"And they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. “Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses. “Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:1, 6-18, NASB)
Success cannot be defined alone by what a leader does. Significant changes take place only when the people pull together under the leadership. We only have to think about Moses’ difficult time. Just think how far ahead the Israelites would have been if they believed the Lord and obeyed Him! They would have saved many years of suffering in the wilderness. The people’s good or bad response doesn’t change things for a leader but a people that love the Lord make a significant part of the generation that makes a good difference.
What made Joshua and this mission so successful compared to the disasters in Judges and judgment in 1 & 2 Kings? The people obeyed. The people were wiling to sacrifice for a greater good. It is a powerful statement when one person sacrifices his own time, money and preference in order to better the life of another. This is called love.
In Joshua 1:16-18 we see love en-masse. There is nothing like it. Purposely become a wave of love and you will never want to step out of it. Perhaps right now you have an opportunity to join in. God is calling you to make some sacrifice. What is holding you back. You can be sure these 2.5 tribes thought about the consequences of their decision to obey. Let’s look at three things that set them apart.
(1) Fully obedient (1:16)
“All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.” Did you ever note that often on important decisions that we have a choice to obey some or all? Perhaps nobody else knows about it. But certainly the choice is there. A command elicits a response. Obedience is the best of course. You would think we have learned that early on but still we make compromises.
You perhaps at first make a total commitment but then upon thinking wonder whether you should have made it. You even wonder if you made the decision to do it. Somehow the zeal at the time of commitment is not so overwhelming as it was in the beginning. Or even before you give of yourself, you question whether you should give all. You might think of giving so much to a certain missionary or commit to teaching a certain class. But then you decide that you are going to qualify your commitment.
This is not the way the two and a half tribes handled themselves. They began with zeal, carried on in faithfulness, fully helped their brothers and were fully rewarded in the end. There is no greater story than this. We will have to wait until the end of the book to see this reward. It is worth looking forward to it. But just remember during some of the battles, those tribes were there and their families far away. They didn’t compromise their decision after a few battles. What a wonderful example for us.
We have looked at different definitions of success. The godly definition was the one that we were concerned with. Godly success always has several key features: obedience, sacrifice, commitment, faithfulness, victory and reward. We see them all implemented here.
Let me mention a bit more about the sin of compromise or should we call it partial obedience. Compromise reveals a less-than-fully committed devoted heart and love for God. Every little sin that we reserve becomes rotten. Think of the opposite example as we see in these brothers. They were fully ambitious. Excited without reserve. Clear as to what they should do. Blameless conscience. Victorious. These are the kind of men God is seeking. It made a wonderful difference for that and succeeding generations. Don't congratulate yourself with 50% obedience. Not even 95% obedience. Be like the Psalmist who said, “The Lord is my portion; I have promised to keep thy words” (Psalm 119:57).
God might be calling you to more faithfulness in some service. He might be asking you to forsake some delight so that you can visit people on a certain evening. He might be calling you to be a pastor or missionary. Full obedience is the only way. It fills one’s heart with joy.
There is a wonderful example in church history of a people who made a difference for the Lord. They are still often remembered today. Often we hear about individuals, but this was a movement among the people of God. Surely they had faithful leaders like Count Nicolaus Zinzendorf. But they had a vision that went beyond themselves. They were known for keeping a 24 hour prayer vigil going for more than one hundred years years. Someone would always be praying. In two decades, “the Moravians sent out more missionaries than all Protestants (and Anglicans) had sent out in the previous two centuries.”
What about their hopes of a family? They made sacrifices. What a great people these Moravians were. Starting in the early 1700s they are considered the longest surviving Protestant church. By the mid 1700s they had already sent missionaries to West Indies, Greenland and Africa. It is through their sending of missionaries to Georgia that John Wesley came to know the Lord. He was so impressed by their trust in the Lord even when the ship was falling apart in a terrible storm. All the Moravian missionaries were not trained in theology but as evangelists. They self-supported themselves alongside their prospective converts, witnessing by spoken word and living example. (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya , p. 71 by Tucker)
Leaders are important but when the people catch a vision for obedience, earthshaking events take place. The Moravian church continues to this day with once center in Bethlehem, PA.
(2) Dependent upon God (1:17)
Some might think what they said here in verse 17 was a show of lack of commitment. I don’t think so. They just knew that although their participation was important, it was not everything. They said, “Only may the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses.”
They knew the Lord’s power and how Moses had led them into victory. They also knew they had no chance if Yahweh would not be with them as He was with Joshua. The Lord likes His people dependent upon Himself. Sometimes people trust leaders, but when the people of God trust God and follow God, then God is able to mightily use them.
“Only may the Lord your God
be with you,
as He was with Moses.”
Shouldn’t we be so dependent upon the Lord that we wouldn’t want to live without Him? I am amazed how many Christians put up with a Christless Christianity. They know of jealousies, worries and selfishness. Why tolerate such unholy things when we could choose and be delighted with the best? Should we live our lives without His presence? I should hope not. He is our God and we want Him great in our midst.
Think of it this way. Perhaps there was a special dinner by invitation. They had two choices. One choice you absolutely hated. The other you liked. You of course would choose the one you like. Say it is Roast Beef. When served, however, you got the meal you didn’t choose. What would you do? Just take a bite and be rather unsettled the evening?
I think many of us do that with our faith. In the beginning you choose Christianity with love. You want the full package. But somehow you get something less. You just once and while nibble away with the unwanted. Brothers and sisters, we need to stand up and seek what we really want! We want the true Christian faith full of the Spirit of Christ in our lives. We want His life, His power and His love! This was the spirit of these tribes. They wanted the Lord’s presence and because they sought it, received it.
(3) Accepted Discipline (1:18)
Discipline is a key to success. Discipline has two meanings and both are important. A discipline is firstly a habitual aspect of a person’s life. It spoke about something they were more than something they chose. We speak of the necessity of spiritual disciplines like daily prayers and going to church. These things become our lives.
“Anyone who rebels against your command and
does not obey your words in all that you command him,
shall be put to death
Discipline also speaks to the training aspect. When we speak of someone being disciplined, it is evident that the person has not completed what he should and thus received unpleasant consequences. This is to help him on his own choose the right thing the next time. These 2.5 tribes committed their lives to the task and made it so that it was not easy to cut out early.