Joshua 13:1-17:18Dr. Jim Denison
Thesis: the battle is not over until the victory is won.
Goal: Identify God’s greatest calling on your life, and commit to its complete fulfillment
This is the story of four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, so Everybody was asked to do it. Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. Consequently it wound up that Nobody told Anybody so Everybody blamed Somebody.
The church is its people. We do our ministry through our members as they are empowered for mission and service. We can only inherit the spiritual victory God intends for our church when Everybody does what he and she can do. Let’s learn how to be an army whose troops all fight and win.
Assess the challenges (13:1-7)
The first step in any military strategy is to define the enemy. Determine his strengths and weaknesses. Plan not just for what he will probably do, but for what he is able to do. Define your own opportunities and obstacles. Assess the challenges, before you go to war.
One challenge facing Israel was clear and immediate: “Joshua was old and well advanced in years” (v. 1). The leader of the nation and its army was probably around 90 years of age by this time. Time was of the essence for him, and for the people he was called to lead. The longer they inhabited the land without conquering it, the more likely they would assimilate its pagan theology and practices.
And there was still much land to be taken (vs. 2-5). Joshua and the army “took the entire land” in principle (11:23), but much still remained to be inhabited and controlled. They were living between the D-Day when they entered the land miraculously and the V-Day when the land God promised Israel would be fully theirs.
Some of the remaining lands to the north would be conquered by the Lord himself (v. 6) and given to the nation (v. 7). God will never allow us to face an enemy we cannot defeat with his help (1 Corinthians 10:13).
In winning the spiritual battle for the souls of our community and beyond, we first assess the challenges and opportunities which are before us. What obstacles stand between you and complete obedience to God’s call on your life? Are there sins to be confessed? A step of faith to be taken? Surrender of your finances, time, or abilities?
When Nehemiah returned to this same land some eight centuries later, on a mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and reestablish the nation after Babylonian captivity, his first step was to assess the challenges facing his people. He later recorded his strategy: “I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on” (Nehemiah 2:11-12). He proceeded to inspect the Dung Gate, the Fountain Gate, the King’s Pool, and the Valley Gate (vs. 13-16).
His investigation complete, he made his report to the leaders of the nation: “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (v. 17). Then Nehemiah followed the bad news with the good: “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me” (v. 18a). With this result: “They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work” (v. 18b).
When we assess the challenges and opportunities before us, we know how to begin the campaign which will lead to victory. What temptation is challenging you today? What is keeping you from taking your next step in fulfilling God’s Great Commission for your life?
Trust God’s promises (13:8-33)
Before Joshua could lead his people further west into the lands intended for them, first they must settle the lands assigned to tribes east of the Jordan. The tribes of Reuben and Gad, and half of the tribe of Manassah had been promised this land by Moses (Numbers 32:1-42). But these tribes were required to fight with the rest of Israel in conquering the lands to the west. They had kept their promise to this point; now God would keep his to them.
Understanding the tribal structure of Israel at this point in her history requires a bit of work. The “twelve tribes” were originally the 12 sons of Jacob, with Reuben the oldest and head of the brothers. What follows is a brief description of the rest of the story, including lands to be given each tribe in coming chapters.
•Reuben sinned against his father (Genesis 35:22; 49:3-4), thus losing the double inheritance which was to go to him. His tribe eventually settled east of the Jordan River.
•Thus Jacob gave this double inheritance to Joseph, the spiritual head who had saved their family in Egypt. Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh as his own children and promised them equal inheritance (Genesis 48:5). Manasseh split into two half-tribes, one on each side of the Jordan. Ephraim would locate west of the Jordan, just south of the western part of Manasseh.
•Simeon and Levi were born next, but both shamed the family at Shechem (Genesis 34). Jacob thus decreed that they would be scattered among the nation, and they were. Simeon received cities within Judah (Joshua 19:1-9).
•Levites rejected idolatry at Sinai, so that God made them his special inheritance (Exodus 32:25-29). They had no single land, but were scattered and would be supported by the rest of the nation.
•Judah was next in birth order, and was thus made the head of the nation (Genesis 49:8-12). This tribe received the first and largest allotment of land west of the Jordan, located in the southern part of the nation and west of the Dead Sea; eventually the kings of David’s line came from Judah, as would the Messiah.