The Old Testament book of Joshua tells the story of the people of Israel taking possession of the land of Canaan according to God’s promise and instruction. By the time Joshua 9:1-27 comes around, not all has gone according to plan for God’s people – mainly through their own disobedience and failure to keep in touch with the Lord and His plans. This message of the chapter preached by Chris, tells us of a similar story, but ends up with a striking parallel for the those who are saved by His grace and included in the number of His people today.
Soon after Joshua’s defeat at Ai as a result of Achan’s sin, Joshua 8:1-29 tells of how God helped Joshua overcome the bitter taste of defeat and renew his fight against the people of Ai. He did this, first, by giving Joshua encouragement in the same terms in which his call to service had been given. Then, he gave to Joshua a strategy that would work. This strategy would require Joshua to be brave and all Israel to work together. He also gave Joshua success in the battle as Joshua learned to trust God’s plan and yield himself to it. Failure is no barrier to service in God’s Kingdom and Joshua proved that those who trust in the Lord and obey will know His blessing. In this way he points us to the greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus.
After the resounding victory of the people of Israel over the city of Jericho, Joshua 7:1-26 records how the people of Israel stumbled at the smaller hurdle of the city of Ai where they suffered a resounding defeat. The causes of this defeat were many. One was the trap of self-confidence that Joshua and his men fell for. The defeat of Jericho only inflated their pride not their humility. Another was the trap of prayerlessness. Joshua fell on his face before the Lord after the defeat, but maybe should have sought the Lord before the battle. The main reason for their loss was the trap of disobedience. Unbeknown to Joshua, one of his men, Achan, kept some of the spoil from the victory over Jericho for himself and God was not pleased. It was only when Achan’s sin was exposed and judged that Israel could go on. Thankfully God does not make our sins public (unlike Achan’s) and has also provided us with gracious means of salvation through the death of Jesus on the cross.
When the people of Israel entered the land of Canaan, their first major obstacle to overcome was the city of Jericho with its thick, high and wide walls. By human account, getting past those wall was an impossibility, but when Joshua fell on his face before the Commander of the Lord’s Army, he guaranteed victory for his people by abandoning his plans for attacking Jericho and being obedient to the Lord’s strategy. That strategy found in Joshua 6:1-27 involved a lot of marching, trumpet blowing and shouting, but the wall fell and we learn from it the kind of patient, disciplene and perserving faith that God’s people need in daily living.
Once the people of Israel under the leadership of Joshua entered the promised land of Canaan, they faced all kinds of next lessons and experiences. In Joshua 5:1-15 we find that by instructing Joshua to circumcise all the men, God reminded them that their past disobedience would no longer be tolerated. By ending the daily supply of manna, God showed His people that His daily provisions would no longer come in the same way. By sending the commander of His army to meet Joshua, God showed Joshua that he was no longer in charge. By falling on his face to worship, Joshua won the battle that was to be fought against Jericho in chapter 6. All these lessons remind us that we are always in God’s school, as He calls us to learn His ways and walk by faith not sight.
All kinds of memories can be evoked by certain sounds, sights or smells. In Joshua 4:1-24, God instructed the people of Israel to gather large stones from the bed of the River Jordan while the waters were held back and to create a memorial on the banks of the river. By this memorial, the people of Israel were taught to remember the Lord’s power who saved them, to fear the Lord’s name because it is great and to know for sure that they were His people. All believers know of God’s saving grace and can testify to what God has done by the power of the gospel at work. They will also know that God no longer bears witness through memorials but does so through His ‘living stones’ who can speak openly of His grace at work in them.
After the encouragement Joshua received through the conversion and rescue of Rahab, the next obstacle in his way was the flooded Jordan River which lay between the people of Israel and the Promised Land. However, as we read in Joshua 3:1-17, God knew what He was doing, and arranged it so that when the priests of Israel placed their feet in the flowing water, it stopped flowing and stood up in a heap. It was a miracle of a similar order to the crossing of the Red Sea under Moses. And by it, God showed His people that He was able to get them into the land, just as He had got them out of the land of Egypt. He can be trausted to complete what He has begun
After Joshua assumed the mantle of leading the people of Israel into the promised land, he would have been greatly encouraged by the report of the spies he sent into the city of Jericho. There, as is found in Joshua 2:1-24, they were received by the a prostitute named Rahab, who not only confessed that she had come to believe in the living God but whose actions in giving the spies a safe hiding place, proved the reality of her faith. Before any battle for the land or for Jericho, Joshua discovered that God’s plans were for the salvation of all he would call – even Rahab and her family.
After Moses’ death, the mantle of leading the people of Israel into the promised land fell upon the man of God’s choosing, Joshua. Though Joshua had been Moses’ apprentice, this was no small task! But God’s appointing is also his enabling and in Joshua 1:1-18, God gave Joshua clear instructions in the way he should go, always depending upon God’s promises and His Word to be his guide. At the start of the new year, it it is good to put these principles into action and go forward trusting in God’s precious and very great promises.