Series: Joshua, By Rosie Moore

Nancy Guthrie describes how Joshua foreshadowed Jesus: “In this man Joshua, who bore his name centuries before him, Jesus saw the shape his own life would take, how he would lead his people into the rest that God had promised to provide, and how he will one day come again to bring judgment on all those who persist in living out their wickedness in God’s land. Here, in the book of Joshua, we see the deliverance Jesus accomplished in shadow form.

Yet when Jesus came the first time, he did not accomplish his great work of deliverance by brandishing the sword of God’s judgment. “He was pierced for our transgressions” (Isa 53:5). The sword of God’s wrath against sin was turned against Christ in order to reconcile to God those who were his enemies. Because Christ was pierced by the sword of God’s justice, we can be sure that the sword of the Lord will never be turned against us but is always for us. And “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) ( From The Son of David—Seeing Jesus in the historical books.)

The book of Joshua has many chapters devoted to battles and swords. From chapter 6 onwards, we read of how Joshua attacked the centre of the Promised Land, the southern kings and the northern kings. It’s a long description of the conquest and allocation of the land of Canaan for the tribes of Israel, set against the backdrop of the detestable Canaanite practices. In the final chapters, we read Joshua’s moving farewell to the leaders and his renewal of the covenant, urging them to continue to follow the Lord and worship him alone (Joshua 23-24).

Today we will put on a pair of bifocals to view the person and work of Jesus through the book of Joshua.

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Josh 5:13-15)

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. (Josh 6:2)

Here are four of the ways that Joshua points us to the greater Joshua— Jesus Christ.

  1. Yahweh saves!

A name can speak a thousand words, and “Joshua” is the Hebrew version of the name translated as “Jesus” in Greek. It means “Yahweh saves.” Moses gave Joshua his Hebrew name” (Num 13:16).

Indeed, Joshua was a brave leader with faith, obedience and confidence in God’s word. The Lord used Joshua to defeat his enemies and lead God’s people into their own land, but it was clearly the Lord who delivered their enemies into Israel’s hands.

I love the description of Joshua, son of Nun, as a young man, in Exodus 22:11. He had always had great awe and love for God, lingering in the tent of meeting in the Lord’s presence after Moses had left. Out of the 12 spies who were sent to spy out the Promised Land, only Joshua and Caleb had come back with an encouraging, faith-filled report. Joshua had been Moses’ constant shadow and had learned to lead God’s people well.

Joshua is a great example for all leaders. But still, Joshua was a mere man and the instrument of Yahweh’s salvation. Salvation belongs to the Lord, not a human leader.

Fourteen centuries later, Matthew records God instructing Joseph to give his son the name Jesus, because “He will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). Joshua and Jesus both mean ‘saviour’, but the ultimate Saviour came in the person of Jesus Christ.

It still blows my mind that in real time and space, Jesus came into our world and won an even greater victory than the conquest of Jericho, to provide an even greater inheritance than the earthly kingdom of Canaan. Jesus secured a Kingdom that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for God’s people (1 Peter 1:3-52 Peter 3:13).

What a Saviour! Of course, this statement has awesome implications, but it rolls off the tongue far too easily. If the word “Saviour” with a capital S doesn’t strike us with awe, perhaps we don’t understand or remember our total depravity and estrangement from God, apart from His salvation. Let’s refresh our memories on why we need to be saved, not just improved or helped:

All unredeemed people are “dead in…trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). We walked in worldliness and disobedience (Eph 2:2) before Christ’s word was implanted in our hearts. Without God’s salvation through Jesus, we “lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3).

We were “separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). There was a heavy sentence of death hanging over our lives.

Before our salvation, there was no fear of God in our hearts and we were God’s enemies, “alienated and hostile in mind”, tainted by sin in every part of ourselves (Rom 3:185:810.) The Bible’s verdict is universal and without exception: “There is none righteous, not even one…None who understands…none who seeks God…There is none who does good…not even one” (Rom 3:10-17).

In fact, our status before God was no better than the wicked Canaanites’, unable to save ourselves or even make ourselves worthy of God’s salvation. God’s judgment is deserved and his rescue isn’t, but still he offers to save us, because he is the God who “justifies the wicked” (Rom 4:5).

Joshua points us to the infinitely greater Saviour of the world. Whew, it’s important to remind ourselves of who we were before Christ found us, because only then will we exult the Saviour instead of ourselves and will treasure His saving grace. Only then will we long for the salvation of those who don’t know Him and actively work towards it. Let’s never again be blasé when we say that the Lord Jesus is our Saviour.

  1. The Creator of the universe charged Joshua to lead his people into Canaan and to reclaim it for God, promising to be with him (Josh 1:2, 5).

Joshua points us to the infinitely greater restorer, Jesus Christ, who reclaims the whole world as the Lord’s and promises to give God’s people a home in the new heavens and new earth. Through His miracles, Jesus showed that the whole earth, not just Israel, is under His rule and reign.  That should make us rejoice, even if the climate activists put us all in a panic!

And at the end of His mission on earth, Jesus, to whom all authority has been given in heaven and on earth, told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, reclaiming  sinful people for God, and promising to be with them always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:18-20).

Just as Joshua brought the people to a place of rest (Josh 21:44), Jesus gives His people rest. He frees us from the burdens of our sin, guilt and inadequacy. From the hamster wheel of virtue-signalling and people-pleasing to make ourselves worthy. From fear and meaningless toil.

Even though our final rest is still ahead of us, the rest that Jesus promises now is spiritual healing, wholeness and peace with God, the blessings of God’s presence and favour. Our spiritual inheritance is infinitely more wonderful than any earthly legacy the Israelites received in Canaan (Josh 24:28). It is a home worth living for, and a home worth dying for. The battleground at Jericho became the cross at Calvary, the place where Jesus secured eternal rest for His people.

Let’s praise the Lord Jesus for the rest He has won for us, and given us, and is bringing us to.

“For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Heb 4:8-9).

  1. Joshua led the Israelites to victory against the Canaanite nations.

Joshua brought divine judgment upon the Canaanites who had persisted in wickedness for four hundred years (Gen 15:16). In fact, God was patient in dealing with the Canaanite nations, waiting until they reached a point of no return.

It’s important to understand that the people of Canaan were not morally neutral. They were set in rebellion against God and His ways. They had chosen to live in God’s world in defiance of Him, merciless, practising adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, child sacrifice, witchcraft, divination and the worship of false gods for centuries (Lev 18:320-28).

But Joshua, led by the commander of the Lord’s army, decisively destroyed the enemies of God (Josh 5:13-15). It was not gratuitous violence or imperialism on Israel’s part, but God’s divine retribution and fair judgment on the nations of Canaan. In Joshua 10, we read about the day when the kings in Canaan became a footstool for the Israelites’ feet, a symbol of complete defeat (Josh 10:24).

The conquest of Canaan foreshadowed the judgment that Jesus would take for God’s people on the cross, as well as his triumph over sin, death and Satan. Paul explains that “the record of debt that stood against us he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2:14-15.)

How freeing to know that when Christ died for our sins, He disarmed Satan and triumphed over evil! And because our perfect Saviour took the full measure of God’s wrath for our sins, if our own sins are forgiven, we can now stand victorious against the Enemy by faith alone.

  1. Joshua persevered in taking the land.

Even though it was clearly the Lord who gave them victory, Joshua and the people of God had to persevere in battle to take possession of all that God had given them (Josh 11:1813:1). They were not passive spectators in the conquest. Similarly, believers today are still onward Christian soldiers, called to obey God courageously as we travel towards our final resting place. But in our day, as the people of God, we don’t take up arms to subdue our enemies. Rather, we recognize the true Enemy that we must fight– the demonic forces that hold the world in captivity to sin. We see evidence of these powers all around us, even in our hearts.

As Paul explains, this is not a one-day battle against flesh and blood, but a fearsome spiritual war waged against God’s people since the garden of Eden (Eph 6:12Rev 12:17Gen 3:15). The Enemy is real, and he seeks to deceive and destroy us, so we need to be alert and watchful, resisting him (James 4:71 Peter 5:8-9). Victory against evil isn’t overnight. We need to persevere in battle to take possession of all that Christ has already won for us (Phil 3:12-14). There are no bystanders in this war against the Enemy, described in the Bible as a cunning serpent, ferocious lion and furious dragon who knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12-17) .

Today, our offensive weapons are prayer and preaching the gospel to ourselves and those around us. We fight the Enemy by believing and speaking the truth, as defined in God’s Word. By upholding righteousness. By steadfastly trusting God. By living like people who have been delivered from serving Satan. By understanding and applying God’s word to our lives. And by praying at all times in the Spirit, for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters going through the same kinds of struggles (Eph 2:2-36:10-18).

The book of Joshua teaches us that partial obedience and incomplete conquest will always lead to trouble down the road (Josh 13:1315:6316:1017:12-13). We will never properly subdue the Enemy if we are flirting with him, even if he makes some compelling arguments about what is true and good. He is pure evil, a thief, a murderer and a liar.

The climax of this great spiritual war is revealed to us in Revelation. This time, the Saviour will not be gentle and lowly, seated on a donkey. He will be on a white horse, coming with angel armies in judgment against all the enemies of God. The conquest of Canaan is a sober picture of a future day when all people will face a final and fair judgment at God’s hands. This is why we desperately need to repent and turn to Christ as our own Saviour.

“The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty (Rev 19:14-15).


Lord, thank you for caring enough for your world that you judge and destroy those who ruin it. We acknowledge that our own society is careering dangerously close to the wickedness of the Canaanites, but we know that without Christ, we too would choose to live in your world in defiance of you. Thank you for caring enough for your people to provide a way of salvation through your Son. Thank you that anybody who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. And thank you that you are close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit. The foes of the righteous will be condemned, because you redeem your servants, and no one will be condemned who takes refuge in you. Amen. (Ps 35:17-22).

Join us next week as we look at Joshua’s parting words to the leaders of Israel. “Joshua’s farewell.”


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