After Israel's forty years of desert wandering, and the subsequent death of their great leader, Moses, the Lord declared to Joshua, "Moses my servant is dead; now there fore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel" (Joshua 1:2). Israel had come to the borders of the Promised Land and to the time when they were to possess it. To Joshua-was given the monumental task of leading the people into their inheritance.
Today we stand at the borders of the heavenly Canaan, and the time has come for us to enter. As ministers, we, like Joshua, have been given the call to lead the people in.
But how is this to be done? The task seems well nigh impossible. So Joshua's assignment must have appeared to him. But when God calls an individual to a task, He also enables him to accomplish it. Joshua found this to be true, and the words of instruction and encouragement that came to him are words that, if heeded, will carry us through. Notice 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" (verse 8).
It was God's power that strengthened Joshua and led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, And it is God's power that will bring modern Israel—His church—into the kingdom. But how was Joshua to receive God's power, under stand His will, and receive courage to follow it? By meditating day and night upon the Book of the Law. By a diligent study of God's Word Joshua would come into such a union with the Lord that he would be enabled to fulfill God's assignment. Nothing less today is needed among us who have been as signed by God the task of leading His people into the Promised Land.
Joshua's entire success was dependent upon his obedience to the instructions that had come from the Lord. His whole existence was to be tied up with the Word of God. And the purpose of his study was obedience. "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" (verse 7).
Israel had failed, forty years before, to enter Canaan through insubordination and disobedience. Now that they faced the same opportunity again, it was vital that Joshua meditate day and night on God's Word, that he might know God's will, obey it, and lead the people by precept and example into a faithful observance of God's instructions. Years ago we were told, "We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel."—Evangelism, p. 696.
Unfortunately, these words have been fulfilled in the experience of our church. If we are now to enter in, let us study anew God's instructions that we may discover wherein we have failed to fol low His counsels. Never have a people been more fully instructed in the course they were to pursue than we have been. We have the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation. We have also the special counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy. But how much time do we give to their careful study? Do these words have our absorbing attention? Are they the object of our meditation day and night? Is it our greatest desire to bring our lives into full harmony with them, that we turn not to the right hand nor to the left?
If Joshua would accept God's assignment and immerse himself in God's will, thus allowing the Lord to use him as He desired, the promise was, "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" (verse 5). The book of Joshua is a testimony to the faithfulness of God in keeping His word. He made bare His mighty arm, and Israel's enemies were vanquished. The Book of Joshua has been called the Acts of the Old Testament. Like the book of Acts in the New Testament it is the story of miracles, of God doing the impossible.
Following the children of Israel's initial years of conquest it could be re ported, "And the Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers..,. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass" (chap. 21:44, 45).
Our task today, like Joshua's, is an impossible one, humanly speaking. It can be accomplished only through the mighty power of God. But as it was in the experience of His people anciently, success can be accomplished only when the conditions are met. And those conditions have not changed.
When we have the courage of Joshua to stand true and faithful in the face of intimidation and even death, when we immerse ourselves in God's Word, obeying its precepts and clinging to its promises as our only hope, then God's promises will be fulfilled to us. Our enemies will not be able to stand before us. The gospel message will go quickly, like "fire in the thicket." Barriers will be broken down. The unbelieving and faithless will be shaken out, and their places will be immediately filled by eleventh-hour workers who will stand in the front ranks proclaiming the sacred truths of the three angels, calling God's people everywhere out of Babylon.
The Ministerial Association staff feels very keenly the need for our entering into such an experience. Therefore we are suggesting a plan that we believe will be helpful. The real need, as we view it, is for a deeper commitment to regular, systematic study of the Bible and the counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy, and sanctified obedience to these instructions. God's call to Joshua to a constant, continuing study of the Divine Word is His call to us. Those whom God will use to lead His people into the heavenly Canaan will be those whose hearts are saturated with His Word. Its study will take precedence over all other study, so that they will be able to say with the prophet Jeremiah, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart" (Jer. 15:16).
We have an important lesson in this area from our pioneers. The 1881 General Conference session voted a six-year study program for all ministers. The official action reads, "We recommend that all our ministers, both ordained and licentiates, be requested to pursue the appended course of reading." Notice that this was not an option. "We further recommend that the committee on credentials and licenses in each Conference examine the candidates yearly to see whether they have pursued the course of reading recommended."
This action, together with the six-year course of reading prescribed, was re ported by Ron Graybill in the March, 1975, MINISTRY under the title, "Could You Keep Up With the Pioneers?" The reading amounted to several thousand pages per year, much of it heavy material, such as Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews and Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Significantly, the Bible stood at the head of each year's reading requirement. Several Spirit of Prophecy volumes were listed each year.
We are not calling for a General Conference action on reading requirements. However, we are suggesting a voluntary reading program to begin with this coming year, 1980.
At first glance, some may feel that the proposed list is overly ambitious in light of all the study and reading a minister normally does in the course of his work. To others, these suggestions will appear minimal. Some ministers are used to much reading. Others do comparatively little. We hope that those accustomed to little will take this as a challenge to do more. A minister's tools are words and books. Therefore the proposed reading program should not be considered excessive—rather it should be a basic core.
All of us are aware of the continual reading program of such men as H. M. S. Richards, ST., who is always abreast of the best in current religious publications, as well as maintaining his annual (at least) reading of the Bible and selected Spirit of Prophecy writings. Beginning in January of 1979 he concentrated on reading the Testimonies, and by March 22—in just eighty-one days—he had read all nine volumes! Much reading can be done by utilizing odd moments that would otherwise be lost. Always have a book at hand—in the car, at the bedside, on the end table, yes, in the bathroom. Many who consistently read much can testify that a lot of it is done in this way.
We believe that a reading program such as suggested here will affect our entire ministry—our preaching, our visitation program, our soul winning—all that we do. Not only will it help prepare us, as ministers, for the crisis awaiting the church but it will give us the direction we need as we seek to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.