Joshua — The Preparation of a Leader

A Time of Change
Chapter 1:1—9
Life is full of change. It demands of us greater trust in God than before. But often we tremble in fear; both real and imagined. As we look at the opening chapter of the Book of Joshua we find a change in leadership and a change in direction of travel.

The change began as Moses the great leader of the Israelites died. He was one who had known God face to face and who did mighty miracles (Deut. 34:10—12). God used to speak with Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). When such a great leader departed it was time for change.

Life Lesson: Change is part of human life. We all change as we grow up. Change cannot be avoided. But we often try to resist change. It is fear of the future plus the responsibilities that change brings plus the adjustments that has to be made to accommodate change that prevents us from welcoming change.

Examples of change are many: Going to a new school, moving to a new neighbourhood, taking up a new job, entering into marriage, becoming a parent etc. are all examples of change. If we trust God in changing times, we can go forward with expectation and hope.

The reason for our trust is that God is an unchanging God. For He has said, “I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). The Bible again declares, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Even the heavens and the earth will pass away; “like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Hebrews 1:12/see also Psalm 102:25—27).

Preparation of a Leader

Now let us look at some of the qualities that made Joshua a Leader:

  • Humility and Faithfulness
  • Called by God
  • Prayer and Obedience
  • Encouraged by God
  • Following God Wholeheartedly
  • Saturated by God’s Word
  • Being Filled with the Spirit of Wisdom
  • Spending Time in God’s Presence

Preparation of a Leader:
Humility and Faithfulness

God is not surprised by change. He has His servants ready to take up leadership in times of change. We find that God had Joshua prepared to be the leader of the Israelites after the departure of Moses. God had begun the leadership training of Joshua early.

Joshua was Moses’ aide (Joshua 1:1). That means he was like a servant to Moses. This is the primary qualification for leadership. It is known as “servant leadership.” Jesus also taught it: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). One has to have a humble heart to exhibit servant leadership.

Life Lesson: In military circles the saying, “He that cannot obey, cannot command” is well known. It means that we can only learn to lead by submitting ourselves in obedience to one in authority over us. One who never obeyed when he was under authority will not be respected or obeyed by his subordinates when he comes into leadership.

The life of Joshua is exemplary because he never promoted himself to be leader. Instead he served Moses faithfully for almost forty years. Then God promoted him to leadership. Jesus said, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21).

Promotion came to Joshua because he was faithful in the little things he was given to do. So do the little things that come your way faithfully even when no one is watching you; the day will come when God will exalt you.

Preparation of a Leader:

Let us look at Joshua a bit more closely. We find him first mentioned in Exodus 17. There the first war that the Israelites fought when they came out of Egypt is recorded for us. A people called the Amalekites attacked Israel. Moses called Joshua and asked him to lead the army. Joshua promptly obeyed. He did not offer any excuse.

We need to remember that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and had just come out from there with not many weapons with them. And this group was not an organized army. While Joshua fought, Moses was on top of the hill with the staff of God in his hands. He lifted up his hands to God in prayer. When Moses’ hands were raised up the Israelites were winning, but when it was lowered, the Amalekites were winning. So two people helped Moses to keep his hands lifted up. Then the Israelites won the war.

Exodus 17:13 says, “So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” But then God said to Moses, (verse 14), “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” [emphasis added].

It is important for us to understand why God wanted Joshua to hear it. It was because God wanted Joshua to understand that even though Joshua fought and won with the sword, the real victory was obtained in prayer which happened behind the scenes.

It was not a moment’s prayer but prayer that was continued from morning till sunset. So we understand that prayer is also a kind of warfare. We also find here Moses building an altar to God and calling it, “Yahweh-­Nissi” which means “The LORD is my banner.” Moses said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord.”

Life Lesson: Prayer has an important role in our lives. A Christian finds strength to face life’s battles when he spends time with God in prayer. It is natural to grow tired in prayer as Moses found out. But that shouldn’t make us stop praying. But we should make every effort to continue to pray till we are given victory. So too we should seek to obey God with a prompt response when He commands us to do something for His glory.

Preparation of a Leader:

Numbers 13 and 14 describe the tragedy of the Israelites. God had promised to bring them into the Promised Land of Canaan when He brought them out of Egypt. Now they were perhaps at a place from which they could reach the Promised Land in 11 days’ time. At God’s command, Moses sent out 12 leaders from the tribes of Israel as spies to explore the land of Canaan and bring back a report.

After 40 days they came back. 10 of the spies gave a bad report saying that though the land was flowing with milk and honey (a phrase used to describe the fruitfulness and prosperity of the land) the people who lived in that place were powerful and living in large and fortified cities.

They further said that they couldn’t attack those people because they were giant­ like in appearance. Moreover they said that they looked like grasshoppers when compared to them (Numbers 13:33). Thus they discouraged the Israelites by spreading a bad report.

But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb spoke differently. They said that God was with the Israelites. Therefore they could easily defeat the people of Canaan (Numbers 14:6—9). But the Israelites talked about stoning Joshua and Caleb.

God became angry with the Israelites because they refused to believe in Him in spite of all the miraculous signs He had done among them. So God said that none of the men above 20 years who had seen all the miracles that God did in Egypt and in the desert will ever cross into the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb will enter the land. This was because unlike the other Israelites who disbelieved God, they followed God wholeheartedly (see Numbers 14:24, 30).

Life Lesson: One way to distinguish the Living God from others who claim to be gods is that God has made many promises towards His children. And they are recorded in God’s Word the Bible. God has made these promises so that we will trust in Him. And if we trust God’s promises we will follow God wholeheartedly.

Here we find Joshua and Caleb following God wholeheartedly because they believed God’s promise that He would bring them into the Promised Land. So they did not look at themselves as “grasshoppers” and look at their enemies as “giants.”

Instead they looked to their God and His promise. Learn to do likewise in life. The Israelites paid dearly for their disbelief by wandering in the desert for forty years and dying there itself. Instead if they had believed God’s promise they could have easily crossed over into the land of Canaan in 11 days’ time.

Preparation of a Leader:

The Bible tells us, “Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him” (Deut. 34:9). The second part of that verse says that the Israelites listened to Joshua because he was filled with the spirit of wisdom. Therefore we understand that Godly leadership is found in a leader who is filled with the Spirit of God which is the Spirit of wisdom. That is the same Spirit that rested on Jesus Christ as “the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding” (Isaiah 11:2).

Life Lesson: Jesus taught that God our Father in heaven is more than willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (see Luke 11:13). He said that if men knew how to give good gifts to their children, our heavenly Father knew much more to give the Holy Spirit to those who asked Him. James, the brother of Jesus, also said something similar. He spoke of wisdom. He said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). But he also warns that we should ask without doubting.

So if you wish to be a leader of men, ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom. Then others will listen to you. See how Solomon was held in awe because people saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice (1 Kings 3:28). Remember that Solomon had earlier asked God for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9, 2 Chron. 1:10). See also how Pharaoh recognizes the Spirit of wisdom in Joseph (Genesis 41:37—40) and promotes him to leadership. See something similar happening with Daniel and his three friends (Daniel 1:17—20).

Preparation of a Leader:

Joshua never pushed himself forward to become the leader of God’s people. Instead it was God Himself who asked Moses to bring Joshua to Him. God had said to Moses, “Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tent of Meeting where I will commission him” (Deut. 31:14).

In later years, we find prophets of God anointing the kings of Israel as a sign that God had chosen them to be leaders of God’s people. For example, Samuel anointed both Saul and David to be kings of Israel.

Life Lesson: Leadership is no child’s play. It demands shouldering responsibility and having accountability to both God and men. Accountability simply means that one day you’ll have to stand before God and give an account of how you used your position of leadership. Since so much is demanded of a leader, it is important to have a call from God in your life to step into leadership.

Joshua 1:1—9 describes the clear call that God gave Joshua. When God calls you, the call will be clear and specific. It will leave you in no doubt. That is why when Paul was brought to trial, he was able to say boldly, “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19).

Preparation of a Leader:

It is amazing to note how God Almighty stoops low to encourage His children (2 Samuel 22:36, Psalm 18:35). We find this especially true in the life of Joshua. We find God encouraging him time and again. The many instances of this tells us that Joshua might have been overwhelmed by the bigness of the task of leadership that lay before him. On the one hand the great leader Moses departs. On the other hand he had before him around 6 lakh men (Num. 2:32, 26:51) who were grumblers and faultfinders most of the time.

In this context it was quite natural for him to feel unequal to the task ahead. But God kept saying (sometimes through Moses and sometimes directly) to him right from the start , “Be strong and courageous . . . The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:7, 8). See more at Deut. 31:23, Deut. 3:28, Joshua 1:6—9).

Life Lesson: Never doubt the truth that our God is a God who encourages us. He asks us to move out in faith because He has gone ahead of us to break open the way for us. He promises His Presence with us. He is truly our “Immanuel,” God with us! He commands us to be strong and courageous.

We are not to be terrified or discouraged by life’s difficulties. And we will not be terrified if we are sure that it is God Himself who has commanded us. Then with Paul we can say in the face of difficulties, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

Preparation of a Leader:

Joshua was not only called by God to conquer and possess the Promised Land but also He was given a Success Manual by God to do so. He was asked to be careful to obey all the law given to them by Moses. He was commanded not to turn from it to the right or to the left. Then he was promised success. He was further commanded to meditate on God’s Word day and night so that he could obey it. Then God said he would be prosperous and successful (see Joshua 1:6—8).

Life Lesson: Become like a sponge in water when it comes to God’s Word. Read it much every day. Try to spent at least one hour daily early morning with God’s Word. Saturate yourself with it. The Psalmist says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). And as a young person the challenge is, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (Psalm 119:9). Also Psalm 1 talks about the blessedness of the man whose DELIGHT is in the law of the Lord and who MEDITATES on it day and night.

Delight speaks about time spent on something we like without even being aware of how much time we are spending in it because it gives us great joy. Meditating speaks about thinking over and over, again and again of what we’ve read in the Bible, trying to understand what it means and asking God to help us understand it. It means making an effort to apply what we have read to our daily living. (It however does not mean keeping your mind blank as the word “meditation” is popularly understood today).

A person who thus delights in God’s Word is like a tree planted by streams of water. That means the tree has run its roots deep to get nourishment. And it yields fruit in season. Remember Jesus said, that we should remain in Him to bear fruit like a branch remains in the vine (John 15:5). The leaf of such a tree does not wither. And “Whatever he does prospers.” Think about that!

Roots and Growth 
We need to note these two things about a tree. First of all it has a root system. As children of God, we too need a root system. Paul challenged people in Colosse saying, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6, 7) [emphasis added].

So be rooted to Jesus Christ. That means you are fixed on Him, drawing support and nourishment for life by your daily dependence on Him. And remember it is your root system that gives you stability and strength during times of crisis and storms.

Growth, again is what God desires in you. As all parents would wish for their children to grow up and mature, so also our heavenly Father desires that we grow up and become like Jesus Christ. As we grow up we will produce much fruit. And that will bring God glory. This is the meaning of what Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). So, “Continue to live in him.” All this can happen when you spent much time with God’s Word.

Preparation of a Leader: SPENDING TIME IN GOD’S PRESENCE

The Bible shows us a quick sketch of yet another quality which made Joshua a leader of men. He loved to spend time in the presence of God. During that time, God’s presence was visible in a tent pitched outside the camp by Moses.

He used to call it the “Tent of Meeting.” Here the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance as Moses used to go in. Then the LORD would speak with Moses face to face, as a man talks with his friend. And people would stay at a distance and worship whenever they saw the pillar of cloud.

The Bible records, “Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent” (Exodus 33:11). This was because Joshua loved to spend time with God. And God rewarded Joshua by promising His Presence with Joshua in the conquest of the land of Canaan; not only when Joshua spent time with Him, but also wherever Joshua went (Joshua 1:9).

He was also told that God who was with Moses will be with him too. That meant that God who had promised His Presence to go with Moses (see Exodus 33:14—17) would go with Joshua too (Joshua 1:5). Joshua would have been tremendously encouraged because God had faithfully kept His promises to Moses.

Therefore when God said repeatedly to Joshua, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:8, 23; Joshua 1:5), it was a promise of God’s continual Presence with Joshua. That meant literally no one would be able to stand up against Joshua all the days of his life; amazing isn’t it? (Joshua 1:5). O Immanuel, God with us!

Life Lesson: Little children often approach their parents to ask for gifts or some favour from them. But at least occasionally they would climb into the lap of one of the parents and snuggle there cosily and go to sleep. If they are asked at that time, “What do you need?, they would simply say, “Nothing.”

What change has come over the child who usually asks for gifts? The change is that this time the child simply desired the company of his or her parent. This was the attitude that Joshua exhibited all the time. He desired to spent time with God. Dear friend, how much time do you spend with God? Is He a friend to you?

Note: Psalm 84 talks about the experience of a man who earnestly desired to go to Jerusalem for a feast but could not for some reason. Read of his longing “for the courts of the Lord.” Even his heart and his flesh, they “cry out for the living God.” He envies the sparrow which has found a home and the swallow which has made a nest within God’s house∙ He talks of the priests as blessed; for like those birds they too dwell in the house of God praising Him all the time.

The Psalmist again says, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you.” Dear child of God, can you truly say, your strength is in God alone? Joshua was marked out to be a leader of God’s people because he had his strength in God and he desired and longed for spending time in the presence of God. Do you?

Moving Forward in Faith

Joshua also needed to understand two things:

One, life is forward. Even though Moses was dead, God’s purposes will continue. So we need to be always ready to listen to the voice of God which tells us to move forward in life especially in a time of change.

Secondly, he needed to understand that he had to claim the Promised Land as much as by warfare as by faith. Because the Promise was, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” (Joshua 1:3). That meant that Joshua had to go and fight and be victorious to claim what God had already given to them!

Similarly Paul opens his letter to the Ephesians saying that God, “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3).” It is all yours. Wherever you set your foot, that is yours. So walk in faith and claim all the blessings that God has given you in Christ Jesus. It is all yours for the asking!

Insight: “These tremendous achievements would not be accomplished in a day or two. They were not attained in a single spectacular leap of victory. Instead, it would be a steady march forward one day at a time, on step at a time, little by little, until all the territory was taken.

Too many Christians want instant results. They look for an overnight metamorphosis [a process in which somebody or something change into something completely different — Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary]. They are conditioned to believe they can become conquerors in a week­end crash course of spiritual seminars. Not so!

God’s clear communique to Joshua was simple and sure. `Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given you!’ Our role is to step out in faith and claim quietly our rightful inheritance given to us in Christ. This is to take territory with God­­­–a bit every day!

The land promised to Joshua was not just some narrow strip along the Jordan valley. It was a wide, immense region stretching from the Negev desert in the south to Lebanon in the north, from the Euphrates in the east, to the shining Mediterranean Sea in the west.

Likewise, God’s aspirations for us are enormous, often beyond our wildest dreams —not because we are great people, but because He is a great God, who delights to do great things with us.”
— Taken from the book “Joshua, Man of Fearless Faith,” by W. Phillip Keller.

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