Theme: The Importance of the Written Word of God
This week’s lessons show why Joshua should be studied today, and what things God considers necessary for godly leadership.
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
This first section of Joshua 1 that we’re particularly considering in this study, Joshua 1:1-9, is divided into two paragraphs. The first paragraph indicates the transitional nature of the book. It’s what identifies it as a bridge, “After the death of Moses, the Lord said to Joshua…” The second paragraph in this first portion of Joshua 1 deals with the Word of God. And it deals with it in such a way that we recognize at once at the very beginning of the book that this is to be the focus of Joshua’s life and the life of the people. It’s really worth looking at in detail. “Be strong and courageous,” God says to Joshua, “because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant, Moses, gave you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
That great commissioning of this great soldier is something that needs to be studied in intricate detail. But before I do, let me make this point. It is significant, and this entire passage is based upon the premises that at this point in the history of the people, they had a written law of God which they already were regarding as a revelation. Francis Schaeffer, whom I’ve mentioned several times already, calls this “the first unchanging factor of the book.” All during these previous 38 years as the people had been wandering in the wilderness, Moses had been writing down the law that God gave him. It began with the law given on Mt. Sinai, the Ten Commandments. And it unfolded itself in the many more legal and moral requirements for the people. And Moses had been writing this down. This had been going on, as I say, presumably for a long period of time. Now, the people were about to enter the land. And the first thing God does is direct the attention of Joshua back to this law which God had given. And there is not the slightest suggestion in this passage anywhere that Joshua or anybody else regarded that written law of God through Moses as being anything other than a direct revelation which had absolute authority over their lives.
But liberals don’t believe that the Pentateuch was written by this time. As a matter of fact, they push the writing of all these books much, much later. The popular theory, now to some extent discredited, that was introduced by Julius Wellhausen towards the end of the nineteenth century, is that there was a progression of development of this material that can be summarized by the four letters, J, E, P, and D. Each of those stands for a stage in the development or for a source in the development of the Old Testament.
“J” is considered the earliest source, and it refers to those documents that used “Jehovah” for the name of God. The second factor in this historical development of the Old Testament were those portions that used “Elohim” for the name of God. After that came “P” which stands for “priestly.” It had to do with the priestly, liturgical code. And then finally, at the very end of that, comes “D,” which stands for “Deuteronomy” or the “Deuteronomic School.” According to Wellhausen, who popularized this theory, none of the law was given at all in written form until after the exile to Babylon took place in the fifth century B.C., obviously much, much later.
Joshua stands entirely on the other side of that. We read this book. And what we find here is not a suggestion of some developing oral tradition, which at some point hundreds of years after this, as a result of priestly manipulation, came to be regarded somehow as the Word of God. But rather we discover the fact, which has been true for the Old Testament books and the New Testament books, that as soon as they were written, they commended themselves by their very nature for the people of God and were received with all the authority that they rightly had.
Here is this book. Joshua knew this book. This book was received by Joshua as the Word of God and was to become the basis of his life in the land. I think this is what makes Joshua preeminently what I would call a modern book. It’s not that the God of Joshua is any different than the God of the first five books. God is always the same. And the theology is always the same. And you can study any portion of the Bible and find the same truth in it. But there is this difference: during the period of history that came before the time of Joshua, there were no written books. Moses was just writing them towards the end of the period. And that means that when God spoke, He had to speak as He did to Abraham in a vision, sometimes by an audible voice or, as in the case of Joseph, by dreams. This changes with Joshua. Oh, it’s true that the commander of the Lord’s host does appear to Joshua in chapter five. And presumably Joshua did receive specific directions from God for the ordering of the battles through the priests. And those things are recorded here for us. But something has changed. What has changed is that the Bible, the first portion of the Bible, has been given. And now Joshua was to make it his practice to know, study, learn, and obey this book–just as we, following in his footsteps in obedience to God, are to know, read, study, and obey the entire Word of God, which we have at this time at our disposal. And so, Joshua becomes in this respect also a model for us all.
From the lesson, what is the standard liberal view of the Pentateuch?
Why does it matter when the Pentateuch was written? When liberals date it much later, what are they generally rejecting?
Why are we not to look for special revelations from God?