JOSHUA 1:1 – 3:17 and LUKE 2:1–20
The Lord now speaks directly to Joshua after the passing of Moses. There seems to be immediacy in going forward across the Jordan in possessing the new territory. We see many similar charges and affirmations given to Joshua as was given to Moses. In verse 3 the Lord makes clear that he will prevail in every area where their feet shall tread. It is the land that the Lord has given them. We must be careful to stay within the limits and boundaries that God would give. Today, it is easy to get caught up in legitimate causes but it may not be a battle that God has ordained for a church or a people. He may be calling others to take up that battle. This is important due to grace being given for the task that God gives. The Lord told Joshua that they would be successful as long as they fight within the boundaries that He has given them. Once again, this point cannot be emphasized enough. We must know our calling and purpose. We can be called to be a missionary, but to what country? What is the inheritance that God has for us? We must move when God moves and move in the direction He has ordained. The Lord reiterates that He will be with them and that no man would be able to resist them (vs5-Deut 11:25).
We see the word “courage” being mentioned on several occasions. Moses in his charge to Joshua said to be of good courage (Deu 31:23). Moses exhorted the people to be of good courage (Deu 31:6). The Lord speaks to Joshua on a number of occasions to be of good courage. (Jos 1:6, 9). Joshua then gives the same charge to the people (Jos 1:18). What is courage? It is the ability to face difficulty without fear. There was no denying that Israel was going to face great difficulty in going forward. The enemies were formidable and they were not going to yield without a challenge. This is why God continued to impress upon them that He would deliver them and fight for them. Courage does not remove the threat but it allows for a person to not be intimidated or overwhelmed by fear. The enemy is like a roaring lion who seeks to strike terror into the hearts of people. Today, we see terrorism with its ability to paralyze people and nations. Hardly a day goes by when there is not an online posting of a grisly murder. Why do enemies do such things? Is it not enough for them to do their devious acts let alone advertise them to the world? It strikes fear into the hearts of people, stripping them of the needed courage to be able to confront such atrocities effectively. We also know that our enemies are not flesh and blood but enemies that represent spiritual principalities and powers. Courage is also required in combating the struggles and strongholds that work within our lives. There are internal struggles where one seemingly is never able to get the victory. What are some of the keys that will enable us to come into that place of being “courageous”?
Jos 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
I have always felt the above verse to be a primary key of instruction that served the people of Joshua’s day well while at the same time having meaning for us. We must never forget the exhaustive instruction Moses gave with regard to the importance of the Law. It was seen from the time he received the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai through the entire journey through the wilderness. It is also seen in his final address to Joshua and Israel throughout the Book of Deuteronomy.
Joshua again picks up on this theme. The Law is to never depart from the mouth. In addition, the Law needs to be meditated upon so that it is assimilated into the heart of a believer. We see this from David in Psa 1:2. He saw the Law of the Lord as being that which brings perfection; its ability to convert and rule over the soul (Psa 19:7). When the leadership and the people have a healthy regard for the Law of God it results in the Fear of the Lord. It will allow the Lord to break forth on behalf of Israel as they go forth to battle. We will see the tragic consequence of what happens when God’s Laws are lightly regarded when we arrive at Joshua 7. The Bible makes clear that if we meditate upon the law and do it we shall have good success (Jos 1:8). This is the only verse in God’s Word where you will see the word success. The people answered Joshua that they would do as they were instructed. (vs 16-17)
There are two spies sent into Canaan to get a feel for the land. They somehow came to the notice of the king of Jericho resulting in an immediate pursuit being made against them. What was the benefit of these spies being sent ahead of Israel? There are at least two reasons that can be seen from this chapter. The key character in chapter 2 is Rahab, a lady who was a harlot. The two spies were protected by her as the King of Jericho went after these two men. She put her life at risk in covering for these men. Why did she do it?
Jos 2:9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
We mentioned in the previous chapter how the enemy seeks to strike fear and terror into the people of God so as to paralyze any advancement. Here we see the opposite where the terror and fear of the Lord was at work in the land. They took note in how God moved against other enemies and they were now in fear. The time for retreating and cowering is over. It is time to take the kingdom for the glory of almighty God. This was not a presumptuous act but rather a response and aligning to the plan of God. The land was in terror and they were fearful. Rahab took risk in hiding these spies but she was being sensible knowing what was about to come upon her nation. It is a picture of the gospel one day coming to the Gentiles. As a result of her kindness and courageous act she asks to be remembered when Israel comes in to the land of Jericho to conquer. She was acknowledging that Israel would prevail and she sought refuge for her and her family. She demonstrated the fruits of her belief by willingly risking her life in hiding the spies. The plan that would be implemented is seen in the following verse:
Jos 2:18 Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee.
Jos 2:19 And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.
Is this not a picture of what happened to Israel at the time of the Passover? The scarlet thread is a picture of the blood of the Passover Lamb that was placed upon the doorposts of the dwelling places of God’s people. The scarlet thread represents a picture of the blood of Jesus that covers a repentant sinner from the curse of death. The spies made clear that her home and its occupants would be spared if they were within its confines when they were to come into the land. If anyone would be outside the covering of the home they would not be spared.
Rahab is an outstanding Bible characterization. She was an Amorite who married into the tribe of Judah. She married one of the spies who was named Salmon. She later became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth who had a son Obed who was the father of Jesse who was the father of David. What a remarkable narrative the 2nd chapter of Joshua provides for us. It demonstrated that the fear of God was upon the land which greatly encouraged Israel as they were about to go to battle. It also gives a vivid window as to how the Gospel would one day go to the Gentiles. It shows how the Lord can redeem someone like a harlot and allow such a person to be part of the genealogy that would bring forth the Christ. It is a chapter worthy of much contemplation.
There are officers who now give specific instructions about how the camp was to progress across Jordan. They were to wait until the Ark and the priests who bore it removed from its current place and then follow after it. In verse 4 there is a measurement of 2000 cubits that was to separate the Ark from the people. This is signifying a future event regarding the church. There will be a 2000 year period known as the church age that covers the period between Christ and the Millennium. This act is signifying a dual fulfilment. Joshua was about to lead Israel into Canaan but we will later see that Israel will slip into idolatry. This will result in a 70 year period of captivity followed by a season of Restoration. The Old Testament in many ways is a portrayal of the church age and what will take place in the last days. Paul, the writer of Hebrews, understood this blend and was able to take the types and patterns of the Old Testament and make beautiful parallels to his day. There is even greater fulfilment to come for these last days. The word of God is indeed a living Word.
Joshua then informs the people that they are to sanctify (prepare) themselves for the wonders of God that will be on display the following day. He then tells the priests to take up the Ark and pass before the people. This was to symbolize that God is going before them and making the way. One of the names of the Lord is Jehovah Nissi which speaks of the Lord being their banner; the God who goes before His people (Exo 17:15). When we are in the will of God and are in harmony with his timing we have the assurance that He goes before us. This could be to a Mission Field or it can relate to a career position or other area of life. It is here where God can do the impossible if it is required.
We are about to see another such miracle. In fact, Joshua perhaps more than any other witnessed some of the most profound miracles of God. Why is this? In each case you find him in the perfect will of God. He did not presume to witness or do any of these miracles on his own. He was with Moses and Israel when the Red Sea opened up. He was involved on the front-line of intense battles on behalf of Israel while serving under Moses leadership. Now, as the newly installed leader he is about to lead Israel across the waters of Jordan. God opened up the waters because Joshua was in perfect alignment with God’s plan. This is an important truth with regard to faith. Faith accomplishes God’s agenda and plans, not that of men. This is where much of the church divides. There can be the tendency of presuming upon God as to what He might do. It can be with very good intentions where we seek to see faith at work but it must originate from God. As we know, faith comes to those who pursue and seek the Word of God and to do it.
It is at this time where the Lord magnifies the leadership role of Joshua before the people. There is absolutely no doubt among the people as to who is God’s appointed leader. The last thing Israel needs before such a great undertaking is to have doubts over leadership issues. The priests are called to bear the Ark and to bring it to the brink of the waters of Jordan. It is here where Joshua is going to deliver one final charge to the people before crossing. He ensures that the Ark is positioned properly for he knows that it will be God and God alone that will go before them in bringing them success. The men were further instructed to take twelve men, one from each of the tribes and to follow the lead of the priests. The moment that the soles of the feet of the priests, who were bearing the Ark were to touch the waters the waters would begin to be rolled back. Joshua makes a very interesting comment concerning this. “The Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, “Joshua understood this position of Rest. He knew for a certainty that he was in the perfect will of God at this moment. He could Rest in the impossibility of the waters of Jordan being rolled back. In recent weeks we have reflected much on the subject of Rest and the Sabbath. Here is a beautiful example of true Rest. Is there such a place for us today? A place where the God of all the earth can Rest in our sphere of impossibility? Joshua had great reverence for the presence of God. This was seen in his days under Moses.
Exo 33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.
God is calling us to come into that position of Rest. That place where the God of all the earth can Rest upon our specific area of need or concern. Joshua loved the presence of God and because of this was able to discern and be at the right place at the right time. He knew that as they were about to cross Jordan he was in the perfect will of God. To be in the presence of God requires us to be close to the Ark of the Covenant. The priests and congregation drew near to the Ark (The presence of God) as they were about to go across the Jordan. May we have a similar love and passion for the presence of God.
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is about to take place. The world condition was very similar to what is seen today. There was a worldwide tax that was being put into effect. Such taxation speaks of control due to the governing authorities having knowledge of each person’s goods and estate. Today we hear talk of a new worldwide order. A nation’s sovereignty is broken down so that it can blend into a worldwide system of governance. It has the emblems of what was seen at Babel under Nimrod. It is but one of the means by which the way will be paved for the antichrist in the last days. Though this system of governance is evil and unjust it is the fulfilling of scripture. In the days of our Lord the system of taxation allowed for Him to be birthed in Bethlehem. The Bible specifically foretold of His birth at Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). So this act of taxation was the means by which Mary and Joseph came to the city of David at Bethlehem (Luk 2:4). Nobody likes taxes however the Lord demonstrated how one’s approach should be regarding this function.
Mat 17:27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Jesus did not let unfair taxation become an issue. He merely instructed Peter to go and retrieve unexpected money to pay the tax. I feel the Lord is making the same case for us today. In America, the tax situation is deteriorating with each passing year. It is a means of abuse and control which has gone beyond the boundaries of fairness. The Lord is able to provide the means to manage this issue so that it does not become a stumbling block. Remember, this unfair method of taxation was the means by which Jesus was born in Bethlehem; thus fulfilling scripture.
Can there be a more humble means of introduction into the world for the king of kings? Joseph and Mary had to undertake a long and arduous journey to pay a tax. Once they arrived they found no place to lodge for the night. A simple manger surrounded by animals was the privileged birthing place of our Lord and Savoir. Is this possible? Should not this promised Son of God be accommodated and honored in a more esteemed way? Should not there be the highest of dignitaries on hand to witness the birth of the Son of promise? Well, we know from scripture that God’s ways are not the same as men (Isa 55:8-9). Speaking of dignitaries we do see a delegation of people who were alerted and witness to this glorious event. It was the shepherds (Luk 2:8-20). This account is laced with insights and keys that speak to the greatness of God. It has deep meaning for us if we have ears to hear its message. Why the shepherds; why is it that they had this wonderful privilege of being privy to this glorious event?
Luk 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
These shepherds had the quality of vigilance. How many times do we hear in scripture the charge to be watchful? We see this as primary criteria in the days of Gideon. The 33,000 were winnowed down to 300 due to the way they took a drink of water (Jud 7:6). Jesus spoke of being watchful on a number of occasions. It is also a last day exhortation given by both Peter (1 Pet 5:8) and John in the Book of Revelation. (Rev 3:2). A shepherd was a lowly regarded occupation. While the world was carrying on with its busyness or at sleep the shepherds were in the fields watching, being vigilant over their sheep. David was a shepherd at a time when all the attention was focused around Jesse’s other sons. He did not feel slighted or felt he had to be where the crowds were gathered. Yet, he was the one chosen.
Moses had a call and yet became chosen while watching over the flocks of his father in law in Midian. It was this training that prepared him for the task of leading Israel over that same ground in the years to come. The ways of God are truly glorious; ever confounding the world’s way of doing things. Think of what these faithful shepherds experienced. As they were faithful in their task an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared unto them accompanied by the glory of the Lord brightening the night sky. It is quite understandable that they would be afraid. How would you feel if suddenly the skies above opened up in great glory coupled with the appearance of angels?
This angel did not appear to the nightly news cast of their day but announced the glorious birthing of our Lord to these shepherds, whom the world paid little or no regard. They were not only told of the birth but they were directed to the very place so that they could be a witness. In addition, they heard the singing of the heavenly angelic choir (vs 13-14). These faithful, vigilant shepherds had a visitation of the Lord that was extraordinary.
Do you ever feel like you are forgotten or not in the loop of activity? Perhaps your occupation requires you to be in a place that is obscure and unknown to the masses. The Lord knows you, and He knows where you are. Let us take encouragement from this example of the shepherds and from people like David and Moses and focus on what really matters. The qualities of faithfulness and vigilance are not to be minimized. The Lord takes great pleasure in revealing Himself and His Truth’s to those who have these inward qualities. The shepherds were able to see the fulfilment of God’s promise to man. They also became powerful witnesses to others by reason of that glorious visitation bestowed upon them on that special night. Who will be the modern day variations of these shepherds?
The 8 day period passed and the child was circumcised after 8 days according to the Law of Moses. They called His name Jesus in obedience to the angel who approached Mary before conception. The number 8 speaks of new beginnings. This event was a sovereign act of God and it clearly represented a new stage of God’s interaction with man. The Son of God has become man by way of a miraculous conception.
There are certain privileged people who had opportunity to visit the child. The first person is one named Simeon. His name means “Hearing” and he was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Why is he given this honor? Simeon’s visit was a reinforcement to Mary and Joseph as to who this precious child really was. He proclaimed him to be God’s salvation; the one who was prepared before the beginning of time going back before Adam (vs 31). He then mentions Him as the one who is a light to Israel and to the Gentiles (vs 32). What remarkable statements for a newly born child. Up until this time the promise of Jesus was declared by an angel but now He is spoken of by this amazing man; one who was closely aligned with the Holy Spirit. It is no wonder that Joseph and Mary marvelled at his words (vs 33). He goes on to bless them both while adding a prophetic word concerning the ministry that will characterize the child as well as the price that Mary will experience (vs 34-35).
There is yet another visitor who had the privilege of seeing the baby Jesus. It is an elderly prophetess by the name of Anna. She was a faithful widow who served God with fasting and prayers on a consistent basis. It speaks of the Lord’s fondness and concern for widows. Anna also gives a portrayal of what a widow can do as part of the body of Christ. The church needs to provide and look after the widows; in doing so they can serve the interests of the church by faithfully praying and serving. We see that Anna was also an excellent witness to those who sought after the message of redemption in Jerusalem (vs 38).
The balance of this chapter relates to the event when Jesus left his parents to speak in the temple; listening and addressing the doctors of the law with questions. Think of what this must have looked like. Here you have a 12 year old confounding the learned men with His questions and insights (vs 47). His parents rebuked Him for disappearing from their sight. His response in verse 49 is telling. It seems that Jesus was coming in to the understanding of who He was.
It could be likened to Moses when he assumed to become God’s leader at the age of 40. Yes, Moses was called to be the leader of God’s people but it was not yet God’s timing. He had another 40 years of preparation for this role in Midian, a land of obscurity. One gets this similar sense with Jesus. He felt He was fulfilling His Father’s business by disputing with the men in the temple. He perhaps was beginning to come to an understanding of who He truly was. We also see the humanity of Christ at work in his leaving his parents in an abrupt manner. The result was that He remained subject to his parents from this time forward. It also resulted in Mary taking note of this event. She understood somewhat as to what was taking place.
This event is also reminiscent of what happened with Joseph at the time he had the dreams as a young boy. He was maligned by his brethren and rebuked by his father. Still, Jacob took note of the matter. He sensed that Joseph’s dreams may have had significance (Gen 37:11). Jesus now was about to go into obscurity for a period of about 18 years. His life will be removed from public view but we see that it was through this period where he grew in wisdom and stature (vs 52). He also was gaining in favour with both God and man. God may give a promise but oftentimes there will be a season of testing and preparation before it is realized. Isaiah prophesied regarding this period in the life of Christ (Isa 49:2-3). It is oftentimes the hidden season when the preparatory work of God is accomplished. Joseph had many years in a prison, David had the wanderings when fleeing from Saul, Moses had the 40 years in the wilderness and now Jesus will have His 18 hidden years. Can we allow for such periods in our life? May we be like Joseph where the Word of the Lord can do its work until the time of release into the fullness of God’s plan (Psa 105:19).