Recently, I was working through a Bible study I was to deliver to a class on the first chapter of Joshua, and quickly discovered that there was more to learn than just an understanding of historical facts. To grasp the tension of Joshua’s commissioning as the man to lead Israel into the Promised Land, you really have to back up and focus on the last days of his predecessor and mentor, Moses. Besides being the man through whom the Law of God was delivered, I read somewhere that the Lord chose to preform over 55 miracles through, or in the presence of this legendary prophet. Quite an amazing epitaph! But despite all those astounding accomplishments, there was one thing that he wasn’t able to do … he didn’t lead Israel to take possession of the Land of Canaan.
Numbers 20:2-13 makes clear that Moses’ disobedience to the clear instruction from God was the reason behind him being barred from the Promised Land. Of course, the living God of Israel is, above all things, just, but from our vantage point, it seems His judgment against His servant was maybe a little harsh. I mean, Moses was clearly filled with humility and devotion, put up with a lot of grumbling among the Israelites, and was faithful to God for a long, long time. So when Israel needed water in the desert and returned to their complaining ways, it would be easy to understand Moses’ irritation. Unfortunately, his anger caused him make a poor choice. Instead of providing water for the nation by speaking to the rock (as God told him to), he struck it with his staff just as he had done once before (Ex. 17:1-7). Sure, it was disobedient, but banning him from his ultimate destination… one he had labored so long toward… seems on the surface to be a little extreme.
What I learned in preparing to teach my lesson is that this incident makes much more sense when you look at the broader spiritual principle that God was demonstrating.
See, spiritually speaking, Moses represented the Law, and Canaan represented entrance into the promise land of rest and peace with God. If we stay with that comparison, the New Testament makes it clear that no one can find peace with God through the Law, unless he keeps it perfectly. (Gal 3:9-10; Jam. 2:10) And faltering even once –no matter how inconsequential it may seem—disqualifies a person from entering eternity with their Creator on their own merit.
In this story, Moses did what he thought was best (ie, relied on himself) instead of following God’s instructions. Plain and simple… He broke the Law and was kept from entering Canaan because of it.
But this where Joshua comes on the scene. The name Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation” and the Hebrew version of his name is Yeshua (aka Jesus) So to continue with the spiritual truth foreshadowed in this Old Testament story, Jesus, (typified by Joshua) is the One who ultimately leads us into the Promised Land!
Obviously, Joshua was far from perfect and all analogies break down when you take them far enough. But the reality of what was pictured in this Old Testament story is found in our perfect Savior. Jesus fulfilled the Law flawlessly, so He is the only one qualified to open the way to eternity and lead us into His land of rest.
So the next time you read the story of Moses and Joshua, get beneath the surface a little and reflect on the deeper lesson God was teaching. He restrained Moses from leading His people into the Promised Land as a foreshadowing and a warning….. We cannot enter eternal life by way of the Law, but only by grace alone through faith in Jesus, who’s name …and life… mean “Yahweh is salvation.”