Joshua 1 and Israel’s Empty Promise of Obedience

March 5, 2018 at 11:45 AM

When you read through the Old Testament, it becomes clear very quickly that people have a propensity to act rebelliously where God and His Law is concerned. This became very obvious after God had created the nation of Israel. God treated that nation as if they were one person. If someone within Israel sinned, God would remove His blessing from the entire nation. In effect, they broke fellowship with God through that one offense – whatever it was – and because of that, God turned His back on Israel temporarily.

At times, the rebellion was so bad that God chose to destroy an entire generation of Israelites, but never the entire nation. Any blessings that God poured out onto that nation benefited the entire nation, not just one person, even though there were often many with rebellious hearts.

We can highlight individual cases of rebellion, but readers are probably very familiar with them. Whether it was the 10 spies (out of 12), who went into the Promised Land and came back and filled the people with fear or those who grumbled and complained about a lack of food, water, or something else, Israel as a nation had many moments of rebellion and near insurrection against Moses and Aaron. The fact that God did not destroy the entire nation is proof that there were people within that nation whom God considered righteous. He considered them righteous not because of what they did, but because of the character of their hearts, which prompted their righteous actions.

People can be great pretenders. Sometimes, it is very difficult, if not impossible to truly know someone’s true character. Con men are perfect examples of this. Whether they are religious charlatans, business con men or something else, they project a demeanor that they hope will cause people to believe they are something they are not. They do this for selfish gain and enrichment.

Within Israel, there were many people who were along for the ride. These individuals were mixed in with people who actually wanted to serve God humbly, walking before Him in faith. The rebels were a constant problem for Moses and the nation as a whole.

But what I find fascinating is after Moses’ death and Joshua had been appointed by God to take up the reins of leadership in Moses’ stead, the people hadn’t really changed. There was still a solid mix of evil doers and faithful among Israel. In spite of this mix, God still dealt with Israel as one nation. We might find that unfair, but if we consider that the rebels benefited when everything went well, then we can also understand why God would be harsh with the entire nation when things did not go well with one or two people. It is also interesting that God often referred to Israel as “Jacob” when they were out of fellowship with God. Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, was one man and in essence, God saw the entire nation of Israel as “one” man.

In Joshua 1, we begin to see Joshua’s leadership take the stage. In much of the last chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses had spent a great deal of time reminding Israel of their God-appointed role in the world. Moses told them how they were to live and he spelled things out for them so that there would be no misunderstanding. Yes, Israel was to follow a great many rules to set them apart from all other nations. As they lived within the realm of the Law that God set before them, they would be able to uproot the nations before them. These nations had spent generations doing terribly disgusting things and one of the reasons God had raised up Israel was to be an arm of judgment against those nations who had come to deserve God’s judgment. Israel was also supposed to be a “light” to the world, showing the world how it was supposed to live before God.

Joshua was very pointed with Israel after Moses’ death. In Joshua 1, he reminded the nation of the blessings and curses. Blessings if they followed God. Curses if they failed to follow Him. When Joshua finished his speech to the Israelites on the day he took command over that nation, the people responded to him in the affirmative.

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. (Joshua 1:16-17a ESV)

I’m sorry, what? Just as we obeyed Moses in all things…” I’m afraid the Israelites, even though it was a completely different generation of people than the ones whom Moses led out of Egypt originally, had a very fuzzy memory. They did not obey God in all things. In fact, time after time, they have failed to obey Moses in all things. Many times, God sent plagues on that nation. Many times, He killed thousands in the wilderness. Many times, God’s anger grew and on several occasions, Moses stepped in as a type of Christ to plead on behalf of the people that God would spare them.

There were many occasions where Israel faltered and fell. Whenever they did, they broke fellowship with God and normally received the wrath of His anger. Yet, here they are before Joshua and it almost appears that they flippantly say that they will obey in all things, just as they had obeyed in all things where Moses was concerned. Had they obeyed in all things, Moses would never have sinned by striking the rock in the second instance (Numbers 20)! Moses even points that out to them in Deuteronomy.

Israel was literally a problem child, often chasing after the lusts of the flesh instead of remaining loyal to God. If we jump ahead to Joshua 7, there, we read of Israel’s defeat at the hands of the warriors and king of Ai. Why did they lose? Because “Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel (Joshua 7:1b ESV), took what the Lord forbid anyone to take. Here is another example of a person treating the Lord with contempt. People died because of his selfishness.The result? God told Joshua to kill him and his family. Sad, isn’t it? It could’ve been avoided had Zabdi simply obeyed.

We Christians sometimes take our faith for granted and our liberties as well. We don’t cultivate a genuine reverential fear of God. I believe the Bible teaches very clearly that salvation cannot be lost, but I am also very aware of the arguments used by those who believe salvation can be lost. For hundreds of years, many books and articles have been written on the subject and I’ve yet to see anyone change their mind on the subject. Personally, I think what is often missed is the difference between salvation and fellowship for the Christian.

A person who has authentic salvation also has the ability to have fellowship with God. Salvation brings a person close to God. Our righteousness is replaced with Christ’s righteousness, which Paul tells us in Romans, is imputed to our account. Every true Christian (not a person who simply professes faith, but has actual faith; there are many professing Christians today), has Christ’s righteousness. Our filthiness has been removed. We enter into a living, vital relationship with God the Son because of our faith in His salvific work on our behalf.

However, let’s be clear here. When I sin, I immediately break fellowship with God. In a sense, He turns away from me because of my unconfessed sin. I do not lose salvation. I break fellowship with Him. How is that rectified? Through repentance and confession. When I confess my known sin, He is faithful and just and applies His forgiveness to me (1 John 1:9).

This is essentially the way Israel had to do it as well. Of course, Israel was before the cross and we know from Romans and Hebrews that all of the offerings they offered to God on behalf of their sin never truly wiped out that sin. All the offerings simply covered their sin. In our case, after the cross, we have true forgiveness for our sin.

Notice also within the nation of Israel, everyone was considered an “Israelite” (unless they were foreigners), even those who were in fact, rebels. Did those rebels actually have what we might call “eternal life”? Likely not. They were along for the ride and certainly benefited from their association with that nation, but their hearts were far from God.

Matthew 7:21 (ESV) says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Much later, in Matthew’s gospel account, Jesus talks about the coming judgment we call the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). There, Jesus pointedly notes that even those who profess to have done things in His Name will not get into heaven. This is odd, isn’t it? Seems a bit contradictory. That’s only if we look at actual works.

Ultimately, we know that salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. If there’s nothing we can to earn salvation, then it clearly is a gift that God gives us through faith.

The difference between Matthew 7 and 25 is no real difference at all. It’s two sides to the same coin. The only people who will get into heaven are those who exercise faith in Christ and His redemption on our behalf. Those individuals will – to some degree in this life – exhibit works that stem from the faith they have in Jesus. The people who have been playing at religion by doing those things that appear to be good and righteous but do not have the requisite faith in Christ, will not gain access to heaven. It’s really that simple.

Matthew 25 then is a judgment not based on works, but based on the condition of the heart that brings about the works. The Bible is best understood in its own context. To fully understand Scripture, it must be compared to itself to get the entire picture.

We know that in the New Testament, people followed Jesus and then stopped following Him. Did those folks lose their salvation? Did they have salvation in the first place in order to lose it? There is no real indication that the large groups of people who followed Jesus actually had salvation so it makes sense that when they stopped following Him, they did not lose their salvation. They began following Him because a) He was interesting b) He fed them c) He performed miracles among them or some other reason.

We cannot see people’s hearts and we should not try. That is God’s department. We can critique a person’s works and their words because we can see or hear these things. We cannot judge a person’s heart condition or their thoughts as Jesus did.

Christian, we need to be sure we do not act or think like those Israelites who were rebellious. We need to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” as Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12. We don’t work for our salvation. We work it out, meaning we apply an effort to bending our will to that of our Lord’s (drawing on His strength to do so through the empowering of the Holy Spirit within us). When we refuse, we break fellowship with Him and that grieves Him. We remain out of fellowship until we confess our sin.

We need to guard our hearts from sin.

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Cultural Marxism, Demonic, devil worship, Emotional virtue, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming. Tags: , , , , .

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