Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt
Read Joshua 24
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel:… I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant.
“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
More thoughts for meditation
The second section of the Tanakh is called Nevi’im (lit. spokespersons or prophets). It contains two sub-groups, the Former Prophets (the narrative books of Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings) and the Latter Prophets (the books of major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and the twelve minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). Many of the writings of the Latter Prophets are thought by scholars to be older than the narratives of the Former Prophets which precede them in the collection, and were profoundly influential on the direction and development of Judaism.
The story of Joshua was written to assure the Israelites that God will reward obedience, and to record the entrance to and conquest of the promised land. Joshua demonstrates his faith in God as He follows the orders given to Him and takes leadership of the nation. Joshua truly was “strong and courageous” (1:7).
Joshua and the Israelites enter into the promised land in an amazing way. As they arrive at the Jordan River they are provided with a miraculous crossing. As God prepares to turn over Jericho he shows great grace to a prostitute named Rahab, the ancestor of King David, as the city is overcome miraculously.
Joshua follows God’s orders and first conquers the central area of the promise land. This includes the miraculous manner in which God gives them the great fortress of Jericho. Ai was the next town and although it took two tries, the first due to sin in the camp, on the second attempt God again moved and dominated. Next, the Israelites occupied the southern land and then the northern land to complete their occupation; however, although they controlled the region, they never did completely conquer it.
In the final chapters the land is divided up and distributed among the tribes of Israel. Some of the larger cities are placed aside for the Levitical priests who did not receive a portion of land, due to their duties. Before Joshua dies he gives a great challenges: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15).
Suggestions for action
Hebrews 4 mentions Joshua during an exhortation to enter the Sabbath rest of God that Jesus has provided, the ultimate expression of “entering the land” like Joshua led the people to do: “’Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God.” We are still called by courageous examples to “enter in.” All but Caleb and Joshua were too afraid to enter the promised land on the first go around. Likewise, people are still afraid to put their full trust in God.
Unlike Joshua and Caleb, the other Israelites followed the Lord’s calling out from Egypt, but they did not follow Him into the land. Many Christians repeat this same error. They have followed the Lord as He led them out of the spiritual death of sin and guilt. They are “out of Egypt” so to speak. They are forgiven of their sins. They have new life in Christ. However, they do not follow the Lord on “into the land.” They do not follow by faith into the promise of abundant of life. They do not follow the Lord in humble dependence for transformation, for fruitfulness, for a life of courage.
The story of Joshua calls us to assess who we serve, which “gods of our fathers” we have retained, and whether we insist that our “house” serves the Lord. Let’s take our own inventory and decide.