Thursday, October 21, 2010

Joshua 19, 20, 21 Israel Established as a Theocracy

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 5: Ultra-orthodox ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

” Not one of all the Lord’s promises to the house of Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled.” (Joshua 21:45)

What a powerful statement to make at the end of the accounts of how the land of Canaan was allotted to each of the tribes.   But even more compelling is this forty-year segment in the history of Israel.  Around forty years earlier, God revealed Himself to Moses and called him to lead Israel out of bondage in Egypt.  Then, with unprecedented miracles, signs, and wonders, God showed His power to Israel.  Over the forty years of wandering, God took a people who were hopelessly yoked in slavery, who probably did not entertain lofty or spiritual thoughts, who did not ruminate about government structure or legal issues, and transformed them into a sophisticated, constitutional theocracy. 

During these forty years of desert wandering, God became a galvanizing Presence in the house of Israel.  He not only took care of their immediate physical needs, but also established order amongst the twelve tribes.  God appointed leaders; gave them the Law; taught them what it meant and how to implement it; executed swift judgment for blatant violations of His Word.  In one generation a group of slaves was transformed into a functioning society with a coherent legal system which realistically addressed the vicissitudes of the human experience:  how to deal with theft, adultery, dishonesty, murder, irreverence to God, etc.  

As God was helping Israel to enter the land of Canaan, He also told Joshua how to proceed. Considering that none of the Israelites who fled from Egypt were military strategists, it is a further statement of how God master-minded the conquest of Canaan.
Joshua was instructed to take Jericho, which was right in the center of Canaan.  Having occupied the central plains, Israel was then able to take the northern and southern areas in pieces. God went before them disheartening the Canaanites, so that their fear of Israel worked against them.

God promised Israel that each tribe would have land in Canaan.  And, within a few years of entering Canaan, not only did this become a reality but also, God instituted a system that would sustain a coherent, God-fearing nation.  As long as Israel would recognize God as their Sovereign King, God promised to act as a benevolent King on their behalf.  If Israel were to reject God, He, their eternal Sovereign King, would leave them to their own devices without abandoning them, per se.  So, Israel began nationhood.

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