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…
The man to whom the charge is addressed is the inferior, in every way, of his master. A good man, a brave soldier, a disinterested head of the State — this he is. But the zest and the sparkle has gone out of the history with Moses; the passage of the river is a feeble repetition of the passage of the sea; and the scene to which it admits Israel is one, for the most part, of comparatively "common day" — alternations of fighting and resting, victories imperfectly followed up, acquiescences, languid and faithless, in a virtual partition of Canaan between Israel and Israel's foe. It is the more lifelike as a picture of the fortunes of our race. It is thus that earth's history is written, it is thus that the stream of time flows on. The Moses is followed by the Joshua, the morning of promise by the noonday of disappointment, both alike pointing onward, onward still, to a sunset long delayed, and an evening time which shall at last be light. The hero of strategy or prowess — the genius of discovery or imagination — the prophet of earth or heaven — lives not to reap, leaves the harvest to another, looks abroad from his Pisgah upon worlds unconquered, feels at last that he rather stops the onward march of a generation whose turn is come. It is well. Man must be little if he would be great — must see himself but an atom in the universe of life if he would do anything that is real in the work which is all God's. And he has his reward. The man that "knows the blessedness of being little" is disembarrassed of the self-consciousness which is battling to be great. That energy is all free for action which loses no time in contemplating itself. That "ability" grows apace in vigour which remembers that it is of "God's giving." It was so with Moses. His one prayer was, "Let the God of the spirits of all flesh set a man over His congregation." Upon him, when he was found, he laid his hand, presented him instantly to the congregation as the man of the future, and "put some of his own honour at once upon him, that the congregation might understand and be obedient." He has his reward. This it is which cases life of its carefulness. This it is which makes greatness endurable as well as possible — the thought that God has no need of it, can raise up even from the stones a workman and a patriot, metes not with man's measure and reckons not by man's years. "I am the Lord, I change not"; therefore ye sons of men can both quietly serve and peacefully fall on sleep. "Moses My servant is dead." Yes, "My servant," though he once "spake unadvisedly"; yes, "My servant," though he was refused his heart's prayer; yes, "My servant," though he might not go over Jordan. "Moses My servant is dead": even when we are judged, we are but chastened; yea, if we not only suffer for our sins, but even sleep! "Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan." The work of God is not ended. Rather are we always on the brink of a river that must be crossed, and in sight of a land that has to be conquered. Who can look around him on the face of this earth, and so much as dream that Jordan is crossed, that Canaan is occupied? Who could live this life if he did not feel and know that effort, that progress, is its law? What we look forth upon, from the spot which is "this present," is a work, and it is a warfare. With our guides or without them, it is quite evident that there rolls a deep and a rapid river between us and rest, between us and a land of promise, which is that new heaven and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. We cannot pretend to say that intelligence such as we possess, that civilisation such as we have attained, that religion such as a Christendom realises, is satisfactory, is successful, is victorious, whether in the aspect of happiness or in the aspect of good. Everything is in conflict, everything is in struggle, everything is (at best) in a condition of movement and in a condition of hope. The plain of Moab is our world — a cold, broad stream divides us from any thing that we can call rest, from anything that we can call possession. "My servant is dead, now therefore arise, and go over." There is a vacancy, which you must fill. That is one lesson of death. It is a summons to the living. God has lost a workman — will you take his place? Terrible would it be for this nation if either growing luxury or spreading vice should diminish the supply of strong men for the carrying on of the work of God in England. It is not the decay of genius which is formidable — it is the decay of strength. Joshua was (in many senses) the inferior of Moses, but that inferiority was no loss, on the whole, to his country; he had his work, as Moses had his — and, like Moses, he did it. "My servant is dead; therefore arise and go over," If there is a call in death, there is also an encouragement. See, it says to us, what life is. See the blessedness of God's service. Hear Him say of the departed, "My servant" still. The man who has served God in his generation shall never die. He is in the hands of God, though it be out of the sight of the living. "My servant is dead; arise therefore, and go over," whither he, we trust, is gone. In the words of the historic parable of Ascension Day, "Take ye up the mantle that fell from him, and with it smite the waters — that, like him, and after him, you in your turn may pass over dryshod."
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,