"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them."
Bible scholars commonly say that the book of Joshua is the manual for waging the Lord’s battle. This book is named after General Joshua who led the Lord’s army into battle.
Joshua is a prototype of Jesus. The name Jesus, which in Hebrew is Yehoshua (or Yeshua), came from Joshua. And the word Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation.” Like Joshua who led the Lord’s army into battle, so too did Jesus lead his disciples to fight the Lord’s battle and save souls into his kingdom; they did not fight the battle in a conventional way but in the Lord’s way. In the book of Joshua then we can learn how to fight the Lord’s battle. We Christians are members of Jesus’ army. So by studying Joshua we would like to gain the wisdom to wage the Lord’s battle for this Spring semester and beyond. Chapter 1 of Joshua teaches us the basic principles of war, and particularly about the preparations that need to be made.
First, Joshua, Moses' aide (1)
It is very interesting to note that the Book of Joshua begins with a description of the title of General Joshua. Surprisingly, it does not describe Joshua as a general. Rather the Bible describes him with a humble title, “Moses’ aide.” Also interesting is Moses’ title. Moses was one of the greatest men on earth. He was a great general.He was a great prophet. In fact many Jewish rabbis constantly say, “There is no prophet like Moses.” And of course he was a humble person. Plus he was a good writer. He was a poet. And he was a great shepherd. But Joshua does not describe him with any of these adjectives. Rather Moses is described as the Lord’s servant. And this title is repeated twice. Moses the Lord’s servant! And Joshua’s title is even humbler: an aide. So Joshua was a servant’s aide or assistant. Joshua served as an assistant servant, a servant to a servant!
How long did Joshua receive this “servant training”? According to the Talmud, Joshua was appointed a leader after Moses’ death at the age of 85. This means that Joshua left Egypt at the age of 45. This means that he received servant training for 40 long years. In other words, he ran errands for Moses not just for four months or even four years, but for 40 long years! And he received a sort of “Mr. Nobody” training until he became 85 years old. One person I know could not endure this “Mr. Nobody” training at Taco Bell when he was at the relatively young age of 35, so in less than a year he quit his job.
At first glance, it sounds like a losing business to endure the length of this servant’s training. But the Bible says that enduring the Lord’s training as a humble servant is the first and perhaps the most important key to winning victory after victory in many areas of man’s life, especially in fighting the Lord’s battle. Consistent with this truth is Proverbs 27:18 which says, “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored.” Plus as one receives training under a spiritual man like Moses, one comes to know how to get into the Lord’s will, listen to him, and carry out his will. Then the Lord who is the author of all victories makes him prosperous and successful no matter where he goes. So by all means let us submit ourselves to the Lord, so the Lord would train and discipline us to know how to serve him. And one of the best ways for us to pick up a servant’s character is for us to practice what Jesus said in Mark 8:34 and 35, that is, to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus daily.
Second, I will give you every place you have set your foot, as I promised Moses (2-3)
Look at vs. 2-3. "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them--to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses." This passage introduces to us a second principle in which to fight the Lord’s battle and win, that is, to recognize that God's blessings come to his children in proportion to their faith.
“I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” When Jesus came, he likewise explained the same concept when he said, “According to your faith will it be done to you” (Mat 9:29). Even without ourselves knowing, we see this principle working in our day-to-day lives. For example, we go out and do what we do because we first believe we can do what we are going to do. If one reads an advertisement saying, "A Big Mac for 99 cents," then faith arises in him. And as he knows he has enough money to buy the Big Mac for 99 cents (plus tax), he goes into McDonald’s, orders a big Mac, consumes it, and his stomach rises. Then he is satisfied.It is exactly the same with claiming all other blessings such as acquiring the pieces of land called the Promised Land.
About two and a half years ago, some of our co-workers came across a run-down Greek restaurant in the city of Downey. When they took a look at this property, faith arose in them. They all believed that they could take possession of this land. Thanks to their faith in God, many made offerings. Thus we came to have this Downey Center. Last Wednesday Missionary Lillia said, "Shepherd Abraham Michaud says that we need to buy the commercial property right next to us, bulldoze everything, and then build a bigger Bible center!" “Wow!” I replied. I was only thinking about building something in the grass area on our property. But he had a different idea! Come to think of it, I recognized that Shepherd Abraham Michaud’s idea is not entirely unrealistic. The point here is not just to acquire material blessings like a piece of real estate, but to learn God’s principle, that is, that he blesses his children in proportion to their faith. And faith is the mother of obedience. With this faith in God’s promise, the Lord God said, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” So each time we get into the Lord’s battle, we must first make sure to check one thing: our faith. Is my faith solid or broken? And if I have faith in him, what kind of faith is it? How much do I believe the Lord can help me fulfill what he has promised? This then reminds me of many other Bible passages such as Mark 9:23 where Jesus said, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes!” We are also reminded of what the Apostle Paul said, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength!” (Phi 4:13).
Third, your territory will extend from A to Z (4)
Look at v. 4. "Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates--all the Hittite country--to the Great Sea on the west." In studying the Bible we need to think about the meaning and purpose behind every word of God, for God never says what he says without any meaning or purpose. What then is the real meaning behind this passage? Why does God want to give this territory to Israel? At the time the Israelites stood across the Jordan River, this "territory" was not yet occupied by the Israelites. Rather two classes of people occupied it: the first class was the Amalekites and the second the seven Canaanite nations.
Why then did the Lord God choose to remove them and replace them with the chosen people Israel? Was it because the Lord God favored one race over another? Was it because God discriminates one class of people against another? No. God is the God of fairness. To him all are equal. Why then did God do this? We can think of two reasons.
First, God rejects the idea of people who deny God's existence and God's ability to help his people. Where can we find this answer? We can find this answer from Exodus 17:11 which reads, "As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning." This passage shows us that it was not just Moses' hands that granted Joshua the upper hand over the enemy, but God himself; the message behind Moses' uplifted hands is the existence of God and his ability to help. This indicates that the Amalekites represented the set of ideals and lifestyle that denied the existence of God and God's ability to help his people.
The seven Canaanite nations then represented idolatry. They were the source of idol worship. While the Amalekites denied the existence of God and his ability to help, the seven Canaanite nations rejected the idea that God is the best and everything else is just nothing but the manifestation of his goodness. When you think about it, idol worship removes the source of blessings from man’s life and replaces it with what is limited and soon to disappear. Plus, the Bible says that it is this idol worship which makes man completely dumb (Psalm 115:8). Idolatry is the greatest way to swindle people.
Therefore the third principle for which we must fight for is the worship of the Lord. We must fight to build the rule of God! This is why when Jesus came he kept talking about God’s kingdom. He kept helping his disciples to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. He encouraged all of them to love the Lord God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Fourth, do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth (5-9)
In vs. 5-9 then the Lord God teaches us how we can practically remain strong in fighting the Lord’s battle, even if the environment of this generation becomes increasingly hostile to Jesus and Jesus’ army.
"5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." We can describe these five verses as a spiritual submarine sandwich. If you go to a fast food restaurant like Subway, they will sell you a submarine sandwich. In the case of a submarine sandwich, for example, you have buns on both sides. Then inside the buns, you have layers of vegetables like tomatoes and lettuce. Then inside the vegetables you have meat like chicken or beef. And the submarine sandwich is delicious. It makes your body strong. Likewise in this passage we see God's promise to be with us, his charge for us to be strong, and the charge to keep God's words, and the charge for us to be strong, and the promise for him to be with us. So this spiritual submarine sandwich consists of a promise, a charge, a charge, a charge, and a promise. In this way we have five layers of a spiritual submarine sandwich. When we think about it, it is easy for us to understand how these combinations remind us of the way in which the Lord God organized the Lord's Temple. The Lord's Temple in Israel consisted of two sections: the first section was called the Holy Place, and the second was called the Holy of Holies. In the Holy of Holies we have the ark. In the ark we have Moses' Ten Commandments. When the Israelites kept the commandments, the Lord God made them strong. The Lord God was with them. So no matter where they went they became prosperous and successful.
So this year as well, we pray to fully secure God's word in our hearts. One way for us to secure God's word and remain obedient to his word is to deeply study God's word, and digest it until God's word sinks into our spirit, mind, and body. Then we can teach God's word prayerfully. Then we can have a better understanding of his word. And as the understanding deepens, the joy of God also increases. Then we can bear lots of good fruit.
Fifth, get your supplies ready (10-11a)
Look at vs. 10-11a. "So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: "Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your supplies ready." This was the first command Joshua ever issued to the members of the Lord's army. The motive behind this command was to teach the Israelites the first step to knowing how to be a source of blessing, even as God himself is a source of blessing. God is in the business of benefiting people. He does not live for himself. He has no need to live for himself, for he is already self-sufficient. So all he does is to help his creation, for without his help his creation is in constant danger of becoming extinct. Therefore God's ultimate purpose is not to do what he has been doing all the time and all by himself. Rather his purpose is to establish children of God who can do exactly what God has been doing, that is, living as a source of blessing, knowing how to receive and distribute God’s blessings. The first step toward living life as a source of blessing is to get one’s supplies ready and fight for the Lord's glorious purpose. This is like our missionaries going out to a foreign land as self-supporting missionaries. There they work hard with their own hands, some working as busboys, some as barbers, some salesmen, some as herb doctors.
In addition the command "get your supplies ready" means a good soldier is one who keeps his supplies ready to use anytime and anyplace. When I was going through the Marine Corps’ officer training school, the first thing the drill sergeants trained us to do was to know how to get all our military equipment ready, especially our machine gun. And they trained us to never, ever lose our machine gun or in any way to even let it out of our sights. You alone should be responsible for your own machine gun, they said. Why? Because if you lose your gun in the midst of battle, then you will have nothing to fight with. When your enemies are shooting at you, all you can do is to wave hands saying, "Don't shoot me, don't shoot me!" But will they stop shooting you? No. As we will soon study in Joshua chapter 5, we do not fight with machine guns or hand grenades. Rather we fight with God's spiritual armory, and the most important weapon we need to get ready for the Lord's battle in the Spring semester and beyond is the Word of God. Say to your neighbor, “Have the Word of God ready.” This call to have one's own supplies ready is to train the Israelites to pick up the ability to serve others, so they would all become mature in filling the needs of the needy.
Sixth, go in and take possession of the land (10b-11)
Look at vs. 10b-11. "Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own." Thus far the Israelites had never owned anything. They lived in Egypt as slaves. A slave has no rights to own anything. And during the forty years of wandering in the desert, the Lord God provided them with all they need. Now, however, the time had finally come for them to go into the Promised Land, take possession of a piece of land for each one of them, and Joshua says that they were to own the land as their own. This is great newsYay! They were about to have a place they could call their own! Truly, they longed for this time to come.
This then reminds us of the Lord's ultimate purpose in leading us to get involved in the Lord's battle. Why does Jesus ask us to fight the Lord's battle? Why does Jesus want his soldiers to make disciples of all nations? Is it for him or is it for us? Yes. It is for his own glory. But when you think about God's character, he is the only one who is truly good, and truly good all the time. Because he is truly good, he always seeks the good of his children. He is the only one who is truly altruistic, and he is altruistic without himself becoming hypocritical. And in his goodness, he exhorts us to seek his glory only for him to be able to bless us more. When we recognize this good purpose, we are motivated to fight the Lord's battle, not for someone else but for ourselves. In the final analysis then, it is ultimately for each one of us that we must fight for the Lord's battle. We see this point even in what Jesus said to the good servant in his parable of the minas. In Luke 19:17 we read, "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'" You know what? God's ultimate purpose is to let his children run the entire universe even without himself having to ask his children to do this or that; they would know what to do themselves, having obeyed God in this world. But before the vision of this ultimate dominance can be fulfilled, each one of us must fight the Lord's battle, and gain territory for the Lord inch by inch, foot by foot, all for the Lord's glory, who works all for the ultimate good of his children.
Seventh, you are to help your brothers (12-18)
The last measure Joshua took to get the Lord's army ready for the upcoming battle was to build a unified community spirit so that the Lord's battle would be fought through joint efforts. Say, "Fight together!" The enemy's old tactic is always this: "Divide and conquer." What most causes divisions among the Lord's army is the tendency to be self-seeking. By the same token what most encourages and boosts up the morale of the army is the sacrificial spirit. Precisely for this reason, Joshua addressed the self-seeking tendency of the so-called two and a half "Trans-Jordan Tribes." The TJTs posed a lot of problems for everyone else. See each time the Bible says a lot of words to and about you, that already means that you have a lot of problems. See, in Eden Adam did not have that many problems. So Adam’s Bible was very simple: just one verse. But after the Fall, we ran into lots of troubles. Thus we came to have this thick of a Bible! Likewise, in this short Bible passage, Joshua spent almost one third of the chapter to address the problem of the TJT's. Their main problem was their desire to settle not in the Promised Land but in the land of their own choice, all because of their selfishness. Upon hearing this desire to settle outside the bounds of the Promised Land, Moses rebuked them in Numbers 32:7 saying, "Why do you discourage the Israelites from going over into the land the LORD has given them?" Moses then called them “a brood of sinners.” He rebuked them saying, “Your sin will find you out!” Now after forty years, Joshua remembered Moses' rebuke, and put their fighters on the front line of the Lord's battle. The fighting men from TJT's repented. Gracefully and sacrificially, they all agreed to stand on the front lines and fight the Lord's battle. So the unity and spirit of the Lord's army remained solid.
"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them."
Book of Joshua is a spiritual manual teaching us how to fight the spiritual battle and win all the time.
This chapter teaches us the importance of spiritual morale. Let us see how we can build up the morale, the spirit of a brave, invincible army of the Lord.
1. Read v. 1. What does the expression "Moses' aide" suggest to us about one of the secrets behind Joshua's great success in leading the flock into the Promised Land?
** Spiritual discipline. Under Moses Joshua learned everything about spirituality, especially the way to fight the Lord's battle. One of the reasons why Jesus' disciples became largely successful was their spiritual discipline which they received under Jesus. Read also Proverbs 27:18 re: Joshua's service for his shepherd Moses. He worked hard in service of Moses, serving Moses for 40 long years.
Proverbs 27:18He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored.
2. Read v. 2. In what respect is the call to "get ready to cross the Jordan River" challenging to Joshua and all the rest? Yet why was this task necessary for them (cf. Eph 4:15)?
** The opportunity to go out to the field, face the enemies, fight the battle, and earn the territory for the Lord inch by inch, offers you the opportunity to grow up as true leadership material.
Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
Notice that the Lord God put the Israelites through
three grounds: slave ground, training ground, and testing ground. The life in Egypt was a slave ground, the life in the desert a training ground, and the life they are facing now a testing ground, the ground where they can test what they learned thus far as a kingdom of priests and holy nation. This coincides with the three transactions described in Revelation in 5:9-10 which describes what they were (sinners), what they have been (a kingdom of priests), and what they will be (rulers in the world to come.)
3. Memorize v. 3. What does the expression "you set 'your' foot" tell us about the way to claim the promises the Lord God gives to his children (cf. Mat 11:12; Mar 9:23)?
** Two words explain the way: faith and obedience. We need to believe in the promises of God and then we need to take action by practically going out and making disciples one by one, pioneering college campuses one by one.
Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
Mark 9:23"'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
4. Read v. 4. Who occupied the "territory" (cf. Deu 7:1; Num 14:43)? Yet why do you think the Lord God promised to give the land to the Israelites (cf. Exodus 17:11; Deu 20:18; Col 3:5)?
** The Amalekites and the seven Canaanite nations.
Deuteronomy 7:1When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations--the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you--
Numbers 14:43 For the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the LORD, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword."
** The Lord God asked them to terminate these nations, because:
1) Amalekites denied the existence of God as well as the Lord's ability to help people.
Exodus 17:11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
Notice that Amalekites were descendants of Esau. Cf. Gen 36:12.
Esau represents materialism, for he sold the birthright for one bowl of lentil soup.
2) Seven Canaanite nations represented the root of idolatry. The Lord God wanted to root out idol worship, and establish the worship of the Lord.
This indicates that the purpose [cause] of the battle was to root out the rule of flesh and material, and build the rule of God and His word.
5. Read vs. 5-9 and describe the promises and charges the Lord gave to Joshua. How are they related to one another? What does this passage teach us about the key secret to a fruitful year?
** This passage begins and ends with the promise (for the Lord to be with Joshua) and charge (to be strong), but in between them we can find the charge to obey the law of the Lord (or simply the Bible), showing us that obedience to God's word is the key for the Lord being with us as well as for us being not fearful but courageous.
6. Read vs. 10-11. What can we learn from the following commands the General Joshua issued? 1) Get 'your' supplies ready; and 2) Go in and take possession of the Lord...for your own?
** Thus far the Lord God provided them with everything, including food and drink. But from now on they were to learn to take care of themselves. They were to live as self-supporting shepherds and shepherdesses.
** They must go in and fight the battle for their own benefit as well! In the final analysis, the Lord God asks usto fight the Lord's battle like making disciples of all nations, not for Him, but for you, not for even for your pastors or religious organizations, or even for God, but for YOU!
7. Read vs.12-18. Why did Joshua put these tribes on the front line (cf. Numbers 32:7)?
** To not hurt the spiritual morale. Joshua knew that in fighting the battle, spiritual morale is more important than anything else, and that one of the best ways to build up morale (the fighting spirit) is by encouraging everyone to participate in the sufferings of the Lord together!