We’re nearly there, friends; we’re almost on the home stretch – I have been loving exploring the book of Joshua, and seeing the way in which God called and sent out this amazing leader. There is loads that we can learn from Joshua about leadership, about calling, about God’s promises and about how He is with us on the journey. You can find the rest of the series here: in part one we looked at who Joshua was, where he came from and why he is important to us; in part two, we see Joshua hearing the promises of God and moving forward, leading his men to be strong and courageous. In part three we meet Rahab and we see the courage, bravery and faithfulness of the prostitute, who God had chosen to save his men; part four covers the Israelites crossing the Jordan, and we look at the role that faith played as they followed God in this journey. In part five, Joshua and his men pause to look back at all that God has done and pause before they move forward – we saw how the point of God’s provision is always to point to who He is; and part six, last week, saw some of the battles that the Israelites faced in chapters 9-12 of the book, and what God did within them: God’s faithfulness is always greater than human failure.
In each of the battles that the Israelites went into for the Lord, they found that God had already gone before them, and they only had to be obedient – they won most battles with a landslide. In chapter six, Joshua speaks this over the people:
“Shout! For the Lord has given you this city! The city and all that are in in are to be devoted to the Lord” Joshua 6:16
It was a celebration of God coming through and giving them all that He had promised them. This is just after the wall of Jericho came tumbling down at their feet: they had marched around the city six times, for six days, and on the seventh day they blew their trumpets, as God had told them to do – they took faith that this was God at work and that He would do it. Where they could have gone charging in and knocked the wall down themselves, they waited; this way, it had to be God that came through for them.
God takes us on a journey, and faith is required every step of the way; He is preparing something at the end for us, which He has promised from the beginning. He does the work, like He did with the Israelites, and we get to be active participants in His plan – it takes faith that He is at work, but He is worth following so much more than our own ways. 2 Peter 1:4 says that “through these (his glory and goodness), he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you might participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in this world caused by evil desires”: the promises that He gives us mean that we get to participate in His nature and all that He is up to – Joshua had a promise, and all he needed to do was trust that God was going to bring this into being, and be obedient.
I’m passing over the battles in chapters 9-12 quite quickly (although they are definitely worth a read), but there is one in particular which stands out, as things went very differently for Joshua and his men:
“But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to devoted things; Achan, the son of Carmi… took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel” Joshua 7:1
Things had been going so well for the Israelites, and the Lord had brought them into the promised land. Here, there were items that were holy and special from the Lord, that He had placed there; these were the items that Achan, one of the Israelites, decided to steal. Genius. Of course, God knew that Achan was going to be disobedient before He even sent Joshua and his men off on their journey; He still did great things for the people before and went on to do great things afterwards. The actions of one didn’t affect God’s love towards His people – but in that moment, because of Achan’s disobedience the Lord’s anger burned towards them; and because they were under the law, there needed to be a sacrifice.
God had done so much for them, and yet there was still one who acted on his temptation. It is a choice to surrender to temptation; and yet thankfulness removes the desire to look away from God and allow ourselves to be tempted by the things of the world. God has done huge, incredible things for me – I do not want to look away from Him. After this, Joshua sent some men up to fight an enemy and they were defeated. Why? Because God was not fighting their battles anymore. In their sin, they had taken on the journey in their own strength and taken the power off of God; so He was letting them get on with it.
God fixed it all for them, of course, once they had sacrificed and turned back to him. But here is what this means for us: Jesus died for me, for you – we are covered by His grace and hidden in Him. God is always fighting those battles for us, and He never turns from us in anger – He is not capable of that; He only sees Jesus when He looks at us. Under the law, I am a sinner – but under grace this is not what He sees.
Joshua challenged Achan, he was found guilty and he was stoned. Only after this did God turn from His anger, and continue walking with the people.
We were the ones who were found guilty; we had allowed ourselves to be tempted – and we continue to allow ourselves to be tempted. But instead of calling for us to be stoned, Jesus took all of the punishment on himself; an act that lasts forever and covers all who accept it.
The book of Joshua does an incredible job of showing us how God relates to his people. Know, friend, that He always looks at you with kindness and compassion, He is always running your race with you – there is literally nothing that you can do to change this. You do not deserve this love – none of us do – and yet Jesus took on all of our sin and all of our guilt, that we might be declared not guilty in front of Him.
And that means, my friend, that you get to do this life thing with Him. It means that you’re not just making it up as you go along, but that you are participating in a full and abundant life with Him. How amazing is that?!