WHAT WE NEED IN ORDER TO SUCCEED
by Doug Ward
During the Paschal season it is customary for both Jews and Christians to place themselves at the scenes of the events they commemorate each year. Jewish participants in a Passover Seder traditionally think of themselves as being personally liberated from slavery in
One further location at which we might profitably place
ourselves during the Paschal season is on the banks of the
Moses has recently died (Joshua 1:1), and it will be up to
his assistant Joshua to lead the people across the
For Christians, the season of Passover is a time of
self-examination and reflection, a time when we consider the meanings of the
crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, give thanks for the gift of salvation,
and renew our own covenant with God. It is also a time to prepare for the
challenges ahead, the "
Servants of God
The book of Joshua begins where the book of Deuteronomy leaves off:
"After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: `Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them-to the Israelites" (Joshua 1:1-2, NIV).
Joshua 1:1 marks the second instance in the Bible in which Moses is designated "the servant of the Lord." The first is a few verses earlier in Deut. 34:5, at the initial announcement of Moses' death. The book of Joshua refers to Moses in this manner fourteen times, and it becomes a standard designation for Moses thereafter (2 Kings ; 2 Chron 1:3; 24:6; Rev 15:3). This is certainly a fitting summary of his life. Although Moses experienced a number of setbacks during his lifetime-in particular, his failure to enter the Promised Land-he was, above all, a faithful servant of God.
Moses is not the only one called a servant of God in the Bible. Joshua is identified in this way (Joshua 24:29; Judges 2:8), as is King David (Ps 18:1; 36:1). The apostle Paul referred to himself and other early Christian leaders as servants-or more precisely, slaves-of God, of Jesus Christ, and of their congregations (Rom 1:1; 2 Cor 4:5; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1; 2 Tim 2:24; Titus 1:1). So did Peter (2 Peter 1:1), James (James 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1).
In fact, all of the covenant people-not just leaders-can
rightly be called servants of God. When God rescued
the children of
Remembering who we are is one key
to our success. Our identity as servants of God should guide our actions and
decisions. Paul admonished Christians in
Joshua was one of only two men from the older generation of Israelites still alive forty years after Israel's departure from Egypt (Num 14:29-30; Deut 1:34-38). During those forty years he had gained much valuable experience as Moses' assistant.
In the early days of the journey Joshua served as a military
commander, defending his people against the Amalekites,
the terrorists who attacked the weak and infirm at the rear of Israel's ranks (Exod 17:8-16; Deut 25:17-19). When Moses ascended
By the time the Israelites reached the banks of the
In Joshua's example we see another key to success: When God chooses us for a task, he gives us the experiences we will need in order to carry it out. These experiences teach us valuable lessons.
Claiming the Promise
God urged Joshua to lead
In verses 5-9, God gave Joshua further instructions in how to carry out his assigned mission. These instructions are arranged in a chiastic structure that emphasizes some main points and shows how those points are related:
(a) At the beginning and end of the passage, in verses 5 and 9, is the promise that God will always be with Joshua and the Israelites. It is God's continued presence that provides the necessary setting for Joshua's mission. Without God's presence, Joshua would not be able to succeed.
(b) In the protective environment of God's presence, Joshua could be "strong and courageous", as is mentioned in the second and next-to-last parts of the chiasm (verses 6 and 9).
(c) Strength and courage would be needed for Joshua and the people to implement the Torah, the commandments God had given through Moses. By obeying the Torah, the Israelites could enjoy the full measure of blessing that God intended for them. This is brought out in the third and third-to-last parts of the chiasm, in verse 7 and the end of verse 8.
(d) The beginning of verse 8 is the admonition that occupies the central position in the passage: "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night ...." To carry out God's commandments, the Israelites would need to study them, commit them to memory, and internalize them.
In Joshua 1:1-9, God encourages Joshua in his new role as leader of
These verses provide valuable instruction for God's people
throughout the ages. They remind us that God has delivered us from bondage from
sin and made us his servants. He has given us the gift of salvation and
assigned a mission for us to accomplish (see Matt. 28:19-20), providing us with
experiences that will help us carry out our parts of that mission. Along the
way, we will have "
Acknowledgment: Much of the material in this article is taken from a Bible study given by Dr. Richard S. Hess at Oxford Bible Fellowship on
2This point is explored in detail by Göran Larsson in the book Bound for Freedom: the Book of Exodus in Jewish and Christian Traditions (Hendrickson Publishers, 1999).
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