Summary: Joshua provides a bridge between Israel's unsettled wanderings and the establishment of a new nation. The children of Israel were shaken by the death of Moses, and were filled with uncertainty about their future...yet God hadn't left.
Mainers like to say when giving directions, “You can't get there from here”...or more accurately, “You can't get they-ahh from hee-yahh.” The children of Israel must have thought that, journeying through the wilderness to the promised land. It had been a long, grueling journey. Someone said it took so long because men don't like to ask directions! The Book of Joshua tells of a journey's end that began a new challenge for Israel: the conquest of the land. Joshua provides a bridge between Israel's unsettled wanderings and the establishment of a new nation. At long last they've arrived, 500 years after God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12: “To your offspring I will give this land” (7). The time was 1400 B.C. and God's people were on the cusp of a new chapter in their history.
Joshua's name in Hebrew means “God delivers” (he is the first person in the Bible to be given a name that incorporates God's holy Name); in Greek his name is Iesous, or Jesus. Joshua was a war-tested, obedient soldier, a straight-forward follower of God. He was succcessful because, without questions or objections, he faithfully carried out God's directives. We don't have many Joshuas.
We see in chapter one a transition--a new day has dawned for Israel, but with a leadership vacuum. The people are camped in the plain of Moab, along the east bank of the Jordan River, on the border of the promised land. Moses has died, and God has called Joshua, His chosen servant, and given him command of the nation, a transfer of authority. God promises to be with Joshua as He was with Moses, verse 5: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Like Moses, Joshua receives his orders directly from God. The presence of God wasn't just for one generation but to every generation of faithful followers. God promises to be with Joshua, and all Israel. In the same way, God promises to be with us, in good times and bad. Great is His faithfulness!
We first see Joshua in Exodus 17, where he heroically commands Israel's army in their first battle. Because of Moses' intercessory prayer Israel was victorious, and not because of military might, or human achievement...and this was a lesson Joshua never forgot. He also accompanied Moses at Mount Sinai, and was one of only two spies who argued to trust God and take possession of the land of Canaan...and these two were the only ones who lived to enter the land. Joshua knows what lies ahead and is not afraid. His certainty comes from knowing God will provide what He has promised. Victory is assured. God is the primary mover.
God commissions Joshua and tells him to be “strong and courageous”, verses 6-7. Courage derives from God’s presence, but must be accompanied by obedience. Winston Churchill said “Fear is a reaction; courage is a decision.” We choose to be courageous when we're convinced there's something more important than fear. God is the Source of our courage. The land is God's promised gift, but Israel will have to lay hold of it through armed conflict. They will be able to conquer it because they have a great God. The boundaries are set in verse 4. This is only the beginning of their conquest; under Kings David and Solomon the land will expand to the fullest.