Our study brings us to the book of Joshua as we have followed the people of Israel from Egypt to the border of the promised land. We have been noticing in our studies that the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy are not merely history books. Rather, these are books given to us by God so that we will see how God is going to save the world. These books are pictures of our redemption. In the book of Exodus we saw that God is going to raise up a deliverer who will crush the enemy and set us free from our slavery. In the book of Leviticus we learned that if we are going to be God’s people then we must be a holy people, devoted to the Lord. In the book of Numbers we learned that as we travel in the wilderness to the promised land we must not rebel or we will come up short. No one who rebels, not even Moses, will enter God’s promises. In the book of Deuteronomy we learned that to enter the promised land you must have a heart that desires God, desires God’s law, and understands that God is the reason why we can enter. God wants understanding hearts that truly see.
Now we come to the book of Joshua which also must not be read as merely a narrative. It is all too easy for us to do that with this book: tell the stories to the children about how the people of Israel conquered Jericho and occupied the land. But this book is also filled with pictures of our redemption. There are two key pictures that we are going to observe as we study this book. First, God’s promise of the inheritance is unfailing. God is willing and able to achieve it. God will keep his promise of his people entering the promised land. Second, success to enter the promised land will depend on his people on being strong and courageous to trust in these promises. Will we be courageous enough to believe in God’s promises? Will we have the strength to trust in God or not? This is the framework for this book.
This introduction sets up an important typology for this book. Moses cannot lead the people into the promised land. But Joshua can lead the people into the promised land and he will lead them in. Joshua will lead the people and give them rest. Joshua is the new Moses, which will be displayed on many occasions throughout the book of Joshua. The redemption events of the exodus will be repeated in the book of Joshua under his leadership. Now the scriptures make it very easy for us to see this typology because the name Joshua in the Hebrew language is the name Jesus in the Greek. Joshua’s name means “Yahweh saves.” In fact, we know this typology must be here because Joshua’s given name was not Joshua. Moses changed his name from Hoshea (salvation) to Joshua (Yahweh saves) (cf. Numbers 13:16). So we need to keep our eye on the New Testament as we study the book of Joshua because Joshua and the work God accomplishes through him are a picture of how God will bring people into the eternal promised land. God is calling for his people to have a deeper faith, to be strong and courageous, and trust him like never before. This is a second chance to enter the promised land after catastrophic failure. Are we listening? With these things in mind, let us consider Joshua 1.
Imagine the scene as it is presented to us in Joshua 1:1-2. The Lord says to Joshua, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel” (Joshua 1:2 ESV). The person who has been God’s leader for the people of Israel all of Joshua’s life has died. Moses, the servant of the Lord, the humblest person in all the earth at the time of his life, is no longer leading these people. Moses could not complete the mission. The Lord comes to Joshua and tells him that now is the time for him to finish the task.
God’s Charge to Joshua (1:1-9)
The Lord comes to Joshua and tells him that he is going to lead the people into the promised land. God’s purposes continue even as the greatest of God’s servants pass away. The promises do not stop and the work does not end. Everywhere Joshua walks in the land will be given to Israel, just as the Lord promised Moses (1:3). No one will be able to stand against them all the days of his life (1:5). Listen to the encouraging words God declares to Joshua. “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” We have seen how God was with Moses and now God will be with Joshua in the same way. God will not leave him or forsake him. This becomes the basis of God’s charge to Joshua.
“Be strong and courageous.” How can Joshua be strong and courageous? Because God is with Joshua. God will give him success. No one will ever succeed against him because God is with him. He will cause the people to inherit the promises. In verse 7 God tells Joshua again to be strong and courageous. Notice that being strong and very courageous is being careful to follow all the law that Moses commanded. Do not turn from God’s word in either direction. It takes courage to obey the scriptures. God’s word often call for us to sacrifice ourselves in various situations. We are not free to selectively obey God’s commands. The model for success is given. The book of law must be on your mouth, meditating on it day and night, being careful to do all that is written in it. Only then will you be prosperous and have success. Be strong and courageous to have complete dependence on the written word of God. Having the law on your mouth means that you are reading it regularly.
In verse 9 God commands Joshua for the third time to be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed. God will be with Joshua wherever he goes. Why do you think that God told Joshua three times to be strong and courageous? The likely answer is that because at this moment he is not strong. Moses has just died, failing to bring the people into the promised land. Joshua is the successor. Who would not be terrified to try to fill the shoes that Moses left behind? Joshua is fearful and God is speaking to him to give him comfort and courage for the task before him.
Joshua’s Charge to the People (1:10-18)
Joshua now addresses the people and tells them that in three days they going to cross the Jordan and take possession of the land (1:11). In verses 12-15 Joshua reminds the trans-Jordan tribes to go into the land and fight to the finish. Remember that they requested Moses to settle the land on the east side of the Jordan River, outside of the promised land. They were granted to do this so long as they fought for the promised land until the land was subdued. So Joshua reminds these tribes of this promise. Notice that this is described as the Lord providing a place of rest (1:13). This is rest imagery is repeated in verse 15. Rest is a big theme in the book of Joshua. We noted in the book of Deuteronomy that rest does not mean inactivity. Rather, the rest refers to a complete dependence on God, not worrying about enemies, provisions, or the concerns of life. With this charge, the people respond that they will obey Joshua like they obeyed Moses (1:16-17). They further encourage Joshua to be strong and courageous for the task at hand.
Now we can read this and think that this is great for Joshua. But how we wish God would say something like this to us. God did. Listen to the courage God is trying to give us have the faith to follow him.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:10–11 ESV)
God says that we are able to be strong in him. We are to be strong, not in our own strength, but in his power. This is what God was telling Joshua. God is going before you. You are not going to have to do anything but have the strength and the courage to trust me. God says he will give the strength. You just need to trust him. You just need to put his words in your heart and in your mouth. You just need meditate on his word all day. You just need to be careful to follow what he has said to do. God says he has the rest of it. Just have the courage to trust him.
What are we failing to trust God to do? We make such a mistake to look at the obstacles in life and think that we have to do this ourselves. We are the power and we are the strength and therefore we trust in ourselves. But how does this go for us? How does it go for us when we depend on ourselves? Eventually we come to see that we do not have the power that we think we have. We do not have the influence that we wish we had. We do not have the control that we imagine we have. We do not even have that much control over our own lives. How do we think that we are going to control and have power over the things and people in our lives? We do not. We cannot.
What are we afraid of regarding today or tomorrow? Do we think that God will break his promise to never leave us or forsake us? God will not leave you. He did not leave Joshua. Joshua had nothing to fear. He had no reason to be terrified because God was with him.
This was also a picture of Jesus. At the beginning of this lesson we noted that Joshua is a figure for the coming Messiah, Jesus. No one would succeed against the work of the Son because God was with him. In fact, Jesus understood the same truth that the Father would never leave or forsake him. We read this in John 16:32.
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. (John 16:32 ESV)
Jesus endured with the knowledge that those everyone on earth left him alone, the Father would remain with him. Jesus even included his time on the cross when he said this. Listen to what he said in John 8:28-29.
So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” (John 8:28–29 ESV)
The Father is always with you as you strive to serve him and as you love him with all your heart. Be strong and courageous to trust in God because he is with you and will bring you to the eternal promised land.