If you are like me, Latina and passionate, you will know that our emotions often make the worst of us come out. Fears, envies, anxieties, sorrows … everything rises and falls by our feelings. Can you imagine if I made decisions under the influence of my feelings? Surely my husband would go mad. Fortunately, the Bible guides us about what is good vs what is bad, about what is true vs what is false, about how we feel vs what is right in the eyes of God. The book of Joshua has a wonderful message for our lives. We will see how faith enabled people to do amazing things despite their circumstances. We will see how the faithful devotion of Joshua, although imperfect, was able to lead the people of God to conquer the promised land. Joshua succeeded in life because he stood firm in the Word of God. If we want to be like him, we must be rooted in the Lord. Another story we will find is that of Rahab, a woman unlikely to be a hero. Rahab was a pagan prostitute who ended up being part of the lineage of Christ. How beautiful! Sister, no matter who you are or where you come from, Christ can redeem you and change the ashes of your sin into something great. And faith is the key of it all.
At the end of Deuteronomy we saw Israel about to enter the promised land. Remember that Moses was dead and the Israelites had a new leader: Joshua. Joshua was a man who trusted fully in God; His relationship with God was solid. It is not surprising however that at the beginning of the book God encourages Joshua to continue in faithful obedience so that everything will go well. As the leader he was, his confidence in God did not revolve around him and his gain, but instead Joshua used his faith to encourage Israel to be obedient to God.
Forty years after their first glimpse with Canaan, Joshua sent spies to the promised land, but this time, something had changed. Instead of fear coming to the Israelites, the Canaanites feared Israel! They had heard that God was with his people! So, with good news from Canaan, Joshua leads Israel to the promised land. God parted the Jordan River (which is quite wide and deep), just as he did with Moses when he opened the Red Sea, with the purpose of showing the people of Israel that He was with this new leader. Joshua reminded them of the covenant that God had made with them (Mosaic covenant), and that circumcision was a way of turning back towards Him.
Years of battles are summarized in chapters six through twelve. The first two are clear examples of the results of obeying or disobeying God. The initial battle is surprising. The Israelites did not go to battle of Jericho with swords, but with ram trumpets. Yes, you read it right! God had told them how they should fight and that they would be victorious if they trusted and obeyed. No matter how they felt, they all followed suit and they won. They won simply by trusting Him and obeying Him. Many times we oversee the testimony of God’s mercy for Jericho. God gave Jericho dwellers the opportunity to worship Him as God while Israel came and marched around their city. Some, like Rahab and her family, turned to Him. But others were destroyed, just as God told Israel to do so.
The second battle took place in the city of Ai. The Israelites felt invincible! After Jericho, Ai seemed an easy we in. After seeing that the city was very small, they told Joshua that with three thousand men they could defeat it. Confidently they marched and to their surprise, they lost! Amazed they returned to God. They did not understand what had happened. God told them that someone had sinned by disobeying the command to destroy absolutely everything in Jericho. A person from the camp had taken things that belonged to God. No one knew who he had been or what he had taken. To find out who it had been, they decided to draw straws, which was a traditional way of making decisions in Old Testament times. They realized that a man named Achan was the one who had coveted the spoils, taken them and hid them. God not only commanded to destroy everything he had taken, he also asked that they kill Achan and his whole family. I know! It seems a very radical, inhuman and crazy command! But, sister, we must remember that sin is terrible in the eyes of God. Partial obedience is disobedience. There is nothing we can hide from our Lord, not even those “little” and “pious” sins that we believe we can hide or that will not harm anyone. It’s not like that! God treats sin as capital treason so that Israel would understand that following God is an act of obedience. Once the sin was removed, God gave them a new plan to defeat Ai. In this new opportunity, everyone obeyed and again God fought for them and won the battle.
God continued to give Israel victory in the battles they fought. The inhabitants of Gibeon realized that the only true God was with Israel, so shrewdly they approached Joshua and proposed to form an alliance. The Israelites found it advantageous and without consulting with God, this allegiance had severe consequences in the future. The tactics of the Gibeonites worked and they were saved. God had mercy on Israel but Gibeonites would always cause trouble for them. However, slowly but surely we see how Israel managed to conquer the promised land.
Let’s pause. You may be wondering the reason for these massive killings that God orders throughout the book. Sister, all those people were judged for their immorality. God did not want his practices to pollute Israel. How do you think Israel would have reacted if God had not judged the sin of those peoples? They probably would have thought that sin was an accident without real consequences, but it is not so. Sin must always be eradicated and treated with the seriousness it deserves. Just look at the cross of Calvary. If we are going to talk about sin, we must see it like God does. God does not tolerate it, period. The truth, sister, is that God is very patient and merciful to us, but sin will finally be judged as a betrayal of God.
Many died and others survived during the battles. God asked them not to marry the survivors or do business with them. Again, warning them that they would not tolerate their sinful practices. After years of battles, in chapters 13 through 12, you will see Joshua divide the land among the tribes. This shows us how God fulfilled the Abrahamic covenant promised of giving them a land (Gen 12: 6-7).
At the end of the book, Joshua, already old and about to die, reminds Israel of the covenant God had with them. This great leader continued to encourage them to obey God’s law so that they would find life and blessing. He never stopped insisting on the consequences they would face if they disobeyed, so that, individually, they would choose who they would serve: God or themselves. When Joshua died and was buried, Israel faced the option of choosing to obey God and live, or disobey and die. Soon we will see that, without the centrality of God’s Word, they sadly chose to disobey.
Sister, Joshua’s message speaks volumes to us today: without a clear understanding of what is good and bad in God’s eyes, our efforts will always be insufficient. We need to understand that our problem is called sin and not accident. As long as sin lives in us, we can never approach God. I invite you not to lose sight of his great love. The only way we can restore our relationship with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus.
1. What generational sins do you fall into because you learned them from your family? What is God calling you to do to ensure that those sins do not impact the future generations of your family?
2. Have you ever been in a situation where God calls you to do something out of the ordinary to give you the victory? Did you decide to wait on Him or did you choose to take the reins? What was the result?
3. How has God redeemed the ashes of your sin to become a new woman, like Rahab, clean and beautiful?
4. Share your story and that of Rahab with someone who does not know about Christ to teach her how Jesus redeems and gives abundant life regardless of your sin or state.