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Scripture reading – Joshua 1

The death of the LORD’s servants never surprises Him, nor is a leader indispensable.

After leading Israel for forty years, Moses was dead, “according to the word [and the will] of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 34:5). For thirty days, the nation mourned the death of their beloved leader (34:8). Certainly, 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 some in Israel were dismayed. Not only was Moses dead, but the nation was facing its most significant test of faith. The task before them was one the previous generation had failed. They were at the threshold of the land the LORD had promised their forefathers.

Who was Joshua? (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, shadowing that great leader for forty years.

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, Joshua was there (Exodus 24:13). He was one of the twelve Moses sent to survey the Promised Land and the people that lived therein. He was at Moses’ side when he faced strife and insurrection within Israel. When Israel went to war, Joshua had led the nation into battle.

Joshua was a proven leader, but most importantly, he was the man 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 and Go Over Jordan. (Joshua 1:2)

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 was, “Go Over this Jordan” (1:2b). The time for mourning had ended, and Israel needed to focus on the LORD. The task before them was to cross the Jordan River and take the land God had promised Israel as their inheritance (1:2c).

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

I don’t know what challenges you might face, but you should find God’s instructions to Joshua to be a model for overcoming obstacles and serving the LORD. First, taking upon himself the mantle of leadership, the LORD challenged Joshua to have a Listening Ear, for we read, “The LORD spake unto Joshua” (1:1).

Not only did Joshua need to listen to the LORD, but he also needed Faith. Joshua needed to claim and believe all God promised (Joshua 1:3-5). After all, “Jordan was in flood” stage (Joshua 3:15). How would a nation of two million souls cross a river without bridges or ferries?

Thirdly, Joshua needed to Obey God’s Commands (1:6-8). So the Lord urged him, saying, “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 (Joshua 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 inhabiting 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.

The people encouraged Joshua in four ways as he assumed the leadership mantle. (Joshua 1:12-18)

They had hearts of submission and were wholehearted in their duty (1:16). They vowed loyalty. They said, “As we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee” (1:17a). They affirmed Joshua and declared, “Only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses” (1:17b).

Lastly, they assured Joshua they would be intolerant of insubordination in their ranks. They said, “Whosoever 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).

Closing thoughts:

Leaders and ministries would be spared much heartache if people were wholehearted in their duty, loyal, affirming, and intolerant of insubordination. Disloyalty was a severe offense in Israel in Joshua’s day, as it is today.

Questions to consider:

1) What moved Joshua to prepare Israel for crossing the Jordan? (Joshua 1:1)

2) What did the LORD promise Joshua? (Joshua 1:5)

3) What did God promise was the key to success? (Joshua 1:8)

4) What did the tribes of Israel promise Joshua? (Joshua 1:17)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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