International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: Joshua 1:1-6; 11:16-19, 21-23Lesson Title: God’s Promises Fulfilled
Webster’s Dictionary defines a promise as “one’s pledge to another to do or not do something specified.” That is a simple but adequate definition of a promise from a human perspective. When the word promise is used, some people raise their eyebrows at it because we've all known people who made promises and didn't keep them. And, we've all made promises ourselves and didn't keep them. Governments make promises and break them. Nations make promises and break them. Advertisers make promises and break them. Politicians make promises and break them. Preachers make promises and break them...husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, uncles, aunts, friends, enemies, everybody. But there is One who makes promises and never breaks them. Never! That's the Lord (Deuteronomy 7:9; Romans 4:21; 2 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; Hebrews 10:23).
The word “promise” is used more than 100 times in the Bible along with other terms that imply the same thought. There are many promises in the Old Testament made by God to patriarchs, kings, prophets, Israel, saints, and to the world at large. There are promises in the New Testament made by God and the Lord Jesus Christ to sinners, believers, the world and the church. Promises covering Israel’s past, present, and future are scattered throughout the Bible, with the majority of the promises yet to be realized. Our lesson text from Joshua 1 and Joshua 11 focuses on the fulfillment of God’s promises to the nation of Israel concerning the land of Canaan. Remember, Canaan was called, “the land of promise” (Hebrews 11:9).
The book of Joshua records one of the most interesting and important portions of Israel’s history. Although the author is not named, we are safe to assume it was Joshua, who was there to witness most of the events that take place in the book (Joshua 18:9; 24:26). Joshua was born in Egyptian slavery, trained by Moses, and chosen by God to lead Israel into Canaan (Exodus 17:8-16; Numbers 17:15). With the exception of Caleb, Joshua was the only adult Israelite in the exodus from Egypt who survived the forty years of wanderings in the wilderness and actually entered Canaan. Joshua was nearly 90 years old when he became Israel’s leader. He later died at the age of 110 (Joshua 24:29). If you’re going to start leading God’s people (especially Baptist) at 90 years of age, you better have some promises!
God’s Promises and Challenging Circumstances (Joshua 1:1-2)
The book of Joshua begins with the word “now.” It implies that it continues all that God had done in the previous book. Continuation is based upon God’s promises. We can go on because God has given us His Word (Numbers 11:23; Jeremiah 1:12). There is a “now” even “after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord.” Think about it. Moses is dead. This mighty soldier of God experienced in war, civil affairs, educated, mighty in prayer and a proven leader for over 2 million people is no longer available to God’s people or Joshua. The future is unknown. There are dangers ahead and enemies ahead for God’s people but God gives them another leader and He fulfills His promises. Matthew Henry said, “God will change hands to show that whatever instruments He uses, He is not tied to any.”
“It came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minster, saying” are promising words indeed. God doesn’t stop speaking because one leader dies or is no longer able to lead in a certain place with a certain people. J. Oswald Sanders writes: “A work originated by God and conducted on spiritual principles will surmount the shock of a change of leadership and indeed will probably thrive better as a result” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 132). Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - Old Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – History. Realistically, when Israel needed Moses the most, he was gone. Nevertheless, God spoke to Joshua.
Joshua is referred to as “the son of Nun, Moses’ minister.” “Minister” is a word that describes workers in the tabernacle as well as characteristics of a leader. It is primarily used in the Old Testament for service in the house of God. Joshua did not push himself forward to fill the space left by Moses’ death. He faithfully served and ministered to Moses unto the time appointed by the Lord arrived.
“Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.” The words “Moses my servant is dead” and “arise” means the appointed time had now come for God to make good the promises which He had made to Abraham and his descendants. Almost 700 years has passed since God first promised the land to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 12:7). This is the first mention of the “Jordan” River in the book of Joshua which mentions the “Jordan” some seventy times. The Jordan River springs from the foothills of the Lebanon Mountains, and flows into the Sea of Galilee, which is approximately 700 feet below sea level. From there the Jordan River flows seventy miles to the Dead Sea which is approximately 1300 feet below sea level. It is believed that the Jordan River falls some 15 feet per mile in some places. The name “Jordan” in Hebrew means “descender.”
“I do give” literally means, “I am giving.” At the very moment God was preparing Joshua to replace Moses and commanding Israel to cross the Jordan He was in the process of giving them the promise of the land of Canaan. Although Canaan was promised to Israel and given to them as a gift from God, the challenges to claim it and to cross the Jordan River to actually occupy it were tremendous. God’s promises do not always mean the road will be easy. The Jordan River was in view of the people and she was swollen and no doubt frightening. Seven nations never before seen were occupying the land on the other side of Jordan. Yet, God said to Joshua, “Arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people…”
God’s Promises and Encouraging Commitment (Joshua 1:3-6)
“Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said to Moses.” God wanted Joshua to know that the conquest of Canaan rested on His promise-keeping, not on Joshua. God is committed to taking the children of Israel into the land of promise. Once again God reminds Joshua that He has “given” the land. It is a promise of God and a gift of God. Canaan was not a place to which the Israelites were entitled. Canaan was a sovereign and free gift (Psalm 115:1). The same is true of our salvation (Titus 3:5, 6). “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon…” is God’s assurance to Joshua of victory and an almost word for word quote from Deuteronomy 11:24. The original promise was made in Genesis 12:1-7.
“From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coasts.” “From the wilderness” refers to the southern portion of the land and “this Lebanon” refers to the northwest portion of the land. Borders of the Promised Land are: west, the Mediterranean seacoast; east, Euphrates Rivers far to the east; south, the wilderness over to the Nile of Egypt, and north, Lebanon. The promise is that Israel will be given land from the Lebanon Mountains in the North to the Euphrates River in the Northeast, all the way to the coast of Mediterranean Sea referred to as “the great sea.” All of this territory was to be the possession of Abraham’s descendants. The “land of the Hittites” is speaking of the northern land of Canaan in general (1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6; Ezekiel 16:3), but extends far beyond the borders of Canaan and possibly includes Syria, Moab, Ammon, Bashan, and parts of Arabia. God would take His people over the Jordan and into enemy territory. He would then enable them to take the land and territory He had promised them.
“There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life…” is a personal promise to Joshua of divine power for the task God has given him. The promise extends beyond just a personal promise and also includes a promise to Joshua as the leader of the nation of Israel. It literally means “no one will be able to set himself up against thee” as long as Joshua lived and followed God’s command. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee” must have reminded Joshua of Deuteronomy 7:24 where Moses stated God’s promise to the congregation, “And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.” Joshua, being Moses’ “minister” knew Moses better than anyone and knew the Lord was faithful to Moses. God had been with Moses and remained with him until the end. He is promising the same for Joshua. Victory and spiritual success is not dependent upon Joshua being like Moses or attempting to lead as Moses led. His victory was in the fact that the same presence of God Moses had was the same presence of God He was being promised. It should be a great encouragement and comfort to every child of God and to every spiritual leader to know that we have that same promise and presence to carry out our God-given task.
“I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” are the same words Moses spoke to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:7-8. God is promising Joshua that He will be no less God in power, protection, presence and purpose than He was with Moses. “Fail” means “sink, relax, let down, or cause to be disheartened.” “Forsake” means “leave.” God is not about to disappoint Joshua or walk away from him when the Jordan swells, when he sees the walls of Jericho or when the enemies of the land stand in opposition. Christ has promised us, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
“Be strong and of a good courage…” are more than suggestive words from God to Joshua. No less than three times God tells Joshua to be courageous (Joshua 1: 6, 7, 9). Arthur Pink suggests that they are a divine injunction clearly charging Joshua to follow in the footsteps of Moses and face his task with assurance and courage. God is the God of encouragement (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Personal courage and complete obedience to God’s will are always two of the main ingredients in success for the believer. “Be strong” is an encouraging challenge to Joshua’s resolve to do God’s will. “Good courage” means he is to be alert and brave. Canaan would not be occupied in a few days or after a few small battles. As the leader of God’s people Joshua must be strengthened for the long battle ahead both with the enemy and with the potential of lack of faith on the part of God’s people.
“For unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them” is a promise to Joshua that he will live to see the land divided out to the children of Israel. Joshua will “divide for an inheritance the land.” This means he is part of God’s promise. God has included Joshua in fulfilling the promise of giving Canaan to the Israelites. There are so many promises to which God has included us. So many promises which we have already seen come to pass and will see in the future. When we experience a promise of God should we not rejoice as Simeon when he said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Luke 2:29-30). These promises are strengthening medicine for Joshua and for every believer who sincerely desires to serve the Lord.
God’s Promises and Victorious Conquests (Joshua 11:16-23)
There is much that takes place between Joshua 1 and Joshua 11. The days and events that fall in between these chapters are marked by both victory and defeat. The people victoriously crossed the swollen Jordan and sent spies to Jericho (Joshua 1-3). Joshua had a personal meeting with the Captain of the Lord’s Host in chapter 5 and then proceeded to take Jericho by the miraculous power of God (Joshua 6). Sin entered the camp through Achan’s disobedience in chapters 6 & 7. The Israelites are deceived by the Gibeonites in chapter 9 but a victory over the Amorites follows in chapter 10. Verses 29-43 of chapter 10 records the destruction of the remaining area of southern Canaan as Joshua continues to take land promised by God to Israel.
Joshua 11:1-15 records the forming of an alliance by “Jabin king of Hazor” (Joshua 11:1). When word of Joshua’s victories spread northward into Galilee, the kings of that area immediately followed Jabin’s lead and came together in hopes of protecting themselves and stopping Joshua. As powerful as the coalition was with Canaanite, Amorite, Hittite, Perizzite, Jebusite, and the Hivites all united, God gave Joshua and the Israelites victory (Joshua 11:7-8). But before God gave the victory, He again encouraged Joshua and gave him another promise (Joshua 11:6). The victorious conquests Joshua had experienced and the victory he would yet experience are still based upon the promises of God.
“So Joshua took all the land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same.” “All the land” does not refer to everything God wanted them to have because there is more land to possess. It refers to all that has been spoken of in the previous section. The land taken included the “hills,” the highlands of Judah north and south of Jerusalem, the “south country,” or dry region of the south, “Goshen,” the area that leads to Egypt, the “valley” or lowlands, the “plain,” or Arabah, and “the valley of the same.” Arabah is oftentimes used in the Old Testament to refer to the area below the Dead Sea.
“The northern areas subdued by Israel extend to ‘mount Halak,’ the “smooth mountain that goes up to ‘Seir,’ the mountainous region well-known in the territory of Esau (Genesis 32:3). To distinguish even further the far-reaching northern conquests is added the description ‘even unto Baal-gad’ in the Lebanon valley at the base of ‘mount Hermon.’ Baal-gad has been variously interpreted as Baalbek in Lebanon, Heliopolis in Syria, or Caesarea-Philippi in Israel. The exact identification of ‘Baal-gad,’ which means ‘the lord of fortune,’ is tenuous; but Caesarea-Philippi is most likely.” (Liberty Bible Commentary, Volume 1, page 422-423, par.2).
Though the account of Joshua and Israel’s battles in Canaan cannot be exactly measured in days and years, the words “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings” are meant to convey the thought that every battle was not like that of Jericho. Some suggest that it took between 5 and 7 years for the kings to be conquered and the land to be taken. No matter how it all figured out on the calendar, Joshua had been a part of all of this since his early days of being a spy in the land (Numbers 14:6-9). “Long time” in the Hebrew means “many days.” Some battles were swift and some were slow according to time on the clock or hours in the day. But the central thought in the words “long time” seems to convey the message that Joshua was a man of constancy and stability. He had a promise from God and he was willing to stay the course and lead the people from victory to victory. It reminds believers of the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Joshua was not discouraged by the obstacles or stopped in the defeats. He wasn’t overwhelmed when the odds were against him. He had a promise from God of another season ahead and he was willing to “war a long time with all those kings.”
Illus. “War a long time with all those kings” sounds like something to be engraved on the tombstone of a war hero. Actually, it should be written on the hearts of all of God’s children. Because God has promised to be with us and to help us in our spiritual battles, we too should have it said of us, “He/she warred a long time with all those kings.” Paul said of himself, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
“This is a reference to the events of Joshua 9. Messengers from four Hivite cities (Joshua 9:17) deceive the Israelites by pretending to be from a distant region, and they were able to make a covenant of peace with Israel. Gibeon is the leading city of the Hivites.” (Standard Lesson Commentary, page 350, par.5). “…All other they took in battle” reminds us that the day of grace and mercy had expired for the Canaanites.
“For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.” Without question this verse is hard to understand. Phrases like “destroy them utterly” and “destroy them” aren't pleasant to read. But the hearts of these people were hardened and they refused to repent or ask for peace. God Himself hardened their hearts. And He did so as a result of their rejection of Him. It was not a divine brainwashing but rather an employment of their naturally stubborn and evil inclinations against God, His character, and His people (Leviticus 18:24-25). As Pharaoh's heart was hardened by his own pride and wilfulness first, and afterwards by the righteous judgment of God, to his destruction, so were the hearts of these Canaanites.
“And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the moujntains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities.” The “Anakims” who lived in the southern area, were refered to as the “long-necked men,” the gigantic children of Anak (Numbers 13:28, 33; Joshua 15:13-14). “At that time” evidently refers to a special campaign against the Anakims. Mighty as these Anakims were, “Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities.” “There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained.” It is possible that the Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath, was actually a descendant of the Anakims who survived Joshua’s sword (1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:18-22; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8).
Note: The territory of the Anakims was later given to Caleb as a reward for his loyalty (Joshua 14:6-15).
“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all the LORD said unto Moses…” The word “whole” is meant to imply that he had established an unquestioned military presence in the land, and not that he had subdued every piece of property God had promised. It is clear from Joshua 17 and the book of Judges that there was land yet to be occupied and land that Israel failed to take. However, as far as Joshua’s obedience and claiming of God’s promises, he failed not to do God’s will. Once the land and territories God had promised were taken Joshua then gave that land “for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes.” The land was divided according to the plan of God. “And the land rested from war” means the Israelites were allowed to live in peace without a threat of attack or retaliation from the Canaanites. This would not have been possible had not the Lord kept His promises to Joshua and to Israel.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “I believe all the promises of God, but many of them I have personally tried and proved.” The same could be said of Joshua and by all of God’s children who read and trust in God’s Holy Word. As we face the battles of life and seek to obey God’s commands we must rely upon God’s promises. Where do we find those promises? They are written in His Holy Word. Joshua wasn’t grasping at straws or testing the waters when he assumed leadership of Israel. He was a man called by God to lead His people to the Promised Land.
There is available strength, courage, and grace for each believer today who will follow God’s direction. We live in a culture that views promises as a crutch to get us from one point to another. The promises we make to God are important. The promises we make to each other are important. And the promises God has made to us crucial for our salvation and victory. As the song writer wrote, “Promises, promises, and all of them true. He’s done exactly what He said He would do!”
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