As we looked at the second half of the book of Joshua in recent weeks, we saw the division of the land among the nine and one half tribes that didn’t receive an inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan. At the end of chapter 19, in verses 49-50, Joshua was given a special inheritance as Caleb had been.

In chapter 20 we saw the setting apart of six cities of refuge, as had been commanded by the Lord in Moses’ day (Num. 35:9-29 and Deut. 19:1-13). In chapter 21, the cities and fields that had been promised to the Levites were designated (Num. 35:1-8). There were 48 of them, including the six cities of refuge.

In chapter 22:1-9 Joshua dismissed the armies of Reuben, Gad and half Manasseh to return to their homes on the eastern side of the Jordan. They had fulfilled their pledge to fight for the land of Canaan even though they earlier had received their inheritance on the eastern side of the river. And so Joshua commended them for their efforts and admonished them to keep God’s law and to walk in his ways.

Joshua more or less “retired“ to his individual inheritance of land following the division of the land. But when he sensed that his death was near, he called Israel together to do two things; one, to warn them earnestly of the dangers of apostasy, chapter 23; and two, to renew the covenant once more, chapter 24.

In 23:1-2 we see Joshua calling Israel together. In verses 3-4 he reminds them of what God had done for them. Then in verse five Joshua proclaims what the Lord would do for them in the future, namely, drive out the remaining nations in the land. But, these blessings would not be automatic. As Joshua warns them in verses six and following, they must keep the Law of Moses (v. 6) and never ever turn to the pagan gods of the land (v. 7). They must hold fast to the Lord (v. 8) and love him (v. 11). In addition they must never intermarry with the people of the remaining nations (v. 12), because if they do, the Lord would not drive out the nations before them (v. 13). Finally Joshua warns Israel that just as all of God’s previous good promises have come to pass (v. 14), if they transgress the covenant of the Lord and bow down to other gods, the Lord also will bring to pass his promise to destroy them (vv. 15-16).

The sin that Joshua was trying to “head off at the pass” so to speak is called apostasy. Apostasy is the abandonment of one’s faith. It is the great danger of religious experience. Alan Redpath offers an analysis that of this chapter that suggests three terrible results of apostasy to be seen here; and I am indebted to for this analysis.

The first, and the most obvious, is defeat. Look at verse 13: “the Lord your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you.” Clearly, if Israel went apostate they would suffer defeat at the hands of the peoples they were supposed to be driving out.

A second result of apostasy is discomfort. Verse 13 continues, “they [that is the nations] will be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes.”

And third, apostasy brings disgrace. Look at verse 16: “If you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, . . . then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land that he has given you.”

I would add a fourth result, namely, death. Apostasy brings not just disgrace, but it ultimately leads to death. “You shall perish.” Joshua seems to have been thinking of physical death in Israel’s case; but for them as well as us, spiritual death is the final result.

But apostasy doesn’t have to occur. In addition to the three terrible results of apostasy, we also find in this chapter three safeguards against apostasy. The first is obedience. Verse six: “be very steadfast to observe and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right nor to the left.” Nothing works for the believer like obedience to the Word of God.

The second safeguard is separation. Verses seven and eight continue the statement of verse six: “so that;” that is, be obedient “so that you may not be mixed with these nations left here among you, or make mention of the names of their gods, or swear by them, or serve them, or bow yourselves down to them, but hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.” Obedience to God will mean separation from sin. There is no other way.

The third safeguard is the most important of all: love God. Verse 11: “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.” If we love God, we will be obedient to him; and if we are obedient, we will separate ourselves from sin and sinful activity.

In chapter 24 we find Joshua calling the people to Shechem for another renewal of the covenant (v. 1). In verses 2-13 Joshua rehearses the blessings that God had provided for the nation. He had called Abraham from his idolatrous background and brought him to the Promised Land (vv. 2-4); he miraculously delivered Israel from Egypt (vv. 5-7); he gave the land on the eastern side of the Jordan into the hands of Israel (vv. 8-10); and then he gave Canaan into their hands under Joshua (vv. 11-13).

This overwhelming manifestation of grace from the Lord laid Israel under obligation to serve the Lord with gratitude and sincerity. And so Joshua challenges them to show him that reverence and faithfulness; and then he demands that they choose whom they would serve (vv. 14-15). And they responded with enthusiasm that they would serve the Lord (vv. 16-18).

But then in verse 19 Joshua says an interesting thing: “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” That statement shocks us when we first read it. But the following verse clarifies the situation for us: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm.” In other words, Joshua did not mean that salvation is an impossible task. Rather he wanted them to understand that the covenant was not something to be taken lightly. They had to give up all foreign deities in true repentance and faith, or they could not serve the Lord. Moreover, as verse 22 indicates, they would be witnesses against themselves if they went back on their vow.

“So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day” (v. 25). In effect, he renewed the Mosaic covenant with them. Then he set up a large stone as a memorial marker of the event (vv 26-27) and sent them back to their homes (v. 28).

In verses 29-33 we find the conclusion of the book. We are told that Joshua died at age 110 (v. 29), and they buried him in his own land (v. 30). We also are informed that the bones of Joseph that had been brought out of Egypt were buried as he had requested (Ex. 13:19) (v. 32). And finally, we are told that Eleazar, the son of Aaron, also died, bringing an era in Israel to an end.

I want to highlight only one thing regarding application in respect to this final chapter. Just as Israel had to make a wholehearted, complete commitment for their covenant with God to work for them, so we Christians must make a wholehearted, complete commitment to God in Christ for our faith to work for us. And it is quite clear here, as it is many places in Scripture, that when we believers exercise our freedom to rebel against God, we can (and sometimes do) break with him.

I respect Calvinistic theology, because so many brilliant people have embraced it. And a biblical argument can be made in favor of its doctrine of “unconditional election,” the idea that God decides who is saved and who is not. We have no choice in the matter whatsoever. Those who hold to this doctrine of unconditional election must also hold to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Some use the words, “once saved always saved.” But that is not what we see here.

Israel could choose to keep the law, love God, and avoid pagan gods; or they could choose not to do that. If they did the former they would be blessed; if they did the latter they would perish. Of course God wanted them, and wants us, to repent and choose to love and obey him. And then he wants us to demonstrate that choice in sanctified living. But if we refuse to do that, we can become apostate and lose our relationship with him.


In this essay we are going to study Joshua 18-22, which is a huge block of material. But I trust that we can do so without ignoring important issues. Our procedure will be to survey the entire four chapters. Then we will go through again touching only on those passages that are particularly significant.

The four-chapter section begins at 18:1 with the relocation of the main encampment of Israel to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was set up permanently as a central shrine. Shiloh was centrally located for all the tribes, including those across the Jordan.

In 18:2-10 three men from each tribe were chosen to fan out across the land of Canaan for the purpose of writing up a description of the land. Then the description they brought back was used to allot an inheritance to the remaining seven tribes.

Next comes a record of those allotments. Usually the boundaries of the portion and a listing of the major cities in it are given. You can use the maps you have in your Bible to see where the various tribes received their inheritance. The territory of Benjamin is described in 18:11-28, that of Simeon in 19:1-9, of Zebulun in 19:10-16, of Issachar in 19:17-23, of Asher in 19:24-31, of Naphtali in 19:32-39, and of Dan in 19:40-48. At the end of chapter 19, in verses 49-50, Joshua was given an inheritance as Caleb had been. And then in the final verse of chapter 19 we find a summary statement.

In chapter 20 we see the setting apart of six cities of refuge, as had been commanded by the Lord in Moses’ day, a record of which is in Num. 35:9-29 and Deut. 19:1-13. These were cities where persons who were guilty of manslaughter could find safety and a fair trial. And if their case was judged to be actual manslaughter, they eventually could return to their hometowns in peace.

Next, in chapter 21, the cities and fields that had been promised to the Levites were designated. The original instructions for this is recorded in Num. 35:1-8. Num. 35:6 required that the six cities of refuge be given to the Levites. So those six along with 42 others, 48 in all, were set aside for the use of the Levites, as listed here. Then in 21:43-45 we find another summary statement.

In chapter 22:1-9 we are told that Joshua at this point dismissed the armies of Reuben, Gad and half Manasseh to return to their homes on the eastern side of the Jordan. You will remember that they had pledged themselves to fight for the land of Canaan even though they already had received their inheritance on the eastern side of the river. They fulfilled that pledge; and so Joshua commended them for their efforts. He also admonished them to keep God’s law and to walk in his ways.

Then an interesting thing happened. On the way home the two and a half eastern tribes decided to erect a huge memorial to God near the Jordan on the Western side. They made it in the form of the altar of sacrifice in the Tabernacle.

When the western tribes heard about it, they misinterpreted the motive for the memorial, thinking it was an actual altar of sacrifice (v. 10). That was alarming to them, because the Tabernacle was the only allowable place of sacrifice (Lev. 17:8-9). And so they concluded that the eastern tribes had abandoned proper worship of God, and they were ready to make war on their eastern brethren over the matter (v. 12).

But that turned out to be unnecessary. A delegation was sent to the eastern tribes to accuse them of apostasy. They learned the truth about the matter, and the crisis was averted (vv. 13-34).

All right, now we are going to point out three passages that provide applications. Israel’s task at this point was to live in the land. They had conquered it, but now their challenge was to live in it. We Christians face a similar challenge. We enter into the promised land of entire sanctification, and our challenge then becomes living in the experience.

The three passages that we are going to look at reveal three possible “stones of stumbling,” as we will call them. That is, these are three ways that we can trip up as we seek to live in the land of entire sanctification.

The first stumbling stone is a temptation to stop trying. That will quickly trip us up. We see this stumbling stone in 18:3. That verse reads, “So Joshua said to the Israelites ‘How long will you be slack about going in to possess the land that the Lord has given you?’” Israel had conquered the land in a general way, but the conquest was not complete. The temptation was to stop pushing ahead, to not drive out the remaining Canaanites, and to settle down into the life they already had. So Joshua had to admonish them in order to keep them moving ahead.

We Christians are tempted in the same way. We enter into the experience of entire sanctification with great joy and thankfulness. But then we shrink from pressing on into the “land,” and conquering the remaining “Canaanites,” because it requires further self-denial, or the sacrifice of a pet habit or sin. Or we discover a love of ease, an attachment to the world, or a dread of what other people think, unexpectedly rising within us. Of course those kinds of sins must be rejected and cast aside. But it is easy to become spiritually slack or lazy, and to let them creep into our lives.

Thus we need to ask ourselves certain questions. Do we rise in the morning and go to our devotions expecting God to meet us in a dynamic way? Or do we go through a routine with little expectation of actual interaction with the Lord. Do we attend church expecting God to touch us. Or are we resting on our achievements and simply going through the motions? We must avoid the temptation to stop trying.

A second stumbling stone is seen in chapter 20:1-6, where the cities of refuge are named. This one is a bit subtle, I suppose, but it is real. Sometimes we stumble because of a mistake. The cities of refuge were set-aside for people, who made mistakes, people who through some accident or mistake killed somebody. By fleeing to a city of refuge, such a person could receive fair treatment without fear from an “avenger of blood,” that is, from someone who would take vengeance for the killing. In a city of refuge the person who had mistakenly killed someone could get protection and a fair trial. Then if they were guilty of manslaughter rather than murder, they eventually could return home unharmed.

Sometimes we make mistakes as we seek to live the sanctified life. And occasionally those mistakes become a stumbling block to our spiritual growth. For example, we can unintentionally, through carelessness, cause someone we would like to win for Christ to turn against Christ. That is to say, our carelessness becomes a bad witness. When we realize what we have done, it can hinder our growth in sanctification.

The third stumbling stone is seen in chapter 22, verses 10 and following, where we saw the story of the large memorial altar. It is the stumbling stone of misunderstanding and evil talk. The problem for Israel that we saw there was their hasty judgment of the eastern tribes. They accused the eastern tribes of something they didn’t do. They not only accused them of abandoning proper worship of the Lord, they were ready to make war on them.

Sometimes we do that sort of thing. It is easy to make a hasty, incorrect judgment of someone and accuse them of something they didn’t do; or worse yet, to gossip about them unjustly. These are easy mistakes to commit, and they quickly can become sins.

Have you ever assumed the worst of motives behind someone’s actions? Have you ever quickly believed a terrible rumor about someone, and even repeated it to others? I have, I’m ashamed to say. Yes, misunderstandings and evil talk can become stumbling blocks to our desire to live an entirely sanctified life.

In summary, we have seen three “stumbling blocks to the sanctified life: giving in to a temptation to stop trying, letting a mistake trip us up, and allowing misunderstandings and evil talk to interfere. Let us resolve to keep moving forward, to find forgiveness for mistakes and move on, and to never let misunderstandings or evil talk interfere with our progress.


In the last essay on Joshua, we studied chapter 14, which revealed the first part of the distribution of land by Joshua. The first apportionment of land went to Caleb, because forty-five years earlier Moses had promised a particular portion of the land; namely the hill country of Hebron, to Caleb.

Now then, at chapter 15 we see the beginning of the distribution of land to the nine and a half tribes. The first lot went to the tribe of Judah, and the inheritance they drew was in the south where Caleb already had his inheritance. So as it turned out, Caleb was not separated from his tribal brethren. The boundaries are carefully spelled out in verses 1-12.

Then in verse 13-19 the author returned to the account of Caleb. They tell how Caleb won his victory over the Anikim. Then the account goes on to tell a story about how Caleb gave his daughter in marriage to his nephew Othniel, because Othniel took a particular city that Caleb wanted taken.

Interestingly Judges 1:8-15 tells the story of Caleb’s conquest of the Anikim a little differently. It says that the Judeans in general did it (v. 10). But the one does not preclude the other. Caleb obviously did not take Hebron as an individual, but as the head of a family of Judeans. Nor is it in conflict with the fact that Joshua had driven the Anikim out of the hill country earlier, as we were told in Josh. 11:21-22. The reason is that Israel normally did not occupy the cities they defeated. Thus frequently the inhabitants would return and have to be driven out again during the second phase of the conquest.

In verses 20-63 the author gives a long list of cities in Judah’s territory. Those cities have little interest for us, but obviously they did for the original readers. They are listed according to the four districts in which they were located; namely, the southland (vv. 20-32), the lowland (vv. 33-47), the hill country (vv. 48-60), and the wilderness (vv. 61-63).

In chapter 16 we see the inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim. Ephraim of course was, along with Manasseh, a son of Joseph. But their grandfather, Jacob, adopted them as his own (Gen. 48:5-6). And thus the families of those two sons of Joseph were given a full inheritance along with the other families of the sons of Jacob (Gen. 48:8-22).

You will recall that half of the tribe of Manasseh received its inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. But the other half of Manasseh and the tribe of Ephraim, both of which were tribes of Joseph, remained to get an inheritance. Since they were both tribes of Joseph, they were given an inheritance together. That is recorded in 16:1-4. Then the boundaries of Ephraim’s portion are described in verses 5-10; and the boundaries of the half tribe of Manasseh are shown in chapter 17, verses 1-13.

Note: The reference to Manasseh as Joseph’s first born in 17:1 is given by the author to justify the giving of two portions to the tribe of Manasseh (one on the east and one on the west of the Jordan). It was standard procedure in Hebrew life to give the eldest soon two portions of the inheritance, because they had the responsibility of taking care of the parents in their old age and any unmarried sisters.

The next paragraph, 17:14-18, is the section we are going to give more attention to in this essay. As you see, the tribes of Joseph complained about their inheritance. They considered themselves to be two tribes, but they got what appeared to them to be only one portion as an inheritance. They argued that they were a numerous people who had been greatly blessed by God. And thus they needed more land.

You can see Joshua’s reply. He said, in effect, you were given enough land. If you are so numerous, go and clear the forests and make more room for yourselves.

Actually, if you look back at the second census under Moses, which is recorded in Num. 26, these tribes of Joseph together numbered about 58 or 59 thousand. Thus they were smaller than Judah, Dan and Issachar, which were 76,500, 64,400, and 64,300 respectively. So even together they deserved only an amount of territory the size of one portion.

Next, the Joseph tribes changed their argument. They argued that the Canaanites were too strong for them, because they had chariots of iron. But Joshua replied, you are a powerful people as well; so drive them out. In other words, Joshua had no sympathy. The attitude of the Joseph tribes was one of lack of confidence and faith.

Now then, we want to turn to application. And we can do that in relation to the report about the Joseph tribes in 17:14-18. Unfortunately, the lessons are negative rather than positive; but we can learn from the negative. The basic issue with the Joseph tribes, a negative issue, was that they were complaining about their inheritance in the land.

Now remember, for us the “land” symbolizes our spiritual inheritance, our experience of entire sanctification. And some Christians complain about their spiritual inheritance in the same way that the Joseph tribes groused about their physical inheritance.

First of all, they boasted about their past accomplishments. They were a people who had been greatly blessed by God. They had become numerous. And they had important connections. You may recall that Ephraim was Joshua’s tribe. So these were his relatives. And in their minds, the past blessings and their connections entitled them to a larger inheritance.

Sometimes we Christians do the same thing. Perhaps God worked a great miracle in connection with our conversion; or he put a great anointing on our preaching; or he blessed us with wonderful financial benefits; or he blessed us in some other way. And so we conclude that we are deserving of a greater inheritance, meaning greater than other Christians. So the first point regarding the Joseph tribes was that they boasted of their past accomplishments.

Second, the Joseph tribes claimed they did not have enough room to exercise their abilities. They wanted more space to grow. They wanted more “elbow room.” They wanted to be able to do more than they were doing.

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been discontented with your spiritual lot? Have you ever longed for a greater opportunity to serve the Lord? Have you ever complained that the Lord hasn’t healed you, or called you, or empowered you in the way you dreamed?

I have. The temptation to complain about the way God is or isn’t using us is constant. It is so tempting to blame God for our weaknesses and failures, because he has the ability to overcome all of that and zap us with miraculous power. But he doesn’t. And so we grouse and complain. Like the Joseph tribes we claim that we don’t have enough room to exercise our abilities.

Third, and this is the scary one from our point of view, the Joseph tribes wanted to avoid the Canaanites who were still in the land. That was a major reason for wanting more land. They didn’t want to fight the remaining Canaanites, who were strong because they had chariots of iron.

How often have you wished your circumstances were different? If only I could get away from school work, which irritates me so, or break free from my job, where there are so many problems, or get away from a certain person who is a terrible thorn in my side.

Of course the question is could the real problem be in me instead of in my schooling, or my job, or some individual? Perhaps it is not a lack of room to exercise my gifts, but rather a matter of not living to capacity where I am.

Now this is a tough question, because sometimes God leads us out of a given situation by means of problems such as these. But for others the unrest is a matter of not wanting to fight the remaining Canaanites in the land. That was certainly the case with the Joseph tribes.

Well, the solution for the Joseph tribes according to the passage was not to get a larger inheritance, or to avoid the Canaanites in the land. Rather they were told to go in there and cut down trees to make more space, and to fight the Canaanites by faith in God.

And the advice may be the same for us. First, it does us no good to try to rely on past blessings to meet today’s problems. Second, God normally does not open new avenues of ministry until we finish the work we were called to do where we are. And third, there is no magical escape from the “Canaanites” in the land.

Have we been good stewards of the grace and power that God has given us where we are? If not, be that! Are there trees, perhaps “dead wood,” blocking our vision or impeding our progress in sanctification? Cut them down! Clear it away! Are there “Canaanites” still in the land? Fight them! The only way to grow in Christ is to follow this advice. It enables us to increase our capacity to receive grace and become more like Christ.


            The second half of Joshua begins at chapter 13, which we studied in our last essay.  The first phase of the conquest was complete; and so it was time to divide the land. 

            The first thing we noted was that the conquest had not been complete, even though the story had been told in the first 12 chapters in such a way as to give the impression that it was complete.  In 13:1 the Lord told Joshua, “Very much of the land still remains to be possessed.”  And in the following verses several districts in both the south and the north were listed as still unconquered (vv. 2-6).

            We also were informed in 13:1, “Joshua was old and advanced in age.”  So if he were to complete his work, which included the division of the land, before his death, he had to get on with it.  So the Lord commanded Joshua to divide the land, even though it was not yet all in Israel’s possession (v. 7).

            Next we saw a reminder that Moses had given two and a half tribes an inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan.  That was followed by a description of their inheritance (vv. 8-13).  And then the author reminded us further that the Levites received no inheritance of land.  Their inheritance was the “offerings by fire,” which the book of Numbers tells us included tithes of all of Israel’s offerings (Num. 18:21-32).  Then we noted a detailed description of the inheritance of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (vv. 15-33).

            In this essay, we study chapter 14, which reveals the first part of the distribution of land made by Joshua.  Verses 1-5 are a kind of introduction to the division of land on the western side of the Jordan, a division among the remaining nine and one half tribes.  The actual division is then recorded from 14:6 through chapter 19.  If you would like to look at the overall boundaries Joshua was working with, and the instructions from Moses that he was following, that information is found in Numbers, chapters 34, and chapter 35:52 and following.

            Beginning at verse six we see the story about how the first apportionment of land went to Caleb.  Even before the casting of the lots which would establish the inheritances of the various tribes, Caleb and the people of Judah came to Joshua to remind Joshua that forty-five years earlier Moses had promised a particular portion of the land; namely the hill country of Hebron, to Caleb.  Hebron is located about 25 miles west of Jerusalem.  That promise is not recorded in the Bible.  Num. 14:24 records a general promise to Caleb that he and his family would have an inheritance in the land, but no specific promise of Hebron is recorded there.  However, Joshua had heard Moses make that promise.  So Joshua gave Hebron to Caleb (v. 13). 

            As we turn to application of the passage, we noted immediately that the real spiritual power of the chapter focuses not in the story but in the person of Caleb.  Thus to apply the passage to our lives, we must study the life of Caleb. 

            As it turns out, Caleb is a terrific spiritual model!  He is inspiring, because he was 85 years old at the time; and his life illustrates that solid faith can be maintained to any age.  I would like to point out four aspects of his character that demonstrate his excellence as a model.  It is possible that I got these points from some source, but if so, I do not know what it was. 

            First, Caleb had a faith that never wavered.  If you turn back to Num. 13 and 14, you will see that Caleb’s story unfolded exactly as he told it in the passage before us.  At that time Israel was poised to o enter the Promised Land.  But the twelve spies sent out by Moses, one of which was Caleb, brought back a report of fortifications and giants.  Ten of them reported that Israel was not strong enough to take the land.”  But two of them, Joshua and Caleb, believed that with God’s help, they could do it.  As Alan Redpath once said, “The majority had great giants but little God.  Caleb [and Joshua] had a great God and little giants.”

            Then through all forty years of wandering in the wilderness, Caleb kept the faith.  He never doubted that God would fulfill his promise that Caleb and Joshua would enter the land.  When the people rebelled against Moses, Caleb did not.  Never was he among those who grumbled.  Never did he want to return to the leeks and garlic of Egypt.  Never did he participate in disobedience and idolatry.  Caleb had a faith that never wavered.

            Second, Caleb had a vision that never dimmed.  Caleb was able to keep the faith all those years, because he had a vision of God’s promises fulfilled.  He knew in his heart that God would one day bring him into the land.  And he also had a vision of keeping the covenant.  Those who do not believe that it is possible to keep the law cannot keep it.  But Caleb believed it was possible, and he did it.  Yes, he had a vision of keeping the covenant, and thus of maintaining the faith.  Caleb had a vision that never dimmed in addition to having a faith that never wavered.

            Third, Caleb had a strength that never weakened.  This one is rather amazing.  Caleb testified in verse 11 that he was as strong at age 85 as he had been when Moses sent him into Canaan as a spy forty-five years earlier.  Now I am certain he meant physical strength, because he specifically mentioned that he was strong “for war.”  So Caleb’s physical strength had not diminished in 45 years.  But I believe we can say the same thong about his spiritual strength.  Caleb had the power of God to strengthen him both spiritually and physically. 

            Finally fourth, Caleb had a victory that was complete.  At this point you might want to jump ahead to chapter 15 to see the end of the story.  We see there that Caleb succeeded in driving the Canaanites out of his territory.  Moreover among them were three sons of Anak, that is, three giants.  These were the same giants that the ten spies had said Israel could not defeat.  This is significant.  None of the tribes were able to clear the Canaanites from their territory.  Indeed time and time again we read that they were unable to drive them out.  It appears that Caleb was the only one who succeeded in expelling the enemy from his territory.  The man who followed the Lord in everything for so many years was the only man who gained complete victory. 

            What a model!  What an inspiration!  How many of us, at whatever age we might be, has a faith that never wavers, a vision that never dims, a strength that never weakens (physically or spiritually), and a victory that is complete.  My dear reader, I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to be like Caleb.  I want to move through my old age with undimmed faith.  I want my vision to get clearer and clearer year-by-year.  I want to move into old age not content to survey the past, but eager for fresh battles with the enemies of God. 

            If Caleb could do it under the Old Covenant, then we can do it under the New Covenant.  We may not all live to the age of 85, but we can end our earthly journey like Caleb—strong, courageous, assured, bold in faith, and able to say with the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).  Praise the Lord!


            In the last essay we concluded the portion of the book of Joshua that tells of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan.  The conquest was a fascinating story fueled both by faith in the Lord and miraculous intervention by the Lord. 

            Now as we come to chapter 13, we begin the second major section of the book.  The conquest was complete, at least in its first phase.  And it was now time to divide the land.  Verse one is very revealing.  Up to this point in the book, the conquest of Canaan has been described in more or less absolute terms.  The language seen in chapter 11 regarding the northern campaign is typical of what we have seen all along.  For example, in 11:8 where the author was describing the mop-up of the northern Canaanite armies, he said, “They struck them down, until they had left no one remaining.”  Then in verse 14 he wrote, “All the spoil of these towns, and the livestock, the Israelites took for their booty; but all the people they struck down with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed.”  Everything is phrased to imply that the total ban was enforced, and every Canaanite was killed.

            But now we see in 13:1 that the conquest was not absolute.  The Lord told Joshua, “Very much of the land still remains to be possessed.”  And then in verses two and following, the districts as yet unconquered are listed.  For example, the region of the Philistines, Geshurites and Avvites in southwest Canaan was unconquered.  Likewise in the north several areas are described. 

            Another factor also comes out in verse one.  “Joshua was old and advanced in age.  It isn’t possible to know exactly how old Joshua was; but he may have been 90 or older.  Chapter 14 reveals that Caleb was 85 about this time 14:7, 10).  And Joshua probably was older than Caleb.  At any rate, if Joshua was to complete his work, which included the division of the land, before his death, he had to get on with it because of his age.  So the Lord commanded Joshua to divide the land, even though it was not yet all in Israel’s possession (13:6-7).

            I will not rehearse all of the details of the division of the land.  Instead I will only touch on selected verses that are important for one reason or another.  To begin, verse eight reminds us that Moses, at their request, had given two and a half tribes an inheritance on the east side of the Jordan.  Then verses 9-13 describe that land. 

            Next, verse 14 reminds us that the Levites received no inheritance of land.  Their inheritance came from the “offerings by fire,” as the author calls them, which included tithes.  You can read about that in Num. 18:21-32. 

            Verses 15-23 describe in detail the inheritance of the tribe of Reuben.  Verses 24-28 do the same for the tribe of Gad.  And verses 29-31 describe the land given to the half-tribe of Manasseh.  Then the chapter concludes with a summary statement in verses 32-33. 

            Now then, as we seek an application to our lives from the chapter, the first point I would make is that the fact that Israel did not conquer all of Canaan is more important than it might seem on the surface.  Following the interpretation of the conquest as a type of entire sanctification, this is significant.  Entire sanctification requires a conquest.

            The Lord gave Israel the land as a gift, just as he sanctifies us as a gift.  But even though that is true; and even though he helped Israel with an occasional miracle; they had to conquer the land themselves.  Because we participate in our sanctification by means of a multitude of decisions, there is a sense in which we must conquer the “land” of full salvation just as Israel had to conquer the Canaanites. 

            We also must learn that God’s intention for Israel was that they possess all the land.  But now we see that in spite of the absolute language used in the earlier chapters, they had not yet taken possession of all the land.  In addition, it becomes clear later in Israel’s history that they never did take it all.  In other words, in their entire history, Israel never did achieve God’s intention. 

            Now a Calvinist might want to argue that this fact proves their idea that we never can escape sin in this life.  But that would be false logic.  That Israel as a nation did not attain God’s intention for them under the Old Covenant proves nothing about whether or not individuals can attain God’s intention for them under the New Covenant.  Remember we are dealing here with an Old Testament type, an analogy, and nothing more. 

            But the fact remains that Israel did not attain God’s intention for them.  He intended for them to have the land of Philistia and the other unconquered territories; but they never conquered them.  And the same thing can happen to us under the New Covenant. 

            The Lord intends for us to have all the mountains, the valleys, the pasturelands, the coastlands, and the cities of full salvation.  But for many Christians, there is much of the “land” unclaimed.  One area of unclaimed land for many Christians is quite fundamental; namely, knowledge of God’s Word.  For multitudes of Christians, much of the Bible is as unconquered territory.  Indeed it is as unpossessed for them as the unpossessed territories of Canaan were for Israel in Joshua’s day. 

            Another area of unpossessed “land” for Christians is in their inner person.  Some have unforgiven sin hidden away in their hearts and minds.  For example, some have secret sexual sins.  Maybe they are involved in some sort of sex outside of marriage.  Or they may have a secret pornography habit.  And there are other kinds of secret sins, such as greed and pride.  Of course there is no way that theses persons can become truly like Christ in that condition.  Indeed they risk their very salvation.

            Other Christians compartmentalize their lives.  They are committed to Christ for Sunday worship, and perhaps for family devotions and the like; but they never have given their business life over to the Lord.  That is something separate from their “religion,” they say.  In other words they are not about to hand authority over their business to the Lord.  And of course that attitude also does not allow for spiritual growth.

            Still others have another kind of stronghold or enemy that is deeply entrenched within.  It is the kind of enemy that hinders their spiritual growth, because it diverts their energy from absolute devotion to Christ.  It can be scars from perfectionism that stems from a parent who never was satisfied with anything their child did.  It can be scars from abuse, physical or sexual.  It can be any number of inner hurts that make it impossible for the Christian to be everything the Lord wants him or her to be. 

            Yes, there is much land to be possessed by many.  So what can we do to remedy the situation?  Well, some of the problems we have mentioned might require professional help.  But others simply require repentance and surrender. 

            The Lord must completely possess us, if we are to possess him in his fullness.  And the Lord cannot completely possess us when we have unconfessed and unrepented of sin in our lives.