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. THE DUTY OF COURAGEOUS STRENGTH. Christianity has altered the perspective of human virtues, has thrown the gentler ones into prominence altogether unknown before, and has dimmed the brilliancy of the old heroic type of character; but it has not struck those virtues out of its list. Still, there is as much need in the lowliest Christian life for the loftiest heroism as ever there was. All Christian progress is conflict, and we have to fight, not only with the evils that are within, but if we would be true to the obligations of our profession and loyal to the commands of our Master, we have to take our part in the great campaign which He has inaugurated and is ever carrying on against every abuse and oppression, iniquity and sin, that grinds down the world and makes our brethren miserable and servile. Be strong! Then strength is a duty; then weakness is a sin. Then the amount of strength that we possess and wield is regulated by ourselves. We have our hands on the sluice. We may open it to let the whole full tide run in, or we may close it till a mere dribble reaches us. For the strength which is strength, and not merely weakness in a fever, is a strength derived. "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." Let Christ's strength in. Open the heart wide that it may come. Keep yourself in continual touch with God, the fountain of all power. Trust is strength, because trust touches the Rock of Ages. But courage is duty, too, as well as strength. Power and the consciousness of power do not always go together. In regard of the strength of nature, courage and might are quite separable. There may be a strong coward and a weak hero. But in the spiritual region, strength and courage do go together. The consciousness of the Divine power with us, and that alone, will make us bold with a boldness that has no taint of levity and presumption mingled with it, and never will overestimate its own strength.
II. THE DUTY OF IMPLICIT OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD OF COMMAND. Courage and strength come first, and on them follows the command to do all according to the law, to keep it without deflection to right or left, and to meditate on it day and night. These two virtues make the perfect soldier — courage and obedience. But the connection between these two is not merely that they must co-exist, but that courage and strength are needed for, and are to find their noblest field of exercise in, absolute acceptance of, and unhesitating, swift, complete, unmurmuring obedience to, everything that is discerned to be God's will and our duty. For the Christian soldier, then, God's law is his marching orders. The written Word, and especially the Incarnate Word, are our law of conduct. Christ has given us Him self, and therein has given a sufficient directory for conduct and conflict which fits close to all our needs, and will prove definite and practical enough if we honestly try to apply it. The application of Christ's law to daily life takes some courage, and is the proper field for the exercise of Christian strength. If you are not a bold Christian you will very soon get frightened out of obedience to your Master's commandments. Courage, springing from the realisation of God's helping strength, is indispensable to make any man, in any age, live out, thoroughly and consistently, the principles of the the law of Jesus Christ. No man in this generation will work out a punctual obedience to what he knows to be the will of God, without finding out that all the Canaanites are not dead yet, but that there are enough of them left to make a very thorny life for the consistent follower of Jesus Christ. And not only is there courage needed for the application of the principles of conduct which God has given us, but you will never have them handy for swift application unless, in many a quiet hour of silent, solitary, patient meditation, you have become familiar with them.
III. THE SURE VICTORY OF SUCH BOLD OBEDIENCE: "thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest"; "thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then shalt thou have good success," or, as the last word might be rendered, "then shalt thou 'act wisely.'" You may not get victory from an earthly point of view, for many a man that lives strong and courageous and joyfully obeying God's law as far as he knows it, and because he loves the Lawgiver, goes through life, and finds that, as far as the world's estimate is concerned, there is nothing but failure as his portion. The success which my text means is the carrying out of conscientious convictions of God's will into practice. That is the only success that is worth talking about or looking for. The man that succeeds in obeying and translating God's will into conduct is the victor, whatever be the outward fruits of his life.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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,