The Gospel and Joshua

The name Joshua is the English version of the Hebrew phrase, Yeshua saves. The English version of the same phrase from Greek is … Jesus. By its very name, the book of Joshua is deeply linked to the good news of Jesus Christ. It is a book about God fulfilling His promises to His people in temporal circumstances that points to God fulfilling His promises for eternity.

Though Joshua doesn’t have the moral missteps that his forefathers ingloriously demonstrated, there is no sense in the book that either Joshua or the children of Israel have earned God’s deliverance for any reason except faith.

“The spotlight is not on Joshua’s moral example or on timeless principles of conduct but on Yahweh’s fulfillment of a historical promise.”

ESV Gospel Transformation Bible

There are many instances of grace and redemption in the narrative. Rahab the harlot, for instance, is singled out in the book for her role in delivering the spies. She is a woman who would be stoned to death under Mosaic law. Yet, instead, she is commended and further memorialized as being in the lineage of Jesus Christ. She married one of the spies she helped protect and eventually gave birth to Boaz. Her story is a little vignette of grace in a much larger story of the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Eventually, God gives Jericho to the children of Israel. He requires their participation while He conquers it completely without their help. They are commanded to march around the walls which they do, yet when the walls come tumbling down, no one is under any delusion that their marching contributed in any way. What a great illustration of the walk of life in the gospel! We are not robots, and God requires our participation. And, yet, we can look back and see His supernatural work accomplishing something in us we could never accomplish for ourselves. We are engaged in His destruction of our sin and rebuilding of our lives in His image but from a point of total dependency on Him, for we have no ability on our own to muster up the superhuman strength to defeat sin and change ourselves.

A poignant illustration of God’s grace is found in Joshua 5:12

And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

God provided manna supernaturally until the day they no longer needed it. And then He stopped. Though the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years because of their own unbelief, still every day, God provided them food. When they grumbled, He sustained them. When they built idols, He sustained them. Day in and day out, He sustained them.

The overarching story of Joshua is that God finally gives the children of Israel the physical land which He promised to Abraham in Genesis. But what we see as the Biblical narrative moves forward is that this gift of land to Israel wasn’t the culmination of the story of Abraham but just the prologue. At this point in Joshua, all nations have certainly not been blessed by Abraham’s seed. And while the book focuses on conquering the land as fulfillment to Old Covenant promises, the one personality that shows up in the New Testament/Covenant is the woman who gave birth to the great grandfather of King David, through whom the Messiah would come. The legacy of the historical narrative of Joshua for us in the New Covenant is not the battle for Jericho or the conquering of the lands around it but of the lineage of Christ, the Seed through which all nations would eventually be blessed, the One that fulfilled the promises to Abraham once and for all.

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