Joshua succeeded Moses in leadership. Like Moses he represents not
just one individual but a generation of people who have been called by
God. What do we know about Joshua from the Scriptures? And what do we know
about his role in relation to Moses, and among the people of Israel, before
Moses’ death? We can see some significant preparation of this man, from
his youth, in order for him to step into the shoes of Moses.
on Joshua’s early years
Joshua’s first appearance in Bible is found in Exodus Chapter 17. This
chapter describes the battle of the people of Israel against the Amalekites.
Joshua is appointed by Moses (17:9-10) to choose the fighters from among
the people and to go out and fight Amalek, while Moses prays from the top
of the hill above them. The battle tends to go according to the position
of Moses’ hands and the rod which he holds. With the help of Aaron
and Hur, Moses holds up his hands all day, and Joshua mows down Amalek
with the edge of the sword (17:13). The Lord commands Moses to write as
a memorial in a book and to recite in the ears of Joshua that God will
utterly blot out Amalek (17:14).
when Moses goes up on the mountain to meet God and to receive the Law,
he takes his servant Joshua with him (Exodus 24:12-13). When Aaron
makes the golden calf for the people, Joshua is on the mountain with Moses
(Exodus 32:17). As they head down the mountain with the tablets of the
law, he tells Moses that there is a noise of war in the camp.
Exodus 33:11. Moses would go out
to the tent of meeting to seek the Lord, and the pillar of cloud would
descend upon the tent. All Israel would watch, and then worship. The LORD
would speak to Moses face to face. When Moses returned to the camp, “his
servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tent.”
It seems, then, that during the times that Israel was in camp, Joshua would
remain in the tent of meeting. He was given unique and privileged access
special relationship with the Lord, and it would appear that he had himself
more time in the courts of the Lord than anyone else in all of Israel.
Numbers 11:28. Joshua, “the servant/minister
of Moses, one of his chosen men,” asked Moses to forbid the prophesying
of Eldad and Medad, two elders who remained back in the camp while the
assembly of elders met with Moses in the tent of meeting.
Numbers 13-14. Moses is commanded
to send 12 spies a leader from each tribe, to spy out the land. From
the tribe of Ephraim, Moses choses Hoshea, the son of Nun. Before they
are sent out, Moses changes Hoshea’s name to Joshua (13:16). (Essentially
a change from being called “salvation” to “the LORD
is salvation” or “the LORD saves.” Joshua, together
with Caleb, rend their clothes after the majority report causes the people
to depair, and Joshua and Caleb give their faith-filled minority report
(Numbers 14:6). The Lord is displeased with the response of the people
and decrees that all those over 20 years old, with exception of Caleb and
Joshua, will die during the 40 years in the desert (14:30). He strikes
down the spies, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua (14:38). In the
census of the new generation, commanded by the Lord and taken by Moses
in Numbers 26, only Caleb and Joshua remained of those numbered by Moses
and Aaron before Sinai (26:65). See also. Numbers 32:12.
Numbers 27. Joshua is appointed
by the Lord as Moses’ successor. God says of him that he is “a man in whom
is the spirit” (27:18). Moses lays hands upon him, investing him with some
of his authority and commissioning him to lead Israel (27:22). See also
Numbers 32:28. In Numbers 34:17, the Lord names Eleazar the priest and
Joshua to be the ones to divide out the land for the inheritance of the
1:38. Moses tells the people that he will not enter the land
of promise, but that Joshua will lead them in. They are to encourage him.
Deuteronomy 3:21. Moses tells the
people that, after the defeat of Sihon and Og, he commanded Joshua not
to be afraid –“It is the Lord who fights for you, and who will do the same
to all the kingdoms on the other side of the Jordan.” God had then commanded
Moses: “Charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him; for he shall go
over at the head of this people” (Deuteronomy 3:28).
Deuteronomy 31. Joshua is formally
commissioned by the Lord as Moses’ successor. Moses tells the people that
God had told him that Joshua would lead them into the land (31:3). Moses
summons Joshua and in the sight of all Israel tells him: “Be strong and
of good courage; for you shall go with this people into the land…It is
the Lord who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you
or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed” (31:7-9). Then the Lord calls
Moses and Joshua before the tent of meeting (31:14), and himself commissions
Joshua in the same words: “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall
bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore to give them:
I will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:23).
Deuteronomy 32:44. The great song
of Moses, spoken before all Israel shortly before his death, is recited
by him and Joshua before the people.
Deuteronomy 34:9. After recounting
the death and burial of Moses, and the mourning of Israel, and shortly
before the last verses of the Pentateuch, this is said of Joshua:
he was “full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon
him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the Lord had commanded
A brief summary
of some key things that we see
in the Pentateuch:
for intergenerational community today
He, too, is a young man at the point that we first meet him.
He is one of Moses’ chosen men, a trusted servant/minister from his youth.
He is an important protagonist in the life and history of his people, even
before the first generation is gone. He is not passive, without an important
role, “sitting on the bench” and waiting for his turn to lead something.
He serves. He fights.
He is a warrior before the people, and leads them to victory against Amalek.
Joshua learns in this process that he fights as part of a team – his own
leadership role is crucial, but Israel would likely have lost the battle
were it not for Moses’ role of intercession.
He is a leader on other levels within his tribe and among the people, chosen
by Moses to spy out the Promised Land. Only he and Caleb return with a
faith-filled perspective about what obedience to the Lord can produce in
battling the greater inhabitants of Canaan. He and Caleb are the only people
who have actually seen/walked the promised land of all those who will enter
He is with Moses on the mountain when Moses receives the Law. He does not
participate in any way in the false worship of the golden calf.
He is a man intimately familiar with the courts of the Lord. He is
with Moses in his encounters with the Lord in the tent of meeting.
When Moses returns to the camp, Joshua remains in the tent of meeting.
The Lord himself identifies Joshua, and calls him to be Moses’ successor
(more so even than Moses himself, or a vote from the people). The
Lord makes sure that Joshua is commissioned in the sight of all the people,
including through the laying on of Moses’ hands and of his own commissioning
shortly before Moses’ death.
The Lord’s message to Joshua as Joshua assumes leadership could not be
more consistent and clear:
Be strong and of good courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
I will be with you. I will go before you; I will not fail you or
What are some lessons we might draw from these passages for our own
situation as an intergenerational community of disciples on mission? Perhaps
God may see fit to remove all of the leaders of the founding generation
of the Sword of the Spirit from the scene, as he did with the generation
of Moses. That isn’t always the Lord’s preferred pattern for intergenerational
transfers of leadership, though. There were special reasons (the 40 years
of purification in the desert) for why all of the original generation who
had died by the time Joshua and Caleb (the only two left) led their people
into the Promised Land. The Lord may choose to have mercy with us, and
to remove the founding generation in a more gradual manner. If so, it won’t
be quite as challenging for the new generation of the Sword of the Spirit
leaders as it was for Joshua. In his case, Moses was dead, as were
all others of his generation, including its leaders, with the exception
of Caleb. Joshua had every reason to feel himself a bit alone, over his
head, loaded down with too heavy a weight to bear.
takes the lead
a look at Chapters
1- 5 from the Book of Joshua
1 - Joshua's Call and invitation
God’s call and invitation to this son, called Joshua, who would carry
the same name as that of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, which means “God
“After the death
of Moses the servant of the LORD,
the LORD said to Joshua the son
of Nun, Moses' minister, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise,
go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land which I am
giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your
foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. From
the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates,
all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of
the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you
all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you;
I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and of good courage; for
you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their
fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful
to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; turn
not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success
wherever you go. This book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth,
but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to
do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your
way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. Have I not commanded
you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed;
for the LORD your God is with
you wherever you go”” (Joshua 1:1-9).
strong and of good courage” is the keynote sounded by God in his call,
invitation, and exhortation to Joshua. God says this in slightly varying
ways three times within 4 verses in Joshua 1, and the chapter closes with
the people saying the same thing to him.
What is the basis of this strength and courage? “The Lord your God is
with you wherever you go.” “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you;
I will not fail you or forsake you.”
There are other key directions given to Joshua as well: meditate on
God’s word and teaching day and night, and be careful to do all that it
says; turn not to the right or to the left. These were to be key to prospering
in all that lies ahead.
God’s command strikes to the heart of Joshua: “Be not frightened; neither
Joshua, as well as Caleb, have a special relationship to the Promised
Land. They are among the first to see it. Moses never entered. Joshua entered
it as a young man (as a spy), filled with trust and hope, but his people
were not ready to go in. God now brings him back, along with Caleb, after
40 years of testing and training for the people, and Joshua is to lead
them into the land. He will lead their battles. He will apportion out the
inheritance of the tribes and clans.
Chapter 2: Joshua, too, sends out
spies. They learn that the Lord is working for them, preparing the way
Chapters 3 and 4: Joshua leads the
people of Israel across the Jordan. Once again, a miracle of crossing,
the people passing over on dry land by the intervention of the Lord. A
miracle of grace very much like what God did through Moses at the Red Sea,
yet it’s not the same – it is a new crossing into a new season, with a
new grace from God for his people.
Joshua’s lesson before the siege of Jericho:
“When Joshua was by Jericho,
he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him with
his drawn sword in his hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are
you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but as commander
of the army of the LORD I have
now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and
said to him, “What does my lord bid his servant?” And the commander of
the LORD's army said to Joshua,
“Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy.”
And Joshua did so.”
What are the key things that happen in Chapter
Fear and dismay among the Lord’s enemies.
Circumcision of a new generation.
Celebration of the Passover. End of manna, and beginning of eating from
Joshua’s encounter with the angel, commander of the Lord’s army.
Taught Joshua an entirely new way to think about the conquest, the conflict,
the mission. Not “are you for us or for our enemies?” for the angel’s response
to that question is simply “No.” Then he states that, as commander of the
Lord’s army, he has come. Joshua’s got the categories wrong: it’s not about
who is with him and who is against him. It’s about who is with God and
who is against God. And now Joshua recognizes his true place – on his face
before the Lord, asking what the will of the Lord is. The initial response
is not a strategy of warfare and conquest, but putting first things first:
“Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.”
The subsequent history, with its own ups and downs, its successes and failures,
is that of the conquest of the Promised Land by the grace and power of
God. Joshua, too, fulfills his call and his mission, and then passes on
to the next generation the mission of living in a land that has been won
for the second generation in Sword of the Spirit
I want to close with some observations:
Joshua’s role as a “second generation” leader: he is not the founder
of his people. In the most important sense, the Lord himself has founded
this people. On the human level, Moses has been the founder and establisher
of the people, and the people doesn’t need of a second founder. Nor do
they need another “lawgiver.” Nor is someone needed to take them through
the desert to the Promised Land. That whole season in their life is completed,
and now they need a different kind of leadership.
In the second generation, in this new season, there will be a different
thrust, and God will give to those who lead a different anointing. Joshua
isn’t just a follower of Moses, picking up where Moses left off, and doing
what he had seen Moses do. He has himself been called and chosen by the
Lord. The Lord has promised to be with him and to lead him, just as he
did with Moses. But the waters are new and uncharted, and Joshua must be
careful to follow the Lord where he leads. Joshua is a seasoned warrior,
and he will lead his people in battle. He will lead them into new territory,
the land that the Lord has intended and promised to his people. The people
must fight to gain this territory, but the battle and the victory will
be the Lord’s. Joshua will also help the people to find their place
in the new land, and to begin to settle it.
Lord is saying today
What might the Lord be saying to the young men and women of the Sword
of the Spirit at this time? Surely, the fundamental message to Joshua
– “Be strong and of good courage; do not fear or be dismayed; I will be
With the inevitable passing of the older generation of Sword of the
Spirit leaders, I see something in Joshua’s experience that accords with
my own sense from the Lord for the new Joshua generation who will replace
the older one.
While God has done marvellous things in the lives of the pioneer generation,
and has laid the foundations of this people, the future is not to be “same
old, same old.” Some key expressions of what this people was created for
are still to be realized. The fuller expression of this people’s life and
mission lies ahead, and the next generation will lead the people into it.
While the previous generation of leaders may be involved in the commissioning,
it is fundamentally a question of the Lord’s commissioning – giving the
leadership of the people into the hands of the next generation, with his
promise that he will go before you, he will fight for you, he will not
fail you or forsake you. Be strong, then, in the strength of his might.
Be courageous in the grace of God. Humble yourselves under his mighty hand,
and obey him, turning not to the right or to the left. And watch what he