Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the July 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Lesson Aim: Be strong and courageous; God’s presence gives us strength.
By Mark Scott
There are many famous leadership transitions in the Bible; David to Solomon, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to the disciples, and Paul to Timothy are just a few. But none is as widely known as the passing of leadership from Moses and Joshua. In this unit of lessons we move from John (his Epistles) to Joshua, Israel’s new leader who would lead the conquest of the Promised Land. Joshua had a great name (the Old Testament name for Jesus), and he had great leadership qualities and gifts.
But to be successful, Joshua needed more than a providential name and great leadership skills. He needed the presence of God. Joshua needed to rest in the “withness” of God. Fortunately, God gave Joshua the promise of his presence as he did to other people on other occasions in Scripture (Exodus 29:45, 46; Psalm 23:4; Matthew 28:20; Revelation 21:4).
Solidarity with the Leader (1-9)
Moses was a vigorous man until the day he died (Deuteronomy 34:7). No one was quite like him (Deuteronomy 34:10-12), and God performed his funeral service (Deuteronomy 34:6). But both Moses and God made clear that Joshua was to inherit the leadership mantle (Numbers 27:15-23; Deuteronomy 3:21, 22; 31:1-8). In verses 1-9 of our text, God spoke to Joshua. In verses 10-18, Joshua spoke to the leaders and the tribes. Moses the servant (bondservant, but in the sense of special prophet—called this four times in our text) would give way to his aide (one who waited upon).
God gave Joshua the ultimate coach’s speech before the big game. First God admitted reality (that is what good leaders do). “Moses . . . is dead.” God called Joshua to lead the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The cooperation between the human and the divine is seen in how God told Joshua that he would “give” Israel the land, but that Israel had to “take” it. Divine sovereignty went hand-in-hand with human responsibility. The geography of the land was marked out by God himself. It would be from the desert in the south to Lebanon on the north, and it would be from the Euphrates in the east to the Mediterranean Sea to the west.
God promised Joshua that as he was with Moses so he would also be with him. This promise is repeated three times in the text (5, 9, 17—this last one is on the lips of the two and one-half eastern tribes). There are four calls for Joshua to be strong and courageous in the text (6, 7, 9, 18—the last of which is also on the lips of the two and one-half eastern tribes). Once again we see privilege/promise going hand-in-hand with responsibility/purpose. God would not forsake Joshua (cf. Hebrews 13:5). But Joshua needed to be strong (to prevail or take one’s stand) and courageous (brave).
God’s presence in Joshua’s life would be profoundly felt as Joshua gave himself to the meditation on the Book of the Law. To meditate means to “moan, groan, growl, or muse.” It describes someone reading something and “feeling” the text as they read. In other words, Joshua was not to speed-read the Bible (Law). He was to practice the discipline of slowing. If Joshua would do this and not veer off course (not turn from it to the right or to the left), God would make Joshua prosperous and successful.
Solidarity Between the People (10-18)
Once Joshua was assured of God’s presence in his life, he readied himself to lead the people of Israel in the conquest. He got the officers on board first by having them remind the Israelites to acquire their provisions (meat, food) that they would need. Then he reminded the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and one-half of the tribe of Manasseh about their promise to help in the conquest even though their land on the eastern side of the Jordan River had already been conquered (Numbers 32).
The journey across the Jordan River was to take place in three days (one of the many three-day stories of the Bible—see John Ortberg’s book Who Is This Man?). After crossing the Jordan River, the tribes who wanted to lodge on the eastern side would have to send their fighting men (men of valor) to help possess the land. The two and one-half tribes not only complied, they used the language of solidarity. They even vowed that anyone who rebelled against this solidarity would be put to death. But the eastern tribes desired that God be with Joshua as he was with Moses. In many ways, to be “with” God is to also be “with” his people.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.