Possessing the land means living the life

Historically Christianity has come in for some serious criticism – much of it I have to say legitimate ! One criticism which Christians must take on board concerns the dangerous notion of “manifest destiny”. Many reading this will know what I mean but for those who don’t let me explain.

One example of historical abuse is to justify the White man’s possession of other lands already occupied by other peoples. The continent of America provides a good example of how this idea was invoked with disastrous consequences for indigenous, native populations.

Significant numbers of the native populations were massacred at different times. They were often massacred by the sorts of people who had no thought for God or religion, but all the same this notion of a chosen people possessing the promised land provided a ‘good’ excuse.

As you will know, in the Old Testament record we find the story of the liberated Jewish people entering the land God had given them west of the Jordan river. They were to possess this land and systematically eliminate the native populations. The native populations were to be removed because they worshipped idols and indulged in all sorts of disgusting practices like child sacrifice. Therefore they were judged by God for their evil and he appointed the people of Israel to carry out the deed.

You will see, then, how this idea translates into colonial thinking in later centuries, notably in the culture of those European peoples with a knowledge of the religions derived from the Bible.

But the story of what the Jewish people did when they entered their promised land in the Old Testament story has been thoroughly misunderstood and misapplied with terrible consequences. It is of course not the only idea in human history which has been abused and used for selfish and evil ends. But those are another story.

So what does this story of the Israelites – the Jews – entering the promised really mean for Christians ? In what way has it been misunderstood and therefore abused to cause so much evil?

The answer is very simple. People, and especially Christian people, have made a critical and fundamental error in their reading of the Bible.

The story of the Israelites possessing the land of Canaan promised to them by God is found in the Old Testament. It belongs in the Old Testament – it does not belong in the New Testament.

The New Testament is the New Testament for a very good reason. It is the NEW TESTAMENT ! It is the Testament about Jesus Christ – his life, his teaching, his death and resurrection, his commission of a new chosen people called “the church”, and his promise to return to this world and take his chosen people to himself and condemn the rest to eternal punishment.

In this New Testament we are shown clearly a new way to God, and a new way to live. And it has nothing to do with killing anyone or taking anything away from another human being. In fact it teaches the very opposite – give up your own life to God, even if that means martyrdom. Take nothing from any one but instead give to them, and love them unconditionally.

So what relevance then does this Old Testament story about the Jews and their promised land have to do with anything for Christians today ?

Well, as the apostle Paul explains to us in chapter 4 and verse 24 of his letter to the Galatian believers, so much of what we read in the Old Testament is allegorical. In the context of a spiritual book like the Bible, that means that it is a physical picture for a spiritual truth. And that is what we have here in the story of the chosen Jewish people possessing the Promised land already occupied by other people.

A picture to explain spiritual truth.

The story of the Jews possessing that land is found in the book of Joshua, and the story of their early successes and failures as the occupants of this Promised land is found in the book of Judges. Both in the Old Testament.

How should we understand them in the New Testament context by which Christians are called to live ?

In short, it is a picture of the challenges and struggles which individual Christians and the Church collectively face in

  1. coming to possess the Resurrected Jesus Christ in their lives, and
  2. maintaining and extending their devotion and submission to Jesus Christ

It has absolutely nothing to do with killing people or taking their property from them.


We might summarise the contents of the Book of Joshua as follows:

  1. crossing Jordan to enter the Promised Land
  2. capturing Jericho
  3. the setback at Ai
  4. the surrender of the Gibeonites
  5. the counter attack of the kings already reigning in the land
  6. dividing up the promised land among the Jewish tribes
  7. Joshua’s address and challenge to the people before he dies

How then does this translate into New Testament doctrine for us to live by ?

  1. believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and entering into the promised life of Christ by passing throught the waters of full immersion water baptism
  2. defeating the enemy of sin in our own hearts by doing what God says, the way he says it, and when he says it
  3. refusing to harbour sin and disobedience in our hearts by hankering after the things of this material minded world
  4. not being deceived into compromising with any sin in our hearts
  5. consciously choosing to obey the teaching of Christ, and disobey the doctrines of men to live ‘free’ from God’s rule
  6. doing the part God has assigned to us in the Church – exercising our gifting and calling
  7. Being ever mindful of what God has done and how he has done it;  realising that our natural inclinations are deceptive and wayward, we must choose actively and wifully to obey the teaching of Jesus Christ and his apostles recorded for us in the New Testament

Such is the true meaning of the Old Testament for Christians.

Christian Preacher

By Christianity

The personal icon photograph shows God's creation, the world. It reminds us that God is the Creator of all - the almighty, the all knowing and all present - the one who is most important of all. The one to whom we owe all, and the one to whom we will answer for all. The site's header image of the Bible [King James Authorised Version], a map, a light and a compass represent to us that God's word in the Bible is our spiritual map, illumination and guide through this life. Those who obey his teaching will know his presence and power - Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 23

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