CANAAN & THE ARMOR OF GOD
The Christian’s position in the heavenly places, and the warfare that is connected with it.
Canaan pictures the life of the believer as seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. It is a life of enjoyment of the New Creation, of spiritual intelligence and spiritual warfare. We need to remember that the wilderness and Canaan continue as two parallel paths, (1) the wilderness is our life on the earth, and (2) Canaan is our life in the heavenlies.
Canaan is closely connected with the book of Ephesians, which takes us further than Colossians. In Colossians we are risen with Christ, He is our life, and we have an inheritance waiting in heaven. But in Ephesians, we are sitting down together in heavenly places in Christ.
In Canaan there are a number of elements that come into play:
- Possessing our inheritance. The spiritual blessings in heavenly places are ours to enjoy. God’s desire is that we would “fully apprehend” our portion in Christ, the Mystery, and the scope of God’s counsels.
- Returning to Gilgal. To be successful, we need to practically apply the truth of the Jordan. We do this by judicially cutting off that which pertains to nature, by mortifying our members which are upon the earth.
- Preparing for battle. Satan and his demons will try to oppose our progress. Any territorial gains we make will have to be by warfare, and we will need to put on the whole armor of God.
- The Inheritance
- Gilgal: Preparation for Battle (Joshua 5:1-12)
- The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18)
- Things we should know about this Battle
- 1. The Girdle of Truth – Truth Practically Applied
- 2. The Breastplate of Righteousness – A Godly Walk
- 3. The Shoes of Peace – A Peaceful Path
- 4. The Shield of Faith – Complete Confidence in God
- 5. The Helmet of Salvation – Assurance of Salvation
- 6. The Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God
- 7. Praying Always
- An Example of Satan’s Wiles
- Compromise is a Temptation
- Jericho: Satan’s Stronghold Blocking the Way (Joshua 6)
- Achan: the Flesh in Canaan (Joshua 7)
- Gibeon: The Wisdom of Man in Religious Things (Joshua 9)
- Summary of the Whole Journey
The believer has two inheritances; one that he can enjoy now, and one that is reserved for a future day:
- A future, material inheritance, “under our feet”… it refers to the universe, every created thing (Eph. 1:11). God has appointed Christ “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2), and we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ,” (Rom. 8:17). We inherit by association with the son of God.
- A present, spiritual inheritance, “over our heads”… our spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (See Eph. 1:3-7, Col. 3:24, I Pet. 1:4, Phil. 3:12). This is what is pictured by Israel’s inheritance in Canaan.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3)
It is the spiritual blessings “in the heavenlies” that have been given to us by God as our inheritance. The book of Ephesians most closely parallels the book of Joshua in the Old Testament… the possession of our inheritance. As the later chapters in Joshua give the borders and dimensions of Israel’s inheritance, so Paul prays in Ephesians that we would know and enjoy our spiritual portion. What are some of those blessings that are ours in Canaan? We could look at the list of blessings in Ephesians 1. We could also look at the three cardinal truths of the mystery in Ephesians 3; that (1) we are joint-heirs, the Gentiles have been elevated to an equal place with the Jews as the Church of God; (2) we are joint-body, brought into a new relationship with Christ as our Head united to Him and the other members of His body by the Holy Ghost; and (3) joint-partakers of the promise of eternal life… these are the blessings that are connected with Canaan. It takes energy to get a hold of these things.
Gilgal: Preparation for Battle (Joshua 5:1-12)
At Gilgal, Israel was prepared in two ways for the conquest of Canaan. Firstly, Joshua was told to “make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel.” Secondly, they were to “eat of the old corn of the land”. These two things have spiritual application to us as individual believers, and they need to be practically carried out in our lives if we are to be successful in laying hold of our heavenly portion.
Circumcision: Cutting off the Flesh
“In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5
In the Jordan we saw everything we were in Adam (flesh included) go down under the waters of death, and in God’s sight, to remain there forever. Circumcision is the practical recognition of that fact. It is seen in scripture as both:
- A one-time thing (the initial act at Gilgal) – to initially lay hold of our death and resurrection with Christ, and see the total futility of all that is connected with the flesh (Col. 2:11).
- An ongoing thing (constantly returning to Gilgal) – to continually put the flesh in the place of death (Col. 3:5).
(v.1) The Lord is about to instruct the people to be circumcised. This is a symbol of self-judgment and would be a humbling thing. Note that it is at their greatest peek, when the hearts of the Canaanites melted, that the Lord saw it was necessary to sharpen their knives. It was illogical to circumcise after crossing the Jordan, because it would make them thoroughly vulnerable. But we must, it is the only way to have victory. Circumcision is the practical application of the truth of the Jordan to our bodies.
(vv.2-9) There was a need because the younger generation had not been circumcised. They couldn’t eat the old corn of the land or begin their warfare without this critical step. The sharp knife is applied to that which belongs to mere nature. If we are indulging nature by going after the things of the world there is no way we are enjoying communion with the risen Christ. We do not belong to earth now. Our life is in heaven; and in order practice this, there must be the denial of self, the mortification of our members which are on the earth.
Gilgal is where circumcision was carried out, and where the reproach of Egypt was rolled away. We are connected to the world (Egypt) through the flesh, and so it needed to be cut off before we have possess the heavenlies.
The Old Corn of the Land
(vv.10-12) Here we have all three spiritual foods of the Christian mentioned together. As those who have been redeemed from Egypt, we feed on the Passover Lamb. As those who are in the wilderness, we feed on the Manna. As those who are in the land of Canaan, we feed on the Old Corn of the land.
- The Passover Lamb is Christ made an offering for sin. This food was first theirs under the shelter of the blood in Egypt, but it was theirs to eat perpetually (it was kept in the wilderness, and now again in the land).
- The Manna is a type of Christ in His humiliation. Although they were to stop eating the manna, some was put into the ark and is referred to in the New Testament as the hidden manna. All our time on earth we’re in the wilderness, so we always need the manna. That is the remembrance of Him in in his humiliation on earth “Christ once humbled here.”, and it is precious to our souls.
- The Old Corn of the land of Canaan is a type of Christ risen. It is the food of resurrection, the fruit of the seed that had been sown in the land, and that had died and sprung up again. A risen, ascended, and glorified Christ is the true object for the heart of the Christian.
The Old Corn of the land is the proper food of Canaan, and it is what will give us energy for the conflict. We need to have a view of Christ in glory, as head of the New Creation.
The Captain of the Lord’s Host: Warfare (Joshua 5:13-15)
The first thing Joshua sees after Gilgal is the Angel of the Lord with a drawn sword. We should be prepared that there will be warfare in Canaan. Fighting will characterize possession of the land.
Three soul conflicts. There are three soul conflicts that are given to us in the New Testament. In Ephesians the warfare is not the flesh (like in Galatians), but spiritual wickedness in high places. There is conflict in Canaan because it is the place of Christian privilege.
|Rom. 7:7-25||The old & new natures||Believe the gospel and be sealed||A quickened soul that is not sealed|
|Gal. 5:16-25||The flesh and the Spirit||Give the Spirit its proper place||A Christian that is in a bad state|
|Eph. 6:10-20||The flesh and the Spirit||Put on the whole armor of God||A Christian that is in a good state|
The battlefield. God has raised up Christ and seated Him in glory. Because we have died and been raised with Christ, we are made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That is how we get to be in the place where the conflict is. We know that the truth we display is a lesson for the angels… they are looking on and learning “by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10). But Satan and his fallen angels are watching too; and they will oppose our progress.
Our Commander and Chief. The man with the drawn sword says, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come… Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.” Joshua 5:14-15. As the redeemed people of the Lord, we are there to fight His battles. We do not stand alone, but with Him as our captain. Also, the ground that we stand on, the foundation of our inheritance, is holy ground. It is based on none other than the person and work of Christ. We need to draw off our shoe.
The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Satan’s power has been broken in the death of Christ, but now we face his strategies. He is trying to get us, who have been delivered, back under his power, and we need the armor of God to evade his wiles.
Things we should know about this Battle
Understand that it is a spiritual battle. To be clear, we are not talking about a physical fight. Paul tells us that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, etc.” (2 Cor. 10:4). The inheritance is spiritual, the fright is spiritual, and so the armor is spiritual as well.
Find your strength in the Lord. There is infidelity of various kinds in the spiritual world. There is skepticism and superstition, rationalism and ritualism. We will not get through in our own strength, we need “to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. 6:10); we need the whole armor; and the armor must be of God; human armor will not stand up to the attacks of Satan.
Know your enemy. It tells us in v.11 that we stand against “the devil”. Furthermore, Satan uses others in battle, because he is not omnipresent. So, “our struggle is:
- “NOT against blood and flesh” – that is, not against men, such as in physical combat
- “Against principalities” – Demonic beings that have dominion over specific regions on the earth. See the “princes” in Daniel 10; the “prince of Persia”, “prince of Greece” and “Michael your prince”.
- “Against authorities” – Demonic beings that have great power, perhaps over other demons.
- “Against the universal lords of this darkness” – Universal authorities, perhaps the most influential and high-ranking demons.
- “Against spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies” – Spiritual sin itself (compare with “sin in the flesh”).
Understand your objective. Taking the whole armor of God will result in victory. The goal is to stand. We will have conflict in two ways (Eph. 6:13);
- Passive. “To withstand in the evil day” – by virtue of our being in Canaan, and Satan’s nature is to deny us our inheritance.
- Active. “Having done all, to stand” – when we have enjoyed a portion of our inheritance, he tries to drive us out.
The first three pieces of the armor have to do with the state of the heart being right: (1) loins girt with truth, (2) righteousness for a breastplate, and (3) feet shod with peace.
1. The Girdle of Truth – Truth Practically Applied
The loins are the seat of strength as long as we are wearing the girdle. The loins also represent the inner affections and movements of the heart. In those days they wore long robes that needed to be girded or they would prevent movement. To be girded with the girdle of truth means having the power of truth applied to everything that takes place in the heart. When I read the word, I let its power affect me. It is not knowing doctrine, but truth practically applied. God’s word needs to have its full application in my life. Much of when He tells us in His word are unseen truths, but they need to be applied or we are not properly girded. If we are not properly girded, our garments will be dragging in the mire of this world, our thoughts will be wandering. But when we put on the girdle of truth, our heart is in the right place, ready for service. Achan did not have on the girdle of truth, his affections when out to the accursed thing. “Thou desireth truth in the inward parts” Psalm 51:6.
2. The Breastplate of Righteousness – A Godly Walk
This is practical righteousness with God. Having the breastplate on will do two things: (1) ensure we have a good conscience, and (2) ensure that the ministry is not blamed. Unless a man has a good conscience, he will be a coward, and afraid of being detected. If we are inconsistent Satan will be sure to bring it up. Imagine a preacher (we don’t have to imagine) who preaches separation from the world, but is not walking in practical righteousness. The world will say “He is no better than us” and immediately Satan has a victory, the ministry is nullified. An upright walk before God will ward off the attacks of Satan to “blame the ministry”, see 2 Corinthians 6.
3. The Shoes of Peace – A Peaceful Path
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace.” When we learn Christ, we then carry peace with us, and we carry through the world the Spirit and character of Christ. The shoes of peace are the spirit of Christ in our life seen by others as we walk through the world. Also, it is hard to be vigilant when your feet are not protected.
For the next three pieces of armor there is a slight change. The first three were inward things. It was said of each, “having put on”. Those are moral prerequisites for the next three. They are pieces that are put on in the dressing room. Now we over to the armory, and it says “taking” the shield of faith, etc.
4. The Shield of Faith – Complete Confidence in God
Once the heart is right, then we get the shield of faith, by which we can “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked”. The shield of faith is looking up with complete confidence in God. It is the first line of defense.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty; He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust; His truth shall be Thy shield and buckler; thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day.” Psalm 91:1-5
God is greater than Satan in both power and wisdom. Satan may launch his darts, but they cannot penetrate the shield of faith. Note that the shield extinguishes Satan’s darts. At any given moment we may not be able to deal a death blow to a Canaanite, but the shield immediately takes away the threat to our person. We need to remember that all the power of Satan is broken. Christ has gone through death to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”. This is why we are not told to overcome the devil – because Christ already has – but instead we are to “resist” him, and he will flee from us. When resisted, Satan meets Christ in us and runs away. If we fight Satan with human determination, we will give way his demands. We do not need stand in the power of our own might, but simply look to Christ who could say, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Faith says, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
5. The Helmet of Salvation – Assurance of Salvation
This is the intelligence of what has already been done for us. We know Christ has defeated Satan, therefore we know the outcome of the battle, if we are looking to Christ. In a battle, we need to go back to the foundation, the finished work of Christ. An application of this might also include the hope of the Lord’s Coming, which we get in 1 Thessalonians.
6. The Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God
Now we can fight, having put on and taken the preceding five pieces of armor, being sheltered and shielded. We dare not fight until we are sheltered and shielded. We now take the first offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God always to be exercised in a spirit of dependence.
7. Praying Always
No matter how active a soldier is, it will do no good if he hasn’t been communicating with the Commander and Chief. Remember the Captain of the Lord’s Host? The battle is His, and can only be won “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”.
We need complete dependence… the whole package: (1) the Word of God and (2) prayer. Prayer is mentioned in connection with the whole armor, but especially the Sword of the Spirit. These two things are found running together through Scripture: the Word of God and prayer. Half the battle is fought out beforehand in God’s presence by prayer.
An Example of Satan’s Wiles
In the end of Numbers the Lord had stressed the importance of complete driving the Canaanites out of the land. Any that remained would be a torment to them. The enemies come in the form of Satan’s wiles. Whether it be skepticism or superstition, rationalism or ritualism, these things need to be driven out. Doubts as to the existence of God, oppositions of knowledge, doubts as to the infallibility of the word of God, doubts as to the love of God, doubts as to the efficacy of the work of Christ, the influence of popular opinion, etc.
One case in my personal life came when I read Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, which is a classic in the study of Western history. As many know, Paine’s political ideas were very influential in the American Revolution; in fact, you may recall his famous pamphlet, Common Sense, which was circulated among the thirteen colonies as justification for a rebellion. Paine was a deist, and his writings are full “imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God”. One fiery dart, concerning God’s righteousness in redemption and the efficacy of the work of Christ, came sailing toward me.
“…The theory or doctrine of redemption has for its basis an idea of pecuniary justice, and not that of moral justice. If I owe a person money, and cannot pay him, and he threatens to put me in prison, another person can take the debt upon himself, and pay it for me. But if I have committed a crime, every circumstance of the case is changed. Moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty even if the innocent would offer itself. To suppose justice to do this, is to destroy the principle of its existence, which is the thing itself. It is then no longer justice. It is indiscriminate revenge. This single reflection will show that the doctrine of redemption is founded on a mere pecuniary idea corresponding to that of a debt which another person might pay…”
He is saying that God is unjust in allowing substitutionary atonement. His reason is that the guilty person goes free, which is morally wrong. Punishing the innocent does not remove another’s guiltiness. So if God requires payment for sins because of His righteous character, but needs to act unrighteously to do it, the scheme of redemption defeats itself!
This really threw me for a loop. The entire basis of my salvation had been brought into question, and I didn’t have an answer for it. I kept thinking of how I had always understood substitutionary atonement; e.g. I’m a murderer, convicted of my crime, but then Christ takes my place and I go free… simple. And yet if I think from God’s angle; or from the angle of the victim’s family, was justice done? Is it really as simple as a debt being paid by another, be He ever so innocent? No, I concluded, moral justice would not be done! The guilty man was not punished, justice was not done. For several days, I was shaken to the very foundation.
How can it be, that a believer can find shelter behind the blood-sprinkled door, eat the paschal lamb, cross the Red Sea, cross the long wilderness, cross the Jordan, enter the land, only to cross swords with a Canaanite and be brought to the brink of defeat?
First, I needed to lift the shield faith. When we lift the shield of faith, we have peace in resting simply on the Word of God. The dart is extinguished, the urgency is gone, and all our thoughts are brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Second, we put on the helmet of salvation, and remember what Christ has done for us. Finally, we draw the sword of the Spirit, and the Word of God is applied directly to the conflict. When I drew the sword of the Spirit, engraved on its blade were five words in my understanding better than 10,000 in an unknown tongue, five little words worth more than all the money in the world. The Spirit brought to mind Galatians 2:20; “I am crucified with Christ.” The truth is, the sentence has been passed completely and properly; not only has the debt been paid, but the criminal has been prosecuted. Judicially, I am crucified with Christ, there is no criminal left, but Christ who lives in me. In God’s sight the guilty man has been crucified! It is true that He paid for my sins, that He died for me, the just for the unjust, but it is also true that I am crucified with Him. Every aspect of my guilt has been fully and righteously answered to God’s complete satisfaction. That was the answer for my soul!
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” II Cor. 10:4-5
I watched as the Canaanite perished on the sword, and realized that the victory was all of God. And another thing… I had gained some new ground. I had seen another aspect of my link with the risen Savior that I had never seen before. This is one feeble example of the conflict in Canaan.
Compromise is a Temptation
If we read the first chapter of Judges we will find a summary of the twelve tribes, and their varied success in possessing Canaan. Judah begins by requiring another’s company – to lean on an arm of flesh – before they would go into battle. The result was that they could not drive out some of the inhabitants. This is followed by a step-by-step declension in vv.21-35.
First, the Canaanites are allowed to dwell with the tribes (vv.21-30), Israel making deals and compromises. The results was that “when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute”… a very logical idea, but God says they “did not utterly drive them out.” Then, the language changes and it says that Israel “dwelt among the Canaanites” (v.32)… this was NOT God’s plan.
Finally, “the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley.” The valley is the place where the Christian life is played out. The enemy would like to force us up into a position where we only talk about spiritual things among ourselves, and hold them as theory, but never put them into practice or try to share them with others. If Satan can keep us up in the hills he will have nothing to worry about. But we know that God is the God of the hills and the God of the valleys (I Kings 20:28).
Jericho: Satan’s Stronghold Blocking the Way (Joshua 6)
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.” Heb. 11:30
Every Christian has to face, at some time or another, a stronghold like Jericho. Some colossal fortress blocking their path. Israel’s only hope of success against Jericho was to take the directions directly from the Lord. We might say, “Why not simplify the path? Why all these complications? Why go round the city every day, and seven times the seventh day? Why this procession with the ark and trumpets?” Faith does not ask why. It does not demand a logical explanation for the means God chooses to employ; it accepts them, and obtains the victory. Faith makes no compromise with the world, receives and takes nothing from it. God forbids the people to touch the spoil of Jericho; it is accursed.
Achan: the Flesh in Canaan (Joshua 7)
In the excitement of the victory at Jericho, Joshua forgot Gilgal. He sent the men directly from Jericho to Ai. We must learn that progress in Canaan halts when we fail to return to Gilgal. We cannot fight the Lord’s battles if the flesh is at work. With an Achan in the camp there can be no victory. We must be practically dead to fight successfully! Once Achan was dealt with, the Lord gave Israel the victory at Ai.
Gibeon: The Wisdom of Man in Religious Things (Joshua 9)
When the men of Gibeon come, we see a picture of the wiles of Satan in religious evil. Satan can be very religious. They fell into Satan’s trap by not consulting the Lord, but turning to man’s wisdom. They “made a league” or terms of acceptance with the Gibeonites based on false information. When they learned the truth, it was too late. The result was that the Gibeonites became a perpetual snare to them. Similarly, there is a danger that we might bring something of the world’s wisdom and methods into our Christianity. Sadly, religious evil has become a perpetual snare in Christendom.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” 1 Corinthians 2:12-13
Summary of the Whole Journey
In summary, we have the entire Christian experience from Egypt to Canaan, beginning with New Birth (quickening) all the way to New Creation.
When we were dead in our sins God quickened us by His Holy Spirit, and gave us the faith to apply the blood of the Passover. He brought us out of Egypt to Himself, bringing us through the Red Sea where our Old Man was crucified, the body of sin annulled, and where we received the indwelling Spirit as the power of our new life. We then discovered that we had a perfect standing before God, no more conscience of sins, a justified position through the death and resurrection of Christ. We received the adoption of sons whereby we cry “Abba, Father”. We have been reconciled to God and pass through this wilderness scene as strangers and pilgrims, with an inheritance in heaven. We experimentally learn the priesthood of Christ, and the presence of the Lord Jesus among His people collectively. We are fed and refreshed by the way, and learn to worship by the Spirit, and put no confidence in the flesh. We learn the important of obedience, the folly of unbelief, and the danger of worldliness or idolatry. We then are brought by God through the Jordan were we see our death with Christ, the putting off of our Old Man, and the putting on of the New Man. By this, we are brought into the New Creation in resurrection life, as “one” with Christ the Head of the new creation, and “united” to the Head of the Body. In the meantime, we have warfare ahead of us if we are to make progress, and we must take to ourselves the whole Armor of God. We learn the importance of circumcision in the land, mortifying our members on the earth. We have received the ministry of reconciliation from God in which knowing the terror of the Lord, and being constrained by the love of Christ, we persuade men to be saved. We find ourselves seated there in heavenly places, and await the coming of Christ when our bodies will be changed and we shall be forever “with the Lord”.