Joshua is the sixth book of the Bible, written by Joshua, the man who takes over leadership of Israel after Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy.
Joshua tells the story of the Israelites, commanded by God through the leadership of Joshua, and their conquest of and settlement in the Promised Land.
At the end of the book, Joshua repeats the same message Moses delivered to the Israelites: Faithfulness to God leads to life and blessing in the land, while unfaithfulness leads to destruction and exile from the land.
Obedience: More than a dozen times in Joshua, God gives Joshua a command and he immediately obeys. There are also a few times when God gives Joshua a command and he fails to obey. Each time Joshua obeys, Israel is successful in its efforts, and each time Joshua doesn’t obey, Israel fails.
Courage: Five times in Joshua, God tells Israel to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6,7,9,18 and 10:25). God consistently reminds Israel that He is with them, even when things get dangerous. Israel may be small and weak compared to the mighty armies of the Canaanites, but they follow a God who is stronger.
God’s battle against sin: There’s no way around it; there is a lot of violence in Joshua. In chapters 6-12, the Israelites are instructed by God to “totally destroy” the Canaanites. The best way to understand these battles is by first understanding that God hates sin. Sin cannot even exist in God’s presence because He is completely good and holy and sin is the opposite of holiness. God instructs the Israelites to wage war against the Canaanites not because God is a murderer, but because the Canaanites were morally corrupt and refused to worship the one, true God. God knew that if the Canaanites survived, so would idol worship in the land, which would lead to Israel’s devastation and exile from the land.
Joshua 1:8-9: “‘Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’”
Joshua 24:14-15: “‘Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’”
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
The heart of the book of Joshua is the same message told in all the books of the Bible: God’s greatest desire is for people to know Him and worship Him.
Though Joshua is full of stories of the nation of Israel battling other nations, they are just representations of the ultimate battle between God and sin, Satan and death. God wants the Israelites to live and prosper in the Promised Land for a long time, but they cannot do that if they choose to worship themselves or the idols of other nations rather than Him.
These stories are a reflection of the battle Jesus waged on the cross. In His death and resurrection, Jesus fought and won the battle against sin and death. Because the grave could not keep Him, death was defeated.
Now, those who believe in Jesus are assured that the war is over, and they are on the winning side. They have put their faith in the One who has defeated death, and they will share in His victory—eternal life.