Formations 06.30.2019: Doing Hard Things

‘Emanuel’/Fathom Events

Joshua 1:1-9

On the fourth anniversary of the fatal racially-motivated shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, a film about the attack hit theaters. Directed and written by Brian Ivie, the film was produced by basketball star Steph Curry and actresses Viola Davis and Mariska Hargitay.

Named simply Emanuel, the 74-minute film explores Charleston’s tangled racial history as well as telling the stories of the victims of the shooting and those who loved them. One story is that of Chicago Cubs baseball player Chris Singleton, who expressed words of forgiveness for his mother’s killer that he says seemed to come from somewhere else. He says,

Never in a million years could you tell me that I would forgive the man who murdered my mother the day after, or two days after. There was never an instance where I would have thought that before it actually happened.

It should not be surprising that not everyone in the congregation was willing to do that, and this is also part of the story. Following Christ’s command to love one’s enemies and forgive those who do one wrong is both hard and controversial, but it is also a powerful testimony to grace.

How can believers today identify with Joshua? The tasks before us rarely involve military campaigns or managing the movements of literally thousands of people. Frankly, they aren’t likely to involve forgiving an unrepentant murderer, either. But they are still our challenges to face: to love someone that everybody else has written off, to express an unpopular opinion, to risk something big for something good.

We all know what it is like to face challenges with no idea where we’ll find the courage or the strength to carry on. When we do, we find in Joshua an example that we can follow.

Kate O’Hare, “‘Emanuel’: Steph Curry, Viola Davis and Mariska Hargitay’s Doc Shows the Power of Forgiveness in the Face of Hate,” 15 June 2019 <>.


• What is the hardest thing your Christian faith has ever called on you to do? What happened?
• How can we find assurance that God will be with us when we must do something hard?
• How do God’s commands with respect to trust and obedience apply to believers today?

Reference Shelf

Moses’ Successor

The son of Nun, military successor to Moses, and the major figure in the account of Israel’s settlement in the Land of Canaan. He is called Hoshea at Num 13:8 and Deut 32:44.

The son of Nun is first mentioned in connection with military leadership against the Amalekites (Exod 17:8-13), following which he is called Moses’ “servant” who accompanies him part-way up the sacred mountain (24:12-13; 32:17). Therefore, he also serves in a religious capacity at the Tent of Meeting (33:11) and was one of the leaders chosen to gather intelligence about the “promised land” (Num 13:1-8). Because he and Caleb did not share the pessimism of their contemporaries (Num 14:1-10), they alone were allowed to live to see the promise realized (14:30; 32:12). Thus, Joshua was commissioned as Moses successor to lead the peole across the Jordan (27:18-23; Deut 31:7-9).

Lloyd R. Bailey, “Joshua,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 471.

The Role of the Book of Joshua

Modern interpreters have proposed two understandings of [the book’s] origins. In either case, at some time removed from the events described, individual accounts were gathered, arranged, and supplemented with theological reflection in order to give a sustained and educational portrait of Israel’s past. (1) It is the conclusion of the story that begins with Genesis, and thus it depicts the actualization of the deity’s oft-repeated promises of land to the descendants of the patriarchs (e.g., Gen 12:7)…. (2) It is the continuation of the story of Israel’s history in the land of Canaan, which begins with Deuteronomy and concludes with 2 Kings. That is, it is part of the once independent “Deuteronomic History”….

The second of these alternatives is now usually accepted by interpreters. The historical portrait by the “Deuteronomic Historian,” if taken seriously by readers during the exile (587–539 B.C.E.), would give an understanding of why the land was gained and lost, and would perhaps engender hope for the future. The goal of the “History” was not to present a sterile recitation of objective happenings but rather to state the theological facts (from a prophetic and Deuteronomic point of view).

The role of the Book of Joshua within the larger “History” would be to stress that the land had been the deity’s to grant as a free gift (and thus the deity’s to repossess in case of dissatisfaction with the tenants). This theological assertion is bolstered by minimizing details of Israel’s warfare in a protracted struggle: the land was transferred to the recipients of the promise with a minimum of effort and in a relatively short time. Likewise, any accommodation with the Canaanite inhabitants is minimized, in order to stress that acceptance of foreign ideas and practices not only led to the exile but also was not to be tolerated after a return to the homeland.

Lloyd R. Bailey, “Joshua, Book of” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 471.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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