Introduction to Joshua and the Sermon Series

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).

The book of Joshua may be divided as follows.

As Christians read this part of our Scripture, the question will most likely occur to us: Why did God not only tolerate violence and destruction against the Canaanite people but even commanded it? We ask this question, not because we post-moderns are a more evolved form of humanity, because our “Joshua” (the equivalent to Jesus in Hebrew) commanded us to love our enemies and forbade any form of violence. How can we reconcile our Joshua, the Prince of Peace, with his Old Testament counterpart, the great warrior?

We begin with Jesus, the fullest revelation of God, the One who showed in the most complete way what the heavenly Father is like. Through the lens of Jesus, we are to understand Joshua – a forerunner of our Lord – and his battles. We will lay aside the question (until later in the study) about the justice of such a violent incursion into other people’s territory. For now, it must be said that the line from Joshua is drawn to Jesus, and not to any other leader or kingdom. For this reason, we will be careful to apply the lessons learned from these stories only to life in the kingdom of heaven, inaugurated and ruled over by the Lord Jesus.

The writer of Hebrews used the idea of “rest” to compare Joshua with Jesus. In Joshua 11:23, after a narration of the book’s final battle, we read a concluding sentence: “And the land had rest from war.” Even so, the author of Hebrews says, this rest was incomplete (and, indeed, just 2 chapters later in Joshua we see more war being prescribed). Joshua could not give the people and the land true and lasting rest because this cannot be obtained by human weapons, but only by “living and active word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), the one instrument that put to death those internal enemies, the desires and attitudes that deprive us of rest. So we look to Jesus, who battled the enemies of God in heaven and on earth, including those in our own hearts, and through him enter God’s rest.

The 12 studies in this booklet coincide with the GCC sermon series. The questions in each study are in the format of “taking in” (understanding the story) and “living out” (applying the story to life). You may choose to use the study in one of the following ways:

  1. To study the passage prior to the coming Sunday’s sermon. If used in this way, all the questions will be fresh and participants will be starting with a blank slate. You may choose to use as many (or few) of the questions in order to help the group truly hear God’s word.
  2. To discuss the passage following the Sunday’s sermon. If used in this way, not all of the questions will apply so the leader will need to choose which to use. (Or the group may choose to discuss their own questions that occurred to them during the sermon.)

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