This should be the easiest post in my series, The Gospel of … identifying the Good News in each Old Testament book. After all, Joshua is simply the Hebrew word we know as Jesus.
But actually, my task becomes more challenging. Joshua is one of the most maligned books of the Bible as it describes Israel conquering Canaan, the Promised land, killing virtually everyone in their path. And when they fail to make a clean sweep, they are confronted by God for failed obedience. Who is this God of such vengeance? Are we embarrassed by this God and his servant, Joshua? You can look back into my blog archives for a response to this challenge, Hard Passages, Relevant Application – Joshua and Judges
So, where is the Gospel in Joshua? I find it in two ways.
1. Entry into the Promised Land – Salvation as experienced in Exodus was a deliverance from Egyptian slavery through a substitute sacrifice, the Passover Lamb, clearly an advance illustration of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7 – For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Jesus died to deliver us from slavery to sin and its necessary punishment, eternal judgment.
But salvation is not just “deliverance from” slavery and judgment, it is also “entry into” the blessings of God’s provision, ultimately for the Christian, heaven, or a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1) The account of Joshua leading Israel into Canaan, the land of promise, is a picture of our ultimate home and our eternal life with Jesus.
2. The Patience of God – What may offend our sensibilities as we read of Joshua leading Israel’s army to kill the Canaanites, actually clouds a very different perspective from Scripture. To see the bigger picture, this shows how loving and patient God is with all people, including us. In this case, it was more than 500 years of God’spatience.
When God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham, who never personally owned more than a small cemetery there, God told him that his descendants would be slaves for four hundred years, then delivered from slavery and given possession of the land of promise. Genesis 15:12-15 Why the delay? Not just to model and illustrate salvation through the substitute sacrifice, the Passover lamb, but also to illustrate God’s patience. God explained this long delay to Abraham this way, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure. Genesis 15:16
What does this say to us? We deserve God’s eternal judgment for our sin. The Gospel (Good News) is that Jesus, crucified and resurrected, is our hope for deliverance from that judgment; and for entry into His eternal presence…if we receive Him by faith. But that fulfilled promise for those who believe corresponds to the final judgment for those who reject the offer of grace.
Some wonder why there has been such a long delay in Christ returning to fulfill his promise. Remembering that His coming involves both judgment and the final consummation of salvation, the answer is in 2 Peter 3:8-10.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come.
So, yes, the Gospel is powerfully present in Joshua. Do you anticipate the eternal promised land? Then, don’t presume on the patience of God any longer. Judgment is coming from our holy God. But it’s not too late for you to escape that judgment if you will trust in Jesus as your eternal hope.