Three Steps Forward
Israel’s entrance into Canaan was a very crucial step in their progress as a nation. The method of entering in is found in the first five chapters of Joshua. There were three distinct steps in this project, all of which have significance for us today.
First of all, it was an act of faith that Israel entered Canaan. The people lined up behind the Ark as they were told, and as soon as the priests entered the Jordan, the waters rolled back. The spiritual blessing which this typifies must also be entered into by an act of faith. We do not sit and idly twiddle our thumbs and all at once find ourselves spiritual. There is a decision to be made as we enter this spiritual land of conquest.
Secondly, the land which was entered had to be fought for. Israel had the assurance that her enemies would be defeated, but Israel nevertheless had to fight. This is also true in the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in. Faith must be backed up by effort. Faith that does not produce action is not faith. That is why we are told in Ephesians that we are to “put on the whole armour of God” and be ready for the battle. We are to pray “always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). This is our method of overcoming the enemy once we have entered the land.
In the third place, the land which Israel entered and conquered had to also be possessed. But Canaan was already occupied, so there was no way of possessing it without first dispossessing the enemy living in the land. In many cases, we find the Israelites had conquered many portions, but they did not entirely drive out the inhabitants. They merely conquered the people, subdued them and made them pay tribute. Thus the Israelites could not possess the land as long as their enemies were in it.
The application to the spiritual life is obvious. There are obstacles in our way to spiritual victory which must be put aside if we are to take complete possession of every faculty of our being and place ourselves in subjection to Christ. We learn in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
We are in a spiritual conflict and the weapons at our disposal are the Word of God and prayer. Through these we cast down “imaginations,” which are the reasoning's of the natural man’s mind, and we bring into subjection every thought to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some Christians will say that they cannot help what they think. But we can! We have the weapons in Christ Jesus to bring this through life of ours under His complete control. Only then will He be able to think His thoughts through us.
Regarding our entering the land in a spiritual sense, we see that the order is progressive. First there must be entrance before there can be conquering. Then there must be conquering before there can be possession. Consider the three steps or movements with the Jordan River as the central feature. As Israel is about to enter the land, three distinct steps were to be taken and the Jordan River was at the heart of it all.
First, in chapters 1 and 2, the Israelites had come to the Jordan River.
Secondly, it was necessary that they go through the river. This is described in chapters 3 and 4.
Then thirdly, in chapter 5, we see that they proceeded from the river. So there was the preparation to cross the river; then a passage through the river; and finally the purification after they had crossed the river.
It was an inward preparation that was necessary in their preparation to cross the river. After repeating the promises of God, Joshua told the people to get themselves ready, to get into the Word, to believe it, and to be strong and of a good courage. This was all in the inward preparation.
In the second chapter, the preparation was outward. There we learn of the two spies who were sent to Jericho in order to see exactly what God had already done by way of preparation in the country and in the hearts of the Canaanites. They would be readily conquered because they were fearful and demoralized.
The people had prepared themselves. Everything was ready. All that was needed was for them to act on faith and cross the river. Here they were ready to enter into the life of blessing. Previously at the Red Sea, they had been separated from the life of bondage, but at Jordan they were separated unto a life of blessing. In other words, their act was from one thing to something else. This is sanctification in its essence—separation from something to something. As Philippians 3:13 reminds us, “…forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” Events which lay behind them could not be changed. They had been delivered from Egypt. This corresponds to our spiritual birth. We cannot be unborn once we are spiritually born.
Israel left the desert which represents the self-life and they came into a land flowing with milk and honey, a place of conquest, of triumph and of rest. Between those two aspects of life was the Jordan River, a river speaking of human impossibilities. How does a believer come out of a life of selfishness into a life centred in Christ, a life of conquering and living victoriously and restfully in Him?
Are you looking for a life on a higher plane? Or have you thought that this was not for you? Your problems may be ever so great and you may face mountains of impossibility, but the Lord has good news for you. Here is what the Lord Jesus told His disciples at one time: “…Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith” (Mark 11:22-23).
For believers today, crossing the Jordan represents the passing from one level of the Christian life to another. It is a picture of entering into spiritual warfare to claim what God has promised. Essentially, this should mean the end of a life lived by human effort and the beginning of a life of faith and obedience.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).