The book of Joshua continues where the Pentateuch leaves off, narrating events and placing them in a theological perspective. Joshua reminded the Israelites that it was not by their own power that these great deeds were accomplished.

3:3-4, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God carried by the Levitical priests, you must break camp and follow it. But keep a distance between yourselves and the ark. Don’t go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before.” Joshua instructed the people to follow the priests who would carry the Ark of the Covenant across the river ahead of them. The ark symbolized the Lord’s presence with His people. The time had arrived for the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. 3:17, “The priests carrying the ark of the LORD’s covenant stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel crossed on dry ground until the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan.” Primarily, Joshua instructs the people to keep their distance, so they may properly follow the guidance of God. Further, on, we read that the priests stood firmly as the people crossed the Jordan on dry ground. It was because the priests had the Lord’s covenant and the people had faith in their heart of God’s good guidance for them that they were not flooded and swept away in the Jordan River.

“The words “set apart” translate the Hebrew cherem, which refers to “devoted things” belonging exclusively to the Lord (often called the “ban”). Jericho was the first city the Israelites took in their conquest of Canaan. As such, it and all its inhabitants were cherem to the Lord. Everyone except Rahab and her family were to be slain, and everything in the city was to be destroyed except the gold, silver, and articles of bronze and iron. The concept of cherem can be difficult to understand today. How can the destruction of a city and the killing of all its inhabitants be justified, and how can one believe it was the Lord who specifically ordered these things? Part of the answer lies in recognizing the holiness of God and the sinfulness of the Canaanites. God is holy, and He created Israel to be a people totally consecrated to Him. The persistent sins of the Canaanites, which were an affront to the holiness of God, finally demanded that His judgment be executed through their complete removal from the land. God would bless those who loved Him and kept His commands but He would punish those who hated Him. The sins of the Canaanites are catalogued and gives the theological rationale for their extermination. The Canaanites were arrogant and proud because of their strength, and the Lord had determined bring about their destruction, driving them out ahead of Israel. The concept of cherem demonstrates the utter seriousness of sin and its consequences—and points to the ultimate need for a Savior to rescue the human race. The success of Israel at Jericho was marred by unfaithfulness with respect to the cherem on the part of Achan, who took items for himself from the spoils. The Lord held the entire nation responsible for the action of one person who violated His command. This demonstrates the biblical principle of corporate solidarity. Sin is not merely an individual matter, but affects the entire community of which the individual is a member. Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, is included in the genealogy of the Savior, Jesus Christ, thereby participating in the Lord’s ultimate triumph of grace.” (HSCB)

The Gibeonites devised a plan to protect themselves from annihilation by pretending to be from outside of Canaan. Joshua made a treaty with them without consulting the Lord. When Joshua and the Israelites found they had been deceived, they could not go back on their oath; the Gibeonites were permitted to live, though relegated to permanent servitude. This incident illustrates the force of the oath, and the spoken word, in Israelite culture. It also illustrates the problems that arise when the Lord’s counsel isn’t sought.

13:1, “Joshua was now old, advanced in years, and the LORD said to him, “You have become old, advanced in years, but a great deal of the land remains to be possessed.” 18:3, “So Joshua said to the Israelites, “How long will you delay going out to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, gave you?” Despite Joshua’s old age, he was still needed to serve in the community. As long as we are still breathing on this earth, we can still be used as instruments in God’s plan for the lives of people around us.

In 21:1-3, The leaders of the Levites approached Eleazar, Joshua and the tribal heads about fulfilling the Lord’s command to Moses to give towns for them to live in and pasturelands for their flocks from within the other tribal allotments. 21:44-45, “The LORD gave them rest on every side according to all He had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the LORD handed over all their enemies to them. None of the good promises the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.” As I was reading this passage, I was instantly reminded of the famous Psalm 23, where God lays His people to rest in green pastures with their enemies watching as He prepares a table.

22:1-5, “Joshua summoned the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh, and told them, “You have done everything Moses the LORD’s servant commanded you and have obeyed me in everything I commanded you. You have not deserted your brothers even once this whole time but have carried out the requirements of the command of the LORD your God. Now that He has given your brothers rest, just as He promised them, return to your homes in your own land that Moses the LORD’s servant gave you across the Jordan. Only carefully obey the command and instruction that Moses the LORD’s servant gave you: to love the LORD your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commands, remain faithful to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” 24:14, “Therefore, fear the LORD and worship Him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and worship the LORD.” 24:24, “So the people said to Joshua, “We will worship the LORD our God and obey Him.”

In regards to 24:15, “As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD.” Joshua and his family were committed to the Lord regardless of the decision of the people. Joshua spoke as the head of his household and the spiritual leader of the family. His words reflected an undivided devotion to the Lord that served as an example of faithfulness for all the people and an incentive for them to reaffirm their loyalty to the covenant. His undivided devotion is a source of encouragement for Christian believers today by reminding us that halfhearted commitment is worthless.