Joshua, Judges, Ruth
Note: I did video previews of these lessons for Sunday School University. Check them out at http://www.sundayschooluniversity.com/
Remember “follow the leader”? The idea was to mimic the antics of the person in front of you in the line of boys and girls winding through the neighborhood. Being a follower was all right, but being leader was the most fun, creating imaginative routes and tasks for everyone else to copy.
In real life, great leaders are rare. Often, men and women are elected or appointed to leadership positions but then falter or fail to act. Others abuse their power to satisfy their egos, crushing their subjects and squandering resources. But without faithful, ethical, and effective leaders, people wander.
For40 years, Israel had journeyed a circuitous route through the wilderness, but not because they were following their leader. Quite the opposite was true—with failing faith, they had refused to obey God and to conquer Canaan. So they wandered. Finally, the new generation was ready to cross the Jordan and possess the land. Having distinguished himself as a man of faith and courage (he and Caleb had given the minority scout report recorded in Numbers 13:30–14:9), Joshua was chosen to be Moses’ successor. This book records Joshua’s leadership of the people of God as they finished their march and conquered the Promised Land.
Joshua was a brilliant military leader and a strong spiritual influence. But the key to his success was his submission to God. When God spoke, Joshua listened and obeyed. Joshua’s obedience served as a model. As a result, Israel remained faithful to God throughout Joshua’s lifetime.
The book of Joshua is divided into two main parts. The first narrates the events surrounding the conquest of Canaan. After crossing the Jordan River on dry ground, the Israelites camped near the mighty city of Jericho. God commanded the people to conquer Jericho by marching around the city 13 times, blowing trumpets, and shouting. Because they followed God’s unique battle strategy, they won (chapter 6). After the destruction of Jericho, they set out against the small town of Ai. Their first attack was driven back because one of the Israelites (Achan) had sinned (chapter 7). After the men of Israel stoned Achan and his family—purging the community of its sin—the Israelites succeeded in capturing Ai (chapter 8). In their next battle against the Amorites, God even provided extended daylight to aid them in their victory (chapter 10). Finally, after defeating other assorted Canaanites led by Jabin and his allies (chapter 11), they possessed most of the land.
Part two of the book of Joshua records the assignment and settlement of the captured territory (chapters 13–22). The book concludes with Joshua’s farewell address and his death (chapters 23–24).
Joshua was committed to obeying God, and this book is about obedience. Whether conquering enemies or settling the land, God’s people were required to do it God’s way. In his final message to the people, Joshua underscored the importance of obeying God. “So be very careful to love the LORD your God” (23:11), and “choose today whom you will serve.… But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD” (24:15). Read Joshua and make a fresh commitment to obey God today. Decide to follow your Lord wherever he leads and whatever it costs.
Life Application Bible Notes (Tyndale, 2007), 311.