Peace to you Beloved in the name of Christ. Christ is our peace. Christ is our joy. He is our life. Tonight, we are going to worship the Triune God in the book of Joshua. You remember his name means Yahweh saves. Oh, how thankful we are for Jesus – Yahweh saves. (Mt.1:21-23) Immanuel has come to save His people from our sins. And He will one day bring us to live with Him in perfect bliss – in the Promised Land. (Heb.11:1-41) Glory to God.
Please open up your Bible to Joshua chapter one. In Joshua 1:1-9 God commissions Joshua as His commander. In our evening passage, Joshua assumes command. I will read Joshua 1:10-18. Hear the Holy Word of our God, read.
Joshua 1:10. Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.'” 12 To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God gives you rest and will give you this land.’ 14 “Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, 15 until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.” 16 They answered Joshua, saying, “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 “Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.”
Please join me in prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to help us tonight. Pray.
The duty of our obedience.
The doctrine under consideration this evening is obedience to the word of God. And we might refine this concept as obedience to the word of God as delivered by the leader of God or the man of God, in this case Joshua. Well, obedience to God is the theme I wish to address. By necessity I will bring in additional Bible passages. (I Kg.2:3, Dt.4:1-6)
In fact, God uses obedience to His word as the two bookends of this book. God opens, obey My Word. (Joshua 1:1-18). God closes this book, obey My Word.
Joshua 22:5. Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Joshua 23:6. Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left,
The source of our obedience.
As we begin, let’s grasp this most basic principle regarding obedience to God. Obedience to God is an expression of our love of God. (Jer.7:21-24, Eccl.12:13)
Christ says if you love Me you will obey My commands. (Jn.14:15-31, Lk.11:28)
I John 2:3. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
The rule for our obedience.
We only learn what to obey from the word of God as God reveals Himself to us in It. (WCF 1.1) We do not learn our duty to God from natural revelation. From creation we learn that there is a God. The image of God in man, even defaced, informs us that we ought to worship. (Rom.2:12-14) But beyond that we are lost as regards to our duty. (WCF 21.1)
Considering the Bible, perhaps a word or two before we proceed. Let me borrow some language from our secondary standards. What does the Bible principally teach? The Bible principally teaches (two things) what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man. (WSC 3, 2 Tim. 1:13; 2 Tim. 3:16)
I am afraid obedience to God has fallen on hard times in our day, even in our churches. I mean obedience as duty, as obligation, something God commands or requires we do or not do. That voice is silent in many pulpits.
Often as soon as you speak of obedience to God’s word, which is clearly what this passage is about, you will quickly be chided as a legalist, one that does not understand the free grace of God in Christ.
Oh Beloved, I am afraid much of the so-called concern for the grace of God is really a denial of the law of God, which in reality is a misunderstanding of the grace of God. Christ truly received does produce in us a desire to obey His commands. Of course, not perfect in this life. But nevertheless, a desire to obey. Think of king David. Oh, how I love Thy law. Think Psalms 1, 19, and 119.
Psalm 1:2. How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
I believe this aversion to obeying God’s word in the Bible is even found in conservative Protestant churches and Reformed churches. We place the greater emphasis on believing and not doing. I think this is correct, rightly understand. We must believe the truth of God in Christ as presented to us in the gospel that we might be saved, that we might be in a reconciled estate before God. (Jn.3:16, Rom.5:1-10, Eph.2:1-10)
And from this, after we have saving faith, we are then enabled to obey God from the heart, freed from the condemnation of the Law, freed to obey God’s word safely in Christ with a childlike love. You cannot obey what you do not believe. Proper obedience is the fruit of saving faith. We do not obey to merit our reconciliation. We obey because Christ has reconciled us.
But, God still does require of us as His reconciled children to obey every word that proceeds from His lips, even Jesus says this. (Mt.4:4) Remember the book of James. Remember James 2:14-26, we show our faith by our works which are those things done in obedience to God’s word. (WCF 16.1)
Hear the sober word of God on obedience and disobedience as given by Samuel to Saul.
I Samuel 15:22. Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”
Let me read from our confession that summarizes the Scripture on the usefulness of obedience to the moral law for the regenerate, for the truly born-again Believer in Jesus.
WCF 19.5 The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;(1) and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God, the Creator, who gave it.(2) Neither doth Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.(3)
(1) Rom. 13:8,9; Eph. 6:2; 1 John 2:3,4,7,8. (2) James 2:10,11. (3) Matt. 5:17,18,19; James 2:8; Rom. 3:31.
WCF 19.6 Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned;(1) yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;(2) discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives;(3) so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin;(4) together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.(5) It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; (see also the usefulness of Good Works – WCF 16.1-7)
The correction of our disobedience.
To show us how serious God takes obedience to His word let’s consider the previous leader of God – Moses, with an eye to obeying God’s word.
You remember that God told His servant Moses to go up on to a high mountain Mount Nebo so that he could see the Promised Land from a distance. God prohibited Moses from entering the earthly Promised Land because Moses struck the rock and God told him to speak to the rock that water would come out. And God said by this disobedience to God’s word that Moses has dishonored God before God’s people. (Dt.34:1-12, WLC 15, Ezekiel/Watchman – Ezek.3:18, Pharisees in the seat of Moses – Mt.23:13)
The notion is that Moses as the leader of God’s people aggravates his sin of disobedience to God’s word because by his bad and sad example, he would encourage those under him to also disobey the word of God. Such is the weighty responsibility of religious leaders and why many ought not to be quick to seek such an office. (Jas.3:1, WLC 129, 130) You see also why God is often times especially quick to correct religious leaders. Think of the failure-sin of the apostle Peter denying Jesus out of a fear of man. Christ let Satan sift Peter the leader like wheat. To whom much is given much is required. (Lk.12:48)
And remember God’s discipline for disobedience of Moses was in the life of a true Believer that often times greatly and courageously obeyed the word of the Lord. (Exod.3:1-22)
God called him to confront the enslaver of His people. Reluctantly he did. But he did. God called him to lead His people out of Egypt under the looming threat of destruction at the Red Sea. He did. God called him to lead His people in a howling wasteland for forty years often under the grumblings and threats of death from the people. He did. But then he did disobey. And for this one act of disobedience God disciplined because He was displeased.
Oh Beloved, may we not presume upon our previous obedience that this in any way excuses any acts of disobedience. It does not. God is so holy that He can never look upon any sin with favor. (Hab.1:13)
God’s servant Moses died. The Bible says that God Himself buried Moses in the land of Moab. And that no man knew where his grave was. (Dt.34:5-7, Jude 1:9) I have no doubt that this was to prevent any kind of idolatry associated with the remains of Moses. In other words, to prevent people from making a shrine to Moses or pilgrimages to the grave of Moses. (Col.2:18-23, Jas.3:13-18)
So as a chastisement to Moses he was prohibited from entering Canaan. God does in fact, scourge all those that He loves and receives as His beloved sons and daughters. These make up the great cloud of witnesses walking by faith in the Son of God on their way to the heavenly Promised Land and Celestial City. (Heb.12:1-11)
So, their faith in Jesus is obviously part of that great cloud of witness but so is God’s Fatherly chastisement of them for their disobedience to His word. That in fact is the context of Hebrews 12:1-11.
Also, this acted as a warning to the remaining people of God. That God is greatly displeased with the sin of disobedience to His word, even by His people, especially by His people. This is meant also to encourage us to obey the word of the Lord. (Isa.66:5)
The necessity of our obedience.
Now God gives His people another servant leader – Joshua. (Josh.1:1-8) Right away he is told, and we are told how serious God is about obeying Him.
I hope I am not over emphasizing this, God is saying this to a saved person. God is not saying, obey Me and I will then save you. But God is clearly telling Joshua, Joshua you must obey Me. Think saved to serve. Saved to obey.
Joshua 1:2. Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3 “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.
God commands Joshua to get up and lead the people to walk into the Promised Land. That is how God intends to bring His people into the Land, by the obedience of His leader.
Then God gives Joshua other commands.
Joshua 1:6. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have 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 success.
Beloved, are we not exceedingly thankful that the True Joshua – Jesus Christ obeyed every word of the Lord? (Jn.17:1-17) It is the obedience of Jesus Christ to His heavenly Father that procures our salvation. The Father sent Christ to earth. Christ went. The Father sent Christ to the Cross. Christ went. Every word, every command Christ Jesus obeyed – for us. The Perfect Man, the God-Man obeyed every word of God, inwardly and outwardly.
Oh beloved, how can any professing Christian object to the divine call to obey God’s word inwardly and outwardly.
Listen to the apostle Peter.
I Peter 2:21. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.
Listen to Jesus on obedience to God’s word. It is part of the Great Commission.
Matthew 28:18. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Govern your actions by the word of God.
God is telling Joshua to live upon the word of God.
Joshua 1:6. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you;
God tells him to “do” the word. Not just hear it, but to do it. God says do not turn to the right or to the left. God means be strict in your observance, do not leave yourself wiggle room to enjoy just a little disobedience on the left or on the right.
We act according to what we believe. The fruits of our words and actions indicate the spiritual and religious condition of our heart. Christ says you will know a true Believer by the kinds of fruit their life produces. (Mt.7:15-20) Saving faith obeys the word of God. Imperfectly yes. But also, increasingly to the end of our life. And then perfectly.
Again, of course we should be on guard against the true legalist that thinks they are earning their salvation by their obedience.
But beloved, a great portion of the professing Church is antinomian. I am afraid many that extol grace and warning against the dangers of obedience are not really in love with true grace. They are not at war with their sin. This is a corruption of saving grace. This says God graces to save but it is not unto holiness. Oh, beloved Jesus says why do you call Me Lord but do not do what I say. (Lk.6:46) Paul says without sanctification practical holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb.12:14) Profession without obedience is hollow.
Govern your words by the word of God.
Next God wants Joshua to speak of the Bible.
V.8. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth,
Govern your heart by the word of God.
You see beloved, what is really in our hearts will come out of our mouth. Get the Bible in your heart and the Bible will come out of your mouth. And obviously, if there is no place for the word of God in your heart, the Bible will not come out in your speech.
Our words are a vital part of our obedience and disobedience to the word of God.
V.8. 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;
Notice that God tells Joshua to meditate on the word of God. Meditation is such an interesting thing. I do not mean the Eastern kind as found in Buddhism or Hinduism or the Eastern kind repackaged for Americans in Mindfulness. No.
There is a Biblical form of meditation. It is not meditation on nothing. It is not meditation on self. It is not meditation seeking to empty the mind. No. It is meditation on the word of God. This is deeply pondering the word of God. Mulling It over. Asking questions of It. Thinking deeply on it. Thinking for extended periods about it. Oh, Beloved in our frantic day almost none of God’s people do this. We give God’s word two minutes of our time. And then we are off.
Well in part that is why we are failing in the obedience department. One, we are being disobedient for not meditating. But from that comes the rest of our disobedience to the word simply because the paucity of time we give to it, it therefore never gets into our hearts such to govern us.
Listen to these two quotes by Thomas Brooks an English Puritan (1608-1680).
To read much and to practice nothing is to hunt much and to catch nothing.
It is not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul…It is not he who reads most, but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.
Oh, how our lives would benefit from a real break from electronic gadgets. Shut of the social media for a time. Shut off the computer, the television, the smart phone. Stop recreating. Stop playing amateur social cultural political analyst. Get away from other people. Get alone with the word of God. And meditate on God’s word. Think. Ponder. Ponder some more. Seek to really understand. Seek with a desire to love God and Man. Seek with a desire to obey.
Govern your leadership by the word of God.
And this is especially so for Joshua. Joshua is a public person. He is the leader of God’s people. He especially needs to live upon the word of God so as to inform his leadership of God’s people.
God wants His leader to lead God’s people by the word of God. That is, as I say, part of his commissioning from the Lord. I would say this this is the instructional element of God’s word, how to, what to, why to. That kind of a thing. (2 Tim.3:14-17)
I Corinthians 10:8. Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
I want to point out something. God tells Joshua how to succeed as God’s leader. Or where true success will come from.
Joshua 1:8. 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 success.
Oh Beloved, it is not legalism to say that God blesses obedience. He does. He says it.
Joshua obeys the word of the Lord.
Now with our passage this evening Joshua proves obedient to God’s word. He does what God tells him to do. God says get up and go into the Promised Land. And he does.
He is the wise builder that hears the words of Christ, believes them, and then he obediently builds his life upon the word of God. (Mt.7:16-29) He proves himself to be an effectual hearer of the word by being an effectual doer of the word. (Jas.1:23-27)
V.10-11. Joshua gives directives to the officers of the people.
What we see is this. God speaks to Joshua. Joshua speaks to the people. And he especially speaks to the people what God spoke to him.
And what we also see is the practical outworking of meditating on the word of God. It makes Joshua wise in practical matters. Or wise in the practical application of God’s word. God says go lead My people into the Promised Land.
Well, he then gives orders to his subordinate rulers or leaders to prepare provisions.
Joshua 1:11. Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.
During the wilderness sojourn God miraculously provided bread-manna from heaven and miracle water from the Rock. (Exod.16:1-34, Exod.17:1-15, Num.20:1-20, I Cor.10:1-4, Dt.32:15) But once they enter in the Promised Land those divine provisions will cease. So, in wisdom provide for food and drink.
This is like Christ’s words in Luke.
Luke 22:35. And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.
Joshua gives them a time limit on which to obey his commands. Time limits help put urgency to obedience. When people do not think their time is limited to obey the Bible often times they fall into sinful sloth and worldliness. Christ reminds those that call themselves disciples that our time to obey His word is limited. Time will be up very soon, sooner than we think, at a time that should not catch us indolent. (Mt.24:46-51) Limited time ought to make us more obedient to the word of the Lord.
John 9:4. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”
V.12-15. Joshua gives directives to the two-and-one-half tribes.
Joshua gave these additional directives because these two- and one-half tribes stood in a distinct relationship to the Promised Land the rest of the people of God are going to possess.
A portion of the people of God wanted to live outside of the Promised Land in Canaan.
Numbers 32:1. Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock, 2 the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon, 4 the land which the LORD conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” 5 They said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan.” 6 But Moses said to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to war while you yourselves sit here? 7 “Now why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the LORD has given them?
The people responded to Moses that they were not wanting to discourage their fellow Israelites. They promised to go across the river Jordan and to fight the enemies of God and of His people and to expel them from the Promised Land. They just wanted the grazing land on the other side of the Jordan. Moses said that if they would indeed do this, they could keep their families and cattle on the other side of the Jordan, then fight, and then after the enemies were conquered, they could go back to their land. God approved of this.
A few things here. God does have much to say on the care of our immediate family. Here we see the two-and-one-half tribes are concerned for providing for their families.
Many professing Christians should take heed to this. Think of all the fathers and mothers that desert the home and bring financial, physical, and spiritual ruin upon their children. The Bible says if we do not provide for our own household then we are worse than an unbeliever. (I Tim.5:8) If we do not work, we should not eat. (2 Thess.3:10)
Of course, being providential hindered is the exception. But still filial love to God ought to make us diligent to His commands to seek the welfare of our spouse and children. (Mal.2:8-12)
But He also has much to say on our care of the entire family of God. Here God is requiring these tribes to put the interests of the entire household of God even before their own personal or private interests. The notion is, as the entire people of God goes so too goes the lot of the individual members of it. This is the of I Corinthians 12, as one member suffers or rejoices so the whole body suffers or rejoices.
And perhaps by way of application I might say, are we obeying the word of God to love and help our fellow man beyond the four walls of our home, beyond our immediate family? Do we visit widows and orphan? (Jas.1:27) What are we doing for the betterment of Christ’s church upon the earth? What are we doing for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom of grace upon the earth?
Do we rest easy as long as “me and mine are OK”? How is this love to neighbor? How is this love to brother? How is this love to Christ? Beloved the moment we are joined to Christ we have an immense calling upon our lives to live to the glory of Christ and His Church. Our life has meaning, kingdom meaning. (Mt.25:13-46) Oh Beloved, do we have no responsibility for the welfare of Christ’s lambs? Do we obey God’s word in this?
What are we doing for the destruction of Satan’s kingdom upon the earth? (Eph.5:11, Isa.25:11, 2 Cor.10:3-5) We cannot lay our weapons down until the Church of Christ is at rest.
Listen to God through the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah 2:4. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. 5 Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.
V.16-18. The people respond verbally to Joshua’s directives.
Joshua 1:16. They answered Joshua, saying, “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 “Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.” (see Dt.5:27, 7:12, 11:27, 28:15)
The promise of our obedience.
What a great blessing for brothers and sisters to be unanimous in their loyalty to the word of God and to the man of God bringing them His word. May God hasten the day when all of God’s people will have perfect unfailing love and obedience to His Word when we are in the presence of the Living Word.