This week, we are going to observe what God emphasizes after all the stories of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. After Moses had died, and after all the people of the generation – who got away from Egypt’s oppressive time, experienced the wonders and great power of God in Egypt and in the wilderness, and who still complained about what they did not have, for what they feared to experience, and for what they thought they had – had died, Joshua leads the people of Israel into the land which God had promised to give. The book closes with how the Israelites inherit the land and how God’s promise was kept faithfully. It seems like a happy ending to their story and the history of Israel. However, we will NOT stop our reading just there. Through the story of Joshua, we are going to observe how God reveals who He is, how faithful He is to those who fear and worship Him, and what God wants us to keep in mind beyond the reading.
First, God is God. I say this because He claims so. When Joshua encounters an angel/messenger from God, he throws a question “are you for us? or against us?” The messenger – who speaks what God has to tell Joshua – says that God does not fall under one nation or a group of people even when that group is what He had chosen to be His. When Joshua hears that God is not bound to his people, he realizes that it is his turn to submit himself to God. His response, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” shows that Joshua is telling God that he is submitting to God and is willing to follow any of His commands. That is what we should do. Many times, we misunderstand that God is on our side if we are faithful Christian. In fact, we declare that we are on His side when we become a faithful Christian. It is a true blessing when we stand with God and be on His side. We will share the victory that follows His authority and incomparable joy that follows His faithfulness to His people. God is good and He truly is faithful.
Second, our experiences and worldly standards don’t hold against God’s will and His power. Israelites won their battle against Jerico through a very interesting strategy that God had planned. Their victory seemed like it was gained without any of their own wisdom or power of their army. However, their first victory does not guarantee the second one. War strategies come from experiences. More experiences one has, better strategies one will be able to come up with. That is what the world tells you. That is how things are usually done. That is what we call “normal.” Sure. The more experience you have, the better you become. However, when God is leading the plan, it is not necessarily. Israelites were defeated in their second war against Ai. Was Ai stronger than Jerico? If you read the Bible, it says, before the war, they even decreased the number of soldiers thinking that Ai has fewer people and will be much easier to defeat. Being shocked at the result, Joshua prays to God. And God provides the answer why they were defeated: Israel sinned against God. Do not forget. God is holy. When the Israelites stole the things from God, they themselves “became accursed,” and God had left them. That is why they were defeated. This emphasizes the first point, that God is neither for you or your enemies, but He is who He is.
Lastly, the Bible emphasizes one thing through the first 5 books of the Bible as well as the book of Joshua. REMEMBER. The book of Joshua ends by Joshua giving teaching/sermons to the people of Israel. It recites all the events that happened to the people of Israel. We have read this story once while reading Exodus, twice while Moses gave teaching before his death, and again when Joshua gave teaching before his death. Why did the big figures of the Bible repeated the history of their ancestors before their death? Because they knew that it is IMPORTANT, CRITICAL, ESSENTIAL, and CRUCIAL to remember who God is. Through remembering who He is, we correct our behaviors in front of God. We stay away from sin. We stay on God’s side. We share His victory, see His glory, and inevitably praise His name above all things.
It comes naturally to have joy in Him and to praise His name, when we decide and determine to stay on His side. When God approaches you and askes you “who’s side are you on?” I pray that the blessing of faith and courage is on you – youth group members – to say “I am on Your side, God.”