One of my homework assignments for my Old Testament for Ministry class was to read through the whole book of Joshua in one sitting, taking note of the themes and challanges in the book. So yesterday I sat down with a few hours to spare and began what I imagined to be a somewhat mundane and yet surely somehow beneficial task. I wasn't even into the second chapter before I realized that this was going to be a completely different experience for me. The past year, I have soaked in some amazing lessons in Biblical Theology (oh, Goldsworthy would be proud!) and I saw my reading of Joshua deeply deeply afffected by my education.
Here are some of the things I noticed in the first 9 verses:
Right from the start, the land is life. Throughout the whole narrative of Israel's covenant with God, the Land is much more than a geographical location or a place to put her sheep out to pasture. The land was so closely tied to life. We'll see this later on in theology as the Promised Land is associated with the promise of everlasting life (check out the whole book of Hebrews).
God tells Joshua that He has given Him victory and Joshua can be strong and courageous knowing that the promises of God are being redeemed. To be strong and courageous becuase He is with him, and that means victory. But then, without even blinking, God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous being careful to obey the Law. He connects the obediance to the Law with His own very presence. And His presence with victory. And victory with the inheritance of the Land and Life. And so, Life, in a round about way, is tied to obedience. Now this may seem like something we would associate with the teachings in the Old Testament, afterall, isn't the Old Testament where God gives the law and the Israelites have to obey it or be punished? You know, the Old Testament God is the one of judgement, but Jesus comes in the New Testament and teaches love and mercy. Well, I don't think it's that simple. You see, one of my favorite prayers is the shema. It says, "Hear o Israel, the Lord our God, The Lord is One." He is One. He doesn't change between the Old and the New Testaments. And Joshua is a perfect picture of this.
The Lord brought Israel out of Egypt and told her that He would bring her into her inheritance, a promised land, flowing with milk and honey. But Israel was a far cry from the kind of people she was supposed to be. The obedience to God's law, His good and perfect Law, was replaced by grumbling, lack of faith, and pursuit of any idol that would tickle her heart. And yet, God's presence depended on her obedince to His law. Israel would never see the promised land without the Lord, and her heart refused to follow Him. Yet, God delievered on His promise. How? God knew that a leader greater than Joshua would come and would bring people into Life. Jesus (who actually shares the Hebrew name Yehoshua with Joshua) is perfectly obedient to the Law, even to the point of death of a cross. His perfection gives Him admitance into the presence of God. But it gets better. Jesus is God. Basically, all those promies of life and land are found in Him. And we have access to these now through Him. Through His blood we have union with Him and all the glory and victory of God's presence, the Land and life are ours. Awesome.