PREPARATION FOR CONQUEST CONTINUES
(2) Joshua Prepares Israel Militarily
In preparation for the attack on Jericho, Joshua had to groom his army for the formidable task, and he followed the precedence in the “Book of the Law” where God had instructed Moses to send spies into the land, which included Joshua himself. Although Joshua had to faithfully accept the promises of God the inhabitants of Canaan were not about to give up and run away, they would fearlessly defend their territory as they had done in the past . So Joshua sent “two spies from Shittim.”Go, look over the land …especially Jericho.”” . Since Jericho would be the first Canaanite city that the Israelite army would have to take, it was necessary that they have an idea of what to expect, thus the reason for Joshua’s instruction to the spies. “So they went and entered the house of a prostitute [or ‘innkeeper’ – NIV Study Bible] named Rahab and stayed there.” Here we see the hand of God leading His servants as they had no idea of what they were about to experience. Rahab hides the spies from the King of Jericho and then makes an agreement with them for her and her family’s safety from the coming destruction of her city.
“I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.” This was good news for Joshua and his army for it indicated that God had already begun the process of conquest of the enemy. “We have heard…. what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” . The news of the Israelite conquests had already spread to the other Canaanite cities and here Rahab confesses to the spies that all the people of Jericho were living in fear of Israel. The most important aspect, however, was Rahab’s confession of the Lord as God of heaven and earth, leading her to seek the protection of the Israelite army from the pending doom and destruction of her city. “Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family…. and that you will save us from death.” . The men then affirmed to her that by tying a “scarlet cord in the window”, it would be a sign to the invading army that those in that house would be saved from the destruction. Here we see a similarity to the night of the Passover in Egypt when the blood of the Passover Lamb marked the houses of the Jewish people who were saved from the destruction of the land of Egypt by the angel , these two symbols indicating the atonement for sin by our Lord Jesus Christ . We then see the departure from Jericho and the return of the spies to Joshua telling him of their encounter and saying, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” .
It was now clear to Joshua that God was commanding him to proceed with the invasion of the land of Canaan, so he instructs the people “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” . Again Joshua remembers from the “Book of the Law” that at Sinai, God had instructed the people to consecrate themselves to meet with Him , now God was about to give the marching orders to His people once again. “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.” The people are to follow the Ark, God’s Holy Presence, keeping a specific distance away in respect to His Holy Presence, also the reason for consecrating themselves.
“This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD– the Lord of all the earth– set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” . The living God among them was now about to lead them across the Jordan on dry ground preserving them from death in the river, which was now at flood stage , and on into battle to conquer the land he had promised to them. “So the people crossed over opposite Jericho…. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”
God marks each stage of our spiritual journey with some form of “memorial”, and so it was here at the crossing of the Jordan, God instructs Joshua to “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight…. to serve as a sign among you.”
The section closes by stating that it was the 10th day of the 1st month that the people went up from Jordan and camped at Gilgal, the same day that the Passover Lamb was to be selected , and the meaning of the memorial was given, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” . When all the Amorite and Canaanite kings west of the Jordan heard the details of the Jordan crossing, “their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.”
Believers in our Lord Jesus Christ need to pass on to our children and to those who succeed us in this life’s journey, the “memorials” and what they mean to us, so that the message of God’s faithfulness will be repeated to all succeeding generations.
Joshua’s army consisted of approximately 40,000 men led by the men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and assurance of their victory to come was in the fact that all people would know that God’s hand was powerful and that the Canaanites no longer had the courage to face the Israelite army, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands….” .
God not only prepares His servant for the task, He also prepares those to whom His servant will go, but only to the extent of obedience and faith on the part of His servant.