Over the past few months, we have been considering the connection between our path to spiritual growth and the experience of the children of Israel on their path to the promised land. We have compared Israel’s escape from Egypt with our initial salvation which set us free from sin’s penalty. We have compared God’s promise to take Israel into the land with His promise to us of a Sabbath rest. This is not a one-day-a-week rest. This is a life of rest in Him. A life of walking in the Spirit by faith. A life of peace and victory.
Finally, when Israel shrunk back and refused to go into the land due to a lack of faith, they were destined for a generation of wandering in the wilderness. This detour is a picture of today’s believer who shrinks back from God’s promise of freedom from the power of sin. The wilderness Christian is content to live the life in his own power, going around in circles without direction; without progress along the path of spiritual maturity.
If this gospel analogy between Israel and us is awakening something in you, we have one more passage about Israel’s journey that, quite frankly, blows me away.
Let’s fast forward from Israel’s initial rejection of entry into the promised land. Forty years of wandering in the wilderness have now passed. A new generation of the children of Israel are camped across the Jordan River from Canaan, ready to cross over and enter the land of promise. Joshua, Moses’ successor and leader of the nation, has sent two spies into the land reminiscent of an earlier spy mission forty years before.
When the spies arrived in the house of Rahab, the Canaanite, in the city of Jericho, they made a startling discovery. Listen to it in Rahab’s own words to the spies. “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away [become demoralized] before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And when we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Josh. 2:9-11).
What did the spies discover? That for forty years, Canaan had been a defeated foe. The people of Canaan, who the original Israelite spies said were giants that would devour their woman and children, were only paper tigers. They had already conceded victory to Israel forty years ago when Israel crossed the Red Sea. Their Canaanite “hearts melted” and they had “no courage” to take on the children of Israel. But instead of claiming this victory when they were on the doorstep of the promised land, Israel shrunk back and marched around the wilderness completely unaware that the so-called giants of the promised land had already given up; had already lost hope of defeating God’s people.
Faithless Israel had no idea that the victory was already theirs. The enemy had already given up. So how does this compare to our experience today?
When you look at the path ahead, do you see giants? So you see besetting sins that cannot be conquered? Do you see a past that holds you in prison? Do you see unrelenting guilt and shame, fear and worry, pride and selfish ambition?
Did you know that all of these enemies were defeated by Jesus at the cross? Yes, the victory is ours even when we are unaware or unsure if that is really true. How can I know that for sure? Because the Bible tells me so. Because God not only told us about it; He promises to do something about it. He sent Jesus to die in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous, for two purposes.
One to take away our guilt before a holy God and remove the penalty of sin from our future. But He also died to remove the power of sin in our present by literally coming to live His life in us. This is what the Bible means by us “being justified by Christ’s death and being saved by Christ’s life” (Rom 5:10). So in the here and now, He is offering you a promise to set you free from guilt, shame, fear, worry, idolatry, pride, and sin’s mastery in your life.
This is the lesson of Joshua chapter 2. Read the whole chapter and you will see a beautiful picture unfold of laying claim to victory over an already defeated enemy. For us, the power of sin still raises its ugly head in the life of a believer, but pick up your sword of faith and lay claim to the victory that is in Christ Jesus.