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…
Moses was dead. His work was done. It was rounded off so far as he was concerned, and so he went to his reward. There is a lesson of no small importance to you and me. Our business is to do the duty that lies next us. That duty may only seem to be a fragment of what we desire to accomplish, but it is all we are answerable for, and to do our portion well is to stand clear with conscience and with God. In the construction of a door, one man makes the panels, another makes the frame, another fits it together, and a fourth hangs it by its hinges. The panel maker has a very imperfect portion of the work to show as the result of his toil, but he has done his part and fulfilled his mission whether the door ever swings in its place or no. Your business and mine is to fulfil the injunction, whether in our daily toil, in the training of our children, in the work of the Church or whatever other duty may fall to us — "Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." Our hearts may find to do a good deal more; if our hand cannot find the opportunity to work out the heart's desire, we are accepted for what we have done and what we would do and cannot; and whatever and how-much soever remains undone, we shall ascend, like Moses, to our own Mount Nebo and die in a flood of rosy light with Canaan before our eyes and God's "Well done" sounding in our ears. The man who carries the hod of mortar up the ladder does not lay a single brick, but in his measure his service is essential and as worthy as the architect that planned the building, or the mason that rears its walls. From this point of view, servant is a grander name than seraph or archangel, for what would these be if they did not serve or stand and wait? Their wings would droop and their celestial glory would be quenched in night. "Moses' minister." That is what Joshua is called. It is another word for servant. He ministered to, that is, he served Moses; and herein lies another lesson, for he was thereby a servant also of the Lord. He who well serves the Lord's servant serves that servant's Master, and He says, "Ye did it unto Me." Oh for a full and perfect measure of this rich interchange, this interlinking of lives and sympathies, servants of each other, vying in a holy rivalry as to who shall be the lowliest, readiest, willingest servant of the servants of the Lord! "Spake to Joshua." Joshua was born when Moses was an exile and a stranger hidden for his life among the wilds of Midian. There's another lesson of great value in this. It did not seem likely then, did it? that Moses should ever be a leader of men, the emancipator of a nation. Providence sees and plans for a long time ahead of our to-day, and holds in reserve agents and forces that we cannot see; and because we cannot see them we doubt and question and in the face of the unlikely we say, "It cannot be." That solitary pale-faced and half starved monk in a German cell; how is he to shake all Europe and make the Pope tremble on his throne? There is nothing more unlikely: and yet Frederic, Prince of Saxony, is being placed by God upon his throne to be a ready and brave helper when the time came; and before Luther left his cell, Providence had sprung upon the world the printing press, which was to be Luther's deadliest artillery. God's plans are laid; His movements are in process, and for the fulfilment of every purpose that He cherisheth there shall come the hour and the man. Now mark, that this is true in our own individual history and experience. Every humble and trustful disciple of the Lord Jesus is the ward of Divine Providence. Listen: "The God of my mercy shall prevent me"; that is, shall go before me, You look forward with an anxious eye and heart to some possible contingency, and say, "It is sure to happen." Time passes, and perhaps it does happen; but you find that meanwhile God hath stationed at that point something or somebody that acts as a buffer to the blow, and although your Moses may fail you at your need, some Joshua comes in to fill the gap and meet the need of the moment to the full. "Therefore arise." There is an old saying that there is much virtue in an "if"; it appears to me that there is much virtue in this word "therefore." Moses is dead, therefore arise. Remembering who Moses was and how entirely Moses was depended on, it would seem more natural to say, "Therefore lie still; this is a blow from which you cannot recover." When he was alive you often asked him to take you back to Egypt for safety's sake. Now that he is dead, you had better take yourselves back, for if you are not drowned in an attempt to pass the river, the Canaanites will dig your graves on the other side. Now is not that the kind of "therefore" with which the Church of God is sadly familiar, and with which those who have relationship with faint-hearted people have a saddening acquaintance? A stay and pillar of the Church dies or removes, "therefore nothing can be done; what can we do without him?" Here is a man who starts in business. Things do not advance as he wishes. He therefore must shut up his shop, be content to collapse. Surely that logic will be laughed at. Well, do not let us hear it in the Church; do not let us say it in presence of our obstacles. If the axe is blunt, grip it with both hands and put more strength into the blow. No fretting, no retreating, no conferring with doubts and fears. Is Moses dead? Therefore arise! Cross hands over the dead hero's coffin, and vow to Heaven to take his name as a new watchword, and to cross the Jordan while the earth is still fresh upon his grave. "Go over this Jordan." In measuring the chances of doing a thing you must take into account who orders it. It was Napoleon who said to the French army, "Go over the Alps." It would not have been done under anybody else's guidance. It was God that said to Joshua, "Go over this Jordan." Then though it be as deep as the sea, though it swirl like a whirlpool, though it rush like Niagara, he will go to yonder side. There is just one other lesson that I would fain gather from these suggestive words — "The land which I do give them." First, God had said to them while in Egypt, "The land which I will give them." Oh! what weary years of waiting followed! At last they had given it up. They said, "Where is the promise of His coming?" Then the lash of the taskmaster fell and silenced them. Now they are in sight of it, and He says, "The land which I do give them." The promise is in the very act of being fulfilled. By and by the waters parted and let them through, and, as they stand on the plains of Sharon, or lie at rest under the shadow of the hills of Lebanon, God says, "The land which I have given them!' Mark the tenses, how they change: "I will give, I do give, I have given." Men and brethren, that is God's order. He is faithful that promised.
(J. J. Wray.)
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,