I wrote a post on May 24, 2013 about the underwater memorial in Joshua 4:9 and Jimmy Swaggart's view that the stones comprising that memorial were from Israel's experience in the wilderness, and that the message of the memorial was that Israel's sins in the wilderness had been buried underwater, symbolizing that the sins were forgiven and forgotten by God.
While I acknowledged that there was no evidence
within the biblical text for Swaggart's interpretation, I thought that
there was a theme in the Book of Joshua of Israel having a new
beginning, a fresh start. In Joshua 5, the Israelites are circumcised
and, through that, the reproach of Egypt is rolled off of them. Israel
also observes the Passover.
But did Israel truly have a fresh
start? I noticed a passage that seemed to indicate the contrary. In
Joshua 22:17, we read, "Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from
which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in
the congregation of the LORD" (KJV). And Joshua 24:19 states: "And
Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy
God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor
Is God forgiving or not? Has God forgotten Israel's sins from the time prior to her entrance into the Promised Land or not? Here are some ramblings:
think that God was giving Israel a fresh start----an opportunity to
obey God----but also that God still remembered her sin at Baal-peor.
Was Israel cleansed of that sin at Baal-peor, in the sense that God had
forgiven her of that sin? Well, yes, in the sense that God still had a
relationship with Israel rather than forsaking or destroying her for her
sin. And yet, Israel still felt that God was holding over her head the
sin of Baal-Peor that she had committed before she entered the Promised
Land----that she was not thoroughly cleansed. And, for a time, that
belief was actually encouraging Israel to be punctilious in her
obedience to God: she was already dirty before God, on some level, so
why make God madder? It was like Israel was on probation: she had a second chance, but God still remembered her sin at Baal-Peor, so she'd better not blow her second chance!
the case of Joshua 24:19 ("And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot
serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not
forgive your transgressions nor your sins"), I think that Joshua is
essentially telling Israel to count the cost: she is eager to
be in covenant with God and feels that she will be obedient, but Joshua
tells her to think seriously about what she's getting into: she is
entering into (or reaffirming) a covenant in which God will take her sin
seriously and will punish her for it.
Is this the sort of God I
believe in? I believe in a God who desires righteousness, like the God
in Joshua 22 and 24. Do I believe that God holds my sins over my head?
I don't believe that God does so to condemn me, for God is committed to
me and provides me with second, third, and even more chances. But God
may hold my sins over my head as a teaching device----so that I remember
the negative consequences of sin and thus choose not to pursue sin. My
understanding of God is perhaps more patient with me than God is with
Israel in the Book of Joshua, but I can see at least some value in how
the Book of Joshua portrays God.