A Pattern of Restoration (3)
For He remembered His holy promise,
And Abraham His servant.
He brought out His people with joy,
His chosen ones with gladness.
He gave them the lands of the Gentiles,
And they inherited the labor of the nations,
That they might observe His statutes
And keep His laws.
Praise the LORD! Psalm 105.42-45
The promised land
The Scriptures remind us that the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Ps. 24.1). In a way analogous to this, God promised Abram that all the land of Canaan would belong to him and the people of God’s covenant after him (Gen. 12.7; 13.14-17; 17.8). “The land is yours, and everything in it,” God said in effect. And thus Abram (Abraham) set out to bear children, build herds, cultivate fields, and hire native dwellers to create a dwelling place from which the blessings of God’s covenant could flow to the entire earth.
Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, the land of Canaan is seen as a sign of God’s blessing and an outpost for reaching the whole earth. As in the land of promise, so beyond, the wisdom of God would confront and impress the nations (Deut. 4.5, 6); the glory of God would cover the earth (Hab. 2.14); and nations and peoples, seeing the effects of God’s people living by His Law, would stream up to Mt. Zion to learn more about God and how they might share in the blessings of His covenant (Is. 2.1-4; Mic. 2.1-8). The people of Israel would enlarge their tents and territories beyond the land of Canaan, reaching into all nations and peoples, to incorporate them into the grace and blessing of God (Is. 54.1-10).
But in Joseph’s day, the people suffered a major dislocation. It would take them 400 years and more to begin to recover from this; but after that time, God assured them, they would once again possess the land promised to Abraham – the land that had come to be occupied by the various tribes and peoples of Canaan (Gen. 15.13-21). The promised land would be restored to the people of Abraham, and with it, blessing and bounty in every facet and aspect of their lives (Deut. 28.1-14).
God sent Moses to begin the work of restoring His people to their land; but it was Joshua who would ultimately lead and deliver the people of God into the promises of God’s covenant in Canaan.
Conquest and settlement
Joshua’s conquest and settlement of Canaan foreshadow in many ways the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in reconciling the world to God. Like Jesus, Joshua’s work began in the wilderness of what would become Judea. There he began the work of binding and expelling the demon-worshiping pagan peoples of Canaan. In a series of strategic campaigns, Joshua pursued the pagan usurpers and drove them from the land of promise, in the process, appropriating their fields, farms, and homes to be restored to God’s people and worked and inhabited according to God’s Law, and destroying every vestige of pagan worship and ways.
Like Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Joshua prepared the people for the work of restoration by renewing the covenant with the Lord (Josh. 6), and writing the Law of God for all His people to see and read (Josh. 8.30-32). From there he led the people as one into the work of restoring the promised land to the people of Abraham. Once the pagan peoples had been largely subdued, Joshua parceled the land out among the tribes, allocating cities and farms to all the people, and charging them to keep covenant with God and live according to the words of His Law (Josh. 24.14-28).
Joshua’s work of conquest had the effect of leading the people of God into the promises He had long ago given, but only in an incomplete manner. For Joshua’s work was but a template of restoration, a type and sign of restoration to come, and not the final work. He and his work bring forward the reconciling and restoring pattern we observed in Noah and Joseph; and they point forward to the day when a greater Joshua – our Lord Jesus Christ – would destroy the enemies of God and send His people into every nation, to restore the reconciled world to God.
The way of restoration
As another overlay of the restoration template that we have observed thus far in Scripture, Joshua adds some important information for us in thinking about our work of restoration.
First, restoration is a work for all the redeemed of the Lord, all who have entered into covenant with Him by blood. It requires all the people playing their part, working together, focusing on the vision and promises of God, and pressing the struggle for restoration to the limits of the earth. All the redeemed of the Lord have been given the ministry of reconciliation; we must all be equipped and engaged, beginning right where we are each day, in bringing the rule of King Jesus in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, to realization in all things.
Second, the work of restoration does not occur in a vacuum, or on a clean slate. There are obstacles to overcome, battles to fight, and strategies to be employed over extended periods of time. Our views may be challenged, our attempts at conversation rebuffed, our efforts to bring more beauty, goodness, or truth into our world laughed to scorn or resisted. But the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it – including that space of influence assigned to you (2 Cor. 10.13-18). He will enable us to succeed, but we must continue the struggle daily.
Third, the work of restoration seeks to bring the blessings of God’s Law and all His Word into every facet and aspect of life. We look to God’s Word to show us the way things are supposed to be, and to guide us into all truth, beauty, and goodness for all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities. As God’s Law loomed high over the people of Joshua’s day, so it lives in our hearts by the work of the Spirit, Who guides us into all truth.
Finally, the work of restoration can only proceed when God’s people are faithful to Him, not harboring sin in their midst, and remembering all His many works on their behalf, as they rest in His Word to guide them each step of the way. Unless we are always restoring our soul before the Lord, we will have little desire, incentive, or power to restore anything else.
Joshua’s work of restoring the promised land to the people of Abraham offers many insights for how God intends the followers of Jesus Christ to spread throughout and restore the reconciled world to Him.
1. How can you see that Joshua’s work of restoration was in some ways like that of Noah and Joseph?
2. What might a local church learn about the work of restoration from Joshua and the people of Israel?
3. What do you primarily learn about your work of restoration from Joshua and the people of Israel?
Next steps – Transformation: What can you add to your own work of restoration?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.