Summary: Two thousand years after Timothy and 3,500 years after Joshua, the Lord’s charge for his people has not changed.
Joshua 1:1-9, 2 Tim. 2:1-13
“A Charge that Does Not Change”
The lessons for today provide us a remarkable opportunity to bserve two very similar situations which happen to be separated from one another by a huge gulf of time, at least as far as we humans experience time. God’s charge to Joshua occurred somewhere around the year 1400 B.C. Paul’s charge to Timothy, occurred somwhere around the year 65 A.D, almost 1500 years after Joshua heard the words we just heard read a short while ago.
However, in spite of this vast distance of time between these men, they were given charges, commissions if you will, which have arresting similarieties. I want to look at those similarities today and to suggest some further parallels between Joshua, Timothy, and ourselves from our vantage point in history. Here we sit at the beginning of the 21st Century after the birth of Christ, in Waxahachie, Texas. We are 2,000 years after Timothy, and 3,400 years after Joshua, and we’re physically located on the opposite side of the world from where they lived their lives. We are separated from both of them in time and space far more than they were separated from each other. But, that only makes the similarities between the two of them and us all the more compelling. Let’s begin by noting how Joshua and Timothy were alike as regards the charge God gave to Joshua, on one hand, and Paul gave to his disciple Timothy on the other hand.
First of all, both Joshua and Timothy are poised at the cutting edge of God’s work of redemption in history. It’s easy to see this, for history, like any river, has many bends in it. If you’re on a boat in that river and you are passing through a bend, it is very easy to see this. And, so it is easy for us to recognize the great bend in this river of God’s redemption in history that appears when Joshua is taking the leadership of the nation Israel at the death of Moses, or when Timothy is getting his marching orders from Paul, as Paul recognizes that his own boat on that river is soon to come to shore, while Timothy’s boat must continue on for many years.
That is the first important similarity between Joshua and Timothy: they are have reached a certain place in that river of history, and they have many, many miles yet to travel. God has something to say to Joshua, and Paul something to say to Timothy, and those things are the same: keep on moving down the river. Don’t’ stop, don’t pull up to the bank and just rock comfortably in the tulees. Get out there in the middle of the current and keep on paddling.
In Joshua’s case, paddling meant to cross the Jordan river and to take possession of the land God had promised to Abraham and his seed after him. In Timothy’s case, paddling meant to take all he had received from Paul and commit it to faithful men, who would themselves pass it on to other faithful men after them. Indeed, both of Paul’s letters to Timothy are heavy with the sense that Paul is passing the torch to the next generation, just as God is taking the torch Moses held and hands it to Joshua and his generation.
Now, with Joshua and Timothy finding themselves at great bends in human history, what do you suppose they are told. I find it noteworthy that both God and Paul, in their respective charges, put heavy emphasis on three things.
First of all, both Joshua and Timothy are exhorted to be courageous and to persevere in their callings. If someone says to you, “Do not be afraid” you can be sure that there is something out there to scare you. Three times God tells Joshua to be courageous. “Be strong and of good courage,” God says in verse 6 of chapter 1; “Only be strong and very courageous,” he says in verse 7. “Have I not commanded you, Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed,” he tells Joshua in verse 9.
Paul, too, spends quite a bit of time encouraging Timothy with words that unmistakeably suppose that Timothy is going to find hardship and trouble and toil in his future. “You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” Paul says. “You must follow the rules as an athelet would in competition,” Paul says. This warning makes no sense unless Paul knows that Timothy is going to find plenty of opportunities and inducements to cheat. “The hardworking farmer will be the first to partake of the crops,” Paul says, as an encouragement to keep on working hard, for the spiritual farming Timothy will do will be hard, hard work.