Joshua's Commission

Joshua 1:7-9.

Moses having died, Joshua was immediately instructed to pass over Jordan, with the people of Israel, to take possession of the land which the Lord had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their inheritance could not in any wise be of the law, and thus Moses, as the mediator of the legal system, apart from his own personal failure, could not lead the people over Jordan. It was typically impossible; and hence when he pleaded to be allowed to go over and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain and Lebanon, the Lord replied, "Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter." Joshua - Israel's saviour in this sense - was the chosen vessel for the accomplishment of God's purpose; Joshua, type of Christ in spirit as the Leader of His people in their conflicts. And surely we may say that Joshua, just because he thus prefigured Christ, sets forth also that God's conflicts cannot be waged, nor the inheritance possessed, except in the power of resurrection. All the blessings of God's people are on the other side of death, and consequently he who would enjoy them must eat the flesh and drink the blood (appropriate the death) of the Son of Man.

This being understood, we may pass from the commission itself to consider the requisite conditions for its execution. For whatever place anyone may occupy among the saints of God, whether leader or led, nothing can be possessed, enjoyed, or achieved apart from a suited state of soul, without a moral condition which is responsive to the Lord and formed by the objects on which the heart is fixed. We find, therefore, that immediately after communicating to Joshua the nature of the work to which he was called, the Lord proceeds to point out the indispensable requisites for success. It was so also with the disciples after the resurrection of the Lord. He revealed Himself to them, He opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures, He gave them their commission, and, lastly, He enjoined them to tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they should be endued with power, through the coming of the promise of His Father upon them, from on high. All their light and knowledge would be of no avail without divine power, without a corresponding spiritual state. In like manner Joshua might have the clearest possible conception of his mission and yet be powerless (as he was on one or two occasions) in the presence of the enemy. It is of all moment, consequently, to comprehend this.

Down to the end of verse 6 the Lord gives general directions, with the assurance that there would be no failure on His side, and that Joshua should ultimately divide the inheritance unto Israel. Then He goes on in the next three verses to state what is essential on Joshua's side to make his way prosperous and to have good success. It will readily be perceived that, taking the moral order, verse 8 comes before verse 7. Two things are therein enjoined - a knowledge of, and love for, the book of the law, and meditation therein day and night, with the view of carrying out its directions and requirements. With the necessary change for the different dispensations, it corresponds closely with what we have in Colossians, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another." We must make the word our own before it can dwell in us; and Joshua could not meditate upon the law day and night if it were not continually in his mouth. Having it in his mouth, feeding upon it, it would pass into his heart, and by meditation upon it divine affections would be formed, his whole soul and conduct would be moulded by it, so that, as in the law of liberty, obedience to it would be the spontaneous outflow. A qualification for service, then, is that our own thoughts should be entirely displaced, together with ourselves, and that God's thoughts, His wisdom, should fill the soul, as the spring of all our activity in the power of the Holy Ghost.

As already pointed out, all this was to be with the view of observing and doing according to all that was written in the law; and this, it will be seen, gives the connection with the previous verse, which contains almost the same words. Another thing has now to be noticed. The path is known through the law and meditation thereon, and it might therefore be concluded that it would be easy to go forward in it. Far otherwise; the moment God opens out His way before any of His people, all the power of the enemy will be brought to bear to hinder their walking in it. The first thing, therefore, pressed upon Joshua at this point is "to be strong and very courageous." That is to say, when God's will is apprehended it needs divine strength and courage to do it, because of the opposition to be encountered upon every hand. In a scene like this, as exemplified to the full in the life of our blessed Lord, to do God's will, to serve the living and true God, will entail difficulties, persecution, and, in some countries, imprisonment and even death. (See Heb. 10:32-39.) How many of us, indeed, can recall seasons when, lacking divine energy and courage, we have shrunk from a path to which the Lord was calling us, through fear of man and possible consequences! We can thus comprehend Joshua's need of strength and courage in passing over into the sphere of the full display of Satan's power.

It is well to mark that prosperity in his way, and his success, are made distinctly dependent upon his adherence to the divine commands. There was to be no deflection from the law, whether on the right hand or the left. The slightest departure from it, as Joshua himself had to experience, and as the history of the kingdom illustrates again and again, might be attended with the most disastrous consequences. No questions of expediency, no alteration of circumstances, no deluding promise of a shorter road to the proposed end were to be for one moment considered. As the Lord Himself when He met the power of Satan in the wilderness, the word of God, and that alone, must be supreme, whether as indicating the path or governing the heart. "It is written" was enough for Him, was to suffice for Joshua, and is to be our only reliance. It is not for us to make the application perhaps in this place; we may, however, call attention to the need of doing so, beginning with ourselves. Loss of first love is the root of all the corruptions of Christendom, but loss of first love displays itself in the neglect of sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing His word, in not keeping His word, and in denying His name. The consequence has been that, as in the Judges, every man has done what is right in his own eyes; and the issue will be an apostate Christendom. Let us heed the danger and return to the Lord with purpose of heart, that His word may dwell in us richly.

We learn, moreover, that the essential requisite for confidence and courage is the assurance that we are in the path of God's will. To be without this, as the Scripture history continually illustrates, is to expose ourselves to the attacks of Satan on every side through our weakness and irresolution. Hence it is that the Lord says to Joshua, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage," etc. For together with the consciousness that the Lord is sending us on any service, the conviction is divinely begotten in our hearts that He will sustain us in the face of all obstacles, and conduct us to the end He has in view. We thus read of our blessed Lord, in the prophecy, that, with the full knowledge of what awaited Him, He set His face like a flint, knowing that He should not be ashamed, because, indeed, He had come to do the will of God. Joshua, therefore, was put upon this rock of God's will, that when he might see in after-days, the Amorites and Canaanites, the seven nations, swarming around the armies of Israel, he might not be afraid nor be dismayed; that he might say with David in a later day, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Then also he would be able to add, "When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell."

But together with this, where the suited state of soul is found, and where the servant is assuredly in obedience to the will of God, there is still greater encouragement. It is added, "For the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." In like manner the Lord, in charging His disciples to go and teach all nations, said for their sustainment, "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Moses entered into the absolute necessity for this when he cried, "If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." We are taught, therefore, that, in all our service and conflicts, it is utterly useless, yea, worse than useless, to proceed unless the Lord is with us. It is not too much to say, indeed, that all the defeats of the people of God may be traced back to the lack of this one essential of success. Nay, it may be confidently stated that success is assured when the Lord is with His people. Let us, then, heed the lesson well, that the Lord cannot be with us unless we are in the suited state and condition, and unless His will is governing our movements and activities. Too much reliance is often placed upon the general truth that the Lord's presence can be counted upon; the point to be remembered is, that except we are in the path of His will and following after holiness He will not manifest Himself as being with His saints. (Compare Numbers 5 and 6.)

The Lord Himself lay these things upon our hearts, that we may be more effective in His service, and more for His pleasure in all our walk and conflicts.