Joshua 1:1-8 (13 Sep 2009)
Last Sunday, our brother Nam Tuck (from FERC) gave us an exhortation entitled “Be strong and of good courage”.
Today, we shall continue our study on the book of Joshua.
The book of Joshua is a historical record of Israel’s history from God’s perspective.
This is different from history that you can read from any history text book.
Because history in the bible presents the progressive revelation of God’s redemption plan for His people.
And in this history recorded in the bible, we will see 2 things:
1) Lessons for our Christian lives.
1 Cor 10:11 “Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.”
There are precious lessons to be learnt from the good and bad examples of those who lived in the past.
2) Secondly, and even more importantly, we also see doctrines for our faith portrayed in the form of types and symbols.
In John 5:46, Jesus said “If you believe in Moses, you would believe in Me, for he wrote about Me.”
Now, did Moses at all mention the name of Jesus Christ in the first 5 books of the bible?
The answer is no.
Unless, of course, you see Christ portrayed in types and symbols in the Old Testament.
Friends, this is important because if Israel had their eyes opened to these types and symbols in the old testament, they would not have rejected their Saviour.
Therefore, it also tells us that the bible must never be read as a novel or a history book per se.
It must be read with prayer, meditation and diligent seeking of the Lord.
And in this book of Joshua, we see Joshua portrayed as a fore-shadow of Christ in his role to Israel.
And we see him leading Israel towards Canaan – which is a land promised to the physical descendents of Abraham.
In spiritual representation, this portrays the manner in which Christ leads the Church towards our spiritual Canaan – which is heaven in eternity.
But Joshua only led Israel in a limited and partial way into an earthly rest.
Jesus Christ, our Lord, would lead the Church in a perfect and final way towards our heavenly rest.
With all that as the background, I will now present the first 8 verses of Joshua 1 under the following 3 parts:
1) Part 1: verses 1-2 which I shall label as a “Call for faith”
2) Part 2: verses 3-5 which I shall label as a “Reward for faith”
3) Part 3: verses 6-8 which I shall label as the “Requirement for faith”
Part 1: a “Call for faith” verses 1-2
Moses, who has been leading Israel for over 40 years has died.
Joshua is now the new leader of Israel.
How would you feel if you were Joshua?
You have a predecessor whom the people where so familiar with and had so much respect for.
A predecessor whom God speaks to personally.
What a tough act to follow.
What a leader to be compared against.
And God says to Joshua, “..arise and go over this Jordan”.
Now, this is a daunting task, a very tall order.
Go over Jordan?
This is no small river.
It is larger than the strip of water between Singapore and Johore.
How would you get a nation of people across such a large river?
There were easily more than 1 million people altogether, including women, children and many old people.
Go over Jordan?
In the Singapore Armed Forces, I used to be (and still am) a combat engineer.
My job was to solve such river crossing problems.
What we would do is to plan the construction of a bridge.
If the river was too wide, we will use rafts to ferry all the military vehicles across the river one or 2 at a time.
Well, all these are relying on man-made means.
That is not faith.
In Joshua’s situation, he had no boats, no bridges, no floatation devices at all.
And yet he must believe that God would open a way for him.
God has reviewed His will for Israel to cross over the Jordan.
So, what we have here is a “call for faith” for Joshua.
He had seen all the miracles God had done for Israel through Moses.
But all that while, he had Moses as the leader.
Joshua was merely in the background.
But now, Joshua is at the helm.
There is no more sheltering from directly leading the people.
He was called to lead this task.
He was called to exercise faith publicly.
Friends, has the time come that you too must exercise faith publicly?
Perhaps it is a personal situation you are encountering.
You know the clear instruction of the Lord.
You know that it is hard to do that which is required of you.
Perhaps the call is being issued to you, just as it was issued to Joshua.
“Arise and go over this Jordan”
And you are to exercise faith publicly.
Or perhaps you are someone like Joshua who had seen others around him exercising faith.
But you have always stayed in the background.
Perhaps you have seen your parents and friends exercising their faith in Jesus Christ.
You cannot understand why these people you know are putting their entire hope in Him.
Perhaps the call is being issued to you in these words of the Lord:
“Arise and go over this Jordan”.
You cannot get the reward of Canaan unless you first take this first step of faith to cross the river Jordan.
There is no life in heaven for you unless you first believe in Jesus Christ;
Unless you first give up your life of sin and unbelief and turn to the Lord in faith.
This is the “call of faith”.
It was issued to Joshua.
It was issued to many saints in the past.
It is issued to all of us who live for the Lord today.
And for those who respond to this call of faith and exercise it, there is a reward.
And this is part 2 of our meditation today.
2) Part 2 is from Verses 3-5 and I have labeled it as the “Reward for Faith”
Now, there are 2 aspects that I want to point out concerning the Reward for Faith.
First, there is the ultimate reward for faith.
In the case of Joshua, the immediate ultimate reward for faith is the inheritance of the physical land of Canaan.
In our case, the ultimate reward for faith in Jesus Christ is eternity with Him in our heavenly Canaan.
But secondly, I want to point out to you that there is also a current “reward for faith”.
God says to Joshua in verse 5 “as I was with my servant Moses, so I will be with you.”
God says to Joshua “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Friends, this is the greatest blessing one can ever have here on earth.
The presence of God with you in all that you do.
The presence of God in the manner He had been with Moses.
When God was with Moses, he opened the Red sea.
If God will be with Joshua, surely he could open the River Jordan (and he actually did when we come to Joshua 3)
Now, I am sure that many of us believe that God, omnipresent, will be with us wherever we go.
The question is whether we can sense His presence all the time.
What do I mean by this?
Let me give you an example.
Some of you know that I once the manager of Dell Singapore.
That was a really stressful job.
And I brought the stress with me wherever I went, whoever I met.
My wife used to tell me when I was with my family, “you are there but you are not present”.
What she meant was that, yes, I was physically with my family, but my mind and my thoughts were still with my job.
By God’s providence, I am no longer with that company.
But I hope you understand what I am trying to illustrate regarding our sense of God’s presence with us.
The problem with us is that we are so occupied with the things we have to do everyday.
And therefore, we lose sight of this promise and this fact that God is omnipresent.
And so we also lose the experience of this potential great reward for faith.
There was a man by the name of Enoch in Gen 5:24.
The bible tells us that Enoch walked with God.
What that meant was that Enoch was conscious of the presence of God each step that he took.
Enoch was constantly in touch with God.
It was just like 2 people walking with each other and discussing what they see around them as they walked.
And Enoch was one of 2 people recorded in the bible who were taken to heaven without experiencing physical death.
Someone once said something like this: “The joy of a journey is not only in the destination, but more importantly, in the camaraderie of having walked it together”.
Friends, your pilgrimage in life could be more enjoyable if you can be constantly aware that God is walking with you.
What a wonderful experience it must be to be able to sense the presence of God with you always.
Those who exercise faith in Jesus will ultimately in heaven get the reward for their faith.
But they can also enjoy a wonderful reward for faith even when they are here on earth.
And this is in the form of God’s presence with them.
Christian friends, are you missing out on this?
If you are, seek Him today.
We come now to part 3 verses 6-8, which I have labeled “The Requirement for Faith”.
We always like to talk about rewards.
But before you can get the rewards, you must understand the requirements.
And there are 2 key requirements spelt out for us regarding the “Requirement for Faith”.
First, Joshua was to be strong and of good courage.
Last week, our brother Nam Tuck had elaborated extensively on being strong and of good courage.
I shall not repeat that today.
Secondly, Joshua was required to observe and carry out everything in the law of God.
You have memorized Verse 7 “…do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left….”
Now, there are 2 aspects to “carrying out everything in the law of God”.
Firstly, before you can carry out everything in God’s law, you must know the law itself in the first place.
This means that you must give time to studying God’s word.
My friends, how often do you read your bibles?
How often do you read Christian books?
Do you give time to bible studies?
Those who are still students, I want to say this to you:
If you cannot be disciplined to give time to studying God’s word as a student, you will find it hard as an adult to do so.
Your life will get busier and busier every day.
Unless you are determined to know God’s word, you will never give time to studying it.
I want to encourage you to develop this habit of studying your bible when you are still students.
If you do not know how to do it, come and talk to me later and I will give you some guidance on this matter.
Know your bible well and you will know how to live your life well.
Secondly, it will not do you good studying the bible and possessing lots of theological head knowledge alone.
Those with lots of head knowledge will end up being puffed up.
They will constantly seek to debate their knowledge with other people.
Our knowledge of the scriptures must lead us to spiritual growth and holier lives.
Hebrews 12:14 reminds us that “…without holiness, no man will see the Lord.”
The elect of God will grow in holiness as you grow in the knowledge of the Lord.
Friends, this is not an area where you can make excuses in.
Each one of us will have to give an account of our lives to God (Heb 9:27).
God requires absolute obedience from us.
This is a “requirement of faith”.
Do not turn to the right hand or to the left.
There must be no compromise at all.
If you are entertaining an occasional sin, I want you to know that this is a compromise that the scriptures do not permit.
If you are harbouring a habitual sin, I want you to know that you must put an end to it before that sin puts an end to you.
In this Internet age, it is so easy for us to give in to sin.
I recently read this book entitled “7 Snares of the Devil” by Erwin Lutzer.
And he listed 7 most common sins that he constantly had to deal with as a pastor counseling his flock:
1) Greed (which is linked to all forms of covetousness)
2) Gambling or any form of betting or playing with chances
3) Alcoholism or any form of addiction
4) Pornography (and I want to warn you that you must resist this on the Internet)
5) Sexual affairs (there’s been so much written about this in the last 2 weeks in the StraitsTimes)
6) The Search for Pleasure (and instant gratification)
7) Occultism which includes astrology, soothsaying, new-age healing or transcendental meditation
And one of the common problems that Erwin Lutzer found was that many people (including Christians) were secretly indulging in these sins.
For lack of a better analogy, I will use the example of an itch to illustrate the effects of these sins on you.
When I wear my army uniform, I have put on my boots.
The boots are tight and do not give the skin around my feet much breathing space.
Now, I have sensitive skin.
Each time I take off my boots, the skin will itch terribly.
When I scratch it, it feels good because it seems to give some relief to the urge of the itch.
But the moment I scratch it, I want to scratch more because the sensation is good.
But most times, I end up scratching till the skin breaks.
Then comes the pain; I wished I did not scratch it at all.
But once the skin grows back, I start scratching again.
And I don’t seem to learn even after my skin has broken times from the scratching.
Finally, I had to break the cycle.
I sought help from the doctor for cream to apply to my skin.
I also resist the scratching and immediately wash my feet after removing my boots.
Now, the same is true with sin.
When you are first tempted, it gives you a sensation as if you need to scratch it.
The moment you succumb to the temptation, you will feel as if the sensation is given relief.
But the more you succumb, the greater the eventual pain and the greater the regret will be.
And you wished you had resisted the temptation.
Friends, never go near to temptation; never allow yourself to “scratch it”.
“Submit yourself to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” James 4:7
Friends, sin stings and stinks; never let it ruin the God-given potential you have in your lives.
How do I know all these?
Because I am a sinner just like all of you.
And the bible that I have read tells me exactly what sin is like and exactly what I am like.
If not because of the grace of God, I would have been doomed.
I thank God for Jesus Christ and what He has done to redeem us.
Friends, I do not know if any of you are ensnared by any of those 7 commons sins I indicated above.
I do not know if you are having a secret problem with it.
If you do, I urge you to talk to our Pastor (or you could talk to me) so that we can try to help you.
It is better that you get help rather than miss out your ultimate reward for faith because you are ensnared by these sins.
The more you are alone, the greater the temptation to fall into these snares of the devil.
If you own a computer, especially the students, I suggest you access it in an area at home where you family is with you.
Do not give any opportunity for the devil to give you that itch.
Be ready to let you parents check your computer – that would a sign that you are not in any secret indulgence.
Spend time with your Church friends for this is the means that God has provided to keep you from sinful practices.
I want you to understand that God does not want you to compromise His law so that He can bless you.
Verse 7 says “..Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.”
Verse 8 says “..then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
You will have success only when you are carefully upholding God’s law, not turning to the right or left.
You will not have success in your life if you are harbouring secret sins.
Let me summarise our key points for today.
First, Joshua was called to exercise faith.
So are we in the respective situations we face in our lives.
Secondly, there is a reward in the exercise of faith.
In the case of Joshua, it was the inheritance of the promised land.
For us it is eternal life with God in heaven.
There is also the blessedness of the presence of God as a current reward for faith.
Thirdly, there is a requirement for faith.
First, Joshua was to be strong and courageous.
In the same way, we are called to be strong and courageous when faced with trials and temptations.
Secondly, Joshua was to do all that was required in the law of God without compromise.
Only then will he find success wherever he went.
Let us be encouraged by these exhortations from the word of God.