It’s time! God has taken more than 40 years to prepare Joshua for the job that only one person in all of history would do: lead the people of Israel into the promised land. I often feel like this massive task has sort of disappeared into the pages of history. Seemingly forgotten, or at least overshadowed by other stories, but it was a huge job, and Joshua was a beast! After so many years in the shadow of Moses, Joshua now emerges with an unexpected amalgam of character qualities. Up to this point, we’ve mostly seen Joshua as a quiet observer. We did see him lead the army into battle once before, a subtle foreshadowing of the savage warrior he would become. We saw him make a bold, courageous stand once before too. But mostly we saw him learning. Serving. Watching. Sitting silently in the presence of God, meditating regularly upon the words of his Lord. After reading Exodus-Deuteronomy it may seem like we know what to expect from Joshua. So, as we begin the book that bears his name, we’re likely wondering how the bold but quiet student is going to handle stepping into the limelight.
Called by God to Lead
After the death of Moses, the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you – from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.
Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:1-9
Did you notice a theme in those verses? (Hint: It has something to do with courage and strength) God doesn’t mince words with Joshua, does He? He lays out the situation plainly:
Moses is dead; you’re in charge now.
I’m going to give you the land.
Your life will be marked by victory because I’m going to be with you.
Then He gives His commands: (Which will be repeated again and again throughout the entire book!)
Be strong and courageous.
Be strong and very courageous.
Be obedient; study and meditate on the Word.
Be strong and courageous!
Quick to Obey His Lord
Joshua wasted no time! He sent out word right away for all the people to pack up and get ready to move. They would cross the Jordan into the Promised Land in three days. And just like that, Joshua was in command. Of course, how they were going to get at least a million people across the Jordan River, no one had a clue. And that was just the first hurdle. How would they defeat the strong, fortified city of Jericho once they were there? If they somehow pulled that off, where would they go next, and how could they possibly defeat one city after another in order to claim the entire expanse of land that God had promised them? Joshua didn’t bother worrying about any of that. He was already demonstrating strength and courage. He was already acting like someone who knew that God would go before him. That God would make a way.
Did He ever! God made a way right through the middle of the Jordan River, then brought down the walls of Jericho, and then handed nation after nation after nation over to Joshua and the Israelites.
Now, remember, this group of Israelites was very young. Only Joshua and Caleb would have been 60 years or older. Everyone else would have been children more than 40 years earlier when God parted the Red Sea before Moses. I’m sure many of them remembered that miracle, but they remembered it from the perspective of a child. The story had likely become almost fantastical to them. I’m certain no one expected God to do something like that again. But God was in the business of proving Himself to His people, Click To Tweetand He wanted to establish Joshua’s leadership among a group who had likely begun to sort of idealize Moses.
As if to say, “This is my guy, and he’s the one I chose to do this task, not Moses. I’m going to do for him what I did for Moses and more! So buckle up guys!” the waters of the Jordan (which the Bible tells us was overflowing its banks) stopped flowing, and God dried up a path right in front of His people. Just as they had done on their march out of Egypt, the Israelites crossed a massive body of water on dry ground. The Lord had made a way, and the first of many hurdles had been jumped. Next up: Jericho.
Now, let me ask you, if you’re about to lead your rookie army into the first battle in what will be a very long campaign to conquer a vast land, what’s the first thing you’d do to prepare? I bet it wouldn’t be to circumcise your entire army! That’s what God told Joshua to do, though, so the obedient leader did exactly that. Talk about a strong move! Can you imagine telling hundreds of thousands of men they’re going to have to be circumcised today? Yikes! After that, they celebrated Passover.
I’m telling you guys, Joshua was a rare man! His leadership seems so laid back to me, (though we’re soon going to see something altogether different from him.) and his courage to do what God commanded, even when it seemed absurd is about to hit its high point!
Once Joshua had prepared his army by honoring their God and renewing the covenant He had made with their ancestors, they were ready to go into battle, but Joshua had yet to receive the marching orders from God. So, he waited. He waited until a man, who claimed to be the Commander of the Army of the Lord (otherwise known as the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, or the pre-incarnate Christ.) presented Himself and said,
“I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” Joshua 6:2-5
I’m sure we’ve all considered the utter ridiculousness of this command, but humor me for a minute and really think about it. Can you imagine? Joshua had some serious confidence in his God to do something so boldly insane only days after taking charge! Click To Tweet Respect, y’all! I don’t think I could do it. I would feel so stupid and vulnerable, marching in silence around the massive walls of Jericho. I can barely find the courage to lift my hands in praise during a worship service, let alone shout out at the top of my lungs when the Shofar blew. But Joshua did exactly that, and Israel followed his lead… and the walls came tumbling down!
The Challenge to Me
I find myself challenged beyond words by Joshua. I want that kind of faith! I want to be willing to look like a fool for the sake of my God. I want to know exactly what He has called me to, and I want to fulfill His purposes for me with instant obedience. And when He hasn’t made His plan clear, I want to be ready to wait! I want that unwavering confidence that knows He is going before me so I have nothing to fear. I want to stop digging away at my Jericho walls trying to bring them down on my own, one stone at a time. I want to step out of the way and watch God bring them crashing to the ground! I want to be the one with a story so preposterous that the credit can go to no one but Him! I want the years I’ve spent sitting in His presence to create in me a faith so big that waters will part to make a way before me as I follow His leading. I want so badly to be like Joshua has been up to this point in the story. But I also want to be like the man he becomes in the following chapters. Come back next week to read about a very different side to Joshua, and a part of the Bible that causes many to reject God altogether. We’ll dissect His Word together and see what He has to teach us through the rest of Joshua’s story.