There are 43 wars going on in the world right now.
11 of those have over 1000 deaths a year.
The war in Syria – some images and figures: UN: Up to 100,000 deaths in the last 2 years.
“War is a terrible curse that the human race brings on itself as it seeks to possess the earth by its own unrighteous ways.” NIV commentary
This talk of war leads us to the Book of Joshua. It’s the 6th book of the Bible and therefore the 6th in our series as we work our way (over 6 years) to review every book of the Bible.
A quick review:
Genesis – God creates the world; man sins; God promises a redeemer through the line of Abraham. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), then Joseph and the whole country enslaved in Egypt.
Exodus – the escape from Egypt. 10 plagues. The river crossing. The 10 commandments and law are given. The Promised Land is prophesied – a land flowing with milk and honey.
Leviticus – More laws are given for civil, religious and health reasons. The requirements set out in Leviticus are ultimately fulfilled in Christ.
Numbers – Records the unfaithfulness of the Israelites and the 40 years they spent wandering in the desert as a result.
Deuteronomy – A look back in love at the childhood of Israel – God’s provision and Israel’s growing up. The emphasis is on God’s great love for His people and the people’s need to love God.
That’s the end of the Pentateuch.
Now we come to the book of Joshua. In Joshua we read about what is known as ‘The Conquest of the Promised Land’. This sounds noble but as we read the book, what we find is the Israelites running across the land, attacking cities and killing every man, woman and child in the city. Do you understand what is going on here? God’s people go on a sanctioned mass killing spree and kill every living thing in every city they come across.
We’ve just read that God is a God of love right through the book of Deuteronomy and now this God of love is telling his people to commit mass murder. How are we to understand this? Is there any possible way to reconcile it?
Some Christians try to explain this by saying that this all happened in a pre-Christian time (and therefore with a sub-Christian morality) which in the light of Christ’s teaching must be rejected and transcended. But that doesn’t fly. This is the same God we worship. The same Father of Jesus, the same Creator of the world, the same Promiser of redemption that we have been reading about so far.
The book of Joshua and the conquest of Canaan (the Promised Land) cannot be understood apart from God. It can only be understood in the context of God’s redemption for the world through the Israelite people.
Before we look at what the book of Joshua is about, it might be helpful to look at what it is not about.
* It is not an epic account of Israel’s heroic generation
* It is not the story of Israel’s conquest of Canaan with the aid of her national deity.
* It is not the story of Israel’s license to conquer the world.
Here’s what the book of Joshua is about:
* It’s the story of how God, to whom the whole world belongs, at one stage in the history of redemption reconquered a portion of the earth from the powers of this world that had claimed it for themselves, relying on their false gods.
* It’s the story of how God commissioned his people to serve as his army under the leadership of his servant Joshua, to take Canaan in his name out of the hands of the idolatrous Canaanites (whose measure of sin was now full).
* It’s the story of how God helped Israel complete this mission and gave them conditional tenancy in his land as promised to Israel’s ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
There’s something very important about this account of the conquest. It mustn’t be confused as the account of some despot leader (Moses, then Joshua) who decided to “find a place in the sun” for their country (as Hitler had once said). This whole idea of the conquest was not quietly whispered into the ear of one man. The conquest followed 10 miraculous plagues brought upon the Egyptian people, it followed the miraculous crossing of the red sea, it followed the miraculous pillar of fire and smoke which led the Israelites though the desert, it followed the miraculous provision of manna and quail, it followed the miraculous provision of the law, it followed a miraculous second river crossing (the Jordan) into the Promised land and the whole country was witness to these things and the neighbouring countries also came to fear the Israelites because of these [many public] miracles.
Our hearts go out to the Canaanites. We picture them as quietly going about their business when the Israelites came along one day and killed them all.
This was not the case. The Canaanites were a sinful, idolatrous people who came under God’s judgement.
Most of us are very comfortable with the notions of God’s grace, His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, His kindness, His patience and even His holiness.
What we are far less comfortable with is God’s justice and His judgements. The whole world will come under God’s judgement. For the Canaanites, it was at that particular time in history.
We need to remember that God’s glory is manifest in his judgements just as much as it is in His redemption.
So Joshua is the story of the kingdom of God breaking into the world of nations at a time when national and political entities were viewed as the creation of the gods and living proofs of their power. And so by conquering Canaan, God proved to all at that time that He was the true and living God and His claim on the world is absolute.
The battles for Canaan were therefore the Lord’s war, undertaken at a particular time in God’s program of redemption.
That might sound like wishful thinking or history simply being written by the victors.
But it’s important to understand is that the conquered land itself would not become Israel’s possession. The land belonged to the Lord.
This meant that – firstly the land had to be cleansed of all paganism.
– its people and their wealth were not for Israel to seize as the booty of war but were placed under God’s ban.
– if Israel became unfaithful and conformed to Canaanite culture and practice, it would in turn lose its place in the Lord’s land—as Israel almost did in the days of the judges, and as it eventually did in the exile.
As I said at the beginning, war is a terrible curse that the human race brings on itself as it seeks to possess the earth by its own unrighteous ways. But it pales before the curse that awaits all those who do not heed God’s testimony to himself or his warnings—those who reject God and his offer of grace.
We would do well to remember that despite its sinfulness, the world is still loved so much by God that he gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him would not suffer this curse, but have eternal life.
The God of the second Joshua (Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world) and the God of the first Joshua (who wielded God’s sword of judgement) are one and the same. And now for a time God reaches out to the whole world with the gospel (and commissions his people urgently to carry the gospel to all nations), but the judgment day will come and those who have not responded to the gospel will be judged accordingly, as we saw at the time of Noah and as we saw at the time of the conquest of Canaan.
Right now, we live in the era of God’s grace and the offer of salvation through Christ. And we need to make the most of this time and treat it is urgent because this era will not last forever.
By the end of the book of Joshua, the land has for the most part been conquered and it is distributed to the different tribes of Israel for settlement.
At the end of the world, after death has been conquered, Jesus said that we would join Him in the many rooms He has prepared for us to settle into for eternity.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1-7