Joshua 1:1–6 (ESV) — 1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
In our text today, we see both the promotion of Joshua and a promise to him from God.
- I want to deal with each separately.
- But first, I want us to get a quick glimpse of who Joshua is.
Introduction – Who is Joshua?
A word about the name “Joshua”.
- Like many OT personalities, Joshua’s name was changed.
- In his case, his name “Hoshea” was changed by Moses to “Joshua” in Numbers 13:16.
- Joshua means “Yahweh Saves”.
- And in the LXX his name is rendered in Greek Iesous, which is Jesus’ name in the NT – David M. Howard.
1) A man of faith – he trusted in God.
- Numbers 14 details a remarkable story.
- People of Israel – Numbers 14:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?”
- Joshua and Caleb – Numbers 14:6–9 (ESV) — 6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”
- God – Numbers 14:28–30 (ESV) — 28 Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
2) A warrior.
- In Exodus 17 Joshua defeats Amalek in battle.
- But it was a team effort.
- As long as Moses held his arms up Joshua and the Israelites prevailed.
- So Aaron and Hur had to help Moses keep his arms up.
3) Moses assistant.
- Joshua accompanied Moses, only so far of course, to the top of Mt. Sinai in Exodus 24.
- “So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua…” (vs. 13).
- In fact, it was Joshua who first heard the Israelites celebrating the creation of their golden calf as he and Moses descended Mt. Sinai.
4) A shepherd of the people.
- Moses pleaded with God to appoint a certain type of man over Israel.
- Numbers 27:17 (ESV) — 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”
- God’s response, “Take Joshua the son of Nun…” (vs. 18).
- He will be the leader and the shepherd.
5) Filled with the Spirit.
- God goes on to tell Moses that Joshua is also “a man in whom is the Spirit” (vs. 18).
So although Joshua appears relatively little in the Pentateuch, he is clearly portrayed as a man who trusts in God.
- So much so, in fact, that he and Caleb are singled out against all the other male Israelites as worthy to enter the promise land.
- One can’t help but see in him a similarity to Abraham.
- Like Abraham, Joshua trusted that God would do what He said he would do in spite of overwhelming circumstances.
As F.B. Meyer says in The Shepherd’s Psalm:
- “Unbelief puts circumstances between itself and Christ, so as not to see Him…Faith puts Christ between itself and circumstances, so that it cannot see them” (Rosaria Butterfield).
- Joshua, unlike the other Israelites, lived by the second of these two propositions.
- “Christ” being the promised seed/offspring of Abraham and coming king from the tribe of Judah.
1) JOSHUA’S PROMOTION
In the first 2 verses of our text, God outlines his promotion of Joshua.
- His service to Moses as “Moses’ assistant” is recognized (vs. 1).
- As we saw in our introduction, Joshua excelled in his given ministry.
- As Greg Koukl often says, we must bloom where we are planted if we to aspire to great things for God.
- And the reason for the promotion at this time is made known – “Moses my servant is dead” (vs. 2).
- So the time has come both to promote Joshua and enter the promise land.
- “Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan…” (vs. 2).
This promotion is merely the culmination of the call on Joshua that shows up periodically at the end of Deuteronomy.
- Deuteronomy 31:3 (ESV) — 3 The Lord your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken.
- Deuteronomy 31:7–8 (ESV) — 7 Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
- Deuteronomy 31:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting.
- Deuteronomy 31:23 (ESV) — 23 And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
- Deuteronomy 34:9 (ESV) — 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.
What is fascinating about Joshua’s call in these texts is its literary context.
- Its historical context is easy enough to understand – after the Exodus and at the end of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
- But the literary context of Joshua’s call, the way Moses/author chose to write about it, is noteworthy.
What is the literary context of Joshua’s call?
- The “call” verses of Joshua are immediately followed by a description of doom and gloom.
CALL VERSE – Deuteronomy 31:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die. Call Joshua and present yourselves in the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” And Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tent of meeting.
- DOOM/GLOOM – Deuteronomy 31:16 (ESV) — 16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them.
CALL VERSE – Deuteronomy 31:23 (ESV) — 23 And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
- DOOM/GLOOM – Deuteronomy 31:24–27 (ESV) — 24 When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, 25 Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, 26 “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death!
In each of the above cases, we see the contrast between Joshua’s positive call and the negative assessment of the Israelites’ faithfulness.
- 31:14 – God has Moses call Joshua and commission Joshua in the tent of meeting.
- A call and commissioning that point to God’s desire to fulfill His promises.
- And yet in 31:16 God tells Moses that the Israelites “will forsake me and break my covenant”.
- 31:23 – Yahweh “commissioned Joshua” and told him he will bring the people into “the land that I swore to give them”.
- And yet in 31:24-27 Moses tells us how “rebellious and stubborn” the Levites/Israelites are.
- In fact, he says that he expects that they will be even worse, “after my death”.
What does Moses want us to take away from this purposeful literary contrast?
I can’t help but think that at least three things are to be noticed.
- First, is that the covenant faithfulness of God is unrelenting.
- In spite of Israel’s disobedience, God provides and keeps.
- Second, the presence and power of God’s grace is not exclusive to the NT.
- Third, what is powerfully present is the distinction between the individual (Joshua) and the people.
- In opposition to a common misconception, the individual of the OT does contain the idea of a personal relationship with God grounded in faith/trust.
- “The people of God are individual believers” – John Sailhamer.
- Each individual Israelite had a responsibility to trust in God and to obey.
- The distinction between Joshua and Israelite makes this evident.
“The collective nature of the “seed” (Israel) consists in its identification as a gathering of believers not merely for the purpose of fellowship, but more importantly, with a view to personal relationship with the “seed” and the outworking of that in each one’s individual life – John Sailhamer.
2) GOD’S PROMISE
Genesis 12:7 (ESV) — 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
Genesis 15:7 (ESV) — 7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”
Genesis 15:13–16 (ESV) — 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
God makes known to Joshua and the Israelites that, to the glory of His name, He will give what He promised to give to Abraham – the promised land.
- God outlines the borders of his gift in verses 3-5 (scholars argue that these boundaries were realized under the reigns of David and Solomon).
- And then powerfully reconfirms the call and promotion of Joshua in this context of promise fulfillment.
- “No man shall be able to stand before” Joshua and God “will not leave you or forsake you” (vs. 5).
- Joshua’s trust in God plus his exaltation by God come together to be part of the way God will bring the Israelites into the promised land.
What is interesting about the gift of God and the “stand” of Joshua is that though the land is God’s gift – a fulfillment of a promise – Joshua and the Israelites are still “to lay hold of that gift” – Dale Davis.
- They must cross the Jordan and engage the “iniquity of the Amorites” (Gen 15:16).
- Laying hold of God’s promises can be traumatic!
The “Now and Not Yet” of God’s gift.
- The “giving to them” in verse 2 and the “I have given to you” in verse three teach an important truth.
- David Howard sums it up like this:
“In one sense God was still in process of giving Israel the land. After all, Israel had not yet even crossed the Jordan River, and only the land east of the Jordan actually had been taken by Israel. Most of the land remained to be taken. But in another sense God had already given Israel the land. It is as though Israel already possessed legal title to the land (ever since Abraham’s day), but they were awaiting God’s timing for the actual possession” – David M. Howard.
This “now and not yet” illustrates the depths of the trust Abraham (and Joshua) had in God’s seed and land.
- To trust God implies that we are to trust not only that His promises will be done but that they are already done.
- This view of knowledge (epistemology) is completely irrational to the world.
- In God’s economy, something promised is something done.
- This concept is clearly fleshed out in the NT with both the “age to come” and resurrection.
- In both the call and promotion of Joshua and the coming fulfillment of God’s land promise, we glimpse the depths of God’s covenant faithfulness.