Christians have drawn on military metaphors through the ages. Paul exhorts us to put on the “whole armour of God” and writes of the struggle against the “powers of this dark world” in Ephesians. Jesus promised persecution to his followers. Revelation graphically portrays spiritual war. And writers have penned such hymns as, “Onward Christian soldiers.” It would seem that, contrary to some teaching abroad in the world, the Christian life was not meant to be easy!
It is no surprise then, that Christians have often found personal spiritual challenge and encouragement in the words of the book of Joshua.
The Christian, fearfully embarking on a course that he or she knows to be right and ordained by God, has often read four times with renewed hope, “Be strong and very courageous” (1:6, 1:7, 1:9, 1:18) with the affirmation, “for Yahweh your God will be with you wherever you go.”
However, there is a condition to success before God and that is obedience to God’s law including his local, individual instructions to Joshua. Failure to obey incurs disaster and defeat at Ai and deception by the Gibeonites, where the writer notes, “but they did not inquire of Yahweh” (9:14).
The imperative to obey God also forms the challenge to Christian living as it did to those settling into the conquered Promised Land.
Joshua’s stirring words ring across the centuries…
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 24:14-15
Joshua is an anglicised form of the Hebrew word for “Saviour”. It is also translated into Greek as “Yesus,” from which we get, “Jesus.” So Jesus could have been known as Joshua Ben Joseph. As Galilee had a large number of Greek speakers and Greek being the universal language of its day, perhaps he was also referred to as Yesus? Anyway the point is that it is possible to make spiritual links between Joshua, the successor of Moses and Jesus, both delivering God’s people to the Land of “Rest,” the first physical, the latter spiritual.
Joshua had a “Moses Experience” (5:13-15) which is intended to confirm that the mantle of leadership had indeed passed to him.
Rahab is an example of one who threw in her lot with Israel and found mercy. It is notable that she becomes an ancestor of King David and Jesus Christ.
It was not wholly unusual for the Jordan to dry up, with land slippages blocking the river upstream. The account is couched to parallel the crossing of the Red Sea by Moses, and the timing is what gives it significance as an affirmation by God of his presence with them. The stopping of the Sun is understood literally by some (ie there were extra hours of daylight) and poetically by others (ie the sun remained cool enough for the battle to continue) though the writer certainly portrays the occurrence as well out of the ordinary and an intervention by God.