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Year 1, Week 25, Day 1

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Joshua 12-13.

Today’s reading closes the section of Joshua that pertains to the conquest of the Land and begins the section of Joshua that pertains to the possession of the Land according to the tribal allotments. Joshua 12 records the Canaanite kings that were struck down during the conquest. The first six verses of Joshua 12 note the kings that were struck down on the east side of the Jordan River while Moses was still Israel’s leader. The remaining verses of Joshua 12 note the kings that were struck down in the west side of the Jordan River as Joshua emerged as Israel’s new leader. Joshua 13 makes mention of Joshua’s aging, but the real focus of this chapter, which begins here and continues on through Joshua 12, is matters concerning the particular allotments of the Lands assigned to specific tribes. 

What struck me in today’s reading is the emphasis upon fulfillment—that is, that the LORD has begun fulfilling His promises of a land for His people: “Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.” (Psalm 37:34). As a partial recapture of something akin to Eden, the LORD began making land promises to Abraham: “Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:17). Now these promises are beginning to be realized. The fulfillment of these promises first come through the conquest of the Land, but second, they come through the tribal allotments being drawn up and carried out. Something of a new Eden is being put in place by the LORD.  

As stated in the previous day’s reading, the conquest has been completed: “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war” (Joshua 11:23). And yet, beginning in today’s reading, a tension emerges. There is still work to be done: “Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the LORD said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess” (Joshua 13:1). We are told that Joshua took the whole land; but we are also told that as Joshua grows old, there still remains much land to be possessed. This tension is not a contradiction. The Land has been truly given to Israel as a gift, in fulfillment of God’s promises; and yet, the tribal allotments are still to be possessed. Israel was in control and ownership of the Land, however, there still remained work to be done as there were still enemies present. The dominance of the enemies had been broken; they were not presently in a position to unite together against the Israelites, but many pockets of resistance remained throughout the Land. Tragically, the task of removing the pockets of resistance was never finished as the Book of Joshua unfolds: “Yet the people of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites, but Geshur and Maacath dwell in the midst of Israel to this day” (Joshua 13:13). By the opening chapters of the Book of Judges, what should have been completed was not, and we will then more fully grasp the significance of this failure on the part of the tribes.

This tension between the conquest of the Land and the Land still needing to be fully possessed pictures or illustrates some of the tension that exists in the Christian life today. This tension is sometimes expressed with the phrase: already, but not yet. Some things in the Christian life are already true, but not yet fully realized. For instance, consider the exalted status that believers now have in Christ: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6). Christ has already seated His people with Him in heavenly places. And yet, the believers that Paul says are already seated with Christ are still living in the town of Ephesus: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-2). Believers are already seated in one realm and yet still walking around in another realm. The full reality of our status in Christ is yet to be realized, and yet, it is to be already embraced as true and that truth is to shape our present existence. 

Another example of the tension that exists in the Christian life that today’s reading illustrates is our relationship in Christ to sin. Believers are dead to sin: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7). Sin no longer has mastery over us in Christ Jesus. But sin still battles against us, so we must battle against it: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). The power of sin has been put to death in Christ, but there still remain sins in our lives that must be put to death: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5). The full reality of our broken relationship to sin is yet to be realized, and yet, it is to be already embraced as true and that truth is to shape our present existence.

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe