Serving Israel

6: Blind Guides And The Book

The role of The Book in a leader's life cannot be underestimated.  Schaeffer explains that point here but I am reminded of Jesus' terse statement about leadership in Matt 15:14. "Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit."  There are those that can lead.  There are those that can guide.  But, where do they lead and where do they guide?  The Book needs to be central to avoid the pit. 

The Apostle Paul stressed this point with Timothy. Do you want to avoid leading people to nowhere? Do you want to avoid falling into the pit? Here is Paul's advise:

2 Timothy 3:14-17 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

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As seen at news.avclub.com

What follows are fragmentary pieces of Francis Schaeffer’s commentary Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History picked out for my own edification and direction. I am interested most in finding the conditions God gave for taking and possessing His land. Also, what can we learn from this story of conquest? To go to the start of these lessons click here.

The Three Changeless Factors

After Joshua acted as the general against the Amalekites, “the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book” (Ex. 17:14). This book became the center of the life of the people of Israel from this point on. Over and over the Pentateuch tells how it came to be composed. In Numbers, for example, we find, “And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD” (Num. 33:2). Just as Exodus 17 specifically refers to the writing of the book of Exodus, Numbers 33 specifically refers to the writing of the book of Numbers.

In the plain of Moab, with the forty-year wandering over, the writing still continued under the command of God. Deuteronomy 31 portrays the growth of the Pentateuch, emphasizing that Moses wrote in the book. Of course, one of the liberal theories is that the Pentateuch was carried down through the spoken word for a long period prior to the writing. But this theory directly contradicts what the Pentateuch itself claims, because in Deuteronomy 31:9 we read, “And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests, the sons of Levi.” So Moses not only spoke; he also wrote. He gave propositional, verbalized communication from God to man in written as well as spoken form. We are told about the production of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Something was written.

Deuteronomy 31 also makes clear that what was written was not to be a priestly book hidden away from the people, as if they could not understand it. Quite the contrary—from time to time it was to be read not only before the priests, but also before the common people:

And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger who is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law; and that their children, who have not known anything, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land to which ye go over Jordan to possess it. (Deut. 31:9–13).

The people, of course, could not have their own Bibles. This would not be possible until after Gutenberg. But this does not mean that the Pentateuch was an exotic book, a mere symbol. It was not like the ark of the Lord, never to be seen. While the ark of the Lord was hidden away from the common eyes and covered when the people traveled, the book was brought out periodically and read. This was a reminder, therefore, that it was not a book too holy for common use. It was important because it was from God, but it was common because it was to be understood by all the people. The people were to know the content which God had given through Moses in the book.[1]

In Deuteronomy 31:19 Moses speaks of “this song.” One of the liberal theories is that the Pentateuch was passed down by song and only written down much later, but again the book of Deuteronomy contradicts this. While it is true that the people were to learn the song and pass it on to their children, the text also says, “Write this song.”

We see, then, a sequential structure: God commanded something to be written in a book, and Moses wrote it over a period of forty years. As we get to the end of the book of Deuteronomy, the writing of Moses is finished. When Moses completed the Pentateuch, he commanded that it be kept in a sacred Place, “in the side of the ark of the covenant” (Deut. 31:26). It was to be preserved and read regularly to all the people.

The First Changeless Factor: The Written Book

This brings us finally to Joshua 1:

Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke unto Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses, my servant, is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 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. 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. Be strong and of good courage; for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land which I swore unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses, my servant, commanded thee; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 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 (or, do wisely). (Joshua 1:1–8).

As the Israelites stood ready to enter the land, God’s main emphasis was upon the book.

Joshua was to have special revelations from God through the priest: “And he (Joshua) shall stand before Eleazar, the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD” (Num. 27:21).[2] We are not sure exactly what the Urim was, the way it functioned, or how God used it to reveal Himself, but we do know it was one way God through the priest revealed propositional content to His people. But though Joshua was going to have this special leading from the Lord, this was not to detract from the central reference point and chief control: the written book. The Word of God written in the book set the limitations.[3] Thus, Joshua was already functioning in the way Bible-believing Christians function. Sometimes God does lead in other ways, but such leading must always be within the circle of His external, propositional commands in Scripture. Even if a person had an Urim and a Thummim as well as a priest to guide him, this would not change his basic authority. The primary leading would come from the written, propositional revelation of God, from the Bible.

So we see that the written book was the first of the three changeless factors that stood with Joshua as he assumed leadership. “Only be thou strong and very courageous,” God commanded him, “that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses, my servant, commanded thee; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 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 [or, do wisely].” Joshua had been walking beside Moses (the young man beside the older) for forty years; yet God’s command to Joshua was not just general. It was not, “Try to remember what Moses told you and follow it.” Rather, Joshua was to search out and constantly study the sharp and definite commands in the written book.

The Lord especially emphasized three things. First, the law was not to depart out of Joshua’s mouth; he was to talk about it. Second, he was to meditate on it day and night. Meditation is a cognitive activity; it takes place in the area of reason. God’s law is not something that should be mechanically reproduced, nor is it contentless (to express it in contemporary terms). Third, he was to practice the commands in his historic, space-time situation. Talk about it; think about it; do it! Jesus’ teaching had the same emphasis, “Here are My words. Do them!”

Throughout his life, Joshua was obedient. Of all the factors which gave him such success, the most important was that he heeded God’s admonition about the book. For example, at Ebal and Gerizim Joshua carried out exactly Moses’ instruction to read the law before all the people. (See Joshua 8; we will study this in more detail in Chapter 7.) Joshua lived out his life in a practical way within the circle of the written revelation.

This faithfulness continued to the end of his life. Joshua’s charge to the people when he was ready to die was simple and final: “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (Josh. 23:6). Joshua kept the command of God all the days of his life, and before he died he urged the people that followed him to do the same: “Live your life within the circle of the propositions given in the written book.”

Questions & Notes

  1. The _________ were to know the content which God had given through Moses in the book.

  2. Joshua was to have special revelations from God through the priest: “And he (Joshua) shall stand before Eleazar, the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD” (Num. ___:___)

  3. The Word of God written in the book set the _________ .

Click on the “Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History” tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.