Joshua 1:7
Only be you strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua

THE NEW LEADER’S COMMISSION

THE CHARGE TO THE SOLDIER OF THE LORD

Joshua 1:7 - Joshua 1:8
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This is the central portion of the charge given to the successor of Moses. Joshua was a very small man in comparison with his predecessor. He was no prophet nor constructive genius; he was not capable of the heights of communion and revelation which the lofty spirit of Moses was able to mount. He was only a plain, fiery soldier, with energy, swift decision, promptitude, self-command, and all the military virtues in the highest degree. The one thing that he needed was to be ‘strong and courageous’; and over and over again in this chapter you will find that injunction pealed into his ears. He is the type of the militant servant of the Lord, and the charge to him embodies the duties of all such.

I. We have here the duty of courageous strength.

Christianity has altered the perspective of human virtues, has thrown the gentler ones into prominence altogether unknown before, and has dimmed the brilliancy of the old heroic type of character; but it has not struck those virtues out of its list. Whilst the perspective is altered, there is as much need in the lowliest Christian life for the loftiest heroism as ever there was. For in no mere metaphor, but in grim earnest, all Christian progress is conflict, and we have to fight, not only with the evils that are within, but, if we would be true to the obligations of our profession and loyal to the commands of our Master, we have to take our part in the great campaign which He has inaugurated and is ever carrying on against every abuse and oppression, iniquity and sin, that grinds down the world and makes our brethren miserable and servile. So, then, in these words we have directions in regard to a side of the Christian character, indispensable to-day as ever, and the lack of which cannot be made up for by any amount of sweet and contemplative graces.

Jesus Christ is the type of both. The Conqueror of Canaan and the Redeemer of the world bear the same name. The Jesus whom we trust was a Joshua. And let us learn the lesson that neither the conqueror of the typical and material land of promise nor the Redeemer who has won the everlasting heaven for our portion could do their work without the heroic side of human excellence being manifestly developed. Do you remember ‘He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem’? Do you remember that the Apostle whom a hasty misconception has thought of as the gentlest of the Twelve, because he had most to say about love, is the Apostle that more emphatically than any other rings into our ears over and over again the thought of the Christ, militant and victorious, the Hero as well as the patient Sufferer, the ‘Captain of our salvation’? And so let us recognise how both the gentler and the stronger graces, the pacific and the warlike side of human excellence, have their highest development in Jesus Christ, and learn that the firmest strength must be accompanied with the tenderest love and swathed in meekest gentleness. As another Apostle has it in his pregnant, brief injunctions, ringing and laconic like a general’s word of command, ‘Quit you like men I be strong! let all your deeds be done in love!’ Braid the two things together, for the mightiest strength is the love that conquers hate, and the only love that is worthy of a man is the love that is strong to contend and to overcome.

‘Be strong.’ Then strength is a duty; then weakness is a sin. Then the amount of strength that we possess and wield is regulated by ourselves. We have our hands on the sluice. We may open it to let the whole full tide run in, or we may close it till a mere dribble reaches us. For the strength which is strength, and not merely weakness in a fever, is a strength derived, and ours because derived. The Apostle gives the complete version of the exhortation when he says: ‘Finally, my brethren,’ that Omega of command which is the Alpha of performance, ‘be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.’ Let Christ’s strength in. Open the heart wide that it may come. Keep yourself in continual touch with God, the fountain of all power. Trust is strength, because trust touches the Rock of Ages.

For this reason the commandment to be strong and of good courage is in the text based upon this: ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.’ Our strength depends on ourselves, because our strength is the fruit of our faith. And if we live with Him, grasping His hand and, in the realising consciousness of our own weakness, looking beyond ourselves, then power will come to us above our desire and equal to our need. The old victories of faith will be reproduced in us when we say with the ancient king, ‘Lord! We know not what to do, but our eyes are up unto Thee.’ Then He will come to us, to make us ‘strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.’ ‘Wait on the Lord and He will strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.’

But courage is duty, too, as well as strength. Power and the consciousness of power do not always go together. In regard to the strength of nature, courage and might are quite separable. There may be a strong coward and a weak hero. But in the spiritual region, strength and courage do go together. The consciousness of the divine power with us, and that alone, will make us bold with a boldness that has no taint of levity and presumption mingled with it, and never will overestimate its own strength. The charge to Joshua, then, not only insists upon the duty of strength, but on the duty of conscious strength, and on the duty of measuring the strength that is at my back with the weakness that is against me, and of being bold because I know that more and ‘greater is He that is with me than are they that be with them.’

II. So much, then, for the first of the exhortations here. Now look next at the duty of implicit obedience to the word of command.

That is another soldierly virtue, the exercise of which sheds a nobility over the repulsive horrors of the battlefield. Joshua had to be fitted to command by learning to obey, and, like that other soldier whose rough trade had led him to some inkling of Christ’s authority by its familiarising him with the idea of the strange power of the word of command, had to realise that he himself was ‘under authority’ before he could issue his orders.

Courage and strength come first, and on them follows the command to do all according to the law, to keep it without deflection to right or left, and to meditate on it day and night. These two virtues make the perfect soldier-courage and obedience. Daring and discipline must go together, and to know how to follow orders is as essential as to know how to despise dangers.

But the connection between these two, as set forth in this charge, is not merely that they must co-exist, but that courage and strength are needed for, and are to find their noblest field of exercise in, absolute acceptance of, and unhesitating, swift, complete, unmurmuring obedience to, everything that is discerned to be God’s will and our duty.

For the Christian soldier, then, God’s law is his marching orders. The written word, and especially the Incarnate Word, are our law of conduct. The whole science of our warfare and plan of campaign are there. We have not to take our orders from men’s lips, but we must often disregard them, that we may listen to the ‘Captain of our salvation.’ The soldier stands where his officer has posted him, and does what he was bid, no matter what may happen. Only one voice can relieve him. Though a thousand should bid him flee, and his heart should echo their advices, he is recreant if he deserts his post at the command of any but him who set him there. Obedience to others is mutiny. Nor does the Christian need another law to supplement that which Christ has given him in His pattern and teaching. Men have appended huge comments to it, and have softened some of its plain precepts which bear hard on popular sins. But the Lawgiver’s law is one thing, and the lawyers’ explanations which explain it away or darken what was clear enough, however unwelcome, are quite another. Christ has given us Himself, and therein has given a sufficient directory for conduct and conflict which fits close to all our needs, and will prove definite and practical enough if we honestly try to apply it.

The application of Christ’s law to daily life takes some courage, and is the proper field for the exercise of Christian strength. ‘Be very courageous that thou mayest observe.’ If you are not a bold Christian you will very soon get frightened out of obedience to your Master’s commandments. Courage, springing from the realisation of God’s helping strength, is indispensable to make any man, in any age, live out thoroughly and consistently the principles of the law of Jesus Christ. No man in this generation will work out a punctual obedience to what he knows to be the will of God, without finding out that all the ‘Canaanites’ are not dead yet; but that there are enough of them left to make a very thorny life for the persistent follower of Jesus Christ.

And not only is there courage needed for the application of the principles of conduct which God has given us, but you will never have them handy for swift application unless, in many a quiet hour of silent, solitary, patient meditation you have become familiar with them. The recruit that has to learn on the battle-field how to use his rifle has a good chance of being dead before he has mastered the mysteries of firing. And Christian people that have their Christian principles to dig out of the Bible when the necessity comes, will likely find that the necessity is past before they have completed the excavation. The actual battle-field is no place to learn drill. If a soldier does not know how his sword hangs, and cannot get at it in a moment, he will probably draw it too late.

I am afraid that the practice of such meditation as is meant here has come to be, like the art of making ecclesiastical stained glass, almost extinct in modern times. You have all so many newspapers and magazines to read that the Bible has a chance of being shoved out of sight, except on Sundays and in chapels. The ‘meditating’ that is enjoined in my text is no mere intellectual study of Scripture, either from an antiquarian or a literary or a theological point of view, but it is the mastering of the principles of conduct as laid down there, and the appropriating of all the power for guidance and for sustaining which that word of the Lord gives. Meditation, the familiarising ourselves with the ethics of Scripture, and with the hopes and powers that are treasured in Jesus Christ, so that our minds are made up upon a great many thorny questions as to what we ought to do, and that when crises or dangers come, as they have a knack of coming, very suddenly, and are sprung upon us unexpectedly, we shall be able, without much difficulty, or much time spent in perplexed searching, to fall back upon the principles that decide our conduct-that is essential to all successful and victorious Christian life.

And it is the secret of all blessed Christian life. For there is a lovely echo of these vigorous words of command to Joshua in a very much more peaceful form in the 1st Psalm: ‘Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, . . . but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night’-the very words that are employed in the text to describe the duty of the soldier-therefore ‘all that he doeth shall prosper.’

III. That leads to the last thought here-the sure victory of such bold obedience.

‘Thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest’; ‘Thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then shalt thou have good success,’ or, as the last word might be rendered, ‘then shalt thou Acts wisely’ You may not get victory from an earthly point of view, for many a man that lives strong and courageous and joyfully obeying God’s law, as far as he knows it and because he loves the Lawgiver, goes through life, and finds that, as far as the world’s estimate is concerned, there is nothing but failure as his portion. Ah I but the world’s way is not the true way of estimating victory. ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,’ said Jesus Christ when within arm’s-length of the Cross. And His way is the way in which we must conquer the world, if we conquer it at all. The success which my text means is the carrying out of conscientious convictions of God’s will into practice. That is the only success that is worth talking about or looking for. The man that succeeds in obeying and translating God’s will into conduct is the victor, whatever be the outward fruits of his life. He may go out of the field beaten, according to the estimate of men that can see no higher than their own height, and little further than their own finger tips can reach; he may himself feel that the world has gone past him, and that he has not made much of it; he may have to lie down at last unknown, poor, with all his bright hopes that danced before him in childhood gone, and sore beaten by the enemies; but if he is able to say in the strength that Christ gives, ‘I have finished my course; I have kept the faith,’ his ‘way has prospered,’ and he has had’ good success.’ ‘We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’Joshua 1:7. Commanded thee — Remember, that though thou art the commander of my people, yet thou art my subject, and obliged to observe all my commands. To the right hand or to the left — That is, in any kind, or upon any pretence; which plainly shows, that God’s assistance, promised to him and the Israelites, was conditional, and might justly be withdrawn upon their breach of the conditions. Whithersoever thou goest — That is, whatsoever thou doest. Men’s actions are often compared to ways, or steps, by which they come to the end they aim at. This charge, given by God himself to Joshua, highly deserves our notice. Though Joshua was to be, in his place, as great a man as Moses; though the Lord was to do signs and wonders by him, as he did by the hand of Moses; and though he was to settle the people in the promised land, which Moses was not allowed to do, yet he was to do according to all the law which Moses had commanded. And we find that, amid all his successes, and all the wonders that the Lord did by him, Joshua made the book of the law the guide of his conduct, strictly adhering to it in every point, and always recommending the strict observation of it to the people. In this he is an example worthy of the imitation, as of all professors of Christianity in general, so of all Christian magistrates and generals, in particular, who are under equal obligations to make God’s laws or revealed will the rule of their conduct, in all affairs, public and private. For no man’s dignity or dominion, how great soever, sets him above the law of God.1:5-9 Joshua is to make the law of God his rule. He is charged to meditate therein day and night, that he might understand it. Whatever affairs of this world we have to mind, we must not neglect the one thing needful. All his orders to the people, and his judgments, must be according to the law of God. Joshua must himself be under command; no man's dignity or dominion sets him above the law of God. He is to encourage himself with the promise and presence of God. Let not the sense of thine own infirmities dishearten thee; God is all-sufficient. I have commanded, called, and commissioned thee to do it, and will be sure to bear thee out in it. When we are in the way of duty, we have reason to be strong and very bold. Our Lord Jesus, as Joshua here, was borne up under his sufferings by a regard to the will of God, and the commandment from his Father.Prosper - See the margin. The literal rendering should be retained here since the notion of prosperity is separately introduced by a different word in Joshua 1:8. 5-9. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee—Canaan was theirs by a divine grant; and the renewed confirmation of that grant to Joshua when about to lead the people into it, intimated not only a certain but an easy conquest. It is remarkable, however, that his courage and hope of victory were made to depend (see on [171]De 17:18) on his firm and inflexible adherence to the law of God, not only that regarding the extirpation of the Canaanites, but the whole divine code. Remember that though thou art the captain and commander of my people, yet thou art my subject, and obliged to observe all my commands.

To the right hand or to the left, i.e. in any kind, or upon any pretence.

That thou mayest prosper, or, that thou mayest do wisely; whereby he instructs him in the true art of government; and that his greatest wisdom will lie in the observation of all God’s commands. and not in that pretended reason of state which other princes govern all their affairs by. And this plainly shows that God’s assistance promised to him and to the Israelites was conditional, and might justly be withdrawn upon their breach of the conditions.

Whithersoever thou goest, i.e. whatsoever thou doest. Men’s actions are oft compared to ways, or journeys, or steps, by which they come to the end they aim at. Only be thou strong, and very courageous,.... For though Joshua was a man of valour and courage, as appears by his war with Amalek, yet there was need of this exhortation, and of repeating it, since he was to engage with a people more and mightier than those with him, and who dwelt in strong and fortified places, and had been preparing for some time, having had notice, and were in expectation of the Israelites' attempt upon them:

that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded thee; not only as a private man obliged to observe the whole law, and act according to it in all things; though no mere man is capable of it, only Joshua's antitype, who is the end of it for righteousness to all that believe, having fulfilled it in all respects; but as the supreme magistrate under God, who was to see that the law was obeyed by the people in all things, and particularly as the general of the army, who was to observe to do what had been ordered, with respect to the Canaanites, see Deuteronomy 7:1,

turn not from it to the right hand or to the left: from the law, by adding to it, or taking from it; so Ben Gersom explains it,"turning to the right hand is, when any adds to its words; and turning to the left hand, when he diminishes from them;''or "from him" (k), that is, from Moses; from his good way, as Kimchi; though he adds, or else from the book of the law; for though he does not mention the book, he does the law; so Ben Melech:

that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest; succeed in every battle he engaged in; it would be well if generals of armies would observe this; the way to obtain victory over enemies being to be observant of the laws of God themselves, and to take care that they be observed by the soldiers under their command: or "that thou mayest act wisely" (l); the word of God furnishing out instruction to men in every station of life, see Luke 3:10.

(k) "ab so", Montanus, Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius. (l) , Sept. "ut intelligas", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus; "ut prudenter agas", Tigurine version.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest {e} prosper whithersoever thou goest.

(e) He shows where true prosperity consists, even to obey the word of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 7. - Be very courageous. The word is the same as is translated "be of good courage" above. Knobel remarks that the phraseology here is similar to that of Deuteronomy, but "strange to the other Books" of the Pentateuch. This may be from the fact that Deuteronomy is throughout hortatory, while the other Books are historical. But the recurrence of the hortatory phrases of Deuteronomy here is at least remarkable (see ver. 3). Prosper. Rather, perhaps be wise (cf. Deuteronomy 29:9, though, according to Calvin, the word means, "not only to act prudently but successfully"). The only true Wisdom is that obtained from God, whether in answer to prayer, or in meditation on His law (see 1 Corinthians 1:17-31; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16; 1 Corinthians 3:19). The imperfect with vav consec., the standing mode of expressing a continued action or train of thought, "simply attaches itself by the conjunction 'and' to a completed action, which has either been mentioned before, or is supposed to be well known" (Ewald, 231, b.). "After the death of Moses," i.e., after the expiration of the thirty days of general mourning for him (vid., Deuteronomy 34:8). "Servant of Jehovah" is a standing epithet applied to Moses as an honourable title, and founded upon Numbers 12:7-8 (vid., Deuteronomy 34:5; 1 Kings 8:56; 2 Kings 18:12; Psalm 105:26, etc.). On "Joshua, Moses' minister," see at Exodus 17:9 and Numbers 13:16. Minister (meshareth), as in Exodus 24:13, etc. Although Joshua had already been called by the mouth of the Lord to be the successor of Moses in the task of leading the people into Canaan (Numbers 27:15.), and had not only been presented to the people in this capacity, but had been instituted in this office by the Lord, with the promise of His help (Deuteronomy 31:3-7 and Deuteronomy 31:23), the word of the Lord came to him a second time after the death of Moses, with the command to enter upon the office to which he had been called, and with the promise that He would help him to fulfil its duties, as he had already helped His servant Moses. "Because even some of the bravest men, although fully prepared beforehand, either stand still or hesitate when the thing has to be done: this exhortation to Joshua, to gird himself at once for the expedition, was by no means superfluous; though his call was ratified again not only for his own sake, but in order that the people might not hesitate to follow him with their minds collected and calm, when they saw that he took no step without the guidance of God" (Calvin). - Joshua received this word of the Lord by a direct address from God, and not through the intervention of the Urim and Thummim of the high priest; for this appointed medium for the revelation of the will of God, to which he had been referred on the occasion of his first call (Numbers 27:21), whenever difficulties should arise in connection with his office, was not sufficient for the renewal and confirmation of his divine calling, since the thing required here was not merely that the will of God should be made known to him, but that he should be inspired with courage and strength for the fulfilment of it, i.e., for discharging the duties of his office, just as he afterwards was then in front of the fortified town of Jericho which he was directed to take, where the angel of the Lord appeared to him and assured him of its fall (Joshua 5:13). Moreover, the conquest of Canaan formed part of the work which the Lord entrusted to His servant Moses, and in which therefore Joshua was now Moses' successor. Consequently the Lord would be with him as He had been with Moses (Joshua 1:5); and for this reason He revealed His will directly to him, as He had done to Moses, though without talking with him mouth to mouth (Numbers 12:8).
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