As Adam and Eve were created in the wilderness and then brought into the land of Eden by grace so too Israel was formed in the wilderness before being brought into the land of Canaan by grace.
At the end of Numbers and Deuteronomy, Israel is on the eastern side of the Jordan about to enter the land promised to Abraham. The land is described in the Pentateuch as being “like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the LORD has planted” (Num 24:6). It is a land that “drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the LORD your God cares for” (Deu 11:11-12). In other words, we are to understand Canaan to be a garden-land – a new Eden where God’s people will dwell in his presence.
Before Israel enters the land, they must cross the Jordan. The priests lead the way carrying the ark of the covenant representing the presence of God. As soon as their feet touch the water’s edge, the waters of the Jordan are divided and pile up. The language is like that of the Red Sea parting. By this we are to understand that Joshua leading Israel into the land is a continuation of the work God began when Moses led them out of Egypt. Miracles in the Bible were not only powerful actions but also served as signs. In this case, the God who can drive back the waters can drive back Israel’s enemies.
The book of Joshua tells us how Israel came to possess the land. It was not through Israel’s power nor because of the mighty deeds of heroes and warriors. Rather Joshua teaches that possession of the land came about by God’s mighty power and as a gift of his grace. Two stories illustrate this. The conquest of Jericho happens because an earthquake causes the walls to fall down. At one point a Canaanite coalition is defeated by more Canaanites die from large hailstones hurled from heaven they from Israelite swords.
A final comment in relation to Joshua 1-12 relates to Rahab. Rahab is a Canaanite, one of the peoples to be driven out of the land. However, Rahab believes in God’s word to Israel and aligns herself with God’s people. This is an act of faith which necessitates rejecting allegiance to Jericho. By her faith she is incorporated into the people of God. This recalls God’s promise to Abraham that through him and his family all nations would be blessed. Rahab, having no right to life in the new Eden, gains life – a hint of God’s ongoing agenda to restore all nations to Eden.
God’s faithfulness to his agenda to restore a people for himself who will live in the land of his presence.
God is powerful to drive back the waters of chaos and all that opposes God and his people.
All that we have inherited through Christ is by grace, we are brought by grace into his presence.
We who were once foreigners and aliens to Israel and having no part in the promises made to Abraham have now by faith in Christ been brought near.