Introduction to Books of History
and Study of Joshua 1-4

March 4th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Books of History (Overview)

The collection of Old Testament books of history consists of twelve books, beginning with Joshua and ending with Esther. These books tell the story of the development of the nation of Israel from a wandering mass of humanity into an established nation with a set of laws and a range of land provided by the LORD.

As we read through these books we can track the rise and fall of this nation and observe the determining factors in both trajectories. We will encounter faithful men and women who achieve amazing feats by trusting in God and also come across flawed and evil people who bring ruin for themselves and those around them. The study of these books will take us through a good portion of the spring season (for those in the northern hemisphere).


Joshua (Overview)

The book of Joshua is the first of the books of History in the Christian Old Testament, but in the Hebrew Scripture it is the first of the book of Prophets, and is preceded by the book of Jubilee - an epilogue to Deuteronomy not found in the Christian collection. The placement in the series of prophetic books emphasizes the Hebrew view that Joshua is more theological than historical, whereas the Christian tradition considers it an important explanation of the historical transition of the Israeli people from nomads in the wilderness into landholders in a fertile crescent of earth.

Regardless of the classification, we can see that the book of Joshua provides a firsthand account of the conquest of the Promised Land. Assuming that the Exodus took place in 1446 B.C., then this conquest would have commenced in 1406 B.C. Israel achieves this long-sought goal under the leadership of Joshua, who represents one of the best examples of faithfulness in the entire Bible. Joshua completely submitted himself to God and followed his instructions without question, even when the instructions seemed to be an improbable solution to an obstacle. Joshua was the earthly leader, but the text of the book makes clear that the LORD was the Divine Provider for all of the events recorded.

The brutal conquest of other people, as described in Joshua has been a reason for many readers of the Bible to skip this book or assign it less importance. This tendency became more pronounced in the bloodiest century in earth's history, particularly during the global peace movement of the 1960s and 1970s. However, as with all the books of the Bible, it is important to read this one in the full context of the situation. For example, the Hittites who occupied the land of Canaan were not a peaceful group of innocent peasants. In contradistinction, they were an evil empire whose culture approved of sacrificing of children and other atrocities. The purpose of war against these people was to cleanse the land of evil and establish a Holy Land. In the same way we are called to cleanse ourselves of evil and establish our bodies as Holy living sacrifices. Moreover, there was a way out for those who pledged themselves to holiness, as we shall see. Finally, it's important to remember that all Scripture is God-breathed. The more we study each book with our heart and mind and soul the better prepared we will be to understand why God breathed it to us.

The pace of events in Joshua picks up considerably relative to the prolonged waiting and wandering in the desert that was captured in the last four books. The people finally acquire the land of their hopes and dreams and donít waste any time in securing it. Our study will be divided into daily chunks as shown below:

Joshua 1-4 (March Forth) - March 4th
Joshua 5-7 (Battle of Jericho) - March 5th
Joshua 8-10 (The LORD is Victorious) - March 6th
Joshua 11-13 (Victory in the North) - March 7th
Joshua 14-17 (Allotment West of the Jordan) - March 8th
Joshua 18-20 (Final Allotment) - March 9th
Joshua 21-22 (First Controversy) - March 10th
Joshua 23-24 (Joshua's Farewell Speech) - March 11th

References used for the analysis of this book includes the following

Joshua 1-4 (March Forth)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Mosesí aide: ďMoses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to themóto the Israelites.

- Joshua 1:1-2

Summary of Chapters

The beginning of the first chapter records God's commission to Joshua, in which he tells him that his mission is to take possession of a vast expanse of land. The LORD tells Joshua that in order to succeed he must meditate on his words from day to night and to not be afraid:

Having received his commission, Joshua prepared the people to mobilize and confirmed the commitment from all tribes to help in the effort to acquire the Promised Land. In chapter 2 he sent spies to Jericho where they received help from a local prostitute named Rahab. The spies committed to ensure her safety and the safety of her family because she confessed her fear of the LORD. This is the first instance of mercy shown to those in the lands to be conquered - a request granted because of the person's faith in the living God.

In chapter 3, we read that Joshua led the people across the Jordan towards Jericho as commanded by God, who stopped the river for them, similar to the way that he had divided the Red Sea for their escape from Egypt:

After they had all crossed the riverbed representatives from each tribe were instructed to pick up rocks from the bottom of the river and set them up at Gilgal to serve as a reminder of another miracle performed for them by God. They then camped on the outskirts of Jericho, prepared to advance on command from Joshua, who in turn waited for instructions from the LORD.


Reflection and Application

What can we learn from Joshua so far? First, we learn that the faithful are rewarded Ė Caleb and Joshua were the only adults to leave Egypt and enter Canaan because they were the only ones who had believed that God would have ensured their victory over the Canaanites in the first year of the Exodus. They patiently waited for the opportunity to conquer the land and quietly built up their leadership skills.

One characteristic of a good leader is the ability to seek good counsel and advice. The LORD had promised to be with Joshua, so he waited for divine instructions. A less faithful man would have let the leadership position go to his head and begin barking out orders. Joshua had tens of thousands of men at his command and could have decided to challenge Jericho at the time and place of his choosing. But instead he waited and followed Godís instructions to the ďt.Ē

There is a wonderful sermon on this section of Joshua delivered by Jason Radmacher at the John Street Methodist Church in New York City. Radmacher compared the first service at his church on October 30, 1768 to the crossing of the Jordan by the Israelites more than one thousand years before the birth of Christ. He notes that it was a bold step for both congregations of people, albeit for different reasons. Speaking of the Israelites, Radmacher said the following:


Itís important to create memorials of what God has done for us. The Israelites collected rocks from the depths of the Jordan to create a monument that would be a reminder to many generations of the day the LORD stopped the mighty Jordan. If anyone doubted the story they could go to Gilgal and see and touch the rocks.

At the John Street Church, the congregation remembered the vision and courage of their founding members by reviewing the history of their church in sermons and by other means. For example, there is plaque outside the church noting that it is the oldest Methodist church in the United States, started by a brave group of immigrants - an outpost of Christianity just a few blocks from Wall Street and now surrounded by the tall office buildings of lower Manhattan. Some of us believe by hearing, others need to see evidence and use our full senses to believe. Therefore, the creation of memorials, plaques, and other artifacts help us to draw in a wide range of believers.

We can observe several examples of Godís love and mercy in this brief section. He acknowledged that the Israelites had not been perfect and knew that they would one day rebel again, but in his mercy he was ready to grant them the land that he had promised to them. Godís mercy also extends beyond the twelve tribes. Rahab, the helpful harlot in Jericho, had heard of Godís power and respected it. She was granted an opportunity for mercy, was grafted into the community of Israel, and is mentioned twice in the New Testament. The first mention is in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5, which notes that Rahab was the mother of Salmon, who was the father of Boaz, who married Ruth. We shall read about Ruth later in the Books of History. Rahab is mentioned again in James 2:25, because she not only had faith but demonstrated her faith through works.

This is the Good News: God can work through and redeem anyone Ė as he did with Rahab. At one point in her life, she was far removed from God, but she drew near to him in faith and was saved. No one is beyond redemption.

What would be a good song for Joshua? How about this one: ďMy Life is in You Lord.Ē Joshua fully trusted the LORD. He knew that his strength came from the LORD and it was only through the LORD that he would be able to lead the nation to victory. He put his life in the LORDís hands and followed him without hesitation.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is the widest body of water that you have crossed by land or boat?
    2. What has been your wilderness experience?
    3. For what role has God been preparing you?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, please help us to come out of the wilderness and accept the role you have prepared for us.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    People in the MIddle East fighting over land and religion

    Footnotes

    (1) "Courageous, Faithful, or Foolish," a sermon by Jason Radmacher, on October 31, 2011 at the John Street Church, New York, NY. Jason at John Street

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Joshua 5-7 (Battle of Jericho)

    Comments and Questions
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