This week: The Promised Land Part 1 – The Book of Joshua
After many years of slavery in Egypt and more than 40 years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites are finally allowed to enter the land that was promised to their ancestor Abraham centuries before. They are led into the Promised Land by Moses’ successor Joshua.
Joshua also leads them in military victory after military victory against the people groups who were already living in the land, and who are described as being more numerous and more powerful than the Israelites. The book ends with the Israelites settling in the land in relative peace after years of fighting, and it seems as though perhaps God’s plan for his people is finally being fulfilled.
In light of the larger story, however, of which the book of Joshua is only a very small part, the story of God’s people is far from over and God’s ultimate purposes are far from having been achieved.
We need to remember, especially as we read about Israel’s military conquest, that God’s original purpose for humanity was for us to live in peace and harmony in his good world with him and with each other. Violence and war only enter the story and, we are told, first enter God’s creation as a result of human rebellion against God. So even when it is God who is telling the Israelites to make war on the Canaanites, we are meant to see that both the condition of the world and the condition of the human heart are still a long way off from where God means for either of them to be.
It’s striking, for example, that it’s in the act of making war that the people are the most obedient they have ever been. It’s as though making war is the one thing that they are actually willing to do in God’s name. And it’s not long after the people’s military conquest of the Promised Land that we see that whatever peace they may have initially been able to achieve through military means is only fleeting.
We see as well that God’s people and humanity in general are still a long way off from living in harmony with God and each other in God’s world. What we see in the book of Judges, for example, is that if God’s plan for his people has progressed at all through the conquest of Canaan it has only done so in the most limited of ways.
What the book of Joshua ultimately seems to be saying is that even a near perfect military victory, actually directed by God himself, cannot achieve peace and that God’s purposes for his people and for his world will have to be achieved by some other means.
I hope you can join us on Sunday as we explore all of this more, and how all of it ultimately points to Jesus.