Joshua was not a superman. He was simply afraid and discouraged like any one of us. He needed encouragement. And God was gracious enough to provide it to him repeatedly (see Deuteronomy 31:7, 8, 23; Joshua 1:6, 7, 9; 8:1). His encouragement is available to you today. God is telling you to be strong and courageous. Because it is God who has called you and given you a task to perform.
Joshua was given a Success Manual to read, obey and follow (Joshua 1:8). It was the Book of the Law (the first five books of the Bible). He was commanded not to stray from its instructions. If he fully obeyed, God promised, that he would be prosperous and successful, everywhere! The words of the Bible are life. It gives understanding and wisdom far above than any other book on earth. Delight in its wisdom day by day and obey it, you will be successful. That is what God has promised.
There was consecration on the part of Joshua and the people (Joshua 3:5). Consecration simply means a setting apart. In very simple terms it means preparing ourselves with care to meet with God and do what He asks us to do. It definitely requires a searching of our heart before God (see Psalm 139: 23, 24). It requires getting your supplies ready (see Joshua 1:10). That means there should be preparedness on our part for the task that God is asking us to do.
Joshua took directions from God. The people did not know which way to go, since they had not gone that way before (Joshua 3:4). They were told to expect directions. They had to follow the ark of the covenant. While this expectation was there, God spoke to Joshua and gave him directions. He was asked to command the priests who carried the ark to go and stand in the river when they reached the Jordan (Joshua 3:8). So when we travel a way we had not gone before, expect God to give directions and He will do so.
Joshua was promised God’s Presence as it was in the case of Moses. God had told Joshua, “I will be with you: I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Remember, God had told Moses that His Presence will go with him (see Exodus 33:14). The courage of a leader of God’s people therefore comes from this promise of God’s Presence. In continuation, God promised that He will begin to exalt Joshua the day they crossed the Jordan and God did so that day itself (see Joshua 3:7; 4:14). Yes, it is God who exalts (see Psalm 75:6, 7).
Joshua understood that obstacles don’t matter when God has commanded to move forward. It was told them that when the priests’ feet would touch the waters of the Jordan, the flow of water will be cut off and it will stand in a heap (see Joshua 3;13)! It was promised that it would happen “as soon as” their feet would touch the waters! It is particularly interesting to note that Jordan was at flood stage during that time. Yet the flow of water was cut off and all Israel crossed over on dry ground. When God leads, we can boldly follow and soon as we take the first step forward in obedience to God’s command, we will find the obstacles give way before us (see also Ecclesiastes 11:4).
God commanded Joshua to erect a memorial of twelve stones (Joshua 4:1–7). It had to be taken from where the priests had stood in the Jordan. This memorial would serve as a reminder of God’s mighty working on behalf of His people. As we think on this, let us ask ourselves whether we remember God’s mighty working on our behalf in the past? Have we raised any memorial for our children to see? Or are we people with very short memories? God wants us to remember what He has done for us. It should serve as a sign in our walk of faith.
Joshua was the leader of God’s people. Yet he was given an insight into who their real Commander is! As Joshua neared Jericho for their first campaign he saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. As Joshua inquired whether he was fighting for them or for their enemies, he got an unexpected reply: “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come” (see Joshua 7:14)! See, God is above the outcome of the battle. He is to be recognized as in command of all our activities. Joshua recognized that immediately by falling facedown to the ground in reverence. Before we set out to do God’s task let us acknowledge the Lord God Almighty. Let us listen to Him. Surely standing before Him is standing on holy ground!
Joshua was given a battle-plan by God. It surprisingly involved walking around Jericho for seven days without speaking. Only the last day were they allowed to shout. The practical impact of this tactic is not easy to find. Did the walking of the people around the wall weaken its strength in some form or the other? We don’t know? But the wall collapsed on the last day when they gave a shout. It must have fallen flat to the inside so that “every man charged straight in” (see Joshua 6:20). But more than the technique, you find both priests and warriors taking part in the process. Why? Battle-plans from the Lord require us to both pray and participate; both seeking God and taking action. More than that their obedience to God’s command secured them the victory.
Sin in the Camp
The victory at Jericho was soon followed by defeat when they tried to conquer Ai. “The hearts of the people melted and became like water” (see Joshua 7:5). Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown before the ark and remained there till evening. But God said to him, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?” He pointed to him that there was sin in the camp. They had violated God’s command. So they could not stand against their enemies. The objects causing sin had to be removed. Till then God could not be with them. Ah, when there is sin in our camp, remember it has to be removed, if God is to go with us again! The same thought is echoed by David: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18).
After sin in the camp had been removed, God encouraged Joshua again. This time God gave him a different battle-plan. God asked him to set an ambush behind the city. And he was asked to take the whole army with him and not some three thousand men as when they were defeated earlier. God asked Joshua to hold out toward Ai the javelin that was in his hand. And the Bible records that their victory that day was total and complete. Because, “For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai” (Joshua 8:26 NIV). Remember to pursue God-given tasks with a strong determination to finish. It is this kind of a single-minded aim and focus that brings victory.
Yielding to Deception
The land had to be conquered. God had commanded not to make any treaty with the people of the land (see Joshua 9:24). But the Gibeonites, a group of people who lived in the land, used deception to make a treaty with the Israelites. This could have been avoided. The deception succeeded because: “The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord” (Joshua 9:14). See, it is not enough to trust in our own wisdom. We need to inquire of God before we make decisions Otherwise, there is always a possibility that we might act against God’s will in the matter under consideration. (See also an important decision making process in the life of Jesus in Luke 6:12–15. He prayed an entire night before He chose the twelve.).
Listening to God’s Motivation Talk
Gibeon was soon attacked by five kings because it had made a treaty with Israel. And the Gibeonites sought Joshua’s help. He marched out with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. At that time God said to him, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you” (see Joshua 10:8). Oh, how important it is to hear such words from God! Without such a word from God, making an attack on enemy forces (spiritual warfare) will be without success. But with such a word of encouragement from God, like Joshua, we too can take the enemies by surprise and expect God to perform miracles to aid us in our victory (see Joshua 10:12–14).
How Long Will You Wait?
God had promised the land to Israel. But they were complacent in carrying out God’s orders to conquer the land. This easy-going attitude allowed the other peoples of the land to corrupt the minds of the Israelites and turn them to idol worship and immorality in later years. But Joshua’s attitude like Caleb’s (see Joshua 14:6–15), was different. His heart was not at rest when the land had portions yet to be conquered. So Joshua asked this significant question to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” (Joshua 18:3). This is God’s question to you and me today. How long will we wait before we begin to obey God fully?
As for Me and My House!
The Book of Joshua ends with the story of all of God’s promises to them coming to pass. But Joshua also warned the people against disobedience in future: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you” (Joshua 24:20). This is a great warning. We have to remember that there is no permanent blessing unless it is kept by constant obedience to God. Joshua leads by example to the last by saying: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15z). Let us too make an honest and sincere and earnest attempt to serve our God fully.