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Articles

Unfinished Business

The book of Joshua records Israel’s conquest of Canaan, their “promised land.” Under Joshua’s capable leadership, God’s people united and won decisive victories over a number of cities in Canaan. God’s power was unmistakably at work. As Joshua expressed it, “One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you” (23:10).

Once the major powers were defeated, Joshua apportioned the land among Israel’s tribes. In a way it was “mission accomplished”; the Lord gave “rest to Israel from all their enemies on every side” (23:1).  Yet there was unfinished business. Pockets of the various Canaanite nations remained. These needed to be rooted out; otherwise, they would ensnare God’s people (23:1-16). This essential close-to-home work would have to be performed at the tribal level.

In this regard our salvation is parallel to Israel’s conquest of Canaan. It begins with the “major events” of learning the gospel, putting our faith in Jesus, determining to change our lives, confessing our faith, and being baptized into Christ. At that point God gives our “rest”: we are saved, justified, sanctified, etc. But as was the case of Israel in Canaan, there is much unfinished business.

Yes, we have knowledge, but there is so much more to learn. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18a).

Yes, we have faith, but that faith must grow and be strengthened. Even the apostles pled, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). If faith is not nurtured it may grow cold or die.

Yes, we have repented, but we must continue to mature in discerning right and wrong. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). In one sense, we put on the new self when we came to Christ (Colossians 9:10); in another sense, the transformation of our character is an ongoing process (Ephesians 4:22ff). Just as the Israelites needed to root out every pocket of Canaanite influence, we need to address every area of our lives, “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The Israelites failed to take care of their unfinished business, and it proved disastrous (Judges 1-2). Let’s not make the same mistake.

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