Joshua and Jesus: What’s in a name?
Names have meanings that carry over when translated from one language to another. Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua, but both names have the same meaning. Joshua the man points to Jesus the God-Man who leads us into our eternal promised land with Him.
[Note: This post is based on last week’s reading: Joshua].
A new era for Israel
In the book of Joshua, the Israelites enter a new era in their history. They are a demographically young nation because God kept them wandering in the wilderness for forty years until all the older rebellious generation that refused to trust God had died. With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, the only faithful ones of their era, all the rest of the population was under sixty years of age.
Joshua takes over the leadership from Moses. He starts out right and is generally consistent and successful in all that he does. The book concludes with his final charge to the people to remain obedient to God and His law.
The Book of Joshua
The book divides into two sections: Conquering the Land (ch. 1-12) and Settling the Land (ch. 13-24). In ch. 1-2, God gives a charge to Joshua and Joshua gives a charge of the nation. The newly installed leader then extracts promises of obedience from the tribes who had settled east of the Jordan and sends two spies into Jericho on a reconnaissance mission. We meet a fascinating character named Rahab, a Jericho resident who welcomes the spies and arranges a deal to spare her family in the coming invasion in which she knows the Israelites will be victorious.
God reassures Joshua and all Israel of His power and presence by stopping the waters of the Jordan. Joshua then leads the nation into the Promised Land where the tribes erect a monument of twelve stones from the Jordan, a memorial to the Lord’s power on behalf of His people that would remind them to fear their God forever. The first recorded activities of the Israelites in the land are to circumcise all of the males and to observe the Passover.
God again reassures Joshua of His blessing upon him by the appearance of the commander of the army of the Lord and by giving Joshua a detailed plan for conquering Jericho—a bizarre-sounding plan which involved seven days of marches without any fighting culminating in the collapse of the city wall.
The Jericho victory seemed complete until (at the battle of Ai) Israel suffers a morally devastating defeat. It comes to light that a man named Achan had illegally squirreled away some of the spoils of battle. After the perpetrator is punished with death, Israel resumes her victorious campaign. Another defeat comes in the form of a trick played by a local nation, the Gibeonites, in which Israel is duped into making a treaty with them instead of annihilating them as God commanded.
Five kings then attack Gibeah, the new ally of Israel, which brings on war and a decisive conquest of the southern part of the land. Another war ensues in the north and again, Israel triumphs. God shows His power and faithfulness to Israel throughout these accounts of military conquest–like the incident of the sun standing still and a killer hailstorm.
Help with the details
In reading chapters 13-21 which is heavy with details, we will be helped by a good Bible Atlas or study Bible with maps of the military conquests of Israel and the locations of the allotted borders for the various tribes. God fulfilled His promises to Israel and He intended for them to settle and to live together peaceably within the territories He assigned to each tribe.
Even after all the tribes receive their territories, the danger of civil conflict and war is never far from the nation as evidenced by a national crisis over a certain “altar” that the eastern tribes erected with good intentions but questionable wisdom. Again God is gracious and we can be hopeful about Israel’s future seeing that Joshua has other wise leaders like Phineas the priest and son of Eleazar who can step up to manage a touchy political problem.
The Book of Joshua draws to a close in the final days and acts of the great leader who replaced Moses. He leads them in a covenant renewal ceremony in which he charges them to choose whom they will serve—the Lord or the false gods their ancestors served in the past. The aging leader vows that he and his house will serve the Lord. He reminds them that God has fulfilled all the good things He promised to them. Not one word had failed. [See Joshua 23:14.]
Joshua and Jesus
Joshua—whose name means “Yahweh is salvation” and in Greek is translated “Jesus”—exemplifies godly, sacrificial, steadfast leadership. He certainly foreshadows the true and ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King of Israel, our Lord Jesus Christ who conquered His (and our) great enemy, Satan. He has saved His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Unlike Joshua, Jesus did not enter a mere earthly promised land but into heaven itself. He has promised to prepare a place for us and to come again and take us to Himself (John 14:1-3). Israel rejoiced in their new home in the Promised Land, yet it was a home that they could and would lose—not an eternal and secure one. How much more will the Church of Jesus Christ rejoice when we enter the promised rest in glory with Him? “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” Hebrews 13:14-15 (ESV). Amen.
This week’s reading: Judges, Ruth