Welcome to a new series on Coffee and Commentary. Over the next several weeks we will be looking into the life and times of Joshua, his prophetic significance as a prototype of the Messiah and the relevance of his book and the man himself to our present times.
For thirty-eight years, Joshua son of Nun was a faithful servant to Moses. Through times of joy as well as sorrow, Joshua watched, listened and learned as he attended to Moses’ needs and stood by him throughout the years in the desert. He was a young man when he began serving Moses, and a devout one, for we read in the book of Exodus, “And the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he turned again into the camp but his servant, Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the Tabernacle.” Exodus 33:11 Joshua was a man who loved the presence of the Lord.
He was devoted not only to the LORD but also to Moses. On one occasion, hearing that two men, Eldad and Medad, prophesied in the camp, “Joshua, son of Nun, who had been Moses’ assistant since his youth, protested, Moses, my master, make them stop!” In response Moses corrected his assistant with these words, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all of the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them all.” Numbers 11: 28-29
It takes a special person to not only be content with a number two position but to actually flourish in it. Not too many stand in line to be second in importance; most prefer to be first. To make a career of being a servant is not appealing to the modern secular mind; it is not discussed as a desirable profession in high school or college career seminars. Yet servanthood is essential to true spiritual success.
Nowhere in the Torah do we get any hint that Joshua was vying for position or serving with a view to promotion. Nowhere does he indicate any desire to take over for Moses in the future. We detect no ambition, no self-seeking in Joshua’s relationship with Moses.
But as the Torah comes to its conclusion we read: ‘So Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, just as the LORD had said. The LORD buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab but to this day no one knows the exact place. Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever. The sons of Israel wept for Moses on the plains of Moab for thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end. Now Joshua, the son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel listened to him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.’ Deuteronomy 34: 5-9
At the end of those thirty days, the children of Israel are positioned along the banks of the Jordan River. Their next step is to enter the Land but Moses has left them.
Consider: for forty years, they’ve been fed supernaturally. Their clothes didn’t wear out and neither did their shoes. Miracles were commonplace, a regular part of their life. In fact their very lives depended on daily miracles, many of them performed at the hand of Moses. Now, their entire life is about to change dramatically.
Can you imagine the conversations as the thirty days are coming to a close? “What are we going to eat over there? Where will we get water? Will the natives welcome us or not? What kind of people are they anyway? Do you think we can really trust Joshua? We’ve never seen him do a miracle! Why did Moses have to die now ??”
The thirty days are up; now what?
Joshua 1:1-3 It happened after the death of Moses, the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses, my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all the people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Everyplace on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.
The servant of the servant of the LORD was now appointed leader. I try to think how Joshua must have felt. Me? Step into the shoes of Moses? Really?
We tend to think of the death of Moses only as ‘punishment’ for his disobedience in striking the rock. I believe there is more to it. It was the kindness of God that removed him. Moses had finished his course. He had completed his mission. He was the deliverer and the lawgiver. He was a shepherd and a teacher. He had watched over the flock he led out of Egypt right up until the last one died. He was a ‘father’ to them. When Amalek rose up against Israel in the desert, Moses told Joshua to choose men and go out and fight while he went up on the mountain to pray. (Exodus 17)
The calling and anointing on Moses was not suited to what Israel needed to do next – take the Land. God had another man in mind to lead Israel into the next season of their national history.
The sons of Israel who mourned Moses were a new generation with different needs and different challenges . They had already been told they were to ‘take the Land’. The process would involve fighting for it, waging war, working hard. Their lives were about to undergo a radical change. They needed a different kind of leader.
It was a monumental shift for all concerned but perhaps most of all for Joshua himself. But look at the gracious encouragement the LORD gave him.
‘No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.
Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you nor forsake you.
Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.
Only be strong and very courageous;
Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you;
Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.
For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.
Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.’ Joshua 1: 5-9
Notice carefully everything that the LORD said to him.
- No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. –Nobody will bring you down, Joshua. No Korachs, Dathans or Abirams will arise to challenge your authority like they did to Moses!
- I will be with you just as much as I was with Moses. Moses may have left but I’m not leaving, Joshua!
- Be strong and courageous! There would have been no need for God to command him to be strong and courageous if he already was!
- Joshua, you will give the people possession of the Land. It will happen!
- Only two things I command you – be strong & courageous. You can do this thing, Joshua!
- Now let Me tell you how you do this thing – this Book shall not depart from your mouth: get in My Word, stay in My Word, Memorize My word; don’t look anywhere else for guidance or inspiration. All you need is in My Word.
- You will succeed
- Remember – this was My idea! Have I not commanded you? I called you and prepared you when you had no idea what was coming.
- Do not tremble or be dismayed.. No cold feet, no upset stomach, no nervousness. I’ve got this, Joshua. Just follow Me and we’ll get this done. It’s a new season. You’re going to do things that have never been done before and see things you’ve never seen before, Joshua.
Joshua’s immediate response to what the LORD said to him was to give the word: Get ready, prepare your provisions, we’re going in! In three days!!
It is to Joshua’s eternal credit that he put aside his personal grief at the loss of Moses, overcame his hesitation, his fear, his anxiety, and rallied the people to move on into their destiny, though the unknowns were many.
What inspiration and/or exhortation do we draw from this first encounter with Joshua?
- He faithfully and unselfishly served another person’s ministry for decades, committed to doing whatever was necessary to enhance that other person’s success. Do I care as much about other people’s success as I do about my own?
- When his ‘promotion came’, he didn’t throw a party. He trembled and was humbled at what lay before him. God always meets the humble of heart and sends encouragement and support in one way or another, like He did to Joshua. Joshua had learned from Moses that only by the grace of God do we accomplish our purpose. Do I truly depend on God’s grace or do I think I can do fine on my own?
- The Word of God is the source of life, strength, courage, inspiration, guidance – everything we need. The Lord’s direction to Joshua to immerse himself in the Word applies to each of us as well. How about adopting the motto: ‘No Bible, no Breakfast!’ Do I start my day with God? With His Word? It should be more necessary to us than that oatmeal or scrambled eggs!
Has the Lord impressed something else on you from this lesson? Please share it below so we can all benefit and grow in Him.
Til next week, walk with God moment by moment.