George Athas blessed us with a seminar on Joshua to begin our church wide study series this term. He said that the man Joshua was very much an instrument of God in waging the war to take the land for the Israelites. As such, it can be summarised in a series of commands from God:
- Cross! (the Jordan)
- Conquer! (the land)
- Divide! (the land)
- Serve! (God in the land)
As we look at Joshua 10, we are well and truly into the “conquer” section of the book.
When was this campaign planned? 400 years ago with Abraham!
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
The Amorites and presumably their neighbours were growing in rebellion against God. Back in Genesis we see that God knows there will be a time when his patience will run out and Israel will both be established in the land and act as an instrument of judgement against the tribes living there.
This is not “ethnic cleansing” as some of the new atheists would have you believe. It is not their ethnicity in question but their growing rebellion against God over a 400 year period. As George insightfully commented, If they had turned to God in that time instead, we would have a whole lot of Rahab stories. As you will recall, Rahab chose the side of the Israelites during the conquest of Jericho. As a result her and her family were integrated into the people of God. So much so that she is one of the few women mentioned in a very significant family line – that of Jesus Christ (Matt 1).
As Joshua and the people obey, they continue to move forward in the land. When they disobey, they falter as we saw in chapters 7 and 9. However Israel is not exempt from God’s judgement. Just as Abraham was told the residents of the land had 400 years to shape up, so God has warned Israel before they enter the land:
See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
As we live in God’s world, may we choose life – by being faithful in following the one who is the way, the truth and the life.