Meditating on the Judgements of God:
6.10 Miracles of the Lord
Josh 3:15-17 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. …. 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
In examining the taking of Canaan we would be remiss if we did not take note of the fact that the Lord gave approval to what Israel were doing by a number of miraculous happenings. There are those who might say that Israel were just a bunch of escapees from Egypt to forced themselves on the people of Canaan and destroyed them for their own purposes. But such scepticism flies in the face of the Biblical accounts, first of the miraculous deliverance from Egypt, then the miraculous provisions in the desert and now entering the Promised Land.
The first miracle was this very entry to the land by crossing the river Jordan at flood time – in the dry! I have heard people say these things were coincidences. Well here is the first ‘coincidence’, one that Joshua was told about before it happened, that the moment the first men stepped into the river carrying the Ark of the Covenant the river stopped flowing and the water upstream piled up and remained piled up until Israel had all crossed over – and then it flowed again. These miracles are important because they deny the accusation that they were just doing their own thing. No, they were performing the will of God to bring judgment on this pagan people and He confirmed His approval by supporting them with these miraculous events.
The second ‘miracle’ was the appearance of an angelic being (or a theophany) to Joshua, the “commander of the army of the Lord” to reassure him (Josh 5:13-15)
The third ‘miracle’ was the taking of Jericho, clearly directed by the Lord (See Josh 6:2-5) The fourth miracle was Israel’s defeat at Ai and the revelation that Achan had taken some of the forbidden plunder (see Josh 7). The stoning of Achan was an execution for direct disobedience which put Israel at risk. We have already noted the fourth ‘miracle’ (the sceptic’s coincidence) the massive hailstones that fell on the enemy who had sought to come against Gibeon and Israel (Josh 10:11)
The first part of the book of Joshua is given over to first of all describing how Joshua worked his way through the land with his army completely clearing it of people until eventually it was all under their control (Josh 11:23). Remember, if you read those chapters, that even as Joshua’s army advanced, there was plenty of time for those ahead of him to pack up and leave the land and escape but instead, quite to the contrary, we see examples of kings banding together to fight, knowing that if they lost it would mean the entire end of their people. Yet although the land was essentially under their control there were still pockets of survivors who held on and had not been taken (see Josh 13:1). Nevertheless the land was theirs! “So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” (Josh 21:43-45)
Not only was the taking of the land accompanied (at least in its earliest stages) by the encouraging acts of the Lord, they attributed their successes entirely to Him. Jericho and Ai had made the point and subsequent victories came with His encouragement and strength. The second part of the book is given over to describing how the land was allotted to the various tribes of Israel to settle in.
The fact of Israel’s holiness and relationship with the Lord is kept to the fore, first through the incident at Ai and then later when the returning half tribes, going back to reclaim the land to the east, built an altar which incurred the wrath of the rest of Israel (see Josh 22:10-34) . The book concludes with the aged Joshua calling the people to commitment to the Lord and to remove idols that were still there (Josh 24:23).