Joshua 24 ends his life. He dies at 110 years of age. He left a legacy that is powerful and something we should all strive for. Listen to what scripture says about him: “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel”. He was the leader, and they served God all the days of his life. He led well. He left a powerful legacy. He sets a bar for us to work to attain. How are the people in your patch doing when it comes to serving the Lord.
How did this outcome happen? Pretty simple. He led and modeled what it meant to serve well. He started as home. Here is a very key couple verses that describe Joshua and his dedication to God. “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served….and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. Joshua shows us what it means to be committed to God. It begins with a choice. Do you see that? God demands and requires it – but we still have to make the choice to truly serve Him.
Joshua led his family that way. “As for me and my house”….he didn’t just talk about it. He lived it at home. He also lived it as leader of the people. So well in fact that they responded ot him “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey”. Joshua led well. While he had to choose, and lead the other people to do the same, the reality is that the choice was not really a choice except the first time. Then it was a way of life. It is how he lived and led. That is what we need to do too. We need to build a habit, a way of living where God is our focus. He is the One we look to please. He is the center of life. We choose that, but we need to just live it daily so others can follow.
Joshua seals it for the people with “this stone shall be a witness”. He once again creates a marker to remind the people that God is in control. This was to be a witness to His faithfulness. It was to be a reminder that God was always there. Have you made the choice to serve God? How about your house? Are you leading them to do the same? Have you created a marker to remind everyone of the covenant relationship we have with the Father. There is so much to learn about leadership from Joshua. He lived it well for his 110 years. And now they bury him. Now they move on to a new chapter in the lives of the people of Israel. Moses and Joshua led well. They chose to follow God. Will you lead the same way?
Joshua 23 has the end in sight for Joshua. He is now old and advanced in years, and he is summarizing where things are. “You have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you”. God has driven out the enemy. He has demonstrated His power. He has fought for His people. God has been faithful and Joshua is reminding them of that heritage.
It does come with some requirements however. “Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left”. Bottom line is that they need to walk the straight and narrow. They are not to turn right or left – just follow. It really is that simple. We just need to follow God without taking a detour into the weeds along the way. He charts the course. We simply need to follow Him. He is in control. He has a perfect plan. He is the almighty. Joshua goes further and tells them to “cling to the Lord your God”. God is the source. We need to hang on tight.
He reminds them of the history: “One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you”. They have been multiplied in their effectiveness because God has done the heavy lifting. He has enabled them to do far more. But there is a warning here as well: “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God….if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them….know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations”. There are some requirements and expectations. They have to stay connected with and committed to the living God. He is not ok with sharing attention. He is not willing to be just another God. He alone is God. He alone is worthy to be praised.
So Joshua drives that home as he finishes this chapter. “If you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God…. and serve other gods and bow down to them….the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly”. Joshus is extremely clear here. If you mess around you will die. God takes this very seriously. He expects the covenant to be just that – a covenant that will not be broken – ever. He is not tolerant. He is not willing to bend the rules. This is serious stuff for the people. They have to follow Him and Him alone to continue in His blessing.
Joshua 22 has everyone in their new places in the Promised Land. Joshua is now sending home the 2.5 tribes that came across the Jordan to make sure the rest of the tribes were able to take the land that had been given to them. The work was now done and Joshua is sending them home. He calls them together and tells them you “have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God….God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them”. The work is done. We have accomplished the task. “Therefore turn and go to your tents”. You can go back to your tribes and return to the land that was given to you on the other side of the Jordan.
But Joshua is clear what it means to go back and to “be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you”. What does that mean?
- “to love the Lord your God
- to walk in all his ways
- to keep his commandments
- to cling to him
- to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul”
Want to know how to truly walk well with God? There is the list – love, walk, keep, cling, serve – 5 action verbs that describe what a relationship with God should look like.
So the troops head home and as they get home they “built there an altar by the Jordan”. It was a big one “of imposing size”. What happens next is a failure to communicate. The tribes on one side of the Jordan – the 9.5 (remember that the tribe of Manasseh was split with half having an inheritance on each side of the river) accuse the two and a half tribes from the other side of the river of creating a false idol. “Have we not had enough of the sin at Peor….do not rebel against the Lord or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar”. They wanted no part of the experience their ancestors had previously when God became upset with their worship of idols. They remember that even though it was only really Achan who was at fault, “he did not perish alone for his iniquity”. Sin spills out onto those around it and there was no desire to have this spill across the river onto the rest of the tribes.
So it escalates and they finally get down to trying to communicate and understand. Turns out that the altar was really to remember that God had been faithful and delivered them. It wasn’t an idol worship but an altar of remembrance they “called the altar Witness…. it is a witness between us that the Lord is God”. The ten tribes had made a big deal out of what turns out to be a good thing because they made assumptions. They thought it was intended for something bad, when in fact the motive was very good. Oh how we need to learn to ask and seek truth before we make a bunch of assumptions. Are you communicating with those in your patch so you are understood, and that you understand? We need to do that!
Joshua 21 is a chapter where the final land is distributed to the Levites. Joshua gave cities throughout the land to the Levites. There is a long list – most all of the chapter in fact – that calls out the specific details. There were cities from the land of all the tribes that were given to these who served as priests. They did not inherit their own homeland but rather were dispersed among the other tribes. And now they have their own place.
Joshua has led the people through the process of taking the Promised Land. “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers”. God had made a promise and He has fulfilled it. The people “took possession of it, and they settled there”. The wait is over and the people have moved in. There is a homeland for all. It has happened just as God promised.
But wait, there is more. “And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers”. Not only have they come in and been able to take the land, but they have been given rest. They have been wandering for over 40 years and fighting for the past months to take their land, and now God is giving them rest. Not a little rest, but on every side. There is complete and total rest. He has cleaned things up for them. “Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands”. Did you catch that? God gave ALL their enemies into their hands. Not a few, but ALL. They were the victors because of His power and might.
This is a story of God’s faithfulness. Check out what scripture tells us about that truth: “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass”. I am very careful to use the word ALL unless I am talking about God. He alone is the one who can be that consistent. He alone is the one who has never failed. He alone can make ALL come to pass. And He did – He made it all come to pass. Each and every detail, down to the fine print, happened because He was in control. He is the controller of the universe. He is in charge.
Joshua 20 begins with these words: “Then the Lord said to Joshua”. Does God speak to us today? The answer is yes. God is alive and well and speaking to us each and every day. The question is really ‘are we listening’. God is in our lives daily. He wants to communicate with us. He is communicating with us. The only variable in that equation is you and me. Are will listening? Do we even realize He is there moment by moment? Joshua did, and he listened. He listened because that is where he received his wisdom. That is where he got direction. That is how he knew how to live and lead. We can learn much from watching how Moses and now Joshua connected with God.
Joshua was to set up cities so people could “flee to one of these cities and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city”. I still struggle to understand how you can kill someone without knowing how, but it obviously happened somewhat regularly in these days. If there was an accidental death, you could go to one of the six towns and be safe until you could stand trial before the elders. You would remain in the city until you “stood before the congregation for judgment”.
The cities were spread across the Promised Land. Here are the locations that Joshua set aside:
- “Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali
- Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim
- Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah
- Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben
- Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad
- Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh”
These were the “designated cities” of safe haven for “anyone who killed a person without intent”. This was God’s plan, not mans. It was His direction and Joshua just followed those instructions well!
Joshua 19 continues the casting of lots to hand out the land. You’ll recall in the last chapter that Joshua had asked the tribes to send three men each in an expedition to map the land and record the facts. They came back and then it was up to “Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel” to cast lots and hand the property out to the tribes.
Benjamin was the first tribe chosen at the end of the last chapter. Now in Joshua 19, the other six are given their land. It reminds me of the draft – I can almost see the different leaders of the tribes waiting impatiently for the next lot to be cast to see if their number came up. Scripture records in great detail the order that the lots were cast, and what areas were handed out to each tribe. It is done with boundaries and towns, but is very specific in description. Here is how things came down:
First lot Benjamin
Second lot Simeon
Third lot Zebulun
Fourth lot Issachar
Fifth lot Asher
Sixth lot Naphtali
Seventh lot Dan
Each tribe and their clans were given their new land in the Promised Land. Still some work to be done by some to drive folks out so they could take possession and settle there, but Joshua and the team hand it all out. But wait, there was one more thing to be done. “When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun”. Joshua gets his own little piece of paradise. He is given a city all his own. “He rebuilt the city and settled in it”.
Its been well over 40 years since the journey began to reach the Promised Land. Finally they have arrived and now have been issued their new homeland. It hasn’t been without a lot of sacrifice and suffering. Remember that no adult who began that journey has entered – save Joshua and Caleb – as that was the purpose of the forty years – time for all those who had disobeyed God had to die before they could enter. But now they are in and “they finished dividing the land”. Big task behind them. Wonder how long it will be before they forget what God has done? Stay tuned……
Joshua 18 has Joshua finishing his work in dividing up the inheritance of the Promised Land. “The whole congregation” assembled and attended the meeting. “The land lay subdued before them”. They were in control of the land. They just hadn’t staked claim to anyplace yet. The state of affairs were that “seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned” were waiting on Joshua to give them their land. He gets a little irritated with them waiting for him to do the work.
He asks for “three men from each tribe” that he can send out to “write a description”. These 21 guys – there were seven tribes that were yet to be given their land – headed out to record the make-up of the land. What cities there were, description of the characteristics, so they could come back and have Joshua divide it up between the seven tribes. They had to go get the facts so Joshua could lead well. He sends them out to do the work.
When they came back Joshua was going to “divide it into seven portions”. He would study and fret and decide…..not really…..Joshua is going to cast lots before God to decide who gets what. But he needs the descriptions so he can make those assignments after God leads him through the casting of lots. We see this over and over in scripture – leaders trusting God to give direction by something we view as chance. I am confident Joshua had direction from God on how to go about this. He didn’t just go off and do things on his own.
So Joshua cast lots before the Lord. He took the book containing a “description of it by towns” and was able to break it into seven divisions. From that and the lots, “Joshua apportioned the land to the people”. He followed God’s leading and handed it out to the seven tribes. Pretty simple once he had the facts. Leadership means getting the information necessary to make decisions. Joshua did that. He didn’t let the tribes dump the responsibility onto him. He led them to do the homework necessary to be able to make the division of the land work. God ultimately led to the assignments, but Joshua led the people to enable the process to work
Joshua 17 continues with the passing out of the assignments in the Promised Land. Joshua runs into a few stumbling blocks as people are positioning to get more land. The people of Manasseh come and receive their place. Remember that they got half their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan. Manasseh was the firstborn of Joseph and Machir was a man of war. But down the line a ways came Zelophehad who had “no sons, but only daughters” and he wanted to be sure they were not left out.
So “they approached Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the leaders” asking for an inheritance as well. Joshua grants them a piece of land and they moved in. But “the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land”. We’ve seen this before. The folks who lived in the land that God gave as the Promised Land were pretty intent on staying. So as in other areas, the Canaanites were put “to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out”.
Then Joshua is approached by another group – the people of Joseph. “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me”? Not happy with their land – they are back asking for more. Doesn’t that sound a little too close to home? We tend to always want more than we have. We aren’t necessarily content with what we have been given. They come to Joshua and expect him to reassign some of the boundaries since they are special. Oh how often we try to play that “special” card.
Joshua is pretty creative. He offers to give them more land, but they have to take it and clear it and make it useful on their own. “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest…..clear ground for yourselves….you shall clear it….possess it….drive out the Canaanites”. What a great response. He doesn’t say no. He gives them the option. Here is some forest land – it is yours if. If you do the work to make it useful. You clear it, you possess it, you drive the locals out. Joshua had given what he felt he owed them. Now there is a chance for a bonus but it required them to do the heavy lifting. Joshua wasn’t going to put that on all the rest of the folks. It was going to require their sweat and blood. Wise leadership from a very wise leader.
Joshua 16 is a very short chapter that deals with the allotment of land to three tribes – Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim. You will recall that half the tribe of Manasseh had received their inheritance before crossing the Jordan, so this chapter really is dealing with 2.5 tribes and the land they were given. Scripture is very detailed in how Joshua splits up the cities and creates the boundaries for the tribes.
These three have land that all border the sea. The half tribe of Manasseh is the northern area of the three, with Ephraim next and then Joseph’s tribe. The sizes of the land masses are not the same. Boundaries run from city to city or to the water that defines the area – the sea on one side and the Jordan river on the other. Most all the enemies that needed to be removed lived along the sea or the river because that is what gave life to their crops and livestock.
The one notable thing in this chapter is that the people of Ephraim “did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer….but have been made to do forced labor”. These folks were pesky and refused to be driven out. And much like we saw in the story in the last chapter with Judah and their land, for some reason the Ephraimites just did not finish the job. These folks living in Gezer somehow just stayed and would not leave. So they lived in the midst of the people of Ephraim as slaves. Commentaries tell us that was likely the case until the time of Solomon who then completed the task. But once again we see that the willpower of those who had already claimed a spot as their own was stronger than those to whom God has given this Promised Land.
Was God the limiting factor in removing these people? I think not. It was the lack of willingness to do what God had commanded. The people from Ephraim were not willing to be completely obedient and complete the task that had been assigned. They just did it part way. God never gives us too little resource to do what He asks. He did not fail – their resolve did. God never says it will be easy but He never leaves us short equipped either. We need to learn to rely on God’s power and His might rather than our own. We will run short – He never does!
Joshua 15 is a list of dozens of towns that were assigned to different tribes. We learn that Caleb “drove out from there the three sons of Anak” and took the land they had along the Great Sea and its coastline. You will recall that Caleb was the other spy who had told Moses to take the land 40 plus years earlier. He is finally getting his place.
Caleb also says “Whoever strikes Kiriath-sepher and captures it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife”. So he offers up his daughter as a prize to the man who takes the land that is next in line. Othniel does it and gets the prize. “When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field….Give me a blessing”. Caleb does – he gives her the upper and lower springs to go along with the land she had. Interesting few verses in the middle of an otherwise uneventful chapter.
But at the end, we see the Israelites running out of steam. We learn that they did not remove “the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day”. Matthew Henry commentary says it this way: “for the children of Judah could not drive them out, through their sluggishness, stupidity, and unbelief. Had they attempted it with vigour and resolution, we have reason to think God would not have been wanting to them to give them success; but they could not do it, because they would not”. They failed to drive out the Jebusites, not because they couldn’t, but because it appears they ran out of gas. They just didn’t have the resolve to finish the task. It is interesting that God didn’t do it for them – but since they failed to put in the effort – He didn’t do it on their behalf.