book of joshua in hebrew

After the military campaign to take The Promised Land, Joshua assembled the Israelites and gave them the commandment.  This was significant because he actually consolidated 613 laws into one: “to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5) Completely embracing this commandment required understanding all the parts:

  1. To love the Lord your God
    —The highest order of life
  2. To walk in His ways and obey His commands
    —Our demonstration of love
  3. To hold fast to Him
    —Resoluteness in the above
  4. To serve Him with all your heart and all your soul
    —Abandonment to God’s purpose

The Israelites who fought at Joshua’s side took it to heart, and this commandment was passed along through the generations by the priests and Levites.  Solomon defined adherence to this command as the fear of the Lord — reverent honor, respect, awe, and submission to God’s greatness – which was also the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

Jesus used the parable of a vineyard owner to illustrate the decline in Kingdom instruction that had taken place.  The landowner had rented his vineyard to farmers to tend and harvest. But when he sent various representatives to collect his share of the harvest, some were mistreated and others were killed, including his own son.  Jesus was saying that those in charge of teaching God’s commandments had neglected their duty.  In pride, the priests and Pharisees had elevated themselves above personal obedience, so any instruction they gave was empty and hypocritical.  Jesus closed His story: “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” (Luke 20:15-16)

Today this responsibility is assigned to the church (the large body of believers).  But when we examine the four parts of Joshua’s commandment, are we doing any better than the priests and Pharisees?  Instead of practicing the fear of the Lord, Christ-followers often find themselves dogged by fear (being afraid).  Satan is masterful at using fear to keep the church shut down, shut up, and shut off.  Fear is at the root of misunderstandings, factions, envy/jealousy, bullying, etc.  This kind of fear is evil.

The good news is that Joshua’s commandment is the very best offense and defense against evil.  When we hold fast to God in love and obedience, the words Paul spoke to his protégé Timothy apply to us as well. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)  God’s power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right Hand in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 1:19-20)  It is God’s love that overcomes all fear (1 John 4:18).  And a sound mind comes only from aligning our thoughts with Jesus and receiving in His wisdom (2 Corinthians 10:5).  These spiritual truths equip the church to be more than conquerors.  We stand on the foundation of Jesus’ sacrificial death.  Yet from the time of Joshua to now, there remains the individual choice to make Him Lord, in addition to Savior.  It is a weighty decision, because it will cost us something.  But only then are we all-in, and equipped to be “fishers of men.”