“Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.”
These are the words that John Sammis wrote in connection with an 1887 Dwight L. Moody evangelistic meeting. In this song, Sammis captured one of the core messages found in the Old and New Testaments. This message to trust and obey seems so simple and so familiar that often we either don’t hear it or we read right over it.
Well, I invite you to slow down and hear how the Lord featured this simple message in the book of Joshua. The God-ordered way of life for Israel during the conquest was a life of trust and obedience. In chapter 1, God called upon Joshua to carefully obey the Word. In chapter 2, the outsider Rahab became an insider by trusting the Word and work of God. In chapters 3-4, God commanded Joshua and the nation to follow the Ark through the waters of the parted Jordan. In chapter 5, God called upon the nation to submit to the rite of circumcision. In chapters 6-7, God gave the nation directions for the conquest of Jericho to obey along with warnings to heed. The command-obedience pattern shapes the narrative accounts of the conquest of Ai, dealings with the Gibeonites, defeat of the opposing collations, and land division and distribution.
So what’s the point of all this? Is it too simplistic to say that the most important thing for Joshua is obedience? Is it too obvious to say that the true stories of the Joshua narrative history place a premium on an obedient heart? Hearing and reading this obvious message is one thing; living this God-ordered way of life is another thing.
The challenge of this simple life is consistency. Can I consistently maintain my focus on the Lord and His Word? Can I consistently trust Him, not an anticipated outcome? Can I consistently trust Him to work out His good pleasure in my life?
So how do I live this God-ordered life of trust and obedience? Is there evidence of the gospel in Joshua that keeps obedience from becoming drudgery? Is there any hopeful good news in Joshua that goes beyond, “try harder”? I believe there is!
When God addressed Joshua in 1:1-9, He placed the command to courageously obey His Word (1:7-8) between His promises to be with Joshua and the promise to defeat his enemies (1:5 and 1:9). Obedience to a Holy God is not a try harder life with repeated cycles of despair. It is a life of doing the Word that results from a trust in the ever abiding presence of the Lord God. The promise of God’s presence transforms duty into delight. The promise of God’s presence encourages reliance on God’s power. This promise is gospel good news ultimately realized in the incarnate life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1; Philippians 2).
The book of Joshua makes a significant contribution to a gospel-centered life. 1. I trust and obey the Lord for who He is and what He can do. 2. I trust and obey the Lord’s Word. I learn to love His promises and I learn to take seriously all His warnings and exhortations. 3. I trust and obey with a Holy Spirit produced courageous resolve. 4. I trust and obey as if my life depended on it.
Pretty Simple! May God help us to trust and obey so that we find our greatest joy in the Lord.