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The opening word of this verse, when rightly rendered, supplies to the spiritual mind an indication of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.
Properly translated it would be “And,” and what uninspired writer would ever think of beginning his production with such a connective! John Urquhart in his “The Bible: its Structure and Purpose” (volume 1) called attention to this feature, which though a minute detail is one of considerable importance, namely, that many of the books of the O.T. commence with the conjunction ve. This indicates of course that those which open thus are so closely linked with the ones preceding that they are really continuations of them. But, we may say, it does more than that: the employment of “And” at the beginning of quite a number of them signifies that they are not so many books but chapters in the Book. In other words, this binding together of the variously books by the copulative “And” gives more than a hint of their fundamental-unity: that one Author composed them, that one Rule of Faith is found in them Genesis has no “And” at the commencement of its opening verse, for the simple reason that it is the first book or chapter, the beginning. But Exodus opens with this connective “ve” — “ and” — rendered there “Now.” So does Leviticus, and likewise Numbers. Thereby we are taught that those first books are inseparably united together, and form the first division of the Bible. But, as Urquhart pointed out, “It is a surprise at first glance when we find that Deuteronomy, which is regarded as the completion of the four previous books, is, as a fact, disconnected from them.” He might also have dwelt on the fact that such a variation or difference is a designed evidence of Divine superintendence. The very fact that Deuteronomy is regarded (and from one standpoint, rightly so) as the completion of the Pentateuch argues that were the first five books of the Bible nothing more than the uninspired productions of Jews, writing in collaboration, the fifth one had been brought into accord with those which precede it.
The absence of” and” at the opening of Deuteronomy at once intimates that that book is not a supplement to what has gone before, but rather a new beginning, or a new division of the O.T. It looks forward and not backward: a careful study of its contents will verify this. Joshua comes next and it does open with “And “ — and so does every book which follows until 1 Chronicles is reached! Thus, Joshua to the end of 2 Kings is annexed to Deuteronomy, and the whole forms the second division of the O.T. Having pointed out this feature, let us pause and consider its significance. Why are the first four books of the Bible coupled together? why the next eight? and why does Deuteronomy belong to the second group rather than the first? The answer must be sought in the history of Israel, for that is the theme of the O.T. The first four books give us the history of Israel outside the Land which was promised them for an inheritance, the next eight treat of their history in it. Deuteronomy rehearses the past history of the Nation and restates the Law in view of their approaching possession of. Canaan, informing them how they must conduct themselves therein. “And after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord” ( Joshua 1:1).
The removal of Moses from their head was a heavy loss unto Israel. For many years he had been their leader and legislator. It was under him they had been delivered from the cruel bondage of Egypt. It was in answer to his prayers that a way was opened for them through the Red Sea. He was the one who acted as their representative before the Lord and as His mouthpiece unto them. It is true there were times when they distrusted him and murmured against him, yet on the whole they respected and confided in him. A stage had now been reached when it seemed that Israel needed him more than ever, for with practically no fighting experience and possessing scarcely any weapons, they were about to pit themselves against the “seven nations in the land of Canaan” ( Acts 13:19). Yet he was no longer to be their commander: death took him from them. That was a deep mystery to carnal reason, a most painful providence, a sore trying of their faith. That they felt it keenly is clear: “the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days” ( Deuteronomy 34:10). “And 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: now therefore arise, go over this Jordan” (verses 1, 2).
The work of God is in nowise hindered by the decease of His servants, no matter how eminent they be in office nor how much used in blessing to His people. Though the workmen be removed, His work goes forward to its ordained completion. “God will change hands to show that whatever instruments He uses, He is not tied to any” (Matthew Henry). That does not mean that God will necessarily supply another pastor for a church when one has died, for His work in that particular place may be finished; or that when His time arrives for the work of this magazine to end, that He will provide another; but it does mean that He will continue to maintain His Cause upon earth and supply every need of His people. That is certain, and it should both comfort and inspire us with courage in these dark days in which our lot is cast.
It is to be duly noted that Joshua did not push himself forward to fill the breach made by the departure of Moses, but waited until ordered by the Lord to do so. The relation which he sustained to his predecessor is not only one of interest but also of deep importance, not so much so from a historical standpoint as from the typical and doctrinal. This is the point at which we should amplify that statement at some length, but we are afraid to do so lest some of our readers wonder if we are ever going to ‘get down to business,’ for we have already written three articles without taking up the opening verses of our book. Yet others will say, What does that matter if their contents were instructive and profitable? We will therefore adopt a compromise, and defer our remarks upon that subject until a little later.
Meanwhile perhaps a few may be stimulated to ponder and supply answers for themselves to the following questions: What was the varied relationship of Joshua unto Moses? and what important truth is illustrated and illuminated thereby? “Moses My servant is dead, now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, to the children of Israel” ( Joshua 1:2).
The appointed time had now arrived, for Jehovah to make good the promises which He had made to Abraham and his children long centuries before. All that had been accomplished through Moses was but preliminary thereto, yet supplying a sure earnest that He would continue to show Himself strong on their behalf, so long as they adhered strictly to the covenant which He had entered into with them at Sinai. For that covenant, and the earlier one constituted the basis of all His dealings with Israel: while they kept it, they prospered: when they broke it, they experienced His judgments. It is to be duly observed that this commission which Joshua here received from the Lord was given to him as the head of Israel: it was made not with him alone, but the nation as well: “thou and all this people.”
Here again (see previous verse) the Lord emphasized the fact that Canaan was a sovereign and free gift which He made unto Israel. It was not a portion to which they were in any wise entitled: neither they nor their ancestors had done anything to merit such a heritage, nor would their subsequent prowess in conquering or dispossessing the Canaanites warrant the idea that they had earned it. Thus it is with the eternal inheritance of the spiritual Israel. When they are finally gathered into it, they will with one accord exclaim “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory” ( <19B501> Psalm 115:1).
And even now while upon earth, they frankly aver, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” ( Titus 3:5,6).
Nevertheless, though Canaan was a Divine gift unto Israel, yet they did, not enter into possession of it without effort on their part: their concurrence was required, and thereby their responsibility was enforced!
Unless that fact be clearly recognized we shall be all at sea in applying the type unto ourselves, and seriously, aye fatally, pervert God’s “plan” or way of salvation. There is not the slightest excuse for our doing so, for the teaching of Scripture on this subject — both in the type and the antitype — is as clear as a sunbeam. Canaan was first given unto Abraham, and he is “the father of all them that believe” ( Romans 4:11), and therefore his case is the norm or model after which ours is patterned. Concerning Abraham himself, all room for doubt as to how he obtained Canaan, is removed by Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out unto a place (which he should after receive for an inheritance), obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” It was by faithobedience that Canaan became his.
What has just been pointed out and our placing that clause in parenthesis is clearly confirmed by Genesis 12:1, “Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.”
There was no promise at that time that the land would be made over to him for a possession: it was not until years after that God said to him “I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees to give thee this land to inherit it.” Abraham was first required to break completely from his old life and separate from the world, to submit himself unreservedly to God, to walk by faith, to act in unquestioning obedience to His revealed will, before the heritage became his! Yes, my reader, the call which Abraham received from God made very real and definite demands upon him; and since he is “the father of us all” ( Romans 4:16), each of his children must be conformed to the family likeness. Abraham is a figure or prototype of those who have, by grace, been made “partakers of the heavenly calling” ( Hebrews 3:1). “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went” — still less knowing that the land would be given to him. A saving faith is one which heeds the Divine commandments as well as relies upon the Divine promises. Make no mistake about that, dear friends, Christ is “the Author of salvation unto all them that obey Him” ( Hebrews 5:9). Abraham obeyed not only in word, but in deed: “he went out.” In that he was in marked contrast from the prevaricating one who said “I go, Sir, and went not” ( Matthew 21:30). Faith and obedience can no more be severed than can the sun and the light, fire and heat.
Therefore we read of “the obedience of faith” ( Romans 1:5 margin). “Obedience is faith’s daughter. Faith hath not only to do with the grace of God, but with the duty of the creature as well. By apprehending grace, it works upon duty: ‘faith worketh by love’ ( Galatians 5:6). It fills the soul with apprehensions of God’s love, and then makes use of the sweetness of love to urge us to more work or obedience” (T. Manton).
And now the descendants of Abraham were called upon to act by a similar faith and walk by the same implicit obedience unto God which had marked their progenitor! The Jordan must be crossed, cities must be captured, battles must be fought, the Canaanites conquered, before Israel could enter into possession of and enjoy their inheritance. True, blessedly true, they were not required to perform such feats in their own unaided strength: the might of Omnipotence would work on their behalf. Yet also and equally true was it that God would show Himself strong on their behalf only while they yielded to His authority and conducted themselves according to His orders. The Land was indeed His gift — His free and sovereign gift — unto them, yet they would only. obtain possession of the same by their own efforts. There is nothing inharmonious between those two things, any more than there is an inconsistency in the Gospel call, “He, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” ( Isaiah 55:1) — alas that that repeated buy is totally ignored by modern evangelism.’ “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon that have I given you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your coast” ( Joshua 1:3).
As we have pointed out in a previous paper, the contents of this book have a twofold application: an initial and a progressive, to the sinner and to the saint. That is intimated, we believe, by the very position Joshua occupies in the Sacred Canon: it sustains a dual relation: coming after, yet being linked to the Pentateuch, and also forming the commencement of the Historical books. That hints strongly at a twofold spiritual significance of its contents.
In contrast from the wanderings in the Wilderness, Canaan was their “rest,” but in actual experience their entrance into the Land marked the beginning of years of hard fighting. The moment a sinner believes in Christ peace of conscience, rest of soul is his; nevertheless, only then begins the fierce battle between the flesh and the spirit.
That rest of soul enjoyed by the Christian when he ceases fighting against God and trusts in the Savior is an earnest of his inheritance, a foretaste of the perfect and eternal rest awaiting him on high. The initial act of faith in Christ puts him in possession of an inalienable title to “the purchased possession,” but his actual entrance therein is yet future. But it is both his privilege and duty to “possess his possessions” (Obadiah 17) even now, to enjoy them by faith and anticipate them by hope. It is his privilege and duty to appropriate by faith and live in the present enjoyment of that rich portion which God has given him in Christ. But the flesh, the world and the Devil will oppose, and seek to keep him out of a present enjoyment of his possession. There is nothing the Devil hates more than to see a saint glorying in God and rejoicing in Christ his Lord, and therefore both directly and by means of indwelling sin, or the allurements and cares of this world, he is ever seeking to deprive him of his rights. But if we mortify the flesh, steadfastly resist the Devil, live a life of faith and walk obediently, we can overcome both self, Satan and the world.
In this connection we need to recall that word of the Lord unto Israel at an earlier date: “I will not drive them out from before thee in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beast of the field multiply against thee: by little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased and inherit the land” ( Exodus 23:20,30), which shows that God does not act arbitrarily, but compassionately with respect to His people. To their short-sightedness it might have appeared a more signal mercy had God exterminated the Canaanites in the first few months after the crossing of its boundary, but that had neither been most for His glory nor their good. There were wild beasts in the land as well as gross idolaters, and even though the latter had been extirpated, Israel were yet too few in number to properly occupy the whole of the country — they must wait for that until they had sufficiently multiplied. Moreover, by driving out the Canaanites from before them” little by little,” Israel was kept in a state of constant dependence before the Lord. That is one of His principal designs in all His dealings with people: to wean them from selfreliance and teach them to lean more and more upon Himself.
The spiritual application to the Christian of the above is simple and informative. God has nowhere promised to give him victory over all his enemies at once, and therefore he should not expect it. Nor would it be good for him if He did — pride and self-esteem would be the immediate outcome. “Therefore will the Lord wait that He may be gracious unto you” ( Isaiah 30:18).
As Israel were not to be discouraged by the slowness of their arms, neither must we be dismayed if victory be not ours at once — still less entertain the thought that success will never be achieved by us. In like manner, the possessing of our possessions, the present entering into and enjoyment of our heritage in Christ, is not attained all in a moment, but it is a progressive experience — “by little and little.” Growth in grace is not an instantaneous thing like the new birth, but a gradual one: patience has to have her perfect work.
Perhaps some reader may recall another word of Jehovah’s spoken before the Jordan was crossed: “The Lord thy God is He which goeth over before thee: as a consuming fire He shall destroy them and He shall bring them down before thy face; so shalt thou drive them out and destroy them quickly” ( Deuteronomy 9:3).
All that is needed is a little careful attention to each passage. The “I will not drive them out before them in one year” of Exodus 23:29 has reference to the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites, as the previous verse shows; whereas the “them” of Deuteronomy 9:3 is the Anakim — see verse 2. Nor does this present any difficulty in the spiritual application: there are some enemies which the Christian is enabled to overcome “quickly,” while there are others which continue to try him unto the end of his earthly course.
DIVINE ASSURANCES It is scarcely possible to overstate the importance of the book of Joshua.
Its contents are an intrinsic part of “the children’s bread”, which is essential to their well-being. It is of incalculable value to us both doctrinally and practically. Doctrinally it casts clear light on a subject which has deeply exercised the best theologians throughout the centuries, namely, the relation which the Gospel sustains to the Law; yet so far as we are aware, none has ever appealed to this portion of the Word as providing a solution to that problem. Surely it is clear that if we can ascertain what was the precise relations which Joshua bore to Moses, we shall discover the relations which the Gospel sustains to the Law. It has indeed been recognized by many that the relation of those men unto each other indicated in a general way one of the chief distinctions between the Law and the Gospel: that as Joshua rather than Moses was the one who led Israel into Canaan, so it is the merits of Christ and not the works of the Law to which the sinner must look for his justification; but there they stopped. Instead of starting at the beginning and tracing through the subject, they began in the middle and drew a single conclusion.
The very first thing told us about Joshua in the book which bears his name is that he was “Moses’ minister” ( Joshua 1:1), a statement that looks back to Exodus 24:13. Thus, Joshua is not set before us as antagonistic to Moses, but as his attendant and supporter. Apply that to the antitype and it should at once be evident that it is a serious mistake to regard the Gospel and the Law as being mutual enemies. Perhaps some will object, but is it not derogatory to the Son of God to view Him as subservient to the Law? Our reply is, What saith the Scriptures? Upon that point there is no room for uncertainty: “When the fullness of time was come God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law” ( Galatians 4:4).
It was in order to prevent any mistake upon this point, to allay any fears they might entertain about it, that Christ said to His disciples “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” ( Matthew 5:17) — to “fulfill” it by rendering thereto a perfect obedience and then to endure, on behalf of His sinful people, its unremitting penalty.
But second, it is quite clear from the book of Deuteronomy that the mission of Joshua was to complement that of Moses, to bring to a successful issue what he began. Moses had led Israel out of Egypt and he had been their leader all through the wilderness journeyings, but it was left unto Joshua to induct Israel into their promised inheritance. Here too we find no antagonism between Joshua and Moses, but rather the one augmenting the other. Therein we have a blessed and striking adumbration of the relation which the Gospel sustains to the Law: it is not its adversary but its handmaid, not its destroyer but its fulfiller. Christ has not only honored and magnified the Law person ally, but He secures its being honored and magnified in the affections and lives of His redeemed: “For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” ( John 1:17). “For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us” ( Romans 8:3,4).
Under Moses the Law obtained not its due because of the weakness of the flesh in those who received it. They declared unto Moses “speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee, and we will hear and do” ( Deuteronomy 5:27).
Nor was the Lord displeased at such an avowal. So far was He from condemning them for a presumptuous boast, we are told, “the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken” (verse 28). Nevertheless, there was a “weakness” of which they were ignorant, but of which He was cognizant, for He went on to say “Oh that there were such a heart in them that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” There we learn what their “weakness” consisted of: they lacked a heart for the Lord Himself. That is the lack of the natural man the world over: until he is born again no man has either any filial fear of God nor love for Him, and where those be absent there is neither desire nor sincere effort to keep them. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be” ( Romans 8:7).
Inexpressibly solemn are those words: true of writer and reader alike until a miracle of grace was wrought within him. The carnal mind is not subject to the Law of God nor is it capable of being so: it is utterly lawless, determined only on pleasing self and having our own way. The reason for this in-subjection of the carnal mind to the Divine Law is that it is “enmity against God”: it is alienated from Him, it hates Him — abhorring His ineffable holiness and despising His sovereign authority. But at regeneration the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit ( Romans 5:5): a contrary principle is implanted which opposes that enmity and its reigning power is destroyed. Hence, there is on the part of the regenerated person a radically changed disposition and attitude to the Divine Law, so that he declares “I delight in the Law of God after the inward man...with the mind I myself serve the Law of God” ( Romans 7:22,25).
Third, not only was Joshua, originally, “Moses’ minister”, not only did he supplement his ministry and bring his mission to successful completion, but when commissioned by Jehovah to conduct His people into Canaan, he was bidden “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night” ( Joshua 1:7,8).
Here again we see that so far from the work assigned Joshua being inimical to that of his predecessor, he was enjoined to honor and magnify it. That commission concerned not so much Joshua personally as it did the people entrusted to his charge. If Israel were to “possess their possessions”, then under the leader ship of Joshua they must regulate their conduct by the Divine Law. God has not regenerated those for whom Christ died that they might live as they please, but that they “might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life” ( Luke 1:73,75).
Herein lies the triumph and glory of the Gospel: not merely that transgressors are pardoned and sinners delivered from the wrath to some, but-that they are “created in righteousness and true holiness” ( Ephesians 4:24), given a nature which delights in the Law and sincerely serves it. The Law is written on their hearts ( Hebrews 8:10), enshrined in their affections, and under the leadership of the antitypical Joshua their conduct is governed by it. Christ has left them an example that they should follow His steps ( 1 Peter 2:21), and He respected, honored, and fulfilled the Law. True, they do not perfectly obey the Law, though they long to and honestly endeavor so to do, and where there is that honest endeavor God accepts the will for the deed. So far from the Law’s being set aside, N.T. saints are “under the Law to Christ” ( 1 Corinthians 9:21), and just so far as they act in accordance with that fact is “good success” theirs in the spiritual life.
Here, then, is the relation between the Law and the Gospel. First, as Moses preceded Joshua, so God employs the Law as an instrument for convicting the sinner of his need of Christ, for “by the Law is the knowledge of sin” ( Romans 3:20). Second, as Joshua was “Moses’ minister”, so Christ was made under the Law and satisfied its every requirement, both preceptive and penal, that a perfect righteousness might be provided for His people. Third, as the mission of Joshua supplemented and complemented that of Moses, so when the Gospel of Christ is made the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, there is communicated to that soul a nature which loves the Law and is subject to it. Fourth, as the success of Israel in Canaan turned upon their obedience to Joshua, who was to be regulated wholly by the Law of Moses, so the Christian enters into possession of his possessions only so far as he is subject to the Law in the hands of the Mediator. This will be made increasingly evident if we are permitted to continue our meditations upon this book of Scripture.
In our last we dwelt a little on Joshua 1:1-3. With verse 4 should be compared Genesis 15:18, Exodus 23:31, Numbers 34:3-12, Deuteronomy 11:24. Turning now to verse 5 we have the blessed promises which the Lord made unto Joshua as the basis of the great commission he then received. “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee”. In seeking to ponder them in the light of what immediately follows, we need to bear in mind that the terms of the commission were made with Joshua not simply as a private person, but as leader of the Nation, that what God required from him He required from them, and that what He promised him He promised them.
We saw this when looking at verse 2, wherein Jehovah said unto Joshua “Moses My servant is dead: now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people” That “therefore” is most significant and suggestive so far from the loss of their former leader inclining them to sit down in dejection and despair, it was all the more necessary why they should go forward under their new commander. “There shalt not any man be able to stand before thee”. That this promise was made unto the Nation as here represented by Joshua is clear from a comparison with Deuteronomy 7:24. There we find Moses addressing the whole congregation, assuring it of what the Lord God would do for them when He brought them into the land (see verse 1): “He shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee”. Thus as Joshua 1:2 gave the Divine call of duty unto Israel — “arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people unto the land which I do give thee” — so in verse 5 we see the Divine encouragement given them unto the discharge of their duty. Moses had to face the haughty monarch of Egypt — then the mightiest kingdom on earth — and confront his wise men and magicians; yet none were able to stand before him. Powerful nations were in possession of Canaan, among them the giant Anakim ( Deuteronomy 9:2), but none shall be able to withstand Joshua and those tinder him: “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee” “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee”. But was that blessed assurance designed only for Joshua and the Israelites of that day? Is it not recorded also for our sakes ( Romans 4:23,24). Then are we making practical use of it? Do we frequently remind ourselves of the same? Do we plead it before the throne of grace in time of need and ask God to make it good in our experience? Realizing that we are called upon to “fight the good fight of faith”, conscious of our weakness and the might of our foes, have we put God in mind of this word? If not, why not? Is not our failure at this point the explanation of many other failures? It is not enough that we should long to enter more fully into our heritage in Christ, we should also appropriate unto ourselves this blessed assurance and beg God to overthrow whatever is standing in the way and hindering us from a present and personal enjoyment of our spiritual portion. We should be daily and confidently entreating Him to teach us to vanquish the Anakim which are usurping our rightful heritage.
Should any doubt the dispensational validity of what we have just pointed out and demur at the idea of Christians today applying to themselves a specific promise made to Joshua thousands of years ago, then all room for a questioning of the same should at once be removed by the final clause of that verse’ “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee” (verse 5). Let the reader very carefully observe that that very promise is quoted in Hebrews 13 and a most important conclusion drawn from it: “For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my Helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (verses 5, 6).
The very fact that the Holy Spirit moved the apostle to apply unto Christians that promise made unto Joshua is clear proof of its significance for believers in this age. Although the principle of one basic interpretation with many legitimate applications may still be maintained, the promises of God frequently transcend dispensational distinctions. This is particularly true when the promise is restated in another historical context. In such instances the promise definitely pertains to those living in the other era as well and God’s children should rightly partake of this needful portion of their bread.
What has just been mentioned ought to be so obvious that it requires no further amplification: but since some of our readers have been wrongly instructed therein, we must labor the point a little further. Are not the needs of believers the same in one age as another? Does not God bear the same relation to them and is He not affected alike unto all of His children — does He not bear them the same love? If He would not fail or forsake Joshua, then He will not us. Are not Christians today under the same everlasting covenant of grace as were the O.T. saints? Then they have a common charter: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off — as many as the Lord our God shall call” ( Acts 2:39).
Then let this principle be held tenaciously by us: the Divine promises which were made on special occasions to particular individuals are of general use for all the members of the Household of Faith. “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” is one of “the exceeding great and precious promises” of God ( 2 Peter 1:4) which is addressed to me now as much as it was to Joshua of old, and therefore is available for my faith to lay hold of and enjoy. Note the use which the apostle made of the same: “So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” ( Hebrews 13:6).
Those words “so that” point an inference drawn from the promise: a double conclusion is thereby reached — confidence in God and courage against man. That intimates the various and manifold use we should make of God’s promises. The conclusion drawn by the apostle was based upon the character of the Promiser and similarly should faith ever reason. Since God is infinitely good, faithful, all-powerful and immutable, we may boldly or confidently declare with Abraham “the Lord will provide” ( Genesis 29:8), with Jonathan “there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few” ( 1 Samuel 14:6), with Jehoshaphat “None is able to withstand Thee” ( 2 Chronicles 20:6), with Paul “If God be for us, who can be against us” ( Romans 8:31). “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me”. Note attentively the change in number from the plural to the singular: general principles are to be appropriated by us in particular, as general precepts are to be taken by us individually — as the Lord Jesus individualized the “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God” of Deuteronomy 6: 16 when assailed by Satan ( Matthew 4:10)! It is only by taking the Divine promises and precepts unto ourselves personally that we mix faith with the same and make a proper and profitable use of them.
It is further to be observe d that “The Lord is my Helper.” etc, is a citation from <19B806> Psalm 118:6. In that quotation the apostle teaches us again that the language of the O.T. is exactly suited unto the case of Christians now, and that they are fully warranted in appropriating the same”; “we may boldly say” just what the Psalmist did! It was in a season of sore distress that David expressed his confidence in the Lord, at a time when it appeared that his enemies were about to swallow him up; but contrasting the omnipotence of Jehovah with the feebleness of the creature his heart was strengthened and emboldened.
Ah, but does the reader clearly perceive what that involved? It meant that David turned his mind away from the seen to the unseen. It means that he was regulated by faith rather than by sight or reason. It means that His heart was occupied with the omnipotent One. But it means much more: he was occupied with the relationship of that omnipotent One unto himself. It means that he recognized and realized the spiritual bond there was between them, so that he could rightly and boldly say “the Lord is my Helper”. If He be my God, my Redeemer, my Father, then He can be counted upon to undertake for me when I am in, sore straits, when my foes would devour me, or when my barrel of meal is well-nigh empty. But that “my” is the language of faith and “my Helper” is the conclusion which faith’s assurance unhesitatingly drew. Often God so orders His providences and places us in trying circumstances that there may be suitable opportunity for our exercise of faith and that He may be glorified by the same. Nothing honors Him more than the unquestioning confidence of our hearts when everything outward seems thoroughly against us.
Yes, David turned away his eyes from his numerous and powerful enemies unto the omnipotent One, and so should we. God will not disappoint us if we do: He never fails those who really trust Him. Consider another example which illustrates the same principle. On one occasion “the children of Moab the children of Ammon, and with them other besides the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle” ( <142001> Chronicles 20:1).
The king was quickly informed that “there cometh a great multitude against thee”, and we are told that he “feared”. But that was not all he did: he “set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah”. Then in the presence of the whole congregation he prayed and pleaded with Jehovah, concluding with “O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us, neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee” (verse 12).
Nor did they look unto Him in vain. Read the sequel — verses 14-26: without themselves striking a blow, the Lord smote their enemies with such a spirit of confusion that they fell upon one another and completely destroyed themselves.
DIVINE INJUNCTIONS When Jehovah called Moses to go down into Egypt and make known His demand unto Pharaoh He assured His servant “I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say” ( Exodus 4:12).
When Jeremiah was ordained a prophet unto the nations and he shrank from the task before him, God said “they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee, for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee” ( Jeremiah 1:19).
With such assurances does the Lord fortify the hearts of those whom He commissions to go forth in His name. Similarly, when the risen Redeemer bade His apostles make disciples of all nations and baptize them, He first emphasized the fact that “all power had been given to Him in heaven and in earth”, and then comforted them with the declaration “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world ( Matthew 28:18-20).
So too when He told Paul to remain at Corinth, He cheered him thus: “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace, for I am with thee and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much people in this city” ( Acts 18:9,10).
In like manner did the Lord prepare Joshua for the undertaking to which he was called. First, He gave him the threefold assurance, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” ( Joshua 1:5).
The time had arrived when he was to lead the people of Israel across the Jordan and marshal their forces for the conquest of the promised land. On the threshold of that difficult and dangerous task Jehovah had thus encouraged and animated His servant. Great were the obstacles and perils confronting them, but great too were the consolations here vouchsafed him. Highly favored as was Joshua in being made the recipient of such promises, yet they were not designed to set aside the discharge of his own responsibility: he was not to say within himself, These covenant engagements will certainly be fulfilled, so there is no need for me to be exercised. So far from using’ them as a couch for him to rest upon, they were designed as, a girdle wherewith to gird up his loins for future activities. “Be strong and of a good courage, for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous” ( Joshua 1:6,7).
The Divine assurance received by Joshua was therefore intended as a spur unto energy, as an incentive to the performance of duty, for the quickening of his heart unto the same. The connection between this exhortation and what immediately precedes it inculcates a most important practical lesson:
God’s promises are not meant to set aside His precepts, but rather are given to encourage us to do with all our hearts and might whatever He has bidden us. Assurances of Divine assistance must never be regarded as nullifying our accountability or as rendering needless the putting forth of our utmost endeavors, but instead, are to be taken as so many guarantees that if we be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (the discharge of our daily duties), then we may know “that our labor is not in vain in the Lord” ( 1 Corinthians 15:58).
Those professing Christians who reason, God has promised never to leave nor forsake us and therefore it is quite safe for us to flirt with the world and trifle with Sill, do but make manifest the unregenerate condition of their hearts.
They who take unto themselves the Divine declaration “He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” ( Philippians 1:6) and then conclude there is no need for them to make their calling and election sure, or desire the sincere milk of the Word that they may grow thereby, render it very doubtful that a good work has been begun in them.
They who say, God will assuredly fulfill His decrees and draw unto Christ all whom He has ordained unto eternal life, and therefore there is no need for us to be deeply concerned about souls and seek after their salvation, speak not the language of His true children, but wrest the Truth. If our response to God’s promises be that of sloth and carelessness, that is proof we have received them carnally and not spiritually. The use or misuse we make of the Divine cordials affords a good index of the state of our hearts.
God had just assured Joshua “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee” That language was unequivocal and unqualified, yet it was far from signifying that he might take things easily, or simply “stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” — words which have heed grievously misapplied.
No, rather were they designed to inspire him to the performance of duty and to let him know that his efforts should not be in vain. “Be strong and of a good courage”’ that was the first effect which those assurances should work in him, and until they did he was not fitted for the task before him.
That task entailed the facing of problems and dangers such as were enough to make the stoutest heart to quake, nevertheless, Joshua was to undertake it without trepidation or hesitation. And why so? Because the living God, the omnipotent Jehovah had declared that not a man should be able to stand before him, that He would not fail nor forsake him. Then what was there to fear? Had not Joshua good ground, sufficient reason, to be strong and to act valiantly?
They were a fierce and warlike people, strongly armed, for they had “chariots of iron” ( Joshua 17:16). True, but God had said “Not any man shall be able to stand before thee”. Formidable obstacles had to be overcome. The cities of the Canaanites were fortified, described by the ten spies as “great and walled up to heaven” ( Deuteronomy 1:28) That was the language of unbelief’s exaggeration, yet they were mighty strongholds which had to be overthrown. Even so, God’s “I will not fail thee” was more than sufficient. Again, there was the food problem to be considered.
In the wilderness the Israelites had been daily supplied with manna from heaven, but that was now to cease. When the Jordan was crossed that great host of people must quarter on the enemy. Who was to provide for such a multitude? How should they be fed? Was not such a problem enough to make Joshua quail? No, not after he had received such assurances.
Not only were the Canaanites a numerous and powerful foe, but those whom Joshua commanded were a most unpromising people. What trouble they had occasioned his predecessor in the desert! Ever ready to murmur, wanting to turn back to Egypt, stiff-necked, and with no faith in Jehovah.
What could Joshua expect from their immediate descendants? How far could he count on their loyalty and cooperation? Was it not more than likely that their hearts would turn from him as those of their fathers so often had from Moses? Even so, God had said “I will not forsake thee” How well suited were those Divine assurances to his situation! In view of them what good reason had the Lord to bid him “Be strong and of a good courage”. And in view of the same what sufficient ground had Joshua to go forward in full confidence and valor! So he would if he took those promises to heart and mixed faith with them. Ah, it all turned on that. As cause stands to effect so would the laying hold of those promises produce strength of spirit and courageous action. Joshua did receive them by faith, and such was their effect upon him.
What bearing does the above have upon us today? In our last we pointed out that the promise of Joshua 1:5 belongs to Christians today, and here we must insist that the precept “Be strong and of a good courage” is also addressed to us personally, that God so enjoins us. “Quit you like men, be strong” ( 1 Corinthians 16:13), “be of good courage” ( Psalm 31:24) make known the Divine requirements from us. Those are the graces specially needed by believers if they are to overcome their enemies, surmount the obstacles in their path and possess their possessions.
Granted, says the reader, but when you bid me “be strong” you do but tantalize me, seeing that is the very thing I desire to be and yet am conscious I am not. But cannot you see the fault is entirely your own’ that your weakness and fear is due to your failure to mix faith with God’s promises? What more do you want than what God has said to you in Joshua 1:5? If God be for you, who can be against you? Look away from yourself, from your enemies, from your difficulties, unto Him who hath said “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee”: count upon Him, and strength will displace weakness and courage fear. “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the Law, which Moses My servant commanded thee” (verse 7).
This exhortation is not a mere repetition of the one in the previous verse, but a particularizing of it or an application of the same to a specific duty.
Resoluteness, fortitude, daring and perseverance were required for the great exploits which lay ahead, yet equally necessary and essential — if less apparent unto some today — was strength and courage if Joshua was to be completely submissive to the legislation of his predecessor. The world admires most the man who is independent, strikes out along a line of his own, and counts meekness and submission as a mean-spirited thing. It is the free-thinker and the free-liver who is generally admired by the godless, and obedience is despised as something servile. Joshua was now virtually made king in Jeshurun and it called for real courage for Israel’s commander-in-chief to take his orders from another, and especially so when the carrying out of the same seemed to be a hazardous matter.
Let the Christian faithfully apply this exhortation unto himself and perhaps he will the better perceive what it involved for Joshua. “Be thou strong and very courageous, that (in order that) thou mayest observe to do according to all the Law”. Is there not an inseparable connection between the two things: is not courage required in order to obedience? Fellow-Christian, if your character and conduct is to be regulated by the Divine standard, if all \he details of your life are to be ordered by God’s statutes, what will men think and say of you? Will they not deem you mad? It calls for courage, courage of a high order, for a preacher to scorn all novelties and disdain the contemptuous sneers of his fellows that he is “behind the times” because he declares only the counsel of God. And it calls for real courage for the private Christian to cleave close to the path of obedience when many professors will sneer at his “strictness” and “strait-lacedness”. How many are afraid of being thought “queer” or “puritanical”! Ah, my reader, it requires resolution and valor to swim against the tide of popular opinion, as it does to differ from “our doctrines” if one sees God’s Word requires it. “That thou mayest observe to do according to all the Law, which Moses My servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest” (verse 7).
There was the commission which Joshua received from the Lord. He was not to be regulated by his own inclinations nor lean unto his own understanding, he was not to be governed by the principle of expediency nor be seeking to please those under him; instead, he must be actuated in all things by a “thus saith the Lord”. For the carrying out of that commission he needed strength and courage, that he might be daring enough to strictly heed the instructions which Moses had left in writing for him. And in order to the exercise of those graces his heart must be constantly occupied with the assuring promises God had given him. So God’s servant today must teach His people to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, resting on His promise “Lo, I am with you alway”. So too the private Christian must heed that word “whatsoever He saith unto you, do” ( John 2:5), counting on His promise to make his way prosperous.
As another has pointed out, “In Joshua’s case, full obedience to the Divine command involved innumerable difficulties, such as besieging fortified cities and fighting against warriors who came to battle in chariots of iron armed with scythes”. He who contemplates enlisting under the banner of Christ needs well to sit down and count the cost, for it is no child’s play. to “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth”. A merely nominal profession is easy enough to make and maintain after the manner of the times, but to be a real Christian means to deny self, take up the cross and go forth unto Christ without the camp. Through his obedience Joshua made many enemies. When it became known that Jericho had been captured and Ai vanquished, we read of certain kings confederating together to destroy him. Such will be the experience of the obedient Christian. It will be his desire and effort to make no enemies, but if he is faithful to Christ many of his old friends will turn against him, and he probably prove that his foes are found even in his own household. “Woe unto you” if “all men speak well of you”.
Joshua’s obedience required strength and courage because it involved years of persevering effort. Rome was not built in a day, nor was Canaan captured in a twelve month. Long marches, protracted campaigns, much heavy fighting was entailed before Israel fully entered into possession of their heritage. As another has said “The days were not long enough for his battles. He bids the sun stand still and the moon is stayed: and even when that long day has passed, yet the morning sees him sword in hand still.
Joshua was like those old knights who slept in their armor. He was always fighting”. Such is the life of the Christian a warfare from end to end. No sooner does he receive pardon from Christ than the great conflict begins.
Every yard of the narrow way which leadeth unto Life is contested — not a foot will Satan yield to him. When victory has been obtained over one lust, another immediately raises its ugly head. When one temptation has been overcome, ten others more subtle menace him. There is no respite, no furlough is granted. “He that endureth unto the end shall be saved”, and none other will. Something more than human strength and prowess is called for. “Do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left”. As one has well pointed out, “It is the exactness of obedience which constitutes the essence of obedience” The fact is that if we do not desire and earnestly endeavor to keep all of God’s commandments we are totally lacking in the spirit of genuine obedience. He who picks and chooses between them is a self-pleaser and not a God-pleaser. The vast majority in Christendom today say, We must not be too precise: but that is too thin a garb to cover their hypocrisy. At heart they want to turn their backs on God’s Law altogether, but as an open avowal of such a sentiment would at once expose them, they resort to such cant as, We must not be too nice, too strict, too particular. It is this temporizing and compromising which has brought Christendom into the sorry state that it is now in. An omission here and a human addition there opened the flood-gates of evil. As the Lord will have all our hearts or nothing, so He will accept only an obedience which respects “all His commandments” ( <19B906> Psalm 119:6), and not one which is partial and discriminating.
Joshua was granted no indulgence, but must adhere rigidly and constantly to the Rule set before him. No matter how contrary to natural wisdom and prudence might be the carrying out of its precepts, no matter how unpopular it should make him with the people of Israel, God required full and continuous obedience from him. And so He does of us today, and unto those of His nominal disciples who fail to render the same, He asks, “Why call ye Me, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” ( Luke 6:46).
Yes, “nominal” disciples is all they are, for He Himself declares “that servant which knew his Lord’s will and prepared not, neither did according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes” ( Luke 12:47). t is probable that the apostle had Joshua 1:7 in mind when he said “by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” ( 2 Corinthians 6:9) — righteousness is right doing, acting according to the standard of right, namely, the Law of God. When one said to a Puritan, “Many people have rent their consciences in halves: could you not just make a little nick in yours?” He answered, “No, I cannot, for my conscience belongs to God” Finally, let us notice that the path of obedience is the path of prosperity: “turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that (in order that) thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest” (verse 7). Conformity unto the revealed will of God may entail trial, but there will be abundant compensation. Of course there shall, for the Lord will be no man’s Debtor.
The path of obedience is the path of blessing: the treading thereof may incur the frowns of men, but what matters that if we have the smile of our Master! True, the prosperity may not immediately appear, for faith has to be tried and patience developed, yet in the long run it will be found that in keeping the Divine commandments “there is great reward” ( Psalm 19:11). So Joshua found it: he adhered strictly to the Divine Law and success crowned his efforts; and that is recorded for our encouragement.
Let us not forget that “Godliness is profitable for all things: having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” ( 1 Timothy 4:8), yet that promise is conditioned by our keeping of the precepts.
THE PRIMACY OF GOD’S WORD We turn now to the closing portion of the great commission which Joshua received frown the Lord. We have already seen that it came to him after the death of Moses, and that it was concerned with Israel’s conquest and occupation of the land of Canaan (verses 1-4). We have contemplated the blessed assurances which Jehovah gave unto His servant, for the comforting of his heart and the strengthening of his hands (verse 5). We have pondered the general injunction which God laid upon the new leader of His people (verse 6), and sought to show its meaning and timeliness. We have also noted the particular application which the Lord made of that injunction unto Joshua, in requiring that he should be very courageous in regulating all his actions by the statutes He had given through Moses and placed on permanent record as an authoritative Rule for all who should succeed him, and how that He enjoined implicit and undeviating obedience from him, (verse 7), and endeavored to indicate the very real and practical bearing all of that has upon our spiritual lives today. In what we are now to ponder, we learn what more was demanded of Joshua in order to ensure a successful realization of all the foregoing. “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous and then thou shalt have good success” ( Joshua 1:8).
Joshua was to be guided and governed wholly by the written Word, which was something unprecedented, unique, No man before Joshua had received orders from God to regulate his conduct by the Words of a Book . True, Abram and his household obeyed God’s voice in keeping His commandments and His statutes ( Genesis 26:5). Moses too had acted by Divine authority, but each had received his instructions from the mouth of the Lord, But Joshua, and all who succeeded him, must be governed by “this Book of the Law” It is remarkable that Joshua and the Book come before us together, without any introduction, in the same passage: “and the Lord said unto Moses, Write this in a book and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua” ( Exodus 17:14) — the Book was prepared for Joshua; Joshua came to fulfill the words of the Book. The typical significance of that is at once apparent.
Let it be carefully noted that God’s Word, from its very first appearance as a book, occupies the same position, namely, the position of unqualified supremacy. It was set above Joshua: all his actions were to be regulated by it. Let us also observe that the authority of this Book is quite independent of its quantity or size. “The law of Moses”, “Moses and the Prophets”, “The Law, the Prophets and the Psalms” ( Luke 24:44) are descriptions of the same Book, differing in the quantity of its matter but not differing in its authority, nor in its relation to the people of God. “Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy” ( Revelation 1:3) is a declaration that applies with equal force to the Holy Scriptures in every stage of their compilation, from the opening chapters of “The Book of the Law” till the completion of the Sacred Canon. Let us further remark that in this first title given to the Bible in its earliest form, we have emphasized its leading characteristic: it contains more than good advice or salutary counsel — it is a “Law” binding upon us, a Law clothed with Divine authority, a Rule for us to walk by. “This Book of the Law” comprised the entire Pentateuch, the first five books (or chapters) of the O.T. It is not “these books of the Law” for all through the O.T. those five books are regarded as a unit. Now it is very rare indeed that we turn aside and pay any attention to the ravings of skeptics and infidels, but on this occasion we will depart from our custom.
It is one of the many erroneous allegations of the self-styled “Higher Critics” that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, but was composed at a very much later date — some say, in the time of king Manasseh; others, not until the days of Ezra. But over against this assertion, stands the fact that a definite “Book” is spoken of all through the O.T., as being constantly appealed to, with directions how it was to be preserved; and it should be of interest to our readers if we briefly outline the references to the same. The first mention of this “Book” is as stated above, in Exodus 17:14, and there we see it was written by Jehovah’s command, and (in the Hebrew) is designated the Book. “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord... and he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the audience of the people” ( Exodus 24:4,7), tells who was its first penman. “Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord” ( Numbers 33:2), and if we compare Deuteronomy 1:2,3 and Deuteronomy 2:14 it will be found that those “journeys” were from the early part of the first year after Israel came out of Egypt until the end of the thirty-eighth. “Moses wrote this Law and delivered it unto the priests, the sons of Levi” ( Deuteronomy 31:9) entrusting it to their custody, and verse 26 of the same chapter informs us he bade the Levites, “take this Book of the Law and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against them”. It is clear from verse 19 that copies were made of parts of it at least, but the standard copy was preserved in the side of the ark, which vessel was kept in the holy of holies. From that Standard copy each king of Israel was required to “write him a copy of this Law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites” ( Deuteronomy 17:18).
Once every seven years the whole of the Book of the Law was to be read in the hearing of the entire congregation. “And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seventh year, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord their God in the place which He shall choose, thou shalt read this Law before all Israel in their hearing...that they may learn and fear the Lord your God and observe to do all the words of this Law” ( Deuteronomy 31:11-13).
This was the Book by which Joshua was to be regulated. At a later date, the Spririt moved him to write therein ( Joshua 24:26), as Samuel also added portions thereto ( 1 Samuel 10:25). It was this Book Davit] had in mind when he prayed “teach me Thy statutes”; “order my steps in Thy Word” ( <19B912> Psalm 119:12, 133). When David drew nigh unto death, he gave this commission unto Solomon: “Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes and His commandments... as it is written in the Law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest” ( 1 Kings 2:1-4).
Alas, Solomon failed to heed that injunction, following too much the evil devices of his heart. The decline which began in his reign accelerated and continued many generations, and during that time “this Book of the Law” was lost to the people. In the days of Josiah, the high priest “found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord” ( 2 Kings 22:8), for He had guarded and preserved it despite Israel’s apostasy, and the godly king himself read “all the words of the Book of the Covenant” in the hearing of a vast assembly ( 2 Kings 23:2,3). Later, we find Ezra doing the same thing ( Nehemiah 8:1,8, 13:1). Daniel made reference to this Book; “the curse is poured upon us and the oath that is written in the Law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against Him” ( Daniel 9:11).
While the very last chapter of the O.T. contains this injunction, “Remember ye the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments” (verse 4); which completes the cycle. “This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth” ( Joshua 1:8).
No man, however dignified his position, is above the Law of God. Though exalted to be commander-in-chief over Israel, and thereby given great power and authority, Joshua himself must be in subjection to the Divine Law: he was to issue no orders save those which were authorized by the Rule given to him. He was to invent no new statutes or ordinances, but be regulated solely by what was written. If Joshua was to complete the work which Moses began, then he must maintain the Law which Moses had established. There was no need for him to make new laws: he was already furnished with a Divine and complete Charter, and that it was his business to heed and enforce. “To the Law and to the Testimony” he was to be held accountable, and if he spake not according thereto, then there was no light in him ( Isaiah 8:20), and those under him would be left in spiritual darkness. Just so far as he executed this commision would the smile of God be upon him and prosperity attend his efforts. “But thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein” ( Joshua 1:8).
Meditation upon the Word of God is one of the most important of all the means of grace and growth in spirituality, yea there can be no true progress in vital and practical godliness without it. Meditation on Divine things is not optional but obligatory, for it is something which God has commanded us to attend unto. The order which Joshua received was not restricted to himself, but is addressed to all of God’s people. Nor does it by any means stand alone. “Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day” ( Deuteronomy 32:46). “Ponder the path of thy feet” ( Proverbs 4:26); “Consider your ways” ( Haggai 1:7). “Let these sayings sink down into your ears” ( Luke 9:44), which they cannot do, unless they be frequently turned over in our minds. “Whatsoever things are true, venerable, just, pure, lovely... think on these things” ( Philippians 4:8).
Meditating in God’s Law day and night is one of the outstanding marks of the man whom He calls “Blessed” ( Psalm 1:1,2). It is a holy art and habit commended in the practice and example of the saints: Isaac ( Genesis 24:62), David (Psalm 119), the mother of our Lord ( Luke 1:19,51). But though meditation be a duty and a great moral and spiritual aid, it is practiced by few. The usual plea proffered by those who neglect it is, I am too busy, my life is so crowded with a multiplicity of duties and concerns, that, alas, I have not the necessary leisure for quiet ruminating.
Our first reply is, Then you are acting in the energy of the flesh and suffering yourself to be little better than a slave. God is no Egyptian taskmaster. Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light and if your “burden” be heavy it is a self-imposed one. God calls you to no manner of life which crowds out the needs of your soul and entails the neglect of your eternal interests. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” ( Colossians 3:2) is His unchanging call, and He has given no harsh and unreasonable precepts.
But this plea “I am too busy to engage in regular and spiritual meditation” is an idle excuse, yea it is worse — it is a deceit of your evil heart. It is not because you are short of time, but because you lack a heart for the things of God! “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” ( Matthew 6:21), and that which most occupies our heart will most engage the mind, for our thoughts always follow our affections; consequently the smallest actions, when we have no delight in them, are tedious and burdensome. Is it not money which most absorbs the attention of the miser? The voluptary thinks only of satisfying his senses. The giddy youth is concerned mainly with the pursuit of pleasure. The man of the world devotes his time and energies to acquiring wealth and honors. It is not lack of opportunity but of relish for the Word and a desire to please God which lies at the root of our failure here. Said David “O how love I Thy Law, it is my meditation all the day” ( <19B997> Psalm 119:97) — he evidenced his love for God’s Law by constantly pondering it! To him meditation was not a task but a joy.
You may seek an extenuation by appealing to numerous obligations and heavy responsibilities, but it is invalid before God. You certainly do not hold a more important position than Joshua did, nor are your tasks more numerous and exacting. Well did Matthew Henry point out, “If ever any man’s business might have excused him from meditation, and other acts of devotion, one would think Joshua’s might at this time. It was a great trust that was lodged in his hands: the conduct of it was sufficient to fill him if he had ten souls, and yet he must find time and thoughts for meditation.
Whatever affairs of this world we have on hand, we must not neglect the one thing needful”. We cannot expect the God of Truth to be with us if we neglect the Truth of God. Nor is reading it and hearing it preached sufficient: they produce but a transient effect upon us, but meditating on some portion of the Word, going over it again and again in our minds, deepens the impression, fastens the truth on our memory, and sets our hearts and hands a-work.
But let us carefully observe that meditation was not enjoined upon Joshua in a general way, but with a specific design: “thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that (in order that) thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein”. His mind was to be exercised upon God’s Word with a specific purpose and practical end: not simply to rest in contemplation, but in order to be regulated by its precepts, through a serious inculcating of them upon his heart. Meditation was not to be an occasional luxury, but the regular discharge of a constant duty — “day and night”, and this in order to a prompter, fuller and more acceptable obedience. God requires an intelligent, voluntary, and joyous obedience, and if we are really desirous of pleasing and glorifying Him we shall not only familiarize ourselves with His Word, but habitually ponder how its holy precepts may best regulate all the details of our daily lives. “I will meditate on Thy precepts, and have respect unto Thy ways” ( <19B915> Psalm 119:15) — the latter cannot properly be without the former.
It is easy to persuade ourselves we really desire that our lives may be wellpleasing to God, but what evidence can we produce that such a desire is genuine. That which is well-pleasing unto God is made known in His statutes: to what extent are our hearts and minds seriously engaged with them? It is by definitely recalling who is their Author that I am most likely to hold them in greater reverence and esteem, realize they are designed for my good, and bring my walk into fuller accord with them. It is only by repeated and prayerful meditation upon them that I shall perceive their spirituality and scope. For example, that the prohibition of any vice inculcates its opposite virtue: that the thing forbidden is not merely the overt act, but everything leading up to and stimulating the same. It is by meditating on the precepts we come to understand them, that our consciences are impressed by them, that our wills are moved to do them. “My hands also will I lift up unto Thy commandments, which I have loved, and I will meditate in Thy statutes” ( <19B948> Psalm 119:48).
First , a “lifting up of the hands”, which is an expression of varied significance, but here it means to make a diligent application unto the keeping of them. “Without thee shall no man lift up his hand” ( Genesis 41:44) — attempt to do anything. “Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Thine hand: forget not the humble” ( Psalm 10:12) — put forth Thine active power for their assistance. “Lift up the hands which hang down” ( Hebrews 12:12) — set them to vigorous use. It is, then, a figurative expression which imports a serious and deliberate setting about upon a course of action. “I will lift up my hands unto Thy commandments”: I will apply myself diligently to the keeping of them; I will earnestly endeavor to put them into practice; such is my solemn resolution.
Second , and in order to the carrying out of that resolution, “I will meditate in Thy statutes”. It is not enough to barely approve of them: they must also be performed — see James 1:22,1 John 2:4. If we would seriously address ourselves to a course of obedience, then we must use much forethought and meditation. God’s chief complaint against Israel of old was, “My people doth not consider” ( Isaiah 1:3). God’s statutes must be kept in mind and what they require from us constantly pondered. The longer we hold the Divine precept before the conscience, the more powerfully shall we be affected by it. We complain of our forgetfulness, but fail to take the right course to cure it: the Word is only fixed in our minds by turning it over and over in our thoughts. “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5: 17): grace does not act as a charm, but sets us a-work, and much care and labor is entailed in obtaining spiritual understanding — see Proverbs 2:1-5. “For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shall have good success”. Yes, “then”, but only then. We must comply with the required conditions. Walking in the path of God’s commandments alone ensures success in the spiritual warfare. God’s smile of approbation will not be upon us unless we walk as obedient children. Nor shall we possess our possessions and enjoy our heritage except as we conduct ourselves by the Divinely-given Rule. And in order to “observe to do according to all that is written therein” then we must “meditate therein day and night”! The designed use of this exercise is to bring the heart to a greater detestation of sin and a more diligent care to please God, and thereby we promote both our temporal and eternal welfare. We have dwelt the longer on these verses because they are of incalculable importance to the Christian life. If we would prosper as Joshua did, then we must act as he did!
This was the concluding part of the charge which Jehovah there laid upon His servant. For the third time Joshua was bidden to be courageous. The natural inference to draw from such repetition would be that he was a timid and cowardly man; but his previous record effectively disposes of such a conclusion. He was one of the twelve selected by Moses to spy out the Land. In his bold dissent from the gloomy report of ten of his fellows, and in his fighting of Amalek (Exodus 17) he had manifested himself as one possessed of valor. Yet God saw fit to press this injunction upon him repeatedly: as Matthew Henry pointed out, “Those that have grace, have need to be called upon again and again to exercise grace and improve it”.
Though that precept did not imply that Joshua was faint-hearted, it did import he would be faced with situations which called for the exercise of sterling qualities.
But let it be pointed out that there is a moral courage, as well as a physical, and not all possessing the latter are endowed with the former. How many who flinched not in the face of the enemy’s fire, were afraid to be seen reading God’s Word! There is also strength of mind and will, which refuses to be daunted by difficulties and dismayed by failures. Let it also be noted that that threefold call to act valiantly was not a mere repetition. In verse Joshua was bidden to be strong and of a good courage in view of the task before him — which demanded physical prowess. In verse 7 it was an injunction unto personal and moral courage: “that thou mayest observe to do according to all the Law” — to seek not counsel from his fellows, nor fear their criticisms, but to order all his actions by “the Book”. It requires more courage to keep to the old paths than it does to follow after novelties. A stout heart is indispensable in order to tread the path of God’s commandments. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage” (verse 9).
It seems to us this was more distinctly a call to the exercise of spiritual courage. In proportion as the child of God becomes aware of his own weakness and insufficiency, he is very apt to be cast down; instead, it should make him look outside himself and lay hold of the strength of Another. Was it not as though the Lord said to His servant: It is indeed unto a great undertaking I have commissioned thee, but let not a sense of thine own infirmities deter thee, for “have not I commanded thee”! It would be a great help unto Joshua if he kept his eye on the Divine warrant.
The same One who had issued the precept must be looked unto for enablement to the performance thereof. Christ Himself was borne up under His suffering by a regard to the Divine will: “as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do; Arise, let us go hence” ( John 14:31). “Have not I commanded them? Be strong and of a good courage”. It is not sufficiently realized that God’s commandments, equally with His promises, are addressed unto faith; yet a little reflection ought to convince us that such is the case. That which we are required to believe and take for our Rule is the Word of God as a whole, and a heart which has been turned unto the Lord and brought into loving subjection to Him does not delight in one part of it and despise another. The fact is we do not believingly receive God’s Word at all, unless we heartily receive everything in it: there are precisely the same reasons for our embracing the precepts as the promises. Yea, in one sense, it should be easier for us to be convinced of our present duty than to be assured of the future things promised us. It is by our obedience to the Divine precepts that our faith is to be tested and measured. Faith without works is dead. Faith worketh by love ( Galatians 5:6), and how can I express my love than by doing what God bids me: “he that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me” ( John 14:21). “I have believed Thy commandments”’ ( <19B966> Psalm 119:66). Have we? Do we clearly understand what is signified and included in that statement? To “believe God’s commandments” is to have a ready alacrity to hear God’s voice in them, for the heart to be suitably impressed and for our actions to be regulated by them. Faith always has to do with God Himself. It is the work of faith to acquaint us with the character of God and His attributes, and to be duly influenced in our souls by a sense of the same. Faith looks to His majesty as truly as it does to His love, and submits to His authority as truly as it delights in His grace. The precepts as much as the promises bind us to trust in God: the one issues from His lips and requires a response from us as much as does the other. The commandments are an expression of God’s will, binding us to our duty, and since they are not addressed unto sense, they must be given unto faith. There can, in fact, be no acceptable obedience unless it proceeds from faith — Hebrews 11:8.
Faith views the commandments as what God demands of me and therefore submits to His authority. As the promises are not really esteemed and embraced by us unless they are received as from God, so the precepts do not awe our consciences nor bring the will into subjection to them unless we accept them as Divine fiats binding upon us. If we actually believe God’s promises with a living faith, then our hearts are drawn off from carnal vanities, to seek our happiness in what they pledge us. In like manner, when we actually believe God’s precepts with a lively faith, our hearts are drawn off from a course of self-will, for we accept them as the only Rule to guide and govern us in the obtaining of that happiness; and thereby we submit ourselves to the Divine authority and conduct ourselves “as obedient children”. Nothing produces a real submission of soul but a conscious subjection to a “thus saith the Lord.”
Faith receives the commandments as coming from an all-mighty Lawgiver and therefore as One who is not to be trifled with, knowing “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” ( James 4:12). It is because the unregenerate do not believe in the majesty, authority, righteousness and power of God that they so lightly regard and despise His commandments. But faith realizes there is a Day of accounting, a Day of Judgment ahead, and keeps before it the penalty of disobedience. Hebrews 2:1-4 makes it clear that we ought to be as solemnly affected by the Divine Law and the majesty of its Promulgator as though we had been personally present at Sinai. But faith not only recognizes the authority of the Divine precepts but their excellency too. It sets too its seal that “the Law is holy, and the Commandment holy, and just and good” ( Romans 7:12).
When the apostle declared “I consent to the Law that it is good” ( Romans 7:16) he expressed his willingness and desire to be ruled by a perfect Law. A bare assent is not sufficient: there must be a consent too — a readiness to obey. “Consent” is a mixed act, in which the judgment and the will concur. The commandments are not only received as God’s, but they are highly valued and embraced as such. The more we are convinced of their excellency, the easier it is to obey them. “The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always” ( Deuteronomy 6:24).
Satan would fain have us think God’s Law is a severe and harsh one; but the Spirit assures us “His commandments are not grievous” ( 1 John 5:4). God has made an inseparable connection between the precepts and the promises: the latter cannot benefit us if we disregard the former — our peace and happiness depend on complying with the one as much as it does with the other. Our assurance of acceptance with God cannot be greater than the diligence of our obedience: see 1 John 2:4. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage, be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed”. Let it be duly noted that the Divine precepts are to govern our inner man as well as our actions. “Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts” ( Psalm 51:6). God’s commands require more than external conformity, including also the state of our hearts, and the spirit in which, we obey. Covetousness is as sinful as lying, anxiety as theft, despair as murder, for each is a disobeying God. The above command is addressed to us as truly as it was to Joshua, and so too is the promise that accompanies it: “For the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” — with us as “a very present help”. How that should encourage us to turn the precepts into believing prayer, looking to the Lord to work in us that which He requireth, and counting upon Him to do so! Then, can we, in the fullest sense say, “I have believed Thy commandments”.
Here then was an additional reason why the Lord should, three times over, bid Joshua “be strong and of a good courage”: “it was not written (not spoken) for his sake alone... but for us also” ( Romans 4:23,24), and that is why we have spent so much time upon these particular verses.
The directions given to Joshua for the conquering of Canaan and enjoyment of the promised heritage, are the instructions we must needs follow if success is to be ours in the warfare to which we are called. It is the “good fight of faith” in which we are to engage, and a life of faith consists first and foremost in a life of obedience to the Divine statutes, submitting ourselves to the authority of an invisible God, ordering our lives by the Rule He has given us. It consists in a trustful seeking of strength from Him that we may be enabled to do those things which are pleasing in His sight.
It consists in a laying hold of His promises as the incentive of our task.
But a life of faith calls for a stout heart, that we may not be daunted by either the difficulties or the dangers of the way. The flesh, the world and the Devil are arrayed against us, seeking our destruction. Nor are we called upon to engage them for a season only — it is a lifelong battle. Nor can we expect to avoid hardship or escape being wounded in such a conflict. Let the young Christian realize, then, that if he is to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ” ( 2 Timothy 2:3) he must “be strong and of a good courage”, and faint not though the march wearies, and be not dismayed when the enemy gains an advantage over him. He may be bested in the preliminary skirmishes, he may be hard put to it to so much as hold his ground for days together, but if he “endure to the end” — and for that fortitude, resoluteness, perseverance, as well as trusting in the Lord, are indispensable — victory is certain.