For 40 years, Israel had journeyed a circuitous route through the wilderness, but not because they were following their leader. Quite the opposite was true—with failing faith, they had refused to obey God and to conquer Canaan. So they wandered. Finally, the new generation was ready to cross the Jordan and possess the land. Having distinguished himself as a man of faith and courage (he and Caleb gave the minority scout report recorded in Numbers 13:30–14:9), Joshua was chosen to be Moses’ successor. This book records Joshua’s leadership of the people of God as they finish their march and conquer the Promised Land.
Joshua was a brilliant military leader and a strong spiritual influence. But the key to his success was his submission to God. When God spoke, Joshua listened and obeyed. Joshua’s obedience served as a model. As a result, Israel remained faithful to God throughout Joshua’s lifetime.
The book of Joshua is divided into two main parts. The first narrates the events surrounding the conquest of Canaan. After crossing the Jordan River on dry ground, the Israelites camped near the mighty city of Jericho. God commanded the people to conquer Jericho by marching around the city 13 times, blowing trumpets, and shouting. Because they followed God’s unique battle strategy, they won (chapter 6).
After the destruction of Jericho, they set out against the small town of Ai. Their first attack was driven back because one of the Israelites (Achan) had sinned (chapter 7).
After the men of Israel stoned Achan and his family—purging the community of its sin—the Israelites succeeded in capturing Ai (chapter 8). In their next battle against the Amorites, God even made the sun stand still to aid them in their victory (chapter 10). Finally, after defeating other assorted Canaanites led by Jabin and his allies (chapter 11), they possessed most of the land.
Part two of the book of Joshua records the assignment and settlement of the captured territory (chapters 13–22). The book concludes with Joshua’s farewell address and his death (chapters 23–24).
Joshua was committed to obeying God, and this book is about obedience. Whether conquering enemies or settling the land, God’s people were required to do it God’s way. In his final message to the people, Joshua underscored the importance of obeying God. “So be very careful to love the LORD your God” (23:11), and “choose today whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD” (24:15).
The Book of Joshua teaches that the fulfillment of God’s promises of blessing to Israel depend on their cooperation. The blessings of victory, inheritance, abundant provision, peace, and rest all came to the people of God as they obeyed Him. Faithful meditation on His Word and faithful obedience to His commands are the key to blessing and abundance (1:8). Near the end of his book, also, Joshua called the people to a life of obedience and faith (22:5).
Today, this abiding trust provides a clear foundation for our growth and blessing. As surely as blessing follows obedience, judgment follows disobedience. Achan’s sin reveals the principle that no man lives to himself (ch. 7), but the sin of one affects the lives of many. God hates sin and is just as faithful to punish the disobedient as He is to bless the steadfast.
These principles of blessing and cursing are object lessons for us on our pathway to maturity. Joshua’s life and leadership demonstrated that spiritual maturity is not independence from God, but responsive dependence on God. To be victorious, we must surrender to Him; to lead others, we must follow Him.
The Book of Joshua provides other valuable lessons:
attitudes essential for God-given victory
principles of leadership
the fatal result of pride
the relevance of memorials
God’s faithfulness to His Word examples of His miracle power.
Read Joshua and make a fresh commitment to obey God today. Decide to follow your Lord wherever he leads and whatever it costs.