Text: Joshua 10:16-43, Joshua 11:1-23, Psalm 110:1-7, Ephesians 1:3-14
I only watch action movies for the romance. You know, the love subplot, where the guy-and-girl tale is interspersed between all the scenes of war and gore. Battles don’t interest me, nor do bomb explosions, car chases, guns, or swords. No matter the era or context of the film, something in my brain shuts off when the action picks up, and then that something turns back on to watch love rise from the rubble.
When reading Joshua, I find myself doing much the same thing. I’m tempted to glaze over the battle scenes, the names of the countries conquered, and all those kings’ names I can’t pronounce. Until I get to the “good stuff,” I tune out, then tune back in once I get to… well, Psalms.
But something interesting happened as I was reading over this week’s passage. At first, I only saw scenes of conquest, of Israel taking each and every enemy in its path—Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish—a slew of battle scenes depicting how God’s people took over the north and south territory of Canaan. However, as I read the passage again, I began to see that, in the midst of all the action, another plot emerges.
These verses are more than a retelling of conquest and victory. We see this when we pay attention to the repetitive language in the text—language that emphasizes God’s devotion to Israel:
“And the Lord also delivered [Libnah] and its king into the hands of Israel” (Joshua 10:30).
“And the Lord delivered Lachish into the hands of Israel” (Joshua 10:32).
“Do not be afraid…I will deliver all of them” (Joshua 11:6).
“And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel” (Joshua 11:8).
Similarly, repetitive language is used to describe Joshua’s devotion to God’s command:
“So Joshua conquered all the land… as the Lord God of Israel had commanded him” (Joshua 10:40).
“So Joshua did to them as the Lord had told him” (Joshua 11:9).
“He utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded” (Joshua 11:12).
“As the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:15).
As the dust settles on the battlefield, look for it: the making and fulfillment of a promise. Devotion, obedience, and a commitment to one another, at all costs. In the midst of the struggle and the fear is this command: “Do not be afraid” (Joshua 10:25).
It sounds like a love story, doesn’t it? The love of God for His people—a love that spans much further than the physical territory Joshua conquered. It’s a love that would eventually come down in human form to save not only Israel from their enemies, but also you and me from a fate we surely deserved: “We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7-8).
I no longer want to turn my head from the battle scenes of Joshua. I see my own redemptive story in there now, woven in and out with the assurance of deliverance and of promises fulfilled. Victory is found in Christ alone. This is the greatest love story we will ever know.