In the C.S. Lewis classic, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, there is a memorable line, “in Narnia it is always winter but never Christmas.” I could imagine to Joshua and the people of Israel, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness started to feel like always winter but never Christmas. The idea of a promise land out there but never being able to attain it. Then we see Moses climbing a mountain to his death and the people of Israel are to go on without him. Could you imagine what they must be feeling? What will they do now? Who will lead them? Who will be their prophet? All of these questions must be swirling in their heads as they are on the brink of the promise land in what seems to be a leaderless and hopeless group, until we flip the page to Joshua chapter 1.
The Lord’s Work Continues
As soon as we flip the page to Joshua we learn, just because Moses died doesn’t mean the Lord’s work has died. The Lord’s work and purposes will continue and they will continue through Moses’ disciple, Joshua. The Lord always raises up leaders to continue his work. Many times we sit back and think what will happen to the Lord’s church if the Lord calls so and so home. You know what, The Lord’s work will continue and we must prepare those the Lord calls. Which is what we see with Moses and Joshua.
The Lord gives Joshua the mission of taking the land and what a task it will be.
Joshua 1:1-4 (ESV)
1 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.
Given the massive mission, no wonder the Lord tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. He is about to lead a generation of wilderness wanders into war to take the promise land. Could you imagine what Joshua must be feeling? Scared? Nervous? Overwhelmed? Yet the Lord tells him to be strong and very courageous. How could Joshua stand tall, be strong and very courageous?
God has promised his people a land. We can go all the way back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and discover the promise he made concerning a prosperous land. He gave the same promise to Moses and now it is time for the Lord to fulfill his promise through Joshua. Joshua can be bold and courageous because the promises of God are yes and amen (1 Cor. 1:20).
Joshua 1:5 (ESV)
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.
Can you imagine being around Moses? The man who the Lord uses to bring plagues on Egypt, bring Pharaoh and all his might to destruction, part the Red Sea, see God’s glory, speak with the Lord, deliver the law, bring water from a rock and we can go on and on. Now imagine the Lord says just like I was with Moses I will be with you. Joshua can be bold and courageous because God’s presence will never leave or forsake him.
Joshua 1:7-8 (ESV)
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.
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.
The Lord tells Joshua that if he is going to be a man guided by God’s precepts he is going to need to be strong and very courageous. The law was all the Bible Joshua had and God told him to obey it, do not compromise, meditate on it day and night, and do it. In order to be a man driven by God’s precepts Joshua was going to have to be strong and courageous because Joshua and the people of Israel were the only ones following after Yahweh and his law. At the same time Joshua could be strong and courageous because if he is faithful to God’s precepts he was given the promise of success.
Joshua 1:12-15 (ESV)
And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said,
“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.’
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,
until 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.”
At this point in Joshua, the people of Israel are at the brink of the Jordan, two and a half tribes of Israel would dwell in this land, the others would have to cross the Jordan. Joshua reminds those from the tribe of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh of the promise they gave Moses, to send their men into battle when they crossed the Jordan. Joshua was saying we need all of God’s people to fulfill the mission. Joshua could be strong and courageous because of the unity of God’s people.
How About You?
God has given his church, which is every person who follows Christ, a massive mission. The church is to preach the Gospel, make disciples of all nations, baptize and teach them how to follow Jesus. Yet many of us read the previous two sentences and crumble in fear.
The Lord’s message to you is be strong and very courageous because God’s word, Old and New Testament, are filled with promises for you and I. In 1 Corinthians we are told those promises are yes and amen in Christ (1:20). In Christ through the Spirit, God’s promises are yes and amen in our lives.
One of Jesus’ greatest promises is I will never leave or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Just like Joshua we have the promise of God’s presence. The reality of God’s presence being with us always should emboldened us to be strong and courageous.
Just like Joshua, we too must be people driven by God’s precepts, especially in an era when it is very unpopular to stand with truth. We must be Bible people. Bible people meditate, obey and speak God’s word. It takes strength and courage to be a Bible person and yet at the same time we are strengthened and given courage because we are Bible people.
Finally, Jesus prayed for the unity of His church before he left this world,
John 17:20-21 (ESV)
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
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.
Jesus prayed that the church, would be one like the Father and Jesus are one. That is amazing unity. You need God’s people, God’s people need you. As we are united in serving one another we testify to the world that God the Father sent the Son into this world for the purpose of unifying a people under the Lordship of Jesus, for his glory.
We can be bold and very courageous because we too have God’s promises, God’s presence, God’s precepts and God’s people.
Until next time
Soli Deo Gloria