Symbols of the Promised Land

Pinnable image of valley with river reading "Symbols of the Promised Land, May 23-29, Come Follow Me for teenagers, young adults, and families"

May 23-29

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Quick summary of Joshua 1-6 where I’m going to be focusing this week; I leave out some details but only because there is so much story. Joshua is called and given authority to replace Moses. He prepares the Israelites for battle against the Canaanites. Joshua sends a couple of spies into Canaan, and they are hidden and protected by a prostitute named Rahab. She helps them in exchange for protection against the coming Israelite army. The spies come back with news that Canaan is scared of Israel. Joshua directs priests to carry the ark of the covenant into the river Jordan; the river Jordan parts and reveals dry ground. The Israelites cross over, and the ark of the covenants follows behind. As soon as the ark of the covenant comes to the other side, the river fills up again. The Israelites place 12 stones to commemorate the miracle. The Israelites are circumcised, and they wait until they feel better. The Israelites then carry the ark of the covenant around Jericho seven times. They let out a battle cry and the walls fall. The Israelites take Jericho in a decisive victory. 

There is a crazy amount of symbolism occurring in these chapters if you look at it as a parable. I’m only going to be able to talk about some of it.

The ark of the covenant

So in case you missed it, the ark of the covenant represents the literal presence of God among the Israelites. What role does the ark of the covenant play in this particular story?

The ark of the covenant is carried into the water by priests, and as soon as everyone’s feet are wet, a section of the river dries up and the Israelites pass over on dry ground. What does the river represent?

The river can represent obstacles in our path towards the promised land (or, in other words, heaven). It is so important to understand the exact symbolism occurring. The Israelites aren’t simply headed towards anywhere they want to go; they are headed towards the promised land. Heavenly Father has not promised to take care of any obstacle we face in life, but He will take care of any obstacle that threatens to keep us from returning to live with Him. 

How did the river change for the Israelites to cross over? 

Joshua 3

15 And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)

16 That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap…

The ark of the covenant didn’t make the water evaporate and disappear. The ark of the covenant prepared the way through it. The water was still heaped up on both sides; it was still there. The presence of God simply made it possible to get through it.

The river can be sin, ignorance, weakness, and doubt. It is possible to walk through on dry ground despite the buildup of these scary things surrounding us. The presence of God can go before us, and it will stay behind us as we pass through. It will be a personal relationship with God in our daily lives that help us survive the last days.

Rahab

I LOVE the story of Rahab. I love it because it shows the Lord’s wisdom in all of His judgements.

Rahab was a prostitute. Prostitution was part of her life, and it was certainly a part of her life that did not serve her. There is a reason the Lord has these standards. The Lord is opposed to prostitution because it hurts us, and so He made it a standard. He wants us to live healthier lives. There had to be negative consequences that came into her life because of her situation. He didn’t send down negative consequences because she disobeyed. He simply sets a standard and tries to warn us of consequences of certain actions. He didn’t use it as an excuse to punish her for eternity. The Lord must have also looked at the circumstances that led her to where she was. He knew she could be prepared for her role in helping Israel, and He ran with it.

Not only did the Lord spare her, but He utilized her. He used her to save Israel, and when you look at it in that way, she was a type of Christ. We don’t know all that much about Rahab. We don’t know what led her to the life she was living or what prepared her to watch over the spies, but we do know a couple of key characteristics. 

One. She recognized the Lord when He came, and that signifies some spiritual capacity. 

Joshua 2:9 And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

She saw the power of the Lord, and she responded. Despite the potent, negative effects of prostitution, Rahab had enough spirituality to recognize the Lord and jump onto His side. The Israelites were saved, and she was also led into a better life. 

Two. She loved her family.

Joshua 2

12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token:

13 And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.

I feel like one of the most dangerous effects of sexual sins is the deterioration of true love in all its forms. And yet, despite her circumstances, she was resilient enough to love her family. 

These are both indications that Rahab was a remarkable spirit. The Lord knew that about her. 

Last note about Rahab.

According the the institute manual, “…strangers from beyond the river (Israelite spies) might have repaired to the house of a harlot without suspicion or remark…The house of such a woman was also the only one to which they, as perfect strangers, could have had access, and certainly the only one in which they could calculate on obtaining the information they required without danger from male inmates.”

The Lord allowed Rahab to be in the circumstances she resided in. Does that seem cruel? It does when you look at it without the context of the atonement and Plan of Salvation. He does the same for each of our trials. We enter into trials, and the Lord allows it for many reasons. One of those reasons may be because He needs us somewhere specific in order to help His children. He needed Rahab to be there to help His servants, and she did. When we choose to be like Rahab, our trials can turn us into a type of Christ just like she was.

Circumcision

Circumcising your soldiers before battle seems a little counterintuitive. It takes about 2-3 weeks for an adult male to completely recover from a circumcision after receiving the surgery in a hospital. Now it says that the Israelites waited until they were completely healed, but it could still be considered an unwise move according to earthly standards. The circumcision of the younger generation of Israelites occurred next to an enemy city that they were about to attack. He could have chosen to circumcise the men after they were safe inside a conquered city, but that’s not what He chose.

And the Lord teaches us a couple lessons with this specific command and its specific timing. In order to understand these lessons, we need to understand that circumcision was a sign of the covenant between the Lord and His people. 

So first, the Lord taught the Israelites (and consequently, us), that He will fight our battles. Give the most difficult circumstances to the children of God, and they will still prevail if they are faithful to their covenants. They can be incapacitated next to an enemy camp, thrown into dungeons with lions, or tossed into a fire, but if the Lord wants them to prevail, they will. 

Secondly, the Lord taught us that the power lies within the covenants. He could have waited until they had already conquered, but He didn’t because He is able to bless His children more when they enter into covenants with Him. Does that mean He refuses to bless us before we enter into covenants? No! It just means that He can bless us more. When the Israelites performed the act of circumcision, they signaled to the Lord that they would abide by His proffered covenants. The walls of Jericho, like the Jordan river, were symbols of obstacles between the Israelites and the promised land. The covenants the Israelites took upon themselves brought mighty power into their lives. The walls came down without the Israelites touching it; the power of the Lord brought down the walls. 

Perhaps in our day and age, baptism can seem counterintuitive. Satan works hard to make sure it feels that way. However, entering into covenants with the Lord will bring miraculous power into our lives.

Conclusion

As I mentioned previously, there is SO much to this story. I had the hardest time choosing principles that we can apply to our lives. Please read it and learn about the Savior. There is so much there for each of us.

I know that Christ is powerful and purposeful and loves us. Because of that, all of our circumstances and experiences can work for our good as we turn to Him.

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