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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, June 08 2023

Joshua - God is salvation

Joshua’s life is a story of a man motivated by faith in God rather than being intimidated by the physical obstacles he faced.

by Jerold Aust

When the Israelite spies returned from scouting out the land of Canaan they reported it would be impossible for the Israelites to conquer the inhabitants of the land (Numbers 13:27-33). Only Caleb and Joshua were prepared to move forward in faith, confident God would deliver on His promises: "The land …is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us…Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land…their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us..." (Numbers 14:7-9).

But the mob would not listen to Joshua and Caleb and wanted to stone them. God was so angry with the Israelites lack of faith, especially after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt, that He threatened to wipe them out (Numbers 14:10-12). Moses intervened and pleaded for mercy, which God granted, but He imposed a sobering condition. The Israelites would wander in the wilderness for another 40 years, until the complaining generation had died.

Eventually Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of Israel and guided the people into the land God had promised them (Joshua 1:1-9). God confirmed Joshua in his position of leadership by causing the waters of the river Jordan to part so that the Israelites could pass over: "'This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (Joshua 3:7). The Israelites were astonished when, as the priests bearing the ark stepped into the water, "the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap…and the people crossed over opposite Jericho" (Joshua 3:9-16).

With the help of the prostitute Rahab (see following article From Harlot To Heroine), Joshua’s spies entered Jericho, to ascertain how best to overcome the city (Joshua 2:1-16). God then gave Joshua specific instructions about conquering Jericho, which he followed, resulting in the walls of Jericho crumbling and the Israelites becoming victorious (Joshua chapter 6).

The next city blocking the path of the Israelites was the city of Ai. Joshua sent 3,000 men to take the city, but when they came into contact with the inhabitants, they turned and fled for their lives, with the men of Ai killing 36 Israelites. This was a great shock to Joshua, because God had promised him victory in all Israel's military campaigns.

When Joshua prayed about it God revealed the reason for the defeat. God had warned the Israelites not to take anything from Jericho, and to completely destroy the city. One man disobeyed God's instruction, stealing clothing, gold and silver. God commanded a search be conducted for him and Achan was eventually discovered and put to death for his disobedience (Joshua chapter 7). With Achan's sinful influence removed, Joshua was again sent to conquer Ai. He chose 30,000 soldiers and approached Ai by night. With God’s blessing and as a result of a clever ruse the city was conquered (Joshua chapter 8).

Even after this great victory and the greater one at Jericho, the Canaanite kings still did not seek peace with Israel (Joshua 9:1-2), but the Gibeonites were an exception. They were terrified by the approaching Israelites, and concocted a plan to save their lives. Some of their men posed as representatives of a faraway land seeking to establish a peace treaty with Israel (Joshua 9:3-6). After speaking with these men Joshua agreed to spare them, and the Gibeonites accepted the requirements imposed on them, preferring service as woodcutters and water-carriers for Israel rather than the fate that met the other inhabitants of the land.

Then five Amorite kings gathered to attack the Gibeonites to teach them a lesson and discourage others who might also consider surrendering to Israel. The Gibeonites sent for immediate help from Joshua who, with his army, marched all night (Joshua 10:9) and took the Amorites by surprise, with God intervening in the battle: "...the LORD…cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword" (Joshua 10:11).

After this miraculous victory, Joshua went on to conquer northern Canaan (Joshua 11:1-23). However, he did not conquer all the kings of Canaan, and some were left for Israel to remove later (Joshua 13:1-33). By this time Joshua was growing old, and God directed him to divide the land among the 12 tribes, which he did.

Finally, when Joshua was 110 years old, he announced: "I am old, advanced in age. You have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations…for the LORD your God…has fought for you" (Joshua 23:2-3). He reminded the Israelites that as long as they obeyed God's commandments He would prosper and protect them, but if they disobeyed God by copying the ungodly ways of the Canaanites He would banish them from the land He had given them. Joshua gave God the credit for Israel's salvation and deliverance, and his final admonition was to urge Israel to faithfully serve God (Joshua 23:1-16 and 24:1-33).

Joshua fulfilled many roles during his life: slave, soldier, servant, spy, savior, statesman and saint. He was born during Israel's years of slavery in Egypt, and probably knew the cruel lash of the whip. Moses changed Joshua's name from Hoshea (meaning "help") to Joshua, "God is salvation" (Numbers 13:16), and Moses and Joshua both learned to look to God's leadership and guidance.

Joshua lived up to his new name "God is salvation." He was knowledgeable of the Word of God (Joshua 1:8) and was faithfully obedient to His will (Numbers 32:12). Even after his death his example heavily influenced Israel and its leaders, with the nation continuing to serve God all the days of the elders who were contemporary with, but outlived Joshua (Joshua 24:31). Joshua’s life is a living testimony for those who desire to obey God in living faith. God, not man, is our salvation!