01. The Great Commission (1:1-9)

The first reading that we’ll start with is from the book of Joshua, verses 1-9.

And it happened after the death of Moses the servant of Jehovah, Jehovah spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, My servant Moses is dead. And now rise up, cross over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread, I have given it to you, as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness, and this Lebanon, even to the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun, shall be your border. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you nor will I forsake you. Be strong and brave. For you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give to them. Only be strong and very brave, so that you may take heed to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may act wisely wherever you go. This book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, and you shall meditate on it by day and by night, so that you shall be on guard to do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall prosper your way, and then you shall act wisely. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for Jehovah your God is with you in all places where you go.

And coming up Jesus talked with them, saying, All authority in Heaven and on earth was given to Me. Then having gone, disciple all nations, baptising them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

‘the land of Canaan’ represents the Lord’s kingdom in heaven and on earth becomes clear from many things in the Word. The reason it does so is that the representative Church was established in that land, a Church in which every single thing represented the Lord and the celestial and spiritual things of His kingdom. This applied not only to religious observances but also to everything associated with those observances – to both the persons who ministered and to the things they administered, and even to the places where the ministrations took place because the representative Church was centred there the land was consequently called ‘the Holy Land’, even though it was anything but holy, seeing that idolaters and profaners inhabited it. (Arcana Coelestia 1437)

All the historicals of the Word, as well as its prophetical parts, contain a spiritual sense that treats, not of the sons of Israel and of nations and peoples, but of the church and its establishment and progress, for this is the spiritual of the Word, while the history is the natural that contains the spiritual…”the land of Canaan,” into which the sons of Israel were brought, signifies the church, and “Jordan” signifies the first entrance into it; and “the waters of Jordan” signify truths that introduce into it, which are such as those of the literal sense of the Word, for those are what first introduce. (Apocalypse Explained 700)

We begin a new series this morning in which we look at the book of Joshua. This book deals with the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, under Joshua as their leader. After the death of Moses, Joshua is appointed by Jehovah to lead the people of Israel to complete this task. We should note from the outset that the name Joshua and Jesus are the same. Je-ho-sua and Je-shua both mean “Jehovah is Salvation“. Moses had led the sons of Israel out of Egypt from under the dominion of Pharaoh; he received the law from Jehovah and delivered this to the Israelites.

By and large we can view the Moses period of leadership as a period of instruction from the Word in spiritual matters. The leadership under Joshua marks a change of state where what has been learnt under Moses now needs to be applied to life. Spiritually, when we read of death in the Word it indicates a movement from one state to another. So death in the Word doesn’t actually mean death, rather, it means new life or the coming into being of a new state of life as the old one passes away.

In the New Testament we can see a parallel of this change of state from Moses to Joshua in the life of the Lord in relation to His disciples. The Moses period can be seen in that period of the Lord’s life when He was largely engaged in teaching or giving instruction to His disciples up to His death. The Joshua period for the disciples begins after His resurrection and this can be seen in the similarity between the commissioning of Joshua and what has come to be called the Great Commission given to the disciples.

Both are commands to go forth and conquer or bring all things under the rule and authority of what the Word teaches. Therefore, in this series that we are about to embark on, the Book of Joshua is to be viewed as holding the detail of what the Great Commission found in the New Testament actually involves. The Great Commission is first and foremost a call to the path of inner spiritual growth or regeneration, through taking the instruction we have received in spiritual things and applying it to life. If we would do that then we would find that life would present us with opportunities to share with others the good things that the Lord has imparted into us in ways in which the deeper spiritual needs of people can be truly met.

In order to respond to the Great Commission to take the Gospel out to all nations effectively, we need to appreciate that the responsibility that falls on the greater Church, falls onto the personal individual level of the Church first, and that it is the quality of the work done by individuals who make up a spiritual community that governs the spiritual quality of that community’s efforts to reach out and impact the lives of others around them for good.

This is a sobering thought; our personal individual effort to live from the Word is the most important contribution any one of us can make to the health and wellbeing of this collective spiritual community. Our effort to read the Word, to study the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity and apply them to life on a personal level sets the ground for being able to contribute in a powerful way to the health and wellbeing of the community as well as in the other communities we are in contact with in our wider spheres of influence.

So work on ourself is important because it’s the means by which the Lord can be more fully present in our world. It’s the means by which we can develop spiritual sensitivity to the spiritual needs of others. It is also the way in which real empathy and compassion for others is developed. It’s the way by which possibilities are created to build bridges of trust over which genuine spiritual connections can be made. For it is through work on ourselves in response to the Word that we are able to support others in their spiritual growth and development, and it is in this ability to support one another that a true spiritual community or a collective expression of the church can come into being.

The land of Canaan represents the human mind or the ground out of which the affections and thoughts belonging to celestial and spiritual matters arise. This is why it corresponds to the Church, because the Church is nothing other than celestial and spiritual things, or goods and truths made manifest in human consciousness as good affections and true thoughts which motivate and enable a person to express themselves in loving actions. The goal of the spiritual life on a personal level is to become an individual church through having what is unloving and untrue removed from our life.

Joshua represents the transition from knowing to becoming, or from having an intellectual interest in spiritual matters to using this knowledge as a means of examining the quality of ones life. Moses and Joshua represent the Word at different stages of a person’s spiritual life. There is a time for learning the stories of the Word and what the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity teach, and this is what is meant by Moses, but there comes a time when the Lord no longer speaks to us through Moses, when the approach represented by Moses dies and no longer can sustain us. At this point the emphasis shifts and the voice of Lord is heard through Joshua or the application of the Word to life.

Our spirituality must become practical. But by practical we don’t mean a focus on the level of life found in the external or natural world. The practical application of spiritual truths has to do with their application to the inner world of the life of the mind. It is the life or quality of our affections and thoughts that form the practical dimension of spiritual work. And it is only by attending to this level of life that our external activities in the world can take on a spiritual quality. All external expressions of love take their quality from the internal quality of the mind from which they come.

This is why Spiritual Christianity directs a person’s attention to reflection on their inner mental life and activity. This in no way diminishes the need to attend to external matters, to act faithfully and justly in all that we do, however this is done in order to bring a degree of stability into the externals of life, so that the internal things can then be attended to while being fully engaged in the externals as well.

So we read…

My servant Moses is dead. And now rise up, cross over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.

The Word that comes to us in the Joshua state brings us to a realisation that the ways of the past are no longer able to take us on into what lies ahead. Moses is dead. The time of external instruction is over, and a more internal state of application of the Word is being urged. This is seen in the instruction, “And now rise up, cross over this Jordan…” To speak of rising up spiritually means to turn inwardly to what is deeper. At the same time Joshua is told to “cross over“, a phrase that speaks of a transition, of a crossing over from one state to another, and that transition involves crossing over the Jordan River.

The river Jordan made up one of the boundaries of the land of Canaan. Now a boundary forms a border between what lies within and what lies without. And because Canaan corresponds to that part of the human mind specifically related to a person’s understanding of spiritual things formed from goods and truths of the Word, the river Jordan must correspond to a stream of knowledge related to the Word itself. The river Jordan corresponds to the Word understood according to its literal meaning. And as the literal meaning of the Word forms a boundary, it is something that must be “crossed over” if we are to gain access to the spiritual meaning of the Word that is able to save us from our ego or proprium’s dominance over the life of our affections and thoughts.

Now this crossing over or transition from a literal understanding of the Word to a spiritual understanding of it can only occur when we are willing to examine our internal life with a view to repentance – to working to have our thinking and feeling structures changed. This is what the phrase, “And now rise up, cross over this Jordan…” means. It is the Word admonishing all people to look to the inner things of life, an invitation to go beyond the mere surface things of religion and begin to explore its depths in relation to what’s going on within their own life.

The external things of religion have to do with buildings, sacraments, rites, rituals, priests or ministers, and services etc, but none of this forms the essence of true religion, they are merely representative elements that keep the idea of religion alive on the most external plane of life. The truly religious life is found in a person’s willingness to acknowledge the Divine and to freely respond to their understanding of truth for no other reason than that it is the right thing to do, or the right way to live and be in life.

When this attitude is taken up then a person begins to view their affections and thoughts to discover their quality using the Word. Self examination by means of the Word is described by verse 3 where it says that…

Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread, I have given it to you, as I spoke to Moses.

Joshua is the Word that saves us and the sole of its foot is the literal sense which contains the spiritual sense. When we take hold of the Word and look to the Lord to reveal those things that are opposed to the spiritual life in order to have them removed, even as we are doing as we look into the book of Joshua, then the literal sense or the lowest or most external aspect of the Word, which is here called, “the sole of your foot” or “the sole of Jehovah Saviour’s foot“, is brought into contact with the states of our mind, which is the ground the Word treads upon. Thus by means of literal sense of the Word understood in the light of the principles of Spiritual Christianity, our states of mind are exposed to spiritual truths by which the mind can be reclaimed by the Lord from the dominance of self centred affections and false perspectives of the proprium.

This is the story of Joshua. It’s the story of the regeneration of the human mind, a story of battles and of riding into the interior land of the mind where the things that oppose the life of heaven can be encountered. This is the Great Commission given to all those who would be the Lord’s disciples. And for this work the Lord says…

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for Jehovah your God is with you in all places where you go.

Leave a Comment