Sermons from Lone Rock Bible Church
Stevensville, MT
August 3, 2003

Preparing to Succeed
Joshua 1:10-18

The children of Israel didn’t just fall lazily into possession of the Promised Land. Such an important task required loose ends be taken care of before going any farther. Joshua demonstrates that timely preparation requires:

Strategy (1:10-11)
Sacrifice (1:12-15)
Solidarity (1:16-18)

In Joshua, we’re taking an historical look at perhaps the most phenomenal migration of all time. We have the children of Israel in their teeming hoards amassed on the east side of the Jordan River waiting only for God’s green light in order to cross so that they might occupy the land which the Lord had given them.

We defined the kingdom of God as God’s people being in God’s place under God’s rule. Every time I ponder that definition, I like it better. The children of Israel, God’s people, headed toward God’s place and we’ll just have to see about God’s rule. Do you see how it applies to you and me? If we have put all our trust in Jesus only and we’ve been born again by the Spirit of God, we are God’s people. Because the Holy Spirit lives within us we’re more than likely in God’s place unless He needs to steer us a bit, prod us a bit perhaps, and move us. But all things considered, we’ll accept that.

But God’s rule? Under God’s rule? To my way of thinking, the challenge of the kingdom for me is that third element – God’s rule. We should all be growing in that regard, more and more over time, submitting ourselves to the lordship of the one who designed us, created us, bought us, sustains us.

As the new commander, Joshua prepares the people to enter the Promised Land. There’s much to do and we’re going to see him start that in these verses.

Joshua 1:10-18:

10   Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,
11   "Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, 'Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.'"
12   To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said,
13   "Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, '(The LORD your God gives you rest and will give you this land.'
14  "Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them,
15  until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise."
16  They answered Joshua, saying, "All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.
17   "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.
18   "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."

Without basic preparation, the odds of success diminish accordingly. "Be Prepared" applies to the Boy Scouts, it applies to hunting trips, and I would suggest it also applies to the kingdom of God. Joshua has been charged to lead this people into this land and God has assured him of success. "Only be strong and courageous. The LORD will prosper you and give you good success."

We see Joshua, however, not just casting himself in some lackadaisical fashion upon the providence of God and sort of hoping success comes. We see him making preparation. I think he did the right thing. Successful progress in the kingdom of God can be, in some cases, a big deal. Think about it. If you are a missionary of a foreign land and you have put decades into learning a language, reducing it to writing, and translating it into Scripture, the day when that translation finally reaches publication and is ready to be distributed is a huge day, a successful day in the progress of the kingdom.

But not all success is a big deal like that, at least on a broad scale. Most successes in the kingdom of God, it seems to me, are reducible to individuals and the issues we face in the lives where God has put us and the challenges that confront us and the choices that we make and the growth that either occurs or does not. For instance, reading through the Bible in a year’s time or half a year’s time is a desirable goal and accomplishing that is an expression of success in the kingdom.

Or in some cases, perhaps, "I would be a better husband." "I need to be a better wife." "I need to be a better young person." "I need to share the gospel at school or at work." We come under that measure of conviction, perhaps it’s something as simple and commonplace as, "It’s time to lose some weight."

All those things don’t just happen. In every one of those possibilities I mentioned, there has to be some sort of plan. If you’re a Christian, and you’re living in a fallen world, and you’re surrounded by people who either do not know the Lord, do not care to know the Lord, or who possibly would oppose the agenda of God, you realize growth in Christ doesn’t just happen.

We’re in the stream and merely treading water will take us over the dam. It’s progress, or it’s regress. So we’re looking here in these verses in Joshua. Here’s some groundwork for preparation. What do we need? What do we see Joshua doing?

Strategy (1:10-11)

The first is this – we see a strategy, simple, but a strategy. We’re not talking about a flowchart or PERT diagram or something really fancy and involved, just a very simple strategy on his part. I think about my part. If I want higher ground spiritually, what’s my plan? If I think it’s just going to happen, I’m wrong.

What is his plan? Here we have hundreds of thousands of people on the east side of the Jordan River, just north of what we would call today the hills of Moab. They have been on the road for forty years. They have buried many thousands of their number along the way. They have known the constant presence of God throughout that adventure. The Bible points out in several places their clothes didn’t wear out and their sandals didn’t wear through. God kept them throughout that entire undertaking and now they’re standing on the east side. They know they’ve been given the land. Joshua is their new commander. What are they going to do?

10   Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,
11   "Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, saying, 'Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, to possess it.'"

Now Joshua is a military man. He thinks in terms of organization and delegation. I have to ponder this just kind of on the side. What were they eating all this time in the wilderness? God supernaturally provided manna on the ground for them. They’re still on manna rations, but there’s a bit of a problem when the text says store away three days worth of manna. Because they were commanded not to that, there’s only enough for one day.

Bible students have wrestled with that and there are a couple things that need to be said. One is that the expression, "three days time" means he’s giving them three days in order to get their provisions together. Three days to do it. He’s giving them something of a deadline and then once he’s done this, then he sends the spies into the land. Obviously Joshua is anticipating it will take those spies a few days to go in, check things out, and get back. It ended up taking a couple days longer than they expected for reasons that we’ll see eventually but he’s planning ahead a little bit here.

Remember, manna wasn’t the only thing they ate in the wilderness. That’s why they had flocks and herds. Manna was the staple food but they clearly supplemented that with dairy and meat along the way. So they’re supposed to get their stuff together; they have three days to do it, and then the plan is to go across the river.

Now here’s Joshua’s strategy. First he delegates. Joshua himself doesn’t go among people like Jonah went along the streets of Nineveh and do all the shouting out himself. They already had prearranged for people to have responsibilities for lesser numbers and they’re the ones who were to pass through the people and tell them what the plan was. So he delegated, he gave them very clear responsibilities. Go among the people, say these words, have them do these things. He gave them a measurable time frame, even a deadline; three days, and then we’re going in.

And he gave them a goal, "We’re going across and we’re going to possess the land." Those are kind of mundane, aren’t they? But he didn’t end it there; he ended it with a promise. He underscored his entire plan with the promise, "This is the land which the LORD, your God, gives you." Sometimes as Christians we can get all balled up with programs and plans and strategies and flowcharts and things like that and forget what it’s all about.

In this case, it’s all about God’s people getting into God’s land under God’s rule, and he doesn’t want them to forget it. We can so easily lose sight of the forest, can’t we? As we go from day to day, day to day life.

The Bible, throughout, offers strategies for growth as Christians. How about the individual who struggles with worry and anxiety? Can’t ever quite settle in and rest and trust. Do we think we’re the first generation to have stress, just because we use the word so much? Not at all. Let me refer you to the fourth chapter of Philippians, just by way of example.

In Philippians 4, Paul is loaded with advice. There was stress in the church in Philippi, there were problems. The first few verses of the chapter mention interpersonal problems going on, people had troubles. Paul said this in Philippians 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

He goes on, He says if you want peace in your heart, you have to adjust your mind. It means you have to look at yourself and say, "My thought process is in need of modification." Folks, that kind of thing doesn’t just happen. There’s no osmosis process that makes change of that nature. If we’re going to against the grain of the world, the flesh, and the devil, it will require that we make some modifications. Paul says in Philippians 4:8-9:

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

There it is. You might say, "I don’t struggle with anxiety or anything like that." Some might struggle with other things, though, and I love the way the apostle Paul plays the part of the therapist. In Ephesians 4, he talks to people who are Christians, who came out of an earlier way of life in which they had developed some bad lifestyle patterns, as we might say today. They had problems,

Many times when we are raising children or trying to raise other people’s kids, we will take a look at certain behaviors and say, "They need to stop doing that." Has that ever been said inside the walls of your home? Certainly, that’s true, but it’s only half the story. The apostle Paul reflects in the fourth chapter of Ephesians that it is not just you need to quit this, but you need to replace it. Quit the bad stuff and replace it with the good stuff. Notice what he says in Ephesians 4:22

In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Now we could go theological and talk about the presence of the Holy Spirit within and the new battle between our old nature and now our new nature. That’s all true and that’s happening but so far, what Paul has left them with is kind of theoretical. Yes, we know. We’re supposed to get away from the old and get on with the new. We know all that’s true. But how? Paul tells us, tells them.

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Verse 28:

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

In the law of Christ we don’t just get out of negative and land on neutral and hope everything goes OK. Move on into the positive. Don’t just quit stealing; be productive. And instead of taking things away from people, give things to people who need them.

Here’s another – we may not be liars and thieves, but here’s a good one:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Don’t just knock off naughty talk, replace it. Think in terms of, "What can I say that builds rather than cuts or hurts or embarrasses? A novel thought. But you see a simple strategy here. It’s pretty evident. Possibly as we jump over into Philippians and Ephesians, we say, "I didn’t know that was in there. I’ve never read that before." Maybe what’s dawning on us is, "I sure could stand to know my Bible better." True enough, couldn’t we all? But how’s that going to happen? It happens by figuring out a good way to begin learning.

Higher ground doesn’t just happen. There needs to be something of a plan or strategy, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Secondly, in verses 12-15, we’re dealing with some fantastic Old Testament people now. To the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua says, "Look here, folks, your people and your stuff stay here; your warriors come with me. We’re going to cross the Jordan on the west side, your warriors are going to help all these other tribes settle their property and then you can come home."

Now that didn’t pop out of nowhere. I think it will be well to explain a little about Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. It went like this: God started the nation of Israel with Abraham. Abraham has a son whose name is Isaac, Isaac had two sons, but the one who continues the line of Israel is Jacob. Jacob has twelve sons by four different women, two of them wives, two of them the handmaids of wives. He comes away with twelve sons; the descendants of those sons become twelve tribes. After hundreds of years, these are the twelve tribes who were in Egypt, being oppressed. They come out and they still have their tribal identity being traceable to one of those twelve sons.

There’s a little problem with the math because one of the sons was Joseph and we don’t see him listed among the twelve tribes. Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. The land of Israel is divided up different ways later on in Joshua, but one tribe doesn’t get any property – Levites. They have cities that they’re assigned to all over the place.

When it all comes down to this, we have twelve tribes, but they include Manasseh and Ephraim and they exclude Levy, as far as real estate is concerned. My Bible refers to the half tribe of Manasseh. Does that mean half tribe of Manasseh because Manasseh was one of two sons of Joseph so he’s kind of one removed, making him a half tribe? Yes. Furthermore, half the half tribe stays east of the Jordan in was is today the country of Jordan. The other half went west. Only half of Manasseh stays east, the other half goes west. So it is both half a tribe geographically and half a tribe genealogically; nevertheless, given real estate acknowledged as one of the tribes.

Here’s what happened. When all the people were coming in from the east and traveling the king’s highway which runs right through Jordan and on into the Arabian Peninsula, it is a long, ugly piece of road. There’s nothing out there. They’re beginning to drop down toward the Jordan River; they confronted the kings Og and Sihon and they beat them. They took their real estate in what is today Syria and Jordan, on the east side of the Jordan River in what we would call, just as a generalization, a piece of ground known as the Golan Heights.

As they were passing through, the Reubenites and the Gadites and half of Manasseh tribe said, "We like it here, and we just whipped these people so we should be able to live here." They approached Moses and said, "Why don’t we just stay here. We have flocks and herds and this country looks good to us and it will meet our needs, so why don’t we just stay here and the other half of Manasseh and the rest of the tribes go across, to the west." (This is all in Numbers 32 and Deuteronomy 7.) Moses said, "OK, but you’re not staying here and letting us do all the fighting. We helped you whip those two kings so if you’re going to live here, you’re going to help us clean up on the other side of the Jordan. Once that’s taken care of you can go on home." That’s exactly what’s being reflected here. The deal was, "We helped you, now you help us. So Reubenites, Gadites, and half of the Manasseh – gets your guys together because we’re fixing to cross and go to war."

Sacrifice (1:12-15)

Sacrifice, that’s point number two in our making preparation. If I want higher ground (God’s people, God’s place, God’s rule in my life), in the kingdom, what am I willing to pay? If you want higher ground in the kingdom, what’s it worth to you?

Verse 14: Joshua said to these two and a half tribes, "Here’s the deal. Your wives, your little ones, your cattle, remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan." Any time you hear that expression "beyond the Jordan" or Transjordan, it always refers to east of the Jordan, toward the sunrise.

Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.

What’s the cost? You want this to happen. Well, it’s going to cost you in manpower. Your mighty men of valor, the cream of your military crop are crossing the Jordan with the rest. Everyone else can stay behind, but that will leave an element of risk, won’t it? What if they come under attack? What is it worth to you?

He asking them, "Do you want this done God’s way, or are we going to have a problem?" It’s going to cost them in manpower and security and in separation from their families and from their occupations. They’re gong to spend some time doing battle rather than farming and doing animal husbandry type things. How much time? At this point, they don’t know. Six months? Six years? Or maybe seven. It will take six or seven years before they can clear out the land and go home. They didn’t know that, they didn’t know how long. They said, "Whatever it takes, that’s what we will do. We will sign on, we are willing to make that sacrifice. We’ll do it, because we want this done God’s way."

What they’re doing, and what I wish God’s people today would do more of, is planning for the long run. They’re planning for long into the future. They’re thinking in terms of the needs of their children and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. They are not primarily concerned with, "What do I get to do now." This is called delayed gratification in current terms and they’re willing and they’ll do it. They’ve already been forty years wandering in the wilderness.

Have you ever been in a place like this? Depending on where you are in life, and perhaps you were raised in a certain setting with a certain background and perhaps were steered toward a certain trade or field or occupation. Maybe you went to college or vo-tech and then you got on the job training or whatever, but you go through life kind of pointing in a certain direction. That’s what they were doing. The whole thing was, "Wait until we get to the Promised Land, God is giving it to us and it’s going to be wonderful. Remember the size of those grapes?" And then they get there, they’re so close they could throw a rock across the Jordan River, and they’re being asked to wait.

Waiting is hard, but they’re thinking long term – their children’s sake, their grandchildren’s sake. "We’ll wait." It was worth it to them. God’s kingdom is a precious commodity. Jesus talked about that. Reading from Matthew 13:44, Jesus told two little parables, but they speak volumes. Jesus said this:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

What’s it worth to own that field so you can own the treasure that you’ve hidden in it? All he had, everything. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket? Yes -- in the kingdom you put all your eggs in one basket. That story is followed with:

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."

What’s it worth to you? All that he had, and he bought it. As Christians, we claim to be citizens of heaven, citizens of God’s kingdom, and by His grace we want Him to rule in our hearts. We want Him to rule more and more in our hearts; we want to look more and more like Jesus. We want to please the one who designed and created and bought and sustained and will glorify us. We want to be all He has saved us to be, and yet we have to realize that the advances that we make seem to come in small steps as we grow, but every step costs something. It may simply be a matter of convenience or inconvenience and sometimes simply being inconvenienced will cause us to look for a different pearl, or be satisfied with another field. Sometimes it’s money; sometimes it’s time. These Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh said, "Yes, Joshua, a deal’s a deal. And because we’re concerned about the long term, we’re with you."

Solidarity (1:16-18)

They went beyond sacrifice to solidarity, that’s the last few verses of the chapter. I define solidarity as joyful unity.

16  They answered Joshua, saying, "All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.
17   "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.
18   "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."

Their attitude is great. They don’t know how long they’ll be doing this, but they’ve signed on and they’re going to do it. This is a concept that probably in our culture, in our society, under our system, is a little more difficult for us. We are more the rugged individualists. Even the Army claims to be an Army of one. Anyone in the military realizes you can’t do it that way. It’s a team thing; it has to be.

These Reubenites and Gadites and Manassehites understood about the kingdom. The kingdom is designed as a group enterprise and success requires the group’s integrity. We are in this together; we are moving forward. The whole nation is threatened if the individuals within foster a spirit of rebellion and they understood that. They have been through the wilderness wanderings, they have seen or heard the stories of the ground opening up and taking down the rebellious followers of Korah. They realize that rebellion hurts the whole and so they say, "We’re in it."

They know that is God’s will. I’m not saying we should always agree with everything; clearly, the Bible doesn’t teach that. But the Bible is saying that when God’s agenda is clear, and God’s people are moving toward it, the correct attitude is one of joyful unity. There’s a sidelight in Deuteronomy 17 that I will touch on briefly, and this is the principle to which they are no doubt referring – these Reubenites, Gadites, and half the Manassehites.

Deuteronomy 17 talks about problems with individual people, particularly in the kingdom of God and God’s church. It says if they’re blatantly idolatrous and worshipping the sun and moon and so forth, they’ve just got to go. You realize that in this economy, when it says they’ve got to go, that means they’re done. Verse 8 says, if any case is too difficult for you to decide, take it to the priests, and, in short, we’re going to levy spiritual discernment here. You might say we’re going to have to pray about it. Verse 12:

"The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again."

That’s a deterrent! And these folks are saying, "We know what God has called us to do as a group. Let’s go do it. And if anyone has a bad attitude, we’ll have to deal with it." But the bad attitudes are what ruin things. I think about this group of folks and I think, "What about in the church in America?" The Bible describes the church, more than any other analogy, as a body. And Paul goes to great lengths in the church in Corinth where people were all trying to do their own thing. He upbraided them, he corrects them and he brings them to task by reminding them that a body needs all its parts to function interdependently.

In that letter to Corinth, there were times Paul said this person and this person are a problem. Deal with them. Because the integrity of the body is threatened and the agenda, the plan, the goal of God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule is threatened. He said to police your own ranks, deal with it.

Solidarity is not mindless lockstep, conformity, and 100 percent agreement. That would be like Jonestown. It’s rather, an attitude. It’s an attitude that desires kingdom goals and is willing to yield individual rights to reach them. That’s where success comes in. Rebellion is an attitude that reflects a self-centered agenda and an unwillingness to listen. It torpedoes strategy and sacrifice and threatens the integrity of the body.

Solidarity – and I think this was these folks really exemplify for us – isn’t just refraining from rebellion, it’s not just gritting our teeth and toughing it out, it’s a positive attitude. It looks to the kingdom as our highest calling and our Savior as the one who calls us, who is our greatest joy.

Someone with joyful unity not only looks to the kingdom and the Savior, but encourages others to look there too. I like these three tribes; I think they teach us some things. They will teach us more before we go too much further in the book of Joshua.

Jim Carlson 2003, Lone Rock Bible Church, Stevensville Montana, USA