The two covenants each have their distinct methods of conquest and war in the quest to establish the Kingdom. The Old Covenant uses a physical sword, while the New Covenant uses the sword of the Spirit to conquer the world. So we see that the Old Covenant Joshua was commanded to use carnal weapons to kill the Canaanites or drive them out from the land in order to establish the Kingdom. This was his “Great Commission,” so to speak.
The New Covenant Joshua (Yeshua-Jesus) told His disciples in Matt. 28:19, 20,
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…
Paul says in 2 Cor. 10:3-5,
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
However, when Joshua was about to lead Israel into the land of Canaan, Moses told them in Deut. 7:1, 2,
1 When the Lord your God shall bring you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and shall clear away many nations before you… 2 and when the Lord your God shall deliver them before you, and you shall defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.
These different mandates cause some to believe that the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New Testament. Others believe that Jesus came to save us from “angry God” of the Old Testament. Still others believe that this proves that the law ought to be put away.
The difference, however is inherent in the two covenants. Under the Old Covenant, the Kingdom was to be established by carnal weapons by dealing death to all the inhabitants of Canaan. Under the New Covenant the Kingdom was to be established by spiritual weapons and by teaching and baptizing all into Christ’s death and resurrection.
But why would God use such different methods? Why not just implement the New Covenant and avoid all the bloodshed and destruction that came through the Old Covenant?
Israel’s Rejection of the New Covenant Sword
When God first brought Israel to Mount Horeb, He first offered them an opportunity to accept the New Covenant and its spiritual sword. He came down as fire upon the Mount and spoke the Ten Commandments in Exodus 19 and 20. They all heard His voice, but the awesome presence of God made them fearful of dying, for it was commonly believed that if anyone saw God, they would be killed. So we read in Exodus 20:18-21,
18 And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” 21 So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
This day was celebrated thereafter as the feast of Pentecost, celebrating the day that God came down as fire and spoke directly to the people. If the people had been able to hear God’s voice at that time, they would have experienced something similar to what we read in the second chapter of Acts. The fire from the Mount would have been seen upon their heads, and they would have become the mouthpieces of God, prophesying His words to the world.
In other words, they would have been equipped with the sword of the Spirit. Instead of killing the Canaanites with a physical sword, they would have been given the same Great Commission that Jesus gave His disciples. The Canaanites would have been converted, not destroyed. The Canaanites would have been baptized into the death and life of Jesus, rather than bathed in the blood of carnal swords.
But this did not happen, because the Israelites were too fearful to experience Pentecost. Their eyes were blind, their ears were deaf, and their hearts lacked understanding. They manifested fear, rather than faith (which comes by hearing). And so, forty years later, Moses told them in Deut. 29:4, 5,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. 5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness…
Because Israel’s fear caused them to refuse to hear the voice of God, they were not led by the Spirit except through the type and shadow as they followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Their relationship with God remained indirect, for they sent Moses up the Mount to hear God’s voice and to tell them what God had said (Exodus 20:19). Their preference was to have a man tell them what God said, rather than to hear God for themselves. Hence, they had only a carnal sword by which to conquer the land of Canaan.
Hearing God’s Voice
The psalmist understood this problem, too, for he wrote in Psalm 95:7-9,
7 … Today if you would hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness; 9 when your fathers tested Me, they tried me, though they had seen My work.
Israel’s refusal to hear God’s voice at the Mount caused them to fail God ten times before they were supposed to enter the land from Kadesh-barnea. Num. 14:22, 23 says,
22 Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, 23 shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.
The lesson here is discussed in Hebrews 3 and 4, showing that it is not possible to enter the Kingdom without hearing God’s voice. While many Christians may think that they do NOT hear God’s voice, in fact, if they have faith, then they have indeed heard, because “faith comes from hearing” (Rom. 10:17). But to those who refuse to take heed to God’s call, Heb. 3:12-14 says,
12 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in anyone of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 for we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.
This was written to believers, that is, to Christians. The writer acknowledges the fact that there might be Christian unbelievers—that is, people who believe in Jesus Christ, but yet have areas in their lives where they have an “unbelieving heart.” He thus distinguishes between the Church and the overcomers, using the example of Israel and the overcomers (Caleb and Joshua).
So also today there are Christians and overcomers. They are largely distinguished by the two covenants on which their faith is based. Some Christians believe and support the notion that the Kingdom of God must be established by carnal weapons, and so they support the Israelis’ carnal method of conquering the land of Palestine. Such Christians support the idea that Old Covenant Jews—who yet adhere to the Old Covenant—have the right to expel all Palestinians from the land, or even to kill them without mercy.
Overcomers, on the other hand, who remember the Great Commission of the greater Joshua, Jesus Christ, understand that the Kingdom cannot be established by the Old Covenant or its weaponry. They understand that the baptism of the Holy Spirit has equipped believers to conquer the world for the Kingdom of God, if only we will learn to “take up the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:13) and use “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
The Mind and Character of God
The command under Moses and Joshua to destroy the Canaanites was not really an expression of the mind and heart of God. Though the Canaanites were a sinful nation, so are all nations. We may study their religious practices to find justification for God’s wrath against them and why they could not be saved, but the fact is, they were no worse than any other nation.
Did God really hate Canaanites? No. Jesus proved this by answering the prayer of the Canaanite woman in Matt. 15:22-28. In fact, in that story Jesus took His disciples on a long trip to Phoenicia just to meet with her. After healing the woman’s daughter, Jesus immediately departed and returned to the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 15:29). It appears that Jesus had no other purpose for that trip but to teach His disciples not to despise Canaanites.
It was Jesus’ way of teaching His disciples not to treat Canaanites like dogs, but to know the law of God, which demanded that Israel treat Canaanites with love. To accomplish this purpose, Jesus seemed at first to treat the woman with disrespect. His actions and words were designed to draw the disciples into agreement and to raise the issue to the surface. The disciples had been raised to think of Canaanites as little more than dogs. When they were fully committed to that belief, then Jesus turned the tables on them and showed them that even Canaanites are capable of having faith in Him.
Under the Old Covenant Joshua was commissioned to conquer by carnal means, not because the Canaanites were so bad, but because the Israelites had refused the spiritual sword at the Mount. The real lesson here is that we ought to be filled with the Spirit, hear His voice, and be led by the Holy Spirit, lest we treat sinners as enemies instead of as future believers. We see, then, that the conquest of Canaan did not truly reflect the heart of God. God’s heart, however, was largely hidden until Jesus came to reveal the heart of His Father in heaven.
Hence, Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant, which was designed to reverse the effect of Israel’s refusal to hear God’s voice at the Mount. When God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel, the people had opportunity to enter the New Covenant, if this were possible. Their refusal, along with their insistence that Moses hear God and tell them what God said, resulted in their indirect relationship with God.
On the other hand, those who live according to the New Covenant, understand that we are not to conquer the world by carnal weapons, nor support those who remain under the Old Covenant with its carnal mindset. New Covenant believers manifest the love of God, which portrays a willingness to die for one’s enemies, rather than to kill those who are thought to be God’s enemies (Rom. 5:7, 8). Jesus, the New Covenant Joshua, did not come to destroy Canaanites—or any sinners—but to die for them on the cross.
This is the revelation of the mind and heart of God.