The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
This book begins the second division of the Old Testament, which comprises 12 books and closes with Esther [ie., the books of history that are not part of the Pentateuch]. The corresponding book to Joshua, in the New Testament, is the epistle to the Ephesians. [In Joshua, the people of Israel entered into the promised land, but faced enemies which could be overcome only as they trusted God. Likewise, in Ephesians, believers in Christ have entered into heavenly blessings, while still in this life, yet we face many enemies, and must learn to walk by faith.]

The word ''Joshua'' means ''Jehovah is Savior,'' or ''Jesus.'' Therefore, we expect to find the book filled with typical teaching about Christ and His work in redemption. The Red Sea, for example, typifies what we are separated from, and is fulfilled in Romans 6 and 7; the Jordan River typifies what we are separated unto, and is fulfilled in Ephesians 1 and 2.

Joshua contains the record of about 25 years of Israel's history. We will consider some great truths, about Christ and our relationship to Him, that stand out in this book.

  1. Jehovah's Command and Promise (Joshua 1)
  2. Grace Abounding (2)
  3. Crossing the Jordan and Entering the Promised Land (3-5)
  4. Conquest of the Land (6-12)
  5. Distribution of the Land (13-21)
  6. Separation of the Peaceful Tribes (22)
  7. Joshua's Parting Address (23,24)
God's purpose for Israel was not only to deliver them out of Egypt but to bring them into the land of promise. Canaan does not represent heaven. Remember, Canaan had in it walled cities, giants, and chariots of iron. It was a land of conflict, but it was also a land of conquest. God has far more in store for us than simply saving us from the penalty of sin. He desires to give us victory in our present situation, and enables us to claim what is ours in Christ Jesus. ''Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ'' (Eph 1:3). ''Jordan,'' according to Jerome, means ''stream of judgment''; according to Augustine, ''to come down.'' In either case it implies death to self, the experience through which every believer must pass to enter into the rest God intends for us. [cp. Heb 4:8-10, where 'Jesus' refers to 'Joshua'. Under Joshua, believing Israel entered temporarily into rest in the promised land. The Lord Jesus brings His people into a better rest.]

The brevity of this book [ie., the book written by Paul Van Gorder] makes it necessary to limit our study to seven truths in Joshua that exemplify Christ and our relationship to Him.
The book begins with the words, ''Now after the death of Moses...'' (Josh 1:1). Moses represented the Law. The people could not enter the land of Canaan until Moses was dead. ''For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit'' (Rom 8:3,4). Moses died; he could not lead the people in. Likewise, the flesh is weak. What Moses could not do, Joshua did. He led them through the Jordan, which speaks of death and resurrection. He led the children of Israel to victory after crossing the Jordan. He was their advocate in time of defeat. It was Joshua who allotted them their portions within the land. All of this beautifully pictures the work of our Lord in death and resurrection, in His present advocacy at the Father's right hand, and in His provision for believers.
Not only is Christ typified in the life and ministry of Joshua, Israel's great warrior and deliverer, but we actually see Christ Himself in this marvelous book. Suppose someone should ask, ''I thought Christ did not exist until Bethlehem. Where do you find Him in the book of Joshua?'' Let's consider several factors.

Joshua and the Israelites stand before Jericho, a walled city. God has told them to capture it. Joshua goes on a survey trip around the city outside the walls. Suddenly, he is confronted by a man with a drawn sword. Without question, this is a supernatural being. Joshua asks the question I think most of us would have asked: ''Are you for us, or for our enemies?'' A strange answer came from this supernatural being. ''Nay, but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come'' (Josh 5:14). [The word 'host' means 'army'.] In other words, this person was saying to Joshua, ''I've not come to take your part; I've come to take your place.''

Joshua 6 indicates that this supernatural person was none other than the Lord Himself. What a lesson! Joshua was to learn of One who was adequate for the task and equal to the circumstance. Christian friend, let us not forget this in our work. None of us is sufficient for the assignment. But we have One ''who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think'' (Eph 3:20). Yes, this was one of the pre-incarnate appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jericho, a great walled city, presented a [near impossibility] for Israel. Yet the Lord said to Joshua, ''See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and its king, and the mighty men of valor'' (Josh 6:2). Jehovah had a plan for the conquest of that city. Joshua and the children of Israel were to march around the city once a day for six days. They were to be preceded by the ark of the covenant and seven priests bearing seven trumpets of ram's horns. On the seventh day, they were to compass [ie., go around] the city seven times and the priests were to blow the trumpets. On that seventh day, and at the seventh blowing of a long blast of the ram's horn, the people of Israel were to shout with a great shout. When they did, the walls of the city would fall down flat. The people were absolutely quiet until Joshua commanded them to shout. Then the walls collapsed and the city of Jericho was taken!

The great lesson for us is that spiritual victories are not won by human means. Hebrews 11 says, ''By faith the walls of Jericho fell down'' (Heb 11:30). Faith in what? Faith in the unseen Captain of the Lord's hosts!

This great victory in the experience of Israel is a warning. The Lord is dishonored when His church is engaged in activity that stems from fleshly energy, rather than from faith and the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Read the account in Joshua 2 of Rahab, the harlot who sheltered the spies of Israel. They promised her that she and her household would be spared when Israel took the city of Jericho if she would display a scarlet thread in the window. Her response to the offer was, ''According unto your words, so be it'' (Josh 2:21; Heb 11:31).

The full gospel story is bound up in this incident.
Consider how she pictures the sinner who comes to Christ.
  1. She was unholy, and she lived in a condemned city. [Eph 2:1-3]
  2. She believed in the power of God. [Josh 2:9-11; 1The 1:5,6]
  3. She believed the promises of God's messengers. [1The 2:13]
  4. She displayed the token and seal of her faith. [Eph 1:13,14]
    [The scarlet cord also suggests the blood of redemption. cp. Heb 9:19,22]
  5. Her deliverance was complete.
In addition, Rahab became one of the line of Christ [Mat 1:1-6, where 'Rachab' is 'Rahab']. How beautifully she stands as a reflection of us, sinners who also came into the family of Christ.
Chapter 6 of Joshua records the marvelous victory at Jericho. Then follows chapter 7, which tells of Israel's crushing defeat at Ai. Hardly had the shouts of victory in Jericho died away than the mourning cries began over the tragedy at Ai. One man, Achan, and his household disobeyed God and took some of the spoils, but God held the entire nation responsible. The leaders of Israel had decided to send relatively few men against the little town of Ai, which showed that they were depending upon their own ability, rather than God's. The men of Ai killed 36 Israelites and forced the others to flee. God's appraisal of the situation was this: ''Israel has sinned'' (Josh 7:11).

Many lessons are to be learned from Israel's defeat at Ai. Power for the present circumstances does not come from past experience. Nor can we depend upon earnestness to take the place of holiness. All Israel, including Joshua, mourned the failure, but they should have been mourning over their sin. The most harmful kind of sin is secret sin. ''He that covereth his sins shall not prosper'' (Proverbs 28:13). Achan engaged in the sin of disobedience, followed by the sin of covetousness.

When the apostle Paul listed the terrible category of sins in 1Corinthians 5, he said pointedly, ''But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous...'' (1Cor 5:11). What disgrace is brought upon the cause of Christ and His chuch when believers are guilty of coveting and then try to cover it! When the sin of Achan was confessed and the nation cleansed, Ai fell easily into Israel's hands.

Joshua 9 tells the story. News of the conquering Israelites swept through the land of Canaan. When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard that Joshua and the people of Israel had conquered Jericho and Ai, they sent some of their own number disguised in old garments and patched shoes, carrying old sacks and dry and moldy bread. They came to Joshua and posed as citizens of a far country. We read that the men of Israel ''asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord'' (9:14); rather, they acquiesced to the request of the deceivers when they said, ''We are your servants; therefore, now, make ye a league with us'' (9:11). Joshua made peace with the Gibeonites and let them live, and the princes of the congregation of Israel sealed that pact with an oath. Thus Israel failed to destroy these inhabitants of the land, for the agreement forced her to let them live. Israel found herself tied up in a covenant with these people, and it spelled trouble for years to come. [cp. Deu 20:10-18]
How often the church of Jesus Christ is stymied in her forward march and in the performance of the commands of Christ, because of her consorting with the world! Compromise with worldly religion, worldly people, or worldly plans always hinders the church.
Joshua was now an old man. He had led the children of Israel victoriously through the land of Canaan. At life's end, he called upon the people of Israel to continue serving the Lord (chapter 24). Here is part of his last message: ''And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord'' (24:15). Joshua had determined early in his life to follow the Lord; now, at his decline, he again declares his intention.
Our heavenly Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ, walked His earthly pilgrimage in perfect obedience to the Father. Not once did He falter. He could say, lifting His face toward heaven, ''I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do'' (John 17:4). Unlike the earthly Joshua who died and remains buried, the Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead and now lives at the right hand of God the Father. What a wonderful Savior is Jesus, our Lord!

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

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