And so it comes to a close… Joshua’s taking the time out now to give his final speech, like Moses did before he died.
There’s a nice little summary through here, actually, of the journey from Abraham to the present.
And speaking of Abraham… Ever have those moments where you suddenly realize you were completely wrong? For some reason, my head’s had in it that the land of Ur was from somewhere west of Egypt, towards Libya or something. I’m wondering whether my head associated Carthage and Chaldeans somehow. Either way, Geography was never my strong point but to go several hundred miles in the wrong direction’s a fairly big mistake.
Think about this, though. Back in Genesis 11; Terah, after the death of his son Haran, took off for the land of Canaan from Ur. His other two sons, Abram and Nahor went with him.
Abram then became the recipient of God’s promise – but it’s only now that we’re really seeing that promise fulfilled. Huge numbers of people have come and gone, I don’t know how many generations it’s actually been, but here we finally have Joshua saying goodbye before his death, and bringing the people together to remind them that God’s fulfilled his promise.
Here’s something to think about: time doesn’t matter to God, He’s outside of it.
I’ve heard that people have gone through and ‘counted’ the promises of God listed in the bible. I’m not sure of the number, but no doubt it’s a lot.
I also heard an interesting perspective on the promises of God from my church congregation’s pastor last weekend: He made the comment that some people seem to walk around declaring the promises of God as though they’re some kind of magical incantation that will solve problems.
God made a promise to Abraham, but it took hundreds of years to see it fulfilled.
Not only that, but I’m sure that it wasn’t how Abraham imagined.
Imagine a picture: Abraham’s died, he’s sitting up in heaven having a morning coffee with God and the new Pharaoh’s just taken over. Abraham sees a problem straight away, because he can see this guy doesn’t care that Joseph saved all of Egypt, or that the Israelites are the guests of Egypt thanks to Joseph. He arches a brow, but doesn’t say anything. Then comes the Pharaoh starting to think about what he can do to quell the threat of these foreigners rising up, and eventually they are enslaved. Abraham looks over at God, “Umm… This wasn’t exactly what you said was going to happen.”
God simply replies: “No, this isn’t what you expected to happen.”
Sometimes we look at our lives and wonder how we got here. Sometimes we look at our lives and think that things are just not going the right way. Sometimes we’ll then look at God and ask him what on earth is going on, because surely this isn’t how it’s meant to be.
What we think is meant to be, and what actually is are so frequently two very different things. God will come through in the end, if we only follow and listen to him.
“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” ~ Joshua 24:15(b)
And so the war is over…
Joshua pulls the tribes of Reuben and Gad, as well as the half of Manasseh who decided they wanted to stay on the Eastern side of the Jordan, and tells them that they can go home.
Before he lets them go, though, he takes some time to bless them and remind them of their responsibilities.
This isn’t what I wanted to go into, but just as I was writing the above sentence, I felt the need to ask: How often do we actually bless people? I believe there’s power in blessing others – and that this is something we should embrace more often. It can be as simple as just saying ‘Bless you’ when you speak to someone, or it could be more detailed. Either way, though, it’s encouraging and exhorting, and these are things we should remember as the family of God – to lift each other up with blessings and encouragement.
Anyway, though – so Joshua blesses them and they head off home; but on the way…
When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Rebenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. ~ Joshua 22:10
Sounds like a good thing, right?
And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them. ~ Joshua 22:11-12
So I’m sitting here reading this and wondering what’s going on. As we read on, the Israelites confront their departing brothers and accuse them of building a false altar – that they should only be performing sacrifices on the Altar of the Lord that is resting with the Tabernacle.
Of course the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh freak out a little.
“The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the LORD, do not spare us this day. If we have built our own altar to turn away from the LORD and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the LORD himself call us to account.” ~ Joshua 22:22-23
What’s actually going on, is that these guys are leaving the Promised Land to go home, and on the way they suddenly started thinking, “Hang on, one of these days these people are going to forget us, and claim that we’re not actually a part of their history and nation, so let’s build a memorial right here so that they’ll remember that we’re a part of the family too.”
So they do, they build this – once they’ve explained it to their brothers, everyone’s okay and we can all go back to the way things were.
Commitments are important things. These days the word commitment doesn’t really mean much – we flitter around from relationship to relationship, from job to job, from congregation to congregation, even from city to city or country to country. I genuinely don’t think that the idea of commitment has the same meaning in this day and age as it did once. I look at this memorial that the Israelites were building, and see it as a covenant or commitment between the two parties, honouring their shared memories and their shared blood and making it a physical sign of the relationship between them.
And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us that the LORD is God. ~ Joshua 22:34
He is just that. The LORD is God. What do we have that is a witness and a reminder of this fact in our daily lives?
So, I didn’t skip ahead or anything like that, I just read these chapters in bulk. I feel like I should apologize to God for skim-reading, but seriously, that was so hard to get through!
From a geographical study of Israel, sure, it’s great and very informative. A part of me did enjoy reading it – but the part of me enjoying reading it is the part that writes fantasy novels and creates entire other worlds in my head.
Even so, amongst six chapters there were a few things that actually stood out to me.
So it was Judah and the two tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) who got their allotment first. In this, though, there’s a consistent little tidbit at the end of each tribe’s details.
Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah. ~ Joshua 15:63
They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor ~ Joshua 16:10
Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. ~ Joshua 17:12
There’s a sense of the journey being incomplete that has been there for a little while now; on several occasions there’s a detailed list as to just how much of the Promised Land that God wanted the Israelites to conquer; they just don’t seem to get there.
I remember thinking back in Deuteronomy 34 about reaching our destiny in God, and about Moses, standing there at the end of his life, realizing that even though he’d done so much and come so far, and yet still was not reaching the final step. One of the things that I took from that particular line of thinking, though, was that it’s never complete; that there’s always going to be something else that needs doing.
Does that mean, though, that we should not try?
See, what I want to know, is how is it that they were unable to dislodge these people? I mean, for Jerusalem at least, we’ve got a nice clear story that the Israelites killed the king of Jerusalem, so even if they didn’t destroy the entire population of the city, it’s probably pretty heavily weakened. Then we have Judah, who are a tribe big enough to fill dozens of cities as they spread out, and they can’t dislodge the remnant of the city’s previous population?
I wonder: We sometimes choose to use the word “can’t” when what we actually mean is “won’t” do something, don’t we?
So I’d offer the challenge: What things in our lives are we saying we can’t dislodge, when what we actually mean is that we won’t dislodge them?
So, before we get into the actual division of the land amongs the Israelites, there was one more side note to be brought into play.
Back when the Israelites were first scouting out the Promised Land, there were 12 men sent out to look it over. Of those 12 men, ten of them came back carrying a message of fear. They said that the Israelites couldn’t conquer the giants who lived in the land, they said that it was too difficult; the rest of Israel believed every word these men said. Then there was Joshua and Caleb, who both came back raving about how amazing the Promised Land was, how it flowed with milk and honey, with giant berries and all sorts of luscious food. These two men said that the Israelites could take the land, after all, they had God on their side!
Unfortunately, they were brushed aside. Fear won, and that was why the Israelites ended up wandering in the wilderness for another forty years. Of those ten men, only Joshua and Caleb managed to make their way across the Jordan and into the Promised Land.
And as part of that, Caleb was promised the hill country. He’s now 85 years old – and yet as he says, is still as fit and vigorous as he was back when he was forty, and examining the land of Canaan the first time.
“Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” ~ Joshua 14:12
What I would give to be a man like Caleb when I’m 85 years old, fresh, fit, vigorous, and still maintaining such faith in God that I’m going to go up into the hill country and take the land – not because of my strength, but because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is with me and will help me.
So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. ~ Joshua 14:14
I wonder: What’s your Hebron? What’s that place in your future that you’re looking forward to as a fulfilment of God’s promise? Have you been tested like Caleb was? It would have been very easy for Caleb to just shrug, stand aside and join with the common thought that Canaan was too difficult to conquer, but he and Joshua stood in faith when they were young and said no, Israel can take the Promised Land; and because they did, they were rewarded for their faith.
But here’s one thing: Caleb was rewarded for his faith, but he still had to go and get it. It didn’t just come to him.
Nor did he expect it to be given to him. Caleb probably could well have said to Joshua, “Hey, this is the reward God promised me – bring the Israelite army to back me up while I go up and conquer these lands.”
He didn’t, though. He led his own men, and took that land with the help of God.
I don’t like the statement, ‘Good things come to those who wait’. Personally, I’m not convinced that it’s true – frankly, I’m more a believer in the idea that good things come to those who go and get them. You can’t expect the world to come and lay a silver platter at your feet, you have to work for it, and you have to go out and get it. Caleb, a righteous man alongside Joshua, who – according to scripture – ‘served the LORD wholeheartedly’ still went out and got his reward, with God’s help.
You know, I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten this far into the book of Joshua before in my life – or if I have, it was as exciting then as it is to me now and it just got forgotten. Back in the earlier books, there was all this detail about offerings brought, or about who was who in the tribes, and different things like that – well I’ve glanced ahead, and there’s a whole lot of stuff about division of land and so on over the next few chapters. I’m worried, but hey, I’ll keep reading and ask God what he can reveal to me out of each passage. Maybe it will be a lot, maybe it won’t.
He revealed something to me with chapter 13, though – right in the beginning.
When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” ~ Joshua 13:1
He then goes on to list to Joshua all the land that still has to be taken – it’s quite a lot of land still to go.
It got me thinking, though – this is being said to Joshua when he’s old. Now, I know he wasn’t probably that young when he started the campaign in Canaan; after all, he’d been around for forty years while the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, and he was old enough before that to be sent out as part of a scouting party, but it almost feels like there’s a time gap here, the way it specifies suddenly that he is old.
It makes me think, therefore, that the Israelites may have fallen into a position of resting on their laurels. After this passage where God tells Joshua about the land still to be taken, we go into the division of the land east of the Jordan for the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh; so it feels like Joshua’s gone, “Yeah, I get it, but hey, let’s let everyone rest for a while, it’s peaceful now and we’d like to settle a little.”
It’s very easy to do that sometimes; it’s nice and easy to look around at our life and think that it’s satisfactory, that we’ve achieved something, so instead of continuing to press on, we can just settle down and take a break for a while. The trouble is, I’ve found in my own life, anyway, that when you sit down and take a break, it’s harder to get back up again.
I think, sometimes, we can get to a stage where we think we’re standing in the conquered promised land; we’ve reached our destiny in God.
Deep down we know we haven’t. Deep down, we know that this is just a job half done. However, we look ahead, we see a list like the one given to Joshua by God to say that these are all the other things that need to be done, and we just shake our head and think we’ll just rest here for a while.
Soon enough, we’re resting for so long that we don’t actually end up getting any further.
Our lives are never complete until we’re walking up to our Father at the end of our lives, with him beaming down at us like the proud Father he will be and embracing us – until then, our lives are always a job half done; so don’t stop. Keep going, keep conquering the Promised Land and keep walking into your destiny. One day the Father will be embracing you after you’ve actually stepped completely into that destiny that he had for you, and then – then there will be time for rest.
So, we’re back to one of those exciting chapters where it’s just names and numbers. This list goes through the kings defeated by the Israelites – there were 31 in total. Not a bad effort, really, when you think about it. They took the land of thirty one nations and made it all into their own. If it was in a more modern setting, they’d be British!
I was already preparing, in a way, last night as to what I could write for this chapter – because I could see it coming and was just shaking my head in wonderment, but then God pointed something out to me.
For a lot of the time that I’ve been going through this journey of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, I’ve used the Promised Land as a metaphor, essentially, for the destiny that God has for us in our lives – a place that we are to step into in our lives. As the Israelites stepped into the Promised Land, though, God told them to clear it out completely. There wasn’t meant to be anyone left.
Now they already screwed that up with the Gibeonites, being tricked into a treaty, but that’s not my point here.
See all these other nations would have been influential upon the new fledgling nation of Israel; and God wanted to be Israel’s sole inspiration and focus.
We need to, also, be clearing out the ‘kings’ of our Promised Land as we enter it. There are things in our lives, not all good, which influence us away from God.
So as I read this chapter tonight, I began thinking, this is a record of the things that God’s done for the Israelites, all the kings who have been defeated in the Promised Land, making it a land where the Israelites can live peacefully with God as their influence.
A thought, therefore: Have you ever considered listing the things that God’s defeated in your life? Imagine writing a list like this, of the things God has provided victory over in your life. Is it maybe worth doing? If we sat down and actually looked at the amount God has done for us, would we be astonished? I already am just thinking about it…
So as I started to read this chapter, my mind was worrying – it’s another history tale, of battles and defeated kings as the Israelites take over the Promised Land. Sure, it’s an exciting story for someone like me, but I was worrying more about what application there could be from this chapter.
Turns out, there’s two things. Well, three actually, but two in particular for tonight.
They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots – a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. ~ Joshua 11:4
When I think of a statement like, ‘as numerous as the sand on the seashore’, I imagine a massive army. I’m picturing standing up on a hill overlooking the enemy, and just seeing them spread from horizon to horizon, with no end in sight. Imagine standing there, looking out over an army that size, the thoughts that would run through your head.
I can’t help but to think of The Lord of the Rings - and in particular the battle at Helms’ Deep, when we see the heroes looking out from the city walls, and they can just see row after row after row after row of orcs. Right there, they struggled to have hope, because the enemy in front of them seemed invincible – there were just too many to stand against, and even with their determination; the end result seemed obvious.
This happens with us sometimes, doesn’t it? Often we’ll look at a task we’re faced with, a struggle we’re up against, and think that it just seems insurmountable. We’ll look at a mountain we have to climb, or an enemy we have to defeat, and just think it can’t be done.
The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain.” ~ Joshua 11:6
This is the sort of thing that God’s saying to us when we’re staring at that mountain thinking it can’t be climbed, when we’re looking at that challenge thinking there’s no way we could possibly get past it – God says not to be afraid, because He will hand the victory to us. Our victory is not in ourselves, and yes, if we try to undertake these seemingly insurmountable challenges in our own strength, then we probably won’t succeed – but when we remember that the victory is in God, that’s when we can do like the Israelites.
So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel. ~ Joshua 11:7-8
With God on their side, the Israelites were victorious over the whole combined armies of the people of Canaan.
So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions.
Then the land had rest from war. ~ Joshua 11:23
I think this is as important a part as the rest of the chapter, that last line: The land had rest from war.
For a long time now I’ve felt God building in me a warrior spirit, that he’s training me up to be a soldier in the spiritual front lines of the battles. However one thing that I tend to forget about is the rest part. Even the greatest heroes, the greatest soldiers, require rest. The land itself needs rest from war so that settling can be done and restoration can occur. We need to rest our hearts, be renewed and refreshed and restored when God provides us with the victory.
I have to admit, whenever I look at one of these chapters like this one and see that it drags on for several columns, a part of me sinks a little. At times it’s a real struggle to read the scriptures, and I don’t really understand why… In a way, it’s kind of like exercising when I first started going back to the gym. See, I’d dread it, because I knew how hard it would be and that it involved some work and some struggle – but I always feel fantastic at the end of a workout, and the same goes for reading the word – I always feel better at the end of reading it, so I don’t know why I struggle to start!
Anyway, though; we’re totally in campaign mode now. Joshua and the Israelites have defeated Jericho and Ai, and they’ve gone and made peace (however inadvertently) with Gibeon.
So enter Adoni-Zedek, King of Jerusalem.
A lot of the things that I wonder from reading this chapter come back to my knowledge mind rather than anything really spiritual. It comes back to that part of me that wants to know the history, the story behind everything. For example: What was Jerusalem at this stage in history? Who was Adoni-Zedek?
What I mean, is that ever since the Israelites had a king, pretty much, it’s been one of the most important places in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. So the question is, was there anything special about the city at this point in history? I’m sure there’s some archaeological studies that have been done to shed some light on the situation, but I haven’t read them.
Still, Adoni-Zedek is one of the Amorite kings; and he sends out messages to his fellow Amorites.
So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.” ~ Joshua 10:3-4
Again, back to the history, I’m really fascinated to learn about the politics of the time. The Israelites have come out of the nation of Egypt and made their way to the Promised Land, which isn’t that. The way I read all these stories of Joshua having to take out so many kings of so many different cities seems to represent this tribal warlord sort of political system. There were a whole group of city/states at a sort of tribal level, each watched over by its own king – but with family ties as well. All of these five were kings over their own land, but they came from the same heritage, it would seem. Suddenly, you have Joshua and the Israelites coming into the land deciding they’re going to make it a nation – kind of like how Egypt was run.
It just fascinates me.
So the kings march on Gibeon, who in turn send word to Joshua.
After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. ~ Joshua 10:9-10
This is another one of my favourite stories in the bible. The sun stands still for another full day or thereabouts, to give the Israelites time to defeat the Amorites in one go – and this is after an all-night march already. Effectively, these guys were probably up for about three days straight, and doing hard physical work – they were probably exhausted by the end of it.
The tale continues, they kill the kings and then lay waste to each of the cities involved.
The sun stood still.
I actually find it amusing that this is a concept that blows my mind perhaps even more than trying to conceive of eternity does. See, I just think about the idea of the sun standing still, and can’t really conceive of it. Our world’s very gravitational force is caused by the fact that the Earth is spinning as it journeys around the sun. Now what we’re saying is that the Earth, effectively, stopped spinning for a day which allowed the sun to therefore hang in the sky.
So my question for God: Did he move the sun to keep it aligned with the Earth’s position? Or did he stop the Earth spinning and give them an artificial gravity source for that 24 hours or so?
Also, just to finish, the other thing that frustrates me about these sorts of passages is when they refer to other books that I”m not allowed to read.
So the sun stood still,and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. Joshua 10:13.
I so would love to know what else the book of Jashar says. It makes me wonder – in line with how much I’d love to know what the society and politics and everything were like in these cultures at the time, how much knowledge has been lost over the millenia?
That’s all – probably nothing really spiritually deep tonight, unfortunately, but it’s all fascinating stuff to me!
So, the Israelites are now gaining a bit of a reputation as they make their way deeper into the promised land. First Jericho, then Ai. Word’s spreading throughout the landscape, to the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
Man I love the names of the biblical nations, and I really actually want to learn more about who they all were. I’m not sure how possible it would be, but one day I’ll get into studying all of that.
Anyway, though, all these people are hearing the word spread that the Israelites are on the warpath, and basically taking out everyone who stands in their way.
So all the other ‘…ites,’ they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel. ~ Joshua 9:2
But one group had a better idea – the Gibeonites. They decide to come up to Joshua and pretend to be from a long way off, somewhere in the distance, asking for a treaty. They pack their bags with stale, mouldy bread and old wineskins, they dress up in tattered, patched clothes and shoes, and come wandering up asking for peace.
The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. ~ Joshua 9:14
You know, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life – and many of them, I’m sure, could have been avoided if I’d spent some time inquiring of God as to what I should do with a certain situation. Many of them, well, I didn’t even need to inquire of him, all I really needed to do was listen to things he’s made very clear throughout his word, and I would have made some very different decisions.
I don’t regret any of it. As I heard Mike Tyson say in an interview on 60 minutes – he was asked if he could go back and change one thing, what would it be – and his response was that if he changed anything, then he wouldn’t be who he is today.
What happened when the Israelites realised that their distant neighbours, with whom they’d just made a peace treaty, were actually just around the corner?
But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. ~ Joshua 9:18
I think it’s a lesson that we need to learn in life, that when we make mistakes, there are going to be consequences, and those consequences are probably not going to be of God’s design for our lives. The thing is, though, that there’s an element of “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it,” that comes to the forefront here. The Israelites had made an oath of peace with these people, and they were bound to keep it.
Sure, there were all kinds of excuses they could have made to get out of it, but they didn’t.
Sometimes, decisions we make without hearing the voice of God can have pretty major consequences – and sometimes there may be a way out of it. Not always. Sometimes, we just have to live with what’s happened, and let it become a part of who we are, just like the Gibeonites now became a part of the nation of Israel. They might not have been a greatly honoured part, but they were a part of the nation nonetheless. Just like the consequences of our mistakes can become a part of us.