[Placeholder for video to come later – I’m out of the video production mode right now!]
This week our readings completed Deuteronomy (chapters 26-34), then jumped to Psalm 90, and finished with Joshua 1-12. Last week I wrote about how Deuteronomy was Moses’ instructions to the new generation of Israelites, whose parents had died in the wilderness as a consequence of their rebellion against God. The last chapters of Deuteronomy give very specific instructions to what should happen upon initial entry into the land of Canaan, and then details about Moses’ death.
When the nation crosses the Jordan, Moses had instructed them to have a ceremony at Mounts Ebal and Gerizim.
Joshua was to build an altar of stones and cover it with plaster, and then write the words of the law (probably the 10 commandments) on the plaster. Then half the tribes were to stand on Gerezim and pronounce blessings on those who obey the law, and half the tribes were to stand on Ebal and pronounce curses on those who are disobedient. It was a way of renewing or recommitting to the covenant in the promised land. You can read the instructions for this ceremony in Deuteronomy 27-28 and then the carrying out of the ceremony in Joshua 8:30-35.
When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, God performed a miracle similar to that of parting the Red Sea. When the priests’ feet, at Joshua’s command, touched the river water, it stopped flowing and dammed up to the north, draining away to the south, and left dry ground for the nation to cross. This was not only to provide them a path, but also to validate in their eyes the transfer of leadership to Joshua.
Spies were sent to reconnaissance Jericho. Rahab, a prostitute, hid the spies and protected them because she recognized and honored their God as the one true God. She was spared in the destruction of Jericho and eventually became an ancestor of Jesus (she was King David’s great-great-grandmother). Jericho was destroyed in a miraculous way as well. The Israelites were commanded to simply walk around the city once a day for 6 days, and then 7 times on the seventh day. After the last circuit, they simply shouted, and the encircling walls fell down. They were commanded to enter the city and destroy everything. However, one man, Achan, decided to disobey and keep some plunder. This led to Israel’s later defeat by the army of the city of Ai until Achan confessed and was executed.
The rest of the first half of Joshua (through the beginning of chapter 12) details the rest of the conquest of Canaan. Some people are uncomfortable with the apparent brutality of this conquest. I remind you of God’s original promise to Abraham back in Genesis 15:16, “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” The promise of the land was given to Abraham’s descendants. However, the conquest by those descendants was simultaneously delivering to them the promise, but also using them to enact God’s righteous judgment on the people dwelling there. It was righteous because those people, like all people were descendants of one man – Adam (and also Noah). Those two men walked with God (albeit both were sinners), and their descendants each had the opportunity to also walk in obedience to God or follow their own path. This is the same choice each of us has today and we will one day give account to God of whether we obeyed him (through faith in his atoning life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) or rejected him. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection provide the basis for both the promise of eternal life AND the judgment of eternal suffering and separation from God. This is why it is so important to understand the significance of Israel’s entering the promised land!