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Do you feel left out as you read God’s ‘Story’?

As we learn more of God’s ‘Story,’ the Exodus journey and the books of Joshua and Judges focus on Israel.

As a person who is not an Israelite, I might feel left out. I am sure that applies to others of non-Israelite lineages as well, whether African, Asian, European, or whatever. In today’s language, “inclusion” is a common buzzword—so, are we non-Israelites included in God’s ‘Story’ or not?

As we will see, inclusion in God’s Story is not about genetics; it is about grace. Some Israelites will be excluded, and some non-Israelites will be included. On what basis? We will come to that later.

We will also learn that God’s covenants are essential to His grace, which invites everyone to enter His Story on His terms. So, what is a covenant?

In our whirlwind progress through the Bible’s Historical Backbone, we are bound to overlook events, people, and concepts that require more attention. Covenant is one of these important subjects woven throughout the Bible’s fabric.

Let’s take a moment to introduce this concept of ‘covenant.’ 


In the Ancient Near East, kings entered into treaties or covenants—much like countries today. Some of these were peace treaties ending wars, and others established alliances.

Similarly, God entered into a covenant with Abraham. Genesis 12:1-3 introduces us to the broad terms of this covenant:

The LORD[1] had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Why Abraham? We are not told. Perhaps another person could have been selected as God’s partner, but would it have made any difference?

This covenant was not intended to create a nation of elitists. Abraham and his descendants were to be the channel through which God’s blessings spilled over [poured out] into all humanity. Numerous times, Yahweh refers to that channel being the descendants – literally “seed” (singular) – of Abraham (e.g., Genesis 12:7; 17:9; 13:15; 24:7).

Later, God elaborated upon and confirmed the covenant with the people of Israel at Sinai—the designated descendants of Abraham (Exodus 19:3-6). 

Ultimately, we are told this channel of blessing to the world—this “seed” (singular)—is one person, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16-17) … but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Let’s return to the Historical Backbone of the Bible (click the link to download your free guide) with a brief survey of the books of Joshua and Judges. 


In Joshua 1, we learn that Moses has died, and the people of Israel are poised to cross the River Jordan and enter the land God promised them.

As you read, this book may raise some concerns (e.g., the invasion and killing of its inhabitants). At this point, our goal is to grasp something of the Historical Backbone of the Bible. We’ll have to return later and wrestle with some of these other important issues.

Dutch theologian Henrik Koorevaar’s proposal has helped me understand the structure and progress of the Book of Joshua. Koorevaar identifies four main sections emphasizing the frequency of four Hebrew words as follows:

1.         Crossing the Jordan (Joshua 1:1-5:12): the main word repeated through this section is the Hebrew word abar, meaning “going over.”

2.         Taking the land (5:13-12:24): here the main word to keep in mind is “taking” (laqah).

3.         Dividing the land (13:1-21:45) – note the recurrence of “divide” or “dividing” (halaq).

4.         Worshipping/Serving (22:1-22) – the main word is “worshipping” (abad), which can also be translated as “serving.” 

Koorevaar also sees 18:1 as a crucial point:

“The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the Tent of Meeting there. The country was brought under their control.”

For that time, that Tent was where the God of all the earth had chosen to dwell among humanity.

Pay particular attention to the concluding statement in each of these four sections. Also, note that the first three sections flow from God’s initiative. The fourth section leaves us with the expectation of Israel’s faithful response of serving and worshipping Yahweh in the land … but there are dark clouds on the horizon


This book records a series of judges of Israel after Joshua’s death. Actually, these judges were more like warlords who governed parts of the land after delivering a region from foreign domination. You probably recognize the names of Gideon and Samson, two of these judges.

Judges 1 acts as an introduction, setting the tone for the rest of the book. As we read, we become aware of a pattern.

Be aware of this oft-repeated pattern: sin – oppression – repentance – deliverance. Here are a few more details of this cycle illustrated from one of those cycles (2:6-3:6):

1.         “Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD” (2:11).

2.         “In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them” (2:14).

3.         Israel “groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them” (2:18), and they cried out to the LORD.

4.         The LORD heard Israel’s cry and raised up a judge to deliver them (2:16, 18).

5.         The LORD was “with the judge and saved [Israel] out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived” (2:18).

After the death of a judge, Israel turned away from worshipping/serving the LORD, and the “cycle” repeated itself.

Each cycle took Israel to greater depths. It was a downward spiral. The condition of Israel and its judges deteriorated.

The book ends with:

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he [or she] saw fit” (21:25).

What do you take away from your reading of Joshua and Judges?

What do you observe of God’s presence and activity?

What do we learn about Israel and human nature generally?

What do you recognize of your own nature, lifestyle, and decisions from these historical narratives? 

FORWARD TO the next post in this series

BACK TO “40 years (or more) in 10 minutes (or less)”

[1] Remember that “LORD” (with all letters capitalized) indicates that it translates the Hebrew name of the one true God – YHWH, or Yahweh. 

Photo credit: “The Taking of Jericho” by James Tissot (1836-1902).

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