The Creator of the whole earth (Ps 24:1-2; 47:4) and unique Owner of Palestine (Lv. 25:23) made the patriarchs trustees of a land fit for kings, flowing with milk and honey (Dt. 31:20). He promised to give it to their descendants as a permanent inheritance (Gn. 17:8; Ex. 32:13). The occupation of the land, to be taken by stages (see 13:1-7), was launched dramatically by Joshua. It was then ‘allotted’ by God to Israel’s tribes by casting lots, (Nu 33:50-54) and so became their inalienable possession which noone could take forcibly from them. Only the Levites received no land of their own; instead they ‘inherited’ the LORD himself, opening the way to a spiritual understanding of the inheritance (13:14).
With Christ’s resurrection and ascension and with the outpouring of the Spirit, it became clear that Joshua is a symbol of Christ and the land a symbol, a metaphor, of the church’s salvation in Christ. (cf. 1 Cor 10:1-4) Both the land and the salvation in Christ are a gift (Jos 1:2,6; cf. Rom 6:23), possessed only through faith (Jos 1:7,9; cf. Rom 10:8-21; Eph 1:8-9). They are both a place of blessing, (Ex 3:8; Nu 13:27; Eph 1:3-14) a home base of rest (Jos 1:13; Heb 4:1-11) and a holy place where one uniquely meets God. (Ex 15:17; Col 3:1-4; 1 Tim 2:5-6) They both also demand a lifestyle that conforms with God’s law. (1:7-8; 8:30-35; 1 Cor 10:1-13) Through the new covenant Christ qualifies his church to live in this ‘land’ fit for kings. (Eze 37:26) And yet, though the church today inherits eternal life and rest in Christ Jesus, after its resurrection it will enjoy a more solid ‘land’ appropriate to that state. (cf. 1 Cor 15:50-54; Heb 11:39-40) The ‘land’ remains a gift already received but not yet fully experienced. (NBC)