In a number of ways, the preparation for invasion and the conflict that lay before Joshua and the people begins in this chapter. And it is significant that this preparation in chapter one proceeds out of God’s communication. First, God speaks and commissions Joshua (1:1-5) and then calls him to be strong and courageous (1:6-9). In view of this word from God, Joshua speaks to the people and gives them instructions for preparing to cross the Jordan in three days (1:10-15). This is followed by the response of the people which, of course, had its source in the Word of God (1:16-18). God’s revelation should always be followed by a response that is in keeping with His inspired Word.
1 Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, 2 “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun, will be your territory. 5 No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.
The victory and possession of the land which follows is a direct result of the Word of God and of man, in this case Joshua, hearing and responding to His Word. This should illustrate for us that there is absolutely no victory or chance for us to experience the blessings of our new life in Christ apart from the Word of God. Whenever any believer begins to turn away from the Word through indifference or apathy for whatever reason, he is turning away from the Lord and into defeat.
Joshua’s commission comes only after the death of Moses (vss. 1-2). This is significant. The commission of Joshua and the continuation of God’s purposes to move Israel into the land, for certain typological reasons, comes only after the death of Moses. Why is this?
Moses was the great lawgiver who represented the Law of Sinai, that awesome legislation which demonstrates the perfect holiness of God and the sinful condition of man who stands separated from God (Rom. 3:23). But the Law, though holy and good, could never give life or spirituality nor could it provide justification. It was instead a ministration of death that revealed man a sinner and in jail to sin (2 Cor. 3:7; Rom. 7:7; Gal. 3:19-22).
Moses portrayed the law which cannot lead us into the saving and abundant life of Christ. It was only a tutor, a temporary servant which must pass away (Gal. 3:23f). Though it did point to Christ in the tabernacle, priesthood, and sacrifices, it could not take away sin or provide deliverance from the flesh. Why? Because it was weak in that it was dependent upon man and his ability (Rom. 8:3-4). The Law provided a righteous standard, but no power or grace for the flesh or indwelling sin (Rom. 6:14; 8:3f).
Thus, Moses had to pass from the scene before Joshua could be commissioned and given orders to take the people across Jordan and into the Promised Land. A further reason is seen in Joshua’s name which so clearly reminds us that “Yahweh is Salvation.” As the Hebrew equivalent of Jesus, Joshua typifies the Lord Jesus and His saving life who provides us not only with redemption, but with the power we need to enter into the possession of our possessions in Christ.
With the mention of the death of Moses, Joshua is then told, “Now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people.” By way of application for today, the words “Now therefore arise,” (in view of the death of Moses and what he represented) teach us the truth that no man can live the Christian life by keeping a set of laws or taboos. While the Christian life involves obedience to the principles and imperatives of the Word, it is more. It is a life to be lived by faith in the power of God. We simply cannot live the Christian life in our own energy or by our own determination. The Christian life is not just being Mr. Nice or merely keeping a set of Christian principles and rules. It is a faith relationship with God to be lived out in the power of the Spirit and in the light of the Word.
With the Words, “arise, cross this Jordan,” the Lord is saying, “get out of the desert and move on into Canaan.” God’s will for the believer is never in the wilderness. It is in Canaan, the place of deliverance and conquest. “Arise, cross” by the parallel of New Testament truth says, “take up your armor, use your supernatural resources, stop trusting in yourself, trust me and move out.”
“You and all this people” illustrates that spirituality is not just for an elect few, but it is for all believers. The abundant, maturing Christian life is God’s plan and will for every single believer. It is only limited by our lack of availability to His constant availability to us. Every believer is blessed with every spiritual blessing, is a priest of God with abundant grace available for every situation. We need to remember all Israel got out of Egypt the same way—by faith in God’s grace, and they would all cross over Jordan in exactly the same way, by faith in God’s deliverance.
The words, “to the land which I am giving you” and in verse 3, “every place on which …” illustrates the truth of Ephesians 1:3 and Colossians 2:10. “I am giving you” and “I have given it to you” shows us God was then in the process of bringing to pass that which had been theirs all along. Joshua 2:9-11 reveals that the land had virtually been theirs for 40 years. It was just waiting to be possessed. And like that, from the moment of salvation, God has provided every believer with every spiritual blessing and provision. Of course, as this book makes perfectly clear, having title deed to the land (or our blessings in Christ) does not mean our lives will be without testing, conflict, struggles, and pressures. It indeed will, but since the battle is the Lord’s, since God has done the most for us in Christ, with the testings and temptations comes God’s deliverance through faith and the application of the Word.
In verse 5, Joshua is given the promise, “no man will be able to stand before you,” but this promise is also a warning. While the land was theirs for the taking, it would not be taken without conflict or battle. And likewise, as the land of Canaan was full of fortified cities and enemies that needed to be driven out, so the Christian life is a life of conflict with enemies which must be overcome. Though the outcome is assured if we claim God’s sufficiency and the saving life of Christ, we must still do battle and reckon with the fact of the enemy throughout this life. This is a wake up call, a reality that must be faced: life is full of battles and conflicts. We are not in Eden nor are we in the millennial reign of Christ. Rather we wrestle with the flesh (indwelling sin), with the devil and supernatural powers of darkness, and a world system that is antagonistic to God, to His Word, and to godly living (cf. Rom. 7:15f; Gal. 5:16f; Eph. 5:15-16; 6:10f; 1 Pet. 5:8-9).
Nevertheless, the positive side is that these words, “no man will be able to stand before you …” are also a promise of continued deliverance in battle after battle after battle. Because of the infinite sufficiency of the saving life of the Christ through His finished work on the cross, His triumphant presence at the right hand of God, our identification with Him in His death, resurrection and session in heaven, and through His gift of the Holy Spirit, there is no enemy we can possibly face which the Lord (our Joshua) has not already conquered. Our need is to appropriate what He has already done for us through the wise faith-application of His Word.
Though still active and roaming about, Satan’s power has been broken and we can resist his deceptions and attacks. Though the sin principle still dwells within or the flesh is still active in our members, its power over us has been broken through our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. This means the victory of possessing our possessions is through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6 and 8) and the sanctifying power of a Word-filled life (John 17:17; Eph. 5:18; Col. 3:16).
Application: We all entertain the desire to live in an ideal world, where life moves along smoothly without problems or stress. In fact, we were created for such and it is not wrong to long for that time which will come with the return of the Lord Jesus, our Joshua. But the doctrines of the apostasy of the last days, the evil nature of this day and time, plus the presence of our three enemies are constant reminders that such cannot be the case now any more than we can have lasting and true world peace without the return of the Lord. We must face the facts and be prepared to face life as it really is. In Christ we are super-conquerors and through His saving life we can overcome the individual battles of life, but we must be prepared to fight the good fight.
We all like to rock along without anything upsetting our schedules or forcing us out of our comfort zones. When we attempt to get away from the struggle, God jars us back into reality through some unpleasant condition or experience and we are again faced with reality. After vacation we must go back to work and face that co-worker who is so hard to get along with. We are going along and then suddenly, there is a threat to our health or that of our spouse or child. Or we may face the death of a loved one which brings heartache, loneliness, along with new pressures and responsibilities. Such is your life and mine, but the words “no man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life” intrudes into our lives with two realities: a warning and promise.
The words, “just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you,” call our attention to one of the great truths of the Bible. Israel would get into the land the same way they got out of Egypt. Likewise, we enter into the abundant life of Christ the same way we were delivered from wrath—by faith in the saving life of Christ. Just as we trusted in Christ and the accomplishments of the cross for justification and redemption, so we must reckon on those same accomplishments as the basis for our security and daily deliverance (Rom. 6:4-11; Col. 2:6-3:3).
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
While the first five verses deal with Joshua’s commission to take over after the death of Moses, the major thrust of verses 6-9 concerns something that was vital to Joshua’s ability to do that. And what was true for Joshua is equally true for us.
There is a word or theme repeated at least three times in these verses that we need to pick up on and relate to. Three times God tells Joshua, “be strong and courageous” (1:6, 7, 9). Then later, as it pertains to their obedience to God, Joshua will relate the same charge to the people (1:18; 10:25) who will likewise face the challenges and fulfillment of God’s purposes for the nation—dwelling in the land as a priesthood nation as God’s representative to the nations.
So the issue before Joshua was a call to be strong and courageous in view of the mantle of leadership that was being passed on to him. God was calling him to a very special and difficult ministry, one with tremendous challenges and obstacles far beyond his own skill or abilities. But life for all of us is filled with such challenges so let us not pass over this without seeing the personal application this can have for each of us. Verses 6-9 are fundamental for obtaining the strength and courage anyone needs for the challenges of any ministry or responsibility.
This passage is not just for a special class of leaders like pastors or missionaries. God has called each of us to ministry. No believer is exempt. We are all gifted, we are all priests of God, and leaders in some sense with personal responsibilities to others whether elders, deacons, moms or dads, etc.
People often run from ministry or difficult situations because of fear or because of the obstacles. As the former generation of Israelites had failed to enter into the land and possess their possessions because of unbelief and fear of the giants, so we too can fail to enter into God’s calling on our lives.
Application: Without God’s strength and personal courage, we will fail to tackle the challenges or take on the responsibilities that God calls us to. Others, being overconfident in themselves may seek to strike out in their own steam, an equally wrong way to try to serve the Lord as we will see illustrated in chapter 7 with the defeat at Ai.
Biblically speaking, where does moral strength and courage come from and does it mean the absence of fear? Moral strength and courage come from (1) faith in the sovereignty and provision of God and (2) in the fact that we are convinced what we are doing is right and best and essential to life. But there is much more as this passage will show us. Courage is that quality of mind that enables men to encounter danger and difficulty with firmness and resolve in spite of inner fears (cf. 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:5). In other words, courage is not the absence of fear. While not courting danger nor presuming on the Lord, Paul never evaded something if he knew it was God’s will or that it was right. In his excellent book on spiritual leadership, J. Oswald Sanders wrote:
Courage of the highest order is demanded of a spiritual leader—always moral courage and frequently physical courage as well …
Martin Luther possessed this important quality in unusual measure. It has been asserted that he was perhaps as fearless a man as ever lived. When he set out on his momentous journey to Worms, he said, “You can expect from me everything save fear or recantation. I shall not flee, much less recant.” His friends, warning him of the grave dangers he faced, sought to dissuade him. But Luther would not be dissuaded. “Not go to Worms?” he said. “I shall go to Worms though there were as many devils as tiles on the roofs.” …
But not all men are courageous by nature as Luther was, and that fact is both explicit and implicit in Scripture. The highest degree of courage is seen in the person who is most fearful but refuses to capitulate to it. However fearful they might have been, God’s leaders in succeeding generations have been commanded to be of good courage. Had they been without fear, the command would have been pointless.3
So where do strength and courage come from? These concepts teach us several important ingredients:
(1) Strength and courage come through Recognizing and Relating to God’s pleasure (His will) and having a sense of God’s calling and destiny (1:1-2).
Knowing God’s Word, the clearly revealed will of God, plus recognizing one’s gifts, abilities, and training, all of which are a part of understanding His pleasure or will for one’s life, is foundational for finding strength and courage to accept any area of responsibility in ministry. Without this understanding, one will hardly have the motivation or courage to move into the ministries God wants to call us to.
There is a specific process to be noted here in verses 1-9. There is first God’s Word to Joshua commissioning and encouraging him. The courage that is called for here is the direct result of the Word and knowing God’s will (see Eph. 5:9-10). Also, Joshua is reminded that he had been prepared and trained for this as the servant of Moses (1:1).
Joshua being spoken to in verse 1 is equivalent to us gaining biblical insight. It is this that forms the foundation for courage and conviction and for faith and action. We need to pray and seek God’s will and wisdom. The first foundation for courage is knowing both the Word and God’s will.
Being the understudy of Moses illustrates a couple of key principles: (1) The principle of having a godly example (1 Tim. 4; 1 Pet. 5:1-3). (2) The principle of Luke 16:10 and its impact on the development of courage and motivation for ministry. Joshua had been faithful in the little things and would be faithful in much. Service in the larger areas of responsibility starts with faithfulness in smaller things. We each need to find a place to serve and grow. It may become the training ground for other areas of ministry to which God may be calling you.
“Moses my servant is dead” (vs. 2). This statement reminds us that no one is indispensable and leadership changes. If we are not training others and being trained ourselves, we leave gaping holes (2 Tim. 2:2).
“Now therefore arise” emphasizes the need for decisive action to fill the void left by the absence of Moses. And this is true for all of us in ministry for whatever reason there is a void left by the removal of the servants of God. A true grasp of the need is always a vital element to decisiveness and action to fill that need; it’s part of the root that produces the fruit. But there is another element that is vital to courage and decisiveness in doing the will of God.
(2) Strength and courage come through Resting in God’s promises (1:2b-6).
Please note the promises given to Joshua here were given in relation to the ministry and work to which God had called him. This applies to each of us regardless of the particular ministry God has called us to in the body of Christ. Read these verses carefully and see what application you can make from them to your life. Do you feel the tug of God on your life to serve him in a particular way, but you are afraid? Are you afraid of failure? Are you afraid of what it might cost you? Meditate on these verses.
We might also note some of the obstacles that can be observed in this passage because in claiming the promises of God, faith must face the obstacles.
“Cross this Jordan.” In Scripture, the Jordan often represents an obstacle, an impediment to growth, ministry, progress. There is good reason to believe that the Jordan was swollen over its banks at this time of year (cf. Jos. 3:15; 4:18). Here is one of the reasons courage is needed.
Further, to cross the Jordan meant to enter into a hostile land, a land full of enemies some of whom were giants and who lived in strongly fortified cities. This was no simple challenge. Remember, the previous generation failed at Kadesh Barnea because of a lack of courage. But there is more here.
“You and all this people.” This was no small group! The very numbers made this a colossal task. But Joshua had the responsibility of leading a people who were noted for being stiff necked and throwing stones at their leaders. The word “all” reminds us that it is God’s purpose for all His people to mature and become strong, to be in His will and living victorious lives.
Nevertheless, regardless of the obstacles, God’s will had been clearly made known to Joshua. He needed to act on this fact by faith in the Lord’s person, promises, and provision.
Let’s look at the promise in verse 2b: “To the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel” (vs. 2). Also note the words “which I have given to them” (vs. 3). They were going into the Promised Land, the land promised to the patriarchs, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or Israel by God Himself who cannot go back on His promises. In fact, He was then and had for some time been preparing the inhabitants for defeat (cf. 2:9f). The land had been theirs for forty years but they failed to enter in because of unbelief and a lack of courage.
God’s Word is filled with hundreds of promises (vss. 3-6, 9). In essence, every principle of Scripture becomes a promise because with the principle comes the inherent promise of God who is perfect veracity so that we can count on the principle. But we must know those promises and act on them by faith. God’s promises are given to carry us through the Jordan rivers of life, not necessarily to remove them but to enable us to step out in faith to cross them. They are not given so we can avoid or go around, but so we can cross them victoriously.
How do we claim and act on those promises? How do we make those promises a part of our lives?
(3) Strength and courage come through daily Renewal in God’s Principles (1:7-8).
Successful ministry according to a biblical definition of success is ultimately related to solid Bible teaching and study rather than to our human methods, techniques, and strategies which too often resort to pressure, coercion, and manipulation in order to achieve our own agendas or results.
The Word is intrinsically powerful and able to produce godly change in believers’ lives as it motivates, encourages, gives hope and direction, and exposes us to both our needs and God’s provision. The Word has been given to us to establish a communicative relationship with God. It is a means of fellowship with Him. But this takes time, quality time and diligence. Note the emphasis on this in these verses. “To do according to all the Law…; do not turn from it …” (vs. 7), “but you shall meditate on it day and night …” (vs. 8).
What’s our tendency? The average person today wants a quick fix—three easy steps. We want God to do it now. But this kind of approach does not develop a relationship with the Lord. Relationship with God, knowing Him, as with any relationship, takes time. It is this that provides us with success in ministry and in life, wherever we go and in whatever we do.
The Warning: Joshua was warned or cautioned in three things:
The Process: Joshua was to do three things with regard to the Scriptures:
(4) Strength and courage come through Reckoning on God’s Person and presence (1:9).
Last, but certainly not least is the promise of the ever watchful and protective presence of God. There is no situation, no problem or enemy that we ever face alone. The Lord is always there as our constant support and supply. If we are concerned about our ministries or anything else, we can be absolutely sure God is infinitely more concerned than we are. Our need is simply to walk in the light of His presence and to count on His guidance, support, supply, and care by keeping our focus on Him (Heb. 12:1-2).
“Have I not commanded you.” What’s the important point here? It’s the source of the command and the promises. The ‘I’ refers to Yahweh. So note what follows.
“For the Lord (Yahweh) your God (Elohim) is with you wherever you go.” These words stress the nature of the one who gave the command. They focus our attention on who and what God is like. One of the secrets to boldness and courage is an awareness of God’s provision and presence, especially His presence as the one who has promised to never leave us.
Compare John 20:19 and the fear of the disciples before they experienced the presence of the resurrected Christ with the promise of His never-ending presence (cf. Matt. 28:18-20) with the boldness they displayed in Acts 4:13-20. What made the difference in the disciples? These were men who were now confident of Christ’s presence (Matt. 28:18-20), knew God’s will, His word, and who were filled with God’s Spirit (cf. Acts 4:8). When the Holy Spirit is in control of a man’s life and is instructing him in God’s Word, He imparts not “a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline”:
“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).
“Timidity” is deilia meaning cowardice, the opposite of courage. “Power” is dunamis, the ability to do what we should. “Love” is agaph, a mental attitude of sacrificial concern for others. This means the motivation and ability to make tough choices. “Discipline” is swfronismos meaning sound-mind thinking, a product of biblical understanding, which holds our fears in check, changes values and priorities, and gives courage and decisiveness.
In Hebrews 13:1-3, the author reminded his readers of the need of ministry to the saints. For instance he wrote, “let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, …” God wants us to be ministering people and this takes courage and obedience, and sometimes means sacrifices. So also, he cautions us concerning our values and our sources of security and then reminds us of the promise of the presence and supply of God.
Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6)
As we face the challenges and opportunities and calling of God, let’s remember these promises of God to Joshua. With the call of God to service there is always the matching provision of God. The problem lies not with the Lord, but with our responsibility to follow the Lord’s admonitions as given to Joshua.
10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.’”
12 And to the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God gives you rest, and will give you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, 15 until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
In our previous lesson, the key note was God’s revelation to Joshua concerning His promises, His purposes for the nation, the great principles of the Law, and His abiding presence. This forms the backdrop, the motivation and inspiration for this section and all that follows. Now, in verses 10-15, Joshua speaks to the people to act on the revelation and promises of God. Here the key note is Joshua’s immediate and obedient response regardless of the obstacles that lay before them. There is in this section a note of urgency, certainty, expectancy, and faith in Joshua’s commands to the people. As God had commanded the new leader was taking charge and following the Lord’s orders with confidence.
(1) He did so immediately, without delay or procrastination. There is an old adage, “strike while the iron is hot.” The longer we delay, the more reluctant we are to comply with God’s requirements. Delay is dangerous to our spiritual lives and can lead to hardening against God’s directives. Delay can also be disobedience. Procrastination can evidence a lack of heart for God’s call and a lack of concern for God’s glory and God’s people. Note Psalm 119:60, “I hastened and did not delay to keep Thy commandments.”
(2) He did so with confidence showing faith in the Lord and courage to tackle the task that lay before him. Such immediate response shows faith in the Word and confidence in the Lord.
(3) He did so with a clear understanding of what they faced. This brings out the element of his courage even more. First, by his own experience he understood what they faced, for forty years earlier he was one of twelve spies who had had been sent to search out the land. He could have remembered with pessimism the negative report of the ten and anticipated the same kind of response from the new generation. But Joshua’s eyes were solidly on the Lord. Too often we undermine our focus on the Lord and His power by thinking about all the negatives, about what might happen if we move forward. Second, Joshua may have also known what they were facing through the report of the two spies he sent into the land in chapter 2, which probably occurred before the command of verse 11.4
Regardless, Joshua and the people faced a situation that in many ways paralleled the dilemma Moses and the Israelites had faced at the Red Sea (Ex. 14). “In each case, the obstacle occurred at the beginning of the leader’s ministry. Both were impossible to solve through natural means. Both demanded implicit and absolute dependence upon a miracle-working God.”5
After forty years of wandering, thinking they had at last come to the Promised Land, they find the river overflowing its banks (3:15). They faced what was for them an insurmountable difficulty. Life is like that isn’t it? So often when our hopes are high, when things seem to be going our way, suddenly, problems loom up out of nowhere and we seem to be looking at an impossible crossing. But all things are possible for God who works all things together for those who love Him (see Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:17; Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37; 18:27).
Two matters had to be taken care of before they could cross the Jordan. Later, in 3:1f, Joshua will give specifics on how the Jordan must be crossed, but first, as a good leader, he responsibly surveys the situation and sees two things that need to be done.
The food gathered here is that which had been taken as spoils of their conquests through the wilderness. The manna was still available, but it could not be kept overnight without spoiling. They would be on the march moving from Shittim to the banks of the Jordan which was only about eight miles, but because of the number of people and all that was involved, they evidently would not be able to gather the manna.
Analogy: The issue here is sustenance in order to be able to cross over and possess their possessions and handle the battles they would face by faith in the Lord’s power. So likewise, we need to be nourished on the Words of the faith so we can continue to enter into our blessings in Christ (cf. 1 Tim. 4:6f and Heb. 3:7-19).
In verses 12-14, Joshua reminds the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh of their previous promises and responsibilities (Num. 32:16-32; Deut. 3:12-20). In this, we see a key to Joshua’s success.
(1) He was obeying his commission to “be careful to do according to all the law of Moses.” He was remembering and seeking to live by the principles and promises of the Word. Compare 1:13, “Remember the word which Moses … commanded you.” This had become the Word for Israel.
(2) He reminded the people of the Word. His authority for his challenge to these two-and-a-half tribes was the Word of the Lord.
“This was no natural prudence or a spirit of expediency which actuated Joshua to seek their co-operation.”6 And it was not merely a matter of seeking more help because they would be insufficient without more resources. It was not asking this as a favor to himself. No, the appeal and authority came from the facts of the commands of the Word of God. Servants of God must learn to lean on the power of the Word to motivate and minister to others and to accomplish God’s purposes.
In principle however, this order from Moses and enacted here by Joshua was promoting the concept of the people of God as team. Here he was delegating specific tasks to these people. Each person was needed and each needed to do his part. They would act as shock troops going before their brothers.
There is also here another factor. In the words of verse 13b, “The Lord your God gives you rest, and will give you this land” followed by the words of verse 15, “until the Lord gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, …” Joshua was reminding them of their obligation to their people and placing an additional obligation on them based on gratitude for what God had already done for them.
16 And they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. 18 Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.”
In any successful enterprise of God’s people, the leaders must have the support of the people if the work is going to fly. We might title this section, Joshua’s Encouragement. He had honored God’s Word and now God was honoring Joshua by moving the people to respond. It is tremendously encouraging to leaders and people alike when people respond to the Word with obedience and commitment. By the same token, it can be discouraging to see the opposite. In such times, both the leaders and the people must continue to trust the Lord, examine their ministries, and look to the Lord to move them to obedience rather than resort to some form of manipulation or coercion.
The people were not only willing to obey, but they were willing to deal with any disobedience in their midst because of the demoralizing effect on others and the dishonor it brings to the Lord. This is always crucial for any people of God.
Application: This illustrates the need for the careful and loving application of church discipline in the body. Such is never easy. It requires real commitment, and must always be done with a view to reconciliation and to recover a sinning believer.
The statement, “only may the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses,” can be taken in two ways. It may be taken as a condition or as a wish or prayer. If it is taken as a condition, they were saying they wanted to see clear evidence that Joshua was being led of the Lord, that he was truly God’s man walking with the Lord. If it is taken as a prayer or wish, it demonstrated their recognition of this need if they were to be successful. It stated the fact they recognized they were all insufficient for the task, but that the Lord was sufficient. They needed a leader who was in touch with the living God.
Application: In this we see the need for God’s leaders to be examples to the flock (Heb. 13:7). People need and want to see mature spiritual reality in their leaders. It was because of this that Paul encouraged Timothy with the following words:
1 Timothy 4:11-16. Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.