First Things First
In Joshua chapter one, Joshua is in the midst of a major - and what would no doubt be a very emotional and challenging - transition. The new season he was entering would be stressful, very demanding, and would test his leadership skills to the limit.
Firstly, Moses, Joshua’s spiritual father, mentor, probably a close friend, and one of the greatest leaders in history, has just died: “The Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, ‘Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people,’” (Deuteronomy 32:48-50; NASB). “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And [God] buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day,” (Deuteronomy 34:5-6; NASB). “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel,’” (Joshua 1:1-2; NASB).
This had to be very emotional for Joshua. Moses was gone. No memorial service, burial service, time for grieving, or even knowledge of where he was buried. His emotions were probably raw, yet he would have to move fully into his new role immediately.
“In three days you’re going into the land I promised Abraham centuries ago,” God said. That meant - not a pleasant journey into a new homeland - but a challenging move for an entire nation.
And it meant war.
Today, we glibly sing of going into “Canaan Land,” or the “Promised Land,” referring to the land in its symbolic meaning for us. For Israel, it was a physical inheritance; for us, it pictures our spiritual inheritance. We sing of crossing the Jordan or of the walls of Jericho falling down. This is easy and exciting for us; it was anything but, for them. Every step of the process was challenging and required great faith.
God’s instructions to Joshua at this point would have been incredibly important, perhaps the most important of his life. What were they? Only the basics of our walk with God: don’t be afraid; trust Me; listen to Me carefully and obey; meditate on My words; I’ll be with you. Not theology, not battle plans, not travel formations, not how to get across the Jordan - not yet. First, keep the connection to Me strong. This will be your lifeline, Joshua. Do this and you’ll have great success. Have your devotions, then go to war!
When you're about to go into battle, rush off to war, transition into something new, experience a great victory, move forward into God’s plan for your life…first go have your quiet time, your daily devotions. Then, advance.
“In Touch and Live, George Vandeman writes:
“A young stranger to the Alps was making his first climb accompanied by two stalwart guides. It was a steep, hazardous ascent but he felt secure with one guide ahead and one following. For hours they climbed. And now, breathless, they reached for those rocks protruding through the snow above them - the summit.
“The guide ahead wished to let the stranger have the first glorious view of heaven and earth, and moved aside to let him go first. Forgetting the gales that would blow across those summit rocks, the young man leaped to his feet. But the chief guide quickly dragged him down. ‘On your knees, sir!’ he shouted. ‘You are never safe here except on your knees.’”(1)
In this world where we are buffeted by the gale-force winds of sin, temptation, busyness, frenzy, and stress, we are never safe except when we are “on our knees,” spending quality time with our heavenly Father. This is especially true when we are cresting mountains.
Joshua was reminded to make this connection daily, not just on that day. “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 success,”
(Joshua 1:8; NASB).
Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink,” (John 7:37). The two verbs “come” and “drink” are in the present imperative tense. This means it is a command - not just an invitation - and involves continuous or repeated action. Christ was commanding, “Keep coming to me and keep drinking!” So often we try to live on yesterday’s manna. Just as the Israelites, however, we must have “daily bread” and we must take a “daily drink.”
This is what is meant by Ephesians 5:18, “be filled with the Spirit,” Once again, the tense is present imperative. God is commanding us to continually be filled with the Spirit.
After speaking on this subject. Dwight Moody was asked why he needed to be filled and refilled with the Spirit. “That’s very simple,” said Mr. Moody. “I leak.” All of us do. That’s why we must drink continually in order to stay filled with the Spirit.
I know life gets busy, but we can find a way. We will make the time to connect with God if it is a high enough priority.
“Alvin Straight, age 73, lived in Laurens, Iowa. His brother, age 80, lived several hundred miles away in Blue River, Wisconsin. According to the Associated Press, Alvin’s brother had suffered a stroke and Alvin wanted to see him, but he had a transportation problem. He didn’t have a driver’s license because his eyesight was bad and he apparently had an aversion to taking a plane, train, or bus.
“But Alvin didn’t let that stop him. In 1994, he climbed aboard his 1966 John Deere tractor lawnmower and drove it all the way to Blue River, Wisconsin.
“Devotion finds a way.”(2)
Pray with me:
Father, thank You for being Abba - Papa God. We believe in Your heart toward us. We believe what we do with You is more important than what we do for You. We believe You want us first, not our works or service. Even our prayers should be born of our communion with You, not from our list of wants and needs.
Keep us reminded of this. Remind us that we are never safe except on our knees. Remind us that before we go to war we must come to You. Remind us that every transition in life must be born of our walk with You. Remind us that we must drink from Your river daily.
We know that Joshua was one of the great warriors and men of faith in Israel. He had a similar heart to Caleb’s. Yet, before You sent him to war You called him
to Yourself. So, we will stay connected to You, and then we will war for our families and our nation. As we do this, we will be strong. We will ask in faith and command with authority and boldness.
We do so now. We ask You to save our children, spouses, family members, and friends. We ask You to save America and other nations. We ask for a worldwide revival. We ask from Your presence and heart. And we know as we do this in Christ’s name, we will receive. Amen.
We decree that we will walk with God before we work for God.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Larson, Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, p 281.
Larson, Contemporary Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers, p 47.