When God made the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12, he promised three things: land, descendants, and blessing. As we step into the book of Joshua many years later, we see Abraham’s many descendants—so many, in fact, that after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Bible begins referring to the twelve tribes of Israel named after Jacob’s (who was renamed Israel in Gen 35:10) twelve sons.
In addition to God’s ongoing fulfillment of his promise for descendants, we see a couple good examples of God’s promise to Abraham of “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.” (Gen 12:3, ESV) We see a great example of Rahab in Joshua 2, and a great negative example of Pharaoh and the Egyptians in Exodus.
As we step into Joshua 3, we must understand the magnitude of the event that is taking place. The fulfillment of God’s land promise to Abraham is “in process.” This is the first time Abraham’s descendants have crossed the Jordan in 400 years. This is exactly as God promised to Abraham when he reiterated the land promise from Genesis 12 as we read in Genesis 15:12–16:
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” (ESV)
What strikes me in this passage is God’s justice. The reason Abraham and his descendants could not inherit the land immediately is because “the iniquity (sin in the NIV) of the Amorite is not yet complete.” It would be unjust for God to remove the current inhabitants. Instead, in God’s foreknowledge he knew that their sin would become so great that the line of judgement would be crossed. As Israel returns to the land in Joshua 3, it is to make war on the enemies of God. These are not nice people, and certainly not innocent.
Those who repent, like Rahab in Joshua 2 are spared because God is gracious. So gracious, in fact, that he gave them 400 years to turn from their sins. In addition, the story of the Exodus had 40 years to spread so that people had the opportunity to hear the story of the greatness of the God of the Israelites while they marched in circles in the wilderness.
Joshua 3 ends over 40 years of wondering and over 400 years of waiting. Providing proof that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was with Joshua as he was with Moses, God stops the waters of the Jordan so that Israel may enter the Promised land in the same way they left their captivity in Egypt—on dry ground.
The period of 400 years plus 40 is like the time in which we live. God has made a promise, Jesus will return and judgment will fall. The sin of humanity is not yet complete. The line of judgment will one day be crossed and God’s wrath will be poured out. Until that time comes, we have the divine mission to proclaim the works of God, to make his name famous on the Earth that some like Rahab will hear and repent. The day after that day is one day too late.
By: Tyler Short