Joshua 4, 5, 6 and Luke 9:18-36
In these chapters the Israelites knock down walls and establish a foothold in the Promised Land. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus continues to reveal himself.
“What do these stones mean to you?” Joshua has the men, one from each tribe of Israel, carry a heavy stone from the center of the Jordan to its banks. These stones were to be memorial markers, a symbol of the grace and mercy they had received from God. We are told that 40,000 soldiers dressed and armed for battle went across the Jordan along with the whole of the Israelites. An impressive show, no doubt.
The neighbors hear of this massive force of people crossing into the region in such spectacular fashion, and are terrified. The military pageantry and the miraculous crossing do not bode well for the current inhabitants of the land.
Joshua then orders that the men be circumcised. Apparently circumcision had fallen out of favor with the Israelites. Perhaps it was due to their disappointment of not being allowed to enter the Promised Land earlier?
The people hold the first Passover feast, once they have recovered, in their new land. And with that feast, after 40 years of provision, the Manna stopped falling.
Joshua’s visit from a leader of the heavenly army sets firmly his position as the “new Moses.” With such heavenly preparation and conferral, the military actions can begin.
“And the walls came tumbling down.” This section of Joshua is beloved in many Sunday Schools. I remember growing up marching around the table in the classroom seven times and then getting to shout at the top of our lungs.
Of course, the complete annihilation of all the inhabitants of the city was glossed over. When I read it now- I cannot help but imagine what the scene would have looked like. Unfortunately with televised pictures of the ruin in Aleppo and other cities, it is far too easy to imagine.
The people do save Rahab as promised, keeping covenant with her. She will later be mentioned in the family tree of Jesus.
There is no credible evidence archeological or otherwise that the walls literally fell in Jericho. Some say the walking around was psychological warfare, which led the people to give up on the seventh day. Others think the marching was a distraction so that military men could sneak into the city and attack once they heard the trumpet blasts and screams from outside.
I know the point of this story is to show that God is with the Israelites, that no force, even a walled city could stand between them and the Promised Land. However, I struggle with the complete massacre angle.
Peter’s confession here is seen in contrast to Herod’s fears about Jesus. Jesus calls all of the disciples to faithful obedience, stressing that there will be all kinds of trials and tribulations. Jesus says that some (out of the twelve) standing there will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God. This could be a reference to James, John and Peter who will be witnesses to the Transfiguration.
As Jesus is teaching these three men on a mountainside, his robes turn a dazzling white and two figures appear with him. Moses and Elijah! How they identified them is a mystery to me. Perhaps they were wearing name tags?
The three men hear the conversation about what it to take place in Jerusalem. Peter begins to babble about building tents or tabernacles as places of worship for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The scripture says he doesn’t know what he is saying. Then a cloud rests on them and they are terrified. Then a voice calls out “This is my son, my chosen; listen to him.” The cloud was one way God was seen in the Old Testament leading the people out of Egypt and through the wilderness.
When the presence of God leaves, they find Jesus alone standing with them. They speak to no one about what they have witnessed.