1. The Leader.
"Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, Moses My servant is dead." — Joshua 1:1.
With Jehovah's words to Joshua, "Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise," the book that is before us commences.
Moses, "the drawn out" — Jehovah's servant appointed to bring forth His people out of Egypt — had passed off the scene. Jehovah had buried him, and hidden the place of his sepulchre. (Deut. 34:6.) Joshua, originally called Oshea (salvation), afterwards Jehoshua or Joshua (the Lord is salvation), had taken his place.
Moses, bringing Israel out of the land of Egypt, typifies the Lord Jesus bringing His people out of this world which lies under judgment; Moses, the mediator, and Aaron, the high priest, typify Him leading His people through this wilderness world. Joshua, bringing Israel into Canaan, typifies Christ risen from the dead, leading His people in spirit into the land of glory, and in conflict with the enemy in the heavenly places.
A new era commenced in Israel's history at the death of Moses; and as Jehovah had a leader ready to bring in and establish His people in their land of promise, Israel's path of blessing lay in following their divinely-appointed captain. Through him they would learn what was for them "The Lord is salvation."
The Law-giver had brought them to the end of the wilderness, to the verge of their promised possession; but, in the purposes of God, no more than this could the Law-giver do. We are not now considering the haste of his lips, and the striking of the rock in disobedience to Jehovah's word — meekest of men as Moses was, he failed to preserve in himself the character of our meek and lowly Lord, of Whom in so many ways he is a type: there is none perfect, save the Lord Jesus, of whom Moses, the man of God, did write — we are regarding Moses in his official character as the law-giver. It was impossible, because of what the ways of God with men are, and because of what the law in itself is, that the law's representative should bring God's people into the land of promise.
There is a moral fitness in this fact not to be overlooked. Our meditation on the book of Joshua must begin where God commences its instruction — "after the death of Moses." It is not consonant with God's ways that the law given by Moses should bring a single soul into spiritual blessings in association with Christ where He now is in heaven. Such of God's people as are under the law in spirit (for, as we read in the Epistle to the Galatians, under it, in God's purposes, no Christian is) do not know their path of blessing in following our Joshua, even Christ risen from among the dead; they miss in their souls what "The Lord is salvation" really means.
The "weakness and unprofitableness" (Heb. 7:18) of the principles of the law are apparent when the power of God in grace is before us. The law says in effect, "This do, and thou shalt live" (Luke 10:28) — it requires human obedience as a condition to obtaining life; but the gospel of God brings in life through divine righteousness already magnified by what has been done by Christ, who died for us. The law appeals to man, as man in relationship with God truly, but none the less to man, as responsible in himself to do good. Grace, on the other hand, flows from God in His mercy to man as he is in his badness (Rom. 5:8). The law commands man to do that which, while in his helpless state, he never can do. The grace of God bestows on man, when helpless, a new life in Christ Jesus. The law commands man to reach up to blessing; grace brings blessing to man where he is. Hence the force of these words, "Moses My servant is dead" (indicating how spiritual blessings are all of grace), must be kept before the heart if we would arise and follow our Leader — Jesus, the Lord risen from the dead, and thus lay hold of Canaan blessings. All that man is in himself and of his own strength must be out of sight when the heavenly places are in view. Christ is in heaven, and Christ risen from the dead is indeed for us, "The Lord is salvation."
Let us enquire at this point, where, as a matter of faith, are we? Where does our faith apprehend we stand as viewed by God? No man can have faith for another; therefore, the question is a searching one. Scripture says, "Made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:6.) We should seek for grace to see ourselves, by faith, as and where God actually sees us in Christ. God does not see His people in the flesh (Rom. 8:9), nor as under the law (Rom. 6:14), but in Christ.
Nothing so braces up the spirit as faith in God's facts. How am I to get the blessing? is a question often raised by God's dear people. The reply is, Get into God's truth about the blessing. When, through grace, a man believes God's word respecting the death of Christ for sinners, he is secure from the judgment of this world, he is delivered from the wrath to come. He is secure in Christ risen from the dead, from the hand of the enemy — Satan. Further, he is seated in Christ in the heavenly places, and is graced by God the Father in the beauty of the Beloved One. We speak of the truths themselves, not of the realization of them. We realize what we believe. Realization is not a stepping-stone to faith. Faith is the foundation of realization.
Experimental acquaintance with the truth is not the truth itself, thank God! and the truth of God, not our realization of it, is our confidence. Therefore, as our souls, by the Holy Spirit's power, enter into the truths of God respecting our blessing, we begin experimentally to enter into the blessing we seek. Attainment follows faith in God. We attain by faith, not to faith.
The people of Israel, when the word "Arise" came to their Leader, were far away from Egypt and on the very borders of Canaan. They had trodden the waste howling wilderness many a long and weary year. They had learned experimentally many a severe lesson of their own folly and evil, as well as many a blessed lesson of the unchangeableness of their God, and of His mercy which endures for ever. Now they were about to learn God in a new way and in new scenes. The same God, but learned by them in a new way, and, therefore, according to a new, or freshly revealed, relationship. They were about to learn God as He who had carried out His word of favour to the fathers, and had brought His people Israel into the privileges and responsibilities of those favours.
They had been like a flock led through the wilderness (Ps. 77:20); they were about to be Jehovah's soldiers led to fight His battles. The soldier character — its obedience, energy, endurance, was now about to be sought for in Israel. When in the land of promise and blessing — to them what the heavenly places are to the Christian — a battle-field; their obedience, energy, and endurance would be proved.
Now the Christian is not only led by the tender hand of his God through the wilderness of this world, he is also called, as were the sons of Israel, to conflict. Meditating upon the book before us, we see how apt its instructions are for our times, and we learn, in measure, how far the thought of our being soldiers, under the leadership of our risen Lord, has truly entered our souls.