Joshua’s charge to the people and their response. (Joshua 1:10-18)
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I. Joshua’s Instructions for Breaking Camp (1:10–11)
10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’ ”
A. Moses didn’t assemble the leaders to ask for their advice but to give them God’s orders.
The nation of Israel was so organized that Moses could quickly communicate with the people through his officers who formed a chain of command. There are times when leaders must consult with their officers, but this was not one of them. God had spoken, His will was clear, and the nation had to be ready to obey.
Forty years before, at Kadesh Barnea, the nation had known the will of God but refused to obey it (Num. 13). Why? Because they believed the report of the ten spies instead of believing the commandment of God and obeying by faith. Had they listened to Caleb and Joshua they would have spared themselves those difficult years of wandering in the wilderness. There is a place in Christian service for godly counsel, but a committee report is no substitute for the clear commandment of God.
B. Joshua told the officials that sometime within the next three days they would be crossing the Jordan River in order to take possession of the land.
Instead of the command to prepare food, you would have expected Joshua to say, “Prepare boats so we can cross the Jordan River.” Joshua didn’t try to second-guess God and work things out for himself. He knew that the God who opened the Red Sea could also open the Jordan River.
The purpose of the Jordan crossing was that Israel might go in and actually take possession of the land that the Lord their God was giving them as part of their inheritance. Just as God’s giving of the land is important in Joshua, so also are the related concepts of Israel’s inheriting and taking possession of the land. Israel inherited the land that God gave and then had to take possession of it.
II. Joshua’s Charge to the Transjordan Tribes (1:12–15)
12 And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh Joshua spoke, saying, 13 “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is giving you rest and is giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them, 15 until the LORD has given your brethren rest, as He gave you, and they also have taken possession of the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’s servant gave you on this side of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
A. Joshua’s words to the Transjordan tribes.
Joshua’s second item of business was to remind the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh that though they had received their inheritance east of the Jordan, they were committed to fight with their brothers and assist in conquering the land west of Jordan.
It was a concession on Moses’ part to allow the two and a half tribes to live outside the Promised Land. The tribes liked the land there because it was “a place for cattle” (Num. 32:1, 4, 16). Apparently their first concern was making a living, not making a life. They would rather have big flocks and herds than dwell with their brothers and sisters in the inheritance God had given them.
They represent the many “borderline believers” in the church today who get close to the inheritance but never quite claim it, no matter how successful they may seem to be. They are willing to serve the Lord and help their brethren for a time; but when their appointed job is finished, they head for home to do what they want to do.
B. God promised his people rest.
That is, peace from enemy attacks, after taking possession of the land. The promise of rest comes out of the covenant relationship with God (Ex. 33:12–16). The rest into which Moses and Joshua led Israel prefigures the final and perfect rest into which Jesus leads his faithful church (Heb. 4:1–11).
The key word here is remember, and their response shows they had not forgotten their promise and were ready to stand by it. In fact they were to serve as shock troops in leading the attack on Canaan.
III. All Israel’s Response (1:16–18)
16 So they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and of good courage.”
A. They encouraged him by assuring him of their complete obedience.
These officers had no hidden agendas, and they asked for no concessions. They would obey all his commands and go wherever he would send them. We could use that kind of commitment in the church today! Too many times we are like the men described in Luke 9:57–62, each of whom put something personal ahead of following the Lord. 57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The officers encouraged Joshua by praying for him. The best thing we can do for those who lead us is to pray for them daily and ask God to be with them. Joshua was a trained man with vast experience, but that was no guarantee of success. No Christian worker succeeds to the glory of God apart from prayer. “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” asked Corrie Ten Boom, a question that especially applies to those in places of leadership. When Joshua did not pause to seek the mind of God, he failed miserably ; and so will we.
B. They encouraged Joshua by assuring him that their obedience was a matter of life or death.
If God’s people today saw obedience to Christ a matter of life or death, it would make a big difference in our ministry to a lost world. We obey the Lord’s orders if we feel like it, if it’s convenient, and if we can get something out of it. With soldiers like that, Joshua would never have conquered the Promised Land!
They also encouraged him by reminding him of the Word of God. Four times in this chapter you find the words “be strong and of good courage”. If we are to conquer the enemy and claim our inheritance in Christ, we must have spiritual strength and spiritual courage. “Be strong and of good courage”.