The New Leader
October 11th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
THE NEW LEADER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-11-59 8:15 a.m.
In our preaching through the life of Moses and the life of Joshua, we have come to the story of the instance of the children of God into their Promised Land. And this wonderful, wonderful story is a picture of God’s people as they inherit the promised blessings of God in Christ today.
One of the bouquets of flowers today is dedicated to a wonderful and glorious woman who has entered into this promised rest. And I pray, that as long as there is a church here, we shall remember Mrs. Minnie Slaughter Veal. She gave us our parking and recreational building. She helped us in so many other valiant and remarkable ways. The purity of her life, the holiness of all of her demeanor and deportment, the blessedness of the work of her hands and of her lips shall sanctify this ministry in this church forever. God bless the memory of that wonderful, wonderful child of Jesus and our helper in this work.
Our blessings in Christ are not going to be given to us. They are ours now. And our entrance into the glories of Jesus are not scheduled for some far off day. They are out there multiplied. They are also here multiplied. We are not going to live. We’re living now. Not going to serve. We are serving now. Not going to worship. We’re worshiping now. As Paul would say, the heavenly places with Christ are ours now, and to serve Him splendidly now is the happy, incomparable forte of the Christian who shall have opportunity to serve Him world without end in a world that is to come.
Now, when we study these things and when we read them in the Book; all of these things are today; they are pertinent now. We have a Joshua, as this glorious leader, Joshua. And we have an inheritance, and we must possess it, just as the people of God did there in the long ago. And what I read here in the Bible and the promises of God to His people, are the things that I see in the historical development of God’s chosen people today. I read the newspaper today, history today, as I open the Book and read the stories in the long ago.
Now, by an unconditional promise, by deed of gift, the land of Palestine belongs to Israel forever. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Genesis, in the sixth and seventh verses, and the twelfth chapter of Genesis begins the story of Abraham:
And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh, Hebron.
And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.
No condition, "Unto thee and thy seed will I give this land." Now, turn again to 13:14, in the next chapter. After the separation from Lot,
And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.
Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
[Genesis 13:14-15, 17]
No condition, unconditional, by promise of God.
Or, for another typical passage, turn to 15:18. The fifteenth chapter of Genesis is one of the Holy of Holies in the whole Bible. And in that revelation that God made to Abraham of what could become of His people and of their bondage in Egypt, "In the same day," 15:18, "In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the River Euphrates" [Revelation 15:18]. No condition, by the promise of God.
Turn once again to 17:8, then we will stop. In 17:7 and 8, when God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and said I will make of thee a great nation.
I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.
No condition, an outright gift of God, repeated in the most solemn and holy moment of the Scriptures. Now, there is no deviation from that in the Word of God. In Jeremiah 31:35, 36 and 37,
Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is His name:
If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation . . .
When the sun goes out and the stars fall from their places and the ordinance of God that bounds the shores of the sea are no more, then Israel will be no more.
Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel.
That nation shall live, says God, as long as the stars are in their courses and the sun shines in the heavens.
Now, in Ezekiel, another typical passage. "I will scatter Israel among the heathen" Ezekiel 36:19. Then verse 24:
I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and shall bring you into your own land.
And they shalt return unconverted in unbelief, and in that land:
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean . . .
A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put into you . . .
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.
[Ezekiel 36:25-26, 28]
And just once again, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Amos:
I will bring again the captivity of My people, Israel . . .
And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord.
They’re going back. They’re coming back. That Palestinian land belongs to them by deed of gift. God did it. And God said, "When the sun falls and the stars no longer shine in their courses, then will I break this covenant that I have made with Abraham and his seed after him" [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. And they shall come back to their land and return to their land and "I will pull them out of their land no more forever" [Amos 9:15]. This Palestinian land belongs to the chosen people of God.
And when I read of their possession of it, back here in the days of Joshua, I am reading modern history and modern story. As they entered into the land then and possessed it, so Israel today is entering into their land and possessing it. The land belongs to them by deed of God, by right of promise, and according to the Word of the Lord, they are beginning once again to possess it.
Now all of that, God has used as a picture, as a type, as a symbol of our spiritual inheritance in our Joshua. The land was there before them, but they must take it. The cities are there, but they must inhabit them. The houses are there, but they must live in them. All the fields and valleys and hills are there, but they must possess them. It is given to them of God, but they must take it.
It is no less so in our inheritance in Christ. All of the heavenly blessings of God are ours. All of the riches of grace and glory, all that God has in God’s own hands are ours. The whole land is before us, but we must take it. We must possess it. Every inch of it is contested by the powers of darkness and of evil and of iniquity and of the arch-enemies of God. They were in a conquest as they went over to possess their land. They are in it now as they go over to possess their land. Every inch of it is contested.
The same that we see on the historical, geographical map of the world, God uses as a type and a picture and a symbol that He might teach His people the spiritual meanings of our inheritance. Before us, our Joshua to lead us in; but a conquest to be made, we are to take it!
Now let’s turn to the Book of Joshua, the first chapter; you can easily follow the message as we look upon this new leader. What a past he has. What an assignment was made to him! Oh, the man of God that he followed, who talked to the Lord Almighty Himself, face to face [Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10]. And Joshua is chosen to follow in the leadership of the incomparable and marvelous lawgiver, Moses [Numbers 27:12-23; Deuteronomy 31:1-2, 7-8; Joshua 1:1-5]. And as Joshua is assigned and ordained to that task, his heart filled within him.
But in the first chapter of Joshua, he is bidden to do two things. One, he is to know, and to read, and to meditate upon, and to observe to do the things that are written in the book. That’s the first assignment to Joshua:
And this book, this book, shall not depart out of thine mouth; thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all things that are written in the book.
So Joshua’s first assignment is with the book in his hand, and in his head, and in his heart, and in his soul, and in his life; first, the book, the book.
And the second thing that he was to do was to be strong and of a good courage, and three times that is repeated there in the sixth verse, "Be strong and of a good courage" [Joshua 1:6], and in the seventh verse, "Be strong and very courageous" [Joshua 1:7]. And then, God repeats it again in the ninth verse, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage?" [Joshua 1:9]. Joshua is to seal and to set the living presence of the Lord. And with those two things, he faces the great assignment from heaven: with a book in his hand and his heart, and trusting God to be strong and of a good courage.
Now, look how Joshua rises to God’s commandment. First of all, he issues clear and immediate and definite orders, sharp and distinct. Second, he secures the rare communication, and he has around him a loyal bodyguard and a faithful, fearless, striking advance. Then, he spies out the objective. And finally commits his people to a tremendous act of faith in God. And that’s a little summary of the next two chapters that lie before you. So let’s follow them.
First of all, this is in Joshua 1:10-11. First of all, Joshua issues, as the new commander, clear and sharp and definite orders. You know, when there is a change in command, in that period of transition there is always the possibility of disaster. Rumors fill men’s ears. Some men say, "All the glory is gone. It will never be as it was before." Others say, "Oh, this new departure, it is leading to disaster." The majority will be sullen and watchful for any mistakes, ready to criticize and take advantage of any weakness.
It was a critical time here, and what Joshua did was very important. But the very minute that God spoke to him, and told him to keep in his hands the book, and in his soul trust in the Lord, to be strong and courageous, Joshua stood up and gave his first command. And it was a marvelous one.
Now look at it: Joshua commanded the officers of people, saying, "Pass through the host, command the people, Prepare . . . for in three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go into the land to possess it" [Joshua 1:11]. No time for speculation, no time for talk, no time for criticism, no time for looking askance or for editorializing. Joshua said, "Prepare, cook, dress the beast, dress the animals, prepare food and vittles, bake the flour; for in three days we are going over this Jordan" [Joshua 1:11].
Ah, how long was it after the United States declared war against Japan and Germany was it until we actually entered into the battle? It was months and months and months! Can you imagine this leader standing up, and the great waters of the Jordan swollen before him, and the giants of Anak on the other side, and the walled of cities, and this leader commands his officers, saying, "Pass through the host, and tell them, "In three days, three days, we are going over" [Joshua 1:11].
Why, it was an electrifying thing! But Joshua knew his mind, and he was acting under the aegis of the Almighty God, and you can’t fail when you do that. That’s the first thing that he did: get ready. No time for idle speculation. Work to do! Get ready. Get ready.
Now, look what he did, the second thing, look at the twelfth verse. He called in the cattlemen over on the other side, on the eastern side of the Jordan, Reuben and Gad and the half the tribe of Manasseh. They occupied all the eastern parts of the Jordan [Numbers 32:34-42]. They were men with much cattle. And when they conquered that country from Og and Sihon, the kings of the Amorites, they asked that it might be given them, for it was a country abundant in pasture. And they asked if they might be settled there. Moses acquiesced, and that was the home of Reuben and Gad and the half the tribe of Manasseh [Numbers 32:1-6, 16-33].
And Joshua called them in, the cattlemen, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the tribe of Manasseh, half of them, and reminded them of the words that Moses had said to them, "It is all right for you to stay on the eastern side of the Jordan, providing that, when the day comes, you march by the side of your brethren for the possession and conquest of the land" [Joshua 1:12-15].
And when Joshua talked to these cattlemen, he did three things, a marvelous response. First of all, in ascertaining the loyalty of those cattlemen who were settling the eastern side of the Jordan with their wives and their children; that meant that all of the communications to the rear were saved. Back there were the friends, the family, the children of the men who were marching out to war. So he didn’t have to worry about an attack from the rear. All of that was safely guarded.
A second thing: and those cattlemen said to Joshua, "As we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee" [Joshua 1:17]. And look what they offered to do. They offered to be his personal bodyguard. "Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death; only you be strong and of a good courage" [Joshua 1:18]. Those cattlemen, the Reubenites, the Gadites, the half tribe of Manasseh, they say, "We are personally going to march by your side. And if any man is guilty of subordination, of disobedience to the command that comes from your lips, we shall put him to death"; a personal bodyguard in those cattlemen.
And one other thing: they led the van. When you turn to Joshua 4:12 and you read about the entrance of Israel into the enemy territory and attacking all the ramparts, look at Joshua 4:12, "And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel." And Joshua, as a good leader, naturally he would march in the band of his army. So when Joshua marched into the Promised Land, he marched with the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of the half tribe of Manasseh. That was the second thing that Joshua did: finding around him those faithful, dedicated children of God.
All right, the third thing, and we sure have to compact this. Here in the second chapter of Joshua, the next thing that he did was to spy out the objective: what lies ahead. "And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men to spy secretly saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an innkeeper’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there" [Joshua 2:1].
We don’t realize the staggering assignment given Joshua. He was to lead an entire nation, a whole nation, across the swollen waters of the river and just beyond were the wall ramparts of a city plain in view. Why, to carry a nation across a small river would be a tremendous task. But this river is at the flood. In the springtime, the spring rains. In the springtime, the snows melting on the Lebanese range, and those waters rushing down. The name Jordan means "descender" and it rushes furiously. And at that springtime overflowing its banks, the river must have been at least a mile wide, rushing torrents. And to bring a whole nation over, and then just beyond, the sons of Anak, and the Anakim, and the walled city of Jericho. Why, it was a staggering thing!
So in order to know how and what, Joshua sent spies over there, two of them [Joshua 2:1]; "You go over there and see who our opponents are, and what stature, and what arms, and what strength, and what courage is in them." Well, the men crossed over. They entered Jericho, and fall into a tragic situation. The evening comes and the gates are closed. Their presence is discovered, and it is told to the king of Jericho [Joshua 2:2]. And summarily, you would have thought they would have been executed. But there was one person in Jericho whose heart God had touched.
Just like when Paul and Silas crossed over the Hellespont into Europe, the Lord touched the heart of Lydia, seller of purple, a merchandising woman, and she entreated the preachers to come and live in her house [Acts 16:15]. There in Jericho was an innkeeper named Rahab [Joshua 2:1]. And those men, being there in the inn and being discovered [Joshua 2:2-3], thought surely that was the end of their lives. And they wouldn’t have opportunity to go back to report to Joshua what things God had done, as they had a marvelous report to make. But, Rahab, when she saw what had happened, she took those two men on the roof of the house where she had spread out the flax to dry before beating it and making linen thread; she hid them under the flax [Joshua 2:6].
And when the soldiers of the king of Jericho came to take the two men to execute them, she said, "They are gone. They are gone. They are not here." And in that ruse sent them away [Joshua 2:3, 5], and then in her own way, took care of them.
Rahab, it’s a remarkable thing, the impression she has made in the centuries that followed upon the inspired prophets and apostles of God. For example, twice here in the Bible, once in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and the thirty-first verse [Hebrews 11:31], and again in James the second chapter and the twenty-fifth verse [James 2:25], the faith of Rahab is used as an encouragement and an example for God’s children today.
And you know, you could pause there and preach a whole sermon, which I planned to do this morning. You just can’t get everything in and speak of everything. So I just speak of it briefly and will not return to it again.
As long as there was one person in Jericho that trusted in God and believed in God, God couldn’t destroy the city. Rahab’s faith was imperfect. All she knew was that the Lord had promised Israel the land [Joshua 2:9]. She knew God had dried up the Red Sea when they came out of Egypt, and she knew God had destroyed the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, on the other side of the river [Joshua 2:10].
But what she knew, she believed and accepted, for she said, "The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath." [Joshua 2:11] And the simple request, "Therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord,that you will show kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a token: that you will save the life of my father, and my mother, and my brothers, and my sisters, and deliver our lives from death" [Joshua 2:12-13].
That’s a wonderful woman, wonderful woman. "My father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, if I gather them together under my roof, when that day comes . . . "See the faith she had?" When that day comes, and I gather my family under my roof, that you will spare our lives, for I believe your God is the God of heaven above and earth beneath [Joshua 2:11]. And give me a token" [Joshua 2:12]. And they gave her a token, the scarlet line by which the men were let down through the window; "You tie in that window the scarlet line" [Exodus 2:15-18]. And there is another sermon. Wouldn’t you like to have time to preach a sermon on the scarlet line in the Bible? All through the Word of God, that scarlet line.
Now just this moment that remains to speak of Rahab. As long as she was in the city, God couldn’t destroy it. As long as there is one righteous man in Sodom, God can do nothing until that righteous man be come out hence [Genesis 19:22]. And Nathanael on the plain under the fig tree, and Jesus knew it [John1:48]. And passing through the crowd, that one woman that touched the hem of His garment was saved. He couldn’t go on until first He stopped to hear the cry of that one woman [Luke 8:43-48]. As long as one of His disciples was full of doubt, Jesus couldn’t go back up to glory, until first He talked to him. That eunuch, driving by in his chariot, reading Isaiah the prophet, and longing and hungering after the truth of God, the Lord wouldn’t let him go down that road until He sent a messenger to tell him the story of salvation [Acts 8:26-39]. Cornelius, kneeling down and praying and offering alms in behalf of the name of God; the Lord sent an angel, that he go down, send down to Joppa, telling words whereby he and his house could be saved [Acts 10:1-6]. The Lord cannot, by His Holy word, wherein He swears by Himself because He can swares by none greater [Hebrews 6:13], the Lord cannot overlook the cry of the least of His children who cry unto Him.
And to sum it, for I must stop: and this world cannot be destroyed as long as there is one Christian in it. Never. What holds those skyscrapers towering in the sky? And what withholds the judgment of God upon the wrong and iniquity of this world? The fire will not fall, nor does the brimstone burn, as long as God has one of His children in it.
Some of these days God says: as Lot was taken out of Sodom [Genesis 19:22], just like Noah was placed in the ark [Genesis 7:1, 16], one of these days God’s going to take out of this world His children [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Then the judgment comes. Then the fire falls. Then the flames and the smoke ascend. But not until God takes away His children, for you are covered by the blood of Jesus. And God can do nothing in judgment against the least of His children who are covered by the blood of Jesus, as Rahab was covered by the protecting hand of God through the committal of her life to the Lord [Joshua 2:11]. Oh, what God is able to do for those who place their trust in Him!
Now, in this moment that we remain to sing our song, somebody you, into that aisle and down here to the front, given your heart in trust to Jesus, or putting your life in the fellowship of the church, just one somebody you, or a family you, as we sing this song, and make the way in the Spirit of God open wide, would you come? Somebody you, while we stand and while we sing.
THE NEW LEADER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Land of Cana was Israel’s by deed of gift
II. Joshua ordained of God to lead Israel
III. Joshua rose to the challenge
1. Issued clear, definitive orders
2. Secures rare communication with loyal bodyguard
3. Collects intelligence
4. Commits the people to a tremendous act of faith in God