Today I began reading Joshua. I almost didn’t begin reading today. I felt like I was in mourning for Moses. But I started reading anyway and am very glad that I didn’t take a day off.
The book of Joshua is an aptly named book since it is named after the man that replaced Moses, Joshua. Joshua leads Israel into the land that He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God makes the Jordan river dry so that Israel can cross easily, on dry ground. (kinda like the parting of the red sea) The people on the other side of the river had already heard about all that God had done for Israel and they were very afraid because they knew that God was using Israel to destroy them. But instead of repenting and becoming servants to Israel they chose to fight. The first city to fall is Jericho. I don’t want to talk about how this was accomplished but it is very interesting. It involved 7 days of walking in circles, trumpets and walls falling down. So if that sounds interesting you can check out the book of Joshua.
What I do want to talk about is Joshua. In this book God is clearly using Joshua like a General. He is leading the army of Israel. Most of this book so far has been descriptions of battles as Israel wages war against the people in the land. Joshua follows God and does exactly what the Lord asks of him. Israel is ruthless to their enemies and obeys the Lord even when he says to kill everyone in a city including women and children. I was a bit stunned by this. I mean this is harsh. This is extermination, genocide. God is calling Israel to do this. Again I was thinking, “This is wrong”. How can God ask this of Israel? I realized once again that my perspective is wrong. And then I remembered a verse in Deuteronomy where Moses clearly tells Israel why these cities are to be destroyed.
It is not because you are so good or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land. The Lord your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not you are a stubborn people. — Deuteronomy 9:5-6
These people have sinned against God and deserve death. He is using Israel to give them their just punishment. And then I remembered another verse in Deuteronomy where God does make a way for the people in the promise land to not be destroyed.
As you approach a town to attack it, you must first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. – Deuteronomy 20:10-12
So God provided a way for the people in this land to live and not be destroyed. Their fate is not set in stone, they had a choice. And they chose to fight against the Lord. Not a wise decision since the Lord will always win. So Israel gave each city, each town, each nation an opportunity for peace. This would of course make them slaves to the Israelites but then they would live and have an opportunity to be with the one true God of all of creation. But only one city is spared in all the land. Gibeon. However, they were only spared because they tricked Joshua into signing a treaty with them. The people from Gibeon sent messengers to Joshua. They gave them moldy bread to make it look like they had traveled a great distance. A distance so great that they would not be people from the land Israel was to conquer. But that was a lie….
So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord. Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath. — Joshua 9:14-15
And Joshua honored this treaty that He had made, even though he was tricked. So the people of Gibeon became slaves to the Israelites and were responsible for chopping wood and carrying water. No other city accepted terms of peace. Instead many cities joined forces in an attempt to destroy Israel. Those cities failed and were overcome by Israel with God leading them.
So Joshua took control of the entire land, just as the Lord had instructed Moses. He gave it to the people of Israel as their special possession, dividing the land among the tribes. So the land finally had rest from war. — Joshua 11:23