Welcome to the first week of what will hopefully prove to be a long adventure. About two weeks ago I found myself considering going through a book of the Bible, taking a small section at a time and really digging into the text. The more I considered the idea, the more I was drawn to going through the Book of Joshua because it has always been one of my favorites. Yet the great stuff doesn’t end with Joshua, but continues along through the entire historical narrative through the book of Esther. So the task I am hoping to accomplish is to provide reading and commentary from Joshua through Esther, regardless of how long it takes to reach the end point. That will take me through each and every book grouped together as being a Historical text in the Bible. It is a large task and an ambitious goal, but I hope that you will join me each week as we dive into these books that form such a large portion of the Old Testament. Any Scripture used throughout this series will be from the ESV unless noted otherwise.
1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Verse 1: The mantle of leadership is shifting from Moses, who led God’s people out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness for 40 years, to Joshua. This was not an unexpected change for the Israelites, as Joshua had been groomed for this position for quite some time with Moses. He was the commander of the men who fought against the Amalek (See Exodus 17:8-16), he was one of the twelve men whom Moses sent to scout through the land of Canaan (see Numbers 13:1-24) and was one of only two men (along with Caleb) who gave a true report of what they found in the land of Canaan and therefore God chose Joshua and Caleb to be the only men alive with the group to be able to enter the land of Canaan (see Numbers 14:26-31). And when Moses asked God to “appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17) it was God who appointed Joshua to step in and be the leader of the Israelites after Moses and he was anointed before the entire people (See Numbers 27:18-23). So the transition of leadership here should be seamless.
Verses 2-4: Joshua is set to lead the Israelites into the land promised to Abraham (See Genesis 12:1-8, 17:8), Isaac (See Genesis 26:1-5), Jacob (See Genesis 35:6-15) and to Moses (See Exodus 5:22-6:8). The fulfillment of this promise is one of many demonstrations that God always keeps His promises, even if He does not set the parameters on how soon that promise will be fulfilled.
Verse 5: What a promise God makes here to Joshua: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you”. Recall that Moses encountered God as the burning bush (See Exodus 3), led Moses and the Israelites with pillars of cloud and fire (See Exodus 13:17-22), spoke with God on Mount Sinai (See Exodus 19, 24:12-18), and many other intimate and encouraging encounters. It is also remarkable to note that God promises Joshua that no man shall be able to stand before him for his entire lifetime, a promise that we’ll see in action time and again in the book of Joshua. So long as God’s commands are followed, victory is pre-established every step of the way.
Verse 6: Here appears the phrase “Be strong and courageous” for the first time in the Book of Joshua. It will appear two more times in just this short segment (Joshua 1:7, 9) which should cause any reader to take special note of the phrase. After all, anything repeated three times in the span of five verses must be very important. Whereas Moses argued with God over his ability to lead (See Exodus 4), Joshua is reminded several times that he should be both strong and courageous. After all, he has been promised that God will be with him, that no man will be able to stand before him, and that he will lead these people into a land that God promised them generations ago. See notes on verses 7 & 8 for more on what Joshua needed to do in order to live up to God’s expectations, and how those can apply to our lives today.
Verse 7: God tells Joshua what he should do, “being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” All of the commandments that God passed down to His people, outlined in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy should be followed. The weight of perfection that the law demands is great, but God made it clear in Deuteronomy 28 what would happen to the Israelites if they did, or did not, follow the law carefully. God dedicated 14 verses to the blessings that would come from obedience, including being blessed in city and field (28:3), in the fruit of the womb and ground and cattle (28:4), basket and kneading bowl (28:5), and both when coming and going (28:6), and that all who come against them would be defeated (28:7). But then come 53 verses outlining the curses that would rain down upon a nation that strays from the laws, including but not limited to the opposites of each blessing previously promised. This is an important chapter to look at and consider in context of much that will follow in the Historical books, particularly once we arrive in Kings and Chronicles.
Verse 8: This was among one of the first verses I memorized as a Christian, and with good reason. While Christians today are no longer burdened by trying to keep every letter of the law, it is still important to know and understand both God’s Commandments as well as God’s Word as a whole. Reading the Bible daily leads us on a path that will see us growing in our knowledge of God’s Word and learning passages of scripture even without active attempts at memorization. The more we know and understand the entire Bible, the more we will be in tune with what God desires from His people and the Holy Spirit will chip away at us, prodding us toward becoming more like Christ and less like our fleshly selves. I’ve come to understand this verse in a whole new way since my last encounter with it, an understanding that the Pharisees of old could have benefitted from. The first part says that the Book of Law will not depart from your mouth, followed by a command to meditate upon the Book of Law night and day so that you will do all it says. My interpretation: don’t just cherry-pick verses to learn and be able to spout, but rather immerse yourself in the fullness of God’s Word so that you know and understand the contexts surrounding God’s Word instead of just the right verse to suit your needs. Don’t use God’s Word as just a weapon to win battles but rather use it as a lamp to light your path (See Psalm 119:105) so that it becomes a part of who you are and influences what you say and do.
Verse 9: The main message found here has been repeated already by God in some manner, apart from the question (which directs back to everything just said anyway). Serving as a complement to the thrice-repeated command to be strong and courageous comes the command to also not be frightened or dismayed. The reason underlying all of those commands? Because God will be with you wherever you go. We have that same open connection with God through prayer, a part of our lives that is oftentimes rated with “it could be better” or “I should pray more” by Christians. Imagine what we could do if, instead of being afraid or discouraged we told God about those concerns and trusted Him to handle them? God fulfilled promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and many others even if it was not always in the timing expected. How might our lives change if we stopped kind-of believing that God hears our prayers and kind-of believing that He may answer them and start living secure in the knowledge that God hears and God will fulfill His end of any promises He has made? Be strong. Be courageous. Do not be frightened. Do not be dismayed. Your God is with you wherever you go.