Text: Joshua 1:10-11
Before looking at these verses, there are a couple of important points about the book of Joshua. First, who wrote Joshua and when? Joshua 5:1 tells us it was written by a contemporary eyewitness(es) of the events that book place: the LORD … dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we passed over. Also, the author uses the phrase to this day 16x’s. For example 6:25 says that Rahab lives among the Israelites to this day. The book itself testifies to a very early date soon after the events, recorded by an eyewitness(es), within the life time of those such as Rahab. The traditional view is that Joshua wrote it, though he could not have written the parts about his death. (This is like Moses’ authorship of the Torah – he couldn’t have written the parts about his death, but the traditional view is that otherwise Moses was the author.) However, an early writing of Joshua has been hotly contested. The prevailing view in most Christian colleges is it was written 6-700 years after the events. In fact many believe it is not an historical record at all, but presented as a piece of political propaganda for nation building. It’s these kinds of liberal views which have done such damage to the church. They ignore the witness of the text itself (and don’t really believe it to be true), and also the archaeology. Fortunately there are also scholars who do believe in a real Joshua and a real conquest. But it is perhaps not unsurprising that a book that has at its heart an intense spiritual battle, and the victory God brought about, should itself be subject to such a battle!
But, secondly, it is worth asking if Joshua really is history? It’s rather like asking if John’s gospel is a history of Jesus? John is historical, but his purpose was not to write a detailed history of the life of Jesus. He selected material to demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ, to convince his readers. The purpose of Joshua was not to give a detailed history of the nation of Israel. The author selected key events to demonstrate what God had done to fulfil all his good promises to Israel. In this sense Joshua is a prophetic book, but this does not mean it is not historical.
Now let’s look at Joshua 1:10-11: Get ready!
The Israelites had to get ready by faith. 1:11 is very similar to 1:2, where God told Joshua, Now then, you and all the people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them – the Israelites. Joshua was simply passing on the message God had already given to him. Joshua was a prophet declaring God’s word before he was a military leader. This ‘getting ready’ was an amazing act of faith on the part of Joshua, the officers and all the people. 40 years earlier the situation was very different. Caleb and Joshua were the only two spies to come back with a positive report: We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it (Numbers 13:30). But all that generation rebelled against the word of the LORD, and as a result they all died in the desert. This is a lesson for us (1Corinthains 10:6). 40 years later, with the new generation, the outward circumstanced hadn’t changed. There were still giants in the land; it still seemed like an impossible task; and from a military point of view Israel was still outnumbered. But something had changed! The new generation had faith in their hearts and were obedient to God’s word.
They could easily have asked how they were going to negotiate the very first obstacle, the River Jordan. In fact, we are told in 3:15 it was in flood at that time of year. Yet, we don’t hear a murmur. As the song goes, “God will make a way when there seems to be no other way. He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me. ” And Paul told us, We walk by faith and not by sight (2Corinthains 5:7). This new generation would certainly have remembered their parent’s generation, when God parted the Red Sea. Indeed, Joshua and Caleb were there. What God had done before he could certainly do again. What we need today is a new generation with this kind of faith who can possess the land. George Muller said, Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends. And Jesus said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). The people were to get ready, and this time they were obedient.
God always makes a way for His faithful people, across every river, through every storm and in every circumstance. For those who have lost hope – which is a fragile commodity – be encouraged. Christ the hope of glory lives in you. He is able to get you through the struggle you are facing. As you look to God, He will make a way for you … but not if we rebel. The children of Israel had to learn that lesson the hard way … and sometimes I feel we as a nation are having to learn that same lesson, the hard way.
The Israelites had to get ready by making provision for themselves. Faith didn’t mean sitting back and doing nothing (and it still doesn’t). Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22). They needed to follow God’s way in order to inherit the promises of God (see Hebrews 6:11-12). They had to make provisions for the journey.
The circumstances at the Red Sea were somewhat different from the Jordan, though in both cases God parted the waters. At the Exodus the people were escaping slavery, and had to flee in haste. This is like our conversion. We are to flee from sin to the foot of the cross. But at the Jordan the people were not fleeing from anyone, but they were getting ready to possess the land.
We also have to get ready. As we follow Jesus we will face spiritual battles, trials and temptations, and we need to be spiritually prepared by walking daily with the LORD. At times God may be calling us to something new, which often requires a period of preparation (e.g. Bible college, though note Joshua had 40 years of preparation!) But the New Testament teaches us about one particular event we need to prepare for, and that is the Second Coming of Jesus. Jesus told the parable of the Ten Virgins to make exactly this point (Matthew 25:1-13).
The conquest of Canaan wasn’t an end in itself. In the light of Israel’s history, to what extent did it ever become the utopian land of promise, even to this day? Human sin always gets in the way. As believers in Christ we see the promises of God will only find their complete fulfilment at His second coming. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is a sobering parable and it’s one we should take seriously. It teaches us the need to get ready and to have oil in our lamps (to be spiritually prepared). This is especially important as we see the signs of Christ’s Coming all around us. Without going into detail, the signs include things such as: deception in the church; wars and rumours of wars; famines and plagues; the return of the Jews to their homeland; the rise of globalism, which though presented as the way of peace, is already creating a godless world and setting the stage for antichrist.
Jesus is our Joshua, and He has told His church, for whom He died, get your supplies ready! Make sure you’ve got oil in your lamps, because one day it will be too late to get ready. He is coming like a thief in the night!