Joshua: Striving to Enter Our Rest

By Tim Thiele

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).

It was finally here. After four hundred years of bondage and deliverance from Egypt, the Lord had led his people to the edge of the promised land. With Yahweh on their side, the children of Israel had the opportunity to inherit the land flowing with milk and honey that God promised years ago to their forefathers. God’s chosen could finally enter their rest.

The Lord commanded Moses to send out twelve men to spy out the land, one of those men being Joshua the son of Nun. Forty days later the spies came back and gave their report. The land was all that God had promised. Unfortunately the spies also brought back some bad news. Reports of a strong people living in fortified cities frightened the Israelites. Soon grumbling and cries of unfaithfulness echoed throughout the camp. The children of Israel had forgotten that the Almighty God was on their side and through him they could accomplish anything. Among all the murmuring, Joshua and Caleb stood up and said concerning the conquest, “If the Lord is pleased with us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us  a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey” (Num. 14:8-9a).

Joshua was a man of faith, a man who trusted in God, a man who did as the Lord commanded in order to enter his rest. In Hebrews 3, we read of how the Israelites, who came out of bond-age, were unable to enter their rest due to unbelief. Because they did not trust in God and follow him, God did not allow them to enter the promise land. However, because of his strong faith, Joshua was not only allowed to enter the promise land but God also chose him to lead the second generation of Israelites into their rest.

We can learn a lot from the great men of faith that we read about in the Bible. In Romans 15:4, the Apostle Paul tells us, “For whatever was writ-ten in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

The life of Joshua is one from which we can definitely learn. We can gain enormous amounts of patience and encouragement from reading the accounts of the life of Joshua. Often the one verse that we go to first when we consider Joshua is Joshua 24:15 which reads, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This verse sums up the life of Joshua. He was a man who, in the midst of a people who did not follow God, served the Lord. However, this is not the only verse that we can receive benefit from concerning the life of Joshua. To gain a better appreciation for Joshua and gain practical application so as to enter our rest, we need to go back to an earlier part of Joshua’s life.

In Exodus 17 we read of a battle where the Amalekites fought against Israel at Rephidim. This story is memorable because the Israelites prevailed while Moses held up his hands, but when he let them down the Amalekites prevailed. Of course we know that Moses needed help holding his hands up and the Israelites won. When considering these facts, one de-tail is left out. In Exodus 17:9-10 we read, “So Moses said to Joshua, Go choose men for us, and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station my-self on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand. And Joshua did as Moses told him and fought against Amalek.” From the beginning we see Joshua obeying the commands of the Lord.

We do not see a lack of faith or a desire to disobey. Joshua had faith in God. He remembered how God struck down the Egyptians and delivered the children of Israel from bondage. He remembered how God had provided manna, quail, and water for the congregation of Israel. When it came time to fight against the Amalekites, his faith did not waver, but he “did as Moses told him” and they won the war.

Later, in Numbers 14, we continue to see this great faith of Joshua being manifested. The children of Israel had finally reached the border of the promised land. God told Moses to send twelve men to spy out the land. When they returned, they had some good news and some bad news. The land was all they had hoped for, but the people who lived in the land were very strong and the cities were large and fortified. At this news, the people became frightened and did not want to attempt to conquer the land. At this point Joshua addressed the congregation, “If the Lord is pleased with us, then he will bring us into this land . . . only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

These two accounts show us why Joshua made a statement like he did in Joshua 24:15. As far as Joshua was concerned, he could trust in God no matter what. God is almighty and he has proven himself repeatedly. Joshua had great faith in Yahweh and he and his household were going to serve him.

The story of Joshua is in God’s word for a purpose. It is there for us to study and learn to apply. We enjoy knowing the facts of Joshua’s life but if we stop there and do not apply these facts to our lives they are worthless. The Israelites who were led out of bondage could not enter their rest be-cause they had a lack of faith in and would not follow God. On the contrary, Joshua had faith in God and followed his commandments. He remembered what God had done for him and his people so when it came time to trust in God at a difficult moment he made the right choice and followed God. As a result, God re-warded him and allowed him to enter the promise land. If we apply these aspects of Joshua’s life to our lives we too can “enter our rest.”

Guardian of Truth XLI: 7 p. 16-17
April 3, 1997