Before the land can be entered, the death of Moses is necessary. It is not God’s intention that His people inherit the blessing in connection with Moses, i.e. on the basis of the law. The Christian is not given the blessing by the law either. Receiving every blessing takes place on the basis of grace. The awareness of this gives strength to follow the new Leader, the risen and glorified Christ.
Yet after the death of Moses there is still a certain connection between Moses and Joshua. Joshua is here, after the death of Moses, also called “Moses’ servant”. The name of ‘Moses’ appears still around sixty times in the book of Joshua. Moses retains his place, however, not as a living mediator, but as the written Word of God.
The Spirit came from heaven as the Servant of the Lord Jesus on earth, after the Lord Jesus went to heaven, that is to say after His glorification (Jn 7:3939But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet [given], because Jesus was not yet glorified.). Everything He shows to God’s people on earth He takes from all that is of the Lord Jesus to proclaim it to us (Jn 16:1414He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose [it] to you.). The Holy Spirit takes the place of Servant. He wants to show us the fruits of the promised land. For that He uses the written Word.
All that Moses commanded in the Name of God are clear words from God. Joshua represents the strength the people have at their disposal to take possession of what has been promised. The believer possesses God’s Word. The Holy Spirit gives the believer the power to enter the heavenly blessings and take them into his possession.
Canaan is a picture of heaven. That is well known. But often people only think that we enter into it when we leave this earthly life. If that were so, we wouldn’t be able to have any profit of most of the book. How should we think about the battle? We are in a book of struggle that is necessary to conquer the land. Without struggle no land. That can never apply to the believer’s passing away, because when the believer passes away, there is immediately rest. In case of unfaithfulness, the people can be driven out of the land again, which is also impossible to say of a believer who went to heaven – better: paradise – after he has fallen asleep.
The New Testament counterpart of the book of Joshua is the letter to the Ephesians. It tells us that we are in the heavenly places in the Lord Jesus and that through our connection with Him we share in everything that is His part by virtue of His work on the cross. The land is the heavenly atmosphere in which we already find ourselves and where we can enjoy everything we have received in Christ. All the blessings we have received are in connection with a heavenly Christ. We, the believers of the church, are His body. We are already in heaven because we are in Him. But in the book of Joshua it is about taking possession of what we already possess in principle, and actually living in it.
The land is a gift from God to His people. He gives it to them, or rather “have given it to you” (verse 33Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.), for it is a counsel of God, and then it is certain. Then there is no question of what He is going to give, but of what He has already given. What His people must do is to take possession of it. You can know that you are rich by an inheritance you have received. Yet it is of no use if you do not take possession of that inheritance and enjoy it. So it is with our spiritual riches. They are our property, but in order to enjoy them we must take possession of them by putting our foot on them (Deu 11:2424Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, [and] from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea.).
The only way to enter the land is through the Jordan. The Jordan is, as said, the river of death. But just as entering the land does not happen because of the bodily death of the believer, so going through the Jordan does not represent the bodily death of the believer. The Jordan represents the death and resurrection of Christ. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, the believer is now in the heavenly places. To actually enjoy the blessings that are there, the believer must be aware that he died and rose with Christ (Eph 2:4-64But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus,).
The land is great. As it is presented here (verse 44From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.), Israel never possessed it. At the end of the book there is still a lot of land left. That also applies to us. There is always new territory to take possession of. We “know in part” (1Cor 13:99For we know in part and we prophesy in part;) and take possession in part. When with the coming of the Lord “the perfect comes” (1Cor 13:1010but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.), we will have a better understanding of the extent of our blessings.
The borders of the land are formed by a “wilderness” in the south, the great mountain “Lebanon” in the north, “the great river, the river Euphrates” in the east and “the Great Sea” in the west. Between them live “the Hittites”. They are one of the seven nations living in Canaan, and in them all these nations are represented. They are the only ones mentioned here, probably because they are the most fearsome enemies.
The borders indicate what lies outside the promised land and on which the people should not therefore set foot. These boundaries represent the different characteristics of the world: the aridity of the wilderness, power symbolized by a mountain, prosperity symbolized by a river and turbulence and tribulations represented in the sea. The believer must be careful not to cross these borders.
We are also weak in the fight. It is a great privilege to read and prayerfully study God’s Word in order to take all these blessings into our hearts and to work them out in our lives. We can gratefully use comments in which others tell us what they have discovered and enjoyed about blessings.
There is also another side. The enemy is not sitting still and wants to drive us out of the land. We see this in the actions of the kings of Canaan. The enemy is stirring when he whispers to us not to devote our time to Bible study because there are other, more important things. Or he tries to seduce us to sin. He will do everything to keep us away from being engaged with the glorified Lord in heaven.
Fortunately we are not at the mercy of the enemy. We have the true Joshua, that is Christ through His Spirit, with us. If we sow before the Spirit, we will reap the fruits of the land. That fruit is eternal life: “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:8b8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.).