Joshua: God is Faithful to Fulfill His Promises

God's Story in Scripture  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  50:36
0 ratings

Positioned as the continuation of the narrative of the Pentateuch, Joshua depicts the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham and the Israelites as they enter into the land. During this process, God displays His character through His interactions with Joshua and the Israelites.


The book of Joshua is, in many ways, the culmination of the the narrative of the Pentateuch - the first five books of the Bible. Over the last several weeks, we’ve observed big historical events - as we’ve called them the Cs of History:
Creation - as God started it all - creating the Universe and the Earth
Corruption - as sin entered into the world through man’s rebellion - essentially corrupting all of creation
Catastrophe - In response to the extreme wickedness of humans - God flooded the earth
Confusion - as God confused languages, forcing people to populate the earth more fully in various groups
Calling - as God called Abraham, Jacob, and Moses
Covenant - when God entered into covenants with the patriarchs and the people of Israel
Consecration - in the wilderness, God was establishing them as a people, set apart to Him - distinct among the nations.
Eventually we’ll get to...
Now that the people have been consecrated, or set apart, the book of Joshua seems to tell the story of another C - Conquest - as the people of Israel move into the land that God had promised to Abraham so many years earlier.
If you are visiting with us, we are in the midst of a series of sermons that overview books of the Bible. In doing this, we’re trying to zoom out and see the grand story that God is telling in each of these books and how that weaves its way into the broader work that God is doing in history and into the future. We don’t normally take an entire book in one sermon, but for the purposes of this series, this seems like the best way to consider the texts.
As we look at the book of Joshua today - we’re going to summarize and discuss a bit of what happened there, but we’re also going to look at it in way that will allow us to see how God worked in the lives of the Israelites and how He works in a similar way in our lives today.
So as we begin, we get to see how...

God prepares His people for His calling (ch. 1-5)

The opening chapters of Joshua chronicle the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua and the advancement of the people across the Jordan river. In these days/weeks, God seems to be doing a lot to prepare the people to step into the calling that he has placed before them. It certainly seems like He is preparing Joshua personally and the people corporately.
Personal Preparation (1:1-9)
There is something quite beautiful and intimate and inspiring about these opening verses in the book. God has a clear conversation with Joshua - giving him insight into the future, but also reassuring him of some things.
Joshua 1:2–4 ESV
“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.
God makes the command clear - go into the land. There are many more details that follow, but the command to go forward is clear.
He then goes on to say...
Joshua 1:5 ESV
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
What a beautiful reassurance that God gives here. For over 40 years, Joshua got to see how God interacted with Moses. He got a front row seat to the way that God transmitted the laws. He got to see how God corrected the Israelites and how he protected them. And now, God is communicating to Joshua that He will move forward with him in the same manner.
I wonder, how often do we need to be reminded about the presence of the Lord? How often to we get so overwhelmed by the tasks before us that we fail to remember just how closely God is walking with us?
But God doesn’t just leave it there. I think there is something that He is revealing about Joshua’s character and personality in this. Maybe I’m reading a bit into this but I wonder if there weren’t some insecurities that Joshua has - insecurities that God is urging Joshua to press through.
Joshua 1:6–9 ESV
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Over the years, Danielle and I have loved to read and study about the various ways that people are wired differently. There are a myriad of ways that different authors and researchers have sought to describe and categorize people - noting the strengths and weaknesses that seem to go along with various personality types. I love that in these verses, God seems to be addressing natural fearful tendencies that seem to be plaguing Joshua. Maybe this is part of his personality, maybe this is simply because the task before him is daunting - in any case, 3 times God tells him to be strong and courageous, and then again reiterates that God would be with Him.
In addition to preparing Joshua personally, there are some things that God does to
Prepare the People Corporately (1:10-5:15)
In these chapters, God establishes Joshua as the leader and the people willingly submit to his authority.
Joshua then sends a couple of spies into the land to spy out the land. In this time, they learn that God had placed fear in the lives of the people of Jericho and the rest of the land (2:9-13). The testimony of the spies reassures the people that they can move forward in confidence.
Then, just as Moses led the people to cross the Red Sea - so Joshua led the people to cross the Jordan while it was a flood stage. God stopped up the water upstream, allowing the people to cross on dry ground.
In response, Joshua leads the people to set up stones of remembrance - twelve stones that would become a testimony of what God had done. This is the first time (in chapter 4) that the people set up these memorials. We find that there are seven times in total throughout the book of Joshua that these memorials are set up - we’ll come back to these a bit later.
After setting up the memorial stones, the men of this next generation were circumcised - the sign that God had called for all of Abraham’s descendents. They also observed the Passover on the plains of Jericho.
Joshua then has an encounter with an angel of the Lord - who instructs him in how to proceed.
So in these opening chapters, God prepared Joshua for the work that was before Him. God also prepared the people to enter in.
(talk about the preparation in Jace, me, PBC - for this transition)
So after preparing the people, in the next section of the book of Joshua we see that...

God allows His people to demonstrate obedience (ch. 6-12)

These chapters really chronicle the conquest of the land.
Jericho - marching around for seven days (once each day and then seven times on the final day) - walls fall, and all in the city are devoted to destruction - plunder is to be set aside for the Lord - as the sort of first fruits - one commentator said this:
“The contents of Jericho were to be given “to the Lord” as the firstfruits of the land. Just as the firstfruits of a crop, given to the Lord, pointed to more crops to come, so the conquest of Jericho signified that Israel would receive all of Canaan from Him. No loot from Jericho was to be taken by the people.”
Campbell, Donald K. “Joshua.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 341. Print.
Achan - secretly takes some plunder - causing the Israelites to be defeated in the next battle - they failed to obey.
The nation repents, Achan and his family are punished
AI - the people win this time, and get to keep the plunder.
The Israelites renew the covenant - at Shechem
People from Gibeon deceive the Israelite leaders - rather than conferring with the Lord, they believe the story of these people and enter into an agreement with them.
The sun stood still for a day during one battle
The Israelites continued to defeat cities, driving out many before them.
By the end of chapter 12, several years had passed and the people generally had taken possession of the land that God had promised to them.
This section of the book is very challenging for us to read. When we read that cities were devoted to destruction - some of the cities were burned completely, some of them were plundered, in many cases the entire population was destroyed. It seems cruel that God would call for all of the people of a town or region to be utterly destroyed - and yet this seems to be what God commanded the people to do.
Deuteronomy 18:9–14 ESV
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.
Earlier this week, I sent out a note to several people, asking that they pray for me regarding preparing the sermon as this point became a particularly challenging one to consider.
Commentators differ on what actually happened. Some say that the language in Joshua is hyperbole and that it is an exaggerated way to communicate victory and then talk about how there seems to be inconsistencies as the cities were destroyed but then later people were driven out.
It seems like God was using the people of Israel as source of judgment on the Canaanites because of the “abominable practices.” We don’t get to know what kind of outreach or call to repentance that God may have sent into Canaan ahead of time - but we can surmise that their practices were so deeply engrained that God wanted Israel to purge it completely. Another commentator said:
“In view of the corrupting influence of the Canaanite religion, especially with its religious prostitution … and infant sacrifice, it was impossible for pure faith and worship to be maintained in Israel except by the complete elimination of the Canaanites themselves” (A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.) Chicago: Moody Press, 1994, p. 297)
Campbell, Donald K. “Joshua.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 342. Print.
Does this mean that we should utterly destroy those who are practicing similar things? No - I believe this was a specific command given to Israel for this specific time.
Let’s consider a couple of the issues that seem to correlate to us today:
Abortion: While I do think that abortion is a terrible practice and is a blight on our society, I don’t believe we should go outside of the law to hurt those in the abortion industry or even ostracize those who have had abortions. I believe that we live under a mandate to love those who are far from God, to communicate grace. I think we should continue to pray for people on both sides of that issue. I think we should also continue to support places like the Rockville Women’s center, Shady Grove Pregnancy center, and the Germantown Pregnancy center. These centers are providing a means of hope for women in need.
Prostitution, Pornography, and Human Trafficking: Cult prostitution was something that was prominent in Canaan and the surrounding region. We may not have prostitution as a part of religious practices, but we do find that prostitution, pornography, and human trafficking as industries that enslave people on all sides. I believe we need to do what we can to rescue people from that, to legally shut down institutions that promote those. We also need to be vigilant as a church to purge it from us - if it is something that enslaves any us. If you struggle with sins in this area - namely things like pornography, let me encourage you to confess it to someone you trust - someone who can lovingly, directly, and prayerfully help you stay accountable.
I realize that these are in some ways just a minor part of the book of Joshua - but one thing we find is that these practices ended up destroying the people of Israel at later times. They fell back into cult prostitution and child sacrifice - because they did not deal with it appropriately.
There is one final thing that I’d like to say on this. When you look at how God worked in the lives of the Israelites and consider how we works in our lives today, they are really quite similar.
Grace precedes obedience.
God called Abraham, established a covenant with him and then tested his obedience.
God called the Israelites out of slavery, entered into a covenant with them, and then called them to obedience.
With us, God called us out of sin and into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. We became aware of our sin and repented of it. Our moral actions should be a response to God’s love and grace in our lives.
While I believe that Christian values and virtues are good for our society, we need to walk a careful line. We need to call our society to repentance. We need to proclaim the holiness, love, and grace of God, and even the future judgment - but I think we need to do so from a standpoint of relationship. Call people with Grace first, then expect obedience.
(concept gleaned from Pete Enns podcast on Exodus)
Look at what Jesus did with the woman who was caught in adultery:
John 8:3–11 ESV
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Jesus showed her grace and then called her to obedience. Let’s follow his example.
That being said - back in Joshua - it appears that whatever grace God had showed to the Canaanites had run out. There came a time for judgment and so God used the people of Israel to that end.
Which brings us to the last half of the book. Now that Joshua and the people have been prepared and have obediently followed God’s commands, we get to see that...

God fulfills His promises (ch. 13-21)

In Genesis 15, God entered into a covenant with Abraham and communicated to him a good summary of what we’ve studied in this scriptures so far.
Genesis 15:13–16 ESV
Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
So now several hundred years later, the iniquity of the Amorites (the people in Canaan) has been completed and has been punished. God ushered the people into the land. In chapters 13-21 - we see the division of the land. Each tribe is given an allotment of land, with the exception of the Levites, who are given certain cities in each tribe.
There are times when it seems like God is slow in fulfilling his promises to us. When will His kingdom be fully established on earth? When will people from every nation, tribe, and tongue worship the one true God? When will the new heavens and the new earth be ushered in?
In his perfect time. Be patient, be faithful, be vigilant until he comes.
In the final chapters we see that...

God provides His people rest (ch. 22-24)

Joshua 23:1–3 ESV
A long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years. And 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.
Just as Moses did in the end of Deuteronomy, so Joshua here gives a sort of final farewell address. He clearly calls the people to walk in obedience and leads them in a renewal of the covenant.
Joshua 24:14–15 ESV
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua then sets up one final memorial stone as a witness for the people.
Joshua 24:28 ESV
So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.
God had provided rest for the people and they were sent to their homes to live in this rest. To enjoy the inheritance that God had prepared for them.

Concluding thoughts:

As we close, I want to bring a couple of things home...
On living in light of the book of Joshua
We’ve discussed four thing that God did in the lives of the Israelites as we considered the book of Joshua. I believe that God is still working in us in similar ways.
God prepares us for the work that he has called us to do - we have already considered this briefly, but let me encourage you to pay careful attention to your life. Take time to reflect on what God is doing and even ask him to help you understand how he is working, what he is preparing you for.
God allows us to demonstrate obedience - will we follow him obediently? As God has been working in each of us and as he has been working in us as a church, we need to prayerfully consider what he’s calling us to do and willingly obey - even if it is a bit difficult. This might be the way that we love and serve our community. This might be how we proclaim his glory at work. It may even be in grand things such as serving in church as an elder or deacon or teacher or even with the coffee fellowship. it might be serving God on the mission field.
We get to trust that God is faithful to fulfill his promises - he is not slow. Trust, wait, believe.
God provides us rest - now and in eternity. There is a spiritual rest that we get to have as believers - a peace that we can walk in because we know that God is sovereign and that our salvation is secure. There is also an eternal rest that we get to enjoy when our time on earth is completed as we enter into the presence of our Savior.
On authorship - The first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses. Traditionally this book is attributed to Joshua. Ultimately, we don’t know for sure. There are elements that I believe were written down by them. There are also some phrases such as “here to this day” (Joshua 4:9; 5:9; 6:25…). It is difficult to know when “this day” is, but it is clearly some time later. There are some who suggest that Ezra and his contemporaries may have had a hand in compiling and editing this material as a means of codifying the law for the people as they returned from the Exile. There is no clear way of knowing, but I think it’s important that we consider the message that God is communicating through these books - He is a Sovereign God who governs over the affairs of humans and calls people into relationship with Him through covenants. He is still doing that today!
On Memorials:
We mentioned earlier that there are seven times through the book of Joshua that people set up stones of remembrance. Here is a brief listing of them:
Stones of Remembrance:
Gilgal - 4:20 - as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to bring them into the Promised land
Over Achan - 7:26 - a reminder of Israel’s potential unfaithfulness
Over the King of Ai - 8:28-29 - a monument to Israel’s second chance and restoration
Mt. Ebal - 8:30-32 - a reminder of Israel’s duty to live in obedience to the divine instruction
Over the Amorite kings at Gibeon - 10:27 - a reminder of God’s gracious action in defending Israel’s covenant
Near the Jordan - 22:34 - a witness to the unity of the Transjordanian tribes with Israel west of the Jordan
Shechem - 24:26-27 - as the people renew their covenant with God.
Source: ESV Study Bible p. 428.
If you’ve ever travelled in the Middle East - you’ll notice piles of rocks all over the place. These become various monuments or memorials. Later in scripture - we find that these are actually referred to as “Ebenezers” - which means - “up to this point, God has helped me.”
You may recognize that name if you remember the “Christmas Carol” and it’s main character Ebenezer Scrooge. If you’ve been downtown in DC, you may have noticed a coffee shop near Union Station called Ebenezer’s. That shop is actually run by a church there. It was actually named because of the way that God had showed himself to be faithful in the life of that church - National Community Church.
You may also recognize that name from the song “Come Thou Fount” in the line that says - “here I raise my ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come.”
When you look back on your life, can you think of particular people, events, and circumstances that God used in your life? Several years ago, inspired by the thought of these memorial stones - I took a stone and met up with my former youth pastor - a guy named Ron Jones. God had used him in a simple, yet profound way in my life. We met over lunch and spent a bit of time catching up. I then presented a simple stone to him - recounted the story of Joshua and the Israelites - and then talked to him about how his gentle spirit, loyalty to the Lord, and love for me was profound in shaping me toward becoming the man that God had called me to be. In many ways, the memorial, instead of being a reminder for me, was a reminder for him - hopefully an encouragement to him - to help him see that God used him in a profound way in my life.
You may have noticed on your notes that there is a place for you to jot down some significant things that God has done in your life. As God brings those to your mind, let me encourage you to write them down and then prayerfully consider a way to memorialize those events. Whether with a stone, some piece of art, or even simply a journal entry - remember and then offer praise to God for it. If you need to communicate it to someone else, then pass it on.
We may not have cultural traditions that cause us to remember things with piles of rocks, but we do have memorials. For us, the cross is our permanent and eternal reminder of what God has done. You see on the cross - God’s justice poured out as allowed His son Jesus Christ to take our punishment. God’s love is demonstrated in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. As we prayed through our time of confession, we were reminded that the Lord laid on him - Jesus, the iniquity of us all.
As you have opportunity, let me encourage you to consider what a difference the cross has made in your life. How would life be different were it not for the cross?
We said earlier that God’s grace precedes His call to obedience. We see that most clearly at the cross. In His grace and mercy, God provided a means for you and I to be in a relationship with him. We don’t have to fix ourselves first, in fact we can’t. We simply come by faith, repent of our sins, and turn and trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Consider this truth from Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:4–10 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
While we were dead - Christ died for us - now we get to walk in the good works that God prepared or us to do.
Let’s pray.
Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more