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1: The Spirit of Joshua

What did God expect the person to experience as he crossed the Jordan to make his way into the Promise Land? Sidlow Baxter taught 4 lessons on the Book of Joshua worth reviewing. This first lesson mentions three spiritual experiences the man of faith is bound to encounter. Baxter reminds us that the Book of Joshua is a type and explains what a type is in Hebrew literature. Each event in Joshua then, pulls a chord connected to our spirit. We are more than flesh and blood. Most believe the core of our being is our spirit. This spirit needs food too. The Book of Joshua will provide nourishment for our souls, so that we can be strong and courageous like Joshua for the work ahead.

NOTE: – For this first study in the book of Joshua read the book right through.

“He who has once got fairly into the Scriptures can never leave them. The book holds you as a magnet holds a needle, or as a flower holds a bee. If you want great thoughts, read your Bible. If you want something simple, read your Bible. If you want the deepest and highest truth that ever was, read your Bible. The book talks to us in our own mother tongue. Why should I have to ask another what my Father says? … The Bible to many is a dull book, as dry as an old will. But when you hear your own name read out in a will, you prick up your ears. What if there should be something in the Testament of our Lord Jesus for you. When I found my own name there my heart danced for joy. It was in these lines: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ Get your legacy at once!”  ~ C.H. SPURGEON.

In a letter to a certain Miss Chalmers, Scotland’s Robbie Burns wrote:

“I have taken tooth and nail to the Bible, and am got through the five books of Moses, and half-way in Joshua. It is really a glorious book! sent for my bookbinder today, and ordered him to get me an octavo Bible in sheets, the best paper and print in town, and bind it with all the elegance of his craft.”

In our present course of study we, too, have now got through the books of Moses, and they have given us good reason to press on with Burns-like zest to the book of Joshua.

Joshua is complementary to the five books of Moses, and introductory to the new historical group of twelve (Joshua to Esther). The five books of Moses lead Israel up to Canaan; and Joshua complements these by leading Israel into Canaan. The further twelve books cover Israel’s history inside Canaan; and Joshua introduces these by describing the Israelite settlement in Canaan. It is thus the link book between the two historical groups in the Old Testament. It covers a period of about twenty-five years, and describes one of the most memorable conquests in history. “The occupation of this small strip of territory scarcely larger than Wales, though it led to no further results in the way of conquest, has nevertheless to a great extent moulded the moral and religious history of the world.”


It would seem that the book of Joshua is so named because Joshua is its focal figure, and not necessarily as implying that Joshua himself was its author. Jewish tradition does indeed ascribe the authorship to him, and certainly, despite the dexterous theories of some recent scholars, there is no solid reason for categorically rejecting it.[1] There are evidences of other hands than Joshua’s, however, in the work as it has come to us. Possibly these may be simply of an interpolative nature; but the probability is that while Joshua himself supplied the materials, these were arranged and supplemented by some scribe a little later. Or it may be that Joshua contributed the substance of the work, while certain of the elders completed it. The really important thing to maintain is that the editor-author was a contemporary, or practically so, having first-hand knowledge, or authentic documents, so that the work is really a product of the period which it records. Such hectic higher critical arguments as that which attributes the book to some fictitious author in Manasseh’s reign have been so effectively demolished by orthodox scholars that there is no need to burden our minds with them here.


Joshua is a book of graphic movement, of campaign, and conquest and subjugation. We see Israel going up, winning through, and settling in. The account is distributed in three phases, thus:


Key Thought

Entering, overcoming, occupying! – if these are the three movements recorded in Joshua, then there can be no doubt as to what is its key thought, or central message. Clearly, it is the victory of faith. In this, the Book of Joshua stands in sharp contrast to the Book of Numbers where we see the failure of unbelief – failure to enter (14:2-4), failure to overcome (14:44,45), failure to occupy (14:28-34). Spiritually interpreted, the exploits of Israel under Joshua proclaim the great New Testament truth – “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Each of the victories in the programme of conquest was ordered so as to exhibit that victory was due to faith in God, not to the arm of man.[2] To quailing unbelief, the overthrow of giants and great cities was an impasse, but to the eye of faith it was a fait accompli.

Typical Significance

Already, in the five books of Moses, we have found the presence of types in the Old Testament Scriptures – typical persons, events, and objects, such as Joseph, the Exodus, and the Tabernacle. Now in the case of Joshua, the whole story is one grand type. It is the Old Testament type-picture of a great spiritual reality revealed in the New Testament, as we shall shortly see.[3] What then is the main typical significance of Joshua? The answer to that question depends upon the answer to the further question as to what Canaan typifies.

In some of our hymns, the river Jordan is taken as representing death, and the land of Canaan as representing heaven. This, however, is surely a misinterpretation of these types. If Jordan is death and Canaan heaven, then it follows that the whole of the Christian life, right till the hour of death, corresponds to the wilderness through which the Hebrews tramped not exactly an enamouring picture – and we might feel a spark of sympathy with the argument that a death-bed conversion is preferable so as to cut the wilderness as short as possible!

Moreover, Canaan cannot very well be a type of heaven for two or three other reasons. Canaan was a place of conquest through conflict. There had been little fighting during the wilderness years, but as soon as Canaan was entered Israel must draw the sword. Enemies must be destroyed. Israel must fight. How then can Canaan typify the calm restfulness of the ultimate inheritance in heaven?

Moreover, it was possible for Israel to be ejected from Canaan by powerful foes; and eventually they actually were ejected, as we know. How then can this typify that heaven of uninterrupted felicity which is pledged to the justified in Christ?

But, to settle the question conclusively, we are expressly taught, in Heb 3 and 4, what the typical meaning of Canaan really is. Those two chapters should be read carefully, and they will then fix this Canaan type once for all in our intelligent understanding. They make it quite clear that Canaan pictures the believer’s present position and possession in Christ. It was ordained to pre-figure that spiritual Sabbath-keeping into which we may enter here and now. A few verses from one of those Hebrews chapters will be enough to certify this – “For – if Joshua had given them rest He (God) would not have spoken afterward of another day (of rest). There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest hath himself also rested from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest” (Heb 4:8-11 R.V.). The same chapter tells us that “we which have believed do enter into that rest” (verse 3).

The meaning of Canaan, then, as a type, is fixed, both by circumstance and New Testament explanation. Jordan does not typify death of the body and departure into the beyond, but that deeper union of our hearts with Christ in His death whereby we become completely separated unto Him, and introduced into the “fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.” That New Testament phrase, “The fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ,” more aptly than any other sums up the type-meaning of Canaan. Certainly, as the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says, it is the believer’s “rest”; but the rest is part of the fulness. Canaan is that “breadth and length and depth and height” of spiritual life in which we really “possess our possessions” in Christ. The tragedy is that the majority of Christians live far below their revealed privileges and redemption rights in Christ.  The Christian life is no more meant to be a wilderness than a wedding feast is meant to be a time for sackcloth and ashes.  God has opened up to us in Christ a present experience of sanctification comparable to a fertile, fragrant, fruitful, sunbathed Canaan – a “land of corn and wine,” a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

Canaan in Christian Experience

C.H. Spurgeon says: “there is a point of grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the world.” Speaking of those who live this higher life, he continues – “Their place is with the eagle in his eyrie high aloft. They are rejoicing Christians, holy and devout men doing service for the Master all over the world, and everywhere conquerors through Him that loved them.” The experience here referred to has been called by various names – “Christian perfection,” “Entire Sanctification,” “the Higher Life,” “The Rest of Faith,” “the Life More Abundant,” “Perfect Love”; but all these are simply different names for different aspects of the one spiritual reality.

Both Scripture and the experience of many of Christ’s people seem to confirm that there is a work of Divine grace in the believer, quite distinct from that which we commonly call conversion, and usually, though not necessarily, subsequent to it, in which the soul is brought into an experience of inwrought holiness and fellowship with God never known by conversion alone. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes gloriously free from “the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). There is complete renewal in the very “spirit of the find” (Eph 4:23). There is effected such a love-blend of the believer’s life and will with the life and will of Christ that, instead of being egocentric, the believer becomes Christocentric. Self-consciousness is sublimated in Christ-consciousness, so that the experience now is, “I live, yet not I; Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20); and “To me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). The personality becomes monopolized and suffused by the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18). Perfect love fills the heart and casts out fear (1 John 4:18). The soul is in Beulah Land (Isa 42:4). “The winter is past and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, and the time of the singing of birds is come” (Song 2:11-12). There is a “walking in the light” of a cloudless “fellowship” with Heaven, while “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth from all sin” (1 John 1:7); and the believer, now reads his experience in such words as these – “the sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended” (Isa 40:19-20).

Characteristics of Canaan

Now this is the experience to which Canaan and the book of Joshua point in a typical way.[4] It is therefore of the highest interest to observe what we are told about Canaan; and there are three things which are outstandingly characteristic.

First, Canaan was Israel’s promised REST. Itineracy was to give place to settled dwelling. Instead of the inhospitable wilderness there was to be a home where they should sit down, every man “under his vine and under his fig tree.” The tired hands and blistered feet were to find refreshing contrast in the responsive yields of Canaan’s fertile plains and valleys. The promised rest had been wonderfully prepared for their coming. They should not need even to build the cities and houses which they would need to live in, for they were to possess “great and goodly cities which thou buildest not, and houses full of all good things which thou filledst not, and wells digged which thou diggedst not, and vineyards and olive trees which thou plantedst not” (Deut 6:10-11) – and here they should he down in safety, none making them afraid (Lev 26:6).

Second, Canaan was the place of BOUNTY. This was the land “flowing with milk and honey,” a “good land and a large” (Ex 3:8), a “land of corn and wine” and kissed with the dews of heaven (Deut 33:28), a land of olives and vines, of firs and cedars, of rich fruits and harvests where an obedient people should “eat to the full,” where the threshing should reach unto the vintage and the vintage unto the sowing time (Lev 26:5); a place of which God had said: “the land whither thou goest in to possess it is not as the land of Egypt from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed and wateredst it with thy foot as a garden of herbs: but the land whither ye go to possess it is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: land which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year” (Deut 11:10-12). Yes, Canaan was the place of bounty!

Third, Canaan was the place of TRIUMPH. Were there enemies in Canaan? Yes: but they were a defeated foe before ever Israel struck the first blow, for God had said: “the Lord thy God shaft … cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou” (Deut 7:1). Israel was to remember what Jehovah had done “unto Pharaoh and unto all Egypt” and not be afraid. Five of them should chase a hundred, and none of their enemies should be able to stand before them. God was calling Israel not merely to conflict but to an assured victory. Yes, to a faithful Israel Canaan was to be the place of triumph.

In all this the Spirit of God is pictorially exhibiting to us that life in the “heavenly places” (Eph 1:3) which is our present privilege in Christ; and our conception of New Testament truth is thus vivified by Old Testament type.

Resting, abounding, triumphing! – this is our rich inheritance in Christ; and it may be ours in actual experience

A rest where all our soul’s desire
Is fixed on things above;
Where doubt and sin and fear expire,
Cast out by perfect love.
Fair fields where peace and love abound,
And purest joys excel,
And heavenly fellowship is found –
A lovely place to dwell.

Holiness is not something to be attained by self-effort; but it may be obtained in Christ. Consecration and appropriation are the two hinges on which the gate to Canaan swings. If we really yield, and then plant our feet on the promises, the delectable land is ours. God will not fail us. Let us go up and possess! “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thess 5:24).

Sanctify me wholly,
Sovereign Saviour mine;
Spirit, soul and body
Now make fully Thine.
Make my motives blameless,
Purify my heart;
Set me now entirely
For Thyself apart.
Thou to this dost call me,
In Thy written word;
Thou Thyself wilt do it,
I Trust Thee, Lord.
Faithful is Thy calling
And Thy promise, too;
Give me now to trust Thee,
And to prove Thee true.

Baxter, J. Sidlow, Baxter’s Explore the Book

Questions & Notes

  1. Who wrote the Book of Joshua?

  2. Each of the victories in the programme of conquest was _________ so as to exhibit that victory was due to faith in God, not to the arm of man.

  3. What is an Old Testament type?

  4. What three characteristics should follow the man who crosses over the Jordan into the Promise Land?

Click on the “Explore the Book - Joshua” tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.