Joshua 1:1-9 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good 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 good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
For the remainder of the summer I believe I will do some sermons from the Old Testament. There are many messages to be shared from the lives of those whom God chose to walk on the earth in his name. The first story that I’ve chosen tells of the final preparations for Joshua in taking over the reins of the nation of Israel. Interestingly enough it begins, “After the death of Moses…” As though nothing could really be done by Joshua until Moses was out of the way. In these introductory verses Joshua is given specific instruction and encouragement to finish the job that Moses had begun.
From before his birth Moses had been chosen by God to lead the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. He had led them to the Red Sea and crossed it as on dry ground! He led them into the wilderness where he provided faithful leadership and strength. Again and again he had pulled them back from rebellion against God. It certainly seemed that he should have led them on to victory. However…
Moses had forfeited the right to lead the people. Let’s look at that experience found in Numbers 20:10-13. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.
In the wilderness of Sinai the people of Israel found themselves in a dry camp. God had begun to provide them with heavenly bread to eat. That bread was called Manna! Without question, God was demonstrating the ability to take care of his people. In spite of the drama of the plagues in Egypt, the protection at the Red Sea and the purifying of the water early in their trip they still did not believe that God would, or could, take care of them. Again and again Moses was frustrated by the rebellious attitude of the people! In his frustration Moses gathered the people, and after being told by God what to do, he said to the people, “Here now, you rebels: shall We bring water for you out of this rock?” I can imagine God observing the scene and saying, “WE? What are you talking about?” Moses and Aaron could not be included in the miracle of the water coming from the rock. Something had happened that was far reaching in its effect.
I have often heard it taught that the whole problem was that Moses had struck the rock rather than speaking to the rock. That would make it a problem of practice rather than doctrine. God did not say anything about the way Moses did it! What God did say was that Moses and Aaron did not believe in him and did not uphold him as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel. As a result of that action, or rather failure to act correctly, God said to Moses that he would not be able to enter the land of promise. Later God would tell Isaiah, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isaiah 42:8) This is a repeated theme in the prophecy of Isaiah.
Moses was not allowed to go into the land that he had promised to the people of Israel because he did not glorify God! Moses put himself in the place of God by saying, “shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Folks, God does not give his glory to anyone else! Never has — never will! There are consequences to all our actions! Some consequences are good and some are very bad! For the remainder of his life Moses mourned this decision but could not change it. God would keep his promise…
The land and all its wealth is given to Israel. Turn with me to the time that God made the promise Exodus 6:6-8 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’ ”
God’s promise was to bring them out from under the burdens of the Egyptians and redeem them with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. We know those great acts of judgment as the ten plagues that destroyed Egypt and defeated the Egyptian gods. Not only did God lead them out after he had visited Egypt with such awesome plagues. He also caused them to find favor in the eyes of the Egyptians who gave them gifts — whatever they asked. On their way out of the land the people of Israel plundered the Egyptians!
Then later the people of Israel would take the treasures found in the land of Canaan for themselves. In one generation they passed from being a host of people living in the desert to being city dwellers throughout the land that God had given them.
One generation was in slavery and then they were freed and walked into the wilderness. The next generation lived in the wilderness most of their lives. The next generation after that went into the land under the command of Joshua. God had chosen Joshua and prepared him by letting him follow Moses. He was Moses’ “right hand man” or, Moses’ disciple. He had always looked to Moses for leadership even when he fought battles in the wilderness it was actually Moses’ uplifted hands that had brought God to the scene and gave them victory. Now it was time for Joshua to go on — alone. It must have been a frightening experience for Joshua. Now realize he was not a young man. He was probably somewhere between sixty-five and seventy years old when he was given command of the people of Israel.
We need to remember that Moses was eighty years old when he took command of the people! We do not know exactly when Joshua “hooked up” with Moses. The first time he is mentioned is in the incident of the battle with Amalek. Moses treated him as a competent leader by having him choose the men who would fight and then lead them into battle. It may very well have been that Joshua had been a slave of an Egyptian officer and had learned the art of war from him. But in the incident with Amalek it was soon obvious that God won the battle not the military prowess of the Israelis.
Joshua had gone with Moses up on the mountain when he received the Ten Commandments. Joshua had been one of the twelve who had spied out the land and he, along with Caleb, gave the correct report. Not only did they report that the land was rich, a land that flows with milk and honey. Caleb and Joshua reported that people of the land “are bread for us”. And they added, “Their protection is removed… and the Lord is with us.” Yet, the people of Israel would not listen to the positive report. Instead, they listened to the very negative report of the other ten spies. No matter how much God had shown them they still did not believe. Of that whole generation only Caleb and Joshua would enter the land. Their refusal to listen to the good report caused that generation to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Now that the wilderness wanderings were over Joshua needed assurance from God and he got it in the promise…
As I was with Moses so I will be with you. Turn with me to Exodus 33:11. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
To be with Joshua, just as God had been with Moses, was a very strong promise. Joshua had for forty years, at least, watched Moses’ relationship with God. He had seen the special way that God treated Moses. In fact, Moses, like Abraham his ancestor, had the nerve to question God. Joshua had seen Moses intercede for the people more than once.
Not only had Joshua seen the giving of the Ten Commandments but he had seen Moses turn aside God’s promise to make of him a great nation after he would destroy the people of Israel! Moses implored God on their behalf even though they had made an idol to worship!
Joshua had seen Moses in success and in failure. He knew that God would guide and direct if he would only obey God. He also knew that if he did not give the glory to God and be faithful to him God would abandon him just as he did Moses. All of us need to draw from this the truth that we are not necessary to God — God is necessary to us! If we expect God to guide and direct us we need to be obedient to him and give him the glory for everything! Throughout the Bible the promise of God’s presence always depends on his people’s obedience. God’s presence and Joshua’s prosperity and success depended on his being careful to obey God. If he followed through God promised…
I will never leave you. This promise was first given to Joshua by Moses. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 31:7-8. Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
In order for Joshua to be the proper leader of Israel he would have to have great courage. He would have to avoid fear and dismay as he looked at the task that lay before him. God had promised that he would be with his faithful people. Actually, in his commission of Joshua God himself said, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.” Note that he said, “I have”, not “I will”. In the same way Jesus promised to always be with us remember his promise in Matthew 28:20b? And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Just as Joshua did not need to fear, we do not have to fear being abandoned by God. Having chosen a people, God promises to remain faithful to them and encourages them to be faithful to him.
God explained to Joshua how to be faithful. He told him to…
Be careful, never waver from the Book of the Law. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
When Moses wrote down “the book of the law” he included these directions. First we are to love the Lord with all our heart and soul and might. The proof of our love for him is our obedience to his commands. It was true for Joshua and Israel just as it is true for us today. We need to let his word become a part of our emotional being. “And these words… shall be on your heart.” Seems to imply to me that we are to memorize the Scripture. We are to meditate on the word that God has given us and make it a part of our day-to-day life. Remember, God has no grandchildren! Every generation has to be brought to faith it is not automatic! So there is a great responsibility for each generation to pass on to the next the law of love that God has given to his people. We should talk about how God loves us to our children and grandchildren. When we do this the next generation will be brought to the kingdom.
It is obvious that this has not happened in America. The coming generation has not been taught to reverence God or, anything else! We need to dig in and double down on teaching them the word of God. As we are about the process of winning the next generation we are not to be frightened or dismayed.
Do not be frightened or dismayed. Look at the words of Jesus found in Luke 12:32. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Just as Joshua knew that God had chosen him we need to remember that God has chosen us to be the sheep of his pasture — the “little flock”. And we need to remember that he promised to give us the kingdom. At another point Jesus said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) With a competent shepherd — and we certainly have one — we nev
er need be afraid! He will take care of us. We can rest on his promises just as Joshua did.
Joshua listened carefully to the voice he heard that day. He immediately began the process of crossing into the land that God had promised. He ordered the people to prepare to cross the Jordan even though it was a time of flood. Then he sent spies into the land to gather information that he might use for his invasion. Joshua led the people to the water and sent the priests with the ark into the flood. When he did that the water stopped flowing and began to pile up north of them. Joshua led the people into the camp inside Israel, kept the Passover and observed the end of manna! While waiting on God he met a man with a drawn sword. That man identified himself as the commander of the Lord’s army. Thus God showed Joshua that he was in charge. Fear not! Is he in charge of your life? Today can be your day of public confession of Christ as Lord!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.