When you hear the phrase: “Joshua Come Blow Your Horn,” who do you think about? Do you think of a slave, a spy, an optimist, a warrior, humility, submissiveness, courage, a leader, obedience, piety? Or all those traits? That is the Joshua of the Bible.
This next literary section of the Bible is on Christianity’s historical legacy found in the Old Testament, to me the two are a shared testament (both O.T. and N.T.) of Christianity’s collective roots. In this book is the fulfillment of God’s promise of Israel entering the Promised Land. The land is also enemy territory. The Hebrew name Joshua is Yeshua, whose name means “God is salvation” and is the Greek word for Jesus. The name foreshadows traits of Christ as the commander of the Lord’s army.
Joshua was born into Egyptian slavery. As Moses’ understudy, he witnessed the miraculous wonders of the Red Sea Crossing, wandered 40 years in the desert wilderness with a divine provision of daily food (manna and quail) eventually rising to the God-appointed role to lead Israel into the Land of Canaan. He was known as a strong military leader with experience in espionage. God used Joshua to performed miracles: the parting of the Jordan River and the fall of Jericho’s walls among others. When he stepped up to fill Moses shoe’s, Joshua was around fifty-five. Up until then, he is a strong testimony of mentoring with Moses. It took seven years to complete twelve conquests to acquire the land of Canaan. The epitaph on Joshua at the end of this book reads he was the servant of the Lord. Before he died the people renewed their covenant with God but the ways of the people who were not driven out of the land were underestimated and is shown in the downfall of the period of Judges.
While in the land of Canaan, the people again go through the parting of waters of the Jordan River. Beneath the waters of the river are 12 stones (representing the twelve tribes of Israel). Joshua left the stones as a designated altar to remember what happened here. This is the same river of Jesus’s baptism. Joshua’s life reflects the journey of a Christian. Joshua went from slavery (our enslavement is to our sins) in Egypt to freedom in the desert and then to the promised land. We are born and live in the slavery of our selfishness until we put our faith in Jesus. We then live in newness of life as Christians in this world, a place that is not our home. Our promised land is the afterlife in heaven (1 Cor. 15:50-54).
In Joshua, is the account of Rahab. She saw God was with the Jewish people who were invading her country. She wanted to be remembered, along with her relations, as aiding them with a request, in turn, to spare her and her household during the invasion of Jericho. Rahab was a prostitute, a deviant, a woman of the worst order who came to believe in God, so much she put her life on the line for Israelite spies by giving them hidden refuge. God wanted them there too because here was a woman who had a ready heart to receive the truth. The spies sent by Joshua found a place of safety from the enemy and in turn, so did she. The promise to spare Rahab and her household during the attack by the Israelites were honored. Rahab later went on to become the wife of Salmon, (some think she was the mother of Boaz) and the great-great-grandmother of King David, and in turn an ancestor of Jesus.
It’s worth noting that Jews do not proselytize or evangelize, then or now, as a practice of their faith. The idea and appearance of Judaism as unique and spiritually satisfying for those not born into the faith and was a portal that many came through in their conversion.
The twenty-five thousand or so Hebrews are going into a Holy war in enemy territory. Israelite military intelligence discovered the most dangerous spot in Jericho. It was a 9 ½ mile walk around the city of Jericho. Rehab’s house was on that wall. This wall came down when Joshua ordered his priests to blow their horn, and the walls came down. The walls can also metaphorically represent both a physical impediment as well as an unseen obstacle. This wall, or barrier, or whatever the impediment, is a symbolic awareness of the paradox of tension followers of Jesus live. The tension comes from the evil that is in direct opposition to the nature of God. Entering into a relationship with God is to be a part of this world yet apart from it at the same time. (Jn.17:16). We live in a world that is under the influence of this evil.
When everyone in my family flew the coop, emptying my nest at a culminating point, I discovered new chores I previously didn’t have to do. One such was getting the trash out to the curb for the scheduled refuse pick up. I would get it out of the house during the week to its holding place, still not making it to the curb. I was living in an area that had nocturnal animals from the bluff across the street from my house; my trash bags would be an open invitation for dinner resulting in a bigger mess thanks to the hungry varmints. I went so far as to buy a small storage unit container, another holding place to store the trash postponing the inevitable of getting the garbage out for pick up day. Then as trash will do, the smell got stronger and grosser day by day. I am embarrassed to say how long it took me to get into the routine of getting my trash out for pickup. To me, this is a vivid foreshadowing of unconfessed sin. It piles up. Then it turns into baggage. I move mine around to a holding place. Thankfully I eventually figured out I need to get rid of it by confessing it, letting it go and not repeating the offense.
Now, I am diligent about my getting my garbage out, to the point I wash out my garbage containers and recycle, with the latter not mandated in my area. Serendipity for me now is my neighbor who kindly and independently volunteers to bring my empty trash container back to their place near the house after the pickup. That too is a foreshadowing of God’s love, how he works in handling my garbage (symbolizing my transgressions) knowing there will be more in the future so here’s the empty container to dump it all in to be taken away. I wonder if my holding on to my “garbage” is the thought of God taking on my trash is a difficult request to ask the Almighty. The point is He is happy to do it.
In Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (by writers Engen, Gilliland, Glasser, and Redford), is found the perfect definition of the kingdom. Some say the unifying biblical theme is the “Kingdom”. I read “Kingdom” and “Jesus” as synonymous. It’s the knowledge that the kingdom is now (while living on earth) as part of the eternal kingdom as well. Eternity means forever, not later. Forever includes this nanosecond (in the grand scheme of eternal time ) moment known as “right now” and what’s left of earthly life. Through and in Jesus comes an introduction of the yielding to a new order reflecting “redemption accomplished.” It points to the already present; it proves to be the enjoyment of tomorrow today; it encompasses those good things Jesus provides (our identity, forgiveness of sins, to enter one on one prayer in his presence, acquiring peace of mind that goes beyond understanding). It demands a willingness to live consciously and experiencing the ups and downs of life, taking the suffering with the joy. Life on earth is full of paradox when choosing to live in God’s Kingdom. We live in the valleys of mundane and on mountain tops of spiritual ecstasy. It does become easier over time when yielding to God’s leading. It becomes easier to yield if we can trust what He is doing in real time and be willing to follow Him wherever He leads us. Listening and watching for this can be difficult especially when we want the certainty of the outcome beforehand of what God’s doing. He breaks our hearts first then calls us to be a part of the restorative work he’s doing. It is in this brokenness of my heart, explained in other accounts from my life recorded here, that he ended up using me.
The Kingdom is in consummation today, on earth, with the final event still to come. Some of those moments of what life ecstasy with others can indeed mean, not to mention our periods of healing, or the growth in our spiritual awareness, as a tiny foretaste of what is to come. Believers can live in the kingdom now; not an event to postpone. It’s in living life between the already and the not yet.
As I write the above, it is on the church calendar day of celebrating the Reformation. The song commemorating it A Mighty Fortress is Our God by Martin Luther.
“And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.”
Many think liar is the “one little word shall fell him”, an accusation that stops Satan in his tracks.
Four hundred and fifty years (cf. Gen. 15:13, Ex. 12:40) years have passed by the time of the end of this book before God honors His promise of entrance into Canaan. Not only did Joshua contend with the conquering the land, but also for twenty-five more years he grappled with lingering spiritual warfare.
Spiritual warfare may come across sounding like a category in science fiction. Often new believers think once converted that everything is going to go smoothly forward in their life. I was part of a difficult scenario once within a group who laid hands on someone praying for their physical healing. I struggled with it because first I don’t, nor do many others, have the miraculous gift of curing people that way. However, in this public setting, I succumbed to participating, praying for God to be glorified. I didn’t want to put limits on God and how he works. I have heard of miraculous healings but have never personally witnessed it. I wondered when these kinds of prayer seem to go unanswered, what is the reaction or interpretation of the recipient who received such an outcome? And what about those that fervently but didn’t get the job, their mom died of cancer, their child was stillborn, or they ended up in a car crash that left them permanently disabled?
Once Pastor told me after taking the spiritual gift assessment, that he answered that he had experienced the gifts of miracles from his witness of medical healing through prayer, that medically was unexplainable.
Our desired outcome for prayer doesn’t determine if it was successful or not. Response to prayer is a supernatural one when we often lift prayers that we have no way of grasping the consequences or impact it might have on if it is granted.
Theologian and author in the Quaker tradition Richard Foster says “For those explorers in the frontiers of faith, prayer was no little habit tacked on to the periphery of their lives; it was their lives. It was the most serious work of their most productive years. Prayer—nothing draws us closer to the heart of God.”
Would those praying experience unworthiness if healing doesn’t occur? Would the thing that should provide unshakable confidence, that should strengthen our faith in Christ, become a source of shame if our faith isn’t “strong enough” to beat the illness? Could dysphoria set in about not being good enough for a miracle to occur? God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8).
For me it’s not a case of a lack of information but a lack of meaning. I wonder about many questions, although God isn’t always inclined to answer them. Rabbi Harold Kushner says one way to get over some of the humps of unanswered questions is to change the adverb “why” to the pronoun “what.” What should I do in this situation instead of why this situation?
Faith is a restless form of knowledge (Anselm, ca. 1053-1109). Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel told his college students: “I still have questions for God and I still have problems with God, absolutely. But it is within faith, not outside faith, and surely not opposed to faith.” In Luther’s words, believers have never become but are always becoming (through sanctification, regeneration, renewal, and discipleship).
God is more interested in my transformation. My salvation is not based on this transformation. It is an unconditional gift is unearned. God always answers prayer. I’ve found the perfect intervention to pray is “Thy will be done.” His answers are either no, yes or wait for his perfect timing. Another prayer dialogue is to ask to make whatever the situation is to count for his glory as Rahab did. Author Wayne Dyer says we pray not to influence God granting personal favors but rather as a reminder that we are always connected to God.
C. S. Lewis summarizes that if you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: consider it instead as a place of training and correction. It’s as if believers are in exile for a short period of our life here on earth; we are heaven bound refugees, like the Jewish Diaspora of the Old Testament.