Faithfulness in Joshua

When we think of the book of Joshua, our first thoughts probably settle on the battles and conquests recorded throughout the book. Perhaps we think of the power of God seen in the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River and in the miraculous defeat of the city of Jericho. Perhaps we think of the sin of Achan and its effects on the entire nation in the first battle at Ai. Perhaps we think of the military strategy used in the final defeat of Ai and Beth-el. Perhaps we think of the mercy and forgiveness given to Rahab and her family in the midst of battle. Joshua contains these historical accounts, and we can learn much about the early history of the nation of Israel through them.
But the book of Joshua was not written for history’s sake alone. It is designed to teach us about more than simple historical events. It teaches us much about God and our relationship with Him. We see that in the power of God at Jericho or the mercy of God with Rahab. But if we consider the book of Joshua as a whole, one of the primary themes that rises to the top is faithfulness. Essentially, Joshua 1-21 proves God’s faithfulness to Israel. God had made great promises to Abraham and the nation of Israel over the past several centuries. God had promised them the land. He had promised to make them a great nation. He had promised to give them great blessings in the new land. Now He was fulfilling many of those promises. Through the various accounts of battles and other events, we ultimately see God fulfilling promises. God proves Himself faithful to His people over and over again. By the end of Joshua, any doubts that Israel may have had about God’s faithfulness should be fully squelched. God is faithful, and He has proven that faithfulness time after time.
The evidence of God’s faithfulness provides a great encouragement for the future. When we look ahead to the future, we can be overwhelmed or intimidated by the difficulties that we see. But the reminder of God’s faithfulness in the past should encourage us that God is faithful in the future. Malachi 3:6a says, “For I am the LORD, I change not.” God does not change, so if He has been faithful in the past, then He will be faithful in the future. So when we struggle with the unknowns of the future, we can rest in God’s faithfulness. The God who is big enough to part the Jordan River or defeat the city of Jericho is powerful enough to deal with our problems. If He has been faithful in the past to Israel (and us), then He will again be faithful to us in the future. So the reassurance of God’s faithfulness in the past can encourage us for the future.
But the evidence of God’s faithfulness in the past should also motivate us to be faithful to God in return. If Joshua 1-21 provides the proof of God’s faithfulness, then Joshua 22-24 is the clear call for Israel to be faithful in return. Joshua 22 records a conflict between the tribes east of the Jordan and west of the Jordan, a conflict that developed largely through miscommunication and misunderstanding. But in the end, both groups were striving to be faithful to God, even going out of their way to ensure that they remained faithful (although they didn’t completely go about it in the right way because they based their actions off of misunderstanding). Then Joshua 23-24 records Joshua’s final speeches, one to the leaders of the nation and one to the nation as a whole. Once again, he references God’s faithfulness to Israel as the primary motivating factor behind the applicable call for Israel’s faithfulness. Joshua 24:11-13 records one of the references to God’s faithfulness when it says, “And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.” As He promised, God had been faithful to do many good things for Israel. Immediately after pointing to the things God had done for them in the Promised Land, Joshua gave a direct call to be faithful to the Lord in return. Joshua 24:14-15 says, “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the **flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the **flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” “Therefore” points to a conclusion based on the previous statements. Precisely because God had proven Himself faithful in all that He had done, Israel should commit to Him and be faithful to Him instead of vacillating back and forth between worship of the true God and worship of false idols. Instead of allowing them to sit on the fence, Joshua gave them a clear call to make a decision. They needed to decide whether they would commit to the Lord and be faithful to Him, or whether they would turn back to the idols they had worshipped in the past. But in Joshua’s own mind, the decision was clear. He had seen the faithfulness of God, and that is where he would place his own trust. He and his family were committed to serving the Lord, striving to be faithful to Him as He had been faithful to them.
The same choice must be made in our lives. When we see God’s faithfulness and are confronted with what God has said to us, then we must make a choice. We must choose between being faithful to the One who is always faithful, or turning away and rejecting His faithfulness in favor of our priorities. Let us say with Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord . . .”
**In this context flood does not refer to the flood of Noah’s day, but it is an expression commonly used for the Euphrates River. It points to the time when Israel’s ancestor, Abraham, lived on the other side (east) of the Euphrates River in the land of Ur. Abraham had worshipped idols in Ur before God called him and he began to follow the Lord.
–Pastor Tim

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  1. Pingback: Ramifications of God’s Immutability | Grace Baptist Church

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