(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
I'm excited about the next six studies; they take us from the shores of the Jordan River to Israel's captivity. And I'm excited about this because this is way, way more than dusty, boring, Old Testament history. You really do see things that will encourage your hearts, things that will leave you devastated and discouraged, things that are so awesome they're hard to take in, things that are humbling and convicting, woven in this history as a picture of who God is, and what He does, and who His people are, and what He wants for them, and what He wants in them.
We start with Joshua, this exciting moment when Israel is going to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. And the thing that you're confronted with, which is a theme throughout the whole biblical story, is the massive difference between God's plan for us and our plan for our lives. Now think, God's about to fulfill this awesome promise that He’s going to give His people a land of their own. I would sort of title Joshua, “God gives, God's people get;” because there's no way possible that they would ever be able to conquer this land on their own. They are utterly dependent on the goodness of God.
But think with me for a moment. If I promised you a piece of property that would be your living place, when you got there, you would expect that that property would be empty. You wouldn't expect that somebody else would be living there. But that's exactly what Israel encounters, that this land is filled with other nations who aren’t really excited about turning over their property to Israel. Why would God do this? And when you face that history, you are immediately confronted, not just with Israel's position, but that's our position all the time--confused at the way God works, wondering why He's doing what He's doing, tempted to question His goodness.
You see, God wants more for His people than just a place; He wants His people; He wants their hearts; He wants to build their faith in Him; He wants them to live with a God’s-story mentality. And so, God puts them through things like Jericho where they see the unbelievable power of God on display and begin to think, “Hey, we’re the people of God. We’re going to be okay!” That's how God works.
You know, it's tempting to think of Joshua as being the hero of the book of Joshua; I mean the book has his name, but he’s far from the hero. As I've said as we’ve looked at other Old Testament passages, God's the hero of this Book. In fact, Joshua's name doesn't even point to Joshua. Joshua's name actually means, “Yahweh saves.” Joshua's name points to the need for a Redeemer, and that redemption is only ever found vertically; nothing horizontally will ever redeem us. In fact, Joshua's name preaches the importance of the coming of Jesus.
You know today, God won’t work the way you expect Him to work. He won’t deliver His promises the way you expect. But take heart, you're not alone--it's always been the experience of God's people. You can't judge the goodness of God by your little interpretation of your present experience because perhaps in that very difficult thing, God is doing something awesome, something you could never earn, you could never deserve, you can never achieve on your own. If you’re God's child, you know, “God gives, you get.” That's the grace of the gospel!