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JOSHUA’S MEN

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, June 16, 2019

“And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go” (Joshua 1:16).


Joshua is one of the heroes of the Bible. He followed Moses in the Exodus from Egypt. He was Moses’ assistant through forty years in the wilderness. Moses died just before the people crossed into the land of Canaan. Joshua became the leader. Joshua took the people over the River Jordan into the Promised Land. Israel conquered the land and it became their home, as God promised to Abraham centuries before.

God spoke to Joshua before they went into the land. He said,

“Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 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 1:6-8).

Be strong and of a good courage, and do what the Bible says! That’s good advice for anyone!

But this morning I will not speak about Joshua. I will talk about Joshua’s men, the people who followed him. Joshua spoke to “the officers of the people” (Joshua 1:10) and told them what to do. This brings us to our text,

“And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go” (Joshua 1:16).

These men didn’t just say they would do what Joshua told them. They actually did it! They did not rebel or disobey. They marched the way he told them. None of them led a rebellion. None of them tried to overthrow him. No one worshipped another god.

It wasn’t only “the officers of the people.” The whole nation did the same thing. They did what Joshua commanded. There was no rebellion. Nobody tried to overthrow Joshua. No one worshipped another god.

I didn’t say there was never a sin among them. But it was rare. It was the exception, not the rule. A man named Achan disobeyed God and took money for himself. His sin and his judgment took up an entire chapter in the Book of Joshua (chapter 7). That was the sin of one man, not a rebellion of the whole nation.

It is no surprise that the Book of Joshua is a story of victory! God promised success if they would obey Him, and they did. They defeated the enemy armies easily, over and over. They took the Promised Land, with an inheritance for every tribe. They obeyed God and He was on their side. No wonder they won!

But it was not like that in the time of Moses, in the generation before Joshua. Those people complained and rebelled again and again. Leaders like Korah, Dathan and Abiram tried to bring Moses down. Even Moses’ brother, Aaron the high priest, made a golden calf for the people to worship. God didn’t let the people go into the Promised Land. They had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until they all died. It was their children, under Joshua, who took the land. This morning I want to talk about two generations of men. First I will speak about the people in the time of Moses, and then I will speak about Joshua’s men.

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I. First, the rebellious and defeated generation of the time of Moses.

God told them what to do. They said they would do it. In the Sinai desert, God said,

“If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:5, 6).

The people answered, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8). Then God gave the Ten Commandments. The people said, “All the words which the Lord hath said will we do” (Exodus 24:3).

When I was on a tour of the Holy Land I saw a painting of this event. Someone called it “the giving of the Torah” (the Law, the first five books of the Bible). Up on a hill was Moses with the Ten Commandments written in stone. Down below were the people of Israel in all their thousands, listening as Moses gave them the Law. That painting showed them as a holy and noble people.

There was only one problem: They didn’t do it! They did nothing but rebel and complain. Right after God divided the Red Sea and they escaped from Pharaoh’s army, they complained about the bitter water (Exodus 15:23, 24). It was as though the God who opened the Red Sea couldn’t give them water. Then they complained about being hungry and wished they were dead. They said, “Would to God we had died...in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 16:3). They wished they had died as slaves! God gave them manna (bread) to eat. Then they complained about water. They were almost ready to stone Moses, the man who had led them out of Egypt (Exodus 17:4). God gave them water. Later they said, “Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Numbers 14:4). They wanted to get rid of Moses, put someone else in charge, and beg the Egyptians to make them slaves again! No wonder God told them, “Ye shall not come into the land” (Numbers 14:30). They died in the wilderness.

It wasn’t just the people who were bad. It was the leaders. Every split has a leader, and this was no exception. As in church splits today, the split-leaders were people of high and respected positions. You would expect them to be loyal – but they weren’t.

In Numbers, chapter 16, a man named Korah took Dathan and Abiram and 250 men, “princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown” (Numbers 16:2). “They gathered themselves together against Moses” (Numbers 16:3). This wasn’t the sin of one person. It was an organized rebellion by leaders. Who was Korah? Korah was “the son of Izhar” (Numbers 16:1). Izhar was the brother of Amram, who was the father of Moses (Exodus 6:18-21). Korah and Moses were cousins! As a Levite, Korah had a respected place. As the cousin of Moses, he had a very high and honored position. You would think Korah would want to keep things the way they were. But he rebelled against his own cousin, the man God had chosen!

That wasn’t the worst thing. Aaron was Moses’ brother. God chose Aaron as the high priest. Only Aaron could go once a year into God’s presence and offer a blood sacrifice for the sin of the people. Aaron was the second most important person in the nation. In the sight of God, he was the second most important person in the world!

You would think Aaron would stick close to Moses his brother. You would think he would stick close to God, who did miracles to save the people and who made Aaron the high priest. But no! One day Moses went up on the mountain and didn’t come down for a while. The people were quick to rebel. They said to Aaron, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us” (Exodus 32:1). Did Aaron say, “No, we must worship the true God and Him only”? He did not. Aaron threw himself against God. Aaron told the people to give him their golden earrings. He melted them and made a golden calf for the people to worship (Exodus 32:4). They said, “These be thy gods, O Israel” (Exodus 32:4). “And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it” (Exodus 32:5). The people worshipped that golden calf as they “rose up to play” (Exodus 32:6). It wasn’t just the people’s fault. The deepest guilt goes to Aaron the brother of Moses. It was as the Psalmist wrote, “Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).

Why were the people – even the family of Moses – so bad? Why was it nothing but rebellion and sin? Why was it so bad that only Joshua and Caleb could enter the Promised Land? I can’t give you a complete answer. I can’t see into the mind of God, who said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways...For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8, 9). I do know that God allows sinners to sin – as they have sinned through all the ages. That explains a lot. But was there another reason why these people were so bad? I think there is.

The people were slaves in Egypt. The Egyptians “set over them taskmasters [slave masters] to afflict them with their burdens” (Exodus 1:11). They were very hard on the Hebrews. “The Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour” (Exodus 1:13). The Bible says, “They made their lives bitter with hard bondage” (Exodus 1:14). Finally the king of Egypt (the Pharaoh) ordered that all the Hebrew baby boys be killed when they were born. He told the midwives, “If it be a son, then ye shall kill him” (Exodus 1:16). What an evil thing to do!

How long were the Jews enslaved? God told their ancestor Abraham,

“Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs [Egypt], and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13).

They were slaves for 400 years. For a man in the time of Moses, his parents were slaves, his grandparents were slaves, and so back fifteen or sixteen generations – for 400 years. That was all they knew. It was as if every American had been a slave since the time of the Pilgrims in 1620! They had the mentality of slaves. They had a slave culture.

What does that mean? First, slaves don’t work very hard. Why should they? They don’t get paid. They don’t get anything for their work. They don’t move up. Why work hard? Why take pride in your work? Slaves work as slowly as they can and do as little as they can. They do just enough so they don’t get whipped.

Second, what they did get was handed out to them. They didn’t grow their own food. They didn’t get paid, so they couldn’t buy things. Their food was handed out by the bosses, and it wasn’t very good. They weren’t used to working for things. They just took the handouts they could get.

Third, they hated authority. That is understandable, because their authority in Egypt was Pharaoh and his slavemasters, who treated them badly. They didn’t obey out of respect. They obeyed out of fear. Inside they hated that authority.

Those Hebrews didn’t change their culture when they left Egypt. They expected things to be given to them, and complained about what they got – water, food, everything. They still hated authority. After they left Pharaoh they rebelled against Moses. They transferred their rebellion from Pharaoh to Moses. The Jewish leaders had that same rebellion. Korah, and even Aaron, turned against Moses and God when the time came. It was no surprise that they failed in the wilderness and could not enter the Promised Land. God called them “a disobedient and gainsaying [rebellious, contradictory] people” (Romans 10:21).

They were like many people today. Most inner-city people don’t work very hard. They don’t study hard. They don’t expect to get ahead – and they don’t. They take what is handed to them, whether it is free food, free school, a place to live, or the friendship of the church. They take those things as their right, without thanking anybody. Then they walk away. They don’t settle down in one place. They don’t keep their promises. They hate authority. They don’t stay in one church for one lifetime. Leaders among them rise to rebel, and the people join them. It is no surprise that they cannot build and keep a good church. But I must move on to better things.

II. Second, the obedient and victorious generation of the time of Joshua.

The new generation was far different. I think many of them were saved people. Certainly their culture was the opposite of their parents’. They had a different life experience from their parents. They grew up in the wilderness, not Egypt. They lived under Moses, not Pharaoh.

God told them right and wrong. They heard the Ten Commandments over and over. God told them how to march from one place to another in the wilderness. God told the nation to camp in a square, and assigned each tribe a place in that square (Numbers 2). Just like the signals in a modern army, God set up trumpet sounds and alarms to tell them what to do (Numbers 10:2-9). God gave them laws for the Sabbath and for ceremonies like the Passover and the Day of Atonement. They had no memory of slavery in Egypt. They grew up under the true authority of God, not the demonic and cruel authority of Pharaoh.

They saw God’s justice again and again. They saw the earth open, and Korah and his men fall down alive (Numbers 16:32). They heard how Nadab and Abihu, priests and Aaron’s sons, were burned to death when they offered strange fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1, 2). They saw three thousand people killed when they worshipped the golden calf (Exodus 32:27, 28).

And they saw the love and mercy of God. They saw people bitten by fiery serpents for their rebellion (Numbers 21:5, 6). Then they saw Moses set up a serpent of brass, and whoever looked at it lived (Numbers 21:9).

What this generation experienced formed their thinking. I’m sure many, probably most, of them were lost. But even the lost among them had a good culture. And they took that culture, that way of thinking, into the Promised Land.

Yes, there was sin. Achan took money (Joshua 7:1). Later they were tricked by the Gibeonites (Joshua 9). They should have prayed and thought carefully, but they didn’t. But that was a mistake, not deliberate sin. They weren’t like the people in the time of Moses. In the wilderness there was unending sin and rebellion. In Joshua’s day there was victory!

They said to Joshua, “All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go” (Joshua 1:16). And they did it! Joshua sent two spies into the city of Jericho. The spies did not complain that their assignment was too hard. They did it! (Joshua 2). God speaking through Joshua told the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant into the water of the River Jordan (Joshua 3:6, 7) – and they did it. God separated the water and the people passed through dry. Joshua told the people to follow the priests and march around the city of Jericho six times and attack it the seventh time (Joshua 6) – and they did it.

There was no major rebellion against Joshua. The people were unified. They were of “one accord” (Acts 1:14). There were “no divisions” among them (I Corinthians 1:10). They followed Joshua’s lead. There were no splits. And they won victory after victory. They took the Promised Land!

Brothers and sisters, this is the kind of people that can build a church. You are that kind of people. You have no divisions among you. There is no rebellion. You come to prayer meetings. You fast on Fridays. You keep your word. You listen to the pastors. You love your local church. You don’t have the mentality of the past. You are the kind of people God can use!

Brothers and sisters, let’s not copy the culture of the wilderness! Let’s be like Joshua’s men! We say something and we do it! We will build a new church in a new place with a new future! That is today’s Promised Land for us! Let’s be Joshua’s men and Joshua’s women!

Some of you have not trusted Jesus. You trust your own mind and your own heart. You can only wander in the wilderness of confusion. All you have is your sin. The sin of your heart is terrible. God cannot look at your sin. That’s why Jesus gave His Blood to wash your sin away. He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. He rose from the dead to give you eternal life. All you must do is trust Him. It’s as simple as that. If you would like to speak with me about trusting Jesus, please come and sit in the first two rows. Amen.


THE OUTLINE OF

JOSHUA’S MEN

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

“And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go” (Joshua 1:16).

(Joshua 1:6-8, 10)

I.    First, the rebellious and defeated generation of the time of Moses,
Exodus 19:5, 6, 8; 24:3; 15:23, 24; 16:3; 17:4; Numbers 14:4, 30;
Numbers 16:2, 3, 1; Exodus 6:18-21; 32:1, 4, 5, 6; Psalm 41:9;
Isaiah 55:8, 9; Exodus 1:11, 13, 14, 16; Genesis 15:13; Romans 10:21.

II.   Second, the obedient and victorious generation of the time of Joshua,
Numbers 10:2-9; 16:32; Leviticus 10:1, 2; Exodus 32:27, 28;
Numbers 21:5, 6, 9; Joshua 7:1; Joshua 9; 1:16; 3:6, 7;
Acts 1:14; I Corinthians 1:10.