The book of Joshua introduces Israel to a new leader, Joshua, who will lead them into the Promised Land and against the “giants” who will oppose them. The first twelve chapters or so of the account record the military victories of Israel, highlighted by the initial battle at Jericho. The last of half Joshua shows the distribution of the land including the cities of refuge and the priestly cities of the Levites. The last two chapters contain Joshua’s final words to the nation before his death. What then is the point of the book? In many respects the book answers questions about what happened to Israel after the forty year wanderings, but it also a book about choices by the people of God and by God Himself.
The choices of the people should be self-evident. At first this generation must decide if they will follow the course of their parents and reject God’s leadership or will they trust God and take possession of Canaan as God promised them. A quick perusal of chapters 6-12, shows how God leads Joshua and the people to victory first at Jericho then Ai following a setback then the northern and southern campaigns. Then at the close of the book, they are faced with the choice to follow idols or the one true God who has just given them the land.
Perhaps challenging to modern sensibilities is the utter devastation of the conquest as opposed to invasion and political control. The following verse conveys the general intent of the entire conflict: When Israel had finished killing everyone living in Ai who had pursued them into the open country, and when every last one of them had fallen by the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the sword. (Joshua 8:24 HCSB). This total destruction is difficult to digest, but there is a need to consider what God intended and purposed here.
Moses explains that the conquest is part of God’s judgment on Canaan. . . . [T]he LORD will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness. . . . Instead, the LORD your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness, in order to keep the promise He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:4-5 HCSB). God in His absolute righteousness finds abominable the pagan idolatry of the Canaanites which included gross sexual immorality and child sacrifice.
In the big picture, the conquest looks to the future when a later Joshua, Jesus Christ, conquers the spiritual kingdom by defeating sin and death through His crucifixion and resurrection. This victory by Jesus is followed by a call for humanity to follow Him to the eternal Promised Land. Every Christian enters into victorious life that Christ won.
Ultimately, the book of Joshua reflects the faithfulness of God to His word and promises. What God began in Egypt, the liberation and redemption of His people, is seen accomplished in the book of Joshua as the people enter into the land and eventually find rest from war and oppression. (Joshua 21:43-45). Throughout this journey, the constant theme of God’s deliverance and redemption and how He works to achieve it is seen from the blood on the doorposts in Egypt to the crumbling walls of Jericho. God is active in the salvation of His people now, just as He was then.
Have you experienced God’s transforming power and salvation in you life? Have you been victorious or successful, but ever considered why? Have you experienced a calming peace in the midst of the turbulent storms of life? If you have, then rejoice Christian for the great goodness of God in your life.