Some books of the Bible are easy to read, understand, and apply. Philippians comes to mind here. Others, like Revelation, present a challenge. To me, Joshua can be tricky, and since our church is heading into an 8 week series through the book I wanted to help you read Joshua better for yourself.Here’s a link to the PDF. Print it out. Put it in your Bible. Use it when you read Joshua. After the PDF link I’ve posted the content in blog format in case you want to dialogue with me in the comments.
How Should We Read Joshua?
Joshua is a historical narrative. It’s the record, in story form, of how God continued his mission in Israel after Moses died. If you want to get to most out of reading Joshua, or other historical narratives in the Old Testament here are a few tips:
Historical narratives should be read and understood in big chunks. While the New Testament epistles may include 10-12 topics, most historical narratives focus on 3-4 big ideas which are elucidated through stories, accounts, and dialogue. You can’t just read a few verses to find the meaning of Joshua. You have to read and digest large sections.
- Stories- Joshua 5 is the true story of how God won the victory over Jericho for Israel.
- Accounts- In Joshua 24 Joshua gives an account of how God has led Israel in previous generations.
- Dialogues- God speaks to Joshua in chapter 1.
Historical narratives use literary devices to convey meaning. Here are a few examples we see in Joshua:
- Setting- Israel is on the edge of the promised land. This causes us to ask, “Will God now deliver his promises that date back to Adam and Abraham?”
- Plot- As the narrative unfolds we see that though Israel takes possession of large swaths of the promised land they still don’t fully realize God’s promises. The plot of Joshua ends with the reader still looking forward to a future fulfillment of God’s promises.
- Characterization- God is portrayed as ever faithful. Israel is portrayed as unfaithful.
- Irony- Nothing about yelling and blowing trumpets at walls makes them fall down. The irony of God’s commands about Jericho show us that God is the one who conquered.
Look Ahead to Jesus. Every book of the Bible is about Jesus. We see the culmination of God’s faithfulness to all generations at the cross where Christ died for the sins of the world and was raised for our justification. We see that God assures the victory, not us, when Jesus conquers the big Jericho of our sin. We can live boldly for Christ as we press into the victory that he has already won.
As you read historical narratives like Joshua, be on the lookout for stories, accounts, and dialogues. These are the bones of the text that help you get a feel for what God is teaching you. Can you summarize the plot of the book in 2-3 sentences? How does the author characterize God, Israel, other nations? How do the themes and stories of Joshua ultimately point to the bigger story of Jesus?
What Do We See When We Read Joshua?
As we planned this series in Joshua we saw three big ideas we want our church to adopt:
- God’s plans don’t change. He is the same to every generation. He commissions new leaders (ch. 1), reminds people of his faithfulness as they cross the Jordan(chs.3-4), and purifies them so they can follow him (ch. 5).
- God’s plans won’t fail. He, not us, assures the victory. We gives victory through unlikely means (ch. 6), he saves us from our failures (chs. 9-11), and he gives us himself as an inheritance (chs. 14/19)
- Because the victory has been won, we can live boldly for God’s glory. When we see God’s faithfulness we call one another to faithfulness (ch. 22) and his covenant love to us causes us to commit our way to him (ch. 24)