“Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and of good courage, for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” Deuteronomy 31:23
The New Testament records for us the words “first Adam” and “last Adam” but nowhere will we find the words “first Joshua” and “last Joshua.” Even so, there was a “first Joshua” and a “last Joshua” with regard to the plan and purpose of the Lord and Israel.
Moses was given his name by Pharaoh’s daughter because he was found in water but it would also be an apt name when we consider that it was Moses who led Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea to a life of separation from slavery to serve the living God. Though they didn’t even get their feet wet it is said that they passed through the waters. This is later likened to baptism. The nation was separated from the world (Egypt) and separated to God. There was no way back even though they often desired to return. Christian baptism is symbolic that one has been separated from the world to God and there is no way back even though we may at times desire the things of the world.
Israel’s rebellion at the opportunity to enter the land God had promised brought about forty years wandering in the wilderness while God prepared the next generation. Even that generation was at risk of not entering (Numbers 32) but the possibility of another forty years in the wilderness was enough to overcome that threat. Moses also lost the opportunity to lead Israel into the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. In his place would be the “first Joshua.” Joshua was one of the two spies who believed that the Lord would give Israel the land just as He had said. He knew that the giants and fortified cities of the land were no match for God. Joshua believed God, knew God and trusted God. One who trusts God will show it by obedience to His word. This Joshua led Israel into the land.
Much later Israel was dispersed from the land because of persistent rebellion by successive generations. Was the Lord unfaithful to His promise to Abraham? Is He powerless to fulfil that which He promised? The answer to both these questions is emphatically “No.” A believing generation of Israel had entered the land under the leadership of the faithful “first Joshua.” The Old and New Testament authors all affirm that a believing generation of Israel will take possession of the land God has given to Abraham and they will do so under the leadership of the “last Joshua,” Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul writes, “I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:25-27).