Bible Reading Plan – March 5-11
Bible Project Reading Plan (March 5-11):
Deuteronomy 32-34, Joshua 1-24, Judges 1-3, Psalm 64-70
The Bible is unwavering on its commitment to God’s over-arching sovereignty in all aspects of life. He controls the winds and the waves, the fire and the rain, the locusts and the beasts of the fields; “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov 21:1; ESV). There appears to be no limit to his control, no matter how matters might seem to us.
Yet, God’s revelation also unwaveringly speaks of our responsibility towards him. An interesting juxtaposition of these two facts occurs in the very beginning of the book of Joshua. God’s promises to give the land to the people of Israel will come to fruition, for he himself will drive out the people of the land before Israel:
Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. (Josh 1:2-5; ESV).
This declaration is not new; it was the same promise that should have spurred the nation forward at Kadesh-barnea, it was the same promise that led them out of Egypt. This promise, rejected by the previous generation, was once again thrust before the eyes of the nation, as God himself reiterates:
If you say in your heart, “These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?” you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So will the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover, the Lord your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. But the Lord your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them (Deut 7:17-24; ESV).
Yet, even in the middle of this great promise, the responsibility of the nation of Israel and its leader, Joshua, never disappears. Directly after God’s promise of victory is given to Joshua, which was undoubtedly meant to calm his nerves and provide him with confidence, God turns to him and implores him:
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go (Josh 1:6-7; ESV).
Twice, back-to-back, God calls on Joshua to be strong and courageous, the second time stressing and intensifying his great need for courage (by using the Hebrew word me’od, on which, see the video below). We might think that these two facts, God’s sovereignty and Joshua’s need for courage, seem strange and contradictory, but the Bible seemingly does not. In fact, it is likely because we are prone to seeing them as contradictory that the Bible speaks the way that it does.
God is sovereign, and yet he has placed responsibility on us in a real and true way. Do not use the sovereignty of God to shrug off your responsibility; nor use the calls for your responsibility to deny God’s sovereignty. The two are not meant to play off against one another, but the very fact that God is sovereign is meant to intensify our confidence that we can fulfill our responsibility.
Therefore, be strong and very courageous, “for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (Phil 2:13; CSB17).
In the video above, the good folks at The Bible Project make the case that what appears to be a destruction of all the people of the land really isn’t: the purpose was to drive them out. I think that the desire to handle such difficult questions is indeed good, and to attempt to handle them in a biblical manner is even better. Yet, I think that their understanding here is faulty, and unfortunately colored by modern sensibilities rather than biblical revelation. To hear my thoughts on the issue of genocide in Scripture, specifically in how it relates to the book of Joshua and the taking of the promise land, listen to my sermon here, and read the sermon notes here.