8–14 May 2016.
What’s going on in Joshua 13? In chapter 11:23, we just read how Joshua conquered the whole land, gave it to the Israelites, and how “the land finally had rest from war.” But now we open chapter 13 and find God worried because Joshua is an old man and most of the land has still not been conquered!
Again, we need to remember that these many different stories in Joshua are not trying to tell us about things that happened in history, but instead tell us about how Israel imagined their national beginnings.
So what lesson did the writers want to teach in chapter 13? We see it in verse 6. Joshua is now old and can’t kill Israel’s enemies by himself, so it looks like Israel’s war will fail. But in verse 6 God promises to take over and fight for Israel. In this story, God promises “I myself will drive these people out of the land.” That means Joshua doesn’t need to wait until the local people are dead and gone; he can tell Israel’s tribes now which lands will count as theirs.
We have to remember that this is a political story, not a historical one.
In Taiwan we know all about political stories. Remember how in 2009 Beijing celebrated the PRC’s 60th anniversary. They had a big parade with displays representing all the different regions that belonged to China. A lot of Taiwanese people were shocked to see that Beijing also had a display representing Taiwan, with a large model of Taipei 101 on it! People felt angry that Beijing was claiming Taiwan to be their land and part of their country. But many people knew that Beijing was just trying to tell a political story about “One China”, not a historical story about the way things really are. For the rest of Joshua 13, this is what the ancient writers also do. They tell a political story about all those regions that should belong to one Israel.
We Christians know that our social and even political lives should be connected to our faith. After all, Christ is Lord over all parts of our lives. But Joshua is a good reminder that we should let faith influence our lives, but not let political ideas influence our faith.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis