And they answered Joshua, saying, All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us, we will go.…
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.
I. A DECLARATION OF OBEDIENCE.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.