Introduction to the Book of Joshua
I read the Bible just about every day. Sometimes I'm following someone else's prescribed plan. Often, I'm reading this book of the Bible or that one, choosing the next book based on where I think God is leading me. A few months ago, I had spent a heavy amount of time in the New Testament and felt I needed to balance my study with a return to the Old Testament. Joshua is where I began. I had read it before, but it came alive for me in so many ways this time. I felt that God was speaking to me profoundly with every turn of the page. That's how this series we're doing at PCC came to be.
There are so many practical applications from the life of Joshua for you and me, I have had a hard time deciding on a few texts to cover in our Sunday morning services. But this blog is a way that you can encounter God personally, by digging into the text for yourself. I'll guide you a little along the way, but make no mistake about it: The God behind the events in the Bible is the same God who speaks through the Bible. You can hear from Him, but you have to dedicate a little time and focus.
To get us ready, let's peer into a little of Joshua's background and set the scene.
In case you don't know, the Israelites are the people God chose as His special people. Abraham was the first, then his son Isaac, then Isaac's son Jacob. God changed Jacob's name to 'Israel', which is where we get the name we use for the Jewish nation to the this very day. ('Israelite' and 'Jew' and 'Hebrew' are all interchangeable in the Bible and represent the same people group).
The opening lines of Exodus tell us that the Egyptians felt threatened by the Jews and took them all as slaves and put them into hard forced labor. God answered their cries for help and sent Moses to deliver them from captivity and into the land God promised to give to Abraham's descendants.
But those same people who had witnessed God's power and His miracles later rebelled against Him. So, God's judgment was that they would not enter the 'Promised Land', but their children would.
Joshua is one of only two adults who had the distinct privilege of walking in the 'Promised Land' who had also personally experienced slavery in Egypt (Caleb was the other one).
So, who was Joshua, exactly?
Well, what we know for sure is that Joshua was Moses' aid and second in command. He had been tested and mentored by Moses and proved himself to be coachable, loyal, strong and courageous.
Just for one example, let's take a look at Numbers 13-14. Moses sent twelve men to scout out the territory of the Promised Land. They came back and said, "...We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large....We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size..." (Numbers 13: 27-28, 31-32, NIV)
But not all of them agreed. "Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:6-9)
Joshua was proving himself able to withstand the pressure from the outside - pressure from the people - even before he was appointed the leader of the nation.
Joshua wasn't simply a 'yes man' for Moses. He was trained to understand that the real power wasn't in Moses hand, but in the Hand of God. For example, take a look at what happened in Exodus 17:9-13
Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
This account becomes legendary, and you can be absolutely sure that Joshua knew it. Joshua was able to accompany Moses part of the way up the mountain when God delivered the Law to Moses. What do you think they talked about on the way down?!
Joshua was being groomed for years - decades even - to lead the people. Why was he so effective? Because he was coachable. He never developed an "I know everything there is to know" mentality. He never coveted Moses' position and secretly wished he would just get out of the way. No, Joshua coveted Moses teaching and was grateful for the investment that Moses made in him.
Perhaps, as we begin this journey, you can consider the people who God has put in your life to pour into you. Is your attitude right...good...grateful? Have you thanked them - ever or lately - for their investment in you? Do you ever tell them the difference they have made in you - how they have helped you be a better person and follower of God? Shouldn't you?
On the flip side, who are the people around you that God has put in your life as your 'Joshua'? Are you taking the responsibility to pour into them seriously?
My prayer is that we all have a 'Moses' and a 'Joshua' somewhere in our lives. I do, most of the time, have a few folks I'm really investing in and pouring into - these are Joshua's. They are moldable, coachable, and they soak up what I teach them. I also have one or two 'Moses' types, who are coaching me.
I hope you'll reflect on that now, but also as we continue this journey. Tomorrow, we'll dive in to the Book of Joshua!