the whole counsel of God

Joshua 8 records the battle the children of Israel fought against the people of Ai. It is an interesting study in military strategy, but more importantly, the end of the chapter provides a lesson for us regarding our spiritual lives. After the victory, Joshua built an altar, wrote a new copy of the law of Moses, and the nation held a ceremony in which the law was read to the people. According to the last verse of the chapter, “There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.” It was not enough to know some of the law. The people needed to know ALL of the law. As the Lord told Moses, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Lord, make us hungry to glean everything we can from the pages of Scripture, for we do not live by some of Your words, but by all of them.

#battle-of-ai, #bible-study, #book-of-joshua, #children-of-israel, #christianity, #joshua, #land-of-canaan, #old-testament

The Way

In Joshua 3:4, the Lord told Joshua and the nation, as they prepared themselves to pass over the Jordan River, to make sure there is a distance of about 3,000 feet between the Ark of the Covenant and the first man to follow behind the lead of the priest carrying the ark. The reason for this distance is two-fold: first, the ark was holy and no man could get close without the Lord bringing judgment upon the perpetrator; second, “Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before.”

Jesus said that He is the way the truth and the life; no man can go to the Father, but by Him (John 14:6). Earlier in His ministry to the nation He appealed to all who could hear His voice, “Come unto me all you labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In matters that pertain to righteousness it is so easy for us to think that we can replace our own way of thinking for the Lord’s. This is a catastrophic mistake. Are we so strong that we can create the heavens and earth? Are we so wise that we can make a plan even before the earth was created? Have we so much knowledge that we can tell the end from the beginning and all things that happen in between? Since we can do none of these things, isn’t it best that we follow the path the Lord has lain for us—having already gone Himself?


#joshua, #way

Lessons in Joshua 1 and 2

  1. Prosperity is found in the Lord (Joshua 1:8). What good will it do or be for a man who gains the world, but then loses his soul?
  2. The mighty men of valor lead the nation (Joshua 1:14). The word valor means strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness (Webster, 10th Collegiate, p. 2041). Those who are men of valor are to be the leaders in the congregation of the Lord’s body. What did Paul say to Titus (Titus 1:5-11)?
  3. Rejected authority results in a bad day for the rejecter (Joshua 1:18)! In this country, in our society, it is almost a badge of honor to resist those in authority. The Lord did not look upon those who do that with any virtue when it came to His will.
  4. Is there a lesson with regard to lying (Joshua 2:4)? Did the Lord need for Rahab to lie in order for the spies to have success? Clearly the answer is no. Whatever weakness a person may have, whatever there is in the way of short-comings and sins experienced, the Lord will not be pleased with such; He will, however, be pleased with those who live by faith. This was Rahab.
  5. That which the Lord did in history (Joshua 2:10-11), those things that were and are monumental with regard to His intervening in the affairs of man (to bring about His purposes), these things are not to be relegated to history books as points of fact. They are, on the other hand, to help us understand that with the Lord’s intervention people should pay particular attention. A great many people who call themselves Christians will say, and say it with emphasis, that they are not considering that which the Lord did as insignificant. Unfortunately they speak better than they live!
  6. When you say you will do something did you find a reason for not doing it? Honoring one’s word is crucial to credibility (Joshua 2:15-21).
  7. Those who go outside when they are admonished to stay inside pay a heavy price (Joshua 2:19-21).


Joshua’s Farewell Address & Burial, Part 2 (JOSHUA 24)

Joshua begins the final chapter with a brief overview of the history of the Hebrews:

“Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abrham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. Also I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to what I did among them. Afterward I brought you out. Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. So they cried out to the LORD; and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, brought the sea upon them, and covered them. And your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. Then you dwelt in the wilderness a long time. And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, who dwelt on the other side of the Jordan, and they fought with you. But I gave them into your hand, that you might possess their land, and I destroyed them from before you. Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand. Then you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the men of Jericho fought against you–also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I delivered them into your hand. I sent the hornet before you which drove them out from before you, also the two kings of the Amorites, but not with your sword or with your bow. I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant” (Josh. 24:1-13).

What purpose does recounting their history serve? It reminds the old and teaches the young about their past and how God has always been there for them! The message of their history is unambiguous: God is faithful and will bless you if you obey Him! He will bless you in ways you do not deserve; He will give you success which you cannot fathom. Christians must take this message to heart today for Almighty God has not changed! Joshua concludes this rehearsal of their history by making the following appeal – “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD'” (24:14,15).

He calls the nation to continued faithful action and declares the choice he and his family had made. If one desired to foolishly serve false gods, he would be allowed to do so, but that was not Joshua’s choice.

“So the people answered and said: ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God'” (24:16-18).

Joshua’s words are both true and persuasive. It makes no sense to forsake the true and living God for dead, powerless idols. Yet, that is precisely what they would do in time! This should cause us to pause and really reflect upon the direction of our own lives (cf. II Cor. 13:5). For example, when one gets married, he is dedicated to his wife until death parts them. But, how many marriages end prematurely in divorce? That was not the initial plan, but as time passes, often things change and what was once a solid commitment becomes weak and viewed in a different light. Such can also happen to one’s spiritual walk if he is not very careful to continually evaluate and come back to God’s standard! Over time it is easy to drift into beliefs and practices that one would strongly object to at some point in the past. Don’t let what happened to Israel happen to you, friends! “We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Heb. 2:1). Joshua tried to warn them, and these people did remain faithful in the short-term. But, they failed to properly educate the next generation (cf. Jud. 2:10)!

“But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the LORD; for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘No, but we will serve the LORD!'” (Josh. 24:19-21). This section is a bit confusing on the surface. Why does Joshua say that Israel cannot serve God and that He will not forgive their sins? Contextually, it would seem he is trying to say that their religion must be more than lip-service (which is where they were at currently to some extent)! If you’re only partially committed to God, you cannot serve Him properly and this will anger Him and He will not be gracious toward you. The people here reiterate a second time a pledge of loyalty (cf. 24:16,22).

“So Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses!’ ‘Now therefore,’ he said, ‘put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!’ So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem” (24:22-25).

They needed to be fully committed to the LORD. It is mind-boggling that they still had some traces of idolatry in their lives even after all that God had done for them in conquering Canaan, but such was the case.

“Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the LORD which He had done for Israel” (24:31). The people were faithful for a while, but it would not last as the book of Judges details. Joshua and the other leaders were strong, but there was a failure to properly train the children. Let me close with a powerful quote from Adam Clarke:

“Thus nearly all the persons who had witnessed the miracles of God in the wilderness were gathered to their fathers; and their descendants left in possession of the great inheritance, with the law of God in their hands, and the bright example of their illustrious ancestors before their eyes. It must be added that they possessed every advantage necessary to make them a great, a wise, and a holy people. How they used, or rather how they abused, these advantages, their subsequent history, given in the sacred books, amply testifies.”


Joshua’s Farewell Address & Burial, Part 1 (JOSHUA 23)

Great leaders make preparations for the future of the ones they lead, even when they know they won’t be around much longer to provide personal guidance. Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, tried to prepare the people for his departure by reviewing their law and history and exhorting them to faithfulness (which leads to blessings) and pleading with them to avoid disobedience (which leads to cursings). In a similar fashion, Joshua, in the final two chapters of the book bearing his name, prepares the nation for his departure from this life by recounting some of their history and the great success God had blessed them with in conquering the Promised Land of Canaan. He calls them to spiritual purity, pleading with them to avoid all entanglements with idolatry and immorality, even some that persisted to that day. Most of the text of these two chapters is straightforward dialogue–requiring little explanation–and Joshua’s words are a powerful end to our study of this book and worthy of our consideration. I will read many of the verses from the closing chapters and make only a few comments.

Joshua begins by acknowledging his old age and later states that he is about to die. He reminds them of what had been accomplished in his lifetime (namely, the dividing of the land and the conquering of much of it). But, there was still work to be done, so he says:

“Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left, and lest you go among these nations, these who remain among you. You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, but you shall hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day. For the LORD has driven out from before you great and strong nations; but as for you, no one has been able to stand against you to this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the LORD your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you. Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God. Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations–these that remain among you–and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the LORD your God has given you. Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed. Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the LORD your God promised you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the LORD your God has given you. When you have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed down to them, then the anger of the LORD will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land which He has given you” (Josh. 23:6-16).

Although the nation was in great shape overall at the moment, that would all change if they decide, in the future, to abandon God’s ways. They needed to be full of courage and conviction or else they would drift into many problems (such is true for us today as well!). Sadly, as the rest of the Old Testament records, Israel lacked long-term fidelity to the Lord. The problems Joshua warned of soon became a reality. The initial cause of their apostasy is related to their incomplete obedience in destroying all the Canaanites from the land. Why didn’t they completely annihilate the Canaanites as instructed? The answer seems to be that once they possessed enough land to accommodate their people that they stopped putting forth the necessary effort to do all that God had required of them. They possessed the same attitude that many Christians seem to display today; that is, a willingness to do just enough to suit themselves. The Canaanites who were allowed to live grew in number and influence over the Israelites as decades and centuries passed. God was with Israel now and nothing could stop them, but tragically it wouldn’t always be that way.


The Misunderstood Altar (JOSHUA 22)

As Joshua 22 begins, the men of battle from the two-and-a-half tribes that settled on the eastern side of the Jordan River are permitted to go back to their homes. They had faithfully fulfilled their commitment to helping the other tribes conquer Canaan. Joshua blessed them but also offered this warning, however – “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Josh. 22:5). Although the Jordan separated them from the rest of Israel, God would still be watching them, and He expected them to keep the covenant. This is a great warning and lesson for us today, too!

“And when they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan–a great impressive altar. Now the children of Israel heard someone say, ‘Behold, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan–on the children of Israel’s side.’ And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered together at Shiloh to go to war against them” (Josh. 22:10-12).

To the uninformed, Israel’s response here may seem like an overreaction. “They gathered the whole army together against these two-and-a-half tribes because they had built a remarkable altar?! What’s so offensive about that?” one might ask. There is only one reason: God had given explicit instructions that all offerings were to be made at the tabernacle (cf. Lev. 17:8,9; Deut. 12:4-14). The Israelites assumed that their brethren had transgressed the covenant in a serious way (or were preparing to do so). Such an offense could not be ignored. They immediately sent a group of leaders to speak with the two-and-a-half tribes about the matter.

“What treachery is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that you have built for yourselves an altar, that you might rebel this day against the LORD? Is the iniquity of Peor not enough for us, from which we are not cleansed till this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD, but that you must turn away this day from following the LORD? And it shall be, if you rebel today against the LORD, that tomorrow He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. Nevertheless, if the land of your possession is unclean, then cross over to the land of the possession of the LORD, where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take possession among us; but do not rebel against the LORD, nor rebel against us, by building yourselves an altar besides the altar of the LORD our God. Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity” (Josh. 22:16-20).

This rebuke is a bit premature, as we will learn shortly, but the nation should be commended for taking the matter seriously. They assumed (incorrectly but understandably) that the altar was going to be used for sacrifices, but they knew it wasn’t the authorized altar for such a purpose. They didn’t want a repeat of what had happened at Peor or Ai–where the rebellion of some cost the entire nation dearly (cf. Num. 25; Josh. 7). Thus, they invite these tribes to come across the Jordan and dwell with them if their current territory is insufficient or unclean in some way. They plead with them not to sin against God and stir His anger up against all twelve tribes!

The two-and-a-half tribes give a reasonable defense for their actions. They clearly state that this altar was not for sacrifices, it was a memorial–and nothing more. One might rightly question their judgment here, but they did not sin. They had said amongst themselves – “Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering nor for sacrifice, but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the LORD before Him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your descendants may not say to our descendants in time to come, ‘You have no part in the LORD.’ Therefore we said that it will be, when they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say, ‘Here is the replica of the altar of the LORD which our fathers made, though not for burnt offerings nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between you and us'” (Josh. 22:26-28). The leaders brought back this message to the nation, and Israel was satisfied with this response. Dialogue helped prevent an unnecessary battle! Even today it is true that open, respectful communication will go a long way towards peacemaking.


The Land Promise Declared Fulfilled (JOSHUA 21)

“So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The LORD gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Josh. 21:43-45).

God had made some wonderful promises to the patriarch Abraham, and God always keeps His word! God gave them the land of Canaan for the time was right (i.e., the sins of the inhabitants of Canaan were overflowing and annihilation was necessary). Israel was victorious not because of their strength in numbers or skill in battle. They won because God wanted them to win! He gave them victory after victory, and they would enjoy continued success (“rest”) as long as they stayed true to the covenant.

These verses seem simple enough, but they have significant application even for us today living in the Christian era. Allow me to explain.

There are some today who hold premillennial convictions. In other words, they believe we are currently living prior to the “millennium,” and they contend that Jesus will one day return to reign on a physical throne in physical Jerusalem for 1000 years. It is not within our scope at this time to tackle this broad and sometimes varied false doctrine in whole, but rather there is one component of it that Joshua 21:43-45 deals with masterfully.

Those who expect Christ to return for a physical reign understand that He must have a physical land to return to. Thus, many with premillennial leanings support the modern nation of Israel because they believe its existence is a prerequisite to Jesus’ return. These same people believe the Promised Land is still owed to the nation of Israel in some way, but the text above says “no.”

The promise God made to Abraham approximately 4000 years ago has been fulfilled! It had been fulfilled in Joshua’s day! How much plainer can the text be: “The LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers…not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass”? If God had given everything He intended to give, and the Israelites squandered the land due to immoral living and lost possession of it (as will be shown in the remainder of the Old Testament), there should be no real expectation today that God must restore the land to the descendants of Jacob. Besides, true Israel today is of a spiritual nature, not physical ancestry–but I digress (cf. Rom. 2:28,29).

God gave the land of Canaan to Israel and they would lose it. The land promise was fulfilled, and there is no requirement that it be fulfilled again in the modern era. I wish nothing but the best for any Jew living in Israel today (or anywhere in the world for that matter), but I do not believe the existence of that nation today is required for Christ’s return! He’s not coming to reign on a physical throne; the faithful shall meet Him in the air (cf. I Thess. 4:16,17)!

There are other verses that underscore the same truth. For instance, Nehemiah 9:7,8 – “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram, and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and gave him the name Abraham; you found his heart faithful before You, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites–to give it to his descendants. You have performed Your words, for You are righteous.”

Finally, Deuteronomy 19 lends additional support to our conclusion that God had completely fulfilled the land promise centuries before Christ lived and that no one today can rightly say that God still must provide the Promised Land for the Jewish people. In that chapter it is explicitly stated that there should be three cities of refuge. However, the nation was told by Moses – “if you keep all these commandments and do them, which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and to walk always in His ways, then you shall add three more cities for yourself besides these three” (Deut. 19:9). So, if six cities of refuge were ever established (and there were six ultimately), then God had fully given the land He had promised to the fathers (cf. 19:8). Almighty God keeps His word!