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Be Strong and Courageous—Joshua 1:1-11, 16-18

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Be Strong and Courageous

September 6, 2009

Lesson: Joshua 1:1-11, 16-18

Key Verse: Joshua 1:9


What’s in a name? A lot! The Spirit gives names to his prophets and servants to reveal the nature and covenant activities of God. One of these servants of the Lord is Joshua. This servant is first mentioned in the thirteenth chapter of Numbers by the name of “Oshea,” one of the twelve men chosen to spy out the promised land of Canaan. The people of God had pitched their tents in the wilderness of Paran. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Send thou men that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel, of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, everyone a ruler among them.” Oshea (meaning ‘deliverer’) was a proven ruler, a prince of the families of Nun. Out of these twelve rulers from the various tribes, Moses chose Oshea, revealing that the Lord had chosen him for a greater task: “And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Joshua (Jehoshua, “Jehovah saves”).

The spies returned to Moses and Aaron with a report, saying, “We came unto the land whither thou sendest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.” However, except for Caleb and Joshua, they spoke evil of the promise of the Lord with this negative report: “And there we saw the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Num. 13:33). This brought the people to murmur against God: “And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto the land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?” (Num. 14:3). The encouragement to go and possess the land by Caleb and Joshua was drowned by out by the faithlessness of those spies and people. For Caleb had said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it; while the other men said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Num. 13:30-31).

The Choice of the Lord—Joshua 1:1-5

Moses had rebelled against the Lord in the sight of a rebellious people. The congregation of God’s people had complained to Moses about the lack of water, saying, “Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into the wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?” (Num. 20:3-4). Moses went before the Lord and received his word, “Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink” (20:8). Note carefully the words of the Lord: “speak ye unto the rock.” Moses spoke not as he was commanded, but he used the rod; thus he believed not and was excluded with that generation of rebellious people from entering Canaan: “And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (20:12, 27:14).

Moses, therefore, called upon the Lord, saying, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits (the breath of life) of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd” (Num. 27:16-17). The congregations of believers who gather together as the Church of our Lord are in need of a shepherd. They must, first of all, know the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Christ Jesus, his presence and his comfort. They know his presence by the faithful preaching and teaching of his Word. They also know his presence by those whom Christ has chosen to be his under-shepherds, i.e. the teaching and ruling elders of the Church. These men must be those whom Christ sets apart, not those whom are chosen because there is a position to be filled. These under-shepherds must have both a hunger for the Word of God, and a heart’s desire to feed the sheep of our Lord’s pasture, his Church.

Thus Joshua was set apart to lead the people in the way of the Lord. Joshua, who was filled with the Spirit of God, was to be ordained to an office which would be a blessing to the people of the Lord, that they may be obedient to the Lord. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient” (Num. 27:18-20).

The honor which was Moses as a servant of God was now Joshua’s mantle of responsibility and service. Each officer or elder of a congregation must see his ordination as an honor upon which he is building, a service which those whom he follows have faithfully carried out.

Thus, after the death of Moses, Joshua received these words of ordination from the Lord: “Moses 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. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Joshua 1:2-5)

Discussion: What does it mean to be ordained by the Lord? Compare the words of the Lord to Joshua to the words of the (same) Lord to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20.

The Word of the Lord—Joshua 1:6-9

The Lord continues to give confidence his chosen servant to act upon the gifts and talents which he has given Joshua, those abilities which have been sharpened through the years in leadership and obedience: “Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.” These words of the Lord speak of a moral and ethical leadership. Courage to do that which is just and true is built upon the under-shepherd’s observance to the moral law of God. The chosen servant of the Lord must first grow in his moral and ethical character, and in his ability to be obedient to the Lord, before he is ordained or appointed to that specific task for which he has been chosen. Paul taught Titus (chap. 1) in the ordaining of elders, as stewards of God, that they should show moral character in their home, that they should be “a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men (one who practices virtue, is benevolent), sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers (denying God’s truth).”

Joshua is to find confidence in being faithful to that which the Lord has spoken, which has been written by the Spirit through chosen men; thereby being made faithful in service, receiving blessings in this world to the good of the people and to the glory of God. Thus said the Lord, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” An elder ordained to serve as an under-shepherd must continually be immersed in the study and practice of the Word of God to find success in his chosen task, remembering that his Lord is with him always.

Discussion: What encouragement did Joshua receive as a chosen servant of God?

Joshua and the People Respond—Joshua 1:10-11, 16-18

Joshua, by the Spirit, responded in obedience to his ever-present Lord; he commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land.” There was no question as to the victory that was ahead for Joshua and the people. We too have commands to follow, go, walk, grow, disciple, witness, etc; and then try and find a committee which will help us, or send up a trial balloon, before taking action. Victory comes from a positive response to that which our Lord commands.

Having received encouragement from God’s chosen leader, Joshua, the people respond, “All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses.” The people saw in Joshua what they saw in Moses, especially that the power of the Lord was with them. The people responded in obedience and in encouraging Joshua in his task: “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.” Those who willfully disobey the word of God, that comes through his chosen servant, do not deserve the blessings of life. Matthew Henry wrote that the people “animate him to go on with cheerfulness in the work to which God had called him; and, in desiring that he would be strong and of a good courage, they did in effect promise him that they would do all they could, by an exact, bold, and cheerful observance of all his orders, to encourage him. It very much heartens those that lead in a good work to see those that follow with a good will. Joshua, though of approved valour, did not take it as an affront, but as a great kindness, for the people to bid him be strong and of a good courage.”

Discussion: How do we show encouragement and victory in our service for Christ?

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