Bible Through the Year: Episode 12

Week 12 Devotion

This week we will come to the end of the Pentateuch or Torah and we talked a little bit about this section last week. These first five books form the foundation of the Hebrew Bible and they form the worldview for God’s people. These books (Gen – Deut) tell us the story of creation, how the world came into being and by Whom it came into being. It tells us the story of man, His origin, purpose and fall into sin. These five books also tell us of God’s covenant with Abraham and His promise to bless Abraham’s family and all the world through them. The Pentateuch also gives us a spectacular picture of God’s judgment toward sin.

In these first five books we’ve seen God’s plan of redemption take shape as He established a relationship with one family of people and we have seen Him save this family from slavery, lead them into freedom, speak to them, and even come down to earth to dwell among them. But there is something else that God wants to do for these people and that is to bring them into the land that He promised to give them. And that is where we are as we come to the end of the book of Deuteronomy.

The people of Israel (Abraham’s descendants) are poised to cross the Jordan River and enter into the land but before they do this Moses has some final words for them. Moses spends the last days of his life pronouncing a blessing over the people and also singing a song of warning over them. Then he climbs up onto the mountain side to spend his final days talking to God and looking at the land that Israel is about to inherit. Then Moses dies. He dies with the love of God to comfort him and the promise of God in view.

Now that Moses is dead it is time for a new leader to guide the people of Israel and that is where Joshua comes into the story. We already met Joshua in the book of Numbers as one of the spies that Moses sent into the land of Canaan. Joshua and Caleb were the only two spies who came back with a good report and who encouraged the people to follow God into the land because they trusted that God would deliver them from the hands of their enemies.

But being a faithful spy is quite a bit different than leading the entire nation.  Following in Moses’s footsteps is also huge task and So Moses takes Joshua aside anoints him to be the next leader of the nation and then he commissions him in the eyes of the people. Then God spoke to Joshua and said,

Deut 31:23 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”

Here is something to discuss…

One of the things that we see as Joshua takes over leadership of the nation of Israel is that Joshua is a lot like Moses. In fact, many scholars point out that Joshua is presented to us as a new Moses and they say this because there are so many similarities between the two. Like Moses, Joshua was commissioned by God himself. Like Moses, Joshua calls the people to obey the covenant commands of God. Like Moses, Joshua sends spies into the land and into the city of Jericho. Like Moses, Joshua leads the people to cross over a body of water on dry ground.

Then in chapter 5, Joshua leads the sons of Israel to be circumcised and then to observe the Passover. Now when you put all of these elements together it seems quite obvious, even if you’ve never seen these similarities before. In Joshua, God has raised up a new leader for His people and this man is starting off on the right foot. But there is something in Joshua chapter 1 that I want us to look at more directly.

In the opening chapter of the book we see that Moses has died and that Joshua is the next man up, but if this chapter is any indication of how Joshua felt about this new role then it appears that he is somewhat afraid. At the very least he is in need of encouragement. Three times in this opening chapter we see God tell Joshua, “Be strong and courageous…and do not be frightened.”

Why would Joshua have reason to fear? Why would Joshua have reason to be discouraged? Well for one, he is now the leader of a group of people that he knows all too well to be fickle in their obedience to God and to their leaders. Granted, this is a new generation of Israelites but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and the last generation was a stiff necked people who tried to overthrow Moses more than once, they worshipped a golden calf, they grumbled against God and they were sentenced to die in the wilderness.

I can see why Joshua would be a little discouraged about the possibility of history repeating itself under his leadership. But there is another reason that he needs a good shot of courage and it’s that he has been into the land once before and he knows the strength of the people living there. He knows what he and his army are up against as they cross over the Jordan river. So God tells him and then tells him again to, “Be strong and courageous.”

God wants Joshua to be strong and courageous because the task in front of him is enormous, but the basis for Joshua’s courage is not his own strength. God wants him to be full of courage because of God’s strength. The basis for Joshua’s courage is the fact that the Lord is with him wherever he goes.

Joshua 1:5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua is like Moses in many ways, but the most important similarity is the fact that as God was with Moses so God will be with Joshua.

As Christians we stand in a very similar place. We have a God-sized task in front of us to “Go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28:18-20).” But like Joshua we have a promise from Jesus that He will “never leave us nor forsake us.”

Take some time to read Matthew 28:18-20 as well as Acts 1:1-11 and discuss the similarities between the Conquest of Canaan and the Conquest of the Gospel. What are some similarities and what are some of the differences between Joshua’s calling and our own?

Here is something to meditate upon…

There are so many things that stand out in these first few chapters of Joshua. Chapter 5 is really important and there are many things we could think about as we read it. We could meditate on the significance of the new generation being circumcised or we could slow down and meditate on what it was like for them to celebrate the Passover 40 years after it actually happened.

We could think about Joshua’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord who was standing on the path with his sword drawn. This messenger from God was the commander of the Lord’s army and when Joshua asked him, “Are you on our side or on the side of our enemies?” he simply replied, “Neither!” This Angelic warrior is on the Lord’s side and he fights in whatever way the Lord commands. There are plenty of questions we could ask and plenty of things we could think about when it comes to this encounter.

But let’s spend some time thinking about the battle of Jericho and the battle of Ai. One thing is abundantly clear as we look at these two battles. In the first one, the people followed the Lord’s command to the letter. They did exactly what the Lord commanded them to do and they were able to carry out the Lord’s will upon the city. But the thing that is clear as we read this story is that this was the Lord’s victory.

The army of Israel didn’t do anything but march. God defeated this city and gave it over to Joshua. But the battle at Ai was quite different. In that situation they didn’t follow the Lord’s command. In fact, the sin of one man caused the defeat of the army and men died on that day because one man failed to follow God’s Word.

The first thing we can meditate on is the fact that God sees everything, even the things that we can hide from other people. The book of Hebrews 4:13 tells us, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

The second thing we should consider is the fact that one man’s sin brought pain and loss to the whole group of people. God wants his people to be faithful and when there is sin in the camp it will have an effect upon everyone.

The third thing we should consider about this episode is how the sin of Achan was dealt with. In that case, God called for Achan’s life in response to not only his sin but also the fact that his sin resulted in the death of others. There were families throughout the camp who were mourning the loss of their husbands, fathers and sons because Achan had rejected the command of God. Joshua was in the position to address the sin in the camp in a way that brought justice to the guilty party but also to those who had lost loved ones because of his rebellious act.

Take some time to think on all three of these truths: That God sees all things and nothing is hidden from His sight. That one man’s sin can bring pain and suffering to an entire church or group of God’s people. That sin must be addressed one way or another.

Our God is a just judge and no sin is hidden from His sight, this means that there is not one single sin that will go unpunished. There are only two options: either we will each face the wrath of God that we deserve or the wrath of God will be poured out on a substitute in our place.

As Christians this second option is our great hope. Jesus Christ took our punishment upon Himself. He died in our place receiving in His flesh the due penalty for our sin. So that we can have forgiveness of sin and receive His righteousness by faith.

Here is something to pray about…

It’s easy for us to make decisions without consulting God and His Word. We do it every day. But as God’s people He wants our hearts, minds and lives to be guided by every word that comes from His mouth.

In chapter 9, Joshua meets a group of men from Gibeon. These men heard about what had taken place in Jericho and Ai. Somehow they heard that God had commanded Moses to drive out all the people in the land and they were afraid of the God of Israel. So they approached Joshua and deceived him into making a covenant with them.

Now Joshua was supposed to drive out all the inhabitants of the land. He was to devote all of the people to destruction. This was the command of God and it was the judgement of God upon the sins of the people. But in this case the text tells us that Joshua and the men of Israel listened to the Gabionades story but they, “Did not ask counsel from the Lord (Josh 9:14).”

This might seem like a small thing but I want us to let this guide us in prayer. Every day we make decisions about how we are going to live, how we are going to spend our time and our money. We make decisions that impact our family and the people around us and as the people of God we should be allowing His Word and counsel to guide us in these decisions. So as you go through the week pray for God to allow His Word to be a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Pray that God would guide us in our daily decisions by His gospel and His Word.



Justin Wheeler

Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Wylie, TX.