By Rev Gabriel Gan
After Moses died, Joshua took up the reins of full leadership of Israel. He must have done so with no small amount of fear and trembling. But he no sooner assumed leadership that the Lord appeared to calm his nerves and steel his resolve. As we examine the Lord’s words to Joshua, we can easily identify the concepts of ‘trust’ and ‘obey’ (cf. John H. Sammis’ hymn).
I. A Call to Trust (vv. 2–6, 9)
Joshua was instructed by God to believe certain things:
A. The land of Canaan was God’s gift (vv. 2–4)
Three times the Lord stressed that he was giving Canaan to Israel (vv. 2, 3, 6), and he left no doubt about them possessing it, emphatically saying it ‘shall be your coast (or territory)’ (v. 4) and ‘you shall divide as an inheritance the land’ (v. 6).
The fact that the land was given to them did not mean there was nothing for them to do. The Lord said to Joshua: ‘Arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land’ (v. 2). And once they got into that land, they had to fight, as the rest of this book of Joshua makes abundantly clear.
B. Israel’s enemies would be defeated (v. 5)
Forty years earlier, the people of Israel wavered in faith because their spies had seen great warriors in Canaan. Those warriors had not gone away and had not lost any of their military prowess. But Joshua and Israel would have success against them because the Lord promised that He would make them flee; God was greater than those enemies.
C. The Lord would be present with him (vv. 5, 9)
What was Joshua thinking when he took up the mantle of leadership? Did he wonder how he could possibly follow a man as great as Moses? If that was his thought, he must have been tremendously relieved to hear the Lord say, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee’ (v. 5). Joshua had nothing to worry about with Moses gone because the Lord was not gone.
For N.T. believers, our Lord Jesus promised His presence with us to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). As long as God is with us, we need not fear the uncertain future!
II. A Call to Obey (vv. 7–9)
In these verses, the Lord strongly cautions Joshua to ‘observe to do according to all the law’. He was not to deviate from it in any way (v. 7), but rather was to keep it in his mouth and on his mind (v. 8). Furthermore, he was to do ‘all’ that was written in the law (v. 8). He was not to be satisfied with partial obedience!
The Lord explicitly tied obedience to success (v. 8b). The experience of their fathers forty years earlier gave grim testimony to the importance of obedience.
When God’s people unite and obey God, they can rest assured that He will bless them in wonderful ways.
Lessons for us
The Lord’s dealings with Joshua speak to us in the following ways.
- We are to rejoice in the grace of God
It was the grace of God that caused Him to promise to give the land of Canaan to Israel. Joshua and his people did not deserve any of these things, but God graciously granted them. We are no more deserving of God’s blessings than they. So every blessing we receive must be attributed to the kind and merciful nature of God. Have you counted your blessings and given thanks to God?
- We are to trust God to keep His promises
God has made promises to us even as He did to Israel of old. We can be assured, therefore, that the Lord is with us (Heb. 13:5), that He will sustain His work in us (Phil. 1:6), that He will bless His word (Isa. 55:10–11) and sustain His church (Matt. 16:18), that He will eventually come again to receive His people to Himself (John 14:3).
With such a faithful God to fulfil such fantastic promises, we should be buoyed with zeal for every task and confidence for every trial (Rom. 12:11). Let us persevere in sowing the seed and watering it, and we shall surely reap some day (Gal. 6:9).
- We are to keep close to ‘the Book’
Nothing is more important in successful Christian living than careful attention to God’s book, which is a ‘lamp’ for our feet and a ‘light’ to our path (Ps. 119:105).
Our adherence to the Word of God must be of such a nature that we make it the standard for judging everything, saying with the prophet Isaiah: ‘To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them’ (Isa. 8:20). The Bible is our sole authority for faith (creed) and practice (conduct) – 2 Tim. 3:16-17.
- We are to keep close to Christ
No one has ever perfectly trusted and obeyed except the Lord Jesus Christ. Walking close to him will ensure that we walk in faith and obedience. Let me conclude with Paul’s words to the church at Colossae: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7).
- Read 1 Samuel 15:17–23. What does Samuel say to King Saul about the importance of obeying the Lord?
- Is there any area of your life in which you are disobeying the Lord? What measures can you take to remedy this?
- What are some of the ways in which we can deepen our trust in the Lord?