or western mysticism. How do we combat this?
Let the Holy Spirit control you as you spend time in God’s Word.
God’s Promises Never Fail
Joshua 21:45, Joshua 23:14
Do they come at the time we want them? He’s the Sovereign.
He’s the providential one, not us.
Follow God’s Word: Don’t Turn Left or Right
This is Joshua’s final address. Joshua 23:6-9. 1 John 2:15 essentially says the same thing.
To me, the single most important challenge a believer in the West faces is: are you in the world or of the world?
We’ve got to be in it, but are we of it?
This world is not our home. We’re otherworldly people and we’re here for a while. This life, at best, is a clean bus station.
Cling to the Lord Your God
Joshua 23:8, Keep close! In 2 Samuel 23:10, one of David’s men, Eleazar, fought so long his hand was worn and clung to his sword. This is the same word in Genesis 2:24 about a husband and wife joined/glued together.
Cling. Hang on to the Lord.
What are you clinging onto? Stuff? Success? Your Knowledge base? Friends?
Fear the Lord and Serve Him in Sincerity and Truth
Be in holy awe and respect of the Lord and serve Him with your all.
To sum it up: To be strong and courageous means to obey God when it seems really difficult.
Health, finances, marriage, kids, career, future plans – put it all on the line. When all of those are well and good, everything’s easy.
Trusting God when everything’s easy isn’t trust. Trusting God when life’s difficult, that’s trust.
That, to me, is the lesson of the book of Joshua.