Taking on Giants: Life of Joshua

This is a collection of my notes on the book of Joshua. They are grouped by topic but are placed roughly in chapter order. Do not just read this, read the book! I assume that you have read the passages that I reference as I go along.

There are some themes that run all through the book of Joshua. As you read keep an eye out for these and try and connect the ideas to the last time you saw the theme.

  1. Encouraging the new leader
    1. Joshua had good reason to be nervous
      1. He was filling the shoes of one of Israel's greatest leaders and prophets (See: Notes on Moses).
      2. He was leading a rebellious people (Deuteronomy 31:25-27)
      3. He was facing superior armies on their home turf. These armies were bigger, better equipped and had huge fortified cities.
      4. The long and short of it is that Joshua's mission or calling is impossible.
    2. Joshua 1 — Now God comes to Joshua to encourage him
      1. Joshua 1:2-5 — God promises to do great things in Joshua's life
      2. Joshua 1:9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest.

        1. So why should Joshua not to be afraid? the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest.
        2. He could be courageous because the almighty God of the universe was with him and God had promised to deal with his problems.
        3. That is pretty incredible, to think that almighty God is standing with you and is on your side!
        4. We have the same almighty God with us (Romans 8:28, 29, 35, 39).
    3. To go with these great promises, Joshua has three responsibilities
      1. Joshua 1:6-9 — Joshua has a responsibility to be strong and courageous.
        1. Joshua didn't have to worry about doing the mighty works, all he had to do was have the courage to step out. There is a great picture of this in Joshua 3:14-17.
        2. God wants to do great things in our lives. However, usually God requires a small step of faith on our part first (Naaman)
        3. Do I have the courage to step out in obedience?
          1. For another example of this, see Genesis 12:1-5 for God calling Abram.
          2. God had really big plans for Abram in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
          3. All Abram had to do was be willing to trust God to step out into the unknown.
      2. Joshua 1:7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it [to] the right hand or [to] the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.

        1. observe to do according to all the law
          1. We can not pick the parts of God's law we like and keep just those parts.
          2. The theme of total commitment to God runs throughout this book.
        2. turn not from it [to] the right hand or [to] the left
          1. Not only does God call us to faithfully keep his law,
          2. but He calls us to be faithful to it.
          3. In other words, not only are we to give attention to all of what God has said in His word, but we are to apply it consistently throughout our lives (ie. not just on Sunday).
        3. that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.
          1. Keeping God's law won't save us from hell, because we can not keep it perfectly. (See Gospel)
          2. However, God still promises that keeping His law is the path to blessing. (James 1:25; Psalms 1)
      3. Joshua 1:8 — Study and meditate on God's word
        1. Joshua's third responsibility is to immerse himself in God's word.
        2. There is no way he can keep God's word unless he knows it.
        3. See Psalms 19:11-14 God's word is the only way to keep from sin.
    4. At first glance this may sound like prosperity gospel: Do these three things and God will give you whatever you want.
      1. That is not true! Read Joshua 1:2-6 again.
      2. God is promising to enable Joshua to fulfill his calling. God doesn't promise to do whatever Joshua wants, instead He promises to help Joshua fulfill what God wants. (See Joshua 5:13-15 below)
      3. Note that this is a cyclic pattern. As Joshua chooses to obey God, God will enable him to obey.
      4. This points back to Joshua's the first responsibility. In our own strength, obedience is impossible, but as we step out God will enable and help us.
      5. Help obeying God may not sound like a very exciting, but in the end we find that an obedient life is a fulfilling life. (Psalms 19:7-10; Proverbs 3:1-8)
  2. Preparing to enter the land
    1. As Israel prepares to enter the promised land, Joshua has a couple of reminders for Israel.
    2. Joshua 3:4 — Joshua instructs Israel to follow the Ark of the covenant, and to be sure not to run ahead.
      1. When think we can see the goal, we tend to run for it. However, even when it is the right goal, God has a plan on how to get there and we need to make sure we are keeping our eyes on Him and not the goal.
      2. We will see Joshua slip on this in a little bit.
    3. Joshua 3:5 — Prepare yourselves for God to work among you.
      1. This ties in with God's admonition to Joshua to keep His law.
      2. Is sin in my life preventing God from doing mighty things?
  3. Joshua 4:1, 2, 20, 24 — A Memorial to God's wonders
    1. As Israel passes over the Jordan, God commands them to setup a memorial.
    2. Israel had 2 responsibilities:
      1. They had to setup the memorial to start with.
      2. They had to continually teach their children the meaning of the Memorial.
    3. The memorial was there to remind future generations of the great things God had done in the past and point them to the fear of the Lord.
    4. Joshua 4:24 The ultimate purpose of the memorial was to declare God's might and bring Him glory.
    5. What about me?
      1. Am I making note of the great things God has done for me?
      2. Am I rehearsing those great things to others?
      3. Do I tell these things so that other will know His might and glorify Him?
      4. Especially are we telling our children about the miracles God has performed in our lives?
  4. Joshua 5:2-9 — A lesson twice taught
    1. God commands Joshua to re-circumcise Israel
      1. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, Moses circumcised them all.
      2. However, they failed to follow God's command and circumcise their sons as they were born. Now all the adult men had to be circumcised.
      3. The parents might have thought that they were sparing their children pain, but in the end it caused them much more pain. (Joshua 5:8).
    2. While they were on the subject they were reminded of another time it would have been easier to obey the first time.
      1. Joshua 5:6 — Israel is reminded that 40 years ago, had they taken the land when God commanded them to, they wouldn't have been left to wander in the desert.
      2. Taking the land was not a simple thing, it was scary to face the giants. (Numbers 13:31-33)
      3. However, it would have been much less heartache to not have spent 40 years in the barren desert waiting for their parents to die.
    3. In both cases we are reminded that no matter how hard the command is, it is not as hard as disobeying.
  5. Joshua 5:10-12 — God's provision
    1. For 40 years God had miraculously fed Israel. The Israelites could not feed themselves in the desert, but God met their need.
    2. Now however, Israel was able to feed themselves, and God stopped the miraculous provision.
    3. Now Israel was responsible to gather and raise their own food.
    4. The lesson here is that where we are able, we are responsible to meet our own needs.
      1. God will provide where we are unable, He will meet the possible.
      2. However, God expects us to do our part.
      3. This may be extended to being wise and frugal with our resources.
        1. Consider the man who says, God will meet all my needs!, and uses that as an excuse to pig out on his corn, or not be careful with it.
        2. When he runs out and looks around for manna what would he find?
        3. He would find that neither had the children of Israel manna any more
  6. Joshua 5:13-15Art thou for us?
    1. Here is a fascinating story:
      1. Israel is camped outside Jericho, and Joshua sees an armed man at the edge of the camp. Joshua does not recognize the man and challenges him, [Art] thou for us, or for our adversaries?
      2. There are two possible answers: you are either for us or against us.
      3. The man's answer: "No" — Neither of the possible answers!
    2. This was Jesus (an angel would not have allowed Joshua to worship him)
      1. Jesus was there to remind Joshua that he worked for God, God didn't work for him.
      2. Jesus was come to lead His battle, not to help in Joshua's battle.
    3. God is not a gene in a bottle that is here to meet our every need. Rather we are His servants, and He will provide what we need to do His will.
    4. We shouldn't be asking God, "are you for or against me?" We should be asking ourselves am I for or against God?
  7. Waiting on God's blessing and greed
    1. Joshua 6:17-19 — Israel is about to capture Jericho, but Joshua gives a stern warning. He gives a clear warning that the Israelites are not to take anything for themselves. He also clearly states what the consequences will be.
    2. What? No plunder!
      1. It was customary that the soldiers of that time, got a lot of their pay from the plunder they took from their defeated enemies. However, God was telling them they couldn't have any.
      2. There would be other cities later that God would let them plunder, and in the end there would be plenty to go around. However, He doesn't point this out explicitly here.
        1. The priority was on giving God His due, not on making themselves rich.
        2. Maybe, God wanted them to trust Him to bless them.
      3. Side note: While we are here it is worth noting the principle of giving God the first fruits. This was the first city they were going to take, and God wanted all the spoil. In the end God would bless and give them more than they gave up here, but for now they needed to make a sacrifice to give God what He deserved.
    3. Joshua 7:1 — Greed
      1. Achan couldn't wait for God to bless he saw some really nice stuff and took it.
      2. Achan was short sited.
        1. He didn't see God's blessings coming.
        2. He lost sight of the punishment he had already been warned about.
      3. Achan stole from God. (Again refer back to the first fruits principle. Am I stealing from God?)
    4. Consequences and Punishment
      1. There were some terrible consequences from Achan's sin.
        1. Joshua 7:5 — Because of his sin 36 men died. (My sin affects other people)
        2. Joshua 7:6 — Israel was humiliated and there enemies were no longer afraid of them.
        3. Joshua 7:9 — God's name was marred. This is very serious.
      2. Joshua 7:18-26 There was also a terrible punishment for Achan and his family.
    5. One more lesson: Joshua 7:2-5
      1. Note that Joshua didn't bother to go to God with the small decision of how to attack Ai.
      2. Joshua saw God's end goal, but instead of following God's path to the goal he strikes out on his own path. (See Joshua 3:4 above)
  8. Joshua 9 — Keeping your word
    1. The story in brief is:
      1. The Gibeonites saw that God was helping Israel to defeat every one of their enemies. Not only defeat them, but utterly destroy them.
      2. They knew that they were on Israel's hit list, so they hatched a plan to escape certain destruction. They would prepare some ambassadors to look like they had traveled from a long ways away and send them out to make peace with Israel. Israel would think that the Gibeonites were a very distant people and want to make a treaty rather than destroy them.
      3. It worked, Israel believed the ploy and made peace with them. Then 3 days later Israel found out that the Gibeonites were close neighbors.
      4. Obviously Israel was very mad.
    2. Before we go any farther note that the Gibeonites knew it was because of God that Israel was able to conquer their enemies: Joshua 9:9, 10, 24
      1. God was getting the glory for all the great things that were being done. (See also: Joshua 2:8-11)
      2. God's glory is a central theme in the Bible. It is very important that God get the glory that He deserves for everything that He does.
      3. It is instructive to look for God's glory as we read through the Bible, we have already seen it many times in this book and will see it more.
    3. Joshua 9:14 — Once again Joshua and the leaders of Israel were making their own path instead of consulting God on the small details.
    4. Joshua 9:18-19 Israel had made a promise
      1. The promise was based solely on lies from Gibeon.
      2. The promise was directly contrary to God's command (Deuteronomy 20:16-17).
      3. It would certainly have been easy to rationalize away the promise as a mistake.
      4. However, they were still bound by their word. They must not break their word.
      5. If my promise is that binding, maybe I should take what I say more seriously.
    5. Note that God's glory is tied into Israel keeping their word.
      1. Joshua 9:19 — If they had broken their promise it would have reflected on God's glory
      2. The Gibeonit's desperate plan
        1. Joshua 10:2 tells us Gibeon was a great city, but they were scared to death of Israel and their God. This is shown by the fact that they willingly pledged to be slaves forever.
        2. They were banking their lives on Israel keeping a promise that was made based on lies.
        3. They were that desperate because they knew God's power and His command: Joshua 9:24
        4. In the end their whole plan rested on God's name and glory. The only hope Gibeon had that Israel would keep their promise was that, if they didn't, it would ultimately reflect on God's honor.
    6. This promise had very long term results
      1. Joshua 10:6 — Israel had to come to Gibeon's rescue.
      2. 1 Samuel 21:1-14 — Decades later, when Saul broke Israel's promise, God brought punishment.
    7. Lessons
      1. Seek God's guidance even in the small things.
      2. God's glory is central to all He does and should be central to all we do.
      3. Promises are sacred, make them wisely.
      4. As a Christian, my breaking my word reflects on God's glory.
  9. Pride and compromise
    1. With Joshua leading Israel, many battles followed and God gave them the victory in each one (Joshua 10:11; 11:6, Joshua 10:11; 11:6).
    2. After the major battles were over, the land was divided up, and each tribe was responsible to drive out the remaining Canaanites in their portion of the land. (Joshua 13:1-6)
    3. Unable to drive them out?
      1. Joshua 13:13; 15:63 — Why is that suddenly Israel was unable to drive out their enemies?
      2. Joshua 21:43-45and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them— God was faithful to all He had promised.
        1. How does this agree with the repeated statements of could not drive them out?
        2. We know God is faithful and helped Israel in many battles and He had promised to help them with this (Joshua 13:6).
        3. It is again likely that the Israelites did not look to God to help them in these battles. Had they looked to God for help He certainly would have helped them.
        4. Pride is a very dangerous thing.
          1. Israel had one many battles, but instead of giving God the glory, they started to give themselves the credit and trust in their own might.
          1. Keeping us from relying on God is one reason pride is a wicked sin, the other is that it denies God of the glory He deserves, which is very serious!
        5. In support of this, see Joshua 17:18 where Joshua reminds them that with God's help they can overcome superior enemies.
        6. Is pride or self sufficiency keeping me from relying on God and receiving the strength I need to obey?
    4. Joshua 17:12-13 — Israel also had a problem with compromise. God did strengthen them and enable them to drive their enemies out, but instead they put them to tribute.
      1. Tribute was a very rational choice. Obliterating cities was very brutal, why not make a profit off them instead?
      2. However, it was against God's command. (Deuteronomy 20:16-18)
      3. Am I rationalizing away God's command? (See Joshua 1:7 above ).
    5. All of this had terrible consequences.
      1. Judges 2:1-4 — The entire book of Judges is about Israel continually falling to the temptations of the neighbors they refused to destroy.
      2. Because Israel did not deal with the problem immediately, it slowly grew until it overcame them and brought disaster.
    6. The parallel for us is in dealing with sin.
      1. We are called to eradicate sin in our lives (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5). Not to rationalize, minimize or reduce sin, but to kill it!
      2. How do I respond to the Holy Spirit's prompting? (See Ministries of the Holy Spirit)
      3. Just like Israel we can't do it on our own. But if we will, in humility, rely on Christ to give us the victory we can overcome them (James 4:5-8).
  10. The Lord is our inheritance
    1. Joshua 13:14-33 — Believer's today are God's priests (1 Peter 2:9). Like the Levites, are inheritance is not physical or found in this world.
  11. Joshua's exhortation to Israel
    1. Joshua 23:1-2
      1. Joshua recognizes his age
      2. Cross reference with Joshua 13:1
    2. Israel still had not driven out all of their enemies
      1. Joshua 23:3 — Joshua counters the pride (See Pride and Compromise above). It was God who had delivered Israel.
      2. Joshua 23:5 — Again God is faithful, He will do it.
    3. Joshua 23:6 — This is the same exhortation God had given Joshua in chapter 1.
      1. Joshua 11:15-20 — Joshua had been faithful to God and God had enabled him to do the impossible and fulfill his mission.
      2. Now at the end of his life, Joshua can say it was all true. It had worked for Joshua, it would work for Israel. This was Joshua's testimony to God's goodness.
      3. Joshua 23:7-10 Then Joshua applies and expands on this exhortation.
      4. Joshua 23:11-16 There is a warning too, if you abandon God, you will lose His blessings and bring judgment.
  12. Choose you this day whom ye will serve
    1. Joshua is now at the end of his life, and he is giving his final message to Israel.
    2. Joshua 24:1-13 — Joshua begins with a summary of all the great things God had done for Israel. Memorials to God have been a common theme throughout this book and once again, we see the importance of being reminded of what God has done.
    3. Joshua 24:14-15 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
      And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

      1. These are possibly the most famous verses in the book of Joshua, and for good reason.
      2. choose you this day whom ye will serve — Joshua is calling for a decision to be made right now. When we are presented with the truth we need to make a decision on it. If we put off the decision we will later try to rationalize it.
    4. Israel can't sit on the fence
      1. Joshua 24:23 — Israel can't have God and the Canaanites religion too. They can't have mostly God and mix in a little bit of some of the nice things of the Canaanites.
      2. They had to chose all of God, or none of Him, He would not share his glory with any other (Exodus 20:5; Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). God had called Israel to be His holy nation. This means that they were to be set apart from the world, totally set apart to Him.
      3. This was not a small thing to give up.
        1. The Canaanites were much more developed than Israel.
        2. They had beautiful cities, more powerful weapons, and more entertainment.
        3. Beyond that you could see their gods. And the worship practices for their gods were much more attractive.
        4. So there was a lot for Israel to like and be tempted by.
      4. Just like Israel, we have been called to be Holy (1Peter 1:15; 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 2 Timothy 1:9). We have been called to be set apart from the world. We can't take the parts of the World we like and mix them in with our lives.
      5. Connect this with lesson of killing sin in our lives about (See Pride and Compromise above). What sin am I allowing to creep into my life from the World? What I watch, my conversation, my attitude, my world view?
    5. Joshua 14:26-28 — The final memorial in Joshua
      1. This memorial was to a commitment.
      2. Just as they needed to be reminded of the great things God had done, they also needed to be reminded of the commitment they had made to God.
      3. The same goes for us.
    6. Joshua 24:31 — As long as the people remembered what God had done, they served Him, but when they forgot, they fell away. The purpose of the memorials was to prevent this, but memorials require that people take the time to pass on the meaning.