JOSHUA - CHAPTER 1
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
"Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass,
that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,"
It is generally recognized
that Moses is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ dying to deliver us from the bondage of
sin and Satan, leading us out of the world as represented by Egypt, to begin our
journey home to heaven; but Joshua is a type of Christ in resurrection, as the
Captain of our salvation, leading us into the enjoyment of the inheritance
(spiritual blessings) secured for us by His death.
The words "Now after the death of Moses" assure us that the lessons
of the book of Joshua are related to what has to do with Christ "raised again
for our justification" (Ro 4:25), "the Captain of our salvation,"
living for us, and leading us into the spiritual sphere represented by Canaan; and
confusion will be avoided if we remember that Canaan is a type, not of heaven, but of
the spiritual sphere into which we are introduced at conversion, and the blessings of
which we are meant to enjoy even while we are still here on earth.
In this context it is
instructive to note that Joshua is described as "the son of Nun," for Nun
means perpetuity. Joshua portrays
Christ as the true "Son of perpetuity," the One Who lives in "the
power of an endless life" (Heb 7:16).
"Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan,
thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the
children of Israel."
Moses must die before the
work of Joshua could begin. Christ must
die to redeem us before He could lead us into the enjoyment of the blessings which
God has reserved for the redeemed.
The word "arise"
conveys the thought of resurrection, and reminds us that what was true of Paul is
true also of every believer, as it is written, "I am crucified with Christ:
nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now
live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave
himself for me" (Ga 2:20). That
death is typically depicted in Israel's going through the Red Sea, which brought them
out of Egypt. Our death with Christ (God
imputes Christ's death to every believer) has brought us out of "Egypt,"
the place of spiritual bondage, as Egypt was the place of literal bondage for the
Israelites. And as the Israelites were
brought through the Red Sea into the literal wilderness, so do we now stand in a
world which has become for us a spiritual desert.
The crossing of the Red
Sea, therefore depicts the truth that through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ we
have become dead to the world as represented by Egypt (Ga 6:14).
That world has now become for us a wilderness through which we pass on our way
home to heaven. Israel's forty years in
the wilderness represent the duration of our physical lives here on earth as
believers; but the years they spent in Canaan, our spiritual lives lived here
on that same earth. Israel's time in
Egypt prior to the night of the Passover represents the unbelieving part of our
Our physical lives lived
here in the context of earthly experience are to demonstrate that we are men who are
dead to the world; but on the spiritual plane we are to live as men who are in
Canaan, i.e., the realm of the heavenlies (Ep 1:3).
As to the physical, our bodies are dying day by day.
The "old generation" is dying out, but even as that process is going
on, we ought to be living in such fashion as will demonstrate that "... though
our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Co 4:16),
that truth being typologically portrayed in the generation that grew up in the desert
and entered Canaan.
The final clause of the
verse "... even to the children of Israel" has also its lesson.
It might have been said that they were "the children of Jacob," for
both names belonged to the same man. But
Jacob is associated with the "old man," Israel with the new, the spiritual.
Israel is associated with obedience; Jacob, with self-will.
The spiritual blessings represented by Canaan's literal riches, are for the
obedient believer, not the disobedient.
"Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I
given unto you, as I said unto Moses."
No one can fail to note
the simplicity of this. The extent of
their possession of Canaan's riches was governed only by the extent to which they
were willing to walk forward, and take those riches, believing God's promise,
"Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given
unto you." The same principle
governs our enjoyment of the riches that are ours in Christ.
Simple trust in God's promises will make us possessors of spiritual riches
greater than we can comprehend. Many rob
themselves of those riches by equating blessing with the possession of earthly
things. The two can't be compared, and
it is utter folly to value the earthly above the spiritual, for the one is ephemeral,
the other, eternal.
From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river
Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down
of the sun, shall be your coast."
It is generally recognized
that the warfare in which Israel engaged to take possession of her inheritance in
Canaan, is an OT foreshadowing of the warfare in which the believer of this present
age is engaged, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph 6:12).
Israel's warfare was against literal foes, for a literal inheritance.
Ours is against spiritual foes, for a spiritual inheritance.
The record of that literal warfare has been preserved to
teach us lessons necessary for the successful prosecution of our own spiritual war
against the forces of darkness, and part of those lessons is embodied in the record
of the boundaries by which God marked off the limits of their inheritance.
As we should expect in
connection with an earthly inheritance, the boundaries were four, the Scriptural
number of earth and testing. The
obedience of the people would be tested by their remaining within, or transgressing
beyond those divinely appointed borders. God
has appointed boundaries for us, and they similarly test our obedience.
The first boundary was
"the wilderness." It was the
great desert which lay to the south (the Biblical direction that speaks of faith),
and formed the barrier between Canaan and Egypt.
Egypt, as noted already, represents the world of business and pleasure living
in independence of God. The Nile was the
source of Egypt's wealth, and therefore the source also of her independence of God.
The Israelites were dependent upon God, for it was He Who gave or withheld the
dew and the early and latter rains, without which they couldn't live.
Not so the Egyptians. They needed
neither dew nor rain: they had the never-failing Nile.
That great river, however, represents the great river of wealth that
"waters" the world of business and pleasure, and causes men to think that
they have no need of God.
But the end of the Nile
has a lesson for men. Unlike the Amazon
whose waters pour out far into the ocean, the Nile reaches the sea through a number
of smaller streams flowing through a marshy delta where the parent stream is scarcely
distinguishable from its branches. So is
the river of wealth. As those who thirst
for its "waters" approach the great sea of eternity, they discover how
diminished is the might of the river they once thought so powerful.
They discover too late that it can't buy health, peace, or the assurance of
heaven; that it has carried them down to the place of confusion and death.
As the Israelites had once
been bond slaves in the land watered by that great river, so were believers once the
bond slaves of Satan in this world.
It was by the blood of the Passover lamb that the bondage of
the Israelites had been broken, and they themselves brought into the desert through
which they marched to Canaan as a redeemed people. And so with believers. It
is by the blood of the true Passover Lamb (Christ), 1 Co 5:7, that we have been
delivered from spiritual bondage, and have been brought out of the world represented
by Egypt, into one represented by the desert. In
the literal desert the Israelites found God sufficient for all their needs.
His presence, in the form of the pillars of cloud and fire (both are types of
the Holy Spirit), guarded and guided them, while His hand provided their food and
water. Believers enjoy the same
protection and care as they journey through the desert of this world on their way to
heaven, the guidance of the Holy Spirit being given through the written Word.
Having entered Canaan,
however, the Israelites were forbidden to return to that desert.
Their southern boundary was "from the wilderness."
An Israelite's only reason for returning to that wilderness would have been to
return to Egypt; but the man who traveled in that direction must do so without the
guidance of the pillar of cloud or fire,
and without the assurance of Divine provision and protection.
The spiritual lesson is
easily read. When we turn back to the world we find ourselves spiritually in
"the wilderness," but it is a wilderness that is different from the one we
cross when going from "Egypt to Canaan."
When we travel with our backs to "Canaan" and our faces towards
"Egypt" it is through a desert where there is no assurance of either Divine
guidance, protection, or provision. We
do well to remember that one of the boundaries of our inheritance is "the
wilderness." We are not to return
to the world as represented by Egypt lying on the other side of that desert.
The second boundary was
"this Lebanon." It was the
As the south in Scripture
is the direction that speaks of faith, so does the north speak of mere human
intelligence and knowledge (used frequently in opposition to God), so that part of
the spiritual significance of Lebanon is that for believers there is a divinely
appointed boundary in the sphere of knowledge beyond which we are not to go.
It is surely significant
that the temptation of the human race came through Satan's inducement of Eve to
acquire knowledge beyond what God had given her, "Ye shall be as gods, knowing
good and evil.... And when the woman saw
that the tree was ... to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit
thereof" (Ge 3:5-6).
It is not that God sets
any premium on ignorance: He doesn't. The
problem arises when mere earthly knowledge is set above the knowledge of God as
revealed in His Word, and that Word becomes a despised thing.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps 111:10).
There is no problem as long as man adheres to that principle, and holds
earthly knowledge subject to the truth revealed in the written Word.
The testimony of many a young Christian, however, has been shipwrecked on that
very rock. The worth of worldly
knowledge must be assessed by whether it undermines faith in the Scriptures.
It requires more credulity for example to accept the nebulous theory of
evolution (and it is emphasized that it is nothing more than an unproven theory) than
it does to accept the clear statement of Scripture that, "In the beginning God
created the heaven and the earth," (Ge 1:1).
Not one shred of proof has yet been produced to validate the theory of
evolution, yet there are many professing Christians who accept it, and abandon faith
in the Scriptures whose veracity is confirmed in countless ways, e.g., history's
confirmation of prophecy, the internal structural patterns of the Bible, its
numerical structure, the remarkable consistency of Biblical typology, to name but a
There is another warning
connected with Israel's northern border, and it lies in the meaning of Lebanon whiteness.
White is the color of purity or righteousness, and earthly wisdom always seeks
to present itself as a right thing; and such is the nature of fallen man that he is
all too ready to invest earthly wisdom with a sanctity it doesn't deserve. Let some piece of earthly wisdom receive the endorsement of a
great name among men, and immediately it will be accepted as truth even though it may
be diametrically opposed to the Word of God.
One safe test by which to
assess the worth of any knowledge is, Does it contradict Scripture?
To accept such knowledge is to go spiritually "beyond Lebanon."
It may be that an inadequate knowledge of Scripture may sometimes result in a
wrong judgment of a particular piece of knowledge, but far less harm will accrue from
rejecting the worldly knowledge than from rejecting Scripture.
It is always better to give Scripture the benefit of any doubt that may exist.
Finally, Lebanon was a
mountain, and in Scripture a mountain is the symbol of a king or kingdom.
The realm of worldly knowledge is a very powerful one. Its pronouncements emanate from many ancient and prestigious
institutions; its exponents are often highly esteemed in the world; its teachings
have brought wealth and fame to many; but none of these things necessarily makes it
right. The average man, however, tends
to be intimidated by the prestige of the institution, by the titles of the teachers,
by the fact that the knowledge has been printed in a book, and the result is that he
accepts without question much that would not survive scrutiny under the light of
God's Word. The Christian should never allow himself to be intimidated by any
of these things. The test of knowledge
is not the age or prestige of the institution from which it comes, the titles of its
professors, or the general acceptance of a book in which it is written.
The only standard the Christian has any right to apply to his judgment of
knowledge is, Does it seem to contradict Scripture?
If it does, then it must be rejected. To
accept it is to go "beyond Lebanon."
Since a mountain is the Biblical symbol of a king or
kingdom, Lebanon may perhaps represent the governmental power of the prince of this
world, Satan (a power exercised only by divine permission of course) administered
through earthly rulers. An additional
lesson of Lebanon, then, may be that Christians should be careful as to the extent of
their involvement with the world's politics. It
is significant that Scripture is silent on the subject other than to command us to
pray "for kings, and for all that are in authority" (1 Tim 2:2), and to
submit to government as long as that submission doesn't require us to disobey God.
Romans chapter thirteen should be read by those seeking to know God's will in
regard to the Christian's involvement in politics.
Israel's third boundary
was the Euphrates on the east, not the Jordan as is commonly believed.
And as with the first two boundaries, what was literal for Israel, has
spiritual significance for believers (spiritual Israelites) today.
This river, designated as
Israel's eastern border, watered the land of Babylon, which in Scripture, is always
associated with oppression of God's people, and is the Biblical symbol of the world's
false religious systems. Very clearly,
then, we as believers (spiritual Israelites), are
being shown symbolically that as the Euphrates was the clear-cut line between
Israel and Babylon, so is there an equally clear-cut divinely appointed line of
demarcation between the believer and the world's false religious systems, including
Babylon and Egypt have
much in common. Both oppressed Israel. The
Israelites were captives of both. Each
has a great river: the Nile, as noted already, representing the river of wealth that
"waters" the world of business and pleasure; the Euphrates representing the
great river of error that "waters" the realm of the world's religious
systems. And the Euphrates, like the
Nile, reaches the sea by means of a number of small streams flowing through a marshy
delta, in which the parent stream is difficult to distinguish from its smaller
divisions. In this we see symbolically the truth that the world's religion,
like its wealth, leads only to eternal confusion and ruin.
It shouldn't be forgotten
that the Israelites had originally come from Babylon, for it was out of that land of
idolatry that God had called their father Abraham.
In this, however, we are reminded that every believer has also come out of
"Babylon," for prior to conversion we had all been associated with some
religious system, either apostate Christianity, or some heathen cult.
It is significant that in
Scripture the east is always connected with sin and departure from God; for example,
Adam went eastward out of Eden; Cain went eastward from the presence of God after
killing Abel; in the tabernacle the high priest moved westward in approaching God,
eastward when leaving the divine presence; the wise men came from the east (going
westward) to present their gifts to the Savior.
When Abraham was called to leave Babylon he was being called to move westward
to Canaan. The Israelite who would
disobey by crossing the Euphrates to return to Babylon would be moving eastward.
The spiritual lesson, then, of this eastern boundary, beyond which Israel was
not to go, is that believers are not to return to the religious systems from which
grace has delivered them.
Is there any danger of
their doing so? There certainly is, and it is no small danger.
Literal Babylon held out many allurements, as is evident by the fact that when
the seventy years of the captivity ended, and the Jews were free to leave, only a
small handful did so. Spiritual
"Babylon" holds out to spiritual "Israelites" (believers)
allurements which are just as tempting as were those offered by literal Babylon to
literal Israelites in the days of Joshua when God appointed the Euphrates as Israel's
Let's look at a few of the
things that tempt believers to forsake "Canaan" (the place of obedience) to
go "eastward" (away from God) across the "Euphrates" (the
boundary between the Scriptural and the unscriptural), back to "Babylon"
(the world's unscriptural religious systems). Some
Christians remain in, or return to a religious system that they know to be wrong,
because "there are activities for my children which aren't offered by the
assembly which I know is the place I should be Scripturally."
We find much in Scripture about bringing up our children "in the nurture
and admonition of the Lord" (Eph 6:4), but nowhere do we find authorization to
remain in, or return to, an unscriptural religious association whose
"activities" may amuse our children. God's
command to believers in the great harlot church is "Come out of her, my
people" Re 18:4), and surely spiritual intelligence should teach us that that
principle applies to any religious association that ignores Scriptural order.
Can we be so foolish as to believe that there can be blessing where there is
disobedience? There will be more blessing where there is Scriptural order and no
"activities" than there will be where there are many "activities"
but also known departure from Scriptural order.
This is only one example
of "going beyond the Euphrates" spiritually.
Another might be cited. It is
usually more "socially acceptable" to be a member of a big church
"that takes a more tolerant view of things" than it is to be associated
with a small assembly that seeks to maintain God's order.
It happens not infrequently, however, that the size and popularity of a church
are in direct inverse proportion to its preservation of Scriptural order.
God is no less concerned today that His people remain within the spiritual
boundaries of which these literal boundaries appointed for Israel, are symbols or
Before mentioning the
fourth border, God promises to give Israel, "All the land of the Hittites." The Hittite, meaning terror, represents fear, so that God's
promise to Israel becomes the reminder to spiritual Israel (the Church) that fear
must be conquered.
In regard to fear, we
read, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps 111:10); but in
contrast, "The fear of man bringeth a snare" (Pr 29:25).
An inverse relationship exists between faith and fear. As our faith in God is great, our fear of man will be small, and
vice versa. The man who has implicit
faith in God exclaims with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not
fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb 13:6). Thus in God's promise to Israel we read the assurance that in Him
we too can overcome the Hittite (fear).
That encouragement was
given before the fourth boundary was described, and an understanding of what that
boundary represents will enable us to understand the need for the encouragement.
As we have noted in preceding studies, the sea represents the nations in their
restless rebellion and hatred of God, "The wicked are like the troubled
sea...." (Isa 57:20). That hatred
of God displays itself in hatred of those who are His, "Ye shall be hated of all
men for my name's sake" (Mk 13:13). That hatred, however, is the very thing that produces fear, and
fear all too often produces unfaithfulness to Christ.
Since the sea represents
humanity in its restlessness and rebellion against God, the appointment of the great
sea as Israel's fourth boundary, becomes for us, God's prohibition against returning
to any unnecessary involvement with the restless rebellious activity of humanity
estranged from God, except to bring them the Gospel.
Since this is the fourth
boundary, and four is the Biblical number of testing, one lesson we may learn here is
that the enmity of the world tests our loyalty to Christ.
We can't be the friends of Christ and also the friends of the world that
crucified Him, and that still hates Him.
This isn't the only
lesson, however, to be learned from the great sea that was Israel's fourth and
western border. While we are not to be
friends with the world in any way that would necessitate our being disloyal to
Christ, we are to love the men and women comprising that "great sea" of
unconverted humanity, and we are to make every effort to win them for Christ.
They will be won, however, not by our joining them in their sinful activity,
but by testifying to them from a place of separation.
It is significant that
when the Lord called the first four disciples, He called them to separate themselves
from occupations that were directly connected with the sea.
Upon hearing His call, "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become
fishers of men," we read that Peter and Andrew, "forsook their nets, and
followed Him" (Mk 1:17-18); and of James and John we read that they "were
in the ship mending their nets," but when "He called them ... they left
their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him"
(Mk 1:19-20). Believers are similarly
called from earthly "fishing" to spiritual, from "fishing" for
money, pleasure, fame ... to "fishing" for souls.
It still involves occupation with the "sea," but it is from a
different position, and for a different purpose.
We ourselves were in that
"sea" until the day when one of the Lord's "fishermen" caught us
in the Gospel net as he fished for souls. We
have to live and work in the world, while at the same time keeping ourselves apart
from it; but we must never forget that our principal business with the world is to
win men for the Savior. Once we were
"fish" in the "sea" of humanity, but now as those
"dead" to their former state, and alive to a new one, we are to be
"fishers" of men.
Significantly the west is
the Biblical direction that represents approach to God.
The fact that the great sea was Israel's western border should surely remind
us that the closer we walk with God, the greater will be our compassion for the men
and women who are the "fish" in the great sea of humanity.
He who has compassion for souls will never be far from God.
To sum up, then, what we
have gleaned from our study of Israel's four divinely appointed boundaries: to
attempt to return to the world of business and pleasure represented by Egypt, is to
find ourselves in "a great desert," where there is neither
"manna" nor "water," and where there is no protecting and guiding
"pillar." Manna, incidentally,
represents the Word as our spiritual food; and water, that same Word in its ability
to cleanse and refresh us; while the pillars of cloud and fire represent the Holy
Spirit. Disobedience robs us of the Holy
Spirit's guidance, and of His ability to transmute the study of Scripture into our
spiritual food and water. This is
invariably the experience of the believer who returns to "Egypt," the world
of business and pleasure living in rebellious independence of God.
To attempt to return to
the world of mere human knowledge and power, as represented by mount Lebanon, is to
find ourselves in a cold harsh realm, cut off from the genial warmth of God's love. Lebanon is snow-covered for six months of the year, and ice is
almost invariably connected in Scripture with divine wrath and judgment.
To return to the world of
false religion, as represented by Babylon and its great river Euphrates, is to be
transported into a realm of error and spiritual darkness, governed by Satan's lies
instead of by God's truth, and where is found only the frenzy of emotion that is
Satan's counterfeit of Christian love.
And finally, to return to
illegitimate involvement with the things of the world, as represented by the great
sea, is to find ourselves, like Peter with his eyes off Christ, beginning to sink in
those "waters," with the result that instead of overcoming the world, the
world will overcome us.
"There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy
life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake
Israel's conquest of
Canaan began with God's assurance of victory, and it is with the same assurance that
the believer begins to lay hold of the spiritual blessings to which faith in Christ
introduces him, and which are represented by Canaan's riches, "I am with you
always, even unto the end of the world (age)" (Mt 28:20).
"Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide
for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them."
The command to Joshua to
be strong reminds us that the exhortation applies also to us, the secret of spiritual
strength being revealed by Paul, God's words to him being, "My grace is
sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness," his response
being, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the
power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore
I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in
distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Co
It is Christ of course Who
will eventually divide to each of us his inheritance, but there is a sense in which
the words apply to every believer. As we
are strong and courageous, we may encourage others also to be the same, and thus be
the means by which they will inherit an eternal portion greater than would have been
theirs apart from our example and encouragement.
"Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do
according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to
the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest."
The repetition of the
command to be strong and courageous, declares the absolute necessity of these two
virtues, while the need of obeying Moses' words declares also the need of obedience
to all God's commands. Since the right
hand is the side of power; and the left, of weakness, the command to turn aside
neither to the right nor to the left is the symbolic declaration of the warning not
to be guilty either of sins of commission or of omission.
"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt
meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that
is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt
have good success."
More than reading was
involved. Joshua was also to meditate
upon what he had read, and there has never been a time when obedience to that command
was more needed than today. Meditate
means to think, ponder, contemplate, reflect. But
meditation has become a lost art. The
world's frenzied busyness has affected believers also, so that few have time for
meditation, and the result is that there is appalling ignorance of Scripture, not
just in the world, but on the part of those professing faith in Christ.
This should not be, nor does any weight attach to the old excuse that we live
in a busy age. A great deal of the
activity that keeps God's people from the study of His Word is unnecessary, and until
we are prepared to drop from our schedules the things that keep us from that study,
we can expect no blessing, for God's command is still, "Seek ye first the
kingdom of God, and his righteous-ness; and all these things shall be added unto
you" (Mt 6:33). Failure to meditate on the Word of God robs believers of
"the peace of God which passeth all under-standing" (Php 4:7), and all that
the world has to offer can't compensate for that loss.
"... that thou mayest
observe to do according to all that is written therein," reminds us that if we
don't know God's will we can't obey Him, and apart from obedience there cannot be
blessing. The link between obedience and
blessing is emphasized in what follows, "for then thou shalt make thy way
prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not
afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever
Obedience wasn't an option
for Joshua, nor is it for any man. As
Creator, God has the right to command the obedience of all men; and as their Redeemer
He has a double right to command the obedience of believers.
The command, "be not
afraid, neither be thou dismayed (discouraged)," declares a truth little
perceived today: fear is one of the causes of disobedience.
It is fear of man that keeps us silent when we should be warning men of their
need of the Savior; and it is fear of not having enough that keeps us scrabbling for
money, when we should be content with what we have.
It is significant that one of Israel's most formidable foes were the Hittites,
meaning terror, and representing the principle of fear.
"Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,"
"Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you
victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess
the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it."
Every biblical reference
to literal food is meant to teach us truth relative to the written Word, our
spiritual food. The need therefore
to prepare victuals (food) prior to their beginning the conquest of Canaan, announces
the truth that apart from our being nourished by the Word of God we will be no match
for the spiritual foes of which the Canaanites are but types.
As the Canaanites opposed Israel's taking possession of the land, so do the
unseen forces of darkness oppose our taking possession of the spiritual blessings of
which Canaan's riches are also the types. The
malnourished state of the believer who neglects to feed on the written Word precludes
any hope of his possessing much of the spiritual blessings portrayed by Canaan's milk
The spiritual poverty of
the professing church bears eloquent testimony to the fact that few believers today
feed their souls on the written Word. Like
the swine herded by the prodigal son, they are satisfied to gnaw on the husks which
are the food of an unbelieving world. What
has been largely forgotten by the vast majority of professed believers is that the
written Word is described as "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:17), but it
is such a sword only as it is known and obeyed.
Small wonder that a professing but disobedient church knows more of defeat
than victory in its conflict with the forces of darkness.
But a still more ominous
fact needs to be considered relative to Christendom's ignorance of the written Word.
That Word is nothing less than the revelation of Him Who is the Living Word,
so that a dislike for the one is nothing less than a dislike for the other.
Those who have no desire for the study of Scripture would be well advised to
consider whether they have in fact ever had a new birth.
The crossing of Jordan was
to be within three days, but since three is the Biblical number of resurrection, the
truth being presented is that those who would possess the spiritual blessings
mentioned in Eph 1:3, and which are represented by the riches of Canaan, must be
those who are on resurrection ground, that is, they must have experienced that new
birth which raises believers up out of spiritual death, to walk in newness of life,
as new creatures in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The need for them to cross
Jordan in order to possess Canaan and its riches, teaches a further lesson.
The Jordan always represents death, so that the need for Israel to cross it,
reminds us that those who would inherit spiritual riches must live so as to
demonstrate that they are those who can say in truth, "For I through the law, am
dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith
of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Ga 2:19-20), and,
"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by
whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Ga 6:14).
The lifestyles of many professing Christians furnish very little evidence that
they know anything of the separating power of the cross of Christ.
"And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of
Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying,"
There is much
misunderstanding relative to the two and a half tribes who were given their portion
east of Jordan, i.e., on the wilderness side. Invariably
they are viewed as being representative of carnal believers, settled down in the
world. Nothing could be farther from the
truth. It is to be remembered that they
too crossed Jordan, and helped their brethren to conquer Canaan, and when that
conquest under Joshua was complete, he dismissed them with the highest commendation,
see 22:1-6. They represent believers
living their lives in the context of earthly experience.
The nine and a half tribes who settled west of Jordan represent believers in
the context of spiritual experience, men physically here on earth, but spiritually
living in the realm of the heavenlies.
The crossing of Jordan
teaches the necessity of dying to the world (represented by the desert) in the
context of spiritual experience. Nor
should we fail to note that there could have been no crossing Jordan, no enjoyment of
Canaan's riches, had there not first been the crossing of the Red Sea.
The lesson is easily read. If in
the context of physical experience, we don't "die" to the world, we cannot
hope to enjoy the spiritual riches that are ours in Christ.
Their enjoyment of Canaan,
however, was conditional: there must be an obedience that was linked to a knowledge
of "this book of the law," verse 8. The same condition governs spiritual
Israel. The believer who would be
blessed must be obedient; and that obedience must be according to God's Word, not
according to the caprice of man's own imagination.
The necessity of implicit obedience is found in verses 7 and 8, "... do
according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee.... Turn not from it
to the right hand or to the left.... Meditate therein day and night."
It is generally recognized
that "the law" here is the Pentateuch, the first five books of the OT
referred to by the Lord when He talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus,
Lk 24:27. A continual study of those
writings was necessary to guard against transgressions of ignorance.
It is all too evident that many believers today are neglecting this
imperative, their spiritual poverty advertising their negligence.
The principle, however, hasn't changed: "Canaan's" riches are
available only to the obedient believer. When
a Christian fails to "meditate day and night" upon the Scriptures that God
has placed in his hand, then the transgressions are no longer sins of ignorance, but
of deliberate choice, a fact which makes them far more heinous in God's sight.
In regard to the command
to "meditate therein day and night," it is not to be supposed that Joshua
spent every waking minute reading and thinking about the Scriptures: clearly he
didn't. It is obvious that the affairs
of life made such continuous reading and meditation impossible; as it is equally
obvious that the same affairs make it impossible for the believer today to obey this
command literally. But the other side of
the coin is that those legitimate affairs were not to claim so much of his time and
attention that daily study and meditation were impossible.
He is too busy who is so busy that he hasn't time for daily study and
meditation; and though such a busy believer may possess much of this world's goods,
he will have little of spiritual value.
"Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you,
saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land."
"Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land
which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before our brethren
armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help them:"
"Until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and
they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall
return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord's servant
gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising."
There isn't a word to
indicate God's disapproval of their dwelling place.
On the contrary, it is specifically stated that it was God Who had given it to
literally "marching by five," that is, they marched in rows of five; and
since five is the number of responsibility, their marching order represents
responsibility fulfilled (obedience). (Incidentally,
when Israel came out of Egypt, they also marched in ranks of five, for that is the
literal meaning of "harnessed" Ex 13:18).
Since the Israelite's weapon represents the Word of God, their being armed
presents them as being representative of believers skillful in the use of the Word
both in attacking the enemy, and in defending themselves.
This is not the picture of carnal believers.
"... ye shall pass
before your brethren." These mighty
men of valor led the way as Israel went against the Canaanites.
Again, this is not the mark of a carnal believer.
We must not overlook the fact that the literal warfare of Israel is a type of
our spiritual conflict with the unseen powers of darkness.
The carnal believer isn't found in the vanguard of that warfare.
They too crossed the
Jordan, which, as we have seen, speaks of the believer's death with Christ," I
am crucified with Christ...." Ga 2:20. They
left their wives and children, and their flocks and herds on the eastern side of the
river, while they risked their lives to help their brethren expel the enemy and lay
hold of Canaan. And it wasn't a
short-term commitment: the initial conquest of the land took about seven years.
Since seven is the number of perfection or completeness, those seven years of
warfare become the symbol of the life-long warfare in which the believer is engaged.
(We should not conclude, however, that they never saw their families during
those seven years. Israel frequently
returned to Gilgal, during which intervals they probably did return for visits).
Their self-sacrifice marks them, not as being representative of
world-bordering Christians, but rather of those who put God's business ahead of their
own comfort or convenience.
Another fact that points
to good rather than bad in connection with these two and a-half tribes is that they
were the minority, and Scripture makes it clear that it was always the minority that
was faithful to God amid the apostasy of the majority.
Nor should the meanings of
their names be overlooked in the effort to determine what they represent spiritually. Reuben means see ye, a son; Gad, a troop: an invader;
and Manasseh, forgetting. In the
forefront of the nation which God called "My son, My firstborn" Ex 4:22,
marched the tribe whose name means see ye, a son.
In the forefront marched the Gadites, a troop: an invader, leading the
battle in Israel's invasion of the stronghold of the enemy.
In the forefront marched the Manassites forgetting, mighty men of valor
willing to forget their own comfort and convenience so that God's war might be
successfully prosecuted. It is difficult
to see in all this the symbolic representation of carnality.
Wherever we find a half
number or measure in Scripture, God is reminding us of some degree of imperfection,
either in the thing symbolized, or as in the half cubits of some of the tabernacle
furniture, in the inability of the symbol to fully reveal the reality of that which
it represents (in the case of the tabernacle furniture, Christ).
Two and a-half is itself half of five, the number of responsibility.
These two and a-half tribes represent spiritual believers seeking to fulfill
their responsibility to God, but He would remind us that even the most spiritual
believers are still not perfect. As
another has said, "The best of men are, at best only men." "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things
which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants" (Lk 17:10).
God had only one perfect Servant, Christ.
It is clear that these
mighty men of valor from the two and a-half tribes represent spiritual believers
(always the small minority), willing to forego personal comfort, willing to die to
the things of this world, willing to serve their brethren, willing if necessary, to
lay down their lives for Christ's sake, and for their brethren.
then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it ... on this side
In their crossing the
Jordan and entering Canaan to help their brethren in the conflict with the Canaanites
we have seen in symbol the believer's death with Christ.
(Crossing the Red Sea symbolizes our death with Christ as delivering us from
Sin's bondage; crossing the Jordan symbolizes our death with Christ which separates
us from the world, and brings us into the enjoyment of spiritual blessings).
This return crossing of Jordan therefore represents resurrection; and
connected with that return is the enjoyment of their possession on the eastern side
of the river. That side, however, as
already noted, represents the world, just as Canaan represents the spiritual realm
into which the believer is brought at conversion.
This return, then, becomes the symbolic announcement of the truth that the
believer who is willing to live as one in regard to whom Ga 6:14 is a reality, and
not just a religious theory, is the man who here on earth, enjoys his
"possession," that is, the riches that are his in Christ, as Paul could
say, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
"And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will
do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go."
"According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken
unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses."
"Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not
hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death:
only be strong and of a good courage."
Here we see them binding
themselves to obey Joshua as they had obeyed Moses, both in regard to what they must
do, and where they must go. Moses'
commands represent those given in the OT; and those of Joshua, those given in the New
Testament. In linking them together here
God would teach the lesson which many believers
haven't learnt: the OT is as much for our instruction as is the New.
There is an ever increasing tendency to regard the OT as having no relevance
to the life of the believer today, with the result that for many a Christian the OT
(except for Psalms, Proverbs, and a few passages from Isaiah, etc.,) has become an
unread book. The assumption that all the
instruction for our worship and warfare is to be found only in the New Testament has
led to the conclusion that anything not covered by the specific command of the New
Testament falls into the realm of "Christian liberty," with the result that
the anarchy of the days of the Judges now reigns in the professing church, "In
those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own
eyes" (Jg 21:25). The truth is that the OT furnishes a very considerable part of
God's instruction for the Church, of which Israel is a type.
It is not without significance that the anarchical rule of the Judges was
followed first by the reign of Saul, and then by the reign of David.
The days in which we live are foreshadowed by those of the Judges.
As the reign of David was preceded by that of Saul, so will the coming reign
of Christ be preceded by that of the beast, of whom Saul is a type.
As their only hope lay in the coming of God's king, so does the hope of the
Church, and the world, lie in the coming of Christ.
Those sad days preceding the reign of David (days which picture the present
experience of the Church) afford no justification for the hope that there will be
recovery in the Church. They teach
rather that the declension will become more pervasive.
Yet the picture isn't completely dark. The
book of Judges presents us with many examples of individual faithfulness in the midst
of the general apostasy; examples which are intended to encourage similar individual
A fact we shouldn't
overlook is that Israel was governed throughout their history far more by the
commandments of Moses than of Joshua. The
book of Joshua records their warfare with the Canaanites, and is designed to teach us
truth relative to our spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness; but the
instructions for Israel's worship, and everyday living are found in the writings of
By the illumination of the
Holy Spirit, and a careful searching of the Scriptures, godly men of the past century
were led to see the relevance of the OT to the
present-day life of the believer and the Church; and that recovered truth, obeyed,
brought an outpouring of God's blessing on the assemblies of His people.
It is very evident, however, that those truths so recently recovered are in
the process of being lost again. Liberalism,
masquerading as Christian liberty, but untaught in the Word, because too busy with
the things of the world to study the Word, is sweeping the assemblies back into the
dead orthodoxy from which they have so recently escaped.
As the people, under
Joshua, were still governed also by Moses' commands, so are we today governed also by
the OT as well as the New. As has also
been noted already, however, Israel's literal instruction has become the symbol
through which God now instructs spiritual Israel, the Church.
For example, instead of offering bullocks and lambs on literal altars, we
offer "the sacrifice of praise to
God continually, that is the fruit of our lips" (He 13:15).
Acknowledgment of this requires also the acknowledgment that the ritual
governing the presentation of those literal offerings becomes also the symbolic order
to be observed in the presentation of the corresponding spiritual sacrifices.
In many of our assemblies the celebration of the Lord's supper demonstrates
that there are many who concede the one truth while rejecting the other.
Before concluding that
absence of specific instruction in the New Testament implies that there is no
instruction; and that we are therefore free under Christian liberty to do as we
choose, it would be wiser first to consult the OT.
Those who have done so with an honest heart, and a sincere desire to know
God's will, have discovered that very little has been left to our own judgment.
This obedience promised by
the two and a-half tribes was no mere gesture. He
who refused to obey would be put to death. We
may learn an important lesson here. Disobedience
always brings death, though not always literal death, as here, and as in the case of
Ananias and Sapphira; but in the sense that disobedience is always the activity of
the old nature, never of the new. The
disobedience of the unbeliever is the result of his being in a state of death: he is
spiritually "dead in trespasses and sins."
But the disobedience of the believer, being also the work of the old nature,
produces the very same activity as when the man was an unbeliever: it produces that
which God rejects , and which caused the Lord to die.
Disobedience on the part of the believer will have the same effect at the Bema
(the judgment seat of Christ) as if he had been dead during the time of disobedience,
for it will prove to have been time that produced nothing worthy of reward, but on
the contrary, what the Lord must condemn. Nor
was this obedience to be selective: it was to be in regard to "ALL that thou