We all have experienced the “process” of growing up. Not one of us has had the option of skipping babyhood and moving right into adulthood. But just for fun, think with me for a moment of the natural consequences if we were. Well, to begin with, we probably would not know how to control our bodily functions, so that would be a “big” problem! We would have to spend years just learning to go from rolling on our tummies to crawling, and finally to walking. We would have to learn to not just run across the road whenever we felt like it, and to not touch the stove while it was hot; we would have to learn communication skills, right from wrong, self-control, problem-solving skills, and much more. But thankfully God was gracious enough to make this growing-up thing a “long process.”
In the very same way, when we become Christians and are “born again,” we are not a finished product. We all begin as baby Christians and move slowly along the journey to maturity through a process called “sanctification.” How this process relates to the conquest of Canaan is through something called “Prophetic Typology.” This is where a physical picture in the Old Testament points us to a spiritual reality fulfilled in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Israel after being freed from their slavery in Egypt, moved through the Wilderness over a forty-year period, eventually entering the land God had promised them from the start. However, before they could enter that land, they first had to cross the Jordan River. The story begins in the book of Joshua. But first I want to point out that there are so many prophetic “points of contact” between the book of Joshua and the New Testament that if I were to write them all I would never get to the point of this specific post. And so, I will attempt to stay on track.
Let us begin with the crossing of the Jordan. Please note that before the people crossed into the Promised Land two things had to go before them. One was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained God’s Word, and the second was the Angel of the LORD (or as most Bible scholars believe, the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ). In other words, they entered God’s land by His Word and His presence. But that was not all. It says that they entered by “faith.” But this was not any ordinary faith. It was “child-like” faith. You see, their parents died in the wilderness and were not allowed to enter due to their fear of giants in the land EVEN THOUGH God had already promised that He would drive out all the enemies in the land. So, God let that generation die off and said their children could enter instead. It is because children “still trust” in something greater than themselves to save them, whereas many times adults are too “wise in their own eyes” to believe in something they cannot see. Something bigger than the “boogeyman.” So, they entered by child-like faith. They walked into that land “by faith, not by sight,” relying on God’s promises, according to His Word, and with His presence going with them. That sounds a lot like how a Christian is to live.
Okay, so now they’re in the land. Allow me to use this idea of entrance into God’s promised land as being compared to a new birth. Because even though they had come into their inheritance they were still just babies, and babies are ignorant, undisciplined, and lack self-control. Their character is not yet developed. So how does God choose to develop their character? He uses His enemies. God used the enemies which He had “intentionally” left in His Promised Land in order to build “resistance” in His sons and daughters. So, these children of the LORD were equipped with “faith, the Word of God, and His presence” but they had not yet matured in their faith. And how was God planning to mature them? By testing, refining, and purifying them through various battles. He used His enemies against them to build strength in their faith. In the same way that muscle is built through resistance so too they needed to be built up to maturity. Now to put this into the New Testament context, the Apostle Paul writes that God gave us pastors and Bible teachers (those like Joshua and Caleb) to train us “until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth” (Eph 4:13-14, NLT). And according to the New Testament, the power behind false teachings and false teachers are evil spirits. So, God gave us pastors and Bible teachers to help us “grow up.” What else has He equipped us with? He has equipped us with spiritual armor. But we must put it on if we’re to resist the attacks of the enemy! As Paul explains, saying, “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:11-12). So just as Israel needed Godly leaders like Joshua and Caleb to lead and mentor them, and just as Israel used real military armor to fight and defend themselves against real enemies, so too God has given us Godly leaders to teach and mentor us and has given us spiritual armor to fight and to defend ourselves.
After Israel entered the land the first enemy they encountered and defeated was Jerico. But something happened right after that victory. Achan happened! Achan brought “sin” into the camp of Israel due to his “lust of the eyes.” He lusted after the wealth they encountered in Jerico and hid some for himself. But Joshua and Caleb, having no idea, moved on to defeat Ai (the next enemy) but this time Israel lost! Why? Because there was “hidden sin” in the camp. A sin that had not been brought into the “light.” And this sin affected the whole camp of Israel, which was acting as “one man,” as one unit under One Authority (notice what I just wrote there). Israel represented one person basically (in God’s eyes). And one sin of one part affected the whole. This is why one “hidden sin” (sin which we’re unwilling to expose and address) in our lives affects our intimacy both with God and with one another. This is why Paul writes: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Rom 6:12-13). But this sin was eventually found out, and as soon as it was, it was removed. And then God’s blessing (or protection) was restored. Hidden sin is like yeast if not dealt with, it spreads! As Israel began to possess more and more of the territory which was rightly theirs, defeating one enemy at a time, their endurance grew. Their character was formed, and their confidence (or faith) matured. Paul and James have something to say about this “sanctifying process.” Paul says that “we rejoice in our sufferings (or trials), knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” (Romans 5:3-5). James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jam 1:2-4). Because “this is the will of God, your sanctification…” (1 Thess 4:4a).
Many Christians believe that the Bible’s main focus is on getting as many people into heaven as possible. And I agree, to the degree that God desires none to perish but all to come to repentance. However, I believe the Bible gives equal focus to the sanctification process. God’s desire for us is similar to what His desire was for Israel. His desire is our maturity. That we live with integrity, meaning we are the same on the inside as we are on the outside. That we “live” Holy lives. For Paul says, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:23). Here is why our spiritual growth matters: Because not only does it impact our influence on the world, but also because our character goes with us into eternity! Our character (which resides in our soul) is part of our personhood (or identity). When we are “born again” we arrive as infants, just like physical birth. The Holy Spirit becomes joined to our human spirit. But the goal of the Holy Spirit is to fill and control our soul, mind, and body. And when the Holy Spirit has “total control” of us, we will more fully resemble Jesus Christ. This is the goal of our salvation.
Now regarding these enemies. God did not need them to leave His land just because they were “different.” He needed them eradicated because of their “worship.” These people groups worshiped other gods. They worshiped gods of human sacrifice and sexual immorality; of sorcery and of witchcraft. And God KNEW that if they were not removed from His land they would ultimately corrupt His children. So not only did Israel have to destroy the enemy, but they also had to remove all things associated with the enemy. They had to tear down their idols and uproot their altars. They had to destroy everything connected to the worship of another god. And in destroying these gods, they were at the same time destroying the demons associated with these gods! They were “sanctifying” God’s land. Regarding this, Paul says “For we are God’s fellow workers (speaking of the Apostles here). You are God’s field [or LAND] (speaking of the Body-of-Christ) (1 Cor 3:9a). Paul speaks of himself here as one who is like Joshua or Caleb. And he speaks of those he’s teaching as like God’s promised land. So, we too must cleanse our “land” (ourselves) of every defilement. As Paul exhorts, “Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1a). We too must uproot every altar in our minds raised against the authority of Christ, and tear down every idol taking up residence in our heart.
So remember, God has ALREADY given us His promises. He has already given us the deed to our inheritance. He simply is waiting for us to take AUTHORITY over our inheritance and to eradicate every idol and altar raised in opposition to Him!
Thankfully, the One who has faced the greatest foe in the land and has overcome now lives in us. Christ, Himself, is our VICTORY. He has already won the battle! He has already defeated the enemy of our souls on the cross! But we must apply what is true, through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, in order to live victoriously. But if due to “our own ignorance” of what is rightfully ours, we allow the enemy to take up residence in the land, he will continually taunt us. Satan loves ignorant Christians. It is due to our ignorance (meaning being uninformed) regarding the truth of our “identity in Christ” that we live in defeat. Therefore, we must cast out the enemy!
If our attitude is the same as that of young David when he faced the Philistine giant Goliath and defeated him when he was trying to taunt Israel in order to scare them out of their inheritance in the land, then we will always prevail. It is only because David knew the authority he had and exercised that authority by faith. David stood up, placing his confidence fully in the promise of God. The rest of Israel had forgotten what was rightfully theirs, and so they backed down from the enemy. But “David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the LORD will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head” (1 Sam 17:45-46a). We, too, must take this stance!
Lastly, I want to leave you with an exhortation from the Apostle James, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (Jam 4:7 – 8a). This verse here is our key! For through submission to the Holy Spirit within us, we will find our sanctification. And through resistance to the enemy, we will never give up our territory.
Now, claim your territory and stand your ground!
1 thought on “How The Conquest of Canaan Pictures Our Sanctification”
Another good one.
Thank you Mark
LikeLiked by 1 person