There’s a lot to learn from the book of Joshua in this hour. Joshua’s story is all about taking the land. He leads Israel in battles of both triumph and defeat as they struggle to obtain their allotted inheritance. Joshua is a book of war and conflict and strife that ends with the distribution of the spoils of war.
New, abundant land has been promised to God’s people, but, like the Israelites, we’ve been rather lethargic, if not rebellious, in responding to His summon to go in and take it. Yet, like it or not, God has sovereignly brought us over into the Promised Land. Here it is—we’re in the new land.
But getting here was the easy part. Now the real battles must take place. Thus, it’s important to understand what taking the land might look like. To be blunt: It ain’t pretty. It’s bloody battle.
Now, we know from Paul’s writing in Ephesians 6 that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Taking the land that is set before us no longer requires the slaughter of thousands of men, women and children. Nor does it involve looking upon people with different worldviews as the enemy, for they are not. They might be under the control and influence of the enemy, but they are not the enemy.
What taking the land primarily looks like is purging it of unrighteousness and consecrating it unto the Lord. The whole reason God commanded Jacob and the Israelites to enter Canaan and slaughter all the ‘Ites is because their deeds were so dark. God tells the people of Israel in Deut. 9:4:
“Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you.”
Taking the Promised Land was as much a judgment of evil as it was a gift to God’s people. Sure, God had promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:
“I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
But He goes on to say in Genesis 15:16 that it wouldn’t be until the fourth generation after Abraham’s death that the people would return to Canaan to possess the land, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” God performed a 2-for-1 by singularly blessing His people while judging the unrighteous.
So, entering into our Promised Land isn’t primarily about obtaining our inheritance as the body of Christ. That happens to be an incredible fringe benefit, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about establishing the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. It’s about subduing the powers of darkness so that righteousness prevails. It’s about making His name and His way known.
Let me again make the point: this isn’t a physical battle against other people. I’m not advocating another crusade here. The natural, in-the-flesh subduing of evil is something the Lord Himself will engage in upon His return to earth (Ps. 2, Is. 63, Zeph. 3, Rev. 19). But for now, we battle in the unseen realms of power, authority, influence, ideas, thoughts, imaginations, etc.
Paul again sheds more light on this means of warfare in 2 Cor. 10:3-5 (NLT):
“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”
And Paul models this warfare all throughout Acts, especially in his ministry at Ephesus where he “spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the Kingdom of God.” He also performed “extraordinary miracles” through the power of God. Paul took land for the kingdom by proclaiming the Truth and displaying the power of the resurrected Jesus. And what was the result of this warfare? A purging of wickedness and a turning towards righteousness:
“…and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:17b-20).
That last sentence says it all: “The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” There’s maybe no clearer picture of what it looks like to take land in the Church era than that.
God desires more Paul’s to rise up. He needs reformers who will go into the centers of influence of the enemy and demonstrate His power and love—those who will conquer new land for the Kingdom of God. Ephesus was home to the Temple of Artemis (or Diana) and the worldwide center of worship of this Greek goddess. Spiritually, it was a very dark place. Yet Paul entered with boldness and assurance that if God was for him, no one could be against him.
Which brings us back to Joshua—a man of similar courage and fame. The Lord had land for him to take by driving out the unrighteousness ‘Ites. It was to start at Jericho and continue throughout the land of Canaan until every last bit of evil had been plundered. “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you,” God told Joshua. Notice the tense shift there: “your foot will tred” is future tense while “I have given you” is past tense. The lands God was calling Joshua to take had technically already been conquered.
Conquered by whom? Jesus. He was already in the Promised Land as the pre-incarnate Commander of the Lord’s army. Jesus was waiting for the Israelites to show up and take the land He’d already subdued. Who knows, He might have been there all forty years, patiently enduring Israel’s grumbling, complaining and faithlessness in the wilderness experience.
What stood out to me when I read this recently (and was the reason I started this whole blog) was the location where Joshua runs into the Commander of the Army of the Lord: By Jericho.
“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His Hand” (Joshua 5:13a).
Jesus didn’t greet them as they crossed the Jordan. He didn’t visit them in their camps. He was on the battlefield, sword drawn, awaiting their arrival on the scene.
While God has sovereignly been with His Church, leading us across another threshold and into our new land, God’s warring, conquering nature is awaiting our arrival at the point of battle. He’s demanding a Church that will rise up in the spirit of Joshua and “be strong and very courageous.”
If we want to meet Christ in this new land and invoke His assistance (which is our only hope for victory), we must advance not just into enemy territory—we’re already there—but to the enemy’s very gates. There we will find our Conquering Hero who always leads us in triumph (2 Cor. 2:14).