A Tale of Two Cities
I. Some initial QUESTIONS to ADDRESS.
A. Why DRIVE OUT the CANAANITES? (Lev. 18; Deut 12:29-31)
B. Doesn’t JESUS say to love our ENEMIES? (Deut 9:5)
C. Don’t fear CRITICAL and HONEST thinking. (Col. 2:2-3)C.
It’s important to read the text honestly, and if we do that, the book of Joshua issues so big questions. They are questions we can’t just dismiss out of hand. There are some resources that can help us through this (See https://bibleproject.com/articles/why-did-god-command-the-invasion-of-canaan-in-the-book-of-joshua/ and https://theologyintheraw.com/the-hope-of-holy-war/) but we are wise not to ignore the issues.
1. Are the questions of the Canaanite conquest new to you? Do they bother you? Why or why not?
II. BREACHING the WALLS of Jericho. (Chapter 6)
A. God had GONE before THEM. (2:11; 5:1; 6:1)
B. God’s PLAN for battle was UNIQUE. (6:2-20)
C. The PEOPLE fully obeyed…ALMOST. (6:2-7:1)
The first challenge to the entrance to the Promised Land is the military fortress of Jericho. It’s no small obstacle. And yet by the time the people get there, the inhabitants of Jericho are already scared. Then God tells them the battle plan. It’s unlike anything they have ever heard before.
2. Kid’s Question: What would you have done if God told you to defeat Jericho by quietly marching around it?
3. What about the Jericho story stands out to you the most? Why do you think that is?
III. HUMILIATED by LOWLY Ai. (Chapter 7)
A. CONFIDENCE is not ENOUGH. (7:2-5)
B. DISOBEDIENCE leads to DEFEAT. (7:6-12)
C. This TRUTH can be OVERWHELMING. (7:13-14)
Fresh off a huge victory the people are ready to move forward. Much smaller, at least in their minds, is the fortress of Ai. Much smaller, they feel that it only needs a small contingent of soldiers to overrun it. But there are other factors at play here, and they learn that the hard way.
4. Have you ever had a spiritual victory or mountaintop followed almost immediately by a difficult or challenging time? What was that like?
5. What does the story of Achan say to you? Does this mean God can/will only use us when we are perfectly obedient?
IV. How the LORD fights His BATTLES. (Deut. 1:29-30)
A. The IMPORTANCE of His PRESENCE. (1:5,9; 3:7: 6:27; 7:12; Mt. 28:20)
B. The WEAK overcome the STRONG. ((6:2-20; 2 Cor. 12:9; Jn 19:10-11)
C. His METHODS often seem FOOLISH. (Mark 15:39; I Cor. 1:27)
D. God is SHAPING people, not CONQUERING territory. (Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:19)
Despite the big questions of this period of conquest, one thing we do see is they way that God chooses to fight battles. These characteristics ring true through the New Testament as well, and as we learn to follow Jesus it is important to understand these patterns in the way God chooses to do things.
6. What do you currently see as “battles” that the Lord is fighting? Are they personal or on a larger scale? What is your role to play in these?
7. What are some specific ways you can cultivate a greater awareness of God’s presence with you throughout each day?
8. What are specific ways that we can remain open to the Spirit shaping us to be like Jesus? What’s the greatest challenge to that process for you personally?