Sermon 1:
Joshua's Mission and Ours

Joshua Ch. 1-5

1. The Commissioning of Joshua (1:1-9)

(Text: Joshua 1:1-9). For the next few weeks we will be journeying through Joshua, the first Book in the Bible not written by Moses. It is HISTORICALLY the thrilling tale of Joshua, assuming the command as Israel's leader when he was around 90, and the 17 year warfare as he and his soldiers took Canaan, the land God promised Abraham, some 600 years before. It is an action-packed drama of raging rivers crossed, mighty giants toppled, walled cities conquered and enemy armies put to flight. Joshua begins the second division of Holy Scripture, the historical section, which runs all the way to the Psalms. The Book is easily divided. In chapters 1-5 we see Joshua ENTERING THE LAND; in chapters 6-12 CONQUERING the land; and in chapters 13-22, DIVIDING THE LAND. Chapters 23-24, made up of Joshua's two farewell sermons (23:1-24:28), and his death (24:29-33), show Joshua, God's aged warrior LEAVING THE LAND and going to the Canaan on high.

You might well ask, why God gave an entire Book on a military conquest and why we, in 1993, need to spend time studying it. It is because Joshua has great value SPIRITUALLY as we who are called God's soldiers (2 Tim. 2:3), are told to fight the "good fight" (1 Tim. 6:12). This is the fight for Christian character, for Christian culture and for Christian conversions. It is carried on against the world around us, the flesh nature within us and the devil, who is behind them both. Canaan, in the Bible, is not primarily a picture or type of heaven, as we often sing in our hymnal. This idea IS found in the Bible in the use of the word INHERITANCE. In the New Testament our INHERITANCE is heaven. Peter says we have been "born again to an INHERITANCE that can never perish, spoil or lose its beauty" (1 Pet. 1:4). The same word is commonly used in the Old Testament for Canaan. An example is Deuteronomy 4:21 where Moses said to Israel, "I could not enter the land which the Lord your God gives you for an INHERITANCE."

It is not WRONG to speak of Canaan as heaven and of crossing Jordan to get there as death. But we must remember that Israel's entrance into Canaan, described in Joshua, is not a picture of heaven. There are battles here in Canaan—and there are no battles in heaven. There are sins of God's people in Canaan—and there is no sin in heaven. Here in Joshua's commission we see that Canaan is the place of our WALK (1:3) with and for God and of the WARFARE (1:5, 9) that arises because of that walk. Stuart Briscoe compared the typical Christian to an old iron bedstead—firm on both ends, but sagging in the middle. We are strong back there about our salvation and are strong out there ahead when it comes to heaven, but for now too many of us are weak and flabby and cowardly when it comes to our Christianity. Do you want to be better and do better this year? Do you want to count for God? Do you want to see some victories in places where you have only known defeat? Then Joshua can show you and me how. Look first at ...

I. A Mission Which Is Accomplished (1:1-2)

The first thing the Book of Joshua says is that Moses is dead. When any leader of a nation dies it is a crisis. When Moses died it was a grave, enormous crisis, because he was the heart and soul of Israel. Years later someone led by the Holy Spirit, the author of all Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), put a footnote to his death in Deuteronomy 34. He said, "No prophet has ever risen like Moses, who knew the Lord face to face." There was no one like him with all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt ... and for all the mighty power and the great and terrible terror which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel" (Deut. 34:10-12). Moses was the very channel of God. Through him God poured out His POWER as the Red Sea parted and the world's mightiest army was drowned. Through him God poured out His PROVISIONS and there was water enough and manna enough to feed three million people in the desert for forty years. Through him God poured out his PROTECTION and no army could butcher them or stand before them. And through him God poured out his PRONOUNCEMENTS. Moses learned to write yonder in Egypt and so God told him to write "in a book" (Ex. 17:14) the records of those days. And, oh, what a Book is was and is—the Holy Bible, the word of God Himself. There was no one like Moses, said the sacred writer, and when he said that, he included Joshua. And I've got news for you, he included you and me.

But do you know what? God didn't want Joshua to be another Moses and he doesn't want you and me to be anyone other than you and me. Do you remember Jesus' parable of the talents in Matthew 25? He said one man received 5 from his master, another 2 and another 1 "each in proportion to his own personal ability" (Matt. 25:15). The 5 talent man invested his talent, gained interest and was praised by the master. IT WAS THE SAME for the man with 2 talents. He got the same praise, "Well done, you good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21). The only man condemned was the man with 1 talent who hid it in the ground and did nothing with it.

Moses was far from perfect. He didn't want the job of being pastor of the Desert Wanderers Baptist Church (Ex. 3). He talked God into letting Aaron lead with him and that brought nothing but trouble (Ex. 32; Nu. 12). He got so depressed that he prayed to die (Nu. 11). And when he got mad and struck the rock God told him to speak to, he was not allowed to go into Canaan (Nu. 20). But when he went into the Canaan which is above, God welcomed him and said, "Well done, you good and faithful servant." God has no perfect servants but He does have some faithful ones. Moses was not a 5 talent man. He was a 5,000 talent man. But do you know what. People like you and me—with one talent or a half a talent can hear the same words—Well done, you good and faithful servant!

II. A Master Who Is Alive

1. God Is Not Dead (1:1). The Book of Joshua begins, "Now after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, THE LORD SAID TO JOSHUA ... go over this Jordan" (1:1, 2). Moses is dead but the God who worked through him was not. He was alive and well and ready to carry on His work through somebody else. My favorite time at our church is not Sunday mornings in the pulpit. It is Wednesday nights, right after Prayer meeting. I walk through the nursery and see the beautiful babies and terrifying toddlers. In the halls and in the yard I see the rowdy RA boys, the giggly GA girls and the adult acting Acteens. I love the laughter and the play and the glimpses of seriousness and maturity and I know I am looking in the face of the Christian church of the future and the Concord Church of tomorrow. God buries his workers but He carries on His work. Moses is dead, but Joshua is not, and I am not, and you are not, and now is my time and yours to count for the Lord or, God forbid, fail to do so. God is not dead and ...

2. God Is Not Diminished (1:2). God told Joshua "go over this river" and take the land. In other words, you are to do what Moses did not do. Listen, God uses men and women but when we die His work is not diminished one little bit. To me, Billy Graham is God's Moses in our day and now it hurts us to see him old and weak and sick. And when Billy is called home, the human race and the Christian Church will lose one of its finest and godliest. Earth's loss will be heaven's gain. But when he dies, God's work and witness will not diminish one tiny little bit, for the God who works through Moses and Joshua and Billy Graham and perhaps your mother or father is alive and well. God is not dead or diminished but ...

3. God Can Be Disobeyed. God's work and witness go on, the only question is whether or not we will be in on it. When we listen to what He says to Joshua we hear what He says to us. He told Joshua to take the LEADERSHIP (1:2), to take the LAND (1:3), and to take the LORD (1:9). In the command to take the LEADERSHIP we see God's SPECIAL CALL to our WORK. In the command to take the LAND, we see God's STANDARD CALL to every Christian to our WALK and our WARFARE. And in the command in verse 9 to take the LORD "wherever we go" we see God's STRENGTHENING CALL to WORSHIP, the only way we will every be able to do His will—holding His hand. Today we look at God's SPECIAL CALL which is part of ...

III. A Mission Which Is Assigned

1. God's Special Call (Deut. 31; 34; Josh. 1:2; 1 Cor. 12:7). We see in verses 1-2 that Joshua was the GOD APPOINTED MAN for that hour. He had a special call to replace Moses. Moses himself chose and called Joshua to this high office in Deuteronomy 31. In a solemn ceremony he laid hands on him before all the people in Deuteronomy 34. Now in Joshua one, when God speaks to Joshua he knows the choice and call came from God. We ALL have this SPECIAL call. In 1 Corinthians 12:7 Paul says the Holy Spirit's gifts in His gift of ministry "are GIVEN TO EACH ONE OF US, FOR THE GOOD OF ALL." I have a cartoon that shows a wild-eyed fellow who, as Tennessee Ernie used to say, "Looked like a horse that had been rode hard and put away wet." The man in the cartoon was saying, "I know I am here for a purpose. But I am so far behind, I'll probably never die."

That is Biblical to the core. We are here for a purpose, like Moses and Joshua and Jesus Christ, who had the greatest and hardest and costliest work ever. But too many of us are weary and worn out because we haven't gotten around to finding out what it is, or to doing what we know it is. God WANTS to work through each of us, but whether or not he GETS to, depends on us. When God called me to preach and when He calls you to teach Sunday School or to form a witnessing club for neighborhood children or to be a nursing home visitor, or to go to the mission field, etc., that is a special call with your name on it. The only question is, have you found it and are you doing it?

To say, No!, is more serious than we realize. In verse 5 God says, "As I was with Moses, I will be with you" (1:5). God did not look down from heaven, say, "Eeny, meeny, miney, moe," and arbitrarily pick Joshua. Joshua didn't just pop up overnight to be the leader of Israel. He WAS AN ANOINTED MAN, tempered in the fires of God, for just this hour. Guessing that he was around 50 at the Exodus, he grew up under the lash of tyranny in Egypt. The Bible says he was the grandson of ELISHAMA, the leader of the tribe of Ephraim (1 Ch. 7:26-27). Ephraim carried the mummified remains of Joseph, what the Bible calls his "bones" out of Egypt. Why? Because as a pledge that God would keep His word, Joseph said, "Bury me in Canaan" (Gen. 50:24-25). As Elishama and his tribe carried this coffin of hope out of tyranny, I see strong, young Joshua by his side. Moses saw him too, and when Amalek and his warriors soon attacked, God chose Joshua to lead the armies of Israel. When Moses held up his arms, Joshua won, and this young warrior learned the real power was not in his sword but in his God (Ex. 17). Moses chose him as his personal minister (Josh. 1:1) and took him further up Sinai than anyone else (Ex. 24). It was Joshua who ministered in the Tabernacle, where God lived (Ex. 33). And it was Joshua that Moses chose to replace him (Deut. 31).

The only mark on Joshua's record was he wanted to stop some men from prophesying for fear they would usurp Moses' authority. Moses taught him a good lesson that day and said, "I wish all of God's people were prophets." At 90 years of age, Joshua had been God taught, God trained, God tempered and God toughened for the task of this hour.

What a waste, what a tragedy; when all of God's work in and for us is in vain because we give our lives to lesser things. What does God want you to do, personally and specifically? Have you found it? Are you doing it? Go back to the parable of the talents. Where are yours? Where are mine? This past week I talked with someone who once worked with retarded adults. He told me of a scene that broke his heart. There was a handsome young man there, a patient who always wore a big smile and ball cap. He always wanted to help the workers and his fellow patients. One day he walked over to a down-hearted fellow patient with his big smile and his ball cap. And he said, "Billy, we're always going to be this way, and we just have to make the best of it."

There's something sad, something heart wrenching there—to be different and limited and know it. But there's something glorious there also—doing what you can for God and others with what you have to give. I think I know what Jesus meant when He said that in heaven "the last will be first" (Matt. 19:30). I see powerful, corporate executes with masterful minds put last because they buried their five talents when it came to God's work. And I see that boy in heaven, with a ball cap and a big smile, who used his 1 talent, hear Jesus say, "Well done!