Serving the Lord
In our current readings we are watching the development of a Holy nation. And soon this nation will be mature enough and ready to claim the land promised to them by God. It is a time for change and a time for new leadership to go along with this new era of history. The last chapter of Deuteronomy concludes with the death and mourning of Moses. This first chapter in Joshua begins our story. The divine purpose was to bring the children of Israel onward into Canaan. Moses had just died and Joshua is called to succeed him. This juncture gives us interesting light on the plans of God and manís relation to their fulfillment. Godís plans are not dependent on man. When Moses dies, Joshua is ready. There is no halting of plans until a successor is found. Joshua was prepared in his own mind and spirit and conscience. Past counsel with Moses had made him familiar with Godís way and will. Past victories had given him confidence in God. Past communications from God had pointed to his leadership. We read in Exodus 17:14
14. And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. Joshua was equally prepared in the minds of the people. They had seen God giving him victory over Amalek and had seen him honoring God when the multitude was disobedient. He had not taken part in the folly of Aaron and the people at Sanai It was Caleb and him that stilled the murmurs which followed the report of the spies. They had seen him openly honored by Moses and by God.
18. And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;
19. And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
20. And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. Num. 27:18-20
Thus there could be no doubt with either Joshua or the people who was to succeed Moses. We see the work of the righteous man does not end because it is the work of God and his plan. He who labors within the scheme of Godís purpose, works for everyone called by our Father. A succession of able men in Godís divine work is a token of Godís continual interest in and presence among his people. Sometimes Godís plans are best advanced by the removal of men who have done a great deal to further the cause. Moses was not to enter the promised land and no advance could be made while he was their leader, he thus barred the way.. Moses was not the man for the future. He had been the best man for the past and was certainly the best man to stand before Pharaoh, but Joshua was the best man to stand before the Canaanites. Moses was the best man to lead them out of Egypt and Joshua was the best man to organize them into civilized life. To die in the midst of the work, was not to have lived in vain, but it made the way for others. The mistakes in our lives are not less harmful because God uses us in his work. Mosesís mistake at Meribah was still a sin and a blunder.
Sometimes Godís plan shows the inferior man succeeding where the more eminent man has failed. We do not know what or who is most helpful to success and often we fail to know it when it does come to us, so our attitude must be to support whomever that is working in the ways of righteousness and not discern the person. You may not be Moses, who was learned in all the wisdom of Egypt and trained for forty years in the back of the wilderness, you might be the Joshua who was simply a liberated slave with no schooling at all, but with a heart towards right. You need to continue in your work of righteousness, for you may succeed where better persons have failed. It is not for us to decide.
The fruit of Godís plans though developed humanly and naturally are still a gift from our maker. Verse 2, unto the land which I do give to them. Sure we plant the flowers that are around our house and we water them to make them grow, but they are still a gift from God, just as the fruits of our labor our not from us, but a gift from God. Even Jesus made known to all that the miracles that he did where not from him. Godís plan and it issues have their highest relation to men in general, not to one or two men. Godís great idea is gifts and blessing to his people, the ones who love him with all their heart. This was not a question of Israel versus Canaan, it was for the good of men that Israel should enter in and that these idolatrous people should be rooted out. This nucleus of idolatry had to be broken up for the sake of the future world. A nation worshipping God and making way for the Savior had to be planted here instead. This was the plan of the Gospel for the Gospel is ďPeace on earth and good will toward men. Amid the profound mysteries of one elect nation we have revealed to us in exceeding clearness the Gospel spirit of Godís love to the whole human race.
Joshua was now given a place of honor. He is placed at the head of the host, not only as commander of the Army, but as their leader. ďEvery placeĒ must be won. Israel must go up against each of the occupying nations. They have to walk every inch of the land that they will acquire for their inheritance. Joshua not only will lead them in war, but he must also divide up the land to be given to each tribe. Joshuaís position means arduous toil, perpetual care, ceaseless interest and time of unrest. If we are doing Godís work, then this is our position also. God knows our nature and there is no work without encouragement. This whole chapter is emphatic with promise. Whenever God gives us arduous work or duties he always supplies bright hope. There is probably no position in life we have experienced that did not have its own specific illumination in the promise of the scriptures. Godís love has beams of light strong enough to reach every place that his name is held in reverence, from the deepest dark dungeons that the Apostle Paul experienced to the deep dark corners of our own mind. Gloom, darkness, and depression are of our own choosing. Our Heavenly Father has provided light for all who seek it and invites everyone to walk within it. Gloom and darkness are of our own choosing. Gloom and darkness are harmful and sinful. They discourage our work and they discourage others. They show our neglect of the Bible and show others that we donít believe in what we read and meditate about.
Before I said that there is no work without encouragement, but there is no encouragement without obedience. Manís nature is to walk opposite the Sun of Righteousness and ever in the dark. We, the same as Joshua, in order to be strong for the conflicts of life, we must be strong in the comfort of our hope, and to be strong in our hope we must be strong in obedience. He who disobeys Godís laws has no right to the promises and the inheritance. If a child constantly disobeys his parents to his own demise, should he expect undiminished love and unrestrained gifts? Because this is what is promised to us if we obey his will. He who disobeys Godís will, lacks the spirit which alone can inherit the promises. Lax obedience shows lax faith and lax interest. Does a person delight in work that he has done carelessly? And how can we be obedient without meditation?
Psalms says in 49:3. My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.
We are responsible not only for what we know, but we are responsible to know what there is to be known. Pleading ignorance of the law is no excuse in our own court system let alone at the final judgement before Christ. Taking advantage of Bible classes Sunday school, and our own private studies can only further our knowledge of what it is that we should obey.
God complains of Ephraim in Hosea 8:12
12. I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.
And lastly there can be no meditation that does not center on God Himself. Verse 9 tells us
9. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
When we read we must look through the written word to see what it reveals. The Bible is the light of God. The miracles of Christ were not recorded to excite wonder, they were to reveal God. Everything we read in the scriptures is an opportunity to have more revealed to us about God. The more we know about a person the closer we are to that person. If we believe that Christ is risen then our faith is not in vain. We celebrate his rising from the grave every time we take this bread and wine. Jesus told Saul on the road to Damascus ď that they might receive forgiveness of sin and in inheritance among them which is sanctified by faith that is in me.Ē Faith in the living Christ. We should not be here at this table of fellowship with Christ because it is our duty, but because we have a genuine love for the Father and his Son and it is our true desire to be with them and have them present with us. It is an awesome and inspiring event to know that as this bread and wine passes from hand to hand, that our Savior is here among us.
In conclusion to this chapter there is the lesson of true obedience.
Verse 16. And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.
True obedience will lead us to keep, not merely some, but all the commandments. To break one commandment knowingly is to violate the will of God, and what use is it to obey only some of his words. For us there is only one thing we can say,Ē All that thou commandest us, directly or indirectly, we will do it.Ē True obedience will lead us in all the ways of the Lord. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth to those that keep his commandments. The greatest times of happiness for the Israelites were when they were harkening unto the voice of God, this is when we are truly blessed. Life is only easy when we have God on our side.
I would like to end this with a verse from Psalms 27: 14
14. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.