Entering Canaan

Jericho walls

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A. GOD COMMANDS JOSHUA TO TAKE THE LAND

In our previous message we dealt with Israel’s journey to the promised land. We also saw how they distrusted God to give them the land and had to turn back into the desert.  We now take op the story from where 40 years had passed during which they had been wandering in the desert.  All of the people of 20 years and older that had distrusted God, had died.  A new generation had risen which God had again led to the border of Canaan, the promised land.  In the meantime Moses and Aaron had also passed away and Joshua was the new leader.

We now read from the Book of Joshua, Chapter 1:1-11:

“After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant:  2  “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.  4  Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country— to the Great Sea on the west. 

5  No-one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  6  “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.  7  Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  8  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  9  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people:  11  “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’”

Wow! The 14,600 days of wandering had shrinked to 3 days – within three days they would be entering the Promised Land. The promise made to their ancestor, Abraham, hundreds of years before when God called him to leave his country of birth and become a sojourner in Canaan, would now be fulfilled and become a reality.

Just like Moses did before, Joshua again sent spies into the land to report on the conditions. They brought a good report saying that the people in the country were already in fear of them. 

B. CROSSING THE JORDAN

The only problem was that the River Jordan, through which they had to pass, was in full flood.  There were of course no bridges across it, nor any boats they could use to cross over.  And there were more than a million people, as well as all their animals that had to get to the other side.  But God was going to do a miracle just as when the people of Israel left Egypt and had to cross  the Red Sea.  So He told Joshua to instruct the priests to go ahead of the people carrying the ark with them.  Then, as soon as their feet  touched the water, they had to stop.

We now read from chapter 3:14-17:

“ So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them.  15  Now the Jordan is in flood all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge,  16  the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.  17  The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”

What a mighty miracle!  If God wants to do something, there is absolutely nothing that can stop Him from doing so.  He is God, He is the Almighty One, He is the Creator of everything.  While the Jordan was still cleft, with the water rising up as a wall on the upper side, Moses built an alter of 12 stones within the bed of the river.  He also instructed one leader from each tribe to take a rock from the river bed to the other side. 

When everybody had crossed, the priests bearing the ark came up out of the riverbed.  Then the waters closed behind them.  They had taken a bold step to cross into Canaan to fight and conquer the Canaanites.  And God had honoured their faith and opened the river before them.  But now they were in enemy territory and their was no possibility of turning back.  God himself had closed the gate behind them. Now they were totally in His hands. 

Let us read from chapter 4:20 to chapter 5:1:

“And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.  21  He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’

22  tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’  23  For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.  24  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” 

1 Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts sank and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.”

The Canaanites, as long as the Jordan was between them and their enemy Israel, felt safe and secure.  But what a shock it must have been when their spies, looking from the surrounding hills saw the waters of the Jordan opening up and more than a million people walking through on the dry riverbed.  We are sometimes so scared of the devil but do you know how scared he gets when he sees God moving in power ahead of us?  The Canaanites were trembling, but Israel was rejoicing. Fear causes people to tremble but faith in God and obedience to his will, brings rejoicing. 

If you have been living in sin like a Canaanite, living in fear of God and of death, why don’t you join the Jesus people. Repent today and begin to trust God as your Sinbearer, your Saviour and King.  Trust him with all your heart.  He has not changed, he is still the mighty worker of miracles.  He still wants his people to live in victory, to live within Canaan, not in Egypt nor in the desert.

C. CIRCUMCISION AND PASSOVER

Having built the alter, there was another very important thing the Lord commanded them to do. All of the men had to be circumcised. We read from chapter 5:2,3:

 “At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites  again.” 3  So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth”

Why did they have to do this?  If you had read our earlier studies, you will remember that God had commanded Abraham, the first father of the nation of Israel, to circumcise his son, Isaac.  That would be the sign of the covenant between Him and Abraham and his descendants.  Abraham was quick to obey but now, after 400 years in the heathen country of Egypt, most of the men of Israel had failed to attend to this commandment.  But God had not changed. He wanted there to be a clear distinction between His, and the heathen people.  Therefore the men of Israel were to receive this token of his covenant before fighting the enemy. 

This also was a test as to their obedience for it was a humiliating and painful thing to undergo. It seems that they did not even have steel bladed knives but had to make cutting instruments front flint stone.  It also was a dangerous thing to do because all the soldiers would be in pain for many days.  If the enemy attacked them during that time, they would have been unable to defend themselves.  But they were convinced that it was the right thing to obey God and trusted him to protect them.

{Do we still need to be circumcised? And what about the womanfolk? Yes we do, but not in the flesh. See what Paul says in Rom 2:29  … circumcision is of the heart; in spirit and not in letter; …  When a person gets born again, the Spirit of God does a miracle within his spirit, causing sin to lose its power over him or her so that he will from then on be able to walk according to God’s will. His lifestyle then so changes that he will be recognised as a disciple of Christ although he may still stumble now and then.}

Very soon this was all over and they were healed. Then they held a great feast called the pass-over.  This they did to commemorate the night when the angel of death had passed by (over) their homes but entered into the homes of the Egyptians and slayed their firstborn sons.  It was the night when God delivered them from Egypt.

They were then commanded to hold this pass-over feast on a yearly basis. Now, having crossed the Jordan and all being circumcised, their hearts were flooded with joy and for the first time they again held this feast during which they also, for the first time, ate of the produce of the land.  The next day the mannah (the heavenly bread) also stopped falling from above.  From then on, God would supply their needs from the produce of their new country.

D. JERICHO

And now the time had come to wage war against the Canaanites, conquer them and take possession of their cities, towns, farms and livestock . So, one day, Joshua went to a point from where he could, from afar, look out over the first city, Jericho, to see how Israel could take it. What he saw, was that it had a very strong wall surrounding it.  We now read chapter 5:13 to chapter 6:5:

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  14  “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”  15  The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No-one went out and no-one came in.  2  Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.  3  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.  4  Make seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.   5  When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, make all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”

This seemed to be a very strange way of fighting a war and taking a city.  Usually the enemy would try to get near to the walls and heap up soil against it until they would be able to climb over.  Or else they would use a huge tree trunk to ram the gates until they collapsed and then enter in.  But God wanted to do it in such a way that both Israel and their enemies would see God’s hand in it so that God would get the glory and not Israel.  And during all the years that Joshua had been serving God he had learned that the best thing to do was to obey Him.  For this reason he instructed his people to do exactly as God had instructed.  Let us read chapter 6:11 to 16 and verse 20:

“So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there.  12  Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.  13  The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding.

14  So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. 15  On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times.  16  The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!”

“20  When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.”

And this is how the first city fell before the nation of Israel.  The first victory had been achieved and they did not even have to climb over the high wall or break through the city gates. God did it for them. 

Oh, when God does something, it seems so simple and everything goes so well.  Why then do we as Christians find it so hard to do trust God to do things His way?  We always think our own way is better, easier, safer, and then we fail and walk away in shame.

Are there any strong enemy cities in your life that are keeping you from possessing the spiritual promised land that God wants you to have? Alchohol, drugs, sex, laziness, stealing, anger, fear: name them to the Lord and trust Him to conquer them. Let us praY:

Lord I gave my life to you and became your child but there are areas of my life that are still in possession of sin and satan. Please give me the will and the faith to gain the victory. Amen.”

Do read our next teaching dealing with the period of the judges.

SHALOM

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