February 2012 - Vol. 57
Vice President of the Sword of the Spirit speaks to a new generation…

Moses anoints Joshua "Be strong and of good courage, the Lord your God will be with you" (Joshua 1:9)
Joshua Takes the Lead: 
“Be Strong and of Good Courage” 
Adapted from a presentation by John Keating given during the Adelante Conference

Who is Joshua?
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.
Some background 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).

Then 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 to Moses’ 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 people.

Deuteronomy 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 Moses.”

A brief summary of some key things that we see 
about Joshua in the Pentateuch:

  • 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 it.
  • 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 forsake you.
Some Lessons for intergenerational community today

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.

Joshua takes the lead 
a look at Chapters 1- 5 from the Book of Joshua

Chapter 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 Saves.” 

“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).
“Be 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 be dismayed.”

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 before them.

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.

Chapter 5: 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 5?

  • 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 the land.
  • 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 and settled.

Some observations 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.

What the 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 you.”

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 will do.
John Keating is Vice-President of the Sword of the Spirit and a frequent speaker for Kairos and Sword of the Spirit conferences and seminars. He is an elder in the Servants of the Word, a missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord. He currently lives in Manila, Philippines.
See previous articles > Going Against the Tide: Lessons in Faith and Courage from the Book of Daniel, Part 1
> God’s Servants in the Fiery Furnace – Lessons from the Book of Daniel, Part 2

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