Jesse Tree: Day 12 Joshua (Josh.1:1-11 & 5:13-15)
Few of us may have had the stomach to be part of the Church in Joshua’s generation. Just reading his book makes us uncomfortable. But before we dismiss it as ‘inappropriate’ for today’s Church, we may need to think again, and ask the Lord for the moral courage to accept, and worship on the basis of, what ‘Joshua’ has to teach us.
Moses understood the role that his successor would play in displaying the drama of Christ on the stage of world history. In order to make sure we did too, he went so far as to change Hoshea’s name to ‘Joshua’ (Num.13:16, Gk: Jesus)! Moses’ ministry emphasised redemption and how to live in anticipation of the New Creation. But before the Church can enjoy and display that New Creation life in the land, the old creation of sin and death must be dealt with. An important (creedal) aspect of the Christian hope is for justice and the victory of God. All that has set itself resolutely against the Living God will be consigned to eternal death. Creation will be stripped back to its most foundational structures before being recast as liberated from the curse (II Pet.3:7). Christ’s return is pictured as that of a Warrior-King, coming in justice, armed for vengeance, and burning with fury, who will ‘strike down the nations’ (Rev.19:15). This is the role played by Joshua.
Like the Joshua of Rev.19:14, Joshua will lead the Church to victory. It is an underplayed theological reality that salvation in Scripture always entails the destruction of the enemies of God and His people. Redemption and Judgement go hand-in-hand. To anticipate one without the other is to stray beyond the Bible’s teaching. The worship of the Church is rooted simultaneously in our own deliverance, and in the destruction of those who railed against God, and therefore His people (Rev.19:1-3, also e.g. Ps.94:21-23).
Four centuries the Lord had waited for the time of Joshua, yet the Canaanites showed only contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that that God’s kindness was intended to lead them to repentance (see Rom.2:4). These were no innocent bystanders, caught up unsuspectingly in the purposes of God. Four hundred years the Lord had asked the Church to live in suffering and slavery, until the sin of the Canaanites rose to ‘full measure’ and warranted such retribution (Gen.15:13-16). Although just in itself, God’s actions foreshadow a deeper justice to come. We fear ‘Joshua’ opens the door to a ‘holy war’ psychology in the Church. But that is to misunderstand the Bible. God is not giving us a pattern for history, but for the end of history. As I never tire of saying: Scripture is primarily about Jesus, not us (John 5:39). It is Joshua’s war - not ours.
And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so that they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses…’ (Joshua 3:7)
Ideas for Family Devotions:
Use today’s newspaper to create a collage pictures and headlines that illustrate to sadness and horror of many people’s experience of living in this world. Visit opendoorsuk.org, or Barnabasfund.org, and discover the experience of Christians elsewhere in the world. Talk about how when Jesus comes back, He will put all this right… How does that make us feel? Excited? What would a world without all this suffering be like? How does that shape your prayer today?
Jesus Story Book Bible, ‘The Warrior Leader’ (Jericho), can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF7Ev1UCrr8&t=9s