Johsua had led the people into the Promised Land, and after several years of war had rid the land of its original inhabitants, but not completely. They had left some alive including the entire Gibeonite tribe which tricked Joshua and the elders in making a treaty with them. Joshua and the elders neglected to consult God regarding the matter and it would eventually cost them dearly in future generations.
We New Testament Christians enter the Promised Land when we surrender ourselves completely to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Until then we just wander through the wilderness where our ‘old man’ must die and all things become new. What the Hebrews did in the flesh corresponds well to modern Christians in the spiritual.
The Gibeonites and otherites who were left alive against God’s commands represent serving foreign gods to us Christians. They are the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. They are ambition, riches, pride, sensuality – any thing that pulls us away from single-minded obedience to God and causes us to set our own course.
For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations; but as for you, no-one has been able to stand against you to this day. One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you. Therefore, take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God. Or else, if indeed you do go back and cling to the remnant of these nations – these that remain among you – and make marriages with them, and go into them, and they to you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they will be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you. Joshua 24:9-13 NKJ.
This amazing passage reminds us that the Lord goes before us to lead us into the Promised Land. However, our lack of faith and our disobedience get in His way. Remember Jesus said, in John 14 and 15, that if we love Him we will keep his commandments, and if we don’t keep His commandments it is because we don’t love Him. So Joshua’s admonition that you love the Lord your God, calls us to obedience. Furthermore, God, by his permissive providence will test both our faith and our obedience, so failure in one will lead to failure in the other.
Heb 3:18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?
Heb 4:9-11 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.
Rest, ie peace, is what the Hebrews received after they had rid the land of most of the foreign peoples. To do that they had to be willing to go to war and they had to go to war. They had to fight, but their victory was assured because God went before them, except when they disobeyed God as Achan did (see Joshua 7).
Similarly, we have to fight to rid ourselves of those lusts and temptations that pull us toward worldly desires and away from God. We do that by ‘knowing’ God. Love is often a function of communication; loving God requires our communicating with Him. We communicate with God by reading about Him, by meditating on Him (Be still and know that I am God), by worshipping Him, by praying and by just walking with Him and listening. As we get to know Him better and better, we love Him more and more and obedience becomes easier than we can imagine. Then we can enter God’s rest on earth.
It’s when our hearts and minds are so busy with the ‘cares of the world’ that we become like the disobedient Hebrews. The Lord no longer goes before us and we are soon plagued by snares, traps, scourges and thorns until there is no place found for us in God’s rest. God’s rest is not only here on earth, but in Heaven and probably also in the Millennial Reign. God’s rest ends when He returns to earth and sets up the New Jerusalem. Then, I believe, it’s back to work for us, but in a far, far better world.