Recorded in the book of Joshua we find the campaigns that brought Israel victories and possession of the land of promise, even if they did not find rest there (Heb 4.1-9). Lessons are set forth for the believer today as we are in conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil. If we take to heart the way in which the Lord used Joshua, we also can be victorious.
By revelation (1.1-5)
Joshua begins to move for God by divine revelation: "The Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun…saying…". To be victorious we must always move according to the Word of the Lord. This word held a promise (v.2), that the lands would be given to them. The possession of the land was guaranteed (v.3), and the prospect of all that was to be theirs was delineated (v.4). It became evident that the land of promise was much larger than the land of possession. How often this is the experience of the saints today!
By inspiration (1.6-9)
On four occasions Joshua is encouraged to "be strong and of good courage" (vv.6,7,9,18). He is instructed to be courageous in the work he is called to do (v.6). The call is to observe the word (v.7). As far as this is concerned he must "observe to do according to all the law", for the law was a mandate for the people. He must meditate on and maintain the law (v.8). When we see God's desire that he be strong and courageous (v.9), this is regarding his walk, for "the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest". The final appeal to Joshua is to be "strong and of good courage" (v.18). With the conflict before him he needs these features as he goes to war. Every believer needs to move as Joshua was bidden to do. Only then will we be successful in the campaign as we war against the enemy. We need to recall the words of Paul, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong" (1 Cor 16.13).
By observation (2.1,23-24)
It is always good to know your enemy as "we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor 2.11). The word "devices" means mind or thought, and Peter would reveal the devil's mind when he writes, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet 5.8). We see that Joshua was well prepared to meet the enemy after he sent the two men into Jericho to spy out the land (2.1). He remembered the time when twelve went at the behest of Moses, but he sent only two from whom he learned that Jericho was already a defeated foe who feared Israel (2.23-24). Do we not know that Satan is a defeated foe? Hebrews 2.14 unveils that at Calvary the Lord destroyed "him that had the power of death", making null and void his power as far as believers are concerned. In Colossians 2.15 not only the devil, but all his hosts are exposed as being "spoiled" when the Lord Jesus triumphed over them at the cross. The Lord has won the victory, and now such is the place we have in Christ that James can say, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4.7).
By possession (3.1)
It has been stated above that the land of promise is bigger than the land of possession, but we will never enter into our possessions unless we begin to take them. This is what Joshua does here. He begins "early in the morning" (v.1). Three times he rises early - first to cross Jordan, then to conquer Jericho (6.12-15), and then he rises early to judge Israel in order to remove the "accursed thing" which had been wrongly taken by Achan (7.16).
Respect for the Ark (3.3-4)
At Jordan it was the rod that was used to part the waters where it spoke of the power of God. Now it is the Ark that is to go before them, and this would speak of the presence of God with them. Israel is told to "go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure". Surely this would teach us that we must hold the presence of God among us in high esteem and not speak lightly or carelessly of Him who is high over all and blessed for ever.
Removal of the stones (3.5-9)
These stones were to be a testimony of the destiny of Israel and a reminder of the power of the Lord in bringing them into the land. One feels again that, as believers, there should ever be before us the wonder of all that the Lord has wrought for us to establish the blessings He has promised.
Circumcision at Gilgal (5.2-9)
If Israel was to be successful in the conquest of the Land then the flesh must be dealt with. One of the problems of not moving with God during the wilderness journeys was that that was not done (v.5). Many saints seem to be still in the wilderness allowing the flesh to have dominion, and as a result always seem to have a defeated Christian life. If we are to be victorious for Christ then it is imperative that there is no room for the flesh to take control of our lives. Joshua knew that if the people were to move for God then he must have them circumcised, and so believers today are encouraged to "Mortify…your members which are upon the earth" (Col 3.5), "and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Rom 13.14).
Revelation of the Captain (5.13-15)
The last thing brought before Joshua prior to doing battle against the enemy, was to know that the Lord would fight for him; the vision that Joshua saw was apparent only when he "lifted up his eyes" (v.13). He saw a man over against him with a sword in his hand. It would seem that this caused Joshua some discomfort, not knowing for whom this man was to fight. He said, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?". The reply must have been very encouraging as the man says, "Nay". It would seem that his reply was really "Neither", for this warrior had not come to take sides, but rather to take charge. He came "as captain of the host of the Lord". It would seem that we have here a theophany, that is, an appearance of God as He revealed Himself to men in the Old Testament. Many of these are seen, the first being to Abraham in Genesis 18.1 when He revealed to him the fate which awaited Sodom and the cities of the plain. Once again the Lord is going to bring into judgment those who have set themselves against Him, and He now comes, not to reveal His dealings with men, but to encourage Joshua to proceed with the conquest.
The fact that this is a theophany is seen when Joshua "fell on his face to the earth, and did worship" (v.14). Never on any occasion do angelic beings accept worship. In Revelation 19.10 when John would have bowed to worship the angel, he was told, "See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant". The angel then bids John to "worship God". It is in Joshua's experience at this point that the captain of the Lord's host bids him to do as Moses did when in the presence of God at the burning bush. He must, "Loose the shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so". We thank God that he has promised never to leave us or forsake us, "So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper" (Heb 13.5-6).
In these verses we see his preparation for the battle that lay ahead. In the good of this Joshua went forward, confident that victory would be secured. As Christians we can learn much as we move on to the territory into which the Lord has brought us.
To be continued.