The author of the book of Joshua summarizes the message of the book in this way:
The Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.
There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.Joshua 21:43-45
The message is clear: God keeps His promises. He kept all of the promises which He made to the children of Israel. By extension, He will keep the promises He has made to you.
This is also one of the messages of the Book of Mormon, as indicated on its Title Page:
Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.
In the case of Joshua, the text doesn’t universally support the conclusion. Israel’s settlement of the land of Canaan is messy and even incomplete. For example:
- The Gibeonites trick Israel into making a treaty with them (Joshua 9).
- The tribe of Judah inherited the city of Jerusalem, but they could not drive out the prior inhabitants, the Jebusites, so they lived there together (Joshua 15:63).
- The tribe of Ephraim was unable to drive out the Canaanites in the land of Gezer, so they lived together (Joshua 16:10).
- The tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim complained to Joshua that he hadn’t allotted them enough land. He responded that they were strong enough to acquire additional land, and that it was up to them to do so (Joshua 17:12-18).
How are we to interpret a declaration that everything had been completed, when it seems clear that the settlement of the promised land was very much a work in progress. Here are my thoughts:
God set the wheels in motion. His miraculous interventions in Jericho (Joshua 6), Ai (Joshua 8), and against the five kings of the Amorites (Joshua 10) had enabled them to start the process. As Joshua indicated to Ephraim and Manasseh, they were now in a position of strength.
Additionally, the pronouncement that all had been done was not an indication that God had nothing more to do. His work would continue to move forward, but at least with regard to His promise to bring them into the land of Canaan and to defend them against the powerful forces already in that land, He had fulfilled His word. They had a foothold in the land, and they were able to defend themselves against further attacks. He had done what He promised to do.
What does this mean for us? It means that we need to look at the big picture sometimes in order to see God’s hand in our lives. We may experience success and failure. We may not always feel that God is blessing us in the way that we want to be blessed. Some blessings may appear to be incomplete or inconclusive, like a gift arriving in pieces with some assembly required. But if we look honestly at our lives over time, we will see God’s hand. We will recognize that, in the end, every good thing which God has promised us will happen. “His promises are sure” (Hymns, 301).
Today, I will trust God’s promises. I will watch for the fulfillment of His words in my life, especially when that fulfillment is not immediately evident to me.