Joshua 1: At the Jordan
Do you remember Moses, and what he did for the children of Israel? And how he died in the mountain outside the promised land? Who now was to be leader of the people instead of Moses? The Lord had said who he should be, and he had been appointed and blessed by Moses, Joshua. We have learned several things about him while he was Moses' helper. We heard of him first when he led the soldiers against the Amalekites who attacked the people before they came to Mount Sinai. (Exod. 17:9) You remember him again with Moses, coming down from Mount Sinai, when the first tables of the law were broken. (Exod. 32:17) Joshua was one of the spies (of the tribe of Ephraim) who went up to explore the promised land; and he was one of the two who encouraged the people to go in and conquer it. (Num. 13:8, 16) Joshua is not a stranger to us; we already know him as a brave man and a soldier.
Notice especially in our lesson the words spoken to encourage Joshua: "Be strong and of a good courage." When Moses had given a charge to the people and to Joshua, he used the same words. Look back to Deut. 31:6-8. We can connect these words with Joshua. They are a kind of motto which belongs to him.
Verse 4 gives very wide boundaries to the land which should belong to the children of Israel. Mount Lebanon you find in the north. The Euphrates river is far off to the northeast. The great sea toward the sunset is the Mediterranean. Compare the words "toward the sunrising" in verse 15 of our lesson.
One other thing. Some of the people who had many flocks and herds liked the good pasture country on the east of Jordan, and wished to make their homes there. What had Moses told them? That if their armed men would first go with their brethren across Jordan and help them conquer their lands, they might then come back to their families and their flocks in the country east of Jordan and make their homes there. We read about this in Num. 32. Joshua and the people remembered this charge of Moses, and were ready to do as he had said. We learn later that they faithfully did their part, and came back to their homes east of Jordan. (Joshua 22:1-9) Is it too hard to remember what tribes they were who chose these homes east of Jordan? Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. We find their names on the map.
The chapter ends with the words which we are going to think of when we think of Joshua: "Be strong and of a good courage."
"Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord." These first words of our lesson bring back many memories. Moses the faithful leader of the people, and his death in Mount Nebo, east of Jordan, having seen the land which he was not to enter. And the new leader Joshua; what do we already know about him? Look up the places where we have heard of Joshua (referred to above). Notice what is told us about Joshua's name in Num. 13:8, 16. In that chapter he is first called Oshea, and it is said that Moses changed his name to Jehoshua. Oshea or Hoshea means "help" or "salvation," and Jehoshua, shortened to Joshua, means "Jehovah is my help." It is the same name which in Greek becomes Jesus, the name given to the Lord as Savior. (Matt. 1:21) It is good to think of Joshua and his victories as a type of the Lord and His far greater victories. Notice the association of the words, "Be strong and of a good courage," with Joshua in our present chapter and in Moses' charge. (Deut. 31:6-8) They should remind us of the courage in which the Lord fought His battles, and they are words to bring us strength. Notice, too, how the courage and strength are joined with the keeping of the law (the Ten Commandments and other laws) which Moses had written in a book. (Deut. 31:22-26) Courage and strength for us are joined with keeping of the law.
Look up the boundaries mentioned in verse 4. The people of Israel did control this extent of country in the days of David and Solomon. The Hittites, called also "children of Heth," were remains of an ancient people. They had been a strong nation with chief cities north of Palestine; and there were some still in Palestine, especially in Hebron. (Gen. 23:3; 25:10) Mentioned in connection with Lebanon and the Euphrates, "the land of the Hittites" seems to mean the country to the north and northeast.
Do you remember that some tribes of Israel wished to live east of Jordan? Which tribes were they? Why did they wish to live in this country? On what condition were they told that they might do so? This country the children of Israel had already conquered, taking the southern part from Sihon, king of the Amorites, and the northern part from Og, king of Bashan. Was the condition remembered by the tribes? Did they keep their promise? (Num. 32; Joshua 22:1-9) Show me the homes of these tribes on the map.
1. What does the name Joshua mean?
2. What charge was repeated several times to Joshua?
3. What must we do to be sure that the Lord is with us and that we shall make our way prosperous and have good success?
4. On what condition were some tribes given homes east of Jordan? Which tribes?
The book of Joshua gives us the story of the conquest of the promised land. We know that spiritually it tells of conflicts and victories in coming into the experience of a heavenly life. It is beautiful that our courage and strength in these conflicts, and our success, are so directly associated with obedience to the commandments and with trust in our Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ. The book is the story of His victories and of ours in His strength.
I have spoken of this story of conquest as describing our coming into the experience of a heavenly life. We must first learn about the heavenly life, and it is another thing to come into experience of it. Moses was told that he might see with his eyes the promised land but might not enter it. Now to Joshua it is said, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you." Compare Gen. 8:9. Our Moses is the Lord's Word teaching us about the heavenly life, and giving us the laws of it, that we may see it with our eyes. Our Joshua is the Lord's Word going further, giving us courage and strength to fight the battles with evils in ourselves, and to come into experience of the spiritual life. (A.6752, 8581, 8595)
"Then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." There are no exceptions in the promise. It must always be true. Perhaps not if we measure prosperity and success by worldly standards, but if we have in mind the building of heavenly character, the possessing of our inheritance, our promised land.
We are to meditate on the Lord's law day and night: Compare the charge to talk of the commands, "when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." They must pervade and govern all our life. What is the spiritual day in which we need the Lord's law, and the spiritual night in which we need it no less? Are there brighter states and darker states, heavenly states and worldly states? (E. 526, 527)
The chapter tells of certain tribes which wished to make their homes in the country east of Jordan, and of the condition on which they were allowed to do so. The Holy Land itself represents a spiritual, a heavenly life, and the country beyond its borders represents natural states and interests, among them the enjoyment of physical comfort, of food and drink, of natural beauty, of rest and recreation. Are these good? Does the Lord wish us to live in these? Does He give these His blessing? On one condition, that they are enjoyed and used in ways to help the spiritual life. With the permission to certain tribes to make their homes beyond Jordan, we may well associate the Lord's visits to this district. There was His long ministry among the simple people beyond Jordan in the land of Gad, and His visits across the Sea of Galilee, first to cast out the swine-like devils, and then to bless the loaves and feed the multitude, this in the old land of Bashan, which became the home of the half-tribe of Manasseh. Here was the picture and promise of the Lord's extending of His presence and blessing even to these natural departments of life, to the enjoyment of natural interests and pleasures. The old condition still holds, that they shall be used to help the spiritual life.