As the Torah concludes in the book of Deuteronomy, the people of Israel are perched by the Jordan River, waiting to enter the land of Canaan. After Moses’ death, God commands Joshua to lead his people forward, to displace the nations and possess what God had prepared. The displacement of the Canaanite nations has nothing to do with Israel’s goodness, but is entirely about two things. First, over four centuries earlier God had promised Abraham that this land would belong to his descendants, and now is the time for him to make good on that promise (Genesis 12-13). Second, the inhabitants of Canaan, a group of tribal peoples, has so degraded themselves and their land, that this act of aggression was for the purpose of judgment and cleansing (Genesis 15:16; 1 Kings 21:26).
Coincides with Sunday, November 20, 2016
It is because we know ourselves that we rely completely on the God who saves us. We began this study by noting that Jesus is the fulfillment of Joshua. While we gain some good lessons from this leader’s example, ultimately we look to Jesus to open the way into the promised land and to give us rest. The final episode of the Joshua story is one of covenant renewal. Here the people are at once urged to pledge their undying commitment to their God, and at the same time reminded that they do not possess the power for obedience. Their hearts will ultimately lead them astray. So like Peter, trying to walk on water but then sinking in the waves, we end by looking to Jesus and saying, “Lord, save me.”
Coincides with Sunday, November 13, 2016
As we get older and realize that we will not be in this world forever, we turn our attention to the next generation. Will they be able to carry the torch through their lives and then pass it on to those that follow them? In this story, Joshua is beginning to prepare the next generation for his departure. The key for their survival and success is the very (simple) one that was given to him in chapter one of this book: listen to and obey every word that God speaks.
Coincides with Sunday, November 6, 2016
Today’s study is based on one of the few Old Testament stories that shows brothers dwelling together in unity. From the sibling rivalries of Genesis (Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, etc.) to the tribal disputes of Judges and Kings, God’s people have never done well at simply getting along with one another. This story, therefore, stands out as a rare jewel in the larger narrative of conflict, and gives insight into fostering and maintaining good relationships.
Coincides with Sunday, October 30, 2016
In every era and civilization, there are those who are forced to flee for their lives. In ancient Israel, even before the people had settled into the land of Canaan, the law of Moses prognosticated this need (Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:6, 11-14; Deut. 4:41-43, 19:2-9). Even in cases in which one person accidentally killed another, there would be a very real possibility of revenge. Six cities were set apart to which asylum seekers could flee and there await the judgment of the congregation.
Coincides with Sunday, October 23, 2016
Often elderly people can be made to feel irrelevant, especially in cultures that place a high value on youth. The story of Caleb feels like, in some ways, the battle cry of the aged. Due to his fellow Israelites’ sin of unbelief, Caleb was forced to wander for 40 years in harsh wilderness conditions. Even after all that time, however, he had not given up, but remained focused on the promise God had given him. He teaches an important lesson about enduring to the end, equipped only with the promise of God.
Coincides with Sunday, October 9, 2016
(Only study chater 9)
Many of life’s circumstances are ambiguous, colored in shades of gray and requiring on-the-spot wisdom. The Gibeonites tricked Israel into making a covenant with them, and then became the catalyst for Israel’s decisive battle victory over an alliance of Canaanite kings. In reading the Bible’s stories, we are always looking for the evaluative viewpoint, trying to discern through the story if the characters are to be deemed good or evil. In this case, the evaluation is unclear. Were the Gibeonites deceitful and therefore punished? Or were they wise and therefore saved? Were they a hiccup in God’s plan for Israel? Or were they an integral part of his plan? The story is as ambiguous as the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and thus portrays the ongoing need for applied wisdom.
Coincides with Sunday, October 16, 2016
After the first two battle stories, Jericho and Ai, it is time for Israel to renew the covenant. None of the Canaan battles are described in any detail except for these first two, so we can assume that there are foundational lessons for us to learn from these two stories of success (Jericho) and failure (Ai). It is immediately after those battles that the people assemble to hear God’s law being read.
Coincides with Sunday, October 2, 2016
(Study only Chapter 7 )
The story of Ai is one of the two foundational battle stories to be recorded for future generations of God’s people. After these two battles, all the people will gather to hear the Law being read, a sign that they were now present in the promised land and ready to do God’s will there. Whereas the story of Jericho describes the successful first battle, their failure at Ai tells why Israel experienced defeat. Both stories offer foundational lessons for the Christian life from the contrasting perspectives of victory and failure.