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WHI-1187 | The Gospel According to Joshua

Posted by on in 2014 Show Archive
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Moses is a tragic hero. Though he was called by God to lead the Children of Israel out of their slavery and bondage in Egypt, he was, nevertheless, forbidden to enter the Promised Land. After his death, a servant by the name of Joshua (which means YHWH saves) was called to lead his people across the Jordan into the land of Canaan. How do these events point forward to the deliverance provided by Jesus Christ, the greater Joshua? We will discuss this and many other questions as they introduce their new series: The Gospel According to Joshua.The Gospel According to Joshua

Moses is a tragic hero. Though he was called by God to lead the Children of Israel out of their slavery and bondage in Egypt, he was, nevertheless, forbidden to enter the Promised Land. After his death, a servant by the name of Joshua (which means YHWH saves) was called to lead his people across the Jordan into the land of Canaan. How do these events point forward to the deliverance provided by Jesus Christ, the greater Joshua? We will discuss this and many other questions as they introduce their new series: The Gospel According to Joshua.


Holy War in Joshua?
Michael Horton



Doug Powell

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  • Guest - John Bauman

    I suppose this is an exercise in futility -- asking a question related to the program. But as there is no other means of doing so, I'll take my chances that someone reads this blog.

    For the past several weeks, with programs centered on "How To Read Your Bible" and now the current "Gospel According To (old Testament Saint)", a constant theme has cropped up: Understand that there are two sets of two parallel themes occurring in the Bible -- Common Grace/Redemption and Sinai/Zion.

    And the point has been made more than once over these past weeks that a proper understanding of much of what is misunderstood or misused to proof-text a message of prosperity gospel is, in fact, either

    1) promises made -- but to Israel, not current-day believers (and not to be "principlized"),

    2) or it is common grace and not a promise at all, but rather, just good advice.

    The question I have is one I've pondered for nearly twenty years now. And it's sort of the flip side of the direction these discussions usually lead. Out of fear and respect for God, the burden of understanding the history of Israel's behavior always defaults toward the defense of God rather than questioning Him. Understandable, I suppose. But I rather believe that if God is real, he is questionable AND those answers will lead to a better faith.

    That said...

    Twenty years ago I was taking "Ancient Near-Eastern History" at Grace Theological Seminary with Dr Donald Fowler. He made an assertion that I wondered about at the time....but didn't have the presence of mind to pursue at the time -- mostly because, as surprised as I was at the assertion, I also didn't have time to think about its implications either.

    The assertion was this:

    You know those passages throughout Kings and Chronicles that go: "And so and so was a good king and ruled for so many years..." or "And so and so was an evil king and ruled for..."? According to Dr Fowler -- a professor at a fundamentalist/evangelical seminary -- it turns out that there was no correlation between Israel's economic prosperity OR their general well-being and the goodness or badness of the king at the time.

    I'm not sure how Dr Fowler arrived at the conclusion. I don't know what history he was referencing to come up with this assertion, but I've always wondered about it.

    We are quick to point out Israel's lack of commitment to the contract of obedience=reward agreed upon at Sinai...

    ...but is there any indication that God was any more faithful to the contract than was Israel? Did God ever offer Israel a carrot, or was it always and only a stick relative to their collective behavior?

    And obviously I'm not referring to the Exodus years. I'm referring specifically to the times of Joshua onward.

    I know dog training. If you've ever trained a dog, you will know that it's nearly impossible to train a dog without rewarding positive behavior. We're not dogs, but I don't think we behave that much differently. We generally don't continue on with any behavior, good OR bad, if we don't see a reward. And that was the basis for the Sinai contract.

    So, is there any proof of correlation? Did God ever reward Israel when the good kings came along and smashed the idols and otherwise repented?

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  • Guest - Mike Horton


    Yes, in those narratives there are occasionally indications that things went well for the nation (not always for each and every individual) during times of national righteousness, especially focused on the godliness of the king as representative of the people. However—and this is a major point, the “reap what you sow” principle didn’t always evidence itself because God was always free to show mercy or leniency on the basis of his promise to Abraham (rather than on the basis of Israel’s oath at Sinai). So when we ask, “How could Israel be under a strict covenant of law if God cut them slack again and again?”, it’s because the law’s sanctions didn’t always have the last word even in terms of the national covenant. Here’s the key point, reiterated through the prophets especially: When God takes Israel to court and issues his sentence of justice, it’s on the basis of Sinai; clemency, however, is always grounded in “the promise I made to your fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

    Mike Horton

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  • Guest - John Bauman

    Thanks for the reply. I'll have to think about that some.

    I've done an awful lot of wondering about God's intent with Israel. Some of the wrong answers seem more either intellectually or emotionally satisfactory than the correct ones.

    I'm not sure I'll ever properly register the concept of directing a nation in the midst of a redemption story that seems perhaps more aimed at the individual. Maybe that's where I'm mistaken. Maybe we're not saved individually and I'm stuck on that notion due to my fundamentalist/evangelical(for a time in the 60s in which I was raised, there was barely a hair's difference between the two theologically. All the differences were superficial back then) background.

    I remember asking my pastor once "What gives? If we are saved individually, then what's left of nations to be judged in the final days?" (when he was covering some prophetic passages).

    He demurred. (where's that smiley emoticon when I need it?)

    I'd love to simply allegorize Israel. That would make me more comfortable. It would be far simpler to posit that Israel was merely a literary contrivance by which we could have a picture of our depravity, irredeemable by our own efforts in the law.

    Heck, that was my relief when it dawned on me that Job has always been categorized as one of the poetic books -- not one of the historical books. My relief at his having gotten all his shit and more back in the end of the story being but a metaphor for a final heavenly reward was SO much more consistent with a larger Bible narrative that did NOT seem to point toward a prosperity gospel.

    Anyway, it does still seem to me that it was never God's intent that the Sinai covenant succeed. He didn't seem as intent on training them toward that end than I have been on house-breaking a puppy.

    Maybe God's lack of such effort is to be filed along with His denying us access to the tree of life after the fall -- an access that seems great until further considerations of the ramifications (live forever separated from a right relationship with God?) Perhaps an individual fat-cat Israelite in a land of plenty might never come to a saving knowledge of the coming savior? Is the camel slipping through the eye of a needle as meaningful OT as NT? I suppose it must be. Maybe Israel -- the nation -- was kept wanting for the sake of IsraelITE'S -- the individuals -- salvation.

    Or not. I'll think about it some. Again, thanks for the response.

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  • Guest - Jeff Gateley


    I read your two posts. Pardon if I seem slow to understand what your asking. It seems that you are taking allegorical interpretation to equal a non-historical, literary contrivance. I can sympathize with you on this. I have thought the same thing as I've listened to the "How to Read Your Bible" series. I'm not sure how to best explain it, but seems to me (the resolution that I've come up with) is that if God's dealings were not historical then to allegorize (make bigger picture connections typical in Biblical Theology interpretive approaches) would truly be a deluge of fiction and myth. However, because God actually, historically ordered, for example, sacrifices of goats and bulls we can be confident in an objective, historical sacrificial Lamb of God who laid down His life for His sheep (us). So for some reason, and maybe rightly so, we tend to jump to non-historicity upon speaking in allegory. But it's the very fact that it actually happened that we can be sure of the future fulfillment which is greater and to which the typology points to.

    Maybe your questions don't deal with what I have said thus fair. Maybe your questions just deal with God's faithfulness to Israel, and thus possibly to us. Paul in setting forth the gospel throughout the book of Romans deals with these same concerns. "What advantage has the Jew" (Rom 3:1) if the depth of man's depravity is total and the breadth of his depravity is universal (Rom 1:18-3:20)? God has historically dealt with them and to them belong God's historical dealings and revelation to mankind (see Romans 3:2; 9:4-5). But, has God's word failed (Rom 9:6)? Is God unfaithful (Rom 3:3)? Not all who are Israel (nation) belong to Israel (the true, invisible Church). Note the allegory in ecclesiology Paul uses. He doesn't deny the historical, national Israel but elevates us to the "spiritual" reality that that physical, earthly reality pointed to. The historicity of the later confirming the surety of the non-physical, spiritual. Anyway, Paul's resolution to whether God's word and faithfulness to Israel has failed is election (Rom 9), God's sovereignty in election (Rom 9), and God's attributes of immutability, righteousness, justice and holy wrath (Rom 3:4-8). Maybe, as alluded to in your first post, this seems like we are unable to question God. In many ways it sounds like Paul's answer in Romans 9:20, "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?"

    I don't think this was meant to say we couldn't question, but just in our questioning affirm God's sovereignty, just dealings with all mankind, our depravity, our deservedness to be swept by God's "judgmental waters", and to be surprised that God would save any. In the end, whether elect or reprobate, God will be glorified in all things. The responses of the elect in Revelation is not "how unfair is God" rather it is "worthy is God and the Lamb; all glory, power, and honor belong to Him." Even the reprobate do not respond in "how unfair is God", rather they run to the mountains crying out for the rocks to fall on them (Rev 6:15-17). As Riddlebarger points out in his Amillenialism 101 series, "for the Christian the day of the Lord's 2nd Coming is pure gospel, and for the non-believer it's pure law." In both, God is glorified.

    I hope I have not totally misunderstand what you have been trying to say/ask. Please forgive any misunderstandings. Just trying to help because I felt like they were good questions and some things I have wondered as well.

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  • Guest - John Bauman

    Those are good answers, Jeff. Thanks for taking the time to engage.

    In a sense, my first question was answered by Michael when he merely rebutted Dr Fowler's assertion. And as far as that goes, if I want to pursue the actual answer to my question, I'd have to ascertain who, between the two of them, is correct.

    If Fowler is right (and, again, I want to point out that Fowler's theology is somewhere between fundamentalist and reformed -- but it's anything BUT liberal. He went from Grace Theological Seminary to Liberty U), then as much as we want to defend God as having the right to judge Israel for its failure to uphold its end of the Sinai covenant, it should seem obvious that God didn't hold up his end either. Then it comes down to "who started it?".

    Traditionally (as I was taught, and you have echoed), we simply fall back on "God is sovereign" and can do whatever the heck he wants to do with his creation.

    That may be satisfactory, theologically speaking. It just doesn't hit me where I live. In fact, where I live...

    When my little brother and I would get into a dispute that mom (I was raised by a single, very wise mom) would break up, invariable my brother and I would throw out the "Well, HE started it!"

    Mom's answer wasn't, "Okay, John. Then go ahead and continue to pound Jim. He had it coming."

    No, mom's answer was invariably, "Well, can't you be the bigger man and end it here?"

    And again, IF Fowler is right and Horton is wrong, I'd just like to have seen more evidence that God was actually interested in making the Sinai covenant work. If ever there was a "bigger man" scenario, it is the disparity between an ignorant and fallen man and an all-knowing, all-powerful God.

    And I understand the theological answer -- It's God's creation to do with as he wishes. He's the author and it's not up to us to tell him how the plot should unfold.

    I hear that all the time. Permutations of it parrot the proof text "God's ways are not our ways".... As if there should be no correlation between our sense of justice and our perception of God.

    When it is convenient for us, we describe our human "intuitions" as aspects of us having been created in the image of God. We point to our conscience(s) and say "See? We have an innate sense of right and wrong because we are created in the image of God."

    But when we look at things like eternal damnation (the biggie), or how we see God's dealings with an ignorant and fallen man....and we find ourselves questioning how we can possibly line up the two in light of our senses of justice, love, fairness....whatever you want to call it....

    ...out of fear of God we always default to "Well, he's sovereign and he can do with humanity as he wishes." ...as though that should be some comfort?

    It's only a comfort if we are allowed the luxury of applying our sense of what love and mercy might be. But we're told not to do that. We're told THEN that God's ways are not our ways.

    And this is, to me, a particularly toxic theology when I consider the extent to which we Christians depend upon our churches and each other to bolster our sense that an invisible God is present. Much of the current Evangelical service is taken up with what I think is uncharitably but accurately described as "delusional" talk by the likes of Richard Dawkins -- talk that we absolutely KNOW is not truthful in any literal sense:

    "God told me..."
    "I felt as though God was leading me..."
    "I just feel God's presence..."
    "It's a 'God thing'"
    "Jesus is my best friend"
    "I have a close personal relationship with Jesus..."

    So, the honest man -- the man who is attending these churches and hearing all this supernatural talk is left to conclude:

    1. They are all talking about something that, try as I might, I have found unattainable. Much as I try, I can't get God to tell me what choices to make. Much as I try, I've never heard his voice. Much as I try, I don't feel the presence of Jesus, much less have a "relationship" that comes anywhere near the definition of "friend", though I believe in every bit of the truth of the doctrines that I thought were the very essence of Christianity.

    2. So, if that relationship that everyone is talking about is one entered into by virtue of God's election, I have to conclude that he did not select me.

    (I actually heard that very story back in seminary. Professor Weston Fields told of a seminary student who, when faced with the reality of God's election of the saints, concluded that he was not thus chosen -- based on a lack of feeling anything along the lines of the "relationship" everyone around him was describing. Weston Fields was ridiculing the fellow for his ignorant misunderstanding. It broke my heart. I sympathized with the guy. I didn't see it as ridiculous at all. I saw it as the logical, honest conclusion of two conflicting theologies -- election and gnosticism.)

    3. Or I could take the Pelagian view and assume that I just haven't tried hard enough -- that the key was still out there if I could but find it. I don't feel up to the task. The probability that I will climb a ladder of my own making up to heaven I would put on a level of likelihood akin to my creating the universe. And, no, not the twisted one in my mind. :^) )

    This is going to seem off the wall. I know, right? Like I haven't already gone there?...

    ...but I had a real epiphany and it circled around a math and logic problem known as "The Monty Hall Problem". Perhaps you've heard of it? It goes like this:

    You're a contestant on "Let's Make A Deal". You are given the choice of three doors, behind which are three prizes. Monty tells you that behind ONE of the doors is a brand new luxury car. But behind the other two doors is a mule.

    You choose door number one.

    Then Monty says to you, "Obviously, I have at least one mule behind one of the remaining two doors. I am going to get rid of that mule which happens to be behind door number 3."

    And then he offers you this, "Now I'm going to offer to trade you. You can either keep your door number one, or you can trade it for what is behind door number two."

    So, do you take him up on the trade?

    If you understand math -- if you understand probability and statistics, or took that course in college, you already know the answer is a big "YES! I'll trade!" without hesitation.

    I was discussing this with a nephew. My nephew is a very loveable fellow who was raised in a Christianity more like that of today's -- a Christianity of the fairly typical branch of evangelical that has moved even further from the orthodoxy that kept it somewhat anchored in the theology of the reformers who understood the necessity of addressing reason.

    Anyway, that's the world in which my nephew was raised -- fundamentalist father/evangelical mother -- and he happens to be the black sheep of the family. A loveable loser. Loveable because he's the stranger-to-nobody with a ready smile. Loser because he imagines himself smarter than he is -- and that includes a delusion that he's an adequate gambler -- card sharp.

    So when I asked him if he'd heard of the Monty Hall problem, he said that he had. But then he said something that actually kind of alarmed me. Even shocked me.

    He said "Yeah, some people believe that."


    Suddenly I was seeing the entire world of the intersection of faith and reason in a different light. Here was a person who thought that what was at issue with the Monty Hall problem was a matter of "belief".

    I can't tell you how profoundly that struck me. I still lack the words to express it.

    But it struck me as alarming that we (the church) have come to the point that we have almost entirely eschewed an understanding of natural law and the implication that how nature functions is exactly the means most often that God will deal in our lives.

    Instead, we have interjected the "God hunt" in which we perversely do the exact opposite and assign supernatural causation to the natural order of things. I think we do this because we think it places us more squarely in the God/man economy as we see it described in the Bible.

    So we stick with door number one because of some mistaken notion that what we are dealing with is a metaphysical problem with a supernatural solution. We aren't. That's superstition.

    But we embrace it.

    So I slog along, a sinner saved by grace. I try to follow the wisdom and the law -- the law because it's right, and the wisdom because it stands the best chance for a pragmatically good end. All the while understanding that in a fallen world it's all going to end...and that reward, if I get any, is in the next world.

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  • Guest - Paul Swift


    You're not the first to pose the set of questions you initially raised; the entirety of Psalm 73 does so, with the added benefit of being contemporaneous with the time frame you were referring to. But Asaph's epiphany doesn't come in a TV studio facing a logic question--he's at the temple, and so must we be.

    Would you prefer God not to have spared a remnant of faithless Israel--as he had every right to? Would you rather he had carried out every aspect of Adam's penalty on the day he violated the covenant? Noah and sons were surely sinners--would you prefer they had been destroyed with the rest? Had he done so, Christ would not have been sent as he was--and we would be without hope in the world.

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  • Guest - John Bauman

    Hi Paul,

    It seems you inferred the opposite of my meaning. If given my choice of re-writing the narrative to my liking, I would spare more than a remnant of Israel...and everyone else for that matter. I would spare Noah and his sons.

    If not sparing them, I would at the very least not condemn them.

    I wish that, if the covenant at Sinai was entered into in good faith, that there might have followed a narrative that allowed as how God actually wanted it to succeed rather than fail.

    As I said before, I can see where that might have been seen as thwarting God's redemptive purpose. But in admitting that, it makes the covenant duplicitous.

    That's why I said I'd almost rather -- in THAT regard -- learn that the story of Israel is poetic (like the Job story) rather than historical.

    But that's my preference. I'm not allowed the luxury of ignoring that the Bible narrative doesn't share my preferences. Rather, it seems to imply a God who disagrees with my sensibilities. :^)

    Imagine that.

    See, I live human ignorance. I live human depravity. I understand -- as well as I am able the imagine it -- magnitude of the gap between what I know and what it would take to save me.

    I'm a big grace guy. My perception is that I can be no other.

    That doesn't mean I don't wish that everyone was saved. I don't flatter myself with notions that I'm any better than anyone else who ever lived. I don't flatter myself that I'm any more deserving of grace than anyone who ever lived.

    Neither do I take comfort in anyone's...and I mean ANYONE'S condemnation. I understand depravity. I understand ignorance.

    What I don't understand is eternal condemnation.

    And as much as I can conceive of it, I don't wish it for anyone. In that regard, if I perceive a we/they universe, I am far more capable of the perception that the "we" is humanity and the "they" is God. I realize most of Christianity comforts itself with the idea that "we" is us and God, and "they" is everyone God didn't choose.

    I'll never be comfortable with that. Even in acknowledging it's probability, I will never be comfortable with that.

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  • Guest - Peggy Morgan

    Oh man, do I hear you! I struggle with those kinds of questions all the time. While so many of the good answers do make sense and follow a consistent thrust in the story of man & G-d it is still after all Almighty G-d v. dumb stupid us. Here are a couple of things that I have found to answer some of those questions. One, there is good and evil; righteousness and sin. We need to have that distinction to know what side we'll end up. Secondly, G-d certainly did give them carrots. He gave them His word, His prophets, provisions, victories, deliverance, protection answered prayer, and even His presence many times, etc. He was in absolute relationship with them. Sometimes I wish He still spoke so directly; that is, through awesome signs, wonders and prophets. Though, I do know that their relational story, Christ and now the Church speak to us. I don't understand nor am able to entertain the notion of eternal damnation very much either. Sometimes when I see the awful wickedness of this world, I seem to understand it better. How could the depraved despicable acts of hatred here ever be rewarded by necessary divine holy judgment? So, I think it must come down to this simple gift of faith thing. It's not a secret to anyone and G-d in His justice has declared the Glory (salvation) of G-d in the heavens; & the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Ps.19 :1-3. ...they are without excuse Rom. 1:20. As it is written, the just shall live by faith; the gospel of Christ faith; for it is the power of G-d unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Rom.1:16&17. And just like Jacob wrestled with G-d, so do we. Good News - He wins and us also in Him. Ultimately, none of us would be saved from ourselves & sin's rightful, logical consequence. It is the gift of G-d. And this is where I come right back with you as to why does anyone lose in this deal? I don't know. I know what I know and that is the Gospel of Christ is as true as I can ever imagine. It is the best news going and I've heard plenty of other ideas for man's condition that hold no consistency or integrity like the Bible message. I know that G-d is G-d and way above me in my earthly finite thinking. I'm glad, very glad for the faith I have that has moved so many mountains and produced in me a life I'd never be able to accomplish on my own. And I guess someday, I'll be able to wrap my mind around the other like it seems others are able to do so simply. Maybe not. Probably though, when I see Him face to face, I'll get it; and that's essentially my hope in all of it anyway. Not because I am believing blindly, but because I am convinced that Christ is Lord and Savior and have certainly been set free by His saving grace. It is the message, the salvation that has set a fire in my bones that keeps me and moves me unto that day when my faith turns to sight. I believe it; don't always understand it all but I'm growing in the grace and knowledge of my Lord and for that I am very grateful. I hope you come to some peace in your struggles with it; I appreciate the question and your honesty in it.

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  • Guest - John Bauman


    I apologize for such a delayed response to your thoughtful post. I meant to respond right away and then got busy with other things. The email prompt to this conversation dropped off my email front page, and I promptly forgot.

    I don't disagree with your post any more than I think you disagreed with mine. I think we're just observing some difficult issues that we have traditionally been intimidated away from questioning.

    You say: "Sometimes I wish He still spoke so directly; that is, through awesome signs, wonders and prophets. Though, I do know that their relational story, Christ and now the Church speak to us."

    I am intellectually completely conflicted over this.

    On the one hand, we are told that even if miracles occurred (specifically, if a person came back from the dead), it would make no difference in people's beliefs.

    On the other hand, the Bible goes ahead and tells story after story of supernatural events taking place to do exactly that -- to convince the people witnessing the event that the messenger could be believed because of the supernatural power he displayed.

    That's one of those "shouldn't be able to have it both ways" things.

    But, being a lifelong natural skeptic, I do at least understand that I might even remain skeptical even if I witnessed a supernatural event. I admit that I'd be among the first looking for the smoke, mirrors, and wires.

    As to your comment: "I don’t understand nor am able to entertain the notion of eternal damnation very much either. Sometimes when I see the awful wickedness of this world, I seem to understand it better."

    I don't. Maybe I buy into those Sermon on the Mount admonitions that, for instance, hating is the same thing as killing, but I don't see a we/they between myself and those who do the awful wickedness in the world. I see us all as ignorant and those of us who maintain lives above the socially acceptable level of evil, do so by the grace of God.

    I don't take comfort in the damnation of anyone. And the older I get, the more I pray that my understanding of a loving God trumps my understanding of a just one. I understand the terms of my own justification. I understand my need for grace. I just admit that I can't line up God's justice and his love and not see a paradox.

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