Israel Accepts Joshua’s Command
“[The Israelites] answered Joshua, ‘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!’ ” (vv. 16–17).- Joshua 1:10–18
When the Lord calls us, we are supposed to follow Him immediately (Matt. 8:21–22). Joshua did exactly that after Moses died, as we see in today’s passage. Having been commissioned to lead the Israelites into the land of Canaan and having been promised the presence of God for the task (Josh. 1:1–9), Joshua began the preparations for the invasion (vv. 10–18).
First, Joshua spoke to the officers of the people and told them to prepare. These officers were the men chosen to serve under Moses as leaders of the various tribes of Israel (Deut. 1:9–18). With a military campaign about to begin, their leadership would be vital. But note that when Joshua spoke to these officers, his first act was not to give them a military strategy. Instead, he told them merely to make preparations for journey into the land that the Lord was giving them (Josh. 1:10–11). Commentators argue that this indicates Joshua’s confidence in the task ahead. He was certain that the Lord would keep His promises to give Canaan to the Israelites, and while they would have to fight to take it, Joshua was so sure of the victory that he did not believe giving them instructions for battle was the first thing he needed to do. Instead, he told the people that they would move into the land, speaking of it as if it was already theirs because, in light of God’s sovereign faithfulness and power, it already was.
The officers mentioned in Joshua 1:10–11 did not include all of the officers of Israel, for verses 12–15 record a second speech of Joshua “to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.” The tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh had already received their tribal territories. These two and a half tribes settled east of the Jordan River with Moses’ permission when they agreed to fight with the rest of the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites west of the Jordan (Num. 32). Joshua exhorted them to remember their commitment, as Israel would have to be united in order to defeat the peoples of Canaan (Josh. 1:12–15).
After hearing from Joshua through their officers, all of the tribes of Israel responded with gladness, committing themselves to following Joshua (vv. 16–18). At least verbally, they recognized the importance of submitting to the leadership that God had given them. Indeed, that principle is found throughout Scripture. We are to follow the godly leaders who are set over us (1 Peter 5:5).
God continues to lead His people through the work of undershepherds, church leaders who are accountable to the Lord to lead His people in godliness. We are to be subject to these leaders, following them as they guide us with humility and with holiness (1 Peter 5:1–5). Let us follow the leaders God has given us in the church and support them in their work.
Passages for Further Study