“War, huh, yeah. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” That is what Edwin Starr thought and sang in the early 70’s, and that is what some folks think when it comes to Joshua; the sixth book of the Bible. Joshua is a brutally violent book, describing Israel’s invasion and conquest of Canaan, the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Why study such a book, especially considering the current state of affairs with multiple wars being fought all across the globe?
Joshua’s grim accounts of slaughter have caused skeptics to question God’s character. “If the God of the Bible is a God of love,” they ask, “then how do you explain Joshua 6:21?” That verse bluntly states, “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”
God’s love is seen in this way; any Canaanite sinner could have been saved by grace through faith. Rahab and her family proved this. Her conversation with the two Hebrew spies confirmed that the Canaanites had plenty of warning about the coming judgment. The Canaanites had every opportunity to repent, turn from their idols, and turn to the one, true God. Except for Rahab, they would not.
Plenty of Christians are wary of this book as well. Except for a few cherry picked verses from chapters one and twenty-four, Joshua is not often referenced. The image of a Christian “warrior” is not a popular one. That is partly due to the times in which we live, and partly due to churches that take this image beyond legitimate bounds. Nevertheless, this much is clear, believers are soldiers of the cross (2 Timothy 2:1-7), and we are engaged everyday in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). This is not the time to shy away from Joshua, or to stop singing Onward Christian Soldiers.
We have many professing Christians in the U.S. (Some estimates indicate that there are over 50 million.) But we do not seem to have many Joshuas. This is why we need to study, learn, and apply what Joshua teaches. The key passage of the entire book is 1:5-9. In that passage Joshua is given the secret of success. The secret is simple, and it has nothing to do with seven habits of highly effective people, or cheese that has been moved, or anything like that. The secret is this: obey God’s Word in every detail; all the time.
Now, Joshua and Israel only had the first five books of the Bible, but these were sufficient revelation for the time. We are so blessed to have the entire revelation from God, yet we often live as if God has left us with little to nothing. Is not the chief reason for defeat and weakness in American churches due to this failure to do the basics: read, study, meditate on, and obey the Word of God? Yes, Bibles litter our homes and are stacked up by hundreds in our church buildings. Yes, we possess many Bibles. I am just not convinced that our Bibles possess us. We live in a literate age, but so many Christians are biblically illiterate.
We need the book of Joshua. We need to not just soak up the historical facts and information. We need to absorb the spiritual lessons and principles that will enable us to lead victorious Christian lives, claiming the victory that God has promised. We need to understand that we fight, but we fight from victory rather than for victory. We need to faithfully follow our Joshua – Jesus Christ, “captain of the host of the Lord” – onward, as Christian soldiers, marching as to war. Joshua’s message is not just a bloody account of ancient history. It is a modern manual for claiming all that believers have in Christ.
In his book Victorious Christian Living Alan Redpath writes:
“There seems to be a very wide gulf between what we believe and how we live, a marked contrast between our position in Christ and our actual experience. Too often do we claim to believe our Bible from cover to cover, but fail to live out its truths in daily conduct. The way of real blessing is costly, often unspectacular, always fruitful. Victorious Christian living can be not only a theory to be admired, but also an experience to be enjoyed.”
This is why we should study Joshua. Beginning today and running, Lord willing, the next seventeen weeks we will work our way through the book of Joshua.
Be strong and very courageous!