Joshua – Entering the Promised Land
by John C. Westervelt
God told Moses to prepare a young Hebrew, Joshua, to assume the leadership of the Israelites upon Moses’ death. Early in the wandering in the wilderness, Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. The spies returned with a single cluster of grapes so large that they carried it on a pole between two men. The spies all agreed that Canaan was a land flowing with milk and honey. Ten of the spies convinced Moses that the inhabitants were too powerful and their cities too well fortified for the Israelites to conquer. Only Joshua and Caleb had faith that the Hebrews could capture the territory promised to them by God. Accepting the majority view, the Israelites continued to wander in the wilderness. As the weeks became months and the months years, the manna tasted more and more bland.
Forty years later, the Israelites were camped on the eastern side of the Dead Sea when Moses died. God told Joshua it was time to lead the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. First, Joshua sent two spies to Jericho, which was five miles west of the river. After evaluating the city’s defenses, the spies took lodging at an inn located on the city wall operated by Rahab the harlot.
When the king of Jericho found out about the two spies, he sent his officers to Rahab’s to search for them. The stories of the Egyptian soldiers and horses being swallowed by the Red Sea had circulated throughout the land. Rahab understood that the same God that controlled the Red Sea had given the Hebrews all the land where her people lived; so Rahab, hoping to save her family, hid the two Israelites on her flat roof underneath a pile of flax that was drying in the hot sun.
After the officers left empty-handed, Rahab brought the spies out of hiding and said, “Since I have saved your lives, I ask you to save the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families.” The two parties struck a deal. After dark, the spies would be lowered on a rope from Rahab’s window to the outside of the city wall. The spies would, in turn, assure amnesty for all of Rahab’s family. The invading army would recognize Rahab’s house by a scarlet cord hanging in the window. All of Rahab’s family would be gathered in her house.
Rahab had faith that the Israelites and their God would save her loved ones when they invaded her land to kill all the Canaanites. Rahab joined the Hebrews, married Salmon, and gave birth to a son Boaz, who was the great-grandfather of David. The Jewish people did not soon forget this woman of faith. Fourteen hundred years later she was listed along with Abraham and Moses in the faith chapter of the New Testament (Hebrews 11).
After the two spies briefed Joshua, he ordered all the people to break camp and move to the Jordan River. On the third day the army and all the people prepared to cross the river. As soon as the priests, who were leading the way with the ark, stepped into the Jordan, the water stopped flowing until everyone had crossed its riverbed.
After seeing a line of dust clouds several miles long coming from the river, the lookouts on the walls of Jericho sounded the alarm and secured the gates. The captain of the host of the Lord appeared to Joshua and told him to march his army around the city walls once a day for six days. Seven priests carrying trumpets made from a ram’s horn followed behind the troops. Priests carrying the ark were next in line, followed by more soldiers. As the days passed, fear in the city turned to an almost tangible panic.
On the seventh day, the army marched around the city seven times with the priests blowing their trumpets. At the end the priests gave one long, loud blast of the trumpets and all the people shouted as loud as they could. As the noise level grew louder and louder, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Such drama could become the source of lyrics for a song.
Over the years the Lord’s army, under the leadership of Joshua, continued to defeat city kings until thirty-one kings in all had been overthrown. Joshua was an old man when the Lord told him to divide the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel.
There were eleven full tribes and two half tribes from the splitting of Joseph into Manasseh and Ephraim. Moses had granted two-and-a-half tribes their inheritance east of the Jordan River. Joshua divided the land on the western side of the river among the remaining nine-and-a-half tribes.
Joshua dismissed the people to their inheritances. Having completed his life’s mission, Joshua died at the old age of one hundred and ten. Under Joshua’s leadership, the Israelites were faithful to God. Joshua’s faith and convictions were imparted to the people, as they experienced God’s work firsthand in the crossing of the Jordan, the fall of Jericho, and the defeat of the kings of the land. Joshua’s faith that the Hebrews could indeed capture God’s promised territory had been realized.
Copyright 2001 by John C. Westervelt
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