This is the story of what God was doing with His people. He was giving them the land he had promised to them. Joshua was to be the leader of God's people. Joshua’s strength came from the Lord: “Be strong and courageous! ...The Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
The report of the spies - “The Lord has given us the whole country” (Joshua 2:24) - emphasizes that God is in control. God is working out His purpose, His perfect purpose, His purpose of love.
It is important to remember this. Without this understanding of the events recorded in the book of Joshua, we will lose our way and fail to see what relevance these events have for us. From these events, we learn that our strength comes from the Lord, who does great things for us because he loves us with a perfect love.
The crossing of the River Jordan was a significant event. It was an event to be remembered. It wasn’t just a geographical event. It was more than a movement from one place to another. It was a spiritual event, a work of God. The meaning of this event would bring blessing to God’s people down through the years: “The Lord did this so that everyone in the world would know His mighty power and that you would fear the Lord your God every day of your life” (Joshua 4:24). The past affects the present. It shapes the future. We remember the Lord so that we might learn to fear Him, now and always.
The victory over Jericho came immediately after the appearance of “the Commander of the Lord’s army.” It was God who told His people how they were to approach the city of Jericho. Everything about this victory marked it out as the work of God: “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land” (Joshua 6:27). The Lord accomplishes His work when His people obey His instructions. We must never forget this. All glory must be given to the Lord. It’s not our obedience which earns His blessing. It’s His power and His love, which sends His blessing down from heaven. His blessing is sent to those who are obedient. It’s always the gift of His grace. It’s never the reward for our good works.
The victory over Ai (Joshua 7 & 8) could not take place until the sin of Achan had been dealt with. There needs to be the tearing down of sin before there can be the building up with salvation. This is a spiritual principle of the greatest importance. God withholds His blessing from us when we withhold our obedience from Him. It is to an obedient people that God sends His blessing. We must,in repentance, remove the barriers to God’s blessing. When we do this, we can, then, reach out, by faith, and receive the blessing that He is so eager to give to us.
“The Lord fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:14). This is what we must see in all the conflicts between Israel and the other nations. God is working out His purpose. He is fulfilling His promises. Without this spiritual dimension, the events recorded in the book of Joshua are of no real significance for us today. Keeping this spiritual purpose at the centre, we will learn this great lesson: The Lord fights for us.
“Don’t be afraid of them because I am going to give them to Israel” (Joshua 11:6). This is the Word of the Lord that lies at the heart of Joshua’s account of Israel’s victories. The victory comes from the Lord. He gives His people the victory. This is still God’s Word to us. As we face our enemies - everything that stands in the way of our spiritual progress, we must stand on the Word of the Lord - His promise of victory.
In the book of Joshua , there’s plenty of geography - lots of place names. There is also the spiritual emphasis on the direct connection between obedience and blessing. We see this in the life of Caleb (Joshua 14:6-9,13-14). There’s something remarkable about Caleb - “I am 85 years old” and “still as fit to go to war as I was when Moses sent me out.” He was still saying, “If the Lord is with me, I can drive them out, as He promised” (Joshua 14;10-12).
The division of the land among the tribes (Joshua 15-19) seems to be so mundane, yet it’s part of the Word of God. This reminds us that even the mundane aspects of our life are lived out “in the presence of the Lord” (Joshua 18:10; 19:51).
The cities of refuge (Joshua 20) and the cities that were given to the tribes (Joshua 21) - This isn’t particularly interesting. We should never lose sight of the spiritual dimension, with which Joshua 21 ends: “The Lord gave Israel the whole land ... The Lord allowed them to have peace on every side ... The Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Every single promise that the Lord had given the nation of Israel came true” (Joshua 21:43-45).
“The Lord is the only true God” (Joshua 22:22,34).
In this new land, the Israelites faced conflict. This was more than a conflict between nations. It was a conflict between the one God and the many gods. It was a conflict between the true God and the false gods. God’s Word to His people was clear - “You must be loyal to the Lord your God” (Joshua 23:8). God is still speaking to His people. He is still saying, “Get rid of the gods ... Serve only the Lord” (Joshua 24:14). The choice must be made - “Choose today whom you will serve.” God is calling us to make our response: “I will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). After reading many chapters, full of names, we must remember that there is one Name which is more important than all the other names. It’s the Name of the Lord our God. After reading so much about military exploits, we must remember that it is in the Name of the Lord that we are called to do battle. There’s a spiritual battle to be fought. In this battle, we fight for the Lord. We fight in His strength. In this battle, there’s one thing that matters more than anything else. It’s the glory of God.