As you step into the book of Joshua, you join the people of Israel as they step into the promised land and see God fulfilling all his promises.
Joshua is a book of fulfilment – particularly the fulfilment of God’s promises.
As Israel stands on the edge of the Jordan, on the boundary of the promised land, we step into a book charting the fulfilment of God’s promises, made hundreds of years before, to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. A land of their own. The land of Canaan.
How does God fulfil his promises to his people?
God gives them a new leader – Moses has died, and a New Moses is given. Joshua. To lead the people to obedience & victory & rest.
- In this, we’ve lots to learn about the kind of leaders God provides for his people, not least in the Lord Jesus (whose name in Hebrew, by the way, was Joshua – Jeshua – God saves)
God gives them fresh courage – whilst he terrifies his enemies, he strengthens his people. “Be strong & courageous” is a constant refrain, and the obvious result of knowing that God will “never leave you or forsake you.”
- Again, as we see the likes of Joshua & Caleb stepping out into the breach, we’ll learn lots of what real courageous faith looks like (and by contrast, what cowardly living looks like too).
God gives them great victories – if God is fighting for them, who can stand against them? Not the city of Jericho, not the city of Ai, not any other coalition of hostile kings and nations.
- This also helps make sense of some of the distressing scenes in Joshua: it’s hard not to read of some of the slaughter and not be shocked. But to remember these are hostile nations with horrible practices helps us appreciate the actions of a holy God – wiping out the unrepentant and welcoming with open arms foreigners like Rahab or the Gibeonites, anyone who’ll make peace with him, to make this God their God.
And last, but not least, God gives them the promised land – bit by bit, the land he’d promised them, he gave to them.
- For us, the middle sections seem monotonous – a map without pictures! But for an Israelite, these lists were momentous. A centuries-old promise was being kept before their very eyes.
The book could be split into four big sections:
Entering the land (Ch.1-5) – this reads like a new beginning, for a new generation of Israelites, in a new land.
Taking the land (ch.6-12) – basically, a long list of battles won and kings beaten as God fights for Israel.
Dividing up the land (ch.13-21) – in this map without pictures, the promised land is divvied up between the tribes of Israel.
Living in the land (ch.22-24) – Joshua is now very old and concerned for the future of Israel. As he rehearses God’s covenant commitment so far – he calls Israel to renew their own covenant commitment. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.”
And this ties up the theme of fulfilment in the book of Joshua. Whilst there is no question that God has fulfilled his promises to Israel, one question remains. Will Israel fulfil their promises to God?
- “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him…” [24:24]. That’s what they say… but will they? We’ll have to wait until the book of Judges to see how that works out…