When I was growing up, I couldn’t remember any wars. I was born during the Cold War and was too young to remember the Gulf War.
Then 9/11 happened. And as a consequence, so did the war in Afghanistan. I was in high school when the Twin Towers fell (sophomore math class, to be exact), and it felt surreal. Death. Destruction. Senseless violence.
It seems like war is inevitable. Nearly every person alive today has lived during a war, and many have served in one. Of course, this is what sin does—it brings division and conflict and pain. Wars exist in a post-Genesis 3 world. This passage in Joshua is a stark reminder of that truth.
In light of the death and destruction at the hands of the Israelites, one question comes to the surface: why is God commanding all this violence? Isn’t He supposed to be bringing peace? The easy answer is to say that God is good and that His ways are higher than ours; He made a promise to His people and He intended to keep it. And while that explanation is true, it doesn’t make the stench of death any less pungent.
It’s important to remember, however, that the stench of death won’t fill the air forever. God promised to give His people land, but that was only a preview. One day, every one of His people who’ve ever lived will inherit a better land.
In Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible, we see this land:
“Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city. The tree of life was on both sides of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 22:1-5 HCSB)
Joshua’s land was apparently spectacular, but it wasn’t perfect. Trees still died. Grass still turned brown. But in the true, final land that all believers will inherit, the tree of life will stand in the land, ensuring that nothing dies again. Death itself will be dead.
God’s promise to Joshua was fulfilled in a sinful world. Death was inevitable. Evil had to be dealt with. But God also promises that one day, death will not be inevitable. Evil will take the final deathblow.
Like Joshua and the Israelites, the land will be ours. But unlike them, we will never leave. We will dwell with God there, in the New Heavens and New Earth, for eternity. He promised. And as the Bible shows us, again and again, God keeps His promises.
Written By Brandon D. Smith