Bible Through the Year: Episode 13

Week 13 Devotion

This week we are finishing the book of Joshua and will get started reading the book of Judges. Last week we began by looking at the way God sought to encourage Joshua as he prepared to take Moses’ place as the leader of God’s people and we focused in on his need to be strong and full of courage. His strength and courage would serve him well because he was in the position to carry out God’s battle plan to remove the Canaanites from the Promised Land.

We also need to remember that these battle plans are the means of God’s justice on the evil of the Canaanites, who were known for their sinful sexual practices (Lev 18) as well as the practice of child sacrifice (Deut 12:29-31). Israel was the human instrument that God used to bring divine judgment on these idolatrous and sinful nations but God’s justice toward them was not without mercy.

In chapter 12 we read the list of all the Canaanite nations that were defeated by the Israelites, but we also know that there were some who remained. The Gibeonites from chapter 9 actually became servants in Israel and began to worship the God of Israel.

But by the time our reading takes us to chapter 12 all the battles are over. Chapters 6-12 give us a snapshot of all the fighting that took place between the army of Israel and the Canaanites. These battles would have taken place over a period of many years but they are condensed and summarized for us in the first 12 chapters. This means that the higher profile and detailed battles are meant to stand out in order to teach us a lesson.

The battles that stand out are the first two that took place against Jericho and AI. These two battles help us to understand that the real issue at stake here is not whether or not Israel’s army can win, but whether or not that will be faithful to God. In Jericho, they did exactly what God told them to do and they were victorious. In AI, Achan didn’t do what God told them to do and they were defeated. The point is that Israel’s faithfulness to God is key to their success in the land and as a nation.

Here is something to discuss…

As we read on from chapter 12 we see a whole section where the land is being divided up and while this is quite difficult to read it is a clear display that God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham. In fact, by the time we reach the end of Joshua chapter 21 we read this:

43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.[1]

Now, these verses are important for us to read today because they let us know of the faithfulness of God. God made these promises to Abraham all the way back in Genesis 12, 15 and 17 which would have been sometime around 2100 BC. These promises were fulfilled when Israel settled in the land sometime around 1200 BC. It took nearly 1000 years but God kept His promise and He did so despite the constant sin and rebellion of the people.

If God was faithful to Israel and fulfilled His promise to them how much more can we trust Him to fulfill His promise to us who believe in Jesus and hope for eternal life? Think about the fact that God hasn’t changed. He is still the same yesterday, today and forever. He is still known for His steadfast love. He is still known for keeping His promises. But the stakes are even higher for those who believe the gospel.

The price for our redemption required the blood of Jesus and His blood is precious. His blood is more valuable than the blood of any sacrifice for sin that has ever been made (Heb 9:14, I Pet 1:19). The value of His sacrifice will not be wasted, it will be paid out in full and He will receive the reward for His suffering.

So spend some time discussing the enduring faithfulness of God and the eternal worth of Christ. Take some time to discuss your answers to these questions: How many stories of God’s faithfulness can you remember? How is Jesus’ sacrifice more valuable than any other sacrifice?

Here is something to meditate upon…

In Joshua chapter 22 we see an interesting story develop. You will remember from our reading that just before the people entered into the Promised Land there were a few tribes who fell in love with the land West of the Jordan. The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh wanted to claim this land as their inheritance from the Lord and so Moses agreed that they could. But he required that the able-bodied men from these tribes take part in the conquest of Canaan. In other words, he wanted them to still fight in the battles, which they agreed to do.

Now that the fighting is over these men want to go back to their homes on the other side of the Jordan and that is exactly what they did. But when they go back across the river they decided to build an altar on their side and this altar was massive. The text tells us that it was an altar of imposing size and when the rest of the tribes of Israel saw it they were really concerned.

They were concerned enough that they were willing to go to war against Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. But why? Well, it’s actually a good reason. The tribes who were in the Promised Land were afraid that their brothers had built this as an altar to a false god. They were afraid that their brothers had decided to stop following God and this was enough to make them willing to fight. They even bring up the sin of Achan and they remember that God punished the whole nation for the sin of one man and these tribes don’t want any trouble to come against them because of the sin of these few tribes.

Now this shows us something really important about this generation of Israelites. They take sin in the camp more seriously than those before them. When they suspect idolatry they are willing to stand up against it. They don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. In short, they are trying to heed the warnings of Moses that blessing comes to those who are faithful and curses will come to those who are unfaithful.

But as it turns out the altar that Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had built was actually a memorial altar intended to remind the other tribes that they too follow the Lord. This wasn’t an altar for sacrifice or worship but an altar of witness to remind the Israelites on one side of the Jordan that they worship the same God as the Israelites on the other side of the Jordan.

But here is the thing I want us to meditate on. Think about how sensitive both sides were to sin. One side didn’t want to forget what they had learned in the past and the other didn’t want to be forgotten as the people of God. Both sets of tribes were sensitive to not making the same mistakes as the previous generations. One set of tribes was willing to go to war to ensure that idolatry didn’t creep into the land while the other set of tribes was willing to build a massive altar to ensure that they were known as the people who worship God alone.

How sensitive are we to sin in our midst? In our families? In our lives? How far are we willing to go in order to make it known that we worship Christ alone and not the gods of this world? How sensitive are we to the possibility that idolatry and sin have crept into our lives? There is a lesson here for us to learn and I hope we don’t miss it.

Here is something to pray about…

The book of Joshua ends much like as the book of Deuteronomy ends. Joshua stands before the people, he reads the law of God over them and he charges them to be faithful to their covenant with God. He holds out the promise of blessing for obedience and the promise of curses for disobedience. And then Joshua dies but there is no one to take his place, which brings us to the book of Judges.

Before we finish out this week’s reading we will begin the book of Judges and this is a sad book to read. It is sad because there isn’t a leader like Joshua or Moses who steps up to govern the people and what happens is the people begin to do what is right in their own eyes. They disobey the covenant and begin to do what is evil in the eyes of the Lord.

There are many things that this book of Judges should lead us to pray about so let’s read these first few chapters and pray that God would keep our hearts faithful to Him and His Word. Let’s pray that we would not be those who simply do what is right in our own eyes but who seek the Lord’s guidance from His Word, from godly counselors and through prayer. Pray that God would help us to be men and women, families and a church who does what is right in the eyes of the Lord no matter what the culture around us is doing.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jos 21:43–45). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.




Justin Wheeler

Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Wylie, TX.