All I need to do for my heart to harden, after God has spoken his word, is… nothing! These words from another author (Jackman 2014: 31) are a warning to us in the church today. The only thing that will produce a hardened heart to God’s Word is a refusal to put our faith into obedient action. But how do you do obedience?
Every day is another opportunity to receive the promises and the commands of God with eagerness and then to willingly authenticate our faith through obedient action. Sadly, this is not often the story of the modern church. All to often, the modern church is gripped by fear, laziness, stubbornness and outright indifference to the pursuit of personal holiness that is proven by faith-filled obedient action.
The modern believer (if believer is even the right word to use here) would rather be entertained or coddled in their sin or encouraged with a pep talk or made to feel comfortable with the world or given the opportunity to consume yet one more experience as if the God of the Universe exists to do all of these things and none of the things that Scripture itself actually describes him doing. The only thing I need to do for my heart to harden towards God’s Word after hearing it is to do… nothing. This is why the text we are studying today is so fascinating.
Joshua 1:3 – 18…
3 “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
10 And Joshua commanded the officers of the people, 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’” 12 And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and is giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, 15 until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
Joshua Chapter One Is A Call To Action
This is a call to faith-filled, obedient action based upon the promises and the commands of the God who speaks. Our God is not deaf and dumb. He doesn’t miss a thing and he’s not hiding out in the back room behind the curtain like a weird wizard turning the cranks. God hears all things; he sees all things; he knows all things and he has a fresh spoken word for us for all seasons. His word here in Joshua simply is: Let’s Go!!! It’s a call to action not inaction where we pray a little more about whether we should be obedient or not. It’s a call to immediate obedience to the revealed Word of God that is based upon his promises and his clear commands. Joshua chapter one underscores this truth in some powerfully visual ways.
1. God Speaks to Joshua (3 – 9)
The Promised Land is right over the river. The wilderness is right over Joshua’s shoulder. 40 years of wandering in the wilderness because of sin is over. The time has come. It’s not time to debate. It’s not time to pray about what to do. It’s not time to consult with as many friends as possible about the decision in front of you. It’s time to go Joshua. Let’s go bro!!!
How will Joshua do this? That’s the question we dealt with last week (vv. 1 – 2). How will Joshua do this? The answer is astounding although it shouldn’t be shocking because the answer is oh so simple my dear Watson. The answer is: You get up off your butt, out of your miserable years of wandering around, and you get moving forward by trusting in God’s promises and ruthlessly obeying God’s commands. I can hear many of you saying: “easier said than done brother.”
In verses 3 – 9, God commissions Joshua to grab the helm of the ship and lead like he’s been called to lead. Joshua is not being called to be a manager who does things right. Joshua is being called to be a leader who does the right things. And God’s Word to Joshua is full of promises and commands that will enable him to do the right things that a leader needs to do.
Look at the promises of God in verses 3 – 5. God promises that every place that Joshua steps in the vast territory of the Promised Land already belongs to him. He just simply needs to take possession of it. It’s like Joshua is receiving a million dollar check that’s been guaranteed not to bounce. What on Earth would stop him from obediently cashing that check? Notice too that no man will be able to stand before Joshua (oppose him) for the rest of his life. In other words, there isn’t an enemy that will be able conquer Joshua. Why? Because God promises to be with him in the same display of faithfulness and power that he was with Moses. So the promise is absolute victory. No enemy will stand against you. Because the Lord will be with you wherever you go. That’s the promise of the original Promise Keeper!
Now look at the commands (vv. 6 – 9) that follow the promises. And don’t miss that. The promise comes first and the command comes second. The promise is absolutely trustworthy and the command is simple and clear. Be strong. Be courageous. How do you be strong and courageous? Is there a secret concoction to this? It’s not really a secret so much as it it’s just something that most of us don’t like hearing. In verses 7 – 8 God explains how to be strong and courageous. And the answer is simple: Obey my Word! Be careful to do everything that has been written in the Mosaic Law. Don’t turn away from it. Don’t compromise.
Don’t say in your mind “Oh God won’t mind if I fudge a little here and there.” Or “God’s laws are out of date now. His grace is sufficient for me.” That would be blasphemy! God’s law was never meant to be observed for a season and then discarded in the next season. God’s law is meant to keep us safe. God’s law is meant to reveal sin in us. God’s law is meant to help us live in spiritual and sometimes physical prosperity. When you refuse to turn away from God’s law you will have success wherever you go (v.7).
God’s Word should be on your lips at all times because your heart is pondering obedience to Him at all times. You are meditating or chewing on his Word daily. It’s not lip service. It’s not just talking about right theology all the time like some brainiac. It’s obedient, faith-filled, active theology that bears the fruit of obedience daily.
Strength and courage are the fruit of an obedient heart and an obedient heart is the result of trusting that God will be with you not in some fanciful, misguided, do whatever you want sort of a way but in an empowering, faith-filled, strong, courageous, obedient sort of a way. When some one comes to me and says that the Lord is with them, my gut reaction is to say, “Great, and like James, I’m going to encourage you (brother or sister, to prove it to me through your faith-filled obedience.” This is why I love Joshua as another human being. Because he hears the promises of God and he hears the commands of God and then he leaps into action. When God says: Joshua, let’s go! Joshua gets moving!
2. Joshua Speaks to Israel (10 – 15)
Again, Joshua is standing on the edge of a launching pad. The wilderness of sin is in the rear view mirror. The Promised Land of freedom is in the front window. It ain’t gonna to be easy to leave the wilderness. The wilderness is all Joshua’s known for 40 years. But Joshua isn’t about to let the past define his future in a destructive way. Joshua is a man who submits to God and trusts in God’s promise of the future. Joshua does what a leader does. He trusts in God’s promises and he hears God’s commands and he jumps up out of his seat and he gets after it.
He literally gets in front of God’s people and he says: Let’s Go People! Joshua obediently passes along God’s instructions to God’s people with God’s promises in the driver’s seat of the call to obedience. Verses 10 – 15 are simply a recounting of all that God has promised to do and now commands. Three days from now God’s people are commanded to take possession of the land that the Lord is giving to them. They need to do the hard work of picking up the check and taking it to the bank to get it cashed. The check writer is totally trustworthy so get moving in three days people.
God has already given some of them a taste of the kind of restful freedom they will have in this Promised Land. The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh could all testify to the taste of the Promised Land that they’ve already been enjoying for a little while (vv. 12 – 15). Their warriors better be more than happy to get out in front and lead and help the rest of God’s people walk in victory too. This is a crucial moment. This is the moment of response. How will Israel respond to God’s commission on their lives?
3. The People Speak To Joshua (16 – 18)
How will they respond? Just like Joshua, the wilderness of sin is in the rear view mirror. The Promised Land of freedom is in the front window. It ain’t gonna be easy to leave the wilderness. The wilderness is all they’ve known for 40 years. The wilderness is their old life. It’s their old habits. It’s their old way of doing relationships. It’s their old way of doing money management. Their old way was stuck in the mud because they tried to go their own way with their cheap substitutes for God. Remember the incident with the golden calf and the orgy in the valley of sin?
That’s all in the past now. The Promised Land is in front of them. Will Israel do the one thing they need to do to harden their hearts? Will they hear the Word of God from Joshua and do nothing? Will they walk away and nod their heads to Joshua and say: “Great sermon Pastor Joshua!! Really knocked it out of the park this week PJ!!” Will Israel harden their hearts again by doing absolutely nothing? Will they murmur among themselves like they did with Moses after coming through the Red Sea and finding that they had no food? Will they complain about the giants in the land like the spies did a generation ago? Will they beg Joshua to coddle them and take them back to the wilderness or better yet back to Egypt? Will they be stiff necked like their parents? Will they be rebellious like their grandparents?
Israel’s response had to be like music to Joshua’s ears. Look at what they say to him in verses 16 – 18: 16 … Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” This is the response you want to hear! This is a response of eager obedience. They are eager and willing to do what God has called them to do. They’re willing to go where God has called them to go. They even bless Joshua and they remind him to be strong and courageous and they basically pray that God will be with him just like he was with Moses.
At least that’s what they say with their lips? It’s fascinating to notice that they say they will obey Joshua just like they obeyed Moses (v. 17). So maybe their response isn’t music to Joshua’s ears if he remembers the way they obeyed Moses. But, nevertheless this is the right response and it needs to be followed up by faith-filled obedient action. The question is will they obey God’s Word? Or will they harden their hearts with stubborn inaction as this story unfolds?
The same question is in front of us today too. It won’t take too long for any of us here to quickly identify an area of wilderness that we’ve been wandering around in for years. Money, relationships, Sabbath rest, secret sinful habits, gossip, sexual sin or laziness… the list goes on and on.
There’s an entire junk drawer list of wilderness wanderings throughout the Scriptures. But in the midst of all this, there is a God who promises to be with me and has promised that the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus Christ are enough to enable my Spirit-filled obedience.
All I need to do for my heart to harden, after God has spoken his word, is… nothing. I thank God that when Jesus surveyed the cross before him on behalf of my sin-filled heart he joyfully cried out: “Let’s Go!” The Promised Land of freedom from Satan, sin and the world is right in front of us. You can walk in faith-filled freedom my friends. Only look to the One who will never leave you or forsake you and “Let’s Go!”