For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

Since Canaan figures so prominently in connection with Israel's experiences, we should be clear as to what it represents spiritually, for misunderstanding in regard to this will result in confusion and distortion of the whole spiritual picture. 

Many have yielded to the temptation to see it exclusively as a type or picture of heaven, and while there are some instances where it may be so viewed, there are many more that clearly preclude this view.  The enemy was there, but there will be no enemies when we get to heaven.  There was warfare involved, but the believer's warfare will be over when he reaches heaven.  There were sin, failure and death in Canaan; there will be none of these things in heaven.

It may help us to understand what Canaan represents if we look at it in connection with Egypt, and also with the desert.  Egypt represents the world of business and pleasure governed by Satan; and as to his body, the believer is still in "Egypt."  The Israelite in the desert, however, gives us a picture of the believer's present position as to his soul.  His faith in Christ has changed what was once "Egypt" into a spiritual "desert"; and as there was nothing in the literal desert to minister to the needs of those redeemed Israelites, neither is there anything in the spiritual desert of this world to minister to the spiritual needs of redeemed men and women.  All they had in the desert was what God supplied - the manna and the water, both symbols of Christ: the manna representing Him as our spiritual food, the written Word, to build us up; and the water representing Him also as the written Word, but, to refresh and cleanse us.

But the Israelite in Canaan shows us the believer as to his spirit; in spirit he can enjoy in a measure here on earth what he will enjoy fully when he gets to heaven.  Israel's Canaan blessings were a foreshadowing of her coming millennial blessings, and they, in turn, are a foreshadowing of her eternal blessings.  In the same way, our present enjoyment of heavenly things is but a foreshadowing of our coming eternal blessings.

We see, then, that the believer, as to his body is in the world represented by Egypt; as to his soul, he is in the world represented by the desert; and as to his spirit, he is in the world represented by Canaan.  In other words, he is in all three places at the same time.

Israel's experiences in Canaan therefore, are meant to teach us how to enjoy all the "milk and honey" (the abundance of our spiritual blessings) even while we are still here on earth.  As Israel was brought into Canaan to enjoy literal blessings, the believer has been brought spiritually into the place where he can enjoy corresponding spiritual blessings, for God "Hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (things) in Christ," Eph 1:3.  The enjoyment of Canaan's blessings, however, was conditional, a fact which should teach us that there are conditions to be fulfilled by those who would enjoy spiritual blessings.  They had to be willing to leave the wilderness, which involved crossing the Jordan.  They had to be obedient to Joshua; and they had to be willing to go forward, slaying the Canaanites, and taking possession of the land.  The corresponding spiritual conditions must be met by the believer who would enjoy all that is available to him in Christ.

First, we should note, that except for Joshua and Caleb, the Israelites who entered Canaan were second generation, the first having died in the wilderness.  That second generation represents the man who is also "second generation," that is, who has been born again; for the first generation represents man as he is by natural birth, and relative to which Paul has written, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God," 1 Co 15:50, the Lord's warning being, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.... Ye must be born again, Jn 3:3-7.  The entry of that second generation into Canaan is the OT symbolic demonstration of the truth declared by Christ, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," Jn 3:3.   The new birth is a necessary condition of spiritual blessing.

Another condition was that they must "Go over this Jordan." 

Jordan is the Biblical symbol of death.  It separated the Israelites from Canaan; and in their having to cross it we read the lesson that spiritual blessings are available only to the man who is willing to die to the things of the world (represented here by the desert which they were to leave behind).  This doesn't mean that we have to die literally and go to heaven before we can enjoy our spiritual blessings, but that our attitude to the things of the world should be such that they will have as little power to tempt us as they would have to tempt a dead man.  Ro 6; Eph 2:1-6; and Col 3:1-10 should be read in this connection.

But if the believer is dead to the world (and he is by God's reckoning), he is "alive unto God," Ro 6:11;, "risen with Christ," Col 3:1, and as such he is commanded, "Seek those things which are above.... Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth," Col 3:1-3.  The Israelite, crossing Jordan, and pressing on to appropriate his share of Canaan, represents such a believer.

It is emphasized that the land was being given "to the children of Israel," verse 2.  Israel means he shall be prince of God, God's fighter, and since God's earthly people are but the OT representatives of Church-age believers, these meanings remind us that we too are God's princes, His fighters, under His command.  As the riches of Canaan were available only to those who belonged to God, and who were obedient, so is it in regard to us: spiritual blessings are for believers only, and only for such as are obedient.

The extent of their possessions in Canaan was governed by the degree of their faith.  As much as they had the faith and courage to go forward and take, was what they would have to enjoy.  Our enjoyment of our spiritual blessings is limited only by the extent of our faith to believe God's promises, and to walk before Him in obedience.

[Joshua 1]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
2000-2005 James Melough