In Genesis 12, God called Abraham to leave his land in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). God sends him on a journey that ends in the area that today we know as Israel. After parting ways with his nephew Lot, Abraham is told by God to look all around. Then God says:
15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. (Genesis 13:15)
But Abraham and his descendants did not get to inherit the land immediately. In fact, at the end of the book of Genesis, they end up in Egypt, where they would be for generations. Finally, Moses was born and, when he was 80 years old, God used him to lead Israel out of their slavery Egypt.
But they did not go directly to the land God had promised their ancestor Abraham. Because of their lack of faith in believing that they could go in and take the Promised Land, God consigned them to wander for forty years in the wilderness of Sinai.
The book of Joshua is the inspired record of how Israel finally came into the land that God had promised them. It’s a book about God’s faithfulness to His people.
In this lesson, we are going to cover the whole book of Joshua. We won’t, obviously, be able to cover every detail, but we will see the main theme of the book—God Is Faithful. First, we’ll see that…
1) GOD IS FAITHFUL TO KEEP HIS PROMISES
Throughout the book of Joshua we find this theme of God’s faithfulness. First, we see His faithfulness displayed in…
1.1) The Life Of Rahab (2; 6:22-25)
Rahab was a Canaanite harlot living in Jericho. She was not an Israelite, but because of her faith in the Lord, God was faithful to her.
Rahab first appears in Joshua 2. Two Israelite spies that Joshua had sent to scout out the city of Jericho were in deep trouble. The king had gotten wind of their presence and ordered search parties to find them. So Rahab, at great risk to her and her family, hid the spies on the roof of her house.
Why did she do it? Why did she risk her life? Rahab says,
10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. (Joshua 2:10–11)
She risked everything because she had faith in the Lord God. And as a result, after the battle of Jericho, she and her family were saved. What are you willing to risk for your faith in the Lord? Do you believe that He will be faithful to you when you do risk something?
Next, we see God’s faithfulness in…
1.2) The Taking Of Jericho (5:13-6:21)
Jericho was a fortified Canaanite city that sat just west of the Jordan river. It marked the entrance to the Promised Land—to defeat it would be like blowing in the front door.
While Israel had many soldiers, they did not have the sort of siege equipment necessary to break down a city wall. About the only thing they could do was surround the city and starve them out, which might take months. But God had a plan…a plan that would test His people’s faith in His faithfulness.
3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. 5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him. (Joshua 6:3–5)
It sounds crazy, but that was the point. Would the people trust God to deliver the city? To be precise, would they trust God to knock down the wall so that they could take the city? This is an important point: trusting in God’s faithfulness does not mean that we should sit around and do nothing. After the wall came down, the people were to “ascend up” and take the city. They had to fight.
What about you? Do you believe that the Lord is faithful? What are some areas of your life where you might step up and act to demonstrate His faithfulness?
Perhaps it’s witnessing and speaking up for the Lord in our culture. Maybe you are afraid of what people will think of you. But if you believe that God will be faithful to you, what does it matter what others think?
God continued to show His faithfulness to the Israelites, in…
1.3) The Many Other Battles They Fought (10-12)
In Joshua 10 through 12, there are numerous battle reports. First, there’s the destruction of the Amorite coalition forces where, to provide more daylight for the battle, God made the sun stand still in the sky (10:13). This took care of a large portion of Southern Canaan.
Next, in chapter 11, Joshua turned his forces to the North. After one particular battle, they captured a number of chariots and horses (something the Israelites had none of). But instead of adding them to their army and increasing their power,
9 …Joshua did unto them as the Lord bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire. (Joshua 11:9)
Why would the Lord want them to do this? Why wouldn’t He want them to have a stronger military? Because, as David later wrote,
7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: But we will remember the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7)
As a result of Israel’s trust in God’s faithfulness to His promises, they won the battle to claim the Promised Land.
23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war. (Joshua 11:23)
After the battles, God showed His faithfulness in…
1.4) Dividing The Promised Land Among The Tribes (19:24-31)
The next portion of Joshua, starting in chapter 13, turns to the division of the land among the tribes. As you scan through chapters 13 to 19, you will see a lot of geographic information about cities and rivers and borders.
Look at the description of Asher’s land in 19:24-31. You see here a list of cities and a description of where the border of Asher’s territory ran. It reads like a surveyor’s log.
Why would God include such mundane details in the Bible? Why should we care about this stuff? Because it shows us the faithfulness of God. Real people inherited real land. Real borders stretched from sea to river to city. Each of the tribes received the promise of God.
These chapters also tell about two particular faithful individuals who inherited their portion of the Promised Land. After leaving Egypt, Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. Ten of those spies gave a bad report that discouraged Israel from conquering the land and doomed them to wander in the wilderness for forty years.
Only two—Joshua and Caleb—believed that God could help them take the land (Numbers 13, 14). As a result of their faith in God’s faithfulness, they did not die in the wilderness, but lived to conquer and inherit the land. Joshua receives his inheritance at the end of chapter 19. In Joshua 14, Caleb receives his inheritance. He says:
7 Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. 8 Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God…
10 And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in…
13 And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. (Joshua 14:7-13)
Caleb believed God would be faithful to keep His promise of a land, and that future promise motivated him to fight for the Lord all those years. We have a promised land that Jesus will be faithful to give:
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2–3)
Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe that He has prepared a mansion for you in Heaven? Does that motivate you to live for Him today?
God also showed His faithfulness by…
1.5) Giving The People A Way To Remember Him (21)
In Joshua 21, the final tribe of Israel received their inheritance. But the Levites would not receive land like the other tribes did—at least not a continuous piece of land that you could call a territory or a state. Instead, they would receive 48 cities that were scattered throughout Israel.
41 All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs. (Joshua 21:41)
Why? The Levites had been given the task of being the priests (specifically Aaron’s sons) and priestly attendants. They would be responsible for making sacrifices, caring for the tabernacle and later, the temple, and for teaching the people the law of God (Deuteronomy 33:8-10).
In Joshua’s time, the tabernacle was located at Shiloh. Why not gather all the Levites there? Because by scattering them throughout the nation, God was spreading the teachers of His law among His people. No one would be far from a teacher of God’s truth.
The important lesson for us today is that, for us to remain faithful to a faithful God, we need to remain close to His truth. We live in a day when the Bible is more accessible than ever.
If you carry a smartphone—you can have the Bible on it, and always with you. You can even have an audio Bible on it so that you can listen to it while you drive or do the dishes or whenever. Are we taking advantage of this closeness to God’s Word? Are we reading, studying, and absorbing the Bible everyday?
God is faithful to keep His promises. Hopefully this quick survey has shown you that. But God is faithful in other ways also. Next, we learn that…
2) GOD IS FAITHFUL TO KEEP HIS WARNINGS
2.1) Achan Ignores God’s Warning (7-8)
Just as God is faithful to keep His promises, so He also faithful to keep His warnings. The first place we see this is at the battle for Ai, in chapter 7. Like with Jericho, Joshua sends scouts to check out the city. They report that only a couple thousand men will be needed to take the city.
Joshua agrees, but they end up getting licked and sent running—36 men are killed. What happened?
Before the attack on Jericho, everyone was told:
18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord. (Joshua 6:18–19)
As it turns out, a man named Achan had disobeyed God’s command concerning Jericho. The Israelites were to kill everyone, burn the city, and put the valuables in the Lord’s treasury. Nothing was to be kept for themselves. Achan, however, did keep some stuff for himself.
As a result, the Lord disciplined the entire nation (Joshua also failed as a leader in that he did not consult the Lord about the attack, rather he assumed it would be easy to conquer Ai).
After giving Achan opportunities to come forward and confess, the Lord revealed that Achan was the culprit. He finally confesses:
20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. (Joshua 7:20–21)
Achan and his family (who were in on it) are executed. The lesson here is that God is faithful to keep His warnings as well as His promises. Perhaps you have been wondering, and now Achan’s story brings it to the forefront…
2.2) How Could God Be So Harsh?
The book of Joshua is perhaps one of the most difficult books in the Bible to deal with when it comes to the violence it contains. Some even ask if God told the Israelites to commit genocide against the Canaanites. Here’s one of several harsh verses, from the famous battle of Jericho:
21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. (Joshua 6:21)
Why was it right for God to order Israel to destroy the Canaanites so harshly and completely? There are three responses to that question:
2.2.1) God had promised the children of Abraham the land. It was theirs and, God said in Genesis 13:15, theirs forever. The Israelites had a right to the land. The Canaanites were the squatters.
Rahab, the Canaanite harlot that helped Israel, understood this. She says in Joshua 2:9, “I know that the Lord hath given you the land.” She (and likely other Canaanites) understood that the land wasn’t theirs—it belonged to the Lord and to whom He chose to give it.
2.2.2) God wanted the Canaanites destroyed to keep His people from falling into idolatry. He knew the Israelites would be tempted to follow the false gods of the Canaanites.
Indeed, this turned out to the case. The Israelites did fail to defeat all the Canaanites, and throughout the rest of the Old Testament, they struggled with idolatry. It’s a good lesson for us: if there is something that drags you away from the Lord, get rid of it.
2.2.3) The Canaanites were to be judged for their sins. Moses told Israel that God was going to drive out the people of the land before Israel because of their wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:5). One example of their wickedness is that they use children as burnt sacrifices to their gods. In this instance, God chose Israel to be the instrument of His righteous judgment.
Friends, the penalty of sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). It’s only by God’s grace that we don’t all suffer that penalty immediately. But when someone, like Achan or the Canaanites, does suffer judgment for their sins, it’s completely justified.
Now, however, God has sent us a Savior. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He is divine so that He can take the infinite punishment our sin deserves. He is human is that He can identify with us and die for us. Jesus told us:
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
You can either suffer the penalty for your sins, which means a conscious eternity in Hell, or you can let the Lord Jesus take your condemnation for you. It’s a decision that you are free to make.
2.3) Decision Time
In the final two chapters, Joshua, old and stricken with age, gathers the leaders and people together for some final words. The most famous of these is found in Joshua 24—
14 Now therefore fear the Lord [take Him seriously, take Him personally—not just as a religious figure from a Sunday school flannel graph], and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14–15)
Joshua pushes Israel for a commitment to the Lord. And not a namby-pamby commitment either, but one that is serious and sincere.
How about you? Have you made a serious and sincere commitment to the Lord? In our culture, we don’t have false gods made of stone to lead us astray, we have something more subtle. We have a cultural Christianity that looks like the real thing. Many people say they are Christians, but only pray when there is a disaster in their lives. Many people say they are Christians, but only speak the Lord’s name as a swear word.
It’s easy for us to be deceived into thinking that we’re okay because we know about Jesus. But we don’t really take Him seriously or sincerely. We don’t actually know Jesus personally.
How about you? What is Jesus to you? Is He really your Savior? Commit yourself this day to believe in Him seriously and sincerely for the salvation of your sins. When you do, you will find God will be faithful to keep His promises.