The generation of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan is without a doubt one of the most successful in all Biblical history when it comes to what they accomplished. They took Israel from being a bunch of vagabond slaves wandering the wilderness and changed them into a nation that conquered other nations and established themselves. What is key from an open theist point of view is that along the way some pivotal choices are made that are interesting.
First there is God’s continued admonition to Joshua to be strong and courageous. I have spoken of the commands of God implying choice but here is something else as well – encouragement. The fact that God encourages Joshua says something about God and not just Joshua. If God has ordained Joshua’s future absolutely or knows absolutely that Joshua will be strong and courageous this encouragement does not make much sense. If however God sees a genuine possibility that Joshua might fail to be strong and courageous then the encouragement does make sense.
This is the first real transfer of power in the leadership of the people of God as a nation and it is critical that it goes well. If absolutism is being used here then there would be little need for God to say anything at all. It would just happen as God ordained or foreknew. But God does not act like that in this transfer of power but instead encourages the new leader and responds to that leader in dialogue several times as decisions need to be made. God knows Joshua can fail as well as c=succeed even in his mind so he takes all the actions he can to let Joshua know that he is his guy and that he will be with him.
Another thing happens a couple of times and that is the order for Israel to destroy everyone is rescinded on a couple of occasions. Rahab, who is clearly not a virgin female is spared because of her actions to hide the spies, another group tricks the Israelites into making peace with them. In both cases it shows that there is some openness to God’s commands when God’s people give their word to someone else. It should be noted that in both these cases God is not consulted but also in both cases God expects his people to honor their word. At the same time the chief failure of this generation is only doing 95% of the work. It will have long term ramifications.
People often give God a hard time here for ordering genocide but at the same time from an open theist point of view it really is the only solution to making sure that Israel has lasting peace. The only way that a conqueror can truly be sure that those he conquers are destroyed for good is to completely destroy them. Otherwise if you give them enough time they will come back and bite you. God has watched this pattern in humanity by this time for millennia and he makes a decision that really is the only way to God to fulfill his promises to Abraham, the only thing is he is expecting Israel’s cooperation in execution. If you get rid of a fatalistic worldview on this from God’s perspective than the decision makes perfect sense to order genocide. It is the only way to be sure of a lasting peace.
This brings us to the last thing in Joshua that I find interesting and that is Joshua basically gives this generation an out form their covenant with God. The concept of: “choose this day whom you will serve” only makes sense if there is a genuine choice to be made by the people of God. Joshua even goes so far as to try to talk them out serving God because he knows that at some future time they will fail. He has been around for Moses and his own generation conquest f Canaan and the one thing that he can see is that the people of God are indeed still fickle even if they are not complainers anymore. He is making an honest evaluation of what God is expecting out of his people and is saying to them – ‘you will fail and it would be better for you not to serve the Lord than to serve him and fail.” It is a genuine choice that God’s people could have taken and said – ‘enough is enough’. It also implies that Joshua did not have the theology that says: we can’t change our covenant with God or walk away form it. He at least clearly had in mind that even for Israel, service to God and following his covenant was a choice as much on the God’s people as it was for God.
The problem is this generation had an earnest desire to try. They have no problems with idolatry or complaining like their parents had. They have only a few sins to deal with that have consequences so they figure they can do it. They step forward and what it shows is that some decisions that are made have long term consequences because God expects them to be honored. The end of Joshua stands as one of the best examples we have seen so far of God letting people have a genuine choice about serving him. This also implies that God can see the possibilities of this choice and has prepared to make changes as necessary to fulfill his will. It is not like the nation of Israel was his only option to fulfill his plan.
Next: The Up and Down of Judges