13 February 2016

Stone 6 - Joshua

At the end of Deuteronomy Moses passes away and Joshua takes command. Let's see how moving into the promised land plays out.

If you like a good military historical genre, you'll find that the Book of Joshua is filled with some good stuff.

Making Preparations
Joshua starts by giving some orders to get ready (Josh 1:10-11) and then sends out a couple of spies for a little route recon action (Josh 2:1). What is interesting to note is that the spies stop at a house at the edge of the city of Jericho (Josh 2:15) that belonged to a prostitute named Rahab. We quickly learn that the King of Jericho had been informed of this and sent men to Rahab's house to find them. Instead of turning them in, she helps provide concealment and gives the King's men the wrong information allowing the spies to escape.

The Israelites developed a reputation and news spread through the land. Rahab shares that she knows that the Lord has given the land to them (Josh 2:8-9) and spares their lives in exchange for that of her family (Josh 2:12-13).

I also find this particular portion of interest for two reasons.

1. The spies were not visiting the Red Light District of Jericho on their recon mission. Of all the places along the wall that they could have hit - they somehow managed to find the place of a citizen willing to risk the lives of their family to protect them - spies... Can you imagine how that would have played out if the King found out that some prostitute lied to protect the enemy? Lucky...? I think not.

2. Rahab lied. Isn't it wrong to lie? Sure it is. I do not take this as evidence that the Bible promotes deception. This is simply a record of what happened. Now, that said, it does seem to fall in line with God's plan. Is there such a thing as lying for a good cause? I do think that sometimes we are faced with decisions where any choice we make involves loss or morally suspect action. We have often heard this as taking the lesser of two evils. Even Hebrews 11:31 remarks on this. Rahab stuck her neck out in faith. I find this to be an interesting discussion topic.

Miracle Number One
Now we see the first of three miracles found in Joshua - crossing the Jordan River (Josh 3:15-17).
It is worth noting here that while Joshua is the commander of the people now in place of Moses, it is God who is really running the show and calling the shots (Josh 3:7-8).

In addition, shortly after crossing, Joshua meets the Commander of the Lord's Army. It is a seemingly short encounter but appears to once again serve as reminder that God is calling the shots. The commander tells Joshua to remove his sandals because he is standing on holy ground (Josh 5:15).

Miracle Number Two
I can only imagine the thoughts going through the heads of the soldiers during this military campaign. "You want us to do what...!?" They are asked to march around the city once a day for six days and to march around it seven times on the seventh day while priests blow trumpets (Josh 6:3-4). How many of them do you think were questioning the week-long parade?

As odd as things may seem to us and our imperfect hearts and minds - God's plan is perfect. We may not understand the how or why - we need only to trust and obey, knowing that it is best.

Jericho knew that the Israelites were coming. They were not planning to let their city go easily - at least I imagine that is what they are thinking. The city had been well fortified in advance with knowledge they were coming (Josh 6:1). The 7-Day march around Jericho would bring down the walls and allow the Israelites to enter and take what God had given them.

A good reminder here - God had given this to them not because of their righteousness but because of the wickedness of those being removed from the land (Deut 9:1-6).

The next interesting thing to note here is that God is not allowing any looting to take place after this first victory (Josh 6:17-19).

Unfortunately, there were some who did not listen (Josh 7:1). (Are we really surprised by this...?) The disobedience caused them to fail in their battle with Ai (Josh 7:5). Of course, Joshua did not know about this disobedience until God revealed it to him (Josh 7:11-12).

Achan and his family are eventually found out (Josh 7:20-21), and destroyed for their disobedience. No games.

Ai was then conquered and so Gibeon decided to be deceptive in order to protect themselves by playing that they came from far away and wanted a treaty because of the reputation they had developed (Josh 9:9-11). They found out shortly after agreeing to the treaty that Gibeon was actually their neighbor (Josh 9:16). As a result, those people were to be servants.

Miracle Number Three
Word is still getting around. Several neighboring kings decided to join forces in the hopes of defeating the Israelites. This was really a pretty massive conquest of five kings and their territories. At a certain point, Joshua prays to the Lord asking for the sun to stop so they can finish the battle (Josh 10:12-13).

God grants the prayer and the sun stops for almost a day. Now this is interesting, too. I mean, yeah, time standing still for nearly 24 hours is interesting but another subtle point not mentioned here is that the people being destroyed here, the Canaanites, worshipped gods of the sun and moon. So here, God takes what they worship as god and uses them to help the Israelites. This pretty effectively makes the religion of the Canaanites rather insignificant.

Time to Divvy Up the Spoils
A majority of the rest of the book describes how the land was divided between the tribes. However, remember the group that was happy to stay on the other side of the Jordan? They got to go there but on the way built an altar and that got the tribes on the other side pretty riled up (Josh 22:11-12). Ultimately, this was viewed as a division of the unity of Israel as a whole and a violation of the covenant. It turns out that the altar that was built was done only to signify that although they were on the other side of the Jordan that they did, in fact, have a legitimate claim to the inheritance as well and it was not to be used for sacrifices or offerings of any kind (Josh 22:24-26).
Crisis averted.

Joseph's Final Words
In a way that was reminiscent to the final words of Moses, Joseph gathers the people, shares some history and encourages them to remain faithful to the covenant. Remember what Moses said to the people once in Deut 10:13? Compare that with what Joshua tells them in Josh 23:11.

Over the course of the first six books we see God remain faithful to His promise by bringing the Israelites to the "land of milk and honey". Joshua charges them to choose who they will worship (Josh 24:14-15). The people are pretty adamant that they will follow the Lord because of all the things He has done for them (Josh 24:16-18). Also in a similar way to Moses, Joshua appears a bit skeptical (Josh 24:19-20).

We will see how that turns out next week when we look at Judges.

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