1-4 The LORD Pledges the Land to Joshua 5-9 Encouragement and Exhortation 10-11 Command to the Officers 12-15 The Two and a Half Tribe 16-18 The Willingness of the People
The LORD Pledges the Land to Joshua

1Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, 2“Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4From 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.

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.).

Encouragement and Exhortation

5No man will [be able] to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8This 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. 9Have 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.”

God has promised to give His people the land. Nevertheless, every Israelite must make an effort to conquer the land. God wants His people to make an effort for it, while He gives the people the strength to fight. God takes possession of the land by letting His people conquer it.

If we want to take possession of our blessings, we will meet resistance. On the territory where our blessings are, there are also enemies who want to prevent us from taking possession of our blessings. Everywhere we want to put our foot on, an enemy will appear. Therefore the encouragement that the Lord Himself is with us sounds (Deu 31:88The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”).

Although Joshua is a courageous man, he is still encouraged. He has to deal with a powerful enemy that should not be underestimated. Encouragement comes to us, not to the Lord Jesus or the Spirit, but to us in whom the Spirit dwells. He is with us with His Spirit on earth and He is our High Priest in heaven.

He will not “fail” us. This means that He will not fail and will never disappoint us. He will not “forsake” us. That is, He will never leave us alone. This promise is of general application to the believers in view of the daily walk and what is necessary for it: “For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb 13:5b5[Make sure that] your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”).

He still gives another means of victory over the enemy and that is the Word of God, represented in the law. We need to investigate the Word to know our blessings, but here it is about obeying the Word. If we don’t do that, there is no strength to fight the enemy. There must be no opening in our armor on which the enemy can point his arrow. We must reflect on the Word, not to serve others in the first place, but to know for ourselves how the Lord wants us to live.

Joshua has a responsible task. He is the leader of a great people. He can only govern that people well if he also allows himself to be governed well by the authority that is above him again. Therefore he must listen to God’s Word. Then the commands and the justice from his mouth will guide the people on the right path.

“Shall not depart from your mouth” means that we make God’s Word our words and do not wish to express our own thoughts (Isa 8:2020To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.). This is only possible if we find joy in the Word and meditate on it “day and night” (Psa 1:22But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
). Then “the Word of Christ” will “richly dwell” in us (Col 3:16a16Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.). Meditate on it is not reading a chapter or a verse in our quiet time and carrying it with us all day as a kind of mascot. It is a complete occupation of the Word of our whole lives, so that all our activities are governed by it. Then we will be prosperous and achieve our goal.

When we meditate om God’s Word, we hear that God commands that we shall be strong and courageous. We have no reason to fear if the almighty God is with us. God has made His promise to give us the land. Then it is an insult to Him if we start to doubt that.

Command to the Officers

10Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11“Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.’”

Joshua obeys directly. The people must prepare themselves for the passage through the Jordan. With this message Joshua sends the officers to the people. He does not give any indication about how the people will go through the Jordan. He has seen how the LORD opened the Red Sea forty years ago, and he trusts that the same will happen to the Jordan. Therefore he says in full faith that in three days they will cross the Jordan.

He is, together with Caleb, the oldest of the people. But his faith and enthusiasm for the land have not diminished. After exploring the land, he encouraged the people at the time to trust in the LORD – which they did not do then. Just like then, he now speaks with certainty and passionately to his much younger peers about crossing the Jordan to take possession of the land.

The preparation should take three days. The period of ‘three days’ can often be linked to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He rose up on the third day, proving that He has conquered death. The crossing takes place on that third day. The two preceding days are days of preparation.

In order to pass through, they have to prepare provisions, which is food. That food is not given by the officials. The people themselves must take care of this. This speaks of the fact that we need to take spiritual food in order to be able to start the crossing. It means here that we are engaged in and reflect upon the meaning of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and our death and resurrection with Him, through which we make it our own.

The Two and a Half Tribe

12To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13“Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God gives you rest and will give you this land.’ 14Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, 15until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as [He gives] you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

After the journey through the wilderness, as the land approached, the people, by God’s command, began to inherit the wilderness side of the Jordan. The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh were satisfied with this and said that they did not want to go into the land. However, this is not in accordance with God’s purpose. The wilderness side of the Jordan is not the promised land. It is not the land conquered by Joshua. It is not the place of the testimony of the power of God’s Spirit.

The wilderness side of the Jordan is an area that represents blessings on earth which we also receive thankfully from God’s hand, but not just to be satisfied with them. Many Christians are content with the earthly blessings, without having any idea of the true blessings of the Christian.

These tribes have been given permission to live in the wilderness side of the Jordan on the condition that they go along to conquer the land. That they promised (Num 32:31-3331The sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben answered, saying, “As the LORD has said to your servants, so we will do.32We ourselves will cross over armed in the presence of the LORD into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance [shall remain] with us across the Jordan.”33So Moses gave to them, to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben and to the half-tribe of Joseph’s son Manasseh, the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og, the king of Bashan, the land with its cities with [their] territories, the cities of the surrounding land.). Now they go with them into the land, even in the front ranks. They will help to conquer the land, but when they have done so, they will return to their inheritance.

It speaks of believers who sometimes fight for the blessings, but above all enjoy the peace in their family and work, grateful for everything the Lord has given them. Only the men go over, leaving behind their wives and children. Spiritually speaking, they have never understood anything about the death and resurrection of Christ. These tribes were later the first to be led into the scattering.

The crossing of the Jordan from this two and a half tribe represents in the picture the Christian who believes in the fact of the death and resurrection of Christ, but for whom this fact has no effect on the life of faith. Such Christians will fight against the rising unbelief and power of Satan working in the world without realizing, however, that the battle is actually taking place in the heavenly places.

The Willingness of the People

16They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses. 18Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.”

It seems that what is said here is said by the whole people and not just by the two and a half tribe. They all warmly acknowledge Joshua’s leadership as the successor to Moses and express their unconditional obedience to him. They will do without objection what he asks of them and go where he wants them to go. All the people wish Joshua that the LORD his God is with him, as he was with Moses. With this they show that also for them the strength for the battle lies with the LORD.

Recognizing leadership is also important in the church (1Thes 5:12-13a12But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,13and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.). It is not about recognizing people-appointed leaders. Such leaders do not know God’s Word (cf. Gal 1:11Paul, an apostle (not [sent] from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),). God gives leaders formed by Himself.

There is no attempt by the two and a half tribe to evade their earlier promise, made to Moses. They speak good, honest and worthy words. It is arrogant for us to look down on them because they are only there to fight for the land and not for its possession. The question is whether we are fighting to take possession of the land. Although they are not an example to us in sharing God’s desires, they are a good example in battle.

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