It has taken me a bit to get through these chapters, but here is the second week of my Joshua study. I’ve learned that studying a narrative is quite a bit different than studying an epistle. In a narrative (especially Hebrew narrative it seems), the stories build and jump from scene to scene (kind of like a TV show or movie) to build suspense and make a point. You really have to read larger chunks of Scripture sometimes to get the full picture. Thus, this week’s study covers 7 chapters. Here is a pdf of this week’s study: Joshua_Week 2.
One of the issues I’ve considered as I’ve read in Joshua (as well as books like Exodus, Leviticus, or Numbers), is what my purpose and goal is as I read. If my goal is to find something to apply to my daily life (for me it would be homeschooling my kids and being a good wife, church member, etc.), it’s kind of disappointing to spend time reading through a list of kings that Moses and Joshua conquered and destroyed. Can’t wait to get to that list of land allotments, right?!
But wait–chapter one had some great verses that I can apply to myself and maybe that can get me through the rest of the book! If I leave out the part about getting land, I can focus on the being strong and courageous part and God’s being with me and giving me success if I meditate on his commands and obey him (Joshua 1:5-9).
I think a better perspective when we read Scripture is to say “What is God, through the author, communicating?” rather than “What can I apply to myself to get through today?” When we read to figure out what God is saying, we have a much clearer understanding of the text. So instead of viewing the promises to Joshua and Israel of God’s presence and blessing on them, contingent on their obedience to the covenant, as they conquer the land, as something we try to apply to ourselves (as nice as that might sound, except for the complete destruction of our enemies, of course), we simply view it as a record of God’s words to Joshua and a divinely inspired history of God’s marvelous acts and working out of his plans. And then we can use those words as a template to view the entire book. When the people wholly obeyed, God gave them success and prosperity (e.g., Jericho, for the most part). When they did not obey, they failed (e.g., Ai the first time).
While we can be assured of God’s presence for ourselves from other passages of Scripture (Hebrews 13:5), and we should be meditating and obeying Scripture (Colossians 3:16-17), this is not the immediate application in Joshua for believers today (although Joshua can to a certain degree illustrate and example some of these truths for us today).
Perhaps a better “application” for me today from Joshua is this: Look at what God has been promising to the people of Israel since his promise to Abram: I will give you this land. Look at the obstacles God has miraculously overcome over and over again to bring them to and out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and finally to this land. Look at how God is true to his word. Look at how God repeatedly shows mercy to his chosen people. Look at how God’s plan of redemption was at work. I have a promise-keeping, powerful, merciful God!
I may not have a personal “promise” to claim for the day, but I do have the God who keeps his promises as my God. When I worry about my children’s behavior or a friend’s health or the state of our country, I can be confident that God is sovereign, he is merciful, and that he has a plan that he will without fail cause to happen. My view of myself, my home, and my world is more rightly aligned because my view and understanding of God is greater.