Joshua 1. 10-18: One People
September 26, 2010 Series: Joshua: Lord's Army
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Joshua 1:10–1:18
Introduction: The Whole Story
I found this week that commentators and scholars don’t spend too much time to passages like we are going to study today. Such verses it seems are not as necessary as a back story/intro and not as exciting as some of the more warfare passages. It is as if they anxiously fast forward to the action-filled chapters and skip the boring ones. If we skip through the book of Joshua like this, however, we may get entertained but we will miss out on the richness of obscurity.
Reminders & Changes
In chapter 1, verses 10-18, after Joshua has been commissioned as leader, he now finds himself navigating through a major transition in leadership and a major realignment of their 40 year old practices. In other words, he is about to make some big changes. Whenever there are major changes in the way a group of people does things, especially when it means they will jettison what they have known their entire life, there are innumerable possibilities for resistance, feelings of insecurity, and full blown conflict. People in all groups, especially churches, become very defensive about traditional ways of thinking, long-established ways of doing things, and even familiar leaders and locations—church splitting defensive. It is foolish to argue about some changes, they just aren’t that important. BUT, a difficult change that means choosing between familiar routine and following God’s Word is something worth fighting over. As Joshua goes to share the news of BIG CHANGES coming, he will potentially encounter conflict from people who don’t want to change. In essence, Joshua is going to REMIND them of something we all need reminding of: that this world is not all there is; that there is more to this life; that we have a mission, that God calls the shots.
Hold the Line
Though Joshua is an accomplished General, he is told to be strong and courageous three times in this first chapter BECAUSE there is a tremendous temptation for leaders not actually lead; to speak THE WORDS OF MEN that will make them happy and NOT GOD’S WORDS that will make them holy. Those who disobey God’s Word, even if they thrive, succeed, or are popular in the eyes of the world, they are not strong and courageous—they are weak and cowardly. They are the ones whose direction, purpose, and joy changes every moment like the blowing of the wind. They are the ones whose feelings, thoughts, past experiences, or misguided hopes govern their decisions. They are the ones who are powerless over sin and fearful before men, difficulties, and problems. But those who unapologetically and uncompromisingly follow God’s Word, while they may not appear successful or be popular in the eyes of the world, THEY are the strong and courageous ones. So, God has given a command, the question is will this new leader follow it AND will the people follow this new leader. READ JOSHUA 1.10-18
V. 10-11 Command to leaders
10 And Joshua commanded the officers of the people, 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’ ”
Leaders TO Command
Joshua does not hesitate in following God’s command. There is nothing to consider or pray about, he simply acts without excuse, complaint, or delay. After hearing God’s Word, he proceeds to command the OFFICERS of the people to act. Who were these officers? There were several different levels of leadership in Israel. In Exodus 18, Moses father-in-law suggests he gets organized, and he identifies different heads and chiefs over the people. In Exodus 24, there are 70 elders who come part way up Mt. Sinai and feast at the feet of the LORD just before Moses and Joshua continue up further for 40 days/nights. In Numbers 11.16, the LORD instructs Moses again to gather 70 elders to help bear the burden of leading many people. In other words, even though Joshua is the primary leader for Israel, the people are led by many men. There must come a time when the mission of the church becomes something other than what “those pastors” do and something that I do—that others own and take responsibility for. What I learn from this passage is not that Joshua commands his leaders, but that he has leaders to command.
Leaders WHO Command (Shared Vision)
And the leaders are there to command, to listen and to act, because they BELIEVE in JOSHUA, but more importantly, they BELIEVE in their MISSION. If you don’t trust leadership and don’t believe and own the mission of the people of God, I don’t know how doing gospel-work can ever feel like anything but duty. There are always a smaller percentage of people who fully embrace their identity as God’s people working together as opposed to the majority of people who work for themselves. There are members, deacons, and elders in our church have chosen to deny their own agendas and personal desires to not only follow God, but to lead others in following God. And they lead, not by riling the troops, but by SHARING THE VISION—requiring they know the vision—one that, hopefully, does not come from the mind of men, but from the WORD of GOD. Do you know our mission? Do you know our core values?
The Second crossing difference
One final note….This will be the second time they cross a body of water in following God. The first time, when Moses left Egypt, they left with great haste in flight from the enemy. It’s worthy noting that the book of Joshua is not a picture of helpless bricklayers running from sin that enslaves, as much as “strong and courageous” soldiers preparing to battle sin that easily entangles. The implication is that there has been a change, that men proactively (not reactively) see what is happening, know where they are going, aware of God’s’ promise, conscious of God’s mission, empowered by God’s strength, ready to move forward in faith OUT of the wilderness…trusting God with the results.
V. 12-15 Discussion with Transjordan Tribes
12 And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, 15until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
Joshua’s Personal Address - “REMEMBER” (Numbers 32.1-14)
Joshua commands his officers to communicate the mission to the majority of the people. Then, he goes personally to speak with the leaders of the Transjordan tribes. These were the tribes who would had already received their land on the East side of the Jordan many years prior, the people of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. In Numbers 32, several years prior, after the “rock” incident with Moses, Israel continued toward the land of the Amorites. They make a request to some kings to pass through the land peacefully. They are denied and end of fighting and defeating two kings, Sihon and Og, on the East side of the Jordan. Then, shortly before Moses death, two tribes requested that Moses assign them an inheritance on the east side of the Jordan AND not take them across the Jordan. Of course, Moses suspects that their request is actually a new conspiracy, rooted in fear, to avoid fulfilling God’s promises. Moses does want a replay of the spying debacle from Numbers 13 and 14. In response then, Moses tells them: “And behold, you have risen in your father’s place, a brood of sinful men, to increase still the fierce anger of the LORD against Israel! For if you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all this people.” In response, the people assure him that when the day comes, they will rise and go over the Jordan with their brothers. Moses then agrees and tells Joshua about the agreement.
We see here, with Joshua many years later, that leaders lead. Joshua knows where the greatest conflict is going to be. He knows who is going to give the greatest push back, who is going to most likely rebel, who is going to grumble first. God-fearing, Bible-loving, Gospel-Centered leaders have the hard conversations with the hardest people. Whether you are a boss, a husband, a father, a person who has been charged with responsibility, a shepherd over someone, there are some things that you cannot delegate. Leaders should not shy from conflict. They mustn’t hide from tough people, they do not avoid them, they do not run from them, they confront them in love, WITH the WORD. They step into what is most difficult and uncomfortable, and they turn the eyes of everyone involved to the LORD. Leaders do not flee like cowards or fight like a bullies, they walk into the fire strong and courageous.
Unity of People
In this case, Joshua goes to the people are MOST COMFORTABLE and tells them God commands them to be uncomfortable—to HELP THEIR BROTHERS. HE emphasizes a strong sense of unity and family that we have lost as a church. The Bible calls us a family. And we live expecting the family to function in a certain way based on our expectations. AND, if it doesn’t, we then justify our refusal to love the family, to serve the family, to fight with the family, especially when it costs us something. There is a great temptation to concern ourselves only with our allotment, our own inheritance, our own family, and our own security—to not get involved. That is the temptation that these tribes must fight. Throughout Joshua there is always a concern for “ALL OF ISRAEL”, a concern we should have for our own church. How does my presence or lack thereof impact the body? How do my contributions grow or my selfishness hinder the community? How does my sin impact more than just me? In the N.T., the apostles speak of the church in the same way:
We are one people: Ephesians 2.19-22 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. We are supposed to be growing closer together, but often I wonder if we spend more time on how we are different.
We need each other: Galatians 2.2-5 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. The sin in us causes us to ask what it’s in it for me before I ask what is it in for you? How can I be served versus how can I serve.
We all have a unique role: Ephesians 4.15-16 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. In other words, the mission is less, incomplete, inefficient, incapable without you; we are less without you.
And it is noteworthy that he does not say “come with us” and be unified because, without you, we’ll fail militarily. He simply says, be with us because God’s Word commands it.
V. 16-18 Answer of the People
In verses 16-18, the people respond to Joshua’s appeal. 16 And they answered Joshua, “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 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
We’ll obey as we did Moses
The people say they will obey AND anyone who doesn’t should be executed. There has always existed a tension between what we SAY and WHAT we do. People SAY a lot of things. They say that they love Jesus, but their actions tell you they love their sin. They say that they respect the leaders, but they refuse to listen to their biblical instruction or godly advice. They say that they believe in the Word of God, but they refuse to read it, meditate on it, and do what it says. God is not pleased with appearances, and He is not fooled by spiritual sounding religious fluff.
The people affirm what Joshua has commanded them, agreeing to go wherever he sends them—just like they did with MOSES. How easily they forget that the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy witness to the faithlessness of their parents—their rebellion against God though they said many times, “We will obey. As this story unfolds, we see that Israel does not follow through on many of the instructions of Joshua gives, he knows and they know, he will not be able to rely on other people’s obedience. We cannot rely on the words, actions, or applause of sinful men—of which we all are. We should see clearly see that that our dependence is forever and always on God not men, otherwise you will be woefully disappointed. Our obedience is never dependent on whether he or she is obedient; our commitment to follow God’s truth does not rely on someone else’s commitment to follow him. And know that our strength and our courage are especially tested when we are faithful though THEY are not.
Joshua leads by the Word
The people confess they will follow. But you have to wonder why there is no real push back from these tribes. I think it is because they trust Joshua. But why trust him? He doesn’t tell the people, “Hey God told me I’m in charge now.” He doesn’t tell the people, “You need to come over with us because if you don’t, we’ll probably lose—we need you. He doesn’t tell the people, “I almost forgot about you guys, but God spoke to me.” He comes to the people because he has worked to know God’s WORD. Perhaps he could have said, “I was reading in Numbers last night….”. Some how, some way, he meditated on God’s Word, he spoke about God’s Word, and he said “REMEMBER GOD’S WORD”. That is why they trust him, that is why they follow.
I can trust a leader who is submitted to the Word—one who is strong and courageous (If I cannot trust such a leader, perhaps I am not submitted to the Word myself). Joshua proves himself a man who is not prideful, not after personal success, not after military victories, not interested in popularity, not afraid to speak hard words, because he is striving to uphold the honor of God by obeying every word God has said. And that WILL require having hard conversations, commanding difficult things, and working for unity with people who see more differences than similarities.
They have confidence in their leader Joshua, because he just PROVED he knows the WORD, makes his decisions by the Word, and is committed to obeying the WORD from his heart, not outside pressure. This is THE KEY for anyone who is leader, whether you are a pastor, employer, community member; for every man, every husband, every Father, every friend...people will trust, obey, follow, and participate when they know by seeing and hearing your life is submitted to God’s Word, that your disappointments are governed by God’s commands, that your desires are governed by God’s warnings, that your decisions are governed by God’s wisdom, and that your aim is to bring glory to God, through obedience, and not yourself through disobedience.
Joshua proclaimed God’s Word and the people responded with one voice. Communion is our one voice, for those who love Jesus. Communion is a shared meal, a symbolic family feast, where we declare our ALLEGIANCE to Jesus, our PARTIPCATION in his sacrifice, and our SHARED identity as his people. This is not simply a personal private experience, it is a corporate public confessional one. CONSIDER AS YOU TAKE COMMUNION TODAY…First, you confess trust in the Word of God—Jesus. Second, you confess trust in the leaders, as they are submitted to Jesus. Third, you confess trust in Jesus to help you live more like Him in all that he commands, Fourth, you confess trust in the Spirit to make that happen, and Firth, you confess trust in and willingness to follow Jesus on mission.
Benediction John 17.13-23
John 17.13-23 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.