The book of Joshua is action packed. Full of battles and intrigue, it is a great book for those who made it through the books of the law. With that said, Joshua is more than just a collection of the military exploits of the people of Israel as they began to conquer and enter the land of promise. While at the surface that may seem the focus of Joshua, namely God leading His people against the pagan nations of Canaan, right below the surface is a broader message. Noted author and speaker Francis Schaeffer, in his classic book Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, takes a biblical-theological approach to the book of Joshua, noting how important biblical themes are found throughout the pages of this story on conquest that should not be overlooked.
I enjoy books that extract the timeliness truths of Scripture in a way that helps me not only understand the basic message, but that digs deep into the beautiful truths just waiting to be gleaned. While Joshua is perhaps not a book one would normally think would have more to offer than battlefield clashes, in reality, the recurring themes of humanity’s penchant for sin and God’s mercy can be found on every page of Joshua. Furthermore, as noted by Schaeffer, “what makes the book of Joshua overwhelmingly important is that is stands as a bridge, a link between the Pentateuch (the writings of Moses) and the rest of Scripture. It is crucial for understanding the unity the Pentateuch has with all that follows it, including the New Testament.”
With that understanding in mind, the reader will have a new appreciation for the book of Joshua and additionally, they will find themselves paying a bit more attention to the themes presented in Joshua and how those themes related to the greater message of Scripture. For instance, Schaeffer notes three changeless factors one can find in the book of Joshua, namely the written Book, the power of God, and the supernatural Leader. Throughout the book of Joshua, these factors present themselves. Joshua declares to the people of Israel in the first chapter of Joshua his commitment to the commands of God, relating to the people the words of Moses about the need for God’s law to never depart from the mouth or actions of Israel. We also see the power of God acting on behalf of the people over and over. Moreover, God is the King and Leader of His people. These themes are found throughout Scripture. God’s Word is the source of truth. God acts on behalf of His people, and God is always the sovereign King.
Schaeffer also provides some valuable discussion on the cities of refuge. While the discussion of these cities in the book of Joshua may seem unimportant and unrelated to our lives today given we are not going to race off to find a city to reside in should we unintentionally kill another human, the cities of refuge provide a valuable picture of Christ. The concept of refuge is found throughout the pages of Scripture with God always being a place we can flee in time of trouble. This concept finds its ultimate conclusion in Jesus. As Schaeffer so wonderfully notes, “We are not like a man who runs to a city of refuge and is acquitted after a trial because he is innocent. We are guilty. If you are still a non-Christian, run to Christ, for God’s own promises say, “Refuge! Refuge!” If we are Christians, we should take Christ as our sufficient refuge in bringing specific sins under the work of Christ and in all the vicissitudes of life, this moment and moment by moment, through the whole of our lives.”
The book of Joshua will come alive to those who take the opportunity to read Francis Schaeffer’s Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History. I highly recommend this book for all believers as it unpacks some very important biblical themes found throughout Joshua that are often and unfortunately overlooked. Joshua is more than a record of battlefield accomplishments. It is a book replete with themes that speak to the message of redemption, relationship, and salvation that form the core of Scripture and Schaeffer does a marvelous job of revealing those themes in a powerful and highly understandable way.
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