by Brian Currie, N. Ireland
It is good and often enlightening to compare Scripture with Scripture. It is so with Joshua: both the man and the book that bears his name.
The Book of Joshua and the Book of Acts
There are some evident links between the two Books:
- The Book of Joshua comes after five historical, introductory books of the Old Testament, whereas the Book of Acts is after four historical, introductory books of the New Testament;
- The subject of each Book is a new testimony for God;
- Joshua records Israel in the Land as distinct from the nations, but Acts highlights the Church being brought out of the nations;
- Joshua brings us to the first twenty-five years of the history of something new, while in the Acts we have the first thirty years of the history of something new;
- Both books have a farewell message of a great servant of God, namely Joshua and Paul;
- Both begin with a solemn example of Divine judgment: Achan in Joshua and Ananias and Sapphira in the Acts. In both cases, the sin and subsequent judgment are due to covetousness.
The Man Joshua and the Man Paul
Many have seen similarities between Joshua and Paul:
- Both had their names changed: Joshua from Oshea, Num.13.16, and Paul from Saul, Acts 13.9;
- Joshua was seen by the nation as a leader. Paul was recognised by the Church as a leader;
- Joshua saw the Lord’s glory on the mount. Saul saw it on the Damascus Road;
- Joshua saw the waters opening for a safe crossing. When he was shipwrecked Paul saw all the sailors and passengers saved;
- Joshua faced strongholds built by men, such as Jericho, but Paul wrote: “for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” 2Cor.10.4;
- Four times in Joshua chapter 1 Joshua was encouraged to be strong. Paul encourages others to be strong: “quit you like men, be strong” 1Cor.16.13; “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord” Eph.6.10; “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” 2Tim.2.1;
- Rahab’s was a Gentile family that was saved through Joshua’s service. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles;
- Achan was taken outside the camp in discipline. Paul wrote: “put away from among yourselves that wicked person” 1Cor.5.13.
The interested reader who desires to pursue this line of study will find help in Mr. McShane’s book on Joshua.1
- 1. McShane, A. “Joshua – Possessing the Land” . John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock, 1994.
Furthermore, it is not difficult to see many links between Joshua and the Epistle to the Ephesians, but that will have to wait for another time, in the will of the Lord.
Consideration of how Joshua was called by God to serve with, and then after, the mighty man Moses highlights the necessity of handing the torch of testimony on to the rising generation. It ought to be our desire that we too learn these lessons, and learn them well. They are taught and received by spiritual men. These are men, gifted by God, who can understand and apply Divine principles to a whole raft of varying situations. Paul instructed Timothy: ‘‘And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also’’ 2Tim.2.2.
Another helpful angle from which to undertake a study of Joshua is to consider him in his contact with stones. There are at least six occasions (some will see seven) in the experience of Joshua when stones were used. They were erected to be a lasting reminder of important events, and not only those who saw those stones, but ourselves also, ought to learn from these experiences.
Stone of Supplication – Ex.17.12
“But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon …” This is the first of the references to stones in Joshua’s experience, and it is the doubtful one of the seven mentioned above, since Joshua is not recorded as having direct contact with the stone: it was set so that Moses’ hands were held aloft, thus ensuring victory for Israel. However, the principles of victory over Amalek are so important for us to grasp that it is suggested that this chapter on Joshua would really be incomplete if these verses were to be ignored.
Stones of Separation – Josh.4.9
“And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.”
Stones of Resurrection – Josh.4.20
“And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.”
Stones of Condemnation – Josh.7.26
“And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, ‘The valley of Achor [‘Trouble’],’ unto this day.”
Stones of Retribution – Josh.8.29
“And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.”
Stones of Devotion – Josh.8.31
“As Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.”
Stone of Attestation – Josh.24.26,27
“Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said unto all the people, ‘Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which He spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.’”
We will consider the events in the life of Joshua in the order in which they are recorded in the Scriptures, and will note the references to the stones where appropriate.
The first of the references to stones (the stone of supplication, Ex.17.12), commences the schooling of Joshua. The first time Joshua is mentioned in the Bible is in Ex.17.9: “And Moses said unto Joshua, ‘Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.’” Thereafter, Joshua’s name occurs over two hundred times. It means ‘Jehovah is salvation’. He is now being cultivated, or trained, in the ways of the Lord.
He is found in the company of Moses, a man older and more spiritual than himself. A passing generation ought always to be looking out for promising young men who have the spiritual ambition to fill the declining ranks of acceptable teachers. This can be seen as Elisha replaced Elijah, Paul took Timothy and Joshua was trained by Moses. This is the way in which young saints are educated and it is a good feature when the old and young work together. An old, wise brother gave the following advice: “Always try to keep company with those who are more spiritual than yourself.”
The older man, Moses, had sufficient confidence in Joshua to allow him to select men who could fight against and overcome Amalek. Not everyone was suitable for this task; nor is everyone suitable for such responsibility with regard to the spiritual battles we face today, since some are friends of ‘Amalek’, and never seem to fight against him; in fact, they positively encourage him by inviting him into their lives and their homes. We may test ourselves by asking: on what do we feed? Think of the hours spent on the Internet. What do we read and what relationships do we encourage?
The conflict was with the Amalekites, which is a graphic picture of the flesh. “Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek” Gen.36.12. Thus his beginning was from the fleshy man, through a concubine. After the Israelites had partaken of the water from the rock, Amalek attacked: “Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim” Ex.17.8. Rephidim means ‘resting places’, and highlights luxury, ease and a life without responsibility. Years later, the people were exhorted: “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God” Deut.25.17,18.
We had no bother from the flesh until we were born of the Spirit: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” Gal.5.17; the implication is that the flesh will always hinder progress. Note that they were told that Amalek “smote the hindmost of thee”. This is where the feeble, faint and weary were to be found: they were those at a distance from the leader! They remind us of Peter, who “followed afar off” Lk.22.54.
Up to this point, the Lord had fought for them: “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” Ex.14.14. At the Passover, the Lord fought for the nation against Pharaoh, but here they had to fight for themselves against Amalek. Balaam said, “Amalek was the first of the nations …” Num.24.20. We had the flesh first; we were born with it! Cain was before Abel; Esau before Jacob; Ishmael before Isaac. “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven” 1Cor.15.46,47.
It is to be noted that the main work was done at the top of the hill, because we can only overcome the flesh in separation to God and in communion with Him. The events that took place in the valley take one verse, Ex.17.13, whereas more are required to indicate the events that happened on the mountain. This observation reminds us that what took place on the mount was more important! For example, who can assess the value of Godly sisters praying for those who are at the forefront of the battle? The men who overcame were upheld by Moses on the mountain and his hands were supported by Aaron and Hur. In v.10, Moses, Aaron and Hur went up, depicting the value of fellowship in prayer. Unity in prayer was the secret of power for testimony, as seen in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
Note the emphasis on prayer. In v.12 we read that “Moses’ … hands were steady until the going down of the sun”, picturing that there will be provision until the conflict is over. It has been said that to serve without prayer is presumption. Praying is an evidence of salvation: “Behold, he prayeth” Acts 9.11. Every Christian prays, and if he does not pray, we may well ask: is he a Christian? The young pray (Samuel); the old pray (Simeon and Anna); suffering men pray (Paul and Silas); dying men pray (Stephen); leaders pray (Samuel, 1Sam.12.23, and Epaphras, Col.4.12). Pray in the morning (Ps.5.3); pray at night (Paul and Silas); pray all
day (Daniel “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed” Dan.6.10).
Amalek appears throughout the history of Israel, which teaches us that we will not be done with him until we get to heaven. If we do not deal with him, he will deal with us. We see this illustrated with Saul, who was told: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not … But Saul and the people spared Agag” 1Sam.15.3,9. Some years later, a man said concerning Saul: “he said unto me, ‘Who art thou?’ And I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ He said unto me again, ‘Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me.’ So I stood upon him, and slew him” 2Sam.1.8-10. We recall that in the Book of Judges Ehud the judge never withdrew the dagger from Eglon, who is a picture of the flesh, Judg.3.21,22. In Ex.17.14 we have the first reference to “write” in the Bible, and the second reference to “the book” (see Newberry margin); Gen.5.1 is the first. This implies that there is a record kept of our battles, which will be opened at the Bema (“the judgment seat of Christ” 2Cor.5.10).
Then we learn that “Moses built an altar, and called the name of it ‘Jehovah-nissi’” Ex.17.15, which means ‘Jehovah my banner’. By building the altar Moses showed before the nation that the victory was the Lord’s and He must have the glory. We can only truly worship when the flesh has been defeated and so we read: “we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” Phil.3.3.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Come up to Me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.’ And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, ‘Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them.’ And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount” Ex.24.12-15.
By being up the mount with Moses, Joshua learned something of the commands and character of God, which would prove vital in later experiences, such as when he was dealing with the sin of Achan, Joshua chapter 7.
“Come up to Me into the mount” Ex.24.12. We cannot learn God when we are associated with the world. We must get closer to heaven, as pictured in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and the ‘Upper Room’. The clean of the creeping things had “legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” Lev.11.21, that is, they were leapers, enabling them to rise above the earth.
The commandments were written in stone, showing that they were abiding and unchanging. When the Lord wrote on the ground the second time, Jn.8.6,8, there was no deviation from what was taught so long ago. God’s first thoughts are God’s final thoughts; there is nothing new or novel. The Bible is not dated: “For ever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven” Ps.119.89.
“That thou mayest teach them” Ex.24.12. The Scriptures were not given for personal consumption only but what we receive from God ought to be taught to others. Not all are teachers, nor does a letter of commendation make a man a teacher. There is a heavy load of responsibility lying on the shoulders of God-given teachers, and such are expected to teach. We also need to develop the gift which God has given, and this is more than natural ability. It would help the testimony if young believers imposed a discipline on themselves to read the Scriptures prayerfully and carefully and to build a store of Divine truth while young. We remember that Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, Judg.6.11, illustrating the fact that studying Scripture out of sight produces that which brings joy, both to the teacher and the taught.
The Golden Calf – Exodus Chapter 32
“And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”’ … And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, ‘There is a noise of war in the camp.’ And he said, ‘It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear’” Ex.32.7,8,15-18. Notice what caused the nation to get away so quickly:
They lost sight of the man in the mount.
“As for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him” Ex.32.1. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” Acts 1.11. The Book of Acts is the record of exploits done by men who were occupied with a Man going up. This is also seen in Col.3.1,2: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” We have, as it were, watched our Lord ascend to the right hand of God and it is a great preservative to keep our minds firmly fixed on the heavenly Man. Elisha went forward in the strength of having seen Elijah going up.
They grew weary waiting for his return.
“The people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount” Ex.32.1. “But and if that servant say in his heart, ‘My lord delayeth his coming;’ and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken …” Lk.12.45; “We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” 1Jn.3.2; “We look for the Saviour” Phil.3.20. These verses direct our attention to the reality of the Lord’s coming, which is also a preservative: “And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” 1Jn.3.3.
This Scripture just quoted is one of several in John’s First Epistle, where the apostle draws attention to examples left to us by our Lord:
- “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” 2.6;
- “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” 3.3;
- “He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous” 3.7;
- “As He is, so are we in this world” 4.17.
What a pattern He has left us to follow, as we await his return!
They wanted something tangible to worship.
They did not need faith when they had a visible, tangible ‘god’, before whom they could play, which led to idolatry, and they got the golden calf, Ex.32.24, which combined two things: it was golden, which highlights materialism, and it was also a calf, not a cow, which directs us to youth. Where these are combined the usual result is spiritual disaster.
Joshua misinterprets the sound he hears from the camp. In v.18 he thinks it is the noise of war, but Moses says it is the noise of singing. They did not have mastery, but music: which do we know more about? Joshua is corrected by the more experienced man. It is good when the young are teachable and are not arrogant ‘know-alls’. He did not argue with the older man; it would become obvious who was right. There are those who despise the beliefs and teachings of a former generation, but are we more spiritual than they?
We learn more about Joshua in Ex.33.11: “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.” Here we see Joshua’s continuance. Moses must have erected a temporary tabernacle (tent) until the Tabernacle was erected, Exodus chapter 40. Even though it was not all glorious, the young man stayed there, since he valued the place of the name, and he went nowhere else.
Num.14.1-10 records the response of the people to the evil report of the spies. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, said, “If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us” v.8. They went against the majority, and we learn from this that spirituality is never popular. Joshua’s confidence in God was displayed in his courage. Are we prepared to say ‘No’? The Nazarite had to say ‘No’, because he took the Nazarite vow. This is called a “special vow” Num.6.2, J.N.D., and an “uncommon vow” Num.6.2.2 Would we be prepared to be special or uncommon to show our devotion to the Lord?
- 2 Spurrell, H. “A Translation of the Old Testament Scriptures from the Original Hebrew” . James Nisbet & Co., London, 1885.
“The Lord said unto Moses, ‘Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered’” Num.27.12,13.
Being told that he was to see the land and that he would die was a concern to Moses, especially as there was no leader to succeed him. So he said to the Lord, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd” vv.16,17. There should be one who could go before the people as an example.
In response, “the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay thine hand upon him’” v.18. There is now a man filled with the Holy Spirit. In the Book of Acts there are five occasions when men are said to be “full” or “filled” with the Spirit:
- Peter, for searching preaching – 4.8
- Stephen, for solving problems – 6.5
- Stephen, for sore persecution – 7.55
- Barnabas, for shepherding people – 11.24
- Paul, for solemn pronouncement – 13.9
In Eph.5.18 the apostle gives a command: “be filled with the Spirit”. The use of the present tense indicates that this is not to be an isolated incident, but is the continual, ongoing experience of the Christian, and could read, ‘Keep on being filled with the Spirit’. There is no article, and hence it literally reads, ‘in Spirit’; that is, all our fulness should be in the realm of the Spirit. This is not salvation; it is distinct from it and cannot be experienced prior to it. We are never exhorted to be indwelt by, or sealed with, or baptised in the Spirit: these operations are done by God alone. In Ephesians chapter 5 there follow four features seen in those who are filled with the Spirit: speaking, v.19; singing, v.19; giving thanks, v.20; submitting, v.21.
“He [Moses] laid his hands upon him [Joshua], and gave him a charge” Num.27.23. The laying on of hands involved both identification and instruction, and can be seen in Timothy’s experience: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy [instruction], with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery [identification]” 1Tim.4.14.
In Josh.11.15 we read that “as the Lord commanded Moses His servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.” Nothing was to be interpreted selectively, or culturally or generationally: it was all to be obeyed, and there were to be no excuses. Note the sweep of responsibility: the Lord, to Moses, to Joshua. It was so too for the Lord, to Paul, to Timothy, then Timothy was instructed: “the same commit thou to faithful men …” 2Tim.2.2.
The importance of chapter 3 is seen in the fact that God was about to fulfil His promises and bring Israel into Canaan. The chapter is underpinned by faith, albeit that of Rahab the harlot, seen in chapter 2. This is the reality of Divine grace which has been described as “a sea without a shore”. The exit from Egypt and the entrance to Canaan are marked respectively by the blood and the scarlet line.
Now the crossing takes place. The first to move were the priests bearing the ark of the covenant, followed by the children of Israel, two thousand cubits away. When the soles of the feet of the priests who were bearing the ark rested in the waters of Jordan, the waters divided, so that the people could pass over. When the priests were ordered, by the Lord through Joshua, “Come ye up out of Jordan” 4.17, they came up out of Jordan, and the waters of Jordan returned to their place and overflowed the banks.
This is a beautiful illustration of gospel preachers fulfilling the commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The people of Israel were on a path that they hoped would take them to Canaan, just as we all hoped we were going to heaven. However, there was the problem of the overflowing river, which is typical of the judgment of God, as can be seen as we watch Noah and the ark, or the herd of swine drowning in the lake, Lk.8.33. The judgment of God against sins bars us all from heaven, because we are all sinners. Nevertheless, God devised the plan wherein the One, our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom the ark with its contents is a rich type, bore the brunt of the waves of judgment, as our only means of escape. As the ark of the covenant went into the waters, so the Lord Jesus Christ went into the depths of the overflowing river of the judgment of God when He hung on Calvary’s cross, and only thereby could we be forgiven. “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree …” 1Pet.2.24. The ark had to be carried into “the midst of Jordan” Josh.3.17; 4.10,18. This was where the river was deepest and it was there, in type, where He cried, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts: all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me” Ps.42.7. In Josh.4.10, the people were called to come up, reminding us of the call to the saints at the Rapture. They all went across “on dry ground” 3.17; they did not slip and slide across, and neither will we go ‘slipping and sliding’ home to heaven. When the feet of the priests “were lifted up unto the dry land … the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before” 4.18. This meant that no-one else could pass, illustrating that there will be no ‘second chance’ after the Rapture of the Church.
In Joshua chapter 4 there are two monuments, each constructed of twelve large stones:
- One (stones of separation), was in the midst of Jordan: “And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day” v.9;
- The other (stones of resurrection) was at Gilgal: “And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal” v.20.
For Israel, the stones in the midst of the river depict the nation under the waters of death, while in the stones at Gilgal we see the nation raised to enjoy their inheritance. For us, it has been succinctly put that the stones in the midst of the river “remind us that Christ died for us and that we died with Him”, while the ones at Gilgal depict the fact that we are risen with Him. Thus, combining the two, we have a vivid illustration of believers’ baptism.
We now come to the solemn consideration of the events leading up to and resulting from the stones of condemnation: “And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, ‘The valley of Achor,’ unto this day” Josh.7.26.
In this chapter Joshua learned by experience that being Divinely called to service was not always to undertake a pleasant task; yet, on the other hand, it was not always to see successive difficult experiences heaped upon one another, such as how Job was afflicted. As an example, we recall the great storm in Matthew chapter 8 and Mark chapter 4, when the disciples thought they were going to a watery grave, but they were delivered from it. Joshua also saw the practical outworking of the commands and character of God, which had been taught to him when he was with Moses on the mount, Exodus chapter 24.
In coming to this story we move very quickly from the ‘mountain top’ to the ‘depths of the valley’; from victory at Jericho to defeat at Ai. This raises the question: what were the circumstances that led to the defeat and the stones being erected?
Disaster of Carnality
Defeat was the result of the low spiritual state of the nation, not their weakness, nor their enemies’ strength. Well known are the verses that prove the truth of the statement that “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die” Rom.8.13. It can be seen repeatedly in the Book of Judges, for example: “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon …” Judg.3.12; “And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin …” Judg.4.1,2.
When good men are taken home to glory, spiritual departure can ensue. We scarcely know what we owe to Godly leaders. Paul warned: “after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” Acts 20.29. There are those who would try to exploit what they see as a vacancy in leadership to their own advantage and not for the benefit of the saints. Perhaps if they knew the heartache involved, there would be less clamour for overseership. It is good to live so that we will be missed: not like a headache or a nuisance! Such a saint was Dorcas, Acts chapter 9. Is the marked decline in so many lands, both politically and spiritually, due to our weakness? This weakness is not because we do not know, but because we do not obey!
Danger in Victory
There is a great danger in the hour of victory. The nation was victorious as they defeated Jericho, and then they went against Ai. They were puffed up with the pride of victory. We must keep an eye even on the ‘small’ enemy. We learn important lessons from several “little” things in Scripture: a little city, a little coat, a little honey, little foxes, a little leaven, etc. We may ask: how much evil is required to turn God away from us? The answer is: just as much as is not judged.
We should note principles we learn from the time of the Lord’s temptation in the wilderness: in Matthew chapter 4 we see that it came after the proclamation, “This is My beloved Son”. Note that here the statement begins “This …”, showing that it was when He was in the public eye. In Mark chapter 1 we read, “Thou art My beloved Son”. Here it begins “Thou …”, thus it came when He was enjoying personal communion. In Luke chapter 4 we read, “Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan”, so it came when He was in the path of obedience. It is important also to note Lk.4.2: “being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days He did eat nothing: and when they were ended, He afterward hungered”, showing that the devil will attack when we are physically weak. Though, unlike us, there was no possibility of the Lord succumbing to Satan’s attacks, nevertheless, these things have lessons for us, as we face dangers from the same foe.
In the case in Joshua chapter 7, there was no felt need of prayer on the part of the people. Ai was a small place and they were overconfident because they underestimated the power of the enemy. We must always depend on the Lord. If we cannot pray about a matter we should not be involved. Paul says, “in every thing by prayer …” Phil.4.6. Sadly, we can arrange, plan, set up committees, etc., and inadvertently arrange God out of such endeavours.
As we ponder these things, the following Scriptures are enlightening: Num.27.21, regarding Joshua, “he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation”; Josh.9.14,15, respecting the Gibeonites, “the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them …” David went to face Goliath in what naturally appeared to be a suicide mission, but he did not trust in the arm of the flesh: “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts” 1Sam.17.45.
Defilement in Secret
When sin is committed, whether public or private, it is enough to withhold the blessing of God. It is also clear that individual sin affects the company, since no progress will be made, or victory enjoyed. Do we only live right when we are in the company of spiritual people? Such an attitude is really the seedbed of hypocrisy. We need convictions beyond the fear or respect of brethren. We read, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” 1Pet.1.16. The quotation is from Lev.11.44: “ye shall be holy; for I am holy”. There, it is in the context of food, that is, what we assimilate; it is also quoted in Lev.19.2, regarding religion, that is, what we adore. The clear teaching is that we shall become like that with which we are occupied.
All who have been and are used of God are holy, illustrated, for example, in the priests and their use of the laver, and the plate on the mitre of the high priest, bearing the words “Holiness to the Lord” Ex.39.30.
Detection of Hypocrisy
We cannot escape the Lord’s scrutiny. We may be ever so clever and seek to cover all sin, but we cannot have the approval of God when our lives are not right. In the collective sense also, we cannot hope to escape the eye of God: “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” Heb.4.13. Consider carefully the following Scriptures: Ps.90.8; Ps.139.1-4; Job 34.21; Rev.1.14; Jer.23.24. One day it will
all be revealed: “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be
revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known” Lk.12.2. Refer also to Rom.2.16. We need to cry, “… cleanse Thou me from secret faults” Ps.19.12. See also Ps.139.23. Hypocrisy is a great sin, pretending to be what we are not; living a lie. That is what Achan did: he just lived as
if nothing had happened; the defeat never caused him any concern.
Where there is no chastisement it is likely that there is no salvation; see Heb.12.5-10.
What will recover this situation? We shall now see.
Dignity in Authority
Godly leadership is now required, and we ask: what kind of man could help? Joshua is that man, and his qualifications all have clear spiritual applications to us:
A Man who Received Communications
Joshua was one who had received a book; one book: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” Josh.1.8. For us too, spiritual prosperity and effective service depend on our reading, meditating upon, speaking, and doing all that is in one Book, God’s Word. See the following supportive Scriptures: Col.3.16; 1Tim.4.15; Matt.7.24; Jn.14.21; Jms.1.22.
A Man who Conquered the Flesh
“Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, ‘Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed … And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” Ex.17.8-13.
Joshua defeated Amalek (who, as we have seen, pictures the flesh) before he faced the situation with Achan. We learn the lesson that if we are to deal with carnality in others, we must first deal with it in our own lives. We cannot judge in others what we fail to judge in ourselves.
A Man of Conviction
Joshua valued the place of the name and this marked him even as a young man: “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle” Ex.33.11. As we have seen, this was a temporary place, but it was
there that the presence of the Lord abode, and Joshua did not leave it.
Do we have that degree of conviction regarding the New Testament assembly, the place of which the Lord Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” Matt.18.20?
A Man of Courage
Joshua had already demonstrated courage, as we have seen in his being prepared to be in the minority when dealing with the reports of the spies, Numbers chapter 14. Later in the Book of Joshua, we read further evidence of his courage, in the list of the thirty-one kings conquered by him, Josh.12.9-24. Now, in facing this grave situation in chapter 7, courage is needed on the part of Joshua, as it always is for one seeking to stand for what is right, under difficult circumstances.
A Man Confirmed by God
At the crossing of Jordan we read that “on that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” Josh.4.14. It was evident that he was approved of God. It must be so for every servant of God. When it is announced that a brother is to be commended to the grace of God for the work of the Lord, it ought not to be a surprise to the assembly.
A Man of Communion
When the difficulty arose, “Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, ‘Alas, O Lord God …’” Josh.7.6,7. Here was a man of prayer, who brought the matter to God. All who have been anything for God have been marked by prayer. It has been remarked, sadly, and perhaps truthfully, that we preach more than we pray!
A Man of Co-operation
Joshua was one who worked with his brethren. In earlier years, he had learned from working with the older man, Moses, and he had worked harmoniously with Caleb. Here, faced with the defeat at Ai, as just quoted, he “fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel” Josh.7.6. In the following chapter we read that “Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai” 8.10. Our Lord Jesus chose fishermen to be with Him, and likely one of the reasons was because such men knew how to pull together. Paul enjoined the Philippians that they should “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” Phil.1.27.
A Man Concerned for the Glory of God
“O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?” Josh.7.8,9. Often we are more concerned for ourselves and our reputation than being concerned as to how assembly decisions would affect the name of the Lord.
Distance from Iniquity
God responded to Joshua: “Israel hath sinned” 7.11. God cannot have fellowship with sin. Note that He did not say, ‘Achan hath sinned’, because the people were one. No man lives to himself: our lives in the home, business, leisure, college, etc. all affect the testimony. This is a day of lax morals, and we must ever live in the light of what we read in Ps.89.7: “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.” In the same vein are Isa.66.2 and Heb.12.28,29. A grasp of the truth of these verses and their application to our behaviour would revolutionise our general attitude in assembly gatherings.
Duty in Activity
There is a time to pray and a time to act: “the Lord said unto Joshua, ‘Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?’” Josh.7.10. It may seem strange to many when we hear and learn that there are things we do not need to pray about; we just need to obey. In this particular situation, it was not immediately revealed who was guilty, and this would give exercise to all, and all would fear before the Lord. In the Upper Room the disciples, asked, “Lord, who is it?” Jn.13.25.
In Josh.7.26 we read that “that place was called, ‘The valley of Achor [‘Trouble’],’ unto this day.” Other Scriptures will highlight the intensity and seriousness of the “trouble” that was involved: 1Chr.2.7; Josh.6.18; 7.25; 1Kgs.18.17. It defiled the camp and spelled death to Achan’s family, as intimated in Josh.22.20: “Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.”
Drive to Mastery
Sin having been dealt with, the nation was now ready to have victory over Ai. “For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai” 8.26. Victory can be achieved, but only on the basis that sin is judged. Achan is stoned and the camp is cleansed, which illustrates 1Cor.5.13: “put away from among yourselves that wicked person”.
This judgment was not a fanciful decree of Joshua; on the contrary, God was in control: “the Lord said unto Joshua, ‘Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land’” Josh.8.1. Hence, resulting from that victory, there were two contrasting structures of stones:
Stones of retribution: “And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day” 8.29;
Stones of devotion: “As Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings” 8.31.
Nor is that the last that we read in the Scriptures of the valley of Achor, the place of “trouble”. It may seem to us to go against the grain that the place which had been a source of calamity would be a source of blessing; however, we note Isa.65.10, where the valley of Achor is spoken of as “a place for the herds to lie down in”, and Hos.2.15, where it is called “a door of hope”. In these Scriptures it is indicated that all chastisement associated with that place is over.
Finally we come to the end of the record of the life of Joshua, and we observe:
In vv.14-16 we read of the choice of Joshua, especially v.15: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
What did he preach at the end of his days? Did he indicate that he had wasted his life and that he regretted his decisions? No indeed; rather, he counselled the people to live as he had done:
Sanctification: “fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth …” v.14;
Separation: “put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt” v.14;
Service: “choose you this day whom ye will serve” v.15;
Selection: “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” v.15.
Thus, we read the last of the references to stones in association with Joshua: the stone of attestation: “Joshua … took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said unto all the people, ‘Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which He spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God’” vv.26,27.
We learn from 24.31 that Joshua’s counsel was followed: “And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that He had done for Israel.” Joshua spent his last days enjoying a well-earned rest, as noted by A. McShane.3
- 3 McShane, A., ibid.
What a legacy! What a servant! What are we leaving? Among Joshua’s last words were those of good advice, not only for those whom he was then addressing, but for us too: “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord” Josh.24.14.