D-Day: June 6, 1944
Before sending Joshua into battle, the Lord had a Great Commission to give. It is not unusual for commanders of an army to give words of exhortation to comfort and challenge the soldiers. On the eve of June 6, 1944 General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Allied troops. With soldiers surrounding him Eisenhower gave them words of courage.
“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air, and their capacity to wage war on the ground.
Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking”.
On the eve of the great conquest of Canaan, God came to Joshua to comfort his heart. The Lord gave to Joshua words of reality, words of promise, words of encouragement, words of regulation, and words of remembrance (Joshua 1:1-9).
The words of reality are found in Joshua 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead.” When the people of Israel learned that Moses was dead, the Bible says the nation mourned for 30 days (Deut. 34:8). There was appropriate weeping and mourning, for such is the nature of love and respect. Then, life moves on. A great lesson is learned. A nation is not to be dependent upon any one person for its survival. God wants His people to be dependent upon Him.
At about 4 AM on the 6th of March 1953, broadcasting on the Soviet State radio was interrupted by a roll of drums. The message was that Joseph Stalin had died. Many ordinary citizens could hardly believe their ears. They could not imagine life without Stalin. He had dominated the country, in peace and war, for twenty-six years. A whole generation had grown up knowing no other leader. At school, on the radio, and in the work place he had consistently been built up into a god-like figure. It did not seem possible that he was mortal.
All over the country the people mourned, even in the labor camps. Thousands lined up to see Stalin’s body as it lay in state in Red Square. Hundreds of people were crushed to death when the crowd got out of control. Even when dead, it seemed, the Man of Steel still had the power to kill his people. His body was embalmed and placed beside that of Lenin in the specially constructed mausoleum outside the Kremlin.
“Moses, my servant is dead,” said the Lord. “Now it is time for you to act. Joshua, here is my promise to you. ‘Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. 6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them’” (Joshua 1:3-6).
When Joshua heard these words of the Lord, faith welled up inside his heart. Joshua believed God, and He believed in the promises of God. When the presence of the Lord was withdrawn, Joshua could still move forward, for the Lord gave to Joshua, and thus the people of Israel, abiding words to regulate their behavior. Now and forever they would have the Law to study and meditate upon.
“And Joshua”, said the Lord, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
The noblest purpose in studying God’s Word, is to lead the believer to a life of gospel obedience. But the Bible is not to be studied to try and figure out how to control God according to presupposed fixed principles or spiritual laws. The Bible is not to be studied in order to find temporary comfort for a guilty conscience, though the words of Scriptures do bring healing to hurting hearts. The Bible is not to be studied in order to find out how to grow rich and powerful. In fact, there are strong warnings against such a pursuit for Christians. “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom” (Prov. 23:4).“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Tim. 6:9). The Bible is to be studied so that it might lead to a life of obedience. Only then will there be true spiritual prosperity and success.
Because he was encourage by the Word of God, and was committed to doing the will of the Lord, Joshua began to prepare the people for battle. Canaan would be taken according to promise, but the means by which God would give the land to His people was through military victory. By the use of force, God would drive out the many nation tribes that inhabited Palestine but did not honor Him. Divine judgment had come to Palestine. By the use of force, God would secure for Israel a land. By the use of force, God would secure for His people the freedom to live and study and worship in a theocracy.
Why God uses the military to accomplish His purposes in the affairs of men is part of the mysterious providence of the Lord. Perhaps one day this part of the story will be revealed. Certainly there were and are other methods God could use to accomplish His will among the nations on earth. But the military is certainly one divinely ordained instrument in His arsenal. In gospel obedience to the known will of the Lord,Joshua prepared the nation for warfare. There was a land to conquer. There was a truth to remember: Freedom comes through military victory.
The country we live in today, the privileges we have in this nation, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly are ours to enjoy, because so many good men and women have given their lives to secure these precious treasures for us. Freedom is not free. Freedom comes with a price. Spiritually, the same is true. The privileges you and I enjoy as believers is because Jesus Christ went to the cross and paid the ultimate price for us. He died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He entered into the enemy’s territory, and He was victorious. We salute those who serve in the military. And then we remember that we are citizen soldiers in the army of God. Our Commander in Chief, our Joshua, has told us to prepare for battle. And so we do. We put on the whole armor of God. We remember the promises of the Lord. We go forth to conquer the world, the flesh .and the devil.
“Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believèd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.”