I have always loved reading about the life of Joshua in the Bible. He has been one of my favorite Bible characters for as long as I can remember. The theme of his life was, “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
From his first appearance in Exodus when we see Joshua as a servant leader, through Leviticus Numbers and Deuteronomy where we see him and Moses demonstrate one of the best examples of spiritual mentoring in the Bible, and all the way to the end of the book of Joshua, we find him as a man of integrity and faith.
Of course, a character who demonstrates such admirable qualities would bring valuable lessons to any believer, but I believe his example of standing firm in faith is of particular importance to those of us facing off with the monster of sexual addiction. Whether we are the addict or the wife of the addict, Joshua’s strong and courageous life of victory can inspire us to go all in, as he did, to a life lived in passionate pursuit of our Lord!
The Life of Joshua
I don’t know if there is any other character in the Bible who served such a diverse array of roles throughout his lifetime as Joshua did. His story is fascinating! Throughout his life we see Joshua as a servant leader under Moses, a mighty warrior and army commander, a spy, the leader of Israel, an administrator dividing the land, and an elder passing on his legacy of faith. Because there are so many aspects to his story, we’ll divide this study up into four sections, each covering a different section of the life of Joshua.
- Part One – Joshua as a Servant Leader (the first 60ish years of his life)
- Part Two – Joshua at the Walls of Jericho
- Part Three – Joshua the Warrior (Conquering the Promised Land)
- Part Four – Joshua Leaving a Legacy of Faith
Part One – Joshua as a Servant Leader
Can you imagine being the guy who had to take over the job of leading the Israelites from Moses? I mean, we’re talking about the guy God used to deliver Israel from slavery, who parted the Red Sea, and who talked face to face with God!!! What an intimidating act to follow! But if we start at the beginning of Joshua’s story we find he had been well prepared. God spent more than 40 years grooming him for the job. In fact, the picture we’re given of Moses and Joshua is one of the best examples of spiritual mentoring in the Bible, and Joshua was an eager student!
His story starts in Exodus 17, although, the way he enters suggests he had already been in a prominent position for some time. When he shows up, the Israelites are making their way through the desert towards the Promised Land when the Amalekite army marches out to attack them as they camp at Rephidim. 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! For Moses, that man was Joshua.
God worked a miracle that day, giving the victory to Joshua and the untrained and untested Israelite army. We find that even at his first appearance, it was clear God had a special place in His story for Joshua! After the battle, He told Moses to record an account saying,
“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)
With an introduction like that most of us would expect the life of Joshua to be full of pomp and circumstance from that moment on, but instead, we see Joshua as a servant leader. He’s always there. We see him mentioned again and again, but almost always in the background. Every now and then he emerged to do something awesome and then faded back into the shadows. Overall, though, as Moses’s assistant these years in the life of Joshua were quiet ones. He seemed perfectly content to follow along and learn from the great leader.
Spiritual Mentoring in the Bible
Here is where our first big lesson from the life of Joshua comes in. See, from that first meeting we talked about above, it would be more than forty years before he would take over as the leader of Israel. How many of us would be perfectly content to spend forty years in the shadows? How many of us feel like we have so much to learn that in forty years of waiting to get a promotion we’d never get impatient and think there should be bigger things for us to do?
I can only speak for me, but I would guess a lot of us are the same. Waiting is hard! I want to do BIG things for God, and I don’t like feeling like things aren’t being accomplished as quickly as I want them to be. Perhaps, if I could learn to spend my time as Joshua did, things would be different!
In Exodus 24 Moses, Aaron, and the elders of Israel climbed Mount Sinai to meet with God. They shared a covenant meal with the Lord there, but after the meal only Joshua was allowed to go on up to the top of the mountain with Moses to receive the Law of the Lord. Aaron and the other leaders stayed where they were. Later, the Bible tells us,
“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)
It’s easy to read that passage and miss Joshua. After all, isn’t the point that God spoke to Moses face to face? But Joshua was there too, soaking up every opportunity to sit in the presence of God. He was there, learning everything he could from the giants of the faith like Moses and Aaron. He was demonstrating what spiritual mentoring in the Bible should look like from the perspective of the student, because he was content to simply learn for more than 40 years! He would watch Moses, listen as God spoke, submit himself to Moses’s leadership, but then stay behind after each encounter with the Lord to meditate and thoroughly process all God had for him to learn.
I am so convicted by that picture!
There are so many times in my life when I feel restless. I feel like I want to hear more from God, or get bigger assignments, or see better results, but Joshua helped me understand exactly what I should be doing in those times. I should be taking every opportunity to sit quietly 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 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.
Be Strong and Courageous – The Theme of the Life of Joshua
Though it seems the role of Joshua as a servant leader was one in which he was perfectly content, the time did come for Moses to pass the torch of leadership down to his faithful number two.
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.
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. It was a job that would require strength and courage. His job wasn’t going to be done, though, once they had claimed the land. Then, he’d be in charge of dividing it up among the people 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, and so he gave Joshua some advice that would become the theme of his life -” be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Here is what Moses told Joshua:
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 God didn’t work that out just for me! I know He did! As I walked to my bedroom alone (and feeling it) that night, I turned on my phone. Right there on my home screen were those beautiful words. Words 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.
The verse is still there. (Though I made it a little prettier) It serves as a daily reminder that God’s promises are true. It is one of many “Ebeneezers” I’ve placed around my house. (Ebeneezer means stone of help, and it refers to something that has been set up as a reminder of God’s work.) It reminds me that God was there with Joshua as he took on the task of leading God’s people. It reminds me that He was there with me every one of those 90 days, working miracles I couldn’t even imagine at the time. Friends, He will be with you too, no matter what you face. He never failed or abandoned Joshua, and He will never fail or abandon us!
So be strong and courageous!