Joshua 1 – God’s Commission to Joshua
A. Introduction: A survey of the history of Israel from Egypt to Canaan.
1. Israel was delivered from Egypt’s degrading bondage.
a. These were historical events, but they were not only historical. God speaks through history to give an example of our deliverance from the degrading bondage of sin (as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).
b. The central act of redemption in the New Testament is the work of Jesus on the cross. The central act of redemption in the Old Testament is the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
2. Israel, led by Moses, wandered in the Sinai wilderness.
a. During that time, Israel experienced supernatural providence such as the supply of manna, water from rocks, the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, and so forth.
b. During that time, they also received Divine revelation – the Mosaic Law. God communicated to them His holy standard.
3. The land of Canaan represents the destination of God’s people after they have been set free from degrading bondage.
a. This is not our ultimate destination, as some well-known hymns would have it. Those hymns suggest that Canaan represents heaven.
i. As the lines to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot go:
I looked over Jordan, and what did I see
Comin’ for to carry me home?
A band of angels, coming after me
Comin’ for to carry me home.
b. Biblically, the land over the Jordan – the Promised Land – does not speak of heaven. Hebrews 3-4 shows Canaan as a picture of the rest and victory that can be enjoyed by every believer.
i. In this sense, F. B. Meyer connects the book of Joshua with the book of Ephesians. Both describe a spiritual walk of promise, wealth, and victory that is ours with Jesus.
c. This also shows that the deliverance from Egypt was only in preparation for the enjoyment of Canaan. In our Christian life, we are brought out of sin so that we might be brought in to abundant life. The wilderness is never God’s intended destination for us.
d. Even as an entire generation of Israel died in the wilderness, so many Christians die in the desert dryness of spiritual experience, never walking in the fullness of what God has for them.
4. The leader: Joshua as a type of Jesus.
a. Remember that the Greek name Jesus simply translates the Hebrew name Joshua. Their names are identical. Whatever Israel received in the Promised Land, they received through the hand of Joshua; whatever we receive from God we receive through Jesus Christ, our Joshua.
B. God commissions Joshua’s work.
1. (1) Moses is dead, and God speaks to Joshua.
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying:
a. After the death of Moses: Moses (who exemplified the law of God) could not lead Israel into the land of promise and rest. This all happens after the death of Moses.
b. The LORD spoke to Joshua: Joshua – who was not a young man at this time – had spent his entire career previously as the assistant of Moses. Joshua found that now it was his time to lead, but only after God had prepared him.
c. Moses’ assistant: Joshua was prepared by faithful service in small things, in being Moses’ assistant. Redpath tells of a motto over a kitchen sink: “Divine service is conducted here three times daily.” The motto is true, and great men and women are prepared by faithfulness in the small things.
2. (2-3) Am giving and have given.
“Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them; the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.”
a. Your foot…I have given you: Entrance into the land of Canaan was entrusted to a representative. Joshua was the trustee of the land for the people. In the same way, our representative Jesus goes before us and what we have in God we possess in Him.
b. I have given you: The whole land was given, but they could only possess that which they claimed (every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you). What they took must be fought for against determined opposition.
i. God certainly could have simply eliminated all their enemies with a mere thought, but He called Israel into partnership with Himself to see His will done.
ii. Because taking the land took effort, the challenge ahead was not for those content with Egypt, but for those who would press ahead for what God had called them to.
3. (4-5) The promise: victory is assured because Joshua is called by God.
From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.
a. From the wilderness…as far as the great river: The precise territory of the land is described. This was no “pie in the sky” promise. It described real land with real boundaries.
b. I will be with you: Victory is assured not because Joshua is a great leader, or because Israel is a great nation, but because God is a great God, and He says to Joshua, I will be with you. This is enough for any man seeking to do God’s will.
4. (6-9) The conditions of the promise of victory.
Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
a. Be strong and of good courage: Joshua is called to boldness in God. This exposes Joshua’s weakness; there was a need for such a command because even a great leader like Joshua needed such encouragement.
i. This bold courage would not be in Joshua himself, but in God. We can be full of self-confidence that will take us to ruin, but we should instead be full of a genuine God-confidence.
b. That you may observe to do according to all the law: Joshua must take great care to observe the law. God’s word and Joshua’s commitment to it would be the pillars supporting his success.
c. To all the law: Joshua did not only need to read God’s word. It had to be on his lips (shall not depart from your mouth), in his mind (meditate in it day and night), and he had to do it (observe to do according to all that is written).
d. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success: God’s word so lived is a guarantee of Christian success. Not that it promises a life without problems, but it does ensure a life able to deal with anything because it takes full advantage of God’s presence and promises.
i. And Christian success is not measured by the same standards as the world’s success. Even if the world accounts us as sheep for the slaughter, we are actually more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:36-37).
e. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go: The final encouragement, repeated from Joshua 1:5, reminds us that Joshua’s success did not depend solely on his ability to keep God’s word. It depended even more on God’s presence with him.
C. Preparations to cross the Jordan.
1. (10-11) Command to the officers.
Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’”
a. For within three days: The waiting for God is often the most difficult part for us, but days of waiting are always days of preparation in God’s work. There is no wasted time with God.
2. (12-15) Reminder to the eastern tribes.
And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh Joshua spoke, saying, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.’ Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them, until the LORD has given your brethren rest, as He gave you, and they also have taken possession of the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’s servant gave you on this side of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
a. And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh Joshua spoke: These tribes which decided to settle on the east side of the Jordan river (land that Israel had already conquered) had promised to cross over and help the rest of the nation take the land on the west side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32:16-32).
b. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them: This same principle operates in the Body of Christ. When one member has a need, it is the common need of the body (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). We should never refuse to help a brother in need because our own state is settled.
3. (16-18) The eastern tribes promise their allegiance to Joshua.
So they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and of good courage.”
a. All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go: Here we see Israel in the kind of unity as a nation that was essential to fulfill God’s calling and promise for them. They overcame the temptation to see the eastern tribes as separate from the rest of Israel.
b. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you: The willingness of the people to receive Joshua as their leader, replacing Moses, was a confirmation of the LORD’s words to Joshua previously in the chapter.
c. Only be strong and of good courage: The representatives from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh say the same thing to Joshua that he heard from the Lord in Joshua 1:6. This must have been a confirmation of God’s word to Joshua when they said it. God loves to confirm His word to us.