April 19, 2009

Entering the Promised Land

The book of Joshua is mainly about the Israelites entering the land of Canaan. Some believe the land of Canaan is mainly a picture of heaven, while I agree with other teachers that it represents mainly the Spirit-filled life. In heaven there are no battles to be won or giants to be faced, but the Spirit-filled life does entail such obstacles and conflicts. Though we are promised fruitful lives, we are not promised easy lives. Actually, we are promised “much tribulation” (Acts 14.22).

In the New Testament, Paul associates the Red Sea crossing with water baptism, a kind of death to self (I Cor 10.2). The filling of the Holy Spirit, however, was associated with a flowing river (Jn 7.38-39). There are many Christians who are saved, as the Israelites were saved from Egypt, and who have been baptized in water, but who are still not living in the “Promised Land.” God described Joshua’s Promised Land as a good and open land flowing with milk and honey (Ex 3.8). Milk and honey symbolize the word of God in the scriptures. When does the word of God flow in and through a person’s life? It flows especially when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit (I Jn 2.27, I cor 2.13). The fruit in the land was so extreme that it took two men to carry one cluster of grapes (Nu 13.23). That unique picture portrays the supernatural fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.” (Gal 5.22) The New Testament defines love as the greatest of the gifts, the “more excellent way” (I Cor 12.31, Rom 5.5). When a person has this fruit, it really stands out and is noticeable, just like the massive cluster of grapes (Tit 2.14).

I believe the spiritual gifts, as described in I Corinthians 12, are valid today and given by God as He wills. The purpose of this article is not to argue this point but to focus more on the book of Joshua. Because of practices not found in the Acts New Testament church, such as being “slain in the Spirit,” many people have become opposed to these gifts. It may be helpful to read this free ebook by Chuck Smith "Charisma vs Charismania pdf," at this link to see an alternative perspective.

The name Joshua is based on the same root as Jesus’ name and basically means “God is salvation.” As the Israelites were led by Joshua into victory by following his commands closely, so we too enter into the rich and victorious Spirit-filled life as we follow Jesus Christ closely. We are promised a fruitful life as we abide with Him (Jn 15.4).The fullness of the Spirit does not negate or override our relationship with Jesus, but enhances it. In John 10.10, Jesus is quoted saying "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (NASB)

The book of Joshua can be divided into three parts. Chapters 1-4 describe how Joshua and the Israelites first entered the Promised Land. Chapters 5-21show different types of situations and obstacles faced as the Israelites continue to expand their territory. Chapters 22-24 relate to occupying and defending the territory that was gained.

Entering in by Faith

Joshua 1.2-3 begins with a promise from God: “…Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.” God had prepared a specific Promised Land for them. All they had to do was claim it. In the same way, God’s specific promises have been given to us, but we need to claim them personally and apply them. II Peter 1.3 says: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” This is clarified in the next verse “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” And the verses after those, 5-9, show how we receive a full and fruitful life by applying these promises.

God’s promises have many purposes. In “The Promise Bible” (Tyndale House Publishers) D. Rumford describes how the promises remind us of God’s love for us, help enlarge our vision of what God can do, help to overcome discouragement, and offer new ways to respond in faith. One of the greatest promises of all for the New Testament believer is the promise of the filling of the Spirit or the baptism of the Spirit. Luke 11.13 states "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (NASB)

Key to True Success

Next there is a promise for success: "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Josh 1.8 NASB). What does success mean? To many it means a good income, to others a happy and healthy family. But according to God, true success means understanding and following God’s will. That is the one and only way in which a true sense of fulfillment and happiness can be found.

The word “meditate” in the original Hebrew text also means to mutter. It shows the idea of repeating verses to oneself and memorizing them. The main battlefield is the mind; it’s the “valley of decision.” The word of God brings a good attitude, faith, wisdom and guidance but ultimately it is used to transform a person into the likeness of Christ (II Cor 3.18).

The word “prosperous” there is not the best translation. According to the original Hebrew text, this success is simply receiving wisdom and understanding. True success is wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of God. A lot of people follow what is called the “prosperity movement,” i.e. seeking to become wealthy through following the Bible, but these verses really are not about that. III John 1.2 says “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” (NASB) This shows the main emphasis in our lives should be on spiritual prosperity not material prosperity. Without a strong spiritual base, blessings in money can ruin a person. In the movie “The Ultimate Gift,” the children of a wealthy man became more and more spoiled. In order to prepare a grandson for his inheritance, he took him through a long process and a series of tests to change his character. The movie made some good points, one being, more than lots of money, we need wisdom and understanding.

A Source of Boldness

Throughout the book of Joshua you see this phrase “Be strong and of good courage.” This is a reminder that, though God has freely given us His promises and provision, it doesn’t mean that things will come easily. As believers, we are going against the grain of the world. In a sense, we are swimming upstream, against the ways of the world, as we live by God’s convictions. Any dead thing can float down stream but only something filled with life can go against the flow. To move out and take risks for God and for God’s kingdom, there has to be a sense of confidence, not in our own strength, but His. Joshua 1.9 says "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." This is echoed in the New Testament: “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Eph 6.10)

Empowered for Service

Beginning in verse 11, we see Joshua taking command. This day when he began to lead was not sudden or accidental. God had prepared him for leadership for years. He served under Moses and learned how to submit to authority. Jesus showed that humility and a servant’s heart are really important keys to being a good leader (Mar 9.35). Joshua was also prepared to lead because God had gifted him with a “spirit of wisdom” after Moses laid hands on him and committed him to service (Deut 34.9). This principle of laying on hands and praying for people also applies today. I Tim 4.14 says “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” Today, in order to be prepared for ministry work, the empowering of the Holy Spirit is still very important. This does not necessarily require the laying on of hands but a person knows if there has been an empowering and filling of the Holy Spirit in his or her life.

Understanding Authority

In verse 17 we see how the people were committed to Joshua to submit to his authority and to submit to God. Hebrews 13.17 says “Obey your leaders and submit {to them,} for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Also, as believers today we need to submit to the Lordship of Christ in our lives if we want to see the Holy Spirit working in us and through us. Romans 12.1-2 show this principle of submission to God as a key to understanding His will for our lives.

Not if but How

In the beginning of chapter 2 we see that Joshua sends 2 spies to spy out the land, especially Jericho. But this was different from the experience with the 12 spies earlier in Numbers 13. The question was not so much if they should attack but how. It wasn’t due to a lack of faith. They went to the city of Jericho to form a plan of how to attack this strong city. In verse 1 it shows how they found Rahab’s house and stayed there as a place of refuge. At that time it was common for an inn to also offer prostitution and it seems this is what Rahab did. Rahab was willing to do whatever she needed to do to save the spies and save her own life. So in 2.4 you see her lying saying she didn’t know where the spies went. And in 2.14,20 the spies asked her to keep the cover-up going. There is a question whether or not this was God’s will for her to lie to the government in order to save the lives of the spies. But there is no question that she had faith that the God of Israel was real and she wanted to be on this God’s side. She is listed in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” as a hero of faith: “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”(Heb 11.31)

Consecration and Crossover

Chapter 3 describes the crossing of the Jordan. The night before the crossing, Joshua said to the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you." (Josh 3.5 NASB) The word holiness means “set apart.” This is essentially what consecration is, being set apart for God’s use. Before the early church was filled with the Holy Spirit, they were told why: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” They didn’t receive power just for a power trip; they received it so that they may be instruments of God wherever they went. We today also need to be committed to God’s use if we would be filled with the Holy Spirit and cross over into the Spirit-filled life.

Preparation and Purpose

Ray Stedman pointed out three preparations in chapter 5 which helped lead the Israelites into victory. The three preparations are, first, circumcision (Josh 5.3), second, celebrating the Passover Feast (Josh 5.10), and third, receiving a unique battle plan (Josh 5.13). How do these apply to our lives? Philippians 3.3 gives good examples “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” The mark of circumcision was supposed to be a sign of a true believer, both internally and externally. Philippians 3.3 describes the characteristics of a true believer according to the New Testament. Physical circumcision is not a required, but, rather, it is one who receives the Holy Spirit and worships God in the Spirit. The Passover Feast was a meal meant to remember slavery and be thankful for freedom. In the New Testament, we rejoice that Jesus has set us free and saved us. In Joshua they received a unique battle plan for attacking the city of Jericho. The plan involved no physical weapons, no military training and no strategy other than to simply to obey God and walk around the city seven days, etc. This shows how a victorious Spirit-filled life is based on simple obedience and relying only on the Holy Spirit.

Walking and Warring in the Spirit

When God gave the Israelites their marching orders to walk around Jericho, it included carrying the Ark of the Covenant, which is a symbol of God’s presence. Walking with God’s presence is a key to a victorious life in the Spirit. Galatians 5.16 says: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” and Galatians 5.25 “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Though it may have seemed strange to walk around the city for seven days with no physical weapons, this stressed the main idea that the victory came from God knocking down the stronghold. II Cor 10.3-5 states: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

In our lives we may find God showing us to do things that seem odd to other people. Sometimes God asks us to step out of our comfort zone. On different occasions in scripture God asked people to do things that seemed strange, but required humble obedience. II Kings 5 describes Namaan, who was captain of the armies of the King of Syria, but he had leprosy. He heard of Elisha’s reputation as a man who could heal so he went to him. But Namaan, the great man, was greatly offended when the prophet told him to wash in the Jordan River 7 times in order to become healed. Jesus also told people to go and wash in a special place in order to be healed (Jn 9.7, 9.11)

The main gist of Joshua is to show the need for God’s word and Spirit to flow in a believer’s life. This is the key to true success. God offers each one of us His “Promised Land,” a life that is both fruitful and fulfilling. It is up to us to decide if we really desire to enter into this land or not, and how far we want to go. “…Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you.” (Josh 1.2-3) More than material abundance, God wants us to have spiritual abundance. If abundant material blessings do come, what is the main purpose? II Cor 9.8 shows that the reason is so that we can give to others “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”

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