Text: Joshua 13:1-33, Joshua 14:1-15, 2 Peter 3:13, Romans 4:13-17
I grew up on old church hymns. I have vivid memories of me as a child and then a teenager, turning a purple hardcover hymnal to the page number specified in the bulletin. Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, donning a dress or jeans, I’d stand up straight in the pew and sing loud the songs that would become the sounds of my faith—my confession in a melody of sharps and flats (sung mostly on key).
When I read the conquest and land allotment passages in Joshua, I find myself humming “Victory in Jesus” and remembering the pages of that hymnal. It’s a boisterous hymn—at least, our rendition was. The combination of the pounding piano chords and reverberating notes from the pipe organ made me lift my head a little higher and belt out Eugene Bartlett’s chorus a little louder.
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.
It felt, well, victorious. The irony is that the actions expressed in these lyrics sound less like conquest and more like surrender. Being “sought” and “bought” and “plunged” into a flood is not congruent with my idea of winning. But in the gospel of Jesus, that’s exactly what it is. To be conquered by the grace of God is to be victorious.
The list of land divisions in Joshua 13 is more than just a test of our Old Testament pronunciation skills (a test I would fail with flying colors); it is a testimony to the precise, complete, and gracious fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. Like every other promise God makes to His children, the boundaries described for each tribe were both fixed and fulfilled by God.
But there’s even more to see here than the staggering detail with which the book describes the physical, promised land God gave Israel. Notice the phrasing used throughout chapters 13 and 14 for each portion of land. This land is their inheritance. It is a gift from the Lord, not based on merit but on identity.
The Israelites gained the land through conquest, but only with the one true God at the helm. Joshua’s people took the land, but only with the Lord of lords supplying the strength. This promised land was fulfilled because God secured it long ago as an inheritance for His children. The same is true of our eternal inheritance—our salvation.
Clifford in Shakespeare’s Henry VI declares, “God on our side, doubt not of victory!” And he was right. But this victory does not always look like we think it should. To be victorious in the Lord is to surrender what little might we have to the almighty One. To “win for Jesus” means losing ourselves in the flood of His forgiveness and grace.
We are His children, His people, and He has granted us His very identity, sealed for us in Christ (Galatians 3:29). The new heavens and new earth are not yet ours to inhabit, but according to 2 Peter 3:13, the promise is ours now. The victory has been secured and the allotment has been assigned.
You and I don’t yet dwell in the new heavens with Christ. This fallen world we’re living in will never have the permanent “rest from war” we’ll enjoy in the new earth (Joshua 14:15). But Jesus dwells here with us—through the already-fulfilled promise of His Holy Spirit (John 14:26). “He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:14).
Thanks be to the Almighty God.