I will use my Sunday School lesson from this past weekend to squeeze one more post in here for the month of June.
The scripture was from the book of Joshua – the Battle of Jericho. Which we all know really well, so what is there to teach on? Here’s how I structured my lesson and where I took it for deeper thoughts.
Joshua is a generally optimistic book, showing the fulfillment of God’s promises to the people of Israel. The first section describes the entry into the land.
Joshua has been the assistant to Moses. He’s been on Mt Sinai, closer to God than anyone but Moses. He lead the soldiers in battle. He is the chosen successor to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. The promise of the land is unconditional and everlasting, but participation in it is not guaranteed to every person or generation.
Earlier we covered the first chapter where he is told by God to be strong and courageous. The people accepted him as their leader. Then our lessons covered the miracle of their crossing the Jordan during the flood stage. And of the young spies who went into Jericho to see how things looked.
Today we see them take Jericho. Only, it isn’t really the Israelites who do it. God is clearly laying a foundation – but as with the Exodus, it isn’t necessarily sinking in here either. Moses had them cross the Red Sea. They got manna, and then quail, and water, and their clothes didn’t disintegrate. Now, Joshua has them cross the Jordan, and God delivers Jericho right into their hands. Will they learn and rely and trust in God this time?
Here begins the second section of Joshua – the conquest of the land. The last two sections of Joshua cover the division of the land among the tribes and the covenant obedience to the Lord in the land.
Joshua 5:1-2 – Start with the circumcision. Remember Genesis 34:17 – when Dinah was raped and her brothers used circumcision to weaken the men they were going to kill. Here the Israelites are all circumcised and stay safe in their camp until they are healed. While the rulers of the surrounding country are quaking in their boots, instead of attacking.
Joshua 5:13-15 – Next up we meet the Commander of the Lord’s Army – very likely a theophany. Any time it was an angel not to be worshiped, he would stop the person from bowing down, but here Joshua’s worship seems appropriate. His presence is reassurance that He is here and He will fight the battle for Israel.
Joshua 6 – Consider being a resident of Jericho – with this at dawn each day for 7 days. The soldiers and 7 priests march around the city – in silence except for the horns. At dawn.
Then on last day they march around the city 7 times and the priests will blow their trumpets and all the people will shout. The walls fall down flat – not in, but out? The people easily enter in the city from all directions, not your typical squeeze at a few small breaches. Note the warning that all is to be dedicated to the Lord, no looting. (We’ll come back to this next week.) But lots of death.
Jericho was defeated. God’s sovereignty is displayed. God defeated the walls and defenses of Jericho. He caused the hearts of the rulers in Canaan to quake and be in fear of Israel. He shows grace in opening Rahab to belief in the God of the Israelites. God caused the Canaanites to go up against Israel in battle (11:20). God commanded the Israelites to kill all the inhabitants of Jericho, even the women and children and animals.
This is where the thinking gets deep and maybe a little troubling. God commanded them to kill all the inhabitants, none survived except Rahab and her family. He has repeatedly said the inhabitants of the Promised Land were to be driven out. He left them until their iniquity was complete and ready for judgment.
Gen 15:16 God says to Abraham that his people will be taken away and return in the fourth generation “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Then in Leviticus 18:24-25 God warns the Israelites to not become unclean by associating with the inhabitants of the lands “for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.”
Finally, Deuteronomy 18:9-10 mentions the abominable practices of the nations, including child sacrifice. God knew these people would populate the region given to Abraham and the Israelites, He knew they would be degenerate, He gave them hundreds of years to turn away from their abominations and instead they just grew worse. God raised up the Canaanites and then ordered the Israelites to drive them out and in many instances to kill all the men, women, and children of a city taken in battle.
Here I pull in a quote from John Calvin, as found in Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson, p 106.
God hardens them for this very end, that they may shut themselves out from mercy. Hence that hardness is called His work, because it secures the accomplishment of His design. Should any attempt be made to darken so clear a matter by those who imagine that God only looks down from heaven to see what men will be pleased to do, and who cannot bear to think that the hearts of men are curbed by His secret agency, what else do they display than their own presumption? They only allow God a permissive power, and in this way make His counsel dependent on the pleasure of men. What what saith the Spirit? That the hardening is from God, who thus precipitates those whom He means to destroy.
Looking for more assistance in interpreting this, I turned to Almighty Over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr.
He discusses why and how Eve sinned. If all was good, who had the power and the motive to change Eve’s inclination from all good and obedience to sin and disobedience? He establishes that no one had the power except God. Eve, Adam, even Satan, did not have the power. Then he looks at God’s possible motive.
Imagine God before the creation of the world…. God considers his strength and finds it wonderful. He considers his mercy and finds it delightful. And then he considers his wrath. Many of us have difficulty imagining God finding any glory in his wrath, but he does. He is pleased with his wrath. If his wrath exists, and we know from his Word that it does, then we know he is pleased with it. We cannot imagine God looking at his wrath like unwanted pounds he wants to lose, if only he had the power. No, God is as delighted with his with his wrath as he is with all of his attributes. Suppose he says, “What I’ll do is create something worthy of my wrath, something on which I can exhibit the glory of my wrath. And on top of that I’ll manifest my mercy by showering grace on some of these creatures deserving my wrath.” (p52-53)
He then refers to Paul’s statements in Rom 9:22-24 where he states just the same thing.
Interesting to note that the supply pastor’s sermon was on Acts 2:22-24 and Acts 4:24-30 and Proverbs 19:21 – about the sovereignty of God over the crucifixion of Christ.
When we first joined HARP, Pastor Hovey was teaching on the exodus from Egypt, and I remember him admitting he couldn’t explain how God could/would harden Pharaoh’s heart. There is a sense that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and we cannot truly know and understand all of what He does. But we can know God from what He has revealed to us in the Bible. Some of the reasons we struggle with this concept are good, but other reasons we struggle show just how self-centered we are, and how little we value God’s holiness. I am working on thoughts for another post about why it is important we have some right understanding of God, His authority and sovereignty, and His providence. Otherwise, we have no security in this life.