Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation”. The Hebrew form is Yehoshua, which in course of time abbreviated to Yoshua and Yeshua (two variant forms). Yoshua is Joshua, Yeshua is Jesus.
I A Sunset and a Sunrise
It was time for Moses to depart. His one great task remained undone. That was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. He was denied that privilege by God Himself (Deuteronomy 31:2). But then it was time for the new leader, Joshua, to take over. He needed encouragement because leading such a huge multitude was in itself a daunting task. No man in his right mind would have volunteered to take up the responsibility!
Life Application: What a comfort to note that our God encourages us. He not only calls us to our responsibilities but also strengthens us with His mighty encouragement (Deuteronomy 31:7, 8). Joshua was promised God’s Presence at all times. He was asked not to be afraid nor be discouraged. Dear child of God, He is asking the same of you today because He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Be strong and courageous today for the Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save (see Zephaniah 3:17a).
The Lord Himself asked Moses to call Joshua and present themselves before Him at the Tent of Meeting where He would commission Joshua. God came in a pillar of cloud and commissioned Joshua saying to him to be strong and courageous because, “I myself will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:23). Thus Joshua was commissioned by God. And He was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him and the Israelites listened to him (Deuteronomy 34:9).
II The Command
God tells Joshua that Moses is dead. The reason was that God alone knew it (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6). But God’s purposes will continue. So He commanded Joshua to get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land that God was about to give them. The promise was: “I will give you every place where you set your foot.” The encouragement was: “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5 NIV).
He was commanded to be strong and courageous. He was particularly asked to be careful to obey all the law of Moses (the first five books of the Bible) and not to turn from it to the right or to the left. Why? “That you may be successful wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). He was commanded not to let the Book of the Law depart from his mouth. He was asked to meditate on it day and night so that he would be careful to do everything written it. Such obedience would make him prosperous and successful. The Lord again encouraged him (Joshua 1:8, 9).
Life Application: Do you want to succeed in life. This Book of Joshua will give you principles of success. The greatest of them all is the challenge to meditate on God’s Word day and night and obey it without turning from it to the right or to the left. Other passages like Psalm 1:2, 3 talks about the blessedness of the one who meditates on God’s Word. About those who do so it is written: “Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:3b NIV).
Today Meditation is a word commonly used. In the popular sense of that word, it refers to sitting still, focussing your eyes and mind to some point and trying to make your mind blank. This practice is totally against the Word of God and allows demonic activity in your mind. The unoccupied mind is dangerous (see what Jesus said in Matthew 12:44).
Then what is the meditation that the Bible talks about. Let us turn to someone for expert comment: “The words used in the Hebrew for meditation—hagah and siyach—mean to ponder, imagine, contemplate, reflect, pray, commune, murmur, mutter and converse with oneself.
In other words, meditation means to roll a word, thought or phrase around in the mind, continually contemplating, pondering and dwelling upon it, viewing it from every angle, weighing it, and considering it carefully. Do this, not just once, but over and over again until you begin to talk to yourself about it, allowing it to penetrate, permeate and saturate your thinking.
Scripture meditation, then, is the digestive system of the soul, and is of vital importance to spiritual development. It is the process by which we apply, absorb and internalise truth as a working principle into our daily lives. Just as natural food is taken into our bodies, and the digestive system absorbs it, so, as we take God’s Word into our minds through the process of meditation, spiritual food is absorbed into our spirits and transformed into spiritual faith and energy, making Biblical principles working realities in our daily lives” – Character by Character, by Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J. Partridge.
III The Purpose
(Joshua 1:10—18): Possession and Rest [Advanced Lesson] Joshua asked the people to get their supplies ready (1:11). Then the purpose is stated: To go in and take possession of the land the Lord their God was giving them. Again, it was said, “The LORD your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land” (1:13).
Life Application: God wants you to take possession of all that is yours in Jesus Christ. Did you know that whatever you have in Christ is beyond imagination, for Paul wrote: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). But the greater thing is that whatever God has given Jesus Christ is also yours to enjoy because you are God’s children. That means you are legally heirs of God. The Bible says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17a NIV).
The land of Canaan was the Promised Land. But the Israelites had to conquer it for themselves even though it was already legally given to them by God. So also you should strive hard to enjoy every spiritual blessing that God has given you in Jesus Christ.
The best way to start is to read and meditate on the Bible more and more. And to pray much.
The Israelites, at that time, had to engage the Canaanites in warfare and conquer. But they failed to do so fully. So finally Joshua had to ask, “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?” (Joshua 18:3 NIV).
The lesson for you is that you cannot remain passive and inactive in your relationship with God. If you do so, you will not receive the blessings and promises of God realized in your life. You have to do your part in actively seeking God.
Now coming to Rest, the Book of Hebrews reminds us that Joshua was not able to give the people rest (Hebrews 4:8).
Perfect rest is found in Jesus alone. The more you trust in Him, the more rest you’ll enjoy. Remember His words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). No man else has made such an invitation in this world, and no one else than Jesus can! Have you found rest in Jesus?
In summary, Possession and Rest has two levels of attainment for us: in this life—spiritual blessings in Christ and rest for our souls, and in heaven—possession of our inheritance and eternal rest. The trouble with modern preaching is that the second dimension (the heavenly dimension) is left out.
IV Salvation by Faith
This chapter talks about Rahab the prostitute who hid the two spies that Joshua sent. A few things need to said about Rahab.
● First of all, she heard about the miraculous and mighty deeds of the Lord. And she understood that this God is “God in heaven above and on the earth below” (v. 11). She thus put her faith in the Lord based on what she heard about Him. The Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ”(Romans 10:17 NIV). Hebrews 11:31 highlights Rahab’s faith.
● Secondly, she had a keen insight into what was happening (“a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you) and what was going to happen. She said, “I know that the LORD has given this land to you” (v. 9). Faith has the capacity to see beyond what others around you see. Rahab had this.
● Thirdly, she was not only concerned about her own safety but also the salvation of all her family members (vv. 12, 13). Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
● Fourthly, she acted out her faith by tying the scarlet cord to the window (v. 21b). Only those inside the house would be saved (vv. 18, 19). It was a similar instruction like the time of the Passover (Exodus 12:22, 23). The scarlet cord can be symbolic of the blood of Christ! Rahab’s action was an act of faith. The Bible says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17 NIV).
● Finally, we need to remember that her faith was rewarded in the most unexpected way. She became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth. Thus Rahab came to have an important place in the royal lineage of Jesus Christ! (ref. Matthew 1:5). What an incredible journey from a life of social stigma to a life of honour! This happened because of her faith.
V The Splitting of the Waters
There are some vital lessons in this chapter. The people were told to follow the ark of the covenant of the Lord (v. 3). The ark represented the Presence of God. We are to follow God, and not man. Isn’t that what Jesus told the first people whom He called, saying, “Follow me!”?
The people were asked to follow the ark for knowing God’s guidance for they had not travelled that way before (v. 4). In life’s decisions when you are about to take new journeys, dear teens, why don’t you wait for God’s guidance! Then He’ll lead you.
Again, Joshua asked the people to consecrate themselves so that the Lord would do amazing things among them the next day (v. 5). What is consecration? It means preparing yourselves in the Lord’s sight, setting yourselves apart to God’s work. How much time do you spent preparing yourselves for the work God wants you to do?
God promised Joshua that He will being to exalt him that day (v. 7). How did it happen? God asked Joshua to tell the priests carrying the ark to go and stand in the waters of the Jordan. Now the Jordan was at flood stage during that time (v. 15)! But the promise was, “as soon as” (v. 13) the priests would set foot in the Jordan, the waters that flowed down would be cut off. And it exactly happened like that. And God exalted Joshua that day as promised (Joshua 4:14).
Life Application:There might look impossibilities in your life that you can’t cross like the Jordan at flood stage. The very appearance of these impossibilities like the Jordan overflowing its banks would make you stop in your tracks. You would feel like not even attempting to cross. But the promise of God is applicable to you today.
If you boldly step into the waters, i.e., if you move ahead in your God-given task in spite of all the difficulties that you see, God will split the waters as soon as you take the first step. The great obstacles in your life would give way before you when you step out in faith. And you will cross over on dry ground (3:17). So dear friends, take that first step today and find the Jordan (difficulties in your life) make way for you!
VI Raising a Memorial
God commanded Joshua to ask representatives of the twelve tribes to take stones from the middle of the Jordan, right where the priests had stood, and place them together in Canaan the Promised Land. These stones were to be a memorial for Israel forever (4:7).
God wanted the children of these people to remember God’s great work of splitting the Jordan in future years through this memorial (4:6). These stones were set up at Gilgal (4:20). God’s purpose in splitting the Jordan were also spelled out: “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Joshua 4:24 NIV).
Life Application: Have you put up any memorials for God? It does not necessarily mean that you build something as a memorial. But the point is, Is there some incident in your life that you can point to your children perhaps in future years and say, “God did this for me when the situation was toughest?” Would you give credit to God for what He has done in your life? Is there something that you can do today so that the memory of God’s mighty hand and deliverance in your life will be remembered in future years? Think about it.
VII Circumcision at Gilgal and Passover Celebration
Circumcision (the cutting off of the foreskin of the male sexual organ) was the sign of the covenant (or agreement) that God made between Himself and Abraham. Those who failed to keep this agreement was to be punished by death (see Genesis 17:9—14). It was for this that Jesus was brought to the temple on the eighth day (Luke 2:21).
Now the Israelites at this time had not been circumcised. But without this sign of the covenant, God could have no continuing relationship with them. So they had to be circumcised. And the place where it was done was Gilgal. It was called so because the Lord said, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you” (Joshua 5:9).
Life Application: Today Christians do not need to be circumcised. Why? Paul wrote: “In him [Jesus Christ] you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, . . . ” (Colossians 2:11 NIV). Now what does that mean? It means that circumcision today is spiritual and it is done by Christ. It today means not the cutting off of the foreskin but the “putting off of the sinful nature!” So dear friends, ask God to circumcise your hearts so that it will be free from the influence of sin.
Now let us come to the Passover. If circumcision talked about the break from Egypt (i.e. Egypt here is symbolic of sin and slavery to sin), Passover talked about salvation through the blood of the Lamb. The Israelites celebrated Passover next. And then they ate some produce of the land the next day. And the day after they ate the produce of the land, manna ceased. That meant God’s caring for them as little children was over. Now they had to grow up. They had to fight it out in the land and gain what was given to them already by God.
VIII The Commander
For every side that fights a battle there will be a commander. Here Joshua was the leader of the Israelites and he was preparing to attack Jericho. But then he sees Someone standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. So Joshua asks, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The reply was, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Joshua falls facedown and asks for the message. The message was, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Many Bible Scholars believe that this Commander was Jesus Himself appearing in human form (preincarnate appearance). This is because no one else could have claimed, “the place where you are standing is holy.”
Life Application: Know that without this Commander our every single battle will be lost. Do not trust in your abilities, wisdom, resources, past achievements, plans or help from others. It will all fail at some point or the other. But know who your Commander is. Then bow down to Him in worship. He will lead. He will win. You need not fight the battles (does not mean that you need to put any effort, but it means that you realize it is not you but God who is really making the difference), because the battle is the Lord’s (see also 2 Chronicles 20:15—17)!
IX The Fall of Jericho
The preceding chapter (chapter 5) is crucial to the run up to Jericho’s fall. Victory could not come before their relationship with God was set right. This they did by circumcision (for you it means putting off sinful ways) and by observing the Passover (for you it means trusting in the blood of Jesus).
Now let us look at verse 2 of Chapter 6. There God says, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands.” Even before the battle began, God told Joshua the outcome. Then God gave them a battle plan. It involved marching around the city once for six days. This they had to do silently. But the last day they had to circle the city seven times and then when Joshua would give the signal they had to shout. When they did so in obedience to God’s command, the wall fell and every man charged straight in (v. 20). Many archaeological excavations have underlined the truth of this account beyond doubt. (Rahab and her family were spared.)
Life Application: “An important key to victorious Christian living is the necessity of learning to shout, not after the walls of difficulty have come down, but before. If you are in need of some deliverance from the power of Satan, then, as well as praying, try the shout of praise. Things happen when God’s people praise Him” — Character by Character, by Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J Partridge.
X Sin Causes Trouble
When God gave Jericho into Joshua’s hand he was told to devote everything to the Lord (Joshua 6:17—19). NIV footnote says, “The Hebrew term [for “devoted”] refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the LORD, often by totally destroying them. The danger of not obeying this command was that it would make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.
In spite of the victory over Jericho, the Israelites got defeated in the battle against the city of Ai even though it was a small city. Joshua cried out to the Lord about this defeat (Joshua 7:6—9). But God told him that Israel had sinned by taking some of the devoted things. God said, “That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies.” He also warned, “I will not be with you any more unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction” (7:12).
Finally, they find out that a man called Achan had coveted a few things. He had stolen them and kept it hidden with his own possessions. But this sin of Achan caused not only defeat to the Israelites but also loss of life to him and his entire family including all his livestock and possessions (7:24—26).
Life Application: Think about it dear friends, a little greed, a little covetousness, a little hiding of sin; all this caused Achan tragedy. Never think of sin in a light-hearted manner. It will bite in the end. The leaders of Israel commented on this at a later date in this way: “When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin” (Joshua 22:20). Sin affects not only you, but it brings heartache, sorrow, pain, punishment and defeat for all those related to you.
XI A New Battle Plan
When defeats happen in life, you need to seek God as Joshua did and listen to what He has to say. Joshua did so and removed the cause of defeat from the camp. Then God said, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (8:1). God will not give up on you. Because you trust Jesus, defeats in life need not be final. You can come back victorious if you humble yourself before your God as Joshua did. God’s unchanging purpose for you is victory. That is what the Book of Joshua is all about.
God asked Joshua to set an ambush behind the city of Ai (8:2b). That was a new battle strategy. And when the battle was on, God told Joshua to hold out toward Ai the javelin that was in his hand (8:18). That was the signal for the men in ambush to take the city. The defeat of the city of Ai was total, “For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai” (v. 26). Remember to stick on to what God has asked you to do till you finish it. That is the secret of success.
XII God’s Law Read
Let us go to verse 34: “Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the lawthe blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law.” See the fact that he read ALL the words; both blessings and curses. What a marked contrast to today’s popular preaching which talks mostly about blessings alone.
A proper understanding of the wrath of God, His fierce judgement of sin and the eternal punishment that awaits those who disobey is what balances the teaching about God’s mercy, love, forgiveness and blessings. See that Joshua read all the words of the law to the “whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them” (Joshua 9:35). God’s Word is not to be restricted. It can be understood by all.
XIII Yielding to Deception
(Joshua 9) God had asked the Israelites to completely destroy the people of the promised land. Some people-groups understood this (mandate). They knew in their hearts that with God on the side of the Israelites they could not win against Joshua and his troops. So they decided to play a trick, a deception. The people of Gibeon came to Joshua and the leaders of Israel and acted as if they came from a distant land (see vv. 4—6). And requested to make a treaty.
Joshua and the leaders talked with them and became convinced that they lived in a distant land. And they swore a treaty of peace with them. Warning: But the Bible records: “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord” (v. 14). Soon Joshua and the Israelites came to know that the Gibeonites were living nearby. But now the Israelites could not kill them because they had promised them safety in the name of the Lord. (Do note how sacred and binding your words are when said in the name of the Lord.)
Life Application: There is nothing in your life that you cannot bring to God’s Presence to seek His counsel. The Bible says that our God is “wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29). Therefore seek His counsel first (see also 2 Chronicles 18:4). And God will direct your paths. If you fail to do so, you’ll be deceived by the tricks of people. God never disappoints those who seek Him. He will be our guide even to the end (Psalm 48:14). Do not be like the Israelites who “sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.”
XIV A Great Miracle
Here is recorded a unique miracle. When Joshua wanted to complete the victory over the Amorites he found that the day was ending. He needed some more daylight to complete the victory. So he simply said to the Lord in the presence of all Israel: O sun, stand still . . . ! And God did so. No wonder the Bible says, “There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel” (10:14). What faith!
Some battle plans also emerge in the account in this chapter. You can learn a few lessons of success here.
First, Joshua marched with his entire army, including all the the best fighting men (10:7). In some battles, we need to fight with our best. Our entire resources must be called into action.
Second, victory was assured by God even before the battle (10:8). We need to remember always that God is our Commander and it is He who assures us the victory. It is important to listen to His voice before starting our assignments.
Third, Joshua surprised the enemies after an all-night march (10:9). We also need to surprise our enemies at times by showing superior wisdom that comes from God.
Fourth, Joshua did not stop the battle when he heard that all the five kings who fought against him were found hiding inside a cave (10:17). Instead, he asked to roll stones at the mouth of the cave and gave the command: “But don’t stop! Pursue your enemies, attack them from the rear and don’t let them reach their cities, for the Lord your God has given them into your hand” (10:19). You should never be content with initial success. You should instead complete the victory by total triumph (see 10:20, 28).
Fifth, one great victory should lead you to many more victories. You should keep the momentum going. Joshua did not waste the miracle of the sun standing still. He used that miraculous victory to wipe out a series of southern cities of that land. The Bible records, “All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel” (10:42).
XV Land Still to Be Taken
(Joshua Chapters 13 to 22 deal with it) When Joshua became old there was still land to be taken. We find God asking Joshua to make arrangements for the division of the land to all the tribes.
(Joshua 14:6—15) This is a man you should learn from. His first assignment was spying out the land. He, along with Joshua, were the only ones who came back and gave a good report about the Promised Land. He had faith in His God as well as in his ability to drive out the Caananites. Kindly read his speeches in Numbers 13:30 and 14:6—9.
For reporting honestly and courageously with confidence in their God, Joshua as well as Caleb almost got stoned to death (see Numbers 14:10). But God honoured Caleb, saying, “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Numbers 14:24 NIV).
Life Application: You have two choices in your life: You can either see your opposition bigger than yourself and see yourself as grasshoppers before others like the ten spies, or you can have full confidence in your God and do exploits for Him. For choosing the second option you need to speak out courageously your God-given convictions and follow Him wholeheartedly. Then perhaps all those around you will speak of stoning you, but remember there is a God who will honour you. The Bible says, “Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained” (1 Samuel 2:30 NIV).
We now find here Caleb coming and reminding Joshua of the promise that God made to him. He was forty years old when the promise was made. Now he was eighty-five. But closely look at what he said, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then” (14:11). There is still the same spirit of adventure and daring for the Lord that he had shown in his younger days.
May you too be like that. May your passion and zeal for God increase day by day. We again find Caleb asking for his inheritance. He knows that the Anakites lived there in cities large and fortified. But his confidence is still His God. Therefore he said, “But, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said (14:12b).”
XVII Joshua’s Farewell
(Joshua 23 and 24)
● Joshua reminded the people that God had fought for them (23:3). Therefore one man routs a thousand (23:10).
● He urged them to obey God fully (23:6).
● He warned them against mingling with the people of the land whom God had asked to destroy completely (23:7, 12, 13, 15, 16).
● He reminded them that God had kept all His promises: “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (23:14b). God will always keep His promises. But you need to obey Him wholeheartedly to experience its fulfilment in your lives.
● He reviewed God’s dealing with them in the past from the time of Abraham until then. Special mention is made of how God turned Balaam’s attempt to curse Israel into blessing again and again (24:10). When you are blessed by the Lord nobody can put a curse on you. Know that with absolute certainty.
Joshua urged the Israelites to serve God with all faithfulness and to throw away the gods their forefathers had worshipped (24:14). Then he asked them to make a choice as to whom they will serve if serving God seemed undesirable to them.
Life Application: The power of choice is God-given from the time of Adam in the garden of Eden. Do not blame anyone else for the choices you make in life; especially in your relationship with God. You need to look at anyone else. It is between you and God. Now choose this day whom you will serve.
Joshua ends by saying, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15b). Will this be your commitment? Will you serve the Lord wholeheartedly.
The life of Joshua (born in slavery and who happily served Moses during his lifetime and was later exalted by God to be the leader of his people) is an outstanding testimony to a life that follows God wholeheartedly.
Playing the Second Fiddle
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Joshua was prepared to be the leader by being Moses’ assistant. He served well. Before one can rule, one must serve well. C. H. Spurgeon once said: “It takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well.” As Joshua to Moses, Elisha to Elijah, Timothy to Paul; you may be called to play second fiddle. If you do it well, then know that God is preparing you for the opportunity ahead. He will encourage you and help you to lead.
Contrast Between the time of Joshua and the time of the Judges
|Heavenly vision||Earthly emphasis|
|Unity among tribes||Disunity among tribes|
|Strong leader||No leader|
— Taken from Character by Character, Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J. Partridge.
Joshua — The Preparation of a Leader
Joshua 1:2 Get Ready to Cross the Jordan River
Joshua 1:8 Do Not Let This Book
Joshua 3:4 Since You Have Never Been This Way Before
Joshua 4:24 He did This so That
Joshua 8:26 Did Not Draw Back the Hand, Until
Joshua 10:14 A Day When the Lord Listened to a Man
Joshua 8:34,35 Read All the Words — the Blessings and the Curses
Joshua 14:14 Caleb, Who Followed God Wholeheartedly
Joshua 15:19 Upper and Lower Springs
Joshua 18:3 How Long Will You Wait?
Joshua 21:44a The Lord Gave Them Rest on Every Side
Joshua 21:45 The Lord’s Good Promises Fulfilled
Joshua 24:13 I Gave You a Land On Which You Did Not Toil
Joshua 24:15 Choose to Serve the Lord