Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch (1 Corinthians 5:7a)
After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. God said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1:2-5)
What a comforting and encouraging message from God! Joshua was blessed by God, and God promised Joshua “I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you, and I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.” Sure. We all want the same blessing with the same promise. Our God, who created heaven and earth, is always with us while protecting through all circumstances. This assurance is the very center of our faith.
God dearly loved Joshua. Joshua faithfully followed God’s command given to him – exploring the land flowing with milk and honey, which was promised by God. Eight out of the ten spies went to spy the promised land, returned, and reported “The land was good, but we would not be able to subdue the people already living there. They are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. They even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! Thus, it is impossible to take over the promised land.” The Israelites who heard this report, they were in turmoil. They shouted why we came out of Egypt, where we could have been fed without any worries and concerns. (Of course, as we all do, they did beautify their past slavery life in Egypt. In reality, their life was harsh. Their mourning was so severe, which reached to God in Heaven.)
However, Caleb and Joshua tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!” It was the great example of the strong faith of Joshua. It was logically impossible to invade the land filled with giants and fortified cities because they were not so strong as the people already living in the promised land. What a dilemma it was! They came out of Egypt with only one hope to go in the land flowing with milk and honey. Now the land was just before their eyes. Yes, the land was truly flowing with milk and honey, but they could have it because they had no ability to conquer the land and receive the promise land. This promise was given through their multiple generations of forefathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
As soon as the other eight spies heard what Caleb and Joshua said, they sharply disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” Then they spread this bad opinion among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” Then the whole community began even weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. However, Joshua and Caleb kept their hope in God not being swayed by the whole community of the distressed and disappointed people. Even so, nothing could stop Joshua believing in God. Joshua continued believing God even though he could not see any evidences and clues about the promise would be really fulfilled.
God loved Joshua’s courage in faith. Later Joshua led the Israelites and returned to the same place. It took forty years after the first spying on the promised land. For this time, Joshua was ready to go into the promised land. God also gave Joshua a huge encouragement: “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.” Yes, Joshua had an absolute faith in God, which God loved. Additionally, he was a wise man. He picked two capable and faithful spies, and sent to them to the other side of Jordan River. (Joshua and the Israelites had not crossed the Jordan River yet.) Joshua carefully instructed them, “Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.” So the two men set out. When they came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab, they stayed there that night.
Jericho already had informed that Israel spies would infiltrate and spy out their land. Thus, they combed through their land to spot the spies, but by the help of Rahab and God, they could escape without being caught. They returned to the camp where Joshua was waiting for, and they reported that the people in Jericho was in fear because they already knew God had given their land to the Israelites. What a comforting report that they got! For this time, the spies could see the hand of God, which was already in action.
On the following day, they left their camp. In three days, they arrived the Jordan River. Joshua completely relied on God, not his own might, wisdom or army. He asked the priests who were carrying the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho. Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by. They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.
The Israelites gave thanks to God, and they experienced a supernatural power of God. They made a memorial in the middle of the Jordan River by carrying in twelve stones by twelve tribes. Then they purified themselves by circumcising themselves before getting into the promised land. (By the way, the Israelites were a new generation who were born in the wilderness, and were not circumcised.) By having circumcision, they were made ready to conquer Jericho, the first city in Canaan.
Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” (Joshua 6:2-5)
It was a totally unexpected and illogical order from God. No sword, no weaponry, no army, but God ordered seven priests to blow a ram’s horn while circling Jericho. The rest of the people just followed the priests. Even so, they faithfully followed God’s order. As God instructed, on the seventh day, the walls of Jericho collapsed. The Israelites easily conquered the city of Jericho. What a victory it was! We can easily think that all of the Israelites faithfully followed God’s command. However, it was not the case. A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the LORD was very angry with the Israelites. (Joshua 7:1b) Joshua did not know, and so were the people. Without knowing this, especially right after the huge and easy victory over the fortified city, Jericho, they were confident about themselves, i.e., their own ability, not God, although God actually made them victorious over the people in Jericho.
The next city was Ali. For this time, they relied on their own wisdom and strength, and made a decision: sending 3000 warriors to defeat the city of Ali, which was much weaker than Jericho. On the contrary, they were soundly defeated, and some of them were even killed by the people of Ali. What a disaster it was!
Why were the Israelites defeated? Joshua was the leader, who was always faithful in God regardless of any circumstances. The Israelites felt that God was with them. However, in reality, these were not enough. Their heart was already filled with pride, and they did not diligently search and eliminate any hidden sins, such as the sin of Achan. After the miserable defeat before Ali, Joshua purge all evils among the Israelites, and Joshua and the people of Israel carefully heard God with humility. Only after this humility and purification, they could defeat the city of Ali in God. After all, the very source of the first sin ever committed by Adam was their pride in their heart – wanting to be equal with God. Sin and pride are a deadly mix. Even the faithful Joshua were trapped in this deadly mix. Then what can we do? Let’s focus our eyes on Jesus Christ with humility and purge all sins (especially hidden sins) in us.
Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? (1 Corinthians 5:6)