Old Testament Instruction for the New Testament Church: 10 Things About Joshua 22

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashWhen we think about finding help for practical matters in the church, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy are books that come to mind. However, Joshua should be added to the list of places we go to find help for practical ecclesiology. In this list of ten, we will see how Joshua 22 fits into the book of Joshua. And from its place in the book of Joshua, we will see at least five ways this chapter informs a variety of church matters.

1. Joshua 22 begins the fourth and last section of Joshua.

In Joshua there are three or four major sections, depending on how you organize the book. But however you arrange it, Joshua 22 begins a new section, one composed of three concluding assembles. As Dale Ralph Davis puts it,

Observe that each of these last three chapters begins when Joshua summons (Hebrew, qara’) Israel or some significant segment of it (22:1; 23:2; 24:1). Thus the book closes with three assemblies of the people of God. Remember that all this immediately follows the heavy theological text, 21:43-45, which emphatically underscores Yahweh’s fidelity to his promise.

By contrast, chapters 22–24 are preoccupied with the theme of Israel’s fidelity to Yahweh (22:5, 16, 18, 19, 25, 29, 31; 23:6, 8, 11; 24:14-15, 16, 18, 21, 23, 24).’ Hence the last three chapters constitute the writer’s major application: Israel must respond in kind to Yahweh’s unwavering faithfulness. Willing bondage [think: Paul’s use of the word doulos] to this faithful God is their only rational and proper response. The logic is that of the ‘therefore’ of Romans 12:1 as it follows the divine mercies of Romans 1-11. In principle it is the same as ‘love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’ (Joshua, 169–70)

Davis’s observation about these three assemblies is most helpful for establishing a link between Israel living in the land and God’s people living before God today. Thus, we can be sure that these chapters are meant to help churches walk together in covenant unity.

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The Problem with All Critical Theories of the Bible

hans-peter-gauster-3y1zF4hIPCg-unsplash.jpg5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
— 1 Timothy 1:5–7 —

In his excellent commentary on the book of Joshua, pastor and Old Testament scholar, Dale Ralph Davis, addresses the problem of critical theories used to interpret the Bible. Taking aim at the documentary hypothesis, a view which conjures up multiple sources behind the Old Testament, Davis singles out the real problem of this approach—it eviscerates the reliability of God’s Word and mutes God’s message. By adding undo complexity, it obscures the clarity of Scripture.

In response to this cumbersome and faith-eroding approach, he gives wise counsel: Continue reading

The Wisdom of God at Work in Israel and the Church: 10 Things About Joshua 20–21

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashAfter seven chapters about dividing the land, Joshua 20–21 focuses on two types of cities in Israel—cities of refuge (ch. 20) and cities of Levites (ch. 21). From the role of these cities, we learn a great deal about God and his plans for his people—both in Israel and today. Here are ten things about Joshua 20–21.

1. Joshua 20–21 are unified with Joshua 13–19.

While many commentators legitimately distinguish the distribution of the cities in Joshua 20–21 from the distribution of the land, the order of the chapters shows us how Joshua 20–21 provides balance to a chiastic structure that ranges from Joshua 13–21.

A Introduction (13:1) – Joshua was old and advanced in years

B1 Remaining Lands (13:2–7)
B2a Eastern Lands with Moses (13:8–33)
B2b Western Lands with Joshua (14:1–5)

C Caleb (14:6–15) – Son of Judah Receives the Future Royal City of Hebron

D1 Judah (15:1–63) – The Greatest Emphasis is Placed on Judah
D2 Joseph (16:1–17:18) – Ephraim and Half of Manasseh

E Levi (18:1–10) – The Center of Israel’s Worship at Shiloh

D1’ Benjamin/Simeon (18:11–19:9) –  2 tribes associated with Judah
D2’ Five (19:10–48) –  5 tribes associated with Joseph

C’ Joshua (19:49–51) – Son of Ephraim

B1’ The Cities of Refuge (20:1–9)
B2a’ The Levitical Cities Outlined (21:1–8) – Primary Focus on Sons of Aaron
B2b’ The 48 Levitical Cities Listed (21:9–42) – Primary Focus on Aaron and Hebron (vv. 9–19)

A’ Conclusion (21:43–45) — All that God had promised the forefathers has been fulfilled

The importance of this literary structure is what comes in the middle, namely the arrangement of the land around the tabernacle (Josh 18:1–10). From this central feature, we are keyed to see how the association of Aaron with Hebron foreshadows the later connection between David and the priesthood. Moreover, the role of the Levitical cities helps us to understand how the whole nation was blessed by the Levitical priesthood and how the Levites directed the attention of the people to God’s dwelling place.

In what follows, we will see how these priestly themes recur in Joshua 20–21. Continue reading

Give Thanks For the Gifts Jesus Gives You: A Thanksgiving Meditation on Ephesians 4

pro-church-media-p2OQW69vXP4-unsplash.jpgBut grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
— Ephesians 4:7–8 —

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is good to remember that thanksgiving is more than a feeling prompted by turkey and stuffing. Thanksgiving is a way of life for those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. And thanksgiving is one of the chief ways that Jesus builds up his church.

Here’s what I mean: Scripture teaches us that we are created to give thanks to God for all that he has given to us. We praise him for his good gifts in creation, and we adore him especially for his mercy in salvation. Yet, in Paul’s letters to the churches, there is peculiar focus on giving thanks for the people whom Christ has given us. And it is worth considering this particular gift as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Continue reading

Learning About and Letting Go of Keswick Theology

jonathan-hoxmark-6VWTC9sWu8M-unsplash.jpgKeswick theology. The name may be unknown, but it views are ubiquitous—and most unhelpful!

In yesterday’s Sunday School lesson I mentioned the half-truth contained in Keswick theology—namely, that Christians need to submit themselves to God. However, the other side to Keswick’s equation, which is the untruth, is that this view of the Christian life devalues justification by faith, and it makes sanctification a singular and solely passive experience.

To appreciate the history, influence, and trouble of Keswick theology, let me cite a couple pages from David Calhoun’s history of Princeton Seminary. In a section on Princeton during the 1910s, he cites the mixed reception Keswick theology received at Princeton. In short space, Calhoun gives a brief history of the movement, as well as a constructive critique marshalled by B. B. Warfield. He writes (Princeton Seminary: 1869–1929, 305–06): Continue reading

God’s Treasure Map: An Invitation to Imagine Your Inheritance (Joshua 13–19)

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God’s Treasure Map: An Invitation to Imagine Your Inheritance (Joshua 13–19)

As the famed Puritan, Matthew Henry, begins his commentary on Joshua 13:1, he writes, “We are not to skip over these chapters of hard names as useless and not to be regarded.” Why? Because “ where God has a mouth to speak and a hand to write we should find an ear to hear and an eye to read.”

This is a good reminder as we venture into seven chapters composed of lists, boundary markers, and land distributions. In comparison to the exciting action of Israel’s military conquests in Joshua 1–12, Joshua 13–19 seems, well, . . . dull. But its dullness depends entirely on our inability to appreciate what these chapters meant to Israel.

For centuries, Israel had waited to receive its long-promised inheritance. And now, that the gift of the land had come, Joshua 13–19 tells the contents of this treasure and the placement of God’s people in the land. What was once promised to Abraham, is now coming to fulfillment in the days of Joshua.

For us today, this passage is equally exciting when we consider the inheritance promised to us in Christ—an inheritance we still look for in the new heavens and the new earth. Thus, these chapters should not bore us with their detail; they should stir excitement in our own hope of heaven—i.e., a heaven on earth when Christ returns.

Indeed, this is how I pursued these chapters in Sunday’s sermon. Rather than taking a microscope to each verse, we looked at them as a whole. Instead of devoting a sermon to each chapter we looked at  Joshua 13–19 as a ’treasure map’ to better understand our inheritance in Christ.

You can listen to this sermon online. Discussion questions can be found below.

Discussion Questions

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Imagine . . . : 16 Observations on Imagination, Theology, Discipleship, and the Church

michael-aleo-DpgzNS1yvWg-unsplash.jpg“Imagine there’s no heaven.”
— John Lennon —

“Many churches are suffering from malnourished imaginations,
captive to culturally conditioned pictures of the good life.”
— Kevin J. Vanhoozer —

In seminary I took a class called “The Worshipping Church,” where one of our assignments included visiting churches outside our denomination. In one of those visits, I went to a local Roman Catholic Church, where before, during, or after the service (I cannot remember), the instrumentalist played the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. If you are unfamiliar, the lyrics begin

Imagine there’s no heaven / It’s easy if you try
No hell below us / Above us only sky

Admittedly, the instrumental tune is soothing, but the casual denial of heaven and hell is satanic. And though the words were not sung aloud in the service, to anyone familiar with the song, it was not too difficult to imagine what the song was saying.

I bring up this occasion not to bemoan the presence of that song in church—it’s exclusion from the worship set should be obvious. I bring up the song “Imagine” to observe the lack of imagination that cripples so many of God’s churches. As Kevin Vanhoozer has observed, “Many churches are suffering from malnourished imaginations, captive to culturally conditioned pictures of the good life.”

Going further, Kevin Vanhoozer’s book, Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples through Scripture and Doctrine, reiterates the need for churches to engage the imagination. Indeed, this is more than a hat tip to the arts; as Vanhoozer argues, imagination is a necessary (and biblical!) step between theory and practice, between faith and love.

As he has (for years) sought to bridge the chasm between knowledge and action with what he calls “theodrama” or “the drama of doctrine,” Vanhoozer rightly observes the importance of imagination. And in what follows I want to cite sixteen of his observations on this subject and why it is so vital for the church. Continue reading

The Strength That God’s Sovereignty Supplies and the Judgment God’s Sovereignty Justifies

pexels-photo-32625610  The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11  The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12  Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
— Psalm 33:10–12 —

Throughout the book of Joshua we see the personal presence of God. In battle after battle, Yahweh fights for Israel. Through his appointed leader Joshua, God brings justice on a land whose sin has finally come to judgment (cf. Gen. 15:16), and he brings salvation to Israel, as more than 31 city-states rise to fight God’s people (Joshua 12)..

Indeed, if there is any theme that recurs in Joshua is God’s sovereignty over the affairs of the nations. As Psalm 33:10 puts it, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.” Yet, God’s sovereignty does more than run roughshod over the affairs of men. His personal actions in the world actually bring to fruition the sins of the nations, which in turn demonstrates his righteousness in bringing judgment on evil. Simultaneously, his covenant promises lead his people to bold action. Rather than passively waiting for God to act, God’s actions impel his people to follow suit.

Joshua teaches us, therefore, how God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility work together. In particular, we see God’s sovereignty in his judgment and salvation. And for those of us who are seeking to know God and his ways in the world, it is worth our time to consider both. In what follows, we will consider how these often confused and competing themes (God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility) work in harmony. Continue reading

The Last Battle: 10 Things About Joshua 11–12

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashIn Joshua 11–12 we come to the close of the first section of Joshua. Here are ten things about those two chapters.

1. Joshua 11 repeats the same pattern as Joshua 10 . . . but faster.

Joshua 11:1 begins just like Joshua 5:1; 9:1; and 10:1. In each chapter, kings from Canaan “heard” of the exploits of Israel and Israel’s God. At first “the kings of the Amorites” feared the Lord (5:1), but then others sought to fight Israel (9:1; 10:1; 11:1). The difference in responses, it seems, is because Ai defeated defeated Israel when Achan sinned. A consequence of that debacle was an increase in hostility (and confidence) among the kings of Canaan.

This surge of confidence is what initiated the clash of Israel and the nations in chapters 10–11. And between these two chapters, we find a literary parallel. As Kenneth Mathews observes,

Chapters 10 and 11 have a general correspondence: both begin with a coalition of enemy kings (10:1–5; 11:1–5); both describe their respective battles (10:6–39; 11:6–11); and both contain a summary of the fallen (10:40–43; 11:12–23). There are details are similar, such as the Lord’s explicit directive to engage the enemy and the author’s attribution of the victory to the Lord (10:8, 14; 11:6, 8). (Mathews, Joshua102–03)

At the same time, there are differences between the chapters; the greatest difference being the speed with which Joshua 11 covers the material. In this chapter, “only one town is described in detail and there are no lengthy descriptions of a chase or of miracles. This suggests an acceleration in the narrative. Moving ever more quickly, the text completes the description of the conquest” (Hess, Joshua227–28).

This faster pace reminds us how biblical narratives are written. They are not intended to cover everything. Instead, in their selectiveness, they point the reader to the important (read: theological) facets of the story. For readers today, comparing chapters 10–11 helps us see how Joshua is written and what these battles reveal about God. Continue reading

Under His Feet: 10 Things About Joshua 10

michel-porro-vfaFxFltAvA-unsplashAs we prepare for Joshua 10, here are ten things about this powerful chapter.

1. The Battle of Gibeon

Joshua 10 can be summarized as the battle for Gibeon or the Battle in the Valley of Gibeon (Isa. 28:21). In this chapter, the Gibeonites are attacked by their neighbors because of their peace-making with Israel. And thus Joshua is called to rescue them.

In this setting, Joshua 10 unites chapter 9 with chapter 11. In the former, Joshua 9 recalls the deception of Gibeon, which results in a covenant between Israel and their neighbors. Joshua 11 records multiple victories of Israel over the cities of Northern Canaan. Joshua 10 itself recounts the defeat of one five-fold federation (vv. 1–27), along with seven other city-states (vv. 28–43).

Together, these three chapters explain how Israel defeated peoples in the central region of Canaan in Joshua 9–10 (Jericho, Ai, Jerusalem, etc.), the Southern region of Canaan in Joshua 10:28–43 (Makkedah, Libnah, Gezer, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir), and the Northern region in Joshua 11 (Hazor, et al.). Joshua 9–11 hang together then by the theme of Yahweh’s defeat of the Canaanites and they are organized according to their geographical military campaigns. Continue reading