Links between Joshua and Acts (part 1)

A. McShane, Lurgan

Most writers connect the book of Joshua and the epistle to the Ephesians, and they are quite right in doing so, but in this paper an attempt will be made to show the links between the book of Joshua and the book of the Acts. Though Joshua is the sixth book in the Old Testament, it is the fifth historic book, for Deuteronomy is a second giving of the Law in view of Israel entering the land. Acts is also the fifth book in the New Testament. Both books cover a short period of time. Joshua is the history of the first 23 years in the conquest of Caanan, and the Acts gives the first 30 years of the Gospel age. Perhaps no two periods in the worlds history brought such great changes. For the first time ever the nation of Israel was dwelling in the land which had been promised to Abraham hundreds of years before, and in Acts the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome was the wonder of the world.

One feature that links Joshua and Acts is that both open with the departure of a great leader. Moses was outstanding as God’s prophet and none who succeeded him ever enjoyed such intimacy with God. His Antitype, Christ, was not only a great leader, but in this as in all other features He possessed, He was preeminent. Not only did He know God, He is God. Whatever problems arose among the Israelites were brought to Moses to settle, and whatever difficulties confronted the apostles were solved by Christ. Perhaps it would be impossible to fully appreciate the feelings of the nation when their great leader went up mount Pisgah and departed from them forever or the feelings of the apostles when their Lord departed from mount Olivet and led them for the last time.

The parallel between the books here considered can be seen in that on both occasions provision was made for those left behind. The Lord made clear that he had appointed Joshua in the place of Moses and that He would be with him as He had been with His former servant. The same is true in Acts for the Lord assured his disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit, and that He would be all to them that they had enjoyed while He was with them. Just as the nation had to wait some time before the power of their new leader was manifested, so the apostles had to wait until the day of Pentecost before they experienced the mighty power of the Spirit.

It must have been a thrill for the Israelites to see the flooded Jordan opening before the Ark and making the way open for them to pass over. Their minds must have turned to the day some 40 years before when the waters of the Red Sea opened for Moses. After passing through the waters two monuments were erected at Jordan. These were a picture of death and resurrection. In the two ordinances introduced in the Acts there is also a picture of death and resurrection. Whether baptism or the breaking of bread is in view, the death with Christ, and His death for His own are prominent. The twelve stones illustrated the oneness of the nation, likewise the bread demonstrates the oneness of all who partake of it. When the disciples saw the miracle of the lame man dancing in the street, they too must have rejoiced, in that the miracles formerly performed by the Lord were now being performed by the Spirit through the apostles.

The sounding of the trumpets around Jericho, which resulted in the collapse of its walls, has a counterpart in Acts when the sound of the Gospel trumpet smashed the barrier between Jew and Gentile. There was one outstanding Gentile family saved from destruction. It was that of Rahab and in Acts there was also an outstanding Gentile family saved, it was that of Cornelius. The spies who visited her took no small risk when bringing her the message of hope. While Peter and those with him were not in any danger to their lives when they visited Cornelius, it was a courageous step for Jews to have fellowship with Gentiles. For Rahab to have her entire family saved from the fire of Jericho was no small mercy, and for Cornelius and all who gathered with him to be saved in their first Gospel meeting was no less a wonder.

At the time of the overthrow of Jericho the Lord manifested Himself to Joshua as the captain of the army of Jehovah, and he was so impressed with what he saw that he fell down on his face. He called out "What saith my Lord unto His servants.t’ He was answered with the instruction to remove his sandals, because the presence of the Lord had made the ground holy. The revelation of the same Lord to Saul on the Damascus road had much in common with this, for he too fell to the ground and he too asked the Lord what he must do. To have direct dealings with the Lord is the highest honour conferred on man, and an experience never to be forgotten.

It is amazing that even in times of great success in the work of the Lord human failure can be manifested. The triumph at Jericho was the greatest proof that the inheritance of the land was about to be realized. However, a sad chapter in this glorious campaign appeared in the defeat at Ai. A trespass had been committed in that Achan had taken some of the spoils of Jericho, had hid them in his tent, and imagined nothing would befall him for his sin. His covetous heart could not pass up the precious treasure he found in that city. The same principle appears in Acts, for Ananias and Sapphira are seen there to withhold from the Lord what they professed to have given. The end of both stories is alike, for Achan and his family were put to death, and Ananias and his wife likewise died. In the early days in the land, God impressed upon Israel that He cannot tolerate evil amongst His own, and in apostolic times, even though grace abounded, the same principle obtained. Covetousness is a prime temptation in all ages.

In the midst of Joshua’s triumphs a defect in his discernment became evident, for the Gibeonites, instead of joining their neighboring kings to fight with Israel, took a different course, and acted in craft. They professed that they were pilgrims, just like the Israelites, and that they had travelled from a far country. As a proof, they showed the moldy bread, the worn sandals and tattered garments. Their story was so convincing that Joshua never thought of inquiring the mind of the Lord regarding the matter. However, after making a covenant with them he discovered they were from the midst of the land. There is a parallel to this in Acts. Peter and John went down to Samaria where the Lord had done a mighty work of grace through the instrumentality of Philip. A famous character called Simon had bewitched the people before the Gospel reached them. He professed to be saved and witnessed the wonder of Peter laying hands on the converts and the Holy Spirit being given as a result. He too wanted to have this power, and offered to buy it. Peter discovered the deceit of this professor, and told him plainly that he was in the gall of bitterness and bond of unrighteousness. Even the apostle could be deceived for a time but the true state of Simon became manifest, just as the true state of the Gibeonites had become manifest. The enemy will ever attempt to imitate the work of God, and has done so in all ages.

- to be continued