Lies and liars. Our world is filled with them, and we often struggle to know what to do with them. This is true when are deceived, but it is also true when we are the deceiver.
On Sunday we saw another deception story in Joshua. And to play on words—Joshua 9 teaches us again that (first) looks can be deceiving. For instead of seeing how the lies of Gibeon are met with swift punishment, we find that God’s mercy overshadows their wrongdoing. At the same time, we also learn how Israel’s self-reliance is covered by the wise mercy of Joshua. Thus, in this chapter we find great hope for liars and self-reliars, which is to say we find hope for all of us!
To see how Joshua 9 leads us to appreciate more of God’s mercy and to become more merciful, you can listen to the sermon online. You can also find response questions and further resources below.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading
After a week away from outlining the details of Joshua, we return to see in Joshua 9 ten things about God’s mercy.
1. The theme of Joshua 9 is mercy.
While geographical and personal details, not to mention extended dialogue, fills Joshua 9, the main message is one of God’s mercy. This is mildly surprising since God does not speak in this chapter and the people of Israel don’t seek his counsel. However, that the people of Gibeon are not destroyed but given a place of service in God’s tabernacle is strong indication of the mercy that God has for people marked out for destruction.
As Kenneth Mathews notes, “Because of their service to the Lord at the tabernacle, they [the Gibeonites] live at the centerpiece of Israel’s unity and worship.” In other words, “by grace those initially outside the covenant are brought near to God” (Mathews, Joshua, 84). Continue reading
What is inerrancy? And what does it mean for a picture to be true? And what does it mean for the Bible, which is filled with pictures (similes, metaphors, parables, etc.) to be inerrant?
For those who affirm biblical inerrancy, as I do, questions like these enter into a wide-ranging debate about Scripture and hermeneutics. This is especially true when we appreciate how the truth of the Bible is not grounded in logical abstractions or mathematical proofs; it is grounded in the triune God who has spoken of himself in a book that comes together as a progressively revealed story. In other words, truth in the Bible is unlike any other book. It is not only God’s truth, but in a book composed of various genres, its truth is also conveyed through forms of speech whose truth is not easily ascertained or readily appreciated.
Again, what does it mean for a picture to be true? (For an interesting look at this problem from a wholly different angle, see Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Picture Problem“).
In Pictures at a Theological Exhibition: Scenes of the Church’s Worship, Witness and Wisdom, Kevin Vanhoozer has an illuminating chapter on the nature and function of Scripture with special attention to the doctrine of inerrancy. Moving the conversation about inerrancy beyond claims of veracity, he rightly documents what Scripture is (its ontology) and what Scripture does (its function).
In what follows, I want to share his nine qualifications about inerrancy and give a short summary of each point. For clarity sake, all the enumerated points below are his; the expansions are mine with multiple quotations from his chapter. Continue reading
So far in Joshua, we have seen connections between Joshua and Jesus, as well as Rahab and the Church. These connections remind us how this book of history is written for us on whom the end of the ages have come (1 Corinthians 10:11; cf. Romans 15:4). Incredibly, the inspired words of the Old Testament are not just Israel’s historical chronicles; they are prophetic messages leading us to Christ (1 Peter 1:10–12).
This week we will see this pattern again.
Widening our gaze to see Israel cross the Jordan River, Joshua 3–4 shows us how God exalted Joshua by parting the waters and bringing all of Israel into the land. As we saw in this week’s sermon, the memorial of twelve stones is meant for future generations. And for us, we will see how this water passage not only reveals the character of God but also foreshadows the baptism of Jesus and our own baptisms.
You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and further resources are available below. Continue reading
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.
- How do the spies of Joshua 2 contrast with the spies of Numbers 13?
- What observations can you make about Rahab?
- Do any aspects of this story surprise you?
- What does Rahab believe about God?
- How do you see the mercy of God in this story?
- Do you see any significance in the scarlet cord?
- What does the New Testament testify about Rahab in Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25?
- What truths are visible in this story? What might application of this narrative look like?
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
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.
- When think of Joshua or the book about him what comes to mind?
- What are the challenges of reading a book like Joshua?
- 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?
- What is the outline of Joshua? How do the opening verses in Joshua preview the whole book?
- 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?
- 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?
- How should we apply Joshua 1 to us today? Why is putting Christ at the center so important?
- Is there anything else about Joshua we should see today?
As we begin a new series in Joshua, here are some resources on the book of Joshua and on reading the Old Testament.
On Reading the Old Testament
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
This 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
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 Testament, this 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
The Psalms are filled with all sorts of praise and worship, yet one of the most prominent are psalms of individual and corporate laments. Unfortunately, these psalms of sorrow rarely become our standard words of comfort and encouragement—rarely, until tragedy strikes. And then they become a lifeline for the sinking believer.
Corporately, these Psalms also find limited use. When the typical American church gathers for worship, we are accustomed to positive, upbeat sermons and songs. For reasons deliberate and otherwise, these sad songs get little time. Yet, as I tried to show on Sunday, this absence of lamentation marks a distinct loss for the Christian and the church.
By contrast, the regular practice or lamentation and confession provides a needed antidote to the superficiality of our age and it teaches people to worship God with every emotion. For that reason our church considered Psalm 13 and the need to express sorrow in corporate worship.
You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources (including two songs on Psalm 13) can be found below.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds Continue reading