How do we approach the book of Joshua, the story of the conquest of the promised land, the story of this great leader of Israel? The book is named after him, and his name is on every page. He’s meant to be central in the story.
His parents had called him, Hoshea. Hoshea means, salvation. But when Moses sent him to spy out the land of Canaan at Kadesh-Barnea along with eleven other men, he changed his name to Joshua. Joshua means, salvation is from the LORD. That’s a promise; in fact, that’s the gospel. And when the Lord sent His own Son into the world, He told Joseph and Mary to give Him that name, too.
We think of Joshua as a history book. But when the people of the old covenant described their Bible, there was no section called history books. For them, it was simply, the Law, or the Law and the Prophets, or maybe, the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms, or the Writings. And they put Joshua into the section called, the Prophets.
That’s how we have to understand the message of Joshua: salvation prophecy. Biblically speaking, prophecy means, in the first place, telling the wonderful works of God to save His people, because God’s actions in the past shed light on the future, and how God is going to save His people in Jesus Christ. So this book is the gospel of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through Joshua, and the gospel of the greater Joshua, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has defeated our enemies and causes us to receive the greater inheritance of a new heaven and a new earth.
How can we be saved?
Scripture reading: Joshua 1:1-9
There’s a lot of tension hanging over this opening passage of the book of Joshua. In Genesis 13, the LORD promised Abraham that He would make his offspring as the dust of the earth and that He would give them the land of Canaan as their inheritance. 400 years later, Abraham’s offspring had become a nation that was growing in number, just like God had promised. But the promise of the land was still unfulfilled. Israel was standing on the border of the land at that moment. If they climbed up one of the hills in the area, they could see the whole land, from north to south, and all the way out to the west, as far as the Mediterranean Sea.
But they had been this close once before, forty years earlier, at Kadesh-Barnea. That time, when they heard about the people who lived there and the fortified cities, they were afraid, and they started looking for someone to bring them back to Egypt. What reason did Joshua have to think that this time things would go better than they had the first time? The journey through the wilderness showed that Israel was an unbelieving, thankless, complaining people.
There was no way that Israel would ever enter the land, and receive the inheritance God had promised them unless it was by grace and unless God did it for them. And that was the gospel He proclaimed to them in the name of their leader: Joshua – salvation is from the LORD.
Suggestions for prayer
Thank God that He has provided us with a salvation that is all His work, and that we receive by grace through faith.
This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Dick Wynia is the pastor of the Vineyard Canadian Reformed Church in Beamsville, Ontario.