Joshua and Acts

Two books with uncanny similarities.

Joshua: Introduction (6)

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant… Joshua 1.1

The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach… Acts 1.1

Reflect and discuss.
1.  How does the book of Joshua relate to the promises God made to Abraham? To the Law He gave through Moses?

2.  How does the book of Acts relate to the promises God made through Jesus? To the Law Jesus fulfilled and commanded us to keep (Matt. 5.17-19)?

Think about it.
In many ways, the book of Acts seems to have been arranged to mirror the book of Joshua. Acts relates the continuing work of Jesus as He, by His Spirit, led His people into the promises of God – much as Joshua relates the work of God as He, through Joshua, led Israel into the promised land of Canaan.

Acts and Joshua begin with God speaking to the main character(s) about what to expect and what they must do (cf. Josh. 1.1-9, Acts 1.1-8).

In each, a period of intense preparation of the people and leaders serves to focus and ready everyone for what God was about to do (cf. Josh. 1-5 with Acts 1.9-26).

In each book, a dramatic work of God, issuing in a major initial victory, launches the people into His promises, and into the further work of laying hold on more of His promises (Josh. 3, 4, 6; Acts 2).

Early and dramatic victories encourage the people of God and cause their enemies to go on the alert (Josh. 7 and 9, Acts 3 and 4).

Early setbacks and mistakes seem to threaten the success of the project in each case, but the people look to the Lord and are delivered (Josh. 7 and 9, Acts 4-6).

The conquest of Canaan unfolded in a series of strategic campaigns against different sectors of the land. In the book of Acts, the Gospel spread according to the Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and uttermost parts strategy articulated by the Lord Himself (Acts 1.8).

The emphasis in Joshua is on how he and all Israel labored to gain the promised land; in Acts we see all believers actively involved in spreading the Good News (cf. Acts 4.23-31; 8.1-4; 19.1-10).

Each book concludes with the work of gaining the promises unfinished, thus looking forward to a further work of God on behalf of His people.

Thus, if only indirectly, the New Testament points us back to the book of Joshua and encourages us to find instruction for our calling to seek the Kingdom, righteousness, glory, and promises of God. In each book, God is the primary Actor, Who accomplishes His promised work through His chosen covenant people. The main difference for those of us living in the continuing story of the book of Acts, however, is that the New Testament Joshua – our Lord Jesus Christ – has brought us the final and complete rest that the Old Testament Joshua and Israel tasted, but failed to achieve (Heb. 4.1-16).

Meditate and discuss.
1.  What makes the book of Joshua so important for us as we work to fulfill our calling as witnesses for Christ (Acts 1.8)? Do you think it is merely chance that Acts has so many parallels with Joshua? Explain.

2.  The book of Joshua concludes with more work to be done, thus pointing forward to the rest of the Old Testament and the coming of the Messiah. The book of Acts concludes with more work yet to be done. To what does it point us? 

3.  What goals will you set for our study of the book of Joshua? What do you hope to learn that will help you in laying hold on the promises of God and fulfilling your calling as His witness? 

“What is the special excellence of Joshua? His generalship, and the distribution of the inheritance, and the taking possession of the Holy Land.” Gregory Nazianzus (329-389 AD)

Pray Psalm 44.1-8.

Can you see how these verses link our calling as witnesses to the work of Joshua? Spend some time in silence over these verses, responding to the Lord as He leads, teaches, and prompts.

Psalm 44.1-8, 23-26 (Faithfulness: Great is Thy Faithfulness)
O God our ears have heard, ancients have taught us, 
All that You did for them long years ago, 
How by Your hand You defeated the nations, 
And to the promised land let Israel go.
Refrainvv. 23-26 
Rise up, awake, O Lord! Hide not Your face from us, 
See our affliction, our suffering and pain!
See how our soul is sunk down with oppression; 
Rise up and help and redeem us we pray!

Not by their sword did they drive out the nations; 
Not by their arm did they settle the land.
Your saving mercy and light triumphed for them:
Victories for us, our King, please now command.

Through You shall we all our enemies vanquish; 
Them will we trample in Your mighty Name.
We will not trust in our strength or our wisdom; 
Jesus will save us; we’ll boast of His fame!

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Joshua fit in the ongoing story of God’s covenant? Our workbook, God’s Covenant, can help you discover the place in God’s work of redemption not only of Joshua but of all the books of the Bible. God’s Covenant is a valuable resource to guide you in all your studies in God’s Word. To order your copy, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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