Today’s Reading: Joshua 11:16-23
While we can’t discuss the entire book of Joshua here, I invite you to put the rest of it on your reading list. For the rest of the book, Joshua leads the people into battle after battle, with lots of violence and bloodshed. God miraculously aids them throughout their conquest of Canaan and they are given victory after victory. As Joshua 11:16-23 states, they fully destroy the Canaanites, capture their kings, and take their cities.
We could spend a whole week talking about the problem of violence and conquest in Joshua’s story and his treatment of indigenous peoples. I imagine that in the coming weeks, we will address conquest and violence in scripture. Today, though, I’d like to focus on something else. While the book of Joshua claims total victory over the Canaanites, even going as far as to say that none were left alive, this clearly wasn’t the case. When we turn to the very first chapter of the book of Judges, the Israelites are trying to figure out who will take the lead in the battle now that Joshua has died. In fact, most of the book of Judges is dedicated to Israel fighting the Canaanites in order to either conquer them or maintain the land they have already conquered. How can this be if Joshua already eradicated them from the land?
When I find conflicting narratives in scripture, my first reaction is try to explain them away, because to be honest, they make me uncomfortable! I think, though, that it is in these inconsistencies that some of the greatest lessons can be learned. I spoke with Pastor Brandon about this and he shared that this claim in the book of Joshua of total victory makes him think about the stories we tell ourselves. We all have a need to feel successful and right and like we are being treated fairly. Sometimes, our deep desire for these things leads us to exaggerate or even believe untrue stories that our minds tell us. This can lead to our views becoming distorted.
Can you think of a time that you have told yourself a story that wasn’t true? Perhaps in an argument with a loved one, you have convinced yourself that the other had malicious intentions and it caused you to overreact. Or maybe you are a person who tells yourself that you are always working harder than those around you and it causes you to feel resentful. Can you think of a time in couple of weeks that you’ve told yourself a story that may not have been completely true?
I have found that a helpful process for me to sort out what is the truth and what is a story I am telling myself is to spend time at the end of each day journaling and prayerfully reflecting. I think back over my day with the intention of identifying any times when I wasn’t fully truthful with myself. My hope is that as I continue this practice, I will slowly learn to identify when I am telling myself an untrue story in the moment, that I might be more faithful and honest in all my relationships. I invite you to join in this prayer practice with me in the coming week!