Did Joshua Fulfill God’s Plan?

Introduction

The question at hand is whether Joshua fulfilled God’s plan for his life. Scholars tend to differ on this topic stating his failure to rid the promised land of foreigners and horrendous acts of violence on women and children.[1] On the contrary, I will postulate that each of these critiques falls short if the right amount of research is done in the text. Joshua did, indeed, fulfill God’s plan for his life and the scripture states it.

            Driving out the People of the Land

People argue that the book of Judges opens with an example of how Joshua’s mission to drive out the people of the promised land was not accomplished; “in the opening chapter of the Book of Judges there is already strong evidence that Israel failed to complete the task YHWH assigned to them.”[2] This was to drive all the Canaanites out of the land of promise so the Israelites could occupy all the land that the Canaanites formerly inhabited leaving no room for the Canaanites to make their way back into Canaan and resettle there. We see in the book of Judges that this does happen and causes great strife for the Israelites leading to apostasy and disobedience.

From reading Judges, it might be easy to conclude that Joshua did not complete his mission to conquer Canaan. This theory does not hold up against scripture. It could be easy to conflate the two but we are told that God honored all that he promised in the twenty-first chapter of Joshua:  Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.  Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:43-45).[3] From this scripture, we see that God honored Joshua and the people of Israel with his covenantal promise to Abraham. “The Book of Joshua shows God being faithful to his promises in every respect, including promises that were not directly about the land.”[4]

            Genocide of the Canaanites

For many skeptics, the passages in Joshua dedicated to total destruction pose some of the most controversial questions within the Bible; why would this all-loving God command total destruction of women and children? This brings into question the character of Joshua and his role in this saga. Due to the scope and breadth of this particular essay, I can not go deeply into this subject about the descendants of the Rephaim, the giants, and the watchers but; suffice it to say, that Joshua was carrying out, to the letter, the direct commandments of God for theological purposes. Joshua was exacting a holy war, or Kharma, devoted to total destruction because of an evil bloodline that was created due to the fall of the watchers.[6] Although this is sparsely taught in today’s pulpits, this shows Joshua’s obedience to the divine will of God to reverse the sin of the watchers and exact God’s Edenic vision that he initially intended. The purpose of Israel’s horrendous acts of destruction further explains that Joshua did indeed fulfill God’s plan for his life. These are holy wars dictated and overseen by God, he is the arbiter of this destruction, not Joshua. “Joshua’s primary duty is not military but spiritual. Without obedience to the law, military success will not follow. God is the one who gives such victories.”[7] It is from these victories that we can conclude God’s plan for Joshua was fulfilled.

            Joshua and Paul’s Letter to Timothy

The story of Joshua ties into the New Testament in several ways. One, in particular, is the connection between Joshua 24:31; arises from how  Paul himself to a Joshua-type figure and just as the Israelites served God faithfully after the passing of Joshua, so “Paul entrusted the gospel to Timothy; now Timothy must entrust it to others. The apostles intended for teaching and traditions to be passed on to others (Acts 2:42; 2 Thess 2:15).”[8] Joshua was a warrior for God just as Paul was a warrior for Christ. Realizing his impending doom, Paul exhorts Timothy to be faithful and serve the Lord (as the elders did who outlived Joshua) but teach and rise up a nation of people who can go out and spread the gospel throughout the land.

            Self-Assessment

The story of Joshua has real-world implications and is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. It starts when Joshua encounters the Angel of the Lord. He has a Moses-like experience much the same as the burning bush. What we notice here is striking, Joshua asks:

When he encounters the man with the drawn sword in his hand, he knows that this man is the one who executes divine justice. So he says to him, “Are you for us, or are you for our enemies?” Simply put, the man with the drawn sword in his hand says, “No.” Our translations often say, “Neither,” but he really says, “No.” In other words, “Wrong question. The question is not, ‘Am I for you or for them?’ The question is, ‘Are you for me or for someone else?’ Because I have come as the commander of the army of the Lord. [9]

What Joshua needed to realize is that to be an effective leader, he first had to learn how to follow, and whom to follow.  Joshua, like ministerial leadership of today, had to realize that in order to be victorious in his ministry, he had to subjugate himself to the commander of the Lord’s Army—a lesson that would be well taken by all of us who are in leadership positions in the new covenant.

Conclusion

The book of Joshua is an excellent narrative of how God is faithful in his covenant relationship with His chosen people. Joshua was the new Moses figure exalted by God to do the controversial task of settling the land given to his forefathers. Although the struggles of Joshua were vast and controversial, he did fulfill God’s plan for his life. The key text is in the closing of the book of Joshua: “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14). This is the dominant scripture in all of Joshua that shows God did honor Joshua and all he did was right in the eyes of God. What really counts the most for ministry that is going to produce fruit—not only for this life but for all eternity—is a ministry that comes out of the humble presence of God.[11]

Bibliography

Barry, John D. NIV Faithlife Study Bible: Intriguing Insights to Inform Your Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

Butler, Trent C. “The Theology of Joshua.” Review & Expositor 95, no. 2 (1998): 203–225.

Flannagan, Matthew. “Did God Command the Genocide of the Canaanites?.” Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics (Nashville: Broadman & Holman) (2012): 225-49.

Futato, Dr. Mark D. “Introducing the Old Testament: Its Structure and Story.” OT101. Lecture presented at the Logos Mobile Education, 2013.

Heiser, Michael S. Unseen Realm. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015.

Howard, David M. Joshua. Vol. 5. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publ., 1998.

Jacobs, Steven Leonard. “Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence by Karen Armstrong | Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Grips with the Justice of God by Paul Copan and Matthew FlannaganKaren Armstrong, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. New York and Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. Pp. 512, Hardcover, ‘Paul Copan and ‘Matthew Flannagan‘, Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Grips with the Justice of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014. Pp. 256,” Genocide Studies International 11, no. 2 (2018): 261–266.

Riddleberger, Kim. “They Did Not Drive Them Out Completely.” Reformed Perspectives, September 6, 2014.

Foototes:

[1] Trent C Butler, “The Theology of Joshua,” Review & Expositor 95, no. 2 (1998): 203-225.

[2] Kim Riddleberger, “They Did Not Drive Them Out Completely,” Reformed Perspectives (September 2014): page.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is taken from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version.

[4] David M. Howard Jr., Joshua, vol. 5, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 57.

[5] Raymond Bradley develops this in “A Moral Argument for Atheism,” in The Impossibility of God, eds. Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003), 144.  Similar arguments to Bradley’s have been made by Wes Moriston, “Did God Command Genocide? A Challenge to the Biblical Inerrantist,” Philosophia Christi 11:1 (2009) 8-26; Randal Rauser “Let Nothing that Breathes Remain Alive: On the Problem of Divinely Commanded Genocide” Philosophia Christi 11:1 (2009) 27-41; Michael Tooley “Does God Exist?” in Michael Tooley and Alvin Plantinga, The Knowledge of God (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2008), 73-77; Evan Fales, “Satanic Verses: Moral Chaos in Holy Writ,” in Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham, eds. Michael Bergmann, Michael J. Murray and Michael C. Rea (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Edwin Curley, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” in Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham, eds. Michael Bergmann, Michael J. Murray and Michael C. Rea (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, “Why Traditional Theism Cannot Provide an Adequate Foundation for Morality,” in Is Goodness without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism and Ethics, eds. Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008); Louise Antony “Atheism as Perfect Piety” in Is Goodness without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism and Ethics, eds. Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008).

[6] Dr. Heiser explains in detail the fall of the watchers and their bloodline development which causes God to order Joshua to Kharam Michael S. Heiser, Unseen Realm (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015),202-210.

[7] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Jos 1:7.

[8] Ibid, 2 Ti 2:2.

[9] Mark D. Futato, OT101 Introducing the Old Testament: Its Structure and Story, Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).

[10] Ibid

[11] Mark D. Futato, OT101 Introducing the Old Testament: Its Structure and Story, Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).

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