Joshua 1
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
In these words, addressed to Joshua, we have the most effectual consolation that can be offered to believers, when one has been taken away from their midst whose life seemed indispensable to the work and service of God. They are words applicable to the family no less than to the Church. Moses had just been taken from the people, from his friends, from Joshua his faithful servant. The great leader of Israel through the wilderness journey, the captain who had gone forth with their hosts to battle, the medium of the highest revelations of God to the nation, had vanished from among them. Israel would look no more on that noble face which had caught and kept the brightness of the glory of God revealed upon Sinai. The prophetic voice of him who had talked with God as a man talketh with his friend was hushed in lasting silence, he had been struck down on the very borders of the land of promise, to which he had safely led the sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There was a peculiar sadness in the death of Moses just at this time. Have we not often felt the same when we have seen the strong man fall at the very moment when he was about to reap the fruit of his patient labours, and to win the hard-fought fight? The words spoken by God Himself for the consolation of Israel may suggest thoughts helpful to us under similar circumstances.

I. GOD'S WORK DOES NOT DEPEND ON ANY ONE WORKER, EVEN THE GREATEST. It goes on, uninterrupted by the strokes of death. "Go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel." Thus the cause still advances. Moses may die; his work cannot. Nay, it is extended, and assumes new developments. Moses has led the people to the verge of Jordan. Joshua will carry them over. Both Moses and Joshua are only instruments which may be broken and laid aside; but He who uses them will never be stopped in His work of love. "My Father," says Jesus Christ, "worketh hitherto" (John 5:17).

II. AS GOD ONLY WORKS BY HIS SERVANTS, THESE MUST NEVER REST IN AN IDLE RELIANCE ON His POWER; THEY MUST TAKE UP THE WORK JUST WHERE IT IS HANDED OVER TO THEM, EVEN THOUGH THEIR HEARTS MAY BE BROKEN BY SORROW. Thus the Lord says to Joshua: "Arise, go over this Jordan." We may not sit still mourning even over our beloved dead; we are to arise and take up their work. To carry it on is a sweet consolation; we feel ourselves still linked with the departed as we trace their blessed footsteps, and deepen the furrows they have already made. It brings us into closer fellowship with them. Joshua, as he took up the charge laid down by Moses, was more than ever brought into oneness of spirit with him.

III. GOD, IN SPEAKING OF MOSES AS HIS SERVANT, GIVES TO THE SURVIVORS THE SWEET ASSURANCE THAT HE HAS TAKEN HIM TO REST IN HIS OWN PRESENCE. The recognition of his faithful service implies that of his sure reward. Undoubtedly he, like all the sons of men, was an unprofitable servant, but he nevertheless received from God that grand word of commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant;" and this is the word which sets before him who receives it an open heaven. Thus to know that God never leaves His work incomplete, that He gives it to us to carry on, and that those who have gone before us have entered into His rest, while we take up their unfinished task - this is the threefold solace of the sorrows alike of the Church and of the Christian family. Thus both "he that soweth and they who reap rejoice together" (John 4:86). - E. DE P.

The very name Joshua, Jesus, "God's salvation," is enough of itself to awaken special interest in the man who, on the page of Scripture, first bears it. It is suggestive at once of the nature of his life work, and it leads us to anticipate some points of analogy between him and the Savior of the world. Joshua is one of the few Old Testament characters against whose name there is no reproach. Not that this Book presents any formal delineation of his character or pronounces his praise. It is but a simple, matter of fact record of great events in which he took a leading part. His illustrious deeds are their own eulogium. He stands before us as the type of a godly warrior, reverent in spirit yet full of practical energy, blameless and fearless, gentle and strong, spending a long life in unselfish and unwearied devotion to the cause of the people and of God. He was the brave soldier whose work, dark and terrible as it was, was consecrated by the inspiration of a Divine call and of a beneficent purpose. A general view of Joshua's position in the annals of the Hebrew race is suggestive.

I. IT REMINDS US HOW, AT CRITICAL PERIODS IN HUMAN HISTORY, GOD RAISES UP MEN AS FITTING INSTRUMENTS FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS PURPOSES. The death of Moses marks a crisis in the career of the chosen people, he who has been their "leader and commander" through all the forty years' wandering in the wilderness and has brought them to the borders of the land of promise, is taken from them just when they seem most to need him. Only Jordan now rolls between them and the fruition of their hopes; the prize is within their reach. Shall they fail, and, after all, come short of it? They would have failed if God had not been with them, moving, working among them, fulfilling His own will, magnifying His own name. Joshua's uprising is itself a Divine interposition. He is not the product of the mere natural working of events and second causes. He is a deliverer whom God has provided, well named God's salvation. The lesson is an important one. When God has any great work for men to do, he never fails to call forth those who can do it. The history of the Church, the general course of the world's life, establish this law. The demand and the supply, the hour and the man, always meet. When those who are in the high places of the field fall, others step forth, often from very unlikely quarters, to fill the gap and carry on the work to riper issues. This continuity of the Divine purpose and of the path of its development is very wonderful ?

"The voice that from the glory came
To tell how Moses died unseen,
And waken Joshua's spear of flame
To victory on the mountains green,
Its trumpet tones are sounding still," kindling our expectations, rousing our energies, rebuking our distrust. Through the shifting clouds of circumstance we catch "glimpses of the unchanging sky." God's redeeming purpose shines on through all human and earthly changes. We need not fear but that He "will plead his own cause," and when new emergencies arise provide some new instrument or agency to meet them.

II. IT REMINDS US OF THE PROCESS BY WHICH GOD IS WONT TO PREPARE MEN FOR THE WORK HE HAS FOR THEM TO DO. Joshua was a divinely chosen and ordained deliverer (Numbers 27:18-23; Deuteronomy 31:14-23). But God's choice is never arbitrary, reasonless. There is generally some native quality, or circumstantial advantage, that makes the chosen man the more fitting instrument. (Examples: Moses, David, Cyrus, Paul, Luther.) Joshua grew up as a slave in the brick fields of Egypt. Born about the time when Moses fled into Midian, he must have been forty years old at the exodus. It may seem strange that such greatness as his should have been nursed amid such associations. But when God has fixed His choice on a man He can make what seem to be the most adverse conditions a school of preparation. And, perhaps, the rough influences of such a lot were, after all, the best school. In servitude as a youth, he learnt how to command as a man. No doubt sudden emergencies have often developed unlooked for qualities in men. Tender spirits, nursed in the lap of luxury, have been found calm in danger, brave in battle. Still, as a nile, to "bear the yoke in one's youth" is the best preparation for the stern struggle of after life. Moreover, the trials and responsibilities of life are graduated. The right discharge of lesser duty qualifies for higher positions of trust. Joshua proved, in the previous expeditions on which Moses sent him (Exodus 17:9; Numbers 13:17), his fitness to take the place of the great leader. "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much." "If thou hast run with the footmen," etc. (Jeremiah 12:5). Again: other circumstances of a different kind - miraculous manifestations, Divine revelations - had their part in Joshua's preparation, he had witnessed the wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea, had been with Moses in the mount, had had direct communication from God to himself (Deuteronomy 31.). We are reminded of the higher, diviner influences that help in the formation of all noblest human character; there is always the blending of natural and supernatural elements, ordinary associations of life mingled with direct heavenly visitations, innate qualities sanctified and glorified by special ministries of the grace of God.

III. IT ILLUSTRATES THE HEROISM THAT SPRINGS FROM FAITH. Faith, the faith that brought him into personal contact with the living God, was the spring of all Joshua's strength and courage. He had no prophetic gift as regards the vision of the future, for it was through the priest Eleazar, "after the judgment of Urim," that he was to ask counsel of the Lord (Numbers 27:21). But as military leader of Israel he was divinely inspired; and his inspiration was the energy of faith. This has ever been the prolific root of the noblest forms of character and deed. By it "the elders," whose names shed lustre on the ages of the past, "obtained their good report." And so it always will be. There is no heroism like that which springs from the soul's living hold on the unseen and eternal. The hope of the world for deliverance from the ills that afflict it, and its being led into the heritage of a brighter future, is in the men of faith. And he is an enemy to his race who would attempt to dry up this spring of power. "This is the victory," etc. (1 John 5:4).

IV. IT PRESENTS US WITH AN INTERESTING HISTORIC TYPE OF GOSPEL SALVATION. Many points of typical resemblance have been traced. This, at least, is clear, as Joshua, "Moses' minister," consummates his work, leads the people into the promised land, divides to them their inheritance; so Christ, "made under the law," brings in the richer grace. He is the "end of the law for righteousness," etc. (Romans 10:4). The Captain of salvation leads many sons, His redeemed ones, to glory and eternal rest. - W.

The loss of a privilege teaches us how inadequately we have appreciated its womb. The removal of art honored servant of God often awakens a deeper sense of the blessing that has been in our midst. And sometimes a tendency is thus created to dwell unduly on the past, to become morbid, and to neglect the present, undervaluing what still remains to us. Mourning has its proper limits. In the text God impresses on the people the duty of recognising facts. "Moses is dead." True, you will never look upon his like again; but also true, that all your resets will not restore him to his wonted place. There is to be no standstill in the kingdom of God. A new leader is summoned to the front. Joshua must succeed to the vacant post.

I. We have A NEW LEADER AND A FRESH START. As if to magnify Joshua in the eyes of the Israelites, the command is at once given to prepare for that entrance into the land of promise which Moses had so ardently longed for but was not permitted to witness. "One soweth, another reapeth." The law paved the way for the gospel. It is well to follow a period of inaction by vigorous measures. Active employment would turn away the people's thoughts from unduly dwelling upon the absence of Moses, and would prove that all wisdom and energy had not died with him, nor had God also perished in His servant's death. And so today the class in the Sunday school shall continue its training, though the much loved teacher has been compelled to renounce his work; the congregation shall be instructed as heretofore, though by a different voice. Let class and congregation rally around their new chief. The appointment of a new leader should be the signal for a fresh advance. Let "Onward!" be the cry.

II. THE TITLE OF POSSESSION. The real claim of the Israelites was grounded on the gift of God. Consider the earth

(a) Materially, as belonging to God. "The earth is the Lord's." Men are but His tenants at will. The justification of the Israelites in driving out the Canaanites is to be sought in the fact that the inhabitants had made an ill use of the land. He who owned it had revoked His grant, and conferred it on His chosen people. The lesson enforced by our Lord in the parable of the talents is of wide application. Not only agriculturists but merchants must regard their property as held at the disposal of the Creator. Nevertheless there is something in the possession of a "foot of ground" which seems to connect us immediately with the Lord of the earth, and renders impiety amid scenes of nature the more guilty.

(b) Spiritually, as given through Christ to the Church. The commission of Christ to the disciples embraced the whole world. Every nation of right belongs to God, and the establishment of missions is but claiming the land for its Great Owner. God hath given to every company of believers a "land" to possess, a neighbourhood to be evangelised, cruelty and vice and selfishness to be expelled, that peace and love and righteousness may dwell in the conquered territory. The text may remind us, therefore, of the aggressive measures which the Church of Christ is required to undertake.

III. THE DIVINE GIFT NO SUPERSESSION OF HUMAN EFFORT. First the Israelites must cross the river Jordan, and then seize the gift offered. They had literally to tread with the "sole of the foot" upon the land they desired to receive from God. Every promise of Scripture is intended not as a sedative, but as a stimulus, to exertion. We have to "labour to enter into the rest." There is a Divine law, "Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened." The redemption that is in Christ will not benefit unless appropriated. The "treasures of wisdom and knowledge" will be ours by taking them in Christ from the outstretched hands of God. In all church operations we must be mindful that "Christ expects every man to do his duty." The heathen are His inheritance, but will be made His only as the Church is stirred up to diligent activity in moral conquest. Thus the gifts of God are conditional upon human service. Not, of course, that God simply allocates the land as did the Popes formerly, expecting the grantees to secure it for themselves; for He helps us, and without Him our efforts would be vain.

IV. THE RECORDED PROMISE INTENDED FOR ALL GENERATIONS. "As I said unto Moses." There is evident reference to the utterance of Jehovah forty years before (Exodus 23:31). He had not forgotten His word. Should the unbelief of the people make His "promises of none effect"? That Moses had not allowed the declaration to slip from his memory is seen in Deuteronomy 11:24. Intervening years do not render the fulfilment of God's promises less sure. Thousands of years rolled away between the first prediction of a Messiah and His actual appearance. Let not our hearts fail to trust in God. "As I said unto Moses may be turned into a general promise, as the Epistle to the Hebrews did with the specific utterance of Joshua 5:5 to Joshua (Hebrews 13:5). It may be kept before us as a message of hope and assurance. - A.

Such is God's word to Joshua when commencing his great task. He needed the urgent precept and the supporting promise. He was no youthful dreamer, but one long past middle life, who had no exaggerated estimate of Israel's faithfulness, and no illusions about its task. He needed, and here he gets, the quickening influence of a sacred charge. As God spake to him, so he would speak to all who are constrained by a sense of duty to God or man to undertake some task that seems beyond their powers. Let us take its general lessons to all.

I. HEROES PASS AWAY, BUT THE POWER THAT MADE THEM STILL REMAINS. When Moses left his task it seemed as if the work must come to a stand. Where should they find such grace again? or how could they do without it? Such a combination of courage and meekness, faith to follow anywhere, patience with those who had hardly faith to follow at all; such wisdom, such love - could it be repeated? could it be dispensed with? Especially now, when the finish of their great enterprise was so full of difficulty. They know little of the human heart who imagine that Joshua could gaily assume the responsibilities of his command. They who enter into great wars "with light heart" do not take long to gather heaviness. And Joshua, advanced in life, acquainted with the difficulties of his task, doubtless was tempted to feel that with Moses the heroic age had ended, and prosaic common life alone remained. Probably the people shared this feeling; and with the departure of this great hero there was the feeling that all greatness and glory was gone. The first thing that will quicken men with hope is this - heroes leave us, but God remains. Before the special promise will operate its special comfort there must be this general thought of comfort cherished and realised. And we all shall be prepared to realise the promises which suit ourselves, if we realise that amidst all changes God remains unchanged, and whatever leaves us He abides. We are all apt to say that former times were better than the present; to imagine that former greatness cannot be grown now; that grandeur of thought, saintliness, courage, will come no more "to dignify our times;" that there was special grace vouchsafed to past ages which made them rich, and which has evaporated long ago. Churchmen look back to the Fathers; Dissenters to the Reformers of the Church. Now the martyrs of the ancient days, now the stalwart heroes of Puritan times, are gilded with our reverent memory; and then rises the pensive thought that "the tender grace of the day that is dead" will never return. "As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee." Revere the saintly past, but recognise the Divine present. The great ones have gone; that which made them great remains. The fixed constancy of their maturer service makes us forget with what gradualness their characters grew. How by lowly ventures, by difficult waiting, by support only sufficient to prevent despair, they rose step by step; God's grace entering them ever the more largely and obeyed ever the more fully. So, blade to ear, ear to full corn in the ear, their character grew; and so may ours. Today the Spirit of all grace broods on humanity, kindling all wakeful spirits, entering and employing them. Still Christ's love helps and harbours all. The peculiarities of the nineteenth century do not enfeeble God. And He is here, fresh and strong today. He will hallow, not equalise, varieties of constitution; will not make a Joshua into a Moses, nor an Elisha into an Elijah; but with special grace for their special task will equally endue each. Despair not of God's Church; tremble not for the ark of God; despair not of our country, or of mankind. Whoever, whatever has gone, God remains. "As He was with our fathers, so He will be with us."

II. WITH EVERY DUTY COMES THE POWER TO DO IT. "I will not fall thee, nor forsake thee." If the first clause of the text promised the presence, the second pledges the power and help, of God. He will be with Joshua - not merely in sense of ubiquity, but in sense of interest; not to watch faults and failures, but to prevent them. There was the fear that in this enterprise many things might "fail" them. The people's courage might fail; they might withdraw from allegiance to him; his wisdom might be at fault, his endurance might fail. But God comes in and says, "I will not fail thee." Will disappoint no expectation, withhold no needed help; will not fail you when you are weak, nor forsake you when you are faulty. With the duty there will be the power, for God will not fail us. There is no part of the gospel more necessary or more sweet than this - that with duty power always comes; they walk hand in hand. The moment the Saviour's precept makes it the man's duty to stretch forth his hand, that moment he has power to do it. When the disciples are bidden to feed the multitude they have power to do so. The acceptance of a charge opens the heart to God, and He floods it with His grace. If the disciples are sent out to cast out devils they have the power to do so, for God does not fail them. They never get power apart from Him, of which they can be conscious and proud. But He is there - by them, in them; and when they are feeling all weakness, and unfitness, He, not failing, charges them with all the grace they need. You are called to confess Christ; to forsake some pleasant or profitable course of evil; to stand alone; to take up some forlorn hope of philanthropy... and you feel no strength, energy, vigour for your task. Take this comfort: with duty there invariably comes the power to discharge it. "I will never fail thee, nor forsake thee." Observe lastly -

III. COURAGE IS THE SUPREME REQUIREMENT OF GOD'S SAINTS, AND STRENGTH GOES WITH IT. "Be strong and of a good courage." It is striking how large a place exhortations to courage hold in all the Bible. "Add to your faith, courage" (not virtue), says Peter; and so saying sums up many testimonies. You cannot easily count the "fear nots" of the Bible. And these are not merely soothing words, calming solicitude, but quickening words, calling to conflict and to victory. Take the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and you will find that in almost every instance in which the writer attributes men's greatness to their faith he might have done so with equal truth to their courage. Fear is the parent of every kind of vice; fear of conflict, fear of shame, fear of failure, fear that God will leave fidelity unrewarded and prayer unanswered. "They were afraid to confess him," says the Evangelist of those who sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. "I was afraid and went and hid my talent." Fear exaggerates difficulties, murmurs at duties, shrinks from reproach, postpones duty, then neglects it, and then hates God with the bitterness of despair. Be of good courage. If seeking God, seek hopefully, expecting to find Him. If distressed with doubts, face them bravely, and calmly wait the rising of the broader light which will include all that is best of old and new. Are you afflicted, bereaved, and broken? Be brave and of good courage. Look the grave in the face, and summon your energy to meet the falsehoods of despair. Are you failing - "feet almost gone," "perplexed," and all but in despair? Be of good courage, for hardihood of spirit, while it is needed, is sufficient for what you have to do. Strength goes with it. The momentum of a projectile is the product of its mass and velocity; and a lighter ball, if driven with greater force, will do all the work of a heavier one that moves more slowly. And this law of mechanics is true of souls. There is many a soul light, fragile, weak, but which hurls itself with energy against resisting forces, which has a power of overcoming far in excess of that possessed by many stronger and lordlier natures. Be strong and of good courage. If God appoints the task and leads the way, you are in a course in which fear of failure is superfluous. Let the eye be brighter; go not to your task burdened with melancholy of dark foreboding. Courage gladdening, strengthening you is duty and strength in one. Joshua obeyed the precept, and exceedingly abundantly above all he thought realised the promise. Let us act like him, and then from a pinnacle of high performance and blest success we shall look back and praise our God for the "faithful word on which he caused us to hope." - G.

The covenant made with the patriarchs, and afterwards with their descendants when they came out of Egypt, is here renewed in almost the same words. The promises are identical (vers. 4, 5), and also the conditions of their fulfilment, which are summed up in fidelity and obedience: "Observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded thee" (vers. 7, 8). This renewal to each generation of the covenant between God and His people is a law of religious history. It results both from the nature of that covenant and from the character of those who enter into it.

I. This alliance is, in its essence, THE RESTORATION OF THE BOND OF LOVE BETWEEN MAN AND GOD, by the obedience of faith. Now love is a feeling which needs to be constantly renewed. The love of one generation will not avail for the next. It must be rekindled and find fresh expression.

II. The covenant must be made between the true God and man made in His image; IT MUST BE SPIRITUAL AND SPONTANEOUS IN ITS CHARACTER. It cannot be signed upon parchment or graven in the insensate stone; it must be written upon living hearts. Hence it ought to be perpetually renewed, though it gladly avails itself of the strengthening influence of its glorious antecedents. It recognises as its essential principle the free and sovereign initiative of Divine love. "We love him because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Nor is it enough that this Divine covenant be renewed with each successive generation; it must be entered into by every individual sad. This was true, indeed, in relation to the higher religious life, even under the old covenant. How much more under the new - the covenant of the Spirit - which is ratified not by circumcision but by conversion. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). - E. DE P.

Who without secret misgiving could succeed to the position of Moses, that large-hearted, clear-sighted, faithful servant of God? How overwhelming the anxiety of him who would aspire to be leader of the Israelites; a fickle people who, "like bees about to swarm, were ready to alight on any bough." He who summoned Joshua to occupy the vacant post promised to stand by and strengthen him. He gave him the direction contained in the text, to study well the book of the law. He seemed to say, "Take it; it shall be thy food, live upon it: carry it as a torch, and it will illumine thy pathway in the thickest darkness: in the vigour of thy manhood it shall be thy wand of truth to scatter doubt and error from before thee, and it shall be a staff to sustain thee in the decrepitude of age." Surely the advice given to Joshua is applicable to all who are in positions of responsibility or perplexity. How fitted for the young! What better can any of us do than seek wisdom at the oracles of God? Let us group our thoughts under three headings.


1. Its subject-matter. "This book of the law." This recommendation stamps the Pentateuch with authority. Joshua was favoured with direct communications from the Almighty, sometimes by an inward revelation, sometimes by the appearance of an angel in visible form. He could also consult the wishes of God by means of the high priest's Urim and Thummim. Yet was he to study the written word. Meteoric flashes were not to make him careless of the steady light that burned in the lamp of God's truth. Provision was made for a public rehearsal of the law every seven years, at the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 31:10), and it was the duty of a king on ascending the throne to write out a copy of the law (Deuteronomy 18:18). How intense should be the eagerness with which we meditate on the whole Bible. The rapturous strains of the Messianic prophets, the simple and sublime gospel narratives, the epistles - those commentaries on the preparatory dispensation and on Christian doctrine - do not all these "testify" of the Saviour? Well may we "search the Scriptures." Consider the fitness of the Bible to be a general textbook. It contains lessons suited to all capacities; the flowing river for the man, the purling brook for the little child, doctrines for the learned, pictured stories for the common people. It contains all truth needful to make us "wise unto salvation," and contains it in a compact form, so portable that each may have a Mentor always at his side. It tells us things of the utmost importance which we could not know without it; and it comes in to verify the conclusions of our reasoning. It lends to the utterances of conscience the might of Divine testimony.

2. The character of the meditation enjoined. Constant - "day and night." So close a companion that it was not to "depart out of his mouth." It should become his mother tongue; his speech should be redolent of the law. Constant reading alone can make us familiar with the contents of Scripture, so as to be well equipped at all points for the Christian warfare. Many knotty questions would Joshua have to decide; and many are the occasions on which men err grievously through "not knowing the Scriptures." The command of the text implies that it was to be no formal perusal, but an endeavour to grasp the real meaning of the law. Glancing at the pages of the word can do little good; we want to enter into and imbibe the spirit of that we read. A good plan to read the Scriptures regularly through. There will be many an oasis in what we called a desert, and many a pretty flower on what we deemed only a sterile rock. It is profitable to read "at morning and at night." He is well armed for his struggle with temptations and annoyances who goes to his work fortified by previous study of the Scriptures; and after the battle of the day is over, when the shadows of evening surround him or the gloomier shadows of trouble threaten to enclose him, there is naught so effectual to dissipate the darkness as the kindled rays of the heavenly lamp. Then "at evening time it shall be light."

II. ACTION. Meditation is to be followed by appropriate conduct. "That thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein." The inference is plain - that the law contains, as we should expect in a law, precepts to be observed. And the whole Bible may be considered as a law. There are general regulations and positive institutions. "This do and thou shall live" is common both to the Old and New Testament, the difference being in the things to be done, and the spirit that is to characterise the doing thereof. We may test the value of our meditation by the obedience which results. Obedience is a proof of holding the things read in due estimation. "Why call ye me, Lord, and do not... say?" Obedience springs from faith, a hearty acceptance of the will and ways of God. Obedience brings its own confirmation of the truth. "If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him." "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." "Hereby we do know that we know him if we keep his commandments." Obedience is to extend to the smallest matters. "Observe to do according to all." The only question with Joshua to be, "What is written in the law? how readest thou?" We do not plead for the "letter" as against the "spirit," nor forget that many Scripture precepts are expressed in a general form, and one must be compared with another to ascertain the intention of our Lawgiver. But many persons are for drawing distinctions, for keeping greater and violating lesser commandments. Some will compound with God. These ordinances they will observe, those they will neglect. Such resemble the strangers imported into Samaria, who "feared the Lord and served their own gods" (2 Kings 17:33). A little Christian service and a little idolatry, a little self denial, and a little worldliness to make the former palatable. We see the necessity of the frequent injunction, "Be strong, very courageous." Joshua would have often to act in opposition to the prejudices and desires and clamours of the multitude. He who will follow Christ must "be courageous," must be prepared to act in the teeth of worldly wisdom, to forego "good openings," to refuse to give dishonest measure, though his gains be thereby slow in accumulating. We want a knowledge of the Bible, not merely as words and sentences but as influential principles. Not the Hebrew and not the Greek do we want so much as a translation of them into thought and feeling and conduct. He has not read his Bible to good purpose who has not repented of sin and thankfully accepted God's well-beloved Son as his Saviour, his Redeemer "from all iniquity."

III. PROSPERITY. The reward of obedience.

1. Regard prosperity, first, as the natural consequence of noting on good advice. The rules framed for the guidance of the Israelites evince consummate wisdom. Experience proved how disastrous was any attempt to depart from the lines of procedure there laid down. And many familiar instances show that, in modern days, he who steers by God's compass and chart is preserved from many rocks and shallows, and is most likely to reach the haven of his legitimate desire. A pure, temperate Christian life is likeliest to win real success in any department of activity.

2. Regard prosperity as a promised result. He who consults Omniscience is helped by Omnipotence. A finger post may indicate the way, it can do no more. God is a living Guide; he has written directions and he aids in the performance of them. "No good thing shall fail of all that he has promised concerning us." "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added unto you." Blessed is the man whose "delight is in the law of the Lord," so that "in it he doth meditate day and night, he shall be like a tree shall prosper" (Psalm 1:2, 3). - A.

The Reubenites and Gadites had already settled on the banks of the Jordan. They were at rest; they had not to await the ordeal of the conquest. As far as they were concerned, they had already received the promise. And yet they were not to be allowed to remain in idleness, and in selfish enjoyment of their own good. They were not to forget their brethren. "Ye shall pass before your brethren armed," said Joshua, "and help them." "And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do." Such was the response of these valiant and true hearted men. We have here an admirable illustration of the great bond of solidarity which makes all the people of God one.

I. IN REALITY, NO SECTION OF GOD'S PEOPLE CAN LIVE AN ISOLATED LIFE. It would he vain for the Reubenites to dream that they could rest at ease under their vines and fig trees. The defeat of their brethren would recoil upon them, and should the Canaanites be victorious the Reubenites would quickly find themselves driven out of the land. And it is the same with the Church - each for all, and all for each; this is the Church's motto. Therefore it is that all should rally round the great standard of the army.

II. FOR ANY SECTION OF GOD'S PEOPLE TO ISOLATE THEMSELVES in their prosperity is not only the sure way to impoverish and ultimately to ruin themselves, but it is TREASON TO THE KING OF THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM; for it implies that the first object of desire is prosperity for themselves, not the glory of the King; that he is loved, not with a pure, but with a selfish love.

III. SUCH ISOLATION HARDENS THE HEART. It is a violation of the first law of the kingdom - the law of love. Its tendency is, as far as possible, to obliterate that law. It ignores the fact that we receive only to give again. Let us fully grasp, then, this great truth, that every blessing received is a trust placed in our hands only that we may diffuse it among our brethren. The applications of this great precept of Christian love are innumerable. Do we possess in large measure the good things of this world? It is that we may communicate to our less favoured brethren. Are we rich in spiritual gifts? It is that we may impart to those less privileged and of fewer opportunities than ourselves. And as we are indebted to the Church, so are we also to humanity, for are we not all one flesh? Hence the claim of missions, both at home and abroad, as a means of imparting the gifts of God already received by us to those who as yet are ignorant of them. Nor is this all. After having won the victory for ourselves, we have to begin the battle over again, and to suffer in sympathy with those who have yet the Jordan to cross. Let us never forget Him who left the blessedness of heaven to undertake our cause, and who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor. - E. DE P.

We have here a fine appeal, and a fine answer to that appeal. Arrived at the Jordan, they are about to make that invasion of Palestine which gave the Church of God a country and truth a home. At first the settlement of all the twelve tribes in the country between the Jordan and the sea seems to have been the design of Moses. But "the region beyond Jordan" was fertile - a finer land for flocks than Canaan itself. It was not surprising, therefore, that the pre-eminently pastoral tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh should desire to settle there. And when the opposition of Og, king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, necessitated war, and ended in their defeat, the desire of these tribes found expression in a formal request. On the condition that their settlement on the nearer side of Jordan was not to be a "secession," and that they would help their brethren in the conquest of the whole land, Moses had granted their request, and divided the territory between them. Now Joshua, on the death of Moses, requires their fulfilment of their pledge. Rest would have been pleasant, and selfish reasons in plenty forthcoming for evading the fulfilment of their promise; but the claim for brotherly help was made to men of brotherly nature. This chapter shows their prompt response, and the remainder of this Book shows - one might almost say all the subsequent books of the Bible do so - the splendid results of their brotherliness. I find a very perfect illustration of a great theme, viz., the duty and blessedness of the more favoured helping their less favoured brethren. Observe -

I. THE DUTY OF THOSE MORE EARLY, OR MORE RICHLY BLESSED, HELPING THEIR LESS FAVOURED BRETHREN. There are those more and those less favoured. Those that attain the desire of their hearts much earlier and much more fully than their brethren. God does not divide His favours as a communistic philosopher would do. All are largely, but all unequally and diversely, blessed. So it happened here. The two and a haft tribes had got all their fighting over before the others had well begun. Had Israel entered the land of Canaan by the south, as they probably would have done if they had not shrunk from the enterprise on the return of the spies, then Judah would have been the first to find its home secure; and Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh would have been the last if they still desired the district of Gilead. It is not the peculiar virtue of the latter that it should be earlier, nor any fault of the former that it should be later. It is due simply to their entering now from the east instead of from the south. So in the contrasted condition of these tribes we have but a type of the contrasted conditions of men. There are some have made their fortune by the time others are just beginning to struggle for it. To some, truth comes with clear evidence as a bright heritage of their youth, while others only reach it with protracted struggle. Some are favoured with a knowledge of the gospel, while others are in densest ignorance. Some nations have vast wealth of liberty and justice, when others are just beginning to achieve the first sweets of freedom. And in such circumstances the more fortunate are very apt to enjoy their comforts, regardless of the struggles of their brethren; just as these tribes might have argued with plausible ingenuity that they should be excused from rendering assistance to their brethren. The struggle with Bashan - that district which rises like an island of rock from the pastoral plains, and which is the great natural fortress, the "keep" of the whole district - had been arduous. The remains of the cities of Bashan, so strongly built that three thousand years has not been able to reduce them to ruins, show the energy and developed civilisation of their foes. There are not a few indications that the stress of the conflict fell on the two and a half tribes. How easily they might have been tempted to settle down, indifferent to their brethren's welfare. Besides, they had respectable excuses. Who would defend their wives and children when all their mighty men were across the Jordan? What would become of their cattle? What security was there against the Bedawin, then, as now, roving about intent on spelt? Might they not act as rear guard, and keep the communications open - secure a safe retreat? But Moses, Joshua, God, all expect the more to help the less fortunate, and the generous instincts of their own hearts assent to the doctrine, and the nobility of their action testifies to all posterity that privilege carries responsibility, and that all who have are bound to aid all who lack. "Go forth before your brethren armed, till the Lord hath given them rest." Let the upper classes of our country share rather than monopolise education, power, enjoyment of life. Let the rich aid the poor; the strong the weak. Let those who have the gospel help those who are in darkness to attain its light. The successful have a duty to the struggling to aid them, not feebly, but with their full strength. If this example illustrates the duty of the more helping the less favoured, it illustrates with equal clearness, secondly -

II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF DOING SO. One does not like to contemplate what would have been the results had they withheld their help. The Amorites, strong in their mountain fastnesses, the Canaanites - the race we know better under the name of Phoenicians, strong in their civilisation, wealth, commerce, maritime enterprise, inhabiting the seaboard plains - were not enemies to be lightly overcome. Ten out of the twelve spies - all brave men - reported the conquest impossible; and the other two hoped for it only because they had the faith that remembered nothing was impossible. What would have been the effect on the world if Phoenician religion, with its unutterable vileness and cruelty, destruction of morality and virtues in all their forms, had extirpated Hebrew religion, with its inspiration of virtue, truth, liberty, and all things high, one is content to leave unguessed. But Israel was fighting the world's battle of truth and righteousness against enormous odds, and the two and a half tribes nobly taking their share in the conflict. Observe what blessed results followed.

1. They had the reward of being grandly useful in the service they rendered. They did not fail, nor were discouraged until, as the result of three or four years of war, the whole land from Hebron in the south to Baal Gad in Lebanon was theirs. And God's people, God's Church, and God's Truth had an earthly house. The candle was set on a candlestick, and gave light to all surrounding nations and succeeding ages. Thy brotherly help, in whatever direction rendered, will never be in vain. Nothing has such success and so little failure as kindly help.

2. Their service resulted in the development of a finer brotherhood. Not a perfect one, as there will be too much occasion to mark, but yet a relationship in which there was on the one hand the genial interest we always take in those we help, and on the other there was the gratitude always felt where service is promptly and freely given. They know not what they lose who never render help. Serve and love your brethren and they will pray for you and love you, when perhaps their love and prayer will turn the scale between hope and despair.

3. There was developed in these tribes a noble sentiment of heroic patriotism. We make our acts: but our acts make us. And a noble deed increases the nobility of nature from which it sprung. The service now rendered by the tribes inhabiting Gilead lived in their memory, an inspiration to similar service. Gideon and Jephthah headed the tribes, and twice over delivered Israel from her oppressors. And in later times this same region gave Israel her grandest prophet - the great Elijah - who restored pure and undefiled religion to its throne. The service you render ennobles you, and makes you more capable of nobler service in all time to come.

4. There was the direct outward reward. They lost nothing by it even in material wealth. No enemy attacked their families. They brought back great store of spoil, more wealth than herding could have given them in the interval. And through all their future history the service now rendered by them was repayed to them. So that, though exposed in situation, the first to feel the brunt of the attacks of Syria and Ammon, they retained, by help of their brethren, their possessions and their freedom, right down to the days of Ahab. It is no slight reward which waits on brotherly kindness and charity, but one which makes men richer than with any wealth of selfishness they could possibly be. Go thou, and in thy sphere do as these tribes did - render prompt, willing, rich, lengthened service to your less favoured brethren, and "exceedingly abundant above all you ask or think" will you find your reward in heaven. - G.

The latter part of this chapter recounts the preparations made for the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan. Joshua was already showing himself "the right man in the right place." Having given orders with respect to the food necessary for the next march, he now addresses the tribes who had been permitted to choose an inheritance on the east of the Jordan. He reminds them of their promise to send their armed men as a van-guard to the people. Though under the sheltering wings of the Almighty no prudent precautions must be neglected, no vigilance relaxed, the honour of God demands that reasonable care should be exercised to prevent surprise and the consequent disgrace that would attach to His holy name. God helps us not only outwardly but inwardly, teaching us how to live a sober, righteous, and godly life, and so to vanquish the machinations of the enemy.

I. A COVENANT REMEMBERED. If the Reubenites and Gadites had forgotten it, not so Joshua. Nor does God fail to recollect the vows we have made. As He recalled Jacob to a sense of his ingratitude and remissness (Genesis 35:1), so He will not have us treat our promises lightly. It is part of the functions of a faithful leader to bring to light forgotten duties. A minister reminds his people of their engagements. What declarations of devoted adherence to Christ were uttered at conversion! how they bound themselves henceforth to live to the glory of God! The people's promises to God must be insisted on, as won as the cheering promises which God has made to them. Let us not be angry nor revile such admonitions as the preaching of the law instead of the gospel. An appeal was made to authority. The agreement had been a commandment on the part of Moses. Joshua enforced compliance therewith. On the same grounds we draw attention to the precepts of prophets and apostles, as well as to the direct dictates of the Lord. These holy men were inspired, and to dispute their utterances is to call in question the authority of the Master whose servants they were. Joshua thus sanctioned Moses as Peter afterwards bore witness to Paul (2 Peter 3:15).


1. Favours merit some grateful return. The land of Gilead and Bashan was desired by these two and a half tribes on account of its fruitful pasturage. It was adapted for flocks and herds, and the sight of such fertile territory caused the owners of much sheep and cattle to be willing to settle down at once, rather than to occupy soft in the "land of promise" itself. Their request was not pleasing to Moses, as it seemed to put a slight upon Canaan, and to threaten a relapse into idolatry, beside the imminent danger of discouraging the rest of the Israelites, and so effecting by the wrath of God the utter extinction of the nation. Yet on the condition to which reference has been made the petition was ultimately granted. As they had achieved their desire it was rightly expected that they would render some proportionate recompense. And in similar method our heavenly Father deals with us today. We must be ready to cry with the Psalmist, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" If more than others we have received, of us will more be required. Health and strength, wealth and position, learning and influence - not one of these gifts but entails a corresponding responsibility. If the conditions have not been stated in so many words, yet they are easily discoverable.

2. The priority of duty to pleasure. Before these armed men could lawfully enjoy their inheritance they must fulfil their engagement. We do not oppose duty to pleasure, strictly speaking, for it is obvious that only when mindful of the former can the latter be truly known. But the two may be distinguished, and it is clear that there are cases in which selfish inclination would lead one way and obligation calls us another. The rule to be adopted is plain. Listen to "I ought," and follow whither it directs; there will be a satisfaction gendered which will go far to repay us for any sacrifice; and then when the period of relaxation has really arrived our delight will be embittered by no stings of reproachful conscience, but enhanced by the remembrance of duty discharged. Let this be noted and acted upon by the young, and there will be fewer wasted lives. Let Church members consult their obligations before their convenience and there will be fewer vacancies crying out for occupants.

3. The obligations of fraternal love. The dislike of Moses to the request of these tribes was akin to the grief of a father who witnesses the separation of some members of the family from the rest. The river Jordan was in itself but a small dividing line, but it might be significant of a wide and deep estrangement. Evidently perceiving the fear of Moses, the Reubenites, etc., offered to prove by their conduct that they were still at one with their brethren and intended so to remain. The offer was approved of and established as a covenant between the whole nation and these special tribes. It affirmed a participation in the common hopes and risks. The New Testament speaks not less clearly of the relationship between all the children of God. The members of the body. of Christ axe bound to feel with and for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25, 26). "Let brotherly love continue." So forcible was the impulse of the first preaching of the gospel that it led the Christians of Jerusalem to a commonalty of goods. It is required of the rich to help the poor, the strong must assist in bearing the burdens of the weak, the settled in position and faith must stretch out the hand to those who axe still searching for a place of rest, and those who have leisure must devote a portion at least to the succour of the busily employed. The Jewish Paul having obtained the privileges of Christianity could wish himself to be "accursed for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh." We are selfish indeed if we pray not and labour not for the salvation of our friends till they become possessed likewise of an eternal inheritance. Briefly note -

III. THE RATIFICATION OF THE COVENANT. The covenanters assented immediately to the command of Joshua. They were ready to keep their word. No excuses urged, no pleas of misunderstanding, no subtle equivocations, no attempts to secure a remission of their engagement, but downright honest confirmation of their pledged promise. They did not desire their sin to find them out (Numbers 32:23). The covenant had been really made with the Lord, and He would be certain to punish its violation. God give us grace to imitate their example! Like Jephthah, we have "opened our mouth to the Lord and cannot go back." We have declared that our bodies shall be living sacrifices, that our mouths shall show forth the Redeemer's praise, that as for us we will serve the Lord. Very shame should bind us to our word; we must not, dare not, "keep back part of the price." And love to God and man draws us onward to our "reasouable service." - A.

A demand had been made that the "men of valour" of these tribes should leave their relatives and property in the fenced cities of their inheritance, and head the advance of the Israelites into Canaan. A call to a dangerous position, to bear, as it seemed, the brunt of the enemy's attack; a summons to exercise self denial in absence from home and possessions; the precept issuing, too, from unaccustomed lips, those of a new general. These verses record a courageous, generous response, which may well furnish matter for meditation and imitation.


1. A prompt assent. No time forthought and preparation asked for. No reasons invented for delay.

2. A hearty assent. It is expressed in three forms: a promise to do what is commanded, to go where sent, and to hearken when addressed. These phrases cover all possible kinds of precepts.

3. Promise of unreserved obedience. "All," "whithersoever," and "in all things," thus blocking the smallest loophole of escape in each case. No picking and choosing here of the mandates to which they will conform. Such complete acquiescence as this can be required of us only with respect to Him who is the Captain of our salvation. With regard to other subalterns of His, and to the national sovereign, there are occasions on which refusal and resistance are justifiable. Consider the grounds on which we owe fealty to Jesus Christ. He is our Lord as Creator, "by him were all things made," and as Redeemer, "that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves," etc.

II. A PRAYER OFFERED FOR THE LEADER. "Only the Lord thy God be with thee as he was with Moses."

1. This petition recognised the fount of authority. The warriors readily complied with the demand of Joshua because they believed that he was appointed to occupy the place of Moses. Joshua was henceforth to receive and utter the directions of the Almighty, to be His vicegerent to the Israelites. And on this foundation Jesus Christ often based His claims to be heard by the Jews, viz., that He was sent from God and spoke the words of God. He pointed to His mighty works in evidence of the truth of His pretensions. Nicodemus declared, "No man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him." The Father openly signified His approval of the Son's mission, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye him." The Jewish king was the "anointed of the Lord. "The powers that be are ordained of God." Pastors under the Christian dispensation are "over" men "in the Lord." "Remember them who have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God." "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls as they that must give account."

2. The prayer invokes the presence of God as the leader's source of strength. By prayer we can commend to Divine grace "all that are in authority." How the Apostle Paul reiterated his request that the readers of his epistles would earnestly pray on his behalf! When Peter was miraculously released from prison he found "many gathered together praying." Thus may the people aid their minister, as Aaron and Hur upheld Moses' hands. There were seasons when the commands of the great legislator were received with murmuring, and when his right to rule was called in question. These Reubenites had not "in all things" hearkened unto Moses. Yet now they spontaneously avow that he had been supported by God. The death of a celebrated man calms passion, removes prejudice, and purges the vision.

III. A STERN RESOLUTION. To inflict the punishment of death on any recalcitrant offender. Presumptuous refusal to hearken to the priest or judge was to be visited with this severe penalty (Deuteronomy 17:12). This declaration by these tribes evinced their firm determination to abide by the decrees of their new ruler. Rebellion is treated as one of the worst crimes, inasmuch as whilst some illegal acts are only indirectly subversive of government, this strikes a blow at the very seat of authority, and endangers all order. Nor is it a matter of small moment whether men bow or not to the rule of Christ. Peter quoted the prophecy of Moses in reference to Christ and the terrible threat annexed, "Every soul which will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people." Our Lord, in the parable of the pounds, represents Himself as saying, "But those mine enemies... and slay before me."

IV. ADMONITORY ADVICE. In olden days servants were much freer in speaking their mind to their masters, and soldiers to their generals. But Joshua's humility in listening to this exhortation is worthy of being copied. The wisest may learn from the ignorant, and the meanest of the flock may sometimes suitably address their pastor. Nor need any of us be above accepting good counsel, from whatever quarter it proceeds. There is no intimation of weakness, but only that these tribes perceived the weighty enterprise in which Joshua was engaged, and the necessity of his exhibiting a fearless demeanour. They sympathised with him, and wished to inspirit him for his arduous, honourable work. They knew how much Commonly depends on the leader's courage, and how quickly his fear would affect his subjects. It was advice in full accordance with their actions. They had gone the right way to strengthen Joshua by their instant submission to His will. They did not try to cheer him with words after having previously knocked the breath out of him with their deeds. Speech and conduct were in harmony, and lent each other force. Marvellous is the effect of an encouraging word! Is there not some one whom we can thus send to his post with augmented zeal and hope? Conclusion. Whom are we serving? Under whose banner enlisted, and what wages, what reward do we anticipate? The true Joshua, even Christ, demands, invites, yea, entreats our faithful adherence. - A.

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