Covered: Joshua 5-8, 23-24; Judges 2-4
Not Covered: Joshua 6-22; Judges 1
Scripture Memory: 1 Corinthians 3:16 / 1 Corinthians 2:12
As I have been reading through our reading plan this year, one word keeps coming to mind. It’s a word that, as I meditate on all of the things we are reading, keeps needing to be redefined for me. A word that our American culture seems to define much differently than the Bible, and often my cultural understanding wins the day over the Biblical one. This word is “good.” Our culture tends to define this word through the lens of self. What is good is what seems good to me. What is good is me getting the things that I want. What is good is what makes my life better.
This week, we’ll be reading through part of the book of Joshua. The book of Joshua is a book of conquest. It is the people of God dispossessing the current inhabitants of the land that God promised to the people of Israel. We will read of some of the battles, but not all of them. There’s a lot of fighting — a lot of death. And for many, it is chapters like these that make readers wonder if God really is good and if he treats us fairly. Many public atheists go to these verses to say “see, God is violent, not good.” Many skeptics read these verses and wonder “is this really the God of love.”
How do we classify the conquest in our minds? Do we disregard it as the “old” part of the Old Testament?” Can we call it good? That all depends on our definition.
God told us throughout the previous five books what He was about to do and why He would do it. He was about to drive out the nations that were currently living in the land of promise SO THAT there would be a pure and fresh start for the people of Israel to worship the one true God and to cleanse the land from the worship of other Gods. In Deuteronomy 12:29-31, for example, the issue is worship. The land must be cleansed SO THAT God is the only one receiving worship, not the false gods. And as the people of Israel worshiped the one true God, the nations around them would see the amazing things God was doing in Israel and attribute it to their God and not the false gods that used to be worshiped there. It was GOOD for God to cleanse the land so that His name would be exalted. If other gods were still being worshiped there, who would get the glory?
It’s easy to look at things through the lens of what feels best or what we think we deserve. But in a very real sense, the only thing we “deserve” is the same thing that happened to the people of the land: to be booted out and conquered. Because of the darkness of our own hearts and the sin that we all know lives in there, the only thing we deserve is separation from God. Was it good that Jesus had to die? It certainly wasn’t “fair.” He certainly didn’t deserve it.” But because of the goodness of God, sinners get to experience the forgiveness and presence of God. We don’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it, we can’t pay it back, but because of God’s goodness and love, He made a way.
God had a plan, a good plan, to redeem all people. Part of His plan to do that was to set up a people and give them a land. This whole plan was based on His desire to give salvation and freedom to all people. This was a plan that would ultimately bring Jesus to die for the sins of the world. This was a plan that would reveal God’s love for the world. We can’t always make sense about what He was doing, from an earthly standpoint, but if we could… we’d be God.
To trust in the “good” of God is not to redefine good into our image, but to trust that no matter what is happening around us, no matter what is happening to us, and no matter what is happening in us, we have a good God that is “working all things together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I praise God for letting us read Joshua. It points us to His holiness, His purity, His otherness, and His desire for the world to know just how good He is. Because He cleansed the land, the world got to see how good He is. And I praise God that this holy God chose to send His son to be conquered between 2 pieces of wood so that the world can again see just how good He is. The land wasn’t cleansed because Israel was better or deserved the land more, God was making a name for Himself so that the world could know His love. We did not get to experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus because we were better or earned anything. God chose to reveal His love and grace to us. The only thing we deserved was death. The last thing Jesus deserved was death. He traded His life for ours, and all we can do is say and live “thank you.”
Written by: Steve Elworth
Art Credit: Freepik