I Am the Lord.

1 Now these are the kings of the land whom the people of Israel defeated and took possession of their land beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon, with all the Arabah eastward: Sihon king of the Amorites who lived at Heshbon and ruled from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and from the middle of the valley as far as the river Jabbok, the boundary of the Ammonites, that is, half of Gilead, and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah; and Og king of Bashan, one of the remnant of the Rephaim, who lived at Ashtaroth and at Edrei and ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah and all Bashan to the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and over half of Gilead to the boundary of Sihon king of Heshbon. Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the people of Israel defeated them. And Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land for a possession to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir (and Joshua gave their land to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their allotments, in the hill country, in the lowland, in the Arabah, in the slopes, in the wilderness, and in the Negeb, the land of the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites): the king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one; 10 the king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one; 11 the king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one; 12 the king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one; 13 the king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one; 14 the king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one; 15 the king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one; 16 the king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel, one; 17 the king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one; 18 the king of Aphek, one; the king of Lasharon, one; 19 the king of Madon, one; the king of Hazor, one; 20 the king of Shimron-meron, one; the king of Achshaph, one; 21 the king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one; 22 the king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam in Carmel, one; 23 the king of Dor in Naphath-dor, one; the king of Goiim in Galilee, one; 24 the king of Tirzah, one: in all, thirty-one kings. Joshua 12:1-24 ESV

division-of-promised-land-to-ancient-israelThis chapter provides us with a summary of the conquests of Joshua and the people of Israel, beginning with their defeats of the two cities belonging to Og and Sihon. These two kings and their kingdoms were located on the eastern side of the Jordan and had been the first two Canaanite cities to fall to the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan and entered the promised land. Their domains were awarded to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. These three tribes had decided to forfeit their right to a portion of the land within the land of promise and chose instead to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan. But they had agreed to cross over with the rest of the Israelites and fight alongside them until the possession of the land was complete. Once Joshua was ready to divide up the conquered land between the remaining tribes, he allowed the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh to return to their families and property on the other side of the Jordan.

In this chapter we are provided with the names of 31 kings whose kingdoms fell to the Israelites. From Sidon in the far north to Kadesh in the distant south, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, Joshua and the people of Israel successfully conquered the land of promise, establishing themselves as its new occupants and solidifying the reputation of God as the one true God. The whole campaign had been according to God’s will, accomplished by His power and in fulfillment of the promise He had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Possession of the land had not come easily. God had given it to them, but He had not handed it to them. They were required to do their part and fight. At least 31 times, they had to march into battle and, in most cases, against far more powerful enemies and in the face of overwhelming odds. Each battle had required faith in God. And every victory was a testimony to the faithfulness of God. This ragtag remnant of former slaves had been able to walk into a foreign land and face enemy forces equipped with better-trained troops and more advanced weaponry. But, in each case, God gave them the victory. He had not only given them the land, He had provided them with the capacity to possess the land.

It is easy to read this chapter and see it as nothing more than a list of difficult-to-pronounce names of ancient kings and long-forgotten people groups. We see the names of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and they mean little or nothing to us. But the author of the book of Joshua is attempting to provide us with a report that should remind us of God’s power. This isn’t meant to be some kind of Excel spreadsheet listing all of Israel’s victories. It is an objective chronicle of the exploits of God Almighty on behalf of His chosen people. The sheer impossibility of all that we read in this chapter should not escape us. It is less the synopsis of a military campaign, than it is a reminder of God’s power and His faithfulness to fulfill what He promises. 

All the way back in the book of Exodus, we have recorded the words God spoke to Moses when He called him to deliver the people of Israel from their captivity in Egypt.

6 “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” – Exodus 6:6-8 ESV

And God had done it. He had delivered on His promise. Not only had He set them free from their captivity and led them across the wilderness to the land of Canaan, He had given them possession of the land. Every step of the way, the odds had been against them. They never should have been able to walk out of Egypt, but they had. They never should have survived the arduous journey across the wilderness, but they did. They never should have defeated the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, but as chapter 12 of the book of Joshua clearly indicates, they most certainly did. Notice how many times God said to Moses, “I will.”

I will bring you out…

I will redeem you…

I will take you to be my people…

I will be your God…

I will bring you into the land…

I will give it to you as a possession…

He said He would and He he did. And God had book-ended His promise to Moses with the four simple words: “I am the Lord.” He used His proper name, Jehovah, which means “the existing One.” The everlasting, eternal God had entered into time and space and shown Himself to be not only real, but reliable. He wasn’t some transcendent, distant deity who refused to interact with His creation. He intimately involved Himself in the affairs of everyday life, redeeming, guiding, providing, rescuing and fighting on behalf of His chosen people. So, while the list of names and places found in chapter 12 mean little to us, they should remind us of the undeniable power and undiminished presence of our God. He is still among us. He is still guiding, directing, protecting and providing for us. And He is still in the business of fighting our battle for us – against any and all odds. The apostle Paul reminds us that our God is still on our side, having proven His love for us by sending His Son to die for us. And in spite of all the odds against us, we are victorious.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-39 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson