Friday 13 September 2013

Bible Book:

Joshua 24:1-28 Friday 13 September 2013


"He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions oryour sins" (v. 19). So said Joshua to the Israelites, havingreminded them of the ways in which "the Lord" had given them theland they were now occupying, in a story going back to Abraham. Itis a story of violence and destruction, of "the Lord" striking theexisting inhabitants of 'the promised land' with 'pestilence' ("thehornet" (v. 12)), and all to give Israel "a land on which you hadnot laboured, and towns that you had not built, and you live inthem; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive groves that you didnot plant" (v. 13). On this basis, Joshua urged the people toreject the "foreign gods" (vv. 20, 23) they had previouslyworshipped, and to embrace the monotheism (worship of one god) of"the Lord" ('Yahweh'), with the threat that, if they did not, "theLord" would destroy them as he had previously destroyed those whohad resisted them. Not surprisingly, the people said 'yes', andJoshua recorded their decision with a memorial stone.

This early Israelite religion ('Yahwism') persisted for severalcenturies, and was only really challenged by the later prophets whoresponded, first to the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel somefive centuries later and then, more radically, to the exile inBabylon which shook the surviving southern kingdom of Judah onehundred and fifty years later. A religion based on the belief thatGod will always look after you if you stay loyal to God is fine aslong as things are going well, but is problematic when things startto go wrong - and much of the later Old Testament wrestles withthis fundamental theological issue.

It is challenging, perhaps, to realise that the name 'Jesus' issimply the Greek rendering of 'Joshua', which means 'Yahweh issalvation', and to consider how many of his Jewish contemporarieshoped that he would bring the kind of salvation that Joshuarepresented, rather than fulfilling the hopes and dreams of thelater prophets, such as Isaiah.

To Ponder

  • Is it possible to avoid either creating an image of God thatserves our own interests, or accepting an image of God that othershave created to serve their own interests? How?
  • Joshua's 'territorial' and 'tribal' view of God persists in theminds of many Christians, Jews and Muslims. Do you share that view?Why?
  • What might be the consequences of a faith based on fear andself-interest?

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