By J.R. Miller
The work of Moses was done--and he was laid to rest. Now Joshua is called to take up the unfinished task. We need not fret and vex ourselves over having to leave things half finished, if only we are diligent and faithful in doing our duty while we have it in our hands. We have only our allotted task, and when that is done--it is another's turn. We should not concern ourselves about what we meant to do--and could not. It was not our duty at all, this part that remains. God looks after His work, and always other workers are ready to take up the things which drop out of the hands of His servants, when they are called home or set aside. All we need concern ourselves with--is the doing well of our own little part, while it is ours.
The character of the work done by Moses and Joshua respectively is suggestive. Moses represented the law; and Joshua the gospel. Moses could not bring them over and into full possession of their country. The law can bring us only to the border of salvation, to the edge of the spiritual kingdom. It cannot give us the inheritance, it cannot bring us into God's family, it cannot give us rest or peace or heaven. Then Jesus comes, the true Joshua, and leads us into the fullness of the promise. We cannot be saved by the law; it is but a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It leaves us still outside the door--when it has done its best. "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
The story of Joshua's life is full of practical interest, especially to young men who are eager to rise to places of honor. Joshua attained highest honor, though he began in a very lowly way. He worked his way up, step by step, and did it, not by trick or cleverness--but by simple faithfulness in each position he was called to fill. He began as a slave in the brick fields of Egypt. Then he became a soldier when the cause of his people needed service in war; and as a soldier he was valiant, brave and loyal. By these qualities he rose, proving by faithful and effective service in the lower duties, that he was ready for higher responsibilities. At length he became Moses' aide. Serving faithfully in this position, he was promoted to the place of Moses, when that great leader died. There was no luck in Joshua's success. It was by simple faithfulness that he rose. He filled well every place in which he was tried. If he had failed as a soldier or as a subordinate officer, he never would have been promoted to the higher trusts which at last were reposed in his hands.
This bit of personal history, ought to have its lesson for the boys and young men who study it. There is an impression abroad, that success in life can be achieved by smartness, by strokes of good luck, or in some other way--than by honest hard work and simple devotion to plain duty. There never was a falser idea abroad. The only way to rise to success and honor, and to the higher places--is by starting where God puts us, and doing with faithfulness, the humblest duties of our lot. Success is a ladder, and we must go up step by step to reach the top.
"Moses my servant is dead. Now then, arise you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them--to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses." Joshua 1:2-3. It was a sharp, startling call that came now to Joshua. Moses was dead, and the people were mourning for him. It was right to mourn for so good and great a man--but possibly Joshua and the people were allowing their grief so to absorb them--that they were neglecting their duty; hence this call came to arouse them.
Sorrow is not a duty of many days--the Lord's work is waiting meanwhile. There is a lesson here for all who are called to mourn the death of friends. They are not to sit down in inconsolable grief and spend the remainder of their lives in tears. They are to arise and take up the work that waits for them. Our duties do not fall out of our hands, when our friends die. Our grief is not to be allowed to break up our work. Ofttimes, indeed, the death of a friend puts upon us new responsibilities and new duties. When a father dies, the son is called to take up the burden that the father has carried heretofore. The death of a husband, lays on the wife new responsibilities which she must now assume. There is a very important lesson in the ringing call: "Moses . . . is dead; now therefore arise."
The command seemed hard to obey. Joshua was bidden to lead the people over the Jordan, into the land which God would give them. The river was overflowing its banks. There were no bridges, and no ferry-boats plied between the plain of Moab and the plain of Jericho. How could they get over? Still the command was: "Arise, go over this Jordan." The land of promise lay beyond, and they could not get possession of it without crossing the swift-flowing stream. So always for us the promised land of peace and blessedness, lies beyond the river. We may feel that we never can go over--but there is a country of promise on the other side, and unless we cross the stream--we never can set our feet upon it. God puts many of the best things of life, His best blessings--beyond rivers and roaring streams, to try our faith and to see if we are earnest enough to cross to get them.
Then we may always be sure that where God bids us to go, we can go; and what He gives us to do, we can do. Duty is never impossible. No commission is ever given to us that we cannot fulfill. "With God all things are possible," we often quote--but we sometimes forget that the meaning is "To us with God all things are possible."
The land of promise was God's gift to the people. They did not have to buy it from the previous inhabitants. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." He gave Canaan to Israel, and yet they had something to do in order to obtain it. They must take possession of it. It was all for them--but they would really get only so much of it as their feet trod upon--that is, as much as they conquered and took possession of. This same principle applies to all blessings of Christian faith. We are children of God, and all things are ours because we are God's heirs. But we really get only the blessings and privileges which we claim and make our own--by actual occupancy.
Here is a library of good books to which young people have free access. The books are given to them--but only such books really become theirs--as they make their own by reading and research. God gives us the harvests of the fields--but we must reap and gather them.
The conquest of Canaan was not easy. Yet the promise is that no one would be able to stand before Joshua and his army. The reason was that God would be with them and would help them to overcome. We all have enemies to meet in our spiritual life, enemies who are stronger than we are, more skillful and more experienced in fighting. But this same promise comes to every young Christian who has set out with Christ. "No man shall be able to stand before you." The reason is that Christ Himself is always with each one who goes forth in His name. He never can fail or be defeated, who is fighting under the banner of Christ.
Why is it, then, that so many Christians fail in temptation, and fall? Does the Master sometimes withdraw himself? Or is he not able to help them in their difficulty? No! The trouble is with ourselves. Our faith fails, or our obedience, and then we faint before danger. God's help is always conditional--we must believe and obey--if we would get it.
It is important to study the counsel given to Joshua. He was bidden to be strong and of good courage. He had a great task to perform, and he could perform it only by summoning all his powers. Weaklings and cowards never win any sublime victories. Every young man should learn to take hold of duty with energy, and to stand like a rock in the face of all opposition and in the presence of all danger. A young man must learn that it is not enough to be good--he must be good for something. Many a good man never amounts to anything, because he has neither energy nor firmness. Joshua's life is the best illustration of the counsel here given to him. He had strength of character and he was firm as the everlasting hills. Therefore he succeeded.
God gave Joshua assurance of final and complete success. He told him that he would divide the country among the people for an inheritance. This vision of final success must have been very inspiring to Joshua as he set out. It was no mere experiment to which he was going. His dream of conquest was no vague, uncertain thing, like too many of the dreams of human ambition. God had pledged him full success--if he would do his part faithfully. It must many a time have been a great inspiration to Joshua in times of discouragement, when he remembered that he was destined to finish the work. He could not by any possibility fail.
Every Christian has the same assurance as he receives Christ and sets out to follow Him, and as he enters upon any new duty assigned by Him. There are hardships, obstacles and enemies. But he has the assurance at the very beginning, that he will not fail in the end--if only he is faithful. "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life." This should be a strong inspiration with every Christian. The way may be hard--but the promise is sure that we cannot possibly fail. Everyone of us has a mission in life, a mission on which God Himself sends us. If we accept this mission and go forth on it in faith and with earnestness and fidelity--we cannot fail.
"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." Joshua 1:7-9
There were conditions which were made very plain to Joshua. The book of the law was not to depart from his mouth; he must meditate on it continually and follow it implicitly. These always are the conditions of a true life and of any worthy success. We must study the book of God--to find out what the will of God for us is. Then we must obey His commandments. Only those who obey the words of Christ, are building upon the rock. Only he who does the will of God shall abide forever. Any success or prosperity which is reached by dishonesty or disobedience, is only a dream which will vanish away and leave nothing behind.