Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.
The conquest of the Promised Land actually takes years, despite it being truncated into a couple chapters after the initial few battles. It’s like when a sports team has a winning season. The sportscast doesn’t show every game in its entirety once the season is over, the only parts they show are the highlights and the errors. So God, through the writer of Joshua, takes only the highlights and errors of the battles then sums up the rest.
There are some who think that war is wrong. There are bumper stickers around that proclaim, “War is not the answer!” and all I can ever think upon seeing one of those bumper stickers is, “That depends on the question.” I’m not a warmonger. I don’t think that war solves every problem. But history tells me that there are some problems that have been very effectively solved by war. In the case of Israel coming into the Promised Land and going for total war tactics, it’s important to remember Who mandated those tactics.
See, if Israel just decided to kill everyone and burn the cities to the ground, we’d be excused for thinking the nation a bunch of brutes. But Israel did not make that decision. God did. God tells Moses, “Moses, when you get into the Promised Land, you will kill everyone. No one gets left alive. No slaves. No forced labor. None of that mess. Kill them all and let Me sort them out.” Moses makes a note and plans to kill everyone. But Moses is prevented from entering the Promised Land by his unfaithfulness to a different instruction from God. So Moses tells Joshua what God’s strategy is and Joshua makes a note: Kill everyone. There are some who would argue that Joshua didn’t kill everyone; that he let Rahab and her family and all those Gibeonites live. And those folks would be correct. But those folks would also be overlooking the fact that Rahab and the Gibeonites sang pretty much the same tune: “We know your God is going to give this place to you. Your God is God.” That? Right there? That’s faith. Those people—the Gibeonites and Rahab’s family—believed in God. And, as Abraham said a few centuries prior, “Far be it from the judge of all the Earth to destroy the just with the unjust.”
Why is it important that Rahab and the Gibeonites had faith? How does that make Joshua’s obedience any more complete? Well, The Bible says that the just shall live by faith. Ephesians says that we are saved by grace through faith. Faith is the crux of the whole thing. The people living in the Promised Land—Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, all those -ites—had a history with God’s people. Abraham had lived among them, as had Isaac and Jacob. God’s people and God’s ways were not wholly unknown to these folks. I’m sure that Abraham and Isaac both had conversations with the Abimelech who ruled during their time about God and what God wanted and what God was about. The descendants of Lot should have known something about it, seeing as how Lot traveled with Abraham. Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, lived in the land and Esau had been well-acquainted with what God was on about. The people who lived in the land had plenty of reason to have heard of God and His ways. They should have known that the elements of their worship of non-gods were horrific.But they didn’t. They ignored whatever of God’s instruction survived and they ignored teir conscience until it went silent. Except Rahab and the Gibeonites. Somehow, some way they knew that God is God and that He was going to do whatever He said He was going to do. And they also knew that God had promised the land to Israel. The knowledge survived and these folks believed it.
Backing it up just a bit. Does this mean Joshua’s obedience was complete? With regard to how he was to conquer the land: yes. By placing their faith in God, the Gibeonites and Rahab were casting in their lot with Israel. Joshua was not told to destroy those non-Israelites who stood with Israel or he would have had to kill the Egyptians who had come with them and Moses’ children (who were Midianite on their mother’s side) and probably more that I know nothing about.
Great. How do I apply this to my life today? The principle is this: Obey God. If God says it then I need to do it. And I need to complete what He tells me to do. No half-finished obedience. No partial submission. Full submission and complete obedience. Anything less is disobedience.