“Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down.” This old “spiritual” from the mid 1800’s is known by many and has been sung by children for almost 2 centuries. The Jericho story is the first battle God fights as he delivers on his promise to Abraham that his children will live one day in the land of Canaan.
Chapter 7 of The Story covers Joshua 1-11 and 23-24, skipping over the details of the various battles and the division of the land to the 12 tribes of Israel. Joshua, Moses’ assistant and appointed leader to succeed Moses (Deuteronomy 31:7), is both the military and spiritual leader of the people. He reminds the people of their covenant with the LORD (Yahweh) whenever he addresses them (chapters 1,8,23,24). Each time he reminds them never to forget the words they received from the mouth of God as recorded in the Book of the Covenant. This story of Israel receiving her inheritance (I try to shy away from the words “conquest or invasion) is a promise fulfilled by God and a significant event in his upper story plan to “bless the nations” (Genesis 12:3).
Sunday’s message will focus on the challenge of Joshua to the people in chapter 24, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”. The people respond (3x) “We will serve the LORD”. This moment of conviction is captured with a Standing Stone inscribed with both their words and God’s. The covenant promises made by Yahweh are coming true. The question, as always, is whether his people, then and now, will keep theirs. Failure to do so will be costly, so costly it will prove too great to bear. But in the fullness of time, he will send another Joshua who will offer us a “new covenant in his blood”. He too, will remind us of the importance of not only speaking our promises, but living them fully and completely through his Spirit who lives and reigns above and within.
PS The entrance of Israel into the land of Canaan is troublesome to many, because of the battles and purges described in the text. For a summary of a perspective needed to understand this part of the Bible, consider reading the notes from the NIV Study Bible. Here is a link: Intro to Joshua
PPS As we read through the story we find repeated reference to the importance of knowing what God says in his book, the Bible. A life devoted to God through Jesus Christ begins and depends on a constant conversation with him. That conversation includes reading and re-reading his words. How are you doing?
Here’s an audio file of the sermon if you missed it or want to hear it again.