Thursday, June 7, 2012

Subjugation & Freedom In Joshua

There is an end-game, in a manner of speaking, to the story that is being told through the Scriptures.  There is a purpose to which it all points, and it is not simply to create a means by which people can live a certain way on earth and go to heaven when they die.  In all honesty, if that was all there was, then one would have to wonder at the reason for all the hoopla of God’s sending and working through of Abraham, Israel, Jesus, and the church.  What does that do to Jesus’ Resurrection?  What was the point of that?  Was He resurrected and ascended into heaven just to prove that He was God?  When this occurred, did it happen simply so that we could equate His Resurrection with our going to heaven?  It all seems rather extravagant and un-necessary if God, when it all wraps up, will have done nothing more than saved some, condemned others, and destroyed the world.  That idea sits at quite a remarkable distance from that which seems to be a primary focus of Scripture, which is the movement of exile and exodus and God’s ongoing effecting of rescue of His covenant people from subjugating forces. 

Once we get our minds attuned to the theme of God’s rescue, which is wrapped up with the responsibility of His people to respond according to their understanding of their covenant God and His expectations for them as they represent Him in and for the world, we will find it on page after page of Scripture.  In fact, we can march right through the Scriptures to determine if these assertions about exile and exodus and the attendant theme of rescue from subjugation powers (that is inherent in the idea of exodus) truly does play out at the level which makes it a (if not the) dominating theme of the Word of God, as through it, God reveals His plans and purposes for the world of His creation.  Indeed, it can not be too often said that we find these things, once we are looking for them as part of the wider context and narrative, with rapidity and regularity. 

In Joshua, which is the primary historical record of the entrance of Israel into their land of promise, and presumably of the end of their Egyptian exile as the conclusion of their exodus, we encounter Rahab, who, though living in Jericho amongst her people, is truly in exile from that for which God had purposed her.  Without re-tracing the entirety of her story, we find that upon the fall of the city, her and her family are spared.  Prior to God’s intervention on her behalf through her “encounter” with the Israelite spies, she stood under the same sentence of condemnation as did the rest of Jericho.  Exile from life was the end which had been apportioned for her.  The gracious and promised sparing of her and her family represent their exodus into the covenant community of the people of God.  Rahab and her family experience redemption and salvation, which are congruent terms to exodus and deliverance from exile. 

When we encounter Achan and read about his sin, God makes it a point to speak of Israel, saying “they have violated My covenantal commandment” (Joshua 7:11).  Israel had just been victorious over the great city of Jericho, but had been routed and defeated by the small city of Ai.  Thoughts of another period of foreign subjugation probably began to seep into Israel’s collective consciousness.  Perhaps their God was not powerful enough to do all that had been promised to them?  Perhaps the victory at Jericho was a fluke?  Israel, in violation of the covenantal commandment in relation to what was to be done with Jericho in its entirety, once again, though in the land, found themselves in exile from God’s promise to subdue the whole of the land before them.  Israel had been tasked by God to purge the land of evil, yet Achan was seizing upon that which God had said was to be devoted to destruction.  Once the evil had been purged from their midst, exodus into the victorious carrying out of God’s purposes to purge wickedness and evil from the land was resumed, and this temporary re-exile was reversed. 

When Joshua designates the cities of refuge, according to the command that had been given by God through Moses, we are presented with a picture of exile and exodus.  When the person that was guilty of manslaughter fled to the city of refuge, he would be in a state of self-imposed and unfortunate exile.  Provisions, however, were made for his eventual exodus, so that he “may return home to the city from which he escaped” (20:6b). 

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