Today’s lectionary reading moves from the end of Deuteronomy to the third chapter of Joshua. The reading begins with verse 7 which, reads, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they will know that I will be with you as I was with Moses” (NRSV). Of course, as always with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, there seems to be some sort of disconnect here. This disconnect is easy to miss in the lectionary as it jumped over Joshua chapter 1.
Well, what happens in Joshua 1? A number of things happen, one of which is the Israelites pledging support to Joshua. Verses 16 – 18 have the Israelites speaking to Joshua and saying the following:
16 They answered Joshua: “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your orders and disobeys your words, whatever you command, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
So, what is the issue when we come to chapter 3? Why is it necessary for the LORD to exalt Joshua, so that the people will know that he is with Joshua? They have already pledged their support. Or, was this support only feigned?
I am not a big fan of conquest narratives. And, I do not believe that everything happened just as the Book of Joshua describes. But, I do think there is a truth to be learned in all of this. Group opinion is fickle. One day people will pledge their support and the next they will be in need of a sign. Never take the opinion of a group for granted.