And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. Deuteronomy xxxi. 7, 8.
THE scenes associated with the closing life of Moses, as described in the divine history, are singularly sublime and impressive.
By the training and vicissitudes of forty years in the Arabian desert, under the divine direction, they had attained order, discipline, and confidence. One generation had passed. A young hose familiar with divine protection had taken the place of the fearful multitude which had quitted Egypt, demoralized in the house of bondage. Emboldened by many a victory, by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire at their head, they would be elated also by their approach to the promised land, by the fertile country and the glorious mountains of Moab. Arranged in admirable order, marshaled under their organized leaders, as they left the rude wild pastures of the desert, and came into the fair plains on which they stood, we can well imagine their imposing majesty. The neighboring nations trembled, yet Israel only repelled assailants. They encamped like a lion at rest, and felt that the Lord their God was with them, and the shout of a king was amongst them.
Moses, their aged leader, was yet at their head, one hundred and twenty years old, but he was about to quit them. Before their assembled hosts, with their elders and priests about him, he recounted the chief points in their history, in which he and their fathers and themselves had been actors, gave them the most solemn advice, and appointed his successor to lead them when he was no more with them.
He gave Joshua himself a charge in the sight of all Israel, and in the terms of our text. Perhaps there has been no scene in all history more, impressive and sublime than that scene on the plain of Moab, with Pisgah, Nebo, Abarim before them, and Jordan in the distance, and the aged Moses at the head of his rescued people, giving them his dying charge.
It was a great thing for them. It was a lesson to endure for ages. It is a great thing for us. It may afford us lessons to endure for ever. Let us contemplate oar lessons.
The law in all things was a shadow of good things to come.
The two leaders of the natural Israel, Moses and Joshua, were the symbols of the two leaders of the spiritual Israel, the letter and the spirit, outward religion and inward religion, law and love. We are led out of Egypt by Moses; we are led into Canaan by Joshua.
The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ. Jesus Himself leads us in rooting out the evils of the heart, and giving us the peace that passes all understanding. Joshua is the Hebrew for Jesus.
Moses, then, represents the Word while it is an external force reforming us: Joshua represents the Word in its spirit and life regenerating us. The one brings us to Canaan, the other takes us in. Moses fights with and subdues our outward sins. Joshua conquers and removes our inward lusts.
Moses had led and disciplined the hosts of Israel, and been the means of overcoming every foe that had endangered the people in Egypt and the country outside of but approaching to Canaan. The law held in sincerity and fear will conquer our outward sins for us. The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul. Let them hear Moses and the prophets, said our Lord, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
When led and strengthened by the Word, even in its letter, the soul can be led out of its Egypt, can be made free from its outer sins, and be blessed by a freedom such as it never knew before. Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Fools because of their transgression and because of their iniquities are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.–Ps. cvii. 17-20.
The Word gives light to discern our sins; it warns, it animates, it cheers, it consoles, it directs, it trains, it feeds the soul with manna to strengthen it. The Word thus far, and in this respect, is our Moses. Even the gospel, while it is understood and accepted in the letter only, is a Moses. The Lord with us teaches and trains us, but the Lord in us is the hope of glory.
The Lord is indeed our All in all. But when He is in our memory and our intellect, He is Moses. When He is victorious in the heart, He is Joshua. He never leaves us, but when as Moses He is about to disappear, He gives the inspiriting charge to Joshua which we find in the words of our text. Joshua had been with Moses all the time of the Israelitish pilgrimage, but in a subordinate position. The spirit of the Word is with the letter always, though in the earlier movements of our spiritual life little seen; but later it comes up to view, and takes the leadership: the earthly dies, and the spiritual rises.
Let us notice, especially, the animating words addressed to Joshua on his taking the leadership. They impress us like the sound of a trumpet. Be strong and of good courage. The Lord, he it is that doth go before thee, He will be with thee. He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
Literally, the cheering tones of this charge were intended to fortify Israel and the new leader, in view of the multiplied dangers which they would soon have to face. There were seven nations to root out, gigantic foes to encounter and subdue. The Amorites of the mountains entrenched in their strongholds; the Canaanites of the plains and valleys, with numerous chariots and trained hosts of footmen. Both Moses and Joshua were aware of the severe difficulties to be encountered, but there was no disposition to flinch or fail in their work, but only to fortify themselves to be faithful and true. They knew the Lord was with them, and that was enough. They never dreamt of substituting believing for doing. They went right before them, saying, The Lord he it is that doth go before thee. He will not fail thee nor forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. It is one of the saddest signs of the present day that among Christians there is so strong a disposition to avoid the work of interior regeneration. There is a spiritual cowardice which is deeply to be lamented, as it leads to the work of the Lord being done deceitfully, and it brings dishonor on Him who is the Mighty God. From all sides one hears the craven sound–you cannot keep the commandments you cannot become pure in heart; your work is not to root out your bosom sins; you are not to strive against evil tempers, evil lusts and evil passions; you are not TO DO ANYTHING, but believe that Christ has done everything for you. Not so was it Moses encouraged Joshua. Thou must go with this people unto the land, he said, which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
Heaven is to be won within; the kingdom of God is within the regenerate. But where the kingdom of God is to be, unnumbered foes as yet have their abodes and strongholds. Our enemies are mighty and numerous, on the mountains and in the plains. They have great cities, and many entrenchments. There are many of them giants in size. But what then? Shall we fear them, or fail in our lifes work? Oh no. Rather let us make these divine words our spiritual battle cry, Be strong and of good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn to their fathers to give them, and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. Courage is something unspeakably noble. In both sacred and secular history, wherever we see dauntless courage displayed, our own hearts warm with admiration. To true courage, of warm heart and clear mind, success is already half won. Giants become dwarfs before courage, difficulties die away; while to the timid every molehill becomes a mountain.
What grand achievements have been due to courage in every age! When we read the story of David, and hear him relate how he, the shepherd boy, had seized and slain the lion and the bear, and felt that the uncircumcized giant that had defied the armies of the living God would be as one of them, we feel that it is sublime, and victory is already sure. So with Sauls valiant son, the noble Jonathan, he was fearless against the hosts of Philistia, and they fled before him. In every age, on land and sea, courage has worked its marvels, and saved nations or planted new ones; for it is not the wonder-worker in deeds of battle only. Columbus sailing for weeks and months over an unexplored ocean presents a dauntless figure. The engineer who throws a road over a morass from which the timid shrink, or builds a lighthouse amidst stormy waves; the reformer, the Luther, who attacks abuses acquiesced in by millions, and entrenched in respectability; the noble soul which labors to overcome ignorance, dirt, and crime, undismayed by their extent, are all heroes; and the groundwork of all heroism is courage.
Joshua had been remarkable for his courage throughout his history. He had seen with his fellow-explorers of Canaan all the dangers from which they shrunk, when they scattered dismay throughout the host with their dismal stories of giants to whom they were as grasshoppers; but when he saw the panic spread: and the trembling multitude ready to rush back to Egypt In despair, he rent his clothes with sacred indignation. He cried out with fearless bravery, and saved Israel in spite of themselves, while all the congregation were threatening to stone him and Caleb,
If the Lord delight in us he will bring us into this land and give it us, a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord; neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us; their defense is departed from them; and the Lord is with us; fear them not.
To him then it was, and to us through him that Moses addressed the spirit-stirring words of our text, Be strong and of good courage. The Divine Spirit of religion is always this when it enters into the interior of the soul. Joshua went forth with fearless bravery, and all obstacles fell before him.
And in our spiritual warfare shall it not be so with us? How unworthy is the spirit we too often hear in the pulpit even, and still oftener in the craven words of half-hearted souls. We cannot overcome our faults and sins of various kinds, we have tried and failed again and again; we must be saved some other way. Will it not do if we pray for mercy at the last? If we believe in Christ, cannot we go to heaven by substitution?
It is mercy that is leading us to overcome the hell within. We do not believe in the Lord Jesus while we shrink from the work he gives us to do. He is the source of all true heroism. He conquered all the powers of darkness as the Divine Joshua, and He repeats these words to each of us, Be strong and of good courage. Have faith in Me. I give you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Do the work of repentance and regeneration and I will ever be with you. He saves His people from their sins by giving them power to root them out; but only to men of good courage. The fearful and unbelieving ever fail, and remain outside of the holy city (Rev. xxi. 8). He that overcometh shall inherit all things. I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
In the charges to Joshua there are three things presented as bases for the invincible courage to which he was exhorted, and which are essential things to us. First, Thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give it to them and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. Secondly, The Lord he it is that doth go before thee: He will be with thee. And, thirdly, it was additionally said to Joshua, 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.–Joshua i. 8
In considering the spiritual lesson presented in the leadership of Joshua, as representing the power of the interior life of the Lord Jesus in the soul, we must notice the first division as the groundwork of all the rest. Thou must go with this people unto the land. The truth taught here was declared by our Lord Himself, and to the thoughtful mind is self-evident. Ye must be born again. There must be inner conquest, and a new heart. MUST. Without it there is no happiness on earth or in heaven. A bad temper must be overcome. A sordid disposition must be subdued. An unjust, overreaching spirit must he expelled. Self and all its offshoots–pride, vanity, self-will, obstinacy, contempt of others, and all the unchaste lusts of the soul must be rooted out, as the Lord shews them to us. We must tread on the lion and the asp, the young lion and the dragon within, or we can never have peace, never see peace.
Let us consider what the unregenerate heart is according to the divine description. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile the man.
Can we look at this sad list of vicious things which exist in germ in the heart and not feel the solemnity of the divine words of our text? Thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord sware unto their fathers to give them.
Canaan with the sensual, corrupt, and horrid nations that possessed it was exactly the type of the unregenerate heart. The heart gives character to the whole man. If this Augean stable is uncleansed it will pollute and break down all the faculties of the soul, and after defiling, enflaming, and degrading the entire man, the end will be insanity in some of its forms. But if the Spirit of the Lord Jesus enters, leading in a whole army of better principles, like Joshua and his host, then indeed new health comes in with every sin expelled. Tract after tract is won. Giant-passion after giant-passion falls before the power of truth and love. Canaan becomes a little heaven. The heart, transformed like the land, realizes the description given in another place. A land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.–Deut. xi. 11, 12. The selfish arid heart gives generous sentiments, and loving actions. The wilderness blooms like Eden, and the desert like the garden of God.
There is a heaven within, and so there is a heaven around. Old things have passed away: all things have become new.
This work of making the heart anew, and rejecting the evils which so readily beset us, is what all feel to be the one thing needful, but there is great disbelief in the power of accomplishing it. Many sincere souls sorrow over inward sin, but are faint-hearted as to their power of its entire removal. Hence, the necessity of never forgetting the second assurance we have in the charge to Joshua. The Lord, he it is that doth go before thee: he will be with thee. It is said, the Lord will go before thee, meaning the Divine Love has prepared everything for this great end, that the soul may become like heaven. He has arranged all things, from the first dawn of our being, that we shall become angels. He has implanted remains of Good within us. He has stored up truths in our minds. He is wonderfully working in the secret recesses of our being, that all things may work together for our good. He goes before us. And, then, the power that is working in His truth, in all its promises, and in all it forbids, however harsh it may sometimes seem, is still Divine Love, and Omnipotent Love. He will be with thee. Our own power is small enough, but His power is Almighty. If we lean upon it in loving faith there is nothing can stand against us. The influences of the dark world know their master, and at His voice their most awful rage is stilled. The Lord sitteth upon the floods: the Lord sitteth king for ever. Trust in Him, remember He is with thee, and cannot fail; and then no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their righteousness is of me saith the Lord.–Isa. liv. 17.
The third sure warrant for victory to Joshua, and to us, is the study of the Word, and obedience to it. 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.
To the Christian pilgrim the Word is the treasury of all he needs. It is his counselor in every state. It is his meat and drink; his light in darkness; and the brightest glory of his noblest hours. It is his sword, his helmet, his shield and breastplate. It is the lamp to his feet, and the light to his path. It contains for him mines of heavenly gold and silver. He, therefore, meditates therein, and is sustained and directed by it in every variety of his life. And thus his way becomes prosperous, and he has good success.
There is no success so triumphant, and no prosperity so true as those which come from victories over self. These are attended by present peace, and heartfelt satisfaction, and such conquests last for ever.
Let us then say to every earnest soul, Be strong and of good courage. Fear nothing. Only be resolute. Evil has no vested right, or vested wrong in you. The Lord has made you for heaven, and heaven for you. He has promised to your fathers to give you that land, and if you will be guided by His Word He will certainly cause you to inherit it.
Look at what needs to be done. Pray for light to see Your evils, and by the Saviors power and guidance to overcome them. He will not fail thee nor forsake thee. Fear not. Conquering them may be hard, but sparing them is harder. Fear not. Be courageous. What is sin that you should dread it. It has no right in creation. It is a disease, an excrescence, an anomaly in the world, an ulcer, a plague, an enormous expense, and worth less than nothing. The strength of sin is in our fear and follies. Be of good cheer. See how brave souls have dared in every age to encounter perils of the most terrible kinds for the welfare of man, and the glory of God. Look up to the Conqueror of all the powers of darkness combined, who is your Savior, and resolve in His might to overcome. He will be with you. Fear not, neither be dismayed. He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Conquering sin you gain yourself, you gain a new heaven, and a new earth. You gain peace on earth, and everlasting blessedness among the good.
Author: Jonathan Bayley — From Egypt to Canaan (1869)