Images of the Savior (7 - The End of Joshua's Life)
As we come to the second half of the book of Joshua, we will soar high above it, as a bird on the wing, in order to gain a sense of the coherence and significance of the whole, rather than walking through it piece by piece, as we have largely done heretofore. For although there are many wonderful things to be discovered in each passage and every event, yet the sum of the whole is this: that Joshua, in his great victories and apportionings of the land at large, was acting, true to his name, as a type of the coming Savior; and so, although we might profitably discover rich lessons in each individual occurrence, which it would be very advantageous for us to do at another time, yet seeing the character of the whole sum of Joshua's actions, and how he served as a foreshadow of the coming Christ in the entire scope of what he did, provides us with the necessary broad principles that will be of great assistance for seeking Christ in all the minutia of the text; and that is really the burden of this whole series of reflections â€“ not, that is, to bring out every particular of the text in detail, which is an undertaking far too great for the narrow confines of this book, but rather to show in a general fashion how the whole of scriptures is centered in every way on the person and work of Christ, so that more detailed studies might thence become much more fruitful.
We may see very clearly, in the latter half of Joshua's history, how his entire ministry foreshadowed the ministry of Christ in several important ways. Let us enumerate a few of them: first, we see that Joshua came after Moses, that greatest of all the prophets, and did everything without exception that had been prophesied in the books of Moses, and that the great man of God had been unable himself to do. Thus we read in chapter eleven and verse twenty-three, â€œAnd Joshua took all the land, according to all that Yahweh had spoken unto Moses; and Joshua gave it as an inheritance to Israelâ€. And again, in chapter twenty-one, verses forty-three through forty-five, â€œAnd Yahweh gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it, and dwelt in it. And Yahweh gave rest to them on every side, according to all that he had sworn to their fathers. And not a man stood before their face, of all their enemies; Yahweh gave all their enemies into their hand. There did not fail a word of all the good words that Yahweh had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to passâ€. All the gospel promises of God, that he had sworn to give to the patriarchs, Moses had been unable to give; but then Joshua (albeit it in a shadowy and temporary way) rose up to fulfill everything that had been promised.
But in this, how can we fail to see a type of the Christ? For all throughout history, God had been giving his rich gospel promises most liberally, first to Abraham, then to David, and to all the people through the prophets, but they were never fully and permanently in the possession of the people. The prophets who promised all these things, and who strove to turn the people to the Lord that they might inherit them, were unable to fulfill all that they had promised by the Spirit of the Lord. But thanks be to God, that when he sent the true Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, then all the promises of God found their â€œYesâ€ in him (2 Cor. 1:20), and every good thing that had been spoken by the prophets became the eternal inheritance of all the people of God!
In the second place, we may see a foreshadow of Christ in this, that although Joshua, in a typological fashion, fulfilled every promise given to the people by Moses, yet they did not fully enjoy all the benefits of those blessings he had won, and so he sent them out even after his death, that they might possess them fully. Joshua had already won every promised blessing, but he had not yet caused the people to be fully at rest in the promised land, but left various enemies and challenges in their territory, even after he had given it to them. Thus were some of the Philistines left, who would later prove to be so troubling, and the Jebusites in Jerusalem, and other such tribes. And so, at the very end of his life, the Lord says to Joshua, â€œYou are old and advanced in days, and there remains very much land to possessâ€ (Joshua 13:1); and so Joshua left instructions to the tribes to continue conquering after he had died, even though he had already testified that he had given all the land to them, leaving not so much as the space of a footstep out of their possession. In this, too, we may see Joshua as a type of Christ, who, before he left us, assured us that he had won for us all victory and every blessing, and yet, he sent us out to conquer the world through the gospel, even though we had already become the heirs of the world in him who, having sat down at the right hand of God, had only to wait until the Lord put all his enemies beneath his feet, having become the heir of all things (Heb. 1:13; 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 15:25).
Third, we see Joshua as a type of the Savior in this respect, that he unilaterally judged and apportioned gifts and places of ministry to his people. So, after the enumeration of all his mighty victories, and of his winning all the blessings promised by God, he apportions out all the land to each individual tribe in great detail, and determines all their ministries and places of habitation. So too, Jesus, when he ascended on high, â€œled captivity captive, he gave gifts to menâ€ (Eph. 4:7-8; Psalm 68:18). In a similar vein, he judged and answered the requests of all the people; as when Caleb came to him and reminded him of Moses' promise, and Joshua fulfilled to him all that Moses had spoken (Josh. 14:6-15). Or else, when the tribe of Joseph came to him with a request for more land, and he gave them assurance that they would have the land they needed, and would be strong to drive out the chariots of iron that had hindered their conquest (Joshua 17:14-18). In this, we are instructed to plead the promises of God, and be assured that Christ will fulfill them all; but also, that he often does not give us any of our requests on a silver platter, even those things which are ours by divine promise, but rather urges us to press on and fight for them, just as Caleb and Joseph had to fight. But even in this, he succors our souls with many comforts and promises of final victory.
Fourth, we may see another very notable glimpse of the Savior in Joshua's appointment of the cities of refuge, which Moses had first promised and ordered to be established. Now, we have already explained in detail how these cities looked ahead to the Messiah, so we will only remind the reader in brief of how they provided a place of refuge for the penitent sinner who was not presumptuous in his sin; and provided he remain in one of them until the high priest's death, he would be free from the penalty of the avenger of blood. In the same way, we who flee to the city of Christ, that is, the Church he died to build, will be forgiven of our sins, provided we do not turn back to them with a high hand, in apostasy; and our punishment will be utterly turned away by the death of the true High Priest, Jesus Christ. Again, in that Moses promised these things and Joshua actually provided them, we may see a type of how the gospel blessings of forgiveness and freedom by the death of the High Priest, which were promised by the prophets, were all fulfilled in Christ alone.
Fifth, we may see another notable shadow of the gospel in the inheritance of Levi, especially. For when Joshua gave them their inheritance, it seemed as though they had none; but in reality, their inheritance was the Lord (Joshua 13:33), and hence they were so far from having none, as really to be in possession of the whole land! And this Joshua signified by scattering them throughout all twelve tribes, where they were as strangers and pilgrims in appearance, and yet as possessing all the land in reality. So too, according to the promise of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:18-21), we who believe in Christ have been taken from all the nations to be priests and Levites to God; and thus, we are scattered throughout all the world, which we will inherit (Mat. 5:5); and even though, in appearance, we are strangers and wanderers, and possess nothing, yet in reality we own the rights to all things. So did that blessed Church father and disciple of John explain about Christians to the curious world, â€œThey dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.... Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangersâ€ (Ad Diognetum, chapter five).
Sixth, we may see a notable glimpse of the unity of the Church, which Christ died to establish, notwithstanding its separation in geography. For the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, as you will remember, accepted their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan, and yet they went in to help their brothers possess the rest of the land. When Joshua was about to die, and sent them back to their own land, they set up an altar just like the altar that would be in Jerusalem. Now, since there could only be one altar and one true worship of God, their brothers were all indignant, and would have destroyed them; but they protested vigorously, saying, â€œNot so, this altar is not for sacrifice, but only to serve as a reminder that, no matter how far we are away from Jerusalem, we have a right to the altar there, for we are one people with you, and worship the one God at his one house in Jerusalemâ€. Then, they were well-satisfied (Joshua 22).
Now, this served to show the people that, although there is one altar and one God, yet his people all partake of the worship and sacrifice alike, no matter how far away they may be; and in this, they looked ahead to the Church, which has one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph. 4:4-6), and which, no matter how scattered they may be across the world, yet they are one in Christ. Now, just as the model of the altar showed that they who clung to the true worship of God were to be accounted among his people, we are to learn that all of us who hold steadfastly to the one faith and Lord and baptism which was handed down to the saints are all true heirs of the gospel. What, then, is the apostolic Church? It is not they who merely claim a historical succession from the apostles, but they who may justly lay claim to the faith which the apostles delivered over to us; all they, in other words, who have as a model of doctrine and practice in their church that true faith which the apostles proclaimed, are in truth God's people. In this, the Church father Tertullian spoke well when he said, â€œTo this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine...â€ (On the Prescription Against Heretics). And other similar things did Irenaeus, and other fathers, teach.
Now, the last point we will make is this: that when Joshua, on his death bed, had reminded the people of all that God had spoken to their fathers, and taught them the Law anew, and reiterated his firm resolve to do the will of the Lord, with all his house, he then re-affirmed the covenant with them. In this, he was foreshadowing Christ who, when he had taught the Law and showed fully his resolve to do the will of God, and admonished his disciples to press on in his example, then he died to make firm a new covenant, established upon his blood and sacrificial death for the people on the cross. Thus does the book of Joshua end, with the death of Joshua and the renewed covenant. But the story of the gospel did not end with the death of Jesus, but rather with his resurrection from the dead, and the eternal establishment of a new covenant, that could never again be broken. The shadow-savior passed away; but the true Savior of the world has risen again, and henceforth dwells in the light of life, at the right hand of the Father, blessed now and forevermore, amen.