Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister…
I. IT WAS DIVINE. It is important to bear this in mind, otherwise we shall misunderstand not only the whole teaching of this book, but the whole history of Israel as a nation. "Deus vult" is written on every page, however stained with blood. Joshua was no bandit or freebooter, eager for plunder; no Alexander or Napoleon, consumed by the lust of power and the greed of empire. He was simply a servant, carrying out the commands of a superior. And in truth there was a Divine necessity for this commission. If the Divine purposes are to be carried out, if He is to keep His place as the Judge of all the earth, some such commission was a necessity. Is there anything analogous to this in the spiritual sphere? There is. God does not in these days call the Christian to any war such as that to which He called Joshua; yet there is a holy war, a glorious crusade, in which He would have us all warriors. Before every one of us He places a double battlefield. There is an outer fight, and the field of battle is the whole world, according to the gospel commission, "Go ye into all the world," &c. There is also an inner fight, and the field of battle is the heart, according to that holy exhortation which urges us to bring every thought into subjection to the Lord Jesus.
III. IT WAS CLEAR IN ITS TERMS. No doubt could arise in the mind of Joshua as to what God desired him to do. "Arise"! The wilderness journey is at an end; the time to take possession has come. Arise from these weary disciplinary wanderings to high and heroic achievements. Even so our commission as Christians for our twofold fight is clear as day, and as emphatic as the Divine lips could make it. Therefore the removal of every valiant soldier of the Cross should be a mighty stimulus to those left behind. We best revere the memory of the good and great who have passed away by giving all diligence to the work which was so dear to them.
III. IT WAS DIFFICULT TO CARRY OUT. "Go over this Jordan." Joshua is here put in as great extremity as was Moses at the Red Sea. Aye, and the crossing of the Jordan is only the first great difficulty among many. Often, in like manner, obedience to the gospel commission implies the facing of difficulties which to the eye of sense are insuperable. The fight of faith is never easy.
IV. IT WAS TERRIBLE IN ITS CONSEQUENCES. When we think of its bearing on these Canaanites, we can conceive nothing more appalling. These nations were like the grass of the field, and Israel was God's scythe to cut them down. What a contrast to all this have we in the commission of the gospel and the present work of the Lord Jesus. When on earth He said, "I came not to destroy men's lives but to save them," and the work He has given His followers now to do is a work of salvation. Surely, then, we should be all the more eager to carry it out.
V. IT WAS ALSO RIGHTEOUS. In this case nothing was done in undue haste. The Divine patience that had borne with these evil tenants for four hundred years was marvellous; and they grew worse and worse all the time. The gracious pause of forty years, after He had made bare His mighty arm before all flesh, by the wonders done in Loan's field, and proclaimed that the time had come when He was to give this land to Israel, should have won submission. If now they resist His action, it is at their peril. If the war in which Joshua was engaged was righteous, how holy is that war by which righteousness and peace, joy and goodwill, are multiplied on the earth. The man who consecrates all his faculties to the downfall of evil, first within and then without, whose life is one long struggle against spiritual wickedness, acts according to the principles of eternal rectitude.
VI. IT WAS BENEFICIAL IN ITS RESULTS. He who reads history cannot fail to see that impure and enfeebled races and nations have been the prey of those who have been comparatively pure and strong; and thus, by conquest, take it all in all, civilisation has been advanced, and the state of the race as a whole ameliorated. Better a bad limb be cut off than the whole body mortify. Such national surgery may be terrible, but it is beneficial. In like manner, by unflinching valour in the fight of faith, the children of God become the world's best benefactors. In conquering evil within and without, we not only do good to ourselves but to the whole human race. "Ye are the salt of the earth." Without this preserving salt of Christlike souls how soon would the carcase become corrupt and the eagles of judgment alight.
VII. IT HAD ALSO A WIDE REFERENCE AND A NARROW APPLICATION. It spoke of the country which stretched "from the wilderness and this Lebanon." Thus the inheritance of Israel embraced a territory of great richness, beauty, variety, and compactness. Yet while Joshua's commission embraced the whole land, the land become the possession of Israel only as it was subdued acre by acre. These ancient warriors had not only to take the title-deeds, but also to enter into possession. To do the first was easy; to do the second was hard. Even so is it with the Christian. He has indeed a goodly heritage — a whole heaven of spiritual blessedness. "All things are yours." "Blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places." But we cannot enjoy one of these blessings apart from the conflict of faith.
(A. B. Mackay.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,