Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living by the Rules

God had allowed the nation of Israel to see the Promised Land. However, they had to cross the Jordan River and take the land physically. If they did not tread upon the land with the soles of their feet they would not be able to take the land that had been conveyed to them by the Lord (Joshua 1:3-4).

Victory was guaranteed, but it was conditional. If the nation of Israel chose not to follow the required laws, they stood a great chance of failing. They had a leader whom they had accepted and God whom they claimed to accept. They simply needed to follow God's rules. The degree to which they did this would determine the degree of their success. Our lesson focuses on Joshua 1:7-16.

God told Joshua at verse 6 '...for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.' Then verse 7a leads in with a condition. 'Only be thou strong and very courageous...' It was very important that God encourage Joshua and the nation of Israel. The devil would (and will) always prey on the weak to turn them from God's Word. God repeated these encouraging words three times. It is recorded at Joshua 1:6,7,9.

The main part of the condition was that the children of Israel was to observe and ' according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left...' (Joshua 1:7b). What law? Moses had called the nation together to announce the law. The Lord had made a covenant in Horeb(Deuteronomy 5). The Lord God made the covenant with the surviving nation and not the forefathers. It was a repeat of the Ten Commandments basically, except there was acknowledgement of deliverance from Egypt at Deuteronomy 5:15 instead of the creation. In Deuteronomy 5:28, the Lord is not commending them for their promise to keep the law, but rather for their expressions of fear and awe. When the law was given, the people were terrified and feared for their lives. They sent Moses to speak to the Lord and to assure Him that they would do whatever He said. God knew they were born sinners and did not have the heart to keep His commandments. He wished they did so He could bless them abundantly. For this reason there is a condition to receiving their inheritance, the Promised Land.

So Joshua was commanded to do according to all the law. He had to know what was written. He could not turn from it to the left or right. He had to live and breathe it. All his decisions had to be decisions based on all of the law. By keeping the book of the law in his mouth, making the word of God his rule, and conscientiously walking by that rule allowed him to meditate on it day and night causing his way to be prosperous and of good success.

Joshua was sensible as to how far he came short of Moses in wisdom and grace. What Moses did was done by virtue of the presence of God with him. Though there would never be another prophet like Moses (see Deuteronomy 34:10), Joshua would do well enough because he was chosen by God. However difficult the obstacles may have appeared, it did not matter because the Lord said, 'Have not I commanded thee?...' (Joshua 1:9a). He will strengthen and keep Joshua. Joshua had been chosen for this work and shall not fail with God's help. Although the command of God inspired them with a courage which they could not have had without it, no revelation is by itself strength for action. But God adds, ' not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest' (Joshua 1:9c). Be not weak or afraid because God had given them a pledge that He would be with them wherever they went. The promise of God to be with them was not limited to time (now and forever). It included space (whithersoever thou goest).

Joshua was now ready to step out as the leader of the nation of Israel. By now the people should have been "conditioned" to responding to God without knowing His entire plan. There were officers of the people that commanded under Joshua in their respective tribes and families which received orders to transmit to the people. Joshua commanded the officers saying, '...command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land...' (Joshua 1:11a,b). Joshua commands them to prepare victuals. He did not command them to prepare transport vessels. Possibly some of the two million Israelites began packing. But there is no doubt involved in God's instruction that they would cross within three days over the Jordan River. The people still did not know the plan for crossing the flooded Jordan, let alone how they would overcome the enemies who were mightier than they. Still, they accepted God's declaration.

Joshua then turned to the tribes of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh to remind them of their agreement with Moses (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:12-20). He wants them to remember the agreement because it put them in possession of their land before their brethren. Although Moses was dead, his commands and their promises were still in full force. They were placed in possession of good land to the east of the Jordan, but they had to obey God. The Lord would not give them rest in the land until their brethren possessed land and were at rest. It was time for the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe Manasseh to obey. They would do all they were commanded to do. They left their wives, little ones, and cattle in the land that Moses had given them on the east side of Jordan and went to battle with their brethren. They committed to being completely under Joshua's leadership, promising to go wherever Joshua sent them.

How committed are you in obedience to living by His rules?

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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