The Biblical books from Exodus through Joshua tell the story of how God brought the people of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt and gave them the blessings of the wonderful land that He had promised to their ancestors. What they experienced is similar to how the Lord works with people today. Before the Israelites could start out on their journey to the Promised Land they had to be saved from the judgment that God would bring upon Egypt. We too have to be saved from the judgment that is coming on this world because of sin before we can share in the blessings that God has in store for His people. Getting Out Of Captivity Exodus 12 shows us how the Israelites were saved from the coming judgment. They had to shelter themselves from the destroying angel behind the blood of the Passover Lamb. “Take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts and on the lintel of the houses ... Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13).
First Peter 1:18-19 tells us that this symbolizes the Christian’s redemption by the blood of Christ. “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Exodus 14:13-31 tells how God delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh’s slavery when they crossed the Red Sea. He held the waters back so His people could cross on dry land, but Pharaoh’s army was destroyed when the waters returned on them. This reminds us that God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14). We are no longer enslaved to Satan when we become Christians.
The whole wilderness journey from Egypt to the Promised Land could easily have been accomplished in less than a year, but the people lacked faith in the Lord. Although He supplied all their needs, they constantly resisted His plans for them. Sometimes they were even tempted to go back to Egypt. When they finally got almost across the wilderness they were afraid to go into the Promised Land because of the giants there. God told them that they would have to wander in the wilderness for forty years (Num. 14:26-35). He would not bring them into the blessings of the Promised Land until their old men had died.
The Israelites were their own worst enemies in the wilderness. Their own sin, stubbornness and lack of faith held them back from the land of blessing that God had in store for them. And the same is true of the Lord’s people today. Our weak faith and our sinful nature prevent us from following the Lord and taking hold of the blessings He has in store for us. In Romans 7:18 the Apostle Paul said, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”
But in Galatians 5:24-25 Paul said this: “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” The whole desert journey of the Israelites is analogous to our learning to consider ourselves dead to sin through the crucifixion of Christ, and alive to God in the new nature He gives us through His resurrection.
Getting Into The Promised Land
The first thirteen chapters of Joshua are the account of how the Israelites finally took possession of the Promised Land. God gave it to them because of the sinfulness of the people that lived there, the Amorites (Gen. 15:16), but they had to take it away from them by force. Their enemy in the wilderness had mostly been their own sinful nature, but their enemies in possessing the Promised Land were the inhabitants of the land.
Israel’s blessings were material – good land, good health, abundant crops and livestock. The Christians blessings are more spiritual – victory over sin, peace during adversity and the ability to love our enemies. God has blessed Christians “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). He has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these (we) may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4). But the things of the world compete for our attention and prevent us from making God’s blessings our own.
Before the Israelites could start possessing the Promised Land they first had to cross the Jordan River while it was at flood stage. As soon as the priests entered the water with the ark of the Lord, God stopped the water flow so the people could cross over on dry land. It is noteworthy that both the wilderness journey and the conquest of the Promised Land began with crossing potentially deadly waters on dry land, by faith. This reminds us of what baptism represents. Going into the waters of baptism associates us with the death of Christ. We consider our old natures to be crucified with Him. Coming back out of those waters associates us with the resurrection of Christ. We now consider ourselves raised with Him in newness of life, ready to start enjoying the blessings God has in store for us.
Joshua, the leader of Israel, sent spies over the Jordan River to determine how to conquer Jericho, the second major obstacle to their possessing the Promised Land. A harlot named Rahab hid the spies and, because of her faith, was promised that the lives of her whole family would be saved when the Israelites conquered the land. Here we see that God is merciful to even the worst of sinners if and when they repent and cast themselves on Him for mercy.
When the Israelites approached Jericho they met a man with a drawn sword. Joshua asked him whether he was for Israel or for their enemies. He replied that he had come as the captain of the armies of Israel. The spies were no longer needed, for the Lord Himself would direct them. He instructed the Israelites to march around Jericho with the ark of the Lord every day for seven days. On the seventh day they were to march around it seven times. Then, when they shouted, the walls of Jericho would fall down so they could take the city. This may have seemed like a lot of useless bother to many of the Israelites, but they obeyed the Lord and conquered the city more easily than they could possibly have done in their own way. Spiritual victories are won through obedience to the Word of God.
The Lord had commanded that everything in Jericho was to be destroyed except for the metal vessels and the gold and silver, which were to be dedicated to the Lord (Josh. 6:17-19). But a man named Achan kept a nice set of clothes and a wedge of gold for himself. When the Israelites were defeated in a battle against the small city of Ai, the Lord told Joshua that it was because of the sin in their midst. After Achan’s sin was exposed and he and his family had been executed, Israel had no problem defeating Ai. Sin frustrates the quest for God’s blessings.
When Joshua had broken the back of the organized resistance to possession of the Promised Land (Josh. 10-11), he divided the land to the various tribes of Israel. It was up to each tribe to drive the remaining enemies out of their territories so each man could take possession of his own part of the blessings of the land. Jesus won the victory for us on the cross, but it is up to us to lay hold of the many blessings that He won for us through obedience to the Word of God. When we were born again through faith in Christ, we received a new nature that does not sin. But if we do not choose to live in our new nature, we will be vulnerable to the sinfulness of our old nature, and we will miss out on many blessings.
Struggling In The Promised Land
Judges 1 describes some of the tribal and individual struggles of the Israelites to possess the Promised Land. There were some bright spots here and there, but the Israelites were not very faithful in destroying the inhabitants of the land and possessing it for themselves – as God had instructed them to do. Christians have not done any better. To the extent that we give in to “the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Heb. 12:1), we miss out on the blessings that should be ours in Christ. For instance, we cannot expect to be able to love our enemies if we refuse to forgive them, as the Word of God instructs us to do (Lk. 6:27).
Judges 2 begins with these words: “Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: ‘I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers’; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’ So it was, when the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voices and wept” (Jud. 2:1-4).
The nation of Israel had to struggle with the inhabitants of the Promised Land throughout the Old Testament. The lesson for us is plain. When we refuse to live in obedience to the Word of God, we miss out on a good portion of the blessings that He has prepared for us. May we be faithful in bringing all our thoughts and attitudes into subjection to the mind of Christ.
By Bud Morris
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org