John 1:19–51 begins the multi-faceted book of signs (John 1:19–12:50). In the first chapter, we find the testimony of John (v. 19) and wide variety of titles that are assigned to Jesus. These titles give us a panorama of who Jesus is and help us to know the Son of God who is presented in John’s Gospel. Here are ten things from verses 19–34 to better understand who this Jesus is.
1. John 1:19–51 is organized around four days.
John uses four days to arrange four “pictures” of Jesus. More exactly, he lays out John’s testimony in four days, with each day the glory of John fading and the glory of Jesus’s rising. Which is to say, John 1:19–28 focus on John and his greatness; John 1:29–34 records John’s own understanding of Jesus’s greatness; John 1:35–42 show how John “gives” his disciples to Jesus; and John 1:43–51 concludes with no trace of John. Like a fading shadow John decreases across these four pictures, but only so that Jesus might increase (John 3:30).
In order we can see how each picture develops along similar lines:
Picture #1: John 1:19–28
WHAT: What John is not!
WHEN: The first day . . . (cp. vv. 29, 35, 43; 2:1)
WHO: Jewish Leaders, Priests and Levites, Pharisees, and John the Baptist
John the Baptist
- is not the Christ
- is not Elijah
- is not the Prophet
- is the one who prepares the way for the LORD
- Jesus is the LORD
- The Messiah: All the Law and the Prophets (v. 45)
- Elijah: Malachi 4:5 (vv. 21, 25)
- Prophet: Deuteronomy 18:15–18 (vv. 21, 25)
- The Voice: Isaiah 40:3 (v. 23)
Summary: Jesus is the Lord . . . the One greater than John, whose greatness led the Jewish leaders to inquire. Continue reading
In 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, Joshua, 102–03)
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, Joshua, 227–28).
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
As 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
Achan’s sin has often been used and misused to identify sin in the life of Christians today. But what does it mean in its original context? And how should we apply it today? Here are ten things about Achan, his sin, God’s wrath, and God’s grace, all found in Joshua 7.
1. Joshua 7 is not (primarily) about prayerlessness or sinful self-reliance.
What is Joshua 7 about? Many want to single out Joshua’s lack of prayer or the spies foolish self-confidence as the problem in Joshua 7. Others want to commend Joshua for taking the next step into the land without waiting. Wryly, Dale Ralph Davis cites these conflicting interpretations and observes,
One expositor blames Joshua for acting without prayer while another commends him for acting with haste; one says it was bad that action was taken without prayer, yet the other claims it was good to have action without sloth. We are at hermeneutical sea unless we take seriously the writer’s own intention as expressed in verse 1. (Joshua, 59)
Indeed, Joshua 7 demonstrates many evidences of the author’s intention and by paying attention to the literary shape of the passage, we can see that God’s presence and the satisfaction of God’s wrath stand at the center of this story. Continue reading
Joshua 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
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 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. 1, 544). Likewise, Peter Craigie concludes Psalm 32 is “a basic thanksgiving psalm [that] has been given literary adaptation according to the wisdom tradition” (Psalms 1–50, 265).
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