Promise Fulfilled – 5:10-12

The previous entry can be found here.

Marriage. A word that carries within it—or at least should carry within it—the idea of promises. When a couple—a biological man and a biological woman—are married, they present vows to each other while at the altar. A vow is a fancy word for a promise. “For richer or for poorer.” “In sickness or in health.” “Until death do us part.” I would be willing to bet that these are the most often broken promises of all time. In our passage today in Joshua, God shows Himself to be a keeper of promises.

Our historian writes, “While the Israelites camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they kept the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month.  The day after Passover they ate unleavened bread and roasted grain from the produce of the land.  And the day after they ate from the produce of the land, the manna ceased. Since there was no more manna for the Israelites, they ate from the crops of the land of Canaan that year.”

The last seven posts from Joshua 1:1-5:9 have all been leading up to God’s fulfillment of a promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16:

Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years.  However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions.  But you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.  In the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.

The remainder of our time in the book of Joshua will show the complete fulfillment of this promise. However, our passage today specifically shows the fulfillment of Joseph’s words in Genesis 50:24. “I am about to die, but God will certainly come to your aid and bring you up from this land to the land He promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Our historian wants us to know that God is faithful to fulfill His promises and He shows it by connecting it to the Israelites flight from Egypt.

One commentator explains, “While the Israelites did celebrate the Passover in the wilderness (see Num 9:1–5), the reference to it here is almost certainly intended to recall the first Passover in Egypt, not any wilderness observances.”[1] Numbers 9:1-5 is the sole example of the Israelites keeping the Passover in the time between the Exodus and our passage today. Forty years go unaccounted for. Some commentators would argue that this means that the Israelites went forty years without celebrating the Passover.[2] However, the emphasis here is a literary device known as inclusio. The Passover celebration is described in such a way to mirror the original Passover of Exodus 12. Everything between Exodus 12 and Joshua 5 makes up the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, which describes exactly what Joseph had foretold in Genesis 50. God keeps His promises to His people.

First, our historian shows us their Passover celebration in verse 10. “While the Israelites camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they kept the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month.” There is so much crammed into this sentence.

The people were still camped at Gilgal; the men were still recovering from the circumcision of three to four days prior. It says the Passover was celebrated on the fourteenth day of the month, and they crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the month (4:19). It says that they were camped on the plains of Jericho; this looks forward to the next chapter (posted in two weeks) where we see the battle of Jericho.

And “they kept the Passover.” The Passover was the celebration (as described last time) of the fact that God had passed over His people when He struck down the firstborns of Egypt. So ultimately it was a picture and celebration of God’s delivering Israel from slavery. (If you’re interested in more on Passover, Exodus 12:1-49 breaks it down.) The celebration of the Passover in our passage today was a celebration of their deliverance into the Promised Land. It’s not enough to be saved from something; we must be saved to something as well.

So the Passover is a memorial celebration of God’s saving activity for His people. What has He saved you from for which you should thank Him?

Second, our historian shows us the results of God fulfilling the first part of His promise in verses 11-12. “The day after Passover they ate unleavened bread and roasted grain from the produce of the land.  And the day after they ate from the produce of the land, the manna ceased. Since there was no more manna for the Israelites, they ate from the crops of the land of Canaan that year.”

These verses fill in the fifteenth and sixteenth days of the month. Passover celebrated on the fourteenth; food from the land eaten on the fifteenth; manna ceases on the sixteenth. Since crossing the Jordan on the tenth of the month (4:19), they have now been in the land for a week. So far, in the first five chapters of the book, we have covered the space of two weeks; by the end of chapter 6 we will have made it three weeks.

It is important that the passage says that they ate unleavened bread from the land. After the Passover, the festival of unleavened bread lasted for 7 days (cf. Leviticus 23:6-8), in which they had to eat unleavened bread.

And then, we read in verse 11 that on the sixteenth day of the month, God cuts off the manna. The food He had graciously provided them stops when they enter the Promised Land and eat of its fruit. This causes me to ask, “Why couldn’t God have kept providing manna until the land was conquered?” Here’s the answer: God wants His people to live by faith. In the past five chapters He has proved beyond a doubt that He is trustworthy. He wants His people to trust Him; He brought them into a fertile land, and they could now provide food for themselves from the ground that God made fertile (cf. Leviticus 26:19-20). Their obedience now would be how their faith played itself out.

We all have things in our lives where we think that God should have done it differently and made it easier for us. But what He wants us to know is that He is trustworthy and He will take care of us (consider the pain of the fighting men right now in the narrative and the method of conquering the first city). God doesn’t give us more than we can take. He simply asks us to trust Him and obey Him as a sign of our trust. What do you need to obey Him in today?

So I opened this post up by talking about marriage. And now I would like to close it the same way. We have seen that God fulfilled His promise to Israel. Do you fulfill your wedding vows? If you aren’t married, is your life one that says, “He/she will one day be able to fulfill his/her future wedding vows”? If the answer to these questions is “no,” you are not qualified to enter the Promised Land of heaven. Breaking a vow is extremely serious to God.

But I have good news. Jesus Christ came to earth and fulfilled all the words He ever spoke, because He knows we can’t. Then He died on the cross for our failed vows, and after three days He rose again. If you believe that message, He will forgive you of your broken vows and give you the strength to keep them.

The Bible ends with a promise from Jesus, “Yes, I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). And Peter, in 2 Peter 3:9-13, speaks about what that promise should do in the lives of those 1) who don’t yet know Christ, and 2) who do know Christ. Peter writes,

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.  But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that ⌊day⌋ the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, ⌊it is clear⌋ what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness  as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat.  But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.

Do you believe that? Does it affect your life? It should! Just like God was faithful in His promise to Abraham, so will Jesus be faithful in His promise to the church. He is coming any time! Be ready for Him by living a faithful life like He is faithful.

Solus Christus

Soli Deo Gloria

The next entry can be found here.

[1] David M. Howard, New American Commentary – Volume 5: Joshua, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 152.

[2] See discussion in John Calvin.

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