The story of the Abrahamic covenant is your family story. Kerry Muhlestein says, “We don’t often think of it in that manner.” But our grandfather Abraham grew up in a turbulent time, where “his own father was steeped in idolatry. He saw his immediate family involved in horrible practices, including human sacrifice, but he knew there was a better way. Records had come down from his forefathers and foremothers, from Adam and Eve, Seth and Enoch, and Abraham reached for the heavens hoping to join his answers in the covenant. “Then one starry night, God came to him, putting His hand over him, opening his eyes, and pouring out the power and blessings of the covenant upon him, welcoming Abraham and Sarah into the community of God and those who were bound to him. They had sought God and now they had found him.” These are the covenants offered to you.
Today as we study Joshua we come to a new phase of our study as God seeks out those who will be his covenant children. God has taken the children of Israel out of bondage, and borne them on eagle’s wings. They have had 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and they are now ready to enter the promised land. The book of Joshua is a sequel to the Torah, much like Acts is a sequel to the gospels. So with this book we enter a new phase of the covenant story.
Hello, we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor, and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast, where today we study Joshua chapters 1-8 and 23,24 and the challenges associated with obtaining the promised land. There’s an old saying, “It’s not enough to leave Egypt, you have to enter the Promised land.”
Abraham was given the land of Canaan as a promised land, but the Lord told him this about his posterity. “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them and they shall afflict them four hundred years (Gen 15:13) This land, of course, was Egypt—and in scripture Egypt is always the symbol of the world. For four hundred years Abraham’s seed will be in bondage in the world. “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. (Gen. 15,16).
Note this important point. The Lord would not let the Children of Israel come to battle against the various nations in Canaan until they were ripe in iniquity. As long as there is any hope for them, God will restrain destruction, but when societies corrupt every area of worship with their violent idolatry, and no innocent baby could grow up there with any chance, the Lord will give the people another chance in a different sphere.
Let’s give you just a sense of some of the idols the various Canaanite nations worshipped or would come to worship. Asherah was associated with a living tree set up as an object of worship. The word is often translated “green trees” or “grove.” This nature worship became associated with gross immorality. There’s Baal the Phoenician Sun god, associated with the male or generative principle in nature. It become utterly abominable from its associations.
There was Chemosh, the god of Moab, worshipped with human sacrifices. There was Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon, a fire god, worshipped by passing children through or burning them in fire.
Getting a small sense of their idols makes it clear that these were a very fierce and utterly corrupt people. As Joshua chapter 1 opens, it talks about the death of Moses. The Bible suggests that Moses was not allowed into the Promised Land, because he took credit unto himself when the water miraculously flowed out of the rock. That’s incorrect. Latter-day scripture tells us better. We know that Moses was translated before he entered the promised land because he had work to do that would require a translated body. In October, some six months before the Savior’s death, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration. There appeared Moses and Elijah, to give them the priesthood keys they held. Since Christ had not been resurrected yet, it was necessary for Moses and Elijah to come as translated beings so they could physically transfer these keys.
In our own dispensation, Moses and Elijah came to the Kirtland Temple to pass on their keys to Joseph Smith in this new dispensation.
Nonetheless, the mighty Moses who led with such strength is gone, but the Lord has carefully schooled Joshua to be ready to lead. Andrew C. Skinner and D. Kelly Ogden note, “
“Joshua was the son of a man named Nun, pronounced like our English word noon (Exodus 33:11). Originally, he was called Hoshea, meaning ‘salvation,’ but Moses changed his name to Jehoshua, or Joshua, meaning ‘The Lord saves’ (Numbers 13:8, 16). The Greek form of the name, Iesous, became Jesus in English (Matthew 1:21). It became a popular and well-loved name in Jesus’ day, owing to widespread feelings of messianic expectation at the time.
“Joshua was Moses’ trusted assistant. He was known as ‘a man in whom is the spirit’ (Numbers 27:18).
“He lived during the period of Israel’s Egyptian bondage and was a firsthand witness to God’s majesty, miracles, and power on Israel’s behalf. He saw the waters of the Red Sea parted and the deliverance of his people. He was among those who saw the Lord on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:9–10). He was selected from the tribe of Ephraim to be one of the twelve spies, or scouts, sent to reconnoiter the land of promise. He was a military leader, a statesman, a prophet, and a deliverer. He was, above all, a type and foreshadowing of Jesus Christ”.
It is noteworthy that 38 years earlier when a representative from each of the tribes was chosen to go into the promised land, that ten of them came back terrified. They said, “And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:33) Only Joshua and one other gave a positive report, undaunted by what they had seen.
“As the record opens, Joshua has already been chosen as Moses’ successor, according to the pattern described in Numbers 27:18–23. In the first recorded revelation to Joshua as Israel’s leader, the Lord instructed him to take Israel into the promised land. There were conditions in order to have success and prosperity.
“The boundaries of the promised land were laid out. The dimensions vary from text to text in the Old Testament, but these, in verse 4, represent the farthest extent of the boundaries.
“In the face of such a daunting leadership challenge, Joshua was assured the same help and support Moses was given from the Lord.” Verse by Verse, The Old Testament Vol. 1 & 2 by Andrew C. Skinner, D. Kelly Ogden
When the Children of Israel were considering entering the Promised Land before, they were coming from the south. Now they are entering from the east at a place we know well. We were just there last week. The Jordan River flows out of the Galilee, and as it passes Jericho and is about to enter the Dead Sea, we are at the lowest place on earth in a burning desert. The surface of the Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level and the Children of Israel crossed somewhere there just before the Jordan River runs into the Dead Sea.
The Lord tells Joshua, “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Josh. 1:5) What a promise. Having made that promise, we have a scripture that is one of our favorites—which we learned long ago. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Josh. 1:9) We have repeated that scripture often when life looks perilous, when bad news comes in waves, when the easiest thing to do is to would be to avoid the difficulty.
But it is clear that the Lord wants us to be strong and of a good courage. We can’t fulfill our missions in life if we are fearful and cowering. Life is scary and surprising, and it is worth all that we have to learn to trust the Lord and not to resist Him. We must rely on Him, be carried by Him. We are drawn and bonded to him, held and encouraged by Him. It is often when we have to draw upon our courage and strength that we learn that it is really his courage and strength that brings us through. I can be bold and strong and of a good courage, only if God is with me. Don’t we want to the Lord to be with us, whithersoever we go? Left alone in our strength is a terrible place to be.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Josh. 1:9)
Here’s how Sharon Lee, one of our writers on Meridian described those times in life when we can be strong, only because the Lord is strong for us and is with us.
She wrote: “I learned a few things the year Eliza started kindergarten. One afternoon, Eliza’s teacher made her way to the car a few minutes before my three children arrived. I rolled down the window. Mrs. Hudner was a seasoned kindergarten teacher. She had been teaching 5-year-olds for nearly 25 years. When she said, “Something happened today with Eliza that I have never seen in all of my years of teaching, I thought you should know about it,” she definitely had my attention. I was not sure what to expect.
“The children were seated at their tables when I began to pass out simple math worksheets to the class. When I handed the worksheet to Eliza, she looked at me intently and said politely, ‘No thank-you,’ and handed the worksheet back. What most kindergartners don’t really comprehend, but somehow Eliza instinctively realized… I can’t make her do anything. I encouraged her to try, and handed the sheet of problems back to her. She repeated, ‘No thank you,’ and placed the paper on top of my pile in my hands. I then left the sheet of paper right next to her and began to move to the next table. Eliza said sweetly, ‘Thank you, Mrs. Hudner, but this isn’t my paper. It’s still yours,’ while handing it back to me a second time…”
Sharon continued, “Oh, aside from her independent thinking, you’ll be happy to know, she has very good manners. Until today, I thought I had seen it all.” She then smiled and said good-bye, as I thanked Eliza’s teacher for sharing the story, I honestly didn’t know what to do with it.
“While I waited for Eliza to come to the car,” she said, I thought about my 5-year old daughter and the paper with the problems the teacher handed out to the class. How many times have I been handed a set of problems that I simply wanted to hand back while saying, ‘No thank you?’
“When I was handed a worksheet full of health challenges, I too wanted to say, ‘No, thank you.’ When I was given bad news or when I was faced with uncertainty; when my husband’s dad was fighting cancer, or when I saw the ravages of addiction rage through my own family, how desperately did I want to say, ‘These problems aren’t mine. This assignment doesn’t have my name on it?’ When faced with the challenges of a parent with Alzheimer’s, when my brother was killed in a horrific accident, when the person I love most in the world is barraged with relentless criticism; when I have a lack of clarity; more than anything, I too, want to hand the problems back to my teacher and simply say, ‘No thank you.’ How often do we wish we could politely say, ‘Not mine. Not today. Not for me. These problems are for everyone else?’
Sharon continued, “How was I supposed to explain to Eliza that it’s a good idea to work on the problems the teacher hands out to her? I instinctively knew that to be true. But I felt somewhat insincere in my reasoning. I kept thinking of what her teacher said to me. ‘I can’t make her do anything.’ It framed the concept of free agency so profoundly.
“We don’t attend school to stay in kindergarten.
“We all have to move up a grade.
“When Eliza got into the car, I looked at her sweet face framed by long brown pony tails and I thought about the innocence of age. Life was easy at 5. At the same time, her feelings about the worksheet were real. I understood how she felt. Mortality is a tough sell.” Sharon Lee, When my Child Said Something her Teacher hadn’t Heard in 25 Years, https://latterdaysaintmag.com/when-my-child-said-something-her-teacher-hadnt-heard-in-25-years/
We don’t get to say “No thank you to our challenges, but we have something better. We are strengthened to meet them.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Josh. 1:9) The Lord knows your name. He knows every tear you’ve shed and why. He comforts you. He comforts those who love you. He is there to bear you on eagle’s wings.
I used to have a sign on my desk that said, “I can do hard things.” I exchanged it for I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
President Henry B. Eyring was reading the Book of Mormon on a plane once and came to these verse “which seemed to appear in bold print.
But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy. [1 Nephi 15:34]
“That set me to pondering,” said President Eyring. “I thought of you and of me. We have a problem. We live in a world where there are voices competing for our belief. They claim the authority of truth. Some are clearly lying and some are not. And you and I need to know what is true and what is not, out of far more than curiosity. We need to know. And we need to be sure.
“Some of those voices—some of the loudest—tell you that the questions which matter will yield to reason. And they even warn you that those who purport to answer questions without using their rules of rational analysis are to be distrusted and even despised.
“Your common sense and experience tell you something else. So does mine. Let me illustrate for you what I know about the questions that matter and how they are answered by telling you about the last conversations I had with my father.
President Eyring continued, “He was suffering through the end of a long struggle with bone cancer. He still weighed enough and was in such pain that it was hard work to move him from a chair to his bed. Others far more heroic than I spent the months and the days caring for him. But I took some turns on the midnight to dawn shift.
“The effects of disease had removed the powers of reason he’d used to make a mark that is still visible in science. He seemed to me almost like a child as we talked through the night. Most of his memories were of riding across the range together with his father in Old Mexico. But sometimes even those happy pictures could not crowd from his mind the terrible pain.
“One night when I was not with him and the pain seemed more than he could bear, he somehow got out of bed and on his knees beside it—I know not how. He pled with God to know why he was suffering so. And the next morning he said, with quiet firmness, ‘I know why now. God needs brave sons.’
President Erying continues: “Now, when someone tells you the questions that matter yield only to some rational analysis, remember that the stunning achievements of reason over the past three hundred years have sprung from what is called the ‘scientific method.’ I hope you’ll also remember, as I always will, the scientist Henry Eyring on his knees, when the questions that really mattered yielded to the method for finding truth he’d learned as a little boy at his mother’s knee in Old Mexico. This was long before he took the train to Tucson, and Berkeley, and Madison, and then on to Berlin and Princeton to use the scientific method to create theories that changed the scientific world. What he learned on his knees brought him peace and changed my life.
“It changed my life, but hearing this story today will change yours only if you know that the answer to his prayer was true. And you can only know that the way he did, and the way I do—by the gentle voice of the Holy Ghost speaking to your heart.” President Henry B. Eyring https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/henry-b-eyring/going-home/
Now, having been reminded three times to be courageous in face of the daunting task before them, Joshua readied the Children of Israel to enter the Promised Land.
Joshua sent two men to Jericho to spy and search out the country who entered Rahab, the harlot’s home. The King of Jericho asked Rahab where the two men were who had entered her house, but she had hidden them on the roof of the house among the stalks of flax, which she laid on her roof.
We get a view of the people who know the Children of Israel are coming and led by the Lord from what Rahab tells the spies.
10 For we have aheard how the Lord dried up the water of the bRed sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the cAmorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
11 And as soon as we had aheard these things, our bhearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is cGod in dheaven above, and in earth beneath. (Joshua 2: 9-11)
Rahab begs them, when they come, to spare her and her family, and finally lets them out the back on a scarlet thread. That same thread will be what she leaves in her window to mark her house for rescue.
So the day has finally come for the Children of Israel to enter the Chosen Land. And Joshua said unto the people, “Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” By this they may know that the living God is among them and will “without fail” support them.
They were to choose a man of every tribe to carry the ark into the Jordan River, which at this spring time of year had far over come its banks.
13 And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an aheap. (Joshua 3: 13).
17 And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.(Joshua 3: 17).
This is a day never to be forgotten in Israel.
Joshua places 12 stones to commemorate the crossing of the Jordan.
6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your achildren ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?
7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the aark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be a memorial unto the children for ever and ever. (Josh. 4: 6,7)
How important in our spiritual lives is the place of memory? It is critical. It is so easy to revise our history until we don’t remember what we once knew or that the Lord has been with us.
We need something that brings us to the memory that God is in our lives and that we have seen His hand. We have our journals to remind us, monuments to memory of the sacred past, rituals and traditions. but remember that you cannot assume that the rising generation will know what you know because they haven’t seen what you saw. You may forget what you once clearly knew.This monument stood as a memory that the Lord had been with the Children of Israel, even unto crossing into the promised land on dry ground.
“I will be your God and you will be my people.”
Now, much of the book of Joshua is about Israel’s campaigns to establish themselves in the land, but one story particularly stands out. The Lord said unto Joshua that he had given Jericho to Israel, but they must do exactly as God instructs.
And a side note here, we were just in Jericho a few days ago, and it still considers itself the oldest city in the world. In Joshua’s time, it was clearly an important center of idol worship.
So back to these instructions. Joshua is told that seven priests, bearing seven trumpets, before the ark of the Lord should walk around the city seven times, continually blowing on their trumpets. These trumpets would have been shofars, which are ram’s horns so they had great significance to Israel.
The first time we see shofars mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 19:19, which reads: “And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake and God answered him by voice.” Among the many things that the shofar symbolizes is opening the heavens with your prayers.
I think it is also noteworthy that these are ram’s horns, and it a ram, caught in a thicket that that Abraham sacrificed instead of Isaac. That sense of covenant deliverance will always be associated. Abraham is rescued by a ram, and so will his posterity be.
The children of Israel continue their walk each of seven days around Jericho, and the seventh day, it is as the first, seven times.
Finally the people shouted, for the Lord had given them the city and we read in Joshua 6:20.
20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the awall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.
What is critical here is that the Children of Israel are instructed not to take any booty, not to be attracted by brass or gold or any treasure. Some things of worth would be taken into the treasury of the Lord, but it was cursed for any in Israel to take something for themselves.
Now in Joshua’s farewell speech to his people in Joshua 23 and 24, he is very clear. Do not follow the idols and Gods of these nations in Canaan, Do not intermarry with them. “But cleave unto the Lord your God, as ye have done unto this day” (Josh. 238).
Joshua said, “Ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the bgood things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” Josh 23, 14.
Joshua gathered the people together at Shechem and reminded them of all the Lord has done for them. God had plucked Abraham out of an idolatrous world to give him the covenant. God had brought their fathers out of Egypt. God had put darkness between Israel and Egypt that Israel might leave. God had brought them through the wilderness safely. God had given them this land.
Then Joshua made it clear that they should not forsake the Lord or serve strange gods—especially after all that God has done for them. He called God “a holy God” and “a jealous God” (Joshua 24:19) Why would he say that God was a jealous God?
It is because He is the God who can save us. He is the only one who can save us. Your husband or wife can’t save you, however much you adore them. Your child cannot save you. You certainly cannot save yourseIf. Politics cannot save you. It is the Lord, and Him only who can save you.
His beloved children go to after Baal or Molech or worship immorally in groves, they are turning away from the one place where they can be saved.
During the Lord’s ministry and after the Bread of Life sermon where many of Christ’s followers left, he turned to Peter and asked:As the Lord asked Peter during his eartly ministry, “
“Will ye also go away?” Peter responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” John 6:68.
God begs his children to stay the course, for if they go another direction, they do not know what they give up. They will dance around an idol that will never talk back to them standing silent and wooden before their needs.
No wonder Joshua pled with them, “Put away…the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel” (Josh 24).
Joshua makes it clear, “Choose you this day whom ye shall serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24: 15).
I have loved that verse since I was in primary where a poster of it stood on the wall. Which day do you choose to serve the Lord? This day. Putting off becoming a more devoted covenant keeper and follower of Christ until tomorrow is an excuse to keep putting off the most important thing for something much less important. Now is a moment in eternity and now is the time to choose God. What other time could possibly be better? You say to yourself, “I am a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. What’s more I will always be a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. I have made my choice and I am empowered by my choice. I will never be moved another direction.
When we see the corruption of these idol worshippers in the Old Testament and their civilizations that fall, it is good to remember that God is a successful parent. He knows just what to do for each of his children, except for the tiniest minority, to give them a kingdom of glory.
I choose the Lord not only because I love Him, but I can see how He loves us all.
That’s all for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast. Next week we’ll study Judges 2-4, 6-8, and 13-16. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins who is our producer.