The first book of the former prophets is Joshua. Why was this book written? It shows that God’s plan continued after Moses.
Moses died just before Israel entered the Promised Land. Joshua led them to their final destination. The Promised Land is a type of the Kingdom of God. But there is one big difference today. All the adults in ancient Israel who died in the wilderness because of their rebellion will be resurrected in the White Throne Judgment. They will, at that time, have their first opportunity for salvation. God’s very elect today are about to enter the Kingdom of God—but if we die in the spiritual wilderness, we shall lose our eternal lives. This is our only chance to be saved.
Joshua was one of the few Israelites who was converted. He ascended the mountain range of Sinai at the first giving of the tables of the law (Exodus 24:13). He was with Moses quite a lot. The book of Joshua—and the other former prophets—is directly tied to the Pentateuch. All the Scriptures came from one mind—the mind of God!
Joshua was a courageous warrior. He was Israel’s first soldier. In Exodus 17, he was on the front line in the war against Amalek. In Numbers 13, he was one of the 12 spies who scouted out the Promised Land. He was accustomed to risking his life in service to God. You don’t hear much about Joshua when times were easier—you only hear about him when there was an emergency!
Courage seemed to be his major strength. Joshua was a warrior! He had proven himself before he went into the Promised Land. But God also told him at that time, Don’t be afraid! Stand up and be courageous! Wherever you go, I am with you (Joshua 1:5, 7-9). God wanted him to build more courage because there were far bigger battles ahead.
The book of Joshua isn’t just a biography, or a record of history, or merely a historical link to the Pentateuch. It applies directly to God’s people today. It has powerful lessons to teach us about attaining God’s Kingdom. That is how some of the prophecy comes into play. We have the same faith-filled responsibility that Joshua had. Joshua had to fight his way into the Promised Land! We will have to fight our way into the Kingdom of God! God’s ministers must fight to fulfill their responsibilities toward the people they serve. It is the same thing that Christ said was His “meat”: to do the will of God and to finish His Work (John 4:34).
The example of Moses and Joshua is a striking parallel to what has and is happening in God’s Church today. Joshua learned the government God taught through Moses and never compromised with it. The very elect today follow his example and submit to the government God taught through Herbert W. Armstrong. Those who follow Joshua’s example are true Philadelphians who are not ashamed to place the proper emphasis on Mr. Armstrong’s position.
Joshua’s book shows why he won battle after battle going into the Promised Land—how he was able to defeat 31 kings and finish his job. Above all, it shows how he exalted God.
This is the only way for us to reach the Promised Land, God’s Kingdom! Those who fail will die forever in the spiritual wilderness, or the lake of fire. The stakes are forever today. These prophetic books reveal how to be God’s greatest success story forever—or the most towering failures forever! We can’t escape that powerful truth. Our calling is about living forever—or dying forever.
Joshua Distinguished Himself
When God commanded Moses to choose representatives of each tribe to spy out the Promised Land, Moses chose Joshua from the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:1-8). He was very impressed with this young man. The account of what happened when Joshua did this job shows you why.
All the other spies showed cowardice and faithlessness. Only Joshua and Caleb demonstrated courage and faith!
The Israelites murmured and said they wanted to return to Egypt! “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes” (Numbers 14:5-6). Joshua was really moved! He was watching his boss and learning, imitating him and doing what God wanted.
Joshua’s attitude through this whole event was one of faith in God, positivity and courage (verses 7-9). That is exactly the attitude we need in order to face our problems and conquer!
How did the Israelites respond to Joshua? By threatening to stone him to death! (verse 10). Joshua was learning the hard way just how hardheaded Israel was.
As a result of what happened here, God decreed that all Israel would die before entering the Promised Land (verses 22-23). But He made two exceptions: Joshua and Caleb.
Notice what God said about Caleb specifically: “he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully” (verse 24). These men were willing to do whatever God asked of them, and eager to do God’s Work! That is the spirit God is trying to build in us! We should approach our part in God’s Work with joy!
Joshua really distinguished himself. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient” (Numbers 27:18-20).
God knew Joshua would cause Israel to be obedient. Does God know that you will cause those you have an influence on to be obedient? Are you the kind of person He can put someplace, and know you will cause people to be more obedient to God? That is what He is looking for in us.
In Numbers 32:11, God gave this judgment: “Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob; because they have not wholly followed me.” Remember, wetoo are in a land today and enjoying such prosperity because of the obedience of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
“Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, and Joshua the son of Nun: for they have wholly followed the Lord” (verse 12). That is the kind of leader God wants: Somebody who will wholly follow Him! Not follow Him 60 percent, or even 90 percent—but 100 percent! That is what God demands of His elite leaders. That is what we must do if we are going to be able to lead in the headquarters of God’s temple in the World Tomorrow.
When men like this are chosen, they cause good things to happen. God said in Deuteronomy 1:35 that none of the men in that generation would see the Promised Land—“But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it” (verse 38). Put Joshua in charge, and he will cause good things to happen in Israel. God wants us to do that as well: cause positive things to happen, and cause successes in our lives and the lives of those we lead.
Joshua Exalted Moses
Joshua truly loved God. He also had a deep love for Moses and for Moses’s office. That means he loved God’s government. This quality is rare even in the Bible!
In Exodus 33:9-11, God spoke to Moses in the tabernacle; afterward, Moses went back into the camp, “but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.” Joshua stayed behind to look after the treasures of God. He guarded what was God’s, and he did it God’s way. You see that dedication time and again in these examples.
Numbers 11 records an interesting episode. Moses gathered 70 elders and set them around the tabernacle; God gave them His Spirit, and they prophesied. God was giving Moses additional help! Two of the men even prophesied in the camp of Israel. Joshua was upset by this: “And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them” (verse 28). You can see that Joshua was very helpful to Moses; he loved that man, and he knew God was using him. Sometimes he was a little overzealous. Here he thought those other men were violating God’s government. In this case he was wrong, but I believe he had the right attitude. I think God loved it even though it was a bit misguided.
“And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (verse 29). Moses knew Joshua really loved him and was trying to protect him, but he tried to get Joshua to understand that sometimes these things are ok. Joshua didn’t argue. He just did what Moses said.
Joshua was “Moses’ minister” (Joshua 1:1). When Joshua took over, power transferred from one-man rule under Moses to one-man rule under Joshua.
God told Joshua, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (verse 5). That is the authority God gives His leader. The man must have God behind him.
“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest” (verse 7). At times it takes great courage to stand up and do what God commands and to fight the battle that God gives us to fight. But this is a promise from God: If you follow what Moses taught and don’t turn right or left, you will prosper.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (verse 8). This isn’t just saying how to have prosperity and good success. God is also saying, It’s not enough just to know the Bible, to have certain scriptures written on your wall or in your wallet. You won’t get what I’m trying to teach unless you meditate on these things and work to understand them deeply! Deuteronomy 17:18-20 say the same thing: A fine set of rules is not going to get us through to our ultimate spiritual destination.
Joshua spoke a lot about Moses, and he hammered home what that great prophet had received from God. From the beginning of his rule, this was Joshua’s message: “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land” (Joshua 1:13).
The Bible speaks of two Joshuas in the end time—one is lawful and one is unlawful (explained in my Zechariah booklet—all of our literature is free). We need to compare the unlawful Joshua who worked with an end-time type of Zerubbabel, to the Joshua who worked with Moses. The unlawful end-time Joshua failed utterly in following the example of the Joshua under Moses (Zechariah 3:1). How different the modern history of the Church would have been if the leaders in the Worldwide Church of God had followed the ancient Joshua’s example of what to do when a great man of God dies! This is a strong warning to all of God’s people in this end time.
Over and over, this Joshua of old told Israel to remember and exalt what God had revealed through Moses—and he and the nation prospered as a result. The modern Joshua, spoken of by Zechariah, rebelled against doing that with God’s man in the end time. This led to his downfall.
“[T]he Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua …” (Joshua 4:10). Joshua didn’t decide on his own to do that; God commanded him to do it, and Joshua obediently did so! We are commanded today to teach according to all that God taught through Mr. Armstrong. We are the only Church that does so. “There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel …” (Joshua 8:35). Joshua didn’t even reject one word that God taught through Moses. He taught the people that every inspired word of Moses had to be kept! He taught them to remember Moses! God had revealed to Joshua the importance of Moses’s position in Israel. He also prophesied a great warning to anyone who would dare reject even one word of God’s message through His messenger.
When God sends a man to deliver a message, it is extremely dangerous to reject even one word!
In our day, God revealed to the Church the importance of Mr. Armstrong’s office. (Our Haggai booklet proves that statement. Request your free copy.) If God places emphasis on a man’s position, then we must be careful to do the same. As Joshua always pointed the people to Moses, so we must point the people to Mr. Armstrong! If we are truly following the Bible, then we will be placing the proper emphasis on Mr. Armstrong’s writings and work.
“As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:15). Moses followed God’s commands and passed them on to Joshua. And Joshua did everything that God had commanded Moses! Everything!
Right to the end of his life, this was still Joshua’s message: “But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you …. Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (Joshua 22:5; 23:6). Joshua was not trying to promote himself. He loved Moses, he loved God, he loved God’s government, and he kept teaching it over and over to Israel, many years after Moses was dead!
Remember, this is part of the former prophets. It is prophecy for us! This is a lesson that God’s ministers and God’s people mustlearn: that the only one who needs to be exalted is God! Do we love God and His government the way Joshua did? Anyone who does is guaranteed to have a great future!
God really wants us to know about this loyal, faithful man who was so consistent in emphasizing what He revealed through Moses. And God’s faithful Philadelphians follow this marvelous example. We are going to keep exalting God by honoring His end-time servant and the government He taught us through that man!
The Ark of the Covenant
In Joshua 3:7, God promised Joshua, “This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.” God is with His leader, and He does exalt him: first Moses, now Joshua. God never rules by a scholarly committee. He rules through an office that He establishes. And He magnifies a man by installing him into that office (Joshua 4:14).
How did God exalt Joshua? By using a wonderful miracle that centered on the ark of the covenant.
The former prophets mention this ark time and time again. Gold covered the lid on the ark, which is a type of God’s throne (e.g. 2 Samuel 6:2). It was a symbol of God’s throne and of God’s presence in the nation. The way the Israelites used that ark was critical to God.
God’s true Church today possesses the ark of the covenant spiritually. God ruled ancient Israel, and He rules the Church today from that throne. God’s presence is in His Church.
Anciently the ark contained a golden pot of manna, Aaron’s rod and the tables of the Ten Commandments (Hebrews 9:4). These physical items have deep spiritual significance. The same contents exist within the spiritual ark today.
First, you have God’s Ten Commandments, or His law. God’s law is our constitution. Ancient Israel obeyed the letter of God’s law. Spiritual Israel, the Church, keeps the spirit of the law today. We talk about the Ten Commandments a lot, but we are not just ruled by the Ten Commandments—we are ruled by God. We must always give God His proper place and priority. God rules us by the law, which is the foundation of the Pentateuch and the whole Bible.
Then, in order to implement that law, you must have God’s government (symbolized by Aaron’s rod, spoken of in Numbers 17). There was one man, Moses, who governed Israel in the wilderness—under God. When Moses died, he was replaced by Joshua—one man—who enforced the law for God. “On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (Joshua 4:14). They went from one-man rule to one-man rule. That is always the way God works.
When you have God’s law and government, then God will feed you manna, or spiritual food, today (John 6:49-51). Only the Church that has God’s law and government is fed God’s revealed manna, or truth. God reveals it only to “babes,” those submissive to His government (Matthew 11:25). God will not use anyone to do His Work until they learn this lesson! Any other approach leads to spiritual starvation! God cuts off the spiritual manna. All the Laodicean groups have rejected God’s government. That is why God only reveals His secrets to His Philadelphia Church today (Amos 3:7). The revelation we receive shows that God is feeding us with spiritual food, which is further proof that God is ruling this Church.
Joshua’s instruction to the Israelites was, “When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it” (Joshua 3:3). When the Israelites were to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, God commanded that the priests lead the entourage with the ark. Joshua was a military man, but he didn’t position the military out in front; he placed the priests, and the ark of God, at the head of the entourage so everyone would know it was God leading them!
The ark is where God’s rule is—that is why Joshua told Israel to “go after it”! He wasn’t trying to get the people to follow him. He intensely taught them to follow God.
We must “go after” God—never men! But you and I are responsible to prove which man is pointing us to God.
God was able to unify Israel around Joshua and the priests. They were all one. God’s government rules God’s true Church today. God is going to use these people to help Him enforce His law in the World Tomorrow (Revelation 2:26-27). The world will be led and fed spiritually by the omnipotent God. That is what the ark of the covenant is all about. The book of Joshua contains prophecy of this wonderful future.
Put God First
In Joshua’s day, God used the ark in a dramatic way not only to magnify Joshua’s office, but also to teach a profound lesson for us in this end time.
“And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lordwill do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5). Joshua loved working for God. He knew that when you truly serve God, God works wonderful miracles for you. Joshua called Him “the living God [who] is among you” (verse 10). As a result of this approach, Joshua and the nation enjoyed wonder after wonder!
When the priests set foot in the Jordan, the waters miraculously stopped flowing through and built up in a great heap to the north! God stopped the waters so Israel could walk across! The priests then carried the ark right out into the middle of the dried-up riverbed where everybody could see that symbol of God, and they remained there as all the people crossed over.
That was just one of the many miracles God performed. It was always that way when the Israelites were submissive to God’s government.
Those who personally witnessed this miracle were mostly carnal-minded. God didn’t perform it primarily for their benefit—but for His Spirit-begotten people today!
Consider the lesson: If you follow this example and put God first in your life, you can expect a lot of miracles—even more so today than in the past! “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). God performs great miracles for His people if we submit to Him. Look at the power available to those who obey God. All we have to do is keep God’s law and government; then He feeds us spiritually and leads us into the Kingdom.
Still, men want to decide for themselves which government to obey. That means we receive none of God’s wonderful blessings. Instead, we are cursed.
We must rely on the God of miracles to accomplish this Work! We have to make sure we are putting Him out in the front where everybody can see Him. Joshua showed us how to follow the ark today. He was careful to get the ark out in front to ensure the people could see who was doing all this! It was all about God. We must always be exalting God. That takes a lot of effort on our part, emphasizing the ark and all that it contains.
Joshua was told to command the priests what to do with the ark (e.g. Joshua 4:15-18). That is government through one man to ensure that the people focus on God. Joshua had priests and Levites to direct people to the ark, or God. The priests with the ark led the way. It was a physical reminder that God was leading them. Joshua and the ministers always made certain that God was the real leader of Israel.
Today we have ministers to perform the same function. The priests with the spiritual ark today also lead God’s people. Though they may not have stature with men, God uses them to do His Work. Mr. Armstrong always had his ministers direct the people to God.
The former prophets record examples of when the Israelites didn’t get it right with the ark, when they failed to put God first and to follow His way. That was a fatal mistake! They lost battles and suffered terrible calamities. In this end time, we have experienced the Laodicean rebellion in the Church of God, which can be attributed to the fact that God’s people didn’t hold the Head, Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:19). (If you are unfamiliar with this history, request free copies of our books Malachi’s Message and Raising the Ruins.)
To avoid these traps, we absolutely mustput God in the spotlight! He must be center stage! That is what makes everything really click. Only God can lead this Work, and we have to make sure He is doing it.
The Twelve Stones
While the river was dry, the Israelites, according to God’s command, took 12 stones from the center of the Jordan and brought them over to the other side. With these stones, they made a memorial of this spectacular event (Joshua 4:1-8). God wants His people to remember the miracles He performs for us!
Today, think about the miracle of all the revelation God has given us. So much of that has been written up into books and booklets—and you could say that those are monuments God has established to help us remember those miracles!
When the Laodiceans gave up those booklets, they forgot those monuments and turned away from the great miracles of God. How quickly we forget the miracles if we don’t preserve those monuments!
Joshua then did something very unusual: “And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day” (verse 9).
This was another memorial, in addition to the one they made within the Promised Land from the stones taken from the riverbed. They set this memorial up right in the middle of the Jordan. After this, the priests came up onto the riverbank and the waters began flowing again, covering this memorial (verse 18).
What was the purpose of this second memorial? Surely the Israelites didn’t learn anything from it; they would have forgotten all about it as soon as it disappeared under the waters. They didn’t even take any lasting instruction from the memorial they set up right where they were living!
This too is mainly for us today, who have the Spirit of God and understand God’s Word.
It seems to me this is an obvious lesson in how much depth this history has if you will just dive in!
There is a lot of symbolism here. God clearly performed a miracle by holding back the waters; the ark was a symbol of God being right there. Now there are 12 stones at the bottom of the Jordan River. The water is a type of God’s Holy Spirit. The 12 stones represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus Christ—who was baptized in that same river—was over the 12 apostles who will rule over the 12 tribes (Matthew 19:28). David will rule over all the apostles from the throne that is actually the throne of the Father and the Son (Luke 1:30-33).
If you think on what those 12 stones are all about, they actually contain the key of David vision! (Revelation 3:7).
God continually emphasizes this vision to the Philadelphia Church of God. The Key of David is the name of our television program. This key is central to everything we do!
This is a fascinating picture. To the world, the beauty of what God has done and what He will accomplish with those 12 stones just disappears. People are deceived; they don’t understand, and most of them don’t want to understand.
But if you start diving in, you begin to comprehend a spectacular, miraculous vision! You see evidence of God’s very presence—you see a work of miracles—and you begin to appreciate the wonder of these 12 stones, which opens up a glorious future! It isthrough Israelthat God plans tosave the whole world! This is God’s Work! It is God’s master plan!
Joshua even said that this miracle wasn’t just for Israel, but “[T]hat all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty” (Joshua 4:24). God is alive, and He’s going to establish His miraculous rule over the whole world!
So much wonder comes into your mind when you study this example deeply! Do we really get the depth from this mind-staggering vision? It takes us into the depth of the mind of God!
This memorial of the 12 underwater stones is another way God is telling us that this history is for us. The former prophets are specifically for the pcg. That is why God is continually giving us more understanding about these books. There is so much depth here. If you will meditate on these things day and night, it really will amaze you. Every day that you do, it will become more thrilling and wonderful to you.
Leading the World to God
God’s plan for Israel always involved family. “And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over” (Joshua 4:21-23). He wanted Israel to teach their children about their miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. They were instructed to build a monument to this mind-dazzling miracle. Then the parents would explain its meaning to their children and relate it to the Red Sea miracle.
The American and British peoples are greatly cursed today because they fail to teach their children about God’s many miracles. Our educational system and most religions today usually teach the opposite. Our children are taught to look upon these examples as Old Testament fantasy. That is why we don’t experience such miracles today! Even worse, God is cursing our peoples because of their rebellion.
It takes a strong government to assure that God and His awesome power is kept before the people. Throughout most of Israel’s history, they have done just the opposite.
Again, this lesson was not only to be taught to Israel—but “[T]hat all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever” (verse 24). Israel was to teach “all the people of the earth” how mighty God is so they would fear Him! Do the modern peoples of Israel see how mighty and powerful God is? Do they fear God today? Anybody can see they do not!
Joshua knew that God planned for Israel to lead the world to God. This has always been God’s goal. That is spiritual Israel or the Church’s job today.
The Captain of God’s Host
Once the Israelites had entered the Promised Land, God wanted them to begin to conquer it. But before their first conquest—the Canaanite city of Jericho—God impressed a vital truth deeply into Joshua’s mind.
“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” (Joshua 5:13-15).
Joshua removed his shoes very quickly! This was holy ground!Why? Because the living God was standing there! Here was the Captain of the host of God!
Jesus Christ—here manifested as a man—is a military commander. He holds a drawn sword because sometimes He has to slaughter people. This magnificent being was the one leading the Israelites into the Promised Land—it wasn’t Joshua! That same God is leading the pcg into the Kingdom of God today! When we do God’s Work, we are standing on holy ground!
The Lord of hosts appeared right there to Joshua. This tells you a lot about the kind of man Joshua was.
We will have some battles with the Jerichos of the world. Where is the Captain leading us? Where is this great God who had Joshua take off his shoes? We do have a physical leader, but we must make sure we give God the respect He deserves. We always ought to stand on holy ground spiritually. When we do God’s Work, we are on holy ground, and we had better never forget that if we want God to be with us! If He isn’t, we are in trouble. But if you really know and believe that, how can that not fill you with courage?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:9-10). Christ is the Captain of our salvation! That goes beyond His being the Captain who led Joshua into the Promised Land. This is the Captain who is leading us into salvation—the spiritual Promised Land! It’s not about what happened anciently; it’s about what’s happening right now!
Verse 8 says that God “put all things in subjection under his feet.” Moffatt translates “all things” as “the universe.” This is the universe-ruling, almighty Captain of our salvation!
Joshua really showed respect for this God! He kept Him in the spotlight all the time! He was ready to fight Him, but when he found out who He was, he bowed down before his Captain.
We need to capture that spirit. Today, this Captain is leading us—not just into some physical paradise, but into the universe! And we are going to help Him bring all mankind into ruling and beautifying the universe!
Understanding and applying these God-inspired words will elevate and revolutionize our lives. Digesting these words will cause us to think like God!
The Wars of the Lord
The day after Joshua met his Captain, the Israelites marched to Jericho (Joshua 6). For seven days they just walked around the powerful walled city. The great military leader Joshua had the priests lead this army with the ark of God! On the seventh day, Jericho simply crumbled. It was another spectacular miracle. These Israelites began to really get the message that God was in charge and leading them to be victorious!
This same God is the Head of the pcg and is leading us today. We have to put Him out front and let Him destroy our Jerichos.
Malachi’s Message was new revelation, and it showed where God had begun working when the Worldwide Church of God went off track. When everything was falling apart and seemed so hopeless, that book provided us a lot of hope. It was God’s revelation showing what was happening in the Church and how it would be corrected. That book turned people to God, and still does. All we had to do was follow the ark, or Jesus Christ our Head, and then everything worked out.
While everything is falling apart, our Captain is trying to lead us out into the universe.We don’t need a lot of people to do this Work—we just need God leading us! If Jericho or anything else gets in the way of God’s Work, it will crumble. But we must have real faith and be patient.
The book of Joshua teaches this lesson of faith over and over again.
One source document for the former prophets is found in Numbers 21:14: “the book of the wars of the Lord.” Joshua was a warrior who fought “the wars of the Lord”! He understood, as it says in 2 Chronicles 20:15, that “the battle is not yours, but God’s.” That is how to win battles: Rely on God!
The second battle Israel fought under Joshua was in Ai (Joshua 7). There, they had 36 of their soldiers killed—they lost the battle! This deeply distressed Joshua. It was the first battle he had ever lost. But realize: If you’re going to be a great man like Joshua, you have to learn how to come back from a lost battle now and then! Just because you lose a battle doesn’t mean you’ve lost the war! Our own human nature is very strong. Sometimes we face difficult battles; other times God has to correct us in ways we don’t understand, just like Joshua didn’t understand the correction he received. We have to realize that God is doing it, and that God understands.
Joshua certainly got some very hard correction here. He prostrated himself before God, deeply remorseful. And God answered: Joshua, get up off the ground and get out and find the sin! (verses 10-15). Israel had sinned! One of the Israelites had disobeyed God’s instructions: Achan thought he could overthrow a part of the government of God.
Joshua had no idea what Achan had done, but once he saw that this man was breaking one of God’s commandments and pushing God’s government aside, Joshua had him put to death immediately. God had them make a memorial so all Israel could see it and learn from that terrible sin (inset, “Achor: The Valley of Causing Sorrow,” page 35).
Joshua stood up for God and fought with courage and faith. We must do the same. We have to fight as He directs, but these are the wars of God. We could write a book about the wars of God today! Our court battle for Mystery of the Ages was a war of God. We relied on God, and He delivered us. If God doesn’t fight our wars, we simply will not win.
After Israel’s loss the first time they tried to conquer Ai, look at all they had to do to succeed after they had eliminated the sin and gotten themselves right with God: “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city” (Joshua 8:18). That is all Joshua had to do! That is all we need do to win our battles: Trust God!
In Exodus 23:28-30, God promised to drive out the Canaanites with hornets! He would have done virtually the whole job if Israel had just believed Him! How many battles that we are fighting would God take care of if we would just let Him fight it? How many of them would be far easier than they are?
This lesson is impossible for a carnal mind to understand. It takes a lot of faith to put your life in God’s hands, and most people simply do not have it.
Commentary authors often talk about the “tales” of the Old Testament. They don’t really believe the history. Lange’s Commentary says, “The primary stumbling block for most of the critics is, when we reach the bottom, miracles, which are assumed beforehand to be something impossible and incongruous with rational conceptions, whether we find them on Old or New Testament ground” (emphasis added). That is the downfall of a lot of Bible scholars: They can’t believe there is a God who performs miracles for man. They have no faith, and they attribute these miracles to exaggeration.
In God’s Church, however, we routinely depend on His miracles as a way of life! That is why history like Joshua’s victory at Jericho is so valuable to us.
Look at the end result of Joshua’s faith-filled approach: “And the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:15). God gave them a wonderful period of peace.
Nothing That Breathes
Another lesson from Israel’s wars in conquering the Promised Land is something that many people have a real problem with, if they believe it at all. When Joshua waged war, he annihilated the enemy. As God commanded in Deuteronomy 20:16, “[T]hou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.” That is what Joshua did. In conquering a city, he left nothing behind. This is the biblical record.
Why would God do that? Many people cannot understand it. They simply don’t believe God could be so cruel.
Note this statement from German theologian Johann Gottfried Eichhorn, who has been called “the founder of modern Old Testament criticism”: “How impious is the narrative of the book of Joshua! It makes God not only give away to the Israelites, against all right, the land of Canaan, which the Canaanites as the first occupants most justly held, but also sketch out a horrid plan for its conquest, and directly order the most dreadful bloodshed and the total extinction of the Canaanites. Who can reconcile this with even a partially correct view of the Godhead?”
This German rationalist believed the Canaanites had the right to that land and that no just God would have ever commanded the Israelites to remove them. This man spoke with authority, making this great pronouncement about who properly owned the Promised Land. He knew a lot more than God—or so he thought! How can you reason with a man like that?
Do you believe the history as the Old Testament records it? Do you believe it was orchestrated by the same God who sent His Son to die for the sins of the world? Worldly Christians reject the scriptures from that “Old Testament God.” But the same God rules His people today. It’s the same God who warns the nations of Israel and the world today. But they refuse to heed His warning.
Think for a moment about the people within Islamist culture today. They are raising their children—from the time they are little babies—to hate, even to murder. Those young people constantly hear that message of hatred, and they become more evil as they grow older. They say they want to wipe Israel (biblical Judah) off the face of the Earth! What is the solution to that problem? God has a plan for them. He will resurrect them into a world that has been transformed into a paradise by keeping God’s law of love! He plans to educate them and give them all the love that they never received in this evil world today!
That is also true of the sin-saturated people who lived in the Promised Land at the time of Joshua. They will have their opportunity to learn the truth and become converted. In the short term, however, God punished them for their sins and perversions (e.g. Deuteronomy 9:4-5). He removed them from Canaan because He intended that to be a holy land.
God determined that these sinful people were better off simply to be wiped out. It is like what the Islamists today want to do to Israel, except that this was the God of perfect justice doing so out of love—not some perverse human beings who are motivated by hate.
Those who believe God would never do such a thing are simply exalting their own human reasoning. They may focus on select scriptures that they like, which describe God’s mercy. But the former prophets reveal a God of judgment—sometimes painful judgment. And in a real sense, even the judgment He exacted upon the Canaanites was an act of mercy.
People who hate this history actually hate God and don’t know it. He is a God of judgment. We can’t escape that—and we shouldn’t want to!
God did command Israel to remove those people from the Promised Land because He knew that if they remained, they would draw the Israelites away from God. He knew that Satan would use those people as a weapon to destroy what God was building within Israel—the nation through which He intended eventually to save the world!
Look at what happened as soon as Joshua and the men under him died: Israel compromised, it became weak, and it fell into exactly the problems God warned about. That is what set the stage for the disastrous book of Judges. Later on, this was also where things broke down with King Saul. He was so “righteous” that he didn’t want to kill everyone God commanded him to, so he saved some (1 Samuel 15). He was “more righteous than God.”
If you had long-range vision, you would see what God sees. We see just a little speck of what God sees. He knows what He is doing! He is going to bring the whole world out into the universe to rule it if people will just listen to Him and be taught by Him!
Some of the earlier Bible commentators from the 1800s understood this. Even ministers in the world understood why God did what He did to the Canaanites. They recognized that those people were beyond being helped in this life—they were descending into increasingly terrible sins and demonism, and nobody could reach them. If God wants to wipe them out and resurrect them in a wonderful World Tomorrow, is that OK? Of course it is.
Perhaps by doing so, God prevented them from becoming so horrendously evil that conversion might have become extremely difficult or impossible!
What does this have to do with us today? Probably the biggest problem in God’s Church today revolves around essentially the same issue! God instructs us to cut off contact with those who have turned away from God (Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14 and many other verses). The Laodiceans, who have rebelled against God, do not believe these scriptures; they reason that it is more loving and righteous to be friends with such people.
God’s love says to cut them off. If they want to run around in rebellion against God, let them go! If we maintain contact with them, Satan will use them to destroy us! Satan would like them to stick around so they can do their dirty work in the Church of God.
That is what these physical examples are to teach us. We want to help anybody we possibly can—but if they are Laodicean and want to go their own way, we must cut off contact with them. This is a lesson we have to learn! If we don’t keep this in mind, then we will make a lot of mistakes. Now, it is possible to go overboard in the other way—we need always to make sure we are doing it God’s way.
We must keep the big picture in mind. This is all a work of mercy. God is doing this work in such a way that He can save the greatest possible number of people! That is what it is all about!
Joshua’s name was originally Hosea or Hoshea, which means “salvation,” but God changed it to “the salvation of God” (Numbers 13:8, 16). A lot of people criticize what Joshua did, but this is really what this man was about! It’s not about saving people physically—this is about the salvation of mankind spiritually! God did not create man just to be physical and have physical blessings. This is ultimately about spiritual salvation.
Joshua’s Last Sermon
After fighting all of those wars, Israel did enjoy a period of peace. Joshua divided the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel. And just before he died, he gave his last sermons to the Israelites (Joshua 23-24). These chapters show what a great man he was. These men were God’s leaders for a reason! Can we measure up to this greatness?
Look at the statement at the conclusion of this message: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). What a powerful statement from a leader of God! He’s saying, I don’t care if the whole nation turns away—my family is going to obey God! You can see that Joshua ruled his family God’s way. That is what God wants from you as well. But that statement is probably even stronger than you realize. Joshua was also saying: Even if there is any member in my household who won’t go along, this house that I live in is going to obey and serve God! No matter what happens, no person on Earth could cause me to turn away from God! What a leader!
This is the kind of courage God wants from every single one of us! Do you love God that much? Do you have such faith and courage—that if the whole nation turns away, or your whole family, you keep right on going? We need to pray that God will give us such people, no matter how few, who are that eager to do the Work. Mr. Armstrong said he had to learn to give up anything. That is what Joshua had learned as well. And that is what God wants you to learn. If you have that attitude, great things are going to happen in your life! You have a truly magnificent future.
In this last sermon, Joshua took the Israelites all the way back to the beginning of their history, starting with Abraham. He reminded them of their past and how God blessed them and did wonderful things for them when they obeyed Him. Joshua had been right there as a slave in Egypt. He had seen many miracles during his lifetime. He died at 110 years old (verse 29). God really blessed him in many ways.
After Joshua was gone and the elders who were under him had also died, Israel forgot all about that history. The Israelites had marvelous examples in Joshua, Caleb and others—men who were loyal and inspiring and encouraging. But once those men were gone, everything fell apart. The Israelites became plagued by divisions and problems because they wouldn’t hold fast to what Moses and Joshua had taught. In the book of Judges, everybody began doing what was right in his own eyes. That is exactly what is happening to the Israelites today, and our nations are also falling apart!
But when we study this history and see these wonderful examples like Joshua, we can recognize the tremendous value of godly leadership! If we follow these examples, we can have a real, positive, wonderful impact on people!
We are here to learn how to become strong leaders and to build the strongest leadership we possibly can.
God’s ministers and God’s people must strive with all our being to let God lead, guide and help us in fulfilling this monumental calling. As we do, we will be building strong congregations and a strong Work of God. And we will be establishing a strong foundation for our future in the real Promised Land—the wonderful World Tomorrow!