“Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan…’” (Joshua 1:1-2). Consider what Joshua is being told to do. He faces a raging Jordan River (Chapter 3), a land of giants (Numbers 13-14), Moses’ death, yet God commands him to arise and move. “It is against this background of the death of ‘Moses the Incomparable’ that the writer sets the continuity of Yahweh’s promise. ‘Moses My servant has died, so you must wait?’ No. ‘You must weep’? No. But, ‘Rise, cross over… into the land’. Moses may die; God’s promise lives on. There is the passing of an era yet the endurance of the promise. Yahweh’s fidelity does not hinge on the achievements of men, however gifted they may be, nor does it evaporate in the face of funerals or rivers” (Joshua, No Falling Words, Dale Ralph Davis, pp. 17-18). Moses had been faithful and had fought his battles, yet Joshua cannot fight the battles of the past, or rest on past challenges, every generation must fight the battles of its own time, and every generation of believers has what it takes to do so.
“Be Strong and Courageous”: 1:6
This expression is not only repeated in Joshua (1:7,9,18), but it was equally stressed in the previous book (Deuteronomy 31:23). “The word rendered ‘be strong’ is the Hebrew ‘chazaq’. It is the same word used in 1 Samuel 30:6 where it is translated ‘David encouragedhimself [literally made himself strong] in the Lord’. How do you ‘make yourself strong’ in a scary situation? It will take more than the proverbial ‘Whistle a Happy Tune,’. You’ll get nowhere lying to yourself. Better to speak truth to yourself.
Here is some truth Joshua preached to himself:
‘I have given [the land] to you’ (verse 3). This is a past participle verb. That is, it’s a done deal in heaven; now just bring it forth ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’
‘The Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (verse 9). The thought of God being with His people should be our confidence, as it is our enemies’ terror (Genesis 21:22-24; 26:28). When God goes ‘with’ you (verse 9), it’s not like your friend Harry going ‘with’ you on a trip. Harry is just company; God is power and protection.
This is true whether the conquest is the Old Testament takeover of land or the New Testament takeover of land. Land is involved in both cases – a repossession of territory from the enemy. Just as the devil was sitting on Israel’s physical inheritance, he sits on our spiritual inheritance. Warfare should be our all-consuming passion as it was our ancestors’. I don’t see much difference between Joshua 1 and Matthew 28:18-20” The convicting question is: Are we of the new age army really up for it? Do we get up in the morning bent on warfare, determined to ‘take captive every thought’ and ‘put to death’ every unholy desire? Or is Ephesians 6 just talk?’ (Andree Seu). “A contemporary Christian reader might see this and say that’s all very nice for Joshua, but he was a noteworthy character; he had to lead all of Israel. What about the plain Christian like me? Is this promise for ordinary Christians? Look at the use of this promise in Hebrews 13:5-6 ‘for He has said, ‘I will never fail your nor forsake you’. Hence we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?’ Here the promise of Joshua 1:5 is applied to a Christian congregation. There is nothing more essential for the people of God than to hear their God repeating to them amid all of their changing circumstances, ‘I will be with you’” (Davis, p. 19).
God was determined to give them the land (1:6), therefore, they need to take courage and take it. In like manner:
God categorically wants people saved (Mark 16:15). Therefore, let us take courage and spread His message.
God wants us in heaven (Romans 8:32). Therefore, let us take courage and run the race with confidence.
God wants us to have unity and peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). Therefore, let us sacrifice our “rights” for one another, “take it on the chin” now and then, and do all things without grumbling or complaining, take courage and work His plan (4:1-16).
God wants us to overcome sin and temptation (Romans 6:11). Therefore, let us take courage and resist.
God wants us to have wonderful relationships (Ephesians 5:22-33). Therefore, let us take courage and nourish them with time and sacrifice and believe that we can.
Let us always remember that God will support in whatever He wants done:
“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished” (1 Chronicles 28:20).
Who Needs to Tremble?
Of Israel it is said, “And when we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you: for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11). In contrast, God pleaded “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’” (Joshua 1:9). We too often have it backwards. We are afraid or timid in sharing the gospel, yet we are not afraid to rebel against God. We are afraid to do His will and trust His plan, but we are very confident in sinning. Let us once and for all take all the courage out of sinning and replace it with fear. It should be unbearable for any of us to live with a sin; it should bring dread and terror. Let us replace this with a tremendous boldness and courage in living the Christian life.
“It is tragic when people snag their pants on the nail of Rahab’s lie, quibble endlessly about the matter, and never get around to hearing Rahab’s truth (2:8-13). That is like a wife who proudly opens the refrigerator door to show her husband the scrumptious salad and dessert she has prepared for their dinner guests; but her husband, scarcely glancing at those delicacies, instead rubs his finger across the top of the fridge and goes off muttering that ‘there seems to be a good bit of dust on the top of the refrigerator’. He missed the whole point! Naturally, the New Testament does not fall into this trap. It consistently stresses the faith of Rahab (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25)” (Davis, p. 26). I think Rahab would be offended and discouraged if when we met her in eternity that we remark, “Oh, I know what I learned from your life, that it’s okay to lie!”.
“We have Heard”: 2:10
Rahab is presented as an example to us, because we have a lot in common with her. Like Rahab, we have not seen any miracles, rather we, like her, have only heard about them (John 20:30-31). Our faith rests upon the same foundation has her faith, hearing what God has done (Romans 10:17) and altering our life in response.
The Next Step
“Please swear to me by the Lord… and spare” (2:12-13). “Here is the evidence of faith. Genuine faith never rests content with being convinced of the reality of God but presses on to take refuge in God. Rahab not only must know the clear truth about God but also must escape the coming wrath of God. It isn’t just a matter of correct belief but of desperate need. It never stops with brooding over the nature or activity of God but always runs to take refuge under His wings. Amazingly, Rahab not only trembles before the terror of the Lord but also senses that there might be mercy in this fearful God” (Davis, p. 28).
Rahab was saved because she believed in God, sided with Him, and hid some messengers – something that some might consider to be rather insignificant, yet they were God’s messengers. Let’s remember that what we do for God’s people is priceless with God (Matthew 25:31ff). We have done something like that ourselves every time we have helped, encouraged or supported God’s people.
If we think that the Old Testament is the record of a harsh God telling His people to annihilate the enemy, we have missed the point. In Genesis 15:16 God explained to Abram that his descendants would not inherit the land of Canaan in the near future, rather they had to wait for four generations to pass. The reason: because the sins of the Amorites were not yet full. The implication is that God is patient, even with the likes of the immoral Canaanites. He is not willing to bring judgment at this time – even though their sins deserved it. Judgment will not fall until the sins have reached the limit. The remainder of the Old Testament presents this same view of a just, yet merciful God. The Canaanites were ejected from the land because they were “rank” (Leviticus 18:24-25), thus Israel was to never assume a ‘holier than thou’ attitude (Deuteronomy 9:4-5), for Israel could find herself equally cast out if the nation practiced the same sins. Israel would be the instrument that God used to punish the Canaanites, but only after centuries of longsuffering, and only after the Canaanites stubbornly persisted in evil for generation after generation. Thus, “the conquest is not gross injustice but the highest (the most patient) justice” (Davis, p. 52). Likewise, we must never lose sight of the fact that if anyone else in Jericho – including the entire city had done what Rahab did – they would have been spared as well (2 Peter 3:9). Thus, no one in Jericho had to die, just like no one during the flood had to die. In like manner, no one has to end up in hell. Anyone can courageously side with God.