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by Louise Lee  
12/21/2013 / Bible Studies


Is the Book of Joshua for missions today? The Book of Joshua recorded a history that took place at least 1400 years before Christ; it was about the Israelites' miraculous conquering the Promise Land, where lived seven greater and stronger nations (Dt 7:1). Missions has always been referring to Jesus' Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20; Mk16:15-18) before his ascension. What is the connection between these two great historical events? Can Joshua's military conquest principles be applied in 21st century missions?
This study is to establish this connection by tracing through the history of man to find the origin of missions, and its extension through Abrahamic covenant, and its actualization in Joshua's conquest of the Promised Land to the ultimate fulfillment of the seed of promise in Jesus, which constituted the Great Commission to his followers until today, and concludes with valuable principles draw from the Book of Joshua that are applicable to 21st Century missions.
When was the idea of mission first introduced or initiated? Was Jesus the first person? Today, mission has always been associated with Jesus' Great Commission before his ascension. A Christian dictionary's definitions:
Nelson's New Christian Dictionary defines mission as a purpose and task of the church, including evangelization, witnessing, proclamation, teaching, and celebration of the sacraments, now usually understood as including the service, peace, and justice dimensions of the church's life.

Yet Jesus testified otherwise: he claimed that he did not initiate anything by himself, instead he said that the Father sent him, not to do his own will, but the Father's will (Jn 8:38). In Matthew 12:17-21, he said he was the fulfillment of what the prophet Isaiah has spoken concerning the chosen servant of God. His mission is to proclaim justice to the Gentles. What was the will of the Father that Jesus was talking about? Jesus was referring to the mission of God - Missio Dei, a Latin term refers to God's plan to bless the nations through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"In mission studies, Missio Dei (Lat., mission of God) refers to the salvific mission of God toward the world, centering in the sending of the Son in Incarnation; missionary work as orchestrated and guided by the triune God, in continuation of the Incarnation; missionary work as the visible expression of the salvific work of Jesus Christ." - Nelson's New Christian Dictionary
"God's mission has always been a redemptive blessing of the nations. In its ultimate fulfillment, this blessing would come through Jesus Christ, the offspring (Heb. zera, "seed") promised first to Eve (Gn 3:15), then to Abraham (Gn 22:18), to Issac (Gn 26:4), and to Jacob (Gn 28:14). Walter C. Kaiser views this mission of God as a single promise plan uniting all Scripture." (quoted from Missions in the Age of the Spirit, 1994, pg. 20, Gospel Publishing House)
Creation of man speaks of God's mission. He created man into His own image and commanded them to subdue (Gn. 1:28) the land. After the fall of man, God has extended His mission (Missio Dei) toward Abraham and his descendants. He established a covenant with Abram promising him that his descendants would posses the land: from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates (Gn 15:18), also known as Promise Land.
Subsequently, God instituted a covenant of circumcision with Abraham, promising he will be the father of a multitude of nations (Gn 17:4-5). After Abraham passed the test of obedience (Gn 22), God further promised that " his seed shall posses the gate of their enemies, and all the nations shall be blessed (Gn 22:18).
It was a twofold promise here: one concerning his physical offspring would become a great nation and to posses the land and the spiritual descendents (Rom 9:8) that form the multitude of nations, and the other one concerning the seed (Jesus) would be the blessings to the nations and spiritual possessing the gates of the enemies (Ps 2:8).

The first part of the promise came to pass when Joshua led the people into the promise land that was recorded in the Book of Joshua. "Joshua's God-ordained commissionto possess the land, evict the Canaanites, and establish God's orderprovides a clear picture. The Canaanite culture was saturated with evil, both human and demonic. The Israelite troops (Jo 1:19) and His miracles (Jo 3:117) were obedient to God and gave Him praise (Jo 6:116)."
The word "possession" in Joshua 22:9 defines as:

POSSESSION. (Josh. 22:9) achuzzah (ah-chooz-zah); Strong's #272: Something obtained, seized, or held. Achuzzah usually refers to the land of Israel (or any portion of it), which is to be held forever by Jacob's descendants.
Encyclopedic Dictionary

The second part of the promise was fulfilled through Jesus, and his Church to possess the gate of the enemies. In Psalm 2:8, God promises His Messiah the remotest parts of the earth (that is, the whole earth) for His possession (achuzzah). The related verb form is achaz, meaning to seize, acquire, lay hold of, get, obtain, catch, take possession, grasp. This word is frequently translated "take hold of," as in Exodus 15:15 and Job 38:13. In the New Testament, the church is promised the same dominion over evil (Mt 16:1619) and is called to extend God's kingdom by the same means: by the presence of the Lord (Mt 28:1820), by His miracle power (Mk 16:1520), and by the spirit of praise and obedience (2 Cor 10:35).

Both Conquest of Canaan and the Great Commission speak about the extension of the kingdom of God: Joshua's conquest reveals God's way of extending His kingdom is warfare. It was God's means to drive out the evilness in the land (Dt 9:4). In the Gospels, Jesus confirmed the way of establishing God's kingdom was to wage war against the kingdom of darkness (Mt 12:28 If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.). Likewise, for the modern day Church planting, the way to establish God's kingdom on earth is through warfare, but a spiritual one.
"The concept of 'warfare and the kingdom' essentially relates to the moral and spiritual struggle of God's people as they actively confront and overthrow evil through their prayers and intercession, their godly influence and witness. Our struggle is not a quest for dominance, which employs a political or military means (Eph 6:1020). Old Testament characters and events prophetically illustrate the order of warfare in which "kingdom" people are to enter. The Book of Joshua indicates the kind of warfare, which New Testament believers are to wage in a spiritual and moral sense (1 Tm. 2:14).
Joshua was extending God's physical kingdom, a nation ruled by God, while Jesus was building the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Other than possessing the promise, extension of the Kingdom of God, there are yet many parallels between Joshua's Canaan's conquest and the Church's mission mandate in terms of purpose of missions, mission calling and leadership (Jo 1:1-9, 5:12-15), mission preparation (Jo 5:2-12), mission strategies (Jo 6:1-13:7) as well as keys to victory and how to avoid defeat in spiritual warfare (Jo 6: 1-21; Jo ch. 7-8). Certainly the Book of Joshua could be studied as a handbook for 21st century missions.

Louise Lee
(My first illustrated book Psalm 23 for Kids is now available at

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