“The Death of a Leader: Not an End, but a New Beginning” (Joshua 1)

Scripture reading – Joshua 1

The death of God’s servants never takes Him by surprise, and no leader is indispensable.

Moses was dead, “according to the word [and the will] of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 34:5), and for thirty days Israel mourned his death (34:8). Joshua felt the loss of his mentor, but when the days of mourning were complete, the LORD came to him and said, “2Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel” (Joshua 1:1-2).

I am sure there were some in Israel who were dismayed. The nation was facing its greatest test of faith, and the task before them was one the generation before them had failed. They were to enter and take possession of Canaan, the land the LORD had promised their forefathers.

Who was Joshua? (1:1)

With modest fanfare, Joshua is introduced simply as, “the son of Nun, Moses’ minister” (1:1). He had served Moses as his servant, and attendant. For forty years he had shadowed that great leader.

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, Joshua was there (Exodus 24:13). When he sent men to spy out the Promised Land, Joshua was among them. When he faced times of strife and insurrection within Israel, Joshua had been at the side of Moses. When the nation went to battle against its enemies, it was Joshua who led Israel into the fray.

Joshua was a proven leader, but most importantly, he was the man whom the LORD had chosen as Moses’ successor. In the sight of all Israel, Moses had confirmed and charged him (Deuteronomy 31:7-8), and “the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9).

The Challenge: Stop Looking Back; Go Over this Jordan

The LORD stated two initial commands to Joshua. The first, “Stop Looking Back,” for “Moses my servant is dead” (34:2a). Moses was a man without equal (Deuteronomy 34:10-12); however, his ministry was ended. The second command, “Go Over this Jordan” (1:2b). The time for mourning had ended, and it was essential that their focus be upon the LORD, with a clear view of the task that was before them: crossing the Jordan, and taking the land the LORD had promised as their inheritance (1:2c).

Three Keys to Crossing the Jordan River (1:1-9)

The first key was a Listening Ear: “the LORD spake unto Joshua” (1:1). According to Joshua 3:15, the “Jordan was in flood.” How would a nation of some two million people cross a river in its flood stage, with no bridges or ferries? The second, Believing Faith: Joshua needed to claim, and believe all God had promised (Joshua 1:3-5). Thirdly, Joshua needed to Obey God’s Commands (1:6-8), and 6Be strong and of a good courage… [and] observe to do according to all the law…turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 8This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night” (1:6-8a).

Preparing for Battle (1:10-18)

With the LORD’s promise to be with him (1:9), Joshua “commanded the officers of the people” (1:10) to prepare to cross the Jordan “within three days” (1:11). He gave orders for the tribes that would inhabit the lands on the east side of Jordan (1:11-12), to send their best warriors, their “mighty men of valour” (1:14), to fight beside the other tribes.

I invite you to consider four ways the people encouraged Joshua as he assumed the mantle of leadership (1:12-18).

They had hearts of submission to duty (1:16). They vowed their allegiance, saying, “as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee” (1:17a). They affirmed Joshua, and declared, “only the Lordthy God be with thee, as he was with Moses” (1:17b). Lastly, they assured Joshua they would be intolerant of insubordination in their ranks: “18Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage” (1:18).

Think about how much heartache a leader, and ministry would be spared if the members of a church, or the employees of an organization were everything the people of Israel promised to be under Joshua’s leadership. Disloyalty was a serious offense in Israel, and so it is today.

Romans 16:1717Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith