1 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’ assistant, saying: 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua was chosen by both God and Moses to complete the work of leading Israel into the promised land. God had made a promise over 400 years earlier that he had reserved for Abraham and his descendants the land between the Nile and Euphrates Rivers, from Lebanon in the north to the sea in the south.
As events unfolded, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, went to Egypt with his family during a great famine. There were about 70 people in Jacob’s family at that time. They begin to multiply. The Egyptians became afraid of them and enslaved them. The taskmasters make their work hard, they cried out to God but God’s promise seemed far away. Finally, God sent them a deliverer, Moses, who, under the hand of God brought them out of Egypt.
Moses also brought to the Israelites the laws of God, conveyed to him as he spoke with God, as if face to face. Yet even Moses grew discouraged with the people. They constantly seemed to fall into unbelief and disobedience toward God, even to the point of wanting to stone Moses and return to Egypt.
The Israelites reached the edge of the promised land, only to again fall back into a weak and doubting faith that God would give them victory and deliver the land to them. As a consequence, the people spent 40 more years wandering in the wilderness.
Not everyone that day lost their faith. Two men stood on the promise of God, saying “…Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it (Numbers 13:30).” These two were Joshua and Caleb.
How do you suppose those two must have felt during the next 40 years? They spent 40 years, still waiting on the promise of God, yet I don’t believe they were willing to give up, for they knew that God would make good on His promise. One of my favorite hymns is "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." The chorus reads:
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
This great hymn of the church was written by Thomas Chisholm. He didn’t write this hymn because something great, or even miraculous, had happened in his life. He wrote it because as he looked back over his life, he learned to see the great faithfulness of God. At age 75, he wrote these words:"My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness."
After all this time, the children of Israel were about to once again experience God’s faithfulness in delivering them into their land. Joshua tells of the fulfillment of the promise to possess the promised land through His power, and the nation crossed over Jordan and took possession of the land
The key verse of this passage is Joshua 1:3: “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses” This is the theme and purpose of the Book: the history of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan in fulfillment of God’s promises for the people of Israel.
Remember that Abraham never really possessed the country to which he was sent. The only piece of ground he owned was a burial plot (Genesis 23). However, Abraham left his descendants the legacy of God’s promises that would make them the eventual heirs of all of Canaan.
The key concept of the book of Joshua is possession through conflict by the power of God. For the Christian, the same concept appears in Ephesians 6:12: we battle against enemies who would prevent us from possessing all the spiritual blessings We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and we must realistically face the fact of our enemies and strengthen ourselves by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-18).
The point is that Israel owned the land before they possessed it—its ownership was unconditional, but possession was conditional upon faith and obedience. And so today, conflict and conquest by faith go with laying hold of that which we already have in Christ; the experience of our blessings in Christ comes through faith in the midst of conflict.
We find in the opening verses of the book of Joshua that God appointed Joshua to take Moses’ place in leading the people. In this passage, Joshua 1:1-9, we see that God gave Joshua three assurances. They helped Joshua—and they can help us—in receiving our inherited promise as well.
God is faithful: He always fulfills His promises (1-4)
More than 400 years before, God promised the land to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 15:18-21; 17:8), and as Joshua and the Israelites stood ready to enter the land, the promise of God was still real and genuine.
Here we also find in Joshua chapter one that God spoke to Joshua and told him that “Moses My servant is dead.” Then He tells him to arise, or get up, and cross over Jordan to the land that He is giving them. Moses had passed away, but that did not mean that the plans of God were dead as well. It reminds me of the words that are on John Wesley’s tombstone: “God buries His workmen, but His work goes on.”
Our Lord reminds Joshua of a very important truth that we, too, need to be reminded of—His work depends on Him, and not us. Just because Moses had died, did not mean that the work and promise of God would not be fulfilled. Always remember that it is in the very nature or character of God to fulfill all His promises.
God is faithful: He is always with us (5, 9)
Israel knew that God had been with Moses. Moses’ face literally shone with the glory that came from being in the presence of God so much that he wore a veil to cover it. There was no doubt that Joshua now had a heavy responsibility laid on his shoulders. To be the leader of over one or two million people would certainly be a difficult job. It would not be easy for Joshua. He must have remembered that even though the people knew God was with Moses, they had resisted and spoke out against Moses.
Note that God reassured Joshua twice, not just once but twice, that He would be with him, giving him that assurance in verse 5 and again in verse 9. I note two characteristics of God's assurances here: the strength of His assurance and the scope of His assurance.
The strength of God’s assurance: In verse 5, God promises not to leave him (some versions, not to“fail” him). The word is “to be feeble, to relax or slack off.” It means He will always be vigilant and attentive, keeping His promise and His people at the center of His attention. God also promises not to forsake him (some versions, “leave”). It means to neglect or turn loose . . . in other words, He will never decide to not fulfill His promises to us.
The scope of God’s assurance: In verse 9, God tells Joshua that He will be with him “wherever you go.” Literally, it means wherever Joshua steps, God will be present. I could paraphrase verses. 5 and 9 something like this: “Regardless of what you are going though, regardless of your circumstances, I’m not going to take My eye off you, I’ve bound you to Me, and every step of your life, I’ll be there.”
That’s why the people of Israel could count on receiving the inheritance God promised—not because of who they were, but because of who God is. We can know we will receive our inheritance for the same reason—because of who God is, not because of who we are.
God expects us to respond in faith (6, 8-9)
In verse 6, God tells Joshua to be strong (rigid and hard) and courageous (brave and established), to observe or keep the law of God.
Yes, God’s faithfulness is seen in His promises and His presence. And in return God expected Joshua to walk in His word, to make His principles the priority in his life. And we can know that God has not changed. He expected Joshua to be diligent in His law, He expects us to be diligent in our manner of thinking and living as well.
Our Lord uses three symbols to emphasize the diligence He expected. First, He told Joshua not to turn from the right or the left regarding His word; in other words, not to deviate in the least from His word. Second, He told Joshua not to let it depart from out of his mouth; in other words, he should do the word and speak the word. And third, He told Joshua to mediate on His word day and night: God’s commands were to be the guiding focus of his life so that he constantly would do what God desired of him to do.
The promises of blessing and prosperity were contingent upon the people's faithfulness to His principles, as they are today. In our western orientation, we often misunderstand the concepts of biblical prosperity. The word prosperous here means to have insight, to literally prosper in our knowledge of God and our relationship with God, and has nothing to do with material prosperity. Those who seize on the words "prosper" and "prosperity" in the Bible as promises of wealth and riches for the faithful Christian simply misrepresent what is meant in the original Hebrew.
The prosperity in store for the Christian has to do with greater insight and knowledge of God and His character, to "prosper" in knowledge of, faith in, and relationship with God, and this is directly connected to knowing and doing His word.