by Sam E. Stone
The Israelites were “standing on the doorstep” of the land promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. After spending 430 years in Egypt, the people were finally free. Moses had led them through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Last week we found the children of Israel had come to the Jordan River preparing to enter the promised land. Joshua was confirmed as their new leader, succeeding Moses who had recently died.
Courage from God/Joshua 1:7-9
“Be strong and very courageous,” God commanded Joshua. “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you.” Success in taking over the land of Canaan was assured only if the people were obedient to the Lord’s command (Deuteronomy 8:1; 11:8, 22-25).
God then repeated and expanded his words of reassurance to Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous” (see v. 9). Coupled with these encouraging words was a clear command: “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you.” This indicates the book referred to in Deuteronomy 31:24, 26 (see also 31:9, 11). “Do not be terrified.” Fear is often addressed in Scripture—as with the shepherds (Luke 2:9, 10), the disciples in the boat (John 6:20), and after the resurrection (Matthew 28:5). God’s presence can remove all fear from his children.
Commands by Joshua/Joshua 1:10-15
So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready.’” This command makes clear that Joshua has assumed full command of the Israelites. Interestingly, he did not tell the people to get their weapons of warfare ready, but instead their supplies—food and other equipment needed for the journey.
Hugh Blair observes, “It seems that the spies had already been sent out, though the account of their mission is not recorded until later; the account does not follow the chronological order of events.” W.W. Winter suggests that Joshua may have sent spies to Jericho on the same day he issued orders to the people.
A special condition existed, however. Two and a half tribes had already received their inheritance from Moses—land along the east banks of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. Moses had granted them the land area that they requested, but he did so on one condition. They had to promise that they would fight to win the remaining land for the other tribes west of the Jordan (see Numbers 32:20-30).
Joshua added, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: ‘The Lord is giving you rest and has granted you this land’ . . . . but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you.” This maintained unity among all the tribes. Once the promised land was completely conquered, those from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh could return and occupy their homeland, just as Moses had promised them. With his words Joshua reviewed the arrangement and confirmed that he would follow God’s directions as well. Since Moses was dead, it was important that the people reaffirm both their obedience and Joshua’s leadership.
Commitment of the People/Joshua 1:16-18
“Whatever you have commanded us we will do.” This is what every Christian should say to Jesus. The old song put it this way: “What he says we will do, where he sends we will go—Never fear, only trust and obey.” In the case of the Israelites, such solidarity and loyalty would be essential if they were to conquer the Canaanites who were entrenched in what was to be their new homeland.
“Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you.” Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. observes, “It is one thing for Yahweh to commission Joshua as leader and another for the people to follow him, so given the context, this last affirmation is especially significant. It signals the successful transfer of tribal allegiance from Moses to Joshua” (Joshua 1:16, 17).
“Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word . . . . will be put to death.” The people further agreed that the death penalty was to be expected in any case of disobedience. The chapter concludes with the refrain that has echoed all through it—“Only be strong and courageous.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.