This is part of the Classic Bible: Favorite Stories & Passages series. Read more from the series!
2012 is a year of challenge for me.
I typically read through the Bible at least once each year, and many times I make it through twice. But this year, I’m stepping it up a bit.
I’ve decided to use Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System, reading 3660 chapters of the Bible over the course of the year. This is the equivalent of more than three times through the Bible. Not every passage will be read three times, but many will be read much more than that.
In the process of going through the Old Testament books of history, I recently finished the book of Joshua. While this isn’t my favorite Old Testament book, there were several passages that jumped out to me.
Be Strong And Courageous – 1:7-9
Very early in the book, the theme of courage jumps out in bold form. Moses is dead. Joshua is their new leader, about to lead them in conquest of their new home. I’m sure fear was hovering over them like a vapor, ready to settle into their lives. So, one of the very first commands in the book is the command to be strong and courageous, the command to not allow fear a foothold in their lives. And the next phrase explains how to be strong and fearless: the study of and obedience to God’s law, as given by Moses.
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:7-9
The Crossing Of The Jordan River – 3:9-4:24
As Joshua led the Israelites in conquest of the Promised Land, God demonstrated that just because Moses was no longer with them did not mean that God was gone as well. He displayed his power incredibly when the Israelites were to cross the Jordan River. God stopped the water from flowing, and the nation of Israel crossed on dry ground, reminiscent of the crossing of the Red Sea a generation earlier.
Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. – Joshua 3:15-17
God In Shining Armor – 5:13-15
Nothing demonstrates the presence of God like a physical manifestation of the commander of the Lord’s army himself. This is exactly what happened to Joshua. As he was preparing to attack Jericho, God showed Joshua that he himself would be directly involved in conquering the land and delivering on his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Nether,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. – Joshua 5:13-15
The Fall Of Jericho – 6:1-27
Jericho was the first city to fall under the Israelites attack after the crossing of the Jordan River. And it must have been a mighty sight to see. God instructed the Israelites to march around the city once a day for six days in silence. On the seventh day, they were to march around it seven times, and after the seventh time to shout and blow their trumpets. The walls of Jericho fell and the city was conquered!
When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. – Joshua 6:20
Achan’s Sin – 7:1-26
After such a powerful display of God’s presence, you might think that the Israelites would be wholly devoted. Not so. God had commanded that no spoils were to be taken from Jericho; it was the first city taken, and it was to be destroyed completely as a sacrifice to God. However, Achan coveted after a beautiful mantle from Shinar, some silver and some gold. He kept them, and hid them, in direct defiance of God’s command. As a result, the Israelites were defeated at Ai. Joshua was forced to discipline Achan and his family, and stoned them to death.
But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel. – Joshua 7:1
Sun Stand Still – 10:1-15
As the conquest of the Promised Land continued, God continued to demonstrate his involvement. The Amorites pushed an attack on some Gibeonites, and Joshua and the Israeites responded. During the course of this battle, God caused the sun to stand still in the sky until the Israelites had defeated the Amorites. And there has never been a day like it since.
On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel! – Joshua 10:12-14
Cities Of Refuge Established – 20:1-9
After much of the Promised Land had been subdued, and the Israelites were in possession, God instructed Joshua to establish cities of refuge. There were to be cities where a person could take refuge from retaliation if his injury of another was the result of an accident, and not intentional. Joshua set aside six cities as places of refuge in accordance with God’s command: Kadesh, Shechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan.
Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood. – Joshua 20:2-3
Make Your Choice – 24:15
Perhaps one of the most often quoted passages in the Old Testament is Joshua 24:15. This verse has been a rally cry for families throughout the years, and is still appropriate today. If you’ve seen the movie Courageous, you know that this verse is a prominent part of that story, encouraging men all over the world to make the choice to serve the Lord in their families.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15
These are just a few of the stories found in Joshua that display the power and the presence of God as the people of Israel ceased their wanderings and took possession of the land that God had promised to their forefathers. The book of Joshua contains story after story that detail just how involved God was, and is, in the lives of his children. As you read through the book, watch for key words, of which the most prominent is the word “courageous”.
And take courage yourself, because God is just as involved in our lives today as he was then.
What stories from Joshua are your favorites? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.