In Joshua’s penultimate chapter in Joshua, we hear a word from Joshua calling for an ultimate commitment to God. Speaking to the people he has led out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, Joshua says “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God” (v. 11).
In short, Joshua’s last words to Israel urge Israel to keep the faith. Only, as Joshua 24:31 indicates, Israel’s faithfulness is very short-lived. Only one generation after Joshua continues to keep the covenant (renewed in Joshua 24). Thus, for all that Joshua has done and said, it is ultimately ineffective. And as we read his words today, we can feel the same kind of discouragement, if we don’t place the weakness of his sermon with the eternal life that Christ gives with his final words.
Indeed, in this week’s sermon we will see how Joshua’s final words, like his entire life, are meant to lead us to Christ. From this connection everything that Joshua can be applied to us today, with (re)assurance that our faith will endure because Christ himself is keeping us (Jude 2), even as we keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21).
You can listen to the sermon online. For more on Joshua 23, you can read this week’s Ten Things blogpost: Love God, Flee Idols, and Remember That Jesus is with You: 10 Things about Joshua 23.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
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
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
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?
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
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
From the pattern of Moses and the Old Testament priests to the teaching ministry of Jesus, biblical exposition has a long track record in redemptive history. In the New Testament, the citation and explanation of Scripture (i.e., biblical exposition) continued. And this is most evident in Acts and Hebrews, the two books we will focus on here.
The Expositional Acts of the Apostles
In Acts, Luke gives a selection of exemplary sermons by Peter (Acts 3-4), Stephen (Acts 7), and Paul (Acts 13-14, 17). In each, the Spirit-filled preachers appeal to the Old Testament, retell the history of Israel, and explain how Jesus Christ fulfills God’s patterns, promises, and prophecies.
For instance, in Acts 13:15 Paul and Barnabas are invited to give a word of exhortation (a sermon?) “after reading from the Law and the Prophets.” It is easy to see the pattern of exposition here: read the word, preach about the same word. Paul paid attention to his audience, but he faithfully proclaimed God’s Word according to the pattern of sound words that was found in the Old Testament.
Of course, from the terse details in Acts, we cannot replicate the form of the apostle’s exposition, but we can see their commitment to explaining the Old Testament Scriptures: They showed how the Old Testament related to Jesus, and called their audiences to repent and believe. Continue reading