Joshua

Joshua Overview

Forty years in the desert are finally over.  The generation that did not trust in God’s power to lead Israel into the promised land died in the desert (Numbers 13-14).  Moses, their leader, also died prior to entering the land (Numbers 20:1-13; Deuteronomy 34).  But a new generation has come of age and God’s chosen leader for them is Joshua, one of a few from the older generation who believed in the power of God, along with Moses, Aaron, and Caleb (Numbers 14:5-10; Joshua 14:6-15).

The promised land is hugely significant for understanding the Old Testament and the story that God is telling throughout the Bible.  The promise of land goes all the way back to Abraham (Genesis 12:1; 15:16-21).  God called Abraham out of a life of worshipping idols (Joshua 24:2) in order to make him into a nation devoted to worshipping Him.  The promised land was to be the place where God would be obeyed and exalted without the hindrance of other nations who worshipped false gods.  It was to be the place where God’s people would experience the abundance of God’s blessing, and in turn, extend God’s blessing to all nations.  As such, the promised land is the staging ground and a microcosm of the coming new creation, where God’s people from every tongue, tribe and nation will obey and exalt him, enjoying the abundance of his blessing.  

The problem with the promised land is that several other nations were already planted there.  When God promised the land to Abraham, he told him that the sin of the inhabitants had “not yet reached it’s full measure” (Genesis 15:16).  In other words, if the inhabitants continued in sin without repenting, judgment was coming, but God would continue to be patient for a time.  Hundreds of years later, God uses Israel, under Joshua’s lead, to bring judgment on these nations, just as He would later use Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel for their sin.  God commanded that the judgment on these nations be complete, for He did not want Israel to become entangled in their idolatry.  However, the book of Joshua is a book of only partial success.  God gives Israel great success in establishing dominance in the land, but there is an implied lack of trust in Israel’s failure to completely drive out the nations.  

Outline

1-5 Preparing to Take Land
      1- Call to Take the Land
      2- Rahab and the Spies
      3- Crossing the Jordan
      4 -Remembering God’s Faithfulness
      5 -Circumcision
      (CRCRC)

6-12 Conquest of the Land
      6-8 Central Campaign
      9-10 Southern Campaign
      11-12 Northern Campaign

13-21 Distribution of the Land

22-24 Living in the Land
      22 Eastern Tribes Altar & Treaty
      23 Joshua’s Farewell
      24 Covenant Renewed at Shechem

 

Joshua 1

“Be strong and very courageous.”  But also, “Be careful to obey all the law” (1:6-7).  Courage and obedience.  From the world’s perspective, courage and obedience do not go hand-in-hand.  Personalities given to boldness and bravery frequently have a rules-are-made-to-be-broken mentality.  Personalities given to obedience, or submission to authority, often do not carry a take-the land mentality.  But the courage that comes from God is not merely natural courage.  Yes, even our good personality traits are gifts from God, but the tandem courage and obedience required to build the kingdom of God in a fallen world go beyond natural traits.  Joshua and the people of Israel will need to be continually empowered by God in order to remain faithful to the mission and to God’s law in “every place where you set your foot” (1:3).  This power from God is always available to them, for God has promised never to leave or forsake them (1:5; cf. Deuteronomy 34:9).

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

  • Have you known of Christian leaders who were go-getters or strong visionaries, but who were brought down by a lack of humble obedience to God’s law?  Have you known Christians whom you admired for their humble obedience but who lacked a persistent willingness to step out in faith to see how God might use them to build his kingdom?  The point of these questions is not to cast judgment on particular individuals, but to demonstrate the reality that all of us need more than our natural personalities.  We need to be continually empowered by God in order to be fully given to obedience to him and to be fully given to his mission in the world, especially when it feels risky.  
     
  • What are some of your natural personality strengths?  How might God use those gifts for his glory, or how is he already using those gifts, as you offer up those gifts to him? 
     
  • In what aspects of your personality do you need God to show his power in your natural weaknesses?  Are you more naturally given to courage or humble obedience?  Allow God to search your heart as you consider these questions.  Consider Paul’s encouragement to Timothy towards courage and self-discipline in 2 Timothy 1:6-7.
     
  • How does Jesus fulfill this? Humble and courageous. Expand on this question. 

Note on Joshua 1:12-18:  We did not reflect on this portion of the passage today, but will come back to it when we get to chapter 22.  

 

Joshua 2

The mercy of God in Christ is offensive to our self-justifying hearts and never more so than in today’s passage.  Rahab is clearly identified as a prostitute, perhaps the madam of an inn that she owned.  Her inn was convenient for travelers and the Israelites visit to such an establishment would have been less likely to raise suspicion than visits to other parts of the city.  Still, the Israelities were spotted, giving Rahab the opportunity to put her newfound faith in the true God into action (2:9-13).  

God’s mercy on Rahab is so offensive that some Jewish scholars have said that she was simply an innkeeper, with one scholar arguing that the term prostitute was applied out of jealousy over her business success.  Yes, this is a stretch, but scholars are particularly concerned because of Rahab’s prominent role in Jewish history.  In his gospel, Matthew is not afraid to identify her as the ancestress of King David and, more importantly, King Jesus (Matthew 1:5).  The New Testament book of Hebrews includes “the prostitute Rahab” in the “Hall of Faith,” along with such figures as Abraham and Moses (Hebrews 11:31).*  In other words, Scripture does not shy away from proclaiming God’s offensive mercy to Rahab.  

What sign was used to save Rahab from God’s judgment on the people of Jericho?  She was saved by means of a scarlet cord tied in the window of her home (2:17-18).  This scarlet cord clearly symbolized blood (2:19) and it is a remarkably similar sign to the Passover sign that God gave Israel when he rescued them from slavery in Egypt, when God’s destroying angel passed over the homes of Israelites who painted a sacrificial lamb’s blood on their door-frames.  Just as the angel passed over homes covered by the Lamb’s blood, so Israel would “pass over” Rahab’s home.  And just as the lamb’s blood at Passover was a sign pointing to and fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrifice, so was Rahab’s sign.  The kingdom has always been open to Jew and Gentile, to all who share the faith of Joshua and Rahab, to all who are covered by the blood of Christ.

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

  • In order to believe the gospel of God’s forgiveness in Christ, we have to get over our own self-justification or self-righteousness.  Do you remember when you first gave up trying to justify yourself and trusted in the mercy of God?  Today, are you living by self-justification or Christ’s justifying work on our behalf?
     
  • God’s mercy toward Rahab is particularly scandalous or offensive because of the nature of her business.  God’s forgiveness of sexual sin is often the most difficult for us to believe, since it is uniquely destructive (1 Corinthians 6:18).  Are you believing in God’s forgiveness of sexual sin and in his power to transform you?
     
  • Rahab put her faith into action by risking her life for the sake of Israel’s mission.  How is God calling you to put your faith into action?  In what ways might it be risky, even if not life-threatening?

* See Dr. Claude Mariottini’s online article “Rahab: A Prostitute or an Innkeeper?”

Joshua 3?

 

Joshua 4

The big boulders in our lives are intimidating when they are still.  The boulder may be writing a research paper or studying for an exam, getting a job or changing career paths, starting a new initiative or drafting a proposal, establishing new patterns in your family, getting a difficult conversation started, preparing ahead for a sports season or season of life, entering into the brokenness and pain of your community, reaching out to the people around you with the love and message of Christ, etc.  Big boulders must to be moved by God in order to go in the right direction, but it seems that God frequently asks us to meet him next to the still boulder, inviting us to bring what little moving tools we have in faith.  He asks the priests to go stand at the edge of the water (3:13; 4:10-11), he asks the impoverished widow to bring empty jars (2 Kings 4:3), and he asks the disciples to gather loaves of bread (Mark 6:38).  Whatever the boulder is, once we see God moving the boulder along, it no longer seems quite so intimidating.  

God must go before us and with us, as we saw yesterday, but He almost always works through his people to accomplish his purposes.  We’ve already seen that He is always calling us to take steps of faith with the little that we have.  God also calls human leaders to lead his people.  The crossing of the Jordan is the signature event demonstrating the passing of the leadership from Moses to Joshua (3:7; 4:14,23).  Still, note that the most important thing for the people to know about Joshua is that God was with him (3:7).  

One of Joshua’s primary tasks as the human leader of Israel was to help the people remember that God was with them.  In fact, most of today’s passage concerns the memorial stones that God commanded Joshua to gather (4:1-9, 19-24).  The sheer attention that this “stone ceremony” gets alerts us to the importance of remembering God’s grace and power in our lives.  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• What are the boulders in your life that God may be calling you to move, in his strength?  What little steps of faith is God calling you to take, in faith, toward these boulder(s) in your life?  

• What leadership characteristics do you value most highly?  Is having “God with you” at the top of the list?  

• If you have a position of leadership, especially spiritual leadership, do you see one of your primary callings to be reminding people of God’s grace and power, or are other agenda items getting in the way?  Take time to reflect on the “stones” of God’s grace and power in your own life. 

 

Joshua 5

What a terrible battle strategy!  Give all of your men surgery, requiring days of healing, just before they are about to fight.  But this is ultimately not their battle . . . 

In Joshua’s conversation with the “commander of the army of the LORD”* (5:13-14), we are reminded that God calls his people to do his will, not that He would do our will!  Yes, there is a very real sense in which He is “for us,” but only in that his will and his purposes and his kingdom are best for us.  The taking of Jericho and the promised land was first and foremost the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth, and secondarily a blessing to Israel.  The eventual banishment and exile of Israel from the promised land provides further evidence that God is “for” his kingdom before he is “for” Israel.  

As God’s instruments in God’s battle, Israel could not fight for a holy God (5:15) based on their own merit.  They were not worthy to fight alongside the LORD, so they needed to receive the sign of circumcision, which was the sign of forgiveness through the blood of Christ, before they could fight for God.  (See devotional on Genesis 17 for more on the  spiritual significance of circumcision).  Likewise, whenever we do the LORD’s work, we must remember that we do not do it in the strength of our own goodness, but as those forgiven and covered by the blood of Christ!  When we are weak in ourselves, we are strong in Christ.  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• Have you ever or recently been hindered or hesitant to serve God or to share your faith because you were ashamed of your own sin?  How does Israel’s circumcision (i.e. covering in the blood of Christ) speak into your self-doubt?  

• As you have served Christ recently, has it been out of a sense of your own merit or in humble reliance on the mercy of Christ?  This passage calls us to examine our hearts for sin as well as for self-righteousness before we daily seek to serve Christ.  

* Who was the “commander of the army of the LORD”?  Either an angel or God himself, perhaps a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.  

 

Joshua 6

Three aspects of the fall of Jericho stand out.  The unique walks around the walled city, the rescue of Rahab’s household, and the total destruction of every other living thing.

Walking around a city did not become Israel’s regular battle strategy.  The Lord generally called them to more customary battle strategies, but it is no accident that the first city in the promised land fell by supernatural means.  It is a vivid reminder to Israel and to us that God is the one who will build his kingdom, whether by supernatural means or more ordinary means.  

Special note is made, not once or twice but three times, that Rahab was spared from God’s judgment on Jericho (6:17, 22-23, 25).  Rahab’s faith in the God of Israel was proven through her act of hiding the spies, which is also mentioned twice here and again in the New Testament (James 2:25-26, and see Joshua 2).  She feared the true God of Israel more than the rulers of Jericho or the empty threats of their false gods, risking her life only to find life in the protection of the true God.  

Finally, the total destruction of the city and “devotion” of the city to the LORD is another strong theme in this chapter (6:17-19, 21,24).  It’s not easy for us to read that “they destroyed with the sword every living thing in it” (6:21).  The time of God’s judgment on the nations in the promised land had come (see Introduction to Joshua).  We know that it was God’s judgment and not Israel’s judgment on Jericho, God’s battle and not ultimately Israel’s battle (Joshua 5), for all of the riches of the city were to be devoted to the temple of the LORD (6:17-19,24).  If it were Israel’s battle, they would have kept what they wanted and been much wealthier for it.  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

  • Even though God usually calls us to more ordinary ways of building his kingdom, who are you relying on?  God calls us to the ordinariness of conversations with friends or teammates or classmates or co-workers, of discussions and teaching about Scripture, of personal investment in the lives of the poor and the people God has put around us, of faithfulness in vocational decisions and in our actual work and in service at church, etc.  These are the ways God’s builds his kingdom today.  While God may gift you in certain areas, are you relying on your own power and persuasiveness, or on his power?
     
  • As you consider Rahab’s faith in action, do you see yourself seeking life in the people and gods of this world, or in the true God?  Like Rahab, who found salvation under the scarlet cord, are you finding forgiveness today under the blood of Christ?

Joshua 7

What a torturous selection process this must have been!  Did Achan really think that the lot might fall on someone else?  Was he holding out hope that his sin would remain hidden?  Was he deceiving himself?  As the process narrowed from tribe to clan to family and the impending sense of being found out became inevitable, what did he think the consequences would be?  

It is so easy to deceive ourselves when sin is hidden.  It clouds our judgment, darkens our understanding.  We pretend that God doesn’t see.  We pretend that it will not destroy our relationships, our joy, our fellowship with God, our fruitfulness in God’s kingdom, but it always will!  Sometimes this destruction is swift and clear, often the breakdown happens in slow and subtle ways.  Achan’s sin, which his entire family may have participated in, is blocking the fruitfulness in mission of Israel (7:11-12) and judgment comes swiftly.  

At significant turning points in the redemption of God’s people, God displays his restoring power and holiness through supernatural miracles and distinctive judgments, as in the case of Achan’s death.  However, before the judgment on Achan and his family, there is a more subtle breakdown in their mission.  The cause of the breakdown is unknown.  Joshua immediately falls on his face and pleads with God, which is not necessarily a bad response, but perhaps he should have examined himself and his community before examining God’s intentions (7:7-12).  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

  • Achan’s sin was keeping treasure for himself that was expressly to be devoted to God.  There is likely no precise parallel in our lives to this express command, but we know that we are to use all that we have for the glory of God and are not to trust in earthly treasures.  What are the “hidden treasures” in your life that are not devoted to God’s purposes or that you find yourself trusting in — they may or may not be material possessions?  “Breakdowns” in our lives do not necessarily come from our own sins, but take time to consider this possibility. 
     
  • Any time Christians see God’s harsh judgment in Scripture, we ought to be reminded of two things:  one, God is holy and our sin results in utter separation from God; two, Jesus endured God’s awful judgment of our sin, that we would be reconciled to God.  Take time to praise God for his holiness/perfection and for his mercy in taking our sin on himself.  

 

Joshua 8

The means of taking the city of Ai were more ordinary than in the battle of Jericho (6), but the description makes it abundantly clear that the battle is still the LORD’s.  He provided the battle plan (8:2) and brought about the victory (8:1,18).  

This time, the plunder and livestock are given to Israel, but they ultimately belong to the LORD.  At Jericho, this reality was expressed through the total destruction of the livestock and dedication of all valuables to the temple.  Jericho became a sort of tithe to the LORD of the firstfruits of the promised land — the entire city being devoted to the LORD.  At Ai, this reality is expressed through offerings and sacrifices (8:30-31), presumably from the plunder and livestock Israel had just received.  The first city has already been devoted, but they immediately give up the first portion of Ai’s plunder to the LORD.

We see clearly, at the end of our passage, the purpose of the battles and of the promised land.  God is creating a people and a place where He will be acknowledged and worshipped as the true King — not only through sacrifices and offerings (8:30-31), but also through everyday conformity to his law and character (8:32-35).  Finally, stress is given in the passage to the international and intergenerational nature of this kingdom — men, women, children, Israelites, and aliens are called to follow the LORD (8:33,35). 

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• What does it look like for all of our possessions to be devoted to the LORD?  The LORD provides food, clothing, and shelter, and often “richly provides . . . for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).  Am I seeking the LORD’s guidance in all of my earning and spending and saving, that I might be rich in good deeds, generous and willing to share in order to extend the kingdom of God (1 Timothy 6:18)?

• Is the kingdom of God — the place where God is joyfully worshipped and glorified through everyday conformity to his character — my longing, my hope, my joy, my purpose?

 

Joshua 9

The entire story turns on one phrase.  Israel “sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD” (9:14).  Maybe it seemed like a no-brainer?  Maybe it didn’t seem like a particularly spiritual decision?  Maybe the idea of having servants was too good to pass up?  Whatever the reason, we have all been there.  A significant decision comes along and we do not seek God’s guidance, or hardly seek his guidance, because we want a certain result or because the answer seems clear enough.  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• Are there any significant decisions in your life right now in which you are hesitant to ask the LORD to search and guide your heart?

• Are there categories of significant decisions that you do not bring before the LORD because they do not seem particularly spiritual — perhaps decisions related to school, work, or future work?

 

Joshua 10

Today’s passage is the first time we hear of Gibeon’s significance — an “important city,” full of “good fighters” (10:2).  The fact that they have made a treaty with Israel has the surrounding kings alarmed, so they join forces and go to war against Gibeon and Israel.

The “elephant in the room” in this passage is the extension of the day in response to Joshua’s prayer.  Some see the language of 11:12-14 as figurative and others provide various natural explanations, such as unique eclipses.  While the language is not technical, but rather written from the perspective of one standing on the earth (“the sun stopped”), it is quite clear.  Only a miraculously long day would be able to account for the significant extension of daylight hoursthat Israel needed to finish the battle (“about a full day”).  Of course, the extension of a day entails innumerable secondary “miracles,” but the God who spoke the world into being is able to handle all of the collateral effects of such an event.  

The author of Joshua wants us to see that God continues to be the strength of Israel and that He hears their prayers!  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• The miraculous victory over the five Amorite kings is surely unique.  Never “before or since” (as of the writing of Joshua) has the LORD answered such a prayer as Joshua’s (11:14).  We cannot command such miracles through our prayers, but at the same time, the passage is preserved for us that we would be encouraged to trust in the power of God.  Where do you draw the boundaries of God’s power in your own life right now? 

• The extension of a day, while cosmic in scope, is nothing, in terms of effect, compared to the reversal of death in Christ’s resurrection.  Just as the LORD used the extended day to ensure Joshua’s victory over the wicked Amorite kings, so the resurrection accomplished the better Joshua’s (Yeshua/Jesus) victory over all evil.  Where do you need to trust in the power of Christ’s resurrection today in your life, relationships, outreach, etc. (Romans 8:9-11)?  

 

Joshua 11

“As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:15; see also 11:23).  This is a stellar review of Joshua’s career, evidenced by Joshua’s rout of the many nations in the promised land.*  Today, we might see similarly sterling reviews of a famous athlete who had the “perfect career.”  Does we mean that such an athlete never missed a play or had a bad game?  Of course not.  Similarly, we know that Joshua was not an absolutely perfect leader and that his victory was not as thorough as it should have been.  Even a few verses after the stellar review of Joshua’s leadership, an exception is mentioned (11:19; 9:14).  The career reviews are not inaccurate, they are just summaries.  Joshua was an exceptional faith-filled, faithful leader.

But there is a Joshua (Yeshua/Jesus) who, without exception or qualification, “left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded.”  Joshua’s victory over the LORD’s enemies and the evil in the promised land is an imperfect sign pointing to Jesus’ perfect and complete victory over evil on the cross and in his resurrection.  Joshua’s victory established an imperfect and localized kingdom where the true God would be worshipped, but Jesus’ victory over sin and death set in motion the perfection and expansion of this kingdom throughout the whole earth.  The universal kingdom of God continues to grow and expand today, and when Jesus returns to complete it, then his people will be fully at “rest from war” (11:23).  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• Can you imagine the growing hope and excitement of the Israelites as they saw God’s faithfulness in giving them the promised land?  Can you imagine some mixed motives as they thought about “their” new land and worshipping in the new land?  What are you looking forward to today?  As Jesus builds his universal kingdom even now, what are you investing in as we await it’s completion? 

• Jesus “left nothing undone” in accomplishing our salvation.  There is no aspect of our depravity and no sin of his people for which He did not take the consequences.  There is no aspect of our death that was not defeated and reversed in his resurrection.  Do you know today that you have been crucified and resurrected in the one who has left nothing undone?

• Who or what are the “Anakites” in your life?  Where do you need to trust God to do what you fear doing in your own strength?  

 

Joshua 12-13

Whoa!  The pace of Joshua comes to (almost) a screeching halt.  A little warning — the book doesn’t really pick up pace again until the very end, so we will move more briskly through these chapters to account for the change of pace.  Yet God has preserved these chapters for a reason and there is much to be gained from them.

The detailed descriptions of the land not only rehearse God’s faithfulness, they remind us that we are not reading mythological accounts and, even more, they stress the importance of land and “place” in God’s economy.  God’s kingdom is not “of this world” in that it is not “of the ways of this world,” but the earth belongs to the LORD and his kingdom is coming and will come to this earth (Matthew 6:10).  The ways of God’s kingdom are worked out in such places as the space between “Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir” (12:7).  At the same time, we see in the priestly tribe of Levi that God’s kingdom is not limited by land, but also transcends place (13:14,33).  

Our passage also gives us several reminders that Israel’s kingdom-building work was far from complete (13:1).  Large swaths of land, such as the Philistine territory along the Mediterranean Sea (13:2-5), and such peoples as those of Geshur and Maacah (13:13) were yet to be conquered.  We can very much relate to this state of affairs as we live in a time between the inauguration of Jesus’ kingdom at his first coming, when he crossed the sea of death for us and came out alive, and the consummation of his kingdom in his second coming.  We live in Christ’s victory, but there is still much work to be done.

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• When you think about what it means to be a citizen in the kingdom of God, where do you see your citizenship being worked out?  Is it in some distant place or non-place, or is it in this world that awaits the coronation of its true King?  How does the reality that Jesus’ has come as King and will come again as King, to this earth, impact the outworking of your citizenship?  

 

* Special mention is given to the Anakites (11:21), the very ones whom the Israelites feared more than they feared God, when they first explored the land (Numbers 13:27-28,31-33).  Joshua and Caleb, who trusted in God’s power, were the only ones from this generation who did not die in the 40 years of wilderness wandering.  

We also read that the LORD himself hardened the hearts of the nations (11:20).  Any time the LORD hardens hearts in Scripture, it is always in judgment of already hard hearts, the giving over of people to their own sinful desires. 

 

Joshua 14

Caleb’s relationship with God is a picture of faithfulness.  God does not forget his promises.  It has been forty-five years since Caleb trusted God to give Israel the promised land and God promised to give Caleb the ground he walked on (14:9-10, and see Numbers 14:24).  Now, at the age of 85, Caleb is remarkably healthy and passionate, continuing to believe in the promises of God (14:11-12).  He still had to trust God to drive out the remaining Anakites in the land (14:12).  And he receives the promised inheritance (14:13-15)!  This really is a striking picture of God’s blessing and faithfulness when we consider that most people were in the grave by this age (see Psalm 90:10, written by Moses).  

While the passage is primarily about God’s faithfulness to Caleb, we also see Caleb as a picture of wholehearted devotion.  You may have noticed that the word “wholeheartedly” is repeated three times.  We cannot force God’s hand through our wholehearted devotion, but at the same time, one of the reasons that Caleb is able to experience God’s faithfulness so vividly in his life is that he continued to believe and trust in God with his whole heart.  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• Forty-five years is a long time to wait on a promise.  Have you ever seen God’s faithfulness after a long, long wait?  What does it look like in your present life to wait on God?  For what might you have to wait a long time in order to see the promises of God fulfilled, or to see the goodness of God’s ways worked out?  Are you ready to wait?

• Just as Caleb waited on a promised land ushered in through the leadership of Joshua, we wait on a better promised land and a better kingdom ushered in by Jesus.  How does this greater wait temper our waiting for fulfillments of God’s promises in this lifetime, and how might it impact the kind of people we are becoming?

 

Joshua 15

Do you know who Kenaz is?  Neither do I, really, but we do know about his legacy.  Caleb and Othniel were both sons of Kenaz (also known as Jephunneh the Kenizzite).  We know Caleb for his faith in God’s power, vigor, and whole-hearted devotion to God (e.g. 14:7-9).  His younger brother was no slouch either.  Othniel has the same courageous and believing spirit (15:16-17), and he later becomes the first of the judges of Israel (Judges 3:7-11).  

A fruitful legacy is always the fruit of God’s grace in our lives.  We cannot control our legacy by doing all the right things.  But we can be faithful.  And if we had to guess, it would seem that Kenaz, even though we know nothing else about him, was faithful to raise his children to know and follow the LORD.  

Our legacy is much more than raising children.  Our legacy includes all of the people we have the opportunity to impact through love, courage, faithfulness, wisdom, compassion, and generosity with all that we have.  Our legacy is not about us and wanting to feel important.  At the same time, it is a noble desire to want our lives to make a lasting impact for the good of others, for the glory of God, and for the increase of his kingdom.  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• Where are (or aren’t) you seeking to leave a legacy in your life?  

• In a fallen world, we are born naturally self-centered, self-seeking and self-glorifying.  Have you examined your motives for leaving a legacy recently?  You will surely find some mixed motives — take some time to take those to the cross of Christ and find forgiveness.  

• Remember that a fruitful legacy is always a work of mercy and grace, so seek the Lord of grace, in prayer, on behalf of those within the reach of your influence.  

 

Joshua 16-18

An unfortunate refrain is seen at the end of each tribe’s allotment of land.  We saw it at the end of the previous chapter in connection with the tribe of Judah, where we read that Judah “could not dislodge the Jebusites” (15:63).  We see it again at the end of Ephraim’s allotment (16:10) and Manasseh’s allotment (17:12), where we read that they could not dislodge certain groups of Canaanites.  Then, in 18:3, Joshua seems to express frustration with the other tribes because of their slowness in taking the remaining lots in God’s promised land.  

This unfortunate refrain and Joseph’s frustration both point to a common problem in the believer’s life -- the problem of partial obedience.  For one reason or another, the Israelites have been unable or unwilling to obey God’s command to fully occupy the promised land, even though they have recently seen God’s power in battle.  Sometimes the most difficult time to trust the LORD comes after we have trusted God and seen him move.  We get tired of trusting God.  We struggle to persevere in faith.  Do we really have to keep trusting God to show up over and over again?  Yes, we’ve seen him provide, but it would be nice to live by sight and not by faith for a while.  At other times, it may not be a matter of spiritual fatigue.  We simply do not want to fully obey.  We’re willing to go to a certain limit of managing the flames of sin, but we’re unwilling to fully extinguish the embers.  Thankfully, God’s goals for us are much higher than our own and He does not grow weary in accomplishing His work in us.  He does not promise us a partial inheritance, a partial family, partial love, or partial salvation, but will make us whole, together, in Him!

Note:  Back in the book of Numbers (chapters 27 and 36), we saw God’s care and provision for women without husbands.  In today’s passage, we see the fulfillment of God’s care for Zelophehad’s daughters (17:3-4).  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• Are there places or callings in your life in which you have grown tired of trusting God?  Where have you taken back the reins and looked to settle into a more comfortable position than the dependent and seemingly vulnerable position of faith?  Take time to offer those places and callings back to God, trusting in his mighty power to do what you could never do in your own power.

• Jesus died and rose not to manage our sin, but to put our sin to death and to perfect us in Him, to make us whole and complete.  Where is God calling you to stamp out the embers of sin, in his strength?  Full repentance begins with knowing that Jesus died not only for our blatant sins but also for our partial obedience, in order to grant us complete forgiveness and make us fully new creations in Him!

 

Joshua 19-21

Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Judah have already received their inheritance.  In today’s passage, the remaining tribes receive their inheritance.  Except for Levi.  The Levites, the priestly tribe, do not receive a territory, but they still need a place to live!  They receive towns and surrounding pasturelands throughout various tribes’ lands (21).  It’s important to notice how thoughtfully these towns are distributed throughout the tribes.  There is a sense in which each tribe was tithing a portion of the land to the LORD by giving up these towns (21:3), but the distribution throughout the land also reveals how worship is integral to the life of Israel.  The Levites would be a continual reminder throughout Israel that all they had was from the LORD (land, wealth, family, community, work, etc.) and all of it was to be offered back to the LORD in worship!

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

1 Peter 2:9 says of the Christian community,But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  Just as Israel was priestly nation, receiving the gifts of God and offering them back up to him in worship, so too is the body of Christ.  Is this priestly calling “distributed” throughout your life (material gifts and wealth, family, community, work, sport, hobbies, etc.)?  

• Just as Israel failed to be the priestly nation that God called them to be, so we often fail to receive God’s gifts and offer them back to him.  To take to confess and repent, praising God that we have a perfect priest who offered up everything He had to God in order to bring us back into worship.  

 

Joshua 22

God loves to see his people living, serving, and worshipping together in unity.  Division grieves the heart of God.  We see this theme in Joshua come full circle in today’s passage.  Remember, two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh) received land east of the Jordan River, before Israel crossed the Jordan and began to take the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  Nevertheless, God called these tribes to be unified with the other tribes in both mission and worship.  We see the unity in mission in chapter 1.  All of Israel is called to participate together in the conquering of the promised land, regardless of whether or not individual tribes had already received their inheritance. (Take a couple of minutes to re-read 1:12-19.)  We see the unity in worship in today’s passage.  The two and a half tribes east of the Jordan built an altar as a witness to the unity of all God’s people in worship (22:27-28).  We don’t have to read between the lines to see the significance of this act in eyes of Israel’s leaders.  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• In our splintered world, it’s easy to take issues of unity and division lightly.  We can find a comfortable community for ourselves and forget about the reality that we will spend eternity with believers who are very different from us.  Of course there are theological and ethical distinctions that rightfully divide God’s people from the world, yet we will spend eternity with believers who are not only different from us culturally and socioeconomically (for now) but who also have very different worship styles and theological nuances.  What does it look like for you to be a force for unity within your church?  What does it look like for you to be a force for unity in the broader Christian community?  

 

Joshua 23

Here we find out why the LORD has been so insistent that Israel finish the work of conquering the land.  He knows our susceptibility to the practices and idols of the people around us (23:12-13).

Israel is called to be a light to the nations, but before they could be a light to the nations, they needed be a worshipping community firmly grounded in and empowered by the Lord (23:10). God was doing a new work through Israel and the staging ground needed to be established before the nations could be won.  The greatest Old Testament fulfillment of this calling to be a light to the nations is realized through Solomon (1 Kings 4:34, 10:1-9), but even there it is only a partial fulfillment.  Israel eventually gives into the practices and idols of the nations of among them (23:16).  Only in Christ, the true and faithful Israelite, will Israel be purified that she might fulfill her calling as a light to the nations.  

The New Testament church has a similar calling to be a worshipping community, distinct from the world around her.  Unlike Old Testament Israel, we are not called to mark off geographic boundaries, but we are to be no less distinctive in the aim and direction of our hearts — wholehearted worship of God and wholehearted rejection of the things that God does not love.

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• What is the most powerful community in your life in terms of its influence over the aim and direction of your heart?  Are there things that need to change in order for the people of God to become the most influential community in your life?

• Where are the stories, values, and practices of the world to which you are particularly susceptible?

• Until Jesus returns, we need to remember that even the strongest worshipping communities will be far, far from perfect, because each one of us is a long way from being perfected in Christ.  Yet his work for our forgiveness could not be more complete.  Are you living in Christ’s forgiveness?  Are you extending this same forgiveness to those around you?  Are you expectantly waiting for the King to return, or expecting the world to be perfect as if He has already returned?

 

Joshua 24

This final chapter reads like a summary of Genesis (24:2-4), Exodus (24:5-7a), Numbers (24:7b-10), and Joshua (24:11-13) — God’s summary of his calling and establishment of Israel (24:2).  

Within this summary, God’s absolute grace in choosing Abraham to be the father of his people stands out (24:2,14; see also Romans 4:16-17).  We learn more about Abraham’s life prior to God’s call than any other place in Scripture.  We learn that he and his family were idol worshippers.  As is the case with all of us, God did not choose to save Abraham because he had any holiness or worthiness that attracted God to him.  God simply chose, in love, to call Abraham out of a life of empty idol worship into a life of fullness in Him.  Abraham received the bloody sign of circumcision (Genesis 17:10-11) just as we are under Christ’s blood, Abraham was credited with righteousness through faith in God’s promises just as we are (Genesis 15:6), and he was subject to the same struggles with faith (e.g. Genesis 17:17-18).  

In fact, it is God’s amazing grace that makes a verse like 24:19 so perplexing.  Why do most translations say that God “will not forgive them” when Israel fails to serve the Lord?  The answer may lie in the nuances of the Hebrew language.  There are three main Hebrew words translated as “forgive” in Scripture.  One refers to the removal of guilt and is used only with God as subject.   Another refers to covering or atoning for sin, which is related to the removal of guilt and can also be related to the consequences of wrongdoing.  The third refers to bearing or carrying or lifting the weight of sin, and this is the word used in 24:19.  When God says that He will not “bear with” Israel’s sin, He is likely saying that He will not put up with or tolerate Israel’s sin.  Israel WILL experience the consequences of her sin.  Of course, there is another sense in which God will bear Israel’s sin through his Son on a cross.  This forgiveness in Christ may only be found when God’s people seek forgiveness in his mercy, and this points to another sense in which God will not forgive.  If Israel rebels and worship foreign gods (24:20), they will find no forgiveness there.  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

• When we see success in our lives, in any area, we are prone to the semiconscious thought that there must be something special about us that causes God to show us favor.  This passage demolishes this idea.  Even Abraham, the father of Israel and of the church (Romans 4:16-17), was called by God purely by grace.  Are there any successes or aspects of who you are that tempt you to think that they contribute toward God’s favor toward you?  Take time to praise God for his absolute grace toward you in Christ!

• In what areas of your life might you be asking God to “put up with” your sin rather than repenting and finding forgiveness in Christ?