Joshua 5 KJV Sermon, Bible, Commentary, Explanation, Summary

We’ll be studying Joshua chapters 5 and 6 today. The title I’m giving this message is “Jericho: Destruction and Deliverance.”

But first I feel like I need to say something about last week’s lesson. Yes, I did keep saying “Jericho” when I meant “Jordan” but that’s not what I want to address. I want to address my feeling throughout last week that those two chapters we covered lacked action and that therefore we were in danger of feeling like the story – and my lesson based upon it – was uninteresting. I had a few people come and tell me that they didn’t feel that the story or the lesson were boring at all. And that reminds me of something that I know intellectually as someone who teaches the Scripture. We’re trained to just “say what the Bible says.” And that’s an easy admonition to listen to and mentally assent to. But it’s a whole other matter when you’re left to practice it. But what I saw last week was that if we just desire to understand the Bible and have someone here teaching it as best he can and saying just what it says as best he can – then God’s people can learn and grow from it, no matter whether there’s action or excitement or whether you’re simply witnessing a quiet and somewhat repetitious retelling of a miracle – like crossing the Jordan – not the Jericho!

So, thank you for being attentive and wanting to understand better what God’s word says.

OK, now on to this week’s lesson on Joshua 5 and 6. Israel is now in the land promised to them by God. And God had already made it clear that they would need to wage war against the 7 nations that inhabitted Canaan. Israel was to act as God’s instrument of judgment on those nations. They simply needed to follow him and do what he commands. [Look at Google Map?]

Now, before we get into the fighting, we need to take care of some matters in the first 12 verses of chapter 5. Do you remember the end of the lesson last week? 12 men – one from each tribe of Israel – took a stone from the dried Jordan River bed. They brought the stones to Gilgal – where Israel lodged that night. Then Joshua revealed why God had them take those stones. The stones were to be memorials to their children, yes. But there was another reason. These stones were for the nations. Read 4:24 – “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty…” The stones and the reality that they portrayed were supposed to let the nations know that the hand of the Lord is mighty. Did this indeed happen?

Joshua 5:1

Let’s read 5:1.

[5:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.]

[Map of Canaan] We’re told that the Amorites are just west of the Jordan. The Canaanites are near the sea. And from these two groups that are mentioned and their reaction we get the idea that probably any of the 7 nations who heard about Israel’s miraculous crossing over the Jordan River were experiencing the same state of mind.

Now, we need to remember something God told us back in Deuteronomy. These nations that the Lord was going to drive out before Israel – they were larger and mightier than the Israelites. The Israelites humanly-speaking were underdogs. What would cause these nations to be so fearful of Israel? Oh, just the fact that the largest river in the area decided to immediately dry up just so that they could cross over into Canaan. But even these hardened sinners could see that God was with Israel doing these things for them. He had to be. Rivers don’t just suddenly stop by themselves. And large powerful nations – like those led by Og and Sihon – don’t just get defeated by a roving band of men from the desert. That is, unless the God of the whole universe decides to get involved! So the nations are trembling. It would seem to be the time to strike! But Israel has a few things to attend to first.

Joshua 5:2-9

Let’s read about the first action they take after entering the promised land – verses 2 though 9.

2 ¶ At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. 3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. 4 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. 5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. 6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 7 And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. 8 ¶ And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. 9 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.

So God commanded Joshua to circumcise all Israel – well, all the men, of course. And Joshua goes ahead and makes sure that happens. Other translations give the hill on which the circumcisions took place a nice name – Gibeah-HaAraloth. But this name simply means what we have in the KJV — “Hill of the Foreskins.” These were the by-products of this ritual that God instituted with Abraham centuries earlier. Circumcision was to be a sign that the person receiving this procedure was included in the covenant community. In fact, according to Genesis 17:14 any man who was not circumcised was to be “cut off from his people” because he had broken God’s covenant.

Isn’t it telling of the spiritual condition of those men who refused to believe God’s promises and were forced to wander in the wilderness? They didn’t even circumcise their boys. God truly was displeased with that generation and you can understand why. They not only refused to believe God but they also refused to pass along to their children this sign of God’s covenant with them. Well, God let each one of them die in the wilderness. And now he had a new group to work with. And he wanted them to do right. And notice — God is the one who initiates this. Do you suppose this might have been encouraging to the men at that time? I mean, by commanding this to happen God is really symbolically inviting them back in to his covenant that he made with Abraham so long ago. God promised Abraham this land that they were now actually standing in. But God didn’t promise the land merely to Abraham, but to Abraham and his offspring – namely through Isaac and then Jacob. So these men who were inheriting covenant promises also needed to physically bear the sign of that covenant. And this is why they needed to be circumcised.

And lastly we need to understand what God means when he tells Joshua he rolled away the reproach of Egypt. And that’s why they named the place Gilgal – which apparently means “rolling”. What is the reproach of Egypt? I think most likely this means that the Egyptians were reproaching the Israelites. Picture it. Israel leaves Egypt with great signs and wonders. The Egyptians try to recapture them but are stopped at the Red Sea. Israel goes to Sinai and then starts north only to have the incident at Kadesh-barnea where all of the men besides two of them are completely faithless to the Lord. So he lets them wander for 40 years. Do you suppose the Egyptians heard about that? No, the Egyptians wouldn’t want to come back up north and try to get Israel. They learned the hard way already – via the Red Sea incident –that that’s just not something they should be attempting. But Egypt could certainly mock Israel and despise them. And that’s apparently just what Egypt did. They mocked – or reproached – Israel. But now that Israel is entering the land? Well, I suppose you could say, who’s laughing now? God rolled away their reproach.

Joshua 5:10-12

So the Israelites receive the sign of circumcision in their flesh before their first military activity in the land. What else do they do? Let’s read verses 10-12.

[10 ¶ And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. 11 And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. 12 And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.]

4:19 already told us that Israel crossed the Jordan River and camped at Gilgal on the 10th day of the 1st month. So now, 3 days later the people eat the Passover. It’s the meal that commemorates Israel’s deliverance from Egypt – the ones whose reproach was just now finally being rolled away. And what happened after the Passover? Verse 11 tells us they ate some food from the land. That’s the emphasis there. And then what happened after they started eating from the land? The manna ceased to fall for them. All those 40 plus years it fell for them. But now that they’re finally in their land they don’t need it. So God stops sending it. God always provides for his people. He’ll do it miraculously, if needed. But we shouldn’t think little of him providing for us through normal providential means, either.

Now, where did Israel eat the Passover? In the plains of? Jericho. You didn’t forget about Jericho, did you? This is the first city to be attacked. Rahab is there waiting for deliverance. And this is no small task. It is a walled city. Do you suppose Joshua might be wondering how he’ll attack the city? He seems very courageous. But do you suppose he might need a little encouragement about this next phase in his leadership of God’s people?

Joshua 5:13-15

Well, if he does need any encouragement he certainly gets it in verses 13 through 15.

[13 ¶ And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship [shachah], and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15 And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.]

Does Joshua’s reaction surprise you? In a way it should. Joshua apparently can’t tell that this man is anything other than a mere man. Right? He comes up to the man and asks if he is for Israel or for Jericho. So this man apparently looks like just a regular man. He’s brandishing a sword, but we’re in a military scene here. So that’s not unusual. The only thing that indicates that there’s something different about this man is his response to Joshua’s question. He says that he’s the captain of the Lord’s host or army. But I thought Joshua was the captain of God’s army. And it’s here where we realize even more acutely that there’s something going on behind the scenes. Israel served as God’s human army. But there’s an army behind the scenes that this man commands. This captain and his army make all the difference in the human realm. Their victory decides the victory of Israel. We don’t hear about this captain again. Did he disappear and then wage war in an invisible spiritual realm? Was he and his army silently and invisibly moving among Israel as they fought? Later on, are they the ones whom the Lord uses to throw down hailstones and stop the Sun? Any of those possibilities may very well have been the case. We can’t say for sure.

And really, who is this captain? Is he an angel? The text says Joshua worshiped him, which would of course be idolatry if this captain wasn’t God. This word translated “worship” [shachah] can also mean simply “to bow” like when Rachel and Leah bowed to Esau when they came to Canaan. But this word really can also mean “worship.” I don’t know that I can come to a dogmatic conclusion on whether this man was God – perhaps Jesus Christ before he was incarnated. But I like the thought of that. After all, who better to lead the Lord’s army than the Lord himself? Imagine Jesus – our Jesus, the Jesus of the New Testament – receiving worship from Joshua — that hero of the faith. And there’s one more reason I would lean toward thinking that this is an appearance of God the Son. Did you notice what he tells Joshua to do? Remove your sandal. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Yeah, God himself said it in Exodus 3. Whom did God say that to? Moses. Do you suppose that Joshua knew that God had used those same words with Moses, his mentor? I think the clues lead us to believe that this captain was somehow God himself. And that’s pretty exciting, isn’t it? Even if this was just an angel, it’s still exciting. And if it’s exciting for us, you know it was exciting for Joshua, too. And in that encouragement and excitement, Joshua and Israel were ready to be the human instruments of God to judge these 7 wicked nations.

Joshua 4 Sermon, Commentary, Summary, Bible, KJV

Now, remember those 12 men we mentioned earlier? The ones that Joshua told Israel to select?

Joshua 4:1-3

In 4:1-3 we finally we what they’re supposed to do.

[4:1 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the Lord spake unto Joshua, saying, 2 Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, 3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.]

So, the Lord speaks to Joshua and commands him and all the people (plural “you”) to take the 12 men out of Israel. Joshua already commanded the people to do this in chapter 3. But now finally the 12 men are given their assignment. We’ve been wondering what they’re supposed to be doing. Here it is. The priests are still in the Jordan and the water has yet to return. So while that is the case, the 12 men were supposed to take stones out of the Jordan and put them in the place they would lodge that night. But why the stones? Why would God want them to spend their precious time picking up stones?

Joshua 4:4-7

Verses 4 through 7 give us an answer.

[4 Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: 5 And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: 6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? 7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.]

So these stones were supposed to be an enduring reminder to Israel. And for that reason, I think we’re not talking about tiny pebbles here. Have you ever watched those World’s Strongest Man competitions? You know, the show where men with names like Nigel and Magnus lift incredibly heavy objects and carry them all over the place? It seems like the heaviest object most of these folks can carry is somewhere around 500 pounds. And I’m not sure how built these ancient Israelites were. So with all that in mind, I’m guessing the stones were at least 100 pounds. They had to be big enough that there was a good chance that they’d stay there for a long time and not be moved. So, any way, Joshua commanded these 12 men to take one stone each from the Jordan.

But why? What was the purpose? The purpose was to provide a reminder of God’s miraculous deeds on behalf of his people. Who was to be reminded? The text says that fathers were supposed to tell their children about these stones when they asked. Let me ask our fathers here, how do you apply this in the modern-day? Would it involve you being spiritual enough to be able to explain the spiritual significance of things to your children? Have you done something like this? Have you told your kids how God saved you? Have you told them how he led you to their mother? That’s always a fun story. Have you told them of how he provides for your family? Make it a point to do these things.

Joshua 4:8

Well, what do you suppose happens next? God commands Joshua. Joshua commands the 12. And now, verse 8.

[8 And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the Lord spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.]

Joshua 4:9

Then beyond that, Joshua sees fit to set up 12 stones not in the lodging place, but in the dried-up Jordan. Verse 9.

[9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.]

Joshua 4:10-11

Now the next two verses, 10 and 11 seem to be a simple repetition of what we’ve already heard. But let’s read them to see if there’s any new information here…

[10 For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until everything was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua: and the people hasted and passed over. 11 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over, that the ark of the Lord passed over, and the priests, in the presence of the people.]

The priests stood in the Jordan and when the people finished crossing the priests came out. But did you notice that this all happened according to all that Moses commanded Joshua? What did Moses command Joshua? At least this – that Joshua needed to lead the people into the land God promised them.

Joshua 4:12-13

And there’s another mention of Moses in verses 12 and 13.

[12 And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spake unto them: 13 About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.]

So we didn’t forget these 2 ½ tribes. They passed over just like Moses commanded them.

Joshua 4:14

And let’s read the last mention of Moses in verse 14.

[14 On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.]

Remember that promise that God made to Joshua near the beginning of this lesson? The Lord promised to magnify Joshua in the peoples’ sight. And that’s just what we see happening here. God magnified Joshua. How did he do this? Throughout this section we’ve seen the Lord use Joshua as his mouthpiece, just like he used Moses. From the peoples’ vantage point, Joshua commanded something and it happened. You can imagine the esteem in which the people held this man – this man who was getting revelation straight from God. And God’s not done revealing things through Joshua.

Joshua 4:15-16

Let’s read verses 15 and 16 to see what next command God has for Joshua.

[15 And the Lord spake unto Joshua, saying, 16 Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.]

Can you guess what happens next?

Joshua 4:17

Verse 17 says…

[17 Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan.]

Now, we’d been told what was going to happen when the priests entered the Jordan River. But what can we expect to happen when they leave it?

Joshua 4:18

Let’s read verse 18.

[18 And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before.]

The water simply returned to where it was before. And that’s the end of the people crossing the Jordan. But there’s still this matter of what to do with these stones that they took out of the Jordan.

Joshua 4:19-24

Let’s just go ahead and read the rest of chapter 4, verses 19 through 24.

[19 And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.

20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? 22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: 24 That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.]

I think it’s really interesting that Joshua ties together the Jordan River miracle with the Red Sea miracle. It’s the same nation in both cases. They have the same great God who can work miracles. This same great God has kept his covenant with this same nation. Right? That’s why the priests are carrying the ark of the, what? The ark of the covenant. It’s got the covenant in it that God made over 40 years earlier with this same nation. That’s why Moses is mentioned several times. He’s the one who received that covenant from God.

So again Israel is admonished that the fathers need to impress upon their children the special relationship that God had with them. Those 12 stones set up in Gilgal were supposed to prompt those fathers to engage in this sort of discussion with their children. But did you catch what else those stones were supposed to do? These stones and the reality they were silently proclaiming wasn’t just for the Hebrew children. They were for the sake of the nations. The nations were supposed to know the reality of the Isralites crossing over the Jordan and the Red Sea and they were supposed to take note that God’s hand is mighty.

So those stones and the realities they portrayed were for the children. They were for the nations. And lastly they were for the Israelites themselves. Remembering these things – God’s deliverance and miraculous works – were supposed to help the Israelites fear the Lord their God from generation to generation – forever.

So here’s Israel. They’ve finally entered the land that God had promised to their forefather Abraham so long ago. They’re actually there! They made it. They were experiencing Success through Obedience. And now really nothing stops them from advancing to Jericho. If it’s like Rahab said in chapter 2 – that the people were quaking because of the Red Sea miracle that happened decades ago – then how are they feeling now that they saw with their own eyes, the Jordan River stop flowing and Israel coming across? We’ll see next time, Lord-willing.

Joshua 3 Sermon, KJV, Summary, Bible, Commentary, Study

So we’re in the book of Joshua. And what we’re seeing in this book is that God keeps his promises. Last week God encouraged Joshua to believe those promises. God encouraged Joshua with his own divine words, through the words of his fellow Israelites – which actually included some of God’s words, just repeated –, and with the reaction of the Gentiles – fear in all, faith in one – Rahab.

Now this week we’re going to study Joshua chapters 3 and 4. In these chapters we’re going to see Success through Obedience. Well, wait a minute! I thought we were talking about God keeping his promises in this book. How does the idea that Israel would be successful through obedience come in to the picture? How does that message relate to the rest of the book of Joshua?

Think about it. Remember our 1-lesson study in Deuternomy? God made a few promises in that book, didn’t he? But one of the most unavoidable promises in that book was this – if you (Israel) obey me, I will bless you. That’s what God wanted to do. He wanted to bless them. He wanted to make them successful. But he couldn’t do it if they were disobedient to him. So Israel needed to love and obey God. And as a result they would be blessed.

And that’s exactly what we see here in this section. God is keeping his promise to Israel. When they obey they are blessed. Israel and Joshua their leader find Success through Obedience.

Now, there is something noticeably absent from this section. I just need to warn you about it. One of the things that makes for an interesting, engaging story is conflict. Conflict between man and God or between man and other men or between man and nature. I’ll tell you now that there really is none of this in this section. There’s certainly no conflict with God. Joshua obeys him and is rewarded with success. At this point in the story there isn’t even conflict between man and other men. That’ll come in our next lesson — during the conquest of Jericho. You might think that crossing the Jordan might point to a conflict between man and nature. Well, if Joshua is pictured here as if he’s in some conflict between himself and the Jordan, the Jordan really doesn’t put up much of a fight. The river doesn’t fight back at all. It just stops flowing when the priests’ feet enter the river. And then it comes back when the priests leave the river. So, there isn’t even conflict between man and nature in this section.

Why do I mention this? I mention it because you might be tempted to think this section is a little boring. Be honest, you want to hear about the action. You want to hear about Jericho and how “the walls come tumblin’ down”! You want to hear about Achan and his sin and how Israel stoned him. You want to hear about Bethel and Ai and the ambush that Joshua set for them. You want to hear about the non-stop action that we see from chapter 5 through chapter 11. Victory after victory for Joshua and Israel. And you’re not alone. I want to hear about those victories and that action, too. But we need to get there first. And the way to chapter 5 is through chapters 3 and 4.

And it’s really so sad that these chapters can seem so uninteresting. I’m going to give you a second reason why you might not be as interested in these two chapters as you are in the rest of the first 11 chapters of this book. What was the first reason these chapters might seem uninteresting? There’s no conflict. The second reason I’ve become convinced of as we’ve been studying through this book. We’ve jumped in to the book of Joshua. Yes, we took one lesson to cover Deuteronomy. So we got a little background. But really what we’ve done in going straight to the book of Joshua and bypassing the Pentateuch – Genesis through Deuteronomy – is that we’ve really come in on the climax of the promises made throughout the Bible up to this point. If you start with Genesis and then come to the book of Joshua you’d be on the edge of your seat. You would have been hearing constantly about this promised land that Israel was going to get. You would have experienced the dissapointment of the people not entering the land and having to wander for 40 years. So then entering the land wouldn’t induce a yawn. It would call for attention and excitement.

So, keep these things in mind as we study this section today. There’s no conflict to naturaly stimulate interest in you. And we’re just kind of walking right in to the climax of what’s been building for 5 whole books before this.

With all that in mind, let’s witness the Success through Obedience that Joshua experiences in this book. We’ll just walk through the text and see what the Lord teaches us from his word.

Alright, so let’s just very quickly get us to where we are in this book. Chapter 1 has the Lord encouraging Joshua to enter the land. Then Joshua turns around and encourages Israel to enter the land. Chaper 2 sees Joshua sending spies to Jericho. They enter the city and are discovered. Rahab hides them and confesses her faith in their God. She asks for mercy and deliverance from Judgement and the spies grant it. She sends the spies away in peace and they return to the camp and tell Joshua all that they’d experienced.

Joshua 3:1

And now, 3:1.

[3:1 And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.]

Remember, Shittim is where Israel was camping on the east side of the Jordan in the first 2 chapters of this book. it was right across the Jordan from Jericho – probably even visible from Jericho. And so the children of Israel lodge there a few days.

Joshua 3:2-4

Let’s read verses 2-4.

[2 And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; 3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.]

God’s presence – symbolized by the ark of the covenant – was to go before Israel. But they weren’t to follow it too closely. They needed to leave about 2,000 cubits between it and them. That’s about 8 football fields long. Why did they need to keep this distance? The officers tell the people that they need to watch where the ark goes. The people don’t know this area. They haven’t been here before. They need God’s guidance. No one was to run before the Lord as if to guide him. They all needed to follow the Lord. So the officers have their say.

Joshua 3:5

Joshua also wants to say something to the people. Verse 5.

[5 And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.]

Wonders?! This sounds exciting! And how were the people to prepare themselves for the Lord to do these wonders? They needed to sanctify themselves. Set themselves apart. Get ready for this awesome event!

Joshua 3:6

And then Joshua gives the word in verse 6.

[6 And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.]

You’ll see this kind of thing happening a lot in this section. Someone – the Lord or Joshua or the officers – tell someone else – Joshua or the people – to do something. Then right after that command, the people do whatever is commanded. There’s this very precise attention to the details of the obedience that was evident in these 2 chapters.

Joshua 3:7-8

So the priests take up the ark of the covenant. And then it’s as if the Lord pulls Joshua aside and gives him these encouraging words in verses 7 and 8.

[7 And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. 8 And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan.]

So the Lord again promises Joshua that he will be with him just as he was with Moses. And now here’s this promise to magnify Josua in the sight of all Israel. How gracious the Lord is being to Joshua, a man just like you and me.

Joshua 3:9-13

And then the Lord tells Joshua to command the priests to stop when they get to the Jordan River and to stand in it. Then Joshua gives Israel an amazing message from God in verses 9 through 13.

[9 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord your God. 10 And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. 12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. 13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.]

God will drive out the 7 nations in the land of Canaan. Want proof? he says to Israel. God is going to stop the waters of the Jordan river from flowing. When the priests reach the Jordan, the waters north of it will just stand in a heap. And the waters south of that point will just stop and dry up. And I imagine this process was pretty sudden and complete. But here’s a curious statement in verse 12. Joshua tells them to pick 12 men from among them – one man from each tribe. And… he doesn’t say anything else about that matter. Well, what are those guys supposed to be doing? We’ll find out later. But not until 4:2.

Joshua 3:14-16

OK, what happens next? Just what Joshua promised would happen – the Jordan stop flowing. Let’s read verses 14 through 16.

[14 And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people; 15 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) 16 That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.]

Just what God told Joshua and that Joshua told the people came to pass. The priests got to the Jordan, dipped their feet in the water and immediately the water stopped flowing. The Bible at this point mentions a name of a city where the water piled up in a heap. It says Zarethan, which is about 20 miles north of Jericho.

Joshua 3:17

And because the water stopped, the action of verse 17 could happen, to end chapter 3.

[17 And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.]

So, that’s a pretty quick statement of what happened. The priests stood in the midst of the Jordan and all the people passed through the Jordan.

Joshua 2 Sermon, Bible, Commentary, Lesson, Summary, Explanation

So Joshua is getting encouragement directly from the Lord himself and also from God’s people, repeating God’s word to him. Excellent. What else could encourage Joshua to believe God‘s promises? We’ll see a few more encouragements in chapter 2.

Joshua 2:1

Let’s read the first verse of chapter 2 to find out what’s going on…

[2:1 ¶ And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there.]

So the people are all in the place called Shittim, which is across the Jordan from Jericho. And Joshua sends out two spies. Now, you recall that I’ve wondered out loud a few times whether sending spies was alright. I mean, God commanded them to take the land. Did they really need spies? After a little more study, I still can’t say that it was bad that they sent spies. In fact, at Kadesh-barnea God himself told Moses to send the 12 spies – I just read that this week! Now, Moses also says in Deuteronomy that the people approached him and asked to send spies. So how do those two realities work together? Maybe the people came and asked for spies and God OK’ed their request, even though that wasn’t his first choice. Maybe God commanded Moses to send the spies. And before Moses could send them, the people came and asked as well. I don’t know. But God approved of sending the spies. At the very least he consented to send them. So we can’t definitively state that sending the spies was wrong. It’s an action that God allowed.

So, Joshua sends spies. And how many? 2. Not 12. 12 didn’t really work out before. Plus, they just need to spy out Jericho primarily. You probably don’t want 12 Jewish guys walking into the same walled city on the same day. Might be a little suspcious. So Joshua sends only 2 spies this time. And I’ll tell you what’s a little suspicious to me. That these guys ended up in the home of a prostitute. It’s very possible that this kind of establishment was sort of the only place that would allow the privacy these spies needed. Or it could be that these two young men – that’s what this book calls them later on – these two young men are in a place they shouldn’t be. Again, the whole issue of sending spies comes to mind. If Joshua had just went into the land without sending spies then we wouldn’t have this kind of issue. And let’s draw our attention to the danger that these spies face.

Joshua 2:2-7

Let’s read verses 2 through 7.

[2:2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. 3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. 4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: 5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. 6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. 7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.]

So the king of Jericho hears somehow that these spies are there. I mean, after all, this is a walled city. I imagine that most everyone knew everyone else there. They would have noticed 2 new folks coming in. Especially since they could see the Israelite camp across the river and the whole city was on Red Alert. So, the lives of these two men hang loosely in the hands of a woman whose living is made from immorality. She would normally have no scruples about turning these men in. She could have told the king and they certainly would have been executed or held for ransom.

Joshua 2:8-13

But Rahab, this immoral woman, actually lies to her king and hides the spies. What! These spies represent the enemy! Why would she help them? Let’s let her tell us in verses 8 through 13. Here’s what happens…

[2:8 ¶ And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: 13 And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.]

Rahab is a prostitute. She sells her body for a living. Throughout her life she had been disobeying God, engaging in acts that were unlawful and not in keeping with God’s holy character. But now she saw God’s mighty deeds on behalf of his people. She saw the reaction of her fellow countrymen. And — by faith as Hebrews 11 says — Rahab makes this confession that will change her eternal destiny – “The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” This is apparently all she knows about this God of theirs. And it’s all she needs to know for now to respond in faith. To borrow again from Hebrews 11, he that comes to God must believe that he is. That’s what she’s confessing here. But not only that he is – that he exists. But she also needs to believe that he rewards those who seek him. Do we see Rahab doing that? Well, what does she ask? She asks for terms of peace with God’s people and really God himself. She asks for delivery from death. She has enough faith to know that this God is real and is the only true and living God. But she also somehow senses that this God can be entreated – that he rewards those who seek him. He’s not some unmerciful unfeeling being. He’s gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding is lovingkindness. Rahab counts on this being the case and throws herself on the mercy of this God.

The spies swear to her, which wasn’t according to the Law, right? Israel had one law for the 7 nations to the west of the Jordan – kill them all. And yet the spies enter into a covenant with Rahab and her family. You might wonder if that’s OK. Well, listen. One of the huge purposes of God commanding his people to destroy the 7 nations was so that they won’t lead his people into idolatry. But here’s the thing. If Rahab is confessing an exclusive faith in Yahweh, where’s the threat of idolatry? There is none. So in this case, it seems that the spies did right. They extended mercy to Rahab… And really, they didn’t have much of a choice, did they? She was kind of their only help at this point. The gate was locked once those pursuers went out.

Now, the rest of the chapter shows Rahab letting the spies down through a window, since she lived in a house that was actually on the wall. We’ll talk in a few lessons about what perhaps happened to that house when the wall came down. But she lets them down through the window. They give stipulations to her — Her family needs to stay in her house and she needs to tie a scarlet thread to her window. She also needs to tell no one about this plan. She agrees and gives them directions back to Shittim and they leave in peace.

Eventually the two spies make it back to camp. And remember, we’re talking about encouragements to believe God’s promises. Listen to the encouragement the spies give Joshua in 2:24 – “…Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.” How much more encouraging can it get for Joshua? The spies whom he sent out – unlike the 12 Moses sent out 40-some years ago – bring back a comletely positive report. The land is their’s. God is going to keep his promise. And the text doesn’t say explicitly, but when the spies mention the inhabitants fainting, they would have surely mentioned Rahab — this once-immoral Gentile woman who believed the only true and living God.

So how did we see God encouarging Joshua that he would keep his promises? God gave direct verbal statements. He let his people repeat those encouraging commands to Joshua. And finally, God drew a godless Gentile to himself in faith through God’s people doing God’s will. These were all encouragements to believe God’s promises.

Joshua 1, Commentary, Analysis, KJV, Bible

Let’s turn to the first chapter in the book of Joshua. We discovered last week that a big theme in the book of Joshua is that God keep his promises. And we see him doing this throughout the book of Joshua. For instance, we’ll see God delivering the enemies of Israel into their hands. He’ll lead them to cross the Jordan and enter the land in chapters 3 and 4. He’ll have Israel take Jericho and Ai and Bethel and really all the land of Canaan in chapters 5 through 11 of this book. God will split the land up between the various tribes in the last half of this book. All the while, God will be with Israel and Joshua, just as he promised.

But what about before these promises start coming to pass? What were the Israelites to do before God started working out his promises to them? That’s what we see in these first two chapters today. In these first two chapters, we see Encouragements to Believe God’s Promises. In this introduction to the book we won’t see fulfillment of God’s promises so much. But we will see the encouragements he gives to Joshua that those promises will come to pass. And we’re not necessarily going to see a lot of action today. But these chapters do prepare us for the action that’s in store for us.

So let’s start by examining the first scene. It takes up verses 1 through 9. And here we’ll start to see how God encourages Joshua to believe his promises.

Joshua 1:1-2

Let’s look at the first two verses…

1:1 ¶ Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.

Let’s just remind ourselves of who this man Joshua is. First, he’s a man of war. In Exodus 17 he fought against Amalek as Moses stood on the hill holding up the rod. Joshua was also an assistant to a godly man. The text reminds us that he was the servant of Moses. Joshua furthermore was a spiritual man. Remember? When Moses would leave the tent after meeting with the Lord, Joshua, a young man at the time, would often stay behind. In addition, Joshua was loyal. When two men started prophesying in the camp, it seems like Joshua was concerned that they were trying to take Moses’ place. That particular passage makes a point of saying that Joshua had been Moses’ servant from his youth. This lifelong servant of Moses was loyal to and jealous for his father in the faith. So, Joshua is a loyal, servant-minded, godly, man of war… You know what that tells me? God perfectly prepared this man for this time in his life. Israel needed a leader who could fight. They needed one who as their leader would still be their servant in a right way. And Israel needed a loyal godly leader to shepherd them to do God’s will. And now, with all that preparation taken care of, Joshua was ready for the work God called him to do.

Now, in the 1st chapter of this book, God tells Joshua to arise and cross the Jordan with all the people. Do you remember where the people were? They were on the plains of Moab to the east of the Jordan River. And they’re ready to enter the land God promised to them. They will soon take possession of it.

Joshua 1:3-4

But wait. What land had God actually promised to the Israelites? Do you know off the top of your head? If not, that’s OK. Because God tells us in verses 3-4. He says…

3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

Whoa! Did you catch that? The Euphrates? Israel’s border was supposed to extend all the way to the Euphrates River? Do you remember reading that promise before?… Yeah, it’s actually what God promised to Israel. You might say, “well, did they ever occupy all that land?” The answer: Not in the book of Joshua. And not in the time of the Judges. Israel actually had to wait until the time of their first king — Saul — to ever get close to ruling over all that land. Then in the days of David, Israel seemed to capture a good deal of the land from the Mediteraenean Sea to the Euphrates. And then finally in the reign of Solomon, Israel reigned over all of that land.

So we’ve been discussing the East and West boundaries of Israel’s land. What about their north and south borders? God gave Israel the land from as far north as Lebanon to as far south as the wilderness – or the dessert to the south of Israel. This was the expansive territory God wanted Israel to have.

So, it took until the days of Solomon for Israel to rule over all this land that God promised them. They took it hundreds of years after they were promised it. Why? Well, I don’t want to give away too much about the latter chapters of Joshua, but what we end up seeing in this book is that the people are actually pretty slow to inherit their land – and that’s just the land of Canaan. Then of course in the times of the Judges the people aren’t even thinking about land. They’re too busy doing what’s right in their own eyes. So, the promise of the land remained really unclaimed until the days of the kings.

Let me just apply this a little. What promise has God given to you in the Scriptures that you have yet to claim? No, he’s not promising land these days to his NT people. He’s not promising victory over Amorites or Canaanites. But he does promise victory over your sin nature. He does promise that he’ll provide for you. He promises to never, ever leave you. Do you feel forsaken by God? Well, that’s all it is – a feeling. It’s not the truth. He promises to never forsake his own. Are you claiming his promise to keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus as you refuse to be anxious for anything? Are you claiming his promise to add all the things the Gentiles seek if you just seek first his kingdom and righteousness? If not, why not? Start today!

Now, this was a pretty big area that God promised to Israel. In modern-day terms, this space would probably occupy all of modern-day Israel and Jordan, and some, most, or all of Egypt to the south-west, Saudi Arabia to the south-east, Iraq to the east, Syria to the north-east, and Lebanon to the north. This sounds like a daunting task. This doesn’t sound like an encouragement. It sounds like a discouragement.

Joshua 1:5

And that’s why God encourages Joshua to believe his promises in verse 5. There, God says…

[5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.]

So, even if this area that God promised had 100 million valiant warriors to defend it, not a one of them would be able to stand before Joshua. That’s God’s encouragement. And just as God had been with Moses, so he would be with Joshua. Now, in what way was God with Moses? Certainly in numerous ways. But one thing comes to mind. At the end of Moses’ life, was there any doubt as to whose side God was on, so-to-speak? For example, was God on Miriam’s side and Aaron’s side when they rebelled against Moses? No. God was on Moses’ side. Was God on the side of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram when they confronted Moses and questioned his authority? No. God was for Moses. And just like God was for Moses, so he would be for Joshua. There’d be no question as to whom God supported to lead Israel. And it seems like Israel learned their lesson during Moses’ time. And really none of them put up any resistance to Joshua at all.

And in all of this and over all of this, God promises to not fail or forsake Joshua. Joshua could count on that. You know, one very wonderful consequence of being the sovereign creator and ruler of everything and everyone is that it is really impossible for God to ultimately fail at anything. When we make plans and intend to do things, we need to keep in mind that these things will happen only – as James says – if the Lord is willing for it to happen. But brethren, there is no “Lord-willing” for our God. If he makes a promise or intends to do something, he will bring it to pass.

Joshua 1:6

Now, let me introduce you to a phrase that Joshua hears a few times in this short passage. It’s found in verse 6 where God says…

[ 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.]

Here’s the first time we hear this phrase, “be strong and of a good courage.” Or is it? Well, it’s the first time we hear it in the book of Joshua. But actually, if you had read through the book of Deuteronomy before, you would have heard it there, too. This phrase is made up of two Hebrew verbs – chazaq and amatz. These two words occur in Deu 3:28 first. That’s where God first tells Moses to “encourage” and “strengthen” Joshua. Then in Deu 31:6 Moses actually commands all Israel to “be strong and of a good courage.” In the next verse – Deut 31:7 – Moses charges Joshua with these exact same words. Moses gives the same charge one more time before the book of Deuteronomy is over in 31:23. So, actually we see either God or Moses making this charge 4 times in the book that immediately preceds the book of Joshua – Deuteronomy.

So, what have we seen so far? We’ve seen God verbally encouraging Joshua. Isn’t it interesting how words can wield quite a bit of power? They’re just simple words. Good job! Keep it up! I’m praying for you! And yet, what an effect they can have on us. God, of course, understands this power and takes this opportunity to verbaly encourage Joshua.

Joshua 1:7-8

And he doesn’t just say this phrase once! God says it to Joshua again in verses 7 and 8. He says…

[7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.]

So God again uses this encouraging command for Joshua to be strong and — not just merely courageous — but very courageous! And in this strength and courage, God reminds Joshua, that he needs to do according to the Law. If he keeps God’s commands, Joshua will prosper wherever he goes. God advises Joshua to continually meditate on God’s commands. This will make it more likely that these commands would be in his mind. And if they’re in his mind he’s going to have an easier time obeying them. And in all of this, God is wanting the success of his people. Did you catch the words he uses? Prosper. Propserous. Good success. God doesn’t want Joshua to fail. He wants the best for him and his nation.

Joshua 1:9

And God finishes his verbal encouragements to Joshua with verse 9. He says…

[9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.]

God is really stressing Joshua’s need to be strong and courageous, isn’t he? Three times in this first scene he’s already been told to be strong and courageous. Why? Was this man just naturally timid or cowardly? Well, we know he was a military leader in the days of Moses. He’s seen battle. And he proved himself. I think we do catch him in a weak moment later in the book. When God appears to have abandoned Israel as they fought Ai, Joshua ends up despairing. But that’s really the only hint of weakness I can really gather from this book. Joshua is a valiant warrior. He’s a man who loves God. He trusts God’s promises. And yet God sees fit to command him three times to be strong and courageous. What does that tell us about Joshua? He’s a fallen human capable of weakness and discouragement. Do any of us know what that’s like? And at the same time, do any of us, like Joshua of old, have any commands from God to be strong and courageous? Jesus – God in the flesh – tells us to not let our hearts be troubled. He’s preparing a place for us. And he is coming again to take us unto himself. We’re encouraged by the apostle John that the one who is in us – God – is greater than the one who is in the world – our adversary, the devil. Peter encourages us to be sober and vigilant because that adversary of ours walks around like a roaring lion – oh, only we can’t see or hear him. But he’s just as deadly. We need to resist him by being firm in the faith… In verse 9 here in Joshua 1, Joshua had the promise of the Lord’s presence. We have that promise, too. Jesus said, Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world – as we’re serving him and making disciples.

Alright, so we just saw a number of encouragements God gave to Joshua to help him believe God’s promises.

Joshua 1:10-11

Now, let’s take a look at what Joshua himself does with those encouragements. First of all, in verses 10 and 11 Joshua addresses all Israel through their officers. Let’s read what he says…

[1:10 ¶ Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.]

The people are going to enter the land in three days. After so long, it was finally happening! And everyone would pass over the Jordan and enter the land. Well, almost everyone. There were a few that would stay behind East of the Jordan River.

Joshua 1:12-15

We can read about them in verses 12 through 15. The narrator says…

[12 ¶ And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying, 13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them; 15 Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.]

So the women, children, and cattle of the Reubenites, Gadites, and ½ tribe of Manasseh would stay in the land that Israel captured from Sihon and Og. Everyone else would cross the Jordan and help the 9 ½ tribes get their inheritance. That’s the deal. That was what Moses had arranged. Would the 2 ½ tribes still agree to it?

Joshua 1:16-18

Let’s read their reaction in verses 16 through 18…

[16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.]

The 2 ½ tribes offer to be just as obedient to Joshua as they were to Moses. At first, that strikes fear into my heart. But really, as we go through the rest of the book I think we see these tribes really being very obedient. We don’t see any of the rebellion they displayed toward Moses. And so they are serious when they threaten anyone who disobeys Joshua with death. All they desire is that God would be with Joshua as he was with Moses. And then did you see what they say at the end? They repeat God’s comforting command to Joshua – be strong and of a good courage.

Book of Joshua Commentary, KJV, Summary, Analysis, Bible Study

Book of Joshua Commentary: So after our whirlwind of a lesson last week through Deuteronomy we’ll do another kind of overview lesson. This time we’ll get a broad birds-eye view of the book of Joshua. We’ll start in chapter 1.

Now, I might change my mind after we study through the whole book chapter-by-chapter. But for now I’m going to give this as the great truth that we see about God in this book – God Keeps His Promises.

Let’s read about his promise in 1:1-2.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Joshua 1:1-9

1:1 ¶ Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.

Here’s the main promise God gave to Joshua and all Israel which he intends to keep – to give them the land. The land of Canaan. Moses is dead. Joshua is now the man. And so in verses 1-9 we see God encouraging Joshua to be strong and courageoues and to enter the land and to apportion it to the tribes of Israel.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Joshua 1:10-18

So Joshua turns around in verses 10-18 and gives some instruction of his own. He tells the officers in verses 10-11 to get ready — because in 3 days they would cross the Jordan. Joshua then in verses 12-15 reminds the 2 ½ tribes (Reuben, Gad, and ½ Manasseh) of the promise they made to Moses. Remember? These tribes already got their land East of the Jordan River. And Moses said they could have that land. But they had to come over into the land of Canaan and help their brothers take their land. So Joshua reminds these 2 ½ tribes of this promise they made. Then those tribes respond in verses 16-18 and say something like “just like we obeyed Moses, we’ll obey you!” I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be comforting to Joshua. Remember the track record of rebellion among the sons of Israel toward Moses. But anyway, that’s how they responded to him.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Joshua 2

We again see Israel sending out spies starting in 2:1. Now again, I’m not sure why they feel the need to do this. But I think it’s interesting that Joshua didn’t send out 12 spies like Moses did at Kadesh-barnea. Look at 2:1. How many spies did he send? Two. I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that that there were only 2 spies of the 12 that Moses sent out that brought back a good report of Canaan. At any rate, the 2 spies – we learn they’re “young men” later on in the book – but these 2 spies enter the house of a prostitute in Jericho, of all places. And the prostitute’s name is Rahab. So we see this episode throughout chapter 2 in which Rahab and the spies take center stage. It turns out that these two young men make a covenant with Rahab to not destroy her and her family when they attack Jericho later on. Now, immediately my curiosity is arroused. Were the Israelites supposed to make any covenants with the people in the land? No, not according to Deuteronomy. They could make covenants with other nations outside of Canaan. But not with those in the land. What were the Israelites supposed to do to the Canaanites? Kill every person – man, woman, and child. Period. That’s the Law. No mercy. But here we have these two young men making a covenant with some of the people of the land. Very interesting! And what’s even more interesting is that God doesn’t nullify this covenant. He honors it. So, you can tell there’s a lot to explore here and we won’t do it in this message. We’ll save it for later.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Joshua 3-4

Now, we get to 3:1 and the spies are back from their time in Jericho. And Israel is ready to cross the Jordan River. And it takes them to the end of chapter 4 to cross it. Our Pastor has recently mentioned how Jordan really isn’t a mighty river these days. And that’s true, especially the farther south it goes. But that wasn’t the case in Joshua’s day. Look at 3:15. What does the Jordan do during harvest season? It overflowed its banks. This was once a mighty river. And it’s going to be quite a feat to cross this thing. Well, God had it planned out. When the priests carry the ark of the covenant into the Jordan, all its waters will pile up far up north and the Israelites will again cross a body of water on dry ground. And that’s just what happens. The Jordan’s water piles up somewhere up north and Israel crosses. The priests come up out of the river bed and back come the waters, overflowing its banks.

Now, the Jordan I believe is visible from Jericho. It’s about 5 miles from the city and average visibility is over 18 miles. What does that mean? Well, the people of Jericho very possibly would have been watching this scene unfold. The water stopping completely. The people crossing the river. The water coming back and spilling over its banks. And what was their reaction? Fear. Read 5:1.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Joshua 5:1-12

5:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.

So, not only had the people of Jericho heard of this amazing event. All the kings everywhere across the river did. And the text says their heart melted. They were terrified.

Now, before Israel attacks anyone they need to tend to some important details. First of all, in verses 2-9 they need to be circumcized. They weren’t doing this in the wilderness. So all the men needed to have this procedure done. And secondly, verses 10-12, they need to celebrate the Passover. It was the 14th day of the 1st month and that’s when Passover was to be celebrated according to the Law. So that’s what they did.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Jericho

Alright, now with those things taken care of, the Israelites can strike! In 5:13 – 6:27 we see the conquest of Jericho.

There are several parts to this conquest. First in 5:13-15 we have this mysterious encounter between Joshua and this man that we come to find out is the captain of the Lord’s army. Joshua bows to him and takes off his sandals at the man’s command. Joshua actually falls on his face in response to encountering this man and understanding who he is. We’ll probably say more about him when we get to this part of the book.

After this, the Israelites circle the city of Jericho for 6 days, once per day, blowing trumpets. Then the 7th day the people circle the city 7 times and then they blow trumpets and shout. And the walls come down! Israel enters the city, spares Rahab, and utterly destroys everyone else.

You can think of some songs that represent Israel crossing the Jordan as somehow corresponding to the Christian going to heaven. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on having to fight or struggle anymore when I’m in heaven with the Lord. This observation isn’t original to me, but I think if Israel’s crossing of Jordan represents anything, it’s not our death experience but our salvation experience. Yes, we’ve entered into God’s promise of eternal life. But there’s still quite a bit of fighting to do – fighting not against flesh and blood, of course. But fighting nonetheless.

OK, back to the story. In 6:26 Joshua issues a curse upon whomever will rebuild Jericho. And in verse 27 the author ends this story pointing out that Joshua’s fame started spreading that day – just like the Lord promised earlier in this book.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Achan and Defeat at Ai

And that’s the end of Jericho! Or is it? It should have been. But let’s read 7:1 to figure out what’s going on.

7:1 ¶ But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

God put some things under the ban – or he made them “accursed thing”s. He didn’t want anyone taking them. But one of the Israelites, Achan, took some of that stuff. And because of that, God was angry at all Israel. God keeps his promises. He kept his promise to Israel that when they obeyed and loved him, they would be blessed. But when they sin and disobey, he kees his promise even then. In the case of disobedience, God promised to curse Israel and basically let their enemies defeat them.

And that’s just what we see in verses 2-5. Ai – a tiny city to the west of Jericho beats back Israel. This came as a total surprise to Joshua. He apparently didn’t know about Achan’s sin. And so he falls before the Lord in verses 6-9. Now, at first I wanted to say that he sought the Lord as to why he allowed Israel to be defeated. And he very well may have asked the Lord why this happened. But that’s not what we have recorded for us. We see this undoubtedly godly man basically despairing before God. He begins doubting God’s promise to give the Israelites the land of Canaan. I can identify. Joshua thinks God is just for no reason abandoning them after he had clearly promised them victory.

And God is very merciful. In verses 10-15 God tells Joshua there’s a sin issue in the camp that’s preventing God from blessing their military efforts. Verses 16-18 show us Joshua finding out that Achan is the one who sinned. Joshua urges Achan to confess his sin. And when Achan does so, the Isralites run to his tent and verify his report. They find the stuff. They take Achan and all his family. They are then stoned and burned with fire. WHAT! All for just taking some stuff? Yes, for taking some stuff that God told him not to. HIS FAMILY SUFFERED WITH HIM? Yes. Maybe I’ll have more to say about it later. But the fact is that this man’s family was destroyed because of his sin. WOW, GOD IS SEVERE. That’s what Paul says in Romans. Behold the kindness – he’s also kind – the kindness and severity of God. He is not a God to be trifled with. He means what he says. And he keeps his promises.

So with Achan’s sin taken care of, the Israelites take the city of Ai as well as the nearby city of Bethel. Here’s how it happens. Israel sets an ambush behind the city. The rest of Israel comes to Ai and pretends to run away from the men of the city like they did before. Only this time, the men in ambush sneak into the city and burn it, leaving the men of Ai in between two companies of Israelite fighters. Ai is quickly destroyed. The Israelites experience God’s good promises.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal

Then in 8:30-35 the Israelites finally come to Shechem where Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal are. And they uttered the blessings and curses of God’s promises – just like Moses commanded them before they entered Canaan.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Gibeonites

Then in chapter 9 we see something interesting. There are some Hivites that live in Gibeon. They’ve heard about the mighty acts of Israel’s God. And they want peace with Israel. But apparently they know that Israel would destroy them if Israel knew that they lived in the land of Canaan. So the Gibeonites bring moldy dry bread and old patched sandals and pretend like they’re from far away. The Israelites were a little suspicious, but Joshua made a covenant with the Gibeonites after a question or two. Worst of all, Joshua didn’t seek God about this decision.

And so after a few days Israel finds out that these folks they just made a covenant with are living in the land of Canaan! Israel broke God’s command to not make a covenant with any of the nations in Canaan. And Israel is not happy at their leaders for doing this. But Joshua and the leaders gave their word to the Gibeonites. And so Israel is now bound to them forever.

Well, that bond is tested in chapter 10. The kings of five pagan cities gang up on Gibeon. Those kings were angry at Gibeon for joining hands with Israel. And so these kings start attacking Gibeon. And Gibeon calls on Israel for help. I guess at this point if I didn’t know better I would think Joshua might let Gibeon perish. But that’s not what he did. Joshua kept his word and defended the Gibeonites from these five kings. And after Israel defended their new friends in Gibeon they struck the cities of those five kings and conquered them. And actually Israel went on and defeated a number of other places in the south of Canaan.

Then in chapter 11 we see Israel take the northern part of Canaan. And that brings us to this. Let’s read 11:23.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Conquering Northern Canaan

11:23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.

So there it is. Joshua took the whole land. He gave it to Israel. The land rested from war. But… doesn’t that make you wonder why we have 13 more chapters after this? Here’s what I think is happening. We’ve seen a summary of Joshua taking the land. And in chapter 12 we see a summary of all the kings whom the Israelites destroyed. In verses 1-6 we see the two kings to the east of the Jordan mentioned. And verses 7-24 summarize the kings to the west of the Jordan who were defeated by Israel.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Land Apportioned

Then for 9 chapters – from 13 to the end of 21 – we see the land apportioned between the tribes of Israel with a few other land matters taken care of. So let’s survey these chapters. Let’s read 13:1.

13:1 ¶ Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

Then the Lord lists the rest of the land that the Israelites still need to take.

By the way, I think it’s interesting that Joshua spent over half of the book that’s named after him as being old and striken in years? Well, that’s the fact. Joshua is old and stricken in years and he needs to divide the land among the tribes of Israel. They’ve conquered the land. But they have yet to possess it by tribes. And so Joshua apportions the land. But before that happens, we need to be reminded of a few things. First – verse 14 – Levi doesn’t get an inheritance of land. That’s because they get the Lord’s service as their inheritance. Next, verses 15-23 – what tribe are we talking about? Reuben. They got land not in Canaan, but on the east of the Jordan. And then, verses 24-28 – who are we talking about now? Gad. They also got their land east of the Jordan. And the last group to mention is in verses 29-31. Who is mentioned as getting their land here? Manasseh. But not all of Manasseh. Just the half tribe. We’ll talk about the other half in a little bit.

So, what did we see in those verses we just mentioned? These were the 2 ½ tribes that had their inheritance east of the Jordan as well as Levi, who didn’t have a land inheritance. Now, what do we see in 14:1-2? Let’s read that.

Book of Joshua Commentary: West of Jordan

14:1 ¶ And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them. 2 By lot was their inheritance, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe.

So now we’re going to talk about the places that Israel inherited – not east of the Jordan, but west of it – in the land of Canaan. So, which tribe starts the process? Look at 14:6. Who are we talking about? Judah. And do you know what? Judah’s under discussion from 14:6 to 15:63. And do you remember Caleb? He was one of the 2 faithful spies, Joshua being the second of them. Well, Caleb is of the tribe of Judah and so we see him getting his special allotment in this section as well.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Ephraim

Now, turn ahead to 16:1. Which tribe are we talking about now? Joseph. But actually, Joseph’s inheritance was split up among two of his sons. You see one of them in verse 5. Who is it? Ephraim. And that leaves – 17:1 –whom? Manasseh. Well, again, not all of Manasseh. Just the other ½ tribe of Manasseh. The first ½ got their land east of Jordan.

Now, there seems to be something of a problem. Only these two tribes – Judah and Joseph – have taken their inheritance. What about the other 7 tribes? Well, they haven’t done anything. Let’s read 18:1-3 for some details.

Book of Joshua Commentary: 7 Tribes Left

18:1 ¶ And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them. 2 ¶ And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance. 3 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?

So Israel goes from wherever they were – I think Gilgal or perhaps Shechem – to Shiloh. The land was subdued before them but 7 whole tribes didn’t enter their land yet! And you can sense a hint of frustration on Joshua’s part. “Why have you not gone in to possess the land yet?!”

So Joshua has each tribe send 3 men to look at the land and catalog it. Then Joshua would use their data to separate the land and give it to each tribe, using lots. The 21 men return and give Joshua the data. Then Joshua assigns land to each tribe. Which tribe do we see first? 18:11? Benjamin. Look at 19:1. What’s the next tribe? Simeon. 3rd tribe in 19:10? Zebulun. 19:17 has the 4th tribe. It’s Issachar. What’s the 5th tribe in 19:24? Asher. 6th in 19:32? Naphtali. And who is left in 19:40? Dan.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Joshua’s Inheritance

Then finally in 19:49-50 Joshua receives his inheritance among his brethren the Ephraimites. 19:51 wraps-up the land division, stating that all the land was divided.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Cities of Refuge

But there are 2 more issues regarding the land that need to be resolved. 20:1-9 deal with designating cities of refuge in the land — where a manslayer can flee if he kills someone unintentionally. They make 6 cities into cities of refuge – 3 east of the Jordan and 3 west of it.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Levitical Pasture Lands

Then all of chapter 21 deals with giving pasure lands to the Levites. No, they weren’t given a contiguous area of land as a tribe. But they were given individual cities where they could raise livestock and live… And that’s the end of dealing with the land in this book.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Near Civil War

Finally, chapters 22 through 24 conclude the book. The entire 22nd chapter tells us how the 2 ½ tribes were sent back home east of the Jordan. They kept their promise. They fought alongside of and helped their brothers to get their land. And now they could go back to their own land. But something really weird happens. They go back and make a humongous altar. So all Israel sends men of war to them, planning to attack them for disobeying God and offering sacrifices in a place he had not designated. When the men of war come, though, they discover that the 2 ½ tribes didn’t intend to offer sacrifices on this altar. Their stated intention in errecting that altar was to remind the rest of Israel that they worshipped the same God as those tribes west of the Jordan did. This explanation pleased the men of war and they went back home. But I must admit this is a rather puzzling situation. I look forward to studying it more when we get to it later on.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Joshua’s Last Words

In chapter 23 and most of chapter 24, Joshua charges the people and their leaders to love God and be blessed – that sounds familiar! He tells them to worship God alone. He reminds them of God’s faithfulness. God keeps his promises. Joshua says in 23:14 – “…ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” Joshua also gives this rather ominous warning that they won’t be able to serve God because he is jealous and holy and he won’t simply wink at their sin. And when they fail God and turn from him, God will keep his promise to punish them.

Book of Joshua Commentary: Joshua Dies

And lastly, the end of the book records the death and burial of Joshua, the burial of Joseph’s bones finally, and the death and burial of Eleazar, the son of Aaron and father of Phinehas.

God is a promise-keeping God. He will do what he’s said. He did it to Israel. And he’ll do it for us, too. God keeps his promises.

Deuteronomy Summary

Deuteronomy Summary: As I said last week, we’ll be studying the book of Joshua in Sunday School. Let me give a little background for that.

Originally I thought that studying through the book of Judges would be helpful. I see parallels to the situation today in Christ’s church with what the Israelites experienced under the Judges.

But as I studied and talked with others, I thought it would be best to start with Joshua. You can land in the book of Judges without teaching Joshua but we’d probably miss some things. So, I thought we might as well start with Joshua.

But then I further noticed that the book of Deuteronomy really has bearing on the circumstances we see later in the books of Joshua and Judges – really, even in the books of Ruth and Samuel and Kings.

So I’m going to take this lesson just preparing us for the book of Joshua by studying the book of Deuteronomy.

You might wonder if I might as well start at Genesis. Well, that would be interesting and I’m sure helpful. But we’ll just stick with Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy really stands as a good summary of all that has happened to Israel from Genesis through to the end of Numbers.

So this is where we’ll start. Deuteronomy. The “second (deuteros) Law (nomos)”.

This book is not narrative. I’m not quite sure what kind of writing it is. Some suggest that it’s patterned after legal documents. As if Yahweh is legally renewing his covenant with his chosen people, Israel.

Yet, even though it’s not a narrative, Moses does set the scene for us. Let’s read Deu 1:1-5.

1:1 ¶ These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. 2 (There are eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of mount Seir unto Kadeshbarnea.) 3 And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them; 4 After he had slain Sihon the king of the Amorites, which dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Astaroth in Edrei: 5 On this side Jordan, in the land of Moab, began Moses to declare this law, saying…

So, picture Israel. You can look at the map section in your Bible. Its west border is the Mediteranean Sea. Its east boundary is the Jordan River. The Jordan runs north from the Sea of Galilee to the south, emptying into the Dead Sea. Jericho is just a little north of the Dead Sea. Right across the Jordan to the east is the modern-day nation of Jordan. In Old Testament times that was the land of the Amorites. Now, the Jordan valley is flanked to the east and west by hills. But down in the valley is where the sons of Israel were. They hadn’t crossed the Jordan yet. They’re on the east side of the Jordan, in the land they had just captured from the 2 Amorite kings. They can look over the Jordan and see Jericho. They can see the land which God had promised to them and their fathers. They’re so close.

In verse 2 we’re reminded that the way from Horeb (a.k.a. Sinai) to Kadesh-barnea was only 11 days. Kadesh-barnea was where the Israelites were supposed to enter Canaan. But they rebelled. And so instead of entering the land in 11 days, it took them – verse 3 – 40 years! Before they could finally enter the land though they needed to – verse 4 – slay two Amorite kings: Sihon and Og.

They did that. And now finally the people are ready to enter the land. But Moses isn’t going to enter. The Lord was angry at him and wouldn’t allow him to enter. So he just needs to encourage Joshua to lead the people in there. But Moses isn’t going to address Joshua alone. Moses, this godly leader who had led the Israelites these 40 years, he has a number of things on his heart to communicate to his people. Important things. Things God wants him to say. Moses has a message. And we can summarize this message like this: Love God and Be Blessed.

Deuteronomy is a book of 34 chapters. There’s no way I could cover this book chapter-by-chapter in one message. So I’m going to be teaching the content of this book without specifically referencing or even turning to the individual passages. So you can just listen and take notes if that would help you follow the message.

Alright, so Moses’ message is Love God and Be Blessed. But an Israelite may have asked, “why should I love God?” Moses gives a number of reasons, but he starts off by giving a history of God’s gracious dealings with Israel.

He starts off with Israel going down to Egypt and being oppressed. So God granted Israel a miraculous deliverance from Egypt. He brought them through the Red Sea. We’re also reminded that Amalek viciously and mercileslly attacked them after that episode. Remember Haman?? Amalek to Agag to Haman. Anyway, after Amalek, God brought Israel to Sinai – or as Moses calls it in this book, Horeb.

At Horeb, God appeared to Israel on the mountain in fire and darkness and thick gloom with trumpet blasts. It was terrifying. So Israel asked for a mediator. They could not stand to hear God’s voice and see God’s presence. So God commended the people’s reaction and made Moses the mediator. God gave Moses his commands that Moses was then to command Israel. But while God was giving his commands to Moses, Israel got together and made an idol! Unbelievable. So Moses had to leave his mediatorial work and come down from the mountain and deal with his people. In the process he angrily broke the original tablets containing the 10 Commandments. And God himself was so angry at the people that he wanted to destroy Israel and make a new nation out of Moses. But Moses loved God’s people and interceded for them. He even had to intercede for his own brother, Aaron. So the Lord listened to Moses and turned from his desire to destroy Israel.

Eventually God told Israel to leave Horeb and travel north to Kadesh-barnea, which was somewhere along the southern boundary of Canaan. God told Moses that Israel should go up from there and attack the Canaanites. But the people actually approached Moses and asked if they could send some spies to figure out the best way to go up into the land. Moses says that that request pleased him. The question is whether that request pleased God. I’m not sure. That’s just something to think about. But at any rate, the spies go up. They scope out the land. They bring back a report. And in Deuteronomy Moses emphasizes the good report which the 2 spies brought back. The people hear that report but they still rebell and refuse to trust God. So God is angry with them and forbids the unbelieving men from entering Canaan. The people make some effort to confess their sin and obey God, but it’s too late. God has spoken. But the people go up anyway and get turned back by the Canaanites.

The book of Deuteronomy then gives one meager verse to their 40 years of wilderness wanderings. I get the sense that Moses really didn’t want to think very much about that disappointing time in Israel’s history.

But then finally the word comes from the Lord. Go up! Pass northeast through Edom! But don’t attack them. Pass north through Moab! But leave him alone. Pass north through Ammon! But don’t touch his land. OK, now pass through to the Amorite Sihon! Ah, yes, you can attack him. I will give him into your hand. Continue on and attack Og the Amorite! His land is yours.

Yes, the Ammonites and Moabites hire Balaam the false prophet to curse Israel. But God turned it into a blessing. Yes, Baal-peor happens. That was where Balaam advising Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel. Balaam told Balak to tempt the Israelites with foreign women who would commit immorality with the Israelites and lead them astray to follow after false Gods. And God had to deal with the Israelites for that sinful situation.

But now, Israel is on the plains opposite Jericho. God brought them all the way there. He didn’t leave or forsake them. But that’s the past. Israel needs to do right — now and into the future. They need to Love God and Be Blessed. That’s Moses’ message to them as they’re on the verge of entering the land that God promised to them.

So Israel needs to love God. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – “Hear O Israel…You shall love the Lord your God.” But how would Israel know if they were loving God? Jesus – the very God of the Israelites in the Old Testament says this in the New Testament. “If you love me, … keep my commandments.” Listen. We can’t and Israel couldn’t walk in the disobedience of our hearts, all the while claiming to love God. Throughout the Scripture, loving God is linked to the degree of your obedience to him. Now, don’t get me wrong. Obeying God never brought people into a relationship with him. That’s impossible since our obedience to God is always so imperfect and incomplete. But obedience to God grows our relationship with him. Pastor has mentioned a godly man of old who would say something like “If you want to know God, mind him.” There’s no question that this is the case. Israel needed to love God by obeying him.

Now, we’ve mentioned this matter of having a relationship with God. We New Testament believers enter into this relationship with God through faith. The same actually was true of individual Old Testament saints as well. They came to know God by faith. Romans 4 tells us that this is how Abraham and David understood their relationship with God. But you know, in Deuteronomy we’re told about a momentous event in which the whole nation of Israel was brought into a special relationship with God. It happened at Mount Sinai or Horeb. God mentions this event several times in Deuteronomy. God views this event as a covenantal occasion. He made a special covenant with the nation of Israel. He took them to himself as a special people. And he was to be their one and only God. It was as if God took Israel as his wife. It’s a very special tender relationship that they had. Does this help your understanding of all these Laws that God gives to Israel? God didn’t just come on the scene and start barking out orders to Israel. He brought them out of bondage in Egypt. He took them unto himself and swore that they alone would be his people. These commandments to Israel can really be viewed as something like wedding vows.

And you know, when Israel obeys these reasonable requests from their God, they will experience tremendous blessings. I’d advise you to just read through this book and note the number of times God promises blessing for obedience. Love God and Be Blessed is Moses’ message in this book, after all. How would Israel be blessed for loving God? Israel’s land will yield abundant produce. Their enemies will flee before them. Their animals and wives will not be barren. They will have no diseases. They will have abundant money and livestock and rain. Really, God plainly states that there will be no poor people among them – they’ll all be rich. All the nations around them will marvel at them because they have such a close relationship with God and have such just and wise laws. Blessing…upon…blessing!

Now, as this nation prepares to enter the land of Canaan they have a few commands that stand out above and beyond the rest. One such command is the one that says they need to destroy the nations. Well, not all the nations, actually. Just the 7 nations in the land of Canaan are the ones that need to be destroyed. The other nations they can offer terms of peace to. And if they don’t accept the terms of peace then the Israelites would destroy the men in that nation but leave the others alive. Not so with the 7 nations in Canaan! The Israelites were to utterly destroy man, woman, and child — and anything else that breathed — in those nations.

This might be one of the most difficult commands in the whole Old Testament to come to terms with. God really wanted the Israelites to destroy even innocent women and children? Yeah. God says that if even the ones who seemed most innocent were allowed to live, then they would teach God’s people Israel to follow after other gods and repeat the same sins that these 7 nations committed. These 7 nations were so evil that God had a special plan for their destruction. God says that they do everything – every thing – that he hates. They even sacrificed their children – the ones we don’t want to see die – they sacrifice their own children to demons! This all might be hard to accept. But it is God’s mind on the matter. And we always do well to just believe what God has to say without trying to wiggle out from under its uncomfortable truth.

Now, these 7 nations were stronger and larger than Israel. It wasn’t an easy thing they were setting out to do. But God promised victory. If Israel obeys, God will destroy these nations before them and give to Israel all their stuff – houses filled with good things, cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, everything they could want. That is, if they love God.

Now, you might wonder why God chose Israel over these other nations. Positively, God chose them to keep his promises to their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Negatively, God says he certainly didn’t choose them for either of the following reasons – their size (they were smaller than all nations) or for their righteousness (he gives them their history of rebellion as proof).

The second big bold command that comes to our attention multiple times – scores of times – in this book is that Israel needs to worship God alone. This makes sense. God took this nation to himself in a relationship very much reminiscent of the marriage covenant. It makes sense then if God is the husband that Israel — the wife — would be faithful to him alone.

What does this look like? Negatively, they need to stay away from worshipping idols. Again, this is one big reason they need to completely destroy the nations across the Jordan in Canaan. Idolatry is contageous. Israel needs to rid the land of it ASAP. And Moses speaks of this urgent matter constantly in the book of Deuteronomy. The Israelites must not immitate the pagans in any way. They were to be totally holy and separate from the evil that characterized the pagans – especially their idolatry.

You know, even the way that God appeared on Mount Horeb should have taught Israel to not construct idols. Moses says in Deuteronomy that when God appeared to them on Horeb they didn’t see a form at all. They heard a voice from heaven. But God didn’t appear as a man. He didn’t appear as a bird, or a fish, or a lion. This was intentional. He appeared as fire – something that really is quite difficult to make into an idol. And so because God revelaed himself without a form but he did utter his voice – because of that, Israel needed to pay attention to God’s WORDS, not his form. Don’t focus on his FORM, Israel! Focus on what he had to say to you from heaven.

What did he say anyway? What are the words that Israel must obey and thereby be blessed? Well, we mentioned two broad commands. Worship God alone and destroy the 7 nations who are especially sinful and who will influence you to idolatry against the true God of heaven.

But the book of Deuteronomy consists of 34 chapters! There’s a lot more to God’s commands than these two areas – worshipping God only and destroying the nations. I’ll mention a few things. God gives Israel rules about what to do in the case of immorality. He tells Israel what to do when a murder is committed. He gives instructions about what to do with a habitual and hardened disobedient child. He commands them to build a railing on top of their roof to prevent people from falling off. Israel must eat only clean animals. When they find a mother bird with a nest of eggs, they can take the eggs but not the mother. When they eat a young goat they were not to boil it in its mother’s milk. God tells them whom Israel should accept to fight in their battles. He tells them that when they enter the land they will sacrifice ONLY in the place the Lord will chose. God forbids them from cross-dressing. And what I’ve just mentioned now leaves out a number of other commands that he gives Israel.

And you can’t find a flaw in any of these commands. There’s nothing immoral or unrighteous in these laws. Even if we don’t quite understand them or think them a little out-of-step with the way we live our lives – you can’t find a flaw with these commands. And that’s exactly why Moses tells Israel that the nations will be jealous of the nation of Israel. Because they have a God who is so near and who gives them such righteous statutes. That’s right. Moses did not say, “Yeah, I know these laws are a little embarassing and kind of out-of-step with the mainstream thinking of this day. But, you know, just kind of deal with it and it’ll be alright.” No. Moses says with a straight face that these laws are going to cause the nations around them to covet the relationship they have with their God. That is… if Israel actually obeys these laws.

And not only obeys them. But another big theme of Deuteronomy is that Israel needs to constantly teach their children God’s commands. They’re supposed to teach when they’re sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. They need to know God’s commands well enough to teach their children.

(Summary of Obedience) So these laws are righteous. Obeying them doesn’t bring Israel into a relationship with God – God did that at Horeb. But obeying these laws were to help the Israelites maintain their relationship with God. Obeying would show that they Love God. And as they love God by obeying him they would Be Blessed with all the blessings we already mentioned.

But Israel had a choice. They could choose whether or not they were going to obey. We’re going to see those choices played out in the coming weeks and months as we study through Joshua and Judges. We see the foundation begin to chip in Joshua.

For example, one of the Israelites disobeys God and takes something under the ban. In that case Israel did not love God. And as a result Israel was not blessed. She’s defeated right after that by the people of the tiny city of Ai.

Later on, the Gibeonites pretend to be a people far away and they seek to make a treaty with Israel. That wasn’t supposed to happen. And Joshua did not seek the Lord about it. So Israel got into a treaty with some of the inhabitants of Canaan. This was a violation of one of God’s commands to them.

But the worst comes in the book of Judges. Joshua dies and when he does, Israel starts seriously spiraling out of control. They cannot or will not conquer their enemies, as God commanded them. As a result they’re tempted with idolatry like God told them would happen. And so God gives them over to their enemies.

Wait, what?! Gives them over to their enemies? I thought Israel was supposed to be the head and their enemies the tail. I thought Israel would lend but not borrow. The enemies were supposed to come against Israel one way and flee before them seven ways! Yes. But that only happens – those blessings – only happen when they Love God.

And you know what? Even in the book of Deuteronomy, God knows that Israel is going to disobey. He holds out blessings for obedience. And yet in the next or even the same chapter that he gives promises of blessings for obedience, he also tells them that he knows they’re going to disobey.

God points to their track record of disobedience. From the day Moses brought the people out of the land of Egypt they’ve been stiff-knecked and hard-hearted. They provoked God to anger to such an extent at Horeb that he would have utterly destroyed the whole nation, including Aaron. Remember the rebellion they commited at Kadesh-Barnea? And that generation – just read through the books of Exodus and Numbers – they’re complaining all the time and acting as if God hates them and isn’t powerful or loving. They’re completely faithless. And without faith it’s impossible to please God. And so God was not pleased with that generation. He let them die in the wilderness.

So that’s the previous generation. But what about the current generation? The generation that was about to enter the land? Moses makes this statement in Deuteronomy 31:27 – He says to the generation about to enter the land of Canaan – “For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” Even that generation had been rebellious against God. And Moses fears what they will do when he’s gone.

And the consequences for not loving God are so severe. Just like the blessings for obeying God were numerous and beyond your wildest imagination, so too are the curses for disobedying and not loving God.

Israel would be defeated before their enemy. Their property ripped from their hands. Their wives violated by other men. They would experience life-threatening diseases. They would experience pestilence and mildew and terror. Their children would be taken from them while they can only look on as its happening. They’d be driven mad with these sights and experiences.

And you know, this was not what God wanted for his people… My family reads the Scripture at night before bedtime – about a chapter a night. We just read through the book of Revelation at the request of one of our children. You can guess which one – the one that can talk. And so now we just started in the book of Genesis. As we were reading Genesis 1, I was struck by this simple fact. God’s default mode – if you will – is to bless. God blessed man in the beginning. God blessed the Sabbath Day. He enjoys blessing people and things. He is a good and blessing God. And yet sin brings to light a whole new side of God. Sin is completely anti-thetical to God. He can’t bless sin. He can only punish and destroy it. And so, in Deuteronoy God warns Israel that this will happen – that he needs to punish sin. He even gives Moses a song to teach the people so that when they do turn from God they will have this song as a testimony against them.

And the ultimate consequence for Israel’s disobedience, even stated here in Deuteronomy, was that God would have to cast Israel out of the land. They will get to the place where they’re practicing the abominations of the nations they were supposed to utterly destroy. And just like God had to drive out those nations, he would have to drive out his worldly people who acted like those nations.

So, that’s bleak. And yet God gives a ray of hope, even here in this book. He says that when Israel sins against him to the extent he needs to drive them to other lands where they’ll worship idols — he says that after that happens he will bring them back to their land eventually. And that’s actually what we saw in Ezra and Nehemiah – the Jews came back to their land.

So, Israel is standing on the plains. They see the Jordan over which they will soon cross. They see Jericho, which they’ll attack and conquer in just a few days or weeks. And Moses is reminding them of the blessings that await them if they only love God and obey him. He also warns them sternly about failing to love God. Moses and God himself want Israel to live long in that land. The only way to receive this blessing of long life in God’s land is to love God.

We’re a lot like Israel. We don’t enter into a relationship with God through Law. We do so through a covenant. We have the New Covenant, whereby our sins are forgiven. While Israel had the Old Covenant given at Sinai. And God desires for us now to love him – to obey him in what he’s commanded us. The commands for us are different than for Israel in some ways. The blessings are different. But God still desires us – his New Testament people – to love him. Being free from the Law doesn’t mean we’re free to not love God. Jesus tells us that we must abide in him. And — as Jesus says — this is the only way we’ll be blessed and bear much fruit.

So, may the Lord help us to Love God and Be Blessed.

Esther 10 NLT

Esther 10 NLT: The very brief 10th chapter tells us that Mordecai was great. The king advanced him. He was second only to the king in the most powerful empire of his day. He found favor among his kinsmen. He sought the welfare of his people.

You walk away from the 10th chapter almost wondering if perhaps the book should be called “the book of Mordecai”! Really, he’s the closest thing the Jews experienced to a king since the days before the exile when they lived in the land under a monarchy.

Do you remember when we studied the book of Nehemiah? By the end of that book we were left yearning for a great ruler like Nehemiah to shepherd God’s people. And I think the same is true with the book of Esther.

We’re left with this kingly character caring for God’s people. And we’re supposed to long for that final and ultimate King of God’s people, the Messiah. Someday he’ll return.

Throughout this message we’ve heard about God’s Providential Peripety regarding the Jews of Esther and Mordecai’s day. But there will be a time in the future when Christ returns and brings about the final and ultimate “reversal of circumstances” for his people.

Now, we’ve just recently studied Ezra, Nehemiah, and now Esther. When did these books take place?

They all happened after the exile – sometime in the 500s and 400s BC. The exile of course was when the Jews were expelled from the land because of their unfaithfulness to God.

But of course that means that they were originally in the land at some point. Wouldn’t you like to hear how the Jews came to inhabit that land in the first place?

Well, I hope so! Because that’s what we’re going to start studying next week. We’ll be starting a study in the book of Joshua.

Until then, let’s look for and be thankful to God for any and all sudden or unexpected reversals of circumstances he brings our way. Let’s thank God for his Providential Peripety.

Esther 9 Sermon

Alright, now before we start into this Esther 9 sermon, we’ve seen Haman’s edict written and sent out. Then we saw the reaction to it. Likewise, we’ve seen Mordecai’s edict written and sent out. And we just saw the reaction to it. But what’s left to see? Both edicts are authorizing some serious conflict and destruction. And that’s what we finally see played-out in 9:1-5.

Esther 9 Commentary (1-5)

9:1 ¶ Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them;) 2 The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt: and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people. 3 And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them. 4 For Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went out throughout all the provinces: for this man Mordecai waxed greater and greater. 5 Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.

The text mentioned that the Jews attacked those who “sought their hurt”. So, I’m trying to picture the scene. I’m not sure if the enemies still gathered themselves together to fight the Jews, based on Haman’s original edict. Remember, that still wasn’t revoked because it was written with the king’s authority. Or did the Jews seek out their enemies who were in hiding throughout the kingdom? Whatever the case, the Jews themselves gathered together. And whether they attacked groups of enemy fighters or whether they had to search for and find those who had been hostile to them in various ways, the Jews attacked and destroyed their enemies – the ones who would have liked to see the Jews themselves destroyed. And no one could stand before them. Why? Because the peoples feared them.

Even the government officials joined hands with the Jews and assisted in the fight. Why? The text says that they were afraid of Mordecai. Let this sink in. Powerful government officials all over the kingdom feared Mordecai – this previously inconsequential Jew living in the capital of Shushan; this man who just that year had faced near-certain death. But now rulers are fearing him. The people, great and small, feared the Jews and their leader.

So, we have some general information about this 13th day of the 12th month. But how many people are we talking about dying here? Let’s read 9:6-12.

Esther 9 Commentary (6-12)

9:6 And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men. 7 And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha, 8 And Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha, 9 And Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vajezatha, 10 The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they; but on the spoil laid they not their hand. 11 ¶ On that day the number of those that were slain in Shushan the palace was brought before the king. 12 And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done.

The writer intentionally notes that the Jews didn’t take any spoil. Greed wasn’t their motivating factor. The edict issued by Mordecai told them that they could take the spoil if they wanted to. But they didn’t do it. The Jews were simply trying to defend their lives against their enemies.

Now, it says the Jews killed 500 men in Shushan including Haman’s 10 sons whom he bragged about before. Honestly, if I was king Ahasuerus I’d be a little concerned, I think. Maybe I’m not thinking right. I mean, I know that the Jews are in the right and they’re defending themselves. And I’m all for that. But I’m just a little apprehensive of all the death and destruction. But you know who wasn’t, at all? Ahasuerus wasn’t! Did you hear his statement to Esther? He’s impressed that the Jews have it in them to defend themselves! I can imagine the new admiration this brutal pagan monarch now has for the Jews. He’s like “Wow! 500 people in Shushan alone? What have they done throughout the rest of the kingdom?!” And then you can sense his enthusiastic elation and excitement – almost like a little kid – and he asks Esther what she would like further from him. He’s completely on her side. So, what does she ask? Read 9:13-15.

Esther 9 Commentary (13-15)

9:13 Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to morrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows. 14 And the king commanded it so to be done: and the decree was given at Shushan; and they hanged Haman’s ten sons. 15 For the Jews that were in Shushan gathered themselves together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred men at Shushan; but on the prey they laid not their hand.

Does Esther’s request strike you as ungodly? She asks for a one-day extension of the Jews’ ability to defend themselves and to destroy their enemies. You know, I think she’s doing right. This is how things worked in the Old Testament when God’s people were a national entity and God’s command was to destroy the enemies. The New Testament believer is told now that we don’t wrestle as individual believers against flesh and blood. We are a kingdom of priests, yes. But — just like it was for Christ on this earth — our kingdom is not of this realm. We’re told on the personal level to not take our own vengeance. So, is Esther’s additional request a godly one? I think it was for her. It would have been completely appropriate for an Old Testament believer to seek the welfare of her nation through the permission to defend against those who would try to destroy that nation.

She adds to this her request to hang Haman’s 10 sons on the gallows. And so that happens. They were dead already, so I guess this was just a symbolic gesture.

So the Jews in Shushan killed about 800 people between the 13th and 14th days of the 12th month. So we know what happened in Shushan. But Ahasuerus’ original question still stands unanswered – What happened in the rest of the kingdom? Let’s read 9:16-19 for the end of the action in this story.

Esther 9 Commentary (16-19)

9:16 ¶ But the other Jews that were in the king’s provinces gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of their foes seventy and five thousand, but they laid not their hands on the prey, 17 On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 18 But the Jews that were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day thereof, and on the fourteenth thereof; and on the fifteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. 19 Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the fourteenth day of the month Adar a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another.

The Jews outside of Shushan killed 75,000 of their enemies. But again, their motivation wasn’t greed. They didn’t take the spoil. But they only had one day – the 13th of the 12th month to do their work. Whereas the Jews in Shushan had two days – the 13th and 14th of the 12th month. The Jews in Shushan then rested on the 15th day while the Jews elsewhere rested on the 14th day. The Jews today typically celebrate this feast on the 14th day only. Though there are some exceptions.

At any rate, we reached the end of the action of this story. The rest (9:20-10:3) is a conclusion to the whole narrative. It basically explains how this historical event that we just studied through is the reason that the Jews celebrate Purim and have done so for 2500 years now. Haman sought to destroy all the Jews. But in the end his plan was turned right back on him so that he was the one who was destroyed.

Esther 8 Sermon

Let’s open our Bibles to the 8th chapter of the book of Esther for this Esther 8 sermon. We’ll be covering the last 3 chapters in the book of Esther in this lesson.

Peripety

There’s a literary term called peripety. Here’s its definition — “the sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstances”. I thought that this term describes pretty well what’s happening at the end of the book of Esther. So, I’ll call this message “God’s Providential Peripety”.

The story of mankind

Have you ever thought of the history and future of mankind as a narrative – a story? How does the Bible present the past, present, and future of mankind? How would you classify that “story”? What kind of story is it? Some might say it’s a “tragedy”. There’s some truth to that. God created Adam and Eve alone in his own image. They were given a dignified place in God’s creation. They were the apex of the creation week. And then, tragedy! They disobey God and fall from their state of perfect obedience. They chose unwisely. They were tested and they failed. And our race has both experienced and perpetuated the consequences ever since. So in this sense, the story of mankind is truly tragic.

Jesus Christ changed it all

But thankfully it doesn’t end there. Jesus Christ entered the picture and died for the sins of mankind by shedding his blood on the cross. And so now anyone who trusts Christ experiences a full reversal of the consequences of Adam’s sin. Any one of Adam’s children can be restored from the tragedy which his sin started. So the picture of our human race is no longer a tragedy. It’s actually a comedy. Not that everything is just a great laugh for us now. But this is what a literary comedy is – the character (mankind in our example) starts off doing well. Then he falls. And finally he’s restored.

Restoration of man

But let me ask you this – for people who trust Christ to save them – are we put back in the same state in which Adam found himself originally? Will we be put back in the garden to tend the earth and manage the creatures? Will we be able to sin and fall out of God’s grace? Will Satan be around in the end, able to tempt us to turn from God? The answer to all those questions is “no”. We have something far better. We’ll be with a countless number of saints and angels praising the Christ who died for us. We’ll never sin again. Sin won’t even enter into the picture. What we have in Christ is far better even than what Adam had before the fall.

Jesus Shall Reign

Isaac Watts captures this dynamic well in his hymn Jesus Shall Reign. One of the stanzas says this. Speaking of Christ, he says, “In Him the tribes of Adam boast More blessings than their father lost.” And that’s exactly the case. In the comedy that is the story of man, mankind doesn’t just go back to what it was before the fall. No. We’re bestowed with incredible unimaginable blessing-upon-blessing from an all-merciful, all-generous, loving God.

The situation was bad for the Jews

Now, you’re asking, “what does this have to do with the book of Esther?” Well, we’ve come to understand that this book itself is a comedy, literarily-speaking – just like the overall story of mankind. The book of Esther started off as a tragedy. The Jews were catapulted into positions of prominence throughout the Persian Empire. But then one of their mortal enemies, Haman, was promoted to a position of power and influence. From that position, Haman plotted the complete destruction of the Jews. And the plot looks like it’s sure to succeed. It’s just one more step until the Jews’ story becomes a complete tragedy.

Things got better for the Jews

And yet we see the situation turning for the better. Esther decides to petition the king and reveal her people despite the peril that puts her in. She and all the Jews in Shushan fast to the God who is largely silent in this book. Nevertheless, we see the silent answer to Esther’s desperate prayer. Esther reveals Haman’s wicked plot to Ahasuerus, who then orders the swift execution of Haman on the gallows – the gallows he made originally in order to kill the Jew Mordecai.

Back to equilibrium

And that’s where we ended last week. It’s wonderful! The Jews are put right back into the position they were before that rotten old Haman came on the scene. Yes, but we’re not done yet. In this book we don’t see the Jews back at their pre-Haman existence for long. No, we see them soar to new heights of blessing and honor and success. I actually expected this part of the book to be a little boring at one point. That was before I actually studied it. Now it’s thrilling to me to read.

Esther gets Haman’s estate

For example, in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 8 we see the king give Haman’s estate to Esther. Mordecai comes before the king and receives the signet ring which the king had previously given to Haman. These two lowly Jews are exalted even higher than they were to begin the story. But that’s not all.

That pesky edict

And yet, before we see the blessings in store for the Jews we need to take care of one minor detail. Well, the edict that Haman wrote with the king’s authority? The one authorizing the destruction, the annihilation, and the killing of all the Jews? Yeah, it’s still in effect. And so Esther approaches the king in 8:3-8.

8:3 ¶ And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews. 4 Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king, 5 And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces: 6 For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred? 7 Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews. 8 Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.

When did this scene take place? It may have happened right after Haman was hung and his stuff given to Esther and Mordecai. Maybe it was the same day. Maybe it was a little later. But whenever it happened, Esther, Mordecai, and the king were all together in the same place at the same time.

Now, Esther remembers Haman’s decree, which is still in effect. And when it’s carried out in just about 9 months it will have devastating consequences on Esther’s people. So Esther comes to king Ahasuerus – apparently with Mordecai – and falls on her face. It’s serious. And she asks the king to save the lives of her people. Notice her concern for her people. She’s not afraid to identify God’s people as her very own. And the way she says it is kind of poetic – in a Hebrew sort of way. Maybe you just thought it was wordy. Well, it is. But I think it’s designed to be such. She says if what she’s about to say pleases the king and if she has found favor in his eyes – then she basically rephrases that sentence – if the king wants to implement my idea and if he’s pleased with me. So, “if the king likes my idea and he likes me” And “if the king likes my idea and he likes me”. That’s what it amounts to. Why does she phrase it like this? Well, I don’t know all the reasons probably, but I do know that Ahasuerus talks like that in this story. Remember phrases from him such as “what is your petition? it shall be granted. and what is your request? it shall be done.” Did you notice the repetition in that kind of question? Apparently this was normal — at least in the Persian court. At any rate, after Esther’s introduction to her new request she asks the king to reverse Haman’s wicked plot to exterminate all the Jews. And then she ends with a rhetorical question put somewhat poetically once more. “How can I endure the evil done to my people? How can I endure to see the destruction done to them?”

What’s Ahasuerus’ response? He points to the fact that he just previously ordered the destruction of Haman for the simple fact that he raised his hand against the Jews. Therefore, verse 8, Esther and Mordecai can write whatever they want in the king’s name to all the people in his land. Of course as we all know, such a writing, sealed by the king’s signet ring, can’t be revoked. And that’s a comfort to know that Esther and Mordecai can write an irrevocable letter to all the land for the Jews’ defense. However, what would they not be able to do as a result of that? The king’s command can’t be revoked, right? Well, was Haman’s letter written in the king’s authority with his signet ring? You know it was! So they can’t just revoke that edict.

Write another edict

But they can write something that would overpower that edict. And that’s just what we see in 8:9-14. Let’s read it.

8:9 ¶ Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language. 10 And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries: 11 Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, 12 Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. 13 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies. 14 So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. And the decree was given at Shushan the palace.

Does the wording here sound faintly familiar? It should. It actually shares multiple phrases with a scene in chapter 3 starting in verse 12. Do you remember that? It’s where Haman writes his edict to destroy the Jews. It’s very fitting that now Mordecai is doing just what Haman did, only for the good of God’s people – not for their destruction. Let me note some other similarities and differences between what Haman did and now what Mordecai is doing.

Back in 3:12 Haman wrote on the 13th day of the first month. And in 8:9 we’re now over two months beyond that – on the 23rd day of the 3rd month. That’s less than 9 months away from the date that Haman’s original edict was to go into effect!

8:9 tells us that Mordecai wrote to the Jews as well as to the satraps, governors, and princes. It mentions his addressing the Jews again in verse 9. Of course Haman didn’t write to the Jews. He wanted to destroy them. He was writing to those who would be opposed to the Jews. Mordecai is addressing those folks, too. But he’s also directly addressing his people — the Jews.

Now, 8:11 starts the content of Mordecai’s edict. The Jews are given authority to assemble on the 13th day of the 12th month (Adar) and defend themselves. Instead of them being destroyed, killed, and annihilated like Haman wanted, now the Jews themselves are the ones who are given authority to do that to others. Oh, OK. So they can just go out on a murderous rampage? No. They’re restricted to attacking only a certain group of individuals. Did you catch which group that is? The people who would assault them. So they were exercising self-defense. People were planning to attack them. That’s the truth. Haman’s letter was still around and had roused all the Jews’ enemies to be ready for this day. But now the Jews were authorized to defend themselves against such attacks. They were the recipients of this royal decree. They were to be ready. This message went out throughout the kingdom just like Haman’s did.

Reactions to the edict

Now, do you remember what happened in chapter 3 after Haman’s edict went out? There was a reaction across the kingdom – both in Shushan the capital and really everywhere else that there were Jews. What kind of reaction was it? Happy? No. It was a mournful reaction. What do you suppose the reaction is to this edict issued by Mordecai? Let’s read 8:15-17.

8:15 ¶ And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. 16 The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour. 17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.

Remember the kind of clothing Mordecai put on when Haman’s edict was issued? Sackcloth, right? What is he wearing now after his edict goes out? Royal apparel and a crown of gold.

And the Jews lamented and mourned when Haman’s edict went out. How do they react now? With light, gladness, joy, and honor in verse 16. Joy, gladness, a feast, and a good day (holiday) in verse 17. What a complete reversal of circumstances! What peripety!

And it’s not a simple restoration for the Jews to how they were before Haman’s plans. No, now they’re in a far better position. Those enemies that hate them will be out of the picture in less than a year. Two of their own – Esther and Mordecai – are in positions of supreme authority and will see to it that their people are treated with equity.

And did you catch one of the most amazing comments in this book? It’s right at the end of this scene we just read. Many people in the empire… became Jews. If you’re like me you can read through the whole Old Testament and miss short simple statements like this. This is significant. This was God’s plan from the beginning for Israel – that they would be a nation of priests mediating between the Gentiles and God. Isaiah said that they were to be God’s witnesses. The nations should have been able to look at Israel and be lead to her God. Unfortunately all-too-often throughout the Old Testament, Israel was disobedient to her calling from God. But in the book of Esther here you see it happening. The fear of the Jews fell upon the people. You know, there was a time when that fear fell upon a prostitute who lived in a pagan city. That city’s name was Jericho and that prostitute’s name was Rahab. She heard of God drying up the Red Sea and subduing kings before the Israelites. And she feared. And she sought for peace with that nation and their God.

Now, let’s keep looking at the reaction to this edict. Do you remember what the narrator told us happened in the city of Shushan when Haman’s edict went out earlier in the book? The city was in confusion. How is the city reacting now that it sees Mordecai’s edict? The city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. Proverbs 11:10 tells us “When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.” And that’s exactly what we see played out here in this part of the book of Esther.