Preparations to Take the Land
The first five chapters of the book of Joshua deal with the preparations of the people as they ready themselves to take the land.
Joshua- The Book of Conquest
Preparations to take the Land
CONQUEST of the Land
DISTRIBUTION of the Land
Living in the Land
In the Land
This section is made up of five parts, corresponding to the first five chapters of the book.
Charge to Joshua
Circumcision & Passover
Passage & Remembrance
THE CHARGE TO JOSHUA (JOSHUA 1)
"Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them." (Joshua 1:6).
Four times in this chapter, Joshua is told to "be strong and courageous." But that is not all. Before Moses died, he told Joshua twice to "be strong and courageous" (Deuteronomy 31:6-7). And again, when the Lord commissioned Joshua, He told him to "be strong and courageous" (Deuteronomy 31:23).
And now, in this opening chapter of Joshua, the Lord tells him three times to "be strong and courageous" (1:6,7,9) and then the people of Israel respond by charging Joshua to "be strong and courageous" (1:18).
1. Why is this repeated so many times? It is because Joshua was going to need strength and courage.
a. First, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because he would have to take the land (1:6).
The good news is that God had given Him the land; the bad news was that He gave it to someone else, first. Joshua was facing a land of walled cities. And to make matters worse, he had no siege engines.
b. Secondly, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because he would have to obey God's law (1:7).
It takes courage to obey God when everybody else isn't. It takes even more courage to obey God as a leader and to condemn sin when public opinion says it's okay.
c. Thirdly, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because the Lord would be with him (1:9).
A leader has to fake it, even when he doesn't feel it. Inside, the leader is often scared to death. But it helps a leader to know that he is not alone.
Joshua was called to conquer a land. We have been called to conquer the world. Our calling is to make disciples of every nation. Our weapons are different, for we do not fight against flesh and blood. But the need for strength and courage is no less.
2. Second Best.
In the midst of this charge to Joshua, there is also a charge and a call to the two and a half tribes which had chosen lands on the east bank of the Jordan to be their inheritance.
And to the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, "Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, `The Lord your God gives you rest, and will give you this land.' Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, until the Lord gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise." (Joshua 1:12-15).
This is the story of the two and a half tribes who took God's second best. In Numbers 32, these tribes looked at the land to the west of the Jordan River and they said to themselves, "This sure is a lot better than the wilderness." And so, they sent representatives to Moses and asked for this land as their inheritance. This was God's second best. It was to cost them dearly.
How many girls have I seen who married the first guy who came along and who, in doing so, got God's second best. Don't take second best. And don't BE second best.
SPYING OUT THE LAND (JOSHUA 2)
Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. (Joshua 2:1).
A lot of Christians have trouble accepting the fact that there is a prostitute in the Bible. Not only that, but in the New Testament she is praised.
By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. (Hebrews 11:31).
Not only is she praised, her name is found in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). She is said to be the mother of Boaz and the wife of Salmon.
Some commentaries have tried to suggest that Rahab was only an innkeeper. But that isn't true. This woman was a prostitute. She was an ISHIH ZONAH - a woman of harlotry.
There is a lesson here. It is that the church is not a gathering for good people. The church is a hospital for sinners. We say we believe that, but our actions often show that we don't. We become proud of our own righteousness.
2. Rahab's Deception.
And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land."
But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it came about when it was time to shut the gate, at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them."
But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. (Joshua 2:3-6).
Rahab lied through her teeth. And yet, she is praised in the New Testament and held up as an example of faith. How can we reconcile this?
Rahab is never commended for her lying. She is commended for her faithfulness. The heros (and heroines) of the Bible are real people who had real problems just like you and me. They are not stained-glass saints. They are real people.
David is described as a man after God's own heart. He was the greatest king of Israel. His reign was considered the golden age. He wrote beautiful songs of worship to the Lord. There are a lot of good things that the Bible tells us about David. But the Bible never commends him for his affair with Bathsheba.
Peter was a great apostle. He stood up for the faith and was imprisoned for preaching the gospel. Jesus gave to him the keys of the kingdom. But they Bible never praises Peter for denying Jesus.
We live in a fallen world. That means that sometimes decisions are grey. Sometimes it is not a decision between good and bad. Sometimes it is a decision between two bad things. Sometimes you have to decide which is the worst.
This does not mean that I believe in situational ethics. The Bible does not teach that the end justifies the means. Wrong is still wrong. But it DOES teach that I live in a fallen world. Sometimes I may have to choose between what is bad and what is worse.
However, it is important when making such a grey decision to never call it anything less than sin.
3. Rahab's Reason.
Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, "I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.
"For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.
"And when we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath." (Joshua 2:8-11).
The Exodus from Egypt had taken place 40 years earlier. But it had not been forgotten. It was still the topic of discussion in Canaan. They recognized that the God of Israel had devastated the greatest and most powerful nation on earth.
Rahab had come to believe in the God who divided the Red Sea and who preserved the Israelites in the wilderness.
And so, she seeks to join herself to the covenant community. She asks for salvation both for herself and for her family.
4. The Scarlet Cord.
And the men said to her, "We shall be free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father's household." (Joshua 2:17-18).
The very rope that provided a way of escape for the two spies would also be the sign of salvation for Rahab and her family.
Matthew tells that Rahab was a part of Jesus's genealogy through Joseph, which was His claim to the throne of David.
Also a part of that genealogy was a Canaanite woman named Tamar. When she gave birth to twins, the midwives tied a scarlet thread to the hand of the firstborn. It was this same firstborn whose descendants later went on to sit on the throne of Israel.
The use of this cord also has strong similarities with the covenental sign of Passover, that of the blood on Israelite houses on the night of the slaughter of the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23).
There is a scarlet cord running from Genesis to Revelation. It is the picture of the shed blood of the Messiah of Israel.
Archaeologists tell us that as far back as we can go in human history, man has always felt that something ought to be sacrifices as a substitute and as an appeasement for sin. It is rooted in all of society. God has given a universal consciousness of the need for a sacrifice. It all comes to focus upon a hill called Golgotha where a Jewish carpenter turned rabbi was nailed between two crossbeams.
5. The Report of the Spies.
And they said to Joshua, "Surely the Lord has given all the land into our hands, and all the inhabitants of the land, moreover, have melted away before us." (Joshua 2:24).
Joshua had picked his spies carefully. He had learned form his previous experience. Forty years earlier, 12 spies had been sent into to land of Canaan. Only 2 had returned with a positive report. This time, only 2 spies are sent. I can't help but wonder if 10 others were interviewed and told, "Don't call us, we'll call you."
The land of Canaan had not changed. The people were not any shorter. The walls of the cities were not any lower. But these spies knew that they could win. Sometimes we need to be told that we can win. We look at our situation and it seems to be hopeless. That is when we need a word of encouragement. That is when we need to be told that we can win.
"You can win!"
INCIDENT AT THE JORDAN (JOSHUA 3-4)
As we come to these two chapters, there is a hermeneutical rule of which we need to be aware. It is that the amount of space devoted to a subject is indicative of the importance that God has given to that subject.
You will notice that the writer of Joshua gives two chapters to the crossing of the Jordan. He does this because God sees that particular act as very important to His redemptive program.
The writer could have covered this in four sentences. He could have said...
They came to the Jordan.
It was flooded.
God stopped the waters.
They crossed over.
But He didn't to this. And we should not do it either. You can apply this rule to the entire Bible. It provides an important caution to believers. It is that you need to be careful not to major in the minors.
How many times do you find the Millennium mentioned in the Bible? One part of one chapter. And yet, churches have split over whether people are premillennial, post millennial or amillennial.
When God was writing the Bible, He didn't include any "filler material." How much space did He spend on tongues? How about Pretribulational rapture?
There is a corollary to this. The amount of time you devote in your life will give evidence to the subjects that YOU think are important.
How much time do you spend with your family? How about time in the Word? How much do you pray?
1. Following the Ark.
And it came about at the end of three days that the officers went through the midst of the camp; and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.
However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before." (Joshua 3:2-4).
The ark of the covenant is mentioned a number of times in this chapter. The Hebrew word for "ark" is 'ARON. It is the same word which describes the coffin into which the body of Joseph was placed (Genesis 50:26). It describes a box or a chest. In modern Hebrew, it is used to refer to a closet.
The ark was a wooden box overlaid with gold. It was the symbolic representation of the presence of God among His people. Inside the ark were the tablets of the Law. The ark was covered with a top of pure gold. It was known as the "mercy seat." This was the throne of God.
As the Israelites prepare to enter into the land, it will be the ark which leads them. For the past 40 years, they have followed the presence of God in a pillar of fire and a column of smoke through the wilderness. Now they will continue to follow the presence of God. But now it will be in the form of the ark.
They are instructed to keep a distance of about 1000 yards from the ark. There is to be no familiarity with it.
We would have been making little arks and selling them as souvenirs. We might have been tempted to place the ark in a fence and set out television cameras around it and charged an admission to come and see it.
If there is a danger in American Christianity, it is that we tend to forget that we worship the God of the universe. He is not Santa Claus. He is not sweet. He is not a genie in a bottle that you rub and get three wishes. He is not a sweet little old man who is slightly hard of hearing. He is GOD.
2. The Preparation of Consecration.
Then Joshua said to the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." (Joshua 3:5).
The phrase "consecrate yourselves" is translated from HITHKADASHU - the Hithpa'el imperative of KADASH, to make holy. The Israelites were called to be holy - set apart to God. They were cut out from the rest of the world and separated to be a special people. They ate different food. They wore different clothes. They worshiped a different God.
We are called to be different. We have been sanctified - set apart to God.
3. The Stopping of the Waters..
So it came about when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), that the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. (Joshua 3:14-16).
Notice that the passage does not say that the waters were parted, but that the upstream waters stopped flowing (the downstream waters continued on their way, leaving dry land).
What is more, the location at which the waters stopped is the city of Adam. This city was located 16 miles upstream, near the point where the Jabbok flows into the Jordan.
At this point, there are high clay banks reaching some 40 feet over the river. This area is subject to landslides. During an earthquake in 1927, these banks collapsed, damming the river for a period of nearly 24 hours.
4. Memorial Stones.
"Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing, and they are there to this day." (Joshua 4:9).
As the Israelites crossed through the dry riverbed of the Jordan, Joshua had two groups of stones set up. They were a group of memorial stones. They were to be a constant reminder of the power of God which was able to stop the waters of the Jordan so that they could cross over.
Remembering is important. Nostalgia can be good. It is good to remember God and His faithfulness. We need reminders. The Lord's Supper is such a reminder. The real danger in Christianity is that we forget. That is how we fall into sin.
Every time a Jew walked past that stack of rocks, he would be reminded of the power and the goodness of God.
There were actually TWO stacks of rocks. The first group is seen in verse 8. They are twelve stones taken from the riverbed and placed outside the river.
But there is also a second group. This group is seen here in verse 9. This group is also composed of twelve stones. But they are not placed outside the river. They are placed "in the middle of the Jordan."
Seems like a funny place to place memorial stones, doesn't it? After all, who is going to see them at the bottom of the river?
Let me suggest that, in the same way that the first group was to remind the Israelites of the faithfulness and the power of God, so also this second group of stones would also be a reminder to the Israelites.
But when would they see this second group? Only in the dry season when the level of the river lowered. During the dry season, when the crops were in danger of dying and the people were praying for the coming rains, these stones in the middle of the river would become visible. They would be a reminder that God is faithful - even in the dry season.
5. The Crossing: ...and the people hurried and crossed (Joshua 4:10b).
Notice that the people went across QUICKLY. Why quickly? Why did they hurry? I think that it was because they were afraid. These people had grown up in the desert and I don't think they knew how to swim. They were afraid to cross the Jordan. But they crossed anyway.
It is okay to be afraid to cross the Jordan. But it is not okay to stay on the wrong side.
6. The Results of the Crossing.
Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer, because of the sons of Israel. (Joshua 5:1).
When the Israelites saw the miracle of the Jordan River, they were impressed. They thought that the reason God had done this was so that they could cross over. That was one reason. But there was also another. It was so that the other nations would see the miracle and they would fear the Lord.
Do you see the application of this? WE are some of the nations who have heard of that miracle. And WE should fear the Lord as a result.
CIRCUMCISION & PASSOVER (JOSHUA 5)
At that time the Lord said to Joshua, "Make for yourselves flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time." (Joshua 5:2).
The covenant sign of circumcision had been given to Abraham. When the Israelites had come out of Egypt in the Exodus, they had reintroduced this covenant sign. But there is now a new generation. And they had not partaken in the sign of the covenant. They are called to do so now. This was a sign of their FAITH (Romans 4:11).
This event put the army of Israel in a vulnerable position for several days. And to make matters worse, they were right under the shadow of Jericho. But when you are obeying the commands of the Lord, it is okay to be vulnerable.
2. The Passover.
While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal, they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. (Joshua 5:10).
God's army had taken the sign of the covenant (circumcision) and now ate at the Lord's Table (Passover). These preparations were necessary for them to go forth and to conquer the land.
The church today has a similar preparation to undergo. We must take the sign of the covenant (baptism) and eat at the Lord's Table before we can take the sword of the Spirit forth to conquer the nations.
3. The Manna Removed.
And the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year. (Joshua 5:12).
When the people moved into the promised land, were circumcised, and partook of the Passover, the manna stopped. There is a principle here.
God helps those who can't help themselves. God also helps those who can help themselves, but He helps them in a different way.
When I was a new believer, everything just seemed to fall into my lap. I would walk up to someone and ask, "Do you want to meet Jesus?" and they would answer, "Yes, will you tell me how?" I didn't know anything about apologetics. I wasn't particularly good at explaining my faith. But that was okay because God could use me where I was.
But I want you to know that it isn't as easy as it used to be. Nowadays God sends me the agnostic and the hardened atheist. Why? Because He knows that I can handle it.
4. Confrontation with an Angel.
Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" (Joshua 5:13).
Joshua issues a challenge to this unknown warrior. It is in the form of a question: "Whose side are you on?" Joshua knew that it is impossible to remain neutral in God's battles. You always choose sides. And even if you try to remain neutral, the truth is that you have chosen a side.
And he said, "No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" (Joshua 5:14).
The captain of God's army does not say that he is on Joshua's side. Rather it is Joshua who is on HIS side. Here is the principle. The battle is the Lord's. It is HIS conflict. And we are merely soldiers under His command.