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JOSHUA 23 - 24

In chapter 24 of Joshua we see three burials taking place. The first is of the body of Joseph who died all the way back in Genesis 50:24,25. Joseph's story begins in Genesis 30 when he is born to Jacob and his beloved wife, Rachel. Joseph, if you will recall, was one of twelve sons born to Jacob, but the firstborn of Rachel's two sons. Because he was the son of Rachel, the favored wife, and a "son of Jacob's old age" and probably because of his character, Jacob loved his son Joseph more than his other sons.

After Joseph brings an ill report to his father about some of his brothers, and has some prophetic dreams of his own prominence that he shares with his brothers, and after Jacob gives Joseph a coat of many colors, the jealous brothers sell Joseph into slavery at the age of 17 and convince his father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. Joseph becomes the slave of Potiphar in Egypt where he serves well, but is accused of misconduct and thrown in jail where he again serves the jailer well.

After several years, Joseph is given the opportunity to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh. The dreams were so ominous about seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, and Joseph so impressed Pharaoh and his counselors with his wisdom and his spirit of God, that Pharaoh exalts Joseph and sets him up over all the land of Egypt. As ruler of Egypt, Joseph sets up a plan to store all extra food during the seven years of plenty so that there is food aplenty during the following seven years of famine for Egypt and the affected surrounding regions.

The land of Canaan is also affected by the famine, and its inhabitants are forced to look for food elsewhere. The sons of Jacob end up going to Egypt to seek food, unknowingly from their own brother Joseph whom they had sold into slavery. After he reveals himself to his brothers, Jacob's entire family moves to Egypt to be with Joseph.

Joseph's life is often compared to Jesus:

  1. Mistreatment turned to glory. While Joseph's brothers meant slavery, shame and death for Joseph, God used Joseph for power, glory and life.
    While Jesus' Jewish "brethren" meant to end Jesus' ministry by bringing shame and death to Him on the cross, God instead used that incident to bring power, glory and life not only to Jesus' ministry, but to the souls of all mankind.

  2. Joseph was a savior. He saved the nation of Egypt and the surrounding areas, including his family--the Israelites--from famine - physical starvation.
    Likewise, Jesus is our Savior. He saves our souls from spiritual famine - from being starved for lack of God's presence.

  3. While Joseph was a great man in Egypt, he knew he was not an Egyptian. He really didn't belong there. He had another home and didn't want his body to remain in Egypt. Instead he wants to rest in burial with his fathers. He asked his family to carry his bones out of Egypt, back to the land God had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob "when God visits them." It is this redeeming of Joseph's bones back to Canaan for burial that we see in our lesson today.
    Likewise, Jesus was a great man on this earth, although this world was not His home. Jesus, as God, did not belong on this earth, but He came with the purpose of redeeming our spiritual bodies--our souls--back to where they belong - back to our promised land and home with our heavenly Father.

Another burial we see in our lesson today is of Eleazar, the High Priest. As High Priest, Eleazar can be likened to Christ. Hebrews 9 calls Jesus our High Priest.

  1. The High Priest was to be the mediator between God and man. He was the intermediary between the Divine and the human.
    Hebrews 9:15 calls Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.

  2. As High Priest, Eleazar was the only one who could enter into the Holy of Holies.
    In verse 24 of Hebrews 9, Christ entered into the sanctuary not made with hands, into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

  3. As High Priest, Eleazar was to make atonement for the people's sins in the Holy of Holies with the blood of goats and bulls year after year.
    Verses 11-14 of Hebrews 9 says Christ took not the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood for our atonement, becoming the sacrifice Himself, thus securing our eternal redemption.

The third burial in our lesson today is that of the beloved leader Joshua. We can liken Joshua to Jesus also.

  1. As the Leader of Israel, Joshua helped each tribe claim their inheritance promised them by God.
    In our study of Romans last year we learned that if Christ is our leader, we -as adopted children of God- have an inheritance promised to us that Christ will help us claim.

  2. When we think of Joshua, we think of him as a Great Soldier. He led his people into victory after glorious victory.
    Jesus is also a great soldier. Jesus has fought the battle and won the victory over Satan, sin and death for us. We will have that victory in Jesus, and we are to become Christian soldiers to stand against the wiles of the devil.

  3. Here in the last two chapters of the book of Joshua, we see Joshua as a SHEPHERD, tending his fold. We see his concern for his flock. He has shepherded them for many years. He has led them home to the promised land and protected them from evil - even when the evil was among themselves. He lovingly fed them with God's message.
    Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd in John 10:14. "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." The "good shepherd" gave His life for His flock and will come again for them.

These men all are symbolic of Christ, but none of them were perfect. They were only humans attempting to do God's will among humans influenced by Satan. When Joshua challenges the Israelites to choose whom they will serve and they choose God, don't be surprised when they quickly fall away. After all, they did leave people in their land who did become snares to them.

Christ has won our battle for us, but we leave things in our lives that we have to battle. For some, that battle may be as obvious as criminal wrong doing, or for others as covert as a lying tongue or just indifference. As with the case of the Israelites that we will see in the book of Judges, our snares can cause us to lose what God has given us.

As soldiers of Christ, we fight alongside God, but sometimes we end up fighting against Him. Some Christians want to give God all the physical support they can in attendance and good works, but maybe they don't want to support Him financially - which ends up being counterproductive to God's work. Others may have the opposite problem of wanting all their support to be monetary, but leave the actual labor to others with more time on their hands. But God wants us all - heart, soul and pocketbook. To do otherwise is leaving snares for us to constantly battle.

James Hastings says, "We are bound, if we have any life in us, to fight in God's constant battle. But if we fight as volunteers, we are free to choose our side." We may end up fighting against God. We may do it through ignorance--not knowing what is right, through wickedness--preferring evil to good, or through indifference--just not caring. It may be hard to convince the indifferent that since they are not doing anything active they are still actually in a fight. Their inactivity becomes a wall behind which God's opponents can fortify themselves.

"When faith is no more than an opinion, failing to reach the affections and desires, and kindling no hope; when it is but a creed-belief, reached by proofs and evidences like some conclusion in mathematics, and lying as far away from our real interests as a theory regarding the rings of Saturn - then it is what St. James calls a 'dead faith.' It has nothing to do with the man who would not be different had he never formed that opinion at all." I'm sure we have all complained in our groups about the lack of morality in our country. But can we not say that that is so because too many Christians have been going to that segment of their lives called religion and saying their prayers, while in other segments of their lives they have been fighting against God?

We as children of God must learn to recognize when we are fighting against God. We must also learn how to fight for God and to keep on fighting. Rest assured, Satan will continue his battle for your soul till your very end. Like the Israelites, we have all made the major choice of fighting for and serving God, but the choice is an everyday, every moment choice. At any time we may choose to fight against God. That choice may be a permanent decision or it may be only momentary. (Waffling.) But damage will be done- if not in your life, then in someone else's life who saw your choice. Let's make a conscience effort to choose this day, and every day to Serve the Lord.

Jeannie Cole

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Fall 1993

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