The Bible is a story, and Joshua is a small part of that story. This is a story that’s largely about redemption. God created, it was ruined, and he sets out to fix (or redeem) his creation. But this is also a story about extreme faithfulness. God remains faithful to people that betrayed him, he remains faithful to a nation that wouldn’t obey him, and he remains faithful to followers that fail him every day. The bit of this story found in Joshua sits at a vital juncture between God’s plan of redemption and his faithfulness. Let’s trace God’s story up to where we meet Joshua.
The Bible begins with something truly beautiful. God decided to create. He created to bring glory to himself, setting the beginning of both time and space into motion. He filled this space with existence, a beautiful universe and a spectacular world that he filled with countless other marvelous creations. As the final act of God’s creation, humanity was made in the very image of God. This image means that we were created to reflect our God within his creation, serving as his representative rulers on earth. However, we failed in our role as image bearers. Instead of ruling over creation, we listened to the deceit of the serpent and reached for something God did not yet intend for us to have. Our failure brought sin and corruption into God’s creation. But the next thing to happen is one of the greatest moments in history. God didn’t quit on us. He could have wiped the slate clean and started fresh, but he chose to remain faithful to his creation. He chose to work toward the redemption of his creation with us.
For a long time after the fall, humanity continued to forsake God. Nevertheless, God remained faithful, but he needed to answer the problem of the human condition. He did so by raising up a single man named Abram. He promised to make an extraordinary nation out of Abram’s descendants. They would get to be a major part in God’s story and his plan to fix his creation. That nation would be used by God to bless and redeem all of creation.
Unfortunately, only a few generations into God’s plan, Abraham’s people found themselves exiled and enslaved in the land of Egypt. God had been faithful in his promise to give Abraham numerous descendants. His family grew quickly in number until they outnumbered their Egyptian captors. However, Abraham’s people were still without the land God had promised to them. In his faithfulness, God had not forgotten his promises, and he rescued his people using a man named Moses. With Moses, God led his people (also known as the Israelites) out of Egypt so that they could claim the land he had promised to them.
Despite what God had already done for his people, they were unfaithful to him before they could even reach the promised land. God was angry with his people. He was angry because he continued to provide for a people that seemed to have little interest in faithfully following him. In response, God threatened to wipe them out and begin a new nation through Moses. Thankfully, there was still some faithfulness to be found within the ranks of the Israelites. On Mt. Sinai, Moses met with God and plead on behalf of the people. God was so impressed by Moses’ faithfulness that he renewed the covenant he had made with Abraham with Moses right on top of the mountain. This time God also provided Moses with instructions for what his people should look like. This was his law to the Israelites.
The story continues and it now takes a pessimistic turn. God’s people repeatedly returned to unfaithfulness during their slow journey through the desert to the promised land. Even with the law telling them exactly how God’s people should look, they continued to fail. Though God was continually faithful to them, why couldn’t God’s people get it together and live up to their calling to bless all of creation? They simply weren’t capable and never would be capable to do this alone. Once again, knowing they would never follow through, God could have abandoned his people. If we’re being honest with ourselves, this is probably the route many of us would take. God doesn’t. He chooses to remain faithful to his people despite their failures. He will provide the promised land to them, and he will provide a Savior who can bless all of creation.
This is where the book of Joshua picks up, in camps hovering on the edge of Canaan (the promised land). Moses is now dead, but God is still faithful to his people. He raised up a new leader, Joshua, and roused his people. It is time they retake their land, establishing themselves as a nation based upon God’s law, and become a faithful means of blessing to the world.