From Abraham to Joshua

On 6th October, I preached our second introduction sermon to the book of Judges that we are studying over the next six months. As part of that sermon I gave a brief rundown of the history of the nation of Israel up until the start of the book of Judges; and it was commented on that it was helpful so I’ve decided to share it here on the BFC blog. Have a read and I hope that you find it helpful in placing the book of Judges in a biblical timeline.

Throughout the history of the nation of Israel, those descended from a man called Jacob who also was known as Israel, there are great stories of God’s promise and God’s protection over His chosen people. God promised Abraham that his descendants would be great in number, as many as the stars in the heavens or the sand on the seashore. A promise made to a man who at that point had no children, not even one, and he was really far too old to be having children with his wife, Sara. We probably remember the story of how the promised child comes along who was called Isaac. 

When Abraham dies, Isaac takes on the patriarchal role. He has twins called Esau and Jacob. Jacob is the second born son which in those days meant that your birth right wasn’t as great as that of the first born son. Jacob’s a bit wiley though and manages to persuade his near-blind father that He is Esau, and he receives the blessing from Isaac that is due to Esau, his brother. He inherits the whole family and its wealth, all his relatives become his servants. Esau is obviously a bit upset by this and wants to kill Jacob so Jacob heads off away from Esau to find a wife, and in typical fashion gets tricked into having two wives (has that never happened to you?), the one he actually wanted in the first place only after having to marry the not so pretty one. With these two wives (and their slaves, as if it wasn’t complicated enough) he has twelve sons. Those that make up the twelve tribes of Israel. Eventually under one of the sons, Joseph (remember the dream coat?) the whole family of Israel (move into Egypt and they live happily ever after.

Except as we know, they don’t. Some 400 years later, God calls a man, Moses to bring Israel out of the slavery they were now in, in Egypt. And he does it, as we heard and enacted the other week, Moses leads the people across the red sea and towards the land promised to Abraham all those years before. Moses leads the people into the desert and God provides mightily for them, miraculously giving them food and water every day, building the people’s reliance on Him, building their trust. God gives them the law through Moses, and the people encounter God at the mountain, in the cloud and the thunder. God then calls them to go into the land promised to them. They stood there, on the edge of the land and sent spies in to see what it’s like. Moses sent in twelve men to spy out the land, two of whom were called Joshua and Caleb. When the twelve spies returned, ten of them were fearful of what they had seen. Two of them though, Joshua and Caleb called out to the people, telling them how the land was a good land, that God was with them and that they would drive out the people in the land but the people had rebelled and turned away from trusting God. So, God denied them from entering the land promised to them until the generation had passed away and they wandered in the desert for forty years until Moses died. 

Joshua was appointed leader of the nation of Israel. Once the generation had died out and only Joshua and Caleb were left, God told Joshua to lead the people across the Jordan, where once again water was parted and they crossed over on dry ground. Finally, the nation of Israel set its feet on the promised land. And they had one mission. Go in, trusting in the Lord and drive out all the occupants, taking possession of all the land that was promised to them. Through ups and downs, learning to listen and be obedient to God they made good progress. They achieved some of what God had told them to do, but not all of it by the end of Joshua’s life. Remember, he was already an older man by the time they entered the land of Canaan, the promised land. So before he dies, he called together the leaders and we find ourselves in Joshua chapter 23 if you want to read along. He says to the leaders:

“6 “Be very strong and continue obeying all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you do not turn from it to the right or left 7 and so that you do not associate with these nations remaining among you. Do not call on the names of their gods or make an oath to them; do not serve them or bow in worship to them. 8 Instead, be loyal to the Lord your God, as you have been to this day.

9 “The Lord has driven out great and powerful nations before you, and no one is able to stand against you to this day. 10 One of you routed a thousand because the Lord your God was fighting for you, as he promised. 11 So diligently watch yourselves! Love the Lord your God! 12 If you ever turn away and become loyal to the rest of these nations remaining among you, and if you intermarry or associate with them and they with you, 13 know for certain that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out before you. They will become a snare and a trap for you, a sharp stick for your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you disappear from this good land the Lord your God has given you.” — Joshua 23:6-13 (CSB)

He warns them. He reminds them of all that God has done, he warns them to stick with God, not to go off and marry the people of the land not to bow down to their gods. Joshua knows that if the people go off with the Canaanites that the Canaanite way of life will lead them to follow other gods and to turn away from the God of Israel.

Joshua warns them what the result will be if they don’t do what God has told them to do. In Joshua 23:16 he says:

“If you break the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods, and bow in worship to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly disappear from this good land he has given you.” — Joshua 23:16 (CSB)

Joshua’s warning is then followed by the people of Israel, all gathered in one place where they recommit to the covenant made by their ancestors to worship God alone, to not marry the locals so as to avoid being tempted to worship their gods as well as Yahweh, the God of Israel.

I’d really recommend having a read of at least the last two chapters of the book of Joshua just get a good context of the situation we find ourselves in throughout Judges. In Judges 2:7 we’re told that:

“The people worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua. They had seen all the Lord’s great works he had done for Israel.” — Judges 2:7 (CSB)

After his address, Joshua dies at 110 years old and is buried in the promised land. Over time, the elders who had served with him died out too. A generation passed away.

I hope this is a blessing to you…

With love


Published: 10.14.2019