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  • « Can anyone relate? | Main | Before God »

    Images of the Savior (I – Joshua's Succession of Moses)

    And it came to pass, after the death of Moses, the Servant of Yahweh, that Yahweh spoke unto Joshua, the Son of Nun, the minister of Moses, saying, “Moses my servant is dead; and now, arise, pass over this Jordan, you and all this people, unto the land which I am giving to them, to the children of Israel”. – Joshua 1:1-2

    If we were forced to choose one word to sum up the significance of the five books of Moses, we could scarcely find a better than the term “foundational”: first of all, because the Pentateuch is of such vital importance to all biblical revelation that should follow; and second, because it is manifestly incomplete and expectant in its character. Its importance should be obvious: there is nothing in the prophets that may not be found in seminal form somewhere in the Pentateuch, nor may there be found anything absolutely new in all the Old Testament writings beside; and in spite of its common designation as the “New” Testament, there is nothing we may find there, either, that does not hark back to the writings of Moses, and complete and fulfill them all. This is why the long-awaited Savior, Jesus the Messiah, reminded his disciples before he sent them out on their mission, “These are my words that I spoke unto you when I was still with you, that all the things written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me must be fulfilled;” and then he went on to explain, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance unto the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all the nations.”

    So then, all that Jesus suffered and accomplished, and all that the apostles then went on to preach in all the world, whereof we have testimony in the New Testament writings, was nothing other than what Moses said first, and the Prophets and the Psalms then expounded upon. Just as a house, therefore, needs a foundation co-extensive with its whole structure, lest any portion of it left unfounded be susceptible to fall mightily before the first storm that beats against it, so the Pentateuch treated of everything that the Christ should perfectly fulfill, and was co-extensive with his entire gospel ministry; but likewise, just as a foundation alone is worthless, so there wanted the fulfillment of the Pentateuch to give it any real worth. A house without a foundation is unstable, but a foundation without a house is of no value at all. The Pentateuch, therefore, is foundational to the bible, as that upon which all that follows is built, and that which needs all that follows to complete and validate it.

    Now, it is at once apparent that the Pentateuch ends on a ringing note of incompletion: Moses, the great prophet and shepherd of the people, is hindered by his own sinful inadequacy from doing what he had undertaken to do, in fulfillment of God's sure promise, and so he dies before entering the Promised Land; furthermore, before he dies, he leaves the people with a final song and blessing that forecasts, among other things, the sure doom and exile of this people, even after they had finally entered the typical Promised Land. He does, however, leave them with a gleam of hope in that his successor, Joshua, by whom Yahweh would save them (which is indeed the meaning of his name) would accomplish what he had failed to do, and bring them into the land. In this circumstance, we may see, first, that God's promise of sure redemption, proclaimed everywhere in the Pentateuch, would not be forgotten, but that he would fulfill all that he had said; but second, that the final fulfillment of the promise would not be immediate, but had rather to await many typical and partial fulfillments. For yes, God would raise up a savior after Moses, and this Joshua would give to Israel the land that God had promised them; but that promise to the patriarchs had originally been eternal, and the sobering prediction of an exile to come, those bitter words with which Moses died, would still hang over the nation of Israel after Joshua, too, had died, in the manner of all flesh, and thereby been proven inadequate to be the eternal and satisfactory fulfillment of an everlasting promise. That God would save his people through Joshua shows that he had not forgotten the promise; but that he forecast a later exile even before his conquest came about shows that the true fulfillment was not Joshua's to provide. He was a savior, yes; but a typological and finally insufficient savior, and to any attentive Israelite, who knew the eternal nature of the promise made to Abraham, both the greatness of Joshua as another sign and pledge of God's purpose to fulfill that promise, and his inadequacy as a mere type, must have been immediately apparent.

    What, then, are some of the ways in which we may look beyond this great type of the savior-successor of Moses to the true Savior and Successor that he signified and sealed the hope of to the people whom he served? We may note first of all his name, that is, Joshua, “Yahweh saves”; now, this is evidently intended to be a renewed promise and sign to the people, that according to the promise made to the patriarchs, God would indeed save his people from their sin and captivity, and bring them unto a land where he would be their God, and they would dwell safely in his presence forever; but even beyond this, it is the very name by which the true and final Savior, Jesus, came unto his people in the fullness of times; for “Jesus” is precisely the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua”. At the outset, then, in beginning to build upon the mighty foundation that he had left the people through Moses, God was pleased to signify very carefully through typology that he would indeed fulfill his promise to save perfectly, when the true Savior came.

    Second, Joshua's role as the one to complete what Moses had been unable to accomplish also shows him to be a type of the Savior; for Moses wrought the greatest salvation of all redemptive history before the coming of the Christ, so that the passing through the Red Sea became the one great event showcasing God's salvation until a greater event overshadowed it, viz., Jesus' bringing all his people safely through the waters of God's wrath by their inclusion in him as he suffered for their sins on the cross (see Jer. 23:5-8). Thus it is said that, whereas Moses did in fact bring the Law, yet real grace and truth came only by his greater successor, Jesus Christ (John 1:17). When Moses died a failure, as it were, having been unable to save the people to the promised land, Joshua then came along to do what he had been inadequate for, and brought them over indeed; and in this, he was a brilliant type of the Savior.

    Third, Moses, in his writings, left the work of creation complete but the work of redemption incomplete, as may be seen in his treatment of the great significance of the seventh day. After six days of work, creation was complete, and God rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:1-3); but when God had undertaken the greater work of redemption, he worked faithfully in many ways, to bring his people out of Egypt – but then, they still had to wander through the wilderness, and they never found their true rest, the Holy Spirit thereby signifying that the work of redemption was not yet complete, a truth to which Moses also gave his consent, commanding the Israelites to rest every seventh day (Ex. 20:8-11) in earnest and hope of a final day of rest, when God would finish what he had begun to do. Now, in this also, Joshua was a type, for he did bring the people into their rest, in the promised land; but that this rest was only typological is evident, for David spoke many years later of another rest, thus proclaiming that a sabbath rest still awaited the people of God after Joshua had brought the people in (Psalm 95:7-11). But Jesus, the greater Joshua, accomplished in fact what the first Joshua had done only in type, and having won forever a perfect sabbath rest, he provided for his people an eighth day of perfect bliss, the dawning of a new, eternal rest in the presence of God, which he showed them by rising from the dead on the day after that final typical sabbath (see Heb. 3:7 – 4:11; Mat. 28:1-6).

    Fourth, God caused the promise that Moses had proclaimed, and that the patriarchs had first possessed, to devolve entirely upon Joshua, as he assures him from the very beginning, saying, “Every place upon which the sole of your feet should tread, to you I have given it, even as I said unto Moses” (Joshua 1:3). Now, that his people should inherit the earth, and that they would dwell in a renewed land where God would walk among them, was the essence of the promise first made to Abraham (cf. Rom. 4:13). Inasmuch, then, as it is given over entirely to Joshua, not for himself alone, but so that he could cause all the people to inherit it (Joshua 1:6), he is functioning as a type of the greater Savior, in whom all the promises of God are Yes and Amen (2 Cor. 1:19-20). For he is the one Seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made (Gal. 3:16), not for the sake of himself alone, but so that all who are in him, and who are Abraham's seed by faith, might possess the earth and be granted all the promises of God (Gal. 3:28-29).

    Fifth, Moses was the greatest of Israel's leaders and prophets because God was especially with him, so that the Pentateuch ends by saying that there never again arose a prophet like him, who spoke face-to-face with the Lord (Deut. 34:9-12). But when Joshua arose to succeed him, the Lord gives this promise, “Just as I was with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you and I will not forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Now, the antitype, Jesus, fulfilled this typological description far more exactly, for God was with him as he had been with no other man, insomuch that he was indeed God in the flesh, he was very God joined with very man; and so too the Father was ever with him on this earth, and the Spirit anointed him for his ministry as a man. Furthermore, Joshua was promised that God would never leave him, not for his own sake, but for the comfort of his people whom he was about to save; and Jesus, also, became a man in whom God's presence ever dwelt not for his own sake, but for our comfort, whom he was about to save indeed; and in him, that certainty of the presence of God works ever for our comfort, for he has mediated the same promise to us who belong to him, saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

    Sixth, Joshua was exhorted to meditate day and night upon the scriptures that Moses had written, that he might have good success in his ministry of salvation thereby (Joshua 1:7-9); but how much more perfectly did Jesus do so, ever taking care to fulfill all that had been written of him in the scriptures, meditating upon them day and night, using them in his battle against the temptation of the serpent, confounding the hypocrites with them, and many other such things? So then, if Joshua found good success by taking heeding according to the Book of the Law, much more so did the greater Joshua succeed in his ministry of salvation thereby.

    Seventh, even as it was said from the beginning that no man should stand against Joshua, so no adversary was able to triumph against Jesus (Joshua 1:5). Eighth, just as Joshua promised at that time to perform his salvation and take the people of Israel into their land within the space of three days, so Jesus in three days fulfilled all the salvation he had set his hand to accomplish, and suffered, died, and rose again for the eternal redemption of his people (Joshua 1:11). Ninth, Joshua began his public ministry of bringing the people into the land by crossing over the Jordan River; and Jesus likewise began his public ministry by entering the Jordan River, at the baptism of John. Tenth, Joshua ordained officers to govern and shepherd his people, just as Jesus ordained his apostles, and by them, elders and deacons who would govern his people until they should all be brought safely into their inheritance (Joshua 1:10). Eleventh, Joshua's word was of such authority, that all they who rebelled against it were put to death; but how much more so is the word of Jesus, which brings eternal condemnation upon all who despise it (Joshua 1:16-18)?

    As we pass from the foundation of the Pentateuch into its typical fulfillment in these histories, how certainly we may see the true and final Savior foreshadowed therein! If the people of Israel rejoiced in Joshua, who rose up to save them after Moses had died, then how much more should we rejoice, brothers and sisters, who have seen the rise of the greater Joshua, who saves us from our sins and confirms to us all the promises of God, not just for this life, but unto all eternity, world without end?

    Posted by Nathan on April 22, 2010 11:01 AM

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