Notes on Joshua
1:1-18 - For Israel, it was a new beginning. They were leaving the wilderness. That was their past. They were entering the promised land. This was God’s future. For God’s future, there is God’s command - ‘Be strong’ - and God’s promise - ‘the Lord your God is with you’. We wonder what the future holds. We wonder how it will all work out. God says, ‘Don’t be frightened. I will be with you wherever you go’ (9). How can we face the future with confidence? How can we ‘be strong in the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:10)? How can we be sure that the Lord will never let us down (2 Corinthians 3:5)? How can we step out into a future full of His blessing? ‘Meditate on His Word day and night’. Read your Bible - ‘This Book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book’: Which will it be? (8; Psalm 1:1-3).
2:1-24 - The story of Rahab is summarized in Hebrews 11:31 - ‘By faith... she gave a friendly welcome to the spies’. A friendly welcome - What an important thing this is! She spoke the word of encouragement - ‘I know the Lord has given you this land’ (9). This message of faith was taken back to Joshua (24). It was exactly what he needed! Few of us are ‘big name’ spiritual leaders like Joshua. All of us have an important part to play in the Lord’s work. For every ‘Joshua’ we need plenty of ‘Rahabs’, giving the friendly welcome, speaking the word of encouragement. Let there be no more unhelpful, negative criticism - ‘We cannot do this. We dare not do that. We must not do the other’. Let there be the friendly welcome, the word of encouragement. It will make such a difference - for the better!
3:1-17 - ‘Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’ (5). ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth’ (John 17:17). Together with the command, there is the prayer. We are called to set ourselves apart for God. We can only do this when we look to the Lord for His strength. We receive His strength through His Word. We give ourselves to the Lord. He gives His promise to us: ‘the Lord will do wonders among you’. His promise of blessing is no guarantee of an easy time. In the promised land, there would be problems - and God: ‘as I was with Moses, so I will be with you’ (7). There would be conflict - and victory: ‘the living God is among you... He will without fail drive out from before you...’ (10). We look beyond Joshua to Jesus - ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). In Him, we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).
4:1-24 - ‘These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever’ (7). When, in the future, the question was asked, ‘What do these stones mean?’(6), Israel would remember what the Lord had done for them (23). Knowing that ‘the hand of the Lord is mighty’, they would be strengthened to face their difficulties with confidence in God. Rejoicing in what the Lord has done - ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes’ - , they would learn to ‘fear the Lord their God for ever’ (24; Psalm 118:23). Israel remembered. We must remember. When you’re going through a hard time, don’t forget - to remember! God has been good to you. He has blessed you. When God seems so far away, remember - and pray that, once again, ‘times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord’ (Acts 3:19).
5:1-15 - As you read about circumcision (2-7) and the Passover (10), think also of Paul’s words in Romans 2:29 and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 - ‘real circumcision is a matter of the heart’, ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’. ‘The Commander of the Lord’s army’ came to Joshua (13-15). Christ comes to us. He calls us to worship. He equips us for battle. ‘Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe... At the sign of triumph, Satan’s legions flee... Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise... Like a mighty army moves the Church of God... Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that Church prevail; We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail... On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory’ (Church Hymnary, 480).
6:1-27 - ‘The walls came tumbling down’ - What a mighty work of God this was! It was ‘the Lord’ who gave Jericho into the hands of His people (16). His victory was received by faith: ‘By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days’ (Hebrews 11:30). Notice that the declaration of victory comes before the obedience of faith (2,16). We start out from victory. We do not achieve the victory by our own faith. The victory is given to us by the Lord. Faith simply receives the blessing already promised to us by the Lord. Faith expresses itself in obedience. Believing God’s promise, they obeyed His command - and the blessing followed. They walked ‘by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7) - ‘It shall be done’, not ‘It can’t be done’. Let us be ‘devoted to the Lord’ (17-19).
7:1-26 - This chapter begins with the word, ‘But’ - This is ominous! What comes next? - Sin: ‘the people of Israel broke faith with regard to the devoted things’. The sin was Achan’s, yet it affected the whole people of Israel: ‘the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel’ (1). Sin is like infection - it spreads! What kind of effect do your actions have on other people? Cain asked, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9). His question was an expression of callous indifference. There is no place for this attitude among God’s people: ‘Decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother’ (Romans 14:13). Read the story of Achan, and remember this: ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ (Numbers 32:23). Let no one have good cause to ask, ‘Why did you bring trouble on us’ (25).
8:1-35 - The victory was given by the Lord: ‘I have given into your hand...’ (1). The people still had to claim the victory. Israel’s triumph was a spiritual victory from which we can learn much. We learn, first, that ‘the battle is the Lord’s’ (7; 1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15). Believing the Lord’s promise - ‘the Lord your God will give it into your hand’ (7) - we act upon His command: ‘Do what the Lord has commanded’ (8). God’s work is to be done in God’s way - Believing the promise, Obeying the command (18) - with God’s Word at the centre. We need the whole Word of God - ‘all that is written...’. In this, we learn from Joshua - ‘He did not leave out one word from everything Moses had commanded’. We need ‘the blessing and the curse’ - the strong warnings as well as the precious promises (34-35).
9:1-10:15 - Some chose ‘to make war against Joshua and Israel’ (9:1-2). The Gibeonites came, looking for peace. They achieved their objective - ‘Joshua made peace with them’ (9:15). In this story we see the work of Satan, and we may catch a glimpse of the work of God. The ‘peace’ was based on deception. The Gibeonites ‘acted with cunning’ (9:4). The Israelites were easily deceived. They ‘did not ask direction from the Lord’ (9:14). The Gibeonites brought trouble to Israel (10:3-5). There were ‘weeds among the wheat’ - ‘An enemy has done this’ (Matthew 13:25,28). Through the grace of God, the Gibeonites’ ‘curse’ could become a ‘blessing’. Working at ‘the place’ of worship, they could come to know and love the Person who is worshipped (23,27; Psalm 84:4). Let Christ bring you from ‘no peace’ to real peace (Jeremiah 6:14; Romans 5:1).
10:16-11:15 - God gives the promise. Believing His promise, we obey His command, pressing on to victory (25,6). This is God’s way of victory: ‘go in to take possession of the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess’ (1:11). As we read of Joshua’s military exploits, we must not lose sight of the spiritual dimension: ‘the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel’ (42). This is what we must learn. The victory does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord who fights for us. Through ‘the obedience of faith’ (Romans 1:5), - believing God’s promise, we obey His command - , the Lord’s victory becomes a living reality in our lives. Joshua built on the foundation laid for him by Moses (12,15). Learning from ‘the apostles and prophets’, we build on God’s Foundation, ‘Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
11:16-12:24 - What is the spiritual value of this list of victories? Don’t be sidetracked by the military aspect. This is not about Israel blowing its own trumpet. It is about giving glory to God. In Genesis 12:1-3, we have God’s promise to bring blessing to all nations. Before Christ came as ‘the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:42), Israel was to become ‘a great nation’ - ‘a holy nation’, ‘a light to the nations’ (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 49:6). This involved the ‘curse’ on the rebellious peoples who presented a sinful obstacle to God’s saving purpose. The Lord is King! The united people of God won a decisive victory in ‘the whole land’ (11:23). There was, however, still ‘very much land to be possessed’ by the individual tribes (13:1). God’s Word is preached publicly. It must also be applied personally - by you!
13:1-14:15 - God has given the land to Israel. Still, there was the challenge: ‘there is still very much land to be possessed’ (13:1). ‘God... has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing’. Now, we must ‘lead a life worthy of His calling’ (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1). ‘Joshua was old and advanced in years’. Caleb was ‘eighty five years old’ (13:1; 14:10).These were men of faith. Forty five years earlier, they had called on the people to trust and obey: ‘The Lord... will bring us into this land... Only, do not rebel against the Lord’ (14:7-10; Numbers 14:6-9). They had persevered: ‘I press on...’. They had been preserved: ‘Kept by the power of God’ (Philippians 3:14; 1 Peter 1:5). ‘I am still as strong to this day as I was’, ‘We will serve the Lord’ (14:11; 24:15). This is faith - for yesterday, today and tomorrow!
15:1-63 - ‘The land of Negeb’ had little water. The request was made - ‘Give me also springs of water’. The request was granted. Trusting in the Lord’s promise - ‘the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him’, we receive His blessing - ‘rivers of living water’ (19; Luke 11:13; John 7:38-39). ‘The people of Judah could not drive out’ the Jebusites. We may contrast Judah’s failure with Caleb’s faith - ‘the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the Lord said’. Learning from Judah’s failure - ‘Do not be conformed to this world’ - , we must build on Caleb’s faith - ‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind’. Let us commit ourselves to doing ‘God’s will - His good, pleasing and perfect will’ (63; 14:12; Romans 12:2). Do His will. Let His ‘rivers of living water’ flow freely.
16:1-17:18 - Compromise is a poor substitute for obedience. Fail to obey God, and you may have to live with the consequences of your disobedience: ‘they did not drive out the Canaanites... so the Canaanites have dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day (16:10). Settling for anything less than God’s very best will surely lead us far from Him and His blessing: ‘He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). If we are to make real spiritual progress, we must not rest on our laurels’ - ‘We are a numerous people’. We must do the work of God: ‘you shall drive out the Canaanites’. Our obedience must be more than ‘empty words’. We must not live as ‘the sons of disobedience’. We must ‘live as the children of light’ - ‘God’s own people’ (14,18; Ephesians 5:6-10; 1 Peter 2:9).
18:1-19:51 - ‘How long will you be slack to go in and take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?’ (18:3). God has given us so much: ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness’. How much are we giving ourselves to Him? - ‘Make every effort to add to your faith... If you do this you will never fail; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:3-11). In Joshua, we see a fine example of the Christlike spirit - ‘not to be served but to serve’ (Mark 10:45). After ‘they had finished distributing the... land’, Joshua received his ‘inheritance’. He led with the attitude of a servant. He wasn’t ‘in it only for what he could get out of it’ - the city he chose had to be ‘rebuilt’ (49-50)!
20:1-21:45 - We read of manslaughter, ‘the cities of refuge’ and the death of the high priest (20:1-6). What does all this have to do with us? We are sinners. Jesus Christ has died for us. He is our Refuge. He is our Great High Priest. In Him, there is ‘no condemnation’. In Him, we become ‘a new creation’ (Matthew 5:21-22; Romans 5:8; 8:1; Hebrews 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Israel’s story is a human story. It is also the Lord’s Story (43-45). We fail God. He never fails us (2 Timothy 2:13). Sin threatens to overwhelm us. The Lord comes to us with His promise of deliverance and victory (Romans 7:21-25; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Our spiritual progress is so slow - ‘little by little’(Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22-24). God does not lose patience with us (Psalm 103:8-13). He never stops loving us!
22:1-34 - Joshua had heard God’s Word (1:8). Now, he speaks God’s Word to the people (5). To those who ‘have obeyed’ Him, God says, ‘Keep on obeying Me’. This is the way of blessing (1-6). Together with God’s promise of blessing, we need His warning against rebellion: ‘Do not rebel against the Lord’ (19). Why does God warn us against the dangers of ‘rebellion against the Lord’ (16)? It is because He wants us to say with heart and voice: ‘Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord’ (29). Our ‘resolution’ seems so weak - ‘I feel like giving up’. The temptation to ‘rebel against the Lord’ seems so strong - ‘I feel like I can’t go on’. Let us pray for a stronger faith in God - ‘The Lord is God’ - and a richer experience of His presence - ‘We know that the Lord is in the midst of us’ (34,31).
23:1-16 - God has done, is doing and will do great things for us (3-5, 8-10). He calls us to ‘obey’ Him, to ‘hold fast’ to Him, to ‘love’ Him (6,8,11). The pattern of Joshua’s teaching - ‘This is what the Lord has done’ (3-5) ‘Therefore’ ‘This is what you must do’ (6-8) - is similar to Paul’s approach in Romans and Ephesians. In Romans 1-11 and Ephesians 1-3, Paul grounds his readers in the truth of the Gospel. In Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 4:1, he says, ‘Therefore’. Here are the practical implications. In the light of all that the Lord has done for you, this is how you must live for Him. Be strong in the Lord. In Him, we have the victory (10; Psalm 3:6). Maintain your love for God. Don’t presume on God’s blessing. There is no guarantee of blessing for those who ‘turn back’ from following the Lord (11-13,15-16). He has not failed us (14). We must not fail Him!
24:1-33 - Close to the end of his life, Joshua commits himself and his family to the Lord (15,29). Moved by his example, the people commit themselves to the Lord (16-18,21,24). For Israel, this was a momentous decision - a definite, public commitment to the Lord (24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua’s preaching. What God has done for Israel (2-13) is followed by ‘Therefore...’ (14). When we are called to make a real commitment, we must ask the searching question, ‘Do I really mean it’ (19-20). We must commit ourselves to the Lord: ‘Fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness’ (14). Make your own commitment to the Lord. Give your testimony - ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. Pray that others will also say, ‘We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him (15,24). Let us ‘serve the Lord all the days’ of our life (31).