Moses My servant is dead.” What a way to begin your tenure in office! Who could ever fill the shoes of Moses? History’s greatest leader had been taken home by the Lord. How could Joshua be a Moses?
But God was not asking Joshua to be Moses, only to be Joshua. The first six chapters of the book bearing his name detail for us the process by which God’s leader emerged. Crucial to this is the confirmation which God gave him as He brought him to the place of leadership. Every man who is called to lead God’s people will know something of these same dealings with God. All may not be called to pass through the same experiences, but all will emerge with the same lessons in God’s school.
Private Dealings with God
Joshua is first introduced in Exodus 17 as he battles with Amalek, and in chapter 33 he is seen knowing something of the presence of God in the sanctuary. But it is in Joshua 1 that we see God beginning to work in the life of His servant to confirm in him the assurance of His purposes for him.
Two great themes run through the chapter and provided needed lessons for Joshua: He must be conscious of the presence and promises of God, and he must develop convictions based on the Word of God.
We are often reminded that those who serve full-time, must know something of a call from God. But God calls individuals to each and every form of service. The leader and shepherd among God’s people who has not known a call from God is at a tremendous disadvantage when the times of testing come. How comforting to the ears and soul of Joshua must have been the refrains filled with so much assurance: “I have given thee … I will be with thee … I will not fail thee.”
Linked with those promises, however, was the personal responsibility that the “book of the law” was to be his companion for the path. From it he must find the strength and wisdom for his way.
Upon the heels of God’s confirmation came the assurance from his own people first (ch 1:16-18), and then from the enemy. When the spies brought back the report from Rahab (ch 2:23), it must have come with tremendous reassurance to him. To know that God had gone before and that the enemies felt themselves already defeated was no small consolation for a new leader facing his greatest challenge. He would also take great encouragement in the fact that God could direct the two spies to the exact home where they would be able to hear this report.
It is one thing to have a deep sense of divine purpose in one’s own soul, and another all together to be recognized by those you are called upon to lead. But God will see to the public confirmation of Joshua. Jordan with its overflowing banks, a natural barrier to the land, faced the tribes. Joshua is not Moses; but God is still God. The waters are divided (ch 3:16, 17) and the people passed over before the ark. Stones left in Jordan and stones erected on the shore testify to what God has done. God has been magnified (ch 4:24), but God has used this to magnify Joshua in the sight of the people (ch 4:14) and “they feared him as they feared Moses.”
It is vital to note that Joshua was not out to magnify himself. His entire purpose was that the nation might know that the “living God” was among them (ch 3:10) and to establish a testimony to God’s faithfulness and power (ch 4:21-24). His intent was to magnify God before the people and the nations. But in giving God His place amongst His people, God saw to it that Joshua would have his place.
Prior to the assault on Jericho, Joshua went out to reconnoiter. He encountered a “man” with a sword drawn in his hand. To his challenge, “Art thou for us or for our adversaries?” came the enigmatic reply, “Nay!” Here was One Who was neither on the enemies’ side nor on Joshua’s side; here was the captain and Joshua was privileged to serve under Him. Joshua’s anxiety and uncertainty must have turned to tremendous consolation and strength to realize that his leadership was not dependent on his own wisdom and skill, but on a greater Leader Whose skill was unsurpassed.
Every leader among the people of God has at one time or another learned that he does not lead by his own wisdom, strength, charisma, or experience. His authority is the Word of God and his strength is in God.
If word had spread among the Canaanites that Moses had died, there may well have been a sigh of relief. The great leader, the victorious desert general, was no more. Certainly no one would take his place and be as successful. Perhaps there was hope for the Canaanites before what had once seemed an invincible army. But by the end of chapter 6, their hopes were dashed. The waters of Jericho had risen up; the walls of Jericho had fallen. Nature and human power had been defeated before God’s leader. Joshua 6 ends with this testimony, “The Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.”
From confirming His purposes to Joshua in his own soul (ch 1) and then to the nation (chs 2-4), God had extended that confirmation to the surrounding nations.
In a similar manner, when God brought Samuel to leadership, “all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” (1 Sam 3:20).
God not only raises up leaders and equips them, He confirms them in His work. The tuition in God’s school can be costly, but the lessons are priceless.