Joshua 1:1-9: Courage and Obedience

Read Joshua 1:1-9

The first 9 verses of Joshua record God’s command to Joshua concerning what God would do with the Israelites. Moses had died and Joshua succeeded him as the leader of Israel. God charges Joshua and the people to cross the Jordan and go into the Promised Land. The land, as described by God here, stretched the length from the Hittite territory in the North to the Negev in the South, from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Euphrates in the East. This occupation, however, was not fully realized until the time of David. The command given to Joshua is rather intriguing – it is not a command to go in conquering the land, rather a command first to be strong and courageous and second to obey the commandments that God had given them in the book of the Law. The one who was going to do the taking and giving was God. And in this courage and obedience, God was going to go with them wherever they go.

Moses encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous when he was handing over the leadership to Joshua before he died (Deuteronomy 31:6-8) and David said the same thing before he died to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:20). The commission to Joshua to be strong and courageous is antithetical to being fearful and shrinking back. 40 years earlier, the Israelites were looking to go into the land after leaving Egypt. They sent in 12 spies and the spies came back. 10 of the 12 spies saw the task as impossible, and wanted to go back. Caleb and Joshua believed they could enter the land and take it. The result was devastating for that generation. Of the ones who left Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua were allowed to enter the land (Numbers 13, Numbers 14).

The promise that God would be with his people is found in Matthew 28:20 at the end of the Great Commission. Hebrews 13:5-6 quotes this on the context of love of money. The author also quotes from Psalm 118:6 that speaks of God as being a helper and asks what man can do to them. The surety of God’s presence in the life of the believer is reason enough to be strong and be courageous. At the same time, one should also obey the commandments too. The connection with courage and obedience is clear, and these qualities are what are needed to lead the people of God. The focus here is not on performing great deeds for God, rather focusing on being obedient to what God wants. It is God who does the taking and giving!

God, help me to courageous and obedient and leave the fighting up to you!

Joshua: Introduction

Read: Joshua 1:6-9

Joshua picks up after the death of Moses and Joshua had been installed as the leader of Israel in Moses’ place. Moses had sinned and for this reason was not allowed to enter the Promised Land and the task had been given to Joshua to complete this task. Joshua’s former name was Hoshea (Numbers 13:16), but was changed by Moses to Joshua, literally “Yeshua” which us the same name “Jesus” comes from. Two other people of note had their names changed in the Bible because they were deemed with a special purpose for God: Abraham and Paul (Genesis 17:5, Acts 13:9). Joshua was one of the spies who went and spied in the land of Canaan to see if the people of Israel could indeed conquer it. He along with Caleb believed it to be possible while the others did not and thought they’d be better go back to Egypt (Numbers 13, Numbers 14:5-7). Joshua and Caleb alone where the only two of the Israelites that left Egypt who would be allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:23-24). It is evident that Joshua was a man of faith willing to do what it took in spite of the apparent risks and seemingly impossible obstacles.

Many scholars date the book Joshua to around 1400 BC, some 400 years before dates become more certain with the consecration of the temple during the reign of Solomon in 996 BC. Archeological evidence shows an invasion of people during this time with the fall of many cities. During this time, there is certainly upheaval of the indigenous that were supplanted by another people. Undoubtedly, by the time of David, Israel was the dominant nation of the area. The accounts of Joshua were probably recorded early, many by Joshua or an associate of Joshua himself. At some later date, these accounts were collated and commentary was added with many assertions about things existing “to this day”, a phrase found throughout the book (Joshua 4:9, Joshua 5:9, Joshua 7:26, Joshua 8:29, Joshua 10:27, Joshua 16:10, Joshua 23:8-9).

When one begins to read Joshua, there are a couple of things one needs to consider about the genre. Joshua is history, but not in the since of Western history. Western history looks at cause and effect relationships in a linear manner. Ancient Near Eastern history looked at history in a cyclical manner in which stories have a similar pattern.  The story of Joshua begins with a strong exhortation to Joshua the people of Israel to not only be strong and courageous, but to be obedient as well. The prologue and charge serves as the theological framework for the book, as it unfolds. When Israel does as God commands and acts courageously according to the ways of God, they are victorious. But when they do not, they are not victorious. Joshua is often seen as a historical narrative, and indeed it is, but is more than mere history because it teaches many things about the character of God and his relationship to people.

The story of a courageous and obedient people lead by a courageous and obedient man can still speak volumes to Christians today. God is still working the world to accomplish his goals of making his name great among the nations and he is still using people and their leaders alike. The command to be strong and courageous and obey the commands of God still goes out to all who call upon his name today!

Lord, help me to be courageous and obedient to your calling!