1:1 After Moses the LORD’s servant died, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant: 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Get ready! Cross the Jordan River! Lead these people into the land which I am ready to hand over to them. 1:3 I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses. 1:4 Your territory will extend from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon in the north. It will extend all the way to the great River Euphrates in the east (including all of Syria) and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 1:5 No one will be able to resist you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone. 1:6 Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them. 1:7 Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or the left, so you may be successful in all you do. 1:8 This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. 1:9 I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the LORD your God, am with you in all you do.”
Joshua 1:1-9 picks up where Deuteronomy 34 ends off (i.e., at the death of Moses). Joshua 1:10-15 records Joshua preparing the people and 1:16-18 records the peoples’ pledge of obedience to Joshua and the Lord. The rest of the book records the conquest of Canaan, the dividing of the land and its apportioning it to the various tribes of Israel. Thus the historical context of the paragraph is the death of Moses, Israel’s leader, and the taking of the promised land.
In reading Joshua 1:1-9 several times, we note that the paragraph begins with the death of Moses and ends with God’s commandment to Joshua not to be afraid but to trust that God will be with him wherever he goes. Thus the mood is one of tension, fear, and anxiety on the part of Joshua. After all, he has never led a nation before!
We also note that the paragraph itself can be broken down into two parts. In 1:1-5 the emphasis is on God’s promise to the nation to inherit the land. In 1:6-9 the emphasis is on God’s promise to Joshua to be with him, give him success and Joshua’s responsibility to not fear but obey God’s Law.
The paragraph seems to center on a person, Joshua (and Israel) and a place, the promised land. These are brought together in that Joshua is God’s chosen person to lead Israel into the promised land.
The imperative mood runs throughout the paragraph; God repeatedly commands Joshua to not be afraid, but to obey. This makes the scene like a commissioning scene where an inferior is being ordered to do something and commissioned for the task. In this case, the superior, God promises to be with this leader all the way. The expression “be strong and courageous” occurs throughout. There is a focus on success through God’s presence and Joshua’s obedience.
Sometimes, after reading a paragraph several times, it is helpful to put forth a number of possible subjects as viable choices and then begin to delete them as we go. For example, someone might want to argue that the subject of the paragraph is Moses’ death. After all, it is mentioned twice (v. 1, 2) and he himself is mentioned numerous times. Thus there is much in the paragraph that relates to Moses. But that’s just the problem; while there is much in the paragraph that relates to Moses’ death, there is more that relates to him in other ways, and there is much in the paragraph that does not directly relate to him; it is difficult to subsume God’s commands to Joshua under the title: “Moses’ death.” Moses’ death is important for understanding why God says the things he says here, but the paragraph is certainly not primarily about Moses’ death. Someone else might suggest that the subject of the paragraph is the promised land. Again, much in the passage relates to this idea, but it does not have the explanatory power to account for all that is in the passage. Perhaps for now we can suggest that the topic or subject, broadly conceived is: “God’s commissioning of Joshua in light of Moses’ death” or “God’s commissioning to Joshua to lead the Israelites into the promised land…” The subject/complement together might be: “God’s commissioning of Joshua, in the light of Moses’ death, involves the taking of the promised land with the assurance of God’s presence and power as well as the responsibility for Joshua to obey God’s Law.”
While there is no one “right” answer, some are decidedly better than others. We will come back to our subject/complement later. Now we have to look at some cross-references.
Various Bibles list all sorts of cross-references to be looked up. For example, the NIV study Bible lists the following verses for Joshua 1:1: Ex 14:31; Dt 34:5; Rev 15:3; Ex 17:9. When we read these verses, we realize that the title “servant of the Lord,” as applied to Moses, was a title of high honor. He was regarded by the people as close to God and one in whom the people put their trust (Ex 14:31). The question that must have been in Joshua’s mind, when God mentioned Moses as “his servant,” was “Can I live up to that calling? Moses is dead, I’m the one God is calling to do this great thing. But, can I do it?”
Perhaps, in Joshua 1:1-9, Joshua felt insecure and fearful that he would not live up to what God wanted, for he had even seen his close friend, that great “servant of the Lord” Moses, fail in this regard. Moses was not permitted to lead the people of Israel into the promised land because he had succumbed to the pressures put upon him by the nation; in anger he struck the rock twice instead of simply speaking to it as God had commanded (Num 20:1-13).
Thus, the reference to Moses as “the servant of the Lord” in verses 1 and 2 reminded Joshua about the incredible privilege and responsibility he now had as the leader of Israel. When we look up Ex 17:9 we realize that God had prepared him for such a role by training him as a soldier and commander.16 Further, he was not to fear, but instead obey and then God would give him victory.
The reader is encouraged now to look through the remaining cross-references in his/her Bible and compare them with Joshua 1:1-9. What new insights did you gain about what’s going on here in Joshua 1? In looking up these references, you will undoubtedly see the focus on the promised land and its connection with Abraham and God’s covenant with him. You will also see how God worked in other great men and wants to work in your life as well. God is not giving Palestine to the church; he is giving the world and the entire cosmos. We are to worship him in truth and reach out to those who do not yet know him. As Joshua and Israel had their commission, so we have ours (Matt 28:19-20). The good new is that it is the same God in both cases.
After reading all the cross-references, it is now time to return to your original summary of the paragraph. Do you need to change or tweak anything? Perhaps, but not necessarily. Sometimes looking up other passages serves to give us further insight into certain statements in our passage, but it might not really change our understanding of the focus of the passage overall.
People often ask, “How do I know if my interpretation is the right one?” While there may be one right interpretation of a passage—where interpretation is akin to landing in a circle and not on the head of a pin—it is often times difficult to adjudicate between competing interpretations. Thus, it is better to view interpretations as more or less reasonable given the data at hand. One way to judge between two or more interpretations of a paragraph is to check each verse in our paragraph against our subject-complement to see if our subject-complement fits. This does not mean that every detail of every verse(s) is in our subject-complement, but it does mean that nothing in the subject-complement contradicts the verse, either directly or by improper emphasis.
We said that the subject of Joshua 1:1-9 is: “God’s commissioning of Joshua, in the light of Moses’ death,” and the complement is: “involves the taking of the promised land with the assurance of God’s presence and power as well as the responsibility for Joshua to obey God’s Law.” As I read through the verses in Joshua it seems that each one is represented in this subject-complement and that the subject has been correctly narrowed down. For example, ideas that don’t get mentioned, such as “meditation” and “the boundaries of the promised land” are understood to be part of the phrase “to obey God’s Law” and the mention of the “promised land,” respectively. Also, the way I have said it is obviously not the only way it could have been said. But any way in which it is expressed, which detracts from the actual text or skews the subject in some way, is open to revision and correction.
The one idea that might be missing from this summary, and which is important to the paragraph, is the idea of Joshua’s success. His success comes through his obedience to God’s law, and probably ought to receive explicit mention. We also might want to make “taking the promised land” part of the subject and not the complement. Thus we might reformulate the subject-complement as follows: “God’s commissioning of Joshua—after the death of Moses—to lead the people of Israel into the promised land (subject), will be successful if Joshua does not give way to fear, but remains strong and courageous in the knowledge of God’s continued presence and power and if he is careful to obey God’s Law”(complement).
Perhaps the verses that crystallize the response Joshua was to have are vv. 8-9. These passages speak volumes to me about my own life and ministry.
Meditate on these verses for your own life, now that you understand them in their original context. What is it God is saying to you about your commitment to his Word? Obedience? And attitude in doing his will? What does this passage teach us about our mandate to reach the lost, raise up our families in a way that honors the Lord and his Word, and the way I conduct myself at work?
1:1 How happy is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of arrogant fools! 1:2 Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the LORD’s commands; he intently studies his commands day and night. 1:3 He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he attempts. 1:4 Not so with the wicked! Instead they are like wind-driven chaff. 1:5 For this reason the wicked cannot withstand judgment, nor can sinners join the assembly of the godly. 1:6 Certainly the LORD rewards the behavior of the godly, but the behavior of the wicked is self-destructive.
55:1 Hey, all who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come! Buy and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk without money and without cost! 55:2 Why pay money for something that will not nourish you? Why spend your hard-earned money on something that will not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is nourishing! Enjoy fine food! 55:3 Pay attention and come to me! Listen, so you can live! Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you, just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David. 55:4 Look, I made him a witness to nations, a ruler and commander of nations.” 55:5 Look, you will summon nations you did not previously know; nations that did not previously know you will run to you, because of the LORD your God, the sovereign king of Israel, for he bestows honor on you. 55:6 Seek the LORD while he makes himself available; call to him while he is nearby! 55:7 The wicked need to abandon their lifestyle and sinful people their plans. They should return to the LORD, and he will show mercy to them, and to their God, for he will freely forgive them. 55:8 “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, 55:9 for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans. 55:10 The rain and now fall from the sky and do not return, but instead water the earth and make it produce and yield crops, and provide seed for the planter and food for those who must eat. 55:11 In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend.” 55:12 Indeed you will go out with joy; you will be led along in peace; the mountains and hills will give a joyful shout before you,
and all the trees in the field will clap their hands. 55:13 Evergreens will grow in place of thorn bushes, firs will grow in place of nettles; they will be a monument to the LORD, a permanent reminder that will remain.
2:1And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2:2 in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, 2:3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest… 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 2:5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved! — 2:6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 2:7 to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 2:8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 2:9 it is not of works, so that no one can boast. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
4:1After these things I looked, and there was a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said: “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.” 4:2 Immediately I was in the Spirit, and a throne was standing in heaven with someone seated on it! 4:3 And the one seated on it was like jasper and carnelian in appearance, and a rainbow looking like it was made of emerald encircled the throne. 4:4 In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on those thrones were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white clothing and had golden crowns on their heads. 4:5 From the throne came out flashes of lightning and roaring and crashes of thunder. Seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God, were burning in front of the throne 4:6 and in front of the throne was something like a sea of glass, like crystal. In the middle of the throne and around the throne were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 4:7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second creature like an ox, the third creature had a face like a man’s, and the fourth creature looked like an eagle flying. 4:8 Each one of the four living creatures had six wings and was full of eyes all around and inside. They never rest day or night, saying: “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God, the All-Powerful, Who was and who is, and who is coming!” 4:9 And whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 4:10 the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying: 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, since you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created!”
16 Note: Joshua was also Moses’ aide and learned much about relating to God and God’s people from being with him.