Joshua 1. 1-9: The Man

September 19, 2010 Series: Joshua: Lord's Army

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Joshua 1:1–1:9

 

Introduction: the man God uses and chooses Let’s get right to work in the first chapter of Joshua, verses 1.1-9 [READ & PRAY].  The first nine verses of this book focus largely on the man, the leader, the general, Joshua Son of Nun.  His lineage is somewhat ironic considering we don’t know much about Joshua’s family history.  We can assume he was born and raised as a slave in Egypt, and that he witnessed and experienced the Exodus first hand.  But, unlike his predecessor Moses, we do not have a complete record of Joshua’s life.  Joshua’s life and faith are defined largely by his active leadership in Joshua, a man who moves forward without looking back, the one of two men who wandered in the wilderness 40 years knowing God had a plan.  We come to know Joshua not by his lineage, resume, not by what he has done or not done, but by WHAT HE DOES when God says DO.  He actually believes God’s Words beyond a verbal confession.  When God speaks, Joshua doesn’t make excuses, he doesn’t play the victim, he doesn’t consider what the command might mean for 3 years, he obeys.  Whether God asks him to serve in the shadow of Moses, to wander in the wilderness though it wasn’t his fault, or to lead-- He is a man whose trust in God we see.

 

Nevertheless, the Scriptures do give us some history into the young man who became the leader of God’s people.  We’re first introduced to Joshua in the book of Exodus (17) where he is chosen by Moses to lead Israel’s first battle after crossing the Red Sea.  Joshua leads his small band of slaves and overwhelms the enemy, immediately establishing himself as Moses’ right-hand man.  It was Joshua who walked up the mountain with Moses.  It was Joshua who comes down to see Israel worshipping a golden calf with Moses.  It is Joshua alone who sat at the front of the tent of meeting when Moses went in to speak with God “face to face”.  And it was Joshua who, along with Caleb, held the unpopular line against 10 of his brothers with a bad report, against his own friends and family.  It is in the wilderness that Joshua transitions from Moses’ assistant God’s Army Commander who one day would replace his pastor, mentor, and friend.  

 

V. 1-2 The Death of Moses 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.

 

Disobedience of Moses

The book of Joshua begins with the death of Moses and ends with the death of Joshua.  Deuteronomy 34 records God’s final conversation with Moses as he is brought up to the top of a mountain opposite city of Jericho.  Deuteronomy 34.1-8 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. 8 And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.

 

God shows his servant Moses the Promised Land and tells him that he will not enter.  This was the second time God had showed him the land and third time he told him he wouldn’t enter.  The first time was in Numbers 27, when God instructed him to commission Joshua to lead the people in the future 14 because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold me as holy at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.) The event he is talking about is recorded in Numbers 20.2-2-13.  Here, the people were grumbling against their leadership because they had no water.  They cry about how it was so much better in Egypt, and again, the LORD shows mercy by not killing them.  By grace he provides them water from the rocks.  He tells Moses to take his staff and speak to a big rock in front of the people to “Give water.”  According to Numbers 20.10-13, 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.”

 

Death of Moses

Upon first reading, we may be tempted to think God is a bit harsh as these seems like a minor infraction, perhaps Moses misheard him, or wanted to be dramatic!   Sure, it’s not exactly what God wanted but isn’t it the spirit of what he wanted?  Who determines where that line is?  Come on, Moses didn’t try and disobey…no, but he didn’t make sure he obeyed.  Understanding this event will help you read the book of Joshua, and the subsequent annihilation of “innocent” people in idolatrous nations, from God’s perspective.  The question is not why doesn’t he let Moses in, but why he lets ANYONE into his presence. We begin to judge the “LOVE” of God toward sinners as here because we misunderstand the HOLINESS of God.  We want a pass for Moses because we want a pass for ourselves.  The one true Holy God is completely separated from evil; He cannot and will not tolerate any level of disobedience.  Where is the weight and in the awesomeness of God, the fear of God?  Without perfect obedience I will not be in God’s presence.  Enter the Savior…enter Joshua, God is the Savior.  

 

V. 4 Changes 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.   .    

 

Lead NOW

Moses dies and Israel mourns.  The Israelites mourn for a month; we can imagine how they feel.  For the last 40 years, they have been travelling around the wilderness.  They know only what their parents have taught them about God’s miracles—much like us.   Moses has been the only leader they have known.  Moses has been their direct line to God.  Perhaps they believe that the promises of God died with him.  God shows that His mission is much bigger than a man.  We must never polarize our ministry around one man.  That means people must step up AND others must allow/encourage them to. 

 

How does Joshua feel?  And it’s not as if Joshua has seen Moses dying for the last few months—God’s command to lead, to step up, to fight never comes when we want.  And, like Joshua, we have our excuses to not go on mission: 

 

-          I’M NOT QUALIFIED:  He probably feels fear, some self-doubt, some concerns.  He was the assistant, the side-kick, the right-hand man who didn’t actually have to make the difficult decisions.   Leading means stepping into the place where you suffer criticism more, the place where you sacrifice without reward more.  Who wants to be an officer when you get shot at first?

-           

-          I’M NOT READY:  He probably doesn’t feel ready—wow, that was a quick 38 years LORD!  Let me pray about it.  God says, no praying, no processing, the WORD has been given NOW, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, NOW.  How often do we unnecessarily pray about things that God has clearly commanded us to do?

 

-          I’M NOT SUPPORTED:  He probably doesn’t feel supported.  He has the privilege of leading the children of the generation who wanted to stone the leaders before him.  But even if they hated their old leaders, its common to hate the “new” leaders more.  Why?  One word, change. 

 

Lead ALL in a direction

Maybe he can rally up a few faithful, but to move “ALL this people” in ONE direction will prove difficult.  Just as Joshua may have been comfortable in his position as an assistant, most of the people have probably become quite comfortable in their aimless wandering—they DON’T LIKE CHANGE.  God continues to provide them food everyday, they are not at war, they have children, family, some sense of security; they have come to rest in a fairly predictable and comfortable routine in life, maybe even a life where they feel “spiritual” .  BUT what is clear is that they are not on mission.   Living on mission is going to require CHANGE, change of attitude toward God, a change of attitude toward leadership, and a change of attitude toward one another, and change of how we do things.  Willingness to change (or lack thereof) reveals whether we are MORE faithful to God and his mission, or to our own plans and comfort.   

 

V. 3-5  You are the Man 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.

 

The Mission

God’s speaks clearly.  His mission or “call” isn’t some ambiguous mystery to figure out, it is explicit.   Sadly, it is common today for people to speak about the mysterious will of God, as if it is this thing that appears to allude everyone, unless it confirms exactly what you already want.  I’ve seen God’s Will (not necessarily his WORD) used as an excuse to ignore all commands and do nothing, as a means to avoid commands we don’t like, or as permission to delay our obedience until we FEEL whatever.  God’s will for our lives, personally and corporately are laid out quite clearly in Scripture.  Personally, our mission is to acknowledge our sinfulness, confess trust in Jesus atoning righteousness, to express gratitude for Jesus empowering us with new will and life, and to depend upon the Holy Spirit to live and love more like Jesus in worshiping God.   Corporately, as a group of people who actually love Jesus and DO those things, we then love one another in community, serve one another, sacrifice for one another, encourage one another, exhort, and rebuke one another, support one another, and proclaim Jesus together to the world.  His mission is clear. 

 

The Fighting Man

After God sets out a clear mission , he then raises up strong leaders who will lead others to become fighters.  I think Joshua gives us great insight into WHY most people don’t live on mission—it’s a war.  As Bob Thune, Acts 29 Pastor said in his blog, “Jesus uses the language of war to describe his mission. He tells us to expect a brutal conflict between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. And he promises us that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. And so we should expect that progress in God’s mission has a similar dynamic to progress in a war. The first troops to land are responsible to establish a beachhead. They sustain the heaviest fire and hold the ground for those who come behind them. And then slowly, methodically, the surge of troops comes and begins to take back the ground that is held by the enemy.”   Every mission needs a leader, every platoon a lieutenant, every battalion a commander, every army a General.  That is not to say that all leaders are all military manly-manimals—but it is to say that everyone on mission will be battling in whatever fighting style God has gifted you with.   And as the lead fighter Joshua is told that no one will be able stand against the LORD’S ARMY, there will be people to try….there is going to be opposition.  But God’s promise of success not based on his past successes, current skills, or future odds.   It is based on God who will NEVER leave.     

 

V. 7-8 Be Strong and Courageous to follow 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.

 

Strong in a particular way

The promises of God should not make us arrogant, but it should make us incredibly confident regardless of what we see.  The phrase “be strong and courageous” is used three different times in this first chapter.  In our culture, that phrase could easily be misunderstood as, “Be tough.  Man up.”  Now, without question there is a time and a place to tell someone not to man-up and not be a pansy.  But Joshua is anything but a pansy.  He is a proven general, the minority voice willing to stand up against the crowd, a strong and courageous man.  There are plenty of misguided “manly-manimals” who can debate people into corners with their verbal swordsmanship and who talk like they are afraid of NOTHING and, yet, are not actually strong and courageous in the eyes of the LORD. 

 

He is to be strong and courageous in a particular way.  Joshua is charged NOT ONLY to fight hard and be fearless against the enemies—but he is told be faithful to God’s Word.  As he follows God, Joshua will encounter battles that feel difficult and that look impossible.   He will be asked to do things that will be counter cultural, counter intuitive, and offensive to his emotions.  His greatest temptation will be to TURN FROM RIGHT or LEFT, and His greatest battle will be fought in following God’s Word.   It is weak and cowardly to deny God’s Word.  Not only do you not have power to wage war against sin in your life and relationships, you become governed by the fears of everything BUT God.  Joshua’s and our  most active fight will not be for external accomplishment, but for internal worship, his greatest battlefield will not be on the plains of the Canaanites, but on the wasteland of his heart

 

Being Careful

God says that IF he is faithful to the WORD, he will succeed. He has seen FIRST HAND what happens when people turn from following God’s Word.  When men rejected God’s Word, they were filled with fear.  When they rejected God’s Word, they wandered without purpose.  When they rejected God’s Word, they were defeated in battle.  When they rejected God’s Word, they were denied joy.  The enemy and the sin in us wants us to believe that happiness lies apart from God and His Word, that freedom lies in what I think is right, what I feel is true, what God hasn’t told me.  LIES.   The book of Joshua shows what it means to have God’s Word guide you.  The book of Judges shows what happens when a people reject God’s objective authority and adopt their own subjective one.  Is God’s Word the real active authority in your life? 

-          Do you live your life in submission to the Scriptures?  (BE CAREFUL)

-          Are you careful to know what God commands to do and not to do? (BE CAREFUL)

-          Do you speak about God’s Word all the time? (NOT DEPART FROM MOUTH)

-          Do you think and pray about God’s Word day and night? (MEDITATE ON IT)

-          Do you obey God’s Word? (DO ACCORDING TO ALL IT SAYS)

 

Good Success

The book of James says that there are two places to get wisdom from this world, ABOVE and BELOW.  God says that Wisdom from God will make your way prosperous.  Proverbs 16.1-3 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

This is not a guarantee of riches and material success in this life.  The Hebrew word for commit (GALAL) can describe the act of rolling away, in this case, the natural desire to commit all of our work to ourselves!  If you submit your life to God’s Word you will prosper wherever you go. BUT….the funny thing is….if you truly worship Jesus, he may send you exactly where you FEAR going most!  He intends to make you successful WHERE he is sending you. 

 

Prosperity

And that doesn’t even begin to explain what God means by “prospering you.”  When you come to the understanding that we aren’t entitled to existence AND deserve death for our rebellion, you see that everything this side of hell is God’s grace.  Everything this side of hell is God’s grace.  True faithfulness then, is not measured by your number of victories and defeats in our lives be it material, financial, physical, etc.   Faithfulness is measured by the depth of trust you have in God and desire for His glory whether you experience victory or defeat.  If the life of Jesus is example, then the best I can the most prosperous, the most worshipful, the most glorifying life will include giving all that I have, my comfort, my reputation, my popularity, my money, my home, my health, even my very life, to uphold the name of Jesus who was the FIRST one to be STRONG and COURAGEIOUS.   

 

V.9 Conclusion

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.”

 

Joshua has been chosen for this mission and he cannot avoid responsibility.  God is not giving suggestions or good advice;  He is giving commands that he expects those he has chosen to follow.  Successful leaders like Joshua, often appear strong—in truth, they are often filled with a lot of fear.  God sees fit to remind him that he must fear God MORE than he might be tempted to fear a great many other things; he must find hope in God MORE than any number of idols that want to promise security or success.  

 

God Commands BE STRONG (but I’m so weak, broken, beat up)… DO NOT BE AFRAID (but I’m so scared)…GO FIGHT and CONQUER…(I’m so unprepared)…LOVE MY WORD…(but I love so many other things).  He says in Joshua 1.5 said, I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU and again in verse 9 He says, I WILL BE WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO.  God doesn’t command what He doesn’t accomplish for those who are His.  That doesn’t mean that he commands only what we can accomplish in ourselves, only what we think, feel, or even imagine is possible.  GOD IS WAY BIGGER THAN THAT.  He commands what he knows is IMPOSSIBLE then, in Christ, does it through us. 

 

God reminds us that our ability to follow, to worship God with all of our hearts will never ultimately come NOT from our own efforts, abilities, or even desires.  Strength and Courage come from faith in Jesus who was strong and courageous for us.

More in Joshua: Lord's Army

April 3, 2011

Joshua 24: The Choice

March 27, 2011

Joshua 23: The Charge

March 20, 2011

Joshua 22: The Breach