Conquering the land - Joshua 1:1-18

This is a sermon by Richard Tearle from the Riverside Church service on 17th June 2012.

Click here to read the bible passage. Click here to use larger text.

Apparently the name “Richard” is German in origin and means something like “strong leader”! The name carries the idea of “mighty ruler” “powerful King” etc! I will leave that one with you! But I have come to this knowledge of the origins of my name from the incredibly reliable historical source otherwise known as the fridge magnet, so it must be true! Certainly any fridge magnets, key rings and so on with my name on them suggest that “Richard” means “strong leader”.

Leadership is something we all appreciate don’t we. Bad leaders. Good leaders. Mediocre leaders.  Political leaders. Church leaders. Great historical leaders. Different leadership styles. Some of us are leaders; some of us prefer to be led. Sometimes we can spot the leaders emerging even in the crèche! There are books on leadership, training courses, bad examples and good examples. Of course Jesus was the great servant leader who led by giving up his own life for his people. He set an example of servant leadership for all Christian leaders.

Today we meet Joshua, God’s appointed leader to follow on after the death of Moses, to lead God’s people into the Promised Land.

Our passage today falls nicely into 2 sections.

First, God speaks to Joshua in v.1-9.

Second, Joshua speaks to the people in v. 10-18.

We will follow that structure as we see how it was that God’s people would conquer the land.

Let’s take a look at the leadership pressures that were on Joshua.

God was calling Joshua to lead the Israelite people into a land occupied by Canaanites. Joshua was to lead his people into battle.

We can sometimes gloss over this. Let’s not do that today. Joshua was under immense pressure to lead a entire people group and specifically to lead the armies into battle. He would be responsible for thousands of men, who would go head-to-head with enemy troops. Ancient battles where not picnics. Many would die. Battlefields are not pretty sights.

There was pressure for Joshua to lead, pressure for him to make wise plans and decisions, pressure to keep morale up and pressure to unite the soldiers. There would be the pressure from surrounding nations – watching and waiting. I reckon Joshua knew the pressures of military, political and spiritual leadership. For any leader, the prospect of entering a foreign land to take it by force is always going to be fraught with fears, dangers and potential failure.

So what does God expect of Joshua in this pressured situation?

Take a look at verse 6 [READ]

And verse 7 [READ]

And verse 9 [READ]

Did you see the repetition?

BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. That’s what God says. Don’t be terrified, don’t be discouraged. Joshua would need immense courage and strength to face the enemy, to make life or death decisions and to keep momentum throughout this military campaign. So Joshua is called to total courage.

Secondly, Joshua is also called to total obedience.

Look at verse 8.

Joshua was to read, chew over and totally obey God’s word. Be careful to do EVERYTHING written in God’s book.

That was the burden on Joshua. Just imagine his stress levels! That’s no small workload! I imagine he had a few grey hairs! I bet he had to use plenty of Just for Men!

The success of the conquest depended on Joshua’s courage and commitment. It depended on his total obedience.

But that’s not the full picture is it?

We have considered what God commanded, but we have not considered what he promised.

So let’s take a look at the first 5 verses of our passage.

Let’s read verses 2-5.

This is something God is going to do. God will take his people into the land. It is a gift, a promise from God. BUT there was a responsibility for Joshua to be totally courageous and totally obedient.

Verse 6 shows this well.

Let’s read it.

Joshua is called to lead. God says YOU WILL LEAD. But what is Joshua leading them to?

He is leading them to INHERIT the land. It’s an inheritance. It’s a gift. It is not to be earned but to be received. God’s people where to receive the land as an inheritance.

So we have a picture here of God’s free gift of the promised land to his people which is entirely reliant on Joshua’s total courage and total obedience.

The leader has to show complete courage and overwhelming obedience.

Q. What does this mean for us today as church family here at Riverside?

We too can know that our entrance into our promised land (the New Creation) is totally based in God’s initiative and his power to conquer our enemies and take us safely to our heavenly home. God does it.

But we need a leader who will show perfect courage and perfect obedience too.

Does anyone fancy applying for the job? I don’t!

This is a tall order even for the best of political or spiritual leaders. Perfect courage and perfect obedience. That’s the criteria. Thatcher or Blair, Cameron or Brown. None of them match these criteria. Even her Majesty the Queen. No Archbishop or Pope. Not even Lee! We need a leader with perfect courage and perfect obedience but no-one can be found to fit the bill.

None expect one.

And his name is Jesus.

Jesus is the only leader EVER to achieve perfect courage and perfect obedience.

That’s why it’s not a big surprise to see that the name “Joshua” when translated into Greek in the NT is “Jesus”. When we see Joshua, our minds should be cast forward to Jesus.

Jesus is our Joshua.

Jesus is the true and better Joshua who showed perfect courage and perfect obedience so that people like you and me could enter the eternal Promised Land, the New Creation.

Let’s see firstly how Jesus is the TRUE JOSHUA and then how he is the BETTER JOSHUA.

So Jesus is the true Joshua because he showed perfect courage and perfect obedience to his Father.

Let’s just picture this for a moment.

Imagine what perfect courage it took for Jesus to begin his public ministry, knowing that it would all end in his sacrificial death.

Imagine what perfect courage drove Jesus onwards to Jerusalem in the full knowledge of all that was to happen there.

Imagine the courage in the face of betrayal (by Judas) and abandonment (by his closest followers) that spurred Jesus on to endure the false charges of the Sanhedrin, the political weakness of Pilate. Imagine what courage took him to the floggings and beatings of the cruel Roman soldiers. The mocking and spitting. Imagine what courage upheld Jesus as he allowed the cruel barbaric Crucifixion to happen knowing it was the only way for sinners like you and me to enter the presence of God. Total courage.

Imagine the courage as he underwent the physical pain of his death. Imagine how courageous he had to be as he carried the burden of sin on the Cross. The crushing burden of the sins of the world. Imagine the strength and courage required to face the abandonment of God the Father. Jesus was forsaken so we could be forgiven. What courage to bear the wrath of God against sin. One leader bearing it all.

And of course in the midst of all of Christ’s courage on the Cross is perfect obedience. He perfectly obeyed God the Father. “Not my will but yours” he said. Perfect obedience demanded perfect courage. Perfect commitment to the cause. Jesus did it all so that we could enter the true Promised Land – the New Creation.

Truly Jesus is the TRUE JOSHUA.  

But Jesus is also the BETTER JOSHUA.

Take a look at v.5. God says to Joshua...

I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.

This was God’s promise to Joshua in the OT.

But Jesus our true and better Joshua was forsaken for us.

When Jesus was crucified he cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

He was forsaken so we could be forgiven. Joshua was not forsaken by God, God went with him.

But Jesus had to be forsaken by God the Father so that we could have a certain hope of entering our Promised Land – the New Creation. Jesus is our true and better Joshua. He was forsaken.

When Jesus bore our sins on the Cross he also took on the punishment we deserve so he faced God’s wrath but also God’s abandonment. He was forsaken by God the Father. God was present in holy anger and just judgement, but God’s loving presence was withdrawn. Jesus endured Hell on the Cross so that his followers never have to. He was forsaken by God.

As the Hymn puts it: He bore the burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone.

Jesus is our true and better Joshua.

So gaze on him and keep on praising him for what he has achieved for us.

Our 2nd major focus is on Joshua’s words to the people.

Joshua speaks to God’s people in verses 10-18.

Joshua put’s God’s words into practice and gets on with the task of rallying the people ready to go into the land.

There is one thing I would like us to focus on this morning:

It’s what I’ve called: unity of God’s people.

Look at verse 10. [READ v.10-11]

Joshua gave orders to the whole people through the officers.

But then he also speaks to some other tribes within God’s people.

Take a look at verse 12. [READ 12-14]

The key word here is “brothers”. Did you spot that word repeated? Brothers.

The Reubenites, Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had to go forward and fight as well. God’s people had to be united.

They were “brothers”. God’s people were and are FAMILY. And God calls us to unity.

Why did they need to be united?

So that they could encourage each other along as they took the land that God was giving them. They needed to work together and mutually encourage one another and help each other achieve the end result.

God would give them the land as an inheritance, it was a free gift. But God’s people were called to unity in the task, for mutual encouragement.

This isn’t too difficult to apply to us today.

We too are God’s people and we are heading to our Promised Land the New Creation. God in his grace and mercy has given it to us as a free gift, we don’t deserve it and we don’t earn it. But we are called to spur each other on to keep on trusting Jesus and putting him first as we travel to through this earthly life to the New Creation.

We are family. Just as Joshua called on these “brothers” to work together to encourage one another, so we are a church family.

How can we get really practical about this? How can we encourage one another?

If you want to encourage a church family member as they battle through this life there is no better place to go than our courageous leader – Jesus. When someone is feeling the pressure of the spiritual battle, the internal struggles with sin and the external battles with persecution, and the fiery darts of the devil they need to be reminded about our great leader, our courageous one – Jesus. We are not strong and courageous but Jesus was so let’s help each other to gaze on our courageous one as he went to the Cross to die for us. Let’s point each other to our Courageous Christ on the Cross.

How might we do this?

Let’s try and make the most of every opportunity, especially in this age of technology and communication.

We can share these truths over the phone, in home groups, we can text, email or write these truths to each other. We can discuss them after this sermon. We can talk about them after any sermon! We can share these important truths with the children. And we can open up God’s word in each other’s homes. There’s just a few practical ways we can encourage one another with the truth about our Courageous Christ on the Cross.

But there is another truth that can be shared in all of those ways.

It’s this:

We can also remind each other of where we are heading. There’s something very annoying about the kids in the car who repeat the same phrase over and over “are we nearly there yet” “are we nearly there yet”. But there’s something good about it too. At least they’ve not forgotten they are heading somewhere! What an encouragement it is to remind each other that our courageous one Jesus has died so that we can go to our Promised Land – the New Creation. Let’s remember it, let’s dwell on it, let’s sing about it and let’s talk about it.

So that’s the unity of God’s people for mutual encouragement. As we fight this spiritual battle let’s remind each other of our Courageous Christ on the Cross and the New Creation to come.

Let’s pray

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