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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 1

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-18

Joshua Encouraged

Joshua 1:1-11

'Be strong and of a good courage' (Joshua 1:6 ). When Luther was summoned before the Diet of Worms, his friends did all that they could to dissuade him from going. They were afraid that his safe-conduct would not be respected. But nothing would keep the brave Reformer back, and what was thought of his courage is shown in the words which a great captain is said to have addressed to him: 'Little monk! little monk! you are venturing today on a more hazardous march than I or any other captain ever did. But if your cause is right, and you are sure of it, go on in God's name, and be of good comfort. He will not forsake thee.' And it was in the same spirit that in the presence of his enemies Luther himself uttered the famous words: 'I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand; God help me! Amen.'

'In a large party at the Grand Master's Palace in Malta, I had observed,' says the poet Coleridge, 'a naval officer of distinguished merit listening to Sir A. Ball, whenever he joined in the conversation, with a mixed expression of awe and affection that gave a more than common interest to so manly a countenance. This officer afterwards told me that he considered himself indebted to Sir Alexander for that which was dearer to him than his life. "When he was Lieutenant Ball," said he, "he was the officer I accompanied in my first boat expedition, being then a midshipman, and only in my fourteenth year. As we were rowing up to the vessel which we were to attack, amid a discharge of musketry, I was overpowered by fear, and seemed on the point of fainting away. Lieutenant Ball, who saw the condition I was in, placed himself close beside me, and still keeping his countenance directed towards the enemy, pressed my hand in the most friendly manner, and said in a low voice, 'Courage, my dear boy; you will recover in a minute or so. I was just the same when I first went out in this way.' Sir," added the officer to me, "it was just as if an angel had put a new soul into me."'

The Character of Joshua

Dr. W. G. Blaikie writes: 'We must earnestly desire... to draw aside the veil that covers the eight-and-thirty years and see how he [Joshua] was prepared for his great work.... A religious warrior is a peculiar character; a Gustavus Adolphus, an Oliver Cromwell, a Henry Havelock, a General Gordon; Joshua was of the same mould, and we should have liked to know him more intimately; but this is denied to us. He stands out to us simply as one of the military heroes of the faith. In depth, in steadiness, in endurance his faith was not excelled by that of Abraham or of Moses himself. The one conviction that dominated all in him was that he was called by God to his work. If that work was often repulsive, let us not on that account withhold our admiration from the man who never conferred with flesh and blood, and who was never appalled either by danger or difficulty, for he "saw Him who is invisible".'

References. I. 1-11. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Deuteronomy, Joshua, etc., p. 87. I. 2. J. F. Cowan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxii. 1907, p. 365. I. 2, 3. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxv. No. 2086.

The Message of the Book of Joshua

Joshua 1:3

In the book of Joshua we have three sections; the first containing the story of the conquest of the land; the second containing the story of the distribution of the land; while the third gives us an account of the great leader's farewell to his beloved people.

I. The story of the conquest is contained in the first twelve chapters.

1. In the story of the conquest there are, I think, three keynotes; the first of these is Prepare. The account of the preparation is given in the opening chapters, and given in such a way as to teach us the solemn lesson that God's soldiers must be right with God before they can fight God's battles.

2. The second is Pass over. This is the note specially sounded at Jordan, when the people drew their swords and flung away their scabbards, and by crossing the river committed themselves in face of gigantic odds to victory or death. It teaches us that ere God's soldiers are fit to fight there must be in their lives a definite decisive consecration of themselves to the Lord.

3. And the third is Possess; and this note we have sounded throughout that brilliant series of campaigns which began with the fall of Jericho, and, proceeding from the South to the North, ceased not until the whole of the land was subdued.

To the story of the conquest of the land follows:

II. The story of the distribution of the land. This is the second section of the book, and extends from chapter XIII. to chapter XXI. It has been aptly compared to the Domesday Book of the Norman conquerors of England.

At the twenty-third chapter begins:

III. The story of the Leader's farewell. This section contains two addresses, and is one of the most touching and impressive parts of the whole book. While the first address was delivered specially to the heads of the people the leaders, the judges, and the officers the second address was delivered specially to the people themselves. From this book we learn:

( a ) God gives, but we must take possession. As it was with Israel so it is with us. As God gave Canaan to Israel, so He gave Jesus Christ to us. And as the gift of Canaan meant the gift of all that Canaan contained, so the gift of Jesus Christ means the gift of all that He is, and of all that He has. But our enjoyment of all this is conditioned by the claim of our faith. Christ is to us actually what we trust Him to be.

( b ) In taking possession of what God has given us our strength is of God. This is the lesson taught by what is in some respects the most singular section of the whole book, the section containing the story of the captain of the Lord's host. Joshua knew that victory lay before him, but he thought that it lay with him to compass this victory. But on the plains of Jericho he learned that as it was God's grace which had given them Canaan, so it was God's power which was to enable them to take possession. For us, in our strength, to live up to our privileges is as impossible as to win the privileges up to which we long to live.

( c ) There is always power enough at our disposal for taking possession of what God has given to us. When we have honestly set out to subdue the land we shall see the vision of the Captain of the Lord's host. Every place on which the sole of our feet treads becomes ours.

G. H. C. Macgregor, Messages of the Old Testament, p. 73.

References. I. 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1214. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, God's Heroes, p. 71; see also Sunday Sermons for Daily Life, p. 404. I. 5, 6. Edward King, Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 55. J. Matthews, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. p. 300. I. 6. G. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 75. I. 6, 7, 9, 18. T. Parr, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. 1900, p. 74. I. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 796. H. Montagu Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 73. I. 7, 8. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Deuteronomy, Joshua, etc., p. 91. I. 8. J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 43. I. 9. A. H. Shaw, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 56. A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p. 97. I. 10, 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2039. II. J. McNeill, Regent Square Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 361. II. 21. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Common Life Religion, p. 205.

Joshua 1:6 ; Psalms 37:14 ; Psalms 31:24 ; 2 Chronicles 32:7

Courage, my soul! now learn to wield

The weight of thine immortal shield;

Close on thy head thy helmet bright;

Balance thy sword against the fight;

See where an army, strong as fair,

With silken banners spreads the air!

Now, if thou be'st that thing Divine,

In this day's combat let it shine,

And show that Nature wants an art

To conquer one resolved heart.


Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Joshua 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/joshua-1.html. 1910.
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