5 LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF JOSHUA
Joshua was the servant (rendered as assistant, aide or minister in some Bible versions) of Moses. As a result of his faithful service and devotion to God, He asked Moses to transfer the mantle of leadership to Joshua before he died. Therefore, it was Joshua who had the privilege of leading the Israelites into Cannan, the Promised Land, and sharing it among them.
He was a young man when we met him in Exodus 17:9 where Moses told him to select some Israelite men to fight with Amalek on their way to Canaan and he lived to the ripe old age of 110 years before his death which was reported in Joshua 24:29. His life offers many lessons for how to conduct ourselves in our relationship with others and with God. This post presents several of such lessons.This post presents 5 lessons from the life of Joshua, both positive and negative. Click To Tweet
5 Lessons from the Life of Joshua
1. Service to God and success in life require determination, focus and dwelling in the word of God.
We may not go far in life if we have no purpose, we do not fix our eyes on our purpose and we are not prepared to go the whole nine yards in pursuit of that purpose. Joshua’s purpose was to help Moses settle the Israelites in Canaan and He gave it everything he had. He knew that Moses’ power to fulfil his mandate came from God, so Joshua not only served Moses, He clung to God. The Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting was usually pitched outside the Israelites’ camp while they travelled. Moses would go there to speak with God and return to the camp. The people also went there to consult God through Moses when they needed to but the Bible recorded that Joshua never left the Tent.
“7. Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp.
“11. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” – Exodus 33:7 & 11 (emphasis, mine)
How do we know our purpose in life? It is in the word of God that we find our purpose (whether or not we have had God speak to us in a dream or vision). It is also in His word that we find the light to direct our path (Psalm 119:109).
“24. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.
“105. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:24 & 105
Due to the paramount importance of the word of God in guiding and keeping us on the right path for the fulfilment of our purpose and ultimate success in life, God gave the following charge to Joshua when he assumed leadership:
“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 good success.” – Joshua 1:8
Joshua it would appear lived by this charge. His preoccupation with God and His plan for Israel through Moses helped him overcome a major challenge that would have cut short his life as we shall soon see.
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2. We must be courageous to do right even if it means standing against the majority.
About two years after the Israelites left Egypt, they arrived Kadesh-Barnea on the edge of Canaan. Twelve leaders from each tribe of Israel were chosen to spy out the land God had promised them, with Joshua representing the tribe of Ephraim. When they came back after forty days, ten of them gave a very discouraging report.
“31. … ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.
“32. … ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height.
“33. ‘… and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”‘ – Numbers 13:31-33
Joshua and Caleb however disagreed with the majority opinion. Their view as recorded in Numbers 13:30 and 14:9 was:
“…’Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.’ – Numbers 13:30
“‘Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.”‘ – Numbers 14:9
The other members of the spy party countered, painting images of giants and fortified cities with high walls. Joshua and Caleb stood their ground in the uproar, tearing their clothes and speaking passionately to the people to express their outrage that the congregation contemplated disregarding God’s promises and power due to fear. Rather than heed this faith-based appeal, the congregation said they would stone Joshua and Caleb. God became angry and threatened to wipe out the congregation (excluding the few faithful ones of course) but Moses interceded for the people (Numbers 14:11-19).
God, however, swore that both the unfaithful spies and all the adults in the camp will die in the desert. Only Joshua and Caleb would live to inherit the land promised their forefathers (Numbers 14:20-38).
Towards the end of his life, Joshua reiterated this resolve to walk with God no matter what others were doing in this famous verse:
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – (Joshua 24:15 – KJV) [emphasis, mine]
3. We make costly mistakes when we do not consult God.
Although Joshua was committed to serving and obeying God, he still needed to consult God before taking vital decisions. He and the elders of Israel failed to do this in the case of the Gibeonites. Having heard that God told Israel to wipe out the inhabitants of Canaan, the Gibeonites conceived a scheme to save their lives. They went to the Israelites’ camp at Gilgal, claiming that they came from a far country and sought a treaty of peace with Israel. They presented as evidence of the distance they had travelled mouldy bread, the frayed clothes they were wearing and the old and cracked wine skins they held (Joshua 9:3-13). Joshua and his people fell for the ruse.
“14. So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.
“15. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
“16. At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them.
“18. But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders.” – Joshua 9:14-16, 18
The Bible warns us against depending on our own understanding and not to assume that things are always what they seem.
“5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“6. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” – (Proverbs 3:5-6 – KJV)
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4. There is a sure reward for faithful stewardship.
We have seen under the first two points how Joshua served God and Moses with resoluteness. As a result, God promised to preserve his life and Caleb’s while the rest of their generation died during the extra 38 years of wandering in the desert as Moses recalled below:
“And the time from our leaving Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them.” – Deuteronomy 2:14
Furthermore, Joshua stepped into Moses’ shoes and fulfilled his ministry. He was also honoured by God and his compatriots just like Moses.
“18. So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.
“19. ‘Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight.
“20. ‘You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey.’
“22. And Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation,
“23. and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the LORD directed through Moses.” – Numbers 27:18-20, 22-23
“… the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.” – Joshua 4:14
This was after God cut off the waters of the River Jordan for the Israelites (led by Joshua) to cross over to Canaan, just as he dried up the Red Sea for them under Moses shortly after they left Egypt.For the Scripture says, ... The laborer deserves his wages. - 1 Timothy 5:18 - ESV Click To Tweet
Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan, led them in many military campaigns to conquer the inhabitants and allocated the land to them according to their tribes.
“18. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.
“23. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments.” – Joshua 11:18 & 23
God also rewarded him with long life, as stated in the Intro, and a city.
“When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. – Joshua 19:49
By command of the LORD they gave him the city that he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he rebuilt the city and settled in it.” – Joshua 19:49 & 50
5. We should groom successors to preserve our legacy.
We see a pattern in the Bible of servants of God training those whom they will hand over their mantle to. The Lord Jesus chose twelve out of his many disciples. He gave them detailed teachings for a while and even sent them on preaching and healing assignments to gain practical experience.
“30. They went on … and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know,
“31. for he was teaching his disciples” – Mark 9:30 & 31.
“7. And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
“12. So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.
“13. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” – Mark 6:7, 12-13
Paul the Apostle also trained people like Timothy and Mark as we can see from Acts and the Epistles (See Acts 16:1-4, 2 Timothy 2:2, 2 Timothy 4:11).
Moses, as we have seen, had Joshua as his aide. The latter learnt from his master for many years and soaked in God’s Spirit such that when Moses asked for a successor, God picked him (See Numbers 27:18-20 cited earlier).
Joshua, however, was not recorded as having a close aide with the result that when he died, the Israelites had no leader to look up to and in time, they began to drift from God.
“6. When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land.
“7. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel.
“10. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.
“11. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals.
“12. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger.
“14. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.” – Judges 2:6-7, 10-12,14
The passage above captures the distressing situation of the Israelites throughout the book of judges, with the following as the haunting refrain:
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 17:6
The people had no powerful rallying point, no one to command their attention. It is likely Joshua felt that with Israel settled in Canaan, all they had to do was obey the Lord and the priests were there to bring the word of the Lord to them. But the people had a tendency to stray, they needed a strong leader always, who would do for them what the judges intermittently did.
“Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.
“But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.” – Judges 2:18-19
Perhaps, if Joshua had trained a successor, and the latter trained another, the vacuum created by lack of strong leadership would not have arisen.
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Our legacy is not limited to the specific assignment that God has given us for which, with His guidance, we ought to choose and prepare whom to hand over to. It extends to our commitment to the ways of God and being His faithful representatives and witnesses on earth. Our specific assignments may not need to endure but the need to transmit godly values and groom believers who will faithfully carry the torch of Christ to the world remains till He comes back in glory.
Getting a good recommendation from God is not a mean feat but Joshua did it because of how he lived. Gehazi was a servant of Elisha the prophet but covetousness not only deprived him of his master’s mantle, it earned him generational leprosy (2 Kings 5:20-27). But Joshua filled Moses’ enormous shoes successfully.
When other folks were relaxing in the camp, he remained at the Tent of Meeting and soaked in so much of God’s presence that his spirit was bound to the Most High. May God help us to delight in His presence like that and emulate the rest of Joshua’s good qualities, while avoiding his mistakes in Jesus’ name.
The scriptures used in this post are from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible (ESV) except where otherwise stated.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
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