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  • Writer's pictureVicar Matt Doebler

Matins Devotion: June 26, 2023

Joshua 1

Moses is dead. And Joshua is called to be the man who will lead God’s people over the Jordan river and into the land of promise. There’s just one problem. The land is occupied. As it was centuries before when Abraham sojourned there, so it is today. Full of walled cities. Full of mighty warriors. Full of wickedness and evil. And it will be Joshua’s job to lead these people—only one generation removed from slavery—into battle after battle after battle against these nations who, by all standards of human reckoning, are superior to the army of Israel.

But while Joshua may be leading, nowhere in the entire book of Joshua is he called a leader. How does the book of Joshua open? “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, Moses my servant is dead.” Joshua, like Moses before him, is the Lord’s servant. He may now command the army of Israel, but Joshua is, himself, a man under authority—commanded directly by the Lord himself.

We’re not just splitting hairs here. This is an important distinction to make. This is the Lord’s people. The Lord’s army. The Lord’s mission. Joshua is the Lord’s servant. He is under the Lord’s command. Victory and success are not Joshua’s to earn—rather, they are the Lord’s gifts to give. That’s why three times, the Lord commands Joshua to be strong and courageous. Not because success depends on Joshua, but because the Lord has already promised the victory. The opening chapter of Joshua is a call to faith. On the verge of this seemingly impossible mission—it is a call to trust in the promise that the Lord has spoken.

Of course, this is more than just a story of ancient conquest. This is a picture of the Christian life. We are God’s people who are being led on a mission of conquest. Against an enemy that, by all accounts, we could never hope to defeat. Against the sin that has so thoroughly corrupted our human nature. Against death that fills our hearts with dread and sorrow. And against the devil—that ancient liar and murderer who seeks us out so that he might destroy and devour. If victory depended upon our resolve, our strength, our power—we would have no hope. But it does not. This battle does not belong to us. It belongs to Christ. The gospel is a call to be strong and courageous—not so that we might have a better chance of winning—but because the victory is already ours. On the cross, Christ disarmed the devil. He conquered death. He vanquished the power of sin. By his resurrection he made it known that you were no longer under their authority, but under his. In your baptism, he claimed you as his servant. And in his Word, he commands you to trust his promise. “Be strong and courageous,” Christ says. “Do not fear. It is finished. Because victory is mine, victory is also yours.”

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