Profiles of Faith: Joshua - God Is Salvation

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Joshua - God Is Salvation

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The task of taking the Promised Land from the Canaanites appeared impossible. “They are far too powerful for us to conquer!” “Their city walls are heavily fortified, and the inhabitants are giants!” “It’s true that the land is rich and fertile, but how can we overcome these fierce warriors in their own land?”

So it was that 10 fearful men gave Moses what Scripture calls a “bad report” (Numbers 13:27-33 Numbers 13:27-33 27 And they told him, and said, We came to the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. 28 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan. 30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. 31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. 32 And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched to the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eats up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. 33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
American King James Version×
). All Israel, motivated by sight rather than faith, trembled with fear.

Because they believed God’s promise, Joshua and Caleb would live to enter the Promised Land. Eventually Joshua would succeed Moses as leader of Israel and would guide the people into the land God had promised them.

But the representative from the tribe of Judah, Caleb, was a faith-filled man. He quieted the people and countered the discouraging report: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30 Numbers 13:30And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
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). The 10 leaders staunchly disagreed with Caleb: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:31 Numbers 13:31But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
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).

One other man who had spied out the land supported Caleb’s positive report. He was Joshua, from the tribe of Ephraim. Together he and Caleb confirmed that their trust was in God: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us , then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us . Do not fear them” (Numbers 14:7-9 Numbers 14:7-9 7 And they spoke to all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not you against the LORD, neither fear you the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

But Joshua and Caleb couldn’t overcome Israel’s fear. In fact, the Israelites demanded that Joshua and Caleb be stoned to death (Numbers 14:10 Numbers 14:10But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
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). This angered God, who threatened to destroy the faithless Israelites (Numbers 14:12 Numbers 14:12I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a greater nation and mightier than they.
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).

Moses pleaded with God: “Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy” (Numbers 14:19 Numbers 14:19Pardon, I beseech you, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, and as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
American King James Version×
). God spared the Israelites, but imposed a sobering condition: They must still be punished for their lack of faith and testing of God. They would wander in the wilderness for another 40 years, until the complaining generation had died out. The Israelite fathers would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land, but their children would.

These were the same defenseless children their fathers said would surely die if they tried to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:3 Numbers 14:3And why has the LORD brought us to this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
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; Numbers 14:30-31 Numbers 14:30-31 30 Doubtless you shall not come into the land, concerning which I swore to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, which you said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.
American King James Version×
). The unbelieving Israelites had said they would prefer to die in the wilderness rather than in this new land (Numbers 14:2-3 Numbers 14:2-3 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said to them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! 3 And why has the LORD brought us to this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
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).

Because they believed God’s promise, Joshua and Caleb would live to enter the Promised Land. Eventually Joshua would succeed Moses as leader of Israel and would guide the people into the land God had promised them (Joshua 1:1-9 Joshua 1:1-9 1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, 2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you, and all this people, to the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread on, that have I given to you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even to the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for to this people shall you divide for an inheritance the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be you strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. 9 Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be you dismayed: for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
American King James Version×
).

Forty years later one of Joshua’s first daunting challenges was to determine how his countrymen would cross the Jordan River, swollen from spring rains.

Crossing the Jordan on dry ground

Unknown to Joshua, God had a plan. “And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, “When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan” ’” (Joshua 3:7-8 Joshua 3:7-8 7 And the LORD said to Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 And you shall command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When you are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, you shall stand still in Jordan.
American King James Version×
).

Joshua did as he was told and reassured the Israelites that God was with them and would help them overcome their enemies in the land. Standing at the riverbank, the Israelites were astonished when, as the priests bearing the ark stepped into the water, “the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap.” The waters backed up for miles, “and the people crossed over opposite Jericho” (Joshua 3:9-16 Joshua 3:9-16 9 And Joshua said to the children of Israel, Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God. 10 And Joshua said, Hereby you 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 passes 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 on an heap. 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 bore the ark were come to Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bore the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overflows all his banks all the time of harvest,) 16 That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up on 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.
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).

God thus confirmed His choice of Joshua at the Jordan River as He had Moses at the Red Sea.

Joshua then instructed that 12 stones be gathered out of the Jordan riverbed and erected as a monument, a reminder to the Israelites of this miracle. This would recall for later generations their need to fear God and obey Him. Joshua instructed God’s people: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ Then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, . . . that you may fear the LORD your God forever” (Joshua 4:21-24 Joshua 4:21-24 21 And he spoke to the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? 22 Then you 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 you 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 you might fear the LORD your God for ever.
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).

God then commanded Joshua to have the sons of Israel circumcised, renewing God’s covenant dating back to Abraham (Genesis 17:10-14 Genesis 17:10-14 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your seed after you; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant between me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of your seed. 13 He that is born in your house, and he that is bought with your money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.
American King James Version×
). The act of circumcision symbolized obedience and faithfulness to God. For 40 years in the wilderness the male children of Israel had not been circumcised, but now God required the renewal of this covenant with Israel.

The Israelites then celebrated the commanded Passover (Joshua 5:10 Joshua 5:10And 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.
American King James Version×
). God stopped giving Israel the miraculous food, manna, at this point, allowing Israel to eat of the produce of the land, unleavened bread and parched grain (Joshua 5:11 Joshua 5:11And 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.
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). These acts of obedience helped prepare Israel for its next major obstacle in the Promised Land: the fortress city of Jericho.

Help from inside Jericho

For Joshua to conquer the Promised Land, he needed help. God provided him supernatural help, but Joshua also needed help from humans besides his own army. Rahab was one who helped Joshua and Israel conquer Jericho. A citizen of Jericho, she provided Joshua an ideal means for infiltrating and spying out the city.

Rahab lived on one of Jericho’s walls (Joshua 2:15 Joshua 2:15Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was on the town wall, and she dwelled on the wall.
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). A prostitute, she helped Joshua by hiding his spies. Led by faith, she protected Joshua’s men and struck a shrewd bargain with them (Joshua 2:1-14 Joshua 2:1-14 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. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in here to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. 3 And the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to you, which are entered into your 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 to me, but I knew not from where 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: where the men went I know not: pursue after them quickly; for you 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 on the roof. 7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan to the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate. 8 And before they were laid down, she came up to them on the roof; 9 And she said to the men, I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen on 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 you came out of Egypt; and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you 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 to me by the LORD, since I have showed you kindness, that you will also show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token: 13 And that you will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brothers, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. 14 And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if you utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.
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).

Through her efforts the spies were saved. She helped smuggle them out of the city and directed where they could hide for a few days (Joshua 2:15-16 Joshua 2:15-16 15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was on the town wall, and she dwelled on the wall. 16 And she said to them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may you go your way.
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).

God honored Rahab’s actions many centuries later: “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:31 Hebrews 11:31By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
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).

The apostle James extolled her faithful works: “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25 James 2:25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
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). Rahab trusted God. Joshua didn’t forget her help and faithfulness: “But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, ‘Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her’ ” (Joshua 6:22 Joshua 6:22But Joshua had said to the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out there the woman, and all that she has, as you swore to her.
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).

And the walls came tumbling down

Out of fear of Israel, Jericho closed its massive gates, barring anyone from entering or leaving (Joshua 6:1 Joshua 6:1Now Jericho was straightly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.
American King James Version×
). Unknown to the walled city’s residents, God had bottled up Jericho’s king and warriors to turn them over to the Israelites (Joshua 6:2 Joshua 6:2And the LORD said to Joshua, See, I have given into your hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.
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).

God gave Joshua specific instructions. The Israelites were to march around the city once each day for six days. On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times, and then the priests were to sound their trumpets.

When they heard the long blast of the ram’s horn, the Israelites were to shout. The wall of the city would then fall down flat, and the Israelite troops would enter the city, climbing over the fallen walls.

There was one stipulation in all this: The people were not to shout nor to make any noise with their voices until Joshua signaled them (Joshua 6:3-10 Joshua 6:3-10 3 And you shall compass the city, all you men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shall you do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day you shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. 5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said to them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD. 7 And he said to the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD. 8 And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. 9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. 10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, You shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall you shout.
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).

Israel faithfully followed Joshua’s instructions and gained a miraculous victory. We’re reminded again by Joshua that Rahab and her father’s household were spared for their cooperation and assistance in hiding the spies (Joshua 6:25 Joshua 6:25And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwells in Israel even to this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
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). God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34 Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
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), as the Israelites soon discovered at Ai, the next city blocking their way.

A painful lesson

Joshua sent spies to Ai. When they returned to Joshua they recommended that he send about 3,000 men to attack the city.

“Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few,” they reported (Joshua 7:3 Joshua 7:3And they returned to Joshua, and said to him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labor thither; for they are but few.
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). But when the 3,000 men came into contact with the inhabitants of the city, they turned and fled for their lives. The men of Ai chased and killed 36 Israelite men in that fateful battle.

What a shock to Joshua! All he remembered was that God had promised him victory in all Israel’s military campaigns. This defeat made no sense to him at all.

Joshua and the other elders of Israel fell on their faces before the ark of the LORD (Joshua 7:6 Joshua 7:6And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust on their heads.
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). Joshua reasoned with God, reminding Him of His promise and that this defeat could endanger Israel in Canaan (Joshua 7:7-9 Joshua 7:7-9 7 And Joshua said, Alas, O LORD God, why have you at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelled on the other side Jordan! 8 O LORD, what shall I say, when Israel turns their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what will you do to your great name?
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).

But there was a deep-seated problem among the Israelites. The cause of the defeat was about to be revealed. God had warned them not to take anything from Jericho, commanding that the city be completely destroyed (Joshua 6:17-19 Joshua 6:17-19 17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And you, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest you make yourselves accursed, when you take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated to the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.
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). One man, however, disobeyed God’s instruction and stole clothing, gold and silver from the ruined city.

God told Joshua and his elders to get up and face their problem: “Israel has sinned . . . They have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived . . . Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you” (Joshua 7:11-12 Joshua 7:11-12 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except you destroy the accursed from among you.
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).

God showed there was a direct relationship between Israel’s defeat and disobedience.

Joshua obeyed. He searched Israel by tribes and families and with God’s help narrowed the search to Achan. When confronted, Achan admitted his sin and disclosed where the booty from Jericho was hidden (Joshua 7:19-21 Joshua 7:19-21 19 And Joshua said to Achan, My son, give, I pray you, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to him; and tell me now what you have done; hide it not from me. 20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the middle of my tent, and the silver under it.
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). Achan was stoned to death and his belongings burned (Joshua 7:24-25 Joshua 7:24-25 24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them to the valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, Why have you troubled us? the LORD shall trouble you this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
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).

Victory at Ai

With Achan’s sinful influence removed, Joshua was again sent to conquer Ai. Joshua chose 30,000 soldiers and approached Ai by night. He planned his strategy: Part of Israel’s army would show itself to the men of Ai, then flee from them as before. When the men of Ai pursued the Israelites, the remaining Israelite forces would enter and take the city.

The difference between the two battles against Ai was obedience. God is in charge of human affairs; He fights for those who humble themselves to honor and obey Him.

His plan worked perfectly. As the smaller group of Israelites retreated, the men of Ai poured out of their city to pursue them. “So all the people who were in Ai . . . pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. So they left the city open and pursued Israel” (Joshua 8:16-17 Joshua 8:16-17 16 And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city. 17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.
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).

The remaining Israelite forces entered the city and burned it in a great victory for Joshua and Israel. It was a greater victory for the glory of God.

The difference between the two battles against Ai was obedience. God is in charge of human affairs; He fights for those who humble themselves to honor and obey Him.

Even after this great victory and the greater one at Jericho, the Canaanite kings did not seek peace with Israel (Joshua 9:1-2 Joshua 9:1-2 1 And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof; 2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.
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). Their pride cost them their power, property and lives (Joshua 10). Not all the people of the land, however, were so proud. The Gibeonites were an exception.

The Gibeonites save themselves

The Gibeonites, terrified by the encroaching Israelites, concocted a deceitful plan to save their lives. Although they were really only a few miles away from the Israelites, some of their men posed as representatives of a faraway land seeking to establish a peace treaty with Israel.

“But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us’ ” (Joshua 9:3-6 Joshua 9:3-6 3 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4 They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks on their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up; 5 And old shoes and clouted on their feet, and old garments on them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. 6 And they went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make you a league with us.
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).

After questioning these men and being convinced they had traveled from far away, Joshua agreed to spare them. However, Israel had failed to inquire of God what should be done in this case (Joshua 9:14-15 Joshua 9:14-15 14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD. 15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation swore to them.
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). Should Joshua have consulted God on the matter? Yes, but he didn’t. Nonetheless, the Gibeonites became Israel’s servants, and the Bible shows they remained faithful servants of Israel for centuries.

The Gibeonites accepted the requirements imposed on them, preferring service as woodcutters and water-carriers for Israel rather than the fate that met the other inhabitants of the land.

They also hoped for Israelite protection, for which a need quickly arose: Five Amorite kings gathered to attack the Gibeonites to teach them a lesson and strike fear in the hearts of others who might also consider surrendering to Israel.

Victory over Israel’s enemies

When the Gibeonites saw the five armies poised to attack them, they sent for immediate help from Joshua and Israel.

Responding to the Gibeonites’ call for help, Joshua and Israel marched all night from Gilgal to Gibeon (Joshua 10:9 Joshua 10:9Joshua therefore came to them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.
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), striking the Amorites by surprise. “So the LORD routed them before Israel, killed them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them along the road that goes to Beth Horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the LORD cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword” (Joshua 10:10-11 Joshua 10:10-11 10 And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goes up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and to Makkedah. 11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven on them to Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.
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).

After this miraculous victory, Joshua went on to conquer northern Canaan (Joshua 11:1-23 Joshua 11:1-23 1 And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, 2 And to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west, 3 And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. 4 And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is on the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. 5 And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel. 6 And the LORD said to Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: you shall hamstring their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. 7 So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell on them. 8 And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them to great Zidon, and to Misrephothmaim, and to the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining. 9 And Joshua did to them as the LORD bade him: he hamstrung their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire. 10 And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms. 11 And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire. 12 And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD commanded. 13 But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn. 14 And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey to themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe. 15 As the LORD commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses. 16 So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same; 17 Even from the mount Halak, that goes up to Seir, even to Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them. 18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19 There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. 20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses. 21 And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities. 22 There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained. 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.
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). However, he did not conquer all the kings of Canaan; some were left for Israel to remove later (Joshua 13:1-33 Joshua 13:1-33 1 Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said to him, You are old and stricken in years, and there remains yet very much land to be possessed. 2 This is the land that yet remains: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri, 3 From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even to the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites: 4 From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians to Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites: 5 And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sun rise, from Baalgad under mount Hermon to the entering into Hamath. 6 All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephothmaim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide you it by lot to the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded you. 7 Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance to the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh, 8 With whom the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, even as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them; 9 From Aroer, that is on the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the middle of the river, and all the plain of Medeba to Dibon; 10 And all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, to the border of the children of Ammon; 11 And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan to Salcah; 12 All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out. 13 Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day. 14 Only to the tribes of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said to them. 15 And Moses gave to the tribe of the children of Reuben inheritance according to their families. 16 And their coast was from Aroer, that is on the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the middle of the river, and all the plain by Medeba; 17 Heshbon, and all her cities that are in the plain; Dibon, and Bamothbaal, and Bethbaalmeon, 18 And Jahaza, and Kedemoth, and Mephaath, 19 And Kirjathaim, and Sibmah, and Zarethshahar in the mount of the valley, 20 And Bethpeor, and Ashdothpisgah, and Bethjeshimoth, 21 And all the cities of the plain, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses smote with the princes of Midian, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, which were dukes of Sihon, dwelling in the country. 22 Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them. 23 And the border of the children of Reuben was Jordan, and the border thereof. This was the inheritance of the children of Reuben after their families, the cities and the villages thereof. 24 And Moses gave inheritance to the tribe of Gad, even to the children of Gad according to their families. 25 And their coast was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, to Aroer that is before Rabbah; 26 And from Heshbon to Ramathmizpeh, and Betonim; and from Mahanaim to the border of Debir; 27 And in the valley, Betharam, and Bethnimrah, and Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, Jordan and his border, even to the edge of the sea of Chinnereth on the other side Jordan eastward. 28 This is the inheritance of the children of Gad after their families, the cities, and their villages. 29 And Moses gave inheritance to the half tribe of Manasseh: and this was the possession of the half tribe of the children of Manasseh by their families. 30 And their coast was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, three score cities: 31 And half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were pertaining to the children of Machir the son of Manasseh, even to the one half of the children of Machir by their families. 32 These are the countries which Moses did distribute for inheritance in the plains of Moab, on the other side Jordan, by Jericho, eastward. 33 But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance: the LORD God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said to them.
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). Joshua was growing old, so God directed him to divide the land among the 12 tribes.

Dividing the Promised Land

Joshua divided the land among all the tribes of Israel, with two tribes and half a tribe settling east of the Jordan River and the remainder throughout Canaan itself (same chapter). He established cities of refuge (Joshua 20:1-9 Joshua 20:1-9 1 The LORD also spoke to Joshua, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spoke to you by the hand of Moses: 3 That the slayer that kills any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. 4 And when he that does flee to one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city to them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. 5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbor unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime. 6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come to his own city, and to his own house, to the city from from where he fled. 7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah. 8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness on the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh. 9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojournes among them, that whoever kills any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.
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) and specific towns for the Levites so all Israel could be properly served by God’s servants (Joshua 13:14 Joshua 13:14Only to the tribes of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said to them.
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; Joshua 14:4).

Joshua reminded the Israelites that as long as they obeyed God’s commandments He would prosper and protect them.

Finally, when Joshua was 110 years old, he called for all the Israelites, including their elders, judges and officers, and said to them: “I am old, advanced in age. You have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the LORD your God is He who has fought for you” (Joshua 23:2-3 Joshua 23:2-3 2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said to them, I am old and stricken in age: 3 And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that has fought for you.
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).

Joshua reminded the Israelites, including their leaders, that as long as they obeyed God’s commandments He would prosper and protect them. If they disobeyed God by taking on the ungodly ways of the Canaanites, He would “bring upon you all harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the LORD your God has given you” (Joshua 23:15 Joshua 23:15Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come on you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring on you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.
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).

Joshua gave God the credit for Israel’s salvation and deliverance. His final admonition was to urge Israel to faithfully serve God and never forget His laws (Joshua 23:1-16 Joshua 23:1-16 1 And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. 2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said to them, I am old and stricken in age: 3 And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that has fought for you. 4 Behold, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even to the great sea westward. 5 And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the LORD your God has promised to you. 6 Be you therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that you turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; 7 That you come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves to them: 8 But hold to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day. 9 For the LORD has driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day. 10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fights for you, as he has promised you. 11 Take good heed therefore to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God. 12 Else if you do in any wise go back, and join to the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in to them, and they to you: 13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you. 14 And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you; all are come to pass to you, and not one thing has failed thereof. 15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come on you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring on you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you. 16 When you have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which he has given to you.
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- Joshua 24:1-33 Joshua 24:1-33 1 And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, Thus said the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelled on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. 3 And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. 4 And I gave to Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave to Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. 5 I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out. 6 And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red sea. 7 And when they cried to the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea on them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and you dwelled in the wilderness a long season. 8 And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelled on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that you might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: 10 But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand. 11 And you went over Jordan, and came to Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with your sword, nor with your bow. 13 And I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you built not, and you dwell in them; of the vineyards and olive groves which you planted not do you eat. 14 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve you the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. 16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; 17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: 18 And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelled in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God. 19 And Joshua said to the people, You cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he has done you good. 21 And the people said to Joshua, No; but we will serve the LORD. 22 And Joshua said to the people, You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. 23 Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel. 24 And the people said to Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us; for it has heard all the words of the LORD which he spoke to us: it shall be therefore a witness to you, lest you deny your God. 28 So Joshua let the people depart, every man to his inheritance. 29 And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 30 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathserah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash. 31 And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel. 32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph. 33 And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.
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).

Joshua’s long journey of faith

Joshua fulfilled many roles during his life: slave, soldier, servant, spy, savior, statesman and saint. Joshua was born during Israel’s years of bondage in Egypt. Toiling as a slave, he probably knew the cruel lash of the whip.

In the record about the Israelites in Egypt, we glimpse their despair and sense their anguished longing for liberty. Joshua witnessed the moral and social degradation of his countrymen, and when he came to a position of leadership he helped forge a nation established on the principles of justice.

As a soldier he was daring and imaginative, skillful in campaign strategy, the use of spies, the disciplining of his forces and, above all, he was faithful to God.

Joshua was initially a servant of Moses (Numbers 11:28 Numbers 11:28And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
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; Joshua 1:1 Joshua 1:1Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
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), although at the end of his days God referred to him as “the servant of the LORD” (Joshua 24:29 Joshua 24:29And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
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), an affectionate and honorable title. Moses changed Joshua’s name from Hoshea (meaning “help”) to Joshua , “God is salvation.” Moses and Joshua both learned to look to God’s leadership rather than physical force and leaders.

Joshua fulfilled the meaning of his new name-“God is salvation”-leading his people into the Promised Land. He helped remove the Israelites’ reproach of slavery and led them to possess their promised inheritance as a nation in their own land. In this he was a type of Christ, who leads His people to victory (1 Corinthians 15:57 1 Corinthians 15:57But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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; 1 John 5:4-5 1 John 5:4-5 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
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).

As a statesman Joshua directed the dividing up of the land among his countrymen, setting up the tabernacle and establishing the cities of refuge.

Finally, as a saint, he enjoyed the presence of God (Joshua 1:5 Joshua 1:5There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you.
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; Joshua 6:27 Joshua 6:27So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.
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), was eminently knowledgeable of the Word of God (Joshua 1:8 Joshua 1:8This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.
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) and was faithfully obedient to the will of God (Numbers 32:12 Numbers 32:12Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the LORD.
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). No wonder that at his death, when he was 110 years old, he was deeply mourned and his service to God and Israel was universally acknowledged.

Even after his death the memory of his example spoke for him and heavily influenced Israel and its leaders, for the nation continued to serve God all the days of the elders who were contemporary with but outlived Joshua (Joshua 24:31 Joshua 24:31And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
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).

Joshua lived up to his name, “God is salvation.” His life is a living testimony for those who desire to obey God in living faith. In truth God, not man, is our salvation!