Text: Joshua 1:1-9
Joshua is the sixth book of the Bible. It contains some of our favourite Bible verses. For example, at the beginning of the book: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9). The children’s song, “Be bold, be strong” is based on this verse. The truths of this verse echo throughout the New Testament, (e.g. Ephesians 6:10, Matthew 28:19-20). There’s another well known verse at the end of Joshua, choose this day whom you will serve … but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15). This is the question before each one of us every day. At the same time there are some verses in Joshua we probably wish weren’t there, about the complete destruction of enemies. We will address those as we come to them.
Joshua contains some of our favourite Bible stories, such as Rahab hiding the spies, the walls of Jericho coming tumbling down, the defeat at Ai, Achan’s sin and the sun standing still. Yet, there are chapters in Joshua which quite frankly seem very boring to us. Chapters 14-22 are all about the allotment of the land. What relevance does that have for us?
The structure of any book in the Bible helps us to get a feel of the book and its message. The simple outline I will be working with is as follows:
- The Conquest of Canaan (1-12)
- 1st phase: Israel’s initial success and failure in entering the land (1-8)
- 2nd phase: Israel’s conquest of the rest of Canaan (9-12)
- The Allotment of the Land of Canaan (13-24)
Most of the stories we are familiar with are found in the first section (1-12). But why should we study the book of Joshua?
1. It is Scripture! All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2Timothy 3:16-17). If you want to be a man or woman of God and mature in your faith, and to see fruitfulness in your life, it has to be based on God’s living Word! The same was true for Joshua. In order to prepare for battle, God didn’t tell him to go to a military boot camp. Instead he told him to: Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go (Joshua 1:7-8). The books of the Law of Moses are the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). They are the foundation for everything else in the Bible. Of course today we have a lot more, including the New Testament. Success in possessing the promises of God depend on believing and walking according to God’s ways as revealed in His word – though we’re not talking about a prosperity gospel.
We should remember that Jesus and the Apostles didn’t have a New Testament. To teach about the New Covenant they would have to go to books in the Old Testament (like Jeremiah and Ezekiel). The Old Testament was not old for them, but the divinely inspired Scriptures, and it still is. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and spoke with them. Luke tells us, And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:25-27). The Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) contains the same books as our Old Testament, but it’s divided up differently, into three main sections (see APPENDIX)
Surprisingly for us, Joshua is included in the Prophets. So when Jesus talked of Himself in the Law and the Prophets, there is no reason why this should not have included the book of Joshua. In fact, the names Joshua and Jesus/Yeshua are essentially the same name, which means, “the LORD is salvation”. He is our Deliverer and our Rescuer (see Matthew 1:21). Joshua, who is the main character of the book, is a type of Christ. We can expect to find Christ in the book of Joshua. The ‘Old’ Testament is neither old nor out of date, but it is part of the whole counsel of God. This is the first reason we are going to study it.
2. The book of Joshua marks the beginning of the fulfilment of the promises given to Abraham. This is why it is relevant for every Christian. God had promised Abraham, I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:2-3). God’s purpose was always to bring salvation to all nations through Abraham’s descendants, Israel.
God gave Abraham a specific promise concerning the land: the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates– the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21). The promises given to Abraham are foundational for understanding Joshua. The description of the land here is very similar to Joshua 1:4.
The key thing to realise is that the land belongs to God and it is His to give (Psalm 24:1-2). Three times in our passage alone God says He is giving the land to Israel, e.g. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them (Joshua 1:6). This should reminds us that salvation and God’s blessings are His free gift to be received by faith (Romans 6:3, James 1:17). This includes the gift of land. Unless we believe this, that God is both good and just, we will have a problem with Joshua and probably the whole Bible. In giving the land to Israel God was working out His purposes of salvation for all the families of the earth.
3. The book of Joshua is important history that also informs our future. As we journey through Joshua I will highlight archaeological evidence, where possible, to show that Joshua is not just a story book but is real history. Joshua is first of all Israel’s history. But as Christians we are the spiritual children of Abraham (e.g. Galatians 4:28), so it is also part of our spiritual heritage.
We can learn from history, especially when it’s His-story, about what God has done. In the conquest of Canaan we see God acting supernaturally. In fact, if we take the supernatural out of Joshua, they certainly would not have been successful. We can learn from this because Joshua’s God is our God.
But history also informs our future. There are interesting connections with Joshua and Revelation (about the end of the age). One of the best ways to get a handle on Revelation is to study other books of the Bible, like Joshua! For example, the people marched round the walls of Jericho, the seventh trumpet sounded, the people gave a shout, and the walls came tumbling down (Joshua 6:8,20). In Revelation the seventh trumpet sounded and there was shouting in heaven: The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15). This leads up to the collapse of another city, the city of Babylon. Many think we are not far from the collapse of Babylon, this world’s present economic system. Joshua is a prophetic book that also points to the future.
- The Law (the Torah) – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
- The Prophets (Nevi’im)
- Former Prophets – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings
- The Latter prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
- The 12 Minor Prophets – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Hanakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
- The Writings (Ketuvim)
- The Three Poetic Books – Psalms, Proverbs, Job
- The Five Scrolls – Song of Songs (read at Passover), Ruth (read at Pentecost), Lamentations (read on Tisha B’Av), Ecclesiastes (read at Tabernacles), Esther (read on Purim).
- Other books – Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, Chronicles