Three cities: three pictures of Christ

By: Peter Youngren
From: December 2009
Found in: The Gospel of Grace
The “promised land” that God gave to Israel is a picture of our life in Christ. We find the cities of Hebron, Kirjath Sepher and Timnath Serah. Let’s together discover what they symbolize.

In many Christian songs and sermons the Promised Land has been depicted as heaven. This cannot be so, because in heaven there are neither enemies, nor sin and backsliding. What does the “promised land” mean for us?

The Promised Land symbolizes a spiritual reality here and now.


When Israel entered Canaan, their Promised Land, this was a landmark victory - what they had longed for, they now possessed. We, too, come to an experience when, “Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

The Promised Land is a place of spiritual rest.

To live a New Covenant life means an end to the pursuit and chasing of elusive spiritual dreams and never quite receiving them.

Our rest is not in a geographical land, but in Jesus Himself. To live a New Covenant life means an end to the pursuit and chasing of elusive spiritual dreams and never quite receiving them. Many spend years looking for blessings, deliverances, joys and glory, not recognizing that we already have received these in Christ. Spiritual rest is in the realization that what we pray and hope for we already have in and through Jesus Christ. The finished work of Christ really is finished. This discovery gives us the power to live the life that Jesus provided for us.

The Promised Land is very personal.


Each tribe, family, and individual in Israel had their own geographical place within the overall inheritance. There was a personal inheritance for each one. Similarly, there is a personal inheritance for each one of us in Christ. Yet that personal inheritance of victory and blessing in Christ always fits in with God’s overall plan for all His people.

The “promised land” that God gave to Israel is a picture of our life in Christ. We find the cities of Hebron, Kirjath Sepher and Timnath Serah.

Hebron: The City of the Father’s Love.


“Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb…” (Joshua 14:14). Hebron was important militarily because of its high elevation. Caleb set his heart on this choice region as his inheritance. He had waited for forty years in the wilderness while his contemporaries died. Before Caleb finally laid claim to Hebron, he fought four more years with the Israelites so that each tribe could take their inheritance. Caleb wanted it because it was the highest and best in the land. Some people settle for the good, others for the better, and then there are those who want God’s very best - the “perfect will of God” (Romans 12:12) and to “fulfil every good purpose of God” (2 Thess 1:11).

Hebron literally means “the loving friend.” Caleb, who is a picture of enduring faith, lived in Hebron, which shows the connection between faith and love, because “faith works by love.” Caleb had held on in faith for forty years, foreshadowing the faith that works through Jesus (Acts 3:16).

If even a small part of the weight of the Law of Moses had been applied to Abraham and David, they would both have been stoned to death.

Before Caleb, Hebron had been the city of Abraham, God’s friend, and later on it would become the city of David, the man after God’s own heart. Both Abraham and David were flawed individuals. If even a small part of the weight of the Law of Moses had been applied to Abraham and David, they would both have been stoned to death. Because of love and faith, they instead become types of new covenant believers who receive the grace of God. Abraham and David did not get what they deserved, just as we don’t get what we deserve, but what Jesus has provided.

The mind of Christ.


The city of Kirjath Sepher, conquered by Othniel, speaks of the mind of Christ in us. We read, “Caleb said, “He who attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give Achsah my daughter as wife.” So Othniel… took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife.  Now it was so, when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?”  She answered, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.” So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs” (Joshua 15:16-19).

The literal meaning of Kirjath Sepher is “The City of the Book.” The city was also called Debir, which means “The Speaker.” Here we see a picture how the Word of God affects our thoughts and speech. Before Christ, all we knew was either the legalistic requirements of religion, or the wisdom of this world, but now we have received the mind of Christ.  Othniel, which means “the Lion of God” is also a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah living within us.

When we come to God because of the finished work of Christ, the blessing we receive is even greater than what we anticipated.

Achsah, Caleb’s daughter, is a picture of grace. She asked her husband to pursue great things, just like grace causes us to believe for God’s best. Grace doesn’t make us lazy. On the contrary we become energetic because we see Him, who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think (Eph 3:20). Othniel received a rich inheritance because of Achsah (grace), just like the grace of God causes us to inherit what Jesus has provided. When Achsah makes her request, she steps down from her donkey, lowering herself. God always gives grace to the humble. In the end, her father gave her more than she asked for. That’s how grace works. When we come to God because of the finished work of Christ, the blessing we receive is even greater than what we anticipated.

While some people think that the receiving only belongs to a few, John writes, “And of his fullness we have all received and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Notice it doesn’t say that some have received and others are still seeking to receive. No, we have “all received.” Why? Because of Jesus.

Both Achsah and Othniel were thinking big and received big, foreshadowing the mind of Christ, which makes us think bigger and receive bigger than we ever dreamed possible.

Jesus Himself.


The third city is Timnath Serah, the City of the Sun, which is a picture of Jesus Himself. “… the children of Israel gave an inheritance among them to … According to the word of the LORD they gave him the city which he asked for, Timnath Serah in the mountains of Ephraim; and he built the city and dwelt in it” (Joshua 19:49-50).

It is by knowing the width and the length and the depth of that love that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God”

Timnath Serah, the last of these three special inheritances, was to be Joshua’s home. The city depicts Jesus Himself, the son of righteousness, who is “all and in all.” The sun guides our steps, just as Jesus said that those who follow Him will never walk in darkness, but rather have continual direction (John 8:12). The sun provides life and power; without it we have no life at all, and without Jesus we can do nothing. The sun gives warmth, a picture of God’s kindness and love. It is by knowing the width and the length and the depth of that love that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). The sun gives healing. No wonder Jesus is prophesied to be the “Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). The natural sun is a healer - so much more, the Son of God. The city of the sun has no clouds. This speaks of unbroken communion with Jesus where there is no “shadow of turning in Him” (James 1:17). We read in Isaiah 60:20, “Your sun shall no longer go down, Nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the LORD will be your everlasting light, And the days of your mourning shall be ended.”

Because the sins of the world have fallen on Jesus, we have the possibility of unbroken communion with God. Joshua built the city of Timnath Serah because he planned to live there. We live in the city of the sun. Jesus Christ is our place of dwelling.

Make sure Jesus is not your summer cottage but your permanent place.

Often people say “we must enter God’s presence” or “spend time with the Lord” which indicates that we are spending time with Jesus, and then time without Jesus. Timnath Serah is a picture of the continual life and presence of Jesus Christ. Joshua didn’t only plan to live in Timnath Serah, he actually did. Sometimes people make plans to walk with Jesus, but instead, what was meant to be a permanent dwelling place becomes like a summer cottage. Make sure Jesus is not your summer cottage but your permanent place.

Jesus told His disciples that the Books of Moses, the prophets and all the Psalms spoke of Him. In Joshua we discover many beautiful pictures of who Jesus is and wants to be in each one of us. Christ in you, the hope of Glory. These three choice inheritances remind us of Christ’s love, His mind in us and that He is our daily sustainer.

By: Peter Youngren

As founder of World Impact Ministries, Celebration Bible College, Way of Peace and the Celebration Churches in Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara, Canada, Peter is committed to equipping believers to fulfill their purpose before the return of Jesus Christ.

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