When you read through the Old Testament, it becomes clear very quickly that people have a propensity to act rebelliously where God and His Law is concerned. This became very obvious after God had created the nation of Israel. God treated that nation as if they were one person. If someone within Israel sinned, God would remove His blessing from the entire nation. In effect, they broke fellowship with God through that one offense – whatever it was – and because of that, God turned His back on Israel temporarily.
At times, the rebellion was so bad that God chose to destroy an entire generation of Israelites, but never the entire nation. Any blessings that God poured out onto that nation benefited the entire nation, not just one person, even though there were often many with rebellious hearts.
We can highlight individual cases of rebellion, but readers are probably very familiar with them. Whether it was the 10 spies (out of 12), who went into the Promised Land and came back and filled the people with fear or those who grumbled and complained about a lack of food, water, or something else, Israel as a nation had many moments of rebellion and near insurrection against Moses and Aaron. The fact that God did not destroy the entire nation is proof that there were people within that nation whom God considered righteous. He considered them righteous not because of what they did, but because of the character of their hearts, which prompted their righteous actions.
People can be great pretenders. Sometimes, it is very difficult, if not impossible to truly know someone’s true character. Con men are perfect examples of this. Whether they are religious charlatans, business con men or something else, they project a demeanor that they hope will cause people to believe they are something they are not. They do this for selfish gain and enrichment.
Within Israel, there were many people who were along for the ride. These individuals were mixed in with people who actually wanted to serve God humbly, walking before Him in faith. The rebels were a constant problem for Moses and the nation as a whole.
But what I find fascinating is after Moses’ death and Joshua had been appointed by God to take up the reins of leadership in Moses’ stead, the people hadn’t really changed. There was still a solid mix of evil doers and faithful among Israel. In spite of this mix, God still dealt with Israel as one nation. We might find that unfair, but if we consider that the rebels benefited when everything went well, then we can also understand why God would be harsh with the entire nation when things did not go well with one or two people. It is also interesting that God often referred to Israel as “Jacob” when they were out of fellowship with God. Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, was one man and in essence, God saw the entire nation of Israel as “one” man.
In Joshua 1, we begin to see Joshua’s leadership take the stage. In much of the last chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses had spent a great deal of time reminding Israel of their God-appointed role in the world. Moses told them how they were to live and he spelled things out for them so that there would be no misunderstanding. Yes, Israel was to follow a great many rules to set them apart from all other nations. As they lived within the realm of the Law that God set before them, they would be able to uproot the nations before them. These nations had spent generations doing terribly disgusting things and one of the reasons God had raised up Israel was to be an arm of judgment against those nations who had come to deserve God’s judgment. Israel was also supposed to be a “light” to the world, showing the world how it was supposed to live before God.
Joshua was very pointed with Israel after Moses’ death. In Joshua 1...
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