Joshua’s Great Commission (Joshua 1:1-9)
Great commissions abound in Scripture. Abraham was told to leave his homeland and his family (Gen. 12:1-3). Moses was told to go to Pharaoh and deliver God’s people from bondage (Ex. 3:10). Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world with the Gospel (Matt. 28:19).
God also gave Joshua a great commission–that commission was to conquer the Promised Land.
This commission came to Joshua after the death of Moses. Moses is here referred to as the “servant of the LORD.” For forty years, Moses worked as God’s servant by leading the Israelites in the wilderness. What better snapshot of one’s life could there be but to be called the “servant of the LORD?” Could that snapshot be applied to your life?
Joshua is called Moses’ assistant. The meaning of the word “assistant” is one who ministered to or aided another-Joshua served Moses in his work. The Old Testament places Joshua at Moses’ side. When Moses went up the mountain of God, Joshua went with him at least part of the way up (Ex. 24:13). As Moses’ servant, Joshua did not depart from the tabernacle (Ex. 33:11). Probably because he worked so closely with Moses, Joshua was chosen to take Moses’ place when Moses died.
These opening verses of Joshua serve a couple important purposes. This chapter ties the book of Joshua with Deuteronomy–the ending of Deuteronomy deals with the death of Moses. This chapter establishes Joshua as the successor of Moses and the leader of Israel.
Let’s examine this chapter to see what lessons we can learn.
Divine Faithfulness, vv 2-6
In these verses, God tells Joshua not to be afraid to go into the Promised Land–God would give him victory.
God tells Joshua to go over the Jordan. Joshua and all the people of Israel are to cross the Jordan. The Israelites will enter the land that God is giving to them.
Every place the Israelites would step, God had given to them. The entire land of Canaan will belong to God’s people–every place they would step would be theirs.
Notice the use of the perfect tense. The text reads, concerning Canaan, “I have given you” This reads as though God had already given the Israelites this land. God had already decreed that this land would belong to his children. The deed was as good as done. God would send the Canaanites from the land so his children could inherit Canaan.
God had already told this to Moses. Deuteronomy 11:24 records the promise to Moses. God was going to keep the promise he had made.
God tells Joshua the boundaries of the land. The land would extend from the wilderness and Lebanon to the Euphrates. All the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea, the Mediterranean would belong to the Israelites.
No one would be able to stand before Joshua. No army would be able to stand before the Israelites–God would give his children victory. God did give his children victory over their foes.
- God destroyed the city of Jericho for the Israelites.
- After Achan’s sin was uncovered, God gave all the people of Ai into Joshua’s hand.
- Five kings came against Israel at Gibeon, but God gave Israel victory.
- Throughout the book of Joshua, we read of how God gave the Canaanites into the hands of his people.
As God had been with Moses, he would be with Joshua. God had blessed Moses, and here he is promising to bless Joshua. God would not leave nor forsake Joshua. The idea of “leave” is to abandon someone-God will not turn his back on Joshua. The idea of “forsake” is to leave one-God will not leave Joshua.
The author of Hebrews applies is promise to Christians. God will not abandon the Christian (Heb. 13:5). Regardless of what happens in this life, God will not leave. When serious illnesses arise, God does not leave. When the marriage is about over, God does not leave. When children disappoint, God does not leave.
Joshua is to be strong and of good courage. “Strong” is often used of strength in battle–Joshua would need to be strong in battle. “Good courage” refers to the difficult task Joshua had in front of him–leading the Israelites into Canaan.
Joshua would divide the land as an inheritance. The second half of Joshua tells how Joshua divided the land and gave it to the Israelites. Joshua would divide the land God swore to their fathers to give them.
God kept his promise to give the Israelites the land of Canaan. When Abram first went into Canaan, God told him, “To your descendants I will give this land” (Gen. 12:7). God keeps his promises. God’s faithfulness reaches to the clouds (Ps. 36:5). “God is faithful” (1 Cor. 1:9).
We can count on God to keep his promises. He will forgive us if we do what he ask. He will provide us a home in heaven. Are you trusting God to keep his word?
Human Faithfulness, vv 6-8
Just as God was faithful to his people, God expects his people to be faithful to him.
Joshua was to be strong and courageous to do all God had commanded through Moses. Joshua was to do all the law Moses had commanded. None of the law could be left undone. Sometimes we might think we can keep only parts of God’s instructions. “As long as I worship on Sunday, God doesn’t really care if I don’t pray that often. After all, I have a busy schedule.” “As long as I give generously, God doesn’t really care if I cheat on my taxes. After all, I need the money.” God expects his people to keep his entire Word. God expects that even the least of his commands be kept (Matt. 5:19). Are you striving to keep the entire Word?
Joshua was not to turn to the right hand or to the left. Many individuals say they want to be part of a “conservative” church. They mean to describe a church that does what the Scriptures teach. However, we don’t need “conservative” or “liberal” churches; “conservative” means to bind where God has not bound, and “liberal” means to lose where God has not loosed. We need churches which do what the Bible says; we need churches to stay in the middle of the Bible.
If Joshua and the people kept God’s Word, they would prosper wherever they went. As long as the Israelites were faithful to God, they would dwell in Canaan. However, when they turned from following God, he had them taken in bondage away from Canaan. God made very plain through the prophets that the reason Israel and Judah were taken into captivity was that they were unfaithful to God.
If we keep God’s Word, God will bless us as well. If we keep God’s commandments, we will receive whatever we ask of him (1 Jn. 3:22). Those who keep God’s commandments will have the right to the tree of life (Rev. 22:14).
The book of the law was not to depart from Joshua’s mouth. There are two reasons why this law was not to depart from Joshua’s mouth. Joshua would be responsible for teaching the law. When individuals read in ancient times, they read aloud–as Joshua read the law, the law would be in his mouth.
Joshua was to meditate in the law day and night. Meditation refers to the process of reflection or contemplation; Joshua was to reflect upon the law so that he could obey it. We need to meditate on the law so that we can obey it. The righteous man meditates on God’s law day and night (Ps. 1:2). Do you spend enough time contemplating God’s will for you?
This way Joshua would be prosperous and have good success.
God was faithful to the Israelites and gave them the land he promised their ancestors. God continues to be faithful today. God expects us to follow his word faithfully. Are you doing so?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.