What are some ways that the theme of victorious conquest in Joshua applies to Christians today?

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Well, the theme or themes of victorious conquest in the book of Joshua and the application to the Christian life are so deep. They run so deep throughout the book of Joshua on so many levels. But I think that the primary one, the principal one is, of course, the theme of victory and the theme of territorial expansion, territorial hegemony—that means "control"—the sense that "the earth is the Lord's and everything in it," like the psalm says. And so, the theme of spiritual warfare from a new covenant perspective, it is so strong because, of course, in the new covenant we don't go about with swords in hand, destroying those who don't follow Yahweh. We don't do that. But we do have a mandate from Matthew 28 to go into the whole world and establish, or proclaim the gospel, the good news that Jesus saves us from all sin, from the premise that the whole world belongs to him. So, it becomes a nice connection with Habakkuk 2 where it says that the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea—so this multi-territorial expansion, the establishment of Yahweh's ownership of the land, because that's the theme of Joshua. See, the Canaanites think the land belonged to them. It doesn't belong to them; it belongs to Yahweh. Yahweh has a legal right to that land. It doesn't even belong to the Israelites; it belongs to Yahweh. And Yahweh is holy. If we had time we could talk about Joshua 5. Right before they go into Jericho, that mighty angel commander appears to Joshua, and what does he say? "This land is holy. Take off your sandals." It belongs to Yahweh. It doesn't belong to you; it doesn't belong to the Canaanite. It belongs to Yahweh. And so, you're a steward of my holiness as you take the land from the unholy Canaanites. And then, of course, the shoe is on the other foot, or the sandal is on the other foot, because when the Israelites turn unholy, then Yahweh will also push them out. But, of course, in the new covenant, this sense of the holiness of the land is carried out through us who are filled with the Spirit, filled with the holiness of God in Christ, and then we go out, and we proclaim the holiness of God in Christ, all because of Jesus' holiness, not ours. It's all of this wonder of the gospel that, left to ourselves, we're not holy, but we are holy in Christ, and so that territorial conquest, now we have ambulant holiness vessels, all of us individuals and as the church, and we spread throughout the land throughout the world now. The land is no longer the eastern Mediterranean seaboard; it's the whole world. It is a beautiful model of conquest, but it's a conquest no longer through violence and death because that was fulfilled when Christ died at the cross. It's conquest with service and sacrifice, and that's what we're called to do.

Answer by Dr. Thomas Petter

Dr. Thomas Petter is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.