I have always loved reading about Joshua in the Bible. For so many reasons, he is a man that intrigues me. One that I believe there is much to learn from. From the very first time he shows up, all the way through his life, and on into the New Testament, (when he makes it into the Hebrews 11 Faith Hall of Fame) Joshua embodies a life of faith, courage, and obedience. And though he has always been special to me, this particular season of my life brought an even greater appreciation for all that the Bible has to teach me through the story of this amazing man of God. The theme of his life, “Be strong and courageous” has become a mantra I repeat to myself again and again, because like Joshua, the Lord my God is with me wherever I go!
Humility to Learn in the Shadow of Giants
Can you imagine having to take over the job of leading the Israelites from MOSES? What an intimidating calling Joshua was tasked to answer! But if you start his story from the beginning, you see that he had been well prepared. God had been grooming him for that job for more than 40 years, and Joshua had been an eager student!
Joshua is mentioned for the first time in Exodus 17, but he comes in with a pretty mighty role. One that suggests he had already been in a prominent position for some time. The Israelites are making their way through the desert towards the Promised Land. Suddenly, the Amalekite army marched out to attack them as they camped at Rephidim. Enter Joshua. The very first time we see his name, it is mentioned like this:
“Moses commanded Joshua, ‘Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. (Exodus 17:9-10)
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m Moses, I’m not going to choose some unknown nobody to lead my army out into our first real battle. I’m going to choose someone I know and trust. Someone who has already proven to be brave, and fierce, and devoted to God! I’m going to choose someone strong and courageous! As the story continues, God works a miracle. He gives the victory to Joshua and the untrained, untested Israelite army. Then He tells Moses to record an account of the battle. He says,
“Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14)
God makes it clear, from the very first moment that Joshua appears, that he is someone special. Someone we’re likely going to see again. But as the story continues, he doesn’t emerge as a main character as quickly as his introduction led us to believe. He’s there. We see him again and again – in the background. Every now and then he emerges to do something awesome and then fades back into the shadows. We find that he’s Moses’s assistant, content to follow along and learn from the great leader.
He’s there in Exodus 24 when Moses and Aaron and the elders of Israel climb Mount Sinai and meet with God, sharing a covenant meal with the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies! But only Joshua goes on up to the top of the mountain with Moses to receive the Law of the Lord. Aaron and the other leaders stay where they are. And later, the Bible tells us that,
“Whenever Moses went out to the Tent of Meeting, all the people would get up and stand in the entrances of their own tents... Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.” (Exodus 33:8-11)
I’ve read that passage many times, always centering my attention on Moses or on God. This last time through the Bible, though, my eyes suddenly came into focus on the figure hidden in the shadows. A young man absorbing every opportunity to sit in the presence of God. Learning everything he can from the giants of the faith like Moses and Aaron; staying behind after each encounter to meditate and thoroughly process all that God had for him to learn. I was inspired!
So much of my life has felt like a waiting game; waiting for what God will do next. I’ve often felt like I’m in the shadows, believing God has big plans for me, feeling like I’m being groomed for some specific task, but unsure what it will be, or what I should be doing while I wait. Joshua helped me understand exactly what I should be doing. I should be taking every opportunity to sit in the presence of God. I should be looking for chances to learn from those who are wiser than I am. I should be meditating upon all that God has to teach me, eager to learn and absorb all I can, while taking the opportunities God presents to emerge from the shadows (even if only for a moment) and do something awesome for Him. Click To Tweet
Faith So Big It Will Stand Alone
In Numbers 13-14, Joshua emerges from the shadows for one of those “do something awesome” moments. As the Israelites camp on the edge of the promised land, He is chosen, along with 11 other tribal leaders, to cross the border and spy out the land. For forty days those 12 men crossed land the Lord God had promised to give to the descendants of Abraham as their own special possession. They saw many astonishing things, finding first hand that it was indeed a rich land, flowing with milk and honey.
But 10 of those men were so blinded by the great size of the inhabitants that they forgot the grandeur of the One who had promised to go ahead of them. Not Joshua though. Only he and Caleb refused to be intimidated, and spoke up saying they should go quickly and take possession of the land. The Israelites began to revolt, saying,
“Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!” Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle.
It would be 40 more years before the Lord would give Joshua the command that would become the theme of his life. But we can see from this story, that it was a part of who he was long before that day.
It took a great deal of strength and courage to stand up to the whole community of Israel! Joshua could have lost his life, and he came awfully close that day! The people were preparing to stone him and Caleb when the Lord Himself intervened. And that is precisely why Joshua was so strong and so courageous – because the Lord his God was with him, and he knew it!
You don't spend years basking in the presence of Almighty God, serving in the shadow of a man like Moses, and emerge without total confidence in the Lord God of Heavens Armies! Click To Tweet I’ve had to stand alone against things I knew were wrong many times in my story. So, Joshua’s story has inspired me to boldly make those stands; with complete confidence in the One who goes before me!
As a result of his obedience, Joshua became one of only two men allowed to enter the promised land. (The other one being Caleb) God made the Israelites spend the next 40 years wandering through the desert. Until every single one of their bodies had fallen in the wilderness. God wiped them out and gave the land to their children instead. For all of those 40 years, Joshua returned to the shadows; continuing to serve under Moses. But the day finally came when Moses could no longer lead the Israelites. It was time for those children to enter the promised land, and guess who God chose to lead them?
Called to Strength and Courage
One day the Lord said to Moses, “Climb one of the mountains east of the river, and look out over the land I have given the people of Israel. After you have seen it, you will die… Then Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
The Lord replied, “Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him. Present him to Eleazar the priest before the whole community, and publicly commission him to lead the people. Numbers 27:12–19
As Moses’s days drew to an end, he gathered the people of Israel together to give them some final instructions. That speech makes up most of the book of Deuteronomy. As he got to the end, he called for Joshua. With all Israel watching, Moses told him that he was going to have a really big job. He was going to lead the people into the promised land, conquering many mighty nations in the process. His job wasn’t done, though, once they had claimed the land. Then, he’d be in charge of dividing the land among the Israelites. (According to the Lord’s instructions.) Moses led those people for a long time, and likely had a pretty good idea how difficult that job was going to be!
Then Moses called for Joshua, and as all Israel watched, he said to him, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31: 7–8
You guys, that last verse, Deuteronomy 31:8, was the Bible App verse of the day on the day my love moved out, back when we did our 90-day separation. You will never be able to convince me that God didn’t work that out just for me! I know He did! As I walked to my bedroom alone that night, I turned on my phone. Right there on my screen were those beautiful words. Words that I so desperately needed to hear right at that moment. “Do not be afraid or discouraged…” I quickly wrote that verse out on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall next to my bed. It’s still there, a daily reminder that God’s promises are true. He was there with Joshua as he took on the task of leading God’s people. He was there with me every one of those 90 days, and He will be with me to the end. No matter what, he never failed or abandoned Joshua, and He will never fail or abandon me!
Come back next week for part two of Joshua’s story!
*How about you? Can you relate to the first part of Joshua’s story? Do you often find yourself in the shadows? What have you learned about God’s faithfulness?
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