Baptism in the Jordan River: 10 Things about Joshua 3–4

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashJoshua 3–4 is about Israel crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land, which is to say it is about a baptism into and with Joshua. Seeing that “baptism,” however, will take a little cross-referencing. To get to that interpretation, here are 10 things about Joshua 3–4.

1. The literary structure puts the center of the story in the middle of the Jordan River.

Chapters 3–4 should be read together. If we organize chapter 3 around the crossing and chapter 4 around the memorial of twelve stones, we may miss the fact that the priests are still standing in the river bed from Joshua 3:15 until Joshua 4:18. For this reason, it is better to organize the chapters around the actual events of the crossing, and read the chapters together.

Joshua 3:15 watches the priests step into the water; Joshua 4:18 watches them step out of the water. In between, all the people of Israel cross the Jordan River in haste (4:10). And standing at the center of this story is the collection of twelve stones, which will be a sign and memorial for future generations (4:6–7). Indeed, the memorial is presented at the center of the story, and thus we should see how the whole river crossing hangs together.

For starters, Dale Ralph Davis (Joshua, 32) organizes Joshua 3–4 around the simple movement of crossing the Jordan River.

Crossing Over (3:14–17)

Twelve Stones (4:1–10a)

Crossing Over (4:10b–14) Continue reading

Did Rahab Lie? An Exegetical Answer

emily-morter-8xAA0f9yQnE-unsplash.jpgHere’s my preliminary answer to the question, Did Rahab lie?

It comes from a larger consideration of Joshua, “Ten Things About Joshua 2.” Admittedly this answer does not deal with all the passages that relate to bearing false witness or speaking truth in love. Rather, it seeks to understand how we might read Joshua 2 at the textual horizon.

My twofold answer to the question is that, first, the text leads us to focus on the truth she confessed, rather than the falsehood she (may or may not have) told. Second, the answer is not wholly apparent. The text conceals her motives, even as it reveals her faith. In this way, I do not believe Joshua 2 is written to answer this question.

That said, it is an important question and one that we should consider. With those caveats in place, let’s consider Rahab’s faithful actions and whether or not we should see them as a “lie.”

Continue reading

A Harlot’s Hope: The Gospel in One Chapter (Joshua 2)

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A Harlot’s Hope: The Gospel in One Chapter (Joshua 2)

Tamar and Judah. Rahab and Salmon. Ruth and Boaz. Bathsheba and David. The Church and Jesus.

What do these couples have in common? They are all in the Bible? Yes. They are all in Jesus genealogy? Yes.

And most astoundingly, each had a history with harlotry. Respectively, the dress, the (former) identity, or the actions of these couples contain some element related idolatry, adultery, or prostitution.

Finding a place in this redemptive story, Sunday’s sermon considered the incredible story of Rahab and how God saved her from a life of prostitution and a city on the verge of destruction. With many themes that touched on the fabric of salvation, we saw God had mercy on this woman and can have mercy on anyone who believes.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below.

Response Questions

  1. How do the spies of Joshua 2 contrast with the spies of Numbers 13?
  2. What observations can you make about Rahab?
  3. Do any aspects of this story surprise you?
  4. What does Rahab believe about God?
  5. How do you see the mercy of God in this story?
  6. Do you see any significance in the scarlet cord?
  7. What does the New Testament testify about Rahab in Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25?
  8. What truths are visible in this story? What might application of this narrative look like?

Additional Resources

Rahab’s Redemption: 10 Things About Joshua 2

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Joshua 2 is filled with exegetical, ethical, and biblical theological challenges. Here are ten things that begin to wade into the richness of Joshua 2.

1. Joshua 2 appears to be an “unnecessary” story in the framework of the book.

Nothing is unnecessary in Scripture. Every jot and tittle is inspired by God and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). However, there are facts and even chapters that may appear to be unnecessary, as in the case of Joshua 2.

In the flow of Joshua, the second chapter interrupts Israel’s entry into the land. Chapter 1 speaks of the preparation for entry; chapter 3 records the entry itself. Chapter 2 stands in the middle of this continuous story, and thus it stands out. For the sensitive reader, the placement of the story does not mean Rahab and the spies are out of place. On the contrary, they are exactly where they need to be. And they demonstrate the great importance of this chapter.

As Dale Ralph Davis observes, this “non-essential” story is necessary for showing how God saved a Gentile harlot (Joshua, 28–29). The story is not necessary for demonstrating God’s power or justice in overthrowing the wickedness of Jericho. His faithfulness would stand upon the giving the land to Israel, as he had promised. But his mercy is highlighted by this inclusion of Rahab’s redemption, and hence the main point of this whole chapter will center on God’s unexpected grace and undeserved mercy. Continue reading

Reading Joshua with the Early Church: Ten Quotes from the Patristics

joshua07C. S. Lewis has said that for every three books we read from our century, we should read one from an earlier century. This is not because other places and other periods of time do not have a lock on truth. Other centuries have many errors, but—and this is Lewis’s point!—they do not share the same errors that we do. Thus, by reading books from other eras, we are given problems, solutions, and perspectives (read: wisdom) that we cannot find in our own time period.

When it comes to the book of Joshua, we find an example of this in the connections that the Early Church made between Joshua, son of Nun, and Joshua (Jesus), son of Mary, son of God. In the last few centuries, modern scholars have provided copious literary analyses of Joshua; they have proven Joshua’s vocabulary comes from Deuteronomy; and they have corroborated the form and content of Joshua with other ancient Near Eastern covenant documents, as well as archaeological research.

Yet, what continues to be lacking in today’s studies are the canonical connections that filled the writings of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, and others. In the first three centuries of the Church, especially as the Church grappled with the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, these early apologists made numerous connections between Joshua and Jesus.

In particular, these Church Fathers made much of the name of “Jesus,” or “Joshua,” or as it is found in Hebrews 4:8 and 4:14, Iēsous. Indeed, as any reader of the Greek New Testament will discover the name translated “Joshua” in 4:8 is the same name translated “Jesus” in 4:14. While our English Bibles lead us to view these names as different (Joshua and Jesus), the Greek name is the same.

Similarly, Jude 5 (ESV) speaks of “Jesus” who saved Israel out of Egypt. Here again the name Iēsous appears in multiple early manuscripts.[i] While Jude may have been saying that Jesus of Nazareth, who is the eternal Son, led Israel out Egypt, there is better evidence for seeing a typological connection in Jude 5. The God of Israel led Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land by means of Joshua (Iēsous), who is a type of Christ. Or as Richard Ounsworth puts it, “Joshua’s role as savior of his people . . . points toward the fulfilment of this foreshadowing of Christ by one who shares Joshua’s name” (Joshua Typology in the New Testament13). Continue reading

Seeing Joshua with New Eyes: Joshua, Jesus, and the Christian Life (Joshua 1)

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Seeing Joshua with New Eyes:
Joshua, Jesus, and the Christian Life (Joshua 1)

This week we kicked off a new sermon series at our church called “Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament: A Study of the Book of Joshua.” You can listen to the sermon here. Response questions and additional resources on Joshua and seeing Christ in the Old Testament are below.

Response Questions

  1. When think of Joshua or the book about him what comes to mind?
  2. What are the challenges of reading a book like Joshua?
  3. Who is in focus in Joshua 1? Why does seeing Joshua as the recipient of God’s speech in verses 2-9 matter so much?
  4. What is the outline of Joshua? How do the opening verses in Joshua preview the whole book?
  5. How can we (accidentally) turn Joshua 1:6-9 into a passage for the prosperity gospel? How does a right reading of Joshua oppose the prosperity gospel?
  6. What do verses 10-18 contribute to Joshua 1? Who is speaking? What do they tell us about the book? What does the unity of Israel teach us about the church today?
  7. How should we apply Joshua 1 to us today? Why is putting Christ at the center so important?
  8. Is there anything else about Joshua we should see today?

Additional Resources

As we begin a new series in Joshua, here are some resources on the book of Joshua and on reading the Old Testament.

On Joshua

On Reading the Old Testament

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

 

Getting to Know Joshua, Son of Nun, and Joshua, Son of God: Or, 10 Things About Joshua 1

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashThis Sunday our church begins a new series on the book of Joshua. Already I’ve shared an outline of the book. Tomorrow, I’ll share how the name of Jesus is important understanding the book. In preparation for the sermon series, here are 10 more things about Joshua 1.

1. Joshua is all about . . . Joshua.

The focus on Joshua can be seen in multiple ways in the book. As the title rightly captures, the whole book focuses on this one man. In Joshua 1:1–9, God speaks to Joshua directly, stressing the important role he will play in Israel’s possession of the land. Likewise, Joshua 24 concludes with Joshua leading Israel to make a covenant with God.

In between, Joshua is the political, military, and spiritual leader of Israel. In Joshua 1, he is compared to Moses and presented as the one who will take Moses’s place. In Joshua 1:1 Moses is called “the servant of the Lord,” while Joshua is called Moses’s “assistant.” Yet, by the end of the book Joshua also receives the title “Servant of the Lord” (24:39). Thus, the promises God makes to Joshua in the first chapter are realized as Moses’s assistant completes what Moses did not—namely, bringing Israel into the land.

This results in a book that makes Joshua greater than Moses. While many in Judaism have undervalued the place of Joshua, relative to Moses, the book of Joshua presents this later servant of God as greater than Moses (see ch. 12, especially). Hence, as the whole book centers on Joshua, we see how the law-fulfiller is greater than the law-giver and how this man will bring God’s people into the land. Continue reading

Finding the Macro-Structure of Joshua, with a Note for Expositional Preachers to Widen Their Vision

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In recent years, few practices have been more fruitful for my Bible reading and preaching than (attempting to find and) discovering the structure of a biblical passage. Dave Helm and the good folks at Simeon Trust call this structure the “bone and marrow” of any passage. Just like the human body is built with interconnected bones that give shape to the body, so the arguments, narratives, and poetry of the Bible has a recognizable skeletal structure that gives shape to the passage.

This is true at the microscopic level, where biblical authors organize a few verses around a chiasm or some other literary structure. It is also true at the macroscopic level, where we can recognize the literary structure of entire books. This latter macrostructure is most helpful for discovering the main argument of a book and why the author is writing what he is writing in the way he is writing.

Recently, I have found help on this front from a book by David Dorsey. In his Literary Structure of the Old Testamentthis Old Testament scholar provides the macro-structure of every book in the Hebrew Bible, as well as many smaller literary structures in various books. At present, I have not read the whole book nor have I agreed with everything I have read, but by and large, Dorsey’s careful treatment of the Bible provides a helpful outline of every book.

As our church begins to look at Joshua this Sunday, I thought I’d share a couple of his outlines, simplified and color-coded, to help us see how the macro-structure of Joshua clarifies the main point of this book. Indeed, as Joshua has some longer section regarding land divisions, etc., I believe seeing the larger scope of the book will help us understand the main points. Continue reading

Glory from Beginning to End: Ten Things About Psalm 29

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon, here are ten things about Psalm 29.

1. Psalm 29 is the third creation psalm and third “mountain top” in Book 1 of the Psalms.

This point is easier to show than to tell. In the following graphic, we see how Psalms 8, 19, and 29 stand at the center of various chiastic structures (“mountains”) in the Psalter. (You can hear how this outline works here).

Book 1

Arranged in this way, we might read Psalms 8, 19, 29 together and see how the God of creation was to be worshiped by mankind (Ps 8), in response to the word of God (Ps 19), and in the temple (Ps 29). Even more, we can see how glory connects these creation psalms together.

Psalm 8 says God crowned mankind with glory and honor. Psalm 19 speaks of God’s glory displayed in creation. And Psalm 29 speaks of God’s glory coming into the temple. In all of these ways, we discover how manifold God’s glory is.

2. The creation imagery of Psalm 29 recalls the ancient battle songs of Israel.

For instance, the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15) uses creation imagery to describe God’s power to destroy his enemies. Deborah’s song (Judges 5) does the same. And according to Derek Kidner, this is a common way ancient Near Eastern songs were composed.

Early Canaanite poetry was similar in this respect.. Whether David was building the psalm out of an ancient fragment, or turning to a style that would recall the old battle-hymns of God’s salvation, the primitive vigour of the verse, with its eighteen reiterations of the name Yahweh (the Lord), wonderfully matches the theme, while the structure of the poem averts the danger of monotony by its movement from heaven to earth, by the path of the storm and by the final transition from nature in uproar to the people of God in peace. (Psalms 1–72142). Continue reading

The Happiness That Godly Sorrow Brings: Ten Things About Psalm 32

10 thingsIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon on Psalm 32, here are ten things about David’s confession of sin that leads to joyful song.

1. Psalm 32 is a hybrid psalm containing elements of thanksgiving and wisdom.

Gerald Wilson calls Psalm 32 a “psalm of thanksgiving coupled with instruction encouraging the reader not to resist the guidance of Yahweh but to trust him fully” (Psalms Vol. 1544). Likewise, Peter Craigie concludes Psalm 32 is “a basic thanksgiving psalm [that] has been given literary adaptation according to the wisdom tradition” (Psalms 1–50265).

For those who read the Psalm devotionally, not academically, the classification of the Psalm does not matter as much as how the elements of thanksgiving and wisdom work together. In the flow of Psalm 32, thanksgiving leads to instruction and words of wise counsel arise from God’s forgiveness for which David is thankful. In this way, it is helpful to see how thanksgiving and instruction reinforce one another in Psalm 32 and our lives. Continue reading