Joshua 1:10-18 (20 Sep 2009)
Last Sunday, we covered Joshua 1:1-8.
Joshua was “called to exercise faith”.
The reward for the exercise of faith was indicated to him.
The requirement for faith was also clearly spelt out to him.
The experience of Joshua is a spiritual lesson that each of us can apply into our lives.
Today, God willing, we shall consider verses 10-18 of Joshua 1.
This passage can be divided into 2 parts:
– Verses 10-11: where Joshua tells the Israelites to prepare for war and to move out from their current position.
– Verses 12-18: where we see Joshua reminding some tribes about a commitment they made to Moses
Let us begin with part 1: verses 10-11.
Joshua has already received his mission orders from God.
The land of Canaan has been promised to your forefathers, go and inherit it now.
With such directions received from God, he now issues specific commands to the Israelites to execute those directions.
He told the people to prepare to move and advance.
Now, moving house is never an easy thing to do as our Pastor’s family will tell you.
And Joshua gave the people 3 days to prepare to move.
I trust that you would have read Joshua 2 (the preparatory reading given out last week).
In Joshua 2, you would read of how Joshua sent 2 spies to Jericho on a spying mission.
Now, obviously such a spying mission would take more than 3 days to complete.
In other words, the events in chapter 2 must have taken place before verse 10 of chapter 1.
In Joshua 3, you will read about the commencement of their journey towards Canaan.
In other words, chapter 3 took place 3 days after verse 10 of chapter 1.
And it appears that the spies probably returned just before these 3 days of preparation to move were completed.
Now, I want to tell you that here is a typical series of events which we often call “battle procedure” in the army.
Joshua sent out the spies in anticipation of the war ahead.
He received his mission orders from the LORD.
He gave commands to Israel to prepare to move.
Meanwhile, the spies returned and provided a report of the place they were to capture.
So, whether to fight or not to fight is not a question for Joshua to ask.
He had already received his instructions to conquer Canaan.
That is the revealed will of God.
But that doesn’t mean that Joshua just needs to sit there and do nothing.
God has promised that Canaan will be conquered.
How to fight and what strategy to adopt is what Joshua had to prepare for.
How to conquer it and in a manner that minimizes casualties is the responsibility of Joshua.
In fact, even in that aspect, Joshua is given step-by-step guidance as we shall see.
He sends out the spies to survey the land to be conquered.
He tells the people to prepare to move out.
He does not take things for granted.
He carries out his human responsibility even as he knew (for sure) that God would bring His secret will to come to pass.
The land of Canaan will ultimately be captured.
This is the assurance for having faith in the LORD.
But Joshua had to carry out the human responsibility of “attacking” in order to possess the land.
Now, what would all these mean to us in this day and age?
Let me cite 2 applications for our learning here:
1) God has revealed in his word that He would call His elect into His kingdom
But He has also commanded that we should spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Who would God call into His kingdom?
Who is His elect?
We do not know and this is not for us to know; neither is it for us to ask.
Because that is God’s prerogative.
But what we do know is that His elect will be called in His own time.
And as we carry out His revealed will, we have an assurance that those He had chosen will respond to the gospel.
God has placed us together as a Church in this locality.
This is no chance occurrence.
When we started our Church here, we had less than half the people seated in this room.
But God has blessed us and answered our prayers.
In His own time, He will call His elect into His kingdom via His local Church here.
This is the assurance that we have.
His elect will respond not because we use any special technique or method in witnessing.
We are not to use means like concerts with special effects to sway people by emotions in our evangelism efforts.
We are not to use sales techniques to make the gospel appealing to people so that they respond.
Instead, we will only preach the pure word of God and appeal to the reason of sinners.
We will pray for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of His elect and call them effectually.
God’s elect will respond not because we are better than any other Church.
God’s elect will respond simply because God has chosen them and He is calling them.
We are to simply to carry out our responsibility in obeying His word and witnessing for Him.
Application No. 2:
The Bible tells us in Rom 8:28 that all things work for good to those who love Him and walk according to His purposes.
But does it mean that we can just do anything with our lives and take it that all things will end up good for us?
Does it mean that I can get drunk and take it that all things will work for good?
Does it mean that I need not study so hard for my exams and all things will work for good?
Does it mean that I can quit my job now and assume that all things will work for good?
Does it mean that if I am sick now, I can just sit there, do nothing and believe that all things will work for good?
You know that the answer is no, but why?
You see, those who truly hear this exhortation will seek to walk according to His purposes.
And that means turning from sin and seeking the glory of God.
As they seek to walk according to His purposes, they will sense the clear leading of God each step of the way.
And as they do so, God works out things for their good and according to His purposes.
The blessing is clear; the end result is clear; things will work for good.
But it is only applicable to those who truly love Him and walk according to His word.
Joshua knows that Canaan will certainly be conquered.
But his duty was to obey what has been prescribed before he can have victory.
If he doesn’t carry out his responsibility in this matter, who knows, perhaps Israel may win the war but suffer heavy casualties?
We won’t want to speculate, because God is sovereign in such matters.
But it is clear that man must be responsible and is totally accountable for all his deeds.
Some of you may be wondering – so what’s the point of prayer if God already knows what will happen?
Let me give you 2 reasons:
1) Firstly, God has commanded us to pray. (…list of verses).
That is a spiritual command.
We ought to obey it and when we do, it will bring us spiritual benefits.
2) Secondly, if you don’t, you will miss the joy of experiencing His presence and comfort with us as you journey in life.
Let me give you a simple analogy.
I have taken many taxis in Singapore and around the world.
I have encountered all kinds of different taxi drivers.
There are those who talk non-stop the moment I step into the taxi.
Some try to tell me their life story.
Some try to criticize their governments.
Some stop talking when they look at me and say “you look like you work for the government”.
I don’t enjoy such taxi rides.
On the other extreme, there are those who don’t say a word at all from the beginning to the end of my journey.
Even when it comes to paying them when I reach my destination, they look so grump for whatever reasons.
I don’t enjoy such taxi rides either.
But there are some rides that I really enjoy.
The drivers are courteous and the interaction is so pleasant.
They take away the strain of the journey and we have a mutually beneficial time together.
Friends, prayer is like your conversation with God.
If you are prayerless throughout your journey in life, no wonder you feel terrible about your journey in life.
If your prayers are constantly full of complaints only, no wonder you feel awful about your journey in life.
You may still get to your destination, but I am sure you may not enjoy your journey as much.
Communion with our Heavenly Father is a wonderful privilege.
You are missing out a lot if your prayer life is weak.
I hope you are clear about why prayer is such an important spiritual exercise.
We come now to part 2 of our meditation today – verses 12-18.
I trust you have done your preparatory reading from Numbers 32.
Let me summarise the context of what was happening and relate that back to Joshua 1:12-18.
Jordan is a long river stretching from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south.
Gilead is in the land on the east of the river Jordan.
Canaan lies on the west of the river Jordan.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad found good pastures on the east of the Jordan.
So, they requested that Moses allow them to settle there.
They wanted to take that piece of land as their inheritance.
In their minds, it doesn’t make sense to move westwards, cross the Jordan and then later return to settle in this land east of the river Jordan.
Remember that with them were sheep, cattle, children and senior folks who were not very mobile.
So, they were hoping that Moses would allow them to settle there.
It is being practical about convenience.
It made a lot of sense.
But this would mean that only 10 tribes would be left to fight the war against the Canaanites.
For the convenience of 2 trines, 10 tribes had to fend for themselves.
A nation would be divided.
That was why Moses was initially not agreeable to this suggestion.
In response, these 2 tribes suggested that they leave their families and possessions behind, while their able-men joined in the war with the other 10 tribes.
They suggested that they could return to their families after fighting the war.
This sounded like a reasonable compromise.
At least, this way, they could stay together as a nation.
But note well that as in any compromises, there are pitfalls.
For example, what if their families were attacked while the men were away fighting the war?
Who would defend them?
How can they even be so sure that they can come back alive?
You see, it is not because Moses was inflexible or being very rigid in his thinking.
There are always a lot of surrounding issues when you make compromises for the sake of some convenience.
But we note that Moses finally agreed to this request of the 2 tribes.
In fact, he even allowed half the tribe of Manasseh to stay in Gilead.
They promised that their men would go and fight, while their families would stay behind.
It is a case where Moses permitted this to take place; though he would have desired that it did not.
What we have now in Joshua 1:12-18 is Joshua reminding them of this commitment they made to Moses.
And we see them responding in unison that they will keep that promise they had made to Moses.
Now once again, what is the relevance of all these to us in this day and age?
I can suggest at least 2 applications:
1) Application No. 1
Many times, in God’s mercy, He overlooks our omissions and takes care of us.
These 2 tribes chose to leave their families behind while their men went to fight.
Yes, we had a happy ending ultimately.
God was merciful; He did not allow anyone to attack their families while the men were away.
It is not recorded for us whether Joshua kept an elite team to protect these 2.5 tribes who stayed on this side of Jordan.
But we know that it was well for them in the end.
We can only attribute this to the mercies of God that it went well for them.
In the same way, many times we are very presumptuous in our lives.
We forget to pray for many things; we overlook many things.
Yet, things went alright; we did not suffer severe consequences.
Friends, these are the mercies of God.
We thank God that He is merciful to us.
We thank God that He overlooks many of our omissions and short-comings.
We should not be complacent about these; we must not be presumptuous.
But we also realized that we can never have a contingency plan for everything.
That is why we must appreciate that God has been very merciful to us.
That is why we must learn that we must never take anything for granted.
We must learn to be thankful and to count our blessings.
Friends, if you are alive today, it is because of the mercies of God upon you.
You must not take that for granted.
If God gives you another day to live, you ought to live that day for Him.
And if you have not confessed your sins to Jesus, do not delay because you do not know if there is another chance for you to do so.
Our second application has to do with commitments.
These 2.5 tribes made a commitment to Moses that their men will fight with their brethren.
When it came to the crux of the matter, they fulfilled their commitment.
They did not shy away from it.
Neither did they shrug it off as a commitment made only to Moses and not Joshua.
They persevered in the commitments they have made.
I want to ask you about the commitments you have made in your life today?
It could be a commitment to your family or to your marriage.
It could be a commitment to the Church as a member.
It could be a commitment of your life to God.
Have you been faithful to these commitments?
I speak to the members of the Church.
Are you fulfilling and persevering in your commitments as members?
It is always easy to fulfill our commitments when times are good and convenient.
When there is no pain, no challenges, no trials – nothing that weights you down.
But what happens when some of these challenges come in the way?
Do you give up persevering in the commitments?
I want you to know that service to God is a live-long commitment.
Some people get active in Christian service early in their lives and then fade off when they get busier in their careers.
We thank God that in our Church many members have persevered in their service commitments to God for a long time.
I want to remind all of us that we need to constantly encourage them even as they persevere in their service to God.
When men in the 2.5 tribes left their families to help in the conquest of Canaan, their perseverance in commitments was certainly challenged.
Along the way, they will miss their families dearly.
They will be discouraged by fatigue, potential injuries and other circumstances.
The most tangible encouragement they have is the fact that they were together with God’s people.
Together with different families, together as a nation, together as a people worshiping the same God.
Friends, old testament Israel is a representation of the new testament Church.
As a Church, we have individuals and we have families.
And we all worship the same God.
We are not meant to live as individuals in our own world.
We are meant to support and encourage each other even as we live our spiritual lives.
Israel was on their way to their physical Canaan.
We, as a Church, are on our way to our spiritual Canaan, eternity in heaven.
Their leader was Joshua, God’s appointed leader for Israel.
Our leader is Jesus Christ, God Himself.
Israel found support and encouragement in their physical warfare from each other in their tribes and nation.
We are to find our support and encouragement in our spiritual warfare from each other here in Church.
To those who do not confess Christ as your LORD, I have this question for you:
Do you know that you are still wandering in the wilderness when the Christians are making their way towards their spiritual Canaan – eternity in heaven?
Why would you want to stay in the wilderness when there is a better place for you?
Do you know that one generation that was disobedient actually died in the wilderness without hope?
The same can happen to you unless you confess your sins to God and have Jesus as your saviour.
If you have not done so, I urge you to do so today.
Some of you profess faith, but are not members of any local Church.
I need you to understand what I see plainly in the word of God here.
Israel was meant to conquer Canaan as a nation, made up of tribes and families.
Each person entering Canaan was either a member of a family or a tribe before he is part of the nation entering Canaan.
This was the way he would receive support, encouragement, care, admonition as well as rebuke and discipline.
If he gets injured along the way, the respective family or tribe would take care of him.
This is the prescribed way to enter the physical Canaan.
In the new testament, we are told in Heb 10:28 not to forsake Christian fellowship.
This is the prescribed way of entering our spiritual Canaan.
The elect of God are to be part of local Churches.
If you are not committed to any Church as a member, you are not aligned to God’s prescribed way of entering our spiritual Canaan.
How are you to receive care, admonition, rebuke and discipline?
What if you become a casualty along the journey?
Who would know and who would be in a position to minister to you without a defined relationship?
As I mentioned earlier, in our omissions, God has been merciful.
But we must not be presumptuous, complacent or take it for granted.
The revealed will of God tells us that every Christian ought to be committed to a local Church.
I urge you to carefully consider this application.
Let me now draw our meditation to a close.
There were 2 parts to our study today:
In the first part, Joshua told the people to prepare for war, for in 3 days they will move out.
Joshua knows that Canaan will certainly be conquered.
But he carried out his responsibility in obedience to secure the victory.
God is sovereign; but man is also responsible and accountable for all his deeds.
In the second part, Joshua spoke to the 2.5 tribes staying behind east of the River Jordan.
He reminded them of the commitment they made to Moses.
We learnt about commitments and God’s prescribed way for us to enter our spiritual Canaan.
Let us pray.