A reading for the fourth Sunday in Lent: Joshua 5:9-12.
One advantage of coming to faith as an adult is that you don’t spend a lot of time being shocked by Joshua. I did not grow up singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” I did not bring a whole lot of expectations to who God was when I started reading the Bible.
After reading Exodus through Deuteronomy where God pretty much tries to wipe out his own chosen people several times, it never really struck me as all that shocking that God would command the destruction of entire cities in Joshua. God is dangerous. Check. I got it. The blood never really stood out for me.
But this passage of Scripture did.
It marks a transition in the story of God’s people. It is the end of manna. It is the beginning of labor. It is the transition from wandering to conquest and settlement. For 40 years in the wilderness, God provided the food. Now the people would have to provide their own.
In the days of the Exodus, God did all the bloody work. Yahweh struck down the enemies of Israel and destroyed the armies of Pharaoh. The blood was on God’s hands. Now, it would be on Israel’s hands. It would still be by God’s strength that the people win victory, but after Jericho, the people would have to fight for what had been promised.
Perhaps it is my Arminianism showing here, but I find the metaphor of Israel having to work to take full possession of the promised land quite apt. If the people are faithful, God will see them through the struggle, but they must exert themselves and they must show their faithfulness. If they do not, forces are in place to enslave and destroy them. They have enemies who will not go without a fight.
Such a reading is much too allegorical for some readers, but it rings true to me.