1. Application

Rest Is the Goal of Redemption

Joshua 11:16–23 (ESV)

16 So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland

Joshua was a servant whom the Lord used to bring his people into the land of Canaan. They had to exterminate all the Canaanites so that all traces of idolatry would be removed, and so that the people could worship the Lord and obey his commandments (Psalm 105:44–45). Canaan was meant to be a place where God’s people could enjoy fellowship with him, and enjoy rest (Exodus 33:14).

Rest is a rich word in the Old Testament. It signifies peace and tranquility, being in God’s presence and worshipping him. The rest that Israel enjoyed in the land of Canaan resembled the rest that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God in the garden of Eden. That’s why it was so important that all idolatry had to be removed from the land if Israel was to live with God.

Rest in the land of Canaan was, however, incomplete. It was not life in the new heavens and the new earth. The idols of many cities may have been destroyed, but sin remained in the hearts and minds of God’s people. Joshua was able to bring Israel into an earthly land where they enjoyed an earthly rest, but he could not bring them into the new creation, he could not change their sinful nature. The rest in Canaan was real, but it was incomplete.

Many years later the true Joshua would come to lead God’s people into true and lasting rest (Matthew 11:28–30). Jesus Christ never fought any battles over plots of land in Israel; he came to defeat the devil (Genesis 3:15; Mark 1:15; Colossians 2:15). He was perfectly obedient to God throughout his life, the only human being who deserved to live in God’s presence forever. By his obedience, he won the right for all those who trust in him to be confident of a future with God in the Sabbath rest that waits for his people (Hebrews 4:1–11).

Through faith in Jesus Christ we can be assured that our eternal rest with God in glory has been secured. We have a guaranteed inheritance in God’s new creation (1 Peter 1:3–9), an inheritance that we are looking forward to enjoy even as we experience something of that rest today in our relationship with God (Ephesians 1:3–14):

  • The security of knowing that God who is sovereign is our Father who loves and cares for us (Matthew 6:9; Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 9).

  • The comfort of belonging to Jesus Christ, a King who has graciously paid for our lives with his precious blood (1 Peter 1:19; Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Days 1 & 13).

  • The joy of communion with God as the Holy Spirit lives within us, changing our desires, and interceding for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).