The Book of Joshua

33. Rest.

Joshua 21:43-45.

"If Joshua had given them rest, then would he [David] not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest to the people of God." — Heb. 4:8-9.

All Jehovah's promises were fulfilled, and the land was distributed amongst Israel, according to His word.
"And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers.
"And they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
"And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that He sware unto their fathers.
"And there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand.
"There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass."

Jehovah had been unwearied in bringing Israel into the possession of the land promised to the fathers. He had now fulfilled His own sure word. He had come down into Egypt, the land of Israel's bonds; He had been afflicted there in their afflictions; He had ransomed them from captivity, and, having given them the spirit of pilgrims, had guided them as a flock through the wilderness, where He fed them daily, went before them, and was their rearward; He had healed their wilderness backslidings, and forgiven their unbelief in His grace; He had brought them through the river into the promised land, fought for them, given them victory over all their enemies, and had made the promised inheritance their possession. All that Jehovah had given them to anticipate was fulfilled. Israel was at rest — rest in the midst of fulfilled promises, in the midst of possessed blessings.

In one sense Israel entered Canaan at rest — at rest from the judgment of Egypt, from the pursuit of the destroyer, and from the wilderness. All their hopes concerning deliverance from the place of bondage and Pharaoh, and of reaching the land of promise, were then fully realized. Thus they began their fight in Canaan as God's men of war, and in the power of His liberty; and, having waged Jehovah's wars for seven years, as it is generally understood — a perfect period — "the land rested" (Joshua 11:23). Conquest produced rest from warfare but as this was obtained by conquest, it could only be sustained by incessant watchfulness, being lost to them should they fail to exterminate the enemy. The rest was not absolute.

But the rest mentioned in verse 44 of the chapter before us is complete, at least so far as Israel was concerned.

Every character of rest which Israel enjoyed resulted from divine faithfulness. That here described, being a fulfilment of promise, is one which, when entered, leads the devout heart to exclaim, Behold, what has God wrought! It anticipates a day when, every foe of God's people being subdued, all the blessings which are promised them in Christ shall be realized.

What follows in the book of Joshua, morally considered, is hardly a development of the history of Israel. With rest we have reached the desired end. The remainder of the book is a warning to such as, having a promise given them of entering into rest, seem to come short of it (Joshua 22), and an exhortation to those which have in spirit entered into rest, to abide in the power of it (Joshua 23 and 24).

The Christian, as the result of Christ's victory, enjoys through faith present rest over sin, the world, and Satan, even while warring with these foes. It is his portion, by faith, to know full deliverance from the judgment of the world through the precious blood of Christ, his passover; to know that Christ, being risen from among the dead, has broken the power of death and Satan; from both of which He has delivered His redeemed people. The Christian knows, too, that Christ is in the heavenly places, and that he is seated in Him there; that he is God's freed man, and in the power of this liberty and rest, and, in his Lord's might, he fights against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. The Christian enjoys the peace of his Shiloh, worships the Father in spirit and in truth in the true tabernacle, where the glory-cloud ever abides. But while all these blessings are his to enjoy and to dwell in, yet there is a rest which he is anticipating, a rest which he has not at present entered, even the rest of God.

The Christian is a man of expectation; he is saved in hope — in hope of coming glory. Did he not enjoy complete peace with God, and rest for his conscience through the finished work of the Lord Jesus, he could not hope for the glory. His salvation is absolute, but the longings of the new nature render him a man of expectation. "Hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:24-25).

Hope and possession are woven together in his soul. He is not yet transformed into the image of Christ, though he is now a child of God; what he shall be is not yet manifested, but he is blessed in Him with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. He is not yet morally like the Lord, but by beholding His glory he is, day by day, changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). He is compassed about with infirmity, and with the whole groaning and travailing creation, groans within himself, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:21-23); yet he has the Spirit of God within him, the earnest of the promised possession (Eph. 1:13-14). Hope and security are both his, "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly (1 Cor. 15:49); "we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Phil. 3:20-21), yet even now "all things" are ours (1 Cor. 3:21). In the sympathies of Christ, the Christian anticipates the day of his Redeemer's glory, and longs to behold that glory, as the Lord prayed the Father (John 17:24); in the "patience of" Christ he awaits the day when the Lord's foes shall be made His footstool (Rev. 1:9).

It is further the Christian's privilege to look forward, desiring the honour of Jesus, to the time when Israel's twelve tribes shall own their now rejected Messiah, when north and south shall give up the people who are now nationally dead, when their land shall once more flow with milk and honey, and shine with God's favour, and when Israel shall sing to Jehovah "and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him;" when the Kingdom of God shall be established, and the name of Jesus be confessed by every tongue, and every knee bow to Him and own Him Lord, to the glory of God the Father. In a word, the Christian is expecting all that shall accrue to Christ's glory, which His precious death has purchased, and for which He Himself waits, for "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa. 53:11).

In order to enjoy rest in our present spiritual blessings ceaseless vigilance is necessary, for the foe is still active. But fightings without and fears within will cease before long; idols and their names will shortly come no more in remembrance. The strivings of sin and the buffetings of Satan have an end for God's people; it shall be said of all the saints, even of the weakest, "The Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand." The day will dawn, ushered in by the Morning Star shining in the sky; and then this world and the lusts thereof shall pass away; and it shall be proved that the word of the Lord endures for ever. Then, resting in God's rest, heart shall respond to heart with joyful praise, "There failed not aught of any good thing which the Lord had spoken … all is come to pass."