Bible Study


Survey of the Former Prophets - Program 01

John H. Ogwyn (1949-2005)

This Bible Study is part of the "Survey of the Former Prophets" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series

"The Prophets" consists of books we normally think of as prophetic, but it also consists of books we normally think of as historical. The Prophets are divided up into two sections: the Former Prophets and the Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets are: Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. The Latter Prophets, or the Major Prophets, are: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets.

Greetings, friends!

My name is John Ogwyn. For the last 30 years, I have served as a minister and teacher. Today we will be starting a Bible Study series on the Former Prophets.

The books of what we call the Old Testament have traditionally been preserved by the Jews in three parts, or three sections, considered: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.

The Law consists of the first five books-the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

"The Prophets" consists of books we normally think of as prophetic, but it also consists of books we normally think of as historical. The Prophets are divided up into two sections: the Former Prophets and the Latter Prophets. The Former Prophets are: Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. The Latter Prophets, or the Major Prophets, are: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets.

While we might think of history and prophecy as two totally different things, the reality is that history and prophecy are exactly the same thing, simply seen from two different directions. If you are looking back, you are looking at history-and if you are looking forward you are looking at prophecy. But ultimately, the factor that all of this has in common is that it is a reflection of what builds on God's Law. God's Law is the basis for the blessings and for the cursings. These are enumerated in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

We are going to start here with this section a survey of the "Former Prophets." We are going to go through two sections of the Old Testament normally considered historical books: the books of Joshua and Judges. As we survey the Former Prophets, we want to focus in particular on taking a lesson from Israel's leaders. Because what we will see as we go through this survey is that there were times when things were going well and the nation was reaping blessings and benefits. And there were times when there were all sorts of calamities, problems and difficulties. There are reasons why Israel was being blessed at times and going up, and why there were times when they were cursed and going down.

I want to open our study with the Book of Joshua. Moses had led God's people for forty years. He had brought them out of Egypt and had brought them to within sight of the Promised Land. But Moses died in the area that was east of the Jordan River, in the plains of Jordan. From the nation of Israel, the Twelve Tribes, Joshua had been selected as Moses' successor-as the leader. They remained there in the plains of Jordan for thirty days. And then we open up in:

Joshua 1:1-2

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying: Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them.

Centuries before, the Great God-The Eternal God, The Creator of the universe-had made a promise to Abraham, a promise that He would give the descendents of Abraham an inheritance of land. Now through the lifetime of Abraham and his son Isaac and his son Jacob, that promise was not received. Eventually, Jacob and his family went into Egypt, and that family grew into a great nation. Ultimately, God raised up Moses to bring them out of Egypt. Now they are preparing to enter the Promised Land.

Joshua was told in:

Joshua 1:5

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.

One key thing for us to understand is the basis of the promises being fulfilled. God said, "I will not leave you nor forsake you." Do you understand what that means, friends? God is neither unable nor unwilling to do what He said. "I will not fail you"-"I am not unable to accomplish what I say, nor will I forsake you. I am not unwilling to do what I say."

He told Joshua that what he needed to do was to:

Joshua 1:6-7

Be strong and of good courage,.. strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you.

So God's blessing-and God giving Israel the things He had promised-was based upon their obedience.

Joshua 1:8

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.

Why does God want Joshua and His people to focus on this Book, this fundamental revelation of God's Way?

Joshua 1:8

You shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

You see, God always gives us His Law for our benefit. He says that if you observe to do this, it will make your way prosperous, and you will have good success. He says, "My Way is the way to everything good that you want.:

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed.

So often our fears can stand in our way of being able to accomplish and achieve what we are capable of doing. But in our inability to somehow trust and have confidence in God, our fears begin to be the ruling, controlling, factors in our lives. They prevent us from being able to follow where God leads, and being able to accomplish what God has in mind. One of the things we are going to see as we go through this series of the Former Prophets, and we focus in on the leaders that God used through the history of ancient Israel and Judah, is the extent to which some men were ruled by fear and others were ruled and led by faith. So God, through Joshua, instructed the people to get organized to come on through. They gathered the people together.

 

Joshua 1:12 addresses two and a half tribes-the tribe of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. Manasseh was the only tribe that actually had two separate inheritances in two separate areas. When Israel was led by Moses, and they came up from the area Kadesh Barnea to what is now the nation of Jordan, the area east of the Jordan River, two and a half of the tribes-Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh-said to Moses, "We like this area, and we will take our inheritance here." Moses said that was fine, but that their men would have to cross the Jordan River and help to subdue the land. The tribes did not object to that, so they agreed, and Joshua reminded them of that promise in verse 13. They would come forward until the Lord has given rest to the nation. Israel had been wandering for forty years. They had been in slavery, wandering for forty years. Coming into the Promised Land, and receiving that inheritance, was entering into rest. But the rest into which Israel entered in the Promised Land was merely a type of the ultimate rest into which God's people may enter in the Kingdom of God. The physical promises were a type of the spiritual promises. They prepared to come on in.

As we come to chapter two, we find that Joshua sent two men into Jericho. Jericho was the great citadel city of the Canaanites. It stood just west of the Jordan River, and it guarded access to the land, so spies came to Jericho to spy out the land. In the course of their arrival there, word had leaked out and the King of Jericho found out that these men had come. He was very concerned about that, and wanted to capture them because of the exploits of Israel and there subduing of the kings east of the Jordan-news which had already arrived. They came to the place, to an inn run by a woman known as Rahab the harlot. As word got out and Rahab heard this, she called them in and she said, "Look, the King is looking for you. He wants to destroy you, he wants to kill you." And she hid them on the roof of her house. She told the King's officers, "Well, they did come, but now they are gone, I do not know where they are." The officers left, and she let the men out-and let the men over the wall by night. In the course of that, she received from them a promise that when they returned, when they subdued the land, when they subdued Jericho-as Rahab knew they would-they would deal kindly. Rahab understood that the God of Israel was the real God.

Joshua 2:11

The LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

So she moved by faith. She had heard these stories; she had heard the things everyone else had heard. Rahab believed God. As a result of that, she made a decision that from a human standpoint was putting her life in jeopardy-yet she knew that the God of Israel is the real God. So they promised they would deal kindly with her. She let them down, as we are told in Joshua 2:15, by a cord through the window. Her house was right on the wall of the city. So she let them down. They gave her a scarlet cord she was to tie in the window, so that when Israel invaded Jericho, her family gathered in her home would not be hurt or harmed in any way, because they would be easily recognizable by this cord that was there.

In Joshua 3, Joshua rose early in the morning and came to the Jordan River. They stayed there right before they passed over. It was in the spring, and the Jordan was at the flood stage. God was now preparing, as we see in Joshua 3, to magnify Joshua in the eyes of the people. God had worked great miracles through Moses and now He wanted them to understand that He was working through Joshua as well. The priests were told to take the Ark of the Covenant, that inside the Ark symbolized the very throne of God. Inside the Ark were the two tables of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments with His own finger. The priests bore the Ark on staves-four priests, two in front and two behind. The priests were to take the ark, bearing it on their shoulders, and to walk up to the banks of the Jordan River. When their feet touched the Jordan, Joshua said, God would perform a miracle. That is exactly what we see. They were to take the ark and pass before the people. They came up to the Jordan and they were to stand still in the Jordan, then:

Joshua 3:9-13

So Joshua said to the children of Israel, "Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God." And Joshua said, "By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. Now therefore, take for yourselves twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe.

And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off."

 

It was as though an invisible hand had held back the water. The Jordan drained away. The priests walked out into the midst of the Jordan River; they stood there holding the Ark, and all the tribes of Israel came across. They crossed the Jordan River through God's miraculous intervention, and entered into the Promised Land.

Next time we will take up the story of Joshua 4, and we will see what happened after Israel crossed the Jordan River.

So until next time, this is John Ogwyn for the Living Church of God.