Arise, go … into the land” (Jos 1:2). The time finally came. The people of Israel were going to enter the land of Canaan. And as they are about to enter, the Lord instructs Joshua (1:2-9). What do we learn as they are told to go forward?
Given by Grace
“… the land that I am giving” (v2)
This is theirs by grace. “The Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness” (Deu 9:6). This land, with specific borders (Jos 1:4), was and is in perpetuity God’s gift to Israel because of His promise to Abraham (Gen 15:18-21; 17:8). We learn spiritual lessons from these verses, but we rejoice that the Lord Jesus (Joshua) Christ will soon appear and lead Israel into their inheritance (Jer 23:5-8). What we see now in the Middle East is like the two spies in Rahab’s house – God’s hand is clearly upon them, but a far greater entrance and rest awaits the nation, when “they shall fear no more” (Jer 23:4).
We, too, have been graciously given “an inheritance,” being “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Eph 1:11-14). But is this all future? No – it is ours today! “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-6). As sure as Christ is in heaven, and we are in Him, these spiritual blessings are ours now, and they are for us to set our minds on and to enjoy now (Col 3:1-3)!
Possessing with Purpose
“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread …” (v3)
They stood at the border of what was already theirs, but they had to enter and possess it. They had to take for themselves what grace had deeded them. Only as the soles of their feet tread deeper into the land could they begin to enjoy all the good things that were theirs.
We, too, are to purposefully make our own what God has brought us into in Christ. By faith we enter our territory holding the map of the Scriptures, and we choose to stand on it, walk it in our lives, and enjoy its goodness. And ultimately, we occupy what is ours when our hearts are occupied with what is ours.
Conquering with Confidence
“Be strong and courageous …” (vv6,7,9)
Why did the Lord say this three times? There were enemies to face who, based on their practices, had yielded themselves to Satan’s control (Deu 18:9-14). The devil had moved his followers into the Lord’s land. These were usurpers who had set up strongholds to keep God’s people from enjoying their inheritance, and who would fight with force and disarm with deceit.
Ephesians, which tells us of our spiritual blessings in heavenly places, also warns of “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” instructing us to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil,” and encouraging us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph 6:10-12). This is the same strength Joshua enjoyed: “No man shall be able to stand before you …. I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Jos 1:5).
It wasn’t self-confidence or sheer determination; it was the Lord and the strength of His might. And like Joshua, we are told, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). He has graciously given “us all things” (Rom 8:32), and what foe can bring a charge against us, or what peril can separate us from the love of Christ (vv33-35)? We can courageously move ahead, knowing that all God’s wisdom and resources are for us, if our goal is to possess by faith the blessing we have in Christ.
Notice that Joshua’s strength was also linked to meditating on “this Book” continually and carefully doing all that is written (Jos 1:7-9). The faith that has “good success” possessing the land knows and obeys what God says.
Facing the Foes
Like the Canaanites under Adoni-zedek, principalities and powers under Satan will oppose our advances. The name of their first stronghold, “Jericho,” likely came from the word “fragrant.” How truly fragrant the land beyond must have been, “flowing with milk and honey,” but a city stood in the way. All that the world calls fragrant, “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1Jn 2:16), keeps us from enjoying the true fragrances of our inheritance. How did Jericho fall? By faith in God’s Word, a faith that knows and marches to the truth that “the world is passing away along with its desires” (1Jn 2:17).
Their next city was Ai, and the painful lesson is that unjudged sin also keeps us from enjoying our spiritual blessings. What are we hiding under our tent? We won’t make progress until it’s judged.
Then there were the Gibeonites, whose tricks and spiritual-sounding words deceived Israel. And the wiles of the devil continue. The Galatians were “bewitched” with rituals and legalism, and the Colossians faced philosophies and spiritism. The false puts on a good act and mixes with the true.
Clearly, the armor must be worn. Foes must be faced. Faith must step out on God’s Word, moving forward in the Lord’s strength. This is the only way to enter and possess all that He has given His people.
“Very much to possess”
Sadly, Israel failed to enter all the land the Lord had for them. They stopped a long way from the promised borders, and the Lord said at the end of Joshua’s life, “There remains yet very much land to possess” (Jos 13:1). Have you stopped and settled, or have you stepped out – today – and enjoyed a bit more of what He has given you in Christ? “Arise, go into the land … there remains yet very much to possess!”
 All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV.