Whole Life Whole Bible Day 14
Joshua 1:6-7 (NASB)
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.
13: On the brink
‘Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,’ we sing, ‘pilgrim through this barren land’; and we reach a climax of hope:
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside:
Death of death and Hell’s destruction
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
- William Williams (1745)
It may be comforting to think of crossing the River Jordan as death, and Canaan as heaven — except that the arrival of the Israelites in the land was not an end but a beginning. It was the beginning of the establishing of God’s covenant people in God’s promised land, living according to God’s law in the midst of surrounding nations.
Here, then, was a fresh opportunity to serve the Lord. Moses had warned the people that God’s blessing would remain with them only as long as they obeyed him. The law, with its emphasis on personal and communal holiness, was given to them for their flourishing, and to make them into a community committed to justice, generosity and stewardship, in a land where each onecould live ‘under their own vine and under their own fig tree’ (1 Kings 4:25).
No wonder, then, with Canaan in sight on the other side of the Jordan, that God encourages Joshua to be strong and courageous: ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Joshua 1:5).
Difficult though it might be for us to read accounts of the people of God wiping out the inhabitants of Canaan, the conquest of the land is not justified on ethnic grounds or because of Israel’s moral superiority. Understood within the framework of God’s justice, Israel’s action against the Canaanites is portrayed as divine punishment for wicked acts (see Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 9:4–6; 12:29–31). The events also need to be seen within God’s plan of salvation, which involves all nations, not just Israel: in fulfilment of his promise to Abraham, the Lord plants his people in a land where they can live under his rule, to be a blessing to the whole world.
As Williams’ hymn testifies, the Old Testament narratives have been a rich source of imagery and inspiration to the church through the ages, perhaps none more so than the accounts of the exodus and the subsequent wanderings in the wilderness. For their part, New Testament writers understand these to be historical events, providing a pattern of how God both delivers his people and gives us ‘rest’ (Hebrews 3:7-4:13), and serving as examples and warnings to us (1 Corinthians 10:1–13).
Hence, as Christians today — God’s new covenant people — we play our own part in God’s unfolding drama. Redeemed by Christ and empowered by the indwelling Spirit, we are called to be God’s new community in our own culture, with its particular temptations and dilemmas. And we too are to live righteously, strong and courageous, encouraged by the promise, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
For further reflection and action
Reflect further on Joshua 1:8, with its call to meditate on God’s law day and night, reminiscent of passages else-where in scripture (Deuteronomy 17:18–20; Psalm 1:2). How is the ‘boldness’ to which God calls us connected to our daily engagement with his word?
How can we, in our own circumstances, ‘be strong and courageous’ in upholding and maintaining the uniqueness and sovereign claims of God?
Is it more helpful to think of the Christian life as ‘wandering in the wilderness’ or ‘living in the land’? How might your view find support from scripture?
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.