When the Bible Is Boring

It would be hard to have a slow, careful, exegetical Bible study about the second half of the book of Joshua. Chapters 13 to 21 are mostly lists: what parcels of land are going to which tribe of Israel.

Much of the Old Testament is like this—genealogies, lists, rules, procedures. As lovers of the Bible, what should we make of these mundane details? Is it even appropriate to call parts of God's word mundane? It sounds sacrilegious.

What does it matter, though, that Issachar received the territories around Jezreel, Chesulloth, Shunem, and 13 other cities? Or that Manasseh's land reached from Asher to Michmethah, just east of Shechem?

Joshua tells us why these obscure details are important: So that the Israelites would have specific and extensive evidence that God does what he says he will do.

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:45)

The more detailed the report of God's faithfulness, the more proof that indeed not one word of his had been false. He promised their forefathers this land, and now, because of this account in the book of Joshua, they can remember specifically how God was faithful. Faithful in concrete detail. Faithful down to the most boring of trivia.

As Joshua died, he said to the Israelites,

You know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. (23:14)

It's true that knowing Michmethah is east of Shechem ranks very low in the list of facts that are important to know from the Bible. But it matters, because the sum of all the dull details that God has accomplished proves that whatever he promises, he will do.

We have a God who keeps a tally of sparrows, who counts the hairs on our head (Luke 12:6-7), and who watches over the grass as it grows (Matthew 6:30). If that's not boring, what is? But it is his power over the mundane and trivial details that proves his power over the universe. And because of this power, we know he can keep his promises.