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

Joshua & Associates: Finding Your Place in Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)

priestcolorJoshua & Associates: Finding Your Place Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)

The angel of the Lord. A satanic accuser in the throne room of God. A priest with dirty clothes. The promise of a coming Messiah. And a front row seat to God’s plan of redemption. On Sunday we considered all of these items, as they appear together in Zechariah 3.

Finishing up our series on the priesthood, we saw in Sunday’s sermon how our lives fit into the incredible storyline of the priesthood. From Zechariah 3, in particular, we learned how God restored the priesthood after the exile, which served as “sign” (v. 8) for a greater priesthood to come.

If you want to understand how the priesthood moved from the Old Testament to the New, Zechariah is an important book. And this sermon will help you understand that book and how Joshua the high priest foreshadowed the coming of a greater Joshua and his friends.

You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions are below along with a few resources on Zechariah and the priesthood. Continue reading

From Noah’s Baptism to Jesus’ Crucifixion: A Study in Typological Escalation

fishJesus is the goal of redemptive history. In Ephesians 1:10 Paul observes that God has “[made] known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him.” In Galatians 4:4, Paul has the same eschatological view in mind: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son . . .” And Hebrews too observes the climactic arrival of the Son of God: “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . .” (1:1). In short, the apostles, as model interpreters, understand all redemptive history to be leading to Jesus.

Consequently, it is not surprising to find that the typological structures of the Old Testament escalate until they find their telos in Jesus. In other words, Scripture begins with glimpses of the pre-incarnate Christ and gradually adds contour and color to the biblical portrait of the coming Messiah.

Over time, such glimpses of grace are developed and made more concrete as the types (i.e., events, offices, and institutions of the Old Testament) repeat and escalate. One prominent event that is repeated in the Old Testament is that of “baptism.” As Peter observes in his first epistle, baptism corresponds (lit., is the antitype, or fulfillment) to Noah and his life-saving (make that humanity-saving) ark (1 Pet 3:20). It is this typological thread that I want to consider here. It is my aim to show that not only do Old Testament “types” prefigure Christ and his work of salvation, but they also grow in intensity and efficacy as the Incarnation of Christ nears. Continue reading

The Value of Land (Joshua 24)

On Sunday I preached a message on YHWH’s covenantal faithfulness and Israel’s continued fickleness as a picture in history of mankind’s need for a better covenant. In the sermon, I began with a reflection on the importance of land in the Bible and in Joshua:

In the Bible there is a great deal made of land. God created the man and put him in the garden to till and to cultivate the land (cf. Gen. 2). If sin had not ruined the project, this garden, tended by Adam and his descendents, would have domesticated the whole earth, spreading the glory of God all over the globe (cf. G.K. Beale, The Temple and The Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God). Certainly the new heaven and new earth in Revelation 21-22 pictures this, a perfect garden-city that will be inhabited by the lamb of God and all those for whom his blood was shed. And what will they be doing? Having dominion over all creation, working and serving in the land–a gloriously restored Eden.

So too, in the redemptive history between Genesis and Revelation there is much discussion of the land. Abraham is promised the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:1-3, 7). The first five books of the Bible anticipate Israel’s arrival in the promised land. Likewise, the importance of covenant faithfulness is stressed throughout the OT for the purpose of God’s gracious presence remaining with his people in the land (cf. Lev. 26:12-13; Deut. 30:15-20).

In the book of Joshua, the first five chapters report the entry of Israel into the land. This includes a reenactment of Israel’s great march through the Red Sea, when this time led by Joshua, the people cross the overflowing Jordan to enter the land. In chapters 6-12, Joshua records the many battles that ensued in taking the land. The land did not come without a fight, but God faithfully enabled Israel to conquer the wicked nations of Canaan, so that it could be said in 11:23: So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

In chapters 13-21, the land is divided among the people of Israel. Each tribe is allotted their proper portion and they are then called to finish the initial work of having dominion over the land by casting out any remaining foreigners. Again God’s faithfulness is seen in 21:43-45: Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Finally, in the last three chapters, 22-24, Joshua speaks to the people whom he has led for so many years, and his words too concern the land. This time it regards how the people might be able to stay in the land and retain a dwelling place with God. In chapter 23, Joshua delivers his final address and in chapter 24, the passage that I preached on Sunday, Joshua mediates a covenant renewal with the people of God, that they might remain obedient to God and enjoy his presence in the land.

Ultimately though, the story has Israel afflicted within the land and, at last, cast out of the land. Within one generation, in the book of Judges Israel’s disobedience invites foreign oppressors. But even more devasting in the history of Israel is the expulsion of Israel from the land when the powers of Assyria and Babylon come and conquer God’s obstinate people. It seems that despite all attempts, the people of God cannot keep the covenant. They are too stiff-necked and lustfully idolatrous. So it is with us!

The good news of the rest of the story is that another Joshua has come, and that like his namesake he has led his people through the waters of judgment. In Mark 1, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, in an act that would later come to symbolize his followers participation in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6). In Mark 1, Jesus passed through the wilderness unassailed by the temptations of the devil, and reentered the land, like a warrior returning home. This conquering reentry foreshadows the work that he would ultimately complete on the cross inaugurating a new covenant with his blood. So that, Luke could say that he came to lead a new exodus (9:31). The final result is that Jesus Christ showed himself to be a superior law-giver than Moses who died outside the land; he proved himself a better leader than Joshua, laying down his life so that his people might have an eternal inheritance in the land to come; and the mediator of a better covenant whose promises far exceeded those of the old covenant.

Joshua 24 is a picture of sweet OT devotion, but it is a far greater picture of another Joshua who has provided a better way to a better land, giving his weary followers the promise of everlasting rest. May we who hear the story of the ancient Israelites, now strive to enter the rest given by the new Joshua.

Sola dei gloria, dss.