JOSHUA 1:10-18

JULY 12, 2009


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            Nuts and bolts.  Peaches and cream.  Burns and Allen.  Siegfried and Roy.  Salt and pepper.  Sugar and spice.  Ham and eggs.  Romeo and Juliet.  Death and taxes.  Guys and dolls.

            As you no doubt surmised, all these things go together, and that’s what we are going to talk about this morning as we embark on our second message from the Book of Joshua.  What we have before us today is a rare convergence, a great leader paired with a great people.  That is not usually the case.  Often we have one and not the other.  We have a great leader, like Moses, but not a great people, or we have a great people and not a great leader.  In our passage for today, however, we are going to see a rare combination of great leadership teamed with great people.

            Let me set the scene.  God has just informed Joshua that he, Joshua, will be in charge of getting the people of Israel into the Promised Land.  Moses, Joshua’s mentor, is dead and Joshua is to step into Moses’ enormous shoes and do what Moses was not allowed to do - lead the people of Israel across the Jordan River.  As we pick up the action, Joshua gives his first command as the new leader of the Israelites.  Look with me at verse 10.


            Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, “Pass through the camp, and command the people: ‘Prepare your provisions; for in three days you are to cross over the Jordan, to go in and take possession of the land that the Lord your God gives you to possess.’”


            I want us to note a couple of things this morning.   I want us to note what made Joshua a great leader and I want us to note what made for a great people.  Let’s begin with Joshua.

            Quality number one of being a great leader: being in tune with God.

            In seminary we joked about paying more attention to professors whose Bibles looked well worn, tattered, beat up.  Why?  Because a worn Bible suggested use.  It suggested they sought the council of God.

            Joshua was such a guy.  I love the word “then” at the beginning of verse 10.  “Then,” that is, after conversing with God, “then” Joshua sprung into action.

            Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.  I think of the church I served as a seminary intern.  They had the strangest way of choosing elders for their session.  The most important qualification for serving as an elder was what you did on the job or in the community as a volunteer.  For example, of the Session needed someone for the finance committee, they looked for an accountant or a CPA to fill the slot.  If they had legal concerns, they look for someone who was an attorney.  If they needed help with Sunday School, they looked for a public school teacher.  And that makes sense, however, they were not all that concerned about the individuals relationship with God.  They didn’t ask, “Does this individual exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in his or her life?” or “Does this person show signs of seeking to grow spiritually like regular worship attendance or attending bible studies?”  Those questions were not important to them.  And in my opinion the congregation paid a high price for that.  When I was in seminary that congregation had 1100 members.  It was Trudy’s home church.  It was where as a junior high student she came to know Christ.  We were married in that church.  We love that church, but today it has 275 members.  In my opinion it had to do with the fact they choose leadership based on the wrong criteria, what people did for a living as opposed as to whether those individuals were in tune with God.

            A second great leadership quality Joshua exhibited, in addition to his being in tune with God, was his ability to step out in faith.

            Let’s rewind the clock 40 years.  Forty years prior to this account, the people of Israel decided not to go into the Promised Land.  Let me refresh your memory.  Forty years prior, Moses had sent out twelve spies to check out the land.  Ten of the spies came back and said to Moses, “Forget it.  The people in the Promised Land are big and mean and don’t use deodorant, and we don’t stand a snowball’s chance in a hot place if we try to move those folk off the land.”

            Joshua and his friend Caleb had been one of the twelve spies, but they filed a minority report.  Joshua and Caleb said, “Yeah, the people are big and mean and don’t use deodorant, but our God is bigger still.  And if God says, ‘Take it,’ we can take it.”

            Unfortunately, the people went with the majority report and not Joshua’s minority report and so they didn’t enter the Promised Land.  They wandered in the wilderness for forty years until that generation who rejected the report died out, but now Joshua is in charge, and the people in the land are still big and mean and don’t practice regular dental hygiene, but Joshua is a man of faith.  It’s time to do what they could of done 40 years ago.  Enter the Promised Land.

            When I think of Joshua’s great faith in God, I think of the missionary to China, Hudson Taylor.  When Hudson Taylor first went to China he was on a sailing ship, but then the wind stopped and with no wind, the ship began to drift toward an island inhabited by cannibals.  As the ship drifted, the cannibals began sharpening their knives.  You could see drool coming down the side of their mouths.

            The captain went to Hudson Taylor and said, “Pray for wind.”

            Taylor replied, “Unfurl your sails.”

            The captain said, “With no wind the crew will think I am a fool.  You pray for wind and when it comes, I’ll unfurl the sails.”

            Hudson Taylor said, “Unfurl the sails.”

            The captain gave in and Hudson Taylor went below deck and prayed.  About ten minutes later the captain came down and he knocked on the door and he said, “Are you praying for wind?  If so, please stop.  We cannot stand any more wind.”

            Have we ever stepped out in faith?  Have we ever unfurled our sails?

            And thirdly, note another leadership quality Joshua possessed: he was willing to take tough stands. 

            Some of you know that Trudy and I took our grandson to his first major league baseball game a couple of weeks ago.  While there, in Kaufman Stadium, watching the Royals play the Twins, I thought about a former Kansas City Royals’ relief pitcher, Al Hrabowsky.  HIs nickname was the “Mad Hungarian,” and he preparation for each pitch was quite theatrical.  He would stand on the mound with his back to the plate, and you could see him pumping himself up, preparing for the next pitch, and then he would slam the ball into his glove, and storm to the mound with a glare.

            Being a great leader requires a little Al Hrabowsky.  It requires some toughness, and Joshua possessed it.  He’s going to throw a pitch that people rejected some 40 years earlier.  Forty years earlier they had listened to his report and did not want anything to do with it, and now he’s going to ask them to enter the Promised Land in three days.  Three days.  He faces a potentially unpopular reaction to his directive, but he dug in and took a stand.

            Don’t you wish more of our leaders had the courage to do this?  We have a leadership crisis in Washington, on both sides of the aisle.  Too many of our so called “leaders” make decisions on polls, and not principles.  Too many want to get re-elected more than do what is right. 

            Joshua was unlike those in Washington.  In Joshua we find someone who would rather be respected than liked.  He was a great leader.

            Now let’s move to the other side of this morning’s equation, the great people.  Forty years ago these people were not so hot.  They constantly complained.  They constantly second-guessed Moses leadership.  They considered heading back to Egypt rather than continuing on.  But now, forty years have passed and we have a new generation of people, and let’s see what made them so great.  I want to highlight two of their wonderful qualities.

            First, I want us to note their willingness to subordinate vested interest for the common good.  Specifically, take note of the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh.  We read about them in verses 12-15.

            These three tribes had already been given land on the east side of the Jordan River.  You can read about in the 32nd chapter of the Book of Numbers.  We won’t take time to read it here, but let me summarize the story.  These three tribes had gotten tired of wandering around with Moses in the wilderness and so they sent representatives to Moses and asked him if they might settle on the east side of the Jordan.  In retrospect that was a poor decision on their part.  They thought “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” so they settled for the sure thing instead of the not so sure thing.  It turned out they settled for second best.  God’s best was the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, the land on the west side of the Jordan, but they had gotten weary of wandering, and the land on the east side of the Jordan looked a whole lot better than wandering in the wilderness, so they asked Moses for it, and Moses gave it to them ... on one condition.  They had to be willing to help the other tribes take the Promised Land when that time came.

            Now that day has arrived, and listen to these words.


            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 will give you this land.”  Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan.  But all the warriors among you shall cross over armed before your kindred and shall help them.


            I feel badly for these three tribes.  They had settled for second best and the fighting men, the warriors, would see that.  The land on the west side of the Jordan was far superior to the land on the east side of the Jordan, and when the warriors from these three tribes went into battle, they would see what they had given up. 

            And it would have been easy for the Reubenites, Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh to go back on their pledge to Moses.  When the order from Joshua came, these three tribes were well entrenched in the land.  They had grown accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle.  They had good reason for not crossing the Jordan, but they were willing to do it for the good of the whole.  Even though they had what they wanted, they were willing to help the rest achieve what they wanted.

            I read a great story the other day about another congregation.  The congregation was undertaking a building program, and one of the patriarchs of the church was dead set against it.  He would get red in the face at congregational meetings when the program was discussed.  Yet, when the vote was taken, and the decision went against him, he came forward to make the first public financial pledge to the new building.  He said, “This is what the Body of Christ has chosen to do, and I’m going along.”

            What made these people so great was their willingness to think of the group as a whole and not just their personal interest.  Do we know how to do that?  Are we willing to do that?

            And secondly, I not only want us to note the people’s willingness to subordinate personal, vested interest for the common good, but also I want us to note their willingness to follow their God-given leadership.  Verse 16.


            They answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.”


            Moses had to deal with a huge company of rebellious, stubborn, negative people.  Joshua did not.

            Let me ask some questions.  Do you pray regularly for the leaders of this church?  Do you take elders to lunch and ask them how you can be praying for them?  Do you regularly thank the leadership of this church for the time they give and decisions with which they have to wrestle?  Did you really mean it during their ordination when you agreed to “encourage the elder, respect his or her decisions, and to follow him or her as he or she guides us under the leadership of Christ?”

            Let me answer that for you.  You do.  You certainly do with me.  I can’t imagine a more encouraging, supportive group of people.  You are a great people.  Now, if you could only find a great leader there is no telling what God could do through you.  Amen.