Scripture: Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:43-45 ESV
Observation: The author, having concluded his detailed account of the allotment of the land to the twelve tribes along with Caleb and Joshua’s special land grants, continues with a summary report of the locations and names of the cities of refuge (chapter 20) and the towns and pasturelands allocated to the Levites (chapter 21). The author then reminds his audience that the Lord granted Israel their victories and now a shalom rest from enemy threat. Why? Because he fulfills all the “good promises” he struck with Israel’s patriarchs and all the house of Israel (above verses).
The accounts of the conquest and division of the land begin and end with similar declarations of God’s covenant faithfulness, the seminal of which starts with the patriarch, Abraham (Genesis 12:1-7). And it continues, as theologian Robert Hubbard notes, with four thematic elements from chapter 1 that reverberate in the above conclusion:
- The Lord gave Israel all the land (vv.43a and 1:6).
- Israel took possession of the land and settled there (vv.43b and 1:11, 15).
- Yahweh granted rest on all sides (vv.44a and 1:13, 15).
- All God promised he fulfills (vv.45 and 1:5)
On this encouraging note, the narrative of the conquest and allotment of the land concludes.
Takeaway: While segments of Canaan remained unconquered, the author and his audience understood that Israel controlled all the Promised Land with the help of their covenant-keeping Lord. Hence, the author intentionally repeats the Hebrew word “all” to emphasize the finality and completeness of the covenantal promise (see underlined bullet points above). And we see in Matthew’s conclusion of his Gospel a similar repetition of “all” that points us to Christ’s Great Commission: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV).
The parallels are numerous. Jesus, whose truncated name derives from Joshua, which means “God is Salvation,” is a second but superior Joshua of a final and supreme New Covenant. And just as Yahweh commissioned Joshua to advance into enemy territory and establish the kingdom of Israel, so much more did he charge his Son to press into a hostile world and inaugurate his heavenly kingdom on earth. But the scope has exploded to all nations. And we, the children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ, are commanded to teach all that he has commanded us, drawing on his all-encompassing authority over all creation with the assurance that he will be with us always.
So even though “all” is such a little word, it speaks volumes about our Triune God and how he loves us and has prepared good works for us to expand the boundaries of his kingdom. Indeed, the Apostle Paul encourages the Ephesian Church to remember that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Thus, with all the authority of our Lord behind us and with us, we, like Israel, can “go all in” and take possession of kingdom territory while finding strength and rest in the One who is with us each step of the way.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for you and your Son who gave your all for us. So would you please help us to “go all in” and expand the boundaries of your kingdom under the authority and presence of your all-powerful Son? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling