Bible Studies in Book of Joshua
Spiritual courage in walking in your inheritance
By Fraser Gordon
We have been travelling with the nation of Israel from Egypt through to Canaan recently and last time we looked at the death of Moses. I want to carry on this theme as we now enter into the Promised Land in our Canaan journey. So our studies will be from a new book now – the book of Joshua.
Why couldn’t Moses take them in?
Joshua 1:1-2 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: (2) Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them--to the Israelites.
So the first thing you are confronted with is the statement that ‘Moses my servant is dead’. It is as if God is telling Joshua here that there is a big change happening at this point. Do you remember when we looked at Moses, who typified the law, how he could only take the nation of Israel so far? Being a type of the law, Moses could only take them up to the river Jordan on the borders of Canaan. Now as a type, Canaan is not heaven; it is all of the spiritual blessings that God had given to a redeemed people. It is a land that He had prepared for them. It is what Ephesians talks about in that we have been blessed in the heavenly places, we have been blessed in a risen Christ with all spiritual blessings and we are to go forward and obtain all of the blessings that God has given to us in the risen Christ. Israel needed a new leader to be able to actually take them in. In the same way, we have a new leader. The law can only take us so far. It can show you what sin is and convict you of sin, but it cannot take you into the blessings that God has for you. You need a new leader - the Lord Jesus Christ. The name Joshua means ‘Jehovah saves’, which is another title for Jesus, Savior. It is only the risen Lord Jesus Christ that can actually forgive us of our sins and also lead us into all that God has for us. So a new leader is needed. This statement “Moses my servant is dead” is as if God is saying ‘the old ways have passed away and so I am calling you to lead this people into the nation in a new way.’
What do we know about Joshua?
So what do we know about Joshua? Up to this point we really only know a lot about Moses. In the scriptures you get a picture of Moses’ life from the cradle to the grave. However, it is very different with this other saint Joshua. Apparently, at this point, he is about 60 years old when he has to take over the leadership of Israel. We know that they spent 40 years going round and around the wilderness. So looks as if he was 20 years in Egypt under slavery. The bible doesn't give us any insights into Joshua's life during those 20 years. There is only one mention and that is that he was the first born son of Nun. So he was the eldest son and as the eldest son when the nation had to come out of Egypt what did they have to do for the firstborn? They had to cover the doorpost of their house with blood so that the angel of death would pass over, and their firstborn would be safe; a picture that the blood of Christ must be applied over our hearts for us to be secure in Him. So Joshua would have had this done by his father on his behalf and without reading too much into it, if that was you it would actually have a big bearing on your life having been saved by the blood that was over the doorpost. There is really nothing else given in that first 20 years concerning Joshua. He is an obscurity. The Holy Spirit doesn't reveal anything, but it doesn't mean that he wasn't being prepared during that time.
The first mention of Joshua is when he is leading the nation of Israel in battle against the Amalekites. The law of first mention in Scripture is always important. When a person, a king or a principle is first mentioned you always get an insight into some part of their character. So, if you remember, Moses was on the top of the hill with his hands raised and Joshua is down on the battle ground with the sword in his hand, fighting the Amalekites. This is the first mention of Amalek and in the bible they are a picture of the flesh nature. Amalek was the grandson of Esau and the same sin principle that was in Esau was in the Amalekites. They have no time for God and no time for His purposes. They continually attack the stragglers at the rear; the weak and vulnerable; which is exactly what our flesh nature is like. It doesn't have any time for God. It will hinder you and continue to hinder you. So the first mention of this leader who we are now going to follow is that he is a man of war, and that there is a spiritual battle going on in that war and Joshua is right at the front of it.
The next mention is where he was actually Moses’ assistant during the 40 years in the wilderness. Do you remember when Moses went up the Mount to receive the tablets? It says in Exodus 24 that both Joshua and Moses went up Mount Sinai but Joshua could only go partway. Only Moses was called to enter the cloud and go to the top into God’s presence. Aaron was back down with the nation, Moses was up in the presence of God, and Joshua was sort of stuck in between and had had to wait there until Moses came down - a period of 40 days and he didn't know how long Moses was going to be. So that is the other little insight that you get into this man, that he is a faithful man; faithful to Moses as his assistant, and also in serving God. We have spoken before about the 12 spies and how that Joshua was one of those chosen to go and spy out the land. Only Caleb and Joshua had enough faith to say “yes, God has given us this land”. However, because of the unbelief of the other ten spies, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and Joshua had to wait with the nation of Israel. So again you have a picture of the faithfulness of this man in that he waited with the nation. What they went through he had to go through until they eventually all died off. So you get this picture that he was a man of war, a man of faith, but also a man that God had in the wilderness for a long period of time before he stepped forward to be a leader. God's preparation is actually like that. Moses was 40 years learning the wisdom of all the Egyptians, and 40 years in the backside of the desert learning that he was an absolute nothing before God appeared to him one day in a bush. God said “I have a plan for you.” Joshua is the same. We should never, ever, be in a hurry because we don't know what God is doing with us. A lot of times we feel as if we are in the wilderness. We are in no man's land. God is doing nothing with us and this is dry and it's dreary and I am surrounded by unbelief but God has His plans. When He wants to make an oak tree He takes 100 years. When He wants to make a squash He takes 6 months. Joshua gives us this picture of 40 years preparation. Even the Lord Jesus Christ spent 30 years in obscurity. He didn't do anything for 30 years except relate to His Father. And yet when He came to John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan God said “this is My Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” What had He done for 30 years? He pleased God. So we should never be in a hurry, for God takes His time and He knows what He is doing. Now Joshua’s time has come. ‘Moses My servant is dead now therefore arise.’ So there is no rush with God because He knows exactly what He is doing. Joshua had been playing second fiddle so far and he was probably quite comfortable about not being in control, but now it is his time and God is going to use him.
Ephesians – The “Joshua” equivalent of the New Testament
Joshua 1:3-4 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. (4) Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates--all the Hittite country--to the Great Sea on the west.
Ephesians says that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. But you actually have to step forward into all that God has given you. It says “that every place that the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you” So you have got to move forward with God into these things. I read this week that this whole area of the land is something like 300,000 square miles. That is how big an area the Lord had actually given to the nation of Israel. They went in and conquered a certain amount of that land. Do you know how much they did conquer out of all that God had given them? 30,000 square miles, so it was one tenth. One tenth! They were given 300,000 square miles and they actually only subdued and obtained one tenth of all that God had given to them. When I read that, I thought, that is probably very true, because Ephesians tells us that we are accepted in the beloved, we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ, and we have been given all spiritual blessings in Him. We have our feet down here on the ground, but our position is something completely different. But how much of that do we actually obtain as a reality? Not a tenth! God is always urging us, just as He did with Joshua, saying “every place that the sole of your foot stands on, that is what I have given to you.” You are to walk forward.
The constant need for courage
Joshua 1:5-9 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. (6) Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. (7) Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. (8) Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (9) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
Now I just want to have a look at verses 5-9 because what sort of leader is God choosing? What is the consistent theme here that God keeps telling Joshua? “Be strong and courageous.” God tells him this three times. Why do you think God spoke the same words to Joshua three times? I believe that Joshua in his natural self, even though he was a man of war, was still fearful; he was afraid. He has responsibilities now. Sometimes it is quite nice being second fiddle, not being the guy that all the responsibility falls on. I believe that Joshua was actually like this. He was fine when Moses was there, but now Moses is dead. Fear is ingrained in us; it really is, right from the fall. The first effect with Adam was that he ran. He ran from God because he was afraid of Him. When you look at the type of leader that God is choosing here I am encouraged that He hasn't chosen a super duper human being, because none of us actually are like that. We are all fearful, we are afraid of things, all different things. Some of us are afraid of responsibility, some are afraid of sickness. Others are afraid of death or fearful of financial situations. Some people are afraid of being alone, whereas some are afraid of worst case scenarios or difficult situations. There are lots and lots of things that can frighten us because fear is ingrained in us. In some respects it is not always a negative thing because fear can heighten the senses. You can get a rush of adrenalin that is needed because of fear.
Have you ever laid in your bed and been woken at night because you heard a noise? Well the other night I was awoken and I knew someone was in the house. I had heard a noise and so instantly my ears were tuned. My eyes could not adjust at all, but then I knew that there was someone in the room. I laid there and thought - I have two options now, it’s either a robber or it’s a kid. My adrenalin started pumping - boom, boom, boom. Which one is it? I was listening really intently and I couldn't see anything so thought what do I do? So I made a guess and called my young daughter’s name, – Ella – and her head popped up from the end of the bed like a mere cat. She said “I can't sleep Dad” and so she was lying down on the floor at the end of the bed. Fear is not always a negative thing but controlling fear, that is another thing altogether and God is calling to Joshua “be strong and of good courage.”
Oswald Sanders said this thing about courage: ‘Courage of the highest order is demanded of Christians; always moral courage and sometimes physical courage as well.’ Moral strength and courage come from faith in the sovereignty of God and the provision of God. Courage is a quality of mind that enables men to encounter danger and difficulty with resolve, in spite of inner fears. Courage is not the absence of fear but fear is no longer allowed to dominate. I thought that is so true, no matter what God is calling you and I to today, fear will be there, courage is not the absence of it but a state of mind where you actually do not let fear dominate. It is a trust in God, and in the sovereignty of God, that He is actually with you---like He said to Joshua “I will never leave you or forsake you, be strong and courageous”.
Do we need courage to be a Christian? We need moral courage and as Oswald Sanders said sometimes physical courage. For us in the West it is very much moral courage. The persecuted church needs both. In one sense we are incredibly blessed that our lives and our family’s lives are not on the line for standing up for the Lord Jesus Christ. But for huge amounts of Christians in this world that is their calling; they need both moral and physical courage as everything is on the line. For us here, we are going against the tide, and there is no doubt that we need courage to be effective as Christians.
Here is a little story I heard only last month. We camped this Christmas and the kids made friends with a family from Auckland that had 4 kids. Ella, my daughter, told me this story later on that day. It seems that when they were in the tent playing games and talking, for some reason the subject of Christianity came up with their new friends. My son Jack started to talk to them about God and about Christianity. These other kids didn't agree and didn't believe but Jack stuck to his guns. Ella, when she was telling us said “I was really embarrassed because I thought Jack might have gone too far, and they wouldn't want to be our friends any longer! That was Ella’s perspective. She was afraid of what her friends would think about them being Christians, and would they hang out with them anymore? However, later one of the 8 year olds came back to Jack and said “What do I have to do to become a Christian because I am interested.” Jack told him that you have to invite Christ into your heart and follow Him and he said “Yes, I am interested but don't tell my brother and sisters.” That is just like kids! But it also reminded me of the courage we all need to share Christ and not be fearful of what others think.
1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.
Biblical examples of courage
There are plenty of examples in scripture of both. What about when David faced Goliath? There you have physical courage that he actually had to oppose the man who was opposing the Living God and even though he was just a boy really, he went out to face this giant when everyone else was afraid. Joshua here is going to have to go into the land and do battle with all of these nations. God has given him the land but he is going to have to fight for it. He is going to have to be strong and courageous. Esther needed courage for that moral decision to go before the king on behalf of her people, but she said within her heart ‘If I perish I perish.’ We don't know what is around the corner or what may come to us in the West, but we are going to need courage. The German churches would never have envisioned that Hitler would one day call them all in and say “I want the swastika to be in the front of all your churches!” There were a group of men like Bonheoffer and some associates who opposed Hitler's ideas, but they represented only about one third of the churches. Two thirds of the Christian churches adopted what was put before them but one third had the courage to say that this was actually wrong. So courage is vital and it comes from knowing that God is sovereign and God is with you in whatever it is you are facing.
One courageous Gladys!
Over Christmas there was a book that was given to the kids. It was a book on the life of Gladys Aylward the missionary. I really enjoyed it - it was such a good book. When you read about how she went to China on her own, the book shows how courage just poured out of her. She was a single lady who was a maid in England. She was disqualified from missionary school because she failed the test - didn't get high enough grades. However, she believed that God had called her to China so she worked as a maid and saved up enough money to buy a train ticket and took a train from England right up into Russia, nearly got put in the work camps in Russia but was radically delivered out of there and arrived in China. Her life story just blew me away because she just took one step forward and expected God to work on her behalf. There is a movie about her extraordinary journey when she took a hundred children out of an orphanage to escape the Japanese when they invaded China in 1930s. She had to lead all these kids out over the mountains but she was so courageous and God did amazing things through her. The movie is called ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.’ At one point the whole prison in her area was rioting and prisoners were slaughtering each other. The authorities and prison guards were too afraid to go in so they called Gladys and said “We want you to go in and stop the fighting.” She replied “Why me?” They said “Well you always preach that you cannot die and you have a living God.” So she thought “What do I do? God is put on trial here.” Then she said “Okay, if I die, I die, I am going to step in there,” and so she walked right into the middle of the prison, and there were bodies lying everywhere, and the prisoners were just killing each other because they had gone berserk. She stood right in the middle and said “I command you to stop” and they all just stopped. They all came around her and she ended up having a whole prison ministry from going in there. She talked to them all about Christ and many of them came to the Lord. But she had enough courage and strength to go into there in the first place. When I read this about ‘be strong and of good courage’ I instantly thought of her because I had just read the book. She just believed that God would go before her in whatever circumstance she found herself in and she didn't let fear dominate. We need to take God at His word and believe that He can act on our behalf.
Conclusion: Where does courage come from?
So when it comes to being strong and courageous, Joshua 2:7-9 tells us there are certain things which he is exhorted to do. He is told that he is to “be careful to observe the things of God and to do according to all the Law of Moses and do not turn from it to the right or to the left.” In other words you have got to be absolutely single minded about the things of God. Joshua was told that the book of the Law was not to depart from his mouth; he was to be focused continually on the words of God.
The second thing was that he should meditate in it day and night. Now in our day of instant everything, it is actually really hard to find quiet time. We have so much technology which is supposed to make life easier for us but we have become far too complicated and busy. Do you meditate upon God's word? Do you put time aside to actually think about what God is saying? Do you make time? This is what it comes down to. We always make time for the things that we enjoy or want to do.
It is said of Jonathan Edwards, an American who used to do a lot of walking and riding. Whenever he was doing this, he would make notes of the things that had come to him and pin them on his coat. Upon arrival at home he would write out all those thoughts fully. They say that sometimes, when you saw him, his whole coat would be covered in notes. Here is someone who took it seriously when he was out walking and had a thought about God or scripture. When he arrived home he would dig and delve into that thought a lot more. That is what it really means to meditate; that you dig a bit deeper into the small things that you may be thinking about. John Bunyan had this written in the front of his Bible “This book will keep you from sin and sin will keep you from this book” So simple, but very true. If you want to be courageous, if you want to be victorious, then you are to surround yourself with the truth in God’s Word and then you will have good success. As it was for Joshua, so it will be for us.