Joshua 1-8; 23-24: “Be Strong and of a Good Courage” (May 23-29)

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon,” by John Martin (1816)

Crossing Jordan

After the death of Moses, the Lord made it clear to the children of Israel that Joshua was his successor. How? By having Joshua replicate, on a smaller scale, the most impressive miracle Moses had performed. Moses had parted the Red Sea, and now Joshua parted the Jordan River. Before this event, God prepared Joshua: “This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee” (Joshua 3:7). Joshua gathered the people and announced what was about to happen, saying, “Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you” (Joshua 3:10). After describing the event, the writer of the book of Joshua concluded, “On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (Joshua 4:14).

“The Lord fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:14)

After crossing the river, the children of Israel began to conquer the lands of Canaan, but they didn’t fight alone. Just as the Lord had delivered them from slavery, He now gave them possession of the land of Canaan through one miracle after another:

  1. The walls of Jericho toppled after the people marched around the city seven times and blew their trumpets (Joshua 6).
  2. The people conquered the city of Ai by an ambush, but were only successful after repenting of breaking God’s instructions at Jericho (Joshua 7, 8).
  3. God dropped giant hailstones on the Amorites, then stopped the sun to give the Israelites time to complete the battle (Joshua 10).

In all, Israel conquered 33 kings to take possession of the land (Joshua 12), an extraordinary outcome, particularly given that the initial group of scouts had predicted that the Israelites would be like grasshoppers under the feet of the Canaanites (Numbers 13:33).

God has promised that He will fight on behalf of Israel. See the following blog post: “I Will Fight Your Battles”.

Joshua’s call to action

At the end of Joshua’s life, he urged his people to continue to follow the laws given them by God:

Choose you this day whom ye will serve;… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

Like the people of King Benjamin, Joshua’s people responded affirmatively to this inviation by collectively recommitting to follow God. (See Mosiah 5:1-5, Joshua 24:16-18, 21.)

The Nephites also detected in this rallying cry a subtle endorsement of basic human rights.

Now there was no law against a man’s belief….

For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.

Now if a man…believed in God, it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him.

Alma 30:8-9

If Joshua invited people to choose whether they would serve God, then it must be important to protect each person’s right to believe as they see fit. (See the blog post King-Men and Freedom of Speech.)

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