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. OBEDIENCE IS THE HIGHEST PRACTICAL COURAGE. The world counts obedience to be a mean-spirited thing, and speaks of rebellion as freedom. We have heard men say, "I will be my own master; I shall follow my own will." To be a free thinker and a free liver seems to be the worldling's glory. Take the world's own martial rule. Who is accounted to be the boldest and the best soldier but the man who is most thoroughly obedient to the captain's command? There is a story told of the old French wars which has been repeated hundreds of times. A sentinel is set to keep a certain position, and at nightfall, as he is pacing to and fro, the emperor himself comes by. He does not know the password. Straightway the soldier stops him. "You cannot pass," says he. "But I must pass," says the emperor. "No," replies the man, "if you were the little corporal in grey himself you should not go by," by which, of course, he meant the emperor. Thus the autocrat himself was held in check by order. The vigilant soldier was afterwards handsomely rewarded, and all the world said that he was a brave fellow. Then surely it is not a mean and sneaking thing for a man to be obedient to Him who is the Commander-in-chief of the universe, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
II. THE EXACTNESS OF OBEDIENCE IS THE ESSENCE OF OBEDIENCE. The world saith, "We must not be too precise." As one said to an old Puritan once, "Many people have rent their consciences in halves; could not you just make a little nick in yours?" "No," he said, "I cannot, for my conscience belongs to God." "We must live, you know," said a money-loving shopkeeper, as his excuse for doing what he could not otherwise defend. "Yes, but we must die," was the reply, "and therefore we must do no such thing." We are probably better dead if we cannot live without doing wrong. The very essence of obedience lies in exactness. Probably your child, if sometimes disobedient, would still, as a general rule, do what you told him. It would be in the little things that thoroughgoing and commendable obedience would appear. Let the world judge of this for itself. Here is an honest man. Do people say of him, "He is such an honest man that he would not steal a horse"? No, that would not prove him to be very honest; but they say, "He would not even take a pin that did not belong to him." That is the world's own description of honesty, and surely when it comes to obedience to God it ought to be the same. If I profess to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, the crucial test will not be in great actions, but in little ones.
III. THE PATH OF OBEDIENCE IS GENERALLY A MIDDLE PATH. There is sure to be a right bond, there is sure to be a left hand, and both are probably wrong. There wilt be extremes on either side. I believe that this is true in ten thousand things in ordinary life, and also true in spiritual things in very many respects. With regard, for instance, to our words; the course of speech generally is, on the one hand. to say too much, or on the other hand to say too little; to be silent when the wicked are before us, or else to be rash with our lips and betray a good cause through our rashness in defending it. There is a time to speak, and there is a time to be silent, and he that judgeth well will mark his opportunities and take the middle course. He will neither be garrulous with advice that is not required, nor will he be cowardly and dumb when he ought to bear testimony, for his Master. The same holds good with regard to zeal. We have some abroad nowadays whoso heads are very hot. They talk as if they would turn the world upside down, whilst it is their own brains that need first to be turned into a right condition. Theirs is a fire which burns down the house instead of burning in the grate and warming the household. But shall we therefore not be zealous? God forbid! There is a middle course of true, sensible, prudent zeal — adhering to the truth, and never believing that people can be converted by lies, however earnestly bawled into their ears; walking within the bounds of God's truth, and being persuaded that the best seed to sow is that which God puts into the basket of His Word, and that sinners are not to be saved by rash statements nor by extravagant declamation, but that they are brought to Christ, as they were of old, by the simple telling out of the story of the Cross affectionately, and by the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Here, again, "turn neither to the right hand nor to the left."
IV. THE PATH OF RIGHT IS THE PATH OF TRUE PROSPERITY. God does not invariably make the doing of the right to be the means of pecuniary gain to us. On the contrary, it frequently happens that for a time men are great losers by their obedience to Christ. But the Scripture always speaks as to the long run; it sums up the whole of life — there it promises true riches. If thou wouldst prosper, keep close to the Word of God, and to thy conscience, and thou shalt have the best prosperity. The thief, though he takes a short way to get rich, yet takes such a dangerous way that it does not pay; but he who walks straight along the narrow road shall find it to be the shortest way to the best kind of prosperity, both in this world and in that which is to come. If not, if we get no outward prosperity here, I trust you and I, if we love Christ, and are filled with His Spirit, can do without it. Well, if we must be poor, it will soon be over, and in heaven there shall be no poverty. Let us, then, run all risks for Christ. He is no soldier who cannot die for his country; he is no Christian who cannot lose life itself for Christ.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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,