In our study of Joshua chapter one, we will see the call on this leader's life to seize the gift that God had promised. We will see what our "promised land" is and the battle plan for grabbing hold of it.
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide:
We begin with an introduction to Israel's new leader Joshua. His name means "Jehovah is salvation" and it is the same word as "Jesus" in the New Testament. He was born a slave in Egypt and was an aide to Moses as they left. He was chosen by God to replace Moses as the leader of His people.
'Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them - to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates - all the Hittite country - to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.'
We see God commission Joshua as the next leader of His people. He is called to go and take the land that God was giving them and he was assured that he would be able to take all that was promised. That brings us to the question: What does the "promised Land" have to do with us as Christians? There are those who have compared it to heaven and crossing a river after death. That is not what it means because Joshua had to fight for the land that God was giving him and we do not have to fight to get into heaven. God had given the Israelite people the land as a gift but they had to go and seize it. The gift that God has given us on this earth is to walk with Christ and our life in Him on this earth is our "promised land".
'Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.'
He was reminded of the fact that God was just keeping the promise that He had originally made to Abraham. We, too, can be strong and courageous as we know that Jesus promised that He would never leave or forsake us as we grab hold of our inheritance on this earth.
'Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.'
The Lord tells him to be strong and courageous twice more and assures him that, if he follows the ways prescribed by God (the Law), he will be successful. As the soldier was getting ready to go into battle, God was reminding him that He would always be there with him. This is very similar to what Jesus told the disciples in the Great Commission where He said that He would be with them (and us) until the very end of the age. Our Christian walk (promised land) is a fight as it seems that there are enemies of the gospel on every side but, like Joshua, we can be assured that He is in the battle with us.
So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 'Go through the camp and tell the people, "Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own."'
Why did they wait three days to enter the land? They were to get their things ready but this was also a time to count the cost of listening to the Lord. Grabbing the gift was not going to be easy as there were many battles to come. Jesus described the same thing when He was teaching the people about the cost of being a disciple. (see Luke 14:28) When we come to Christ for salvation, we must also understand that we are going to face many battles as well. There will be internal battles with our own flesh and desires but there will also be external opposition from those who do not know the Lord.
But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 'Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: "The Lord your God is giving you rest and has granted you this land. Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, fully armed, must cross over ahead of your brothers. You are to help your brothers until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise."'
These two and a half tribes had been given land on the east side of the Jordan River but were to go ahead of the rest of Israel into the battle for the promised land. Throughout the Bible, the direction of east is associated with the idea of being away from the will of God. This reminds us of the fact that we are to tell people of the way of salvation. Then, we are to build them up in the faith so that they can grab onto the life that God has promised them.
Then they answered Joshua, 'Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!'
The people pledged to follow the instructions of Joshua because they knew that he was put into his position by God. He did not go to some leadership training course or get a college degree but was simply chosen and equipped by God.