The Bible in a Year, Week 8: Joshua
This is the eighth weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is the book of Joshua. It should only take about 10 minutes a day, or about four chapters a day to complete the assignment.
Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Joshua:
Background: Joshua was of the tribe of Ephraim, a son of Joseph. He was born in Egypt and was a young man when they left. He was appointed general of the army by Moses, was one of the 12 spies that went to Canaan, and was one of only two spies (Caleb the other) that gave a favorable report. Joshua was later chosen by God as Moses’ successor. His name was originally Hoshea which means salvation. Joshua means The LORD is salvation and is a root of the name Jesus.
Whereas Moses took the people to the doorstep of the Promised Land of Canaan, Joshua led them into Canaan. The book can be divided well right down the middle into two parts: The conquest of Canaan (1-12) and The Distribution of the Land and Farewell of Joshua (13-24). The timing for these events would be right around 1400 B.C. It may be that Joshua wrote some or most of the book, or that an elder or advisor finished writing it shortly after his death.
Finally, the book of Joshua is a reminder of how the LORD always keeps his promises. He promised to Abraham that he would give his descendants the land of Canaan. He fulfilled that promise. In the same way, as he also promised to Abraham that he would send a Savior from his line, so this entering into the Promised Land was a reminder that he would fulfill that promise, too. As we know from the rest of Scripture, he did indeed keep that promise!
Here are some notes about the chapters:
Joshua 1-4: The book begins right where Deuteronomy left off. The Lord gives Joshua a wonderful promise of encouragement that he will be with him and bless him as leader of the people. He also reminds Joshua that the key to his success is following the ways of the Lord and staying true to his Word. A good reminder to us all!
Chapter two contains the infamous story of Rahab the prostitute. That she was a prostitute at some point in her life goes unquestioned. She’s even called one in the New Testament. However, it is likely that once she joined Israel she abandoned those sinful ways. One of the great questions throughout history though is whether a lie could ever be a just lie. Is it right to lie for the sake of good? Rahab did. Reputable authors and theologians have argued both ways. However, it would seem that a lie, such as Rahab’s lie, could not be justified. After all, Abraham lied to protect his wife from Pharaoh and King Abimelech and each was viewed as a great sin. Abraham’s lie (and Rahab’s) certainly show a distrust in God’s ability to correct the situation and to make things turn out well. Those lies essentially were statements that God couldn’t fix the situation so those individuals had to by their own means. Regardless, God displayed his mercy in miraculous ways through Rahab. This was a woman who was a prostitute. She apparently was very good at lying. Yet we are told in Matthew 1:5 that she became a descendant of the Savior! Further, she is mentioned twice in the New Testament as a hero of faith (Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25)! God’s grace and mercy have no limits, to include such a sinner as Rahab in his plans! In the same way, he shows his great love to such sinners as us!
In chapters 3 and 4 the Israelites fittingly cross into the Promised Land with a miracle similar to that with which they left Egypt. As the priests stepped into the Jordan river with the ark of the covenant (the symbol of the Lord’s presence), the people crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. This miracle called to memory what God had done 40 years before and also served as a promise that God intended to be with them as they entered Canaan and set out on conquest.
Joshua 5-8: Gilgal is a place that the Israelites would not soon forget. There they set up 12 stones (one for each tribe) as a memorial to the Lord. There they rededicated themselves to the Lord as the men who had not been were now circumcised (probably around 700,000!). There they celebrated the Passover. There the miraculous provision of manna stopped. This was their new home. This was the beginning of their new relationship with the Lord. Gilgal would be remembered.
The story of Jericho is a familiar one to many. It has even been made into a popular children’s song. The monumental task of bringing down the walls was not left to the Israelites though. It was the Lord who did it for them! First, the Lord came and spoke with Joshua and encouraged him before battle. Then, the very unusual method of battle–marching and blowing of the trumpets–was to prove even further that it was God alone who brought down the walls and certainly not the Israelites.
Because the victory belonged completely to the Lord, so all the things of the city were to be devoted to him. Instructions were given that no one was to take plunder for himself. But some of the silver and gold and other goods looked too good to Achan, so he disobeyed and took some. Finally, he confessed his sins and the Lord made an example of him and his family. God was showing clearly that he was to be obeyed whole-heartedly. God continued to be with the people though. By means of an ambush, God led Joshua and the Israelites to total victory over the city of Ai.
Joshua 9-12: The leaders slip up in chapter nine and fail to consult the Lord in their decisions. They made a treaty with the Gibeonites who had tricked them into thinking they were from a different land. The leaders decided not to go back on their oath and to spare the Gibeonites, a decision which the Lord seems to have blessed later on.
Of all the miracles in the Bible, Joshua 10 contains one of the most outstanding. Surely all the miracles are astounding, but it is hard for us to fathom the sun standing still for a day. A breech in time is something only the Lord can fathom–and accomplish! There are surely doubters and negative critics out there regarding this account, just as there are those who doubt the other miracles of Scripture–creation, Jonah and the fish, walking on water, resurrection from the dead, etc. But then again, to think that each of us is a miserable and pathetic sinner who has constantly disobeyed our God, yet God sent his Son Jesus to live and die for those sins–that too is unbelievable! But that is also true. All the miracles in the Bible are “hard to believe,” especially our salvation. But they are all true because God says they are in his Word. It is faith alone that believes and accepts them. That goes for the sun standing still in Joshua 10, too.
The rest of chapters 10-12 reveal the great victories the Lord gave to Israel as they conquered the cities, peoples, and kings in the land of Canaan.
Joshua 13-22: In these chapters the division of the land of Canaan among the tribes is recorded. Each tribe settled in different parts of the land. As the priests of the people the Levites received no specific land. Rather, they inhabited 48 cities (including six cities of refuge) throughout the land.
An ominous verse that is repeated and that sticks out is “they did not dislodge the Canaanites.” Though they conquered the land, the Israelites did not fully wipe out the people as the Lord commanded. This became their achilles heel. They intermarried with these people. They adopted some of their religious practices (specifically their idolatry). They slowly slid further and further from the true ways of the Lord. This “little” disobedience was the beginning of a snowball that quickly rolled downhill and became a huge stumbling block for the people.
Joshua 23-24: In the final two chapters of the book Joshua gives a rousing speech to the leaders and the people of Israel, encouraging them to continue in the ways of the Lord. A famous verse from these chapters that is well worth memorizing is 24:15: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua exhorted those Israelites to forsake the false gods and the ways of the Canaanite peoples. But regardless of what they did, Joshua was going to set the example with his own family in following the ways of the Lord and serving him only. Thus, Joshua died at the age of 110 as the one who led the people into the land which God had once promised to Abram. God fulfills all his promises!
Next week’s readings (starting 2/28/10): Judges, Ruth
To view or download and print the One Year Bible Reading Schedule, click here.