JOSHUA 1:1-9

JULY 5, 2009


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            Why?  Why?  Why?  Some of you may be wondering why I decided to preach a series of sermons on the Book of Joshua, especially since many Christians have labeled the book as “sub-Christian.”  These folk see the Book of Joshua as an affront to “turn your other cheek” and “peacemaking” people.  And with good reason.  After all, this is a book about conquest, and specifically how God’s people under God’s specific counsel and guidance, took the Promised Land.  Moses took God’s people out of Egypt and Joshua took God’s people into the Promised Land, and some of the things God asks Joshua to do makes our hair stand on end.  For example, in the book we will overhear God order Joshua to take a city and while doing so he orders Joshua to kill everyone and everything in that city, men, women, children, and animals.  Everyone and everything!  And because of these very specific and violent and genocidal orders, this book shocks the sensibilities of modern day followers of Christ.

            And no doubt, it will be challenging to make sense of this book for our day, but let me tell you why I decided to preach through this book.  I’m preaching through it for three reasons.  First, as I have said before, I like to alternate between New Testament and Old Testament sermon series and since we just finished Philippians, it was time for another Old Testament series.

            Second, I’ve decided to preach through the book because I want you to get to know Joshua.  I have long admired Joshua and I would like you to get to know him better.  In fact, I admired him so much we named our oldest child after him.  The man you will meet in these pages is upbeat.  He’s a “can do” kind of guy, and that’s what I hoped for my son.  I wanted him to be like his namesake, and you know, he is.

            And thirdly, I chose to preach through the Book of Joshua because I feel like he is somewhat of a kindred spirit.  Note the first couple of verses and especially a couple of key descriptive words.


            After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord,


             Note the description of Moses.  He is described as “the servant of the Lord.”  Only a handful of people in the Old Testament were given this title.  Being a servant of the Lord meant that you were the cream of the crop, that you had arrived in God’s eyes and the eyes of God’s people.  Not many were awarded the title “servant of the Lord.”  Let’s continue and note how Joshua is introduced.


            After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses assistant, saying, “My servant Moses is dead.  Proceed now to cross the Jordan, you and all these people, into the land that I am giving to them.


            Note Joshua’s title.  He is called “Moses’ assistant” and not “the servant of the Lord.”  Of course, being Moses’ assistant, being his right-hand man was an important position, but it was still a subordinate role, and it will not be until the very end of the book, until the 24th chapter, that Joshua will attain the same status as Moses.  As the book begins Joshua is simply called “Moses’ assistant” for that reason, I feel a kinship with him.

            Let me explain.  In 1983 I stepped in the shoes of my mentor.  In 1983 I was asked to return to the church I had I served for six years as an associate pastor.  Straight out of seminary we moved to Omaha so that I could learn from one of the best.  I knew I was not ready to pastor a church on my own.  I knew I needed someone to teach me about the nuts and bolts of ministry, and upon graduation God directed us to Omaha so that I could learn from Denn Denning, the pastor of West Hills Presbyterian Church.  I became his assistant, and I watched him in action, tried to learn from him, all the while preparing to take a church on my own someday.  Little did I know, however, that it would eventually step into Denn’s shoes.  After Denn took a call to another church, the church asked me to follow in his footsteps, and become it’s pastor.

            Following one’s mentor is one of the more affirming and the most nerve-racking experiences in life.  It was for me, and it was for Joshua, and how do we know it was nerve-racking for Joshua?  We know it because three times in our passage God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous.”  Verse 6 ... “be strong and courageous.”  Verse 7 ... “be strong and very courageous.”  Verse 9 ... “I hereby command you: be strong and courageous.”  Stepping into Moses’ shoes scared the bejeebers out of Joshua and three times God tells him he is up to the task of following Moses, just be “strong and courageous.”

            So that’s why we are embarking on this series, now let’s turn to the main focus of today’s message.  Specifically, I want us to look at four sources of power in Joshua’s life.  If Joshua is going to have to be strong and courageous, where is he going to find that strength and courage?  In these verses God reminds Joshua of where he needs to go to pull of the task of stepping into Moses shoes.  Let’s turn to those power sources now.

            First, take note of the motivating power of God’s promises.  Joshua 1:3,


            Every place that the soul of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses.


            How many of you know how to swim?  How many of you learned how to swim by someone throwing you in the pool and telling you, “Find a way to get to the side of the pool?”  How many of you learned to swim because someone taught you to swim?  That’s how I learned to swim.  My aunt and uncle had a pool in their backyard and my uncle taught me how to swim.  He taught me how to breath properly.  He taught me how to kick.  He taught me how to float.  In other words, he gave me the tools I need to have to be a successful swimmer.

            Well, that’s what God does here.  As Joshua steps into Moses’ shoes, God gives Joshua four tools, four sources of power that he will need to draw upon to be successful, and the first source of power is the motivating power of God’s promises. 

            For a number of years my wife Trudy kept what she called “A Promise Book.”  Every time she read a promise in the Bible, like the one we discussed last week, “God will satisfy your every need according to his riches in glory,”  she would write it down in a book, and then when life got rough or scary or confusing she would take out her promise book, read them and they would lift her spirit.

            In a Broadway play a woman turns to her husband of many years and says, “I didn’t marry you because you were perfect.  I married you because you made a promise.  It was the promises that made the marriage.”

            God makes a promise to Joshua here, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you.”  And God makes promises to us.  In fact, God has promised us more than he ever promised Joshua.  For example, God promised that we are going to live forever, so why are we afraid of dying?  God promised to forgive us, so why do we beat ourselves up when we blow it?  God promised to never leave us or forsake us, so why do we think we are going into something alone?  Why?  Maybe because we have forgotten the promises.

            When the going gets tough, and we wonder if we are up to the task, let’s remember the motivating power of God’s promises.

            Second, also note the second tool God gave Joshua.  Note the sustaining power of God’s word.  Joshua 1:8,


            This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it.  For then you shall make your prosperous, and then you shall be successful.


            What’s God telling Joshua?  God’s saying, “Immerse yourself in the Scriptures.  Let it become a part of your being.  Let it permeate you until you live it and it will have a positive impact on your life.”

            A wife of a prisoner of war, when asked how she sustained herself said, “I have his letters and I read them over and over and over again.”

            Note the sustaining power of letters from one who loves us.  That’s what the Bible is all about ... letters from one who loves us.

            A study revealed that coal miners need an additional 200 calories for every ton of coal they mine?  Beyond the normal intake of calories, they need an additional 200 for every ton of coal they mine in order to maintain their health and weight.

            Scripture is spiritual food, and faithfulness requires extra calories.  To be faithful to the cause of Christ, to do what is right and not do what is wrong, to be able to discern Old Redlegs voice from God’s voice, to grow into the image of Christ in less than ideal circumstances, requires higher caloric intake of the Bible.  How are we doing when it comes to taking in additional spiritual food to meet the challenges of the day?

            Then, in addition to the motivating power of God’s promises, and the sustaining power of God’s word, please note tool number three: the energizing power of God’s commands.  Joshua 1:9,


            I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed.


            Any of you have a regular exercise routine?  For those of you who have a regular routine, do you ever get lazy, or make excuses and skip the routine?  And how do you feel when you do that, when you don’t do what you know you are supposed to do and you know is good for you?  Well, let me tell you how I feel when that happens.  When I skip the routine, I feel guilty.  I feel listless.  I feel lazy, but every time I do it, especially when I didn’t feel like doing it but did it anyway, I feel so much better about myself.  I experience a sense of joy and accomplishment in having done it.  The same applies in our relationship with God.  When we do what we are told to do, our spirits are uplifted.  There is tremendous power in doing what God commands us to do.

            And finally, not only note the motivating power of God’s promises, and the sustaining power of God’s word, and the energizing power of God’s commands, note the cheering power of God’s presence.  Joshua 1:9, once again.


            I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.


            Do you remember Henry Kissenger, Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State?  Well, he was brilliant and said a lot of brilliant things, but he also made one of the dumbest statements of all time.  Henry Kissenger was afraid of flying, but he said he always felt better if Nixon was on the plane.  Now, I don’t have anything against Richard Nixon, in fact, my father went to his grave thinking Nixon was one of the greatest American presidents of all time, but still, I don’t think Nixon would be of much help if the plane on which Kissenger was flying had mechanical problems.  And I don’t care your political persuasion.  It also would not make a difference if George Bush or Barrack Obama was on the plane.  What makes a difference is whether Christ is on the plane. 

            As a quick aside, I love the story of the pastor who was asked to have a drink on an airplane.  The pastor replied, “No thanks, I am too close to the home office.”  Well, those in Christ are always close to the home office, and whether we are on an airplane or sitting at home, or driving down the highway, God is there and it makes a huge difference.  We are always in God’s presence.

            Over the next four or five months, we will witness an amazing demonstration of God’s power in Joshua’s life, and as we think of Joshua, and as we think about what God has called us each to do, let close with a prayer of Leonardo Da Vinci.  Da Vinci began his career when his teacher was dying.  And his teacher called Da Vinci and said he wanted Da Vinci to finish a painting that the teacher had started.  Da Vinci protested that he did not have the talent, or the experience to finish the painting, but the teacher insisted.  The teacher said, “Do your best.”

            That afternoon Da Vinci stood beside the easel of the yet to be finished painting and prayed, “Lord, it is for the sake of my beloved Master that I implore the skill and power that I need for this undertaking.”

            History suggests that God answered Da Vinci’s prayer in the positive.  And it still is a good prayer.  And God still answers it.