After the Lord exhorted him to be strong and courageous, Joshua commanded the people to prepare their provisions for crossing the Jordan River and entering into the land God had promised to give them (cf. Josh. 1:10ff). He also gave special instructions to the two and a half tribes who had chosen to take their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan (where the people were encamped presently). They had given their word that they would help the rest of the nation fight the Canaanite people west of the Jordan. Joshua was reminding them of their commitment. Then, when the conquest was complete, they would return to their land which they had already received (cf. Num. 32). We learn from Joshua 4:13 that 40,000 men of the two and a half tribes crossed the Jordan to fight, while approximately 70,000 remained with their families to secure the land, work it, and protect the women and children (cf. Num. 26:7,18,34).
The reply of the people to Joshua’s commands is impressive – “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and of good courage” (Josh. 1:16-18). The people embraced Joshua’s leadership. Any who resisted and rebelled would be executed! Joshua was a capable leader and the people were ready to enter Canaan and accept God’s gift as they conquered the land. Joshua, who was full of divine wisdom (cf. Deut. 34:9), would lead them to victory, although, as we will see in the chapters to come, they did not fully obey God’s word. Their fundamental mistake was in allowing some of the heathen peoples of the land to live when God had commanded their annihilation! Their corrupting influence would eventually be the downfall of Israel. God was faithful to them in fulfilling His word, but their faithfulness to Him was not constant, as the whole of the Old Testament illustrates quite well.
Let’s close our study of Joshua 1 with the following poem:
When God desired His pledge to keep and save alive mankind’s hope,
He found a man named Noah who placed the pledge inside a boat.
When written law was needed, and the mountain quaked and rocked;
And the people cowered at Sinai’s base, there was Moses on Sinai’s top.
As Canaan land before them stretched, to Jordan’s eastern bank they’d come.
Thanks be to God Moses’ mantle fell upon the noble son of Nun.
And as we to our own Canaan press, the New Jerusalem to see,
Our souls are cleansed, our hearts are blessed. There was Jesus who died for you and me.
You may not be a Noah, keeping hope alive in gopher wood.
You may not be a Moses, as he at Sinai’s summit stood.
You may not be a Joshua, who fought for land to Israel given.
And you’re not the son of God, who gives us hope from earth to heaven.
But you are you, the only one like you there ever will be.
So face the task before you set, and be all God wants you to be.
Although I do not know the author, the poem expresses a powerful message about Noah, Moses, Joshua, Jesus, and even you! There is a constant need in every generation for proper spiritual leadership and guidance. God will bless those who desire to serve Him and who are willing to cooperate with him (like Joshua) in the fulfillment of His will. May we all strive to serve the Lord to the best that our abilities and opportunities allow!